Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fresh pasta dough

I did it, I did it! I have finally conquered the homemade, fresh pasta-making! Now my pasta dough is beautiful and velvety! :)

The first time I made pasta dough, I used my favorite Food Network chef's recipe - Mr. Alton Brown. Alton has NEVER failed me. His chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe is our go-to recipe. And he helped us conjure up our first turkey for our families this Christmas, which was so juicy. But his pasta dough recipe was a fail. More than once fail. I kept giving it a shot thinking it was me being new to pasta making. Or maybe it was because I was using a hand-cranked pasta machine. After several attempts, the dough was just still too sticky, and hard to roll/cut. I even used more flour to combat the wetness. But I think the problem with the recipe was that he had you refrigerating the pasta dough before rolling/cutting. I think all that moisture from sitting in the fridge just ruined the dough.

Then one day I was watching Food Network and saw Anne Burrell make fresh pasta for a wild boar ragu. She didn't rest her dough in the fridge. Aha number one! I memorized it so I could give it a shot: 4 cups flour, 4 eggs, 1 egg yolk, olive oil, and salt. When I tried it though, the dough wouldn't come together. I was about to give up until Matt said, why not add more eggs? Why not waste a couple more eggs as opposed to tossing out 4 cups and 5 eggs worth of pasta dough, right? So I added 2 more eggs, another tsp of water, and a couple drizzle of olive oil. And it started to form together! Not gonna lie, I was doing a happy dance. After letting it rest on the counter for an hour, I went for the true test, the rolling part. And it was tough to roll (I think because there was so much of it), but it rolled. And cut out into nice fettuccine noodles too! So 4 cups of flour, 6 eggs, 1 egg yolk, 2 tsp water,1/4 cup of olive oil, and some salt later, I had enough pasta dough for 2 separate meals, lasting a week each. It made a lot of pasta.

So last week, I tried it again. This time, shrinking the ratios down for just one dish. It turned out perfect. The dough came together nicely with no problems, rolled out easily, and was so velvety. Below is my recipe for fresh pasta dough, the final one I'll be using for all my pasta-making now:

Fresh Pasta Dough

2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp water
1 tsp salt

Put the flour on a large work surface and create a wide well in the middle. This well is where you'll add your wet ingredients.

Add the rest of the ingredients into the well. Using a fork, carefully beat the liquid mixture together. Begin to incorporate the flour into the liquid mixture, a little at a time. Be careful not to break the sides of the well or you'll have a huge liquid mess! When enough flour has incorporated into the mixture, use your hands to get everything well combined. Then start kneading your gathered dough. Knead for a good 10 mins. Kneading is really important to get the dough smooth and velvety. When you finish kneading, wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Let it rest on the counter for at least an hour.

Beautiful pasta dough

This is how it should not look (fragments of what the dough looked like when I tried Anne's recipe and the dough wouldn't come together).

To roll the dough:
Cut off half the dough, reserve the other half and keep it wrapped.
Shape the dough into an oval shape, and flatten it to about 6 inches long (that way it can fit through the pasta machine). Dust with flour.
On the widest setting (my machine's widest setting is 7), roll the dough through.
Fold the dough into thirds, turn the dough 90 degrees, and then roll it through the machine again.
Fold the dough into thirds, turn the dough 90 degrees, and then roll it through one last time on setting 7.
Turn the machine to the next lowest setting, 6, and roll the dough through. Repeat, adjusting to the next lowest setting each time, until you reach the desired thinness for your pasta. (I like thinness setting 3.)
(Tip: To make rolling easier, dust pasta dough with flour each time you roll.)
Dust the rolled pasta sheet with flour and set aside. Then work on rolling the other half of the dough reserved earlier.
When you have all your finished pasta sheets, cut into your desired pasta noodles. Then dust with flour.

Cook pasta noodles in salted, boiling water for a few mins. Fresh pasta doesn't take long to cook.

It might seem like a lot of work, but you end up with pasta that is so different from store-bought noodles. Fresh pasta is lighter, not as dense. And it's called fresh for a reason.

Check back for 3 pasta dishes I made with my fresh pasta dough!
**Homemade Fettuccine with a Truffle-Dill Sauce
**Lemon-Pepper Fettuccine Alfredo
**Bacon and Leek Filled Ravioli

Monday, December 12, 2011

Baked Salmon with an Artichoke and Olive Sauce

Matt took a bite of this salmon and said I had to blog it :) Don't you love feedback like that?

I kept the salmon pretty simple, just baked with some olive oil, salt, and pepper because I knew I was going to pair it with a citrusy sauce. The main reason I made this was because I wanted some artichokes. Citrus always pairs nicely with fish, so I threw in some olives too that I had in the fridge. Wow, the olives were my favorite part. With each bite that had olives, you get that burst of citrus flavor. And it wasn't overpowering because the chicken broth and butter in the sauce helped tone it down. Everything complimented nicely with the fish. Very nicely...

Baked Salmon - with an Artichoke and Olive Sauce

4 salmon fillet
salt and pepper
olive oil
4 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c white wine
1 c chicken broth
1/4 c green olives, chopped
1/2 c artichokes, chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tsp chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a baking dish, lightly spray with non-stick cooking spray. Place the salmon fillets skin side down in the baking dish. Season with salt and pepper and a little bit of olive oil. Bake for about 15-20 mins, depending on the size of your fillet. You'll know the fish is done if it'll easily flake off.

For the sauce, start by melting 2 tbsp of butter in a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute. Stir in the white wine. Cook for a few mins so most of the alcohol can cook out. Then add the chicken broth. Let it come to a boil and reduce by half. Once reduced, turn the heat down low and add the olives, artichokes, and lemon juice. Cook for a few mins so the flavors can mingle. Then stir in the rest of the butter, 1 tbsp at a time. This will help the sauce thicken up and add some richness. Finish with chopped parsley. Spoon over the salmon and enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

Matt took a bite of these scalloped potatoes, turned to me and said, "You're going to love this, it's so cheesy." If you know me, you'll know my favorite food of all is fries. Next is cheese. My dream is to go to Paris, and enjoy a bottle of wine and plate of cheese. Don't ask me why. But if there's cheese and fries together, oh boy I'm in heaven. Scalloped potatoes are similar to cheese fries, right? So of course I enjoyed eating this.

These scalloped potatoes are not only cheesy but creamy as well. I added mexican crema that we had left over, which I think added to the creaminess. There's also some smoked paprika in there, and if that's not enough, smoked gouda cheese as well. Then it's topped off with cheddar cheese, yes more cheese. It was cheesy, smoky, and creamy. Can you say yummy?

Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

2 lbs yukon potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tbsp butter, plus more for greasing
1 garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp flour
1 1/4 c half n half
1 1/4 c mexican crema
1 c milk
2 c smoked gouda cheese, shredded
shredded cheddar cheese for topping
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a 9x13 baking dish with butter.
In a deep skillet over medium-high heat, melt 3 tbsp of butter. Add the garlic and shallot and cook till translucent. Next, add the paprika and flour, stirring for 1 min to allow the flour to cook. Slowly whisk in the half n half, mexican crema, and milk. After that cooks for a few mins, add in the potatoes. Simmer for about 5 mins. Add in the smoked gouda cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then transfer the mixture to the greased baking dish. Sprinkle the top evenly with cheddar cheese. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 mins. Remove the foil and bake for about 10 mins, or until golden brown and fork tender.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Country Style Pork Ribs with a Cilantro White Wine Reduction

Sounds different, huh? I don't think I've ever seen this combination before, but it worked.

I had a bunch of cilantro left over, which I would normally turn into my favorite pesto. But since I had made pesto the week before, I thought why not do something different. That's the fun in cooking, right?

So I took 6 country style ribs, salt and peppered it, and placed it in a large ziploc bag. I also threw in 3 smashed garlic cloves and about 2 tbsp of worchestire sauce. Next, I cut off the stem ends on the bunch of cilantro and added the stems to the ziploc bag (saving the leaves for the sauce later). Tightly close the ziploc bag up and then shake the bag around to mix the mixture. Let it marinate overnight in the fridge.

When ready to cook, I bought a deep skillet to the stove over medium-high heat. Added some olive oil and seared both sides of the ribs. Then I covered the pan with a lid so it can finish cooking the inside. Total cooking time for the ribs was about 15-20 mins (depending on how thick your cut of ribs are). When the ribs are done cooking, I transferred it to a plate, tinted with foil.

Then I started on the sauce. I added a clove of chopped garlic to the same skillet. Then 1 cup of white wine to deglaze the pan. I let the wine reduce by half, then killed the heat and stirred in 2 tbsp of butter. Then tossed in the bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped. To plate, just spoon the cilantro white wine reduction over the ribs.

The cilantro and wine actually worked together. I wasn't sure if one would overpower the other, but the wine had a subtle kick, while letting the cilantro aroma also shine through. The sauce helped keep the ribs juicy as well.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pomegranate Tangerine Sorbet

Pomegranate sorbet made with real pomegranates taste SO much better! Yes it's easier to just buy pomegranate juice, but it really doesn't taste the same. Try extracting your own pomegranate juice and make this sorbet. You'll get a sorbet that's much fruitier and the flavors really shine through. First, start by making the simple syrup. To make the simple syrup, bring 1 cup each sugar and water to a boil, stirring until dissolved. Let it cool while you extract juices from 2 pomegranates and 3 tangerines. Mix the pomegranate juice, tangerine juice, and simple syrup together and freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instruction. Simple as that! The tangerine juice really complimented the pomegranate, adding a sweet citrusy flavor to the sorbet. Mint would also be great with this as well.

Now, I experimented with two different ways in extracting the juice from a pomegranate fruit. I saw Giada on Food Network once recommending us to roll the pomegranate around on a surface. This will cause the seeds to burst inside the pomegranate. After rolling the pomegranate around for a while, until you don't hear much popping inside, you stab a hole into the pomegranate and then squeeze out the juice. I tried this. The rolling part wasn't hard, the squeezing part was. I even called Matt down to help me finish squeezing. Unless you have some serious muscle, doing it this way will not allow you to extract all the juice you could from the pomegranate. And when you poke a hole into the pomegranate, the juice squirts out causing an upsetting mess!

I also tried another way with this lemon juicer I had. It's similar to this apparatus:
I was able to extract more juice this way, but there was still a huge mess. Juice would squirt up, so I had to work carefully to limit the mess. If you had a juicer that had a lid to it, that would definitely eliminate such mess, and allow good extraction as well. Maybe something like this apparatus:

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars

These caramel apple cheesecake bars are perfect for the Fall. I have been waiting to make these for Thanksgiving and they turned out really yummy! It's not rich at all like it sounds. You really taste the apple and there's not a lot of cheesecake to it. It's more like a tasty bar with tons of delicious crumble topping. But the best part of this dessert is the homemade caramel sauce I drizzled over the crumble topping. So good!!

Now I know what you're thinking when you hear "homemade caramel" - too difficult. I understand. Making your own caramel is intimidating. Matt and I have burnt a couple before. You'll probably burn your first-ever caramel too, but just get over it and try again. And once you get used to it, you'll be rewarded with a delicious caramel that will knock those store-bought ones out of the ballpark.

I was even nervous about making my own caramel sauce for this dessert (since I was taking it to our family), that I even bought some caramel candy as backup. But I was able to nail down on the secret of perfect caramel-making. It's the timing. If you follow my instructions precisely below, you will nail it too. And man was it worth it.

Ingredients:Adapted from My Fiance Likes It

Crust:1 cup flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly chilled and cubed


16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
1 teaspoon cinnamon


1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly chilled and cubed
1 cup flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F.

To make the crust, combine flour and brown sugar in a medium bowl.  Cut the butter into the mixture with your fingers or a fork until the mixture is crumbly.

Press the dough into a 9x13 inch pan in an even and flat layer.  Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.  Set aside.

Make the filling by beating cream cheese and 1/2 cup of sugar in a large bowl.  Add eggs, one at a time, until just incorporated.  Stir in vanilla until just combined.

In a small bowl, combine the apples with the cinnamon and 2 teaspoons of sugar.  Let sit for about 1-2 minutes, then gently fold into cream cheese mixture.

Pour the batter over top of the warm crust.

Make the topping by combining the oats, flour, and brown sugar.  Cut the butter into the mixture until it is chunky and crumbly.

Top the cream cheese mixture with an even layer of the topping.  There's a lot of it. Don't be afraid, you'll want it all on there, trust me.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until cream cheese mixture is set and topping is a nice golden brown.

Make your caramel sauce by simmering the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling the pan but not stirring, until dark amber, exactly 12 mins. Take off the heat, and then whisk in the cream and vanilla. (It will bubble and sputter when you add the cream. Don't worry just whisk.) Let it cool. (The caramel sauce will look like the consistency of hot chocolate at first, but as you set it aside to cool it will thicken, darken in color, and become more like the caramel sauce pictured above.)

Drizzle caramel sauce over cheesecake and enjoy!

I wish I could take better food pictures, but I probably need to stop using my phone then and invest in a good camera. Oh well, as long as I deliver food that is tasty, right? :)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lamb Sandwich with a Creamy Dill Sauce

Matt absolutely looooved this dish. I started to wonder if it's because he loves lamb so much, or he just really liked the sandwich altogether. Either way I was happy!

When I was at Sam's Club with my mom, I stumbled upon these beautiful ciabatta rolls. I have had a hard time trying to find individual-sized ciabatta rolls. At Kroger, they just have these huge ciabatta breads - so you have to cut them up into serving sizes. But Sam's Club had it baked in perfect sizes. 8 rolls for only $3...I was excited, not gonna lie.  

So to make the sandwich, first start with some lamb. We had a ton of different kind of lamb (lamb arm chops/sirloin chops, etc.). Any of those will work - just cut out the bone. Then pound out the lamb meat with a meat mallet. I pounded it out to about a quarter of an inch thin. Salt and pepper both sides. Then in a skillet over medium-high heat, add some olive oil. Cook the lamb for about 1-2 mins on each side. For the  ciabata roll, slice it in half and season the inside with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Toast the ciabatta roll in the skillet.

For the sauce, I was going for a tzatziki-like sauce. In a bowl, I combined sour cream with some chopped dill, salt, and pepper. And then I thinly sliced a cucumber. On a toasted ciabatta roll, just add a piece of your lamb, some slices of cucumber, and some of that creamy dill sauce. I also added some slices of truffle cheese that I discovered at Sam's Club as well. 

The earthy flavor from the truffle cheese actually paired nicely with the lamb. And the fresh cucumber and dill sauce helped tie everything together. For such a quick and simple sandwich, it was sure packed with tons of flavor.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tex-Mex Salad

If you feel like having Mexican but don't want the heavy burrito, try this salad instead.

After our beach trip and all that delicious fried seafood, we felt like having a lighter meal. But I wanted Mexican too since it had been a while. So to accompany the dip I made below, I paired it with this salad. I tossed some green leaf lettuce, corn, black beans, tomato, and shredded cheddar cheese together. For the dressing I mixed 1 c mayo, 2 tbsp whole-grain mustard, 1 tsp honey, 1 tsp cumin, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Loved the smoky flavor the cumin bought to the dressing. It paired nicely with the sweet corn too. What's great about this dish, besides it not being so heavy, is that it's very filling. I was so full from a serving of the salad and dip. I guess it was all those beans!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

3-layer Nacho Dip

It's been a little while since I've last posted about a dish. For that I'm sorry. We've just been so busy traveling lately, and then I had a busy week at work. But I will make it up to you with this great dip...

At my friend's baby shower, there was this dip there that I couldn't help but go back to. There was a layer of refried beans, avocado, and something else...

It was creamy, so I knew it had to be sour cream. But there was something else to it that I couldn't put my finger on. Turns out the secret was...taco seasoning! Such a great idea in adding flavor to a normal dip. I knew I had to go home and make it. It turned out perfectly like the one at the shower. You'll want to make this dip for your next gathering, trust me.

3-layer Nacho Dip

1 can refried beans
2 avocados
1 packet guacamole seasoning
1 c. mayo
1 c. sour cream
1 packet taco seasoning
1 tomato, seeded and diced
handful of cilantro, chopped
shredded cheddar cheese
tortilla chips

In a casserole dish, spread the refried beans out evenly. In a bowl, mash the avocado meat and guacamole seasoning together. Spread the guacamole evenly over the refried beans. In another bowl, mix the mayo, sour cream, and taco seasoning together until well blended. Add the creamy mixture over the guacamole. Top the 3-layer dip with shredded cheese, the tomato, and cilantro. Best served chilled. Enjoy with some tortilla chips.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Calypso Joe's Caribbean Grille

Orange Beach Marina
27075 Marina Road
Orange Beach, AL 36561
Call: 251- 981-1415 Fax: 251-981-1421
I just want to take a few minutes to blog about one of our favorite restaurants in Orange Beach, AL. Whenever we go to the beach there, we have a list of places we have to eat at. Calypso Joe's is one of them. Their food is delicious and their service amazing. We've been there for lunch and enjoyed their crawfish po boys and fries. Just recently visited them for dinner, and loved it even more! I had the Mahi Mahi over smoked gouda cheese grits topped with this creamy, decadent mushroom sauce. I enjoyed all of it and the braised greens and plaintains it came with. Their conch fritters were also very good! Everything there is great, that's why I'm surprised this place isn't more crowded. Maybe because it's still new, or set off in this quiet fishing pier. I would hate to see this amazing restaurant go under. So if you're ever in the area visit Calypso Joe's. I've always been guaranteed with delicious food and great service - it won't disappoint!

Another yummy dive to check out: Mikee's

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chorizo burger

So the inspiration behind this dish came from a restaurant in Atlanta called Flip. A friend from work introduced us to it, then I introduced it to Matt, then we introduced it to our friends, then they did the same with their friends. I think you get the idea of how good this place is. It's a trendy burger restaurant from Top Chef's competitor Richard Blais. I love their Ossobucco burger, and of course their fries with that smoked mayo. And they're also known for their milkshakes. They have a Krispy Kreme milkshake! Yes, you read right. But I prefer their Nutella and Burnt Marshmallow or Turtle milkshakes more.

But the first time I took Matt to Flip, he ordered their Chorizo burger. It was topped with a poached egg, which I thought was interesting. I went for that same idea here when I made some chorizo burgers at home. The poached egg adds a rich, creaminess to the slightly spicy chorizo meat. I paired the burger with some garlic aioli which added another level of flavor to the dish. And of course cheese, here I used muenster cheese.

Word of advice though: don't eat this burger in front of someone you're trying to impress. It's a little messy...definitely a meal you wanna eat in front of someone you're comfortable with ;)

Chorizo burger - topped with poached egg and garlic aioli

6 chorizo sausage, casing removed
6 eggs
1 tbsp vinegar
6 buns
6 muenster cheese slices

3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 egg yolks
1/2 a lemon, juiced
1/2 c olive oil
salt and pepper

1. First make the chorizo burger: Combine the chorizo sausage meat together (casing removed), and form 6 patties. Push your thumb in the middle of each patty so that when it cooks you won't get a bubble. Over a grill heated to 350 degrees F, grill the burgers for about 4 mins on each side . Don't press the burger meat, just leave it alone to cook. When finished cooking, let it rest and move on to next step.

2. Poach eggs: To poach eggs, add about an inch and half of water and the vinegar to a deep skillet. Bring the skillet to a slight boil over medium-high heat. Then reduce to a simmer. Crack an egg into a ramekin, and then submerge the egg into the simmering water. The ramekin helps ease the egg into the water; you could also use a small bowl. Repeat with more eggs, don't crowd the pan though. After the last egg is placed in the water, let it cook for about 4-6 mins. The whites should form over the yolk, but the yolk should still be runny. Let it drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

3. To make the aioli: In  food processer, add the garlic, egg yolks, and lemon juice. Slowly add in the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Assemble: On toasted buns spread some garlic aioli, then top with the chorizo burger, poached egg, and slice of muenster. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cookies 'n Cream Icebox Cake

My favorite type of cake is probably ice cream cake. It's not too sweet but still satisfies your sweet tooth. That's why it's the only type of cake my family can all agree on. This icebox cake really reminds me of an ice cream cake, and it's so easy to make too. I know what I'll be making my family for their next dinner visit!

First I made the Oreo crust by crushing up enough Oreos to cover a 9" springform pan. Mix in about 2-3 tbsp of melted butter to the crushed Oreos, and then press it into the bottom of the springform pan. Bake it at 350 degrees F for about 10 mins. While that's cooling I start on the filling. With a hand mixer, I beat 2 c heavy cream, 1 c sugar, 8 oz mascarpone cheese, and 2 tsp vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Then I mix in more crushed Oreos. Add the filling to the pan with the cooled Oreo crust. Spread the filling out evenly in the pan, and then cover the pan tightly with saran wrap. Chill overnight. When you take it out of the freezer, run a knife under some water and then along the edge of the cake. This will help it come out cleanly. Last step is to just serve you up a slice!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Chicken and Corn Chowder

There was a Latin American tasting event one day at work. Of course our dept was downstairs for the event. Who doesn't love free food? What we stumbled upon were tables and tables of delicious, authentic Latin American cuisine. The best thing I had that day was this chicken and corn chowder, topped with a bit of cheese and scallions. It was really simple, but delicious.

With the Fall season breezing in, I have been making a soup each week. This week I wanted to make my own replica of that tasty dish I enjoyed at work. I added more to it like bacon and potatoes of course. And a homemade chicken broth for more flavor. I topped the chowder with some shredded Havarti cheese and scallions. It was a success. I hope you try it!

Chicken and Corn Chowder


For the chicken broth:
1 whole chicken
4 stalks celery
1 onion, peeled
1 bundle thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tsp coriander
3 cloves garlic, crushed

For the chowder:
5 slices bacon, diced
3 ears yellow corn
2 lg russet potatoes, diced
3 tbsp flour
3 tsp cumin
2 c chicken broth
3 1/2 c whole milk
1 c heavy cream
8 oz Havarti cheese, shredded
1 bundle scallions, chopped
salt and pepper

To make the broth:
Add all the stock ingredients in a large stockpot. Cover the chicken with enough water so that there's an inch of water above the chicken. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer for an hour. Skim fat off the surface of the water as needed. Remove the whole chicken from the broth, and shred the meat off its bones. Set the meat aside for use later.

To make the chowder:
In a large pot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until they have given off enough fat and are crispy. Add the kernels from the corn and the potatoes. Cook for about 5 mins. Next add the onion that was used in making the broth - dice it so it'll be easier to eat. Then add the cumin and flour. Stir until incorporated. Then whisk in the chicken broth made earlier, milk, and cream. Once it has been brought to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer for about 30-40 mins. Add the shredded chicken from earlier. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top your bowls of chowder with the shredded cheese and scallions and enjoy!

Things to note: I added the skin to mine because I think it's the best part of the chicken. Matt didn't like them though. Personal preference. Also, when I added the chicken, it surprisingly thickened up the chowder. Something to note when you're letting it simmer to the consistency you want.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sweet Mustard Dressing

I loooved this salad! The dressing was a little sweet, a little tangy. Toss it with some green leaf lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, bacon, croutons, and cheese. The dressing paired perfectly with all these toppings!

Sweet Mustard Dressing

1 c mayo
2 tbsp whole-grain mustard
6 tsp maple syrup
1/2 a lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Meyer Lemon Creme Brulee

Creme brulee - it's so easy to make and seems so fancy. My mom had her first one during our rehearsal dinner and she loved it. When my family came up to dinner, I knew I had to make some. I made them a vanilla creme brulee. I enjoyed it so much I whipped up another batch of creme brulee lol! This time I added half a Meyer Lemon I had leftover from making a blueberry crisp. The citrus flavor was very subtle, along with the vanilla flavor. I made it in some big, normal-sized ramekins, and also in these tiny thin ramekins for small servings of creme brulee. The smaller ramekins worked better for this creme brulee - you get the right ratio of citrus in the creme brulee and sweet from the sugar coating. When eating it in the bigger ramekin, you were wanting more of that sugar coating to pair with the citrusy creme.

Meyer Lemon Creme Brulee

1 qt heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, halved and scraped
6 egg yolks
1/2 c vanilla sugar, plus more for topping
1/2 a Meyer lemon

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. In a saucepan over medium high heat, add the heavy cream and the vanilla bean and its seeds. Bring to a boil. Then remove from heat, cover, and let it sit for 15 mins. In a mixing bowl, add the egg yolks, 1/2 c vanilla sugar or plain sugar, and the zest and juice of half a Meyer lemon. (To get vanilla sugar, add a vanilla bean to 2 c of sugar in an airtight container. Leave for a wk before using. Great way to put used vanilla beans to use!) Whisk the eggs until light in color. Then slowly add the cream to the eggs, whisking constantly. Pour the liquid into the ramekins. Put the ramekins in a baking dish or roasting pan. Add enough hot water to the pan until it comes halfway up the side of the ramekins. Bake for 40 mins. Then refrigerate for at least 2 hrs. Before serving, sprinkle sugar on top of the creme brulee, and using a torch melt the sugar. Enjoy!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Beer-Battered Fish Taco with a Jalapeno Mayo

I whipped up this dish a couple of weeks ago and we really enjoyed how it turned out. The batter turned out so light and fluffy, not too heavy or greasy like most fried food. And the jalapeno mayo with it was a great compliment. I was thinking a red cabbage slaw with carrots tossed in the jalapeno mayo would be really yummy on top as well. I topped the tacos with some green leaf lettuce instead since we had some left over. I like to use what we've got, hate to waste :) Below is the recipe, approximately.

Beer-Battered Fish Taco with a Jalapeno Mayo

2 lbs white fish filet (such as tilapia)
1 1/2 to 2 c flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp baking powder
1 bottle of beer
1 egg
salt and pepper
1 jalapeno
4 bunches of scallion
1 c mayo
1/2 a lime

To prepare the fish:
Cut each filet into half lengthwise. I ended up with 14 strips of fish. Season with salt and pepper. Then prepare the batter: whisk the flour, cornstarch, and baking powder together with about 3/4 of the bottle of beer and egg. Add more beer to thin out the batter, add more flour to thicken the batter. The batter should be runny, but thick enough to coat the fish. Dip the fish in the batter, and then fry in oil at 350 degrees F. About 4 mins cooking time, or until golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels and sprinkle with salt.

To prepare the mayo:
Chop up the scallions. Seed and dice the jalapeno. Combine the mayo, scallions, jalapeno, and juice of half a lime in a mini food processor. Process until smooth.

On a tortilla shell, lay a fried fish on, and top with the jalapeno mayo and some lettuce. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Food Network Fan's Travel to NYC - Shake Shack

Shake Shack

Oh this place was yummy! We went to the one in Madison Square Park. Great place to enjoy their delicious burger and the park. Okay, so Shake Shack is known for their B-line. What is that exactly? It's their extremely long line that forms all the way back through the park. We must have stood in line for 45 mins to an hr. But I must say I'm glad we stuck it out to try their food. Their burgers were so good! So juicy. I think it's made with sirloin? And their fries were very good too. I'm not usually big on crinkle fries but it was cooked just right. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Matt ordered their chocolate shake. It was thick and chocolaty. I wished I ordered one as well. He thought the same thing each time I asked for another sip. Loved this place, and enjoyed their burgers much more than Mesa Grill's. I totally recommend you stick it out in the long line for these juicy burgers.

Well look at that, that was my last NY restaurant post! I told you we went to a lot. We're just waiting till we can go back again! But then when we do we'll have a big decision to make, whether to go back to these amazing restaurants or discover more great ones. And whether or not to order the same things if we go back to the same restaurants, or discover more amazing dishes...

A Food Network Fan's Travel to NYC - Chinatown

Where can you go to get cheaper, delicous food in NY? Chinatown of course! And let me tell you, it's authentic. Just like my mom's cooking. Not that Americanized Chinese restaurant food (no offense). Being Vietnamese, I wanted to go to a Viet restaurant so I can compare it to my mom's food. We ordered the Chargrilled beef and Spring Rolls to start. Very good. If you've never had an asian chargrilled beef, you should try it. So much flavor and so juicy. The spring rolls were good too, but we still think my mom's is the best :) For our meal, Matt had the beef and broccoli and I had the roasted duck. It was just like the roasted duck my mom buys whenever she goes to the asian grocery market area. And so much food for the price, it was great.
Chargrilled beef and Spring Rolls 

Roasted Duck and Beef and Broccoli

A Food Network Fan's Travel to NYC - Crumbs


Where can you get colossal-sized delicious cupcakes? At the many Crumbs location in NY. Matt and I shared the Squiggle  which was exactly like a gigantic Hostess cupcake. There were so many other flavors I wanted to go back and try but we didn't have a chance to :( I couldn't decide between their Chocolate Sundae and Cookies and Cream at the time. And decided to just share with Matt's Squiggle since the cupcakes are so huge. But now I wish I had ordered my own too lol! By the way, don't order their lemonade. It was SO sour! We should have spent that extra $5 on another cupcake to go.

A Food Network Fan's Travel to NYC - The Standard Grill

The Standard Grill

The Standard Grill is located near a really cool park - High Line Park. I would highly recommend taking a stroll there and taking in all the architecturally neat designs. Also, while you're in the area, visit the Chelsea Market. Very neat market. Oh and Morimoto's restaurant is located in the area. So many great things in the Meatpacking District/Chelsea area. But back to the restaurant. The Standard Grill is located in a cool hotel near High Line Park. The hotel is kinda cool too. But the restaurant is known for its brunch. My friend Hannah recommended this place for brunch and it was yummy! The atmosphere was nice. And boy was it busy! I love poached eggs and hollandaise sauce so I ordered the Classic Eggs Benedict. Yummy! It was served with Canadian Bacon, which was not very fatty. And its hollandaise sauce was perfect. Served over an english muffin and a side of herb roasted potatoes that were very good. Matt had the French Toast with Strawberry Compote. It was good as well. The toast was sliced very thick though. Another thing to note was the bread that came before the meal. It was hard on the outside and soft on the inside. I loved it and I'm not usually big on bread. And while you're there, check out their cute doggy salt and pepper shakers. I wanted to buy a set but Matt wouldn't let me :(

Classic Eggs Benedict - with Canadian Bacon and Hollandaise on a Muffin & Herb Roasted Potatoes
French Toast with Strawberry Compote

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Food Network Fan's Travel to NYC - Mesa Grill

Mesa Grill
Chef Bobby Flay

So when I think of Bobby Flay, I think of something grilled. Therefore, we decided to try the Mesa burger and the Green Chile Cheeseburger.  They were okay. Don't get me wrong, they were good. But I was expecting great, amazing burgers from Bobby Flay. He's always seems so confident on his shows, so I guess I set the bar kinda high for him. My Mesa burger was just a normal good burger, with lots of cheese. The horseradish mustard was good, but of course strong. Matt's burger we felt would be better without the pickled red onions. There was just so much of it and it overpowered the burger. I felt like the burgers I enjoyed from Shake Shack (will post about later) was better than the ones we ordered at Mesa Grill. I really enjoyed the seasoned fries though. And the cornbread that came with your meal was good. I'm not a big fan of cornbread, but his had some corn in it and was moist.

Mesa Burger - with Double Cheddar Cheese, Grilled Vidalia Onion + Horseradish Mustard on a House Roll and Southwestern Fries

Green Chile Cheeseburger - with Queso Sauce, Roasted Poblanos Pickled Red Onions and Southwestern Fries (not captured in picture)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Smoked Gouda Potato Cakes

So I still had some frozen hash browns left over even after making those Peas and Cream Cheese Potato Cakes below lol! So I decided to make more potato cakes. We still had some smoked gouda cheese left over so I decided to grate some of that in with the hash browns. Added a handful of chopped chives and salt and pepper. This time I did use egg and flour to bind the potato cakes. It sure made the potato cakes stand up better. Took a handful of the mixture and shaped it into a ball, then flattened it to form a potato cake. Heated some butter in a skillet over medium high heat and cooked the cakes until a nice golden brown crust set. The smoky flavor of the gouda was very good. And the chives really came out in the potato cakes too.
Which of the two potato cakes did we like more? I liked the one with the peas more and Matt liked this one more. I really loved the texture the peas gave; and Matt really liked the smokiness the gouda gave. We enjoyed both regardless. Potato cakes can be kinda addicting...they're so easy and yummy!

Peas and Cream Cheese Potato Cakes

I had some frozen hash browns and frozen peas still sitting in my freezer. I thought it was about time to get rid of it. Saw we also had some whipped cream cheese left in the fridge and thought potato cakes! Instead of adding egg and flour to bind the cake, I wondered if cream cheese could act as a substitute. Only one way to find out. I mixed the hash browns, peas, cream cheese, onion powder, salt and pepper together. Took a handful and formed it in a ball, then pressed it flat to form a potato cake. The cream cheese wasn't a very strong binder for the potato cakes. But it was do-able. Heated some butter in a skillet over medium high heat and cooked the potato cakes until a nice golden brown crust set. Be careful flipping them over though. Even though the cream cheese wasn't a strong binder compared to eggs and flour, it sure was yummy though. I loved the cream cheese in it and the burst from the peas added a fun texture.

A Food Network Fan's Travel to NYC - Centrico

Chef Aaron Sanchez (Chopped)

Centrico would be a great place to go out to on a Friday night. We actually ate dinner there Friday night and it was filled with laughter, good food and drinks. The Centrico Margarita and Granada were both very good drinks...we kept them coming all night. To start, we had the Tres Salsas and Chips. Matt loves chips and salsa so whenever we go to a Mexican restaurant, I don't even need to ask if he's planning on ordering an appetizer. All 3 salsas were spicy. So of course I wasn't crazy about the salsa. Matt had the Enchiladas de Res. The braised beef short ribs in the enchilada was very good and tender. I wished there was more of it though. I ordered the Bistec con Chiles Verdes which was basically grilled adobo sirloin steak. It was cooked really good, and wasn't spicy at all actually. I wished it came with more of that delicious sauce on it though. It came with steak fries, which is my least favorite cut of fries, but I liked them. The best part for me was the dessert. (Matt's favorite meal there was his enchilada.) We had the Pastel de Chocolate Mexicano aka a molten mexican chocolate cake with a choco-chile sauce and corn ice cream. Corn ice cream! It was so good! I had never had corn ice cream and would like to try making some now.

Bistec con Chiles Verdes - grillede adobo sirloin steak, cactus, rajas
 Tres Salsas and Chips
Enchiladas de Res - braised beef short ribs, chile colorado sauce

 Pastel  de Chocolate Mexicano - molten mexican chocolate cake, choco-chile sauce, corn ice cream

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Glazed Carrots

Picture of Glazed Carrots Recipe
Glazed Carrots
So I am lucky to have a husband who not only helps clean around the house but also likes to cook for me. He usually likes to cook one or two meals a wk. This week he made these glazed carrots from Alton Brown's Good Eats Volume II cookbook. At first I wasn't sure about it. The ingredients included ginger ale and chili powder. But man did it turn out to be the best carrots we've ever had. We usually don't like carrots or care to cook them either, but these carrots might become a regular in our meals now.


  • 1 pound carrots, approximately 7 medium, peeled and cut on the bias 1/4-inch thick
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • Heavy pinch kosher salt
  • 1 cup good-quality ginger ale
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves


In a 12-inch saute pan over medium heat, combine the carrots, butter, salt and ginger ale. Cover and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, remove the lid, stir, and reduce the heat to low. Cover again and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the lid, add the chili powder and increase the heat to high. Cook, tossing occasionally, until the ginger ale is reduced to a glaze, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Pour into a serving dish and sprinkle with the parsley. Serve immediately.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gravy frites

On Food Network's The Best Thing I Ever Ate, they showcased gravy frites once aka this pile of fries smothered in gravy and cheese. It looked delicious and such a good idea in my eyes. I finally made some one day and loved it! I fried up a batch of french fries. I prefer to make my own. It's cheaper and doesn't take that long to make. This time I used canola oil for frying, which I must say is better than my past experience with vegetable oil. The oil doesn't get dirty quite as fast. Then I made my own gravy. I've never made gravy before so just threw some things together. I threw some butter and minced garlic in the pan along with 1 tbsp of flour. Stirred until the flour was incorporated. Then added 1/4 c of red wine and a small can of beef stock. I also whisked in 1 tbsp of cornstarch. If your cornstarch clumped in the gravy you can always strain your gravy. Brought it to a boil and then let it simmer until thickened. I piled the fries I made earlier in a baking pan, poured the gravy over them, along with some smoked gouda cheese I had grated. Baked it at 350 degrees F until the cheese melted. Yumminess. Especially if you love fries and cheese - my weakness...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Food Network Fan's Travel to NYC - Eataly

Chef Mario Batali  (Iron Chef America)

If I lived in NY, I can see myself going to Eataly quite often. Eataly is this really neat specialty market co-owned by Mario Batali. You can find truffle, caviar, fresh pasta, beautiful veal chops, and unique produce there. Nestled inside the market are a bunch of restaurants too. Everything from sandwiches to pizza or pasta. We sat in the La Pizza/La Pasta side. Their pizza looked really good. It's cooked in their wood fire oven brought over from Naples. But I was already set on trying some Batali-style pasta. I ordered the Spaghettone  Cacio e Pepe. It was cooked very al dente. Coming from someone who likes their pasta overcooked at home, I have to say al dente is quite nice. The pasta was tossed in cheese from Lazio and black pepper. That's it. But I kept trying to figure out if there was some secret sauce in it. The pasta was so creamy. So good. Matt ordered the veal ravioli special. It was very good and tender. There was also some bread for us to snack on before our meal came out. I didn't really like was too yeasty.
But if you go to Eataly you have to stop by the Gelateria. The best gelato I've ever had. I had a scoop of the pistachio and scoop of the chocolate. So good! The pistachio is very pistachio-y, but pairs so good with the chocolate. Matt had the chocolate and raspberry. I'm not big on raspberry but he loved it. Seriously best gelato. We also tried some gelato at the Little Italy town near Chinatown at this place called La Ferrara. Horrible place. Bad service and the gelato wasn't like gelato. It was just ice cream. We wished we had trekked over to Eataly again for their gelato.

Spaghettone  Cacio e Pepe
Veal Ravioli 

Chocolate and Pistachio Gelato 

You might even run into Mario Batali like we did!! It made my day when I saw him - thanks to my husband who is very observant :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Food Network Fan's Travel to NYC - Landmarc

Chef Marc Murphy (Chopped)

Okay, the best thing at Landmarc are the desserts. We couldn't decide between 3 and decided to get all 3 lol, but so glad we did! The portions were actually smaller than expected, especially for the price (about $6 a dessert). But it was SO yummy. We got the nutella eclair, chocolate mousse, and blueberry crumble. I love eclairs, absolutely love them. Probably because you don't see them in many restaurants, and they're so good. Stuff it with nutella and you didn't have to talk me twice into ordering it. But I also love chocolate mousse. So you can see I was actually the one who couldn't decide between the two desserts to order for myself. :)
For my entree I had the Pan-seared Salmon which was accompanied with a corn, green olive, and caper relish type sauce. It was also served with some pesto on top. It was good. I really liked the tangy caper and olive bite combined with the sweet corn. It went well with the salmon. It was a nice different twist compared to the usual lemon and fish pairing. Matt had the porkchops which was huge! And cooked perfectly. I forgot to take a picture of it..

Nutella eclair
Chocolate mousse
Blueberry crumble 

 Pan-seared Salmon - corn, green olives, capers and pesto

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Food Network Fan's Travel to NYC - Butter

Chef Alex Guarnaschelli (Chopped)

When you enter the restaurant, you stumble upon an intimate ambiance filled with candles and lights strung around the restaurant. The food was delicious and probably had the biggest portion compared to all the restaurants we went to in NY. I ordered the Roasted Duck Breast. It was cooked perfectly and was paired nicely with charred onions and a fennel soffrito. I also had an order of their Truffle Mac-n-Cheese special. I hope that this dish is also available anytime, it was delicious and creamy. Matt ordered the Rack of Lamb that he absolutely loved. It came with a squash ratatouille too. He also had a side of Crispy Duck Fat Potatoes that was nice and crispy, but I enjoyed my side much more. For dessert we had the Raspberry Beignet that had a vanilla dipping sauce. This dessert is the restaurant's signature dish and I can see why. It was very yummy, light and fluffy.

Roasted Hudson Valley Duck Breast - charred spring onions with rhubarb and a fennel soffrito
Truffle Mac n Cheese
Crispy Duck Fat Potatoes with Sea Salt and Black Pepper
Colorado Rack of Lamb - with a summer squash ratatouille 

 Raspberry Beignet - vanilla dipping sauce

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Salmon Panini with a Tarragon Aioli

I went to lunch with my coworkers at this place in Cumberland Mall called Fresh 2 Go. Sounds not so good, but I was surprised by their menu. I tried the Salmon Panini because the picture looked so good. And it was so good, I had to go home and make my own version. Matt loved it; and I hope you give this different panini a chance!

Salmon Panini - with a corn cilantro relish, avocado, and tarragon aioli
serves 4

4 salmon filets
4 ciabatta buns
1 avocado
1 ear yellow corn
1 small red onion
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 c. tarragon leaves
1/2 c. olive oil
salt and pepper 

Prepare the salmon:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Remove any bones left in the filet. Carefully remove the skin. Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Bake for about 12-15 mins.

Prepare the corn cilantro relish:
Cut the kernels off one ear of yellow corn. Dice the red onion and then soak it in cold water. Drain well. Heat a skillet over medium heat with a tbsp of olive oil. Cook the corn and red onion until tender. Turn off the heat and mix in the cilantro.

Prepare the tarragon aioli:
In a mini food processor, add the tarragon leaves, egg yolk, and lemon juice. Blend. Then add a splash of olive oil to get the aioli going. Slowly add in the rest of the olive oil. (For a thinner aioli add more olive oil. For a thicker aioli add more egg yolk.) Add salt and pepper to taste.

To prepare the panini:
Spread the tarragon aioli on the ciabatta buns. Layer with a salmon filet, piece of lettuce, corn cilantro relish, and slices of avocado. Press the sandwich between a panini press that has been buttered. Enjoy!

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Food Network Fan's Travel to NYC - The Plaza

We just got back from an amazing vacation in New York filled with lots of delicious food! Of course I documented every little bite ;) As you'll see, most of the restaurants we went to were from Food Network chefs. We wanted to see just how good they actually are. And let me tell you, they are very good...

The Plaza Food Hall
Chef Todd English (Iron Chef competitor)

Every time I think of The Plaza Hotel, I can't help but think of that Friends episode where Rachel tries to tell her dad she's pregnant, lol. Besides from being obsessed with food, I'm also obsessed with Friends. But back to the food...

My brother and his girlfriend went here for his birthday. The hotel is beautiful and the food is delicious. My brother Johnnie insisted we order the Prime Rib Sliders. He said even though it was $16 it was worth it. And we agree - it was really good. We also got the side of Risotto "Tator Tots" which was really interesting! It was heavier and richer than normal tator tots, but it was more creamy from the cheese. I will definitely try turning risotto into tator tots one day. Matt also started out with the Ham and White Bean Soup which he said was just ok because it was more like vegetable soup. So that was what we started out with. We ordered even more for the rest of our meal lol. I got the Fried Oysters with a caviar creme fraiche as my entree. Loved it. It was lighter than your normal fried oysters and the caviar creme fraiche was refreshing with it. Matt got the Ricotta Gnocchi, which was really yummy. It had this nice bolognese and veal reduction, with a nice pecorino bite to it. We also shared the Pork and Scallion Dumplings. It was good, but I still think my mom's is better ;) To end the meal we had the Chocolate Gelato. Unfortunately they were out of the Rhubarb. The Plaza Food Hall was probably our second favorite restaurant in NYC. After this it gets hard to rank the rest of the restaurants so please don't ask us to...

Prime Rib Sliders (minced red onions, fontina fondue) 

Risotto "Tator Tots" - with a truffle cheese dip 

 Fried Oysters (with a caviar creme fraiche),
Pork and Scallion Dumplings (house-made plum sauce, orange, scallion),
and Ricotta Gnocchi (bolognese, pecorino, veal reduction)

Check back for the rest of the restaurants from our trip!  

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Food Network Fan's Travel to NYC - Morimoto

We just got back from an amazing vacation in New York filled with lots of delicious food! Of course I documented every little bite ;) As you'll see, most of the restaurants we went to were from Food Network chefs. We wanted to see just how good they actually are. And let me tell you, they are very good...

Morimoto - our absolute favorite restaurant!
Chef Morimoto (Iron Chef)

As you approach Morimoto's restaurant, you'll enter through a uniquely designed entrance of red drapery. Through these curtains lie a beautiful, trendy restaurant design. Even the bathroom was decorated in a unique way - with a mirrored wall with flowers, reflecting in a way as if you're looking through a row of mirrors. The food was even just as beautiful. We first started out with sushi. Both Eel and Tuna Rolls were very good. Seriously the best sushi I've ever had. Morimoto's known for sushi and I can see why. I kept asking myself why it was so good. Was it the quality of the fish? Was it because it was perfectly rolled? That will be Morimoto's secret I suppose. Then we had our main course. Matt had the Halibut. The hot oil it was cooked in was nice, making the fish moist. The black bean sauce was good with it too. Then there is the Trout I had. Amazing! The best dish of the whole trip. And the best trout in my life! It was perfectly cooked - with a moist flesh and crispy skin. And it was placed on a bed of these heavenly whipped potatoes and a truffle sauce. Everything about that dish was amazing and was perfect all together. For dessert, Matt had the Flourless Chocolate Cake. It was good as was everything there. The popcorn was especially yummy. My Chocolate pot de creme was huge, and very yummy. The white froth wasn't whipped cream but a froth, made of guava? I can't remember. We enjoyed the meals with the Sake ginjo which was infused with caramelized pear. It was smooth not too hard to drink. Amazingly delicious restaurant. A must go-to for everyone!

front: Eel Avocado Roll (bbq eel, avocado, shiso)
back: Tuna Roll

front: Roasted Ocean Trout (turnip, miso, truffle, crispy prosciutto)
back: Line Caught Halibut (black bean sauce, shaved ginger, hot oil)

 The best trout and best dish ever!!! 

front: Chocolate pot de creme 
back: Flourless Chocolate Cake - with caramel popcorn, rhubarb ice cream

The most beautifully decorated bathroom stall.

Since we went to so many restaurants, I'll blog about each one individually. Check back for the rest of the restaurants from our trip!