April 24, 2008

peanut butter cheesecake minis

don't we all love paula deen? not only is she the the cutest and sweetest foodnetwork personality, but the food she cooks always looks so good. i was down in charlotte in january, visiting the hubby while on business, and i even mapped out the trip from charlotte to savannah... just to be able to eat at "lady & sons"... well, ok, it would've been a 3hr drive, and we didn't go. so until i find myself down in savannah, i'll continue to drool at her food on tv, and then attempt to make a few things afterwards.
yesterday's show (4.23.2008) entitled "game night appetizers" included hogs in a sleeping bag, etc. but what really caught my eye was what she made for dessert: peanut butter cheesecake minis. yum!

since it was a beautiful spring day in chicago, my sis, hubby and i took a walk to supertarget (my savior) and picked up what was missing from the ingredients list: mini reese's cups, 2 packs of cream cheese and cupcake liners.
i've never made cheesecake before, so i was hoping these mini cheesecakes would give me the courage to try a full-sized one soon!
anyway, here's the recipe, from the foodnetwork:

Peanut Butter Cheese Cake Minis Recipe courtesy Paula Deen
Show: Paula's Home Cooking
Episode: Game Night (Appetizers)

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
12 bite-size peanut butter cups

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or almond extract
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a paper cupcake liner in each cup of a standard muffin pan.
To make crust, in a bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter until crumbs are moistened. Press crust into bottom of each muffin cup. Put 1 peanut butter cup into the center of each crust.
Beat cream cheese with a handheld electric mixer until fluffy. Add sugar, flour, and vanilla, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Spoon cream cheese mixture over peanut butter cups and graham cracker crusts. Bake until just set, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving.

> result: my sis and i couldn't wait for them to cool "completely" and tried one within 5mins of it coming out of the oven. yum! but... the cheesecake wasn't sweet enough for me. maybe it's because i used 1/3 fat cream cheese? i don't know.

so i took out some caramel creme sauce, warmed half a cup of it in the microwave until it was pourable... then added a dollop of it onto each mini cheesecake.
that did the trick! the peanut butter cup on the inside is a nice surprise too! :) thanks paula deen!

cPe 2008

scallops and ziti

a fast & easy weekday dinner

while i love almost all seafood, scallops never appealed to me. i prefer things to be savory, or even spicy, but i don't usually like my protein-source to be sweet. i save that for dessert afterwards. so isn't that how they usually describe scallops - as being sweet? anyway, i sucked it up for the sake of my hubby who loves the stuff, and bought a package of 8 scallops at mitsuwa *in case you haven't realized yet, i love that place*
8 scallops for $4 or so. if i ruin them, well, that's only $4 down the drain.
what to do with these scallops was the question. i had never made anything with them before.
> ok, i lied. i attemped "scallops bonne femme and spinach with crispy proscuitto" a la rachel ray's 30min meals. it was a disaster. the sauce was ridiculously rich, scallops were "sauteed" in the sauce... let's just say, we all enjoyed the spinach with crispy prosciutto! i shoulda known better than to follow rachel ray anyway =p aaanyway, i'd like to forget that meal ever happened. so let's do that, ok?

ok, so this time i wanted pasta (don't i always?). my pantry houses about 5 types of different pasta, from wholewheat to spinach to fettucine to tortellini. but there was a bag of ziti staring me in the face and i wanted to use some it.
so! here's my very approximated recipe for scallops & ziti.

for scallops:
a knob of herbed butter
kosher salt

for pasta:
2 cups of ziti (or whatever kind of pasta you like)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chili flakes
1 cup of grated mozzarella
kosher salt & pepper

in one pot, start boiling water for your pasta and get that going.
in a saucepan, heat the olive oil and butter on medium heat. add the minced garlic to the oil/butter mixture. you can add more or less garlic according to your taste preference. once the garlic is nicely browned, pour the oil mixture into a container to later use with the cooked pasta. (it should make about 1 cup of "sauce")
next, using the same saucepan, add a knob of herbed butter. melt the butter on medium - high heat. lightly season clean and dry scallops with kosher salt and pepper. add the seasoned scallops to the pan and allow them to brown. once they lift off the pan without resistance, they're ready to be flipped over and grilled on the other side.
so - i guess i don't like scallops to be "rare" if you must. so i kept mine going for about 3-5mins on each side until they were nicely firm. i doubt this is the "proper" way to eat them, but it's what i did.
by now, the pasta should be cooked. drain the pasta, then add back into the pot. keeping the heat on medium, add the garlic oil/butter sauce to the pasta and stir so all pasta is coated. if there's not enough sauce, you could always add a bit more olive oil after the fact. once the pasta's coated, add some salt & pepper to taste, then add the chili flakes and grated mozzarella. toss it altogether and what you should have is a lovely, light, garlic-y, cheesy simple pasta dish.

once the pasta is complete, plate it and add the scallops on top of it. i added a bit more crushed black pepper to season (and more chili flakes for my palate).

and there you have it - one easy-peasy weekday dinner. it'll take you about 15-20mins. and it's delicious.
buon appetito!
p.s. i now like scallops. but i can only eat a maximum of 2. :)

cPe 2008

April 18, 2008

jerk pork chops

above: an unphotogenic, yet delicious pork chop

i crave pork chops about once a week. there were 2 weeks in february where i could've had a pork chop everyday.
anyway, after eating too many of them during that month, i hadn't made any in a while but i had these in mind for friday night dinner as i was driving home from work today.

jerk pork chops
1 pack of pork chops
kosher salt & pepper
ancho chili powder
jerk seasoning
olive oil

steps: i have no measurements here because basically you create a "dry rub" for the pork chops. that means you can either throw them all into a big ziploc bag and add enough spices so that when tossed around, all pork chops are coated... or you can just lay them out and dust the spices one by one over all the chops. the ziploc bag trick is nice, but i opted for just laying them out this time. oh, and if you do the ziploc method, you can also add olive oil into the bag, toss again and allow the chops to marinate.
i didn't prepare ahead of time by doing that, so i went the fast way.
coat the bottom of a pan with enough olive oil so that it comes up to about half the thickness of the chop. get that heating at medium-high.
then thoroughly wash and dry the pork chops and lay them out nicely. sprinkle enough kosher salt and pepper. then add the ancho chili powder and jerk seasoning. do this on both sides.
then into the pan they go for about 5-6mins on either side until they're nicely browned and cooked thoroughly.

i served these pork chops with the elotes below, and some garlic bread. yum! hit the spot for sure.

cPe 2008


a lovely summer side dish, a quick lunch, or a baseball game treat.

now, a quick history lesson.most of you have probably heard of, and possibly tried, elotes. but for those that haven't, what are they?
the word elote is derived from nahuatl word 'elotl', meaning grilled corn on the cob. the nahua people are indigenous to mostly central mexico but today, this dialect is only spoken in scattered rural areas. elotes, however, have become a popular mexican streetfood, as well as a staple or favorite in most parts of the u.s.

it is most commonly eaten as a "popsicle", but here in the u.s. you'll find it served off of the cob, in a styrofoam container, with all the toppings mixed into it. ok ok, so that's how i have it at white sox games. :)

now onto the toppings: butter, salt, mayo, cheese, lime, and hot sauce or hot pepper seasoning. i prefer mine without the hot sauce. the combo of mayo and lime juice is just divine.
during the summer we usually grill the corn, but since we're not quite at the right temperature yet, we just boil them in a big pot.
once the corn is tender either leave it on the cob or slice it off. then rub some butter over it, sprinkle with salt. then add a dollop of mayo, sprinkle some cheese, squeeze some fresh lime juice, and it's ready to eat!
by the way, i use parmesan cheese because i like the flavor of it. but most recipes use queso anejado, also known as cotija. this is the same consistency as parmesan cheese.

i can pretty much guarantee that once you've experienced the flavor combinations in this easy recipe, you'll never go back. i didn't.

p.s. i wanted to submit this as part of liveSTRONG 'taste of yellow' 2008... but stupid me completely forgot about the bracelet! next year.. :(

cPe 2008

udon soup

i love udon noodles. i specifically love tempura udon soup, but when i'm lazy to make tempura shrimp or veggies (let's face it... it never comes out quite like at a japanese restaurant), i just substitute it with some thinly sliced beef and add other veggies.
with both e and i feeling stuffy and a bit under the weather, quick udon soup was definitely going to be the dinner of choice. so i opened up the fridge to see which veggies were available for picking. i chose shiitake mushrooms, snap peas and bean sprouts. mmm.
mistuwa sells small packages of meat products - i.e. a 1lb package of thinly sliced beef costs about $3! anyway, it's the perfect sized portion for 2ppl.

udon soup
1 packet udon soup base
1 packet of udon noodles
1lb roast shabu shabu (thinly sliced beef)
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 cup of sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 cup of snap peas
1 cup of bean sprouts
some kosher salt & pepper (to taste)
some ichimi tougarashi (chili powder)

*all ingredients can be found in specialty grocery stores, in the international aisle in your local grocery store or online.

boil about 3-4 cups of water (depending on how much broth you want). once it's come to a rolling boil, add the grated ginger, udon noodles, mushrooms and snap peas. allow that to cook for about 3-5mins, then add the shabu shabu to the pot to cook through. you may or may not want to add some salt and pepper to the soup. the soup base may give enough flavor for you. i added just a little bit of salt, and some pepper.
once the meat is cooked and the veggies and noodles are tender, start ladling it into serving bowls.
top with bean sprouts and use the tougarashi for seasoning.
bon apetito!

cPe 2008

April 17, 2008

toasty bananas foster

i have never been a huge fan of bananas, or anything banana-flavored. however, when i did a trial run of bananas foster for dessert, i was hooked. so maybe i only like syrup-y bananas. :)
after a dreary day at work, this fast, simple and decadent dessert will bring you lots of comfort - especially if you have a gigantic sweet tooth like mine.
i modified the recipe a bit, and also added some toasted coconut for an added texture and flavor.

1/4 cup butter
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamon
1 jigger of banana liquer
1 jigger of dark rum
3 bananas, peeled and sliced crosswise and lengthwise
1/2 cup fine coconut
french vanilla ice-cream

set the oven to 350ºF and pour the coconut onto a clean baking sheet. once the oven's ready, pop the baking sheet in and monitor the coconut as it toasts. mine took about 5mins i'd say (i wasn't monitoring too well). when it's toasted, let it cool on a cooling rack.
while that's going, get out a medium saucepan and start melting the butter over medium heat.
add the dark brown sugar, cinnamon and cardamon to that and allow it to melt. once it's beginning to bubble, add the banana liquer and bananas. once the bananas are softening, add the dark rum. using a kitchen torch, light the alcohol and allow it burn off. hello flambé!
once the flames are out, scoop some ice-cream into a bowl and pour the sauce over it. (or spoon on the side).

add some toasted coconut to the top, and you're all done.

if you manage to have leftover sauce, store it in a small container and pop it into the fridge. you can warm some up the next day. :)

cPe 2008

sushi cravings

ok so the sushi in the photo above was not made by me, or even in my kitchen. it was picked up from a small little japanese grocery store named tensuke.
my sis, cL, had been raving about the sushi from this place for months, and i just wasn't buying it... so on a saturday afternoon, i finally gave in (due to an impromptu sushi craving) and we drove on over to pick some up and bring back home as a late lunch for the 3 of us (the hubby wanted to stay home to watch the sox game).

well... tensuke sits in an average-looking strip mall that also houses a polish bakery, a video store, a tax office... you get the picture. additionally, the parking lot looks as if it's been attacked by meteors.
so! if you can get over the exterior surroundings, and manage to drive slowly and carefully over numerous potholes and into a parking spot, you'll find a hidden gem. guaranteed.
there's a fridge section on the way to the back "sushi bar". i put that in quotations, because really, it looks like a little cafe. we picked up a spicy salmon roll from the fridge, then stared at the menu on the wall at the "sushi bar" for about 10mins, trying to decide what to order. in the meantime, orders were flying out at the other end of the counter... and i was drooling. there were about 3 or 4 chefs using their magic to make fresh sushi, maki and other entrees like grilled sole, or udon soup.
we finally decided to get 2 orders of the lobster roll special. let me list what is included in each order:

8 pieces of lobster roll
2 sashimi (salmon & tuna)
4 tamago
2 ebi sashimi
some kind of green salad (seaweed?)
some pickled ginger
a knob of wasabi.
oh, and also miso soup.

each order was $9.99!

we thought our eyes were bigger than our stomachs in ordering 2 lobster roll specials, and picking up the spicy salmon rolls.... but.... once i plated it all so nicely, we devoured all but 2 pieces of maki.

absolutely delicious! i will be back for more... probably weekly, if not biweekly.
and for my first 'sushi cocktail party' (TBA)... guess where i'm ordering from!
i'll take 5 lobster roll specials, to go please!

cPe 2008

sunday supper

.a twisted surf 'n turf.

after a refreshing weekend, we decided to have dinner at home and just relax. i wanted a good steak. e wanted something saucy. so i pulled out the bridal shower gift from my aunt - a book/folder with her favorite homemade recipes! e spotted a specific recipe that he was dying to try... "uncle g's favourite steak". now this isn't your normal steak. no, this one has a whiskey sauce poured ontop!
i made a huge portion of shrimp couscous that day, and we had plenty over. that was the accompanying side dish to the main star, the steak. and there we had our version of a surf 'n turf meal.
now, onto the recipes. as far as grilling the steak, i only used kosher salt and pepper, and very hot grill pan; cooked 5mins on each side for a "medium" steak. you can grill the steak however you like. what's most important is the sauce.

whiskey sauce
1/4 stick of butter
1 small shallot, diced
2 clove of garlic, minced
2 tbsp ap flour
1/2 cup of veg or beef broth
1/2 cup of heavy cream
kosher salt & pepper
fresh parsley, roughly chopped

melt the butter in a medium-heat saucepan and add the diced shallots. add the minced garlic as the shallots begin to brown. once the garlic and shallots of browned to your liking, add flour and stir. then add the broth. i used organic beef broth, which gave more depth to the final flavor.
at this point, you can turn up the heat a bit so that the broth mixture can boil for a minute or so. once it has reached boiling point, turn it back down to medium-high and add the heavy cream while stirring. once the sauce starts to thicken, give it a taste and add as much or as little salt & pepper you'd like. then add the freshly chopped parsley and it's ready!

now onto the side dish...

spicy shrimp couscous
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp of ginger, freshly grated
1/2 onion, diced
1 bag of cleaned shrimp (no shells or tails)
2 handfuls of snap peas
1 cup of peas
2 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp red-pepper flakes
1 tbsp masala
kosher salt & pepper
1 cup of couscous
1 small container of plum tomatoes
2 handfuls of feta
1 handful of freshly chopped parsley

heat the olive oil in a medium sauce pan. add the onion, garlic and ginger and allow to brown slightly. add the shrimp, snap peas and all spices, mixing thoroughly so that all ingredients get some flavor. once the shrimp are cooked, and the mixture is just about ready, add some more olive oil (total amount of olive oil depends on the amount of couscous used. check the container for specific amounts). once the added oil is heating up, add the peas - as these barely need any cooking.
add this entire mixture to a bowl containing the couscous, and thoroughly mix so as to incorporate the oil especially. cover the bowl with foil, to allow the couscous to absorb the oil and heat.
after 5-7mins, the couscous is done. add the plum tomatoes, feta and parsley... your side dish (or any-day lunch) is now done!

this entire meal takes maximum 5mins of prep time, 20mins cooking time, and approximately 15mins eating time. :)

cPe 2008

April 16, 2008

breakfast obsessions: bananatella toasted sandwiches

when it's 35ºF, gloomy-grey and raining, what do you have for breakfast? depends. how much time do you have? well, i had 15mins if i wanted to get in extra service time, or an hour if i wanted to be lazy or convince myself that i'd melt in the rain. i chose the latter *guilty face*...
anyway! the night before the hubby and i did some grocery shopping at mitsuwa, and picked up their delicious bread as we always do. fyi, it's called "shokupan" (しょくぱん) and you can get it crustless, regular, or thick-sliced! it is honestly my favorite everyday bread.
e got the coffee brewing, cL came over, and i got to making these quick and ridiculously-easy sandwiches - which, in all honesty, can be breakfast, lunch, or a late-night snack.

bananatella toasted sandwiches:
it's simply bread, with peanut butter (i have honey-pb), sliced bananas and the surprise (and hubby-requested) ingredient - nutella! can we say yum?!
i lightly coated the outsides of the sandwiches with butter, and flopped them onto a hot griddle pan.
three minutes later, we had ourselves a delicious and decadent breakfast sandwich... sans eggs.

buen provecho!

cPe 2008

April 07, 2008

gambas y champiñones al ajillo

friday night snack attack.
my hubby loves shrimp. that being said, if it's in the freezer, he'll most likely want a snack or meal that somehow includes shrimp. so on a late friday evening, between watching a basketball game with him, and browsing the web with my sister, i made a tasty snack for the 3 of us.
i adore tapas, and will almost always suggest it, so i ended up making spicy shrimp and mushrooms, which we will call gambas y champiñones al ajillo - tapas style. sounds fancy right? you can basically use whatever you want in this meal, substituting (or omitting) the veggies or seafood with whatever you have available. the garlic-y sauce is what's key in this dish.

gambas y champiñones al ajillo

shrimp (however much you have available)
3 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
chili flakes
kosher salt & pepper

heat the olive oil in a saute pan (big enough to add all the shrimp to). as oil heats, add the minced garlic, shrimp and mushrooms. the garlic will brown up and flavor the shrimp and mushrooms nicely. season the mix with kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and paprika. cover the pan and allow the shrimp and mushrooms to cook through. once it's done, taste. if you want more heat than just the paprika flavor, add some chili flakes. allow that to quickly flavor the shrimp, then add some butter into the pan to increase the amount of garlic sauce that has been made, and some freshly chopped parsley. once it's all seasoned and cooked to your liking, immediately pour it all into a nice serving dish and serve along with toast. -- we didn't have any garlic bread, so i took the rolls that were sitting on the counter, thinly sliced them on an angle, brushed with melted butter and popped them into the oven to crisp up
this is a very quick and delicious tapa that can be made whenever deemed necessary, or craved!

April 03, 2008

mama's meatloaf

ok, not really "mama's" meatloaf, but you get the idea. my "mama" never made meatloaf for us growing up. that was such an american thing.. we made meatballs instead. the ingredients are clearly much the same, but still - we are not american... so to mound the meat mixture was um, not our thing.
however, being in the US for a decade now (omg), and having recently married an american - ok, he's filipino-american, but still - i decided to make a dinner that his mother made as he grew up on and loves - meatloaf and mashed potatoes (dunno what she serves her meatloaf with, but i wanted mash).
i had no clue how to make the "ketchup" topping that is poured ontop of the mound of meat as it cooks, so i had to look that up. i found an interesting "brown sugar" topping, and made a variation of that.

i'll give you the full result later after the recipe, but for now, this meatloaf was so damn good, i'm claiming it with my name!
candyce's meatloaf

for the meat:
1lb ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
some freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup of cheddar cheese
3/4 cup of crackers, crushed
1 egg
kosher salt & pepper, to taste
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp jerk seasoning
1 tsp masala
1 tsp worcestershire
some vegetable oil

for the topping:
4 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp spicy mustard
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
1-2 tbsp brown sugar, depending on how sweet you'd like it to be

result: divine. the meat was definitely not dry, very moist. the topping was exactly what was needed to bring out the flavors in the meat. delicious. on my first try, i think i mastered the american meatloaf.

April 01, 2008

beef pot pie?

ok since chicago weather basically sucks for about 9 months out of the year, this day being one of those, i mostly want comfort foods all the time. not only was it cold outside, but i was also working in a freezing cubicle which i like to call "the igloo".
needless to say, i wanted a lovely warm meal for dinner. i daydreamed about what to cook... let's see, what did i have in the freezer?
shrimp. eh. blackened salmon. eh. pork tenderloin. hm. a mystery pack of meat from whole foods. hm?
.. what was that package again? ah, beef stew meat! that'll do it.
now what to do with that stew meat.
stew? redundant.
ok i got it - beef pot pie. beef pot pie? ok, whatever. i like chicken pot pie, so it's worth a shot. at the very least, it will be warm, with meat and veggies inside. if i burn the bottom puff pastry, oh well.
so after work i made a quick stop at the grocery store for frozen puff pastry. one of these days i may venture to try a homemade puff pastry recipe, but for a tuesday night dinner, it's going to have to be store-bought. oh, and i also bought a can of (nasty) mushroom soup. gross, but i think it will do the trick.
i didn't do much measuring, but here's the approximated recipe.

beef pot pie
1lb beef stew meat
1/2 can mushroom soup
1 cup beef broth (or veg broth)
1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
a few carrots, diced
a few mushrooms, sliced
kosher salt & pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 pack frozen puff pastry - contains 2 sheets.

first! take puff pastry out of box and allow to thaw.
set oven to 350ºF
heat oil in a pan and add onion. while the onion is browning, add the minced garlic. add the stew meat, salt, pepper and paprika (my new favorite spice) and stir to brown all sides of the meat completely. add the veggies at this point. i cut the meat into smaller pieces so that it would cook faster and evenly. once the meat is mostly cooked through, add the broth and mushroom soup. depending on how fast the meat and veggies cook, i added a little more broth a few times. cover, and allow the ingredients to combine and the sauce to thicken. it should take about 15mins.

by this time, the puff pastry should have thawed and the sheets can be opened up. i sprayed a casserole dish with PAM and layed the first sheet of pastry into the dish and up the sides. whatever hung over, i trimmed away and set aside.

once "stew" is cooked thoroughly, and sauce thick enough for your liking, cool it a bit before adding to the casserole dish. once added, cover the top with the 2nd pastry sheet. i used the trimmed pieces of pastry to cover up any holes that may occur.

the casserole dish goes into the oven at 350º for about 25-30mins.

result: my first bite instantly brought me back home to south africa! i didn't intend on it, but this "pot pie" turned out like a steak pie from cape town, south africa (or brits will know what i'm talking about too). it was just lovely! i must say.. i actually impressed myself. :) to make it exactly like a south african steak pie next time, i will add a lot more pepper to make it a classic "steak n pepper pie"

so was this really a "beef pot pie"? not really! :) yum!