Bbq Chicken and Tatoes, Oh My.

I know, Im a horrible leader. I havent written for days, and while my excuses are fairly reasonable, they are still excuses.
During our latest attempt at camping this weekend, I got food poisoning of some kind. Im pretty sure after not eating pork or beef for the last month, I actually poisoned myself with brats, hot dogs, hamburgers, and beer. Needless to say a full 48 hours went by where I did not even think about food, and when I finally did get my appetite back, I was HUNGRY.

Michael had been obsessing over grilled chicken for the last couple of days, so being the lovely wife and southern girl that I am, I took the challenge head on. I sort of cheated though and used Jack Daniels Honey Smokehouse barbeque sauce, but not without adding my own special little touch to the chicken, of course.
I made a dry rub with some cajun seasoning, cumin, ground ginger, white pepper, and onion powder, and let that on the chicken for about half an hour before I grilled it, and smothered it with sauce. The dry rub technique I stole from my dad. The spices hold the juices in the chicken, and make for a super moist piece of meat. I usually let the meat cook for 2 or 3 minutes on each side, and then start smothering on the sauce.
Once I had the chicken figured out, I ineviatbly needed a side dish, and in the fridge I discovered a couple bunches of broccoli that were close to the point of no return. I quickly decided that I wanted a broccoli cheese baked potato. Yum!
While I made an amazing homemade cheese sauce that started with a roux, and ended with some sharp cheddar cheese, I steamed the broccoli and baked the potatoes (in the microwave, I was such a cheater!!)
The whole process was simple, super quick, and tell me that doesnt look like it would hit the spot?!

Cheddar Cheese Sauce
2 TBS butter
2 TBS flour
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
pinch of cayenne

Method
– melt the butter in a pan, on low heat, wait for the butter to bubble
– add the flour and turn the heat up to medium low heat, let flour cook for 1 or 2 minutes
– gradually add the milk about 1/4 c. at a time, and stir furiously to avoid lumps
– turn heat back down to low and let sauce thicken 2 or 3 minutes
– take sauce off heat, and add cayenne, and cheese, mix until chese is melted
– serve immediately

side note: Once you have made this sauce once or twice you will have a better idea of how to adjust the milk/cheese measurements.
If you want a thinner sauce add more milk, if you want a thicker sauce, add more cheese.

Advertisements

I heart cupcakes

I absolutely love to bake, its my kind of chemistry. Once you learn the basics, the “rules” if you will, you can add your own personal touch to anything you bake. The possibilities become absolutely endless.
I didnt grow up baking, as my mom is a chef at heart, and doesnt enjoy baking because of all the things that can go wrong. When it comes to salads, pastas, and marinades it takes a few wrong turns in order to make something uneatable. Baking on the other hand is far more touchy. Something as small swapping baking soda for baking powder can render a cake worthless.

Long story short, I am a cautious baker. I dont go too crazy when it comes to modifying another person’s recipe because I am still learning the do’s and dont’s of the delicate baking system. A few days ago I was feeling adventurous though and decided to make a cake batter by scratch. I chose carrot cake because its one of my favorites. I love the idea of taking a veggie, and disguising it as a dessert. I also love the combination of the sweet, softness of raisins, and the unexpected crunch of a walnut nestled in the subtle spiciness of the cake. Then there’s the cream cheese frosting, and lets not lie, that might be the best part. But honestly, everything about a carrot cake just pleases my taste buds. So in order to not completely screw up my dream of a carrot cake, I read about 50 recipes, got a really good idea of the ratio of wet ingredients to dry ingredients, and settled on carrot cake cupcakes with some-sort-of-spice cream cheese frosting.

After mixing the batter with the ingredients I chose, it still looked a bit dry, and instead of adding more oil, I decided to throw in a little bit of orange juice. Which turned out to be a wonderful idea. The cake was fluffy, and flavorful yet it still had just the right amount of denseness. SUCCESS!!!! I cant even explain the accomplishment I felt as I was chewing that first bite because I was fully expecting my experiment to be a disaster. Then I realized that I had gotten so caught up in the excitement of a perfect cake, that I had forgotten the frosting.

Since I didnt use any cinnamon in the cake batter I made a cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Cream cheese frosting is incredibly basic, so the added spice made a wonderfully subtle difference and complimented the cake perfectly. Next time though, I am thinking I might try a cardamom frosting because my mom just sent me some beautiful cardamom pods and I have a feeling it might be an awesome combo.

OH! I almost forgot. I didnt put raisins in the cake. I used Craisins, and I will never use raisins again. The Craisins were amazing. They got all plump and the tartness in place of the sweetness of a raisin was perfect. I highly suggest you try it. I have a feeling you wont be disappointed.

Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 tea. baking soda
1 tea. baking powder
1 c. unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs
1 c. canola oil
1/4 c. orange juice
1/2 tea. ground ginger
1 tea. nutmeg
1 tea. vanilla
pinch of salt
2 c. carrot, shredded
2/3 c. craisins
3/4 c. walnuts, chopped

icing
8 oz pkg. cream cheese
1/4 c. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 tea. cinnamon

Method

– preheat oven to 350 degrees
– in a large mixing bowl, mix all dry ingredients together
– make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and add all wet ingredients
– using a wooden spoon stir ingredients until everything is incorporated
– add carrots, Craisins, walnuts, and mix again until incorporated
– pour a little less than a 1/4 c. of batter into each cup
– transfer cupcake tin into the oven and bake for 15-20 min
– while the cupcakes are in the oven make the icing

– cream the butter, and cream cheese together until smooth
– about a 1/2 c. at a time add the powdered sugar, and then add the cinnamon
– take the cakes out of the oven and cool completely on a wire rack before you ice them

Burrito Guts, And A Snappy Marinade

Mmmm, burrito bowls. Or in my case, burrito plate.

My inspiration for these inside out burritos came from Chipotle. To be honest, there is not one thing I don’t love about Chipotle. I love that their food is always fresh. I love that they are the only “fast food” joint I know of that serves beer. I love that all their ingredients have just the right amount of character without being bland and boring, and without overloading your taste buds with a crazy amount of flavors. But mostly, I love that their ingredients are easy to recreate on my own.

I have perfected this amazing, extremely versatile marinade that makes creating the substantial part of a burrito bowl super easy. I use this marinade on veggies, shrimp, chicken, beef, pork, fish.. really anything you feel the need to marinade will work. A couple nights ago I did zucchini, yellow squash, sweet onion, mushrooms, green pepper, and sweet orange pepper.

The other significant ingredient of a burrito bowl is the rice. I make the rice with chicken broth, and the liquid from a can of mild Rotel instead of water. No fuss, goooood flavor.
Oh, and lets not forget the guacamole. I wont actually write out a recipe for this because all I do is dice a large avocado, a roma tomato, a couple green onions, and half a fresh jalapeno. I smash all these together and add 1 or 2 key limes, white pepper, cumin and viola, guac.

When it comes to the garnishing of your burrito bowl dont hesitate to experiment. Some of my favorite toppings are black bean and corn salsa, fresh mango, fresh cilantro, queso, and fresh cabbage. Have fun experimenting, and enjoy!!

Anything Marinade

1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. orange or pineapple juice
1/4 c. lime juice
1 green onion stalk
2 cloves garlic
1 medium onion
1 small chipotle pepper in adobo, as well as a spoonful of adobo
a couple splashes of apple cider vinegar
a handful a fresh cilantro
2 tea cumin

Method

– blend all ingredients together in a blender on high for a minute or so.
– let meat/veggies marinate for at least an hour
(just remember, the longer the better)
– prepare meat/veggies however you prefer

Potato Salad!

Oh my god. Potato Salad. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water. For a long time I have just been pulling this recipe out of my ass every time I want to make it, but now I finally had a reason to sit down, and write out the ingredients and the process so that the rest of you can enjoy this little gem.

I mean, I am not usually one to toot my own horn, but this potato salad is king. People LOVE it, which is convenient because it is so damn basic. There is one tiny little ingredient though that just takes its deliciousness over the top. That little secret is curry powder. Curry powder is nothing like the green or red curry you buy in a jar at the grocery store. Curry powder is actually a blend of several spices, ranging from coriander and turmeric to cinnamon, mustard seed, and cardamom. The number and variety of spices used depends on the brand, and of course the country the spice is bottled in. Its flavor is subtle, slightly smokey, and very nicely compliments the other flavors in the salad, and its inexpensive which is also a plus.

So, there you are. My secret is out, and as I said before, all the other ingredients are super basic and consist of celery, onion, pickles or relish, mustard, mayo etc. When it comes to the potatoes it doesnt much matter what kind you use, I prefer red potatoes, but whatever you have on hand is perfectly acceptable.

Now go. Make this recipe, and ENJOY!!

Em’s Potato Salad

6-8 medium potatoes
5 eggs, hard boiled
4 stalks of celery
1 medium white onion
4 pickles, chopped or 1/2 c. relish
1/2 c. mayo
1/2 c. plain greek yogurt
2 TBS dijon mustard
1 TBS yellow mustard
1 tea pepper
1 tea curry powder
1 tea lemon juice

Method
– chop potatoes and boil in a large pot with about 2 tea of salt for 7-10 min.
– place the eggs in a small pot covered with cold water, bring to a boil, and set timer for 10 min.
– chop all your veggies and place them in a large serving bowl
– add the rest of the ingredients to the veggies, and give it a good stir
– rinse eggs off in cold water, and strain potatoes
– peel and chop eggs and add along with the potatoes to the veggies and sauce
– cover and keep in the fridge until ready to serve

Fuji Apple Chicken Salad

I have no idea why this salad is specifically the “Fuji” Apple Chicken Salad, but once you are enjoying the first bite, the thought doesnt linger.
I discovered this salad at Panera Bread, and if it werent almost $8 a plate, I could eat it for every meal. So as usual, I was inspired to find a mock salad dressing, and put all the other ingredients together myself. Therefore being able to eat it whenever the hell I want.

Once I started searching I found that I wasnt the only person trying to find a comparable White Balsamic Apple Vinaigrette. So it didnt take me long to find a recipe that I personally thought was the closest that anybody is gonna get. After making the dressing according the recipe I made a few adjustments. The dressing was super thin so I added some applesauce, and doubled the dijon mustard. Now, THAT is as close as anyone is gonna get to the real thing. Dressing, check.

After that it was a matter of cooking the chicken, and making the apple chips (since I forgot a bag of apple chips when I went grocery store). The apple chips didnt turn out nearly as crunchy as I wanted them to, but the flavor was really good. The chicken was simple. Season, sear, and simmer. Then putting the salad together..

Time to eat.

Fuji Apple Chicken Salad
(adapted from Panera Bread)

dressing
1 TBS white balsamic vinegar
1 TBS unsweetened apple sauce
2 TBS frozen apple juice concentrate
3 tea dijon mustard
1/4 tea onion powder
1/4 c. olive oil

chicken
2 boneless skinless chicken breast
2 TBS olive oil
1/3 c. chicken broth
poultry seasoning (I used McCormick’s chicken rub)
fresh lemon
salt/pepper to taste

2 romaine hearts
candied pecans
gorgonzola crumbles
sliced red onion
sliced roma tomato
apple chips

Method
– In a medium sized pan heat 2 TBS olive oil over medium/high heat
– season chicken with salt, pepper, and rub
– sear chicken 2 minutes on each side, squeezing lemon onto chicken before you turn
– reduce heat to medium/low and pour chicken broth over chicken, and simmer for 7-10 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink
-while chicken is simmering, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients
– after chicken is cooked through place it on a plate or cutting board and let it rest 10 min
– slice chicken and put your salad together however you so choose

Its a bit of work, but I think its well worth it.
You could always make extra chicken, and then you will have an excuse to eat this for a few meals!

The Beginning

Yesterday marked the day of a new year for me. It was mine and Michael’s 3rd Anniversary.
With my feeling of renewal I want to start a new chapter of my life. For a while now I have been in a funk of sorts, and I dont feel like I am living my life to its potential. In the past I have been perfectly fine floating around with no real ambition, but that phase is coming to an end. I need to be more active, I need to challenge myself, and I need to get on some kind of routine.

So I have decided this is the perfect time to fulfill my desire to start a food blog. I know that sounds strange.. it seems that starting a food blog would just distract me, but this is how my mind works. By making the commitment to myself to start this food blog, I need to be able to cook, and document it at least every other day. Therefore, being the planner I am, I will plan my days according to this one thing I vowed to do, along with all the other things I do in a day. This will require that I arrange my time and activities in a certain way, so that all of it gets done.

Seeing as there are few things I love more in life than pouring myself a glass of wine, and spending an hour making dinner, I know this will be a goal that I will find no trouble in achieving.

My guilty pleasure in life is searching for that perfect recipe. The recipe that satisfies my cravings both in taste and texture, as well as in aesthetics. The recipe that will bring me that much closer to what I consider to be perfection. This is where the Ambrosia comes in. Wikipedia defines Ambrosia as; “The food, sometimes the drink, of the Greek Gods often depicted as conferring immortality upon whoever consumes it.” Being the greek mythology nerd that I am, I LOVE this definition, and I feel that it fits my journey very well. I have no plan when it comes to the variety of recipes that I will post. All I know is that some recipes will be ones that are close to my heart, and the others will be wild cards.

To begin this adventure I decided to start with our Anniversary dinner.
At first I was irritated when Michael said he wanted me to cook dinner, but how could I be mad when he followed with “I am just not impressed with spending 30 dollars a plate, when your food tastes better than anything we can buy.”
Ok, fine, I cant argue with that.

For the main course of our meal my mind first drifted to seafood. Having spent a great deal of my life in the Pacific Northwest, I consider myself somewhat of a seafood aficionado. Yet oddly I have never had fresh Lobster. I know of one place in town that sells live Lobster, so I decided to give it a try. Then for our side dishes, I paid a visit to my favorite site Foodgawker and after browsing 20 recipes or so I had made my menu.

Fresh boiled Lobster
White Cheddar Risotto
Caesar Salad
Tiramisu

With that, I set out to the store.
The man behind the seafood counter picked me out the two biggest, meanest Lobsters he could rake in.

Boiling these suckers came with a bit of a challenge, because almost every site we read told us a completely different cooking time. We ended up cooking them in a GIGANTIC pot with 10 quarts of water, and 3/4 cup of salt, for 12 minutes, which was too long. Next time we will try the 7-9 minute mark. The claw meat was fantastic, but the tail was overcooked. Bummer.

All the other elements of dinner were right on point.
The risotto had the perfect amount of smooth creaminess, and the white cheddar gave the rice a nice little tang.
For me its hard to go wrong with Caesar salad, but I think I finally found my favorite out of all the dressing recipes Ive tried.
The Tiramisu was one of those tried and true recipes. I dont think I will ever divert from this recipe. Its perfect every time.

Caesar Dressing
(adapted from a sweet pea chef)

1/4 c. mayo
1/4 c. parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 tea. anchovy paste
1 tea. worchestershire sauce
2 tea. dijon mustard
juice from half a lemon
2 cloves garlic
1/4-1/2 c. olive oil
salt/pepper to taste

Method
– blend all ingredients, except olive oil, together in a blender.
– add olive oil in a slow stream to emulsify.
– store in fridge for up to 2 weeks

White Cheddar Risotto
(adapted from Life’s Ambrosia)

1 c. arborio rice
3 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. white wine
2 TBS unsalted butter
1 c. sharp white cheddar, shredded
1/2 c. parmesan cheese, shredded
1 c. sweet white onion, diced
salt/pepper to taste

Method
– in a small saucepan heat broth.
– in a medium sauce pan melt butter, and cook onion on medium/low heat until translucent, about 5 min.
– add rice to the butter and onion, stir to coat rice in butter.
– pour in white wine, stirring occasionally until liquid is absorbed. reduce heat to low.
– one ladle at a time add broth, allowing the broth to be absorbed before adding more.
– repeat process until all 3 cups of broth are absorbed.
– take rice off the heat, and add both cheeses, and salt/pepper.
– serve right away
– reheat leftovers in a saucepan with chicken broth

side note: feel free to replace the white cheddar with any other cheese you prefer

Tiramisu
(adapted from Gastronomer’s Guide)

2 pkg. lady fingers
16 oz. mascarpone cheese
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1 c. brewed coffee
1/2 c. kahlua or other coffee liqueur
1/2 c. white sugar
cocoa powder

Method
– whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks
– in a separate bowl whisk mascarpone, and sugar until smooth.
– add whipped cream into mascrapone and sugar mixture and blend until smooth.
– refrigerate while preparing lady fingers.
– pour kahlua and coffee into a small bowl, and dip lady fingers, 3 at a time into coffee
(fyi, the lady fingers absorb the liquid VERY quickly, so beware)
– lay the fingers in a row, in a 9×13 pan until the bottom is covered.
– spread a layer of the whipped cream mixture over the lady fingers.
– repeat the lady finger process, laying the fingers in the opposite direction in the pan.
– add the rest of the whipped cream mixture, and sprinkle cocoa powder over the top of the dessert.
– refrigerate for at least 2 hours, if not overnight.
– ENJOY! and try not to eat the entire pan to yourself..

Well there you go. My first post. Over time I plan to purchase my own domain, and dust up on my photography skills, but until then, I hope you can follow along.