Thursday, September 23, 2010

Low Country Boil

Fall is right around the corner. I can not wait for the cool air, the light breeze, and the beautiful colors of changing leaves all around. Right now in Atlanta, it feels as if Fall will never arrive. It's still hot, still humid, and still stifling without air conditioning. Though I know that in only a few short weeks, I will be wearing my sweaters and carving pumpkins and drinking hot chocolate reveling in my favorite season.

While this summer has been far too hot and humid for my taste so far, I felt like I needed to get my spirits up and send summer off right. What better way to celebrate summer than with a traditional low country boil. The delicious blend of potatoes, onions, corn, carrots, and shrimp mixed with the overwhelming mixture of spices cannot be recreated any other way.

I had my good friend R. teach me to make a Low Country Boil the good old fashioned southern way. According to R., there is no other way. He has been making this dish for years and has the timing down to a science. Even though we scaled the recipe down to feed four instead of 40, it still came out wonderful. All you need is a large stock pot, lots of newspapers, and hungry people.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Yum Yum Sauce

Every year for my birthday, my grandparents would come to visit and would insist on taking me and my family out to a Japanese Steakhouse. The kind of restaurant where the chef would cook in front of you, light things on fire, toss food into the air, and generally put on a huge show. I loved the show and the delicious soup, rice, and stirfry that came along with it.

Of course, one of the best parts of the restaurant was the yum yum sauce. The creamy, pale pink sauce that went well on just about anything. Vegetables, shrimp, scallops, steak, rice - anything you were given, it just made it taste better. If only I had that sauce, I feel as if I could eat vegetables for the rest of my life and be happy. Well my friends, I have discovered a recipe for yum yum sauce and I am pleased to say that while its not quite as good as my grandparent's japanese steakhouse version, its darn near close. And now I am sharing this wonderful sauce with you.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Make Your Own Sushi - Shrimp Tempura and Orange Chicken

After our very successful adventure into making California Rolls, M. and I decided to try something a little different for our next sushi making party. Don't get me wrong, the California Rolls are amazing. So amazing that we couldn't resist making another roll along with our new creations. We just wanted to try something a little more difficult. This led us to a shrimp tempura sushi roll. We loved this roll in our favorite little sushi restaurant, and couldn't wait to see if we could recreate it.

After tossing around a couple of ideas for other versions we wanted to try, M. brought up a chicken sushi roll. Not just any chicken, but fried orange chicken. Weird, unorthodox, but completely delicious.This went against any sort of "sushi rule" I had ever heard, but M. didn't care and he convinced me it would be amazing. And oh how amazing it was.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Kielbasa Dip

Just a short post today to share one of my favorite dip recipes. This is one of those party dips that you can whip up quickly for guests that stop by unannounced. Very creamy and hearty, this dip is not very low-calorie. It will satisfy those hunger pangs though!

Make sure to have plenty of crackers on hand. This would be good on vegatables too or even pita bread. The possibilities are endless. Just be sure to use something that can stand up to this thick dip.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Make Your Own Sushi - California Rolls

Sushi is one of those dishes that is extremely delicious, versatile, and when it is done right, it can get expensive. So after doing research and searching all over to find all the tools and ingredients we needed, Matt and I decided to try our hand at California Rolls.

You will need a bamboo mat, seaweed wrappers, short grain rice, sugar, rice wine vinegar, avocado, cucumber, imitation crab, mayo, and soy sauce for dipping.

Start out by rinsing a cup of rice in water until the water runs clear. Then drain the rice and let it sit for about 20 minutes.

Combine the rinsed rice and 1 1/4 cup water to a saucepot. Cover the pot and bring the rice and water to a boil. As soon as the water begins to boil, turn down the heat to low and let it sit, covered, for 15 minutes. After the 15 minutes is up, take the pot off of the heat and let it cool for 10 minutes. The rice should still be warm when you add in a mixture of 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp sugar. Fluff the mixture into the rice, which means to just gently fold it in with a fork. Let the mixture cool to room temperature. You now have your own batch of extra sticky rice!

While you are waiting for the rice to cool, slice up the avocado, cucumber, and crab into thin strips. The thinner the strips the easier it will be to wrap up the sushi.

Place the seaweed wrapper on the bamboo mat. Place a spoon full of your sticky rice on the seaweed and spread the rice out into a thin layer in all directions. Try to get the rice to the edge of the wrapper as best you can. This is the hardest part of the process, but don't be discouraged! Just take your time and keep spreading.

Place the thin strips of avocado, cucumber, and crab close to one end of the seaweed. Then place little bit of mayo over the top of the items in order to help it stick all together. Stickiness is definitely the key to sushi. Then start to slowly roll the seaweed wrapper with the bamboo mat, making sure to continue making sure it is wrapped as tightly as possible as you go. Once its formed into a cylinder, take the bamboo mat and shape it to be sure it is a perfect cylinder. (or you can get creative and make a rectangular prism!)

Take out your sharpest knife and begin to slice the roll into pieces. I found it was easiest to use a serrated knife and to start cutting in the middle of the roll. We got about eight pieces out of each roll, and the amount of rice yielded us about four rolls.

Pour yourself some soy sauce or whatever other sauce strikes your fancy, and its time to eat! You can use this basic lesson to make all sorts of sushi combinations. I'll be sharing my recipe for shrimp tempura with yum yum sauce soon!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hamburger Pizza

 Pizza is such a delicious dish that is just begging for a little creativity. Don't get me wrong, I love a good pepperoni pizza. Sometimes it is just nice to break out of the mold and try something new and exciting. Hamburger pizza is just the new and exciting I was looking for tonight.
The dish started out with store bought pizza dough. I'm still on the search for the perfect, hand stretched pizza dough for my creations. I have yet to stumble upon that recipe. So for now (and since I was starving!) I am sticking with my Pillsbury pizza dough. It turns out perfect and delicious every time! Just be sure to poke plenty of holes in the dough with your fork tines to avoid bubbles.
For the hamburger pizza, we chose traditional cheeseburger ingredients to make it taste as hamburger like as possible. Instead of slices, we diced up each of the ingredients for maximum coverage on the top of the pizza. This started with dicing up some red onion.
Then we cooked up the meat. Lean ground beef is what we chose, but don't be afraid to substitute ground turkey or even some tofu if that is more your thing. Anything lean that won't make the pizza soggy will be perfect. We used this delicious spice mix, salt and pepper to make it more flavorful.
When the meat is completely brown and no pink is left, sprinkle the meat all over the dough. We then sprinkled on about 10 slices of dill pickles (diced, of course), the red onions, and 1/2 cup of cheese. I used a four cheese combination. Then pop the pizza into the oven set at 450 degrees for 10  to 12 minutes.
While the meat is cooking, spread about 1/4 cup of ketchup on the pizza dough. If you love ketchup - really pour it on! If you don't - use a lighter hand. I personally love ketchup so I not only put more on but I had some on the side of my pizza too!
Then throw the ground meat right into the pan. This is about 1 pound of ground beef, but we only ended up using about 2/3 of a pound. Just brown up the meat in the pan and then drain off any excess fat.
When the pizza comes out of the oven, top it with a bit lettuce, tomato, and mustard. Leaving it until after the cooking is done makes sure the lettuce stays crisp and the tomatoes remain red and juicy.
What a delicious treat! Perfect with an ice cold pop to really celebrate the end of summer. Do you have any creative pizza recipes that I should try?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ice Cream Festival

This past Saturday, to celebrate coming back to the city for college, I made a visit to an ice cream festival that was being held in my local park. There were all sorts of different vendors that set up tents and sold bits of their ice cream treats. I tried some mango italian ice and then moved on to this waffle ice cream sandwich.

Two warm, fresh made waffles with a slab of frozen vanilla ice cream in the middle. What a fantastic, creative way to dress up an ice cream sandwich! Of course I said yes when the vendor asked if I wanted it dipped in chocolate.

The answer is always "yes" if you can have it dipped in chocolate.

I'll be trying to recreate these in my own kitchen soon. I've been so busy moving and getting geared up for the next semester that I haven't had much time to blog. I haven't even had time to cook. Frozen pizza has been my dinner on more than one occasion in the past week. I will be back to regular posting soon though.

Any suggestions for quick, inexpensive dinners that I should try in the next few days?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Baked Fudge

Baked fudge is one of those desserts that really satisfies your sweet tooth. The ingredients are basic, and the only difficult part of this recipe is waiting for it to bake in the oven before devouring it.

It has a crunch on the top and remains gooey and delicious underneath. This is what warm brownie batter served in perfectly proportioned cups would taste like. It just gets even better when you add a little ice cream or whipped cream on top. Of course this could just be eaten with a glass of cold milk on the side. One of the above options is basically required to get through the chocolate deliciousness of this fudge.

Start out by whipping one egg in a medium size bowl. Then add in half a cup of sugar and make sure it all gets combined.

Then, add in 1 tbsp of cocoa powder and 1tbps of flour to the mix. Add in 1/4 cup of melted butter as well. Then whisk it all up until it forms a smooth mixture with all the items combined.

I find this recipe fills four of my ramekin cups perfectly. You want the mixture to come up about half way in whatever baked cups/pan you decide to use. I just prefer these so you can have easily proportioned containers (which I then eat two of, of course).

Place the ramekins in a baking pan and fill the pan with water so that the water comes half way up the sides of the cups. You can use whatever pan size or shape you would like, just be sure to fill the water half way up the side of the cups. Then place the pan with the cups inside into the oven set at 325 degrees for 40 minutes.

This will be a long 40 minutes, but believe me when I say that it is worth it.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Photography Wednesday

One of the beautiful views Matt and I had on the beach for our Spring Break trip to Tybee Island. This was the beach right outside of our hotel on a rather cloudy and windy day. It was such a fun adventure despite the fact that it was too cold to get in the water. I can't wait to visit again some day!

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Last Monday

(tank - H&M/thrifted, skirt - LOFT/thrifted, wedges - Nine West/thrifted)

The work day just ended and I just completed the last Monday of my internship. Complete with lots of coffee and one of my favorite work skirts, this was a relatively painless day back at work. I think I love this thrifted skirt so much because of the pockets. Details always make the outfit for me. Which is also why I love this shirt so much. Ruffles, buttons, pretty pale pink - what is there not to love?

My last weekend in my internship town wasn't even spent in the town itself. I traveled home to visit with my dad for a birthday celebration, and I also met up with a friend who will be traveling abroad this semester in France. I am so excited to hear the stories of all her European adventures! Being able to head back to college and see Matt everyday is exciting enough for me. Can't wait to share our own close to home adventures soon! Just one more week and I'll be flying up north to see him. It can't come soon enough!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chicken Tetrazzini

It's casserole time! When you are looking for some comfort food for dinner, chicken tetrazzini is where you should turn. With layers of flavor and many different textures in this baked dish, this is perfect for a busy night's dinner after work or for a night when you just need something hearty.

Begin by placing 1/4 cup of diced onions in a skillet with some melted butter. Stir occasionally until the onions begin to get translucent. I used red onion because it's what I had, but you can use any type of onion you have on hand. Then, add 1/4 cup of mushrooms in too. I used the precooked, presliced mushrooms you get in a jar, but fresh mushrooms would be even better. Just stir around until they get tender. These two elements will make this dish have an even deeper level of flavor.

Next, you will want to cook the chicken. I used my boyfriend's George Foreman grill, which is absolutely amazing at cooking all sorts of things, but feel free to use whatever method you like best. Just make sure the chicken is cooked through.

Then, slice or shred the chicken into small pieces. Add these pieces to the skillet with the onions and mushrooms.
At the same time the chicken is cooking, put 1/2 pound of spaghetti pasta in boiling water. Don't forget to salt the water before you add the pasta! Cook until just al dente or still has a little bite. Add these cooked noodles directly to the skillet after it has been drained.

The next step is to add one small can of cream of mushroom soup to the mix. After stirring around all the ingredients, add in 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese and continue to stir until combined. If you feel the mixture is a little thick, add 1/4 cup of beef or chicken broth. Then, pour the entire mixture into a greased baking dish. I used my banana bread pan, but use whatever size or shape of pan you can get your hands on.

I then added a little something special to the top of the dish. I melted two tablespoons of butter and mixed it with 1/4 cup breadcrumbs. I then sprinkled this mixture all over the top of the caserole. Believe me, this delicious topping will absolutely make your dish! Put the chicken tetrazzini in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

So creamy, so hearty, so delicious!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Baked Potato Soup

This baked potato soup recipe is absolutely delicious. Then again, potatoes are one of my favorite foods of all time. Whether its mashed, smashed, fried, cubed, or souped (yes, that is a verb now) they are always incredibly tasty. This recipe does take a little bit of time, but it is simple and satisfying in ways that only a soup filled with potatoes, butter, bacon, and cheese can be.

Start off by washing your potatoes to get off all the dirt. I found that two good sized potatoes made enough soup for two servings. Then, take a fork and poke holes in each of the potatoes. Really go at it. If you don't poke enough holes, your potatoes will blow up in the oven. Might as well get all your stress out now instead of adding more stress with a mess of potato in your oven later! Then put the potatoes in your 400 degree oven for one hour.

After the hour is done, let the potatoes cool until you can handle them without burning your fingertips. I put mine in the freezer for ten minutes which sped up the process nicely. Then cut them in half. Doesn't have to be neat or anywhere near perfect.

Take a spoon and scoop out all the potato 'meat', discarding the skins. Once again, doesn't have to be perfect, just do your best to get as much potato out as possible.

Turn on your stove top and melt 1/3 cup of butter in a saucepan. When its melted, measure out 1/3 cup of flour and add it to the melted butter. Make sure to stir to combine and then continue stirring constantly for one minute over medium heat. The mixture should be pretty smooth at this point. If its not, cook it for a bit longer, but keep stirring! This butter/flour mixture is called a roux (or at least the beginnings of a roux) and is the base of almost all stews and sauces that are delicious, but its very easy to burn so be careful! This mixture just thickens things up and makes everything taste just that much better.

Then add 3 cups of milk to the roux mixture. Stir around and wait for the mixture to thicken. You don't need to constantly stir this time, just keep your eye on it. Mine took about five minutes to thicken, but just keep your eye on it. When it clings to the spoon after you take it out of the mixture, you know its ready.

While you are waiting for the mixture to thicken, go ahead and pull out some of your additions to the soup. You can be as creative as you want with things to mix in. I've added kielbasa, green onions, and all different kinds of cheeses. This is just what I had on hand tonight. 1 cup of cheddar cheese, 5 slices of precooked bacon, and 1/4 cup red onion. Delicious! When the mixture is thick enough, add in the potato pieces you scooped out before as well as the additions you have collected and stir to combine. So good!

I hope you enjoy this hearty potato soup recipe! Any ideas for other delicious additions?