Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Homemade Pitas from the Archives

The other day I was driving behind a garbage truck for about a short distance and was horrified to watch the amount of trash fly out the back. One huge cardboard box here, some dirty wrappers there, and an icky looking mass of garbage-goo ended things before I quickly turned off on a side street to avoid anything hitting my windshield.

I don't often drive behind garbage trucks, but it caused me to wonder how often garbage truck mishaps contribute to our streets' and highways' litter . Though I could face fines of $500 for littering, what happens when one garbage truck emits more litter in 5 minutes than could fit in a grocery bag? Doesn't the driver see all of the debris flying out of his truck? Hasn't garbage technology improved to address fly-away trash issues? If any of you happen to have knowledge of the industry, I'd love to know.

Well, enough about trash. I'm sure that doesn't make any of you hungry. What should make you hungry is the thought of fluffy, homemade pitas.

I spotted these awhile ago on Brown Eyed Baker and nearly forgot about how much I wanted them until Elle decided to give them a go. After seeing Elle's fluffy pillows of goodness I couldn't resist. Well, I forgot I even made these & took photos until I started going through my old files. Oh, often forgotten pitas, I have not forsaken you! You're delicious! ...though time consuming!

These guys require quite a lot of rise time, but other than that they're easy to make. You'll be hard pressed to find store bought pitas that are as fluffy and fresh as these so try 'em out.

We ate the pitas the first night with Chicken Shawarma and Tahini Sauce from Cooking Light.

The next day, I used the leftover chicken and added peas, chopped up red bell pepper, onions and sauteed mushrooms to make stuffed pita sandwiches. Topped with Trader Joe's absolutely amazing Cucumber Tzatziki sauce, I was in leftover heaven.

Homemade Pitas from Brown Eyed Baker served with Chicken Shawarma with Tahini Sauce
adapted from Cooking Light
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon tumeric powder
2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 16 (3-inch) strips
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup red or yellow bell pepper, sliced
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup plain 2% reduced-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons tahini paste
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 garlic clove, minced

1. To prepare chicken marinade, combine first 7 ingredients in a medium bowl (lemon juice through garlic cloves). Add chicken to bowl; toss well to coat. Let stand at room temperature 20 minutes.
3. To prepare sauce, combine yogurt and next 4 ingredients (through 1 garlic clove), stirring with a whisk.
4. Over medium high heat, heat oil until glistening. Add chicken and saute until browned, about 5-6 minutes. Add peppers and cook 2 minutes. Add peas and mushrooms and cook until all vegetables are cooked through.
5. Either cut a pocket in homemade pitas or place mixture on top of pita for a wrap. Serve with tahini sauce or Trader Joe's Cucumber Tzatziki sauce.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Birthday Cupcake Bites

By now, you've probably (taste) spotted, ooh and aahed over Bakerella's fabulous cupcake pop creations. I've always admired from afar, thinking nothing could be cuter but well, more time consuming. Though simple in principle, these babies require a cake to be baked then deconstructed, formed into little balls, then stuck into the freezer for multiple intervals and finished with a few baths in chocolate (hmm....can I take a bath in chocolate)?

Well, after much drooling and envy, I decided to take the plunge and try these out. It's hubby's birthday, what could be a more fitting occasion?

I started with homemade red velvet cake, though you can use a boxed cake mix of nearly any flavor. Next time I'll consider this route since it was so painful to take my beautiful cake and feed it to the food processor. Once your pretty cake is reduced to crumbs, mix it up with some good cream cheese frosting and lick your fingers once or twice. It tastes pretty good, just don't double dip.

Fill in your candy mold, and place the cake ball on top. Pop in the freezer to firm up and dip with your favorite artificially colored chocolate :)

Come to think of it, purple isn't the manliest of colors. I hope hubby can forgive me.

Check out Bakerella's more precise and less stream of consciousness instructions for your own darling cupcake bites.
Here's some tips:
  • I purchased my supplies at Do It With Icing in San Diego. If you're not in San Diego, find a local baking supply store which will save you from traveling from store to store searching for ingredients. If you're an internet kind of person, you can buy the candy molds here.
  • Bakerella's recipe doesn't mention putting the cake into a food processor, though it does on her Martha Stewart video. I went ahead and used the food processor and found it to be easy for crumbling the cake
  • I used my beloved Kitchen Aid mixer to combine the cream cheese frosting with the cake crumbs.
  • When rolling the dough into balls, wash your hands periodically so the dough doesn't stick to your hands
  • Colored chocolate can be very thick, so unless you have paramount crystals to thin the chocolate, I found twisting the cupcake bite into the chocolate was the best method
  • Consider this a weekend activity because it's time consuming though worth it!
Have a great rest of the weekend!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Salad for One of Those Days

Though we're finally settled back in, it feels as if I can't actually settle in. I've been playing a nasty game of catch-up in all aspects of my life including blogging. Getting around to all my favorite foodie blogs has also been a bullet point on the to-do list , so I apologize if I haven't been around lately.

This salad is a perfect solution to my currently crazy life. Though it boasts a long list of ingredients, everything comes together quickly and the taste is unparalleled. In an attempt to boost our veggie intake, I've added lightly sauteed red peppers, romaine (for some nutritional value), and shelled edamame. To make the salad a little heartier, I threw in some soba noodles I found in the pantry. The noodles definitely make the salad, so I'd recommend throwing some in as well. Oh, and to give hubby a job and to take advantage of the beautiful weather, we decided to grill the chicken. The picture above is from our leftovers, so the ratio of ingredients has been cherry-picked a bit. Somebody in our house loves noodles very much so those are mostly gone :)

By the way, Martha is having a blog contest. Be sure to check it out!

Chinese Chicken Soba Salad
adapted from Ellie Krieger
4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, divided
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts or tenders
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 cup red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon water
1/2 head napa cabbage, thinly shredded (about 6 cups)
1 cup of romaine lettuce, thinly choppped
1 (8-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts
1 (11-ounce) can Mandarin oranges, 1/4 cup juice reserved
1/2 cup cooked soba noodles
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup juice from Mandarin oranges
1 1/2 teaspoons chili-garlic sauce or chili sauce
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Preheat grill.

Combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, ginger and garlic and brush onto chicken breasts. Grill chicken until fully cooked through and no longer pink. Allow to cool. Shred chicken and set aside.

In a medium skillet over high heat, heat 1 tsp olive oil. Saute carrots, red pepper and edamame. Stir continuously and add oyster sauce. Add water and continue to cook for approximately 2 minutes or until vegetables have softened. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, combine Napa cabbage, chopped romaine, sauteed vegetables, water chestnuts, Mandarin oranges, soba noodles,cilantro and shredded chicken. In a separate bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, ginger, oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil, brown sugar 1/4 cup Mandarin orange juice and chili sauce. Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds on top.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Back from Vacation with Coconut Curry Soup

Do you remember me? The girl who likes to cook and eat a lot of desserts?

Hubby & I just returned from our glorious road trip around the nation's Southwest. I haven't posted in a week, but it seems like ages now! I have been catching up on all of my emails and comments, so thanks for stopping by while I was gone. There were a few requests for the Coconut Curry dish I made last week, so I posted the recipe & photos following the cheesy vacation pics.

We started off our trek with a long drive out to the Grand Canyon for some hiking & camping. The views are simply breathtaking and it's quite peaceful if you can drown out all the tourists.

The picture below is the view from the top. See the green area to the left of me? The one with the line going right through it? Oh, little did I know I'd be standing there the next day after hours of hiking. My smile wasn't so big, then :)
After checking out the sights, we settled into our campground for the night to fuel up and rest for our big hike the next day. Saigon Noodles with Sweet Chili Sauce: the meal of champions. No recipe here, folks. This is camping's finest freeze dried food.

The view from below isn't too shabby either, though the outdoor thermometer read 111 degrees. Not sure how we made it out of there alive.

The next day we headed to Zion National Park in Utah. I have seen a lot of amazing things in life, but few places are as beautiful and breathaking as Zion. We hiked both the Angel's Landing and Observation Point trails, providing stunning views of the sandstone cliffs and a little bit of an adrenaline rush.

After all this healthy living, we headed to Vegas to reward ourselves with hotel rooms and showers. Oh, and some Vegas fun, of course. The vacation pictures end here! :) Throughout the duration of the trip, we had minimal cell phone service and no access to emails or a Blackberry. I think it's the longest I've gone "unplugged" and I highly recommend it for a stress-free getaway.

Now, on to the good stuff. If you're still with me, this Coconut Curry Shrimp & Chicken Soup is simply divine. Hubby proclaimed it one of the best things I've made and I had to agree. Best of all, it's pretty simple to make and you can vary it by adding a starch to soak up the broth such as glass vermicelli noodles. Next time, we're going to try coconut rice! I couldn't get a decent photo because we were too hungry to wait and of course, no leftovers. I found this in O, The Oprah Magazine Cookbook.

Thai Coconut Curry Chicken & Shrimp Soup
(adapted from Oprah's Cookbook)
4 cups chicken stock
5 garlic cloves, peeled and cut into chunks
½ tsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp. Thai green curry paste
2 tsp whole coriander seeds (I used ½ tsp ground coriander)
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp whole black peppercorns
¾ c loosely packed cilantro leaves and stems, plus additional ½ cup for garnish, chopped
2 rounds vermicelli glass noodles, cooked according to package directions
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
½ cup chopped green onion
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 large chicken breast, cut into ¼ inch strips
½ lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp. fish sauce (nam pla)
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 tsp brown sugar
¼ tsp chili and garlic sauce

1. In a large pot over high heat, combine chicken stock, garlic, ginger, curry paste, coriander, cumin, peppercorns, and cilantro. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
2. Strain broth through a fine sieve over a bowl and discard solids. Return broth to pot and add coconut milk, ¼ cup of green onions, mushrooms, and chicken.
3. Return to boil, then reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 5-7 minutes. Add shrimp and allow to simmer until no longer pink.
4. In a small bowl, combine fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and chili sauce. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Add to soup. Garnish with remaining cilantro & green onion. Serve with glass noodles & allow guests to add noodles to soup as desired.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Leftover Coconut Milk?

After making a glorious coconut curry dish (which I'll be sharing soon) I found myself left with just a 1/2 cup or so of coconut milk. I usually freeze leftover coconut milk, only to find it in the back of my freezer 5 months later. Typically it's covered in ice chips and hubby pitches it before I can even think of how I'd like to use that last little bit of goodness.

Last night, I decided to use the coconut milk before it had a chance to rendezvous with Mr. Freezer Burn. Having 3 smelly and mottled bananas on the counter, I decided to combine the two to make banana bread.

Not knowing how the bread would turn out, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the coconut milk adds a distinctive taste and texture to the bread, reminiscent of an Asian cake I've had from a bakery in Chinatown. The bread is less "crumby" than a typical banana bread and much more rich. Finally, the banana taste isn't as prominent as usual though still "banana-y" enough to warrant using up my bananabreadperfect-bananas. Oh, don't you love my adjectives today? It's been a long one.

Thanks to the wonders of Blogger future posts, I should be on vacation when you read this post! We're going on a week long camping road trip, exploring the sights of the Southwest. I'll be back in a week or so with updates on our trip and a backlog of goodies I've made the past few days. Have a great week!

Coconut Milk Banana Bread
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3 mashed bananas (large)
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 Tbsp butter, melted and cooled
2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a loaf pan
2. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom & salt
3. In a separate large bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until combined. Whisk in bananas, coconut milk, butter, applesauce and vanilla.
4. Slowly add flour mixture to wet ingredients and stir with a spatula until just combined.
5. Pour batter into loaf pan and bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick entered into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies for the Irish

First things first. Thank you SO much for all the sweet anniversary wishes. We had a wonderful weekend, spent relaxing by the pool & spa at a nearby resort. I feel refreshed and like a newlywed all over again. Here's a picture of one of the last slices of the Triple Layer Anniversary Carrot Cake, still holding up well after a week. Perhaps we should save it for our 2 year anniversary?

Now, on to the good stuff....

What do Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies have to do with the Irish?

Well, not much really except that I made these delicious cookies to bring to a Notre Dame tailgating party.

I know, I know... the team has seen better days, but let a fan have her moments, k? :)

Though cookies may not be your typical tailgating food, after a day of eating hot dogs, chips and drinking beer all day, I always crave sweets to round out an otherwise absurdly unhealthy day. Cathy over at Noble Pig created this recipe and considers these "grown up cookies," so I figured why not unleash them on some football-crazed adults?

Though I had originally been excited to say that I didn't modify anything in the original recipe, I did make a few changes (though some were by mistake). Instead of using nuts, I put my free sample of TCHO Nutty chocolate to use and along with some semisweet chocolate chunks, ground it up with oatmeal for the base of the cookie. Espresso powder adds a sophisticated taste to the cookies while even more chocolate chips are then added for good measure.
I pretty much followed the rest of the recipe to a tee, but somewhere along the way I accidentally forgot 1 cup of white sugar and only used 1 cup of brown. Whoops! They were still delicious and I told everyone at the tailgate that they were low carb cookies ;)

You can find the original recipe here. Just don't forget the 2 cups of sugar and consider using TCHO's amazingly delicious chocolate as an added flavor bonus!

Aggie's hosting a Foodie Event in honor of football to see what else is cooking on game day. Head on over to her blog and show her what you have cookin' by September 15th.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Focaccia Quickie

I've detailed my love affair with the KitchenAid mixer so much that you're probably a little tired of it and perhaps think I'm a wee bit crazy. Well, I won't argue with you there, but I will say that since I've been home that baby has been working hard mixing, beating,stirring and kneading on a daily basis. I've been on a yeast bread kick, and my first recipe is a quickie focaccia. A lot of things in life are worth a little patience and waiting, but if you can have an equally satisfying quickie, why complain? Mind out of the gutters, please.

Focaccia has always been one of my favorite breads. Full of flavor and having just the perfect balance of crisp crust and soft interior, I eat way too much of this stuff when tempted. This Rosemary Focaccia will only take about 2.5 hours of your life: one to allow it to rise, about a half hour to bake, and another hour just to devour the entire pan.

How simple could bread baking really be? Olive oil is drizzled on the bottom of the baking pan to give the focaccia a crisp and flavorful crust. The dough is poured in, sprinkled with rosemary & garlic salt, and left alone to rise for an hour. After a brief stint in the oven, your house will smelly dreamy and you'll be happy.

The following day, we used our ungodly delicious focaccia to make grilled paninis with turkey, red pepper, tomato and goat cheese. I couldn't have been any more jubilant once I realized we had both eaten approximately 1.5 cups of flour per person in a 24 hour time period. Eat me, Dr. Atkins.

Quickie Rosemary Focaccia
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) warm water
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) olive oil (plus additional for drizzling)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 1/2 cups (14 ¾ ounces) All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast (I used 4 teaspoons of active dry yeast, proofed for 10 minutes in 1/2 cup of water)
2 tablespoons fresh Rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon coarse garlic salt

1) Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan, and drizzle 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil in the bottom.
2) Combine all of the ingredients, and beat at high speed with an electric mixer for 60 seconds.
3) Scoop the sticky batter into the prepared pan, cover the pan, and let it rise at room temperature for 60 minutes, till it’s become puffy.
4) While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.
5) Gently poke the dough all over with your index finger.
6) Drizzle it lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with Rosemary and garlic salt.
7) Bake the bread till it’s golden brown, 35 to 40 minutes.
8) Remove it from the oven, wait 5 minutes, then turn it out of the pan onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.