Monday, May 31, 2010

Popsicle of the Week: Creamy Cantaloupe

I hope you all are having a fabulous and long Memorial Day Weekend! This week I am sharing a recipe for Creamy Cantaloupe Popsicles. The recipe for these Creamy Cantaloupe Popsicles was sent to me from one of my favorite blogging friends, Michelle of Ms. En Place. Michelle lives in Louisiana and posts so many wonderful and authentic Cajun and Creole recipes. If you haven't been to her site yet, you will definitely want to pay her a visit soon. Thanks for the recipe, Michelle!

Creamy Cantaloupe Pops
1-1/2 cups cantaloupe, cubed
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
8 wooden popsicle sticks

1. Place cantaloupe in a blender.
2. Cover and process until smooth; set aside.
3. In a small saucepan, combine the cream and sugar.
4. Cook and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved.
5. Remove from the heat.
6. Stir in pureed cantaloupe.
7. Pour 1/4 cup into each mold (popsicle mold or 3 oz. plastic cups); insert the popsicle sticks.
Freeze until firm.
--instead of heavy cream, half and half can be used
--for an even lighter version, replace the cream with 8 oz yogurt. Skip the heating instructions and instead toss everything in a blender.

: The good people at Zoku saw my blog post last week where I had mentioned having trouble with my Zoku Quick Pop Maker. They left a comment on my post stating that recipes with a high fat content (like cream, half & half, or whole milk) did in fact result in a "soft pull", whereby the fat doesn't freeze solid enough to adhere to the popsicle stick. Zoku is in the process of writing their own cookbook, but states that using yogurt is a good alternative. In addition, Zoku has their own blog @ and can also be found on Twitter. Both sites have tips and tricks for using your Zoku Quick Pop Maker. Thanks Zoku for your response!
Because the cantaloupe popsicles were going to contain cream, I used my old-fashioned Tupperware molds. I bought one smaller-sized cantaloupe and it was more than enough to yield the 1 and 1/2 cups cantaloupe needed for this recipe. This is good news for us because we love melon at my house and had no problems finishing off the rest of the melon. With three ingredients, these pops were a snap to make and we all really enjoyed them! They had a wonderfully creamy consistency, which was improved greatly if allowed to sit on the counter 3-5 minutes prior to serving. A fun and unique way to enjoy cantaloupe.

I also want to mention that my friend Deb @ Kahakai Kitchen posted popsicles as well. Click HERE to see her
Cucumber, Lime, Mint & Rum Pops. She also made some tasty Mexican Chocolate pops which can be found HERE.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Emeril's 20-40-60 Fresh Food Fast

Although I've watched Emeril on TV countless times, I had never tried one of his recipes or owned any of his books, until recently. I found a copy of Emeril 20-40-60 Fresh Food Fast in my mailbox, a direct result of my inability to respond to my featured selection at The Good Cooks Book Club. Never one to turn a cookbook away, I opened it up and was pleasantly surprised. Several of the recipes caught my attention and I was quickly enamored with it.

Emeril's 20-40-60 Fresh Food Fast is a very approachable book based on 20, 40, and 60 minute recipes with soups; starters; salads and dressings; sandwiches; pasta; rice and beans; vegetables; seafood; poultry; meat; and desserts in each chapter. Each recipe uses easy to find ingredients and offers fresh and simple flavors. A new recipe came to my attention each and every time I picked up the book and I found myself wanting to cook from it more and more for it's ease of use.

Emeril's Stir-Fried Chicken with Cashews was the first recipe I made. This chicken stir fry with red bell pepper and hoisin sauce was made even better by the addition of roasted cashews. Better yet, it was on the table in around 20 minutes, perfect for a busy night.

To go along with the Stir-Fried Chicken with Cashews, I made Emeril's Aromatic Jasmine Rice with one of my favorite new ingredients: coconut milk. Jasmine rice, ginger, lime zest, coconut milk, chicken broth and cilantro combine to make one tasty and extremely aromatic rice that will have you coming back for more. We enjoyed the rice and are busy thinking of other ways to use it.

Last week I had a couple bad days and only comfort food would do. I turned to Emeril's Creamy White Beans with Sausage. This dish was fantastic and featured one of my favorite ingredients: beans! I'm pretty sure I've shared my love for beans with you several times before today, but just in case....I adore beans. They definitely fall into the category of being one of my top five food cravings. In this recipe canned cannellini beans, garlic, spinach and smoked sausage are cooked with diced tomatoes to make a truly creamy, soul-satisfying dish that is sure to please. I went on carb overload, using a slice of toasted country bread slathered in garlic to sop up the beans. Carbs make everything better! The next time I make this, (and there will be a next time near in the future)I will leave out the smoked sausage. I do like smoked sausage in general, but would prefer the smooth creaminess of the beans without the interference that the sausage provides.

Speaking of cravings, I had also been craving a delicious and wonderfully messy steak and cheese sandwich. Emeril's Steak and Cheese Sandwich fit the bill very nicely. Onions were cooked until caramelized with thinly sliced sirloin steak, local KY Worcestershire sauce and crumbled blue cheese then placed on a buttered and toasted baguette. This was a delightfully messy sandwich with tons of flavor from both the blue cheese and the Worcestershire sauce. The steak was especially tender and cooked to perfection. A definite repeat for any future steak and cheese cravings.

Emeril's Cucumber Ribbon Salad looked so beautifully presented in the book that I had to give it a try. I was a little intimidated to try my hand at cucumber ribbons, but it was actually very easy with a vegetable peeler. The cucumber ribbons were mixed with olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, mint, and dill. Twirling the cucumber ribbon around on a fork like spaghetti was really fun and the salad was a total hit.

I am submitting both the Steak and Cheese Sandwich and the Cucumber Ribbon Salad to Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for her Souper Sundays roundup. Every Sunday Deb features a tasty roundup of soup, salad, and sammies over at her site.

Overall, I am really enjoying Emeril's 20-40-60 Fresh Food Fast. It has many great family-friendly recipes and also some wonderful and unique recipes for vegetables and side dishes. This is definitely a book I will enjoy pulling out and cooking from in the future.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Blogger Burger Club: Caesar Salad and Flank Steak Burgers with Garlic Crostini

Today is National Hamburger Day and with the holiday weekend coming up, it is a great time to cook up some tasty burgers! I was very happy when Reeni of Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice asked me to host this month's Blogger Burger Club! I am always inspired by Reeni's tasty creations and was honored that she asked me. After careful consideration, I chose this Caesar Salad and Flank Steak Burger with Garlic Crostini. The recipe comes from a book I bought awhile back called Build a Better Burger and contains recipes from Sutter Home's annual burger contest. There are some stunning burger recipes in this book. However, it was this Caesar Salad and Flank Steak Burger with Garlic Crostini that stole my heart.

Imagine a thick, juicy, tender steak burger with a homemade Caesar salad, sitting atop a thick garlicky crostini, showered in Parmesan cheese. Heaven, pure heaven! This is definitely a fork and knife burger. Enjoy it alone. It needs no accompaniments, except maybe a glass of wine.

Caesar Salad with Flank Steak Burgers with Garlic Crostini
Adapted from Build a Better Burger (Makes 4 large meal-sized burgers)
Estimated Time: 30-40 minutes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 flat anchovy fillets packed in oil, drained and chopped (I use 1/2 tsp. anchovy paste)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1-1/2 pounds ground flank steak
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 shallots, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons Zinfandel (feel free to use any red wine or even beef broth)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil, for brushing the grill rack
Garlic Crostini:
8 (1/2 inch-thick) sourdough bread slices
Extra virgin olive oil, for brushing on the bread
4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
You will also need:
1-1/2 cups washed, dried, and shredded romaine lettuce
Shredded, freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese to taste

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill with a cover, or preheat a gas grill to medium high.

To make the dressing, combine the olive oils, vinegars, and salt in a small jar with a lid and shake until well blended. Mash the anchovy fillets and garlic together on a cutting board until they form a paste; transfer to a bowl. Add the oil and vinegar mixture, lemon juice, and parsley and whisk until smooth. Set aside.

To make the patties, combine the steak, parsley, shallots, garlic, Zinfandel, salt, lemon pepper seasoning, and pepper in a large bowl. Handling the meat as little as possible to avoid compacting it, mix well. Divide the mixture into 4 equal portions and form the portions into patties to fit the bread slices.

When the grill is ready, brush the grill rack with olive oil. Place the patties on the rack, cover, and cook, turning once, until done to preference 5-7 minutes on each side for medium. During the last few minutes of cooking, to make the crostini, brush the bread slices to taste with olive oil on both sides. Place the bread slices on the outer edges of the rack, turning once to toast lightly. Remove and rub each side of the toast with 1/2 garlic clove.

To assemble the burgers, combine the lettuce and the dressing in a large bowl and toss lightly. On 4 of the bread slices, place an equal portion of the salad, a patty and a generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Top with the remaining slices and serve.

Notes: This was the first time I heard about ground flank steak. I live in a very small town, with limited grocery options and had no trouble getting the butcher to grind me some flank steak. It only took 5 minutes and I was in and out of there. The ground flank steak was extremely tender and if you can get it, I highly suggest it. However, ground beef would also work well in this recipe. You may also be tempted to use a store-bought Caesar dressing. I say don't do it! This homemade dressing was delicious and was nothing like the bottled stuff you see in the supermarket. The last thing I want to mention is in regard to 3 tablespoons of Zinfandel that go into the patties. I didn't have Zinfandel, but I had another red wine which worked just as well. If you don't drink wine or don't have any on hand, just use a beef stock. Either way, you will need this liquid to help bind the burger together.

Want to Join Along??

Burger Club Guidelines:

-Make the Caesar Salad and Flank Steak Burgers with Garlic Crostini, blog about it with your rating and other thoughts on it, link to me and let me know by e-mail or by adding your link to the MckLinky below by midnight on June 20th.

The ratings are based on a four-star rating:

1 Star = Didn't like and wouldn't make again.

2 Stars = Liked but wouldn't make again.

3 Stars = Liked and will make again.

4 Stars = Loved! Will make often.

-I will average out the ratings to give it one singular rating and also include a round-up of your burger and ratings.

-Join in as often as you like.

I really enjoyed this burger and am giving it 3.5 stars!
The steak burger was very tender and flavorful, the salad dressing on the romaine lettuce was very light and herbaceous, but it was the garlic crostini that pulled it all together. A special occasion burger that I will be sure to make again.

Also, I want to give a huge Thank You to Reeni for letting me host this month's burger!!

Happy National Hamburger Day!!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pasta with 12 Whole Cloves of Garlic or Rather One Whole Head of Garlic!!

How many cloves of garlic are in one garlic head? Have you ever stopped to count? Yesterday I did just that. Mark Bittman's pasta with whole cloves of garlic called for 10 whole cloves. I went into the pantry and dug out one head of garlic. As I started to remove the cloves, I noticed that there were about 12 cloves on my garlic head. When you're already making pasta with ten whole cloves of garlic, what is two more cloves, right? I decided to use the whole head of garlic in this pasta dish!! That's right..... pasta with an entire head of garlic, now that's exciting stuff. What can I say? I live on the edge, especially on Wednesday afternoons.

Look at all that beautiful garlic!

Just look at all those cloves of garlic...yum!

Pasta with Whole Cloves of Garlic, AKA Maccheroni alla San Giovanniello
Adapted from How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
1/3 cup olive oil or butter (I used a mix)
10 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed (I used 12-13 because I'm crazy like that)
1/2 cup prosciutto or other salted ham or slab bacon cut into cubes or strips (I used bacon)
6 plum tomatoes or 1-1/2 cups drained canned tomatoes (I used canned)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound cut pasta, such as ziti or penne (I used ziti)
1 cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
1 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, or a combo
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Combine the oil/butter, garlic, and ham in a medium to large skillet over medium-low heat (I used the #2 setting on my electric stovetop, anything higher would've burnt the garlic). Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until the garlic becomes deep golden, nearly brown, all over, 10-15 minutes.
Core and chop the plum tomatoes (or crush the canned tomatoes) and add them, along with salt and pepper, to the skillet. Stir and simmer while you salt the boiling water and cook the pasta.
Drain the pasta when it is tender but firm, reserving a little of the cooking water and adding it to the sauce if it appears dry (quite likely if you used fresh tomatoes). Toss the pasta with the sauce and most of the basil, along with the cheese. Mince the remaining basil, garnish the pasta with it, and serve.

Notes/Results: I loved it and thought it was a very restaurant worthy meal. The sauce had a wonderful mellow garlic flavor. Yes, I said mellow garlic flavor!! Hard to believe that 12 cloves of garlic could produce a mellow garlic flavor, right? Well, the garlic was definitely present, but was not overpowering at all. There were times when I looked down at my fork and saw two whole cloves of garlic on my fork at the same time. I was convinced that I was going to have some powerful garlic breath, but that wasn't the case at all. In addition, the sauce had a creaminess to it from the Parmesan cheese. I loved the little chewy pieces of bacon, which pleasantly found their way inside of the pasta. Bacon inside of pasta is always a good thing! Overall, this was an excellent meal and the leftovers, although short-lived, were even tastier the next day!

This is my submission for this week's Garlic Breath theme over at I Heart Cooking Clubs, where we are celebrating the recipes of Mark Bittman.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cooking with the Kids: Ellie Krieger's Crispy Chicken Fingers

We all know that kids LOVE chicken nuggets. The trouble is we don't really know what is in them, do we? I love to cook with my kids, but with my son's allergies it can be quite difficult. When I received my copy of The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger, this was the first recipe that caught my eye. The reason is simple: healthy chicken fingers that even my little guy can eat!! Pretty exciting stuff. Jackson is allergic to many things, but his allergy to eggs and flour can be the most challenging. The great thing about Ellie's chicken fingers is that she marinates the chicken in buttermilk, which makes them incredibly tender, and then coats them in crushed whole-grain cereal, like Corn Chex. Hooray for Corn Chex because it is actually one of Jackson's favorite snacks on the planet! I knew that Jackson would be thrilled to arm himself with my rolling pin and whack the heck out of the Corn Chex. Jackson specializes in destruction and this project was right up his alley! I can honestly say that he really made dust out of those corn chex. I was happy for him.

Crispy Chicken Fingers with Honey-Mustard Sauce
Recipe adapted from The Food You Crave, but also found online HERE
1-1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut across into 1/2" slices
1/2 cup lowfat buttermilk
Cooking Spray
4 cups whole-grain corn cereal such as Corn Chex or corn flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
pinch of freshly ground black pepper
Honey-Mustard Sauce (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 400F. Combine the chicken and buttermilk in a shallow dish, turning the chicken to coat it with the buttermilk. Cover and chill for 15 minutes. Coat two baking sheets with cooking spray.
Put the cereal in a sealable plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Transfer the crumbs to a shallow dish and season them with the salt and pepper. Dip each piece of chicken in the cereal to fully coat and arrage on the prepared baking sheets. Bake until cooked through, about 8 minutes. Leave the chicken on the baking sheets to cool slightly It will become crisper. Serve with the mustard sauce on the side.

Honey-Mustard Sauce
1/3 cup Dijon Mustard
2 teaspoons Mayo
2 tablespoons honey
In a small bowl, stir together the mustard and mayo until smooth. Stir in the honey.

This is a fantastic recipe. If you have children or grandchildren who love chicken nuggets then this is a recipe you must try! My son loved crushing the corn chex and could hardly wait to try the chicken fingers. The chicken fingers were easy and I couldn't believe how tender the buttermilk had made the chicken. The Corn Chex made a wonderful crispy coating. Once again, Ellie's measurements were perfect! Everything measured out perfectly, with no wasted buttermilk marinade or wasted corn chex crumbs. I really like how Ellie's recipes are so perfectly measured out. In fact, I can't quite say enough about it! I do want to note that I adapted the recipe slightly by breading the chicken and then letting it "dry out" in the refrigerator for ten minutes. This is a trick I learned from Tyler Florence who says that this ten minute "drying out" method makes for a much crispier coating. This recipe makes about 40 chicken fingers, which is plenty to feed the whole family and still have leftovers. I highly recommend these crispy chicken fingers. They were a hit on all accounts!!

Crispy Chicken Fingers: Serves 4 - Serving Size 10 chicken fingers (You won't be able to eat them all) 262 calories, 2g fat, 35g protein, 23g carb, .5g fiber

Honey-Mustard Sauce: Serves 5 - Serving Size 2 Tablespoons
97 calories, 3g fat, 1g protein, 19g carbs

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Popsicle of the Week: Orange Cream

This week I decided to try my hand at a smooth and creamy popsicle, Orange Cream. Freshly squeezed orange juice and half and half are blended with sugar, sour cream, and a touch of corn syrup to create a thick and creamy orange pop. I questioned whether or not the mixture was too thick for the Zoku Quick Pop Maker, but the book showed that they had in fact used the Zoku to make this pop. I decided to go for it.

I poured the orange cream mixture in the Zoku Quick Pop Maker.

Seven minutes later, I used the special tool given to remove the popsicles from the base. You can see how well that turned out in the picture below.

The tool pulls the popsicle stick out just fine, but the popsicle remains in the base. Not really the result I was looking for! This happened one other time when I made the Rhubarb popsicles, which were also thick and creamy.

I really like my Zoku Quick Pop Maker. It's great for making juice-based popsicles and it's a lot of fun to use. However, I'm starting to think that it isn't a great idea to pour thick and creamy mixtures into the Zoku (even if they do it in the cookbook).

My frustration with the Zoku Quick Pop Maker is this: You place it into the freezer and let it freeze overnight, or at least 24 hours. Twenty four hours later, you pour your mixture in and seven minutes later, if your popsicles release from the mold, you have a freshly made popsicle. Everything is right in the world. However, if the mixture doesn't release from the mold, it is rather frustrating. In the case with these orange cream pops, the mixture was very thick. When the pops didn't unmold, I didn't want to ruin the machine by scraping the popsicles out with a spoon....SO I was forced to leave the Zoku on the counter to THAW OUT. Not only did my popsicles stick in the machine, now I cannot use the Zoku for another couple days. The Zoku will need to thaw out so that the mixture can be poured out. Then the Zoku will need to come to room temperature before it can be washed. After it is washed, it will need to be completely dry before placing back into the freezer. It normally takes the better part of a day for the Zoku to thaw out, get washed, and dry completely. Kinda frustrating, right? Not to mention that you will have to wait another 24 hours for the Zoku to freeze up AND you still have a popsicle mixture sitting on the counter.

Somewhat defeated, I resorted to my good old-fashioned popsicle molds from Tupperware. They never let me down.

Notes/Results: The orange cream pops were okay, but not our favorite. I think the half and half somewhat masked the orange flavor. We ate them, but I don't think I would make them again.

In the meantime, the Zoku is back in the freezer. I talked to the girls over at Williams-Sonoma this weekend. They are constantly having demos using the Zoku and I wanted to ask them if they ever ran into trouble with it. All of the girls praised the machine and said that none of their popsicles ever stuck to the base. Hmmmm.....could it be user error on my part? I don't really know, but I am thinking about calling the manufacturer. Would do you guys think? Should I give them a call? Maybe they can give me tips?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Urban Italian Menu: Lamb Ragu, Sheep's Milk Ricotta, and Grilled Country Bread

Last summer I went on a spree buying several Italian cookbooks and Urban Italian by Andrew Carmellini was one of them. Distracted by whatever food I was cooking at the time, I put this book up on a shelf in my library and forgot about it. Recently, I have been inspired to cook from each cookbook in my collection and took the book back off the shelf. Turns out, Andrew Carmellini is from the Cleveland, Ohio area, right around the corner from where I grew up. The introduction to the book includes almost 30 pages dedicated to Carmellini's rise as a top notch chef. I have to say that this is my favorite part of the book. True to his Cleveland roots, Carmellini "tells it like it is" when it comes to his culinary adventures. I loved reading over his rather candid details, cherishing each word. From time to time, I need a break from all that has become "politically correct" and Carmellini's tales did that for me.

I went back and forth about what to make for this post. Carmellini's recipes range from standard Italian fare to sophisticated Italian fare with an urban twist. It was hard for me to pick a dish to represent this book. In the end, I chose the cover recipe, Carmellini's Lamb Ragu. To accompany the Lamb Ragu, I went with the Sheep's Milk Ricotta (which was akin to a ricotta cream in my case) and his Grilled Country Bread.

Carmellini's Lamb Ragu was a welcome break from the typical Beef Ragu. Ground lamb was cooked with carrots, onion, celery, tomato paste, dry red wine, San Marzano tomatoes and a lovely blend of warm spices. In fact, it was the cumin, coriander, fennel, and red pepper flakes that added a special warmth to this recipe. The ragu was served atop rigatoni with a dollop of the sheep's milk ricotta and a sprinkling of fresh mint. It was hearty, flavorful and very satisfying! We enjoyed it over the pasta, but really enjoyed it served atop the grilled country bread and thought it would make a fantastic pizza.

The Grilled Country Bread was made with a loaf of Pugliese from a local bakery. It's insane how tasty that bread became once slathered in olive oil and rubbed with a garlic clove, or two. In fact, I've made this bread several times since then and always eat far more than my fair share. For his Sheep's Milk Ricotta, Carmellini buys Sardinian sheep's milk ricotta, but I was only able to find regular cow's milk ricotta. The cow's milk ricotta was whipped in a mixer with whole milk, table salt, fleur de sel, black pepper, fresh thyme, and dried oregano. My mixture turned out rather thin, more like a ricotta cream, but it was delicious all the same. I loved this ricotta alone with the bread and also atop the lamb ragu.

Notes/Results: Every recipe was well written and produced great results. We loved every part of this meal, which we enjoyed with the leftover red wine. (I myself enjoyed quite a bit of the red wine). This is definitely the kind of food that my family likes to eat. My son wouldn't try the ragu, but my daughter did enjoy it. We didn't tell her that it was lamb. Sometimes it pays to keep secrets!

All in all, I really like this book for it's tales of culinary adventure. The recipes, although some are simple and straight-forward, tend to be more tedious and lengthy than what I normally like to do. For the most part, I see myself mainly browsing through this book enjoying the tales and pictures. On special occasions or when I have time for something a little more special, I will definitely use this book as a go-to resource for delicious food.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Vietnamese Caramelized Grilled Pork and Chive Salad

This dish represents my efforts in multitasking. Over at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we are cooking Mark Bittman's recipes each week. While looking for my next adventure with Mark Bittman, I found this recipe for Vietnamese Caramelized Grilled Pork and thought it would be perfect for Joanne's Regional Recipes roundup this month, which is featuring the cuisine of Vietnam. Wanting a unique and different side dish to go along with the pork, I chose Mark Bittman's Chive Salad which not only sounded delicious, but is also a perfect recipe to share with Deb over at Kahakai Kitchen for her weekly Souper Sundays roundup and also with Reeni at Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice for her Side Dish Showdown. If only I could multitask some of my household chores in this manner.....

I ran to the grocery store, stocked up on everything I needed to make both recipes and returned home. I tend to get rather excited when I have plans to try something new and this was no exception. However, once I got started I realized that the Vietnamese Caramelized Grilled Pork began with a REAL CARAMEL SAUCE. (NOTE: Caramel sauce is something I have not yet perfected, in fact it scares me.) Knee deep into this recipe I become quite flustered. Not only was I fighting with a caramel sauce but the the doorbell and phone were ringing at the same time. Does anybody know why that only happens at dinnertime? Are they in sync or something? Anyway, my version of Vietnamese Caramelized Grilled Pork puts a whole new spin on caramelized. Let's just say that everything was REALLY caramelized. Yep, caramelized....that's my story and I'm sticking with it! Can you tell by the very caramelized shallots in the picture? Not to say that it wasn't good, because it was....BUT in the right hands, this dish has major potential.

Vietnamese Caramelized Grilled Pork

Adapted from Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express
Pound boneless pork chops to quarter-inch thickness and heat the grill or broiler. In a small, heavy saucepan, combine half a cup of sugar with two tablespoons of water and stir with some grated ginger to make a paste; cook, undisturbed, over medium heat until it turns golden. Add a couple of finely diced shallots, a tablespoon each fresh lime juice and fish sauce, and a pinch of salt (at this point the caramel will harden); continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the shallots are soft, about two minutes. Put the pork on the grill and brush with sauce, turning frequently until the chops are just cooked through.

This chive salad went perfectly with the pork and after eyeballing it in my copy of Kitchen Express, I was very happy to finally try it. Chives are probably my favorite herb and they really shine in this simple salad. A super duper light dressing is made from equal parts soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, water, a touch of sesame oil and pinch of sugar. It is a light and flavorful salad that would be a great side dish to any Asian-inspired meal.

Chive Salad
Adapated from Mark Bittman's Kitchen Express
In a large salad bowl, whisk together equal parts soy sauce, water, and rice wine vinegar. Add a few drops of sesame oil and a pinch of sugar. Roughly chop a couple of bunches of chives and add them to the bowl along with some chopped romaine or iceberg lettuce. Toss well and serve.

I am submitting the Vietnamese Caramelized Grilled Pork to Joanne for Regional Recipes and also to I Heart Cooking Clubs for this week's Potluck Theme.

I am submitting this unique and fun chive salad to both Deb @ Kahakai Kitchen for her weekly Souper Sundays roundup and also to Reeni of Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice for her monthly Side Dish Showdown.

In the meantime, I'm going to practice how to caramelize - LOL!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Popsicles of the Week: Mango-Ginger, Grape, and Pink Lemonade

We went wild last week making popsicles, choosing three popsicle recipes and loving each and every one of them! The Zoku Quick Pop Maker is one of our favorite new kitchen gadgets and we've been having lots of fun breaking it in.

I was really excited to find mangoes on sale in my market for 50 cents a piece, so I chose these Mango-Ginger Popsicles.

Adapted from Ice Pops by Shelly Kaldunski
Makes 8-10 Ice Pops
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
2 ripe mangoes, about 1-3/4 pound (875g) total weight
2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
pinch of salt
1/2 cup water
In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, ginger, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved and syrup has formed. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Peel each mango and cut the flesh from the pits, discarding the pits. Chop the flesh and place in a blender or food processor. Add the lime juice, salt, and the cooled ginger syrup and process until very smooth.
If using conventional ice pop molds, divide the mixture among the molds. Cover and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.

: I knew that I was going to love these popsicles, but I wasn't sure about my husband and the kids. My husband and daughter don't like mangoes and wouldn't try them, but my son and I both loved them. The taste of the ginger was subtle and provided an extra dimension of flavor. The popsicles were more of a creamy consistency, which made them extra yummy. If I can find more mangoes, I will definitely make more of these.

Our second choice, or kids choice, were these Grape Pops. These grape pops are so easy; you really don't need a recipe. The basic idea is to get a handful of purple grapes and slice them in half. Drop a couple grape halves down into the bottom of the popsicles molds and top off with white grape juice.

Notes/Results: As suspected, the kids loved the grape juice popsicles plain, without the frozen grape halves. We were all very pleasantly surprised by how sweet and tasty these grape pops actually were. My husband and I liked the pop of the frozen grape halves and enjoyed their sweetness. However, I did have trouble unmolding the pops with the frozen grapes. The popsicles kept breaking where the grape halves were attached. It happened over and over. I'd like to try it again, adding a tablespoon or so of grape juice first, then grape halves, followed by more juice. I'm hoping that this modification will work, because we really did love these popsicles. These grape pops couldn't be simpler, so we made them twice this week.

Last but not least, are these pretty Pink Lemonade Popsicles. They were really tasty and a huge hit at my daughter's birthday party this weekend. The kids loved them and I was happy to see that some kids chose the pink lemonade popsicles over birthday cake! The pink lemonade popsicles get their pretty pink hue from the addition of strawberries. With fresh strawberries in season, this is a great popsicle to make right now. In fact, you may even have all the ingredients on hand.

Pink Lemonade Pops
Adapted from Shelly Kaldunski
Makes 9-11 Ice Pops
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 4 lemons)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons superfine sugar
2 fresh or frozen strawberries, hulled (I used one super duper large strawberry)
pinch of salt
1-3/4 cups water
In a blender or food processor, combine the lemon zest, lemon juice, and the sugar. Pour in 1-3/4 cup water. Add the strawberries and salt and blend until the mixture is smooth and pink.
If using conventional ice pop molds, divide the mixture among the molds. Cover and freeze until solid, at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.
Notes/Results: Everyone loved these popsicles! They were super easy and quick, no simple syrup necessary. What I liked about these popsicles was that they were made with ingredients that I almost always have on hand, especially this time of year. These pops will be repeated over and over again as they seemed to be a huge hit with the kids.

THE WINNER OF SHELLY KALDUNSKI'S ICE POPS BOOK IS DEB @ KAHAKAI KITCHEN!! Yay Deb!! I will be emailing you so that I can send the book out to you!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's Movie Night, Honey!

We are celebrating movies over at I Heart Cooking Clubs this week, such a fun theme. My husband and I were lucky enough to tuck the kids in and watch one of the newest romantic comedies, Leap Year. It was a cute movie, and even featured a cooking scene where the two main characters made a Coq Au Vin.

In honor of the movie I created a romantic meal featuring honey, to eat with my honey! I chose three recipes, all by Mark Bittman. For dinner, I made Mark's Panko Chicken with Grapefruit-Honey Sauce. To accompany the chicken, I served a light salad of Romaine lettuce and Mark's Orzo "Risotto". To go along with the citrus and honey theme, I made Mark's Lemon Mascarpone Mousse for dessert, drizzled with honey and topped with ladyfingers.

Panko Chicken with Grapefruit-Honey Sauce
Adapted from Kitchen Express by Mark Bittman
Pound chicken breasts to one-quarter-inch thickness; dredge them first in a beaten egg and then in panko breadcrumbs seasoned with salt and pepper. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil; cook the chicken on both side until golden and just done; about four minutes total. Wipe the pan clean and soften some minced garlic for a minute in some more oil or butter; add half a cup of grapefruit juice and a tablespoon or so of honey. Season with salt and pepper and reduce until syrupy. Serve chicken generously drizzled with the sauce and garnished with fresh grapefruit slices.

Orzo "Risotto" with Chives (or without chives in my case)
Adapted from Kitchen Express by Mark Bittman
Heat a mixture of butter and olive oil until foamy; stir in a handful or two of chopped chives and some salt and pepper and cook until the herbs are softened and fragrant (I omitted the herbs). Now stir in a pound of orzo and keep cooking and stirring until it begins to get translucent. Stir in chicken stock (or water), a ladelful at a time, waiting for the pan to get almost dry before adding another. Repeat until the pasta is al dente and most of the liquid is absorbed, about eight minutes. Add butter, grated Parmesan cheese, and enough stock to reach the consistency you like. Serve, passing more cheese at the table.

Now, for dessert.........................

Yum....Lemon Mascarpone Mousse!

Lemon Mascarpone Mousse
Adapted from Kitchen Express
Finely grate the rind of a lemon. Whisk together a cup of mascarpone, the lemon's juice and grated rind, and about a quarter cup of sugar (or more to taste) until smooth. Add a tablespoon or two of heavy cream to moisten if needed. If you have time, chill for a bit before serving in pudding cups; top with a drizzle of honey and serve with ladyfingers.

: I loved the recipe for the Panko Chicken with Grapefruit-Honey sauce. The chicken turned out perfectly and the sauce was both tangy and sweet with little bits of minced garlic running through. It paired great with a light salad. The orzo "risotto" is total comfort food and is something that we will definitely make again. The lemon mascarpone mousse was the star of the show, especially drizzled with honey and topped with a ladyfinger or two. A fabulous, quick dessert that you can throw together in no time, definitely worth a repeat!

A quick, easy, super tasty meal featuring honey! I hope you all have time to grab your honey, your kids, your friend, or even your favorite blanket and relax with a great movie!

Click HERE to see what everyone else made for Movie Night!!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trisha Yearwood's Chicken Soup and Pioneer Woman's Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Apricot Sauce

Still obsessed with my copy of Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood, I made Trisha's Chicken Soup. The picture in the book was so beautiful and I was convinced that I needed to make it as soon as possible. I have tried five of her recipes so far, and I like this recipe for her Chicken Soup the best. It was delicious, outstanding, creamy, hearty, and quite addictive. My husband and I each had two bowls, in one setting.

I love how Trisha uses tricolor pasta to really liven up this bowl of soup. This soup is also chockful of veggies, bell peppers, onions, celery, red potatoes, and a bag of frozen mixed veggies!! To thicken the soup, Trisha uses a mix of Wondra flour and water and then finishes the soup off with a liberal dose of cream and butter. Thick, creamy, hearty and addictive, this is a soup recipe that I will make over and over again in my kitchen.

Chicken Soup
Adapted from Home Cooking with Trisha Yearwood
Serves 10

Salt and Pepper
4 Whole Chicken Breasts, bone in and with skin
2 medium bell peppers, cored, seeded, and chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1 48-ounce can chicken broth
3 medium red potatoes, chopped
1 16-ounce pacakage frozen mixed vegetables
1 cup tricolor rotini pasta, uncooked (I used the whole pound)
1 cup small carrots, cut lengthwise into fourths
3 tablespoons Wondra or all-purpose flour
2 cups (16 ounces) heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

Sprinkle salt and pepper on each chicken breast and place in an 8-10quart stockpot. Add the bell peppers, onions, and celery, then pour the chicken broth over all. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the chicken for 40-50 minutes, or until done.

Transfer the chicken to a bowl. Allow to cool slightly. Remove the bones and skin and discard. Shred the chicken and put back into the pot. (NOTE: I skipped the above steps because I used a rotisserie chicken. Instead I sauteed the bell peppers, onions and celery in about one tablespoon oil, until tender. I then poured in the required amount of broth and followed the steps below.)>Add the potatoes and cook for 12 -15 minutes. Add the mixed vegetables and cook for 12-15 minutes more. Add the pasta and carrots, and cook for 7 minutes more. (NOTE: I cooked an entire pound of the tricolor pasta separately so that the pasta would remain al dente. I kept the pasta separate until right before serving).In a quart glass measuring cup, mix the flour into 1/4 cup water until smooth. Pour in the cream, then add to the soup mixture along with the butter. Cook for 10 more minutes. Allow to stand for at least 15 minutes before serving. (NOTE: I spooned the tricolor pasta over each bowl prior to serving)

In the mood for both soup and sandwiches this week, I also made Pioneer Woman's Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Apricot Sauce. A creamy sauce is made from equal parts apricot preserves, mayo and Dijon mustard. You begin by spreading the sauce on two slices of good sourdough bread.

Layer spinach and sliced red onions on one slice of bread and the grilled chicken breast on the other side. Ree chose to leave her grilled chicken breast whole. I had to slice mine in order for it to fit on the bread.

I think you could definitely stop here and eat this sandwich cold, but Ree grilled hers and so did I. If you chose to serve it grilled, brush the bread with a little bit of oil to ensure that nice crispy brown crust. You can also find the recipe over HERE on Ree's website.

I am submitting both the soup and sandwich to my friend Deb over at Kahakai Kitchen for her weekly Souper Sundays roundup.
I am also submitting the Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Apricot Sauce to Foodie Friends of the Pioneer Woman.