Monday, May 28, 2012

Molten Lava Cakes for 2

My friend made these cakes before, I thought it was the greatest! I found the recipe online here, it is also a video. So I made them once before but I wasn't focused and since they didn't come out right, you can safely assume I didn't follow the directions. This time I did. This time they came out like lava cakes! These are the easiest lava cakes you can make. Total time? Maybe 15 minutes. 10 minutes of that is it baking.

I melted the chocolate and butter in the microwave. Normally I do this on a stove top. Once the butter was melted I stirred until the chocolate squares was also melted. My oh my, it starts to smell yummy!

Next I added in the egg and egg yolk.

Since I wasn't at my apartment, I had already combined the powdered sugar and flour. So, I added that to the chocolate mixture and it turned into cake batter! Don't over stir, just stir until combined.

Divide cake batter into the greased custard cups. Bake at 425 for 10 minutes. If you want you can flip them out of the cups (directions below), but it was just easier to eat them in the cups. Just be careful because the bowls are HOT! 

Next time? I am thinking of adding in peanut butter chips, or walnuts, or raspberry compote, or fresh strawberries, or vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream...

This was a great base but the addition of something else would make it amazing.

Lava Cake
Makes 2

2 squares Baker's Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
3 Tbsp. flour

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Nonstick spray 2 small oven safe bowls. Place on baking sheet.

Microwave chocolate and butter in a bowl for 30 seconds or until butter is melted. Stir until chocolate is completely melted.
Stir in sugar.
Stir in egg and egg yolk.
Stir in flour.
Divide batter among prepared custard cups.

Bake 10 minutes or until sides are firm, but centers are soft. Let stand one minute. Carefully run a small knife around cakes to loosen. Invert cakes onto dessert dishes. Serve immediately.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Turkey and Spinach Stuffed Shells

I was making dinner last night and decided to attempt my cousin's Stuffed Shell Recipe. It had been a while since I've made this, so I made it up as I went along. I decided to stuff it with turkey, spinach, and ricotta. I used mushroom pepper jar sauce and covered it in mozzarella.

From start to finish this recipe took about an hour to prepare and cook, but makes about 30+ stuffed shells. Depends on how much filling you put in each one, mine were fairly hardy. We ate about 6 each. The filling could be used for Lasagna or Raviolis as well.

I used my food processor (still awesome!) to dice/chop up the onion and the garlic. Put it in a hot frying pan and let it get soft. I added in some seasonings here. Oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. I stirred this around for about a minute. Then I added the meat. I used ground chicken but turkey or beef would be fine too.

Once it cooked through there was a lot of liquid in the pan. I drained it then added in the spinach leaves. I was rushing around the grocery store and just grabbed a bag of spinach. Not all bags of spinach are created equal. This bag had spinach with stems and I had to pick through it. Next time I'll make sure I get baby spinach leaves just for making this dish a little easier. However it made no difference to the taste. I wilted the spinach in the meat mixture. The meat was very chunky and not the texture I was looking for so I dumped it all in the food processor and pulsed it a few times until it was coarse sand texture.
Next I added in the container of ricotta cheese. YUM!

Meanwhile, I cooked the jumbo shells and had them drained and waiting to be filled. I under cook them a two minutes because I am against soggy pasta and it is going to bake in the oven more too.

I put some sauce in the bottom of the pan and started to stuff the shells and place them in the baking dish. I used a jar of Mushroom and Pepper sauce. Nothing super fancy.

Next I covered it with the rest of the sauce and then a bag of mozzarella cheese. Baked it uncovered at 375 for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to get a little golden.

Changes for next time? Well, we didn't think it had enough flavor. I think I might try it with chicken sausage (out of the casings), or double/triple the herbs when cooking the meat. And for those who don't like ground turkey, it didn't taste like there was any meat in it, and because I pulsed it in the food processor there wasn't any meat texture either.

All and all a tasty meal and not too intensive. It can be changed easily for your food preferences or whatever ingredients you have in the house.

I made Molten Lava Cakes for dessert!

Turkey and Spinach Stuffed Shells
Serves 4-6
Jumbo Shells
1 med/small vidalia Onion
5 cloves Garlic
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp Oregano
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 lb ground turkey 
16 oz (ish) of fresh spinach
16 oz part skim ricotta cheese
1 jar of sauce (or homemade sauce)
2 cups of mozzarella cheese (it is 1 package)

  1. Heat pan with some olive oil and add chopped onion and garlic.
  2. Add red pepper flakes, pepper, oregano. Stir.
  3. Add meat and continue to stir.
  4. When mostly done cooking add in spinach until it wilts (about 30 seconds).
  5. Pulse in food processor until everything is about the same size.
  6. Let mixture cool.
  7. Boil water and cook shells a few minutes shorter than the recommended package directions.
  8. Add in ricotta, salt, pepper, any more seasonings, and then egg to the cooled meat mixture.
  9. Put some sauce in the bottom of the baking dish, stuff shells, top with rest of sauce and mozzarella.
  10. Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Never Fail White Rice

There has been much debate regarding about how to cook the perfect pot of rice. Here is the result:
  • Boil 1 3/4 c of water
  • Add 1 cup white rice and stir for a second or two
  • Cover with a paper towel sandwiched between the pot and the cover (this will let the moisture escape and prevents it from boiling over)

  • Set stove to low and cook for 20 minutes (no peeking!!)
  • Stir it up and serve!


Shredded Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo

Happy Mother's Day!

We had such nice weather. I met mom in Chinatown for some dim sum, then I went home to make my mom something special for dinner. I normally make mom macadamia nut white chocolate chip cookies, however this year I decided to make something different. I went with Emeril Lagasse's Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo with white rice. Original recipe found here. This is a fairly time consuming dish, but is quite tasty! It takes about 4 hours from start to finish, however half of the time you aren't doing anything but occasionally stirring the pot as it simmers away. I spent that time visiting with my father and sitting outside. What a great day. :)

I sliced up the 12 oz package of chicken sausage (mild Italian, they didn't have spicy) and let that brown in a little oil in the dutch oven for about 8 minutes. This is uncovered and stirred occasionally. I was a little worried because things were sticking to the bottom. I believe it was due to it being a different type of pot than I usually cook with. FYI, a large regular pot also works fine.

While that was browning I diced up some onions, celery, and a green bell pepper. I also combined the spices that make up the "Essence" seasoning. The recipe that is posted on Food Network creates 2/3 of a cup and then only asks you to use 1 tbsp of it... So I changed the measures to less than what was originally listed. We also like our food on the spicier side, so this recipe has some added kick to it. My adjustments are listed in the below recipe.

Once the sausage was browned I took it out and put the chicken in the pot. The recipe calls for 4lbs of chicken thighs, but I used 2 lbs of chicken breast to keep it healthier and I thought that 4 lbs was a bit overkill.. I forgot to put the seasoning on it first, so I just dumped in the entire mix on the chicken and tossed it around a little. I let that get nice and brown for about 8 minutes and then pulled it out. By this point there is a quite a bit of "things" stuck in the bottom of the pot. However, that is the flavor and this is a 1 pot meal (well, 2 if you make rice in a pot...)!

I let the chicken cool on a plate then put it in the fridge. It doesn't come back into the picture for another hour or so.

This next step is a little tricky and I basically made it up as I went. You need to make a roux. Use 1/2 cup (or so) of oil and then slowly combine in about 1 cup of flour. I used a bit over 1/3 of oil and about 3/4 cup of flour. Stir this constantly while scraping up the flavors that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. This step only took me about 5-10 minutes and the original recipe says 20-25 minutes. My pot was very hot at this point. I continued to cook this until brown and looked a little like Thanksgiving stuffing. Sort of clumpy and soft.

I added in the onions, celery, and bell peppers in next. Stir this around until its combined in with the roux. Then 1/2 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp cayenne, and 3 bay leaves; stir around. Add sausage back in. I added in 6 cups of chicken broth and 3 cups of water; stir around.

Bring this to a boil then let it simmer for about an hour. I think I waited 50 minutes because I'm impatient.

Add chicken after desired time has elapsed and submerge into the pot. By this point you have a pretty good idea for how thick the broth is going to be. (The shredded chicken will add some "thick" to this too). If you like it thicker take some more flour and combine with hot water until it turns into a paste similar to what the roux looked like, and slowly add into the pot.

I let the chicken breast stay in there for about an hour. I checked and by that point it was very tender and starting to shred when I used a fork to test it. I took the chicken out to shred using two forks. At this same time I stirred in a 16 oz bag of frozen okra. After the chicken was shredded I added it back in. Adding in the chicken thickens this up a lot as well.

Its nice to serve over rice or mix in rice if you want it a little thicker too.

THIS IS VERY SPICY. My family likes food spicy. If you do not, please taste as you go and add the spices in slowly. 

Here is my dad's never fail white rice recipe.

Happy Mothers Day to my mother!! xoxo.

Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo
 Serves 4-8

1 tbsp oil
12 oz chicken sausage (Italian flavor), cut crosswise
2 lbs chicken breast
Essence seasoning below
1/3 c oil
1/2 c flour
1 celery heart (approx 1 cup)
1 med onion (approx 1 cup)
1 green bell pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne
3 bay leaves
6 c chicken broth
3 c water
16 oz bag of frozen okra

Essence seasoning: 2/3 tsp of each: paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, dried oregano, thyme
  1. In large pot heat 1 tbsp of oil over med high heat. Add sausage and cook until browned. Remove.
  2. Season chicken with Essence and add into pot. Cook on med high heat until well browned. Remove and let cool. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Combine1/3 c oil and 1/2 c flour and stir slowly and constantly until its a brown roux (color of chocolate).
  4. Add onion, celery, bell pepper and cook until wilted. Add sausage, salt, cayenne, and bay leaves. Stir. Slowly add in chicken stock/water and stir until combined. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to med low and cook stirring every once in a while for an hour.
  5. Add chicken and simmer for approx an hour or until chicken is tender and falling apart.
  6. Remove chicken and add okra.
  7. Shred chicken and add back in.
Serve over rice.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Secret Family Recipe: Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies are my dad's favorite dessert, I make huge batches for his birthday or Father's day and he freezes them to eat with his lunches for the next few weeks.

This recipe has changed little over the past years. My copy of the recipe is a copy of the recipe card that my mom wrote out by hand. She went to parochial school and has very nice handwriting.Changes that I've made to the original recipe? I make them smaller then my mom used to and I make extra frosting. Because they are smaller you will use more frosting.

Combine all the ingredients in the mixer and mix until just combined. Seriously. Its that easy. Put all the ingredients in the bowl at the same time. Then mix. The batter is on the runnier/wetter side.

I use a cookie scoop so they stay about the same size. I use the normal size scoop, not my mini one. This one is probably about 1 1/2 tsps. Scoop about 12-15 per cookie sheet. Most of the time I will use parchment paper, it makes for much easier clean up and less sticking but I didn't have any on hand.

Watch carefully, depending on the size of the cookie and your oven it could vary. The ones I made here take 8 minutes.  When you set them out to cool make sure they aren't stacked because the tops are sticky.

Wait until they are cooled before frosting them. I double the frosting because, well frankly everyone says its the best part (recipe below is already doubled!!)! The frosting is a little stiffer than a buttercream frosting. I approximate the Fluff because putting it into the measuring cup then getting it out is a sticky mess. I'll just take a heaping knife full that looks around 1/2 cup.

The easiest way to spread it if you are making massive batches like I do, is to put it into a plastic bag, snip the corner, and use it like a piping bag to put a dollop on the cookie. You don't need to spread it because you'll squish it with the the top cookie.

So, take half of the cookies and dollop with frosting. If you do the frosting all at once prior to assembling you'll be able to add more frosting if you have any left over. Then take the other half and top the ones with frosting.

After they are assembled be careful with stacking as the cookies tend to be a little sticky.

Happy Birthday Dad!!

Whoopie Pie Recipe
Makes approx 23 sandwiches (depends on the size of the cookie)

In stand mixer with paddle attachment, put in all ingredients and mix until just combined.
• 2 cups flour
• 1 tsp baking soda
• ¼ tsp salt
• 1/3 cup cocoa
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 egg
• 1/3 c oil
• 1 tsp vanilla
• ¾ cup milk

Drop by tbsp onto cookie sheet. Leave room for spreading. Bake approx 8 minutes on 350. (Baking time varies by oven and size of cookie). Let cookies cool on wire rack before frosting.

Beat together ingredients for about 1 minute.
• 2 sticks butter
• 2 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
• ~1/2 cup of marshmallow Fluff
• 2 tsp vanilla

Spread filling between 2 cookies.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Brown Butter Ravioli, Chicken, Walnuts, & Sage

Mind = Blown.

I found this recipe on Pinterest quite a few weeks ago. Every time I go to the grocery store I think, maybe this is the time! But I find something else to make that week.

However. This week was The Week. Brown Butter Ravioli with Rotisserie Chicken, Toasted Walnuts, and Sage. Very easy to make. You can find the original recipe here.

I have never knowingly used sage before (its in poultry seasoning which is another awesome spice for use in chicken soup!). Nor have I ever made my own rotisserie chicken before. And apparently I have been missing out.

Sage is a soft/fuzzy green leafy herb that is (as herbs are) very fragrant. It has been around for ages and ages and is known for its many health benefits and being able to treat many different ailments. Sage is one of the main ingredients in poultry seasoning too.

Spice rubbed chicken - raw
I started with defrosting the chicken in a bowl of water bath in my sink. Meanwhile, I mixed the spices together. I didn't have thyme so I omitted it. I also didn't know what a pound of chicken would be and since I was going through all this work, I decided to go with 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (approx 3-4 servings for me). After about 20 minutes I declared them defrosted enough and covered them in the spices. Next time I'll use the full amount, (I had halved it), but it was still very flavorful.

Seared chicken
Next I seared them in a skillet until browned, only a few minutes on each side. If I had a dutch oven (Please mom?) I could have popped it right into the oven. Instead I transferred it to a pie plate and used a glass oven safe cover. I baked it for about 25 minutes at 350F. When I took it out I could see that the center was still raw. I cut it up into bite size pieces and put it back in for another 5 minutes. I'm fairly certain this has to do with me using chicken that isn't entirely thawed out... Regardless, it came out awesome and is incredibly easy.

While the chicken was cooking away, I started toasting the walnuts on medium heat. Easy enough, put some in a frying pan and stir them around a little bit until they become little aromatic morsels. This takes about 5 minutes. Note, I didn't wipe out the pan after I seared the chicken. I took the walnuts out of the pan and chopped them up into smaller pieces.

I started to boil some water in a pot for the raviolis. I used store bought store brand fresh Mini Spinach and Cheese Raviolis. I cooked them according to the directions on the packaging. Any flavor would be good, I was figuring spinach makes it healthier? Aside from the fact that spinach raviolis are delish. Tortellinis would have been tasty too (aka raviolis in a different shape). Basically any type of filled pasta could be substituted in.

As the raviolis were cooking...I melted 2 tbsp of butter in the same frying pan the walnuts had been in. The original recipe uses 4 tbsp of butter, but I'm not a huge butter fan (yes, crazy, I know). This would be good if you want more of a coating on the raviolis, but for me? This was the perfect amount. Since I didn't wait for the pan to cool I moved it to a cold burner to keep the butter from burning. Once the butter was melted I tossed the sage in and stirred it around for about a minute. Then added the walnut pieces and diced chicken.

Because I was cooking for more than one meal I didn't add the raviolis into the pan with the rest of the ingredients. I dislike re-heated pasta so I only cooked what I was going to eat for that meal. If you are going to eat this right away, add the ravioli into the pan.

This made enough for 3 large very filling no appetizer no dessert dinners.

Changes for next time? Maybe cut the chicken and bake it in the oven so it would cook faster. Use more spices in the chicken (the recipe below uses the original measurements, so don't double them...) and more sage. I used less then 1/3 cup which the recipe recommended. I used probably a 1/4 cup or a little less.

If you want to make this meal even faster use store bought rotisserie chicken. But if I had cut the chicken before cooking it, it could have been done in under 20 minutes.

Update: Prepared chicken as instructed but cooked the chicken on the stove. Tasted just as good, cooks a lot faster, whole meal was done in under 30 minutes.

Brown Butter Raviolis, Rotisserie Chicken, Toasted Walnuts, and Sage
Serves approx 2-3

2 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tsp salt and pepper (to taste)
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp olive oil
9 oz fresh mini ravioli
(1/2 cup) walnuts
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup fresh sage leaves

Preheat oven to 350F. Combine spices and rub onto both sides of the chicken. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a frying pan (or dutch oven). Add the chicken and cook for 2 minutes until brown then do the same for the other side. Put chicken in oven safe pan and cover (or cover dutch oven). and cook for 25-30 minutes. Let cool a few minutes then dice into bite size pieces.

Cook according the to package directions.

Place the walnuts in frying pan on medium heat and toast for ~5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove and chop.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in the same skillet over medium heat. When the butter just starts to turn brown, add the sage and stir constantly for one minute.

Combine ravioli, chicken, and walnuts.

And try to get all of it in one bite in your mouth. Its worth it.