Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Asian Steak and Noodle Salad

Mise-en-place is my new favorite culinary term. I never knew that that's what I did pretty much every time I cooked; basically it means to have all your ingredients chopped and ready to go before you even begin to cook, this way your cooking is more enjoyable and you can finish fast. Mise-en-place is specially necessary when cooking any type of Asian dishes, as most of them are cooked quickly. You can lallygag a little with this recipe as the salad tastes better at room temperature or even cold. Mmmm....


For steak

  • 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 lb flank steak
For salad
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1 thinly sliced shallot
  • 8 oz dried vermicelli rice-stick noodles
  • 1 medium Granny Smith apples
  • Baby lettuce salad mix (enough for two portions)
  • About 6 fresh mint leaves, torn into pieces if large
  • About 6 fresh Thai basil leaves, torn into pieces if large
  • 1/4 cup salted roasted peanuts, chopped

Marinate and grill steak: Whisk together fish sauce, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and sugar in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Pour marinade into a large sealable plastic bag. Pat steak dry and place in bag, then press out excess air and seal bag. Turn bag over 2 or 3 times to coat meat, then place in a shallow dish (in case of leaks) and chill at least 4 hours and up to 8. Bring steak to room temperature 30 minutes before grilling.

Prepare grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas). Remove steak from marinade (discard marinade) and pat dry with paper towels. Grill, uncovered unless using a gas grill, over direct heat, turning over once, until medium-rare, 12 to 14 minutes total. Note: I cooked my steak over the stove to medium rare.

Transfer steak to a cutting board and let stand, uncovered, about 15 minutes.

Assemble salad while steak rests: Whisk together lime juice, water, sugar, fish sauce, and red-pepper flakes in a bowl until sugar is dissolved, then stir in shallots.

Cook noodles in a 5-quart pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Drain in a colander, then rinse under cold water and drain well. Transfer to a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of dressing. Working around core of each apple, cut thin slices (about 1/8 inch thick) with slicer, then stack slices. Cut slices lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide matchsticks.

Combine apples, greens, mint and basil in a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup of dressing and toss well to coat.

Thinly slice steak across the grain.

Arrange noodles on a large platter and mound greens on top of noodles. Arrange steak slices on greens and sprinkle with peanuts. Serve at room temperature with remaining dressing on the side. Modified recipe from Gourmet, June 2006

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sausage and Ricotta Ravioli

I decided to give homemade ravioli a try again. Since I don't have a pasta machine, the easy Carpi pasta is more appetizing to me because I only need two ingredients: flour and hot water. The trick to this pasta is to roll out pretty thin and to work quickly because the pasta tends to dry out fast. Anyhoo, I created this recipe and it was delish! I used homemade meat sauce and it only made the meal more fabulous. Thick, sliced garlic bread is a must for this dish.

INGREDIENTS (Makes about 24 ravioli)

  • 1/4 lb. bulk Italian sausage
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 cup very hot water, or more or less depending on the humidity
  • 3/4 cup whole milk ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup pre-cooked mini sausage meatballs
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Homemade meat sauce or your favorite jarred pasta sauce

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Form mini meatballs with the bulk sausage, about the size of a pearl. You'll get about 40 to 50 mini-meatballs. Place them in an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 5 minutes, then turn meatballs over and bake another 4 to 5 minutes. Let cool and set aside in refrigerator.

For the dough: In a large bowl combine the flour and the water; I used 1 cup + 2 tablespoons hot water because it was 72 degrees with 7% humidity here in San Diego. If you're in a very humid area, you may want to use slightly less than a cup. Using a wooden spoon, stir to combine into a large ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.

For the filling: Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and gently stir to combine.

To form the ravioli, cut the dough into 4 evenly sized pieces. The dough should be slightly sticky. Add extra flour as necessary for rolling, but use only a little as necessary. Form each piece into a 2 by 6-inch rectangle. Recover the dough with the plastic wrap.

Lightly dust the work surface and a rolling pin. Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, roll the dough into a 4 by 15-inch rectangle. Place 5 rounded tablespoons of filling about 1-inch apart down the center of the dough. Fold the dough over the filling. Press down around the edges of each of the ravioli with your fingertips. Cut the ravioli into small squares and press down around the edges again with your fingertips to seal, or use a ravioli cutter to make life easier. Place the finished ravioli on a baking tray and continue forming the remaining ravioli.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add half the ravioli and cook until the ravioli float stirring occasionally, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain into a large bowl and cook the remaining ravioli. Serve ravioli with spoonfuls of pasta sauce and enjoy the goodness.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes

I got this recipe from my friend, Kerry, who is a culinary genius. I slightly tweaked her original recipe because I didn't want the potatoes to be too sweet. All I have to say is, Wow. These mashed potatoes were delicious. My husband totally ate them up and I went for seconds. The chipotle peppers give these potatoes a kick and the nutmeg a slight fruity flavor. Yummy!

INGREDIENTS (makes about 2 cups of mashed potatoes)

  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2" thick slices
  • 1 Idaho potato, peeled and cut into 1/2" thick slices
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo, chopped fine (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup whole milk, divided
  • A couple of rasps of freshly grated nutmeg, or a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Place potatoes into a large pot filled with cold water and bring to a boil. Simmer until potatoes are fork tender (mashable), about 15 minutes.

In the mean time, place brown sugar, chipotle pepper, butter, nutmeg and half of the milk into a bowl. Add the cooked potatoes and mash away. If potatoes look too dry, add the remaining milk and salt and pepper to taste and mash a bit more. Serve as a side dish to a nice medium-rare steak and enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fried Ravioli

I've been stuck in the house since Monday due to the raging wild fires here in San Diego. The air quality is extremely bad and since I suffer from allergies, I'm being safe and staying in. What does this mean? It means I've been watching Food Network non-stop. I caught an episode of Everyday Italian with Giada and she made these super delish raviolis. I loved them, and so did my husband. This one is a keeper!

INGREDIENTS (Makes 24 ravioli)

  • Oil, for frying
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup seasoned Italian-style bread crumbs
  • 1 box store-bought cheese ravioli (about 24 ravioli)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/2 cup store bought marinara sauce, heated, for dipping

Pour enough olive oil into a large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 325 degrees F.

While the oil is heating, put the buttermilk and the bread crumbs in separate shallow bowls. Working in batches, dip ravioli in buttermilk to coat completely. Allow the excess buttermilk to drip back into the bowl. Dredge ravioli in the bread crumbs. Place the ravioli on a baking sheet, and continue with the remaining ravioli.

When the oil is hot, fry the ravioli in batches, turning occasionally, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried ravioli to paper towels to drain.

Sprinkle the fried ravioli with Parmesan and serve with a bowl of warmed marinara sauce for dipping.

Mexican Churros

If you haven't heard yet, San Diego is on fire again. Authorities are saying that this is the worst fire in San Diego history. Thank goodness our friends and family are OK so far; however my mom and step dad may have to be evacuated soon. Many of us didn't go to work today as its raining ash and the air quality is extremely bad, so we're all staying indoors. Matt and I live about 5 miles east of the beach, so we're not affected. Hopefully the winds will die down soon and the fires will be able to be somewhat contained.

Since I've been home all day today, I decided to make churros. I'm sure many of you are familiar with churros which is a very typical and popular Mexican street vendor food. I love these little fried pieces of dough, but of course they don't taste the same as the homemade ones you buy on the streets in Mexico. The dough is very easy and you can also use the dough to make funnel cakes. Nice, huh?

INGREDIENTS (Makes one dozen churros)

  • Oil for frying
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1-1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 Cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • Cinnamon-sugar: mix 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon. Stir or shake it thoroughly to blend it well. Store airtight at room temperature.

In a small saucepan, bring butter, sugar and water to a boil. Add flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon. Cook until mixture forms a ball. Remove from heat and cool 10 minutes.

Add egg, beat until smooth and shiny. Spoon dough into pastry bag fitted with a large star tip. Pipe dough into 4" strips onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Freeze 10-20 minutes or until paper can be peeled off. Do not freeze solid.

In the meantime, in a large cast iron or Dutch oven pan with high sides, heat 2 inches of vegetable or canola oil to 375 degrees. Add 3 to 4 churros at a time and fry until golden. Cook them about 1 minute and turn them over with a slotted spoon. Cook an additional minute or two. You're looking for that nice golden brown color. Drain on paper towels and generously sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar. Serve warm.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Super Easy Banana Cream Pie

My husband hates, hates bananas. I have no idea why, but to me bananas are the perfect food. One of the reasons I've been able to maintain my weight is because I eat one banana for breakfast every day. You just can't deny the power of the banana! I wanted to make a banana cream pie, but all the recipes were too complicated with making the dough from scratch, etc., and you all know I don't like to bake. Plus, I knew that my husband wouldn't eat any of it, so I was also looking for a smaller sized pie recipe. I found this super easy recipe that uses a 6oz. pie crust which, yeah, it's still quite big for one person, but most of the ingredients are sugar free! Anyhoo, this pie sure did satisfy my sweet tooth!


  • 2 medium ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1 ready-to-use Nilla Wafer pie crust (6 oz.)
  • 2-1/2 cups cold fat-free milk
  • 2 pkg. (4-serving size each) JELL-O Vanilla Flavor Sugar Free Instant Pudding
  • 2 cups thawed COOL WHIP FREE Whipped Topping , divided

PLACE half of the banana slices on bottom of crust. Set remaining banana slices aside.

POUR milk into large bowl. Add dry pudding mixes. Beat with wire whisk 2 min. or until well blended. Gently stir in 1 cup of the whipped topping. Spoon half of the pudding mixture into crust. Top with remaining banana slices; cover with remaining pudding mixture.

REFRIGERATE 3 hours or until set. Serve topped with the remaining 1 cup whipped topping.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

dark chocolate cupcake
Sometimes America's Test Kitchen has some good recipes on their shows on PBS (here in San Diego). I did try their Cincinnati Chili recipe once and it was quite good. Now, these cupcakes are something else: They are yummy and so chocolaty, but you definitely need time to make them. Truthfully, halfway through the process I wished I just would have bought a boxed cupcake mix to make my life easier; but they are worth it. The buttercream frosting recipe below is also from ATK, but your favorite frosting will work, too.

INGREDIENTS (Makes 12 cupcakes)

  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (I used Hershey's Dutch Processed Cocoa)
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (4 ounces)
  1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard-sized muffin pan (cups have 1/2-cup capacity) with baking-cup liners.
  2. Combine butter, chocolate, and cocoa in medium heatproof bowl. Set bowl over saucepan containing barely simmering water; heat mixture until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to the touch.
  3. Whisk flour, baking soda, and baking powder in small bowl to combine.
  4. Whisk eggs in second medium bowl to combine; add sugar, vanilla, and salt and whisk until fully incorporated. Add cooled chocolate mixture and whisk until combined. Sift about one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and whisk until combined; whisk in sour cream until combined, then sift remaining flour mixture over and whisk until batter is homogenous and thick.
  5. Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake until skewer inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes.
  6. Cool cupcakes in muffin pan on wire rack until cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Carefully lift each cupcake from muffin pan and set on wire rack. Cool to room temperature before icing, about 30 minutes. (To frost: Mound about 2 tablespoons icing on center of each cupcake. Using small icing spatula or butter knife, spread icing to edge of cupcake, leaving slight mound in center.)

Easy Vanilla Bean Buttercream

The frosting can be made ahead and refrigerated, but it must stand at room temperature to soften before use. Mixing times are increased by 50% if you use a handheld mixer.

INGREDIENTS (Makes about 1 ½ cups, enough to frost 12 cupcakes)

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
  • 1 ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
  • Pinch table salt
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream

In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 20 seconds. Using paring knife, scrape seeds from vanilla bean onto butter and beat mixture at medium-high speed to combine, about 15 seconds. Add confectioners’ sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl and add vanilla extract and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

Recipe courtesy of Americas Test Kitchen.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Fried Dill Pickles

Yes, my friend, you read that right...fried pickles. If you've ever been to Louisiana, especially the Bayou, you've probably had the greatest bar food ever invented: fried pickles. If you've never had these, then this is the type of food you want to eat on a Sunday evening after your football team--in my case it's the Chargers--loses miserably to the KC Chiefs or Green Bay because it makes you forget about the agony your team just faced. And if you're from Minnesota and are a Viking's fan, then you know what I'm talking about. Ugh! Anyway, PBR or Golden light are awesome with these fried pickles; but a spendy Heineken will work too.

INGREDIENTS (makes enough to relief your agony)

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup ice water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons dill pickle juice
  • 4 cups drained dill pickle slices, well drained and patted dry
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • Ranch dressing for dipping (optional)

  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center. All at once, add the water, egg yolk, and pickle juice. Stir the mixture with a wire whisk to make a smooth batter. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. In a deep fryer or large saucepan, heat at least 2 inches of oil to 375ยบ F. In batches, dip pickle slices in the batter, lightly and evenly coating them. Without crowding, place coated slices in the hot oil. Fry until golden and crisp, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with side of ranch dressing as dipping sauce, if you wish.
Recipe courstesy of Pickle Packers International, Inc.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Jim Blaha's Margaritas

My father-in-law, Jim Blaha, makes an awesome margarita-on-the-rocks, or a Blaharita, as I like to call them. One evening while I was in Minnesota visiting them, I saw his "secret" recipe on the counter and immediately my spy instincts took over and I took a picture of the recipe. Anyhoo, I got his secret recipe, but later I found out that his recipe was a modification of the Applebee's margarita recipe! Nevertheless, this margarita is quite tasty and will most definitely get you schnokered.


  • 1 1/4 oz. 1800 Tequila
  • 3/4 oz. Grand Marnier
  • 3/4 oz. Cointreau
  • 1 oz. simple syrup
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 4 oz. sweet and sour mix

Salt the rim of your margarita glass; add ice into the glass.

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine tequila, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, simple syrup, lime juice and sweet and sour mix and give it a good 10 second shake. Strain into your margarita glass and garnish with lime wheel. Salud! Jim Blaha's secret recipe