Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pie Time

I don't think I've ever made pie before, at least not that I can remember. On Saturday, we made Junior's Toasted Coconut Custard Pie quickly, so we could take it with us to my Grandma's house. It was her birthday, and she's been dropping hints to my mom about a specific type of pie she liked in New York. Hopefully this will be close to what she's looking for, though we had to use a pre-made pie crust since we were short on time. We sampled a tiny piece before we left, and it was delicious. Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Junior's Toasted Coconut Custard Pie

(adapted from Junior's Toasted Coconut Custard Pie, which is probably from Junior's)

Pastry crust for single-crust pie
4 extra-large eggs
2/3 C granulated sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/3 C heavy cream
1 C whole milk
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 C flaked coconut
2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg


  1. Heat the oven to 425 F and butter a 9-in deep-dish pie plate.
  2. Mix and chill the pastry. Roll it out 1/8-in thick on a lightly floured surface and trim to a 15-inch circle. Transfer the pastry to the pie plate, leaving a 1 1/2-in overhang. Fold under the edge to stand up 1 in high and flute. Prick it all over with the tines of a fork. Place the unbaked shell in the freezer for 15 minutes.
  3. To partially bake the shell before filling it, place a piece of foil in the center and weigh it down with pie weights, uncooked beans, or rice. Blind-bake the crust just until it begins to set, about 8 minutes; remove the foil and pie weights, and return the shell to the oven until it starts to brown, about 4 minutes more. Transfer the crust from the oven to a cooling rack, then reduce the oven temperature to 325 F.
  4. While the crust is baking, make the coconut custard filling. Using an electric mixer set on high, beat the eggs in a large bowl until thick and light yellow, about 5 minutes.
  5. Mix the sugar, cornstarch, and salt together in a small bowl and beat this mixture into the eggs until thoroughly mixed. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium.
  6. Add the cream, milk, and vanilla, and beat the filling until light and frothy, about 3 minutes more. Stir in 1 1/4 C of the coconut. Pour the filling into the partially baked crust, dot with the butter, and sprinkle with the nutmeg.
  7. Bake the pie for 30 minutes; sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 C of coconut, and continue baking the pie until the filling is golden, the coconut is toasty, and the filling jiggles only slightly in the center, about 20 to 30 minutes more. The pie is ready to come out of the oven when a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the pie on a wire rack for 1 hour. Serve the pie at room temperature or refrigerate until it's cold. Store any leftover pie in the refrigerator.

Yield: 8 servings

I discussed this recipe here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pork with Polenta and Broccoli Rabe

We don't usually make meat with two side dishes, but that's what happened last night. We made Parmesan and Sage Crusted Pork, Creamy Polenta, and Broccoli Rabe with Garlic. Despite the meat being on its own, even I enjoyed it! The flavors were good, and the meat was thin. The side dishes were made with some random stuff we had that didn't have a purpose originally. The polenta was smooth and delicious. We scaled down the recipe a bit so we wouldn't have too many leftovers. Also, we haven't had broccoli rabe since earlier in the year, so we enjoyed its return.

Also, this is what we discovered tonight. Not great pictures, but you should be able to see the kittens. I've been wondering why water seemed to be coming out of the tree stand and making the sheet wet, but now I know!

For some reason, they like water that isn't in their bowls. Now that we've shut the toilets off from them, they've discovered another source.

Broccoli Rabe with Garlic

(adapted from Sunset's Sauteed Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Chiles (Rape Fritte))

1 lb whole broccoli rabe
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthwise, if large
~1/4 tsp sea salt


  1. Trim broccoli rabe, removing tough parts of stems and any stems with a hollow core. Split stems (or quarter them if large) so they'll cook at the same rate as the florets. Rinse well.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add broccoli rabe (you may have to add in batches, waiting until some cooks down) and cook until tender, 2 to 5 minutes. Scoop out and set aside about 1/4 C cooking liquid, then drain broccoli rabe in a colander. Let sit until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes, then squeeze gently to remove excess moisture.
  3. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until garlic is golden, about 1 minute. Add broccoli rabe and 1/4 tsp salt, and toss to coat with oil. Increase heat to high and cook until broccoli rabe is heated through and flavorful, about 5 minutes (if it looks dry, moisten with some of the reserved cooking liquid). Season with salt to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: 4 servings

I discussed this recipe here.

Creamy Polenta

(adapted from Southern Living's Creamy Polenta Recipe)

7 C chicken broth
2 C polenta
1 (8 oz.) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese


  1. Bring 6 C chicken broth to a light boil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
  2. Slowly stir in polenta. Reduce heat to low, and cook, stirring constantly, 2 to 3 minutes or until polenta thickens. (Do not boil.)
  3. Stir in cream cheese until blended. Stir in remaining chicken broth. Cover and keep warm.

Yield: 6 servings

I discussed this recipe here.

Parmesan and Sage Crusted Pork Chops

(adapted from Cooking Light's Parmesan and Sage Crusted Pork Chops)

1 C panko bread crumbs
1/4 C (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 C all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp honey Dijon mustard
2 large egg whites
4 (4 oz) boneless thin-cut pork loin chops, trimmed
1 1/2 Tbsp canola oil


  1. Combine breadcrumbs, cheese, sage, salt, and pepper in a shallow dish. Place flour in another shallow dish. Combine mustard and egg whites in another shallow dish, stirring with a whisk.
  2. Working with one pork chop at a time, dredge pork in flour, shaking off excess. Dip pork into egg white mixture, allowing excess to drip off. Coat pork completely with breadcrumb mixture. Set aside. Repeat procedure with remaining pork, flour, egg white mixture, and breadcrumb mixture.
  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add oil to pan, swirling to coat. Add pork; cook 3 minutes on each side or until browned and done.

Yield: 4 servings

I discussed this recipe here.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Tree!

It's Advent, and Christmas is not too far away! We picked up a tree on Saturday, and today I received my first ornament from one of the kids I teach on Wednesday nights. So, until we get a chance to decorate the tree completely, the lone ornament will have to do the trick. (You can see the baby tree to the side. I had time to decorate that one on Monday.)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Pasta and Veggies, Mostly

I wouldn't have come up with the combination on my own, at least not the cauliflower, but this Farfalle with Cauliflower and Turkey Sausage was a good meal. For some reason we liked it even better as leftovers. The 1/2 tsp of crushed red pepper scared me, so we took it down to a little more than a 1/4 tsp. The sliced garlic was very flavorful. I was hesitant since I thought it'd be too strong in bigger chunks, but it was nice. Also, based on some comments, we added broccoli to the original recipe, and I'm glad we did, since there wouldn't have been much color otherwise.

John made this one for us since I was busy writing a paper. He mentioned how he liked baking the veggies and sausage. It was a nice variation from our typical stir-fry.

Farfalle with Cauliflower and Turkey Sausage

(adapted from Cooking Light's Farfalle with Cauliflower and Turkey Sausage)

2 (4 oz) links mild Italian turkey sausage
3 C small cauliflower florets
2 C small broccoli florets 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp salt, divided
5 garlic cloves, sliced
4 C uncooked farfalle (bow tie pasta)
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 C (2 oz) grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 450°.
  2. Pierce sausage several times with a knife. Combine sausage, cauliflower, broccoli, and 1 Tbsp oil in a small roasting pan; toss. Sprinkle evenly with 1/4 tsp salt. Bake at 450° for 15 minutes. Add garlic to pan; toss. Bake an additional 5 minutes or until sausage is done. Let stand 5 minutes. Cut sausage crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
  3. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain, reserving 2 Tbsp pasta cooking water. Combine pasta, reserved cooking water, remaining 1 Tbsp oil, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, and crushed red pepper in a large bowl; toss. Add cauliflower mixture, sausage, and cheese; toss gently to combine. Sprinkle with black pepper.

Yield: 4 servings

I discussed this recipe here.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Biscuit Challenge

This Thanksgiving I watched John's grandma make biscuits. John grew up on these biscuits and likes them better than any others. The problem is that John's grandma knows how to make the biscuits so well that she doesn't need to measure anything. She just knows how to do them the right way. So my challenge will be to try and duplicate them as closely as possible and figure out how we can have her great biscuits even when we're at home. I'm not sure I can come up with a recipe to meet the high standards, but I will do my best.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cookie Marathon

The first baking day of the Christmas cookie season resulted in a table full of over 26 dozen cookies and four different recipes. My friend and I started this tradition last year when she drove up for the weekend from North Carolina. Now she lives in town, and we can spread the baking over a couple weekends. We've tried some of the recipes before, and others were completely new. Luckily, they were all wonderful. Over the next week or so, I'll share the recipes and pictures from our efforts.

To start out the day, we made Coconut Marmalade Crescents. As we were shaping them and putting them on the cookie sheets, we were reminded of mini shrimp, though these cookies taste nothing like shrimp. The cookies are nice and soft, and the topping adds even more fun to their flavor, with a little crunch from the toasted coconut.

Coconut Marmalade Crescents

(adapted from Land O Lakes's Coconut Marmalade Crescents by way of Culinary in the Desert)

For the cookie:
2 1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 C granulated sugar
1/2 tsp rum extract
1 C sweetened coconut flakes, toasted

For the glaze:
1 1/2 C confectioners' sugar
1/3 C orange marmalade
1 to 2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
additional sweetened coconut flakes, toasted

For the cookie:

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, cream cheese and sugar until creamy. Beat in rum extract.
  3. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in coconut. Cover dough and place into the refrigerator until firm, about 1 to 2 hours.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  5. Shape dough into 1 1/4 " balls. Roll each ball into 2" long logs. Shape logs into a crescent shape (or another shape of your choosing) on baking sheets lined with parchment.
  6. Place into the oven and bake until set and the edges are lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the glaze:
  1. In a small bowl, stir together confectioners' sugar, marmalade and enough orange juice to make desired glaze consistency.
  2. Frost cookies with glaze. Sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Yield: about 5 dozen

I discussed this recipe here.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Operation Christmas Child Project

This month I introduced a mini project to the two Missions classes (kindergarten to fifth grade) at our church. We began studying about Ralph and Tammy Stocks and their work in Hungary with the Roma (Gypsies). To give the kids a way to physically act on what they're learning, they collected items to fill shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. The shoeboxes are sent to children around the world.

As an introductory activity to the project, we took time to paint paper to wrap the shoeboxes. With a table covered in white paper, sponges cut into Christmas shapes, and paint galore, the kids set to work. The younger children used the sponges to put candy canes, crosses, and stars on the paper. The older kids decorated the paper and wrote "Merry Christmas" and "Jesus." They particularly seemed to understand that they could touch someone's life when I showed them a slideshow of kids around the world receiving the boxes from previous years' donations. I had their full attention; they smiled and spoke of how happy the children looked as they received their gifts.

When it came time to pack up the boxes, I was worried we wouldn't have collected many items since there had only been two weeks notice. I was completely wrong, as the church and the children donated tables full of toys, books, and toiletries. We even had church members bring already stuffed boxes. In all, the kids collected and filled 31 shoeboxes! They even colored a picture of the nativity scene to include with their gift. It sounds like we'll hear where the boxes are delivered now that Operation Christmas Child has the option of including a barcode on the box to track its travels. This is a nice new feature so that the kids can get a follow-up to their efforts and look on a map to see where their gifts are delivered.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Black Bean Burgers

Vegetarian type meals aren't always well received in our house, but I've been looking for some good recipes that we can add to our list of keepers. These Black Bean Burgers with Spicy Cucumber and Red Pepper Relish were a great alternative to the standard beef burger. Even better, they were enjoyed by all and approved for a return to our dinner table. We were missing some of the key ingredients (red pepper), but liked the recipe despite the alterations. I look forward to trying these burgers in their original form sometime soon.

Black Bean Burgers with Spicy Cucumber and Red Pepper Relish

(adapted from Cooking Light's Black Bean Burgers with Spicy Cucumber and Red Pepper Relish)

2/3 cup peeled and finely chopped cucumber
1/2 C red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 C red onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp dill, finely chopped
1/8 tsp salt
Dash of ground red pepper

1 (15-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 C dry breadcrumbs
1/4 C red onion, minced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 large egg
Cooking spray
1/4 C light mayonnaise
4 hamburger buns
dill sprigs (optional)


  1. To prepare relish, combine first 8 ingredients in a medium bowl. Cover and chill 2 hours.
  2. To prepare burgers, place beans in a large bowl; partially mash with a fork. Stir in breadcrumbs and next 5 ingredients (through egg). Divide bean mixture into 4 equal portions, shaping each into a 1/2 inch thick patty.
  3. Heat pan to medium-high and coat with cooking spray. Cook patties for 5 minutes on each side or until thoroughly heated.
  4. Spread 1 Tbsp mayonnaise on the bottom half of each bun. Top each with a patty, 1/4 C relish, and top half of bun. Garnish with dill sprigs, if desired.

Yield: 4 servings

I discussed this recipe here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pizza Pizza

When we returned from Long Island on Sunday night, we were in the mood for pizza. We used a variety of cheeses on each one, including mozzarella, some feta, and also leftover fontina cheese from our soup and sandwich night.

I would have taken pictures of all the varieties, but we kept eating them faster than I could snap the shots.

We're really enjoying this pizza crust for all topping varieties and even as leftovers. Next time we'd like to add a little honey with the yeast to see if we like it better.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Weekend Grilling

Sunday night John suffered through the colder temperatures to make us Grilled Jerk-Marinated Pork Kebabs. I was particularly happy to have a good reason to get a pineapple; John even tried it and admitted it might be good. (It was deliciously sweet and juicy.)

The pork and vegetables both had great flavor, making the kebabs an enjoyable Sunday dinner. Also, you can see that the kittens were entertained by their first sight of fire, and then later by the huge moth that flew into the kitchen.

Grilled Jerk-Marinated Pork Kebabs

(adapted from Cooking Light's Grilled Jerk-Marinated Pork Kebabs)

2 Tbsp jalapeño pepper, minced (about 1)
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1 lb pork tenderloin, trimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 cup (1-inch) pineapple pieces
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small red onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
8 (12-inch) skewers


  1. Combine jalapeño and next 8 ingredients (through pork) in a large zip-top plastic bag. Seal and marinate in refrigerator 1 1/2 hours, turning bag occasionally.
  2. Prepare grill.
  3. Remove pork from bag, and discard marinade. Thread pork, tomatoes, pineapple, bell pepper, and onion alternately onto 8 (12-inch) wooden skewers. Place kebabs on grill rack coated with cooking spray, and grill 10 minutes, turning once. Sprinkle with salt.

Yield: 4 servings (2 kebabs)

I discussed this recipe here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


On Thursday night we wandered over to the Lyceum for a concert by Eclatante, a flute and harp duo. The group features flutist Sharon Woster Pabon and harpist Melissa Tardiff Dvorak. This is the first time I've heard my teacher play a concert, so I was excited to attend. Also, it's fun to watch the harpist's feet while she plays - they remind me of the undertow beneath graceful ocean waves.

I enjoyed hearing the Bach piece live, but I think I most enjoyed the Rossini piece, which was variations on a familiar melody, though I can't recall the name of the melody. In between the pieces, we learned a little something about each one. I was interested to learn that the accompaniment part in the Bach Sonata in C Major may have been written by Bach's son, C. P. E. Bach. To support the theory that the piece may have been originally written for solo flute, this is the only one of Bach's sonatas where the flute plays continuously throughout the piece. Also, we learned that Piazzolla's Histoire du Tango chronicles the development of the tango.

Concert Program

  • Deux Preludes Romantiques: Tres lent, Allegro moderato by Marcel Tournier
  • Sonata in C Major: Andante and Presto, Allegro, Adagio, Minuet I and II by J. S. Bach
  • Andante con Variazioni for Flute and Harp by Gioachino Rossini
  • Serenade No. 10 for Flute and Harp: Larghetto, Allegro comodo, Andante grazioso, Andante cantabile, Allegretto, Scherzando, Adagietto, Vivo by Vincent Persichetti
  • Cafe 1930 from Histoire du tango by Astor Piazzolla
  • Sonata in A Major for Flute and Harp: Allegro, Andantino grazioso, Minuet I and II by Friedrich Wilhelm Rust
  • Le Carnaval de Venise Variations, Op. 14 by Paul A. Genin (1832 - 1903); Trans by Barbara Todd and Nathalie Teevin-Lebens

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Violin Cross Stitch

This is what I made for John's birthday. I've been working on it during my commute for the last couple months, and now it's framed and ready to hang!


Friday, November 14, 2008

Soup and Sandwiches

I don't remember ever having split pea soup, but it seems to generate contorted faces when I ask people what they think of it. Despite its reputation, I was up for giving it a try, so I made this Shaker Split Pea Soup with grilled fontina sandwiches. We did have to allow time to simmer the soup, but otherwise, this meal required little preparation.

I made a bit more than the original recipe so we'd have enough for lunch the next day. Also, I put a little less water in because of the comments I read saying it was too watery. Though it may have been fine, I'd rather it be on the thicker side. I didn't mash the peas at all at the end of the simmer, since the soup was already a good consistency.

The sandwiches were made with fresh baguettes from Costco that we treat ourselves to on occasion and thin slices of fontina cheese. I mixed Dijon mustard with chopped green onions and put a thin layer on the inside of each slice. After lightly coating the sandwiches with cooking spray, I grilled them for a couple minutes on each side.

The soup and sandwiches were both very good. The soup had plenty of flavor and a good consistency. Maybe the bacon pieces could entice skeptics to give it a try.

Shaker Split Pea Soup

(adapted from Cooking Light's Shaker Split Pea Soup)

4-5 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
2 1/4 C onion, finely chopped
7 1/4 C water
2 1/4 C green split peas
3/8 tsp dried thyme
3/8 tsp dried savory
3/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp kosher salt
thyme sprigs to top, if desired

  1. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add onion to pan; cook 5 minutes or until onion is tender and lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add water, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add peas, thyme, savory, pepper, and salt to pan. Bring to boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 1 hour and 20 minutes.
  3. If desired, mash with a potato masher to desired consistency. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.
Yield: 8 servings (about 3/4 cup)

I discussed this recipe here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Biscotti Trial

Cookie madness season officially began this Tuesday when I had Veteran's Day off from work. I tried out this Almond Ginger Biscotti recipe, and it was delicious. This was a trial for the coming Christmas baking season, and I learned a couple things for the next time around.

The dough was much stickier than I was expecting. As I was forming the logs and putting them on the baking sheet, I was worried I had messed up the ingredients and put in too much liquid. When I checked the recipe, I had only put in the 3 eggs and vanilla, so no error there. In the end, there was no reason to worry since the biscotti were great. But now I know to spend a bit more time making longer, narrower logs before sticking them in the oven. This will help the center of the loaves cook a bit more and get as golden as the edges. The slightly firmer loaf will then be easier to cut into without tearing out the almonds as much as I experienced in this trial run.

One helpful tip I read was to stand the biscotti up on the cookie sheet for the second round of baking. This allows both sides to crisp up at the same time, instead of requiring a flip halfway.

Overall, the trial was a success, only requiring a little tweaking for the next batch.

Almond Ginger Biscotti

(adapted from Martha Stewart by way of Culinary in the Desert)

2 C all-purpose flour
3/4 C granulated sugar
2 Tbsp lemon zest
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 C whole almonds
1/3 C crystallized ginger, chopped
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla
granulated sugar to sprinkle on top, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 F.
  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt. Stir in almonds and ginger.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs and vanilla. Pour into the dry ingredients and stir just until the liquid has been absorbed.
  3. Scoop the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and knead just until smooth. Evenly divide the dough into two pieces and roll each into logs about 1" high by 3" wide. Transfer logs to a parchment-lined baking sheet, and slightly flatten the logs with your palm. If desired, sprinkle granulated sugar lightly on the top of each log.
  4. Bake until the logs are golden and the tops are firm when lightly pressed, about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. After 15 minutes, lightly spritz the logs with water, then let sit for another 5 minutes.
  5. Use a serrated knife to cut the logs into roughly 1/2" thick diagonal slices. Place slices upright on the baking sheet and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove from teh oven and transfer slices to a wire rack to cool completely.

I discussed this recipe here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Quick Dish from College

John's dad sent this Jade Beef recipe with him to college, and we've been cooking it ever since we met. It's one of the recipes we grab when we need something fast. We generally keep the list of ingredients handy for busy weeknights. This was the second time we used the rice cooker. The rice was especially soft tonight, probably a result of the rice soaking in the water for a couple hours while we went to the store. I think the reason I like the rice cooker the most is that it frees up space on the stove top.

Jade Beef

(adapted from Pat Tung's Cooking School)


1 Tbsp cooking sherry
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp corn starch
1 Tbsp sesame oil (can also use peanut oil)

3 medium to large green peppers, chopped
4 slices ginger root, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp corn starch in 4 Tbsp water
5 Tbsp peanut oil
2 Tbsp Hoisin sauce

  1. Combine sherry, soy sauce, sugar, corn starch, and sesame oil in medium bowl.
  2. Cut beef across the grain in 1/8" strips, then cut to the size you want to eat. Place in marinate for 15 minutes to 24 hours.
  3. Keep corn starch mixture close to stove. Heat wok to medium high to high, then add 4 Tbsp oil and swirl to coat sides. Let oil get hot until it starts to smoke, then put in 1/2 of meat and cook until not red. Remove and repeat with other half of meat. Add garlic and ginger at end to heat.
  4. Remove meat from wok when done. Add 1-2 Tbsp oil and get hot. Add green peppers. Cook about 2 minutes, then add Hoisin sauce and cook 1 more minute.
  5. Add meat to wok. Mix well. Add cornstarch mixture. Cook until liquid in bottom center thickens.
  6. Serve over rice.
I discussed this recipe here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pancakes on the Road

The hotel continental breakfast can range drastically depending on the specific location where we stay. This weekend the hotel did have a decent assortment of food and drinks available, but we had also planned to try out a breakfast of our own to see if it would be a good option in the future. Without a refrigerator or microwave, our options are limited. Though we frequently make Bisquick pancakes or oatmeal with sausage on weekend mornings we're home, we don't have anywhere to store milk, eggs, or meat on the road. Instead, we packed up a box of Aunt Jemima Original Complete pancake mix, which only requires the addition of water. Along with our handy electric griddle/waffle maker, we made a batch of pancakes in our hotel room, being careful not to set off the fire alarm. (It seemed particularly touchy last night when the smoke detector went off from the shower.) Though the pancakes aren't quite the same as what we normally have, they are a good option for breakfast on the road.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

De Lorenzo's Tomato Pies

Zagat came through once again with a good meal out during our cyclocross racing weekend travels. We stopped by De Lorenzo's Tomato Pies to pick up two pizzas on the way to the hotel. I think it's probably the closest we've had in the US to what we tasted in Italy (though still different). The pizzas are full of good flavor, are light on the cheese, and have great fresh ingredients. It all melds together well in your mouth, with much less grease than we usually find with take-out pizza.

We've been loving fresh basil on our pizzas, so the first pizza had pepperoni with basil. To have a little extra for tomorrow, we got a second small pizza with sausage. Then, when we were paying for the order, they threw an extra cheese pizza onto our stack of boxes. We always love free food, especially when it's good free food.

Also, the restaurant is so popular that the wait for our pizza order was an hour for us to walk out with it! I just wonder if the wait inside would have been longer or shorter. Luckily the hotel was close, and we could wait comfortably in anticipation. The pizzas are delicious, and they were a good start to the evening of catching up on some missed Friday Night Lights episodes.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Tomatoes, Chicken, and Ginger

We tried out two newbies last night, a recipe and a kitchen appliance! We made Chicken with Tomato-Ginger Chutney and used the new rice cooker for the first time. For the chicken and chutney, other than chopping some initial ingredients, there was little effort involved. We mostly waited while the chicken cooked and the chutney simmered, with an occasional flip or stir. To keep the waiting time down, we cooked the chicken and chutney in separate pans at the same time. The chutney was a tasty addition to the chicken breasts and also added a bit of color to the plate.

The first run of the rice cooker was a success. We should have probably waited a bit longer before scooping the rice onto our plates, but it was late and we were impatient. We'll save the waiting for next time.

Chicken with Tomato-Ginger Chutney

(adapted from Cooking Light's Chicken with Tomato-Ginger Chutney)

2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp olive oil

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 C onion, chopped (about 1 medium)
1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 C plum tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 C fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp ground mustard
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp kosher salt


  1. To prepare chicken, place flour in a shallow dish. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 tsp kosher salt; dredge chicken in flour. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken to pan; cook 6 minutes on each side or until chicken is done and lightly browned. Remove from pan; keep warm. Wipe pan with a paper towel.
  2. To prepare chutney, heat 1 tsp olive oil in pan over medium-high heat; add onion, ginger, and garlic to pan. Cook 4 minutes or just until tender. Add tomato and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Uncover and cook 6 minutes or until slightly thickened. Serve chutney with chicken.
Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 chicken breast half and about 1/3 cup chutney)

I discussed this recipe here.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Trelumina Trio at Strathmore

Last week we had a great evening out and went to hear the Trelumina Trio at Strathmore. My flute teacher, Sharon Woster Pabon, had told me about the performance since she knows the flutist, Alicia Kosack, from graduate school. The other members of the group include a bassoonist, Kimberly Buchar Kelley, and pianist, Rebecca Wilt. I had been looking forward to this performance since Sharon speaks so highly of Alicia's playing, and the concert was scheduled on one of our few free evenings!

When we arrived at the Mansion, we thought there may not be any seats left since they asked us if we were on the guest list. When we said we weren't, they told us that they were having a special evening where they invited members of the surrounding community to come hear a performance and that we would not have to pay for tickets. That was a great surprise after thinking we may not be able to hear the performance at all.

We wandered around the Mansion to see the displayed artwork and then went in to hear the trio. Looking at the program, we were nervous that the pieces may be a little too unusual for our taste, since some had names such as Doppler Effect. Despite our initial hesitations, we enjoyed the whole program, and in particular Eric Ewazen's Pastorale, one movement of his Ballade, Pastorale, and Dance. The piece was originally written for flute, french horn, and piano, but the group transcribed the piece for their instrumentation. We also learned that Doppler Effect was inspired by an experience the composer had while sitting at a street cafe in Italy and hearing the hustle and bustle of the city. It was fun to hear little tidbits of the history of the group, pieces, or composers and to sit so close to the performers as they played.

This is the first professional chamber group we've heard, and luckily it was a good first experience. Next Thursday we plan to go to Eclatante's performance at the Lyceum, the first I'll have been to for my teacher. I heard a couple measures of one piece as I walked up the stairs to my lesson, so I'm excited to hear the full thing next week.

Concert Program

Monday, November 3, 2008

Quick Pasta Dish

Last night we didn't want to spend too much time on dinner since we had a list of other things to get done before the week started. This Pasta with Prosciutto and Spinach dish came together quickly and without too much cleanup. We doubled the original recipe to have enough for lunch the next day, with the exception that we used slightly less prosciutto and a bit more Parmesan. The pasta was served with toasted garlic bread and cantaloupe. The garlic bread was made with Johnny's Garlic Spread, which my mom sends me since our Costco doesn't carry it. We enjoyed the meal and the quick cooking time, so I'll add it to our list of keepers.

Pasta with Prosciutto and Spinach

(adapted from Cooking Light's Pasta with Prosciutto and Spinach)

1 (20-oz) package fresh cheese tortellini (such as Bertolli)
3 Tbsp pine nuts
2 tsp olive oil
12 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (12-oz) package fresh baby spinach
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 oz prosciutto, thinly sliced
3/4 - 1 C grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Cook pasta according to the package directions, omitting salt and fat; drain. Transfer pasta to a large bowl.
  2. While pasta cooks, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add nuts to pan; cook 2-3 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring occasionally. Add nuts to bowl.
  3. Heat oil in pan over medium heat. Add garlic to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spinach to pan; cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts, stirring constatly. Add spinach mixture, black pepper, and prosciutto to bowl. Toss well.
  4. Add Parmesan to taste.
I discussed this recipe here.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

14" Pizza Crust

This is the current reigning pizza crust of the ones we've tried. (adapted from Cooking Light's Basic Pizza Dough)

1 tsp yeast
3/4 C warm water (100-110 F)
(6.7 oz is the latest weight, but we're still tweaking it)
8.8 oz bread flour
3/4 tsp salt

  1. Allow yeast to dissolve in water for approximately five minutes.
  2. Whisk flour and salt together in bowl of mixer.
  3. Add yeast mixture to the bowl and knead with the dough hook for about five minutes. Dough should pull away from sides of the bowl and still stick to the bottom slightly. Check the dough periodically to make sure it is tacky to the touch. Add a small amount of flour if the dough is too sticky.
  4. Spray a bowl with cooking spray, and add dough to bowl. Cover with a thin layer of cooking spray, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow dough to rest in a warm place until double in size (about 45 minutes to an hour).
  5. Preheat oven to 550 F or as high as your oven will allow.
  6. Punch dough down, and make into 14" circle.
  7. Cover pizza with desired ingredients, and brush crust with olive oil. Bake on stone until crust is golden brown (about 7 minutes).

I discussed this recipe here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Spooky Birthday Treat

This Thursday my friend turned 28! To help her celebrate, I baked this Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Filling since it incorporates two things she loves. One problem that surfaced during the hunt for ingredients was where to find dutch processed or alkalized cocoa, which the original recipe required. After searching five stores for the elusive ingredient, I was left with Ghirardelli natural unsweetened cocoa. I hoped this wouldn't break the recipe and proceeded. The flavor was still very chocolaty despite the change of ingredient; I had hoped for a slightly darker chocolate color, but it still looked like chocolate.

The batter and frosting were easily whipped together in less than an hour (including baking). I used vanilla extract for the flavoring liquid this time, to make sure I wasn't adding too many additional flavors since the filling wasn't in the original recipe. I plan to try amaretto the next time around.

My oven required the maximum cooking time and even a couple additional minutes to get a clean toothpick to come out of the tested cake. The cupcakes cooked in about 15 minutes. While the cake cooled completely, I made the strawberry filling that went between each of the three layers.

During assembly, a ring of frosting was piped around the edge of each layer to keep the filling from overflowing when the next layer was added. I melted white chocolate with a little vegetable oil and used a fork to splatter it onto the cake (for a little decoration). The creation was topped off by a ghostly white cake with hazelnut filling and ringed by cupcakes for those who may not enjoy the strawberry filling.

One suggestion that I received is to slip pieces of waxed paper between the edge of the cake and the tray while icing. This would have made for easier clean-up, and I hope to remember this tip next time. Another change I'd like to try is to chop the strawberries less finely, and keep them more solid than liquid.

Despite some things I'll do differently with another try, everyone seemed to enjoy the cake. Though I did taste it at points throughout its assembly, I had to rely on the reactions of everyone at the party to determine if it was tasty or not (since I'm not really a fan of chocolate). A friend stopped by to help during the assembly and suggested a slight addition of cocoa to the frosting, so I listened. Overall, I think it was a success (one person even dropped the date of their birthday in the coming month, hoping for a cake of their own), and I was happy to please everyone.

Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Filling

3 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ tsp salt
¾ tsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
2 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup + 2 Tbsp cocoa
1 cup + 2 Tbsp water
1 cup + 2 Tbsp canola oil
5 large or 4 extra large/jumbo eggs
¾ cup water
1 ½ tsp vanilla

1 pound powdered sugar
¾ cup natural unsweetened cocoa (I used Ghirardelli's.)
flavoring liquid (water, vanilla, rum, cognac, kirsch, or amaretto)
1 ½ cup butter - firm, not cold, not too soft

Strawberry Filling:
2 pints ripe strawberries, hulled, and sliced in ½ if large
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F.

  1. In a large bowl, sift or whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and cocoa.
  2. Add 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of water and 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of canola oil. Mix for 1 minute.
  3. Add eggs, ¾ cup of water, and vanilla. Mix 5-6 minutes with a whisk, 3-4 minutes with a hand mixer, or 2 minutes with a KitchenAid mixer.
  4. Pour equally into three 8" cake pans (extra can be used for cupcakes), bake at 350°F for 25-35 minutes (adjust for convection); test by placing and removing a toothpick through the center. Let cakes cool completely on wire racks.

(This part is done to taste.)

  1. Put powdered sugar and ¾ cup cocoa into the bowl of a mixer. Mix with whisk attachment until blended.
  2. Drizzle in (while using the paddle attachment), until about the consistency of firm butter, several tablespoons of flavoring liquid (water if you aren't looking for flavor beyond the cocoa and butter). Do not put in too much liquid, but if you do, add cocoa or sugar. Taste. When the flavor and consistency are right,
  3. add 1 ½ cups of butter (firm, not cold and not too soft). A good rule of thumb is that both the butter and the sugar mixture should be slightly firmer than you would want it to be to spread it, since the mixing action will warm it slightly. Mix until blended.

(Set aside several strawberries for decorating if you're frosting the cake.)

  1. Puree half of the strawberries in a blender or food processor with the honey, maple syrup, lemon juice, and vanilla until it is a smooth sauce.
  2. Add remaining strawberries and pulse until chopped but not liquified.

When layering the cake and filling, apply a thin layer of frosting on the cake layers that will touch the filling to keep them from becoming soggy. Also, pipe frosting around the edge of the layers with filling to keep the filling from dripping down the sides of the cake and making it difficult to finish frosting the cake.

I discussed this recipe here.