Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Classic Egg Rolls

 No matter what I order from a Chinese menu, whether it's Beef and Broccoli, or Sesame Chicken, or any number of other classic Chinese American entrees, there is always ONE thing that I will order. EGG ROLLS! It's true! I literally order egg rolls 10 times out of ten. Not even kidding. Tbh, it's how I decide whether or not a Chinese food restaurant is good enough. Well, dumplings too, but that's another story for another time.
 A few months ago, I invited the gang over to make home made Chinese take out. We made our own Beef and Broccoli, and of course we had to make our own egg rolls too. They were DELICIOUS!  I LOVE when we have days like that, with everyone getting involved with the cooking. Lots of laughs, great food, and good friends, usually ending with the dishes piled to the ceiling by the time we're done. LOL Well, like my friend Kelsie said to me recently "Happy kitchens rarely see a clean day!" Hmm.... I wonder if she read that in a fortune cookie somewhere...
 Anyway, if you've never made you're own egg rolls, invite a few friends over, get everyone involved and have an egg roll making party. I bet you there won't be any left when you're done!

1 pound ground pork
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 quart peanut oil for frying
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons water
1 bag cole slaw mix
8 (7 inch square) egg roll wrappers

 Season pork with ginger and garlic powder and mix thoroughly. Heat mixture in a medium skillet, stirring, until pork is cooked through and is no longer pink. Set aside. 
In another large skillet heat oil to about 375F or medium high heat. While oil is heating, combine flour and water in a bowl until they form a paste. In a separate bowl combine the cabbage, carrots and reserved pork mixture. Mix all together. 
Lay out one egg roll wrapper with a corner pointed toward you. Place about a 1/4 to 1/3 cup of the cabbage, carrot, and pork mixture on egg roll wrapper and fold corner up over the mixture. Fold left and right corners toward the center and continue to roll. Brush a bit of the flour paste on the final corner to help seal the egg roll. 
Place egg rolls into heated oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels or rack. Serve with plum or duck sauce, and top with sesame seeds or chopped spring onions, if desired.

You can usually find ready-made egg roll wrappers in the produce section of your grocery store.
I like to serve the egg rolls with duck sauce. I tried a recipe for home made duck sauce, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for. One of these days I'll get around to finding the right recipe. And when I do, I'll be sure to pass it on!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Classic Beef with Broccoli

 If there is ONE kind of take out food I could eat several times a week, it would absolutely Chinese food. Actually, I could probably eat it every single day and not get tired of it. From Sesame Chicken to Egg Rolls to Chicken with Garlic Sauce to Lo Mein, I love it all. One of my all time go-to favorites is absolutely, hands down, your classic beef with broccoli. It's the tender beef, it's the stir fried broccoli, yes. But for me, it's all about the savory delicious oyster sauce. OMG I could pour that sauce over anything. It's just so good! Marinate the beef in it with a few other ingredients, throw it into a wok, and in less time than it takes to have it delivered to your door, you're enjoying fabulous beef and broccoli. Simple, right? Serve it with your choice of rice, and you're good to go.
 I made this for the gang a few months ago and everyone loved it. Definitely gonna need to make this again soon! You should give it a try too!

1/3 cup oyster sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup sherry
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
3/4 pound beef round steak, cut into 1/8-inch thick strips
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more if needed
1 thin slice of fresh ginger root
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1 pound broccoli, cut into florets

Whisk together the oyster sauce, sesame oil, sherry, soy sauce, sugar, and cornstarch in a bowl, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Place the steak pieces into a shallow bowl, pour the oyster sauce mixture over the meat, stir to coat well, and marinate for at least 30 minutes in refrigerator.

Heat vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat, and stir in the ginger and garlic. Let them sizzle in the hot oil for about 1 minute to flavor the oil, then remove and discard. Stir in the broccoli, and toss and stir in the hot oil until bright green and almost tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the broccoli from the wok, and set aside.

Pour a little more oil into the wok, if needed, and stir and toss the beef with the marinade until the sauce forms a glaze on the beef, and the meat is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Return the cooked broccoli to the wok, and stir until the meat and broccoli are heated through, about 3 minutes.

You'll find bottled oyster sauce in your grocery store in the international foods aisle.
Don't have a wok? Use a big skillet!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


 As I was waiting for Katie and Anthony to arrive for dinner, I was watching Anne Burrell's cooking show, Secrets of a Restaurant Chef. I remembered that I had seen this particular episode, but decided to watch it again. She was doing beignets and jambalaya, both of which I had decided I would make one of these days. Then I realized Oh Wait! This week is Mardi Gras! I should make them for our dessert tonight! I did a quick ingredient check, and I just happened to have all the ingredients on hands, so we whipped some up right then and there!
 I have to say, they're SO easy to make! Most of the work is done with the stand mixer. It does all the kneading for you! And then you let the dough rise, cut it into little pieces and deep fry them. Seriously, is there any person on the planet who doesn't like deep fried dough covered in sugar???  I think not. If you happen to have a little extra time on your hands, you should definitely make these. They're like little puffs of heaven. I KNOW you'll love 'em!

3/4 cup lukewarm water
1 (.25-ounce) packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup, plus 1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
Pinch salt
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 to 6 cups peanut or other neutrally-flavored oil, for frying
Powdered sugar, for dusting
In a measuring cup combine the water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Let sit until the yeast gets frothy and smells yeasty. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, remaining 1/2 cup sugar, and pinch salt. In another bowl, combine the egg yolks, evaporated milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Add the yeast mixture and whisk to combine well. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and place on the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Once the ingredients are well combined, knead 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover, and place in a warm area for 2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size. In a wide, deep pot, heat the oil to 350 degrees F. Remove the dough from the bowl and lightly knead on a floured work surface. Cut the dough into 2-inch squares. Set up a paper towel-lined sheet tray to land the beignets when they come out of the oil.
Working in batches so as to not crowd the oil, fry the dough squares until they are puffy and golden brown. Remove from the oil, make a pit stop on the paper towels and immediately dust with powdered sugar. Serve hot!!!!!
I didn't have evaporated milk, but I used half and half instead. It worked out beautifully!
For a little variation, or if you're not a fan of powdered sugar, try rolling the fried beignets in cinnamon sugar. Heavenly!

Monday, February 16, 2015

No Bake Cheesecake

 I don't know anyone who doesn't like cheesecake. Even people who don't like cheese, like cheesecake. Unfortunately, making a cheesecake can be a little daunting. Plus, it does take a few hours to bake, then cool, then chill. Correct? Well, how about a cheesecake that jumps right from the mixing to the chilling? To be quite honest, there is a tiny bit of baking involved (just the crust) but the cake itself is just mixed and chilled. No baking required! So it's much easier to quickly throw one of these little babies together the night before your event, and then it's ready whenever you get to dessert! It's creamy and delicious and no one would ever believe that it's something you just threw together. And since I'm choosing to restrict carbs from my diet, this is the perfect dessert because it's easily adaptable. I've listed both options in the ingredients list. If you're doing low carb, then use the splenda and almond flour. If not, then use sugar and graham crackers. Simple! I served mine with a sauce of fresh berries. Feel free to serve yours just plain or with any pie filling or fruit topping.
If you have a craving for cheesecake, this will DEFINTELY take care of it for you. It's not my own recipe, but I did tweak it a little here and there.
 I hope you'll give it a try!

1 1/2 cups almond flour or graham cracker crumbs
3 tbs melted butter
2 tbs sugar or splenda

1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
3 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar or splenda
1 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs pure vanilla extract

 In a small bowl, mix together the crust ingredients. Press into the bottom of a 9" spring form pan. Bake in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes. Cool.
Meanwhile, whip the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside. Mix together the remaining cake ingredients. Fold together the cheese mixture and the whipped cream. Spray the insides of the ring of the spring form pan lightly with cooking spray. Pour the filling into the pan. Smooth the top to make a nice even layer on top of the crust. Chill in fridge for several hours or overnight. Remove outer ring of spring form pan. Serve with fresh berries, fruit jam or pie filling.

I'm not really a huge fan of adding lemon to cheesecakes, so I usually leave it out. On the flip side, if you LOVE anything lemon, then go ahead and add some grated lemon zest along with the lemon juice to kick up the lemon flavor a few notches.
For the crust, use any kind of crushed cookie you like. Vanilla wafers, shortbread cookies, even Oreos.
And for the low carb version, I've used hazelnut flour instead of the almond flour. Any kind of ground nuts will work!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Peanut Butter Molten Lava Cakes

  Instead of going for the rich, deep, dark chocolate something for Valentine's Day, how about going for something peanut butter? Some may argue that peanut butter is just as decadent and rich, and is just as perfect to end your delicious sweetheart dinner. Frankly, I love both, so I would have difficulty choosing a favorite! Yes, a regular Chocolate Molten Lava Cake is sheer heaven when you want to celebrate a special evening, but when it's PEANUT BUTTER, then we've reached a whole new level of fabulous. Just the "unexpected and new" factor will make it a hit and seal the deal! So if you worship in the house of peanut butter, you should definitely give this one a try. Drizzle with a little chocolate ganache, and I PROMISE you'll be a hit.
  My niece, Kristin, (whose motto is "the peanut butterier, the better"), found this recipe for me on a blog called bakingamoment.com. Most times, after I make a dessert, I don't come back to the recipe because I'm always looking for new dessert ideas to try. For this one, though, I think I'm gonna have to make an exception. This is seriously one of the easiest, most delicious recipes I've ever made. I can see myself coming back to it again and again. If you like peanut butter, then I PROMISE you will too. It's just that good! Thanx Kristin!

1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
optional: chocolate ganache and additional powdered sugar, for garnish

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease (2) 6-ounce ramekins with non-stick spray.
Place peanut butter and melted butter in a bowl and stir together until smooth. Mix in the powdered sugar. Add the eggs, yolk, and vanilla, mixing to incorporate. Sprinkle in the flour and salt and stir until smooth. Divide the batter equally between the prepared ramekins. Bake for 16 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and then run the blade of a thin knife around the edge of each ramekin to loosen. Invert the lava cakes onto small serving plates. Drizzle with chocolate ganache and sprinkle with powdered sugar (if using), and serve.

For the ganache, use an equal portion of heavy cream and chocolate chips. Heat the cream in the microwave, and then pour it over the chips. Let it stand for a minute or two, then stir until smooth. That's all there is to it! Use any kind of chips you like!

-The recipe says to bake the cakes for 16 minutes, but bake yours until you reach your desired level of gooeyness. I like a VERY gooey lava cake, with the lava slowly oozing out when you cut into it. If you bake it a little longer it will tighten up a bit and you'll have a fabulous, deliciously moist cake in the center.
-I added an extra little pinch of salt, just because I always like the peanut butter to be a little salty. Just sayin!
-This is perfect for date night because the recipe makes just two cakes, but they're really quite rich. There's absolutely nothing wrong with sharing one for dessert and then sharing another later!
-The original recipe paired the cakes with grape jam instead of chocolate ganache for a peanut butter and jelly vibe. To do this, just loosen up a few tablespoon of grape jam with a little water, (a few drops at a time), then pour a little into center of the serving plate. Invert the lava cake on top and serve.
-If you don't have ramekins, use oven proof mugs or tea cups!

Monday, February 9, 2015

Red Velvet Pancakes with Cream Cheese Glaze

 Whenever I'm choosing recipes for Valentine's Day, I usually go for the decadent rich chocolate desserts. You have your Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes, or your Browning Pudding, for example. You could also choose something heart-shaped such as Palmiers or Coeur a la Creme. They're all quite delicious and the perfect ending to your romantic dinner.
 But what would you make if you're cooking breakfast in bed for special sweetheart? How about pancakes?? But not just any pancakes, RED VELVET pancakes! Now you've taken an ordinary breakfast and turned it into something special! Lightly chocolatey, richly red, and oozing with cream cheese glaze. It definitely says "I Love You." Dontcha think?
 Now, there are some red velvet pancake recipes that just use cake batter, cooked in a skillet. I'm sure that's delicious and all well and good, but I'm not looking for DESSERT. I don't want a CAKE, I want pancakes! This recipe is perfect because it's definitely still a pancake, but with all the red velvety goodness you get from the red velvet cake. Oh, and the cream cheese glaze is an absolute must! Be sure to include it! So keep this recipe in mind the next time you'd like to make breakfast in bed for your sweetie. I'm sure it will be greatly appreciated!

2 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup Cocoa Powder
1 cup Powdered Sugar
1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 cups Buttermilk
2 Eggs
1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
3  tbsp Red Food Coloring

Sift together the first six ingredients.  In separate bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients. Stir wet ingredients into the dry. Do not over-mix!
 Heat a large skillet (nonstick or cast-iron) or griddle over medium heat. Spray with a little cooking spray. For each pancake, spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons of batter onto skillet, using the back of the spoon to spread batter into a round (you should be able to fit 3 or 4 in a large skillet). Cook until surface of pancakes have some bubbles and a few have burst, 1 to 2 minutes. Flip carefully with a thin spatula, and cook until browned on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer to a baking sheet or platter; cover loosely with aluminum foil, and keep warm in oven. Continue with more cooking spray and remaining batter.  Serve warm, drizzles with cream cheese glaze.

Cream Cheese Glaze

4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature 
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted  
Pinch of salt 
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice  
3 tablespoons milk, plus more if needed 
 In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add sugar and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Add salt, lemon juice, and milk; mix on low speed until smooth. If glaze is too thick to drizzle, add more milk, 1 tablespoon at a time.
If you're not a fan of cream cheese (which just makes no sense to me, btw), feel free to serve the pancakes with butter and maple or other flavored syrup, just as you would with regular pancakes.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Joey's Sausage and Escarole Soup

 So, a couple weeks ago, I was texting with my friend, Sparky. It was the usual "how are you, what are you up to" sort of a conversation and then I said that I was planning on making soup. Whenever it snows or when it gets bitterly cold outside, I always want to put on a big pot of soup. It's how I was raised, it's just what you do! Anyway, I had planned on making another pot of my latest favorite, Sausage and Spinach Soup, but then Sparky mentioned that his favorite is Escarole Soup. I thought oooo now THAT sounds like a good idea.... Maybe I'll do escarole instead of spinach. So I tweaked the recipe a little and came up with something new!
 OMG it turned out so good, I've already purchased the ingredients to make it again! It's SO delicious! I made little tiny meatballs with the sausage, added some aromatics, some broth and a couple heads of escarole, and that was it! Nailed it on the first try! The sausage flavors the whole pot of soup, and I love how the escarole leaves don't just cook down to nothing. They stay just as hearty as the meatballs. It turned out to be just the thing on a cold wintry night!
 So, give this one a try. It's easy to make, feeds a crowd, and will warm you up on the coldest days.
 Thanx again, Sparky, for the idea! I promise I'll make it for you sometime!

2-3 pounds mild Italian sausage
1 medium onion
3 or 4 ribs of celery
3 cloves garlic
2 heads of escarole
2 large (46oz) cans of chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese, (optional)

 Remove sausage from casings. Form sausage into tiny meatballs. Place the meatballs on a baking sheet, and bake in a 350F oven for about 15 minutes or until cooked through. While the sausage is baking, roughly chop the onions and celery. Add it to a big soup pot with a little oil over medium heat. Saute until they begin to soften, and then add the minced garlic. Saute a few minutes longer. While the veggies are cooking, cut off the core of the escarole heads and wash the leaves thoroughly of any sand or grit. (see washing tips following the recipe!) Roughly chop them and then add them to the pot along with the chicken broth and the cooked meatballs. You can drain the meatballs of any extra fat, or you may choose to add a little of it to the soup for a little extra flavor and richness. Add salt and pepper. Let it simmer for about 20-30 minutes. Adjust seasoning, if needed. That's all there is to it! Serve with a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

 To wash the escarole leaves, fill a big bowl or pot with cold water. Place the leaves in the water and swish them around until they are clean. Ok, now here's the important part: Do NOT dump them into a colander the way you would drain a pot of cooked pasta. If you do that, you'll be dumping all the sand and grit right back on top of your clean escarole leaves. Instead, swish them around and let the sand fall to the bottom of the bowl. Then scoop the clean leaves out of the water with your hands or a slotted spoon, leaving all the dirt at the bottom of the bowl. Smart, huh?
 When you make the meatballs, make sure you don't make them too big. You want to make them small enough to be able to eat a whole meatball in one bite, about the size of a large marble. I chose to bake them on a sheet because I didn't want to stand there frying tiny meatballs all day. This seemed like a faster way to accomplish the task. I wouldn't throw the raw sausage balls into the soup. Yes, they would cook in the broth, but that might make the soup too greasy.
 The amounts of the ingredients are just guidelines. If you like a lot of something, add a lot!
 If you want a little heat, try using hot Italian sausage instead of the mild, or use a combination of the two. You could also add a few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes for just a little spicy poke.
 For a little variation, and to feed and even bigger crowd, add a can of cannellini beans. Just rinse them, drain them, and add them to the pot with the escarole and sausage. Easy!