Thursday, December 30, 2010

Marbles aka "Sour Cream Cookies"

The first time I made these cookies was when I was living in Philadelphia. My roommate at the time, who wasn't much of a cookie eater, loved these cookies and now will bake them on her own. She calls them "Cheryl's Sour Cream Cookies" - and even though that doesn't sound very appetizing, sour cream is actually a key ingredient in this recipe to give the cookies a subtle creamy, tangy taste. You can't taste the sour cream, really. And the reason why I chose to make these cookies? Yup, you guessed it, to use up leftover sour cream. And because they're tasty cookies.

But despite my former roommate attributing these cookies to me, I can't take credit for the recipe, though - I got it from Mrs. Field's Best Ever Cookie Book, which has been reproduced here and here.
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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dairy-Free Banana Muffins

You might recognize this old brown wooden table - I made these muffins when I was at my parents' house for Christmas this weekend. Before I moved to my own place, this table was the setting for my blog and it brought back memories...

But what my parents' kitchen does lacks, now that I am no longer living there, is most of the essentials for baking, namely, spices, seasonings, and measuring cups. My parents' kitchen is an Asian kitchen, meaning the only spices and seasonings you'll find in their pantry are five-spice powder and MSG. And no measuring implements. When I lived there, I was the one who maintained the spice rack, and took everything with me when I moved to my own apartment.

So in my homecoming holiday weekend, I wanted to bake something for Christmas brunch with the fam. In the pantry, I found about a cup and a half of flour, baking soda, and sugar that I had left behind. I dug up an old set of measuring cups, (no idea where they came from - but they were dusty from disuse). I found one lone measuring teaspoon that had been separated from the rest of the ring of spoons when I moved out. (I ended up having to buy new measuring spoons for my new apartment). And three overripe bananas. (Don't worry, I am sure my mom bought those recently - they were not left behind from when I moved out six months ago!)

Fortunately, my 21-month old Nephew loves bananas, so I knew the perfect food to make for Christmas brunch - banana muffins. I used this recipe for banana bread from Simply Recipes, only with a few tweaks. The Nephew is allergic to dairy - which worked out because my parents didn't have any real butter - only butter spread. So I substituted vegetable oil for the butter. And I have to say, I could not tell the difference. The only ingredient that would have really helped was vanilla extract - but I had to omit that since well, there wasn't any in the house. Other additions that I feel would have been nice, had I had the benefit of my own kitchen were to sprinkle some cinnamon and nutmeg into the batter. But the finished product that I had was still good - I ate four of them when they were still warm from the oven! Without the added spices, this recipe produces a pure, unadulterated banana muffin.

Dairy-Free Banana Muffins
Adapted from Simply Recipes

3 ripe bananas
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp baking soda
1 egg, beaten
Pinch of salt

In a large bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Then mix in sugar, oil, and eggs. Sprinkle in salt and baking soda. Then slowly incorporate flour into the mixture until just combined. Spoon mixture into a muffin pan lined with muffin cups. Bake for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Makes about 16 small muffins, or 12 regular-sized muffins.
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Monday, December 27, 2010

Clean Out the Fridge/ Snowstorm Soup

Last night, a snowstorm hit the East Coast, keeping many Greater New York area residents indoors. As such, I felt that this soup was appropriate as it uses ingredients I had in my fridge/pantry. Even though technically, I made this soup before the snowstorm. Hours before I left my apartment to go home for the holidays, I found myself with nearly three pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes, about half a bunch each of carrots and celery. The potatoes were already growing eyes, and the carrots and celery were from when I made this soup. So I was worried these otherwise sturdy vegetables would not make it over the long weekend. So what do with vegetables before they go bad? Make soup!

I found my inspiration from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything, an early Christmas gift, using the recipe for Simple Potato and Carrot Soup and the springboard for this soup. When the soup was done, I poured some into jars to bring home to share with my parents, and left some behind in the fridge. After driving in the aftermath of the snowstorm back to my apartment today, I was glad to have this soup waiting for me at home to simply re-heat and eat.

Clean Out the Fridge/ Snowstorm Soup

Adapted from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything

(I am leaving out the quantities, because really they are quite fluid and depend on what you have in the fridge)
Pat of butter
Olive oil
Chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Dried herbs (I used basil, oregano, and thyme)

Chop up all the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Heat butter and olive oil in a large stockpot. When the butter melts and gets foamy add vegetables. Cook vegetables until the onion becomes translucent (About 5-7 minutes), stirring occasionally so that the vegetables do not stick to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the vegetables. Add chicken broth (If you don't have enough broth to cover the veggies like I did, then add some water). Bring to a boil, and then let simmer on low heat for about 20 minutes. Add dried herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

White Beans and Vegetable Soup

My first job out of law school was at a civil litigation firm in the Ironbound district of Newark. Now, the Ironbound has a myriad of places for lunch, but one of my favorites was soup from Spain Restaurant. The restaurant has a different soup, for each day of the week. My personal favorite was on Fridays, when they would serve white bean and vegetable soup. I have moved on to a different law firm, but I will always remember this soup.

I found this soup to be very similar to the “Greens and Beans” soup in Rachael Ray’s 30-Minute Meals, but Spain put in more vegetables, so I added carrots, onions, and celery. I also added some chicken to make it a heartier meal.

White Bean and Vegetable Soup
Adapted from Rachael Ray, 30 Minute Meals

2 carrots, chopped
1-2 stalks celery, chopped
½ yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces (optional)
5 cups of low-sodium chicken broth (can substitute vegetable broth)
1 can (15 oz.) cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
1 head escarole, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat a couple tablespoons oil in a large stockpot. Saute chicken until lightly brown on all sides.* Remove and set aside. Add carrots, celery, and onion and sauté for about 5-7 minutes, until the onions are translucent. (You may need to add more oil to prevent burning). Push the vegetables to the sides of the pot, creating a space at the center of the pot. Drizzle about a teaspoon of oil into the center and add garlic to that space. Cook for about thirty seconds before stirring it into the rest of the vegetables.** Add escarole with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Cook until the escarole wilts. Add beans and broth. Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes. When there is about 2 minutes left in the cooking time, add chicken. Serves 4-6.

* If making a vegetarian version, skip this step.
** I learned this trick from Cook’s Illustrated – it helps to prevent burnt garlic.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Homemade Pizza

I just ate a lot of pizza.

But at least it was homemade, so that make it okay right?

It all started with a cucumber. Yes, believe it or not, this story can be traced back to a cucumber. Much of my cooking is a vicious cycle of trying to use up ingredients. I end up with leftovers of one perishable ingredient, usually a vegetable. So then I buy other ingredients from the grocery store in order to go with said leftover ingredient, only to end up with leftovers of the newly purchased ingredients. And so the cycle continues.

Anyway, so I had a leftover cucumber that never quite made it to a salad. And since I was tired of lettuce, I bought a tomato and block of feta cheese, and made a nice Greek-style salad.

But then I had half a block of feta cheese left.

So then I had this idea of making Greek pizza. When I lived in Philadelphia, there was a pizzeria, that had two versions of “Greek” pizza, known as “Greek I” and “Greek II.” My preference was Greek II, but apparently my memory led me astray, and I ended up making something more akin to “Greek I” (Basically the same ingredients – feta cheese, kalamata olives, mozzarella, only the Greek I has fresh tomatoes, no sauce, while the Greek II, has tomato sauce). What you see pictured above is how it looked before it went into the oven.

But instead of using store-bought pizza dough, I wanted to experiment with making my own dough. I had read in a number of food blogs on how to make homemade pizza dough, all of them proclaiming it to be just so easy, I wanted to give it a try. And I had never worked with yeast before, so I thought making pizza dough would be a good start.

It all seemed like a good idea in theory. Never mind that I don’t own a stand mixer, a pizza peel, or a pizza stone.

So last night, I tried my first hand of making pizza dough using this method. I don’t know where exactly I went wrong, but the yeast simply did not rise. Or maybe I was just too impatient. But it just didn’t work for me.

But I would not be discouraged. I was determined to use up that block of feta!

So today, I tried this method, only I divided the recipe in half and had to mix and knead the dough by hand.

Even though I used the more, shall I say, old-fashioned way, I could tell this method was working much better. The dough was stretchy and bounced in my hands as I kneaded it. And when I set it in a slightly warmed oven to rise, it actually rose and doubled in size!

This is what it looked like after three hours.

I ended up making two smaller pizzas, since I wanted to them to be more personal sized. In the name of variety, I made one Greek, and one plain pizza. I also raised the temperature of my oven to 475 degrees, in the hope this would give me a nice golden brown crust.

So I put the Greek pizza in the oven first. (My oven is small, I can only fit one cookie sheet at a time). After ten minutes, I checked on it, but the crust wasn’t quite golden brown as I had hoped, so I let it stay in for another three minutes.

Looks pretty right? But those extra three minutes in the oven were actually, its downfall. The crust was hard and cracker-like. But the toppings were tasty, so I ate it all. (Except for the crust – it was much too hard!)

So then I put the plain pizza in, and baked it for exactly ten minutes.

Perhaps it was the ten minutes, perhaps it was because it was the second pizza so the dough had more time to rest, but this pizza was perfect. Chewy and soft on the inside, with just enough crunch. I was quite pleased with this pizza. So I ate all of it.

At least there are no leftovers use up!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Spicy Tomato Soup

I could tell you a story about how this meal brought back cherished childhood memories of coming home from a blustery winter day from school, and how this soup would be waiting for me to warm me up.

But that never happened.

Growing up in an Asian household, tomato soup was never really in my repertoire. My mom's idea of making soup usually involved boiling unidentified meat bones and adding chinese radishes, cabbage and/or scallions into the broth. My only childhood encounters with tomato soup would be Campbell's from a can, which always tasted like tomato juice warmed over to me. And after this disappointment, I was hesitant to make tomato soup again.

But then I read this post on Cathy Erway's Not Eating Out in New York and I felt inspired again. I used the same basic method with some deviations. But am I glad I didn't give up on making tomato soup. This soup is awesome - spicy, tangy, and perfect for winter.

Spicy Tomato Soup
Adaped from Not Eating Out in New York

2 carrots, diced (if you buy the bunched carrots, like I did, chop up some of the tops too!)
1 stalk celery, diced
1/2 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
About 1 cup canned diced tomatoes
About 2 cups chicken broth
1 small can (8 oz) plain tomato sauce (I used Hunt's)
1 crushed dried chile pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
10-15 fresh basil leaves, torn
Olive oil

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil with a crushed dried chile pepper to infuse the oil in a large pot. Saute carrots, celery, and onion, for about five minutes. Add garlic and chopped carrot tops (adding the garlic later prevents burning), and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until all the vegetables are lightly browned. Remove heat. Stir in diced tomatoes and chicken broth.

Transfer the mixture into a blender, and pulse until desired consistency. If it doesn't look thin enough, add more broth or water. Transfer back to the pot and simmer on low heat. At this point, I tasted it and felt the soup wasn't tomato-y enough so I stirred in a can of tomato sauce. But I see no problem in added the sauce before blending it. Add cayenne pepper and adjust seasonings to taste. Allow the soup to simmer on low heat for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and stir in basil leaves. Garnish with olive oil and a sprig of carrot leaves, if desired.

For the ultimate comfort food meal, serve with a grilled cheese sandwich and a glass of milk.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Zesty Tomato Orzo

This dish has an identity crisis. It can't decide whether it is a pasta dish, soup, or a stew. I came home from work today, craving soup, now that the weather is getting cold. I originally planned on making a chicken and orzo soup, to use up the carton of chicken broth and aromatics I had left over from Thanksgiving. But then a recipe for "Roasted Tomato-Garlic Soup" on the back of the box of orzo caught my eye. It seemed simple enough, combine tomato sauce, chicken broth and fresh herbs in a pot, bring to a boil, and 1/2 cup of orzo, and cook until the orzo is tender. It also provided a simple recipe for homemade pesto sauce, to garnish at the end.

But of course, I am not one to follow directions.

To start, I wanted to use the celery, onion, and carrot that were taking up space in my vegetable crisper. So I chopped them up and sauteed the vegetables and two minced cloves of garlic in olive oil. I had infused the olive oil with some red pepper flakes to give the soup some spiciness. This is a method that I use for making almost all my soups. I then added two cups of tomato sauce, and about two cups of chicken broth and brought the mixture to a boil. So far so good. I haven't diverged from the recipe too far yet.

Then it came time to add the orzo. I first stirred 1/2 cup of orzo as the recipe called for. But then that didn't seem like enough pasta, so I added another half cup. Then I didn't stir the bottom of the pot very well while the orzo was cooking, so much of it stuck to the bottom and burned. About seven minutes later, I stirred in chopped fresh thyme, oregano, and sage. I ended up with the thick, not very soupy mixture, very much like you see above. I spooned some into a bowl, and added a dollop of pesto that I already made weeks ago, and kept frozen in the freezer. That's what that greenish blob is on top.

All things considered, it didn't come out bad, in fact it was suprisingly tasty. But it wasn't exactly what I was expecting. The next time I attempt this, I will stick to the 1/2 cup of orzo, which seems to be my downfall in this recipe since the orzo absorbed most of the liquid. And use more cooking liquid so it will be more soup like. The way it is now would probably make a good side dish, and its vegetarian adaptable if you substitute to the chicken broth with vegetable broth.

Zesty Tomato Orzo

1 small onion, chopped
3 carrots, sliced into coins
4 stalks of celery. chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbs olive oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cups prepared tomato sauce
1 cup orzo
1 teaspoon fresh herbs
1 teaspoon oregano
1 stem of sage*
1 Tbs prepared pesto sauce

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat with a sprinkling of red pepper flakes. Add onions, carrots, and celery and cook until the onion becomes translucent. (Probably about five minutes). Stir in garlic and cook for another minute or so. (Adding the garlic later prevents it from burning). Stir in sauce and chicken broth. Bring to a boil. Stir in orzo and cook according to package directions. Be sure to stir frequently and scrape the bottom of the pot, or it will stick. When there are about two minutes left in the cooking time, stir in chopped fresh herbs. Garnish with a dollop of pesto sauce and grated parmesan cheese.

*Another thing I learned about sage. While it is delicious in turkey, it is a very strong flavored-herb. Chopping it up and stirring into soup, results in biting down on a very overpowering herb flavor. Next time, I would leave the stem whole while cooking, and remove at the end, like a bay leaf. Or just leave it out.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Panko-crusted chicken with teriyaki sauce

After several days of Thanksgiving leftovers, I was looking something different, with a zingy, tangy taste. Granted, if I really wanted a change from Thanksgiving, I probably should have moved away from poultry all together. But not having the foresight that I might be sick of poultry after Thanksgiving, I bought two pounds of chicken breasts (they were buy one get one free!) on the day before Thanksgiving.

So I turned to Jaden Hair's Steamy Kitchen cookbook, since Asian flavors were about as far as I could think of from Thanksgiving. I am an avid reader of Jaden's blog, and was delighted to get her book as a gift last Christmas. What Jaden has done in this book is great because she memorializes Asian recipes in writing. And from what I know from experience, written Asian recipes are hard to come by! All of my grandmother's cooking was simply her tossing in ingredients and seasonings based on her experience and taste. Growing up in my house, we never even had measuring cups in our kitchen! So you can imagine, it is difficult and maybe even impossible to re-create my grandmother's dishes in my kitchen.

What I especially like about this book is that at the beginning there is a section that gives the low-down on Asian ingredients and cooking techniques in a way that easy for my Americanized brain to understand. I found this book has helped me learn more about Asian flavors and get an approximation to what I remember from my grandmother's cooking.

The following recipe is adapted, barely, from Jaden's book. As usual, I made adjustments based on my tastes and availability of ingredients. I reduced the whole recipe to only make one serving for myself. I also reduced the amount of sugar the sauce called for, since I didn't want it to be overly sweet, and I omitted the sake, simply because I didn't have any. If I were to do this again, I would add more orange juice because it is supposed to by a citrusy sauce, but I didn't taste much of the citrus. Another thing I might try next time in cooking the chicken is pan frying it first to get the nice golden brown crust, rather than simply spraying cooking spray and putting it in the oven. (Although, admittedly, this would make the recipe less healthy).

Panko-crusted Chicken with Teriyaki sauce
Adapted from Jaden Hair, Steamy Kitchen


For the chicken:
1 chicken breast, flattened to about 1/3 to 1/2 inch thickness
1/4 cup panko crumbs
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper to taste

For the dipping sauce:
3 Tbs soy sace
3 Tbs orange juice
3 Tbs mirin
1 Tbs sugar

Preheat oven for 475 degrees. Combine flour with a sprinkling of salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour mixture and then dip into the egg. Shake off any excess egg and dredge the chicken into the panko crumbs. Spray baking sheet with cooking spray and both sides of the chicken. Place chicken in the pan and bake for about 15-20 minutes at 475 degrees.

While the chicken is baking, combing the sauce ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer for about 3-5 minutes.

(Note for next time I try this recipe: try frying chicken in oil for a few minutes on each side to get the nice golden brown crust. This time, I didn't quite get the golden brown crust, even after raising the temperature to 500 degrees for an extra five minutes. Perhaps the chicken was not thin enough, or perhaps my oven is finicky, but it just wasn't meant to be.)

Serves 1 person with white rice.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Andrajos con Chorizo

I made this a few weeks ago...but it seems appropriate to post it now with the cold weather we are getting here in New Jersey...

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I studied abroad in Spain during my junior year of college. I was lucky to be in a program where we lived with a host family. Loli, my host mother (or “senora” as all the students called their host moms) was an excellent cook. At the end of the semester, I made sure to get her recipes for my favorite dishes, such as tortilla espanola, gazpacho andaluz, and san jacobo.

The recipe below is actually not one of Loli’s recipes, but it captures the intense flavors of Spain that I remember. I had to make some substitutions based on the availability of ingredients in the United States and the season. But it’s still delicious, nonetheless. Plus, it presents a wonderful opportunity for me to try making homemade pasta for the first time. "Andrajo" means "rags" in Spanish, so I can only surmise that the pasta is supposed to represent the "rags." According to Wikipedia, it is a common dish in the rural areas. It is often served in winter, making it appropriate for this season.

Andrajos con Chorizo
(Tomato and Chorizo stew with homemade pasta)
Adapted from One-Pot Spanish by Penelope Casas


For the pasta:
1 cup flour
¾ cup water
¼ teaspoon salt

For the stew:
3 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
½ Spanish onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lb fresh chorizo,* casings removed and roughly chopped into ½ inch chunks
6-8 canned plum tomatoes, roughly chopped, plus about 1/3 cup of the juice**
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme
1 Bay leaf
1 Tbs smoked paprika
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup sherry cooking wine***
Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredient notes:
* To be authentic, cured Spanish chorizo is best. But since there wasn’t any at the supermarket, so I settled for hot Mexican chorizo instead. I ended up with chorizo “balls” rather than slices of chorizo. But still good.
** Recipe called for five fresh plum tomatoes and 1/3 cup tomato sauce, but again I was limited by what was available at the store. Since it is no longer tomato season, the plum tomatoes were hard and pitifully pink. So I opted for canned. And since I already had the can, I subbed 1/3 cup of the juice for the sauce, rather than having to open another can. But if you are fortunate enough to get nice ripe tomatoes, I say go for it.
*** Original recipe called for a dry white wine. I used a sherry cooking wine, which I forgot was already seasoned with salt. If I were to do this again, I would not add any more salt to overcome this. Or use a real wine.

To make the pasta:
Combine flour, salt, and water together in a bowl until it comes together into a ball. (You may need more water). Flatten the ball into a disk about an inch thick. On a floured surface, roll the disk flat to about 1/8 inch thickness. Cut the pasta into circles, about 2.5 inch in diameter (I pressed the opening of a glass on the pasta to cut them. A biscuit or cookie cutter would probably work better if I had one). Cut the circles into quarters and set aside. Roll the scrap pasta into a ball and repeat until you no longer have enough dough left to make circles.

To make the stew:
In a large pot, heat olive oil. Saute garlic and onions until onion begin to get soft. Add chorizo chunks in a single layer and allow to brown for about a minute. Flip the chorizo and brown for another minute. Stir in tomatoes, juice, thyme, bay leaf, and paprika. Allow to cook for five minutes. Add broth, wine, and salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes.

Stir in pasta, and cook for about another 15 minutes, until the pasta is al dente. Add more water if necessary.

Serve with a nice crusty bread. Makes about four servings.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Recap

So this is my first turkey! I have to give special thanks to my sister, who is the turkey expert in my family. In fact, she came over the night before Thanksgiving to prep and supervise the turkey cooking process. Thanks, sis!

I am quite proud of my turkey, even if it came out a bit salty. Lesson learned: Read the label more carefully in the future. It turns out I purchased a turkey that was a "basting" turkey, meaning it already had brine in it. And since we had already made the brine, we decided to brine it anyway.

Brining, in a nutshell, is essentially marinating your bird in a salt solution and seasonings, and any other flavor you want to add (we used apple cider). I had the Food Network on on T-Day while I was preparing other food, and nearly every chef sang the praises of brining.

We brined the turkey overnight in a large dishpan in my refrigerator, breast-side down. In the morning, I flipped it over, for even brining. Then around 2 pm, I prepped the turkey for baking. This entails three tasks: (1) spreading herb butter under the skin of the turkey (yes, under the skin - it fees a bit slimy, but a necessary step for crispy skin) (2) sprinkling seasoned salt over the outside of the bird and inside the cavity, and (3) dressing the turkey with the aromatics that we prepared the night before and stored in this ziploc bag:

In here, we have celery, lemon, fresh parsley, fresh poultry herbs (rosemary, thyme, sage), onion, and several cloves of garlic. Now, "dressing" is really a delicate way of shoving vegetables into both cavities of the bird. (yes, "cavities" - you can probably figure out what I mean by that). This is what the bird looked like before it went in the oven.

I then made a turkey breast "shield" out of aluminum foil, by pressing a double layer of foil over the breast. This is to keep the breast moist during cooking. It gets placed on the bird after it has a chance to brown, 30 minutes into cooking time. We make the shield now, though, while the turkey is still cold. I poured a can of chicken broth into the bottom of the pan, to keep the drippings from burning. I then stuck in the probe thermometer in the breast, and then into the oven it went! To get a nice golden brown skin, the turkey roasted at 450 degrees for the first thirty minutes. Then I dropped the temperature to 300, and placed the breast "shield' and just let the turkey slow cook until the alarm on the thermometer went off when the inside of the breast reached 161 degrees! (This took about four hours).

This is what the turkey looked like, straight from the oven.

Here is the method in a nutshell, courtesy of my sister:

The night before, brine the bird overnight

season the bird w/ salt/pepper/herbs on all surfaces, in and out

spread herb butter under the skinfill the cavity w/ aromatics (onion, celery, garlic, lemon, herbs)stick probe thermometer in breast

Add a can of broth to the pan - may help it smoke less during the initial roastroast at 450-500 for 30 min to brown it (open windows and blow out any smoke)

put foil over the breast onlyroast at 300 for the remainder of the time until temp reaches 161

pull out, set aside to rest for 15-20 minutes minimum (carry over will bring temp to 165)

Make gravy while bird is resting

For a 13 lb bird, you'll need roughly 3 -3.5 hrs of roasting time, so if dinner is at 7, you'll want the bird in the oven around 2:30-3pm

Monday, November 22, 2010

Herbed Garlic Toasts

This was a completely improvised recipe, and very easy to make. I used frozen wheat kaiser rolls because I had them handy in the freezer. I always freeze extra bread rolls to prevent them from getting moldy before I have a chance to use them. I recommend toasting these in a toaster oven if you have one because it makes it easier to keep an eye on the bread to prevent burning. I'm sure there are plenty of ways to make garlic bread. How do you make yours?

1 clove garlic, grated
1-2 Tbs butter
1-2 Tbs fresh herbs (I used oregano and thyme)
bread, preferably a baguette or roll (I used a wheat kaiser roll)

If you are using frozen bread, like I do, thaw the bread in the toaster oven. Mix grated garlic and fresh herbs with butter until the butter is nice and soft. Spread butter mixture on bread. Toast in the toaster oven or broil for about 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My First Turkey

Food Judicata is back just in time for Thanksgiving! Changes are coming to the website, mainly the layout and design. I decided to go with seasonal colors and tweaked the layout to make it more palatable.

In other news, this year, I will be hosting my first Thanksgiving dinner with my family. My sister and I have agreed that she will be preparing side dishes, but I will be in charge of the turkey! (with her guidance, of course). Behold, my very first turkey that I just purchased from the supermarket. At 13 lbs, it was the smallest Shady Brook Farms turkey that I could find. I chose this turkey because (1) it was on sale at 47 cents per pound and (2) after a frantic cell phone call to my sister, I learned that Butterball pre-brines their turkeys, which I had no idea.

So into the freezer the bird goes, where it will live until next Saturday, when it will be moved to the fridge to start thawing. (Another little surprise that I had learned from my sister - frozen turkeys need to start thawing five days in advance!)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chicken Stir-Fry

This dish was one of my go-to meals back in college, which I adapted from "The College Cookbook," (which, by the way, is a great reference for beginner cooks, in college or not.) The original recipe was only vegetables, but I wanted to add chicken so I could have nice one-dish meal that includes my protein and veggies. In college, though, I had problems with the method. The chicken would always end up either too dry and tough, and the vegetables mushy or tough and undercooked. It wasn't until I began avidly watching professional cooks on the Food Network and reading food blogs that I finally figured it out the perfect method. The trick is to cook your ingredients separately, so that each retains its own flavor. I also got some help from Jaden Hair's The Steamy Kitchen, with great tips on stir-frying meat on this page. Another trick I learned is to parboil the tougher vegetables, such as broccoli or carrots first, before adding to the stir fry, so that they won't be tough and undercooked at the end.

So the method below is basically a compendium of different techniques that I've garnered after many attempts and mushy vegetables.

Chicken Stir-Fry

Note: The ingredients are quite flexible and you can use whatever meat or vegetables you have on hand. Below is what I happened to have handy:

Chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
Red pepper
Button mushrooms (canned or fresh, I used canned)
Other vegetables that would be good: Carrots, snow peas, onions if you like them, etc., just chop everything into bite-size pieces.
1 clove of garlic, minced or 1/2 teaspoon of the minced garlic in the jar
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:
A couple tablespoons of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of corn starch dissolved into a couple of tablespoons of cold water


1. Start by boiling water for cooking tough vegetables like broccoli or carrots. Boil these vegetables for about five minutes, drain and set aside.
2. While the water is boiling, sprinkle salt and pepper on the chicken, and heat a few tablespoons of oil (I recommend olive oil) on medium-high heat.
3. Once the pan is hot, (test it by flicking a drop of water on to it. If it sizzles right away, that means it's hot enough), cook the chicken, a few minutes on each side (until lightly browned). Be careful not to overcrowd the pan, even if this means that you have to cook the chicken in batches. (click here for more stir-fry tips). Set chicken aside.
4. Add garlic to the pan. Once it start sizzling, add remaining vegetables and cook for 2-3 minutes.
5. Stir in broccoli and carrots and chicken.
6. Prepare the sauce by stirring corn starch into cold water and soy sauce. Slowly stir in the mixture over the chicken and vegetables so that it evenly coats everything. Allow it to cook for about a minute, until the sauce turns shiny and translucent.
7. Serve over rice.
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Chili, my way

I was went to a Chili Cook-off yesterday. I didn't enter my own chili, but I had fun as a taste-tester, and it put me in a chili state of mind.

Now, there are about a million ways to make chili, but this is chili, my way. Which means it is quick and with whatever ingredients I had on hand. I also didn’t measure any of the spices, so just start out with a little and adjust according to your taste.

½ lb ground beef
About ½ onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
1 Tbs ketchup
1 ½ to 2 Tbs chili powder
½ tsp of cumin
¼ tsp of garlic powder
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of basil and oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
½ cup water

1. Cook beef and onions until the beet is browned and the onions are soft
2. Stir in chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder. Cook for about a minute
3. Add tomatoes, sugar, ketchup and water. Bring to a boil. Once it starts bubbling, lower the heat to a simmer.
4. Add salt and pepper and adjust seasonings to taste. Simmer for about another 10 minutes
5. Add cheddar cheese for garnish. Serve with tortilla chips or rice*
* So some purists, such as my friend Molly, would be horrified to find that I am serving chili with rice. But this is chili my way, and all I had was rice. Sorry, Molly!
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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mudslide Cookies

When I first saw these cookies on Chocolate and Zucchini, I have to admit, I was expecting them to be cookies inspired by the ever-popular cocktail drink. Although I was a bit disappointed that there was no alcohol involved in these cookies, I will still intrigued by Clotilde's characterization of these cookies as "insanely chocolatey." With Valentine's Day around the corner, I had to try them out myself.

Because these cookies are "insanely chocolately," Clotilde stresses the importance of high quality chocolate. I used Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips for melting and a Ghiradelli bittersweet bar, chopped and mixed into the batter. I also substituted walnuts instead of pecans because thats what I had, but pecans would be good too.

Click here for the recipe on Chocolate and Zucchini.
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Chunky Cheese Potato Soup

I made this soup a few years ago when I was still leaving in my apartment in Philadelphia. Back then, I made it with heavy cream as the original recipe calls for. This time, I decided to make lighter version with milk and a splash of half and half to help maintain the creaminess. (Plus, I didn’t quite have enough milk, so the half and half helped to stretch out the soup.) This soup tastes just like a baked potato, but in soup form. It has my favorite toppings to go on baked potatoes, bacon and cheese. Sour cream and green onions would probably also make good toppings.

Chunky Cheese Potato Soup
(Adapted from Food Network)

5 slices of bacon
¼ of a yellow onion, chopped
2 russet potatoes, chopped
1 ¾ milk plus a splash of half-and-half.
Salt and pepper
1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tsp flour

1. Cook bacon in a large pot (I recommend using a good heavy pot, the one I used was not so good and burned the bacon.) Remove the bacon, and drain on paper towel and leave the drippings in the pot.
2. Cook onions and potatoes in the bacon drippings until softened, about 15 minutes.
3. Stir in milk, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
4. Dredge cheese in flour. Stir in cheese and about a handful of the bacon. Allow to simmer for about another 15 minutes.

5. Serve with reserved bacon bits and extra cheddar cheese for garnish.

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