Saturday, March 23, 2013


You'd never know it from the way that I keep my kitchen and haphazardly throw ingredients and utensils around when I cook, but I really do like having a plan to follow. Vague recipes make me crazy. There are few worse things that could happen in the kitchen than getting halfway (or all the way) through a recipe and discovering that a step or ingredient was missing and that your dish is now ruined. That's why I read and re-read recipes approximately a bajillion times before I start cooking. Knowing that, you can now understand why this recipe seriously freaked me out. Basically, all of the directions and ingredients just tell you that you can do whatever you want, and it'll all be fine. Sorry, but that's just not how I've been led to believe cooking works. Nonetheless, I needed a quick dinner that I could throw together before hubby got home after a long, snowy day, and he LOVES chicken parm. I figured if I followed the directions (such as they were) as closely as possible, at the very least, some part of it would probably be salvagable, and I could just throw it on a plate with some pasta and pretend that was my plan all along. Let me tell you, I was worried for no reason! The recipe was so easy, and the final product so delicious, that this is officially one of my go-to quick dinner dishes. If you suffer from the same culinary OCD that I do, though, here's a more specific recipe for you.

Look at all that cheeeeeeese...
Chicken Parmesan Bake

1-1/2 lbs chicken breast cutlets (you don't necessarily need to use cutlets, but I thought they were the perfect cut for this recipe)
1 Tbsp. olive oil
11/2 Tbsp. minced garlic (we're big garlic people, so I used a lot of garlic. I don't imagine you need to use that much)
1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper (again, you can use less if you want)
1 jar marinara sauce (I used Prego's new Bacon & Provolone. It's amazing.)
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 bag Garlic&Cheese croutons (Or whatever kind of croutons you want/already have)


Preheat your oven to 350. The first thing you're going to want to do is mix the garlic, pepper, and oil together, then spread the mixture along the bottom of your dish. You want to have a nice even layer of goodness in the pan, then lay your chicken on top of that layer. Cover the chicken and garlic with the marinara. Mix the two cheeses together, then put half of the cheese down on top of the marinara. Now, you're going to crush the croutons. If you have a food processor, that would probably be the easiest way to handle this. Or you could do what I did and just hammer at the bag of croutons with a meat tenderizer until they're sufficiently crushed. Warning: this may freak your dog out. Layer the crushed croutons on top of the cheese. Then, put down another layer of cheese. YUMSOMUCHCHEESE. All that's left to do now is bake everything for about 35 minutes. The cheese should be melted, golden, and bubbly and the marinara should be starting to creep up the sides of the dish. Enjoy! And if you should somehow find yourself with leftovers, it's pretty amazing on Day 2, as well. Of course, what I thought was the last piece of chicken turned out to just be a TON of cheese and sauce. It was still awesome. Using the bacon and provolone sauce gave the whole dish a meatier taste and enabled me to convince myself that I was totally eating a balanced meal. Meh. Balance is over-rated.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Do you know what Freud said about the Irish?

I have a love-hate relationship with Saint Patrick's day. On one hand, it's the wonderful Amy Walton's birthday. It also affords a multitude of fun cooking adventures. Plus, I love meat, potatoes, the Dropkick Murphys, and Bailey's. On the other hand, though, I don't care for beer or whiskey. At all. So there's that.
When we decided to have a St. Patty's soiree, I kind of figured that I wouldn't end up wanting to eat any of my Guinness/Jameson-ized cooking, so you and I will just have to take my friends' word that it was all edible.

Mini No-Bake Bailey's Cheesecakes

This was easily my favorite thing that I made for St. Patty's. Thank you, Pinterest, for bringing me this recipe. Added bonus: I got to make it the day before the party, which decreased my stress levels exponentially. I was super nervous about making cheesecake this way, but it certainly paid off. 

1 3/4 cups chocolate chip cookie crumbs
1 1/2 Tbsp. melted butter 
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 8oz package cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup Bailey's Irish Cream
1 tsp instant coffee powder

Prep your cupcake pan with liners in each cup. I used my mini-cupcake pan for these adorable bite-sized cheesecakes. Mix the cookie crumbs with the melted butter. Start with 1 tablespoon of butter and only use more if it's needed to densify the crumbs. (Yes, I know that's not a word, but it concisely articulates what should be happening with the crumbs.) Once the crumbs are suitably dense, press them into the bottoms and sides of the cups. Set the pan aside, and get ready to make the cheesecake filing. Whisk 1/4 cup of the heavy cream and the envelope of gelatin in a heat-safe bowl. While the gelatin is absorbing the cream (blooming) for 5 minutes, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and salt in a medium-sized bowl until smooth. Add the rest of the cream and the Bailey's to the mixture and beat until the mixture is thick and creamy. By this point, you should be ready to work on the gelatin/cream mixture. If you are one of the blessed microwave-having multitude, this step will be way easier for you (just microwave it for 25 seconds). We don't have a microwave because hubby is opposed to them. I am not. I think they're swell. Anyway, I somehow managed to jury-rig a sort of double boiler thing to melt my gelatin. Once it's melted, whisk in the coffee powder. Go ahead and gently pour the gelatin into the cream cheese mixture as you beat them together. You want to be sure that everything is mixed thoroughly so that your finished cheesecake has a nice, mousse-like texture. Scoop the mixture into the cupcake cups and allow the cheesecakes to set in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours.
Guinness Pulled Pork

My plan for dinner was to make Gimme Some Oven's Guinness Pulled Pork in my slow cooker. Unfortunately, the concept of how big my slow cooker is in real life didn't quite translate to what I had in my head when I was at the grocery store, so I ended up with a huge chunk of pork that was about double the size of my cute little crockpot. Oops. My poor hubby woke up to see me desperately trying to cut the meat into smaller chunks and squeeze as much as I could into the pot. It was not happening. I knew I still had to slow-cook the pork to get it nice and pull-able, so I could either cook it in the oven or on the stove top. The oven was a definite no-go, considering I had a bunch of other dishes that needed to be baked, so stove it was! 

1 Tbsp. paprika
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
4-5 lbs pork (I used a sirloin roast)
1 large onion
2 bottles of Guinness

Slice the onion, and arrange the slices along the bottom of the pot. Mix the spices well in a small bowl, then rub the pork on all sides with the mixture. Go ahead and toss that hunk of pig in the pot, then pour the Guinness all over it. Cook the pork covered on one of the lowest settings on your stove for 8-10 hours. Keep an eye on it as it cooks, making sure to rotate it every so often. Apparently, for those who like beer, it will start to smell amazing. Once the pork is thoroughly cooked, shred that business with a fork, then put it back in the sauce to absorb all the flavor and juices. Seth suggested making it a day in advance so that the juices can really sink in. Apparently, it was even better on Day 2. (Sorry, I forgot to take pictures of this!)

Guinness Bread

The plan for dinner was to have pulled pork sandwiches, so when I found Short Stop's Beer Bread recipe, I knew it had to play a part in this meal.

 3 cups flour (I used All-Purpose)
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt (I used Kosher)
just over a bottle of Guinness (any other beer would work)
3 Tbsp. melted butter

Preheat your oven to 350, and lightly grease a loaf pan. Sift your dry ingredients in a large bowl. When they are well-combined, mix in the beer. I chose to do my mixing by hand, mainly because I wanted to minimize the number of times I had to wash my beaters. Also, I like making bread with my hands. I mixed in a whole bottle, but felt that the mixture was too dry, so I poured another splash into the bowl (just enough to hold the dough together and get it super sticky). Put the dough in the loaf pan, and pour the melted butter all over it. Bake the loaf for about 50 minutes. It should smell fabulous, and have a nice golden crust on top.

English Muffin Rolls

Almost as soon as the Guinness loaf was out of the oven, dear hubby appeared over my shoulder, wondering if there was going to be enough bread for sandwiches. It was clear that one loaf wasn't going to cut it, so I decided to try out Jillee's English Muffin Bread. The recipe makes enough for 4 loaves, but I only have one loaf pan, so it ended up being one loaf and a tray of rolls. No booze in this recipe, but English is close enough to Irish, right? Yes, it is. Shut up.

This bread EXPLODED in the oven!
5 1/2 cups warm water
3 packages Quick Rise Yeast
2 Tbsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
11 cups bread flour (but apparently, all-purpose works just as well)
3 Tbsp. melted butter

You're going to want a very large bowl for this one, folks. My biggest mixing bowl was almost overflowing.
Preheat your oven to 350, and grease whatever pans you'll be using.
Mix all of the ingredients together. (Now you're thankful that I told you to make sure you had a big bowl). Again, I mixed by hand. There's just something about making bread by hand that feels like you're bridging the gaps through all the generations of people who ever made bread. Plus, it smells SO GOOD! Once the ingredients are combined and the dough is super sticky, put the dough in the pans. You don't want to fill any of the pans more than halfway. Trust me. Look at the loaves in the oven. Those were only half full when they started to rise. Let them rise until the dough reaches the top of the pan. Then, toss them in the oven for 35 minutes. Remove them, brush them with butter (it's going to start smelling like YUM at this point), and put them back in the oven for 10 minutes. Once more, you're going to be looking for a nice golden-brown crust. Honestly, I didn't quite get 'English muffin' from this bread, but it was DELICIOUS. The rolls got polished off at dinner, and hubby and I demolished the other loaf in 2 days.  It made some pretty exceptional PB&J sandwiches. Yes, we're adults with full-time jobs. Don't hate. Admit it. You kind of want some PB&J now.

Last but not least, IRISH CAR BOMB CUPCAKES

These cupcakes are slowly becoming legendary amongst our friends. This was my third time making them, and this time, I managed to not completely destroy my kitchen! I really didn't change anything from the original recipe, other than adding a little extra whiskey to the ganache for the boys. I think they appreciated it. 


Monday, December 10, 2012

Slow-Cooked Honey Sesame Chicken (That Tastes Likes Pistachios)

So I woke up one morning, feeling like P. Diddy. So, as P. Diddy is apt to do (I imagine), I decided to throw some chicken in the crockpot to cook while hubby and I were at work. Thanks to Pinterest, I had lots of recipes to choose from, and I decided to go for The Recipe Critic's Skinny Slow-Cooker Honey Sesame Chicken. Seth and Dave both insisted that if you lightly took in a whiff of the dish and held it in your mouth briefly, you would taste pistachios. I have no idea. They were quite adamant, though. Let me know if you get the same reaction. 

Slow-Cooked Honey Sesame Chicken

2 lbs of chicken (I used bone-in thighs, and the meat just fell off the bone. Yum!)

2 cups of honey
1 cup of soy sauce
1/2 cup of ketchup
1/4 cup of oil
4 garlic cloves, minced


red pepper
sesame seeds

Arrange the chicken in the crockpot, and lightly sprinkle some salt and pepper all over it.  In a medium/large bowl, mix the honey, soy sauce, ketchup, oil, garlic, and red pepper. Pour that goodness all over the chicken, set your slow cooker to low, and let it cook. Mine probably cooked for about 8 1/2 hours.

I served the chicken over some udon (Japanese noodles), drizzled lots of sauce over the noodles and chicken, and then sprinkled some sesame seeds on top of that. It was sooo good. The chicken was so tender and juicy and good. It's actually kind of making me hungry now. With that, I'm signing off. My Thanksgiving adventure is forthcoming!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Odd Combinations

Odd Combinations are fun. They're not always the best idea in the kitchen, but on occasion, they seriously pay off. For example, last night was Sushi Night. I also made a Cinnamon Swirl Raisin bread for our breakfasts. That was a strange combination, our kitchen smelled funky for a bit, and I was moderately frazzled. Probably shouldn't have made the bread at the same time as the sushi. Ah, well. Both turned out well in the end. On the other end of the spectrum, however, Dave made a seriously awesome sauce for the sushi by just mixing random stuff together. So, there you go. I guess the moral of the story is don't multi-task? Or do. Just don't be surprised if it makes two things that are independently simple much more complicated.



As I've said before, my in-laws are amazing. Last year for Christmas, Dave's mom got us a gift certificate for a cooking class at Eurostoves in Beverly, so we decided to take a sushi-making class and feel accomplished. Spoiler alert: sushi is kind of absurdly easy to make.
Sushi rice!

First things first: Sushi Rice (these quantities make enough rice for about 6-7 sushi rolls)

3 cups of short-grain sushi rice
3 cups of water
2/3 cup of seasoned rice vinegar
4 teaspoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of kosher salt

The rice on the baking sheet
Rinse the rice in a colander (if you have one with small enough holes. I didn't for the longest time.) Then put the rice and water in a saucepan with a lid, and bring it to a boil on high. Once it's boiling like nobody's business, bring the heat down and just let it simmer. Once the water is fully absorbed, take the pan off the heat, and let it sit for 10 minutes (keep the lid on). Somewhere in this process, before the 10 minutes of sitting are done, mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt. After the 10 minutes, fluff the rice up with a fork (look how much rice you have! Go you!). Then, transfer the rice into a large bowl, and mix in the vinegar mixture. Now you're going to get your hands dirty. Flatten out the rice onto a baking/cookie sheet. Either set up your sheet of rice in front of a fan, or fan it yourself until it's cool and kind of shiny. Once it's cool, cover all of it with a damp paper towel.

Dave's Special Sushi Sauce

grated lemongrass, to taste
Sriracha sauce, to taste
Thai sweet chili dipping sauce, to taste

Mix that stuff! If it tastes good, it's done. You can drizzle it over your rolls, into rolls, dip your rolls in it, dip your sashimi in's pretty great.

Stuff you can put in your rolls
ANYTHING YOU WANT!! (Just chop it as thin and long as you can)

When you're using raw fish, make sure you get Sushi-grade stuff. I joke not. Do it. For fish, we used tilapia and tuna. We also had some lovely cucumber, avocado, and imitation crabmeat.

How to Roll Sushi

Before you do anything else, you will want to cover your sushi rolling mat with plastic wrap. The roll will stick less, and it makes clean-up SO much easier! You're also going to want to prep a bowl of water to rinse your hands in. Sushi rice is crazy sticky. Lay a sheet of nori (seaweed) down on your mat, and press a thin layer of rice over the whole sheet, except for about an inch at the top of the sheet. Now you want to lay a thin row of whatever you want in your roll down about an inch from the edge facing you. Here's the fun part: you're now going to start the roll by taking the edge of the mat nearest you and tucking it as close as possible to where your stuffing ends. Give it a small squeeze to make it stick, and gently roll that little roll onto the rest of the nori. It's much easier to demonstrate than it is to write about! Theoretically, if my directions are adequate, you'll have a fairly solid tube of seaweed, rice, veggies, and fish. (It makes a fairly decent club, if you need to defend yourself, as well.) Now, all you have to do is wrap that up in plastic wrap and refrigerate it til you're ready to eat it! When you're ready to eat it, dip your knife in a bit of warm water (this somewhat prevents the rice from sticking to the blade) and cut your rolls into tasty bite-sized pieces of sushi. Or you could just do what I do when I eat my leftover sushi at work: gnaw at it like it's a little Japanese burrito. It's super classy, and no one will ever judge you for eating your sushi that way.

Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread (adapted from A Whisk and A Prayer's Cinnamon Sugar Bread)

1 1/3 cup sugar
(at least) 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup milk (I used vanilla flavored coconut milk, as we've decided to forego fast-spoiling cow milk for equally tasty coconut or almond milk)
1/3 cup canola oil
Raisins. However many you have or want.

Preheat your oven to 350. I like to preheat the oven as soon as I get home from work. That way, the apartment is already warm when I get back in from walking the dog, and I don't have to impatiently wait any more for the oven. We all win! Anyway. Lightly grease a 9x5 loaf pan. Now, you'll want to mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup of sugar in a bowl. Once it's well-mixed, go ahead and mix in the egg, milk and oil until there aren't anymore dry clumps. Bonus: you don't have to use a mixer on this one! One less thing to clean later! Pour half the batter in the pan. In a small bowl, mix the rest of the sugar with the cinnamon. The original recipe called for 2 teaspoons, but I love me some cinnamon, so I put a bunch more in until the mixture looked almost like sparkly red dirt. Sprinkle your cinnamon mixture over the batter. Try to cover everything in the goodness. Now, pour the rest of the batter on top of all that. To swirl the cinnamon, I used a fork to mess up the layers a bit, kind of like marbling a cake. After that, I sprinkled a little more cinnamon and sugar on top of the loaf, and into the oven it went! Not five minutes after I put the loaf in, Dave asked if I had put raisins in it. I hadn't, but it was a pretty dang good idea, so I went on a hunt for raisins. I managed to scrounge up one of those tiny little snack boxes that maybe holds 10 raisins. Eh, good enough! I pulled the loaf out of the oven, and sprinkled the shriveled little guys on top, and threw it back in. Good call, hubby! Next time, I'll be sure to have a more substantial amount of raisins.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Expletive Salmon

For this blog's inaugural dish, I adapted 'My Life as a Mrs.'s Sweet Potato Crusted Fish w/ Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette. (Her original post is here.) Our friend (and one of my main taste-testers), Seth, insisted that I name this dish 'Expletive Salmon', since the reaction he had to the finished product is not quite fit to print. :)

Expletive Salmon! (Adapted from Sweet Potato Crusted Fish with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette)

Yeah. It looks pretty nasty before you blend it.

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette:
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup
lime juice
1/4 cup grated lemongrass
1/4 cup light olive oil
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
pinch of sugar (1/2 tsp)

Either throw all the ingredients in a blender or a food processor until everything is well-mixed and there are no clumps left. Taste it! I had plenty left over, as well, so hello, salad dressing!

This picture really doesn't do it justice.

1 pound salmon (I used a huge steak, but the original recipe calls for filets, so I doubt it matters)
2 large peeled and finely shredded sweet potato

1 egg plus 2 egg whites
1/2 cup flour - seasoned with a little salt & pepper
2 TBS canola oil

2 TBS butter
a splash of hot sauce

Add flour to a plate or bowl (the key is to use a dish large enough to fit a whole piece of your fish; I did not do this) and season with salt and pepper. In another one, whisk together 1 egg plus 2 egg whites and a splash of hot sauce (a trick I'm stealing from HerSouthernGreatness Paula Deen's fried chicken).

Preheat oven to 375°. Melt the butter with the oil in whatever dish you're planning to cook the fish in. I used my casserole dish (I have a thing with cooking meats in the same dishes that I use for desserts), but you could use pretty much any oven-safe pan or sheet with edges.

Arrange a fairly generous fish-shaped layer of shredded sweet potato in the pan.

Coat your fish thoroughly in the flour mixture, then dunk it in the egg mixture, then once more back into the flour. Place the fish over the sweet potato in the pan, and toss it in the oven for about 4 minutes.

Take the pan out of the oven, pick up the fish (and as much of the sweet potato as you can get) with a spatula, and lay down another layer of sweet potato in the pan. Gently flip the other (non-sweet-potato-d) side of the fish onto the new bed of shred (yay, rhyming!). Put the fish back in the oven and cook it for another 5-7 minutes (you want it to be opaque all the way through). I squeezed a bit of lime over everything about 3 minutes into the second round of cooking. I don't know that it made much of a difference in the taste, but it sure smelled amazing!

Once the fish is thoroughly cooked, drizzle (or douse) the vinaigrette over your fish, and enjoy! I served the meal with some rice noodles tossed with garlic and olive oil, but I'm sure it would be amazing with a salad or just plain, too!

Side note: I'm on the hunt for our camera charger so I can take more pictures of the process. Hubby says he knows where it is. We shall see.

Christmas isn't the only reason to not hate winter.

My poor little tropical bones have a serious problem with winter.
It's cold. It's dark.
Solidified water falls from the sky, and we still have to get out of bed and go to work.
Everyone forgets how to drive.
People get trampled at Walmart.
You have to wear lots of layers, and somehow this always means gaining weight.
Commercialism is unabashedly in full swing.

But winter isn't all bad.
In spite of all the crazy, Christmas is still the greatest. I, for one, can't wait to break out the carols.
Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK!
Time off work = time with family. And my in-laws are pretty spectacular.
The fact that it's cold outside means that when I use my oven, it's pleasantly warm in our apartment, and not stiflingly, unbearably hot.
This makes me want to cook and bake.
This makes me want to share.
This makes me create a blog.
This is a double-whammy creative outlet that my soul desperately needs.

Enjoy, internet.

AND!! Winter means Trader Joe's Christmas Vanilla & Cinnamon Black Tea!!! The sighting of this goodness when we went grocery shopping inspired joyful dancing on my part and shame/humiliation on dear hubby's. Poor guy.

Look! It's a lemur drinking tea!