Friday, June 15, 2012

Ice Cream Sandwiches

My daughter, who is nearly 4 years old, is crazy for ice cream sandwiches.  So in honor of the last day of school I thought we'd make some.  I played around with the cookie bit until I found something that worked.  And the ice cream bit is easy.  They turned out great, way better than store-bought! So here's the tutorial.  Make a bunch, and enjoy them all summer long!

Ice Cream Sandwiches

1 Devil's Food Cake mix
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Vanilla ice cream (or whatever flavor you prefer)
Sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Mix the cake mix, shortening, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl until well mixed.

Take a leveled tablespoon of the dough and put it on the cookie sheet.  Then mold it into a square that is slightly bigger than an inch all around, and about 1/4-1/2-inch thick.

Keep the squares at least an inch and a half apart, because they spread quite a bit.  I had twelve raw cookies on my baking sheet.

Place cookies in oven and bake at 350F for 9 minutes.  When cookies are baked, remove from oven and immediately use a knife or spatula to make them square again.  Unless you don't care, in which case, don't. :)

Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for a minute or two, then remove to a cooling rack that is lined with paper towels.

Let cookies cool completely, about an hour.  When you're ready to put the cookies together, place an empty baking sheet in your freezer and get out the ice cream!

Using a butter knife, spread ice cream in a thick layer on a cookie.  Mine was about 3/4-inch thick. 

Put another cookie on top and press down slightly, then use the knife to smooth out the edges, filling in any missing bits and getting rid of extra ice cream.

At this point my daughter suggested we put sprinkles on the edges, her logic being that, "It will give them more goodness."  Hard to argue with that.

After you're done with one, either put it on the baking sheet in your freezer, or if you're like my daughter, eat it immediately.

After they've been in the freezer for a good while and are nice and firm, you can remove them to a plastic zippered bag and store them there.

Makes about 15 ice cream sandwiches.  Recipe is easily doubled or tripled to make enough for all the neighborhood kids as well as your own.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vietnamese Barbecue Tacos

This recipe comes from the April issue of Southern Living.  I must admit that generally when I get any magazine the first thing I do is flip to the recipes.  I saw lots of great recipes in this one, but none of them flipped my wig enough to add it to my weekly meals.  My husband picked it up later and marked this recipe.  I put it on the weekly menu, but I was hesitant about it.  I thought the picture looked weird, and that the ingredients seemed like an odd combination.  However, I reasoned, I do love Asian food, and I love tacos, so I may as well try them.

After cooking the meat and getting excited by the amazing smell of the marinade, I knew I was going to love the meat.  But I still wasn't sure about the toppings and dipping sauce.  Luckily I have kids, so I put on a brave face and put a taco together to demonstrate to them how to eat it.  I piled on the toppings and dipped it in the sauce.  It was like an amazing explosion of deliciousness.  I was in heaven.  I forgot the kids and hastily finished my taco, reveling in every single bite.  And then I went for more.

So I hope that you'll give this a try, even if it seems unfamiliar.  I promise that the sauce, while it looks like it should be really spicy, really isn't.  And the toppings, while they seem like an odd combination, are actually amazing together.  Try it.  You'll like it.  You might just love it.

As a note, the meat need to marinate for at least 8 hours, so plan ahead accordingly.

Vietnamese Barbecue Tacos
Recipe by Southern Living Magazine, April 2012

Marinade/Meat Ingredients:
2 1/2 pounds beef steak (strip steaks, flank steaks, tri-tip steaks, or any other nice piece of meat you can get your hands on.  I used sirloin.)
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs grated fresh ginger (or 1 1/2 tsp ground dried ginger)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs honey
1 Tbs sesame oil
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 medium-sized red onion, sliced

 Dipping Sauce Ingredients:1/2 cup water
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
3 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, mined
1 Serrano or Thai chili pepper, seeded and sliced (if you want your dipping sauce spicy, you can leave the seeds)

Topping Ingredients:
Thinly sliced red cabbage
Matchstick-sized or coarsely grated carrots
Thinly sliced red onion (use the rest of the onion from above)
Chopped fresh cilantro
Chopped fresh mint
Thinly sliced cucumbers
Small (8-inch) flour tortillas

For the meat:  In a bowl combine fish sauce, vinegar, ginger, garlic, honey, sugar, oil, and pepper.  Stir well.  Pour into a ziplock bag and add onions.  Add meat.  Seal bag and refrigerate 8-24 hours.

For the dipping sauce: In a small bowl whisk together water, fish sauce, vinegar, sugar, lime juice, and garlic.  Stir in chili pepper.  Can be made ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to a week.

To assemble:  Grill meat over medium-high heat for 3 minutes per side.  Turn heat to low and cook an additional 1-2 minutes per side, or until desired degree of doneness.  Cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes before cutting into thin strips across the grain. 

On a flour tortilla, place some meat and desired toppings.  Roll into taco and serve with dipping sauce.

Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Zucchini Bread

The other day I bought two zucchinis but only ended up using one in my recipe, so I was left wondering what to do with the remaining one.  I thought of the amazing zucchini bread I've had here and there throughout my life, and set out to find a good recipe.  This one is moist, tender, hearty, and delicious.  It tastes like a sweet but has a lot of good stuff in there too, and the addition of the applesauce boosts the flavor and vitamins while cutting the fat.  Give it a try!

Zucchini Bread
Recipe by Ellie Krieger

3/4 cup whole wheat flour (pastry flour is best, but regular will work)
3/4 cup white flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/3 cup natural unsweetened applesauce** (see note below)
2 large eggs
1 small zucchini, coarsely grated (about 1 1/4 cups)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Spray a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt.  In another bowl, combine oil, applesauce, and eggs until well mixed.  Stir in zucchini, then add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until evenly moistened.  Stir in walnuts, if using.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and bake at 350F for 50-60 minutes.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove and finish cooling on wire rack.
Makes 1 loaf.

**It might be difficult to find natural unsweetened applesauce, but it is very easy to make your own.  Simply take 2 medium-sized apples, any variety you like, peel them and cut them into 1" pieces.  Place them in a small pot with a tablespoon of water, cover them, and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until the apples are very tender.  Keep an eye on them while cooking, and if they seem to be drying out add another tablespoon of water whenever they need it.  Remove from heat and puree in a blender or food processor.

Moroccan Chicken and Carrot Tagine

If you've never heard of a tagine, you need to first read my post about the Kefta Tagine.  If you don't have a tagine, you can easily use a stock pot.

This tagine is great for those who like to keep their flavors more like that at home in America.  There are some Middle Eastern spices in there, but the flavor is by no means overwhelming.  My mother really doesn't like most Middle Eastern food, or Asian or Indian food for that matter, and I am confident that she would love this.

The recipe specifically calls for carrots, but you can also add in peas, green beans, potatoes, or other vegetables as you desire.  Additionally, if you would rather not use a whole chicken, you can use whatever parts of a chicken you prefer, but they're better if you have them bone-in and skinless.

Moroccan Chicken and Carrot Tagine
Recipe by Norma Bergaust

1 whole roaster chicken, cut into pieces (bone-in, skin removed if you desire)
1 medium onion, finely minced or grated (I used my food processor)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced (or more)
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 bay leaf
2 T cooking oil
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into finger-sized pieces
1 small wedge of lemon
1/4 tsp salt (to taste)

Combine chicken, minced onion, ginger, pepper, garlic, parsley, 1/2 cup water, and bay leaf in a tagine or stock pot set on the stove over medium heat.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Add cooking oil and enough water to cover the chicken.  Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
Add carrots, lemon, salt, and any other vegetables you'd like to add.  Push the vegetables under the chicken so they are in the liquid.  Cover and cook until vegetables are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
Serve with artisan bread.

Serves 6.

Moroccan Cucumber Salad

This is a very basic and easy salad, but with the addition of the Moroccan spices it turns into a tasty and healthy side dish for Moroccan food.

Moroccan Cucumber Salad
Recipe by Norma Bergaust

2-3 cucumbers, diced
4-5 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1/2 medium red onion, minced
Juice of one lemon
2 T olive oil
Small bunch of cilantro, chopped
Small bunch of parsley, chopped
Salt to taste
1 1/2 tsp cumin

Combine all in a serving bowl and toss well.  Serve immediately.

Makes 6 side-dish servings.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Moroccan Kefta Tagine

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure to attend a Moroccan cooking class taught by my friend Norma.  Norma is not Moroccan but lived there for several years, and the food she made was amazing!  Since my husband and I had lived in the Middle East I had randomly picked up the special cooking pot called a tagine that is used in Moroccan cooking.  I had found some recipe online for a tagine recipe, but was sorely disappointed in the result.  So when I tasted Norma's food I was so excited to finally be able to use that pot! 
A very basic tagine, or Moroccan cooking pot.

I made two tagines (the pots and the dishes you make with them are both called tagines) the following week, and my kids and husband could not get enough.  I had expected leftovers, and was left with none.  It was wonderful (except that I didn't get to eat that amazing food again for lunch the next day).  This one was our favorite, but I'll post the Chicken and Carrot one later on this week, which was also very good.

Of course, not everyone has a tagine pot.  If you'd like to buy one without traveling to Morocco, you can get them at Sur La Table or World Market.  Or if not, you can always use a standard American stock pot.  That will work just fine. 

Kefta is the Arabic word for ground meat.  In this case it means meatballs.  I used ground beef for the meatballs but you could also use ground lamb or goat meat.

As a side note, Norma said that generally these dishes are served with an artisan-style bread.  You can quite easily make the one I used.  The recipe is here.  It was delicious with this tagine

Kefta (Meatball) Tagine
Recipe by Norma Bergaust

1 lb hamburger
1 medium onion, minced (you will use 1/4 of it for the meatballs and the rest in the sauce)
1 egg yolk or whole egg
1 clove garlic (or more--I used about 3 cloves)
1 T minced parcley
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cumin

Remaining Ingredients:
Minced onion (the remainder from the meatballs above)
2 cloves garlic (or more)
4 oz can tomato paste
1/4 cup water
1 T olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Ground pepper to taste
1/2 tsp cumin
Small bunch parsley, chopped
Small bunch cilantro, chopped
1-2 eggs

For the meatballs, combine all ingredients in a medium bowl, being sure to only use 1/4 of the minced onion.  Form into small meatballs, about 1/2"-1" in diameter.  Place on waxed paper on a baking sheet and refrigerate until needed.  You can also make the meatballs ahead of time, place them on the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze them overnight, then remove them to a plastic bag to store in the freezer.

Place the tagine or a stock pot on the stovetop at medium heat.  In a food processor place the remaining onion, garlic, tomato paste and water.  Process until well combined, then pour into tagine.  Heat for several minutes until hot, then add olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin.  Stir to combine, then drop in the meatballs.  They should cover the entire tagine.  Add enough water to just cover the meatballs, then add the parsley and cilantro, reserving some cilantro to use as garnish.  Cover with lid and cook over medium or medium low heat until the sauce is a nice consistency and the meatballs are cooked, about 15-20 minutes. 
Uncover the pot, crack eggs onto the top of the meatballs, and cover and continue to cook until they're set, about 10-15 more minutes. 
Serve with artisan-style bread.
Makes 5-6 servings.

Grilled Chicken and Garden Salsa

This recipe is from Southern Living Magazine, and is a lovely and quick thing to cook on a nice hot day.  It's a great idea to cook the vegetables on the foil, because they still get grilled, but without falling through the grates.  The flavor was great and I felt good about all those vegetables!  Enjoy!

Grilled Chicken and Garden Salsa
Recipe from Southern Living (May 2012)

2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
3 Tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 Tbs mayonnaise
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/2"-inch-wide strips
1 small onion, sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, quartered
2 Tbs olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

In a small bowl, combine Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, then brush with cheese mixture.  Toss vegetables with oil, then place on a large piece of aluminum foil. 
Place chicken and vegetables (on the foil) on a preheated medium-high grill.  Grill for 6 minutes, flipping chicken and stirring up vegetables after three minutes.  Turn heat to medium-low and cook an additional 3-6 minutes, flipping halfway through.
Let chicken rest 5 minutes before serving.  Sprinkle basil over vegetables just before serving. 
Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

This is another one of my favorite Thai recipes.  After tasting this recipe, you will forever be disappointed by the satay you eat in restaurants.  Sorry about that. 

A note about the ingredients:  you can easily find fish sauce and Thai red curry paste in the Asian Foods section of any grocery store.  Be sure you get the THAI curry paste, which is very different from Indian or other curries.  As for tamarind paste, you should read the note about it on my previous post.  If you absolutely cannot get tamarind paste, you can substitute lime juice, but it's not the same, so don't do that and then tell me you hate this recipe.  I personally think that it's worth it to spend a few hours hunting down the right ingredients, because it's just that good.  And once you have them, you can make this lots of times in the future, which I guarantee will make you happy.

Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
Recipe adapted from "Thai" by Lesley Mackley

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips that are 1/4"-thick and 1"-wide
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 Tbs soy sauce
2 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp lemon zest
2 cloves garlic, minced (about a teaspoon)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbs lime juice
1 tsp brown sugar

For the Peanut Sauce:
2 T smooth peanut butter
1 cup coconut cream or coconut milk
2 tsp red Thai curry paste
1 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs brown sugar

First make the marinade.  Combine oil, soy sauce, tamarind paste, lemon zest, garlic, cumin, coriander, lime juice, and brown sugar in a food processor or blender.  Blend to make a thin paste.  Transfer to a ziplock bag or a bowl and toss in the chicken, making sure everything gets well coated. Refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to 4. 

Meanwhile, make the peanut sauce.  In a small saucepan combine the peanut butter, coconut milk, curry paste, fish sauce, and brown sugar.  Heat over medium heat, stirring with a whisk, until sauce is warm and smooth.  Sauce can be set aside and reheated when ready to use.

Remove the chicken from the marinade and thread onto skewers.  Grill over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes per side, or until chicken is cooked through.  You can also cook it under a broiler, though it will take a few more minutes. 

Serve with the warm peanut dipping sauce.
Makes 8 appetizer servings, or 4 main dish servings.

Pad Thai

Several years ago I traveled to Thailand, and as a Thai food lover, I was very excited to eat there.  The first thing I wanted to try was authentic Pad Thai.  I was very disappointed to hear that Pad Thai is actually not a traditional Thai dish, but rather something that was invented in China, and is the Chinese way of making Thai-style noodles.  I did eat a lot of other fantastic food on that trip, and I still love Pad Thai even though it's not officially Thai. 

This recipe is one I got several years ago online, and I've modified it over the years to make it easier to make while still retaining the flavor of real Pad Thai.  There are so many recipes out there for Pad Thai, and most of them are terrible, but I promise you this one is very very good. 

In most Thai dishes there are a few ingredients that really make it taste Thai.  This recipe utilizes three of those key ingredients, namely fish sauce, tamarind paste, and lime.  Fish sauce and lime are easy to come by in any grocery store; tamarind paste is a bit trickier.  I have found it in my local Wegman's grocery store, in the Asian food aisle.  I have found it at our Asian grocery store, H-Mart,  though it was very difficult to find because of the communication barrier.  Probably the easiest place to get it would be to go to an Indian or Middle Eastern or Asian market, a little store where it won't take you an hour to walk every aisle, and get it there. 

Once you have tamarind paste (it's also sometimes called tamarind concentrate, or tamarind juice, even though it's a thick paste (the thickness of peanut butter)), you can keep it practically forever in your refrigerator and it's used in LOTS of Thai recipes.  You can also thin it with water and make it into a juice, but I personally think it tastes terrible!  I guess it's an acquired taste.

So, without any more delays, here is the recipe for Pad Thai.  I hope you love it as much as I do.

Pad Thai

1/2 lb dried thin (1/8" wide) rice noodles (also called "Oriental Style Noodles," gkuay dtiow in Thai, or ban pho in Vietnamese)
3 Tbs fish sauce
3 Tbs tamarind paste
2 Tbs brown sugar or palm sugar if you have that
4 tsp peanut oil (or you can use vegetable oil)
1/3 lb fresh shrimp, shelled, deveined and butterflied, OR 1/2 lb boneless chicken, cut into 1/2" cubes
3/4 cup firm pressed tofu, cut into thin strips about 1"x1/2"x1/4"
4-5 cloves garlic, minced (that's at least a tablespoon of minced garlic.  I usually put in 2 T)
1/2 medium onion, chopped, or 3 shallots, chopped
2 T soy sauce (if you can get dark sweet soy sauce it's better)
1 tsp ground dried red chilies, or 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 eggs
3 cups fresh bean sprouts
1 cup garlic chives, cut into 1-1/2" long pieces
2/3 cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts (for garnish)
1 lime, cut into 4 or 8 wedges (for garnish)
Cilantro springs (for garnish)
4 green onions, root trimmed and top cut back until the onion is about 4-5" long (for garnish)

Soak the dried noodles in a large bowl of lukewarm water for about 40 minutes, until the noodles are limp but still firm to the touch.  While the noodles are soaking, combine fish sauce, tamarind paste, and brown sugar in a small bowl.  Prepare all other ingredients so they will be close at hand while cooking, as the cooking process goes very quickly.

When the noodles have softened, drain and set aside.  Prepare a large wok by heating over medium high heat until smoking.  Add 2 tsp oil and stir-fry the shrimp or chicken until cooked through.  Remove from pan and place in serving bowl.  Drizzle just a little bit of fish sauce over the meat.

Add another tsp oil to the wok, and swirl it around to coat the surface.  Wait 20 seconds or so until it is hot, then add the tofu, frying and turning for a few minutes until they begin to brown.  Add garlic and stir-fry for 15 seconds, then add onion and cook another 15 seconds.  Add soy sauce and ground chilies, stirring to combine everything.

Add the noodles in, and toss well with everything in the wok.  Cook for about 2 minutes, until noodles have softened and are nearly cooked.  Push the whole mass of everything up on the top sides of the wok so you have a free cooking surface at the very bottom.  Add the last tsp of oil to the bottom, wait for it to heat for a few seconds, then crack the eggs in that spot.  Scramble them as they cook, and when they're set, cut them up a bit with your spatula and mix them into the noodles.

Pour the tamarind mixture over the whole thing, stirring to make sure everything is evenly coated.  If the noodles are still too firm, you can add a little water (1-2T) and let them cook for a few more minutes.  You may need to add more tamarind, sugar, and fish sauce if you do this. 

When everything is cooked and well-mixed, toss in the meat, bean sprouts, chives, and half of the peanuts.  Stir just until the vegetables are partially wilted, then transfer to a serving dish.  Arrange green onions, lime wedges, and cilantro on top, and sprinkle with remaining peanuts. 

Serve immediately, squeezing some lime juice onto it before eating.
Makes 4 servings.