Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Whole Year of Ray-Ray

The snow just started here in the DC Metro area and I'm dreading it. Not because it's snow--I love snow...but because I have to go to the grocery store and it's going to be NUTZ. For those of you not familiar with winter weather in the DC area...the first sign of snow brings on more panic than the terrorist threat going to Orange! Panic everywhere...the roads, the news and the stores...the grocery store will be packed and the shelves empty! I just want to get some chicken!

But moving on, I need to encourage my gentle readers to give a moment to the brave souls at the oneyearproject. These folks are brave indeed. They started with the Rachel Ray book 365, No Repeats. And they are cooking each and every recipe in the book. Reading through these blog posts you feel for these folks...chicken how many days in a row?? But there are some hits as well...a recent entry for Halibut Soup seems to have hit the spot. Check them out!!!

Thursday, February 22, 2007


I finished nearly this whole bottle of wine the other night. It was pretty good. Full bodied and bold with a juicy fruity center, courtesy of viognier. Fun.

We were celebrating the B-day of Mr. SK and I made these for dinner. YUM! First time I've made them since I put the recipe together...oh yeah! Really good. I'm very pleased!!!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

"When we exchange recipes, we're usually talking about something more than food--we're sharing information about sustenance, celebration and nourishing our spirits in addition to our bodies."

This came through my email today and I wanted to share.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Salad Days

Last night was salad. We have our favorite salad--greens, cashews, pears and basil balsamic dressing. But with a recent mention of Good Seasons dressing on America's Test Kitchen and DC Food Blog, we had to go with what we had in the cupboard and have a basic tossed salad and the italian dressing mix. YUM! I fubared the ahead of myself and then over seasoned/salted them. But they were the perfect texture...cruchy outside and chewy inside. I should have a salad dinner at least once a week...otherwise I don't get my veggies.

The downside to salad dinners...I'm picky about my veg and won't get much variety. Give me some feedback...what's your favorite salad mix-in? How about your favorite dressing?

Sunday, February 18, 2007


Happy Chinese New Year! In celebration, I made my favorite dish to order at a Chinese restaurant....The General's Chicken. Even though it may not be Chinese at all?!?! It's still delicious and my favorite!

This recipe came from a favorite blog that I read many times a day, Slashfood. The site is updated several times a day with interesting articles on food, cookbooks and recipes. A catch-all blog. The first time I found the site, I spent several hours going through the archives!

And now...

General Tso's Chicken

1 lb. boneless skinless, chicken thighs or breast meat
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
Oil for frying (peanut works best, but corn or canola can also be used)

Get your stuff in order, this can move pretty quickly.

In a large bowl, thoroughly blend the cornstarch and the eggs. Add chicken cubes and mix well. In either a deep-fryer or a large pot, heat oil to 350 degrees and fry the chicken pieces in small batches until golden and fully cooked throughout. Set aside.

I didn't think there was going to be enough batter for the chicken, but it was plenty.

The first batch of chicken is done.

In a saucepan, mix the following ingredients:
2 tsp cornstarch
2 TB rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 TB sugar (brown is preferred, but white is fine too)
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tbsp crushed red chili pepper
* Note: the heat from the chili peppers comes out as the mixture cooks. You can use more or less depending on your personal taste.

Cook on medium heat until mixture begins to thicken, then add chicken pieces. You can finish it off on a baking sheet in the oven for five minutes so it caramelizes a bit, or you can serve it at this point if you want to skip that step.

Sauce starting to work.

The sauce has thickened.

Serve with rice and steamed or stir-fried vegetables of your choice.

Dinner is served.

Alright. This was pretty good, but something was missing...? I don't know what it is. J-lo thinks it might be a touch of citrus/OJ to the sauce. That could be. I tasted the sauce with the ingredients listed here and didn't think it was right so I added a few little bits. Another 1/4 cup of soy sauce. 2 TB ketchup. 2 TB oyster sauce. Thinnly sliced green scallions. These improved the flavor a bit, but still something wasn't right. Maybe a little more brown sugar and some OJ next time. And maybe only 1 tsp of cornstarch to thicken the sauce. I had to add some water to thin it a little, but it was still to thick. I'd like it better as a glaze, instead of this thicker sauce.

Also, the chicken. The chicken just wouldn't get crispy enough...and I think that is very important. Next time I might add some flour to the batter and see if that can help the chicken develop a crunchier texture. I did put the chicken in the oven while I waited on my rice to cook and the sauce to finish.

Livin' It Up with Patti LaBelle

I wanted warm and comforting food the other day. Friday night? Or was it Thursday night? So at the last minute before I left work I decided on Patti LaBelle's Mac and Cheese. Ohhh, is it good!

Warm bowl of molten cheese, noodles and a little extra added crunch from some toasted bread crumbs. If you make it, and you should, as much as you may want to stay away from buying Velveeta, Don't! Without it, I don't think your final dish will be as rich and satisfying.

I steered away from the recipe a little bit with some additions this time. As mentioned, I covered the top of final dish with some toasted bread crumbs for some extra texture. Next time I might add some grated parmesan to the bread crumbs as well. That will be nice and bump the cheese quantity to five! I also added about 1/2 a teaspoon of dried mustard, cayenne and Worchestshire sauce. Common ingredients you'll find in other Mac&Cheese recipes. They brought a nice little element of happiness to the party. Oh, I only made 1/2 a recipe of the Mac & Cheese, so if I were to do a full one, I would bump those spices and flavorings up to full teaspoons.



This is the wine I mentioned from Valentine's Dinner. Yummy. I found it again yesterday and bought another bottle...but it's a different vintage, so we'll see how it went from 2003 to 2004???

Since I remembered the region this wine is from (McLaren Vale region of Australia), I bought another vintner's Cab from the same region--little more spendy, but if it's a Cab I like, it'll be worth it.

Tastings are good! And found a blended bottle. Sounded interesting. A Shiraz & Viognier blend. Also from Australia.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Slow Stewed Beef

In October 2005 I was really busy with work (major fundraising dinner) and had no time to put up recipes on the blog. Because I didn't want you, gentle readers, to go without tasty treats, I put call out for recipe contributions. I received several!

For the Valentine's dinner, I made one contributed by Brunette. And OMG I shouldn't have waited this long to make the recipe! I can't wait to make it again!

Brunette submitted a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine called Mahogany Beef Stew with Red Wine and Hoisin Sauce. What I ultimately made is basically the same recipe with changes.

Mahogany Beef Stew
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, trimmed, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/4 cup flour
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
1 7 ounce can tomato sauce
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
1/2 cup hot water
1 TB paprika
1 TB oregano
1/2 TB thyme
2 bay leaves

*Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large pot over high heat.
*Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper. Lightly coat with flour.
*Working in batches, add the meat to the pot; sauté until brown on all sides, remove to a bowl.
*Reduce heat to medium; add 2 tablespoons oil to pot.
*Add onions; sauté until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.
*Add the wine and deglaze the pan. Stir in the tomato sauce, hoisin sauce and return the meat to the pot.
*Bring to a low simmer. Add the paprika, oregano, thyme and bay leaves.
*Cover pot and simmer 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
*The stew is done when the beef is "spoon" tender and the sauce has reduced to a thick, rich gravy.
*Discard bay leaves.
*Season stew with salt and pepper.

Make sure to taste and adjust the flavor as you go. I started with lower quantities of some of the herbs and spices and after a few taste tests, found the perfect blend. I do find the paprika necessary! The hoisin is really rich and a wee bit sweet. The paprika brings that sweetness in balance and enhances the richness.

I served the stew with basic risotto. Thank you Brunette for making our V-Day dinner so delish! And BTW: I just realized that this was the second V-Day you've influenced...last year we had the funny fondue that didn't quite turn out! FUN!

Onions and wine becoming best friends.

Everything's in the pot. Time to simmer and taste test along the way.

Super tender beef in the rich gravy!

Heaven. Really just wonderful.

I was chatting a bit today with Ms. Terri in WI and she's not a beef person. We discussed and thought that a nice pork roast would enjoy this treatment. Mmmm?!?!!!!!

Our wine was a Cab and it's called...Red Australian red. Very good! Worked well in this recipe and drank nicely.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Baked Goods for V-Day


I wanted something chocolatey and raspberry-y for Valentine's Day dessert. Chocolate and Raspberry go together like Chocolate & Peanut Butter, Gin & Tonic, Fred & get the point. I think this flavor composition is what of the greats!

To accomplish this treat, I figured brownies would be the best way to get my Choco-Rasp flavors. For the brownie, I went to my favorite English-muffin, Nigella Lawson. In How To Be A Domestic Goddess, Nigella has a great recipe on page 193.

For the next part of my treat, I needed to get the Raspberry in there somehow. I didn't want to have fruit bits in the brownie, so I thought a Raspberry sauce would be a good medium. I made the sauce by taking a 12 oz bag of frozen berries, sent them into the blender with some sugar (to taste) and the juice of 1/2 a lemon. After they were pureed, I sent them through a sieve to remove most of the seeds. Done!

I knew that a full 9x13x2 pan would be too many brownies for our house. So I made 1/2 a batch. This took me a few minutes to do and since I'm not that great with fractions so pardon my notes.

Brownies by Nigella Lawson
(this is the 1/2 recipe with my measurements)

7 oz butter
7 oz dark chocolate chips
3 eggs
1 TB vanilla
7 oz sugar
3/4 scant cup flour
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350. Line your pan, 9x9 in this case, with parchment paper. Lightly butter.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler. In a bowl, beat the eggs, vanilla and sugar together. Measure the flour and add the salt.

When the chocolate is melted, let it cool slightly. Slowly pour into the egg/sugar mixture, while stirring with a whisk. Add the flour and fold into the chocolate mixture. Take care not to over mix the batter, or you'll get tough brownies. Pour into your lined pan.

Raspberry Time. Gently spoon or drizzle the Raspberry Sauce over the top of the brownie mix in the pan. If you're feeling creative, drizzle the sauce into a pattern and maybe twirl it with a toothpick or skewer.

Bake for about 25 minutes. When it's ready, the top should be dried to a pale brown speckle and the middle will still be dark, dense and gooey. (I over baked a wee bit.)

Allow the brownies to cool before cutting.

Such simple ingredients CAN'T be bad for you, right?

The final Raspberry Sauce, ready for making naughty chocolate raspberry brownies...and other goodies.

The chocolate/butter/egg/sugar and vanilla mixture!

The flour has been added and carefully stirred in.

My raspberry web of desire! :o)

After a short rest in the oven, your patience will be rewarded.

Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Brownie with Raspberry Ice Cream and Raspberry Sauce...overkill? Perhaps. The brownie and the sauce are required! The ice cream...vanilla would have been sufficient.

The ice cream used up most of the extra raspberry sauce. Make the ice cream base. Add in as much raspberry sauce as you like-too taste. Make per your machines instructions. I did do one flub. Through a few year's worth of trial and error, I found that the best mix for ice cream is about 2 cups of milk and 1 cup of cream. Ooops, I wasn't thinking when I made my ice cream and used only cream. The final treat had the texture of a frozen berry mousse. Not bad, but not the ice cream I wanted.

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Hey all,

Sorry for the complete lack of's been a long time since I didn't make a post in a week's time. Work has been busy. This weekend was packed. Sunday night required I empty the entire kitchen again...the apartment peeps need to spray for pests...and I won't get my kitchen back to order until Wednesday. So the next post might be Thursday. Stay tuned.

This past week we went out to celebrate J-lo's birthday. We dinned with Joyous and Sterf at Acadiana at 9th & New York Avenue NW. YUM. Eventually I'll get a post up about the whole evening. In the meantime, catch a snippet at TVF16S. The Pecan Chocochip Tart was divine!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Time to Make the Cinnabuns

Long story short...for the past week I've been craving a gooey, sticky, sweet, iced cinnamon bun. Really I wanted to head to National Airport and get a Cinnabon, with extra icing. Well, this craving got so bad, I was snacking and grazing like crazy. Probably doubled my caloric intake trying to satisfy a craving I had no hope of fixing.

On Saturday morning I woke up with a plan. I'm going to bake my own cinnamon buns. But alas, the Pastry Gods were not with me, when I found I had only about 1 TB of sugar in the house. And frankly, I'm not interested in knocking on my neighbors door to ask for some sugar. You don't know what you'd get.

So after sending J-lo out for a little shopping on Saturday, I woke up on Sunday with the plan to bake. I had a recipe on my computer, and I don't know where it came from-let me know if it's you, that I wanted to tackle.

Really, it's not that difficult. You just need some time and need to knead! I didn't use any kitchen machine to make these. Just good ol' fashioned kneading and a knife to slice! Anyone can do these... Wait. I did use an electric mixer for the icing, but if your butter is room temperature, that shouldn't be a concern, a wooden spoon will do the job nicely.

Here we go.

(about 8-12 rolls)

1 packet (¼ oz.) active dry yeast
1 cup warm water (105 to 110°F)
½ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup butter, melted
1 tsp salt
2 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup packed brown sugar
3 TB cinnamon
⅓ cup butter, room temperature

1 stick butter, room temperature
1½ cups powdered sugar
2 oz. cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla extract
⅛ tsp. salt

For the rolls, dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a bowl. Mix together the sugar, butter, salt and eggs. Add flour and yeast mixture and mix until it comes together.

Pull the dough out to a lightly floured surface and knead for 4-5 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly buttered bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough flat until it is about 21" long and 16" wide. It should be about ¼" thick.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

For the filling, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Spread the softened butter evenly over the surface of the dough, and then sprinkle the cinnamon and sugar evenly over the surface. Use your rolling pin to gently press the sugar/cinnamon mix into place.

Working carefully, roll the dough down, from the top to the bottom edge. Lightly pinch the seam into place. (I didn’t and some of the buns slightly unrolled as they baked.) Cut the rolled dough into 1¾" slices and place 6 at a time evenly spaced, in a lightly greased baking pan.

Let the rolls rise again until double in size (about 30 minutes). Bake for 10-15 minutes or until light brown on top.

While the rolls bake, combine the icing ingredients. Beat well with an electric mixer until fluffy. When the rolls come out of the oven, coat each generously with icing.

Note: These can be frozen after baking—cool to room temperature and don’t ice them. Just pop one into the microwave for 20-30 seconds to reheat.

All prepared and ready to go. Got the sugar?

My dough ball before doubling.

Buttered sheets of dough.

Here's the cinnamon filling on the buttered dough and lightly rolled and pressed into the butter.

Starting the rolling process. Some of the filling started to fall out. Next time, if I can't roll the dough into square, I will cut it into one and maybe that will help me out a bit.

Starting to slices the buns.

I think I cut my buns a little bigger. It was a lot of work to finish one after they were cooked. I tried to kill my craving and have another. Sadly that nearly killed me.

They've baked and gotten all sorts of gooey. Start icing those sexy buns within a few minutes of coming out of the oven.

This naughty little bun was unrolling itself. Perhaps a little pinch at the seam will keep it from coming undone. Or placing the buns a little closer to one another on the pan.

The icing on this one got a little gritty from the filling. Some of the others came out a little 'cleaner.' But really, once it starts melting, it doesn't matter anyway.

The great sticky, sweet, sugar high (followed by crash) Cinnabun! Can't wait to make them again. But maybe more of a miniature version!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

What a way to start a Sunday!
That would be a homemade cinnamon bun!
Stay Tuned!!!

Bistecchine de Maiale Ubriache

A few weeks ago we were at Borders in Silver Spring and they had a table of these giant, regionally themed cook books from Williams-Sonoma. They were on sale as well. 2 for 3. So I picked out three. Savoring Spain & Portugal, Savoring Provence and Savoring Tuscany.

They are alright books. Not great, but not horrible either. I found one recipe in particular I wanted to try. Here it is:

Bistecchine de Maiale Ubriache
Drunken Pork Chops
Tuscans are wonderfully poetic abou their food. These flavorful pork chops are ubriache, or "drunken," because they are cooked in wine.
4 center-cut pork chops, each 1 inch thick
1 1/2 TB freshly ground pepper
2 TB fennel seeds, crushed, plus 1 tsp whole seeds
2 TB olive oil
1 cup, crushed, canned plum tomatoes with juice
1/2 cup young red wine

Generously season both sides of the chops with the pepper and crushed fennel seeds. In a frying pan large enough to hold all the chops, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Lay the chops in the pan, turn them over when the meat becomes white and sprinkle with salt. Raise the heat to high and add the tomatoes and wine. After 1 minute, reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan, and let the chops and sauce simmer, turning once, until the chops are well browned on both sides and pale pink in the center, about 15 minutes.

Transfer the chops to a warmed platter. Toss the whole fennel seeds into the sauce and cook for an additional 5 minutes to blend the flavors. Spoon the sauce over the meat and serve immediately.

Flavor: Initially, I like the flavor. But after a moment of two, the fennel becomes too strong for my tastes. When you taste your first bite, it almost tastes like a mild italian sausage, but then the fennel smacks you in the face. We are of differing opinions here, I would want to not season the chops with the fennel and just add some to the sauce. J-lo likes it on the meat, but wouldn't add extra to the sauce. We'll see next time.

To kick the flavor up a touch, I added about one tsp of balsamic vinegar and one tsp of red pepper flakes.

Cooking: As I was making the dish and up until this moment when I typed up the recipe, I thought the author/editors were nuts. My instinct is to say, get your pan and oil searing hot. And quickly sear your chops, remove to a plate, make the sauce and then put the chops back in to finish cooking for that last five minutes. I started the pan over medium heat and when it started turning white and not browning, I turned the heat up and tried to brown the chops. Didn't really work. Ooops.

Overall: Not bad, but I'm not dying to make it again.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Chili on a cool night-UPDATED

So this past week...we actually had some cold weather. Well cold weather means warm, comforting, filling food. My directive on Wednesday night was-chili.

Not a problem. I went and printed out the recipe, shopped and got to work.

I've made the America's Test Kitchen recipe of Cincinnatti Chili a few times and it's pretty damn good! We really like it, so that's what was up that night. The Cincinnatti chili is full of warm cinnamon, cocoa and all-spice. After a moment the heat from the chile spice comes in. And there's just a tiny bite from a little bit of vinegar.

There's one strange step in this recipe, but I think it's worth it. Boiling your ground beef. By boiling the meat, you get the texture that Cincinnatti chili is known for, and it also gives you a chance to render out some of the excess fat.

From that point, the chili moves along and takes just an hour to simmer and bubble away-bringing all the flavors together.

Here we have the boiled beef. It's unpleasant to look at, but it allows the pieces to cook and seperate into this particular texture which is special to Cincinnatti Chili.

Once your onions and garlic are softened in some oil, you add all your spices and allow them to 'bloom' in the oil. Most spices are oil soluable, so the extra time in the oil maximizes your flavor profiles.

Toasting/blooming spices. This is a great time to walk into your house-the aromas are amazing.

The next step involves adding the broth. This gives you a chance to deglaze the pan and let the spices dissolve.

I've now added everything to the pot. Stir every few minutes, while simmering on medium-low, for about an hour.

After about an hour, the chili has thickened a bit and concentrated the flavors.

Chili and corn bread go together like Gin & Tonic, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Bacon & Eggs. Throw together a quick box of Jiffy cornbread, drizzle with honey before baking.

Corn bread. Chili. Cheese. Sour Cream. It could be 20 below zero outside, but inside you'll be all comfy cozy.


Before I leave you today I have to complain for a minute. WHAT is with that stupid frozen diet meal commercial with the two 'chefs' preparing recipes and the one says: "I've added flavor to taste."

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?! I hate that commercial.

Carry on.