Archive for November, 2010

Carpe Diem…Seize the Pastry

Okay, so let me be honest with you I am not a baker.

I can easily go into the kitchen and whip up a dinner for five without a recipe, but the shear thought of having to bake sends shivers down my spine.  I don’t know what it is about baking that gets me in a tizzy, but it certainly has an affect on me and my nerves.  I mean I first showed interest in cooking because I used to help my grandmother bake, so it makes no sense.  But I know that if I want to be a well rounded chef one day I need to get over my fears and get in that kitchen.

Well the time finally arrived on the night of October 7, 2010 because I decided to compete in my company’s Annual Bake Off!  I know it was quite ambitious seeing as though I really have never really baked on my own, but hey you gotta start somewhere.

So I consulted my mother on a recipe and figured out what I could make that would wow the judges but would prove to be pretty simple to make.  That is when she came up with the perfect recipe, what I like to call the Golden Ring!

Golden Ring Golden Ring Part 2

It was the perfect dessert for a competition because every judge could have their own portion.  The dessert was basically a big circle of individual eclairs fo everyone to enjoy.  I started by making the pastry cream and placing it in the refrigerator to cool while I worked on the pastry dough.  After I prepared the dough and let it bake it was time to assemble it all.  Not to mention the chocolate sauce to drizzle over the top.  Take a look at the process.

The Ring Filled With Cream A single serving

After hours in the kitchen I was finally finished with the eclair ring and all I had to do was wait and see what the judges had to say.

eclair ring eclair ring

Unfortunately, I didn’t place in the competition, but I considered this a moral victory. The recipe that I used was a photo copy, so bare with me I will post the recipe ASAP.

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The Prodigal Child Returns….Just In Time for Labor Day

Ashley

The Prodigal Child....

Coming home from college I was sad to realize that my cousin Ashley and I would not be seeing much of each other anymore because she was moving to NYC.  With her being gone it did give me more time to focus on cooking and my life in general LOL!  Well it came time for Labor Day weekend and my family and I decided to have a big blowout at my grandmothers house.

To the family’s surprise Ashley was coming home for the holiday, but that meant we had to revamp the menu because this was her Vegetarian Month.  Normally Labor Day is filled with my uncles grilled meats, baked beans, potato salad and corn.  But this year we decided to stray away from the usual suspects and make a menu to remember.

I was in charge of creating a fish dish that convert all the meat eaters and satisfy all of those so-called vegetarians.  I searched far and wide for a recipe and decided to channel one of my favorite chefs on television Giada De Laurentiis for a recipe that could satisfy all.  I had made the recipe before and I knew that it was the perfect blend of big bold flavors.

Normally fish tacos are bogged down with too many toppings and a bg flour tortilla that can take over the simplistic flavor of the fish, but this recipe really showcases the flavor of white flaky fish.  Giada’s recipe for fish tacos is both easy and EXPLOSIVE!  The dish came out as perfect as could be and was a family favorite and Ashley was quite pleased.

Fish Tacos

Ashley enjoying the fish tacos....leave some for the rest of us

Below is the recipe for the whole shebang, my only words of warning is that you watch out for the Wasabi Cream because it is not as subtle as you think!

Recipe Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

Tilapia Fish Tacos

Ingredients

Wonton cups:

  • 12 (3 1/4 by 3 1/4-inch square) wonton wrappers*
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

Filling:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • tilapia fillets (about 8 ounces total), cut into 3/4-inch pieces
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted and flesh cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • mango, peeled and flesh cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cups coarsely chopped baby arugula

Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes)
  • Kosher salt

Creme fraiche:

  • 1/2 cup creme fraiche
  • 1 tablespoon wasabi powder*
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

*Can be found in Asian markets

Special equipment: a 12-count nonstick muffin pan

For the wonton cups: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Using a pastry brush, brush each side of the wonton wrappers withcanola oil. Gently press the wonton wrappers into the bottom and sides of a 12-count muffin pan. Bake until lightly golden, about 6 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Gently lift the wonton cups out of the pan and cool completely, about 10 minutes.

For the filling: In a large, nonstick skillet, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Drizzle the tilapia fillets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Arrange the fish in a single layer in the pan and cook until the flesh is flaky and cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Set aside to cool slightly.

For the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the lime juice. Season with salt, to taste. Add the avocado, mango, green onions, and arugula. Toss until all the ingredients are coated.

For the creme fraiche: In a small bowl, mix together the creme fraiche, wasabi powder and salt until smooth.

To assemble the tacos: Put the wonton cups on a platter and divide the avocado mixture into the cups. Top each with 3 to 4 pieces of fish. Spoon about 1 to 2 teaspoons of the creme fraiche mixture on top of the fish and serve.

Cook’s Note: The wonton wrappers can burn very quickly in the oven so check them after 5 minutes.

 

Chopped at Home!

The Best Show on Food Network

One of my favorite shows on Food Network is Chopped!  There is nothing like pure competition and the element of surprise that really gets the blood flowing.  I love watching the chefs scramble as they try to figure out what to do with all of the mystery items in the span of 30 minutes.  It is a pure adrenaline rush!

My parents informed me that I was in charge of cooking our Sunday Night meals, since I wanted to make cooking a career one day.  So I thought to myself, this would be the perfect opportunity for me to stop using recipes and start using my resources.  So I created my own version of Chopped at Home!

It would be just like the show except I would be the only one competing.  My mother and father were in charge of picking out the ingredients and giving me a time limit for the meal being made.  It was all very nerve racking and exciting at the same time.  But if want to be a chef one day I knew I had to get over my fears and just have fun.  And That is exactly what I did!

It was finally Sunday and my mother told me to come downstairs to see exactly what I would be working with.  In front of me I had short-ribs, yellow and white corn, spinach and Aborio rice. And I only had two hours to complete everything.  My first plan of action was to inspect the pantry and fridge to see what I could use to accompany my selected items.  Then I decided to figure out what to do with each item.

I knew I could marinate the short-ribs and then slow cook them in the oven and use the corn and spinach as side dishes.  For the short-ribs I made my own little barbecue sauce out of brown sugar, cayenne pepper, mustard, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, a little ketchup and garlic. I had a big hankering for some fried corn, So I took the corn and fried it in a frying pan with a little butter, salt pepper and dried basil.  Then I added a little cream and sugar for an added bit of comfort.  Then I took the spinach and sautéed that in a little garlic infused olive oil and tossed in red pepper flakes for an added kick.  But the thing that was really giving me trouble was the rice.  I didn’t want to serve two starches in one meal.

Sunday Night Dinner

Dinner is Served!

Short-Rib Dinner

Looks almost as good as the pros

Rice Pudding

It tasted just as good as it looked

Then it hit me, use the Aborio rice for a dessert.  I knew I could make soem amazing rice pudding with that rice because it absorbs liquid so well and creates just the right amount of thickness from all of the starch.  So it was decided that I would prepare the rice pudding while the meat was cooking.  The recipe was very simple and took no time at all. (RECIE BELOW) The meal would be ready in no time, I just hoped that they liked it.

The meal ended up being truly amazing (if I say so myself) and Sunday Night Dinner has become a tradition in the Moales family!

 

 

Rice Pudding Recipe

Ingredients:

3/4 cup of uncooked rice

2 cups of milk

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

2/3 cup of raisins (optional)

1 tablespoon of buter

1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Directions:

In a saucepan bring 1 1/2 cups of water to boil.  Then stir in the rice and turn to simmer for 20 minutes.  In another sauce pan, combine 1 1/2 cups of cooked rice, 1 1/2 cups of milk, sugar and salt.  Cook over medium heat until the mixture is thick and creamy.  Stir in remaining 1/2 cup of milk, beaten egg and raisins (optional).  Cook for another two minutes and then remove from heat before adding butter and vanilla.

Enjoy!

Blackberry Bliss

At the beginning of the Summer I decided to head to the Blue Ridge Mountains with my friends family for a nice weekend getaway.  I love weekends where all you have to do is lay around and wait for the next meal to be made :).  And this was one of those weekends.  Most of the time we sat around and played cards or tried to put together this puzzle that they had been working on for months.  Then when we really got bored we ATE!

There was a quite bit of food in the house and we made it our personal goals to finish everything in site before the close of the weekend.  My friend Stephanie has two younger sisters, Alexandria and Victoria, that love to cook as much as I do.  The weekend that we went up there the blueberries and blackberries were in full bloom.  So of course you know what that means, it is time to make some homemade jams!

Victoria and Alex decided to take me out one afternoon so that we could collect some fresh berries (illegally) from some bushes around the neighbors houses.  That was an adventure in and of itself.  Then we came back home and gave them a good wash and the girls got right to work.  Fresh Jam is nothing to be afraid of, all it takes are a couple simple items from the pantry and a little time. (RECIPE BELOW)

blackberry picking

The Blackberry Picking Adventure

Collected Blackberries

Some of the cutest little blackberries ever

To make the experience even better the girls also made some homemade popovers that were to die for.  The combination of hot out of the oven popovers with cool blueberry-blackberry jam was like a party in my mouth :).  But the Blackberry Adventure didn’t stop there.

The next morning their mom got up and made one of my favorite desserts of all time, A Fruit Pizza!  Of course the blueberries and blackberries from the previous day were featured on this sugary pie of goodness.  It was yummy in my tummy!  Unfortunately, I am still fighting for the recipe for that one.

fruit pizza fruit pizza
slice of the pie slice of fruit pizza

I couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing and enjoyable weekend.

Blueberry and Blackberry Jam

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of fresh Blueberries
  • 1 lb of fresh blackberries
  • 4 cups of white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Mash up both the blueberries and blackberries and put them in a saucepan.  Add in the lemon juice and sugar.
  2. Stir all the ingredients together and cook over low heat until all the sugar is dissolved. Then bring the heat up to high and stir occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil.
  3. Let it cook for a couple of mintes until the mixture reaches at least 220 degrees.
  4. Then turn off the heat and pour into a clean jar.  Store in the refrigerator for immediate consumption.

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3!

Birthday Done The Right Way

So sorry for neglecting my blog for so long, things have been crazy over the past couple of months. Just Crazy!

My Friends

Some of the Gang!

There is nothing like celebrating your birthday with your favorite people in the world!  A couple of months ago I decided to do just that and planned for a weekend in D.C with a couple of college friends.  I had no idea what I was in for!  It was non stop fun as soon as I steppped off the plane.  There was shopping, great food and tons of random craziness.  The shopping was great because I found the perfect outfit and shoes within minutes–but the food is what I was really there for.

Washington D.C is a mecca for the culinary world. It is the closest thing–outside of New York City– to a culinary expo.  The first night I was there my friends Lindsey and Nyemale introduced me to what is known as Lauriol Plaza!  The wait was ridiculous and the line was outside the door (which is a very good sign) but the MARGARITAS are what I remember the most.  The rest of my friends met us there and we stayed there talking until the wee hours of the morning.

I have to say that the partying was top notch, but the memories that I took from that trip were strictly from the food excursions.  The whole trip all I heard about was Rogue Burger…..Rogue Burger….Rogue Burger.  It was getting to the point where I was dreaming about hand-made burgers and sweet potato fries.  So of course you know where I spent my last few hours in town, at Rogue Burger!

Located on Connecticut Ave. was this quaint little burger joint with a retro feel to it.  When I first walked in I thought it would be easy enough to chose what I wanted and be done with it, but boy was I wrong.  There were so many options to choose from that I almost spent an hour deciding how I wanted my burger prepared.  I ended up deciding on their signature Rogue Burger with ground turkey rather than ground beef.  An order of sweet potato fries and a soda to round out the order.

Rogue Burger in Washington D.C

The Best Burger Ever!

Sweet Potato Fries

The perfect compliment to the burger

There are no words to describe how amazing this burger was.  I mean I have never had a more succulent burger in my life (sorry dad).  The sweet potato fries were a perfect compliment to the complex flavors of the burger and rounded out my meal perfectly!  It was the best send-off any girl could ask for!

I will remember this trip forever!