Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chai Tea Mini Cupcakes (MSC)

I'm sure you have two things on your mind right now...
1) Jamie, where have you been the last two and a half weeks?
2) What does MSC stand for?

Was I right? Well I can answer both of those questions for you...
1) I was in London and Paris for 6 days and New York for 4 days. In between those two trips, I had errands, work and more work to do - so please forgive me for the lack of posts!
2) MSC stands for Martha Stewart's Cupcakes Club, which is a fun little blog community that I am a part of. Twice a month, participating members pick a recipe from MS's incredibly awesome cookbook and post it on the same day. Because of my travels, I am late in posting - this should have been up on April 15th. Better late than never though - right??

I am not a coffee drinker but I do love tea. Chai tea wasn't introduced to me until my sophomore year of college and I have to admit I like the way it smells more than the way it tastes. I'm so unoriginal - I will take a plain Lipton black tea anytime. Needless to say, when I saw this recipe I was intrigued. Plus, it was during Lent that I attempted to bake these, so a non-chocolate dessert was exactly what I needed.

The spices used are cinnamon, ginger, pepper, cloves and nutmeg. You can see the specs in the batter - yum! The one problem with these cupcakes was that the cake-part was a little dry. I'm not sure if it was because I baked the mini- cupcakes a minute or two too long or what. They bake up so quick! I did do a few in regular cupcake tins as well, so don't be discouraged from trying this recipe because you think you have the wrong equipment.

The wonderful icing that goes on these cupcakes, made with condensed milk, made up for a little dry cake hehe If you want to see the full recipe, I would HIGHLY recommend buying Martha's cookbook! Otherwise, you can take a look at Rachel from Simple Girl's post since she hosted that recipe. She has some great recipes and pictures so check out her previous posts as well!

Tutti Mangia!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Side Dishes for the Grill

Here are the two side dishes recipes I promised from our steak dinner this past Saturday night. This recipe for Grilled Potato & Mushroom Packages was adapted from Fine Cooking magazine (July 2000). The creator of this original recipe is Susie Middleton. She has a blog and a cookbook called Fast, Fresh & Green: More Than 90 Delicious Recipes for Veggie Lovers, both worth checking out. This cookbook provides new ideas for roasting, braising, sauteing, grilling your veggies - what's not to love!

Shaun and I have made potatoes on the grill before, wrapped in foil, and they come out good but a little crispy sometimes. Susie's technique of turning the potatoes over halfway through cooking allows them to cook all the way through without crisping up on the outside. There is a liberal amount of oil used in this recipe as well so of course that helps. It was extremely tasty, let me tell you - I will be using this recipe again and again this summer!

1 lb red potatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
4 oz cremini or baby bella mushrooms, quartered
1 small onion, cut into chunks
1/4 cup olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, quartered
1/2 tbsp dried rosemary
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Light a charcoal or gas fire. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Meanwhile, measure out three 14-inch-long sheets of foil. Split the mixture of ingredients between all three sheets of foil and fold up covering everything. Take another three small pieces of foil and wrap around each package to seal.

When the grill is medium hot, put the packages on the grate directly over the hottest part. Cover the grill and cook for 20 minutes. Using tongs, turn the packages over and cook for another 20 minutes. If your fire is very hot, shorten the cooking times by a couple of minutes on both sides. If it's cooler, lengthen the total cooking time to 45 to 50 minutes.

Open the packages carefully with tongs; the steam will be very hot. The potatoes are done when they feel tender when pierced and come are deep brown and charred. Kept wrapped, they'll stay warm off the grill for 15 to 20 minutes. Serves 2-3 as a side dish.

This recipe for Grilled Caesar Salad was adapted from The Neely's of Food Network. I have grilled romaine lettuce before alongside grilled lemon halves. They are delicious with just the lemon juice on them - straight off the grill. This creamy dressing is a wonderful change of pace! Typically a creamy Caesar dressing is not up my alley but this recipe lacks the eggs and anchovy so I like it. Of course you can just buy a bottle of dressing but this one is so easy to whip up, you should give it a try!

3 garlic cloves
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
1 1/2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2-3/4 cup, plus 3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus shaved Parmesan for serving
3 heads romaine hearts, sliced lengthwise in 1/2
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat grill to medium heat. In a blender or mini-food processor, combine the garlic, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Drizzle in 1/2-3/4 cup olive oil to emulsify. Add the Parmesan and pulse.

Gently toss the hearts of romaine in remaining olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for about 5 minutes, until grill marks appear and the romaine becomes wilted.

Remove the lettuce to a cutting board and cut into 2-inch wide strips. Place in a bowl and drizzle with the dressing. Toss to coat and serve warm. Garnish with the shaved Parmesan. Serves 3-5.

Tutti Mangia!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Grilled Porterhouse Steaks with Balsamic-Caper Vinaigrette

April 2nd was the first day in 2011 that we grilled our dinner outside. It was a brisk 50 degree day that just begged for a few steaks on the grill. My mouth started watering just thinking about how good our dinner was - let me tell you all about it!

We adapted this recipe from Bon Appetit magazine (May 2009).The name of the food writer / recipe developer that created this particular recipe is Jeanne Kelley. She has a cookbook called Blue Eggs and Yellow Tomatoes that is big on locally grown produce. Of course I want it. I've actually been trying to buy more organic fruit and vegetables lately and even got on a wait list to join the Food Co-Op in my town. If you'd like to see more of Jeanne's recipes, click here.

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup minced shallots
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus more for steaks and grill
1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 tbsp drained capers
2 tsp fresh thyme
2 1-inch thick Porterhouse steaks
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tsp paprika
2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Simmer vinegar in small pan over medium heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 6 minutes. Add shallots, 1/4 cup oil and crushed red pepper; return to simmer. Remove from heat, whisk in parsley, capers and thyme. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper.

Rub both sides of steaks with oil and garlic. Mix paprika, kosher salt and black pepper in small bowl. Rub into both sides of steak. Let stand at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour. I did 15 minutes. 
Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush grill rack with oil to coat. Grill steaks until cooked to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer steaks to plates. Spoon vinaigrette over. 

There was a TON of flavor in the steaks from the spices and garlic that I put on before we grilled them. Don't skimp on this part. I accidentally used the amount of spices allotted for four steaks on only two but boy am I glad I made that mistake. Not one bite was left untouched. I have to say though, the vinaigrette was by far my favorite part of this dish. There was such intensity concentrated in this sauce - the saltiness of the capers combined with the sweetness of the balsamic reduction... mmmmmm! If you have never reduced balsamic vinegar before you are in for a treat - it gets it thick and syrupy and looses its bitterness. I had to find other ways to use it! 

Here are some similar recipes using other meats/fish and THAT SAUCE that I plan on testing out in the future:
Pork Medallions with Balsamic Vinegar and Capers

We served this steak with more food from the grill of course: Grilled Caesar Salad and Grilled Potato & Mushroom Packages. Keep your eyes peeled for those recipes to be posted up here soon. Here is a picture of the mess we made after we ate - it was a fun Saturday night in - Tutti Mangia! 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Recipe Swap: Lemon Cake with Strawberries

This is the 1st recipe swap that I've had the honor of participating in. Christianna, the host of The Recipe Swap, picks a random recipe from an old cookbook and fellow swappers take a few weeks to modify it in a few different ways. Today is the day we all unveil our "new" recipes and compare. I took a look at my fellow blogger's sites and they all provide me with great inspiration in the kitchen!

Here is the original recipe that Christianna chose this month - Busy Day Wacky Cake... be prepared for simplicity despite it's name.

This cake is unusual because it does not require milk or eggs - something I didn't know was possible! Apparently the vinegar required interacts with the baking soda to make the cake rise. I wanted nothing more than a chocolate cake but I am Catholic and we are in the middle of Lent. I gave up chocolate soooo the cocoa had to be omitted this time around. I amped up the vanilla and added lemon zest, one of my favorite flavors (and smells). I couldn't stop here - there had to be a topping to this cake. Initially, I made a Strawberry Buttercream which tasted really good and was an awesome shade of pink BUT I thought it would overpower the lemon flavor of the cake. I wanted to stick to using strawberries so I opted for a Strawberry Puree along with some fresh strawberries and powdered sugar. That did the trick! I thought it complimented the moistness of the cake wonderfully.

1 1/2 cups plus 4 tbsp flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vinegar
2 tsp vanilla
Zest of 1 lemon
5 tbsp butter or oil
1 cup water
Topping: Fresh strawberries and powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place all dry ingredients in a square cake pan and sift together. (Use the same pan you bake in - YAY for easy clean-up!) Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add all the remaining cake ingredients. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely.

To make the strawberry puree, put 1/2 container of strawberries in a food blender and puree until smooth. Pour over the top of the cake and add additional whole strawberries for looks. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup powdered sugar.

All in all, I am not sure I would make this exact cake again. I love baking and am not afraid of a challenge so I'll be trying many new recipes in coming posts. I am however, VERY glad I joined this Recipe Swap and hope next month we can do a savory recipe. I tend to be more creative in that aspect.

You really should take a few minutes to see what my new friends came up with in the meantime: Lindsay, Chef Dennis, Mari, Boulder Locavore, Joy, Monique, Shari, Jennifer, Cake Duchess, Pola, Mary, Claire, Crissy and Lauren, Nay, Cindy and Sabrina

Tutti Mangia!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Honey Cream Caramels - SMS

I made candy! I made candy!

I was so proud of myself this weekend because I made homemade caramel candies for the first time! I now know what the hard ball stage is - that's right my fellow home chefs. This is my first recipe participating in the blog group Sweet Melissa Sundays (SMS). This particular recipe was chosen by Carmen of Baking is my Zen. You will not see the full recipe listed on my blog but it is on hers. I only provide pictures, but darn good ones!

This recipe had very few ingredients which is always a plus but it did require a candy thermometer, which I had to buy. No biggie - I don't think you can ever have too many kitchen tools (although Shaun might not agree with that statement). Basically the only thing to do in this recipe was to combine all the ingredients into one pot and let cook until it reaches 250 degrees. Since I have never made candy before, I had no idea how long that would take... turns out it takes roughly 25-30 minutes.

If you like baking, you really should buy this amazing cookbook, The Sweet Melissa Baking Book. I am sad that this blog group has already gone through more than half of Melissa's recipes from the book because I missed out BUT I will finish out strong now that I am a member!

I think that this candy tastes just like a Werther's Original and Grandma used to eat those, so I am happy with the way they turned out! Tutti Mangia!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Baked Egg Rolls

The other night I had an intense craving for an egg roll. Weird, considering the last time I ordered Chinese food was about 4 years ago. I am more of a Japanese food fan - less fat and deep-frying. I never feel that awesome after having Chinese food - the food sits in my stomach like a lead weight. P.F. Chang's doesn't count because it is delicious. Anyway, back to the egg roll craving - I satisfied that with some good old home cooking.

I did a little research online and found a healthier version of egg rolls made with ground turkey and veggies and then baked, not fried. I adapted this recipe from Cooking Light and boy am I glad I did! You don't miss the deep-fried taste at all... so much less grease! The taste difference between your typical pork egg roll and the turkey meat is minimum, but you can swap that out if you'd like.

You'll like this blog post if you like pictures - I went a little camera crazy HEHE

Egg Roll Ingredients:
3/4 cup shredded carrot
2 cups shredded cabbage
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup chopped shallots
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/2 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb ground turkey breast
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp black pepper
14 egg roll wrappers
1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp water
Cooking Spray 

Sauce Ingredients:
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp minced peeled fresh ginger
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine shredded carrot, cabbage and green onions in a medium bowl. Microwave on high for 4 minutes.

Heat vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, ginger and garlic; saute 3-4 minutes. Add turkey; cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cabbage mixture, 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce and pepper. Chill 15 minutes.

Place 1 egg roll wrapper at a time onto work surface with 1 corner pointing toward you (wrapper should look like a diamond). Trim 1 inch off right and left corners of wrapper. Spoon 3 tablespoons turkey filling into center of wrapper.

Fold lower corner of egg roll wrapper over filling. Fold in trimmed corners.

Moisten top corner of wrapper with egg wash; roll up jelly-roll fashion.

Repeat procedure with remaining wrappers, turkey filling and egg wash.

Lightly coat egg rolls with cooking spray, and place, seam side down, on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown.

To prepare sauce, combine soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, ginger and sliced green onions; serve with egg rolls. You can also serve this with prepared sweet and sour sauce. The sauce I made myself I liked a lot - it was a great combination of your typical Asian flavors. It was also fun to dip the egg rolls in and pick up pieces of ginger or green onions on the way to your mouth!

You'll notice that there are a few different ingredient combinations in these egg rolls. The cabbage was really the only traditional ingredient in there. I changed the written recipe to include shallots and green onions in the filling which I thought gave it a nice mellow onion flavor. To round out the dinner, I made some fried rice to go alongside. All in all, my egg roll craving was satisfied!

Tutti Mangia!
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