Tuesday, February 26, 2013

An Oscar Party ~

It's all about the food! (And of course the drink, company, and that award show.)

I first saw these dangerously delicious "cheez-it-ish crackers" on a blog that I follow regularly, The Kitchen Lioness. Andrea, the author of this blog is an amazing photographer and writer. She is part of a cooking group (French Fridays with Dorie) that is cooking their way through Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table. I have this book - and good thing too, for this group does not post the recipes, just their results. Had I seen the recipe in the book before seeing her post I would have passed it up. The picture in the book does not do the crackers justice, not the way Andrea's does. I used her idea of shaping the crackers in the form of stars - it was the Oscars after all.

I was surprised by how much they taste like the name brand Cheez-Its, only better. Made with butter and my favorite cheese, Gruyère, and a bit of pepper; what's not to like.

The recipe calls for Aleppo pepper which I could not find (did not put in a lot of effort) so I subbed cayenne which was an option in the recipe. Aleppo is not as hot as Cayenne, still I used the same amount.

 Source: Penzeys Spices

These are crazy easy to make and horribly addicting. Dangerous to have around - you may want to make these only when there are others to share with - or maybe not.

Success meter (1-3):

These little crackers pair perfectly with a glass of champagne.

We always have an over-abundance of good food at our Oscar parties.

Cheese log w/crackers, Asian beef in crisp wonton cups, roasted sweet potatoes with aioli, and 
cheez-it-ish crackers.

Rice and cheese balls.

Focaccia with olive tapenade, broccoli salad, Mediterranean crunch salad, and three pizzas!

Photo credit goes to our lovely daughter who made the focaccia and olive tapenade.

Another equally delicious and fast recipe: Roasted sweet potatoes with a spicy aioli.

I roasted diced sweet potatoes tossed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper in a 400° oven until soft.

Mini coffee ice cream balls for dipping in chocolate fondue.
Half of the balls were rolled in ground chocolate covered coffee beans.

There are only three ingredients in the fondue: milk, cream and chocolate (a ganache), so be sure your chocolate is of good quality.

Photo credit: our daughter.
Thanks Ash - You saved the day !

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

WW: Minced Pork in Lettuce Cups

Wok Wednesdays wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by the fabulous Grace Young

Yep. It's good. If you follow my blog regularly, you probably guessed that already.

It's amazing that one cookbook can have so many successful recipes - Grace Young knows her stuff! I don't think I'll ever be able to eat out at a Chinese restaurant again.

Our family back in the day, before everyone moved out of state, we used to get together every Tuesday night at a local Chinese restaurant. It's nice to go to a restaurant where they know you and at the time you think the food is good, until you wok your way through this book, and everything changes.

My husband and I had rarely gone out for Chinese food after most of the family had moved; mainly because I found the food to be too salty and thinking back, a bit too oily as well. Now that I am learning to cook this cuisine at home, we don't even have the desire or craving to go out for Chinese food.

After raving about the recipes from this book, I feel bad not being able to share them with you here on my blog; one of the rules of Wok Wednesdays is not to post the recipe - not only out of respect for Grace, but to help support the publishing industry; and I for one do not want to see books disappear.  

So if the recipes appeal to you even in the slightest, I highly recommend that you visit your local bookstore and purchase a copy for yourself. You will not be disappointed - I'm sure of it; and when you do, come join us over at Wok Wednesdays for a wokerrific time!

Success meter (1-3): 3

FungusAmongUs - Don't you just love the name?!

Opening the package, I was not expecting such a wonderful aroma from the dried Shiitakes.

You need to soak the dried mushrooms for thirty minutes in cold water. Personally I would use fresh Shiitake mushrooms if available, or substitute fresh Portobello mushrooms. I did not care for the reconstituted Shiitake for they had a bit of a chewy, rubbery texture. (Maybe I did not soak them long enough?)

On a side note: I was fortunate to have met Grace Young in person this weekend. She was speaking at the Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco. I can say she comes across just as she does online - soft spoken, knowledgeable, and with a sense of humor.  What a pleasure it was to listen to her tell her stories and that of others. I hate to think of what we (my daughter and nephew also attended) missed out on by arriving 15 minutes late due to horrible traffic into the city.  Maybe I'll have another chance to see her speak again. Grace, it was a pleasure~

To get a sense of what Grace's talk was like, check out my daughter's post on meeting the "Stir-Fry Guru". 

You will not find the recipe here on my blog or within the Wok Wednesdays community. We encourage our readers to purchase this book at their local independent bookstore or on-line to support the publishing industry and to help keep books alive! I know I prefer to flip through the pages of a book rather than read them electronically; nothing compares to the feel and smell of a printed book.

Make sure to visit my co-wokkers to see their results on this stir-fry.
Look for the LYL link on the Wok Wednesdays page.

Visit Wok Wednesdays on Facebook!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

TWD: Boca Negra

Tuesdays with Dorie baking through Baking with Julia
by Dorie Greenspan
Contributing Baker: Lora Brody

Boca Negra - Spanish for black mouth.  This is what you will get after eating this - so the recipe states. I was imagining my teeth a freakish gray color, like after drinking red wine, and your mouth and teeth are tinted red. I can not say that I experienced this. Maybe it all washed away after downing two glasses of milk to help this delectably delicious cake go down.

Initially I was going to pass on making the white chocolate cream; but I wanted to use up the extra opened bars of chocolate I had laying around. I thought the cream would be too heavy of an accompaniment for an already rich cake. Boy was I wrong. The cream was delicious and the cognac (the recipe calls for bourbon) seemed to have given it a lightened texture - not heavy at all - a pillowy softness that melts in your mouth on contact. The recipe suggests that you make it a day ahead to give it time to chill and thicken. I made it the same day and placed it in the freezer for a short time to hasten the thickening of the cream.

The recipe gives you a choice of making this by hand or in the food processor. Both read to be quite easy to do. I always go with the hands on method and thought I would change things up a bit and use the processor. This cake could not be any simpler to make, and with such impressive results; an inexperienced baker could bowl over their family and friends with this one.

I served this with some rather tart raspberry purée, which was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the cake, and tasted really good mixed in with the cream. I'm thinking the cream in a somewhat liquid state would be great poured over fresh fruit, or served in a bowl alongside a fruit platter to be used as a dip.

I sent two slices home with my sister, and delivered a couple of slices to our daughter. It was a hit. Especially the cream!

Success meter (1-3): 3

I gathered all the white chocolate I had and came up one ounce short. Being short had no noticeable adverse effects.

The cream is made up of white chocolate, heavy whipping cream and in my case, cognac. Yum!

The cake itself is made with few ingredients: chocolate (lots), butter (lots), sugar (lots), eggs (lots), flour, and yes, more cognac.

I'm surprised there is not a warning in the book about cooking alcohol over an open flame. I'm fully aware that it can, and did ignite, still it caught me off guard (I was taking a picture at the time). The white spots are flames dancing on the surface of the sugar and cognac mixture.
You bake the cake in a water bath - also known as a bain-marie. The recipe says to bake for exactly thirty minutes. I had to bake mine for forty-five minutes before it achieved the thin dry crust on top.

Carefully remove the pan from the water bath and dry before unmolding.

The underside of the cake.

I came across the apron I made for our now grown daughter - look how tiny it is! (I thought I would keep the heart theme going here.) After inverting the cake to the platter it cracked... :(

Homemade stencil; oh the patience I once had.

I stenciled the cake while it was still warm. After a few hours all the hearts turned to a dark brown.
A slice of this cake will help mend any broken heart.

The recipe says to serve this slightly warm or at room temperature - it's great both ways. It has a soft, almost mousse like texture - some say it is similar to a pudding cake; when served cold from the refrigerator it is reminiscent of a chocolate truffle.

I hope everyone enjoyed their Valentine's day!

You can find this delectable recipe on Cathy's blog - A Frederick Food Garden, our host for the week.

Head over to the TWD website and look for the LYL: Boca Negra link to check out other variations of this recipe from the many talented bakers in the group.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

WW: Chicken Lo Mein with Ginger Mushrooms

Wok Wednesdays wokking through Stir-Frying to the Sky's Edge
by Grace Young


As is the norm with the recipes from this book, we have another winner. I went one step further and made my own noodles!

I did an Internet search for Chinese noodles so I could make my own. Unfortunately I came up empty handed; so I left a comment on WW Facebook page asking what is the difference between Chinese and Italian noodles. Not only did I get an explanation (type of flour/ratio), but a recipe as well! Thank you Wai Ming Yau!!!

I have made my own pasta once or twice before, but only sheets for making ravioli, using a cookie cutter to shape them. I thought it would be fun to try my hand at making spaghetti shaped noodles. My pasta making skills need work to say the least, but I was stoked they turned out as well as they did.

Being I was cooking for one this evening, I decided to halve the recipe - still this made more than enough to feed two people. My plan was to have the leftovers the following day; however this was so good, and before I knew it, the bowl was empty.  

Success meter (1-3): 3


You start by making a well in the flour, then add the egg and water. With a fork, gradually incorporate the flour from the well into the liquid ingredients, being careful not to break the wall of the flour or the eggs & water will escape as they almost did here. (I used a pastry scrapper to help hold the liquid in that was escaping from a crack in the levee!)

Take small portions of dough and run through a flat roller a few times till the pasta is smooth.


I cut the sheets to make handling of the dough easier.


You may notice that I folded the dough in thirds (like a letter) because it was too thin to make spaghetti strands. The book I used for reference instructed me to roll the dough down to the thinnest setting before running through the spaghetti attachment. I must have misunderstood the instructions in some way.


These may not be the prettiest of noodles, but fun to make! If you have the means and the slightest desire to giving it a try, I highly recommend it. Fresh noodles are wonderful.

First you boil the noodles (fresh pasta cooks quicker than dried), run under cold water, drain and set aside. I spun them gently in a salad spinner to remove any excess water. As you know with stir-frying, your ingredients need to be as dry as possible to avoid splattering when added to the hot oil.

After stir-frying the chicken and vegetables, remove from the wok and set aside.

Give the noodles a quick fifteen second stir-fry, swirl in some soy sauce, then add back the chicken mixture, scallions and salt.



Not bad looking noodles if I say so myself. If they look a bit oily that would be because I halved the recipe; as is a common occurrence, I forget that I am reducing the amounts - as I did here with the oil. This was fabulous even with this little mishap.

Have a Happy Chinese New Year!

You will not find the recipe here on my blog or within the Wok Wednesdays community. We encourage our readers to purchase this book at their local independent bookstore or on-line to support the publishing industry and to help keep books alive! I know I prefer to flip through the pages of a book rather than read them electronically; nothing compares to the feel and smell of a printed book.

Make sure to visit my co-wokkers to see their results on this stir-fry.
Look for the LYL link on the Wok Wednesdays page.
Visit Wok Wednesdays on Facebook!