Thursday, October 6, 2011

Double Take: Super Tomato Risotto

I'm the sort of person whose tongue gets bored. Does this happen to you? I eat leftovers and make an effort not to waste food but I often have to look for ways to transform the leftovers a bit so they become more exciting. To prevent tongue boredoem, a dish has to have a mixture of flavors, textures, and colors.

Today's dish lacked flavor by itself BUT its flavor was better the next day and it had lots of options for flexibility. On day one, the flavor reminded me of the base fo a dish my family from the low country of South Carolina prepares--perloe. There are a variety of spellings and methods for making perloe (see also pirlo, purlo, and perlo) but it often starts with a rice and tomato base. It has lots of flavor, texture and color. I couldn't help but imagine other components of perloe that would make this dish pop. Mind you, this won't make purlo but it will transform the recipe to something that can give your tongue a little party. Common ingredients in our family's purlo include: kielbasa, tomato, onion, bacon, chicken, shrimp. Its a kitchen sink sort of dish. As usual, the link to the original is below. You'll find my suggestions for add ins in my listing though. Give it a whirl and let me know if it cures your tongue boredom.

Tomato Risotto

Friday, September 23, 2011

Double Take: Vidalia Onion Tart

A few years ago, Mel introduced me to a vidalia onion casserole that is awesome. You'll really have to get her to share it with you sometime. This recipe reminds me of it in its caramelized onion and cheese but the two are quite different. This one is a tart and the other is a casserole. This one is herbed and takes on a different flavor from the tangy and mild cheeses but the other recipe has the yummy cheddary goodness. Both are tasty. 

Vidalia Onion Tart slice at right. Pecan rosemary crusted chicken at 7 o'clock. Asparagus at 12 o'clock.
Let's eat!
While the recipe says Vidalia onion, any sweet onion will do nicely. Sweet onions have a short season that is about to end so get this one in the oven while you have the chance!

Vidalia Onion Tart
(Inspired Pink Parsley and Southern Living, May 2009)

Prep Time: 20 minutes (assumes you make your own dough and are a fairly fast onion chopper)
Cook Time: 30 min for onions, 20 minutes for baking
Total time: 75 - 90 minutes
Serves: 4-6


2 Tablespoons butter
3 to 4 medium-sized Vidalia onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 6 1/2 cups) (I only needed 3)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (other herbs can be subbed)
1-2 cloves garlic, diced * optional
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 recipe pie dough (see below for a simple recipe I use regularly), or 1 refrigerated pie crust
1/2 c. swiss, shredded
1/4 c. asiago, shredded (can sub Parmesan but Asiago will give more of a flavor kick)

How To:

Preheat oven to 425. Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, salt, and pepper (and sugar, 1 - 2 Tbsp can speed up the onion cooking, if necessary). Stirring occasionally, cook 15 - 20 minutes, or until tender. Reduce heat to low, add rosemary and cover; cook an additional 5-10 minutes, or until onions are browned and caramelized. Stir occasionally while cooking.

Place the dough into a tart or pie pan. I really like my tart pan and enjoy looking for ways to use it.

Sprinkle 1/2 cup cheese over dough. 

Cheese....Level 1

Top with onions. Sprinkle remaining cheese.

Sprinkling with more cheese.

Bake at 425 F on the bottom rack 17-19 minutes, or until crust is golden-brown and cheese has melted. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Finally Done! Let's eat!

I started by making the one crust pie crust I posted previously. For convenience sake, I'm reposting it here too.

Pie Crust (1 crust):


1 c. flour
½ tsp salt
3 rounded Tbsp Crisco (shortening)
3 Tbsp ice water

How To:

Measure flour and salt into a large bowl. Blend shortening into flour and salt with a pastry blender or fork until it reaches the consistency of heavy cornmeal. Add water 1 tablespoonful at a time, tossing wet and dry ingredients together with blender until all the flour is moistened. Turn out on floured board. Roll into a circle 1/8 to ¼ inch thick and large enough to allow 1 to 1 ½ inches hanging over the edge of the pie tin. Fold up and back to make an upright rim and flute with fingers. Sprinkle dough lightly with flour. Place another tin the same size over the crust. Bake 12 minutes at 450 F until browned at the bottom. Remove upper tin and allow inside of crust to brown.

This crust can be rolled thinly and make enough for 2 crusts. Some days, though, I'm better off making a double recipe. This was a double recipe sort of day. (Actually, it was more than that but for this pie, it was a double recipe.)

I rolled out the main dough and laid it in the bottom of the pie crust. Then I pinched small bits and made a ring of triangular nubs all around the top of the pie.


Food is about taste and smell. I like the taste of gruyere but the smell is tough for me to handle. We made and ate the gruyere version (3/4 c. gruyere) but I'm posting the recipe as I'd make it in the future: 1/2 c. swiss and 1/4 c. asiago. If you're a gruyere lover though, go for the gruyere. I found the flavor to be really tasty but the recipe was a bit peppery for my taste so I adapted that to a more reasonable level for future use too. The original recipe called for 4 Vidalia onions but I only needed about 2.5 but chopped 3 b/c I didn't want to have a random bit left over. I like the sweet onions but this is not a dish that I can eat all week. Its a once or twice and I'm done. The leftovers heated well. 

Hop, skip, or jump over to Fabulously Fun Food to see what Mel thought of this recipe! (Don't skip at work though, people might look at you funny. Ahem...Not that I would know.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Double Take: Chorizo, Poblano, and Beef Soft Tacos with Homemade Cheese Sauce

September 16th, 1810....The beginning of the Mexican War of Independence from Spain.
September 16th, 1910....The beginning of the Mexican Revolution that removed Dictator Diaz from power.

2011 marked the year long celebration of Mexico's bicentennial. With that in mind, I realized I knew very little of Mexico's history. I knew that the Spanish went there and that's why most people there speak Spanish. Our church from back home did annual shoe donations to indigenous Indians in Mexico or I probably wouldn't have even known they existed.

I knew the Spanish conquered the Aztecs...but  I didn't know the Aztecs were ruling over other tribes and that the other tribes banded with the Spanish to defeat one conqueror only to be conquered by the Spanish.

I knew the Spanish ruled Mexico as a colony but I didn't know their rule lasted for 3 centuries!

I had no idea that Mexico used to be called New Spain or that it operated with a cast system with 5 classes of people!

The Mexican Revolution (from Spain) was aided by Napolean and was started by a man named Father Hildago ringing a bell to call people together. The same bell that was originally rung in 1810 is rung every year on September 16th. It's amazing to me that the bell is still in good enough shape to ring. Wow.

In honor of Mexico's Independence, we wanted to share a Mexican dish with you today. The key thing here is that its a lot like your basic taco but includes the Spanish sausage, chorizo, and the poblano pepper native to Mexico. Fun foodie fact: Ancho chili is simply dried poblano. The chorizo brings an interesting flavor to the dish that I liked a lot. For those of you who've struggled with making a good Mexican cheese dip...look no further. This one is tasty but in the future I'd encourage those with tongues who can't take tons of heat to dial down the cayenne in the cheese dip.

Chorizo, Poblano, and Beef Soft Taco with Cheese Sauce.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Double Take: Zucchini, Ham, Basil, and Ricotta Fritters

(To the tune of 'The Song that Never Ends')

*We made these fritters on a whim,
Chopped, stirred, and cooked and only then,
Realized we started making them not knowing what they'd be.
And we'll continue thinking how to change them for you see...*

What do you get when you cross a pancake with a quiche?

Answer: A veggie fritter.

When I think of a fritter I think of those fried fruit pies. This is not what is meant here. Its more like a stuffed pancake. You can stuff it with whatever you like but I'd recommend adding more flavor. In fact, I added more flavor to half the batter but it needs further amplification. Zucchini is good but it doesn't have a ton of flavor on its own. If you put zucchini and a mild flavored cheese into flour, you still don't have a ton of flavor. I'd rate this recipe as ok but I wouldn't repeat it without modification. To be honest, I was initially disappointed in the base flavors of it. I was expecting more somehow. I tried it again today at lunch though and it was great. Perhaps I was too tired to enjoy it last night. This recipe is crazy easy to modify and has a lot of potential for incorporating zucchini and other vegetables into your life. I pumped one half up with some roasted garlic but don't stop there. I'll list what we did and include suggestions as well.

Huge zucchini fritter. Its the size of a plate!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Double Take: Spicy Roast Chicken

(For all those people concerned about heat: this recipe isn't hot spicy, but herbed spicy. If concerned, ditch the red pepper. For those who like heat, you can add that element here by amping up the red pepper.)

Sometimes less is more. Today's recipe doesn't brag major craziness. Instead it asks you to accept it as it is (more or less) and enjoy a meal that has really great flavor. We've had some very good chicken recipes in our Double Takes recipes over the last few months. Mel has been very excited about chicken dishes and especially enthusiastic about roasted chicken. This is only the second roasted chicken dish I've made but both I've had were great. I'd have to say this one wins due to its simplicity and abundant flavor. It might roll over my favorite of the past year ...Morroccan Chicken. Yeah, I'm going to post that eventually. Lab work is eating my life right now so you'll need to be satisfied with this for now.

Reasons to be satisfied with this recipe:

It is...

Minimal Hands on Time
Both Mel and I liked it and so does Mel's if-you-have-a-recipe-I-like-why-change-it Husband, Bender  (It is not that common for all of us to love something.)

On the theme of less is more, that's all I have to say about that.

Spicy Roast Chicken served with steamed green beans, broccoli, and potatoes

Spicy Roast Chicken (adapted from The Wednesday Chef )

This recipe  was originally from Barbara Fairchild's list of favorite dishes from 50 years of Bon Appetit.

Serves 2-4 (It served me 4 times.)
Total Time: 45 minutes

1 1/2 c. whole cherry tomatoes stemmed
1/8 cup olive oil
5 garlic cloves, pressed
3/4 teaspoons dried crushed red pepper
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano (divided in half)
1 Tbsp dried rosemary (divided in half)
4 boneless chicken thighs
Salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Toss the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, crushed red pepper and 1 tablespoon marjoram in a large bowl to combine.

2. Place the chicken on a rimmed baking sheet, an 8x8 glass dish or a dutch oven. (I used the 8x8 baking dish so I wouldn't have to worry about spilling. I hate cleaning the oven.) Pour the tomato mixture over the chicken, arranging the tomatoes in a single layer on the sheet around the chicken. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast until the chicken is cooked through and the tomatoes are blistered, about 35 minutes.

Spicy Roast Chicken with Blistered Tomatoes? Check! Time to eat!

3. Transfer the chicken to plates. Spoon the tomatoes and juices over the chicken. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 tablespoon oregano and 1/2 Tbsp rosemary. Sniff deeply with pleasure, then serve.


As a graduate student, time in the evening can be scarce, if existent. This recipe takes about 45 minutes and its delicious. I'm not talking about 45 minutes of prep work either. It takes less time to prep this than it does to heat my oven. Once in the oven, I diced some potatoes and steamed them for 10 minutes. Fresh from my garden, I added strung green beans (half runners) and broccoli.  I sprinkled the veggies with rosemary, oregano, 2 garlic cloves, kosher salt, and ground pepper and let them steam another 7 minutes.

The taste had a balance of herbs that made me want a second piece even though I was already full. (I stopped at one though.) This was so flavorful I ate all 4 servings without getting bored of having the same leftovers. This is no small feat for me.

Eager for a second opinion? Check out Mel's post at Fabulously Fun Food.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Daring Baker's Challenge: Candylicious!

The August 2011 Daring Bakers’ Challenge was hosted by Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts and Line Drive and Mandy of What the Fruitcake?!. These two sugar mavens challenged us to make sinfully delicious candies! This was a special challenge for the Daring Bakers because the good folks at offered an amazing prize for the winner of the most creative and delicious candy!

This month's daring challenge was a challenge in a number of ways.

1) make 2 candies
2) I felt I ought to make 2 candies I hadn't made before so I didn't go for fudge or truffles
3) temper the chocolate
4) make creative fillings
5) remove lovely filled chocolate from a mold

As it turned out, I had loads of ideas for creative fillings and finally settled on 1) chocolate dipped caramel apple pie: caramel ganache with cinnamon brown sugar coated diced apples   2) berries and cream : diced blueberries and strawberries mixed into sweetened cream cheese filling. I also made some "plain" ones with just the caramel ganache.

Also, it turned out that tempering chocolate wasn't all that tough but OY was it messy (for me anyway)!

My fillings turned out to be somewhat firm (so no running out of the chocolate) but not stiff enough to be rolled in a ball and dipped so that led to making a filled chocolate (bonbon). Yay for attempting something previously untried.

The toughest part of this challenge (for me) was getting the chocolates out of the "mold" without shattering them. Ugh what a delicious (but ugly) mess. I finally got some to come out by lining my "mold" (a silicone mini muffin pan) with parchment paper. The candies didn't have the same sheen as they got from setting against the silicone but they were at least not shattered.

Left: Caramel Apple Bon Bon, Right: Berries and Cream Bon Bon

While I could write up the whole post from the Daring Kitchen, its much simpler to direct you to the .pdf with all their lovely candies.

Choose for yourself what diabolical tastiness you'd like to attempt. 

If you want, you're welcome to try the fillings I made:

Caramel Ganache

1/2 recipe of caramel sauce
3/4 c. heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp sugar

First prepare caramel sauce. (See below.) Then whip cream to soft peaks. Add sugar, one Tbsp at a time while you continue whipping to form stiffer peaks. After caramel has had 5 minutes to cool, add whipped cream 1/4 c. at a time and fold into the caramel sauce. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. I refrigerated overnight.

Caramel Sauce (1/2 recipe)

1/4 c. unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1.5 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 c. brown sugar (yes I know this makes it technically a butterscotch but most ppl don't know the difference and cringe when they hear butterscotch b/c of the gross store version)
1/4 c. water

Melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in flour to make a paste. Add brown sugar and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Be careful if you go over  5 minutes. This sauce will harden into a brick of sugar when cooled if overcooked. NEVER FEAR! Should you overcook (but not burn) the sauce, add it back into the sauce pot with 1/4 c. of water. Using medium heat, the "sugar brick" will dissolve in the water and form a lovely sauce again. Remember to stir. 

Caramel Apple Pie Chocolate

1 apple
1 recipe of above caramel ganache, chilled
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp of brown sugar
tempered chocolate, molten

Peel and dice the apple. Stir in cinnamon and brown sugar. Let sit 3-5 minutes for flavors to mingle. Stir in part of the caramel ganache to reach desired apple to caramel ratio. I used maybe 1/3 of the caramel ganache. Its tough to make less than the above recipe though. Pace yourself when devouring the remaining caramel ganache.

Paint the mold with tempered chocolate. Place in fridge to chill for 5-10 minutes. When firm, add filling (~1/2 tsp. in my case) and cover with tempered chocolate. Place back in fridge to chill for 5-10 minutes. Share with friends or use it to make new ones. ;)

Berries and Cream Filling

1/3 c. strawberries
1/3 c. blueberries
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Dice blueberries and stawberries and cover with sugar. Stir sugar around to distribute. Beat cream cheese until soft and fluffly. Add sweetened fruit and vanilla. Stir well and refrigerate at least 2 hours. I made this a day in advance. 

As with the previous caramel apple pie bon bon, I painted chocolate onto the mold, chilled, filled, painted chocolate again, and chilled again to set them up before serving.


I liked all three. My favorite was the berries and cream. Mmm, I can eat the filling straight from the bowl. Yum.

Rebecca and Becky both preferred the Caramel Apple Pie Bon Bon but like the others.

Mike preferred the Caramel (even though he typically dislikes both caramel and butterscotch) but liked all three. He rated Berries and Cream in second. 

I also liked finally getting the chocolates to not crack when removing from the mold when using parchment paper as a liner. Future preparations will result in me acquiring a mold intended for preparing chocolates. 

Thanks for a great challenge!

What's your favorite chocolate filling?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Double Take: Rosemary Onion Bread

Recently, I told you all about my plant, Miss Rosemary. She’s a major kitchen contributor and I try to find new ways to use her more in cooking. Today’s recipe is an example of that. It’s also an example of merging ideas. For one of the Daring Baking Challenges this spring, we made filled yeasted coffee cakes. Before I cause confusion, this isn’t a coffee cake but it has the same filled swirl technique that we used for the coffee cake. 

This is a light, soft bread with a savory filling. If you’re a light lover of rosemary, take it down to ½ to 1 tsp rather than Tbsp. This would be easy to mix and match herbs to serve in a sheet form for garlic bread to serve with salad. It’s a pretty flexible bread. Be cautious with the amounts of herbs depending on how you want to use it. 1 Tbsp of rosemary packs a huge amount of flavor.

Slice of Rosemary-Caramlized Onion Bread

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Double Take: Mandu (Korean Dumplings)

Doooooo Doo DooDoo Do Doo Dooo Dooooooo. (It’s tough to type the sound starting the CBS evening news.)

Good evening (its evening somewhere) and welcome to the 6 o’clock news. Last week we brought you a taste of Korea with Korean Fried Chicken. Today, the story continues with Korean dumplings.

What are dumplings, you ask? Well, they’re not your Southern style dumplings folks! (Although those are completely unbeatable, this is the continued Korean story.) These dumplings are along the line of Chinese/Japanese potstickers, Eastern European pierogies, and could be considered a cousin to tortellini. What do all these have in common? They’re dough with a filling inside that is boiled and eaten. All are typically dipped in or served with a sauce.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Double Take: Korean Fried Chicken

Everybody needs a little KFC! Oh wait, this is KOREAN fried chicken, not Kentucky Fried. No matter, the jingle still applies.

If you're like me, you might balk a little when someone mentions Korean food. Why is that? Why do I think mmmm Japanese food, mmmm Thai food, ...Korean food ...ehhhh?!

If I think back, there was certainly a time when I would've hesitated at Japanese food. Five years ago, I tried Thai food and wasn't sure I could be talked into trying it again. Sometimes its about finding something you like within a cuisine. I'm not interested in Japanese food with mushrooms (which make me a very sick girl...stop me if I think that a small amount won't hurt.) I'm also not interested in Pad Thai. I love spicy noodles though and Thai curries are great! I'm glad Mel got me to try Thai a second time. ...and helped me find some things I really like.

Anywho, Korean food. I kept seeing Korean Fried Chicken pop up on blogs. Multiple recipes of people going on about how awesome it was. I figured, hey its fried chicken..surely this many people can't be wrong. If you're concerned about picky eaters and this dish, let me assure you that its really fried chicken that you roll in a sauce. The sauce is tasty and can easily be tailored for the I'm-not-into-spicy-food-AT-ALL- people. My friend Becky isn't into spicy food so we were especially careful with the spicy heat. She loved this though. If you're dealing with I'm-not-eating-Korean-NAH-NAH-you-can't-make-me....serve them the fried chicken without the sauce. Problem solved.

Korean Fried Chicken (Fried Chicken with Korean BBQ Sauce)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Double Take: Summer Vegetable Gratin

Today, I realized that my last post (Risotto Primavera) was the 100th post on my blog. That seems rather momentous to me. If I glance back at the past 100 posts, I see a lot of double takes posts, a smattering of some of the cooking nights I've hosted, and several daring challenges. I also see that my writing and photography skills have changed (for the better, I think). Looking forward, I hope to get you all updated with all the crazy cooking nights we've done. Further, I'd like to start giving you more of a taste of the sweet treats I make for people's birthdays. I'll also be adding a recipe index soon and I have a new food interest that I can hopefully start sharing in the next few months. I'll let it be a surprise but the only hint I have is that it takes more time than a standard recipe takes to produce. It promises to be really fun.

Is there anything special you'd like to see getting posted here? Is there anything that is a missing feature on the blog page that drives you crazy? Let me know! This is a work in progress.

Today's recipe is a shout out to all those summer vegetables you've been gathering from your garden, local farmer's market, neighbor who can't handle anymore, or grocery. I know, everyone didn't grow up eating loads of vegetables. I'm always impressed with all the veggies that Laura @ Hey what's for dinner mom? is able to get her kids to not only eat but also enjoy! Sometimes in the daily and weekly routine, its easy to fall into a steam it and get tired of it rut with vegetables. While this is healthy, it can get dull. I don't know about you but if I get bored of food, I have trouble making myself eat it. One way to break up the rut is by combining vegetables together to compliment one another. That's exactly what the summer vegetable gratin does. It combines complimenting vegetables (in a combination that comes as somewhat of a surprise) with common spices and CHEESE!

Summer Vegetable Gratin

Say Cheese! See its got you smiling already! :)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Double Take: Risotto Primavera

Risotto Primavera

I'm somewhat of a newbie to risotto. I'd never had it before last spring. Rebecca, Ruthann and I made one with zucchini, another with green beans and a third with butternut squash. We didn't do this all in one night but we were really enjoying risotto. The zucchini from Bon Appetite: Fast, Easy, Fresh was our favorite. Its a great dish if you have a few people to feed and can send leftovers home with them.

The various vegetable combinations can really transform the veggies from the norm of steaming or sauteing. As an added bonus, I've heard that non-meatitarian families eat risotto as an meatless main for supper. If you want to go completely vegetarian you can use vegetable broth (slight shudder). I'm not a big veggie broth gal but I know there are people who are. To you I say, awesome and if you have a veggie broth you love, let me know. I'd be willing to try it.

It does take a little longer to prepare but most of the time isn't hands on time. You can walk away for a couple minutes to tend another dish and then return to stir and add a little more broth. For people who love to stir a pot, this is your dish! For people who like to walk away for a minute or two and come back, this dish works for you too! How often does that happen?

There are a few things you should know before attempting a risotto recipe.

1. What's Risotto? - a dish prepared with short to medium grained rice cooked with a broth (vegetable or meat) and finished with Parmesan cheese

2. What's Primavera? - served with a variety of fresh vegetables (This can include an oil sauce or white sauce but the only key ingredient is fresh vegetables.)

3. What's Arborio rice? - common rice for making risotto but any short to medium grain rice will do. This rice absorbs lots of fluid without becoming mushy. Look for Arborio rice at Whole Foods and you'll typically get a better price than at a supermarket. Its also available by the scoop at Whole Foods.

4. If you live by yourself, DO NOT MAKE A WHOLE RECIPE. It grows.

5. If using a stock/broth that has salt in it, don't add any extra salt until you've tasted it. It is likely that the stock will have more than enough salt.

6. Are you wondering why the recipe would call for both olive oil and butter? The olive oil can take more heat but the butter gives more flavor. Using them together allows maximum heat and flavor at once!

Daring Baker's Challenge: Peach-Blueberry Fraisier

Peach-Blueberry Fraisier

This challenge makes me think of two old sayings...1) Bad things come in threes. 2) When life hands you lemons, make lemonade. To be honest, I've had a number of caketastrophies lately. Allow me to suffice it to the fact that gravity appeared to greater than normal for the cakes I've made lately. No, they weren't falling in the sense that you think of a fallen cake or fallen bread. Instead the cakes or their elements made extreme attempts at not staying contained as desired. Please note: the cakes survived all their literal falls. Cakes were not damaged but it sure was stressful. For one cake, the pan fell from my hands to the floor. The bottom of the pan hit the floor, the cake was so shaken in the process that it broke into 15 pieces but stayed in the cake pan. I pulled the pieces out, cooled them and then reassembled them atop a piece of parchment paper in the cake pan. After chilling together in the form in the fridge, they came out as what looked like a normal cake. I set it on the bottom and no one could even tell.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Double Take: Chicken Cacciatore

Top 3 Reasons to make this dish:

1. You like it when your tastebuds sing.
2. You like it when your coworkers sniff your lunch jealously.
3. You like it when a meal doesn't require a lot of effort on your part.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Beef With Spicy Cocoa Gravy, Double Take

When Mel added this recipe to her pick list, I was skeptical. Mel loves mole (the spicy cocoa Mexican dish) but after trying it and another dish with a similar ingredient, I learned I don't like adobo peppers. They tend to bring along with them a heavy smoky flavor (cuminesque) and I'm not a heavy cumin kind of gal so at least my taste buds are consistent. Mel knows that I don't love cumin. I'll use a little but I often reduce it in recipes. As it turns out, her husband, Bender, doesn't care much for cumin either. I scanned the recipe and was relieved to see no adobo peppers. It did call for cumin but I could always adjust that. I decided, sure, I could try this.

I noticed that the cook time is a bit lengthy compared to a 30 minute wonder. It takes over an hour and a half. Since we had another dish selected that took about the same time, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I'll show you the other dish in a week or so on a future double take but you'll get a sneak peak in the photos.

Having made it, I would give you a couple words of caution about the beef with spicy cocoa gravy:

1) DO NOT DOUBLE the sauce. Holy cow, I might have accidentally doubled an ingredient and decided to solve the problem by doubling the rest of the sauce. Don't do this unless you have a gravy-loving cat. It turns out Sookie (my female cat) snubbed the gravy but Jack (male cat who has very different food preferences from Sookie) loved the gravy. He refused to eat the tomatoes and the bell pepper and onion (oops, I didn't think about the bell pepper and onion, that shouldn't be offered to a cat). Lucky for me Jack was smart enough to leave that in a pile to the side and enjoyed lapping up the gravy from his bowl.

2) I would encourage you to reduce the cumin and possibly add some cocoa to the gravy mixture if you want to have even a hint of chocolate taste.

3) Don't expect this to taste like chocolatey beef (unless you do some serious cocoa increases). It really will taste more like a chunks of roast beef in a gravy which has a Mexican influence.

4) A little goes a long way with this recipe. Their suggested portion size is apparently double mine. I apparently ate about 1/2 c at a time while the original called for 1 c. servings. Judge how much to make based on how much your family eats. I didn't notice the portion size was so large. It would've been pretty near impossible to cut this recipe into 1/4 though.

Beef with Spicy Cocoa Gravy 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Double Take: Carnitas

I'm very excited to share today's post with you. In fact, I've been excited about it since Cinco de Mayo but we had this one scheduled a little later than then on our calendar. Lucky for you, it'll be time for the Mexican Independence Day celebration on September 16th. Just pocket this recipe away til then and you'll be ready to party like its 1810...or celebrate the victory in 1821..however it works out for you. (In case you're wondering, 1810 is when the Mexicans declared Independence from Spain. They didn't gain independence until 1821 but they celebrate September 16 (the day they declared independence) as their Independence Day.)

I saw the carnitas episode on America's Test Kitchen earlier this year and was impressed but not yet won over. I'd never eaten carnitas. I wasn't sure what to expect. The next thing I knew, a friend came in from out of town and I wound up at a Mexican restaurant. Across the seat from me, Ruthann ordered carnitas. She wasn't overwhelming pleased with the ones there but said they were usually awesome. No joke, within the next two weeks, Melanie picks out not one but TWO carnitas recipes. At this point, I was like wow, apparently I'm going to be trying carnitas. I suggested the recipe from America's Test Kitchen. Their rigorous testing pleases the scientist in me but its typically more work than I'd want to go to on my own on a per recipe basis. Since they'd done the work, it seemed logical to me to try it their way. Mel was game so I was off on my journey to try carnitas.

The next thing I needed was a taste tester. It looked like carnitas could feed a small crowd. Heads really can. Be prepared to have a crowd handy or eat them for a week. This would not be one person eating them for a week either. Seriously 2-3 people could eat these for a week. But I digress, Becky was totally up for a little food themed celebration of Cinco de Mayo.

As I looked over the recipe, I realized it could use a little modification for your average joe grad student who stays at the lab way too many hours in a day. In fact, the same modification would work well for your average  Joe or Jill who works a long day on the job but wants a tasty dinner. Got a crockpot? You're in for a tasty treat.

Carnita ready to eat!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fourth of July, Blue and White: Blueberry Pie

Yesterday's post was all about the U.S. flag with special emphasis on the red and white. I mentioned that the white stars on the blue background were meant to represent a constellation. The early leaders meant this to symbolize our country's place as a sovereign power. Today's blueberry pie is constellation-esque with its white pastry stars in the blueberry "sky".

I actually made this pie for a friend's bday party. Her birthday falls in December around Christmas when no one is around so we celebrated her birthday early as a surprise in July! I wasn't quite sure how it would come out but I was thrilled with the result.

Blueberry Pie

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fourth of July, Red and White: Cherry Pie

When I think about the Fourth of July, I can't help but reflect on the U.S. flag and the soldiers who have died to keep our nation free and united. Its common for red, white and blue decorations and foods to pop up during Independence Day picnics. Its less common to consider why those colors were chosen to represent our nation. While a lot of rumors roll about our flag, the official decisions about the U.S. flag were that it have 13 stripes. (One stripe for each of the colonies which joined the union to fight in the Revolutionary War.) Further the original flag was to have a union of all the colonies in the form of white stars in a blue field symbolizing a new constellation. As the Great Seal of the U.S. was designed they tied flag themes into the seal, including the red and white stripes of the colonies and the union of the white stars on a blue field. White was stated to represent purity and innocence; blue signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice; and red represents hardiness and valor.

That's a lot to ask of three colors. Its a lot to consider that these patriots had such high ideals of what they wanted our nation to become. I wonder what they would think to see some of the trifles we quarrel over and if there would be issues we take as "normal" that they would find a higher priority in changing. Thinking about it all doesn't make me want to make some huge promise to myself that I could never complete. It doesn't make me say...Let's all stop poverty, injustice, etc...I can't do that. Its a bigger issue than me. We don't live in a perfect world but we can all help in some form of service to our neighborhood, community, local schools, etc. Seeing their high ideals makes me feel more driven to find ways to help in my community in a more focused way. Maybe that seems small...but its something. I've actually spent some time looking into ways to help out in my surrounding community over the last few weeks. Thinking about these things reminds me that there's an area garden that supports a children's home in my area that needs people to just come and pick vegetables. I can go and pick vegetables. Its not an every day thing, but its a need that happens to be something I can do. I love gardening. If you're in Winston-Salem and want to go picking veggies at the Children's Home, let me know.

Red and white: hardiness and valor, purity and innocence.

Red and white: cherry pie.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Double Take: Whole Lemon Bars

I love lemons! I don't like to eat them alone but if you put together a dessert with some lemony goodness, I'm most likely going to like it. Apparently, I'm not alone. This is evidenced by the variety of lemon recipes that exist: lemon bars, lemon meringue pie, chess squares...few of which are the same. Some recipes  have sweetened condensed milk, while others include fruits that bring it more sweet and sometimes more tart flavors. I've seen lemon cheesecake on a brownie crust. (I really want to try it.) Its evident that people also have difference preferences on the extent of lemon flavor in their treats. Most chess squares are light on the lemon and heavy on the creamy factors. Lemon bars come in a range of tartness but often can become less exciting after a few bites. For those seeking more excitement, I'd recommend the whole lemon bars recipe below. It uses one whole lemon and packs a ton of flavor. I liked having a few small bits of lemon within the filling to give surprise added punches of flavor. Taste tester responses follow the recipe.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Daring Baker's Challenge: Baklava

Its riddle time!

What's crunchy, flaky, nutty, salty and sweet...all at once? (Hint: The post title is a dead giveaway.) Yeah, that's right...Baklava!

Honey Roasted Almond, Honey Roasted Cashew, and Pistachio Baklava (Flavor 1 of 2)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Double Take: Rosemary Grilled Chicken Thighs, sortof

I've been holding out on you. Its probably not tough to tell that I love garlic. However, what most readers would have no idea about is that I feel rosemary is a close second.

While not as ubiquitously used in most recipes, rosemary offers a burst of flavor that sets off fireworks in my mouth! In addition to cooking and being a crazy busy graduate student, I'm also an avid gardener. I'm slowly converting more of the suburban backyard into assorted garden spots. Among my plants is my dear Miss Rosemary. Yes, that sounds strange but that is what I call her.

Rosemary likes water but doesn't tolerate harsh winters or extreme heat well. I thoughtfully planted her beneath some pine trees in the backyard to increase her daily shade time. I learned this past winter resulted in many people in the general area losing their rosemary bushes so I was glad mine not only survived but is flourishing. Rosemary stays green all year long and you pick the little green "leaves" for use in recipes. I rinse them and chop them finely, just as you would chop up any other herb. In addition to being tasty, rosemary has been touted to contain many antioxidants and has historically been believed to improve memory. From the gardening side, rosemary expands as a bush every year and is a very fragrant addition to an herb garden. I saw one persons' rosemary bush that was 6 feet WIDE! Crazy. I had no idea how big they could get. I'm going to start experimenting with mine to see if I can break off a section and get it to grow roots. If anyone has great experience with this, fill me in!

Today's recipe is brought to you by Miss Rosemary. Indeed it wouldn't have been possible without her. It was inspired by two people: 1) my friend Crystal who made an excellent rosemary chicken dish in undergrad 2) Pink Parsley, whose post made Mel interested in making the dish. I can't just follow a recipe so I'm thankful for the inspiration and excited to give you my version.

Garlic Rosemary Grilled Chicken

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Double Take: Beef with Sugar Snap Peas

In the process of preparing this post, I started paying more attention to peas. I know, who needs to pay attention to peas. Many people won't eat them. I grew up loving peas though. We grew them and enjoyed them fresh or frozen. At our house, peas were always served with pork tenderloin and macaroni and cheese. If you say out it loud it really rolls off your tongue, "macaroni and cheese and peas". We also liked to stir peas into our mashed potatoes. Nearly everyone in our family eats them this way. If you haven't tried it, I'd encourage you to do so. That's a different kind of pea though. Its a pea that you shell to eat.

In addition to shell peas, there are two other varieties: sugar snap peas and snow peas. The latter two pea types are eaten whole (pod and all). I was shocked the first time I saw someone eat the whole pea. They were dipping them in ranch dressing and I thought I'd give it a go. It was good. Now, some may contend that most anything dipped in ranch dressing is good but these were good without the ranch too. I know, shocking. I liked the crunch of the pod and the bonus popping of the peas in my mouth. What's the difference between snow peas and sugar snap peas though? Snow peas are really more of the pod with what seems like underdeveloped peas inside. Its a very flat edible pod. Snow peas are a great option for people who don't like the added pop of the peas in their mouth.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ethiopian Cooking Night: Appetizer, Ayib Be Gomen

Ayib Be Gomen is a form of cheese dip served as an appetizer or as a side in Ethiopian cooking. I try to keep in mind while saying this that Ethiopia is such a poor country that the bulk of the population would not be so blessed as to have appetizers and might make an entire meal of what we would consider a side. Its a sobering thought. We are so blessed to have food at ready access. Further, we have enough to pick and choose and make our meals interesting. I'm thankful to get to experience the food from the many diverse cultures but its food for thought to consider that I can try some of their most amazing dishes all in one meal while the people of the country may only taste each dish on a few occasions in their entire life.

My Aunt B. and Uncle A. recently adopted two children from Ethiopia. While I live some distance away, I've enjoyed seeing posts and getting to visit with them during recent family gatherings. Its hard for me to picture the world from which they've come. Indeed the world they have expressed they don't want to return to due to the hunger and extreme poverty of the situation. Of course at 5 and 7 years old, this expression looks much more like extreme worry. When taken to the store for school supplies, there was a small freak out because the oldest was afraid they were buying him things to send him back. He didn't want to go back and neither of them want to eat the food from their native country...yet. Hopefully one day they'll be ready to embrace their culture, enjoying its good parts and trying to help those in situations similar to what they were in prior to adoption. I'm glad they're part of our family.

I guess you could say they served as part of the inspiration for the Ethiopian Cooking Night. Prior to that, Charles had requested an Ethiopian cooking night but I was very hesitant. Lets me be honest, I had no idea what Ethiopians ate and was a little afraid that my friends might not like it. How could I choose dishes from titles that looked so foreign? What was Doro Wat? The names for other dishes appeared even more foreign. While not typically intimidated by trying out unfamiliar dishes on my friends, the Ethiopian dishes remained untested until I had the opportunity to try them first hand. It would have been different, I think, had there been posts with pictures or descriptions of the foods available. Either way, I had Ethiopian food in Boston at Addis Red Sea this past fall and was convinced that it would make a fun addition to cooking night!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Double Take: Peri Peri Chicken

Today I am pleased to share a taste with Portuguese and African origins. Spoiler alert: Get ready for a ride through Ethiopian foods in some upcoming posts on Double the Garlic!

Ok, back to today's recipe. I first tried Peri Peri Chicken at Nando's Peri Peri in Washington D.C. In truth, I was looking for African food. I was initially rather disappointed to land at what appeared to be some sort of chain Portuguese restaurant.

What on earth? Who ever heard of a Portuguese chain? At least it would be interesting and I'd never had Portuguese food. It was pretty tasty. They had options for varying heat levels suited to satisfy any temperature of palate. Imagine my surprise when I found their sides included Portuguese spiced french fries, spicy rice and hold it...macho peas? I'd never seen peas on any restaurant menu. I made sure to try them and they were great.  If more places served peas that well, there wouldn't be adults making faces over other people eating peas. Instead, they'd all be smiling and asking for a few. Imagine that world.

This post is all about the chicken! I found this recipe on Sortachef's blog. There are more good recipes where this one came from so check it out! Meanwhile, ditch your fork for my adapted version of Peri Peri Chicken!

Peri Peri Chicken

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Taste of Bavaria

If I've seemed a bit absent lately, there's a perfectly logical explanation for it...I was absent. In fact, I was across the ocean absent. That may not seem like a big deal to some travelers but it was my first time outside of the U.S. altogether. Traveling across the pond by myself was pretty stressful for me but definitely worth it. After all, the purpose of the trip was to get to see Melanie...and Bavaria. In truth, I was primarily excited about spending time with Melanie but the more I planned for the trip, the more excited I became about Bavaria. Some things are pretty tough to capture in a picture, to be honest. They're the sort of thing you have to experience to get the full magical effect.

We didn't climb every mountain....

but we did take a cable car to the top of one part of the Alps.

Yes, these clouds really were at eye level.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Double Take: Lime Square with Pistachio Pecan Graham Cracker Crust

Lime Square with Pistachio-Pecan-Graham Cracker Crust

Yesterday was Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May). I thought it was just a spring celebration held by Mexicans but its a bit more than that. Its actually a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture AND the date commemorates the unlikely victory Mexico had over the French on May 5, 1862. It wasn't the day they won their independence but marked the first time the well equipped French army had been beaten by a smaller force and the last time a country in the Americas was invaded by a European force. I had no idea Mexico was fighting for independence while in the U.S. a Civil War was raging. Wow. I realize I don't have an incredible amount of knowledge about the history of Canada or Mexico.

In case you were dying to know, Mexico celebrates its Independence Day on September 16th based on the day their war for independence from Spain began in 1810. They officially became independent from Spain in 1821 only to be taken over later by the French. After the U.S. Civil War ended, the U.S. military joined Mexico to help them defeat the French. Craziness. Well, that's your history nugget of the day.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Double Take: Gnocchi

Homemade pasta is a challenge that I've wanted to attempt for a while now. I've watched Lydia Bastianovich make many pastas on PBS, envisioned unique ravioli fillings, etc. but had yet to venture into the great pasta unknown. Reality, it looks time consuming. Reality, some of it is time consuming but I think as you practice you get fast at it. I can live with that.

When Mel added gnocchi to the list of want to makes, I was excited and surprised. As I read the recipe, I continued to be surprised but with less enthusiasm. In the past, I've been notorious for not reading a recipe until starting it. In the last year, I've corrected that. Since Mel tends to be more of a stickler for details than myself, I was surprised at the vagueness of the recipe. I decided to give it a whirl. I'd watched Lydia make other pastas, how tough could it be.

Three things should now be noted:

           1) Never underestimate the mad skills of a professional.
           2) Watching a professional make pasta will be a huge asset the first time you try on your own.
           3) If the recipe causes panic, remember ingredients in different countries and different regions of countries
                vary greatly. Modification may be necessary and should not be a source of panic. Go based on what
                you know a recipe or dough should look like, not strictly on what is written.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Daring Baker's Challenge: Edible Containers for Maple Mousse

A.K.A. In which I made a hollow maple tree and filled it with mousse. Then I laughed at myself and made a moose filled with mousse.

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blogCheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

When I saw this month's challenge, I was determined to at least do something different. Very different from the standard cup/bowl traditional containment for food. While thinking about maple mousse, many themes came to mind: maple, maple leaves, maple trees, maple trees being tapped for maple mousse, chocolate buckets to hold maple mousse, waffles cones full of maple mousse, cream puffs  full of maple mousse,and  maple leaf shaped pancakes topped with maple mousse (tasty but not really a container). 

After a list like that I had to think. Then I saw a few people starting to post in the forums. I felt torn, do I rush or wait? I decided I really really wanted to make a hollow tree full of maple mousse and maybe something else different. What to make the tree from? 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Irish Cooking Night: Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Whipped Cream Icing

Can a celebration of Irish food be complete without including something green? I think not.

Solution: Cupcakes! Before you freak, I'm not loading cupcakes up with enough green dye to color a desert. That's gross. There's also no way that is good for your body. A little bit of green goes a long way. I figured a few green sugar crystals on top would do nicely. While I was at it, why not make a four leaf clover out of sugar crystals on top of the cupcake?

Frosting: I've had both chocolate and cream cheese varieties. Both are tasty. Since I wanted the clovers to be apparent, I decided to stick with a cream cheese/whipped cream frosting.

Cake: I've had Mel's chocolate stout cake and Bon Appetit's too. I like them both. For this recipe, I adapted Bon Appetit's cake recipe.

Four-Leaf Clover: I initially thought I'd try to make a design using aluminum foil. In my weekly talk with my mamaw, I shared my plan to put a clover on top of the cupcake. She replied that she used to do designs on cupcakes for us kids using wax paper and asked if I was planning to use wax paper. Cue a head slap moment. Wax paper would be much more flexible and slightly translucent. I thanked her and admitted all I'd thought about was aluminum foil. She was pleased to help and I was pleased to have the benefit of her experience.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Double Take: Hoisin Pork Tenderloin

It seems we're on an Asian kick lately with some of our double take posts. Never fear, the fortune cookie from this meal predicts big changes coming in the future.

For those wondering what Hoisin (hoy-sin) is imagine the sweet sauce you've had in an asian dish. Its commonly used in sweet dipping sauces and has a reddish brown color. The consistency is like thickened ketchup. In general, I really enjoy it but its always possible to have too much of a good thing....well I guess that depends on your persuasion. I know some folks that can't have too much chocolate. However, in general, balance is a good thing.

Mel picked this recipe knowing how much I've enjoyed hoisin sauce in the past. In fact, it was a big deal for me to learn what sauce was being used to create the sweet flavor. Initially, I was so excited about it, we prepared a number of dishes using hoisin sauce. The dipping sauce I used to agedashi tofu last week included a little bit of hoisin in balance with other ingredients. This week's recipe features it as a major flavor. Originally from Cooking Light, the recipe is basically a marinade that is later concentrated into a sauce.

While preparing the marinade, I made sure it taste it. The balance seemed good to me. After cooking though, the sauce was a bit too sweet. I suggest tempering it with soy sauce and/or rice wine vinegar until you hit a flavor that you prefer.

Hoisin Pork Tenderloin with Steamed Broccoli

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Irish Cooking Night: Baby Carrots and Pearl Onions in Cream

Aside from potatoes, the first Irish themed vegetable that comes to mind is cabbage.


No! This post is not about cabbage.


Lots of people really don't enjoy cabbage. I only enjoy it very selectively. I started looking for other vegetables that the Irish enjoy.

     They eat something besides potatoes and cabbage? What? Why have I never heard of this?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Double Take: Garlic Soup (a quick and tasty broth for stews)

All soups are not created equal. Lately I've become more conscious of some of the differences in soups: chunky, veggie heavy, creamy, brothy, herb endowed, etc. From the occasional packed lunch in elementary school, I learned that there were some soup bases I liked and some I couldn't eat. For instance, I liked chicken and stars broth better than plain chicken noodle soup. I still can't tell you the exact difference but chicken and stars tastes different ...its thicker and seriously its not just the stars....its better. I also liked the soups with tomato broth but not tomato stock. I think that tomato stock used tomato paste and who knows what else. All I knew as a kid was that I didn't like it. Mom said you picked it, you eat it. You'll learn the difference and not pick it next time. She was right. I learned to read what was different on the labels and rarely got tricked into the funny dinosaur noodles in tomato stock. They were cute, but not tasty.

Today's soup, is not so much a soup as it is a broth. Its reminiscent of the broth texture you'd find in chicken noodle soup but with an herbed flavor. It honestly doesn't taste like garlic even if you double it (and I did). It does have a lot of herbal flexibility so you can suit your family's taste. It is not photogenic but definitely worth the extra few minutes (10-15) to prepare the broth for your next beef stew. I'd like to give a shout out here to Laura at Hey What's for Dinner Mom for pointing out this recipe. The original is from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Double Take: Deep Fried WHAAAT?

Remember the Life cereal commericals? "Don't worry your kids will eat it.....It taste like the bark of a tree...(horrified kid's face) Don't worry your kids will eat it. ...Actually its more like a stick...(child runs and hides)...Don't worry your kids will eat it....A cinnamon stick!!! NEW Cinnamon Oat Life. Cue happy faced, surprised kid and pleased parent. My family was more of a Fruit Loops clan. We didn't do cinnamon oat life. At the grocery store, my sister and I had to agree on a cereal for the next two weeks. If we didn't eat it, we had to finish it before we could pick something else. We picked a new one the next payday. Also, if we ran out early, our other option was Kellog's Corn Flakes. This set up good lessons in portion control, compromise, and finishing what you started ...and we learned to like corn flakes too.

My point is though that sometimes something you think you won't like, for whatever reason (even if you think corn flakes are plain), if you try it, you might change your mind. This happened to the Cat in the Hat with the green eggs and ham too, as you will recall. Sometimes, grown ups can be more stubborn about trying something they're "certain they don't like" than a kid.

Confession: I don't like tofu. It is typically squooshy and doesn't have much of a taste to it. I've tried it but its generally not my thing. That's what I said when Mel tried to get me to taste a piece of the Agedashi tofu appetizer at Ishi (a local Japanese restaurant). Well, that or way, tofu is disgusting and squooshy, no thanks, I've had it before and I'm not interested. She CLAIMED this was different. She CLAIMED it was crunchy, not squooshy...that it was TASTY, not gross and that the dipping sauce was awesome.

Agedashi Tofu

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Irish Cooking Night: Haggerty

WHHHAAAT? That's right, hag-er-tea. Its an Irish dish made of potatoes, onions, and cheese. Sounding better already, isn't it?

Selection: Irish love potatoes. Potatoes have kept them alive. They also love cabbage. Apparently like they like cabbage in potatoes, cabbage in with their meat and potatoes, or just plain potatoes. There are lots of ways to prep a potato but I was looking for something a little different. This dish is a combo of potatoes, onions, and cheese. One of my favorite parts of this recipe was that it called for bacon grease. That's awesome. I keep my leftover bacon grease in a jar in the fridge. Well actually its more of a cup, but you get the idea. As the adage goes, save all manner of bacon grease. Consequently, you could fry up a piece or two of bacon and toss it in the dish. Alternately, you could use butter but bacon grease will give you the maximum flavor.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Double Take: Red Thai Chicken Curry

Anyone out there remember the secret to the awesome bbq in the movie Fried Green Tomatoes? They said, "the secret's in the sauce." This sauce is in no way containing the same "secret ingredient" that the gals used in Fried Green Tomatoes. However, the statement is still true for it. Today's recipe is a fun way to dress up chicken with a flair of Thai style curry. The bonus? You don't have to make the curry paste but you can select a curry paste that suits your family.

Most groceries now have an asian section stocked with a mix of what can be mysterious looking curry pastes.

Curry Paste Comparison by Brand
Thai Kitchen tends to be completely mild.
Patak's has a little heat but is fine for those who like mild sauce at Taco Bell.
Deep Food's brand tends to be similar to Patak's in spice but can leave your kitchen with more residual smell.
Maesri tends to be notably hotter than Patak's and Deep Food's. If you use a whole can for 4 servings, be prepared for some heat.

For any of these, if you want more heat, add chili flakes or chili garlic sauce (aka ugly rooster sauce). This is not the same as Tabasco with garlic. It tends to have a rooster on the front but any Asian chili garlic sauce will work.

Also, you have the option of making your own. Pioneer Woman makes her own. In fact, her recipe is adapted for today's post. Its a great, quick weeknight dinner. It can easily be adapted for anyone's tastes by adjusting vegetables and spice level. The leftovers reheat well too.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Irish Cooking Night: Crockpot Corned Beef

March's cooking night was Irish themed. I was hesitant when selecting the menu. It seems corned beef is more of an Irish peasant food that Americans favor far more than the origin country. Yet, corned beef is Irish. Those at cooking night were all Americans and it was a celebration of Irish food, therefore it fit.

Once decided on corned beef, I got it in my head that I wanted to corn my own. Alton Brown's version took nearly a week. I found a version on submitted by one of my favorite contributors (evelyn/athens) that only took 3 days. Awesome. Then I went to the store. $6 / lb for brisket! I was shocked. It was actually cheaper to get beef that was already corned. I waited a week to check the next week's sale ad. Since it was St. Patrick's Day week, there was a chance. The reality was that the corned beef brisket was dropped further to $3/lb. As an added bonus, they had a low sodium option. I'm not a fan of over salted food so I was instantly drawn to that option. I do want to corn my own but being responsible with spending money was more important than being excited about corning my own beef.

If you're planning a cooking event for 7-8 people, you need a guess at how much meat you need. Most party planning I've seen suggests 6 oz per person. I went with 3.5 lb. It came out perfectly portioned. Again, if you're planning a cooking party, its important to have an idea of time. Corned beef is cooked slowly. It can be cooked on the stovetop or crockpot. With either option, it should be cooked for 4 hours. To me, the crockpot choice became a no-brainer. I feel uncomfortable leaving my house with a stove eye on but not the crockpot. To each their own though.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Daring Baker's Challenge: 1) Sausage and Cheese or 2) Caramel Apple and Pecan Filled Yeasted Coffee Cake

The March 2011 Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Ria of Ria’s Collection and Jamie of Life’s a Feast. Ria and Jamie challenged The Daring Bakers to bake a yeasted Meringue Coffee Cake.

At left, sausage and cheese. At right, caramel apple with pecan. 

My initial reaction:

Is this the same recipe as the Stollen from December?

Answer: No.

            What's the difference?

Answer: This is a light, moist bread with a filling rolled between the layers of bread. Stollen was dense and typically had its flavors incorporated into the dough.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Double Take: Panko Crusted Chicken with Mustard Maple Pan Sauce

As a society, we're pretty visually driven. I'd say its pretty rare to go to a movie without having seen the trailer with key scenes to convince us we need to see this movie. Its similar with books. Imagery in the title or the cover is used to convince us we should read it. I'd like to say I'm immune to that but I'm not. Some of the last few sets of books that I've picked out to read have caught my eye with the cover or title imagery.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Double Take: St. Patrick's Day, Cranberry Tangelo Irish Soda Bread

A Tale of Two Breads

Cranberry Tangelo Irish Soda Bread
(My favorite so far!)

It was the best of breads, it was the worst of breads, it was a bread of genius, and it was a bread of insanity.

Apparently no two Irish soda breads are created equal. I looked at a lot of recipes in which comments ranged from awesome to disappointing and "this is just like my Irish gram's" to "this is nothing like what I grew up with"...all for the same recipe. I'm starting to think there might be more ways to make Irish soda bread than there are to make vegetable soup. I tried two different recipes. To call them different seems an understatement though. They were truly night and day in difference. Oddly I made one exactly per the recipe--completely plain. I also made a variant using cranberries and tangelo zest. For the second recipe, I went straight with the cranberries and tangelo zest. When you find a good thing, you don't toss it. I can assure you, cranberry and tangelo zest in soda bread are a VERY GOOD combination.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Butterscotch Pie

I love pie.

In fact, its probably my favorite type of dessert. (Unless ice cream is a category. Then we might have a draw.) Fillings for pies are so broad that I'd have to say, I don't know that I have a true favorite. Instead I have a list....(I love lists too.) The top three are cherry pie, butterscotch pie, and my mamaw's pecan pie (my Great Aunt Debby makes the same pie...Aunt Debby knew I liked it so much that when I was little she used to make one special for me on occasion when she came into town.) I also love key lime pie, caramel apple, blueberry with a hint of lemon.....ok I have to stop here or I'm going to have to get pie before I can finish this post. Maybe the best part about pie is all the happy things it reminds me of ....

   Aunt Debby or mamaw making pecan pie and how excited I was about the pleasant surprise.

   The first pie I ever made...cherry from the cherry tree that used to be in the orchard below my parent's house,

   Making key lime pie with Mel and learning how much I loved lime flavored things

You get the idea.

Today's butterscotch pie post is by special request and has been delayed more times than I care to admit. The original recipe is from my godmother, Mamaw Nell. However, this recipe came from an old church recipe book. The details were pretty scant and if you'd never made a meringue before you couldn't have from this recipe. I'd made meringue before but not the filling so I followed the filling bit as written but the final result didn't have the deep butterscotch tones that I had looked forward to enjoying. Others enjoyed it greatly but I was pretty disappointed. I'd had this pie when it was great though. I remade it and used what I have learned this past year from making a lot of caramel and butterscotch sauces as well as a fair few meringues to redo the recipe. As they say, the tough part is the details.

The following heavily adapted recipe was definitely what I was looking for in a butterscotch pie. Its creamy with deep butterscotch flavor worthy of savoring each bite. Its perfect for picnics, potlucks, family gatherings, making a weeknight supper special and even for supplying your butterscotch fix for St. Patrick's Day.