Sunday, February 26, 2012

Week 8: Slow Cooking - Red Curry Chicken

Andrew and I use our crock pot regularly. Other than occasionally making about 10x what two people can possibly eat before getting sick of something, it works out so well and produces such great meals.  It has been a while since I did a curry and we had several veggies that were just dying to be made into a curry.  The result was pretty delish and made for a wonderful Sunday night relaxed dinner. (It has come to my attention after taking pictures of last week's crock pot chicken and dumplings that it is very hard to get an appetizing picture of food in a crock pot once it's been cooked, so sorry about that...)

Three chicken breasts on the bottom covered with a rough chopped onion and about 2 cups of potatoes went in first.

 Sweet potatoes and chick peas were next.

Topped off with peas and a curry sauce consisting of orange juice, red curry powder, garlic, cream, salt, and pepper were the last step before setting and forgetting.  The sauce did not cover all the veggies but did cover the meat in order to successfully cook the chicken without turning the veg to total mush. 

Once it was all cooked (about 6 hours on low since my crock pot runs pretty warm) I removed the chicken and veg into a bowl.  The chicken was tender and shredded/chuncked very easily with a fork.

In a pan I heated one can of coconut milk with about 2Tb of red curry paste. Once it had boiled and then simmered to thicken up a bit (5 minutes or so) I added the juice/sauce that was in the bottom of the crock pot plus about 1Tb corn starch to thicken it up even more. 

I put the chicken and veg back into the crock pot and poured the sauce over the top. 

We piled the delicious red curried chicken over rice and sliced up a bit of naan to complete the meal. 

We have plenty of left overs but it shouldn't be too painful to finish it all since I didn't make a bajillion cups of it, and it was so satisfyingly good!

Week 8: Candy Decorations - Reese's Pieces Piggies

While the Reese's Pieces aren't a huge part of the decorations, I guess I can kinda count marshmallows too!  Andrew bought me some cake pop pans so I decided to try those in addition to some cup cakes. It took a little modifying to make the decorations work for the cake pops.  It was not super easy to cut the pink marshmallows into tiny snouts.  They turned out pretty cute though!

The cake pop recipe calls for the addition of pudding so the cake mix ends up super thick.  

I piped the cake mix into the pans

 The top of the pan went on and the two rubber fasteners clipped on. 

They over flowed in the oven which looked pretty hilarious.

When they came out of the oven, popping off the overflow was easy and quite tasty :)

They came out with a little saturn ring around the edge of each but it was easily trimmed.

A little melted white chocolate helps the stick stay in.

Once the stick was firmed in, the decorating began!  I rolled each cake pop in the melted white chocolate then had to rapidly affix the decorations.  The eyes are Reese's Pieces, the snout and ears are pink marshmallows cut into shapes. 

Getting the snout right was the hardest since cutting marshmallow is about the worst thing ever.  It sticks the the scissors, it sticks to your hands, and the white chocolate coating dried so fast is was lame trying to get it all situated in time. A little pink gel finished off the snout.

 The cupcakes were significantly easier.   

It wasn't until the last cupcake that I realized I could fold the marshmallows to create the cutest ears!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Week 7 - Valentine's Day or Love - Nutella Ravioli

Double love themed posts this week!  Between Valentine's and my birthday there were more sweets in my belly than I care to admit.  I was looking for something I could make just a few of rather than end up with tons more sweets in the house. Nutella ravioli seemed like just the trick.  

Wonton wrappers are square which makes hearts pretty easy to cut out.  I have a heart shaped cookie cutter, but it is small and kinda sucks.  I tried eyeballing it and it wasn't working that well, so I cut out a template from a Bud Light Lime box (Yea, you heard me.  I love me some BL with L and I ain't ashamed).  The template worked perfectly.

I outlined one of each pair of hearts with water to prepare for the pasting.

The recipe I used said to pipe the Nutella out, but I didn't want to make that many, and dolloping was not difficult.

I was worried the two wonton wrappers wouldn't stick together, but whomp, they did! 

I made several more than I intended to eat mostly because I wasn't sure how the frying would go. 

Only one got a weird carbuncle in the frying process and the rest came out just perfect.

Dusting with powdered sugar can be difficult with out one of those fancy shakers devoted to powdered sugar but my little trick is to use my tea steeper! This one acts like a alligator mouth so I just chomp it in to my bag of sugar and then shake shake shake. 

Shake shake shake!!

So pretty. 

My dear friends Julianne and Cassidy bought me these martini glasses several years ago.  I don't use them nearly enough, but they are red and perfect for a Valentine's day dessert. Vanilla bean ice cream and two Nutella ravioli for each of us.

They were crispy and hazelnut-chocolaty. Not my all time favorite, but they were cute. They were easy to make and interesting. 

Week 7: Love Inspired Dish - Chicken & Dumplings

When I think about love and showing love, food is one of my favorite ways to show my love.  I so enjoy cooking and cooking for other people is top of my list of satisfying ways to spend my time and energy.  Watching someone I love eat delicious things I've made is just the best! 

Chicken and dumplings is one of those stick to your ribs, warm in your tummy, love filled foods that just make you feel all snuggly.  My dear friend Carolyn was visiting from LA and came up to visit with my sister.  My birthday was on Sunday and they came to help us celebrate and to ring in my last year in my twenties. 

We wanted to go out for most of the day (hiking, touring, havocing, etc.) so the crock pot was the way to make this delicious meal.  Four skin-on chicken thighs and a chicken breast went in on the bottom.

1 can cream of mushroom and 1 cup chopped onion went in next.

1 cup chopped celery and 1 cup chopped carrots added some amazing color and flavor. About 3 cups of chicken broth, and if you have it, a chicken bullion cube are crucial for the rich chicken flavor. 

Mix it all up and cook on high for 6 hours.

It was so pretty cooking there.  I love my crock pot and Andrew and I use it regularly.  It makes the whole house smell good and it is a breeze for cleaning up. 

It cooked down quite a bit and the chicken thighs fell off the bone.  I turned off the crock pot and removed the bones and the skin from the mix.  Once it had cooled a bit, I skimmed off some of the fat.   

The dumpling mix included an egg white which Cooks Illustrated says helps hold the dumplings together.

In order to get the dumplings to cook, the broth should be simmering.  Rather than waiting for the soupy stuff to re-warm in the crock pot, I threw it in a pan and cranked it up.  So pretty!

The dumplings took longer to cook up than I thought, and the waiting was near painful, but man oh man was it worth it.  After a day of rock clamoring and walking against the wind, this was perfect.  It was a wonderful birthday dinner and I was most certainly surrounded by love.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Week 6: Elegant - Elegant as Sh*t White Trash Bars

OK, so I wasn't particularly inspired by the Brazilian cooking challenge this week. Well, the same goes for the baking challenge. "Elegant" did not exactly fill me with excitement. I watched to see what other people were posting and I noticed a theme - adding silver or pearl balls to normal items to make them "elegant". Ha. It cracked me up so I went about hunting down the most trashy, ridiculous recipe I could find. I give you Elegant as Sh*t White Trash Bars

You begin with 2 sleeves of Ritz crackers and crumble them up into a greased 13x9 pan.

On top, I you drizzle 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk. 

In the 13x9 you mix it all up with a 16oz bag of some kind of toffee/chocolate crumbles - Heath or Skor perhaps. Press it back into the pan and bake for 15-20mins - or until it is hot a little bubbly. Once it cools completely, the recipe calls for a whole tub of vanilla frosting. WHaaaaaaat? I dislike (if I am being kind) store bought tub frosting.  So, this is where my "elegant" part comes in... I made butter frosting with Bailey's instead of milk to make a wonderfully creamy and rich frosting.

Then, to top it all off and make it super classy and elegant: pearl balls! 

I cut the first few bars into 2"x2" squares and all four of us just about puked upon trying to eat the whole bar.  Don't get me wrong, they are delicious - really, surprisingly good. But, the 1"x1" nugget sized bars were far more palatable. Be prepared for immediate onset of diabetes - I don't guarantee it, but it would not surprise me at all.

Week 6: Brazilian - Churrasquinhos

Brazilian.. oh man.  I had a tough time with this one.  I searched and searched for recipes and nothing really sounded that delicious; nothing struck my fancy in terms of taste buds or learning a new technique.  I feel like I sorta copped out on this one and found something that didn't necessarily feel all the Brazilian, but whatever.  It was absolutely delicious. 

I cubed the beef loin and marinated it olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and onion. 

The cubed loin was then skewered with squares of Hempler's pepper bacon between each cube.

I used the same recipe for the green onion slaw that I made with the Tequila Lime Chicken a few weeks back but this time I made it directly according to the recipe (last time I was kinda winging it!). It was more beautiful this time, but it wasn't as tasty.  Not quite sure why... perhaps it was the extra Serrano pepper, perhaps it was more green onion, the real red wine vinegar (instead of red wine and white vinegar), or the forgotten salt and pepper... anyway, it wasn't disgusting, just not as awesome as last time. 

The beef skewers grilled up nicely and were so juicy!

We had some of our favorite dinner guests over and they brought some very tasty mashed potatoes to add to the mix.  Given the extreme spice of the slaw, they were the perfect compliment.

It was a pretty plate and a flavorful meal.  Maybe I don't hate Brazilian after all. :)