Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Empanada Joe's

I always liked Sloppy Joe's growing up.  I wanted to buy my lunch at school every time they were on the menu; I got super excited when a friend's mom would say she was cooking us Sloppy Joe's for us for dinner; my mom even occasionally made us some tasty Sloppy Joe's too!  Even though I love Sloppy Joe's, I realize not everyone does.  Well, at least, they don't until they try my Sloppy Joe's.  My Sloppy Joe's wrapped up in a soft flaky crust.  My Sloppy Joe's wrapped up in a soft flaky crust that are conveniently sized to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.

Yes.  My Sloppy Joe empanadas.  Or, simply put, my Empanada Joe's.

This super easy recipe is based off a recipe I have from a slow cooker cook book.  Did I mention it was easy?  'Cuz it is.  Easy.  Really the hardest part is waiting patiently for all the ingredients to meld together and work their magic.  So without further adieu, my Empanada Joe's.

Empanada Joe's
2 lbs. ground meat (I use beef, but seriously whatever you prefer is fine!)
1 cup chopped onion
1 pint chopped brown onions
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cup ketchup
1 cup chopped bell pepper (any kind really works.  I like green because it adds a nice color!)
1/4 cup (plus a little extra) Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 Tbs. dijon mustard
4 Tbs. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. cayan pepper (I really just keep shaking the container until it looks something like I imagine 2 tsp. look like)
4 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 package prepared pie crust
1 large egg

  1. Brown the meat with the onions and mushrooms.  If your pan is not big enough for both the meat and the mushrooms, you can suate the mushrooms until they are soft in a separate pan.  Either way, once the meat is browned, drain off the fat.
  2. Combine the browned meat and mushrooms with the rest of the ingredients in a crockpot.  Well, except for the cheese, pie crust, and egg.  Don't mix those in yet.  Stir everything together until well incorporated.
  3. Cook on high heat for the next 3-4 hours.  Make sure you stir the meat mixture every 1 hour to 1 1/5 hours just to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom or sides and burns.
  4. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Once the flavors have melded together, it's time to prepare the dough.  Roll the dough out slightly and use a large cup to cut disks.  Re-roll out the scraps until you can't make any more disks.
  6. Lay 1/2 your disks out on a cookie sheet, evenly spaced out.  Place a heaping Tablespoon of the meat mixture onto the middle of each disk.  Then top the meat with a pinch of shredded cheese. 
  7. Top the meat and cheese mixture with another disk.  Press the edges of the dough together, trying to get as much air out as possible.  Take a fork and crimp the edges of the dough all the way around the disks.
  8. Beat the egg in a small bowl and brush over the top of each packet.  Take a sharp knife and make two slits on the top of each packet.  Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes (kinda depends on how good your oven is...) looking for the dough to be golden brown and delicious.
  9. I know I shouldn't insult your intelligence like this, but I will.  Just in case.  Let them cool down for at least 5 minutes before you dig into them!  Your mouth and taste buds will hate you if you don't.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Un-Pumpkin Muffins

I love Fall because it has my favorite holidays.  Who doesn't love Halloween where you get to dress up as anything you want and it's ok.  Even if you're 25 and should be acting like an adult.  It doesn't matter.  And then there's Thanksgiving!  Oh how I love Thanksgiving!  The family gets together, we reflect on the year and what we are thankful for, and we laugh and joke and eat.  It's really my favorite holiday because it's so family oriented and there are no expectations except to enjoy each others' company.

And then there's the pie.  I really don't know which type I like more:  apple or pumpkin.  The apple is sweet with a crunchy crust and gooey center.  The pumpkin is more savory and creamy, and with a dallop of whipped cream, it really can't get any better.  And they are both equally delicious for breakfast the next morning.  So I had to come up with a tie-breaker:  muffins.

I love muffins, and I love pie, so it seemed only obvious to create muffins that taste like the pie!  I have made apple muffins (which are LOADED with fiber, so if you aren't well stocked with toilet paper, you should not eat them!) and it was on to making pumpkin muffins.

I found a great recipe in my Betty Crocker cookbook, because Betty knows it all!

Unfortunately, she doesn't know how to make very good pumpkin muffins.

Don't get me wrong, the muffins are delicious.  They are nice and moist, good crumb texture, and they are slightly sweet.  They have great flavor, but they don't taste like pumpkin.  At all. And they were not spicy enough for my liking.  Part of the appeal of pumpkin pie is how well the spices play off each other.   And there wasn't much pumpkin.  Or spice.  Back to the drawing board.

So it's my turn to turn up the flavor a bit, Betty.  I just hope that when I'm done, she's not rolling around in her grave.  That would be undesirable to say the least.  This weekend, I will be whipping up a batch of Pumpkin Muffins 2.0.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Autumn Hash

Sundays are usually Rudy's day to make breakfast.  But since he's taken such good care of me this weekend, I thought I would give him the day off.  I decided to make breakfast for him instead (with lots of handwashing, of course)!

After looking through my Cooking Light magazine, and watching an obscene amount of Food Network this weekend, I came up with a nice little hash.  It has the meat and the onions, just like all good hash.  My twist is that I take out the potatoes and add a little apple.  It just wouldn't be autumn without some apples, now would it?  I thought this hash tasted absolutely delicious!  Rudy on the other hand thought it could do without the apples.  So I guess there is only one thing left to do.  Give everyone the recipe and have you decide:  apples or no apples?

Autumn Hash
2 links Italian sausage (or any other type of sausage you like)
1/2 large firm apple, like a Honeycrisp
1 whole small onion
1 Tbsp. caraway seeds
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Salt and Pepper
2 eggs

  1. Place a pan over medium high heat.  Squeez the sausage out of its casings and into the hot pan.  As the sausage cooks, crumble it into pieces.  Meanwhile, slice the onion into thin strips.  Do the same with the apple.
  2. Once the sausage is cooked through, remove with a slotted spoon and place on a papertowl to drain.  Place the caraway seeds in the hot drippings.  They will pop a bit.  Lower the pan down to medium heat.  Cook the seeds for about a minute.
  3. Once the seeds are cooked in the drippings for about a minute, add the apples and onion.  Drizzle in the vegetable oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook the apples and onion down for about 5 minutes on medium heat.  The onions should be started to turn a golden brown and the apples should be somewhat soft.
  4. Add the sausage back to the pan and continue to cook everything until the onions are carmelized, the apples of soft, and the sausage is slightly crispy.
  5. Set another pan on medium heat.  Go ahead and toast your bread at this point.  Once the pan is hot, spray it with non-stick spray and add your two eggs.  Fry the eggs for about 2 minutes on the first side.  Season it with salt and pepper.  Then flip the eggs over and continue cooking until your desired level of doneness.
  6. Place the hash on the plate.  Top it with a fried egg.  Add the buttered toast.  Enjoy!
Let me know how you like it!  I want to put the apple or no apple debate to rest!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

French Onion Soup for the Soul

This weekend, I have had a terrible cold.  I have been able to fend off illness for almost a month since starting school back up.  Unfortunately, this cold hit me hard yesterday.  I have been completely useless; I have been doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and drinking lots of fluids.  I know.  Rough life.  But when you feel like your head is 10 sizes bigger, your nose is non-functional except for mucus production, and you're coughing your lungs up, eating, sleeping, and drinking is all that can be expected.

Earlier in the week, Rudy and I went to Costco to buy our monthly stock of necessities.  One of these necessities was a 5 lb. bag of onions.  I have been totally craving French Onion Soup since the weather has been on the cooler side.  This morning, I was complaining to Rudy that I wouldn't be able to make the soup because I really wasn't feeling good.  I proceeded to belly-ache about how much I had been wanting this oniony soupy goodness, how I had been dreeming about it all week, and upset I am that I wouldn't be getting any.  He then did something I was secretly hoping he would do:  he asked me for the recipe and said he would make it for me!

I have always felt Rudy was an amazing nurse, even before he passed his NCLEX, for many reasons.  The big reason, he really goes the distance to make sure his patients feel better even when they feel like crap.  Even if this means indulging his girlfriend's cravings for French Onion Soup.  So needless to say, I had the most delicious bowl of French Onion Soup tonight, and it tasted even better because it was made with love! 

Thank you Rudy for filling up not only my tummy with yummy, oniony, cheesey gooiness, but also for feeding my soul!  I love you!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Natalie!

Natalie was turning the big 2-5, so we needed to do something special.  I made a confetti cake for Natalie, no box needed!  The best part is, I was able to make the cake just as fast from scratch as I usually do from the box.  And I was so much prouder!  To top it off, Rudy tinted the frosting a nice and sunny yellow.  That would be Natalie's favorite color.

The hard part of making the cake was transporting the cake to San Pedro's fish market.  We went down to San Pedro for dinner, and we wanted to bring the cake.  I had to put the cake in the freezer so it would survive the almost hour long drive and the 20 minute walk to where we were meeting everyone.  It worked out really well!  The only thing the time in the freezer didn't protect the cake from was me dropping my phone onto it on the car ride over.  Oops.

All and all, it was a great night!  A little fish, beer, and cake in Pedro, then off the Anaheim for some ice-skating.  Really, we all had a blast!  We need to have another birthday bash soon! 

Happy Birthday Natalie!

Did I mention it was homemade confetti cake???

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Pork Chops alla Pizzaiola

I can safely say that I am a very spoiled person.  Rudy decided that he would cook for us the other night, and it was nothing short of amazing!  I don't know what made Rudy decide to cook this fabuloso dinner, but I'm sure glad he did!

I was having one of those days.  It wasn't bad, but it was definitely not all good.  I was tired, my body was sore, and I was starving.  The phone call home made my day much brighter.  Rudy informed me that he wanted to make a dinner with pork chops since we had just bought 10 nice and juicy pork chops from Costco the day before.  I was already surprised and excited. 

Then, he really threw me for a loop.  He told me the recipe he really wanted to make was one he had found at Food Network's website, and the chef who created it was Giada de Laurentiis.  He really dislikes her shows.  I really mean it.  Whenever I am watching one of them, he just rolls his eyes the whole time.  But, he really likes her recipes, so sometimes he will suck it up.  And I am really glad he did! 

The porkchops were beyond delicious!  The tomatoes and onions were heavenly; the potatoes were crispy on the outside and soft on the inside; the greenbeans were crisp with a hint of garlic.  I normally talk and talk and talk, even when eating dinner, but that night, I was quiet as a church mouse.  I was just wanted to savor every bite, willing the flavors to stay longer.  But alas, the meal was eventually over.  And this time, there were no leftovers because I just couldn't stop eating these delicious porkchops.  But don't cry for me just yet.  I have been promised another porkchop meal on Monday!  So even though it is the start of the workweek, as well as the start of the new school year, I will be sailing through the day just by thinking about the night's dinner!  Rudy, you can cook for me any day!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mommy Biscuits

Apparently these cookies make mommies very happy, but make 1-year-olds very grumpy.  This is because 1-years-olds cannot enjoy these buttery, soft cookies, while mommies can eat them all!  That's why these Korova Cookies are nicknamed Mommy Biscuits! 

Silly baby, these are for Mommy!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Caesar of All Chicken Salads

I remember going to this really nice Italian restaurant when I went with my family in Cancun.  I know, I know, sounds odd.  Italian food while in Mexico.  But believe me!  It was some of the best Italian food I've ever had!  Too bad the restaurant is all the way in Mexico... Now I am really craving their Caesar Salad!

What's really special about this salad is that they make it table side, specially for you.  I mean, they make the traditional Caesar Salad dressing, complete with the special bowl they rub garlic all over to the egg yolk as the base for the dressing, right next to you at the table!  I even got to see the cute little anchovies as they got mashed into oblivion.  It was seriously the most delicious salad I have ever had.  And when I saw just how easy the dressing was to make, I knew I had to try it sometime at home.

Freshly tossed, but at the kitchen counter, not the table.

Now fast-forward about 3 years, and you will see me finally trying my hand at making my own Chicken Caesar Salad.  Finally!  Thanks to a one, Jamie Oliver, I now have a super yummy Caesar Salad recipe.  It's not traditional, so you don't need a special "Caesar Bowl" that you rub garlic all over.  But you do need a way to make a very nummy past of anchovies, garlic, and lemon zest.  Yes, you read right.  You will have to handle anchovies in all their oily, salty glory!

I got to make ciabatta, then turn around and make it into crispy croutons!

Did I mention that this recipe also breaks the traditional mode by adding bacon?  Well, it has bacon.  And lots of it!  All in all, I highly recommend this recipe, even if it does mean busting open a whole can of anchovies.  Really.  You can do it!

Anchovies, garlic, and lemon. Oh my!

You can find a similar recipe here, but mine was really quick and easy because I got it off the Jamie Oliver 20 Minute Meals App for my iPhone.  If you have access to this app, I highly recommend it!  Sooooo much good stuff!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday Mornings

Everyone has their special Sunday morning traditions.  For some it's going to church, for others it's reading the morning paper with a good cup of coffee, but, for me, it's being spoiled by having scrambled eggs made specially for me!  Rudy and I will sleep in on Sundays, and, when we decide to finally roll out of bed, I'm starving!  Rudy goes into the kitchen and starts going through the refrigerator, looking for all the leftover veggies and meats and cheeses that we have from the previous week.  I never know what combination he's going to come up with, and every week it's a big surprise.  I am usually sitting down on the couch surfing the web, enjoying the smells coming from the kitchen.  Then, I am presented with a plate of the most delicious scrambled eggs!  I am really bad at making scrambled eggs: they always end up too dry or too watery.  Rudy, however, is the master of scrambled eggs.  They are never too dry, are never browned, are fluffy and moist, but not sopping wet.  I don't know how he does it, but I am sure glad he does!

Happy Sunday to everyone!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tikka Turkey Wraps

Tonight's dinner was probably my favorite dinner ever!  It was like a flavor explosion in my mouth.  Seriously.  I am still dumbfounded by it, and I really have no idea where to start.

So let me describe to you this deliciousness that I concocted.  It started out as a plain turkey burger, but then I had to add some feta cheese to the patties.  But then I remembered that I wanted to use the leftover tikka I had made earlier in the week.  So I added coriander, cumin, and turmeric powder to the patties.  I wrapped up the patties with a healthy dose of salt and pepper.  Now let me tell you, the flavor didn't end there...

What did I spread the tikka on?  I slathered that delectible sauce all over the outside of one of my pitas.  Yes.  The outside.  Here's why:  I wanted to make the dish resemble a hamburger, and sliding a patty inside the pita just didn't seem hamburgery to me.  So I decided to fold the pita instead.  Hence, the spreading of the tikka on the outside of the pita.

Hamburgers always have lettuce (unless you don't like green veggies.  Then I guess there isn't any lettuce...), but unfortunately I was too lazy to go out to the grocery store to buy some.  Instead, I used the rest of the baby spinach I had chillin' in the fridge (Get it? Chillin'? Fridge?).  I dug more in the veggie bin and found I still had some potatoes left and a little red onion.  The potatoes became fries, because, lets face it, hamburgers are just no fun without fries.  The red onion was sliced up super thin and got to play in the spinach with the patties.

Once I put everything in my mouth, I literally stopped chewing and just the flavors sit on my tongue.  It was that good.  If you don't try any of the other recipes in this blog except for one, make sure this is the one!  And just to help you out, you can go here to get the tikka sauce I used for tonight's dinner.  It came from another amazing dinner I found, where else, at Epicurious.  Just don't add the sauce to the chicken.  Add it to your wrap instead!

Tikka Turkey Wrap
1 lb. ground lean turkey
2 oz. crumbled feta cheese
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. tumeric
1 tsp. corriander
1 1/2 tsp garlic salt
1 1/2 tsp. ground pepper
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1/4 red onion, sliced paper thin
4 pitas, or other flatbreads of your choosing
1/3 cup tikka sauce

  1. Mix the first 7 ingredients together until just blended.  Don't over-do it unless you want really tough burgers.  Put this in the fridge and let the ingredients hang out for an hour (or longer if that's the way you roll.)
  2. Divide the turkey mixture into fourths.  Form each quarter into a patty about 1/2 inch thick.
  3. Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Spray the skillet with cooking spray (turkey is so lean, it sticks to the pan) and place the patties in.  Cook the patties for 8 minutes on one side, then flip and cook for another 8 minutes on the other side.
  4. While the patties are cooking for the last 5 minutes, assemble the pitas.  Spread a thin layer of tikka sauce on each pita.  Then spread a layer of spinach leaves on top of the tikka.  Then spread the onion slices over the spinach.  Easy!  I know!
  5. Lay each patty onto one half of each pita.  Fold the other half of the pita over, and voila, tikka turkey wrap!
Easy Fries
8 medium-large red potatoes
drizzle of canola oil
garlic salt
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees farienheit.
  2. Scrub any dirt off the potatoes under cool, running water.  Then slice the potatoes into wedges.  You should get about 8-12 wedges from each potato.
  3. Place the potato wedges into a large zip top plastic bag.  Drizzle canola oil over the potatoes and add a few shakes of garlic salt and a few grinds of pepper.  Smoosh it all around until the potatoes are completely covered.
  4. Lay the potatoes out onto a baking tray, making sure the wedges are standing up and not lying down (they get stuck to the tray if they are lazy and lay down).  Roast the potato wedges in the oven the tops of the wedges start to get crispy and brown, about 30 minutes.
  5. Take out of the over and let them cook down for about 5 minutes before you enjoy.  Serve with your favorite burger or chicken.

Just Call Me the Pita Master!

Not only do I have the recipe fully memorized (3 cups + a scant 1/4 cup flour, 2 tsp. yeast, 2tsp. salt, 2 Tbs. olive oil, and 1 1/4 cup water, kneed for 10 min, let rise in the fridge for 3-4 hours...), but I have also developed amazing pita forming technique, and have pulled together an awesome pita assembly line!  I also apparently have no shortage of hungry tummies to find my pitas a home.  Rudy would eat these all day if he could (darn those 5 a day rules!!!), Natalie finds them sooooo soft, and my new, 7-year-old friend Haley couldn't say anything at all because her mouth was always full!  So even though I may be a one trick pony right now, I am damn good at that one trick!!!

So from here on out, please do not call me Lauren.  Simply address me as Pita Master.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Golden Spatula

Every semester, Nimitz teachers get together to develop units during their time off.  This little get together lasts a solid week.  This does a few things:  gets me prepared for the upcoming semester, lets me make all of my first day of school copies, and I get to gain about 10 pounds from eating all the tasty homemade treats my colleagues bring in to share.  In addition to sharing our treats, there is a competition for the best of the best treats.  This coveted award is known as the Golden Spatula Award.  I want it.  Bad.

This time around, I am not going to hold back.  None of this healthy crap that never gets me anywhere.  I am going to bust out my secret weapon:  malasadas.  Oh those poor unsuspecting teachers!  They will never know what hit them after tomorrow morning!!!  I plan on showing the other competitors no mercy.  I'm not even waiting for the official sign up before I spring these on them.  My devious plan must work!  It must! 

Unfortunately, I must also wait until Thursday to find out if I win.  I can be patient...

A pile of 72 delectable delights!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's All Greek To Me!

Tonight, we're having Greek food!  Well, what I consider Greek food.  From what I can remember Greek food tasting like.  On the menu:  marinated chicken, a quick salad, minted bulger, and, or course, pita and hummus.  Oh!  All this with a side of wine!

Greek Chicken
1 lb. chicken breast
1 lemon
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Pepper
  1. Slice the chicken into 1/2 inch strips across the breast.  Place the pieces in a large plastic bag.
  2. Into the same bag as the chicken, add the juice from the lemon, olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, the salt and pepper. Seal up the bag, squeezing out all the air, and squish the chicken and marinade around to mix it.
  3. Let the chicken marinade in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, place the chicken and all of the marinade in a skillet heated over medium-high.  
  5. Cook the chicken until in starts to brown a bit on the sides and the marinade is reduced by at least half.
Quick Greek Salad
1 cucumber
1/2 large red onion
12 cherry tomatoes
2 oz. feta cheese
2 Tbsp. olive oil
  1. Peel and chop the the cucumber into 1/4 inch cubes and place into a bowl.  Cut the red onion into similar sized pieces and add them to the cucumbers.
  2. Cut the tomatoes in half and add them to the cucumbers and onion.
  3. Crumble the feta cheese over the veggies.  Add the oil and stir the mixture together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
2 cups canned garbanzo beans (also knows as chickpeas)
6 strips of roasted red bell pepper stored in oil
1/4 cup oil from the red bell peppers
2 cloves of garlic
Juice from a lemon
1 tsp. cumin 
  1. Drain the garbanzo beans, saving the liquor from the can.  Add the drained garbanzo beans to the food processor.
  2. Add the bell pepper strips, oil, garlic cloves, and lemon juice to the food processor.  Blend all these ingredients together.  Add some of the garbanzo bean liquor to the mixture to make it smoother in consistancy.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rebel With A Pita

I was flipping through my Bread Bible a few days ago and found a recipe for pita bread.  The recipe even promised that my pitas would come with a convenient pocket!  I decided I needed to try this out and see if I could successfully make not just a pita, but a pita with a pocket.  I was excited, and a bit scared.

The final products.
I was a bit confused at first about how much rise time was needed to make these pita-pockets.  I found several options listed, ranging from 1 hour to 3 FREAKING DAYS!!!  Every time I found the words "letting the dough rise" there was a different set of numbers.  So me, being the patient person I am, decided that after 4 hours of letting the dough rise in the fridge I couldn't take it any more!  I was not going to wait 3 days to have my perfect pitas.  The idea of those yummy pita pockets consumed be and I succumbed to my impatience and plowed on ahead with the recipe.

The pita rounds before I roll them out flat as a pancake.

If that doesn't sound impatient enough, I even said, "Screw it!" when the recipe told me to preheat my oven for at least an hour before baking.  I fortunately read ALL of the directions (not something I can say for most of my students, unfortunately...) and found an alternative method of cooking up the pitas that was much quicker:  cooking them in a frying pan on the stove.

Again, the directions were a bit confusing when it came to cooking these babies up.  I was instructed to oil the pan, place the pita round in the pan for 20 seconds (What can I say?  It's very precise.), then flip the pita and let it cook for a minute.  Then I was to flip the pita again, letting it puff up.  The "puffing" process should take about a minute.  But the confusing part was when the directions stated this whole process should take close to THREE minutes.  Um, no.  According to my calculations, it takes closer to TWO minutes.  What was I supposed to do with those extra 40 seconds???  I decided to let them brown a little bit, even though the directions told me not to.  I'm such a rebel.

The last 40 seconds...

All in all, the pitas turned out great!  They really did have a pocket (it's so cute!), and I'm really looking forward to all the tuna sandwiches I'm going to be making this week!  To go along with my rebellious/impatient mood, I whipped together some hummus with my last can of garbanzo beans (I like the name garbanzo beans better than chickpeas.  They aren't peas anyway.  They're beans!) because I didn't feel like throwing on some sandals and driving the whole whopping 5 minutes to the store to buy some.

I know.  I'm really living on the edge.

You Know You Are a SoCal-er When...

You bake all day in a bikini because it's too Goddamn hot both
inside AND outside.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Pops!

Apparently in my family, we like to spread out the birthdays pretty evenly throughout the year.  Rudy's family, however, likes to have a marathon of birthdays.  The Taracena Birthday season starts in May and ends in September with Natalie's official birthday (although we pretty much celebrate her birthday year-round...).  This month, it was Mr. Taracena, Rudy, Pops' birthday, and he was turning the BIG 5-0.  So Rudy, Alejandro, Kid, decided that we needed to make a cake for this momentous occasion.  That, and we just really like making cake now and have a reason (other than we are crazy over anything sweet) to make one!

Originally, we were going to make Pineapple Upside-down Cake, but decided we didn't have the proper hardware or money to buy the proper hardware to make it.  That, and it's not really a "birthday cake" cake.  So Rudy decided to do a little research and found an AMAZING Carrot and Pineapple Cake he found on the Food Network website.  When he told me it was created by Ina Garten, Ms. Barefoot herself, he need not say more!  You seriously need to try this cake, it was that good, so go here to print off a copy of the recipe yourself! 

Now go! 

Well, finish reading this, then go!

So here is our Carrot and Pineapple Cake...

And the side view...

I feel that this is a true work of art since it is perilously leaning to one side, much like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  I say this only because we couldn't get it to stand up straight to save our lives, so I am going with the story that we meant for it to lean and I am sticking to it!  In reality, we have a hot apartment to thank for this leaning beauty.  We tried putting the cake in the refrigerator for 20 minutes after each time we applied frosting.  We tried working really quickly and only working on the cake for 5 minutes at a time then putting in back in the cooler.  We were going to try toothpicks to keep this sucker up, but thought that might be a bit dangerous for the unsuspecting eaters.  We just couldn't get the damn cake to stand up straight! 

To make matters worse, we tried to decorate the top of the cake with pineapple slices too.  That was a huge disaster!!!  Those slices kept sliding off, ruining our frosting job.  The plate kept turning green as more and more frosting was slopping all over it.  Rudy tried to do some repair work by adding more frosting to the top of the cake that I had stored in a piping bag.  But Rudy did not know he needed to grab the end of the piping bag and not the middle.  So aaaaallllllll this frosting came out the backside of the bag and ended up covering the plate, the counter, as well as covering Rudy up and down.  He almost had to take another shower there was sooooo much green goop everywhere.  And I was completely useless because I was alternating between cursing him and laughing at him.

In an homage to Kyle from Southpark, I have this to say.  You know, I learned something today:  hot apartments make leaning cakes, pineapple wedges slide really fast, and Rudy should not handle a piping bag.  But most of all, I learned today that it doesn't matter what the outside of the cake looks like as long as it tastes AMAZING!!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Not So Fishy Packets

Rudy really only eats fish one way:  raw and on top of a bed of sushi rice.  So it's a challenge for me sometimes to come up with fish dinners that do not taste "fishy".  I really like the idea of cooking food in packets.  It's better than a one-pot wonder because the pot you have to wash; the packets you just through away. 

Tonight's dinner was spot on, not fishy at all, and left you wanting more even though you are stuffed to the gills.

Yes, those are staples.  Gotta keep those packets closed!

Not So Fishy Packets
2 4oz. Red Cod fillets
1 large red potato thinly sliced
1/4 yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 cup arugula
12 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced in half
Garlic Salt
2 large pieces of parchment paper
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  
  2. Take one of the parchment papers and lay out half of the potato slices in the center.  Top the potato slices with half of the onion, then half of the arugula.  Lay one of the cod fillets on top of the arugula, then sprinkle half of the Kalamata olives on top of the packets.
  3. Season with the garlic salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Pull the two longer sides of the parchment paper to the center, then roll the paper down until it loosely touches the fillet.  Then fold over each side and secure with 3 staples for each side.
  5. Place the parchment packets on a cookie sheet, then place in the oven for 30 minutes.  Once 30 minutes are over, take the cookie sheet out and transfer each packet to a serving plate.  Open the packets carefully because they will be steamy!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cooking Classes

So my cousin Salomon will come over and have dinner with us every once in a while.  He was over when I made the Mango Salsa and Tilapia.  He was in the kitchen talking to me as I made dinner, and he saw how easy it was to make tasty food.  So he asked me to teach him how to cook.  How could I say no when I get to call him my protege?!
I asked Salomon what he wanted to learn first; he wanted to learn how to make this fantastic chicken dish that my mom taught me how to make (many moons ago...).  It looks fancy, tastes great, and is easy to do if you have a little bit of patience.  Rudy and I went to the store and took Sal along with us so I could go over the ingredients for dinner.  Once we got home, the real learning began.

I showed Salomon how to chop potatoes, butterfly chicken breasts, make the cream cheese mixture, saute green beans, and make mashed potatoes with gravy (Sal loves gravy).  Because all the cooking was being done by someone else, I took this as an opportunity to exploit memorialize the help.

Butterflying a chicken breast.  
And then I asked him to cut all the way through.

Loading up the chicken breast.

Ready to get their bake on!

Whipping up some creamy mashed potatoes.

Working it at the stove.

We even at the table!  
I think it was something like the 5th time we have used it to eat at...

Even Lola joined us for dinner.

Ta-da!  The finished dinner!

Mamma's Bacon Wrapped Chicken
4 chicken breasts
8 slices of good bacon
8oz. cream cheese
4 green onion stalks, chopped
3 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs. Tabasco sauce
8 toothpicks
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Butterfly open the chicken breasts, then cut them all the way through.  You should have now 8 chicken breast pieces.
  3. Mix together the cream cheese, the green onion, Worcestershire, and Tabasco sauce.  You can add more or less of the sauces to please your taste.
  4. Take one of your chicken pieces and place a spoonful of the cream cheese mixture in the middle of it.  Carefully roll the chicken around the creme cheese, making sure you don't squish the cheese out.  
  5. Wrap a slice of bacon around the chicken and secure with a toothpick.  Transfer to a baking pan.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 for the remaining chicken pieces.
  7. Place the chicken in the oven for 20 minutes.  The bacon should be a darker pink the the chicken should be golden around the edges.  Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before transferring it to a serving plate.

Great first lesson Salomon!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Moroccan Chicken

I love trying food from other cultures.  If I can't travel abroad, at least I can let my taste buds take the trip for me.  I have been watching a lot of HGTV (it's either this or soap operas for day time TV, and I'm not really the soap opera type...) and they keep talking about Moroccan design.  Moroccan this.  Moroccan that.  I finally got fed up with every one having or doing something Moroccan without me.  So I whipped out my phone and did a search on Epicurious (seriously my FAVE!).  What did I find?

A very yummy chicken and fennel dish that I served with Indian paratha and quinoa.  I don't know if the Moroccans eat either of these, but they were a tasty addition to the chicken.  And the best part was, I had a bigger audience for this dinner too!  Salomon and Rudy both had this, and I'm pretty sure they were both finished eating before I even sat down.  They both inhaled it and then promptly asked for more.  Unfortunately, they would have had to go to Morocco to get more because I ran out.  Next time, I am going to have to make a double batch!

So until I can save up enough money to buy a plane ticket to Morocco and good walking shoes, this dish will satisfy my travel temptation.  The only question left is, where am I off to next?

Saturday, August 7, 2010


After seeing this application in many magazines, I finally decided to download it.  To my surprise, it was free!  Yay!  My favorite aspect of this app is the "Search Recipes".  You can search recipes that have certain ingredients that you already have, or you can search certain cuisines from around the world, or you can tailor your recipes to certain dietary needs.  Heck, you can even search a combination of all these!  I was really excited to search Portuguese/Spanish dishes for dinner that was low cal. 

I bought Mahi Mahi fillets from Fresh and Easy when they were on sale (oh how I love a sale!) and was really exicted to find a good looking recipe that included Mahi Mahi on this app.  Not only was the Mahi Mahi with Gazpacho delicious, it was pretty to look at. Rudy ate every last bite!  As he put it, "Baby!  This doesn't even taste fishy at all!"  All I have to say:  Mission Accomplished.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Dreamy Bagels

I just finished making bagels for the first time ever!  And to tell you the truth, I will be dreaming of their soft and squishy insides just as much as I will be dreaming of their crisp and supple crust.  I took a very big risk by not following the directions exactly, but I was desperate for bagels and I didn't have all of the exact ingredients.  These bagels are so good, in fact, that Rudy started eating one of the bagels I had set up for pictures.  He thought I had set them out for him to eat.  To make matters worse, he continued to eat them even after I told him they were for pictures!  Now, all I have left to do is to close my eyes and await the Bagel Fairy to bring me sweet dreams.  Maybe the Philly Cream Cheese Angels will join in on the action too...

Breadmaking Day #2

It seems I just can't get enough bread making!  Maybe it was making the malasadas.  Maybe it was talking to a family friend who used to own a bakery.  Maybe it was finding my Bread Bible dusty and neglected.  I don't really know what it is that has sent me on bread making overload, but I'm glad it happened!  My latest creation:  Sacaduros.  They are little dinner rolls from some fancy restaurant the author of The Bread Bible went to and got the recipe for.

But I put on my own little twist.  Remember that Pancetta I used to make the shrimp?  Well, I happened to have some left over!  And after a little digging in the fridge, I cam across a very special gem:  fig spread!  Figs and Pancetta.  Pancetta and figs!  You couldn't go wrong!  I wrapped the doughy little rolls around a drop of fig spread every so lovingly.  Then I topped  my creation with a ribbon of Pancetta.  Put them in the oven for 20 minutes, and what comes out is a fun and fanciful treat!  Lets just say, after having The Cuh's over, I have only 5 plain rolls left, and only 1 fig roll left.  That's out of 2 dozen rolls!  And, I have been requested to make another 2 dozen today!  Maybe I should take that family friend's advice and open a bakery...

I have another great achievement to share!  Rudy made a delicious stir-fry for us yesterday for lunch!  It was really delicious!  It had all sorts of vegetables in it, with little shrimp popping up here and there.  All of this with some brown rice...  I was in heaven!  Needless to say, by the time I was able to get my camera out, I didn't have much to take a picture of.  It was all gone!  Maybe on top of running a bakery, I will become a food forensic scientist...