Monday, December 30, 2019

Perfect Creamy Mashed Potatoes & Christmas lunch

Perfect Creamy Mashed Potatoes - made December 25, 2019 from Modern Honey
Do you know the advice they give about not trying out new recipes before serving it to company? I usually (though not always) follow that advice when it comes to baked goods because who wants to serve or give away something that doesn't turn out? Especially when you don't have a backup?
Mac and Cheese Bites with Bacon (Costco)

My mom's lumpia
I didn't think that would apply to mashed potatoes. It's mashed potatoes. What could go wrong? (insert foreboding cue and shiver of premonition). I tried following the recipe as is, including the amount of potatoes. Christmas was at my house this year and there would be 9 of us for a friendsmas. I went to Costco for a bag of Yukon Gold potatoes. The recipe called for 3 pounds of potatoes. The Costco bag held way more than 3 pounds so I boiled 5 pounds, thinking if that was too much potato for the liquids, I'd just add more cream and melted butter.
Lechon (Roast Pork) - ordered from a local Filipino restaurant
Everything was going fine, I was on schedule for the lunch, everything was all prepped. I decided to make the mashed potatoes a little bit early, figuring I could warm it up slightly when the guests arrived. Only to discover after I add the melted butter and half & half, that my potatoes, which looked like a lot already, suddenly looked soupy more than creamy. Ack. I rushed to boil another 5 potatoes. I don't know how much they weighed, I didn't have that much presence of mind to weigh them. I just needed more of them to add to my mixture.
Sweet Potato Cornbread (left) and crescent rolls (right)

Pancit Palabok (Filipino noodle dish) ordered from a local caterer
Fortunately it was enough and these did turn out nice and creamy. But instead of the "3" lbs called for in the recipe, I probably used at least 6. YMMV. Oh and there's only one picture of the mashed potatoes because I forgot to take more, just the ones of the whole spread. So I'm including those for your viewing.
Ham from Costco
3 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into even-size chunks (I used double that)
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups half-and-half, whole milk or heavy cream
1/2 cup full-fat sour cream
2 teaspoons salt or more to taste
  1. Place potato chunks in a large pot and cover with water. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil. Once potatoes reach a boil, lower the heat and cover. Cook for 25-35 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat the butter and half and half (or whole milk or cream) until the butter is melted and warm. Whisk to combine.
  3. Place the potatoes in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix for 30 seconds. Slowly add the butter and cream mixture, mixing at the lowest speed. Fold in sour cream and salt. Taste and season as needed.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Honey Sesame Instant Pot Chicken

Honey Sesame Instant Pot Chicken - made November 30, 2019 from Rasa Malaysia
Trying to catch up on the blog - the past week has been busy with holiday stuff!

It's been awhile since I used my Instant Pot but I'm glad I broke it out again for this recipe. I'd forgotten how easy it was to use to make flavorful dishes.
This requires a *tiny* bit more work if you want to sear the chicken first on Saute mode. But if you don't, you could skip that step. I tried to do it but I didn't use enough oil and the chicken kept sticking. That was too much work for me so I gave up, added the sauce, and shut the cover to let the Instant Pot do its thing.

I did add a little bit more cornstarch at the end and let the sauce thicken on Saute mode since the main drawback of the Instant Pot is the soupiness of anything I make in it. But this wasn't watery and the sauce thickened nicely. Went perfectly with a little rice and had good flavor.

1 1/2 pounds boneless and skinless chicken thighs (I used bone-in drumsticks)
black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon chopped scallion

Honey Sesame Sauce
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 1/2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Sriracha or chili garlic sauce (I used gochujang)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon cornstarch
  1. Wash and rinse chicken in cold water. Pat dry with paper towels. Season chicken with salt and pepper set aside. Mix all the sauce ingredients together; whisk to combine, dissolving honey and cornstarch completely. Set aside.
  2. Turn Instant Pot to Saute mode. Once hot, add oil. Pan sear chicken until slightly brown. Add the garlic and saute until brown. Pour in the sauce and top with sesame seeds. Cover the pot and select Manual, high pressure, for 8 minutes.
  3. When completed, turn to Quick Release. When all steam has released, remove cover and set pot to Saute mode, stirring until sauce thickens, 2 minutes.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies - made dough December 5, 2019 from In Katrina's Kitchen
I am hopelessly behind on my blog. I have a backlog of recipes to put up and trying to give priority to the baking ones before people swear off sugar after the holidays. So this will be short and sweet. Similar to the White Velvet Sugar Cookies, this dough held its shape and the indentations from the cookies stamps well. The pictures are both from after the cookies were baked so you can see what I mean.

Bake these for no more than 10 minutes. Don't wait for the edges to get brown or the cookies won't have that chewy texture. I do have to give the slightest nod to the White Velvet Sugar Cookies as being a bit better for flavor but this is also good, as long as you don't overbake it. I brought this to a neighborhood holiday potluck and my neighbors liked it and had seconds (and thirds) so this has been endorsed by my block :).
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (I used vanilla)
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar until smooth, at least 3 minutes.
  3. Beat in extracts and egg.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine baking powder, salt and flour. Add 1/3 at a time to the wet ingredients. The dough will be stiff. If it becomes too stiff for the mixer, turn out dough onto a countertop surface. Wet your hands and finish kneading the dough by hand. Do not chill dough.
  5. Divide into several batches. Roll each batch onto floured surface to 1/4" thickness and cut with cookie shapers, cutters and/or stampers.
  6. Bake for 6-8 minutes or no more than 10 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 3-5 minutes until firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Mongolian Beef Udon

Mongolian Beef Udon - made November 29, 2019 from Seasons and Suppers
This is a similar recipe to the Beef Teriyaki Noodles that I posted earlier in that it's easy to make and it's delicious. If you notice there aren't any green onions in the pictures but it's in the recipe, yep, you guessed it, I was out of green onions when I made this. But hey, I found the jar of sesame seeds in my pantry so...progress.
You'll also likely notice that I tend to eat the same things in the same time period. What can I say, I'm a Costco shopper and any package of beef is guaranteed to feed me for multiple meals. So it's a good time to clear out my pinterest board and make some easy dishes. Plus, hello, udon noodles, my fave.
This was delicious and definitely a good winter comfort food. It's going on the roster for that dinner party I'm unlikely to ever give.
1 pound beef
1 cup green onion
14 ounces udon noodles
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or 1 teaspoon fresh minced ginger
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch

Sliced green onions, for garnish
sesame seeds, for garnish
  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the marinade ingredients. Add beef to marinade and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  2. Whisk together sauce ingredients and set side.
  3. Heat the 2 teaspoons vegetable oil in a wok or skillet over medium high heat until hot. Add the beef strips and cook, stirring until beef is cooked through. Add the green onion and cook, stirring, until the green onion softens and browns slightly. Add the sauce and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the udon noodles and stir gently to loosen the noodles, then cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens and noodles are warmed through,
  4. Garnish with sliced green onion and sesame seeds. Serve hot.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Creamy Shrimp Pasta

Creamy Shrimp Pasta - made December 3, 2019, modified from Kevin and Amanda
This could have been seen as basically a fettuccine alfredo recipe: cream, butter and noodles. Shrimp for protein. But thanks to not having the cajun seasoning in the original recipe, I googled what spices make up cajun seasoning and discovered I actually had them all in my trusty Penzey's spice drawer (yes, I have one).
So I made up my own "cajun seasoning". The original recipe called for only 1/2 teaspoon cajun seasoning but I wasn't about to measure out kernels of 5 different spices to make up 1/2 teaspoon so I ended up doing pinches and dashes of each. I know, I know, I'm getting so bold with this cooking and flavoring thing, right?

But I'm glad I did it as I liked the flavor of how this turned out. I like fettuccine alfredo anyway but let's face it, the flavor comes mostly from butter and cream. Nothing wrong with that but the added spices in this one kicks the taste buds up a notch. It isn't spicy unless you go heavy handed with the cayenne pepper (you can also sprinkle with red pepper flakes) but has a nice flavor beyond the cream.
4 ounces fettuccine pasta
3/4 pound raw shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
up to 1/4 teaspoon each of paprika, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic powder and oregano)
Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Season shrimp with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon flour over the shrimp and toss to coat. Sprinkle 1 more tablespoon flour and toss to evenly coat shrimp.
  3. Melt butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When hot, add the shrimp in a single layer and cook on each side, flipping once until pink and golden brown, approximately 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to plate.
  4. Pour chicken broth into the skillet and cook for about 5 minutes, whisking the bottom of the pan to deglaze. Reduce heat to medium and pour in cream; whisking constantly. Cook sauce over medium heat until bubbly and the cream starts to thicken, about 5 minutes.
  5. Season sauce with spices to taste. Add the drained pasta and shrimp; toss to combine.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Cookie Butter Jammers

Jammers - made dough December 5, 2019, modified from Dorie's Cookies by Dorie Greenspan
I'm going to move this up in the blogging roster so I can get it up in time for anyone who wants an amazingly excellent cookie to bring to a holiday party or a cookie swap. Unfortunately, these are a bit fragile to ship so you're just going to have to eat them yourself. Uh, bummer?
You start with a butter cookie crust. Don't be intimidated by the fancy name of French sables. It just means cookie. I gotchu. In layman's terms, this is a butter cookie with a cookie butter center and a streusel topping along the edges. Or, if you want really plain speaking, a damn good cookie.
This genius was the brainchild of Dorie Greenspan. I took some liberties with her rendition but only to suit my flavor preferences and didn't compromise the integrity of her brilliance. She called these jammers because the center filling was supposed to be some kind of jam. I don't like jam so cookie butter or hazelnut spread are my fillings of choice. Hence Cookie Butter "Jammers".
I also made these smaller than her suggestion of 2" round cookies baked in regular-size muffin tins. I went with mini muffin tins for smaller cookies. I'm a believer in small cookies for holiday parties and cookie swaps. You can fit more cookies in your waistline cookie plate and sample more varieties when the offerings are small.
You make the dough, roll it out, chill it, cut into small rounds, place each round in a mini muffin cavity, put a dollop of cookie butter filling in the center then sprinkle the streusel filling around the edge of the cookie, leaving the cookie butter filling uncovered. If I'd been working with larger cookies, my streusel sprinkling might've been a bit neater to avoid covering the filling with random sprinkles but at least that doesn't detract from the taste.
These were delicious. The butter cookie bottom is light and airy and the streusel gives the cookies both a bit of a crunch and some sweetness. But not overly so. These are also a bit different than the norm so I think they're perfect for a cookie swap or party. Just be warned: it's unlikely you can only eat one. Ask me how I know.
French Vanilla Sables
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temperature
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 cup (30 grams) confectioners' sugar, sifted
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups (272 grams) all-purpose flour

3/4 cup (102 grams) all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (2 3/4 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cookie butter, hazelnut spread or - if you really want - the jam of your choice for the filling
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, confectioners' sugar and salt on medium speed for about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. 
  2. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat in the yolks, one at a time, followed by the vanilla.
  3. Turn off the mixer, add the flour all at once and pulse the mixer until risk of flying flour has passed. Beat on low speed just until combined. Turn the dough onto a work surface and divide in half. Gather each piece into a ball and shape into a disk.
  4. Working with one piece at a time, roll the dough 1/4 inch thick between pieces of parchment paper. Slide the parchment-sandwiched dough onto a baking sheet and freeze for at least 1 hour or refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
  5. Make the streusel: whisk the flour, both sugars, cinnamon and salt together. Drop in the cubes of cold butter and toss all the ingredients together with your fingers until the butter is coated.
  6. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix on medium-low speed until the ingredients form moist, clumpy crumbs. Squeeze the streusel and it will hold together. Sprinkle over the vanilla and mix until blended.Pack the streusel into a container and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (preferably 3 hours) before using.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray a regular muffin tin. Have 2-inch diameter round cookie cutter.
  8. Cut cookie dough with cookie cutter and drop each piece into a muffin cavity.
  9. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon cookie butter or nutella onto the center of each cookie. Spoon or sprinkle streusel around the edges of each cookie, leaving the center exposed.
  10. Bake the cookies for 20-22 minutes, rotating the tins after 11 minutes, or until the streusel and the edges of the cookie are golden brown. Remove from heat and let cool for 15 minutes before removing cookies from the muffin tins.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Browned Butter Red Velvet Brownies

Browned Butter Red Velvet Brownies - made November 27, 2019 from Something Swanky
Tis the season for red velvet. I was sending my December care packages to deployed soldiers and wanted something holiday-ish to send. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm not a big fan of the typical flavors of the Christmas season. Eggnog? No. Gingerbread? Meh. Peppermint by itself is okay but not with chocolate. It's also inadvisable to send peppermint-flavored things that'll be in an enclosed box for long periods of time as that flavor will permeate everything else around it.
However, I can and do get behind red velvet anything but particularly either cakes or brownies. Brownies fare better and last longer in a care package than cake so I went with this red velvet brownie recipe from Something Swanky.
And it delivered. Sturdy, fudgy, moist. I kept them plain since I was mailing them but as always, if you want to fancy them up, dust with tops with powdered sugar. You can also frost or glaze with a cream cheese frosting or a vanilla glaze then garnish with red and green M&Ms. But I can attest they're also excellent plain. I've now made 2 batches of this brownie and sent them in multiple care packages. They've delivered each time.

1 1/4 cups butter
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
powdered sugar for dusting, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degress F. Line a 9 x 13 baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat, stirring constantly until butter has reached a light brown color and browned bits are at the bottom.
  3. Pour browned butter into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add sugar and cocoa powder and beat until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing in between each addition until almost creamy.
  4. Add the salt, buttermilk, red food coloring and vanilla.
  5. Add the flour and mix to combine. Batter will be thick.
  6. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Flourless Chocolate Torte

Flourless Chocolate Torte - made November 20, 2019 from Well Plated
With all the emphasis on things being gluten-free, I laugh whenever I see a flourless chocolate cake being touted as "gluten free". Well, yes, by definition, a flourless chocolate cake IS gluten free. It's the same laugh I got when a restaurant server asked if I wanted their "vegan coconut". Uh, there are non-vegan coconuts out there?
Anyway, the reason for the chuckle is gluten free typically signifies something healthier for you. If you can overlook the butter, sugar and chocolate (but no flour) in this recipe, sure, healthy it is (not).
But if you want an amazing, rich flourless chocolate torte, head to the kitchen. Flourless chocolate tortes (or cakes, however you want to call them) are actually pretty easy to make. Mixing them is no problem. Baking them isn't difficult either but you do have to make sure you take them out at the right time.
Because there's no flour in the batter, you can't rely on the typical cake structure where you can just poke a toothpick in the middle and if it comes out clean, it's done. Instead, with this, you have to check the "jiggle" in the center of the cake. Which means moving it slightly to see how set the middle is. If too much of the middle jiggles, it isn't done yet. If the middle doesn't jiggle at all, it's overbaked. If you overbake it, you won't get the fudgy dense texture of a good flourless chocolate torte. I bake until maybe a 2- to 3-inch diameter in the center still has a bit of jiggle.

The good news is, it's pretty hard to overbake this torte. Look for a drier crust around the edges while the middle still looks moist and has some jiggle. Do not bake until all of the center looks dry; that's when it'll be overbaked.
Once you do take it out, let it cool to room temperature or even chill it if you want to ensure a firm but creamy texture. A good flourless chocolate cake will be a cross between a lighter-textured fudge and a more dense textured mousse. But better.

And I will unabashedly sound like my usual broken record of "use the good chocolate!" I used Valrhona bittersweet which you can get at Trader Joe's for a reasonable price. If you use the cheap, chalky chocolate, it just won't taste the same.
I kept this plain as it was going into my December Angel Baker care packages to deployed service members and I didn't know how long it would be in the mail but if you're serving at a dinner or dessert party, feel free to dust with confectioners' sugar, drizzle with caramel and/or garnish with fresh raspberries or strawberries.
9 ounces good-quality dark chocolate, 65% or higher, finely chopped
9 ounces unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
7 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Kahlua, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease and line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Grease again.
  2. Melt the chocolate and butter together in the top half of a double boiler over hot water. Whisk until smooth and combined. Stir in the sugar then let cool for a few minutes.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, fully combining between each addition. When all the eggs are added, continue to stir until the batter becomes thick and glossy. Stir in the vanilla extract and Kahlua, if using.
  4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake 30-35 minutes, until the torte jiggles slightly in the middle but is not completely set. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then unmold. Dust with powdered sugar. Cut into wedges. Serve with whipped cream, berries, or caramel sauce as desired.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Beef Teriyaki Noodles

Beef Teriyaki Noodles - made November 25, 2019, modified from Chef Savvy
I got the original recipe from Chef Savvy's blog but there's a note on the page that asks for the recipe not to be published. That's always a little surprising as I think recipes should be shared (and due credit given, of course). But I respect the request and she has every right to make it. So I made some changes. I could probably have just made her recipe as is but since I couldn't post it here, I thought I might as well change it up and do my own thing. So I'm not sure how her original recipe would've tasted but I've linked to it in the post title so feel free to check it out.

This is another easy dish to make. You just have to prep the individual elements then they come together in a simple dish very quickly. I didn't have green onions and I couldn't find the jar of sesame seeds I know I have somewhere so mine looks a little plain. But, fortunately, I have very plain taste buds so beef, udon noodles and a tasty sauce is all I need to be happy with my cooking efforts.
I rarely get the noodles to sauce ratio right so this ended up with a little more sauce than noodles but that's preferable to a dry dish of too many noodles and not enough sauce. This reminded me of beef with oyster sauce and, to be honest, in a blind taste test, I probably couldn't have distinguished between the two. But the sauce was creamy and had flavor plus I love udon noodles so it worked for me. This isn't spicy at all but if you want a little heat, feel free to sprinkle with some crushed red pepper flakes.
1 pound sirloin steak, cut into strips
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound udon noodles
2 tablespoons oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup mirin
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
green onions and sesame seeds for garnish
  1. Toss together beef and cornstarch; let sit, covered, for 15 minutes.
  2. Thaw udon noodles and soak in hot water for 10 minutes.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, sesame oil and fish sauce; set aside.
  4. Heat oil in large skillet. Stir in garlic and cook until lightly browned. Add beef and quick fry until browned on both sides, 2-3 minutes; do not overcook. Add ginger and stir to combine.
  5. Add the soy sauce mixture and bring to a simmer, 2-3 minutes.
  6. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Slowly add to the simmer mixture and whisk to combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes until sauce has thickened. Add udon noodles and toss to combine. Cook, stirring, until udon noodles is desired consistency. Serve hot with green onions and sesame seeds.