Monday, November 24, 2008

Greek Spiced Baked Shrimp with Lemon Orzo & Broccoli

I like to think of myself as trend-aware. Though I'm not necessarily swayed by the latest trends, I at least know of their existence. Remember when those onesie leotard shirts were in style? Yea, I was there.

Well, I must say that I've been absolutely blindsided by the Twilight Series phenomenon. I thought Twilight was a brand new release until I realized there are four other books in the series. Whoops. Wanting to participate in water cooler chatter, I finally bit the dust and started reading the first. I can't say I'm overly impressed or understand the hype quite yet, but it's still early in the book.

Meanwhile, another trend that I am a strong believer in has graced the kitchen yet again. There's something about the combination of feta and shrimp that just does it for me. Sort of like how women everywhere are swooning over Edward Cullen. Yea, just like that.

Paired with lemony broccoli and lemon orzo, I find myself absurdly content: the house smells wonderful, the food in front of me tantalizing, and I am eating shrimp. It doesn't get much better. Some people like sexy vampires, I like shrimp 'n feta.

Cinnamon and allspice add a nice spice to the dish and provide an alternative to the many shrimp and feta recipes floating around the internet and my own blog.

I decided to pair the shrimp with a side of steamed broccoli, tossed in lemon juice and garlic. Already having lemons out, I also tossed the orzo in a mixture of olive oil, lemon and pepper. Since the sauce from the shrimp is very flavorful, the lemony taste serves only as an accent and doesn't overpower the meal.

Good luck with all your Thanksgiving preparations! I spent my usually lazy Sunday ironing linens and vacuuming. I hope the remainder of my prep work is a little more stimulating :)

This is my entry into Ruth's Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Daphne this week.

Greek Spiced Baked Shrimp with Lemon Orzo
Adapted from Gourmet & Martha Stewart

1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil
Pinch of sugar
1 1/4 pound large peeled and deveined shrimp
1/2 teaspoon old bay seasoning
salt & pepper
2/3 cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons chopped dill

Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.

Cook onion and garlic in oil with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in spices and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add chopped tomatoes with juice and sugar and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Season shrimp with Old Bay, dash of salt & pepper, then stir into tomato sauce. Transfer to a 2-quart shallow baking dish and top with feta. Bake until just cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes. Serve sprinkled with dill.

1 lemon
1 cup uncooked orzo
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 scallions, thinly sliced
salt & pepper

Peel a few long strips of lemon peel; thinly slice peel. Squeeze 2 tablespoons juice; set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add orzo and lemon peel. Cook until orzo is al dente, according to package instructions. Drain and return to pot.

Add lemon juice, oil, and scallions to orzo. Toss and season with salt and pepper; Serve with shrimp.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Homemade Spiced Apple Butter

Sorry I've been a little MIA lately. After returning from a fabulous & fun girls' weekend in Vegas and starting a new job this week, I'm a little worn out. Amidst planning a Thanksgiving feast, I hope to spend the weekend relaxing and procrastinating and most enjoyably, catching up on all the goodies on my Google Reader!

As I mentioned in a previous post, we have a virtual apple orchard growing on our countertops. A few weeks ago, hubby and I decided to escape from this very un-Fall-like warm weather and visit Julian, a mountain town about an hour from San Diego. Hubby had never been apple picking (gasp!) so I dragged him out there to visit Raven Hill Orchards. Remembering the huge apples of my apple-picking youth, we were dismayed to find that the apples were tiny. TEEENY TINY. I suppose that's what you get for visiting at the end of apple picking season. We plucked away regardless, but now I'm stuck with a bushel of very sweet yet small apples. Aren't they cute? (they look 10x as large in this picture than reality)

orchard apples
Not knowing what to do with such small apples, I decided to make apple butter. Here are my baby-sized apples simmering in apple cider...YUM:

orchard apples
Because most of the recipes I found called for a certain amount of normal sized apples, I used this recipe as a guide, using apple cider instead of apple juice and adding spices by sight.

The resulting apple butter is sweet, spicy and an all around treat. I will most likely be making this again soon as we still have a ton of apples to make and making your own apple butter is much easier than I had anticipated. The apples are merely sliced, not peeled, shaving a nice chunk of time from the prep & cooking time.

homemade apple butterServe this atop some fresh biscuits or on a turkey sandwich and you'll be in heaven!

If you're interested in canning your apple butter, try using this complete kit from Ball.

Homemade Apple Butter
Adapted from Michael Smith
Apple Butter

Approximately 10 crisp apples (I used a mix of Jonagold, Empire. Fuji and Red Delicious) - Don't peel apples as this adds to the flavor.
1 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of apple cider
1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, cloves, allspice and cardamom
1 tsp vanilla extract

Place all ingredients into a large saucepan and cook over medium heat until apples break down and become very soft.

Using an immersion blender or a normal blender, puree the apples. Return to pot and continue to simmer until apple butter is thick.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Too Lazy To Scoop so I Made Barookies

Thanks for the comments on the pancakes! Well, now I know who to come to next time I need an ego boost. :) I suppose the perfectionist in me is still searching for the God given talent of making a batch of pancakes all the same, perfectly round shape and size. How do they/you do it?! Please don't tell me the Perfect Pancake Maker really works.

Well, that same perfectionism haunts me when I make cookies. I try so hard to make each cookie the same perfect round ball that it takes me F O R E V E R to make a big batch of cookies. I think it's about time to invest in a cookie scoop, huh?

The other day hubby and I were craving cookies like two pregnant ladies. Also feeling like a pregnant lady (no, I'm not!), I was too lazy to even fathom making rows of perfect little cookie balls, so I decided to transform our favorite cookies into a bar. And throw some apples in there because we have an orchard growing on our counter top.

There's something magical about bar cookies, maybe because I like my cookies thick and chewy. Bar cookies also take the guesswork out of "are they done yet?" as they tend to crisp up nicely around the edges and firm up in the middle.

Best of all, I don't need to spend my afternoon scooping out little cookie dough balls. Just throw the cookie dough (you haven't already eaten) in a baking pan and you're done!

These bars are nicely spiced with sauteed apples, apple pie spice and cinnamon. The raisins are plumped by soaking in boiling water and the end result is just a yummy, Fall dessert to enjoy. Come to think of it, I'm off to go eat one myself!

Oatmeal Apple Raisin Barookies (Bar+Cookie)

1 1/4 cup raisins
about 1.5 cups boiling water
1/4 cup thinly chopped, peeled apple
pat of butter, cinnamon & brown sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp apple pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease an 8x8 inch pan.

Place raisins in a large heatproof bowl. Pour enough boiling water over raisins to cover. Allow to sit for 10 minutes and then drain well.

In a small nonstick skillet, melt a pat of butter over medium heat. Add apples and continue to stir in butter until softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar. Stir until combined.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth. Beat in egg until combined then stir in vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, apple pie spice and salt. Gradually add to the creamed mixture and stir until just combined. Fold in the quick oats and drained raisins. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake for 12 to 16 minutes in the preheated oven, until the edges are starting to brown and the middle is set. Let cool in pan before cutting into bars.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes

Remember the huge can of pumpkin I purchased? From the same ginormous tin, I have made a veritable bounty of pumpkin goods: pumpkin scones, pumpkin chip muffins, and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Finally, after fearing that I may have overdone the pumpkin obsession, I had just a few tablespoons left and decided to make pumpkin spice pancakes for breakfast.

Of all things that I enjoy cooking and eating, I've never been able to master pancakes. Think of the big, fluffy perfect pancakes served at your favorite breakfast joint. Mine? Well, not usually so fluffy and perfect.

I spotted this perfect Martha Stewart-tweaked recipe on Baking and Books. I further tweaked the recipe by trading out and adding some spices. Though the pumpkin taste wasn't overwhelming, I was still happy to have made fluffy pancakes that almost look pretty! The house smelled wonderfully spicy and delicious.

Finally, thanks to Brea from The Boyd Team for giving me the Kreativ Blogger award. I feel so honored! Her blog is a playground of her adventures in remodeling her house, FANTASTIC shopping deals, and tips on saving money. She can cook, too! What a lady :) Thanks again!

Pumpkin Spice Pancakes
Adapted from Martha Stewart and Baking & Books

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon pumpin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon wheat germ
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
2 tablespoon melted butter
1 egg
Extra butter for cooking and serving the pancakes
maple syrup / confectioner's syrup

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ground ginger, pumpkin pie spice and salt. Add wheat germ, nutmeg; and a pinch of ground cloves. In a separate bowl, stir together the milk, canned pumpkin puree, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and the egg.

Fold mixture into dry ingredients. Melt some butter in a skillet over medium heat; pour in 1/4 cup batter for each pancake. Cook pancakes about 3 minutes per side; serve with butter and syrup, or with confectioners sugar.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Baked Costa Rican Style Tilapia with Tropical Pineapple Rice

What to do now?

After a greuling year of campaigns, political controversy and economic despair our country is left with hope and the promise of a new day. We've lived and breathed this monumental, historic race and now new & old political junkies everywhere are left with a politics hangover. For months, I have replaced my usual web browsing with an ardent obsession with political blogs.

Where I once read with my morning cup of coffee, I found myself typing into my browser first thing each morning. I sat glued to CNN, waiting and watching to see what would happen next. The long, hard fight is not over for President-Elect Barack Obama but now that the election is over, what do I do?

Cook and bake! Now that I can pull myself away from CNN, I'll be spending more time in the kitchen. For those still glued to see what unfolds next for our new President, here's a quick and easy meal to throw together. Keep me up to date. I need a break. Here's some photos pre-oven:

I first saw this recipe for Baked Costa Rican Style Tilapia with Pineapple Black Bean Rice on Simply Delicioso, Ingrid Hoffman's cooking show. It was the first episode of hers that I'd ever seen, but I instantly knew I needed to make this tropical fish. As the name spells out, tilapia is baked with a delightfully sweet and spicy rice accented by pineapples, salsa and black beans. Pop it all in the oven and you're left with a sophisticated, yet delicious and healthy meal.

I loved the rice so much that I'd definitely consider making rice this way again to serve with other meals though next time, I'd drain some of the excess liquid from the rice, pineapple and salsa mixture before baking. If you decide to cook this, I'd make sure to chop up the pineapple very finely and use a tasty salsa with a lot of spice! I was lucky to have a jar of homemade salsa on hand thanks to a lovely gift so the salsa added a lot of good flavor.

Baked Costa Rican Style Tilapia with Tropical Rice
Adapted from
Ingrid Hoffman
1 cup short grain brown rice
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (I used orange pineapple mango juice)
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tilapia fillets, rinsed and patted dry
2 cups homemade salsa
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups diced fresh pineapple
2 limes, thinly sliced


Combine the rice, chicken broth and a dash of salt in a pot over medium heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 50 minutes. Remove from heat and keep covered for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork. If using white rice, follow package directions.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the orange juice, lime juice, oil, 2 tablespoons of cilantro, the garlic, and sugar; season with salt and pepper. Add the tilapia fillets to the marinade, turning to coat. Marinate in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, turning occasionally.

Stir together the cooked rice, salsa, beans, pineapple, and remaining 2 tablespoons of the cilantro in a 2 or 3-quart baking dish. If there is a lot of liquid, drain some since you'll be adding the marinade. Remove the tilapia from the marinade, reserve the marinade, and lay the fish fillets over the rice mixture, overlapping if necessary. Pour the reserved marinade over the fish. Shingle the lime slices over the fish. Bake until the fish flakes easily, is opaque, and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro before serving.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Blondies

I hope everyone is well rested, ready to vote tomorrow & of course, stay up to watch the results! Lucky me, I voted early by mail so I hope there were no mail mishaps preventing the delivery & count of my oh-so-important ballot. Hubby has to go wait in line tomorrow morning (sucker!). Hopefully it won't be too bad despite all of the media footage of snaking, long lines. Oh, he is also one of the 8% of Americans still undecided 3 hours until election day. I told him to flip a coin. I jest.

peanut butter chocolate chunk blondies
On another note, I feel as if I'm being watched. Hear me out. Every time I go running, I feel as if the masses are "checking me out." And by "checking me out," I'm not talking about sauntering into a bar with a cute outfit on and grabbing attention. I'm talking about sweaty me, running, breathing laboriously, trying with all my energy to finish a run.

For the 3rd run in a row, I got at least one "looking good!" from a passerby. Uh, what is it?!

Sometimes I panic. Did I forget to wear a shirt?! Is something popping out of my sports bra?! Do I look like I'm about to die? Can they hear my stomach sloshing? It baffles me.

I ran with a girlfriend last week and as we're running, she casually mentions,
"you know, everyone we pass seems to be watching you."
"Maybe it's because you're exotic looking."
Me: Uh, everyone in California is Asian, don't you know?

I've resigned to the fact that I must run funny. I like to imagine that maybe I run like a duck or with the grace of a 2 legged dog... who knows? I'm not being humble here. If I walked down the street half nude, I probably wouldn't get as much attention. **Sigh**

peanut butter chocolate chunk blondies
Back to Peanut Butter Chip Blondies. Check these out! I found this ridiculously easy yet delicious recipe on Bakingblonde's website. If you're ever in need of an idea for a sweet treat, head over to her site and you won't be disappointed. This is a true one bowl, no mixer needed dessert.

Though she suggests chopping up Reese's and placing them atop the blondies mid-baking, I sadly did not have any so replaced them with the remainder of my mini-chips. Now that it's post - Halloween I may need to try the Reese's version soon!
Check out her recipe here. I pretty much followed her recipe though I used chocolate chunks in the dough and sprinkled chocolate mini chips on top.

Oh, and if you're out on the streets & see me running, be a kind one and let me know what's so intriguing. :)

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Blondies

An easy to make, one bowl, no mixer needed treat ...

See Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Blondies on Key Ingredient.