Thursday, April 29, 2010

CEIMB: Southwestern Hash and Eggs

It was nice, for a change, to make this week's Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe for people other than just the boys and I. This time, my mother and father in-law were here to enjoy the food with us! I noticed some other people in the group made this one for a quick dinner; we had ours for breakfast over the weekend.

This turned out to be a big hit at our house! If anyone liked it less than the rest of our household, it would probably be me, and I still really liked it. The only reason I was a little skeptical was because I'm really not a fan of black beans, at least not the texture, or tomatoes when they are whole. Instead of bigger tomatoes, I had purchased little cherry tomatoes, so they burst in the pan while cooking and became all squishy and yummy. In addition, I dislike runny yolks, so I had my fried egg just a little bit more well-done than everybody else.

It turns out the black beans had a similar texture to the potatoes themselves, so I had no real problem with them in this dish. With a big mouthful that contained other things, you hardly noticed they were there. I thought the seasonings were great (everybody else liberally added salt), and it was just perfect with a little hot sauce on top. I could see this totally working as a dinner, as well, but I would probably add some meat just to make it a bit more hearty.

This week's recipe was chosen by Melissa of It's Melissa's Kitchen. Thanks for the fantastic choice! The recipe can be found on Food Network's website, here. Oh, one last thing: I won't be cooking along with the Ellie group next week. I just don't do lamb, and besides I'll have a good friend in town visiting, so I'll be pretty busy. But I'll be back the following week for the pancakes!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Pizza with Asparagus, Bacon, and Homemade Marinara Sauce

Yum, homemade pizza. We love the stuff around here. If I wasn't always so scared in the past of making the crust, we would probably have it much more often. Well, it's not the crust I am scared of, it's rolling out the crust that frightens me. I know, it seems very silly. I love to bake, and do all those sorts of things which require patience, but I don't know. When it came to pizza crust, I was intimidated. Having to roll it into a circle shape just seemed difficult. It's not like a pie crust, where you get to trim off the ratty edges. This had to actually look like a circle.

Well, I am happy to report that all the fear is now a thing of the past. I have faced the challenge head-on, and I won! I battled the crust, and I was victorious. More on that in a bit, though.

The above photo is a shot of some wild asparagus, brought to us by my mother and father in-law, who pick it out of their very own backyard. It tastes so much better than store-bought asparagus, in my opinion. It's almost sweet, juicier than any other asparagus I've had, and it cooks up so tender despite the thicker spears. It can be purple in color when first picked, but it gradually turns green while it's cooking. It's actually handy; it's got a built-in doneness indicator!

When I found this recipe for a flatbread appetizer topped with asparagus and pancetta in Cooking Light Magazine, I knew I wanted to make a variation of it. Instead of a flatbread, I would do a pizza. I would use bacon in place of the pancetta, and I thought I'd add some homemade marinara sauce (the original recipe doesn't have a sauce).

After searching Recipezaar briefly, I discovered a whole-wheat pizza dough recipe that could be made in the bread machine. We've made pizza dough this way plenty of times, but this was a new recipe and I wanted to give it a try. As it turns out, this may have been the best homemade dough we've ever had! It wasn't as dense or dry as some whole-wheat doughs can be, and a sprinkle of dried herbs made it flavorful and colorful. Best of all, though? It was a dream to work with! By hand, I was able to pull and stretch it into the correct shape, and made it fit the pizza pan just right. It was easy! I wondered then what I had been so worried about; I could totally handle this! I just hoped that the rest of it would be as simple.

Well, it was! I baked some bacon in the oven until it was crisp, and broke it into crumbly pieces. The asparagus was sliced lengthwise thinly, then artfully placed on the pizza. A healthy sprinkle of freshly grated mozzarella topped it off. But wait! I'm forgetting the sauce.

Oh, the sauce. Who knew something so ridiculously simply could be such a showstopper? Seriously, this sauce required absolutely no cooking whatsoever, and contained simple, everyday ingredients. I got this gem from Recipezaar; I chose it mainly because of the ease. I was very pleasantly surprised when I tried it and discovered just how delicious it was. It was thick, tangy, spicy, with a hint of sweetness...just wow. We also used it as a dipping sauce for some ravioli that I served on the side. I could probably just have eaten it straight, with a spoon, but I restrained myself. But next time, who knows?

I'm going to post the pizza recipe, because I took an existing idea and modified it to our liking, as well as the sauce recipe, just because it is so divine.

The recipe for the whole-wheat pizza dough can be found here.

Kittencal's No-Cook Pizza Sauce (or Marinara Dipping Sauce)

adapted from Recipezaar

makes about 2 1/2 cups


1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce

1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste (original recipe says you can use either 1/2 or a whole can)

2 tsp. dried oregano

2 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. fresh minced garlic (I believe I used 2 cloves)

1 tsp. paprika

2 tsp. sugar

1 pinch salt (can add to taste)

1 pinch cayenne pepper, to taste (I think my "pinch" was more like a healthy dash; next time I may lighten up on it a bit)


1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl; mix very well. Taste sauce and adjust seasonings as needed.

2. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours, more if possible, before serving.

Pizza with Asparagus, Bacon, and Homemade Marinara Sauce

Recipe by Bri

serves 4 (maybe)


1 whole-wheat pizza dough

cornmeal, for dusting

6 slices bacon

8-10 spears asparagus, sliced thinly lengthwise

1/2 - 3/4 cup homemade marinara sauce (see above)

3 oz. freshly grated mozzarella cheese (part-skim works well)


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Arrange bacon on a cooling rack, then place the cooling rack on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in oven for at least 20 minutes, until crispy and browned. Set aside to cool.

2. Dust work surface with cornmeal, then place pizza dough on cornmeal. Stretch dough into a 12-inch circle, then place on a 12-inch round pizza pan.

3. Spread marinara sauce on surface of dough. Crumble the reserved bacon over the sauce. Next, lay asparagus across the pizza, and finally cover everything with mozzarella cheese.

4. Crank the oven up to 400. Bake pizza for 10-12 minutes, until cheese is melted and the dough feels and looks fully baked. Serve immediately (preferably with extra marinara on the side for dipping your crusts!).

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Honey Lime Oat Muffins

This is one recipe that I probably should have posted a long time ago. I've been making these muffins for about two years now; they were the first muffins Xander ever tried. He usually wouldn't eat muffins because they tended to have chunks of fruit (like blueberry or raspberry, etc.) in them, and he's totally weird about chunks being in his muffins. Okay, if we're being honest here, he gets that weird chunk trait from me. But I am getting better with it, really! Him, on the other hand...well, we're still working on it.

So these muffins are great because they do not contain chunkiness, unless you count the oats, which are softened before going into the batter. I love how healthy these are. I like to use some whole-wheat flour as well as all-purpose, to give it a sturdier texture. The oats are fantastic in the muffin, too, because they really add substance to something which sometimes isn't the most filling food in the world. I mean, I love muffins as much as the next baker, which can be a problem sometimes when one muffin can be a caloric nightmare. Let alone two in one sitting, or three, get the point. But these muffins are delicious and nutritious. Win-win!

The best part of all, though, is how crowd-pleasing they are. As I said, these were the first muffins Xander would ever eat, and now Evan loves them, although he's more of a muffin connoisseur than Xander was at his age. He's not nearly as picky; if it's been baked from scratch, he'll pretty much eat it! Bless him. If food is love, then he's been showered with love by me lately.

The kids like them plain, and they are wonderful that way. You can really taste the honey, as well as the little flecks of lime zest that dot the whole muffin. The whole-wheat flour is present, but not overwhelmingly noticeable, and they are moist despite the lack of fat in the recipe. Using yogurt in muffins is genius; it really keeps them healthy, yet the texture is still that of a muffin. You know, instead of a rock or something.

What really takes them over the top, though, if you are so inclined, is the lime glaze. It is so simple; it's just a powdered sugar glaze with lime zest and lime juice. I dipped the tops of a couple while they were still warm, and just let the glaze harden before we ate them. It drips down the sides before it sets, and just gives it an extra citrus-y punch that is irresistible. Yum!

This method doesn't work so well if you are planning to make the muffins ahead of time, though. That's why, most of the time, I forgo it. Once the muffins have been pre-glazed, they begin to very slowly soak up the glaze. By the next day, the tops of the muffins are wet and shiny, and you can no longer distinctly taste the glaze. Not that this is not tasty, but it totally ruins the effect! So I recommend saving the glaze for special occasions, or company.

Honey Lime Oat Muffins

adapted from Recipezaar

makes 12 muffins


For the Muffins:

1 cup plain yogurt (I used non-fat)

1 cup old-fashioned oats (not instant)

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup milk

2 Tbsp. butter, melted (Smart Balance 50/50 Blend works fine, too)

2 tsp. lime zest (I zest 1 whole lime)

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole-wheat or whole-wheat pastry flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

For the Glaze:

3/4 cup powdered sugar

4 tsp. lime juice

1 tsp. lime zest


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Combine oats, yogurt, honey, milk, butter, and lime zest in a large bowl. Mix well and let sit for at least 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine all the remaining muffin ingredients except for the egg whites, mixing well.

3. Stir egg whites into yogurt mixture, mixing well. Add flour mixture to yogurt mixture; mix just until dry ingredients are moistened. Divide batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups.

4. Bake for 20-24 minutes (I actually bake for 22), until light golden-brown on top. Let muffins cool slightly, about 10 minutes, and then turn them out onto a cooling rack.

5. While the muffins are cooling for 10 minutes, prepare glaze: combine powdered sugar, lime juice, and lime zest with a whisk, until sugar is dissolved and all ingredients are well combined.

6. Dip muffin tops in glaze, and allow the glaze to harden slightly before serving.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

CEIMB: Soft Asian Summer Rolls

For this week's Craving Ellie in My Belly, Teresa of A Blog About Food chose Soft Asian Summer Rolls. This is a seemingly complicated recipe that actually turns out to be pretty simple once you have everything set up.

The rice paper rounds are not something you come across everyday in the grocery store, but fortunately we have an international grocer relatively close by. We were easily able to find these there, but the smallest package we could find has like, 40 rice papers inside. Guess we'll have to keep making these summer rolls, because this recipe only yielded six!

The rest of the ingredients are basic and simple. In each summer roll, you can find shrimp, rice noodles, grated carrot, fresh basil and mint, and half a lettuce leaf. Such fresh, clean ingredients, and oh, so delicious when combined! Ellie describes these as easy to assemble once you have all the fixins' laid out, and I could not agree more. I thought this was going to be harder than it was.

Of course, it does help to have a hubby that's willing to help you roll up the rice papers so that they actually resemble summer rolls, and not misshapen lumps! My first attempt looked pretty ridiculous, but Andy was able to make them look real purty.

I decided not to make the accompanying dipping sauce for these. I still had plenty of leftover finadene sauce from last week, and I figured that this would go just as well with the rolls. Turns out it did work, although the finadene sauce was probably way spicier than Ellie's sauce! That was fine with us; the flavors were complementary, and we got to clean out our fridge a little bit.

We're no strangers to Asian spring rolls around here; I've made them before and we always like them. However, I particularly liked Ellie's version because it just tasted so fresh. All the components were healthy; one roll only contains about 90 calories and no fat. They aren't fried; they're not even baked. Most importantly, they were devoured quickly and enjoyed immensely. You can't beat that! Thanks, Teresa, for the great choice!

The recipe for the Soft Asian Summer Rolls can be found here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chocolate Chili with Chipotle Cheddar Biscuits

Okay, back to normal again. No more coconutty delights to tempt you with! But that's okay, I have other tricks up my sleeve. Starting with these two recipes I made last week. The inspiration for me making this chili was the chocolate in it. I needed to use some up, and this was perfect. I have to say, I have done chocolate in chili once before, but this one was worth blogging about. It definitely does not taste like chocolate once everything is incorporated; instead, it imparts a wonderful, warm dimension that just can't really be described.

Like so many recipes I have loved lately, this one came to us from Cooking Light. The chili is comprised of ground turkey (I use half-99% lean, and half-93% lean), along with most of the usual suspects you find in chili. You're supposed to add in two cans of diced tomatoes and two cans of pinto beans along with an assortment of spices and some cocoa powder. Throw in some chicken broth and chipotle chiles, let everything come to a boil, and then simmer until thickened. At the end of the cooking process, you add in some chopped, unsweetened chocolate, let it melt and blend in, and you're ready to serve!

However, I have to admit I use a slightly different method when assembling my chili. I'm weird when it comes to certain textures in my food, and I am not a fan of having big chunks of tomato in soups and the like. Similarly, I dislike a chili that contains beans, but I am torn because I know that beans can add some great nutrition. I came up with a great compromise a few months back, and I have been using this technique ever since. It's simple; I throw all the tomatoes and beans in my blender, whirl away, and then I add the pureed goodies into the chili pot! I get the benefit of all those nutrients, without the ick factor of the chunky textures. We love it!

Moving on; I made some Chipotle Cheddar Biscuits to go along with the chili. I was very excited about these biscuits; I even bought chipotle powder specifically so I could make them. They've been bookmarked in my Baked cookbook for a while now, but I needed an excuse to make them. The recipe makes 20 biscuits; I wound up freezing half for a later date. Ultimately, I decided there would be no time like the present, and I just made them already!

These biscuits are seriously yummy. They contain both freshly ground black pepper and chipotle powder, so they certainly have a kick to them. They also contain 8 oz. of shredded sharp cheddar cheese and a stick of butter, so they are not an everyday indulgence! But I had fun making them...for the most part. They were fast to whip together, and I used my trusty cookie scoop to mound them onto the cookie sheets. I slid them into the oven and ran off to get some other things done while they baked.

When they are halfway done, you rotate the sheets. When I did this, I noticed that they were spreading an awful lot. There wasn't anything I could really do about it, though, so I forged on. Once they were finished baking, I took them out and realized that they kinda resembled large cookies. I'm sure you can tell from the pictures. They are not biscuit-sized, at least not in terms of height. I'm not exactly sure what caused this, but I do have one theory. My cream of tartar is at least a few years old, and since this is a leavener, that has to have an effect on the outcome. They still tasted great though, and I'm glad I finally got to make them. I've handily included the recipe!

Chipotle Cheddar Biscuits

from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

makes 20 small biscuits


2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. chipotle powder

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 Tbsp. baking powder

1 tsp. cream of tartar

1 tsp. salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 cups grated and tightly packed sharp cheddar cheese

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

1 large egg

Kosher salt, for topping


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, pepper, chipotle powder, sugar, baking powder, cream of tartar, and the 1 teaspoon of salt.

3. Add the butter and, using your hands or the back of a wooden spoon, work the butter into the dough. The mixture should look like coarse sand. Add the cheese and stir to thoroughly incorporate it into the dough.

4. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and egg. Add to the flour mixture and stir until just incorporated. Do not overmix.

5. Use a small ice cream scoop or a 1/4-cup measuring cup to scoop the dough and drop it in mounds onto the prepared baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with kosher salt and bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through the baking time, until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of a biscuit comes out clean.

6.. Transfer the biscuits to a cooling rack. The biscuits can be served slightly warm or at room temperature. Store biscuits in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

The recipe for the Chili with Chipotle and Chocolate can be found right here.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Week of Coconut: Fresh Coconut Cake

I saved the best coconut recipe for last. The most decadent, satisfying, yet challenging recipe for last. When I first received my April issue of Cooking Light, this is the one thing that jumped out at me immediately from its pages. I saw that this was a cake that they had taken, in all its full-fat, unhealthy glory, and made it over to be lighter and healthier. This was right up my alley; I love lightening up recipes, or figuring out ways to do so, and here the work was already done for me. The use of the fresh coconut was at once daunting and intriguing. If I could actually pull off using the coconut, I knew it would be a spectacular cake.

But first, I had to convince Andy to have a coconut cake for his birthday. He likes coconut just fine, but I know it's not his favorite, and normally people like something that they really crave for their birthday. Fortunately, he agreed to me making this right away; he liked the idea of making something so adventurous. The one caveat: I would alter the recipe just slightly, and make the frosting different from the one in the magazine. The lightened-up version calls for an Italian meringue frosting, which contains no fat. I decided to take this a step further and make an Italian meringue buttercream frosting, thus loading it down with lots and lots of yummy fat. It's a birthday cake; we needed to live a little!

I originally intended to take some pictures of the cake-baking process, and maybe some shots of the frosting in its various stages. In the end, I found that I was way too wrapped up in the actual baking and making to think about it. I need to get better at that! So anyway, instead we just have pictures of the cake as a finished product. It was pretty! This was my first layer cake made completely from scratch, and I was proud of myself, but I still have to beat up on my work a bit. If you look closely at the above picture, you can see that my layers are not even. There is a blank space in the top left half where the frosting did not quite meet the cake. This wouldn't have happened if I had taken the time to even out the layers. To be honest, I am still scared to level a cake. I've never done so, and I am almost positive I would mess it up if I did. I think when I finally do work up the nerve, it'll be because I've broken down and bought a special tool that leaves no room for error.

The cake layers came together just fine, although it really was a lot of work. To keep it lighter, you cut down on the use of butter and utilize egg whites instead of whole eggs. The wet ingredients were beaten in my stand mixer, and then in a separate bowl the 6 egg whites were whipped with a hand mixer to stiff peaks. After adding in the dry ingredients with the wet, and blending in coconut water (extracted from the fresh coconut!), you fold in the beaten egg whites gently to maintain volume.

Thanks to my kitchen scale, I was able to make each of the three cake layers the exact same volume, and then in the oven they went. I made the layers the night before, and then fretted about how I should store them overnight. After a long debate, Andy convinced me that it would be fine to leave them out on the counter on cooling racks. For the most part, that worked out okay, although the edges did seem a bit too stiff in the morning. I put them under my cake dome and they softened back up.

Now, it was time for the frosting! It was my first time making Italian meringue buttercream, and I was nervous. I watched a tutorial on YouTube by Warren Brown, whose recipe I intended to use for the frosting. I found it on Recipezaar (where else?) and then discovered that he had a video, which I was very excited about. I guess I'm a visual learner, because I definitely do better with something if I've seen it demonstrated for me first. I had never heard of Warren Brown before, but now I know he's the owner of a bakery called CakeLove, and that his recipe is awesome! He's got several locations, the newest one being in the mall we used to live by when we lived in Virginia. I was upset when I found this out; I would love to live right near this guy's bakery! Oh, well. I can still visit when we go back and see family in that area. Anyway, check out his website for more info on him.

Okay, I'm back on track now. Seriously, this frosting is unreal. You use an entire pound of butter, which of course I think goes against all laws of civilization. It is essential, I guess, to achieve the desired outcome, but it felt so wrong dumping all that butter into the mixer!

I'll back up just a bit here though. To achieve this buttercream, you cook a sugar/water mixture on the stove until a candy thermometer reads 240 degrees. While this is coming to temperature, you whip 5 egg whites in a stand mixer until they reach stiff peaks. Once the sugar is ready, you take it immediately from the heat and pour it in a slow, steady stream into the egg whites. Then, you whip it like crazy until the mixture is room temperature.

Now, it's time for all that butter! You dice the butter, making sure it is soft but still cool, and drop it in a bit at a time. Whip, whip, whip, and then you have buttercream! I added just a smidge (maybe 1/4 teaspoon) of coconut extract to the frosting, as well as about 1/2-3/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract. Even with the added flavorings, this buttercream is still very, well, buttery. I suppose it's right there in the title, huh? I should have anticipated it! It's the perfect frosting for those who do not like an overly sweet frosting, and the smooth texture just can't be beat. Honestly, I was just so giddy that I pulled it off without messing anything up, and on my first try!

After frosting the whole cake, the final touch is fresh shredded coconut, which has been toasted and cooled. That's it! It was an adventure, and it took me the better part of two days, but I am so happy that I accomplished the whole thing. The outcome was pretty awesome, we thought, and Andy was pleased with it, which was really the whole point. Success!

The recipe for the fresh coconut cake can be found here.

The recipe for Warren Brown's Italian meringue buttercream was found here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A Week of Coconut: Chicken Kelaguen

This meal came about when I asked Andy what he would like for his birthday dinner this year. Now, he usually responds with something like, "I don't care; I'm not picky," or "whatever you think." So imagine my surprise when he actually came up with this great idea!

Andy was born on the island of Guam, but he didn't live there very long. He certainly did not live there long enough to remember any of it, let alone remember the cuisine of the island. But he thought, with it being his birthday and all, that it would be kinda neat to research the foods of Guam, the basic staples and common dishes and whatnot, and make some of them this year. I agreed; I thought it was brilliant! We're always open to trying new and different things and food combinations, and I couldn't wait to look it up and see what was out there.

I discovered that some of the common Guamanian staples were things we would really like. The first Google search I did produced the name of a dish: chicken kelaguen. Chicken? Count us in! I also discovered that they make a red rice, using the annatto seed to color the grains. Another side dish they make is marinated cucumbers. Finally, I discovered that one of their primary staples guessed it, coconut! (This is a coconut-themed post, after all!) After a visit to my favorite recipe website in all the land, Recipezaar, I had acquired the appropriate recipes and was ready to start cooking!

Since there were going to be so many components to these dishes, we got to work on them the day before we were going to eat them. We started with a chicken. I had Andy grill a whole chicken. That's right, he actually grilled an entire chicken. He had to butcher it, too, since I had bought it intact. He was very critical of his work, saying he had done a terrible job, but I kept telling him to give himself a break. It was his first time taking apart a chicken, and no matter what, it was still going to taste good!

Once he had finished grilling the whole chicken, and allowing it to cool a bit, he set to work on shredding the meat. We stored it in the refrigerator overnight; it was pretty much ready to eat the next day. More on that in a little bit.

Next, I had to assemble the marinated cucumbers. They were going to need time to sit in the fridge and let all the flavors mingle; I was reading online that they were better the longer they sat. The marinade was pretty simple and fast, so I threw it together, sliced the cukes, tossed everything into a large Ziploc bag, and it was ready for the fridge.

So how does it all come together? I'm glad you asked! Picture, if you will, a nice, big pile of whole wheat pita breads and corn tortillas. Oh, wait, you don't have to picture it; I pictured it for you!

You pile your pita bread, or your corn tortilla, with the shredded chicken (which I had gently reheated in a low-ish oven, wrapped in foil). Top the chicken with finadene sauce, and then freshly grated coconut. First off, I have to say that I was surprised and intrigued by the addition of the fresh coconut. I wasn't sure what effect it would have on the overall flavor of the dish. I definitely thought it sounded too interesting not to try it, though. As for the finadene sauce, well, what a find this turned out to be! It is basically an extremely spicy soy sauce, but it is oh, so much more than that. There's 6 very hot peppers in this sauce (we used 3 habaneros and 3 small green thai chilies), chopped very fine, as well as some scallions and lemon juice. I love all these ingredients, but I have to admit that I was worried about this combination as a whole. I thought it may turn out to be an inedible, too-spicy, too-acidic mess. Boy, was I wrong!

Now, you can't go overboard on this sauce, mind you. It is very spicy. However, the way this stuff complements the rest of the ingredients of the pita is amazing. It flavors the chicken meat, and it balances out the mellowness of the coconut. Furthermore, it is superb on the red rice. I found the rice, on its own, to taste slightly bitter, but when you spoon some of the finadene on top, it changes the taste. The way it evened out was perfect. I did not take a picture of the red rice by itself, but it does make an appearance in the opening picture of this post. If I had to choose a least favorite part of the meal, the rice would probably be it, but I'm still glad we tried it; it made the whole thing that much more authentic. (The zucchini rolls from my last post appear on the finished plate picture, too, but obviously they were not really meant to be eaten with this Guamanian meal!)

All in all, we were very happy with our first foray into the food of Guam. I think we're going to be venturing even further into this cuisine in the future. I've already found more recipes to try! As for the fresh coconut, I was so psyched to buy my first real coconut to use for this dish. We had another use for the coconut, but you'll have to wait until my next post to find out what that other use was. It's a doozy, if I do say so myself!

The recipe for the marinated cucumbers can be found here.
The recipe for the finadene sauce can be found here.
For the Chamorro Red Rice, I used this recipe as a guide, but what I did was slightly different.

Chamorro Red Rice
adapted from Recipezaar
serves 4-6

2 cups short-grain rice
4 cups water
2-3 tsp. annatto seed, ground into a powder
salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine water and annatto powder in a medium-sized saucepan and bring water to a boil. Add rice, salt, and pepper, stir briefly, and turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover the rice, and cook for 18-20 minutes, until water is absorbed and the rice has taken on an orange-reddish tint. Fluff with a fork, take the saucepan off the heat, and let stand with the lid on for about 5 minutes. Serve with chicken kelaguen.

Chicken Kelaguen

1 whole (3-4 lb.) chicken
3/4-1 cup freshly grated coconut (not the sweet shredded stuff you get in a bag in the baking aisle of the grocery store)
6-8 whole-wheat pita breads, slightly warmed
6-8 corn tortillas, slightly warmed
finadene sauce, to taste

1. Prepare the chicken by grilling (or poaching, or baking, or whatever method you find easiest) until cooked through. Shred all the meat and reserve.
2. Assembly: choose either a pita or a tortilla as your base. Sprinkle shredded chicken on your bread of choice, add some grated coconut, and top with finadene sauce. Serve with red rice on the side.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

CEIMB: Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups with Herbs and Cheese

Today's post will be just a short break from all the coconut madness of this week. No worries; I'll be back with more coconut goodness in the next couple of days. Now, onto this week's Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe!

This one comes to us from Liz over at My Table, Their Table. We made Grilled Zucchini Roll-Ups with Herbs and Cheese, although by "we," I kinda mean Andy. He pretty much did the whole thing himself; I just co-piloted while I was doing other things. The recipe is simple enough. Slice some zucchini lengthwise (Andy was so proud of himself when he figured out that he could do this with the cheese slicer!), then grill it up until tender. He did this the night before.

The next day, he assembled the filling mixture. The original recipe calls for goat cheese, but if I'm being honest here I have to say we dislike goat cheese. We've tried it on several different occasions, but our reaction is pretty much always the same. We agree that it leaves an unpleasant aftertaste and tastes almost too much like stinky cheese, if that makes sense. We just happened to have some taleggio cheese on hand, so we used that. Taleggio is a softer cheese, smells and tastes pungent, but isn't quite as hard for us to take as the goat cheese.

So anyway, the filling is comprised of the taleggio cheese, lemon juice, and some dried parsley (we did not have any fresh). You place some of this cheese mixture on one end of a zucchini slice, top this with a few fresh spinach leaves and a basil leaf, and roll it up. It was a bit tricky, because of the tenderness of the zucchini, but I thought Andy did an amazing job. They were so beautiful on the plate!

He loved these, but unfortunately I did not really care for them. I don't know what's wrong with me; I enjoy each ingredient on its own. I think I'd prefer my zucchini warm, not chilled. Also, I had a hard time figuring out how to eat it, so I just popped a whole roll in my mouth. The problem is, I think they're just a tad too big to do that. Oh, well. I'm glad we tried this! It made for a fun side dish/starter. Thanks to Liz for the pick!

The recipe for these can be found over at Food Network's website, here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Week of Coconut: Chicken Tikka Masala

My second coconut meal this week was a lovely chicken dish that I had been meaning to try for quite a while. It was very simple and relatively fast, other than the fact that there was a period of marinating for the chicken. The technique basically involves mixing together a spice blend and letting chicken cubes hang out in it for 2 hours up to 24 hours. After it's been properly married in the fridge, you saute some onion and red jalapeno on the stove and simmer these veggies in coconut milk briefly. While the veggies cook, broil the chicken quickly, add it to the pot of veggies and coconut milk, and allow all the flavors to come together over a low heat.

I couldn't believe how much bang for the buck you get with this meal. It packs so much flavor, for such little effort! The spice blend was extremely aromatic and flavorful, and the red jalapeno adds a decent amount of heat. The coconut milk adds a different dimension of rich, creamy smoothness. It's almost sweet, but because it is paired with so many savory elements, it takes on those new flavors and provides a yummy sauce that is perfectly soaked up by the rice you set it all on top of. This was our first time using coconut milk in a dish, but it certainly will not be the last. We loved it in this dish, and I'm already thinking up new ways to incorporate it into things. One thing: this recipe's instructions originally said not to use light coconut milk, but I decided not to heed the warning. I went ahead with the light coconut milk and I thought it was perfectly fine the way it was. I didn't miss the extra fat. The original recipe is here. I am posting my rendition, simply because I did a couple things differently.

Cheeky Chicken Tikka Masala
Adapted from Recipezaar
Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. dried cilantro
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 ½ Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
1 red jalapeno chile, finely chopped
1 14 oz. can light coconut milk
1 lemon, cut into wedges

1. Combine ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, cayenne, salt, pepper, cilantro, lime juice, and 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a ziplock bag. Add chicken cubes, shake bag to coat thoroughly, and place in refrigerator for 2 hours or overnight.
2. Preheat broiler. Place chicken on a baking sheet, and broil for about 8-10 minutes, turning once halfway through. Remove from oven and set aside.
3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining ½ Tbsp. olive oil in a deep skillet or pot over medium heat. Add onion and jalapeno, and sauté for about 5 minutes, until vegetables are soft. Add coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
4. Turn heat down to low and cook for another 2-5 minutes. Add in the reserved chicken, stir to combine, and simmer another 5 minutes or so, until chicken is cooked through.
5. Serve chicken mixture over rice (we used brown basmati rice) with lemon wedges on the side. Enjoy!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Week of Coconut: Samoas Bars

Recently, I have found myself on a coconut kick. It wasn't necessarily a conscious decision; I just started planning things to make, and then I realized that a lot of them involved coconut. I thought it would be fun to turn it into a theme week here on my blog! So most of the recipes I will feature in the coming week will include a coconut ingredient of some kind. I'm kicking off the week with these delectable Samoas Bars.

So Andy's favorite Girl Scout cookie is the Samoa. He could probably eat a whole box of them in one day. When I found out that there was a copycat recipe out there, I got very excited. When I found it, though, I realized just how labor intensive it would be. First, there's the cookie, which needs to be cut into a circle, with a smaller circle cut out in the center. Then there's the caramel/coconut layer on top of that. Then, you'd have to dip each cookie individually into chocolate, and finally drizzle more chocolate across the tops. Sure, they'd be pretty, but I really don't have time to do all that. But, all hope was not lost! Because lo and behold, there was a Samoas Bar cookie recipe as well! This would cut out the tedious step of individual cookies, since these cookies would be baked as a 9x13 sheet. These are time-consuming, as there are many different steps. However, none of the steps are difficult, and it comes together quickly enough.

The bottom layer is basically a big shortbread cookie. Simple, and very fast to throw together and bake off in the oven. One quick note about the shortbread layer, however: I found it to be extremely crumbly. I don't think I did anything wrong; I followed the directions carefully. When I got to the final step of dipping the bars into chocolate, I couldn't successfully do so because the cookie layer literally fell apart and disappeared into the bowl of chocolate. In the future, I may look for a different, sturdier cookie base recipe and use that instead.

While that cookie layer cools, you toast up 3 cups of coconut, then melt down some caramel. You fold the coconut into the melted caramel, and then drop it by spoonfuls onto the cooled cookie. It spreads fairly easily, but you have to work quickly while the caramel is still warm. You simply cover the entire cookie surface with the coconut/caramel,

then allow everything to firm up. After the bars are firm and cool, they can be cut into bars. At this point, they can be dipped in melted dark or semi-sweet chocolate (I used semi-sweet) and placed on wax paper to set. However, like I had said before, I had major problems when I got to this part. I resorted to spooning the melted chocolate onto the bar bottoms and spreading it to cover completely. I had to stick these in the fridge to firm the chocolate enough to peel the bars from the wax paper; otherwise, the chocolate and half the shortbread layer wanted to come right off. Oh, well. The drizzling part was a breeze; I waited until the bars were all chocolatey on the bottom, then I put what was left of the chocolate into a little piping/decorating bag. A quick squiggle across the tops, and they were ready for consumption!

These are delicious, all technical difficulties aside. They truly do remind you of a Samoa cookie, but without the $4.00 per box price tag. They are a good amount of work, so I'm sure I won't be making them that often, but it's a great recipe to keep in your back pocket, especially if you have a Samoa lover in the house!

The recipe can be found here.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

CEIMB: Garlic-Basil Shrimp

Aah, this is more like it! Now, this is the kind of seafood dish I can really enjoy! For this week's Craving Ellie in My Belly pick, we made Garlic-Basil Shrimp, chosen by Tea and Scones. This was a very simple dish, one that is easy to prepare (even easier if you bought your shrimp already cooked, like we did) and tastes very fresh. The shrimp we had purchased was some yummy smoked shrimp from a local farm/country store, so that saved us the step of cooking the shrimp. The other components of the dish were cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, and white wine. The shrimp and veggies are tossed on a bed of orzo at the end. Yum.

Even though the dish was pictured in Ellie's cookbook with the shrimp and tomato mixture sitting atop the orzo, we decided to throw the orzo into the pan after everything was finished cooking, and we just mixed everything together. I think it worked out well this way, as the orzo was truly able to absorb all the juices and liquids and assume those flavors.

If there was anything I would say about this meal in terms of improving upon it, I would say it seemed to really need some type of acid to balance out the mellowness of the sauce. It tasted great, and a sprinkling of fresh Parmesan cheese really did much to enhance its greatness, but a squirt of lemon juice over the top at the end would have made it just a little bit better. I would have tried that, if we had any lemons, but we didn't when I made this so it'll just motivate me to make this again sometime soon!

Thanks to Tea and Scones for the excellent pick. The recipe for Garlic-Basil Shrimp can be found here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Buffalo Wing Chicken Dip

Yes, that is a face in my dip. Yes, it is made of vegetables. Yes, it is ridiculous, and no, it was not created by myself. That is my husband's handiwork. I decided to make a buffalo wing dip for his birthday, since his bigger, more elaborate birthday dinner will come later this week. I took the dip out of the oven, went upstairs to put the baby to bed, and when I came back this is what he had done to it. Cute.

Let me back up a little, though. There's a bit of a story behind the making of this dip. It is easy to put together, but it requires a few different steps. I spent a good part of the afternoon poaching chicken breasts, allowing them to cool, shredding them, and then shredding a brick of cheddar cheese. I walked away from everything to take the kids outside to play (highs in the mid-80s, yay!) and came back later on to do the next few steps. I placed a package of cream cheese, 1/2 a cup of ranch dressing, and 3/4 of a cup of buffalo wing sauce in a glass bowl and set it in the microwave to melt the cheese. A couple minutes later, I heard a *chink*. I opened up the microwave to discover that the bowl had completely broken. Weird; I had microwaved that very same bowl many times before. What was even weirder, though, was how the bowl had broken. Here's what it looked like after I had emptied its contents.

The base of the bowl was still intact, and the rim of the bowl was still intact. But somehow, one half had come apart from the other, and the top half was still resting on the bottom half. It was very bizarre. Of course, I had to scrap the whole concoction inside the bowl and start over. I couldn't risk it; what if there was broken glass inside the dip? Anyway, so I tossed the bowl in the garbage and began again. And it turned out delicious. Oozy, cheesy, spicy. It works as a snack, or as an appetizer, or even as dinner. Bread, veggies, tortilla chips; you could probably dip just about anything and it would still be awesome.

All in all, I think it was a good birthday for Andy this year. He got his gifts the night before. We went with a coffee theme this year, and his "big" gift was a brand new Kitchen Aid coffee grinder. I was very excited about it because I actually managed to keep it a secret from him, which virtually never happens with his birthday gifts. Xander had fun decorating the outside of the box!

Here's the recipe for Buffalo Wing Chicken Dip, which I tweaked to fit our tastes. The original recipe is here.

Buffalo Wing Chicken Dip
adapted from Recipezaar
serves 6-8

8 ounces cream cheese
6 ounces Frank's red hot sauce (we used hot buffalo flavor)
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached and shredded
8 0unces cheddar cheese, shredded

1. Combine cream cheese, ranch, and hot sauce in a medium-sized bowl. Heat in microwave until cream cheese is melted, stirring every minute or so to prevent burning.
2. Add the chicken and about half the shredded cheddar to the mixture, stirring to coat everything. Pour into a baking dish (mine went into a 2-quart casserole dish).
3. Top mixture with the remaining cheddar cheese, cover dish with foil, and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove foil cover and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, until bubbly and starting to darken on top. Serve immediately with veggies, bread, tortila chips, etc.