Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Check these 2 websites out your mouth watering yet?

Yesterdays I came across them and I do not think there is one person out there who would NOT benefit from the information these websites provide.

* and also look might be surprised !

Italian Pick Me Up Cake - Tiramisu

The phrase tirami su literally means "pick me up" or "pull me up" in reference to the effects of the sugar and espresso and nowadays even Marsala (that sweet cooking wine).
While I made this cake so many times, it seems I make it better and better every time - and if you are cooking your own food you will understand me when I say that with experience you do discover tips and tricks to hold "up your sleeve".
Even though I went to Italy, I did not get to taste it there, but I had it at an authentic Italian restaurant here, where everything is made from scratch and has authentic ingredients (I am talking about Napoli's restaurant for those who know it) and the cooks, chefs and most of the staff and / or owners are real Italians. Funny how they talk in Italian in the restaurant sometimes thinking nobody there can understand them ! (I could every time !)
So let's get to cooking this marvelous and luxurious cake !

Ingredients and Directions:

Yes, I used the recipe found on the back of the bag of savoiardi cookies because you would think that if they make those, they would be the ones who know best how to use their own product to make a heavenly cake. Good choice !
So click on the picture so you can see it in real size and grab the recipe.
I used this kind of savoiardi or lady finger cookies, which are sweet, little, fairly dry, finger-shaped sponge cakes.Yes, of course you can also make them at home and I have recently discovered that you can also buy a special pan to shape them, just like you are using a special pan for muffins, for example.

I only made half of the given recipe and I shaped in into a square, like in the picture below.

After you layer the second half of filling, let it slide a little on the sides for a better covering of the sides and a more dramatic visual effect.

This cake keeps well in the fridge, covered, for up to 4 days - if you can resist that long without eating it !
Now to return to what I was talking about earlier, when I mentioned the tips and tricks.
* I used dark cocoa which is a little bitter tasting, to enhance the sweetness of the filling.
* I replaced the Mascarpone cheese with fat free cream cheese and added some sour cream.
* I used super strong sweetened coffee combined with Marsale for dipping the sponge cake. What you need to do is have a bowl with the coffee mixture next to you and dip on sponge cake at a time for maybe 2-3 seconds in it, then layer it on your pan, making sure you do not leave space between the cookies.
* I powdered cocoa on both layers of filling, not just on top.
* I used a little bit more Marsala wine that asked for.
* I let the cake set for 5 hours before serving.
It was worth the wait !

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Let's talk Calories

* I dedicate the contents of this post to Year on the Grill (Dave - I suspect might be his name ?) who hasdone a good job so far and should really be proud for the achievements (I assume he will understand what I am talking about).

Actually I started to write about something else in this blog post, but I decided to change the the subject along the way, so I said to myself....why not talk a little bit about calories ?

As they say...1 TBSP of cooking oil has 90 calories, while 1 TBSP butter has 100 calories and 1 TBSP olive oil has 120 cal....which doesn't sound so bad...does it ?!?
How about finding out that 1 cup canola oil (regular cooking oil) has 1900 cal ?
So keep that in mind when you add them to your cooking.

Which makes me think of other staple items cooks and bakers often use (let's check them out):
1 cup all purpose white flour - 450 cal
1 cup whole wheat flour - 400 cal
1 cup rice - 200 cal
1 cup pasta - 180 cal
1 cup white sugar - 770 cal
1 cup brown sugar - 830 cal (God help me !)
1 cup honey - 1000 cal (yes, one thousand)
1 cup whole milk - 150 cal
1 cup soy milk - 90 cal
1 cup yogurt (regular) - 180 cal
1 cup yogurt (low fat) - 140 cal
1 cup orange juice - 100 cal

1 slice of bread - 70 cal (good news, cause I love bread !)
1 egg (uncooked) - 75 cal
1 fried egg - 95 cal
1 boiled egg - 75 cal
1 tomato - 25 cal
1 apple - 80 cal
1 banana - 110 cal
100 gr almonds - 600 cal
1 slice apple pie - 400 cal
1 spear asparagus - 4 cal (yes, four)
1 lb asparagus - 90 cal
1 avocado - 320 cal

Tortillas Size Calories
Corn tortilla 4.5" 32
Corn tortilla 6" 70
Flour tortilla 7" 90
Flour tortilla 8" 110
Fried flour tortilla 8" 205
Flour tortilla 10" 215
Fried flour tortilla 10" 320
Wheat tortilla 10" 170

Do you have a headache yet ?
If so, I am sorry.

*** I should probably write more, but it is really depressing. Sorry.

Did You Know about This Website ?

While browsing the other day looking for something, I came across this website:
that really has nothing to do with Food Network Channel, but really in effect has A LOT to do with the chefs.
Go glimpse and let me know what is your opinion on it.
While overall is funny, some things said I have found them to be rather on the mean side.
Go try it out !

*Look for Paula Deen's 10 Commandments

* Ina Garten's 10 Commandments

* these 2 are just some examples...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stuffed Chicken Breast with a Side of Rice

When I saw this recipe here I knew I had to try it and I could not help myself but add my personal touch to it (not having thought too much ahead of cooking, I ended up with a little bit too much rice, which in the end actually turned out to be a good thing because it was the side dish I needed) !
Thanks Mihaela for giving me the idea and the permission to publish the recipe (I will be posting the recipe how I made it).
Being cooked previously, the rice does not suck in any of the meat juices and the meat being thin and so tender takes just a little time to cook.

1 cup Arborio rice or any other kind you may have (I think the original recipe calls for something like Basmati)
1/2 onion, finely diced
1.5 to 2 cups water (she used less water, but I had to add more or the rice would have dried out really badly)
1 TBSP butter
1 small piece of parsnip or turnip, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced or shredded (the original also calls for some bell pepper which I did not want to use)
some tarragon
some basil
2 TBSP oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 piece of chicken breast, cut in 2 and tenderized with a meat hammer

Start with the rice by placing it in some water so it can soften up a little bit.

While the rice is soaking attend to the chicken breast making sure it is thawed well if you just pulled it out of the freezer (I use the microwave to defrost it usually, but at times it seems to also cook a little bit while defrosting so I RECOMMEND you place the plastic bag in which you have the meat inside a bowl of warm water and let the water work its magic).
When thawed / defrosted, cut it in 2 pieces and place each piece in its plastic bag, close the bag and start pounding with the meat tenderizer to thin it and to tenderize it.
If you do not have such a hammer, go ahead and use your rolling pin.

If you have a food processor, process all the veggies OR just use your knife skills OR use a shredder, then place them in a medium saucepan, along with the oil and butter.

Sautee for 5 minuten, add the drained rice and cook for 5 more minutes, on medium heat.
Add the water and at this point cover your saucepan and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork, taste, season and let cool down a bit.

Preheat the oven to 400 F and have a greased small pan ready.
Spread the chicken breast on a large plate, season it with salt & pepper and spoon some rice over the meat, then roll as tight as possible and place in the prepared baking dish.

If you wish, sprinkle with basil and some oil and bake for 10 to 20 minutes.
Serve with the rest of the rice on the side.
It's so tasty !

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pillow Soft Bread Sticks 2 Ways

There are blogs I often read or glance at that have only recipes and no story attached to the recipe or they do not have the introductory few sentences that oftentimes give you an insight into what is going to be prepared - which makes me want to come back again and again to see what other tricks and tips has the host to offer.
Now the stories - I do not really care for all that much, but the few little words that sometimes explain the history or origin or how a certain dish has been achieved or built or assembled etc....those I do like to read.
Oh - and some blogs have HUGE stories that make me skip them only to go to recipes....which usually happens with blogs I am not familiar with. Anyhow, everybody blogs because they want to and I think that no one should ever tailor their style just to please someone in particular.
Which brings me to this dish I am writing about today: these bread sticks have garlic infused into the oil that goes in the filling and which really is the trick to achieving the softness and puffiness that you get to bite into at the end. So you will bite into a garlic tasting bread stick without it actually having any garlic in it.
It may be a messy work to get them twisted nicely and transferred into the pan, but it is SO worth it !
I got inspired by Laura Adamache who made something similar and I thank her for posting the recipe so I could work with it to make it suit my taste.
Now let's get to work !
Oh, I have 2 versions of these twists as follows: olive garlic and sausage cheese.

Ingredients for the olive garlic sticks:
The dough:
300 gr flour
5 gr instant yeast
25 ml oil or 2 TBSP
175 ml milk or water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper (white if possible)
1 teaspoon sugar

The filling:
200 gr olives, chopped
1 garlic clove
50 ml oil

Dissolve the yeast in the milk or water and add the sugar, then mix with the oil and add to the combined dry ingredients (flour, salt, pepper) and knead by hand 5 to 10 minutes.
If you use the bread machine for that, you may end up having to add more flour.
Let the dough rise loosely covered with a cloth in a warm place for 1 hour.
Heat the oil in a small skillet, drop in the crushed garlic clove, cook for 2 minutes on medium heat, then discard the garlic, add the chopped olives and let cool down.

On a very lightly floured work surface roll the dough into a rectangle at 1/4 inch thickness.
It may roughly be 17 by 12 inch like mine was.

Spread the olives and the oil from the skillet on half of the rectangle and cover with the remaining half, then press down to seal as much as possible.

(If you count and you notice I only have 12, then you need to know that I took the picture after I transferred 2 twists to the baking sheet.)
Using a pastry cutter or a knife, cut equal strips, roughly 1 inch wide (I got 14 strips), twist them gently and place on a baking sheet.

It may get messy and oily at this point by all the oil will be eventually absorbed by the dough.
Do let them rise in the baking sheet for 10 to 20 minutes. Just because.
Bake in a preheated 425 F oven for 10-15 minutes until they look golden and delicious.

Ingredients for the sausage cheese twists:
The dough which is spicy:
300 gr flour
5 gr instant yeast
25 ml oil or 2 TBSP
175 ml milk or water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper (white if possible)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon paprika powder

The filling:
3 cheese sticks, cubed really tiny
some smoked sausage, cubed really tiny
3 TBSP oil

Prepare the dough in the same way, letting it rise for 1 hour then rolling it out to a rectangle.

Brush the oil evenly on half of the dough, then add the cheese and sausage, cover with the rest of the dough and press with the tips of your fingers to seal.

The dough will look like you have pressed dimples into it.
Cut strips and place on a greased baking sheet, then bake at the same temperature for the same amount of time.

The cheese may ooze out and it may look like it is burning, but it's fine.

They keep well in the fridge and can be reheated in the microwave for 10 seconds.
They are very tasty and go well with any savory meal.

Beef Fajitas

What prompted me to go ahead and make those tortillas was the fact that I wanted to make beef fajitas with the good looking beef that I got - so now that I had those done in the after-noon I could easily whip up those fajitas in no time.
The name may sound fancy, but the dish is as simple as it can be, yet high in flavor and it can fill you up pretty quick.
The beauty of it is that you can freeze the leftovers or even just the cut veggies and the cooked meat and re-use at a later time just by dumping the contents of your bags in a skillet, cooking them until just hot enough for your taste.

beef, cut into small thin strips
1/2 to 1 bright colored bell pepper, cut into strips

1/2 to 1 onion, cut in half, then into almost 1/2 inch thick slices
the marinade for the beef:
juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon tarragon
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
3 minced garlic cloves
3 TBSP oil

Combine the marinade ingredients inside a large ziplock bag, add the beef slices and let marinade for at least 2 hours or overnight.
Drain the meat and cook it on high temperature in a large non stick skillet, for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from the skillet and place the veggies in with some oil and salt & pepper (just a splash of oil), cooking them for only 5 minutes, still on high.

When they are done, add the meat, stir to combine, cook for 1 more minute together and serve on tortillas, rolling them tight.

I used skewers because my tortillas weren't large enough.
It happens.
Serve hot !

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Microwave Baked Pears

After baking those apples recently I decided I need to make an improvisation so the dessert could be served faster, which made me think of using the microwave instead of the oven.
You can make these in a snap and you will love me for it !
Oh, and because there is so much pectin in the fruit, especially in the peel, I decide to make a quick reduction and I ended up with a nice thick syrup that I poured all over my delicious pears.
Served with ice-cream was to die for !

2 pears, on the ripe side
2 TBSP brown sugar
1 TBSP honey
1/2 teaspoon good cinnamon
some ice-cream if you wish

Wash, then halve and core the pears and set aside.
Choose a deep plate or a large bowl or a small Pyrex dish that would hold the 4 pieces of pear and the juices they will release, and it would be microwave safe.
Place the fruit in the dish and set aside.
Combine the brown sugar with the cinnamon and spoon it all over the pears, then drizzle the honey on top.

Microwave for 2 to 4 minutes, in 30 seconds increments.
They should be ready when they look soft and baked.
Remove and place in your serving plate and cook the juice the pears left in the pan - for 2 to 5 more minutes until it resembles honey consistency.

The pectin in the pear juice along with the sugar and the molasses will all help thicken the liquid.
Spoon over the pears when it has cooled down a bit and serve with ice-cream.
Yummy !

Friday, September 25, 2009

Flour Tortillas.....Homemade !

I have always been fascinated with stuff you see at the store and you CAN ACTUALLY make at home, especially knowing you can learn a few fascinating things along the way.
Oh, and did I tell you that every time you knead dough of almost any kind by hand....your hands will become soft and baby smooth ?
This is not my first time to make tortillas at home, WITHOUT a tortilla press, as I have made whole wheat tortillas before.
Those had margarine in them if I remember well, but these I am talking about today have Crisco Vegetable Shortening, and really the taste is SO MUCH better.
Of course, you could always substitute by margarine or butter.
Really, give them a try and you will see how good they are.

3 cups flour (375 gr)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (I almost always use Kosher salt)
4 to 6 TBSP shortening (or a substitute)
1 to 1 and 1/4 cup warm water

Weigh and set aside all the ingredients and have a large mixing bowl and a pastry cutter handy.
Combine the dry ingredients well, then add the fat.

Cut the fat into the flour until the mixture resembles sand.

At this point add the warm water and mix with your hand or a spoon just until it begins to hold together.
Transfer to your clean work surface and knead about 20 times ( a few minutes) and you will see the dough will have a nice aspect and it will come together into a ball.

Let it rest 5 minutes, then pull 10 to 14 equal pieces.

I always use my kitchen scale for this step.
Shape those pieces into balls and let them rest 5 more minutes.
Prepare a griddle or your non stick skillet and heat it on medium heat for approx 3 to 5 minutes, keeping in mind that you do not want it super hot or smoking hot.
Sprinkle the dough balls with a little bit of flour and working with 1 dough ball at a time, place it between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll it to a disk using your dough rolling pin.

I like to use my Silpat silicone baking mat as my base and a rectangular sheet of parchment paper on which I drew a circle to guide me for the disk size.

Naturally, you will spread it really thin, but not too thin as to the point of not being able to lift it off the parchment to transfer to the skillet.

Mine were 9 or 10 inch in diameter because I have a tortilla keeper and I used its lid as a guide for drawing on the parchment.
Try rolling the dough to 1/8 inch thickness.
Cook on medium for a few seconds to 1 minute on each side, using a plastic spatula to help your lift and flip them.

I also tried to make tortilla bowls, but that was a total wreck as I did not think of covering the bowls in aluminum first, not did I grease the balls before covering them with the raw tortilla dough.

If you do go ahead and want to try doing those bowls, you need to bake them at 400 F for 8 to 11 minutes, until they get crisp.

You're done !
Please don't laugh too hard at my disaster.