14 March 2009

Dessert Pizza Pi!!!

I know it's late, but even the stragglers must celebrate Pi Day!

Dessert Pizza Pi a la Melandon


















If you can't tell by the picture, this is a quick, easy, fun and delicious dessert. In short, we bought ready-made Trader Joe's pizza dough (plain, not garlic, unless you're feeling really adventurous) and a bag of mixed frozen berries available at any supermarket's frozen food section (out of the whole bag we only used about a handful). The rest of the stuff was things we already had lying around: a banana, some strawberries, granulated and powdered sugar, cream cheese, cinnamon, and corn starch.

To start, preheat your oven to 450F. Spread out the dough on a foiled baking sheet and sprinkle a mixture of cinnamon and sugar on it. Once the oven is ready, bake it for 10 minutes. You don't want the crust to be too crispy or crunchy or else the texture won't go so well with the toppings.

While that bakes, you can put the bananas (sliced) into the oven in a glass dish, separated and dusted with the cinnamon sugar. About 6 minutes will leave you with tasty caramelized treats.

Boil the berries in a medium saucepan with a little water and sugar, and once it starts to boil add small amounts of corn starch. The consistency we were going for was a light syrup.

The "sauce" of the pizza was a cream cheese frosting which we got by mixing 3 parts cream cheese to 2 parts sugar (or at whatever ratio tastes the best for you).

After spreading the sauce, the chopped strawberries and our blue-collar berry compote were added. As a finishing touch, the caramelized banana slices were arranged in the shape of the world's most infamous irrational number.

Enjoy!

10 February 2009

Pretzel-Crusted Chicken

Today's post breaks the silence with a kick of flavor from the Northeastern US...

You see, Mel and I were recently up in NYC to brave the cold while Orange County suffered a heatwave. Of all the delicious things we ate, we didn't even think to seek out a good pretzel cart! This came as a shock to us once we realized it since even out here in the West, one of our favorite quick snacks is a soft pretzel dabbed in a little spicy brown mustard.

Anyway, to make up for it, I made Pretzel-Crusted Chicken, one of my favorites to make. Being a pretzel fanatic myself, when I heard the list of ingredients for this dish, I was convinced there was no dish more perfect. On top of that it's super quick too; only 15 minutes of work and 30 minutes of baking.

If you've ever had a fresh pretzel with a little mustard, you know the kind of comfort these little guys will conjure up. Instantly working together to bring you the edgy nasal-y flavor of the northeastern streets.

Have a look for yourself:


Recipe adapted from Food and Wine magazine


Pretzel-Crusted Chicken

1/2 lb. pretzels
1/2 c. canola/vegetable oil
1/2 c. whole grain mustard
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 c. water
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
6 chicken breast halves

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Crush your pretzels to a coarse consistency. You're gonna have to pull out your food processor eventually so it might as well be now. You should end up with some big chunks and a lot of fine crumbs, but you'll quickly learn to cope with the pretzels and their unique attributes.

Wipe that sucker down and process the canola oil, water, vinegar, and both mustards until it is adequately smooth.

Then pour half of the mixture into a shallow bowl and coat the chicken breasts. Here's where it gets messy: dredge the chicken with the pretzel crumbs, which will, if you're like me and have the finesse of a steamroller, undoubtedly cover the fingers of both of your hands. Don't be afraid to really press the chicken down into the pretzel crumbs.

To Bake:

Transfer to a rack above a rimmed baking sheet and bake in the upper third of the oven for about 25 minutes or until completely cooked through.

To Serve:

Serve warm or at room temperature with the remaining mustard as dressing.

Recommended as a sidedish to this entree, is a good garlicky green veggie.

(Nota bene: for a good, crisp crust make sure you use thick, hard pretzels like the sourdough or handmade type)

10 December 2008

a belated thanksgiving post...

well, if you hadn't guessed, thanksgiving came and went. it all happened rather quickly. it was a pretty fun holiday, though.



i was responsible for apple pie (*insert music of doom here*), pumpkin spice cupcakes, sweet potatoes, and grandma's cinnamon applesauce jello salad. that last one sounds a little weird, but trust me, its fantastic.

where to start...the sweet potatoes. i was thumbing through my november copy of bon appetit magazine, and came across this recipe for sweet potato and apple puree. okay so maybe it sounds a bit like baby food. and it sure is a stretch from the traditional mashed baked sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, but i figured i'd give it a try anyway. i'm glad i did. the apples give it a bit of a tang, and the onions and cayenne pepper give it a nice bite. definitely recommend the recipe.

next, we'll go with the cinnamon applesauce jello thing. i've been eating this every holiday since i can remember, and have yet to grow tired of it. don't knock it til you try it, folks. seriously. look how pretty it is!

the recipe for this wonderful creation is as follows:

1 package lemon jell-o
2 oz. red cinnamon candies (read: red hots)
2 cups applesauce

bring 1 cup water to a boil. add cinnamon candies and stir over low heat until dissolved. remove from heat and add jell-o. once jell-o has dissolved, add 1/2 cup cold water and 2 cups applesauce. pour mixture into an 8x8x2 baking dish and refrigerate several hours.

and voila! there you have it.

alright next up we have the pumpkin spice cupcakes. (i think at this point you've realized i'm avoiding the apple pie explanation.) i've posted about these previously, so refer to that post for the recipe. however, i do have one edit. i replaced half the flour with wheat flour this time (actually because i ran out of white flour, but shhh.). surprisingly, it added a good deal to the taste of the cupcakes, almost making it a bit more muffin like. i enjoyed it. and here they are being all cute with my mom's adorable thanksgiving placemats:

notice i got all creative with the frosting this time. go me. (you'll have to excuse the slight sloppiness of the designs -- this was done with a ziploc bag, as i don't own any sort of appropriate frosting or decorating tools. and im not entirely sure i want to, as that obligates me to start making some really classy stuff :). of course it was a day later that i saw how you can make really cool designs with a ziploc if you reinforce it with tape and cut it a certain way...eh well.)

alright. now i owe you an apple pie. let me just say, i made a test pie earlier in the week. because well, i've never made my own pie entirely from scratch before. the test pie, while not the most beautiful thing i've ever seen, turned out pretty well.


see, not too shabby. i used a combination of granny smith and pink lady apples. good balance of tart and sweet. so on to the thanksgiving pie. well, remember how i ran out of white flour? yeah. i had to use wheat flour. i really do like wheat flour. its just not that great for baking, as i've just recently discovered. wonderful for pancakes, breads, muffins....pie crust? definitely not. the crust tasted very...wheaty. it wasn't terrible, but the first crust was MUCH better. initially, i was going to go with a lattice top. i got semi-lazy, and decided i wanted to use small cookie cutters on the top to make awesomely shaped holes in the crust. specifically, leaf-shaped holes. how fall-ish of me. it looked really cool pre baking, however i failed to consider that the less crust you have on top, the faster the pie bakes. so i left it in a little too long. and then you couldn't really tell that they were leaf-shaped holes. i wasn't going to show you a picture of my sort of embarrassing pie, but i guess i will. we all have cooking mishaps.


so there you have it. those were my thanksgiving dishes. i must share with you how wonderful my mom's dishes looked, though.





green beans, mashed potatoes, turkey, mommy, and rosemary sesame rolls, respectively.

the table settings were also adorable:



and there you have it. thanksgiving in a nutshell. i hope you all had a great one as well.

30 November 2008

Layer Cake Bakery

Ok folks, this time around we're switching it up a bit. Because when we're not cooking up a storm in the kitchen, what are we doing? We're looking for food to ogle at. Food to admire. Food to savor and enjoy. That is why we're doing a little departure from our recipe repetoire to showcase a little hidden neighborhood gem: Layer Cake Bakery. A week ago, I contacted the little bakery and asked them if we could come by and snap a few photos. Liz, one of the co-owners, obliged and off we went to Layer Cake.

I've been going there for months, almost since the place first opened up. The reason? Well, Mel and I live in Irvine, and if you haven't heard already, the main attractions around here are neighborhood safety, clone-like housing communities, and the (supposedly facilitated) lack of homelessness. I found a now defunct blog, stripped of frills and showcasing properties and businesses in Irvine. Layer Cake Bakery was one of those businesses, and being perpetually hungry for coffee and pastries, I decided to visit, since it was only a few blocks away at Barranca & West Yale Loop.

And oh what a gem I had discovered...


Layer Cake Bakery is a place whose specialty is hard to discern. That is to say, they have a plethora of items on their menu that shine with brilliance. From their rich red velvet and bold black forest cakes to their decadent chocolate-dipped macaroons and classic ├ęclairs, each item is homemade and it shows through the flavor and texture.

You've also got to notice how pretty each little cake is:




They've also got a bunch more on their menu, including (but not limited to) brioche french toast, quiche lorraine, monkey bread, and trifles, so check out their website.

Mel and I decided to try a key lime tart while we were visiting. It was a very delicate tart with just the perfect amounts of smooth sweetness and refreshing tartness. Needless to say...


...it went quick. So the next time you're in the neighborhood, stop by for a bite. They've got a breakfast, lunch, or dessert (or all of them) that'll be on your mind for the rest of the day.

20 November 2008

Soboro Don

The other night I found myself craving something new and interesting. The problem was, as is the case these days, my hand. (It's broken, you know.) It has been the cause of a long case of foodie's block in the kitchen since sometimes you just can't have one hand doing the job of two.

Anyway, back to our state of affairs. I had an hour to shop before going to class/work, so I had to think fast. And after a brisk search of 'chicken' on Tastespotting, I found myself somewhat enamored by a picture of onsen tamago sitting comfortably on top of a mountainous bowlful of ground chicken. That, i would learn from [ No Recipes ], was called Soboro Don, and this is how I made it:



Soboro Don

1 lb ground chicken
1 tsp ginger
2 cloves garlic
4 tbsp mirin
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
4 cups brown rice
2 green onion thinly sliced
2 eggs (I cooked them over-easy)
Shichimi pepper powder (optional for garnish)

- Heat the oils in the pan over medium high heat and add the garlic and ginger. Saute them until fragrant.

- Add the chicken and stir/saute. When there is no more pink visible, add the mirin and soy sauce. Continue to cook until the sauce has reduced by at least half.

- Put your hot rice in a bowl, and top with green onions. Then add a layer of the cooked chicken. Top with a dash of shichimi and a nice runny egg. (In my opinion, the runnier the better...)

- Don't be afraid to experiment with this dish! One of the best parts of this dish is the mutability of spices, sauces, and garnishes. Here's what I used, illustrated by Mel's artsy photograph:



And that's it. Even with one hand, I found this easy. Also, the sweetness of the mirin gives that taste that instantly transports you to your favorite Japanese restaurant. I couldn't help but think this was the perfect dish for a lazy weekday night...


...even for me and my bum hand.

13 November 2008

rugelach

so i'm a tuesdays with dorie wannabe. i don't own the cookbook yet, and i'm not part of the group (i've not decided whether or not i have time to bake consistently yet), but i really like 90% of the recipes that i see. i used to looove rugelach as a kid -- the only kind i had ever had though were apricot and raspberry, and so i felt the need to make them for myself. i also liked the idea of them being a little challenging, seeing as how they're not your typical "drop a spoonful at a time onto a baking sheet" type of cookie.

i decided to make the dough in the morning, and bake them at night. the dough was incredibly easy to make -- took all of 10 minutes. i had to let each half of the dough sit out for a bit in the evening when i took them out of the fridge though, cause it got a little too hard to roll out. i spent the entire day thinking about the filling, and decided on chocolate chips, nutella with almonds, and peach jam with cinnamon sugar. all three turned out wonderfully. my favorite were the peach jam ones, cause i got to use the jam my aunt had made with the peaches from her back yard. very tasty. if you use chocolate chips, i suggest crushing them up a bit - i kept them whole and they made the dough a little hard to roll up cause they were awkwardly lumpy.

you can find the recipe here -- try it. it's not as hard as it seems :)

chocolate chips just out of the oven:


jam or nutella.....couldn't decide. used both.
the peach jam ones leaked onto the cookie sheet. may not look great, but they tasted wonderful. :)





11 November 2008

cookie, anyone?

we were last-minute invited to a halloween party. i volunteered to bring cookies (since i was dying to try out the pumpkin chocolate chip cookie recipe i'd found), so while we passed out candy to the kiddies (and wow, do they show up early now. our first ones were at 5:30!) i baked a batch of these wonderful cookies. the texture was something i'd never had in a cookie before - very cake-like. it was interesting and quite frankly, perfect for a pumpkin cookie. highly recommended.

i was inspired by dishing up delights to try this recipe.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup pumpkin
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil (i used vegetable and it worked just as well)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking poder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp milk
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

preheat oven to 375 degrees. dissolve baking soda in milk and set aside. in large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugar, oil, vanilla and egg.

in a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and then stir in the baking soda mixture and then the chocolate chips. spoon onto a cookie sheet, and bake 12-15 min until done.