Panera Macaroni and Cheese

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Confession time, I don’t like oven-baked macaroni and cheese…I’ll pause a moment for the shock and awe to die down. You OK now? Good. With that said, I looooove me some stove-top mac and one of the best (that doesn’t come in a blue or yellow box) is Panera’s. I found a recipe from Food, Folks and Fun that’s supposedly Panera’s official recipe and it’s super simple, super quick and super yummy – the trifecta.

Ingredients
  • 1 16-ounce Package package of rigati pasta (I used large shells because I couldn’t find rigati…or small shells, orecchiette would be nice)
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cup milk
  • 6 Slices white American cheese (or like 12, whaaaatever)
  • 8 oz extra-sharp white Vermont cheddar (grated)
  • ½ tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon hot sauce (I used Siracha)
Instructions
  1. Prepare pasta according to package directions.
  2. Melt butter over low heat. Whisk in flour and cook 1 minute, whisking constantly.
  3. Gradually whisk in milk; cook over medium heat, whisking until mixture thickens and bubbles. Remove from heat.
  4. Add cheeses, mustard, salt, and hot sauce, stirring until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.
  5. Stir in pasta and cook over medium heat for 1 minute (or until thoroughly heated). Serve immediately.

 

 

Spinach and Three Cheese Ravioli

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About a month ago now, I decided I wanted to make some ravioli from scratch – yes a month ago. I’ll admit it, I made the ravioli, took pictures on an ACTUAL camera and then forgot to post the result, mea culpa. I got the dough recipe from serious eats the filling recipe (spinach and cheeeeeese) from Tyler Florence and the method from serious eats. I didn’t have any rolling attachment for the kitchen aide so I used a hand cranked pasta maker (with the assistance of my father because MAN are those things hard to crank and hold down when they’re not anchored down) and used a ravioli press and pastry cutter. Make sure the dough is covered as much as possible so it’s not exposed to the air. I did this by rolling the dough onto, and covering it with a damp cloth. These came out nice but there was some water seepage because I didn’t seal them well enough. There was a lot of filling left over…I honestly can’t remember if I doubled the filling recipe or not though. If you do end up with extra filling, put it to good use, it’s yummers!

Egg Dough

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 whole large eggs (about 4 ounces)
  • 4 yolks from 4 large eggs (about 2.5 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for salting water

Directions

  1. To Make the Dough: On a large, clean work surface, pour flour in a mound. Make a well in the center about 4 inches wide. Pour whole eggs, egg yolks, and salt into well and, using a fork, beat thoroughly. When combined, gradually incorporate flour into the eggs until a wet, sticky dough has formed.

  2. Using a bench knife, scrape excess dough from fork and fingers. Begin to fold additional flour into the dough with the bench knife, turning the dough roughly 45 degrees each time, until dough feels firm and dry, and can form a craggy-looking ball, 2 to 5 minutes.

  3. Press the heel of your hand into the ball of dough, pushing forward and down. Rotate the ball 45 degrees and repeat. Continue until dough develops a smooth, elastic texture similar to a firm ball of Play-Doh. If dough feels too wet, add flour in 1 teaspoon increments. If dough feels too dry, add water slowly using a spray bottle. (I lazed-out and added extra water by running my hand under the faucet and dripping water into the dough)

  4. Wrap ball of dough tightly in plastic wrap and rest on countertop for 30 minutes.

  5. To Roll the Pasta: Meanwhile, place a sheet of parchment paper on a tray or cutting board and dust lightly with flour. Unwrap rested dough and cut into quarters. Set one quarter on work surface and re-wrap remaining dough. With a rolling pin, flatten the quarter of dough into an oblong shape about 1/2 inch thick.

  6. Set pasta maker to widest setting and pass dough 3 times through the machine at this setting.

  7. Place dough on a lightly floured work surface. Fold both ends in so that they meet at the center of the dough, and then fold the dough in half where the end points meet, trying not to incorporate too much air into the folds. Using rolling pin, flatten dough to 1/2-inch thick. Pass through the rollers 3 additional times.

  8. Narrow the setting by 1 notch and repeat Step 7. Repeat once more (the dough should now have passed through the third widest setting). Continue passing the dough through the rollers, reducing the thickness by 1 setting each time until it reaches the desired thickness. It should now be very delicate and elastic to the touch, and slightly translucent.

  9. Place rolled dough onto a work surface or baking sheet lightly dusted with flour or lined with parchment paper, folding the dough over as necessary so that it fits; sprinkle with flour or line with parchment between folds to prevent sticking. (honestly to roll the dough, I just took 1/4th and passed it though the pasta maker and onto a damp towel until I got it as thick and wide as I needed)

  10. Cover dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel to prevent drying, then repeat Steps 5 through 9 with remaining dough quarters.

Filling
Ingredients

1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
2 (8-ounce) balls fresh buffalo mozzarella, water drained and shredded
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
2 cups fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
1 large egg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, stirring to incorporate.

Method

Place the metal base of the ravioli maker in front of you and lay your first sheet of dough on top.

Then, take the plastic mold and gently press down to form depressions in the dough. You want to work relatively quickly, so that your dough doesn’t have an opportunity to dry out and become brittle. If you press too hard and the dough tears, simply ball it back up and roll it through the machine again. (You do want them as deep as possible though)

Once you have even depressions in the dough, place approximately one tablespoon of filling in each depression. Try to avoid getting filling outside the depression, since the flat perimeter is what our second sheet of dough will adhere to. You can gently wipe away excess with your your finger or a small towel if need be. (Seriously, don’t overfill…I’m a notorious over-filler)

Gently rap the mold on the table to help remove any air bubbles.

Next, lay the other half of your sheet of dough over the surface of the mold, pressing with the flat of your hand to push out any extra air. Then take a rolling pin and run it over the surface of the dough until the ridges beneath become visible. At this point, you can flip the mold over and gently peel it away. (I did this with a drinking glass)

If the dough is sufficiently perforated to pull apart, go ahead and do so. It’s possible, though, that you’ll need to use a ravioli cutter to slice them into individual pieces. (I did, I used a pasta cutter, I’m fairly certain they’re the same thing)

Cover your ravioli with a towel to keep them from drying out and repeat with your remaining pieces of dough.

Now, all that remains is tossing your ravioli into a pot of water at a low boil, and cooking for approximately three minutes, or until slicing into one reveals no starchy line in the center. (I just waited until they floated)

I served this just with a little bit of melted butter. As I mentioned before, be careful about sealing them properly!

 

Chicken Parmesan Stuffed Garlic Bread

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Yes, you read that correctly…breaded chicken, covered in cheese and stuffed inside garlic bread. Heeeeaven, I’m in heaaaaaven…and it’s so much easier than it looks.

You may have seen this tasty treat floating around facebook lately. Here’s a link to it on youtube.

Chicken Parmesan Stuffed Garlic Bread

Servings: 3-4

INGREDIENTS
1 chicken breast, boneless & skinless
2 cups flour
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs (I used panko)
1 cup oil, for frying
1 large baguette (or french bread)
10-12 mozzarella slices (I couldn’t find thin sandwich-style slices so I opted for Asiago)
Marinara sauce (or not)

Garlic Butter
⅓ cup melted butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon Parmesan, grated

PREPARATION
1. Slice the chicken breast into 1-cm thick strips. (I ended up with 8 slices)
2. Place the flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs into 3 separate bowls.(for once I didn’t have to double the breading, this was PLENTY)
3. Roll a chicken strip in the flour, dusting off excess. Dip the strip into the egg, then place into the breadcrumbs, coating it completely.
4. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
5. Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat to 350˚F/ 180˚C and Preheat oven to 350°F / 180˚C.
6. Fry the breaded chicken strips until both sides are golden brown. Remove from heat and drain on a paper towel.
7. Slice the baguette into thirds or fourths (each baguette piece should be roughly the same length of the fried chicken strips.) (I cut off the heels…my favorite part of the bread normally. I ended up with 4 segments)
8. Hollow out the insides of the baguette pieces with a knife.
9. Lay two slices of mozzarella on top of each other with a 1-inch overlap. Place a chicken strip on the overlapping region, then fold the mozzarella tightly around the chicken. (Asiago isn’t the best rolling cheese so I kinda stuffed it in around the chicken.)
10. Push the rolled chicken strips into a baguette piece. (I ended up with 2 pieces of chicken per bread segment. I put some on top of each other and some end to end to make them fit)
11. Slice the stuffed baguette pieces into 1-inch slices, then place them tightly side-by-side on a baking sheet lined with foil.
12. In a small bowl, mix together ingredients for garlic butter.
13. Brush the garlic butter evenly over the baguette slices, making sure some drips in between the slices. (I brushed some on and then just poured evenly)
14. Wrap the foil over the re-assembled baguette and bake for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and the top is starting to brown.
15. Remove the foil and serve with marinara! (or nix the marinara)

Chocolate Pudding (healthy-ish)

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So, there I was, craving something chocolaty and creamy and oooomnooomnom. I wanted something easy that wasn’t going to be terrible for me so to the internet I went. I found a lot of recipes for healthy pudding but I opted on throwing together the following (it didn’t come from any particular recipe):

Healthy-ish Pudding

Ingredients:

2 boxes any kind of sugar-free, fat-free instant pudding (I used chocolate fudge jello)

2 containers of lite whip cream (I used cool whip)

3 cups milk (I used 30 calorie almond milk)

Directions:

Mix pudding powder and whip cream together…add milk. Eat.

It’s pretty simple. Stick it in the fridge to firm up if you can be civilized and not devour it immediately. I apologize for NOTHING!

I didn’t take great photos because I wasn’t really thinking of blogging this but I figured that I might as well.

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Sugar Cookies! (Lofthouse Style)

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A college staple for my roommates (I had seven over my college career) and I were those amazingly soft Lofthouse cookies you could find at any grocery store in practically any color. They didn’t last long – they’d be on the counter for about 15 mins and we’d swarm them like …well, like college girls eating cookies. I was excited to find this recipe from centercutcook. I tried to make these the other night but our AC went out and there was NO WAY I was turning on the oven.

Lofthouse Soft Sugar Cookies {Copycat Recipe}

 Prep Time: 10mn
Cook Time: 10mn
Total Time: 20mn

DOUGH INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temp (yeah, it melted..like MELTED. It looked like a Dali clock.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
FROSTING INGREDIENTS
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened to room temp (even meltier, the Wicked Witch of the West aint got nothing on this liquidated butter, freaking Summer)
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. With your mixer cream together 1/2 cup softened butter with 1 cup sugar and mix for a couple of minutes until smooth.
  3. Add in sour cream, eggs, and vanilla and mix well.
  4. In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  5. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the wet and mix well.
  6. Measure three tablespoons of dough for each cookie. Use your hands to roll three tablespoons of cookie dough into a smooth ball.(these were super sticky so I sprayed some baking PAM on my hands and it worked a treat)
  7. Place on ungreased cookie sheets, making sure to leave about 1 inch between each cookie. (aka foil) Using your hand to lightly flatten the dough a bit. (I used a small cutting board sprayed with baking PAM)
  8. Bake for 11-12 minutes, then immediately remove from the oven. The cookies will appear under-baked a bit but this is what you want. Carefully transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and repeat the process until all of the dough is gone.
  9. To make the frosting, beat butter with a mixer for about 30 seconds, then add in powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Add in vanilla and 1-2 tablespoons of milk (I did 2, should have done 1) and mix until light and fluffy.
  10. Use a knife to slather each cookie with frosting. Top with sprinkles.

*Note – you can make these a bit smaller by using 2 tablespoons of dough and baking for 10 minutes.(I just eyeballed it and left them in for 11 mins, checking at 10)

Notes:

These were much thicker than the store-bought brand but tasted much the same. Definitely cakey. The icing was a bit thin for my liking – I would use 1 tbsp next time instead of 2. I ended up with 24 cookies and two weren’t iced (which is fine because my Mom still can’t taste/smell and I pawned the two icing-less cookies off on her). I didn’t dye the icing and didn’t add sprinkles – sure it would have made the pictures pretty, but MEH! Sprinkles are just aesthetics that you eat. It’s the inside that counts, and in this case, the inside was full of sugar! The pictures were taken on my camera phone soooo…forgiveness please.

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Not to be outdone by his Brother’s cameo in the maple cream cookie post, here’s my other puppy!

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Oh S#!&, it’s a Mother-Effing Mousse-Off!

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You read that correctly, it’s a mousse-off! My teenage “assistant” and I made three very different mousses and put them to the test. Let the games begin!

Mousse A was the underdog of the group. We used a recipe (found here) that claims amazing mousse can be made with only chocolate and water! HIGHLY suspicious. One participant scoffed at the very idea.

Mousse B was a more classic mousse from cookiesandcups.com.

Mousse C was a low-carb, egg and gluten free creation from cafedelites.com. Very important note about this: put the cans of coconut cream in the fridge overnight so the water can separate out. Make sure not to bump or invert the cans after chilled.

MOUSSE A

INSTANT CHOCOLATE MOUSSE (CHOCOLATE CHANTILLY)
Recipe by Herve This & Heston Blumenthal

Ingredients

4 servings

  • 9.35 ounces (265 grams) bittersweet (%70 cocoa solids) chocolate, chopped (preferably Valrhona Guanaja) (If doing again I would use a milk or semi-sweet chocolate)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) water
  • 4 tbsp sugar, optional (NOT OPTIONAL, OH GOD THE BITTERNESS, THE BITTER BITTERNESS!)

Method

  1. Place a large mixing bowl on top of another slightly smaller one, filled with ice and cold water (the bottom of the large bowl should touch the ice). Set aside.
  2. Put chocolate and water (also sugar and/or liquor if you’re using) in a medium-sized pan and melt the chocolate over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour the melted chocolate into the mixing bowl sitting on top of ice and water, and start whisking with a wire whisk (or an electrical hand-held mixer) (use the electric or whisk for eternity) until thick. Watch the texture as you whip and make sure not to over-whip as it will make the mousse grainy. If the mousse becomes grainy (which is possible at your first try), transfer it back into the pan, reheat until half of it is melted, pour it back to the mixing bowl and whisk again briefly.
  4. Divide into four serving cups and serve immediately.(or put in the fridge to chill which is what I did)

MOUSSE B

Easy Chocolate Mousse

makes 8 servings

Ingredients 2 eggs

¼ cups granulated sugar

2½ cups cold heavy whipping cream, divided

6 oz semi­sweet chocolate (about 1 cup semi­sweet chips)

Instructions

1. Beat eggs and granulated sugar with your mixer for about 3 minutes.

2. Meanwhile heat 1 cup heavy whipping cream in a small saucepan until just hot, not boiling. With mixer on low pour the hot cream into the egg mixture slowly until combined.

3. Next, add the egg/cream mixture back into the saucepan and over low heat, stir for five minutes constantly until thickened. Do not boil.

4. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until melted. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, until chilled, stirring occasionally.

5. When the mixture is completely chilled and firm use your whisk attachment on your stand mixer to whip the remaining heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Remove chocolate from fridge and using the paddle attachment or a spoon fold/stir the whipped cream into the chocolate until incorporated and smooth. I found using the paddle attachment on low speed worked best. (I did this with the hand mixer)

6. Serve immediately as ­is, or refrigerate until ready to use.

Notes recipe from Glorious Treats

MOUSSE C

3­ Ingredient Chocolate Mousse

Author: Karina ­ Cafe Delites

Serves: 8

Ingredients

2x 400ml (13.7oz) cans full fat coconut cream

2 tablespoons confectioners sugar

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (All I had was special dark coca powder, probably be better if I went out and bought what I was supposed to use)

pinch of salt (optional! About ¼ teaspoon. Adjust to your tastes)

20g | 2 squares 70% chocolate, shaved (optional) (didn’t use)

extra shaved chocolate to garnish (didn’t use)

Instructions

1. Place sealed cans of coconut cream in the refrigerator overnight. Without shaking the cans, open and scoop out the thick cream sitting at the top over the water. Transfer the cream to a bowl and discard the liquid left in the cans. (I didn’t have overnight to wait so I did my best to strain the liquid out after putting the cans in the freezer for a short while)

2. Add the sugar and beat on high using a hand mixer (or whisk) until thick and creamy (about 1­2 minutes). Reserve about 4 tablespoons of the plain ‘whipped cream’ to use as a topping to serve with (optional), and set aside. (I didn’t reserve any)

3. Fold the cocoa powder and salt through the cream and beat (or whisk) again until smooth, well combined and thick. Fold through the shaved chocolate (opted out). Depending on the coconut you use, a mousse will form almost immediately once the cocoa powder is mixed through. If not, refrigerate until set and ready to serve, or serve immediately. Dollop the ‘plain whipped cream’ over the mousse and sprinkle with shaved chocolate (if using) (didn’t).

RESULTS!

There were five participants with one participant getting over being sick and not able to taste or smell…she went off of texture. These are in the order of testing.

Mousse C was too salty for two participants, two other participants didn’t taste salt at all…the fifth couldn’t taste anything. One participant called it weird while another said it tasted like something found in the back yard. It did have a nice light pudding texture. It probably would have been better had the water fully separated from the cream and we had the right cocoa powder. No one (except me, but I knew) tasted coconut. I wouldn’t count this one out.

Mousse B was the clear favorite. It had a nice whipped texture and the chocolate was sweet. One participant tasted coconut (delayed reaction much?) I ate it for breakfast this morning (but shh!)

Mousse A was VERY bitter. It was vastly improved – and quite good actually- once whip cream was added. Even the non-tasting taster could taste the bitterness. This would be really good with a semi-sweet or milk chocolate. This was amazing for the fact that it was water and chocolate.

I refrigerated all of these overnight because we didn’t want to stay up to wait for them to chill. Had I known we would be waiting, I would have put the coconut cream cans in the fridge and done it properly.

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Cheeseburger with Fried Egg

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What’s better than a nice juicy burger? A nice juicy burger with cheese and egg! …and mayo and ketchup…just sayin’.

Came home from work yesterday and threw these together using this recipe from Todd Wilbur’s Top Secret Recipes. It’s supposed to replicate the spice blend found in Fuddrucker’s hamburgers. It’s been a while so I don’t remember what Fudd’s hamburgers taste like, but I remember liking them. This seasoning was nice, but I think it needs some playing around with. Two people at the table are not a fan of spicy foods and this was absolutely no problem for them.

Ingredients and Instructions:

Mix together:

  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 tsp  salt
  • 1/2 tsp dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder (I ran out of onion powder so I reconstituted -and then drained- some freeze-dried diced onion)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper

Sprinkle on burgers before cooking. (I just poured some into the beef/pork mix I made and then cooked them)

Note: apparently adding salt before forming the patties dissolves the muscle proteins and results in a less tender burger. See other notes from the Burger Lab here.

I mixed (or rather my Mom mixed) one lb of pork with one lb of beef and then added the spice mix. We cooked them for about 3 mins each side and then added cheddar cheese, covered the pans and let them cook for another 2 mins. I like my burgers medium rare so these were a little too done for me; tasted good though. I used the pan I cooked the burgers in to make the fried eggs. I was in a bit of a hurry so I just fried them up quick. For a good way to make a great sunny side up egg, check out the Pioneer Woman (love ya, Ree!). Served these on sesame buns…I vote for toasting them, but no one else wanted toasted – heathens!

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Beef and Broccoli

wp-1468203256641.jpgI’ll admit, I mostly made this for the sauce. I looooove the sauce that comes with beef and broccoli and use the titular foods as a vehicle to convey the sauce to my mouth. The picture above was an in-process shot. The sauce thickened up and the broccoli cooked down a bit by the time it was done. I served this with the pork pot stickers from my last post.

I had a very good version of this at PF Changs two days before I tried it myself so I of course tried out this recipe from the pfchangsathome blog.

I didn’t change much to this recipe at all except doubled it and then added extra sauce and more cornstarch to thicken it. If you want more sauce, follow the recipe, don’t just throw more liquid and cornstarch in, make sure to get the ratios right because while mine tasted right (yummy) it wasn’t as thick as I liked it. I made a HUGE pot of rice to go with this.

BEEF and BROCCOLI
P.F. Chang’s China Bistro Copycat Recipe

Serves 4

3/4 pound flank steak, sliced very thin and against the grain (pro tip, I asked the butcher at my grocery store to cut this for me which he very nicely did)
4 cups broccoli cut into bite-sized pieces
1 1/2 tablespoons high-heat cooking oil like vegetable or canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
cooked white rice

For the beef marinade:
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon mirin (I learned that mirin is sweetned sake THE MORE YOU KNOW :cue shooting star infographic:)
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

For the sauce:
1/4 cup oyster sauce (took FOREVER to get out of the bottle)
2 teaspoons mirin
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth (I used chicken stock)

Place the sliced beef in a large ziplock bag. Stir together the marinade ingredients and pour into the bag. Smoosh to coat the beef in the mixture, then let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. (I poured directly into the bag and then kneaded it and left it while I was prepping everything else)

Meanwhile, steam the broccoli for 2 minutes, or until crisp tender. Do not overcook as the broccoli will cook a bit more later in the recipe. Stir together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat an electric wok, or very large skillet, to high heat. Add the oil then gently place the beef in the wok and spread into a single layer. Let the beef cook for 1 minute without touching it. Add the garlic and stir continuously for 1 minute, then add in the sauce and broccoli. Bring the sauce to a boil, then add in the cornstarch dissolved in water (once sauce with cornstarch in it boils, that is as thick as it will get, if you want it thicker, add more but watch the ratios). Cook until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 2 minutes. Serve over rice, if desired. (I desired)

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special appearance by pot stickers

 

 

 

Pot Stickers…my easy, yet time consuming, comfort food!

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Let it be known, I LOVE Chinese food. I could easily devour a bag of pot stickers in one sitting (it’s my secret shame). My Mom’s high school friend and daughter are staying with us and lo-and-behold, what is one of the daughter’s favorite foods? BAM! POT STICKERS!… and there was my excuse to make some.

Now the store didn’t have proper dumpling wrappers so I used wonton wrappers. They were a bit small but worked out fine. I also used a small empanda press (which I would highly recommend doing) to shape the pot stickers. I enlisted the friend’s daughter’s help and yes, you are in fact the coolest 17-year old I know. When we were done we had an army of tiny yummy pot stickers. I served this with beef and broccoli.

Now, in order to cook this small army of pot stickers, I pulled out the big show-n0-mercy pan…a fateful choice as it was not nonstick. A moment of silence for the first batch of pot stickers if you please. … (we still ate them because comeon, POT STICKERS!)

It took three or four more batches (now in non stick pans) to cook all of the pot stickers but we got there. I felt like a short order cook because I had two skillets going at the same time.

I used this recipe (doubled) from epicurious. I nixed the cabbage because cabbage is devil-food. I had a rough experience once that involved a very forceful Austrian woman and a bowl of sauerkraut. It’s ruined cabbage for me forever, which is a shame because apparently my Dad makes the world’s best sauerkraut…I’ll never know. Back to glorious food!

Pork Pot Stickers

Ingredients

    • 1/4 small head Napa cabbage, finely chopped (about 2 cups; 7 ounces) (No please, but do as you like)
    • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/8 teaspoon for seasoning
    • 1/3 pound ground pork (not too lean)
    • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced (from 1/2-inch knob)
    • 1 small carrot, coarsely shredded (about 2 tablespoons) (I bought matchstick carrots and they worked just fine)
    • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/4 cup)
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
    • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
    • 2 teaspoons Asian (toasted) sesame oil
    • 1/2 egg, lightly beaten
    • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 30 gyoza (pot sticker) wrappers, from 1 (14-ounce) package (or, wonton wrappers will work too in a pinch)
    • 1/4 cup canola oil

Preparation

    1. In large bowl, toss together cabbage and 3/4 teaspoon salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Transfer to clean dish towel or cheesecloth, gather ends together, and twist to squeeze out as much water as possible. Wipe bowl clean, then return cabbage to it. Add pork, ginger, carrots, scallions, and garlic and stir to combine. (I started at “add pork” and skipped the cabbage step all together)
    2. In small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, sesame oil, and egg, then stir into cabbage-pork mixture. Stir in pepper and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt.
    3. On dry surface, lay out 1 gyoza wrapper, keeping remaining wrappers covered with dampened cloth or paper towel. Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons filling into center, then moisten halfway around edge with wet finger. Fold moisture-free half of wrapper over moistened half to form open half-moon shape. To seal, using thumb and forefinger of one hand, form 6 tiny pleats along unmoistened edge of wrapper, pressing pleats against moistened border to enclose filling. Moistened border will stay smooth and will automatically curve in semicircle. Stand dumpling, seam-side up, on baking sheet and gently press to flatten bottom. Cover loosely with dampened cloth or paper towel. Form remaining dumplings in same manner. (I dipped my finger in water and moistened the edges of the wonton wrapper and then laid it on the empanada press. I put about a tsp of filling in the middle and pressed it, the extra wrapper peeled away at the edges and I was left with a small, but yummy, pot sticker. I did follow the instruction of keeping the completed pot stickers under a damp cloth so they didn’t dry out)
    4. In 10-inch, lidded, non-stick skillet over moderately high heat, heat oil until hot but not smoking, (remember hot pan then cold oil) then remove from heat and arrange pot stickers in tight circular pattern standing up in oil (they should touch one another). Cook, uncovered, until bottoms are pale golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water, tilting skillet to distribute, then cover tightly with lid and cook until liquid has evaporated and bottoms of dumplings are crisp and golden, 7 to 10 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons more water if skillet looks dry before bottoms are browned. Remove lid and cook, shaking skillet to loosen pot stickers, until steam dissipates, 1 to 2 minutes. Invert large plate with rim over skillet. Using pot holders, hold plate and skillet together and invert skillet. Remove skillet and serve pot stickers warm. (or just take them out with tongs or a slotted spatula which is what I did because I wasn’t about to pour oil/hot water on myself which I would have inevitably done because the oil/water NEVER completely dissipates or evaporates.

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The Little Cake that Could…American Flag Cake

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Happy 240th Birthday, America! You don’t look a day over 25.

So, this cake. I tell ya. It took some hits but made it through – parallel to our country? Perhaps. And the oven’s red glare, the flour bursting in air, gave proof through the kitchen, that our cake was still there.

I was very kindly invited to a 4th of July BBQ and decided to make this American flag cake as my contribution. I was going to make it Sunday night but I ended up being so tired after going to a Lithuanian festival with a BFF that I slept from 7pm to 8am Monday. In my rush, I forgot to add the vanilla extract to the batter – OOPS! I counteracted that by adding another tsp of vanilla extract to the frosting. It turned out well and no one was any the wiser – or at least they wouldn’t have been had I not kept telling everyone. I take it as a good sign that the cake was about gone when I left. On the way to the BBQ the cake slid off its base layer and smacked into the side of the cake carrier…it was all sorts of messed up, you’ll see in the pictures below (and you can see how much it shifted in the picture above). In any case, yay America, yay cake! This looks complicated but is actually pretty simple. I hope you have an easier time with it than I did though!

I opted to make a white velvet cake…or I guess technically I made a red, white and blue velvet cake but it was all just white chocolate cake and food dye. I have heard of some people pouring white or star sprinkles in the blue batter but I don’t like sprinkles in my batter…I know, I know, I’m in the like 1% of people who don’t go gaga over sprinkles. I semi regret topping the frosting with them. I got the white velvet cake recipe from Mr. Food Test Kitchen, the frosting is the same I used for my red velvet cupcakes courtesy of e2bakes and the idea came from celebrations at home. I doubled both of the recipes and it worked out well.

You’ll need three 8″ cake pans and one 6″ cake pans. One 8″ is for the blue, one for the white and the last 8″ and the 6″ is for the red. I suggest pouring the white first and then doing the dyed layers so you can scoop some from the white batter if you need more.

White Velvet Cake

What You’ll Need: (remember, I doubled the recipe below. This one is for two 8″ layers)
  • 1 (6-ounce) package white chocolate baking bars, broken up (I just used white chocolate chips)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I forgot this, so I added another tsp to the frosting)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
What To Do:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat two (8-inch) round baking pans with cooking spray, then line bottoms with waxed paper.
  2. In a medium saucepan, combine baking bars and milk over low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder; set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in melted baking bars and vanilla extract. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream. Pour into prepared pans.
  4. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. (you’ll need to play with times, I ended up baking the four cake pans together and it took about 26 – 29 mins but they probably could have stayed in longer…if you have the time, bake separately to ensure even baking, you may get brown spots on top but don’t worry, they won’t be seen and it just looks weird because the cakes are dyed) Cool 10 to 15 minutes, then remove from pans and remove waxed paper. Cool completely.

4th Of July Flag Cake

What you need to bake:
Red Velvet Cake- 1 (8 inch) and 1 (6 inch) tier
White Cake- 1 (8 inch) tier
Blue Velvet  Cake– 1 (8 inch) tier

  1. You will torte (basically cut in half lengthwise) all of these cakes EXCEPT THE VELVET BLUE CAKE, so 3 tiers total. (I used this)
  2. You will need to cut out a 4 inch circle as a guide, place it on one of the 6 inch red velvet cake layers, and cut the cake down to a 4 inch circle.
  3. You will also do this for 1 of the white cake layers and the blue velvet cake (remember that we did not torte this tier) except instead of pulling away the outer ring, you will pull out the middle circle so it is a hollow ring.  At this point you should have: 2 (8 inch) and 1 (4 inch) red velvet cake layers, 1 (8 inch) and 1 (4 inch) white cake layer, and 1 hollow (8 inch) blue velvet cake layer that is twice the thickness of the other layers.
  4.  Place an 8 inch red velvet layer on your plate.  Frost the top of the layer, place an 8 inch white cake layer on top, frost that, place a red velvet layer on top of that and frost the top.  Place the Blue cake layer on top of the cake.  Then frost the 4 inch white cake layer and lower it into the middle of the blue velvet layer.
  5. Lower the 4 inch red velvet layer onto the top of the white layer in the blue velvet circle and ice the cake.

Extra tips: chilling the layers will help prevent messy crumbs and hold the whole thing together better.  You might also want to coat the inside of the hollowed out blue velvet circle layer to better hold the inner stripe layers to the outer blue cake after its cut

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white chocolate mixture added to sugar and butter

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flour mixture

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the 6″ is a bit lighter because I had to add some white at the last min to have enough batter

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This layer was a bit underdone but I was still able to get a good 4″ circle out of the one on the left (I just didn’t start in the center) and used the right as a whole layer

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I would put the cut-side down on the 4″ red next time

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this is after it toppled over in its container in the car

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