Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Luscious Lemon Squares

My mom makes the absolute best lemon squares.

This was my third time making them on my own and, even though my crust is flakey, buttery, and crisped to perfect. And even though the dessert in total sweet yet kissed with lemon flavor, holding that lovely square shape and texture one finds in a lemon square and treasures like a summer memory...

Hers are still better.

It's so frustrating! I make them exactly the same! Or at least, I try to and think I do. But, no. Mom's got that Super Power. The "I know how many times to stir this, correctly pour this, and add my secret mom flavor of love and mom-ness that makes it comforting and superior to anything you can create".

Or maybe not. Maybe I find mine inferior because I have to wash the dishes that produces them.

In any case! Here is the recipe for the worlds best lemon squares. You won't be overpowered by lemon, and you will be completely satisfied with the layering of flavors that meld together.

Make them and see for yourself. Or have your mom do it ;)

Lemon Squares
-3/4 cup butter (no salt)
-1/3 cup confectioners sugar
-1 & 1/2 cup flour

Cream butter and sugar. Add the flour slowly and cut like pie dough with fork. Press into the bottom of a greased 9 by 13 pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

-3 eggs
-1 & 1/2 cup sugar
-1 tablespoon flour
-3 tablespoons lemon juice

Beat eggs, add the sugar, then flour, then juice. Once all mixed, pour over the hot crust and bake for another 20 minutes. Cool COMPLETELY in fridge. Top with a generous amount of powdered sugar once cooled.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Easter Egg Salad: AKA How to Boil Eggs

Honestly, egg salad is by far one of my all time favorite sandwiches. However, I only trust it from my own kitchen or my family's kitchen. For the most part, the egg salad I've come across in other places has things in it that ruin the purity of my egg salad. Things like pickles. There are nice things that other places add. Such as celery. But when people start getting heavy hands with relish or pickles, which seems to tend to happen with egg salad, I find myself with egg salad that is far from my favorite sandwich and rather inedible.

Plus, other places will make it on white bread which gets all soggy and gross. That's just sad. Egg salad needs moral-toast support. It should be a law. Mine consists of simple wheat toast, some spinach (which I always use instead of lettuce if I can because it has more vitamins going for it) and then the egg salad which is just a BIT of mayo (always careful not to drown the egg), salt, pepper, and CELERY salt. The celery salt is always a perfect, seamlessly interesting, touch that doesn't do anything but compliment the egg. Yummm.

So, anyway. Easter rolled around earlier this month and sadly, I was at school, not at home, and missed out on the fun egg boil and dye and hunt processes. Missing out on the fun never sits well with me so! I decided to boil my own eggs and dye them. It was far after Easter but, I've never been particular about things like that.

Sadly, I have never in my life boiled eggs. I have assisted with the process. But I didn't know the process itself, on my own. I had to look it up, phone a friend, and try but! Below you'll find the way to hard boil yourself some eggs. 

And remember: Egg salad just needs a touch of mayo, salt, and pepper. Served on toast, it's pure and perfect. Leave the pickles.

Hard Boiled Eggs

Place the eggs in a pot. Cover with cold water and then fill another inch or so. Add a nice pinch of salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat, leave on the cover, and let it sit for 7-10 minutes. When done, move to the sink, and run cold water into pan on them until they are completely cooled down. You can just allow the hot water to be replaced by cold and then allow to sit for five minutes or so. Long enough for them to cool down and stop the cooking. 

Eggs turn grey/green on the outside of the yolk when they are overcooked. And they are mushy yellow when undercooked. If yours are perfect, adjust your timing accordingly :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Piña Colada Cupcakes: SMILE ANGELA!

These cupcakes make me super the happy. They are just so darn cute!

And look how fancy toasted coconut is! One would never know that it's easy.

Well, it seems to be easy. I broiled it. Which, was probably wrong. I imagine there is a process, if someone would tell me what it is, I would love to know what that process is! All I did though was broil the coconut on a cookie sheet, a few minutes and then flipping the coconut over some, then another few minutes, until all of it became a lovely toasty brown.

The edges of my cookie sheet got blackened. Which, indicates I did SOMETHING wrong. But, since the majority of the batch was lovely and looked lovely on the cupcakes, I don't really care.

There is this spectacular cake served at Tommy Bahama Cafe's called The Pina Colada Cake. Whenever my family goes to California in order to visit my spectacular grandparents, we always make it to Tommy's once or twice. Coincidentally, we always get this cake because it is perhaps my all time favorite dessert and everyone else also tends to rave about it.

Smooth, light, coconut cream with pineapple whipped in, layered between thin fluffy cake layers, all coated in toasted cocunut.

I mean. That even reads as delicious.

So, craving that cake, I decided to make these cupcakes to try and satisfy. And it worked.

Make these and be equally charmed by the lightness of coconut and pineapple.

(And yes, if you recognize the tropical cake topping I use, it's from my summer citrus cake. Which is also spectacular and another favorite of which I can never get enough but! These have coconut. That ups the ante.)

Pina Colada Cupcakes
-1 prepared white cake mix 
-3 teaspoons coconut extract

-1 pckg vanilla instant pudding
-1 can (20 oz)  crushed pineapple *(all I had on hand was an 8 oz can which was less pineapple then I think I would have liked but the frosting also held its shape rather nicely and I'm not sure how that would differ with more liquids. So, pick your poison with that choice.)
-1 tub whipped topping, thawed

-1 pckg shredded coconut

Make your cake mix according to package, adding the 3 tsp coconut extract. Bake as directed for cupcakes, allow to cool completely. Lay shredded coconut out on a cookie sheet and toast til golden in oven.

Mix remaining ingredients together and layer HEAVILY onto the cupcakes. Top with toasted coconut. Admire and enjoy :)

"Crab" Salad Sandwich

So, Walmart had this imitation crab meat on sale and while that probably would have turned a normal person away but! I decided I was going to have to try it. 

Super happy I did. I made this refreshing like, seasoning glaze, that, yes seems like seasonings overload. One too many things bursting all over the the place. BUT! It's not like that. It's a happy grouping of flavors opening up into eachother and becoming something new and fun.

It's this flavorful, refreshing, pile of meat that, while apparently not real crab, TASTES like real crab.

Can't go wrong with that :)

"Crab" Salad:
-1 package imitation crab meat
-2 teaspoons Pesto
-1 teaspoon Minced Garlic
-1 teaspoon Dijoin Mustard
-2 tablespoons Mayo

Mix crab meat with all ingredients with a fork, just slightly mixing all ingredients. Should just coat everything without making a dense layering of sauce. Serve on toasted bread with spinach, or lettuce, and tomato if you are into that. I clearly am. Enjoy :)

Nutella Ravioli: Italian Pastry Inspiration

If you've ever been to Italy, you know that they have absolutely the best pastries around every corner. I studied in Florence for a semester so, perhaps I have a biase but, if I could live on one food for the rest of my days, I really think it would be anything the small chain "Forno" in Florence cranked out.

Just so...beyond delicious.

In coming back to the states, you become blatantly aware of the fact that bakeries here and bakeries there are very different. Here we have donuts and cakes, there they have pastries and tarts. Sure, there is some overlap. And Italian American bakeries have tiramisu and cannoli. But, I have searched bakeries since being home and have yet to find anyone who has Sfoglia or any of the Nutella treats that were common in italian bakeries and cafe's. 

If you're one of those people who roam the earth unaware of the deliciousness of Nutella... please, take my advice, and go buy a jar today. Just smear it on an Eggo Waffle and be amazed at the pure joy of the taste. 

In italy, Nutella, or rather, hazelnut chocolate spread, is extremely common. They make it themselves or buy it in jars like we do, but unlike us, it's incorporated deeply in their dessert cuisines. 

Sfolgia is a simple square that you could buy for 1 euro that is essentially a layer of flakey, buttery, pastry, then Nutella, topped by more pastry, that you bake so the Nutella becomes more substantial itself and, combined with the pastry, is pure bliss. When i came back home and started cooking up things, I became kind of crazy about trying to recreate this treat.

Lots of batches, attempts, and goings. And this version, these little beauties, are by far the best result to be had yet. 

Made with basically pie crust and nutella alone, they're great pop-able treats. Served with a drizzle of chocolate and some icecream, I am pretty sure these could be considered a sin.

But really, how fun and cute are they?! 

I'm obsessed. And they quench my thirst for italian pastry. Make and Enjoy :)

Nutella Ravioli:
-Pie crust
-1 egg
-powdered sugar (confectioners sugar) for dusting

Lay out your pie crust. Using a glass with a diameter of about two inches or a cookie cutter of similar size, cut yourself some small circles which you lay out on non stick cookie sheets. Dallop a teaspoon of nutella in the center of each disc. Fold over (into half moon shapes) and using a fork, press sides shut. Brush with egg, bake about 10-12 minutes at 350 or until golden brown. Let them cool completely, dust with powder sugar, and serve! 

Pretty much a smash :)

*UPDATE* Featured Here! Go Check it Out :)

The Amazing, Beautiful, Super Emily Shares Her Paella Secret

One of my all time favorite people made this Paella recipe for my family, boyfriend, and I when we were all on vacation together and, it completely blew everyone away.

I mean, there were about 10 of us, and she made a double batch, and I think there was maybe a single bowl left. And that's a LOT of Paella.

I was pretty much convinced I could never make this as well as she did. Pretty much convinced I could never make it, period. It is a lot of things cooking at once and, seemed overwhelming and scary.

But, I decided to be a brave little toaster. Even though Ms. Cougarlee has mad skillz that, I still didn't even touch on, this blog has taught me I can make and bake a lot more complex cooking then I thought I was capable of.

I mean... I'm certified disaster.

And yet! This was not a disaster. This was in fact, spectacular. I made it for my roommates and cousin to grand results. Several bowl fulls, lots of silent munching and "mmm"s. My cousin is "allergic" to shellfish so, I left them out of my batch but, if you make this recipe, I urge you to add the shrimp it calls for! I made it instead with double chicken. I'm not going to write it that way. I like the recipe with the shrimp so, I am going to write it as such.

If you don't want to put the shrimp in, then just double the chicken like I did and, I promise, it's delicious.


SO, in conclusion, Super thanks and appreciation to Ms. Emily for sending me this recipe. Her family makes it and uses this food network recipe by Rachel Ray, I adapted it as I am pretty sure she did, no mussles used, but pretty much it's the same. 

Thank you for introducing me to palate paradise of Paella. (Say that five times fast). 

-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
-3 cloves garlic, crushed
-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
-2 cups enriched white rice
-1/4 teaspoon saffron threads
-1 bay leaf
-1 quart chicken broth or stock
-4 sprigs fresh thyme
-1 1/2 pounds chicken tenders, cut into thirds 
-Salt and freshly ground black pepper
-1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
-1 medium onion, chopped
-3/4 pound chorizo, casing removed and sliced on an angle
-1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp, 24 shrimp
-1 cup frozen peas
-2 lemons zested

Pick out a big, wide pan. Apparently there are such things as "Paella Pans" so if you have one, this is when you'd want to use it.  Have it preheated over medium high heat, then add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, crushed garlic, red pepper flakes, add rice and saute 2 or 3 minutes. Add saffron threads, bay leaf, broth, and thyme and bring liquids to a boil over high heat. Cover the pan with lid (or foil for the lidless) and reduce heat to simmer.
In a separate nonstick skillet, over medium high heat brown chicken on both sides in 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add peppers and onions to the pan and cook 3 minutes longer. Add chorizo to the pan (I opened mine from the casing so it was ground up and the flavors really steep into everything but, up to you) and cook 2 minutes more. Remove pan from heat.
After about 13 minutes, add shellfish to the rice pan, nesting them in cooking rice. Pour in peas, scatter lemon zest over the rice and seafood, then cover the pan again. After 5 minutes, remove cover or foil from the paella. Stir rice and seafood mixture and lift out bay and thyme stems, now bare of their leaves. I then mix everything up and then serve it as a big pot of delicious but, if that's not your scene, you can create a nice plate. Arrange cooked chicken and peppers, onions and chorizo around the pan. Serve and Enjoy :)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tagalongs: You Can Make Your Own GirlScout Cookies?!?! Heck YES!

For some reason, the idea of making my own version of the infamous girl scout cookies never entered my brain as... allowed. Or perhaps even possible. 

I have no idea why but, I figured that the confections created by girl scouts were only magically possible by their chain abilities. Plus, cute vested zest.

But, no! One can create cookies on their own time that are easy and taste identical, if not better! then the girl scout brands!

I was craving a tagalong as I saw the girls in my college town making deliveries, I myself being a broke student, could not afford to splurge on a 9$ box of, what, 12 cookies?

Yeah, such luxuries are provided by my parents. Once a girl scout myself, the cookies used to litter our house when I couldn't make my sales goal and my dad would buy 20 boxes on the sly. Having cookies in every crevice of the cupboards never seemed to upset my siblings or I though. 

In any case, having been a cheap cookie Scrooge, I found myself wishing for a tagalong, (my favorite girl scout cookie, feel free to refute), and decided there had to be something I could do about it. A quick google search landed me this lovely food blog called Baking Bites. She had these pages of recipes for all the girl scout cookies! Including, this one here, for Tagalongs!

Success! I compiled the ingredients, thankfully most of which I already had, and set about making the cookies. As I had feared, as a clutzy cook, the part in which I had to dip the cookies in chocolate became an epic battle of me vs. chocolate coating and my kitchen surfaces were a casualty of the war. However, I ended up triumphing with these delicious cookies which quenched my Tagalong craving and then some! My roommates and my friends all ate them with passion as well and within a few days of their making, the cookies were gone.

I hope you have such luck while cooking these yourself. Perhaps you'll have a flair with dipping them in chocolate so you don't end up with coated fingers, forks, spoons, and counters as well. If anyone has such pointers so I can become less of a catastrophe even if the results are delicious, that'd be pretty stellar. 

Make and Enjoy :)

Plus, think of all the boxes and money you'll have saved! Sorry, girlies.

Self-Made Tagalongs:
-1 cup butter, soft
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 cups all purpose flour
-1/4 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-2 tbsp milk

-1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
-3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
-generous pinch salt
-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
-8-oz semisweet chocolate* (I used semisweet but, I want to make these again with milk just to get that more creamy girl scout traditional tagalong. The semi is good but, it's got that tiny little bite.)

Preheat the oven to 350. Prep the cookies first. Cream together butter and sugar. Mix in flour, baking powder, and salt at low speed, once mixed, add the vanilla/milk. The dough should be a delicious butter gall that you can manipulate into flattened discs on your cookie sheets. (Baking Bites said to line them with parchment paper. I can't afford fancy papers but, Non stick pans seemed to hold their own! Yay!)

Make the cookies about 1/4 inch thick discs. They don't really expand like a typical cookie so, shove them nice and close on the trays. Bake the cookies for 11-13 minutes. AS SOON AS YOU TAKE THEM FROM THE OVEN- take a spoon and gently but firmly make a depression into the center of each cookie. This is where the peanut butter shall reside. Now, let cookies cool completely and work on your filling.

Whisk together all ingredients. Heat in the microwave until it is soft. I heated mine for 30 seconds and then stirred and heated again for 15 and it worked out nicely. Put the hot filling into a pastry bag (or in my case, a gallon ziploc with the tip cut off) and pipe a dome of peanut butter deliciousness into the indents on the cookies. Once you've filled each cookie up, chill the cookies for 20-30 minutes or just until the peanut butter is firm. I ended up freezing mine overnight which was perfect. 

Melt your chocolate (I did mine on the stove, whenever I try the "microwave intervals" method, I immediately proceed to overcook the chocolate), and then dip your cookies!

Once you have found your successful method to dip, (which having not found, I can not post), place cookies on wax paper and let them set. If you put them in the fridge, the hardening process will go much faster.

Serve with a glass of milk and enjoy having triumphed over the girl scouts!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Super Classy Spicy Baked Shrimp

Shrimp is perhaps one of my all time favorite foods. I love all shellfish but, shrimp being the most common and perhaps versatile of the shellfish makes it a classic love of mine.

And this is my favorite classic preparation. 

This is yet another family recipe, made by my mother and father for many a gathering, dinner, or lazy afternoon. The shrimp are cooked perfectly, seasoned to pure deliciousiosity, and when you have thin sliced french baguette served with the shrimp, it's over the top seafood sin.

Take a piece of bread, dip it in the pan's spicy sauce, spoon out a shrimp, pile it on top, and take a bite. Just prepare for a kick and a lot of smiles. I made it for my boyfriend and his family and am pretty sure it's what gained everyone's approval of me.

The left over sauce is amazing on its own just eaten off the bread. Long after the shrimp are gone, my family will be dipping the bread into the spicy oil and "mmm"-ing to our hearts delight. 

If you like shrimp, you'll love this easy recipe. Have I ever steered you wrong? No. So eat, and enjoy :)

Spicy Baked Shrimp
-1/2 cup olive oil
-2 tablespoons cajun/creole seasoning
-2 tablespoons lemon juice
-2 tablespoons parsley
-2 tablespoons honey
-1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce
-1 pound uncooked, cleaned/deveined, shrimp

In a glass 13 by 9, combine all but the shrimp. mix around with a fork until bottom of pan coated and mixture is blended. Add shrimp, turn  in pan some to coat, and marinade in fridge for one hour.

Bake at 450 for 10 minutes. Serve with fresh sliced bread!

Amazing and Sorta Kinda Healthy-Ish! Onion Rings

Onion Rings! And not even fried ones!

Cooked in a bit of oil and baked. So, that MAY mean fried. But it's not REALLY fried, right?

If it means you can eat more, I promise you want to go with me on this.

This spectacular recipe is from the similarly spectacular blog Brown Eyed Baker, for both the onion rings and the dipping sauce (seen almost dripping off my plate there), and while I wasn't sure I could pull it off, even I could make these!

And well too!

I DID make some errors in judgment. I have a few oil burns and... well, I burnt plastic onto my glass casserole pan. But besides those errors and a near meltdown I had while slicing the onions up and dipping them all which made a mess all over my counters....

OK. So I admit this recipe isn't clutz friendly. But it's clutz POSSIBLE. And you need to try it because, for a normal person, I'd bet this is an easy recipe (sounds easy enough on paper!) and if you can make it, you'll be both proud and enchanted by onions once more.

Plus, the dipping sauce is the tangy goodness usually associated with the onion blossoms served at popular chains so, you probably should be able to make your own.

So make and enjoy :)

Oven-Fried Onion Rings
-2 medium (or 1 large) sweet onions, sliced ½-inch thick

-¼ cup all-purpose flour
-½ teaspoon salt
-¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
-¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

-½ cup buttermilk
-1 egg
-¼ cup + 1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

-1½ cups crushed potato chips (kettle-cooked chips, if available)

-3 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 450. The recipe doesn't say anything about how to slice up the onions and, being a clutz, I found this rather difficult. I ended up cutting them 1/2 inch thick (as mentioned) by holding them in place with a towl to avoid slips and cuts. However (safely) you manage this, just do so with a good chunking happening (no wimpy onions!) and make sure you break them up into rings. 

Combine the flour/salt/black & cayenne pepper in a bowl. In a separate container, combine the buttermilk, egg, and additional flour. Whisk until it becomes a dense, smooth, batter. In a third and final container, put the crushed potato chips. I would put in just a portion at a time so that the chips don't get soggy and unworkable as you proceed with the dipping process.

Dipping process goes as follows: seasoned flour, batter (drip/shake off excess), coat with crushed chips. When you have them finished, set them on a large plate. Repeat until all your rings are coated. 

The original recipe uses a baking sheet/parchment paper. I decided to use a glass casserole dish which worked BEAUTIFULLY. Put your veg oil into the pan and carefully coat. Place in oven (should be at 450 by now) for 8 minutes. Remove CAREFULLY!!!

Working QUICKLY but SAFELY, put the onion rings in the dish and return to oven for 8 more minutes. Flip the rings and bake for another 6-8 minutes or until golden brown. They should sizzle when put into oil.

While baking, prep your sauce!

Dipping Sauce
-½ cup mayonnaise
-2 teaspoons ketchup
-2 Tablespoons horseradish
-¼ teaspoon paprika
-¼ teaspoon salt
-1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
-Dash ground black pepper
-Dash cayenne pepper

Combine all ingredients and serve with your rings! Delicious. 

Attack Worthy Apple Sauce

This recipe is refreshing and crisp and... easy as pie.

As a lot of my earlier recipes tended to be, this is such a cinch, it's barely even a recipe.

My mom used to make this for us kids and we'd all jump down the table to eat it. All of us prefer our applesauce cold but, we'd be eating it straight out of the bowl from the microwave (remember? clutz friendly, and clutzy people use the microwave). It's first come first serve in a bigger family and if you didn't attack, you missed out on the sugary portion of dinner.

How apples with cinnamon and sugar ever made the cut of a dinner dish, I will never know. But I am oh so thankful!!

Apple Sauce
-6 cups apples (sliced, peeled, and cored)
-1/2 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-2 cinnamon sticks

In microwave safe bowl, combine apples and cinnamon sticks. Cover with plastic wrap, cook on full power for 8-11 minutes or until the apples are tender. Stir halfway through. Remove the cinnamon sticks, stir in sugar, and add cinnamon. 

Serve hot or put in the fridge and serve cold. I already said which I prefer but, make your own decisions :)

Lesley's Infamous Italian Sausage Cooked in Red Wine with Roasted Bell Peppers and Balsamic Glaze

My bestest friend in the entire world came to visit me at school and, lazy in the apartment, we decided to cook this recipe that she stated was "seriously, amazing".

She was completely, totally, under-exaggerating. It is twice as amazing as all that and since we made it, I have been craving making it again as SOON as possible. 

The drunk sausages are that lovely red/purple from the wine, and the flavor of the sausages plus wine is devine. We cut up crusty italian bread and ate it all messy hands style, piling up food as we liked it and munching on some of the left over bruschetta as a side dish.

You NEED to add some balsamic glaze to your bread/sausage before eating as well. Before you take a bite, make sure you have a bit on it, it adds so much more flavor, you'll be amazed.

Perhaps you could even just add it to the pot when everything is cooking down...

In any case, the peppers/sausage/balsamic glaze all piled together on bread made flavor parties on your tongue. Please make and combine and enjoy.

It's yum-tastic.

Italian Sausage Cooked in Red Wine
-1 package italian sausage (mild or spicy to taste)
-2 cups red wine
-3 tablespoons olive oil plus 1 tablespoons
-3 bell peppers
-1 loaf italian bread
-Balsamic drizzle to taste

In large sauce pan, combine wine, olive oil, and sausage. Cook on high. Let the wine burn off, the oil will remain and crisp the sausages up, this process should take 20-30 minutes. Dice bell peppers, when sausage is done, add to wine stained/oil pan, adding the additional tablespoon olive oil if you need. Cook up until soft and singed. 

Eat everything piled up on your sliced up bread. Heaven, right?