March 30, 2012

Coconut Marshmallow Cornflake Treats

1/4 cup butter
11 oz marshmallows (about 44 regular sized marshmallows)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla paste
6 cups cornflakes
1/2 cup sweetened, flaked coconut

Coat a 13x9 inch pan with cooking spray. Set aside. Toss together the coconut and cornflakes in a large bowl. Set aside. Melt butter over low heat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add marshmallows and vanilla paste. Stir until the marshmallows are completely melted. Reduce heat to very, very low and stir in the cereal and coconut. Scrape the cereal into the prepared pan. Use the back of the spoon to press it firmly into the pan in an even layer. Cool completely then cut into squares. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

My thoughts:
I had some cornflakes leftover from my cookie experiment and had been trying to think of something else to use them in since I am not a big cold cereal eater. For some reason, springtime makes me crave marshmallows. Maybe it is all of the Peeps in stores this time of year? At any rate, I decided to make these chewy cereal bars using my favorite brand of marshmallows*, adding a dollop of super vanilla-y vanilla bean paste and another springy favorite, coconut. These bars are so marshmallow-y and so chewy! I love it! The cornflakes stay really crisp and since they are a little denser than bars made with crisped rice, they have more body without seeming heavy. The coconut adds just enough flavor and texture to make them interesting without being overpowering.

*You could go all out and make your own but for this, store bought is just fine.

March 28, 2012

Shrimp Wedge Salad with Homemade Buttermilk Dressing

1 small to medium head iceberg lettuce, quartered
1 1/2 lb medium shrimp, steamed
1 lb campari tomatoes, halved
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
4 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

for the dressing:
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced parsley
2 teaspoons minced chives
1 1/2 teaspoons minced dill
1 teaspoon dehydrated minced onion
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
freshly ground black pepper

Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Refrigerate 1 hour to overnight.  Arrange the wedges on four plates. Top with remaining salad ingredients. Drizzle with dressing.

Serves: 4
My thoughts:
While dining at a local restaurant, I spied a lobster wedge salad on the menu. I ended up ordering something else so I am not sure how it tasted but I took note and thought I'd make my own version at home. I thought shrimp would be a good swap for the lobster because 1. it is cheaper and 2. it is easier prep-wise. In fact, I steamed and peeled the shrimp, hard-boiled the eggs and cooked the bacon the night before I served this so dinner prep was super fast the night we actually ate this salad. And what a salad it was! Crisp, fresh and light. Exactly what I was in the mood for. I loved the dressing, it was sort of like a more assertive, grown-up version of ranch.

March 26, 2012

Apricot Filled Vanilla Cupcakes

3/4 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup milk, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup apricot jam

Preheat oven to 350. Grease or line 12 wells in a cupcake pan. Whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside. Mix together the oil, yogurt, vanilla paste, milk and eggs. Slowly add the dry ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Fill 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the center cupcake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Scoop out a small amount of the center and fill with apricot jam.

Ice with apricot jam frosting.

My thoughts:
I have a huge stash of spring sprinkles and cake decorations and I thought now was as good as time as any to bring them out! They're all so cheery. I had this cupcake corer I had received at an event and hadn't used it yet so I thought I'd jazz the cupcakes up a bit with some homemade jam. One really doesn't need a corer but it did make neater holes than the ones I normally gouge with a spoon or knife.

Another reason I was in the mood for cupcakes is that as you are reading this, I am in Orlando to watch (not participate!) the Pillsbury Bake-off. Looking at all of those recipes really made me want to  bake!  Check out my twitter feed and Facebook page for periodic updates of the event.

Apricot Cream Cheese Frosting

8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons apricot jam
food coloring (optional)

In a large bowl, beat together the vanilla, cream cheese, jam, food coloring and confectioners sugar until smooth. Add more confectioners sugar in 2 tablespoon increments if you want or need a stiffer or sweeter frosting.

My thoughts:
Fun, fruity frosting.

March 23, 2012

Hot n' Spicy Mango Pulled Pork

2 1/2 lb boneless pork shoulder roast (trim off excess fat)
1/4 cup chili sauce
1/4 cup kecap manis
1/2 cup spiced coconut vinegar*
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoon pecan liquid smoke
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 habanero, seeds removed and chopped
2 large mangos, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic

for the spice rub:

1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Mix the spice rub ingredients together. Rub them on the pork. Brown the pork on all sides in a nonstick pan. Place roast in slow cooker. Add all remaining ingredients to slow cooker. Cook on low for 8 hrs. When done, meat should shred easily with a fork. Remove roast from slow cooker. Shred with forks and set aside. Mash any solid bits of the sauce with a potato masher**. Return the pork and the sauce to slow cooker, and toss to evenly coat. Serve on rolls.

*I used Datu Puti brand (it is the easiest one to find in the Baltimore area). Look for it at a market that sells Filipino foods. It's coconut vinegar with a mix of ginger, chiles, pepper and onions.

**If the sauce is very thin, bring it to a boil on the stove and reduce before tossing with the pork.

My thoughts:
When I saw I had with two mangos, some pork and a pack of hamburger rolls that I had to use up before heading on a trip I knew what I had to make. Pulled pork! I used the spoils of a successful run to the Filipino grocery store to bring the flavors all together. The coconut vinegar added a lot of tang and the kecap manis a bit of sweetness. The habanero was super fresh so the mix ended up being pretty hot. If you have a big, fresh pepper, half would probably be just fine for the whole batch. It wasn't too hot for us, but not all have our tolerance.

March 21, 2012

Fresh Mussels with Asparagus

4 lb mussels
1 1/2 lb thin asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt


Heat the oil and butter in a large pot with a lid. Saute the onion, garlic and asparagus until the asparagus is tender. Add the liquid ingredients and herbs/spices. Add the mussels then cover to steam, shaking occasionally, until they are all opened. Discard any mussels that remained closed. Serve immediately.

My thoughts:
When we went to Belgium, I must have had mussels nearly every day. Luckily, mussels are easy to make at home! I like to change what I steam with the mussels to reflect the seasons so in honor of spring (finally!) I made these with fresh asparagus. I loved how it turned out; the mussels tasted fresh and not asparagus-y and the vegetables made it into more of a complete meal. The perfect simple, springy, weeknight meal.

March 19, 2012

Secret Ingredient Chili

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb cubed top round
20 oz (canned) tomatoes with habaneros
15 oz (canned) fire-roasted tomatoes
30 oz canned dark red kidney beans, drained
1 teaspoon hot New Mexican style chili powder
1 teaspoon Ancho chile powder
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup drained, sliced pickled jalapenos
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Briefly saute the beef, onions and garlic until the meat is lightly browned on all sides. Add to a 4 quart slow cooker. Stir in the remaining ingredients. (the amount of liquid in canned tomatoes can vary so if the mixture looks really dry add some stock or beer or plain canned tomato sauce to moisten) Cook on low 8-10 hrs. Stir prior to serving.

My thoughts:
I haven't made chili in a surprisingly long time.Too long! I was trying to plan out the week's menu while wandering the isles of the supermarket and came across a little packet of cut up meat "for stew". Generally I only find cubed meat in very large quantities or I buy a roast and cut it up myself so honestly, I don't often cook with chunks of beef. But the meat looked fresh and one pound was just the right size for me to make chili with so that's what I did.

Normally I add a bunch of fresh peppers to chili but the ones I had at home turned out to be rotten so I subbed in the last bit of a jar of pickled jalapenos I've had forever. It was a surprisingly tasty addition! It added a bright, sharp flavor to the chili which can be a little tricky to engineer when using the slow cooker. Of course, since it was made in the slow cooker, the meat was amazingly tender and moist. Yummy and beyond the meat, comprised entirely of ingredients I always have on hand. Perfect for a weeknight meal.

March 16, 2012

Corned Beef and Baby Cabbage Hash

2 1/2 cups cooked diced potatoes
2 cups diced corned beef
2 cups quartered Brussels sprouts
1 onion, diced
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Saute the onion and Brussels sprouts until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the corned beef and potatoes. Saute until warmed through. Season.

My thoughts:
Okay, I really used Brussels sprouts and not "baby cabbage" (if there is such a thing) but I had to go with the theme! This is a great recipe for using up leftovers or cooking once, eating twice. I was making potato salad to eat later the same day so I just boiled up a ton of potatoes at once and chilled the rest until later.It is a tiny bit more involved than regular hash (chopping up the Brussels sprouts and all that) but I like it a lot better and with the addition of vegetables, can serve as a complete meal. I had it for an early lunch one day and it was perfect.

March 14, 2012

Corned Beef and Cabbage Bao



2 cups flour
1/2 cup warm milk
1/3 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 oz active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt


2 cups cubed corned beef
2 cups thinly sliced parboiled cabbage
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
1 tablespoon butter
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons superfine flour (like Wondra)
1/3-1/2 cup beef or chicken stock

extra equipment:
bamboo steamer
12 4-5 inch wide wax paper squares


For the dough:

In a small bowl, dissolve 2 tablespoons of the sugar in the milk and water. Sprinkle in the yeast and allow to sit 10 minutes. Mix in the remaining sugar, 2 cups of flour and the salt. Mix until the dough is no longer sticky, adding additional flour as needed. Place dough on a floured service and knead until smooth, about 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, cover and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

While you're waiting, prepare the filling:

Melt the butter in a large skillet. Saute the cabbage, shallot and caraway seeds until the cabbages softens. Add the corned beef and cook for 1 minute.

Sprinkle with flour. Add the stock and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens.

Back to the dough:

Punch the dough down, roll it into a cylinder. Cut it into 10 equal pieces. Roll each into a ball. Then roll each ball into a circle about 5-6 inches in diameter. Place 1 1/2 tablespoon (or slightly more) of filling into the center of the circle. Pull the edges of the circle up over the filling, pinch in the center to seal. Place the buns seam side down or up the wax paper squares. Repeat for the remaining dough, leaving a 2 inch space between each bun on the sheet.

Cover and let rise until puffy, about 10-20 minutes.

Bring water to boil in wok or saucepan. Place buns (still on waxed paper squares) in a bamboo steamer. Place over water and steam 15-20 minutes or until glossy and smooth.

Serve immediately.

Refrigerate or freeze any leftovers. Leftover steamed buns can be reheated in the microwave (for about 2 minutes) with great success.

My thoughts:

I can't resist playing with corned beef and cabbage around St Patrick's Day. (see my corned beef and cabbage quesadillas if you need evidence) I know there is nothing truly Irish about the combination but it is fun anyway.

This year I am taking this faux-Irish classic a step further and turning the combo into a filling for Chinese steamed buns. Why not? I love steamed buns! I love cabbage! And I've even corned my own beef. Irish-Chinese fusion it is.The meat/cabbage filling stays juicy and flavorful and the buns are perfectly tender. The perfect mix.

The recipe looks a bit trickier than it actually is. You don't have to corn your beef from scratch, there are plenty at the supermarket this time of year. Just cook it, pull it off the wedge of fat and chop it up. The cabbage part is simple. The only slightly tricky part is the bao but is a easy dough to work with and once you make a bun or two, the folding is a cinch. Just make sure they are fully closed!

March 12, 2012

Horseradish Spiked Turnip-Potato Mash

2 large turnips, cubed
1 1/2 lb white potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper


Bring the turnips and potatoes to a rolling boil. Continue to boil until both are fork-tender. Drain. Add remaining ingredients and mash until desired smoothness is obtained.

My thoughts:
With St Patrick's Day around the corner, my thoughts turn to potatoes and cabbage. Not only do I love potatoes and cabbage, there are normally some insane deals on these items this week. Not that potatoes and cabbage are high cost items to begin with but who can resist anything that is on sale for under 30 cents a pound? I've been having a lot of luck with turnips this year as well. They've been exceptionally spicy and tasty this year. Maybe it has to do with the mild weather we've had? Since they are popular in Irish cooking, I thought I'd toss some into my regular mashed potatoes for a dash of flavor and extra nutrition. I loved it! The horseradish brought out their peppery nature and it made the meal a lot more fun than just regular old mash would have been.

March 09, 2012

Chicken Fennel Lemon Rice Soup

1/2 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
3 leeks, quartered and thinly sliced (white and very light green parts only!)
1 large bulb fennel, thinly sliced
1 carrot, diced
1 parsnip, diced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 cup Meyer lemon juice
5 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon fennel pollen
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 cups diced cooked chicken breast*
2 cups cooked white rice*

Place the vegetables, juice, stock and spices into a 4-quart slow cooker. Stir. Cook on low for up to 10 hours. 1-2 hours prior to serving, stir in the chicken and rice and continue to cook on low. Stir before serving.

*To save time (and money!) I used a very good rotisserie chicken from the store and rice leftover from Chinese take-out.

My thoughts:
I think I've eaten more soup this year than I ever have in my life. It could be that it seems like I had one cold or another for as what it seems like forever. It could also be that I've been doing a lot of recipe development for hire lately which (somewhat ironically) leaves me with less time to make dinner. I cheated a bit with this one and didn't roast the chicken myself (gasp!)and used Chinese takeout rice. But I assure you, the result was tasty. The fennel mellowed and the lemon juice added a bright, tart flavor which I thought was sort of spring-y. But maybe I just have spring on the brain lately!

March 05, 2012

Orange-Ginger Hamantaschen

3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground roasted or regular ginger

jam (I used my Cara Cara Orange Jam)

Preheat oven to 375. Line two cookie sheets with silipats or parchment paper. In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and egg. Add the remaining dry ingredients. Mix until smooth. Roll the dough out onto a clean, floured surface. When the dough is about a 1/4 inch thick, cut 2 1/2-3 inch* circles out of the dough. Place them on the prepared pans. Spoon some jam into the middle of each circle. Fold three sides towards the center and press down (this part is commonly referred to as "pinching" the corners but it should be more like "pressing") to form a triangle. Bake 12 minutes or until golden.

*I use my doughnut cutter with the insert removed.

Yield: 2-3 dozen cookies depending on size.

Note: I recommend only rolling out the scraps once.

My thoughts:
I fancy myself some what of a hamantaschen connoisseur. I wrote an article about Purim and hamantaschen for NPR a while back, I've created recipes for a rugelach-inspired cream cheese based hamantaschen with fig and ginger filling, chocolate hamantaschen and vegan hamantaschen (which is perfect for people who keep kosher because it is dairy free) filled with kiwi jam. I haven't made hamantaschen in a couple of years but when I got into canning, I knew I'd have to make a batch. For this version I went for a more butter cookie-esque dough and flavored it with lots of fresh zest and ground ginger. So good! I am happy to say we did not have a single cookie unfold from the entire batch. Take care to press down those corners.

The citrus scented cookie was sent the next level by my use of the orange jam but any citrus jam or even marmalade would be tasty. Or really, any jam as long as it is fairly thick. Thin jams or jellies will run out of the cookies and scorch.

March 02, 2012

Fresh Jalapeño Bacon Dip

1 shallot, chopped
4 jalapeños, cored and quartered
3 strips thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature*
16 oz sour cream*
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Place the peppers and shallot in a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the sour cream, cream cheese, Worcestershire, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pulse until well blended. Add the bacon. Pulse twice. Refrigerate at least 1 hour prior to serving.

*High quality reduced fat sour cream and/or cream cheese is okay.
My thoughts:
I had an insane craving for dip lately. No idea why. I didn't want anything too heavy so I came up with this fresh, light tasting dip. The peppers were especially tasty: juicy, spicy and a bit fruity so I didn't need to add a bunch of other ingredients to make an awesome dip. I added the bacon for a bit of smoky flavor. Since it is March (or was nearly, when I made this) I dipped some really tasty, skinny (I am sure not local) asparagus in it. So good. It was also a delight with tortilla chips but slightly less virtuous. The perfect dip to help usher in this warm weather I've been enjoying.