Ryan’s Corner: Vol. I

November 13, 2009

Welcome to the first installment of Ryan’s Corner.  A new section on my blog that will allow the man of the house, my husband Ryan, to showoff his culinary skills and creations.  I’m often criticized (for lack of a better term) by him for being too boring in my food choices, or non-adventurous.  That’s when I usually start tuning him out, all while he’s going on and on about some way in which I can make the recipe “better” or “more exciting”.  So this is my compromise – with his own blog section made to “showcase normal recipes with a unique twist on a level that anyone can make and enjoy.”  We’re jumping out of the box people…and going beyond the ordinary!

A few months ago, Ryan and I went out to dinner at a Brazilian steakhouse to celebrate my birthday.  We had never been to such a restaurant before, so it was quite an experience – an enjoyable one at that.  One thing we particularly enjoyed (aside from some of the most tender, flavorful meat we’ve ever tasted) was the traditional Brazilian cocktail – a Caipirinha – made from the Brazilian rum, Cachaca.  Such a simple drink in its original form, but of course, can easily be adapted in so many ways: mangos, jalapenos, strawberries…just to name a few.

So to avoid spending $7 per drink whenever we had a craving, we started making the cocktail at home.  I, naturally, enjoy the traditional version (recipe posted below).  Ryan, on the other hand, loves to toss everything but the kitchen sink into his – in this case, kiwi.

Enjoy!  Or as they’d say in Brazil, Goste!

Traditional Caipirinha

1/2 lime, cut into 3-4 pieces
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 oz. Cachaca (such as Pitu)

Place lime pieces in an old-fashioned glass.  Muddle lime and sugar with a muddler or a spoon.  Fill glass with ice.  Add Cachaca.  Put contents in a shaker; shake well.  Return contents to the glass and serve.

Kiwi Caipirinha

Follow the directions for the traditional caipirinha with the following modifications:
* Less sugar – about 1 Tbsp.
* Muddle 1/2 kiwi (sliced) with the lime and sugar.


A little piece of heaven…

November 11, 2009

First off…Hey Guys!!  It’s me!!  Amanda!  I know I’ve been gone.  I’ve been gone for a very long time.  There’s not a single excuse.  More like MANY!  Work.  Laziness.  Lack of motivation.  Crappy pictures.  Forgetting to take pictures.  The list goes on.  What I can say is this – I have a fairly decent-sized computer folder full of food pictures ready to have their story shared.  So have a seat, buckle up, you’re in for a ride!

First Stop – Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting.

This recipe has certainly made its rounds on the good ol’ interweb.  I did one simple search for “Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting” and instantly was rewarded with hundreds of recipes, food blogs, and websites all leading me to the same spot: Ina Garten’s recipe. 

I was a little hesitant at first.  I mean, me, an amateur baker – how could I possibly recreate an Ina masterpiece?  I love baking, but I’m not sure I’d ever be able to stand in her shoes, not even for a minute.  This craving, however, I just could not let it pass.  So I decided to give it a whirl.  Best decision ever!!  The cupcakes we auh-ma-zing!  Rich.  Flavorful.  HEAVEN.  Pour yourself a big glass of milk for this one, folks.  You’re going to need it!

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Icing

12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. strongly brewed coffee (Hellllloo reason to get Starbucks!!)
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup quality cocoa powder (i.e Ghiradelli)
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Peanut Butter Icing, recipe to follow

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.  In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes.  Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time.  Add the vanilla and mix well. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee.  In another bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. 

With the mixer on low speed, alternate adding the buttermilk mixture with the flour mixture (add the buttermilk mixture in 2 additions and the flour mixture in 3).  Mix only until blended.  Give the batter a few gentle stirs with a rubber spatula just to make sure all the dry ingredients are incorporated. 

Use a standard ice cream scoop (or 2 spoons) to fill the muffin tins; they should be about 2/3 full. 

Bake for about 20 minutes, until the tops spring back when gently pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Don’t overbake – better to err on the side of caution and check them a little early.

Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting. 

Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts or chocolate chips, if desired. 

Peanut Butter Icing

1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. kosher salt [I will use regular salt next time, as the kosher salt was a little crunchy]
1/3 cup heavy cream

In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the confectioners’ sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt on medium-low speed with the paddle attachment.  When well blended, add the heavy cream and continue mixing on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Where did I go?

August 7, 2009

Sorry…sorry…sorry.  I promise after just a few posts, I haven’t gone anywhere.  With the start of school being just around the corner, I’ve been pretty busy getting things prepped in the classroom.  So be patient and hold on to your britches – I’ll be back in the very near future. 

Happy eating!

The garden is producing!

July 29, 2009

Every summer we try new crops in our tiny, backyard garden.  This year happens to be year of the peppers, basil, and our first shot at tomatoes.   After growing all summer long, we’re finally starting to see some solid results.  This past week we’ve been able to harvest a couple anaheim peppers, a poblano pepper, a few regular tomatoes, and too many cherry tomatoes to count.   Therefore, this week’s menu completely revolved around homegrown produce.

Featuring: Chicken Tortilla Soup & Guacamole
Starring: Anaheim and Poblano Peppers

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Chicken Tortilla Soup

1/2 cup chopped onion
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes  **Next time I will lessen this to about 15 oz.
3 (10.5 oz) cans chicken broth
1 cup corn
2-3 anaheim peppers, roasted – seeded – chopped  **A (4 oz) can of chopped green chiles will also work
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 chopped cilantro
2 boneless chicken breast halves, cooked and shredded
Toasted tortilla strips
Shredded cheese
Sliced avocado
Sour cream

1.  In a medium stock pot or coated dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic until soft.  Stir in chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, tomatoes, broth, and 1 broth can of water.  Bring to a boil. 
2.  Stir in chicken, chiles, corn, black beans, and cilantro.  Simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours.
3.  Ladle soup into individual serving bowls.  Top with tortilla strips, cheese, sour cream, and avocado slices.

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Roasted Poblano Guacamole
(personal creation)
Measurements are approximate – I typically eyeball everything!

1 ripe (chilled) avocado, mashed
1 (small) poblano pepper, roasted & chopped  **Next time I will puree the pepper vs. chop
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
salt, to taste
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/8 cup chopped cilantro

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Serve immediately. 



Breakfast for Dinner

July 23, 2009

Brinner.  Dinfast.  Breadinfast?  Whatever you call it – who doesn’t LOVE eating breakfast foods for dinner?  Yeah, just what I thought.  No one. 

As you may or may not know, my husband and I are Food Network fans.  I like most shows the network offers.  He likes anything BBQ, grilling, smoking, or Bobby Flay.  Therefore, Throwdown with Bobby Flay is always on in our house!  Recently, an episode aired “Blueberry Pancakes” in which Chef Flay’s recipe “Lemon-Blueberry-Ricotta-Buttermilk Pancakes with Blueberry-Cassis Relish and Blueberry Maple Syrup” (say that 10 times fast!!) won.  They looked amazingly delicious – so I tried my own version of it: “Lemon-Strawberry-Buttermilk Pancakes with Strawberry Syrup”.  Sounds good, right?  It was!!

*Side note – Yes, I often take pictures outside because the lighting tends to be better.  I really really need to build myself a light box (or make the hubster do it for me!). 

Lemon-Strawberry-Buttermilk Pancakes
(adapted from Bobby Flay)

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1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs, separated
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp lemon zest
1/8 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of cream of tartar
1 (16 oz) pkg. fresh strawberries, sliced (reserve some for Strawberry Syrup)

1.  Mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and set aside.  In a separate bowl, combine the egg yolks, oil, buttermilk, lemon zest, and vanilla extract.

2.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid mixture.  Mix together until flour is just incorporated. 

3.  In a small bowl (or stand mixer), beat the egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form.  Fold the egg whites into the batter just until incorporated.  Let set for 15 minutes and gently fold in the strawberries. 

4.  Heat a nonstick skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Brush with butter and heat until the butter begins to sizzle.  Scoop ~1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle and cook until bubbles appear on the surface and the bottom is golden brown.  Flip over and cook until the bottom is lightly golden brown.

Serve with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and fresh strawberry syrup (see recipe below). 

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Fresh Strawberry Syrup

Reserved sliced strawberries from pancake recipe (~1 cup)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 cup orange juice
1/2 tsp orange zest
1/4 cup light Karo syrup

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan, and let sit for 20 minutes or until sugar dissolves.  Cook over low heat, stiring occassionally, 5-10 minutes or until warm.

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Mediterranean Dips

July 21, 2009

I have noticed over the course of the past few years, that my taste buds have grown immensly!  That’s a great thing!  5 years ago, if you had asked me to eat hummus, I would have curled up my nose and said, “Eeew, no thanks.”  Or tzatziki…Tzatziki??  Say what?  I’d like to give credit to my travels to the Mediterranean for my newly-found love of their dips and spreads, but unfortunately, a lot of it just stems from me growing a pair and trying new things. 


Although, if I could go back to Santorini and enjoy a nice glass of wine, a platter of tzatziki and pitas, and this view again…I’d be in heaven!

(adapted from Simply Recipes)

4 garlic cloves, minced then mashed  *This results in a very garlicy hummus.  I typically 1/2 this amount.
2 15-oz cans garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained and rinsed
2/3 cup tahini  *I just eyeball the amount – sometimes it’s a few Tbsp, sometimes it’s closer to 2/3 cup.
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Pine nuts (toasted) and parsley (chopped) for garnish  *Dried parsley works fine, too.

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Side Note:  What’s great about hummus is that it’s very versatile.  You can customize it easily to your liking by adding additional ingredients – such as:  pine nuts (in the mixture), freshly chopped basil, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, etc.  Be creative!

1.  In a food processor, combine the mashed garlic, garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, and 1/2 cup water.  Process until smooth while pouring the olive oil through the shoot.  Add salt, starting at 1/2 teaspoon, to taste.

2.  Spoon into serving dish and sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley.

Serve with crackers, raw veggies, or pita bread.  My personal favorite is pita chips which can be bought from most grocery stores.

Makes about 3 cups.

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TZATZIKI (Greek Yogurt Sauce)

16 oz (2 cups) of Greek yogurt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup grated cucumber  *It helps to get rid of additional liquid by placing between paper towels and squeezing.
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 – 1 tsp dill

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Prepare all ingredients in advance.  Combine oil and lemon juice in a medium mixing bowl.  Fold the yogurt in slowly, making sure it mixes completely with the oil.  Add the garlic, according to taste, the cucumber, salt, and dill.  Stir until evenly distributed. 

Serve with pita bread or as a sauce on a burger or gyro.

Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

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Shrimp Pad Thai

July 15, 2009

While growing up in Wisconsin, I never once had the pleasure of experiencing the greatness of Thai food.  I’m not sure if it’s because I wasn’t quite a fan of Asian Cuisine yet, or that there just weren’t any Thai restaurants nearby.  Regardless, it wouldn’t be until my college years that I tasted Thai for the very first time…and haven’t looked back since!  I love it.  The spice (to a degree), the unique flavors, and I know my husband would back me on this one – the use of coconut milk.

Many moons ago, a friend of mine (Emily, http://castsugar.blogspot.com/) posted a recipe on her blog for homemade Pad Thai.  Homemade Thai food!?!  Yes, please!  The recipe instantly was added to our weekly menu and since then, has made numerous reappearances. 

The dish is absolutely delicious, easy to make,  and easily customizable in the spice department.  I give it an A+ rating!

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Shrimp Pad Thai

4 oz. medium-thick flat rice noodles
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. Asian fish sauce
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 large eggs, beaten w/ a pinch of salt
12 oz. peeled and deveined med. shrimp (uncooked)
3/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
kosher salt (I used sea salt)
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 shallots, thinly sliced
5 scallions (green onions) – white and green parts, 3 cut into 1/2″ pieces (no need to measure), 2 chopped
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/3 cup salted roasted peanuts, chopped, plus additional for garnish
For serving: lime wedges, Sri Racha sauce (Thai hot chili sauce) – optional

1.  Put the noodles in a bowl with hot water to cover.  Soak until tender, about 30 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  Whisk the sugar with the fish sauce and vinegar in a small bowl.

2.  Heat a large skillet (or wok) over medium heat until hot and add 1 Tbsp. of peanut oil.  Pour in the eggs, tilting the skillet as you pour to make a thin, even coating of egg.  Cook until just set, about 45 seconds.  Invert the eggs onto a cutting board and cut into 1/2″ pieces.  Set aside.

3.  Add another 1 Tbsp. of the peanut oil to the skillet and heat over high heat.  Add the shrimp, 1/2 tsp. of the pepper flakes, and salt to taste.  Stir-fry until the shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 1 1/2 minutes.  Transfer to a plate.

4.  Heat the remaininig 2 Tbsp. of peanut oil over high heat.  Add the garlic, shallots, and remaining 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes and stir-fry until lightly browned, about 1 minute.  Add the noodles and cook, tossing until lightly coated with the garlic mixture, about 1 minute.  Add the fish sauce mixture and large scallion pieces and heat through.  Stir in the cooked egg and shrimp, sprouts, and 1/3 cup peanuts – toss until hot. 

5.  Divide Pad Thai onto plates and top with peanuts and chopped scallions.  Serve with lime wedges and Sri Racha.

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Coming out of blog retirement!

July 15, 2009

Alright folks.  A few new things happening around these parts.  First, after 14 months, I’ve decided to start blogging again.  Really, I never meant to leave in the first place, but with a very busy workload this past school year, it was just inevitable.  With prepping for and teaching four different classes, plus keeping up around the house – food blogging took it’s place on the back burner.  I also wasn’t able to access my blogging site from work, which meant everything had to be done from home – yeah, sure didn’t happen.  So that leads me here – wordpress – my new home.  Hopefully it will be the answer to what I’ve been looking for and keep me motivated to update on a regular basis. 

Without further adieu, I’m ready to get rollin’.  Who’s with me?

Ha!  So unfortunately, I have quite a few recipes to post in order to get all caught up – which means, it will still be a day or two before I’m really moving at full speed.  Until then, enjoy a few teaser pics!

Shrimp Pad Thai
Shrimp Pad Thai
Hummus with Pine Nuts
Hummus with Pine Nuts