Kitchen Concoctions: September 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chocolate+Chipotle= Yum?

Being here in Texas we have a lot of Mexican influence on our food (hence how Tex-mex became so popular). We also have a lot of authentic Mexican food, and I guess I live in the right state because I love Mexican food and Tex-mex. However, I do have to be careful with the amount of spice I eat because my mouth can't take it very well. And despite my love of Mexican food there is one type of food (or should I say way of food) that is very popular in Mexican cuisine and that is the use of chili or chipolte powder on EVERYTHING. And I mean everything… covering fruit such as pineapple, mango, and cantaloupe with chili powder. Putting it on candy, putting it in chocolate cakes and musses. In my mind this is all wrong. When I want fruit or chocolate I want the sweet natural taste.

But I have herd using chili powder this way is so good. And I have never tried it, so how can I judge and say I don’t like it? So when I saw this brownie recipe in this month's cookbook I decided now was the time to try this crazy combination! These brownies were extremely fudgy (maybe because I didn't let my cook long enough) and the spice flavor was not overwhelming at all. I am so glad I tried these. I did make a few changes to the recipe by adding vanilla and some extra flour. Chocolate Chipotle Browniesadapted from Emeril At The Grill: A Cookbook For All Seasons
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 (12 oz) bag semisweet chocolate morsels, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground chipotle chili pepper
4 eggs

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease and flour an 13 by 9-inch baking pan or dish. Heat butter and half of the chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until melted. Add vanilla to melted butter and chocolate mixture. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, and ground chipotle. Add melted chocolate mixture to sugar mixture, stirring to combine. Add eggs, mixing until smooth. Stir in remaining chocolate morsels.

Pour mixture into the prepared baking pan or dish. Bake until the center is set, about 25-30 minutes. Cool completely and then cut into small squares.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Day I Almost Lost Faith In Emeril

These beans… You would think that making baked beans would be easy enough, especially if I have made baked beans before. But NO! I have now made these beans twice. Twice! The first time I made these beans was to take to family function. No, actually I first made these beans to be eaten with some ribs; but after 4 (yes 4) hours of cooking that day I gave up and didn’t eat them.

So let me tell you how this little bean trouble all began. Like I said I first started to make these beans for a simple BBQ dinner. I followed Emeril's directions to a T. (even though I disagreed). The reason I disagreed was that in the recipe directions Emeril uses dried navy beans, he then says to just rinse the beans and mi the rinsed beans with the other ingredients. In my logical mind and from all the other times I have used beans I know you have to rense AND soak the beans before use. Now Emerial said to rinse but did not say to soak. SOOO, to make sure and follow the directions to a T, I d just rinsed the beans and did not soak.

Well then the recipe says to add about 8 cups of water and let cook for 3-4 hours. So I felt like with this much water and the long cooking time the beans will be good. No… after over 4 hours of cooking time they were still crunchy. I waited to finish cooking them for another day (because this was back when it was still 100 degrees outside). I then had the great idea to cook them in the crock pot. After about 4 hours of that they were still hard and burnt!

I then saw navy beans in the canned bean isle of the grocery store. I thought this was perfect! I could make these beans and not have to worry about the whole rinsing and soaking thing or having to cook them for so long. But this time I burnt the bacon... so the beans tasted amazing s long as you didn't get a bite of burnt bacon... cuz then it was all over and all you could taste was a nasty burnt flavor.

Will I make these bad boys again, despite all my problems? I will say yes. Despite everything these beans tasted great and had unique ingredients (I absolutely love that- when a recipe has odd ingredients but still comes together). I just chalk this whole experience up to going with your gut instinct.

The recipe below is my revised version using canned beans. If you go the dried bean route, then for Pete's sake please, please rinse AND soak you beans!

Emeril's Slow Cooked Bam-B-Q Baked Beans
adapted from Emeril At The Grill: A Cookbook For All Seasons

4 slices bacon, diced
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
2 (15 oz) cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup brewed coffee
1/2 cup your favorite barbecue sauce
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons stone ground mustard
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon red hot sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons salt

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.

In a heavy ovenproof cast iron Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium-high heat until rendered and crispy, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened and lightly caramelized, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the beans, coffee, barbecue sauce, brown sugar, mustard, molasses, hot sauce, and pepper and stir to combine well. Add the water and salt and increase heat to bring liquid to a boil. Cover the pot and place the pot in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, undisturbed. Remove the pot from the oven, uncover and stir the beans and serve hot.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sometimes Simple Is Best

Eric loves to cook for me (he also loves to make a mess of the kitchen). But when he cooks it is all his own. He never uses recipes or a cookbook (I don’t even think he has ever even looked at a cookbook except for the ones I have showed him) and for everything he does cook he ‘just creates’ it. Some of his ‘specialty dishes” are ones he learned from his mom growing up as a kid and others are purely things he created. Everything he makes is very simple yet very tasty and are things that we never get tired of around here. Eric says the key to his cooking or any cooking for that matter are the ingredients(this just cracks me up when he trys to teach me things… not that I can’t learn a new thing or two myself but usually I AM the one giving him tips on how to do things in the kitchen!). Now he says that the ingredients don’t have to be super pricey or hard to find but when you do find a particular ingredient or brand you like, then use it.

Take this recipe for example. The main ingredient here is the yellow rice; and not just any yellow rice but Vigo yellow rice. Eric says this brand is key because other brands don’t fluff up as much and become to sticky.

Eric’s Yellow Rice Dinner (I kept the recipe name simple too)

1 (16 oz) bag Vigo Yellow Rice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
2 chicken breasts
½ (16 oz) bag frozen peas and carrots
½ (16 oz) bag frozen corn

In a large pot bring water and chicken stock to boil. Add olive oil and rice, stir, reduce heat and cover. Let simmer for 20 minutes. Boil chicken in water, for about 20 minutes, when done, shred. Add prepared chicken, and veggies to rice during the last 5 minutes of cooking time. Stir. Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Just Being Lazy

So pure laziness is all I have to say about not posting this recipe yesterday. I mean I had started writing it on Sunday to make sure it was ready for Monday. And then yesterday, after a really long day at work I decided I did not want to look at a computer when I got off work. In fact the only reason why I even had to go near a computer yesterday after I was home from work was because I have to walk by my office on the way to the living room (where my extremely comfortable couch was waiting for me). So here is yesterday’s featured recipe from the cookbook of the month!

So far so good with all the recipes I have made from this month's cookbook of the month. Every single recipe I have made from this book has been so tasty, with no complaints. That includes these hamburgers. These burgers have such a complex mix of flavors that has just enough 'heat' lingering after each bite, making you crave for more. The original recipe calls for ground buffalo, and while I am sure it is amazing, it was not in my budget this go round (I did make a few other minor changes, so my version is below). I also used my George Foreman again to make these. If you don't own a George Foreman you should, it makes grilling any time a piece of cake!

Spiced Buffalo Burgers
adapted from Emeril At The Grill: A Cookbook For All Seasons
(Makes 6 servings)

1 1/2 pounds ground buffalo/beef
1 egg
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons Chile Spice Blend for Burgers (recipe follows)
Munster cheese or Jalapeno Munster cheese (if you want a little extra kick)
6 hamburger buns
Mayonnaise, for serving
Sliced pickles, for serving
lettuce, for serving
Tomato slices, for serving

Chili Spice Blend:
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Place meat in large mixing bowl. Add Worcestershire, egg and Chile Spice Blend; mix gently but thoroughly with hands until all ingredients are well incorporated. Form meat into 6 equal patties.
Preheat George Foreman grill to medium-high. Place prepared hamburger patties on the grill and cook for 6 to 8 minutes. After burgers are cooked, place buns on grill briefly to toast. Arrange hamburgers and top with desired condiments.

**I have two pictures today because I was trying two different photography techniques the day I made these. I think I like the first picture best

Monday, September 14, 2009

Good Food From A Good Deal

A few weeks ago at my local grocery store they had boneless pork loins on sale for 89 cents a pound. I got a huge pork loin for about 7 bucks (I love good deals). Of course I couldn't eat it all by myself and even with Eric there helping me I knew I was going to have to cut this gigantic pork loin down into more manageable and easy to eat sizes. So out of that huge pork loin I was able to get 4 smaller loins that I then froze for later use.

I have already used 2 of the pork loins (one recipe featured here the other soon to come if I can ever get caught up). Then when I was meticulously reading this month's cookbook of the month I saw a couple of pork loin recipes that I just had to try.

This was one of them. This was a fairly easy recipe to make. Of course I did make some alterations to the recipe to be made without your typical grill. I used my George Foreman and
grilled it on both sides for a few minutes to give it some color and seal in the juices. I then finished it in the oven. This pork loin was so full of flavor and so juicy!

Orange, Cumin, and Cilantro Grilled Pork Loin
adapted from Emeril At The Grill: A Cookbook For All Seasons
One 3 1/2 pound boneless pork loin
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons orange marmalade
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat the grill and preheat the oven to 30 degrees.

Rub the pork loin well on all sides with the olive oil, and season it with the kosher salt, cumin, and black pepper. In a medium bowl, combine the orange juice, lime juice, vinegar, and marmalade, and whisk well to combine. Drizzle the citrus mixture over the pork. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes to an hour.

Place the pork loin, fat side down, onto the George Foreman grill and cook for 5 minutes. Then turn the pork over and cook for a another 5 minutes. Remove the pork from the grill and place it in a small roasting pan, pour left over marinade over pork.

Place the roasting pan in preheated oven. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees. (Take care not to overcook it.)

Remove the pork from the oven. Add the cilantro. Allow the pork to rest for 7 to 10 minutes before slicing. Serve the pork thinly sliced, drizzled with pan juices.

Yield: 6-8 Servings

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Time To Get Busy

Well like many food bloggers (or any bloggers for that matter), I feel like I am always so far behind with my posts. Like right now, even if I blogged every day for the rest of the month of September I still would not be caught up. And to top it off, of course I am still creating new recipes, pouring over other food blogs, reading cookbooks, trying new restaurants, etc, etc. So I guess the bottom line is I just have to do better. I mean everyone is busy especially all bloggers, but they manage to put up posts on a regular basis why can't I? But I am going to try hard and change (key word: try). Luckily I do the cookbook of the month so that is a guaranteed recipe every week AND I have a few ideas for the upcoming months for other posts.
I hope that you all don't think that I don't enjoy blogging, because I do, I love blogging. But you can image the work it takes (really not complaining). But I find it really fun picking new recipes, sharing my stories (kitchen related or not), 'attempting' to take pictures (I honestly really try and spend time and take beautiful pictures like seen on other blogs but I don't have a super pricey camera and they say you should use natural light to take pictures of food but since I am usually cooking at night that doesn't help).
Anyways, I am happy to share a new recipe with you (now which one should I choose out of ALL the recipes I have made recently)......
So it is now 2 hours later since I wrote the above paragraphs. I have been sorting through all my pics and recipes to try find a recipe for this post (and try and organize them some how). To date I have 18 recipes to blog about, 4 restaurant reviews, 4 random food/blogger events, 2 specialty food product reviews, 4 cookbook of the months already picked out, and 4 ideas for future months' posts (soon to come). I'd say I had better get on it!

So after all that I decided for today's post I would feature a recipe I made off of
Pioneer Woman's website. If you all have never been to her website you HAVE TO! It is not only about food, but also about home and garden, homeschooling, photography, and her "Confessions". It is a good read, and she has some pretty awesome giveaways (computers, cameras, Kitchen Aide Mixers, ect.) if you are lucky enough to be picked out of the bout 25,000 people (yes you read it right, 25,000 people) that leave comments to try and win the prizes.

This is her recipe for Red Pepper Risotto. I love risotto. It is so rich and creamy. And you can make SOOOO many different versions of it. The only downfall to risotto is how time consuming it is (allow yourself at least 25-30 minutes dedicated to just the risotto) and if you already have carpel tunnel syndrome you might not want to make it (if you don't have it yet be prepared to get it). But if you do have help in your kitchen the constant stirring is perfect for you helper!

Red Pepper Risotto
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

8 cups chicken broth (low sodium if you’re buying it in the store)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine.
Salt to taste
3/4 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan (any combination of cheeses will do)

Bring broth to a simmer in a medium pan. In a large skillet or dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Add diced onions and cook until translucent, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add red peppers and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Add uncooked rice and stir for a minute or two, allowing it to be coated with the other ingredients.

Pour in wine and cook for a minute or two.
Now, start adding broth a cup to a cup and a half at a time, stirring gently and allowing each addition to absorb into the rice. Repeat for 25 to 30 minutes, or until rice is al dente. (You might not need to use all the broth.)

At the end, stir in a little more liquid and turn off heat. Add cheeses and stir. Serve immediately!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Unlikely Companions

Happy Labor Day! I hope you all are enjoying a nice long holiday weekend. I know I am! Since it is a Monday it means cookbook of the month recipe day. And it is perfect since it is Labor Day (a day for grilling) and I am featuring Emeril Lagasse's Emeril At The Grill: A Cookbook For All Seasons as the cookbook this month!

So since it is Labor Day and I am hosting a BBQ and I have to start cleaning my house and getting the food ready- I am going to make this short and sweet (or should I say savory). The recipe I am featuring today from this cookbook is perfect for a BBQ or Labor Day meal. It is a grilled corn with a twist: sour cream, milk, cheese, chili powder and lime juice all go on top. As I mentioned earlier some of the ingredients for some of the recipes from this book don't seem like they would go together.... but let me tell you they do. I found this corn so yummy (despite the fact that it was actually awful- thanks HEB- because it wasn't big and plump like other corn I have gotten this season). The flavors all work together and compliment each other. Trust me on this- I am even going to make this again today I liked it so much!

****Remember I changed this recipe up some, so you don't have to make it on the grill. My version is what is below.
Mexican Corn On The Cob
adapted from Emeril At The Grill: A Cookbook For All Seasons

6 ears of corn, husks and silk removed
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lime juice
1/2 cup grated queso anejo, queso fesco, or mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Clean corn and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle corn with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and chili powder. Place in oven and roast for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together sour cream and milk, until a smooth thick mixture forms. After 15 minutes remove corn fro oven and drizzle with lime juice. Return to oven and roast for another 5 minutes.
Remove corn and spread sour cream mixture all over the corn. Sprinkle with the cheese and a little more chill powder, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

End of Summer

September for me is the official end of summer. School is back in session, pools close, temperatures start to drop (well hopefully). As much as I love the lazy days of Summer, I am excited about one of my favorite times of year- fall. But I also don't want to rush things and so for September's cookbook of the month I am choosing Emeril Lagasse's Emeril At The Grill: A Cookbook For All Seasons. Even though grilling is typically considered a summertime activity, I believe it can done year round; epically in these parts of the country (I remember some years here in Texas where it is so hot outside that we are cutting down our Christmas tree wearing T-shirts and shorts!). Even if you live up north where it might actually get cold; September is still warm enough for grilling and grilling goes hand in hand with Labor Day and football season.

I love this cookbook. Not all of the recipes require the use of a grill. There are side dishes, desserts, and drinks- not to mention a yummy selection of meat /protein entrees. Since I live in an apartment and don't have access to a grill a lot of the time, for the recipes I have chosen to feature from this book I have adapted them to to be made in the oven, on the stove top, in the crock pot or on the George Foreman grill. Thus, enabling anyone, anytime of the year to have great tasting 'grilled' food.

This book has variety of recipes and has many pictures. Almost all of the recipes call for ingredients that you don't think would work together but somehow Emeril makes it work and it is absolutely delicious. So far everything I have made from the book tastes amazing and has been relatively easy (a crucial thing with grilling-easy-right?).

The only negative thing I have to say about the book is that a lot of the recipes call for Emeril's products (his BBQ sauce, his creole seasoning, etc). I know that it is his book and I guess if I had a line of specialty food products and a cookbook that I would plug my products in my book too; but I did not run out and buy his products. I have his book (that should be ample Emeril support) but when a recipe called for Emeril's creole seasoning or BBQ sauce, I simply used my favorite or what I had on had and it still turned out great.

So I am celebrating the end of summer this month; by trying to squeeze in my favorite summer foods before I have to wait a whole seven months to have them again! : )

Thursday, September 3, 2009

An End To August (A Few Days Late)

Well here is a recap of all of the recipes for August's Cookbook Of the Month. Overall I liked Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cooking 3. All of the recipes I tried were easy to make, with ingredients that are easily found at any grocery store. Also the book tells you specific name brand ingredients; which of course you can use the brand you like but I thought it was very helpful to look for a specific brand label when I shopped. I also like the fact that the book was divided into several categories (Italian, Mexican, Asian, Soul food, etc) and at the beginning of the book there was a section that explained different foods that were common ingredients in the different styles of cooking. Another plus for this book was the abundance of pictures (gotta love them).

I feel with Sandra's books, cooking shows, and recipes in general; that they are great for beginners and starting points for the more advance cooks/bakers. There are several more recipes I would like to go back and try but I feel like I am going to build upon the already given recipe and make it more of my own.
These Zesty Fried Meatballs were awesome. They were easy to make and one batch was more than enough to feed several people. I really can't say more but to definitely make them. Hands down, no questions asked (I will be making again). (The original recipe came with a red pepper sauce, however my blender is broken so I couldn't make it BUT I am sure it would have been a perfect accompaniment).

The next recipe I made was Danielle's Lemon Ricotta Pancakes. These were not to hot in my book. They seemed more crape like than pancake like and the lemon flavor was WAY too strong (I mean come on do we need lemon juice and lemon extract).

My other 'you gotta make it again' recipe from the book was the Fried Pork Chops. Maybe I liked them so much because I altered the recipe some (ok maybe a lot) and they turned out great. Or maybe I liked them so much because they were crispy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside or maybe it was because the were fried! : )

I then ventured into baking with this book and made Red Velvet (Cup)Cakes. The original recipe was for like a 5 layer cake but I cut it in half and made cupcakes. It made plenty and I still have left over frosting in my fridge (um I am ashamed to admit that, but we are all friends right? Ok, Ok I am going to go through it out right now). Anyways these cupcakes were good and totally all got eaten in a 5 second time frame but they were not THE most amazing things ever (click on the link and read all about my qualms there).

And finally because there are 5 Mondays in August this year, or maybe I needed my in take of mercury (I mean omega-3), or maybe I was tired of pork and chicken and beef; I decided to splurge and make some Orange-Ginger Tuna. I am happy I did, it was very yummy and 'fancy-schmancy' (not quite sure how to spell that one)!

So there you have it- 3 days into September and I am finally done with all of August's recipes. And I would say overall things went great or were rather tasty depending on how you look at it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Missing Without A Trace

So Monday (the last day of the August) I was trying to post the last recipe from August's cookbook of the month. I was having trouble with my camera and computer and it was taking FOREVER to get the post done. I was getting frustrated to I left it alone and came back to it a few hours later. I hit 'publish post' and went to bed. The next day I went to check the blog and my post wasn't there. I logged into Blogger and there was no trace of the post (usually Blogger saves the posts every few minutes). I was so frustrated. All that work (more than usual) just gone... no where to be found... until today that is!

Today when I went to look at a friend's private blog I saw my personal blog listed on the side bar. And guess what it showed as the title of my latest blog entry "Chicken of the Sea". I had published my recipe for my cooking blog on my personal blog. Silly me! So blow is the blog entry that should have been published on this here cooking blog for Monday's cookbook of the month recipe!

I love seafood. I love all kinds (except mussels, I don't like mussels). I actually feel bad for people that can't eat fish because of allergies. The only bad thing about seafood is how expensive it is. Fresh seafood is usually a splurge around here.

But when I saw this recipe in this month's cookbook of the month, I knew I wanted to make it. The original recipe calls for salmon, so for weeks and weeks I watched the seafood counter at my grocery store hoping the salmon would go on sale. It never did. Then one day last week I was at the store and they had tuna steaks on sale for a half way decent price. I was sold and excited to have a "fancier" dinner and excited to surprise Eric with fresh tuna steaks (tuna is his favorite seafood).

However, that night when Eric asked what I was making for dinner and I told him tuna, I did not get the reaction I was looking for. He said "Tuna? That's it? Just tuna?" I said yes and you are going to like it. Then when I put the plates of food down he was pleasantly surprised to see the 'tuna steaks' because he thought I was making 'tuna fish sandwiches'. He then says, "No wonder you got mad when I was complaining about 'tuna'; I wasn't expecting this!"

This recipe would be good on just about any fish. The fresh ginger adds an extra level of flavor. The only thing I would do differently next time is let the fish marinate for longer. Oh and I did make a few changes to the recipe to fit ingredients I found at my store (not just changing from salmon to tuna) so I did change the name of the recipe to fit what I had done (in case you have the book or plan to buy the book the original recipe is called: Sammy's Orange Szechwan Salmon). My version is below:

Orange-Ginger Tuna
adapted from Sandra Lee's Semi-Homemade Cooking 3

2 tuna steaks
1 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon seafood seasoning
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup brown sugar

In a large bowl stir together all ingredients except tuna and brown sugar. Put tuna steaks into a ziplock bag and pour orange juice/honey mixture over. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Remove from refrigerator and let stand on counter for 20 to 30 minutes. Spray a baking pan with non-stick spray place tuna in the pan and pour marinate on top. Sprinkle the top of the tuna steaks with the brown sugar. Place under a preheated broiler and cook for 8 to 10 minutes.
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