Friday, January 29, 2010

Garlic Parmesan Tortellini Soup

Growing up, I would bug my mom constantly to make her tortellini soup. Cheesy stuffed pasta in a garlicky broth of cream and herbs - what could be better? This is my take on her household classic...

3 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons butter
32 oz chicken broth
8 ounces cheese-filled tortellini pasta
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 tablespoons chopped basil
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Sauté celery, onion, and garlic in melted butter over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil. Toss in the chopped herbs, salt, pepper, and tortellini, and cook for 3 minutes or until pasta is tender. Add heavy cream and heat through. Take off heat and stir in parmesan cheese.

Banana Matcha Muffins

Banana muffins are super easy to make. I just love the way the banana combines with the green tea to form this soft and luscious green delight.

4 bananas, mashed
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1/8 cup matcha (powdered green tea)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease muffin tins or line with muffin liners. Mix together mashed bananas, brown sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in flour, matcha, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chai Latte

The weather has been rainy and chilly the past few days here in Southern California. This weather makes me want to curl up on the couch with a book, a blanket, and a mug filled with a warm drink. But what type of warm drink? Nothing sounded good enough, until I thought about chai. This chai latte recipe, with its smooth almond undertone and spicy and fragrant tea, is the perfect antidote to the cold-weather blues.

1 quart whole milk
1 teaspoon of toasted and ground almonds
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/8 teaspoon cardamom, divided
3 cinnamon sticks, divided
1 cup water
8 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 peppercorns
1/2 of the peel of an orange
1/4 cup sugar
4 teabags

Gently simmer milk, almonds, vanilla extract, 1/8 teaspoon cardamom, and a cinnamon stick in a saucepan for an hour. In another saucepan, bring the water, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, nutmeg, peppercorn, orange peel, and teabags to a boil. Let it boil for 5 minutes. Add sugar and the spiced milk and return to a boil. Serve in mugs and garnish with more cinnamon sticks.


These chocolatey, almost caramel-like candies rolled in sprinkles are a fun and playful snack. They are also super easy to make, so they are great treats when you are short on time!

3 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons margarine
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
chocolate sprinkles

Combine cocoa powder, butter, salt and condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring continuously, until mixture has thickened and pulls away from the sides of the pan, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest until cool enough to handle. Spray some cooking spray on hands and form into small balls. Coat with chocolate sprinkles.

Apple Pie

Apple pie is the All-American dessert. Everyone loves it (except my husband!). With its sugary, cinnamony apples encased by a golden brown flaky crust, it is the ultimate sweet finale to a meal. One of my favorite apple pie recipes is in the September 2009 edition of Gourmet magazine. That recipe is incredibly simple but so innovative in its use of cheddar cheese in the crust. I was in the mood recently, however, for an apple pie that was a bit richer and had more of a molasses taste to it. Here is my attempt at capturing that taste.

2 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 stick (4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening
6-8 tbsp ice cold water

7 cooking apples - I like to use 5 Granny Smith and 2 Golden Delicious
lemon juice from 2 lemons
2/3 c Demerara sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 tsp brandy
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1 tablespoon butter, cut into pieces

Whipped cream topping:
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon confectioners sugar

for crust:
Mix flour, salt and sugar in bowl and add the cold butter and cold shortening. Mix together with your hands until the mixture has pea-size lumps. Drizzle 6 tablespoons of ice cold water on the mixture. Mix until the dough holds together. If it doesn't hold together, add more water. Once dough holds together into a ball, separate into halves and refrigerate for at least an hour. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

for filling:
As I peel and cut the apples, I squirt lemon juice on the pieces and toss to prevent discoloration. After all the cutting is done, add the remaining lemon juice, brandy, vanilla, flour, salt and spices. Roll out the dough into a 13-inch disc and an 11-inch disc. Place the larger disc on the bottom of 9-inch pie pan. Pour the filling and dot the with pieces of butter. Place the smaller disc over the filling. Cut five 1-inch vents into the crust. Lightly coat the top with milk or cream.

for whipped cream:
I like to serve this with whipped cream infused with a bit of sugar and maple syrup. Beat the heavy cream with the sugar and maple syrup until soft peaks form. Sprinkle some nutmeg and cinnamon on top, and you are good to go!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches Cake is a wonderfully creamy white cake soaked in a glaze of milky, alcoholic goodness and topped with fluffy white cream. Indulging in this three (in this case 4!) milk cake can make all your troubles go away.  Each bite is like a sweet piece of nirvana.

1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
5 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup evaporated milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon rum or brandy

1 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan. Mix flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl. Beat in egg yolks and sugar. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add 1/4 cup sugar, and beat until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour into the greased pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. When cake is cool, prepare the glaze. Combine sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and rum and pour the glaze over the cake. Refrigerate for at least an hour. To make the topping, beat the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla until thick.

Mafe with Green Plantain Chips and Rice

On a chilly winter night, there is nothing better than a big bowl of stew to warm you up. This Senegalese classic stew is a great addition to your repertoire. The earthiness of the peanut butter and the tangy sweetness of the tomato come together so wonderfully.

3 tablespoons peanut oil, divided
1 1/2 lbs lamb or beef stew meat
2 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 turnip, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 sweet potato, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1/4 inch fresh ginger, sliced
1 cup beef stock
1/2 cup peanut butter
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
6 ounces tomato paste
zest and juice from 2 lemons
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon mace
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
salt and pepper

Green Plantain Chips:
peanut oil, for deep frying
green plantains, sliced thinly with a mandoline
ginger powder
cayenne pepper
lemon zest

Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a dutch oven over high heat. Brown the meat on all sides/ Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. In the dutch oven, brown the cut vegetables and sprinkle salt and pepper on them. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add a tablespoon of oil and saute the onion, garlic, and ginger until the onion is translucent. Place meat and vegetables back in the pot. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in stock and peanut butter. Add the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Add more stock if mixture is too thick. Bring mixture to a boil. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, sprigs of thyme, and bay leaves. Place in oven and cook for three hours. When stew is cooked, adjust salt and pepper to taste, and add a tablespoon of butter. Serve with white rice.

Heat oil to 375 degrees and fry the plantain slices for 1-2 minutes, or until golden brown. After frying, sprinkle salt, pepper, ginger powder, cayenne, and lemon zest on top.

Pancit and Lumpia

This Filipino meal of stir-fried noodles and spring rolls is the perfect ending to a stressful day. The stir-fry looks so festive with the brightly colored vegetables and the tender meat and shrimp. Stir fries only take a few minutes to come together, which makes them perfect for week-day meals. Crispy golden-brown rolls with a succulent filling are one of my favorite foods of all time.

Pancit Guisado:
4 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1 cup boiled pork, shredded
1 cup boiled chicken, diced
1/3 cup medium boiled shrimp
1 onion, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, shaved
4 celery stalks, shaved
3 scallions, chopped
1/4 head of cabbage, shredded
1 tablespoon parsley
1/2 cup chicken stock, divided
3/8 cup soy sauce, divided
teaspoon oyster sauce
1/2 lb rice stick noodles
2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt and pepper

chopped scallions
hardboiled egg
lemon wedges

3 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 of a yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/2 pound ground pork
handful of medium shrimp, chopped
3 dried shitake mushrooms, reconstituted and chopped
1 carrot, shaved
2 scallions, minced
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons chicken stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
wonton wrappers
oil for deep-frying

for pansit:
Note: When using store-bought chicken stock, I like to add some flavors to it before use. In this case, I combined chicken stock with some roughly chopped scallions and celery. I also cut up a bit of fresh ginger and added a splash of rice wine. Bring to a boil and simmer on low for an hour.

Cook noodles according to package direction. In a wok, saute onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons of sesame oil for three minutes. Add the remaining vegetables, scallions, and parsley. Stir in 1/8 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup chicken stock, oyster sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. When vegetables are soft, add the noodles and the remaining 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 chicken stock, a tablespoon of sesame oil, and lemon juice. Adjust seasoning to taste. Garnish noodles with chopped scallions, hardboiled egg, and lemon wedges for serving.

for lumpia:
Note: I used packaged wonton wrappers, but these would be even better with homemade wrappers or even packaged lumpia wrappers

Heat canola oil in a large skillet, and saute onion, garlic, and scallions until the onion is translucent. Add the pork and shrimp, and cook for about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and carrot. Season the mixture with salt, pepper, sugar, chicken stock and soy sauce. Continue cooking until the meat is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. Set the mixture aside to cool.

When mixture is cool, fill and roll the wonton wrappers. Deep fry in oil at 350 degrees for about 6 minutes, or until the wrapper is golden brown.

These rolls taste particularly good with a garlicky soy and vinegar dipping sauce. Combine some vinegar (white wine or apple cider work well) with soy sauce and stir, and add garlic powder or minced garlic. Finish the sauce with red pepper flakes or chili powder if you like spicy food.
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