Friday, August 31, 2012

Hot Chocolate for the Soul

Hot chocolate warms the soul. As the cool air is seeping through our open windows at night, my mind if turning to the season of snow days. Although school hasn't even started yet it's about time to gear up which means it's about time to start praying for those snow days.
The beauty of senior year of high school is that snow days mean one less day in the year as opposed to the normally making it up at the year. With colleges breaking down my door I know I'll be wanting the comforts of a hot chocolate more than ever before. I dream of wafts of warmth twirling out of those magic mugs. When I close my eyes all I can see is the promise of melting marshmallows and a flurry of snow beckoning me out the window. 
Ahhhh, winter is coming.

1/2 cup water 
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces chopper bittersweet chocolate
2 tsp of instant coffee
2 cups milk (whole milk makes a belly full!)
1/2 tsp vanilla
and, of course, whipped cream

In a small saucepan heat water, sugar, cocoa powder and coffee. Whisk until the mixture is hot and bubbling. Remove from heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate until smooth.

Return to heat and mix in the milk. Keep on heat until hot but be careful to avoid curdling.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into mugs, top with cream (or marshmallows!). For decoration you can sprinkle on cinnamon or cocoa powder. Step back, admire and then enjoy.

Ooey Gooey One-Bowl Brownies

Every Easter my sister has baked these brownies. While the crowd changes and grows, these brownies have become a staple and my family is always known to be the family that will bring the brownies. In fact, although my sister can no longer make it to the Easter dinner, I still make these brownies and several guests have come to calling me by my sister's name because the brownies are simply more memorable than the baker!

Sorry, this is a misleading photo

 Here's the true product

4 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
3/4 cups butter or margarine
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
an optional cup of nuts (pecans are ideal)

Oven Temp is 350 degrees
Prep Time is 15 minutes
Bake Time is 35 minutes
Done and ready in 1 hour!

Microwave the chocolate and butter until the butter is melted.

You can cover the bowl up to prevent splashes by using a paper towel. The melting should take about two minutes. Stir until the  chocolate melts as well.
Mix in the vanilla and sugar. Crack eggs one by one. Stir in flour and mix well.

Take a 9 by 13 pan and line with tin foil. Grease the foil. Pour batter into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes. When a toothpick is inserted, fudgy crumbs should come out too. This has been baked to perfection. These brownies are to die for.

BONUS RECIPE! Before baking, mix together 1 tablespoon butter and two tablespoons sugar. Melt the butter, mix in sugar and 2/3 cup of peanut butter (smooooooth pb). Spoon over the batter and swirl with a knife to make a marbled appearance. Bake normally

Steak Tips for a Top Meal

With all my siblings home, my father and I were rushing around to prepare dinner. Although we've all passed through a vegetarian phase, steak remains the classic dish. In hindsight, I don't know if I can EVER remember eating steak with my family, but we  decided it was time. As I was searching for a good recipe a quote struck me "The marinade makes the meat". I gasped as the revelation hit me and began to frantically peruse the world wide web because my entire family would be watching the meal I produced. This is when my skills were to be put to the hardest test. The taste test. Gods be god.

If it comes covered up, it has to be good
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup Italian-style salad dressing
2 teaspoons garlic pepper seasoning
1 cup barbeque sauce
2 pounds beef sirloin tip steaks 
Mix all of the ingredients to form a delicious stew. (My sister loves Worcestershire sauce so much that she actually ate a spoonful). 
Add in the steak. 
Cover with saran wrap and let chill for at least an hour. I always say the longer the better. I have safely done up to 24 hours in this particular marinade (which is also the greatest marinade so you'll never need another).
Yum. And yum again (because we made this recipe twice in one week). And yum again (for the future)!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Spicy Corn Pakoras (and their Mango-Tamarind Chutney)

With all siblings headed home from around the country, the cooking has begun! My brother, a newspaper-reading fool from Seattle, has provided us several weeks worth of the cooking section from The New York Times. Armed with these, we have driven around town looking for several unusual ingredients - but worry not! substitutes are provided for those of us who normally don't have chickpea flower and tamarind juice in our cabinets. 

But fried chicken hearts actually look good...
While I normally would not gravitate toward such an unusual recipe, my brother is full of adventure. In order to save money while in grad school, he often bikes to a nearby world food market and buys some of the cheapest (and most interesting) cuts of meat including chicken hearts (something like $2.09 for 70), chicken feet, fried gizzard, hearts and whatever else he might find. But don't fear, this recipe does not include ANY strange cuts of meat. All you'll want to be aware of is the bits of hot pepper hidden away. 

From July 18th, 2012 New York Times

For the Pakoras
1/4 c chickpea flour (we bought dried chickpeas and blended them)
3/4 c flour
1 c fine cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 1/2 c corn (approx 6 ears), ground into a puree
4 tbls ghee (or vegetable oil)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp fennel
1/2 tsp mustard
1 tsp chopped chile pepper
1/2 c chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tbls grated ginger

For the Chutney
1/2 c tamarind juice ( or 1/3 cup OJ and 3 tbls lime juice) 
6 tbls brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c diced onion
1/2 tsp chopped chile pepper
2 tsp grated ginger
2 mangoes diced
2 tbls chopped cilantro

Mix together flour and cornmeal with salt, baking powder and turmeric. Add in pureed corn.

Mix ghee/oil over medium heat with cumin, fennel and mustard. When hot, add in chile, scallion, cilantro and ginger.
Fill up a skillet with 1 inch of vegetable oil. Heat in high until the oil looks wavy (you can also drop a little water into it and it should evaporate almost immediately). Shape the flour dough into pancake shapes.

 Carefully lower each pancake into the oil. Let each side brown, then flip to cook the other (about 2 minutes on each side). Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate with paper  towels to absorb some oil.

Serve hot with lime wedges and mango-tamarind chutney.

For chutney:

Mix the sugar and salt into tamarind juice. Mix until dissolved. Add everything else except for the cilantro and mix. When ready to serve, add cilantro.


Tomato season! There's no better way to kick-start the season than with a tomato feast. Tomato and Corn Pie, of course, is the entree, but it must be accompanied by tomato and mozzarella appetizers and one of the greatest tomato creations on earth - bruschetta!

Oven Temp - Broiler (500)
Bake Time - 10 minutes
Prep Time - 15 minutes
Total Time - 30 minutes

6 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil 
3 cloves minced garlic 
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup fresh basil, stems removed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 
1 French baguette
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

First you'll want to get your oven all nice and pre-heated. While that's going, you should go ahead and chop up the tomatoes. I like mine to be pretty fine, but if you don't like the chunks, you can always blend it at the end.

 You can also chop up the sun-dried tomatoes now.

 Mix the tomatoes (both) with the garlic, balsamic vinegar, basil, salt, and pepper.

Let this stuff stew while you slice the baguette into 1/2-1 inch slices. Place on a baking sheet and broil for 2-3 minutes until a toasty brown.

Remove from oven a scoop some tomato mix unto the slices. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Broil for another 5-6 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Best served warm, but still good the next day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

4-Minute Cookies for Two

The Olympics have been leaving me on the edge of my seat. When commercial breaks appear, I jump up and rush to get something done- like going to the bathroom, cleaning and working on my college essays. But 5 minutes is not enough time to get any real work done - like baking cookies. Instead, I've been searching the internet for recipes that will not exceed my allotted work time of 5 minutes. 

This is the best I've come up with. I would never recommend taking a shortcut like this when you have time to make a real batch of cookies, but this will get the job done in a time crunch:

2 tbls unsalted butter, softened 
2 tbls granulated sugar 
2 tbls packed light brown sugar 
2 tbls beaten egg (this is about 1/2 to 3/4 of an egg)
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract 
5 tabls flour 
1/4 tsp baking soda 
1/4 tsp kosher salt 
1/4 c chocolate chips 

Cream together the butter and the sugars in a microwavable bowl. Mix in beaten egg and vanilla. Add flour, baking soda and salt. Stir a couple times, then add chocolate chips, stirring to combine.

 Microwave for 60 seconds. It may look undercooked, but it will continue to cook as it cools. While it is still hot, run a knife along the edge.

Creamy Beef and Pasta

After 6 weeks apart, my sister has finally returned home from Minnesota where she was taking a physics course to complete her double major. Personally, I think she needs to prioritize family of higher education. But then again, I get to use her return home as an excuse to spend time in the kitchen. 
While she was away, she stayed on a 5-meal plan. For those of you unfamiliar, that means she is allowed 5 meals a week. 5 meals where most people usually have 21. Luckily, during this time, she was house sitting for a family who told her to that she could eat anything in their kitchen. Previously, she was living on packs of hot cocoa mix and making a pound of pasta last a whole week. Now, she could enjoy cans of sardines and packs of ramen noodles - a feast!
When she told me this, I became intrigued with the idea of scrounging up a meal from whatever was lying around the house. While our cupboards are usually stocked with enough ingredients to make most basic recipes, we certainly did not have everything I wanted so I decided to give it a shot.

I present Scrounger's Feast:

1 lb pasta
3/4 pound stew beef, cubed
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves garlic
4 tbls butter
1 c milk
2 tbls flour
1 tbls garlic powder
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup cheese (Parmesan ideal)
Salt to flavor

Begin by melting 2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan over medium heat.

Life doesn't get better than melted butter
  Mix in the beef and onion and allow to cook until the meat is no longer pink and the onions are caramelized (you may wish to turn down the temperature to allow a slower, more even cook).

Boil pasta in water as directed. Drain and rinse in cold water.

In the pasta pot, melt the remaining butter. Stir in flour and salt and garlic powder. Add milk. Bring to a slow boil to allow sauce to thicken.

Pour pasta into sauce pot. Mix. Add in cream and cheese.
Mix in the meat and onion. Best served when warm.


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