Friday, December 24, 2010

Dad's Favorite Carrot Cake with Whiskey Praline Cream Filling

Layered Carrot CakeI've cooked my way to the last section of The Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook. The section is titled "Happily Ever After Desserts and Sweets". I think this is the secion Mark has been waiting for. He doesn't eat chocolate but loves desserts. The first several recipes contained chocolate but there are a few non-chocolate items too. One of our favorite cakes is carrot cake so that recipe was at the top of my list. Since I have some time off work for the holidays, I decided to not wait until the weekend to make this one.

The recipe called for making the cake in 2 9" pie pans but I only had 8" ones. It turned out well because I was able to use some of the leftover batter to make 5 cupcakes. Luckily I have convection on my new oven which came in pretty handy to bake the two cakes and cupcakes all at once and they cooked nice and evenly. The cupcakes were done a little quicker so I was sure to keep an eye on them and take them out earlier.

I thought the recipe had an over abundance of walnuts, calling for walnuts in the cake, in the filling and also covering the frosting. I opted to not use so much and only put walnuts in the praline cream filling. Other than that, I pretty much stuck to the recipe. There is a lot of butter in this recipe in all 3 parts: cake, filling, and frosting. Luckily I had a box of butter in the freezer. Since it was frozen, I was able to use a new found feature of my microwave that is for softening butter. It worked like a charm. It softened it up nicely and it didn't even melt.

The filling for the cake was a whiskey praline cream which requires making a caramel which I have never done before. I tried to follow the instructions but was very unsuccessful, the carmale turned into what looked like snow and didn't darken at all. I guess this is what happens when it crystallizes. I decided to look on the internet for instructions on making caramel and came across a seemingly easy way to do it via a video of Gordon Ramsay. I followed his instructions and viola! I had caramel. It was very easy to do. I think where I went wrong the first time is over stirring the sugar.

The cake had a few ingredients you don't normally find in carrot cake that make it a bit more than just your regular carrot cake. It turned out great and the caramel and cream cheese frosting went with it beautifully. It seemed to be a big hit with Mark too as I've seen him sneak some bites of it several times throughout the day.

Grated Carrots
Naked Carrot Cake
Praline Filling
Frosted Carrot Cake
Double Layer Carrot Cake

Monday, December 20, 2010

Paprika Spiced Hungarian Beef Goulash

Beef GoulashThis is the fourth dish I've made from the extremely large section of The Newlywed Kitchen's meat, poultry and Seafood recipes. This will be my last recipe from this section before proceeding to the final section of desserts next weekend.

I've never made goulash before but it is basically a stew. It was very flavorful, the sweet paprika gave it a nice kick. I was surprised at how difficult it was to find canned crushed tomatoes at Fred Meyer. They had the large 28 ounce cans of it but not the smaller size. I ended up getting the large size and used a little more than half of it. Still need to figure out what I'm going to do with the rest. I got the beef at the small grocery store in my home town. They didn't have any packaged stew meat so I ended up getting a chuck steak and chopped it myself. We noticed the package date no the meat was a day later. I'm not sure how they could get away with putting future dates on their meats. It wasn't a sell by date either is said specifically it was the packaged date. I almost said something to the checkout lady but I didn't. I did take a picture of it and post it on twitter though.

The only disappointment with this recipe was the meat. Even after stewing for about 3 hours there was still quite a bit of fat on the meat. I'm sure it had a lot to do with the poor quality of meat. I did do one thing different from the recipe and that was deglaze the frying pan with the beef broth after frying the beef to pick up all the extra beef bits and flavor from the pan. It would be a shame to let all that beefy goodness go to waste.

Floured Beef Paprika Spiced Hungarian Beef Goulash

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ultra Crispy Secret Fried Chicken

Rubbed ChickenI used another recipe from the big meat, poultry & seafood dishes section of The Newlywed Kitchen cookbook. I won't spoil the secret to this crispy fried chicken, you'll just have to buy the cookbook to see what it is. There was an unexpected ingredient used in the batter for this one. If it was really the key to the crispiness, I don't know, but it sure turned out spicy and crispy, the best kind of fried chicken.

I meant to buy a combination of drum sticks and thighs but I somehow accidentally bought the package of all thighs. I admit I did miss the drumsticks, they're my fav, but it was all good. The first couple pieces I thought came out the most crispy. Next time I will do the batter and flour coating as I fry them rather than all at once. I did each piece one at a time and as suggested kept them in the oven to keep them warm which was a good idea. I think they crisped up even more by putting them in the oven at a low temp

Fried Chicken Prep Crispy Fried Chicken

Monday, December 06, 2010

Ultimate Roast Chicken

Ultimate Roast ChickenI've had a whole chicken in my freezer for quite some time so when I saw this recipe in The Newlywed Kitchen I knew I had to try it. This is the first cookbook recipe I've made in a long time where I didn't have to go to the store to buy specific ingredients to make it. It was nice to be able to make it using ingredients I already had.

Giving the herbs a couple of days to soak into the bird is what makes the chicken so moist. It really was some of the most tender and juice roast chicken I've ever had. Even the breast was fork tender and full of flavor. The recipe gave a few options for herbs to use and I went with rosemary since I already had some on hand. Mark and I are both not fans of eating the skin off of chicken but the skin on this bird was hard to resist since it was nice and crispy and tasted like garlic and rosemary.

To go with the chicken, I made a green salad with oil and vinegar dressing. I also made my favorite rice dish that I normally use as a stuffing in my cornish hens. It's made with onions and almonds sauteed in butter and cooked in chicken broth and a bit of lemon juice.

The only minor problem I had with the recipe is the garlic burning on the outside of the bird. I ended up scraping most of it off before serving and it was fine and didn't taste of burnt garlic but it might be better to have put the garlic in the cavity before putting it in the oven.

Ultimate Roast Chicken
Ultimate Roast Chicken with Sides

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Chicken Potpies with Cheddar Thyme Crust

Chicken Potpie with Cheddar Thyme CrustI am now on the largest section of The Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook, with 23 recipes. The section is called Something Bold, Something New: Meat, Poultry & Seafood Dishes. I've decided since this section has so many great looking recipes I will be doing more than 2. I might do as many as 4.

the first recipe I wanted to try is the potpie recipe. I've never made potpies before and is something that has been on my todo list for a long time so was looking forward to giving this one a try. The serving size of the recipe is 2, but I wanted to make extra so I doubled the recipe. I'm glad I did because I don't think there would have been enough to fill us up if I hadn't. There was barely one serving left over. I was expecting it to make a bit more than it did. The recipe calls for using two large ramekins or a small casserole dish but doesn't specify how large. I misjudged the size and used too large of a ramekin (32 ounces). As you can tell from the photo below, there wasn't enough to fill it so the crust drooped quite a bit. I also wanted to make some potpies using my smaller 10 oz ramekins but only made one due to the limited amount of filling.

The filling was nice and flavorful and I liked the slight crunch of the bacon bits. I probably could have added a bit more stock to increase the amount. It was plenty thick, maybe slightly too thick. I did use a bit less flour when I doubled the recipe but could have used even less. The only thing I wasn't too happy with is the crust. I was looking forward to a crispy flaky crust but the puff pastry just didn't work out for me. The middle just wouldn't crisp up and turned into a gooey mess. It was impossible to break apart. Sticking your spoon into it just pushed the crust to the bottom of the dish. I'm not sure if it was from the melted cheese or too much egg wash or if it was because there wasn't enough filling in the pie. Usually the potpie crust is my favorite part of the potpie but not this time unfortunately. I may try this recipe again later using a different type of crust.

If there's one thing I've noticed from these recipes, it's that Lorna Yee likes bacon. I think I've bought more bacon in the last two months than I have ever bought in my lifetime. Bacon just isn't one of those things I normally eat. I prefer sausage to bacon when it comes to breakfast and I just never used it for anything else.
Diced Carrots
Chopped Bacon
Pot Pie Filling
Chicken Pot Pie

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Maple-Roasted Root Vegetables

Root VegetablesThis was my second recipe from the veggie section of The Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook. I have to be honest, I have actually never bought or used sweet potatoes before even though I am a huge potato fan. The three root veggies used in this recipe were carrots, sweet potatoes, and parsnips. They were coated in oil and herbs and tossed in the oven to roast. I used two cookie sheets and set the oven to convection for even roasting. Unfortunately, some got a little toastier than others anyway.

I'm starting to think I need to plant another rosemary plant in my herb garden, I have been using it a ton this year and my poor plant is just about bare. I didn't use as much of it as I would have liked in this dish. The recipe called for sherry vinegar though I couldn't find any at the grocery store so I ended up using red wine vinegar that I already had instead.

The serving size was 8 to 10 for this recipe, much larger than past recipes I've made from the cookbook. There were plenty of leftovers. Other than some getting a little over-roasted, they turned out great. The little bit of sweetness from the maple syrup made me think this would be a good breakfast or brunch side dish.

Root Vegetables
Roasted Root Vegetables
Maple roasted root Vegetables with Sherry Vinegar

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Coconut Snowballs with DIY Cupcake Liners

Coconut Snowballs with DIY Cupcake LinersI finally made some cupcakes out of the cookbook I won off of twitter, Cupcakes! from the Cake Doctor. I had a bunch of leftover coconut from the Pina Colada Pancakes I made last month and already had some coconut milk so I had everything I needed for this recipe except the cake mix which is an ingredient in all the cupcake recipes in this cookbook. I thought this was a little strange, and still do. It's not a cookbook I would have ever bought. But I have it, so I might as well try a few recipes. The cookbook is all about turning ordinary cake mix into something different.

It turned out, cake mix wasn't the only thing I was missing. I was also missing cupcake liners. I could have sworn I still had some but I couldn't find any anywhere. I had planned to hold off on the recipe another week and get the liners the next time I went to the store but @slowdumbshow suggested I make my own using parchment paper. I gave it a whirl and they turned out just fine and they gave the cupcakes a little more character. The frosting was a simple whipped cream frosting with a bit of confectioners sugar. I shared them with Mark and brought some to work and the vanpool and everyone enjoyed them.

DIY Cupcake Liners
DIY Cupcake Liners Filled

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Loaded Otsu Noodles (Sesame Soba Noodle Salad)

Sesame Soba Noodle SaladI had the privilege of testing out one of Michael Natkin's (Herbivoracious) recipes. He is working on a cookbook and had sent a request for recipe testers over twitter. I was one of many that volunteered. I told him I was interested in cooking with new ingredients. I haven't done a lot of Asian cooking so this was a good one for me to try. I got most of the Asian ingredients at Uwajimaya in Bellevue. The only thing I couldn't find was an optional ingredient called "long pepper", primarily grown in Indonesia but can be found at some specialty spice stores. It kind of looks like an elongated pine cone. It was my first time cooking with eggplant and tofu. The recipe calls for frying the tofu in oil. Luckily I had a splatter screen. Even though I patted down the tofu to get rid of excess water, it still splattered oil like crazy.

Overall I was happy with the recipe and how it turned out. Since it's a cold salad dish, it would be perfect for potlucks. If you'd like to try the recipe yourself, he has it posted over on his blog. If you'd like to test one of the recipes before his cookbook is published, send him an email and he'll send you a recipe to try out. You could win a cookbook from the Harvard Common Press cookbook catalog for testing a recipe.

Asian Ingredients

Veggies Cucumber and Eggplant

Eggplant Slices

Loaded Otsu Noodles

Monday, November 15, 2010

Roasted Parmesan Broccoli with Toasted Bread Crumbs

Broccoli FloretsThis was my first recipe from Losing the Newlywed 15, Healthful Vegetable Side Dishes section of The Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook. I'm not really sure what is meant by that title and what the significance of 15 is. I didn't find any explanations and even Googled "Newlywed 15" and wasn't very successful in finding anything.

This was a pretty simple recipe compared to most others I've made from the cookbook so far. It makes for a great side dish. I prepared it with some panko breaded fish fillets. There was also toasted panko crumbs that topped the broccoli but I didn't find the addition of the topping to add much to the dish. There wasn't as big of a contract in textures as there was with the creamy mac & cheese dish. Instead of drizzling the oil over the broccoli I tossed the florets with the olive oil in a bowl to get more coverage and then sprinkled the toppings on before baking. It's a quick and easy side dish that I will probably make again.

Broccoli Spears
Roasted Parmesan Broccoli

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Star Anise on RecipeThis was another recipe from the Comfort Food section of The Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook. This recipe contained lots of Asian ingredients that are most likely only found in Asian food stores. Mark and I took a trip to the Uwajimaya in Bellevue last Friday to shop for ingredients. We found almost everything needed for the recipe. I'm not all that familiar with Asian ingredients which made it a little difficult to find some things. The only thing I had to leave out of the recipe was the Szechuan peppercorns which I wasn't able to find. There was also some confusion on the soy sauce. Who knew there were so many different varieties? This recipe called for dark and light soy sauce. All soy sauce looks dark to me so figured. I made a bad assumption that everyday soy sauce was dark soy sauce. I could only find one soy sauce labeled as "light" and figured the soy sauce I had already was dark. I didn't find out until later it was the other way around. I picked up a few other soy sauces for another recipe I'm making for next weekend so I now have 4 different kinds. For the Chinese rice wine, I bought a bottle of cheap sake.

I made some beef broth the night before to use in this recipe. I didn't have any bones on hand so I went to Fred Meyer and asked if they had any beef bone scraps I could have and they packaged some up for me. I think I paid around $2.50 for a package. So I get everything all done for the soup and I take my pictures and am just about to sit down and eat and I smack my head realizing I forgot to add the noodles. How could I forget the main ingredient? The recipe calls for "Asian noodles" which is pretty broad. There are so many different varieties. I asked Lorna what she recommended and she mentioned some noodles at Uwajimaya that come in a refrigerated green package and are labeled as vermicelli. The noodles aren't dried so they only take a couple of minutes to cook. So I had some noodles ready to add to the soup in a jiffy and took a few more pictures before we dug in.

The soup was rather spicy, I'm guessing it was from the chile black bean sauce. I even added an extra cup of water to make it a little less spicy but that apparently wasn't enough. There were plenty of leftovers and I added more water to the leftovers to turn down the heat which made it just right.

I normally don't post recipes from cookbooks but I was given permission to post this one since it's posted on the internet already. So enjoy!

3 whole star anise, or 1/2 tsp ground star anise
1 1/2 tsp whole Szechuan peppercorns
2 to 4 small fres red chilies, seeded
2 Tbsp vegetable or peanut oil
3 lbs bone-in beef shank or short rib
8 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
5 slices peeled fresh ginger, cut 1/4 inch thick
5 green onions, cut into 4-inch pieces
3/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
3 Tbsp Chinese chili black bean sauce
1/4 Cup Chinese rice wine
1 small piece Chinese rock sgar
1/3 Cup light soy sauce
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
6 Cups low-sodium beef broth
2 Cups water
1 bunch or more baby bok choy
3/4 lb Asian noodles, cooked and drained
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Chinese chili oil, for garnish (optional)

1. In a cheesecloth, combine the star anise, peppercorns, and red chilies, and tie the bundle with a piece of string.

2. In a large heavy-bottomed pot or dutch oven, heat the oil over high heat until it is smoking. Brown the beef on both sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add the garlic, ginger, and green onions to the oil and stir until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the five-spice powder, chili black bean sauce, rice wine, rock sugar, light and dark soy sauces, broth, and water, as well as the spices bundled in the cheesecloth. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and cover. Simmer for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, until the meat is very tender and falling off of the bone.

3. Remove the meat from the pot and discard the bones. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Strain the broth and discard the cheesecloth bundle, ginger, green onions, and garlic.

4. Cook the bok choy directly in the hot broth for 3 to 4 minutes, until tender. To serve, put a portion of the cooked noodles in each bowl and ladle the soup over the noodles. Add some of the beef and bok choy to the bowl, and garnish with a bit of cilantro and a dash of hot chili oil.

Soy Sauce Collection New Spices
Garlic and Green Onions Fresh Ginger To Be Bundled Rock Sugar
Browned Beef Shank Chopped Beef
Korean Style Vermicelle
Taiwonese Beef Noodless Soup
Taiwonese Beef Noodle Soup

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Four Cheese Mac and Cheese

Four Cheese StackThis is the recipe I've been waiting for. I've seen several people tweet about how good this dish is and I knew I had to try it. It was my first selection from the "Who Gets the Remote?" Comforting Meals for Lazy Nights section of The Newlywed Kitchen Cookbook. I've only made homemade mac and cheese a couple of times. LizzyDishes Stilton Mac and Cheese is my favorite and would be a hard one to beat.

The four cheeses used in this recipe are blue cheese, gruyere, parmigiano-reggiano, and mozzarella. I was able to find all four of them at Fred Meyer. I was thinking I might need to go to Whole Foods to pick some up, but I didn't. I am kind of wishing I had though. The quality of the cheeses there are so much better. The Stilton I got just did not smell right to me. I almost didn't use it at all but it tasted ok so I went ahead and used it anyway and it turned out fine. I think it would have been even better if I had used better quality cheeses though.

I almost made a double batch because I was hoping for lots of leftovers and the serving size listed on the recipe was 2-4. I ended up not since I didn't buy enough cheese for that. Probably a good thing because the recipe made just the right amount and we had lots of leftovers. One of my favorite elements was the topping of toasted panko bread crumbs. It added just the right amount of crunchy texture to each bite. I even brought the bowl of panko crumbs to the table so we could add more as we ate. I garnished it with a bit of varigated marjoram from my garden. I would have used chives but the chives in my garden aren't good for picking right now. I might have a new favorite mac and cheese. I'd like to try it again with some better quality cheeses though.

Peppered Bacon
Four-Cheese Mac and Cheese