Archive for April, 2011

Leftover Easter Candy Cookies

Posted in Cookies, Dessert on April 29th, 2011 by admin – 3 Comments

Now that Easter’s over I see that there are a billion and one articles and recipes with uses leftover Easter candy. But I found this recipe before Easter and had to try it, so much that I went out and bought candy explicitly intended to be leftover Easter candy.

I know the point is to use up what you already have, or buy it on clearance the next day, but I didn’t want to risk there being nothing left except rows of Peeps and pastel candy corn. I picked out some candy that seemed like it would make the least scary cookies (no Peeps) – Whoppers robin eggs, Starburst sour jelly beans, and the ultimate, Dove peanut butter eggs.

I won’t lie—I was aware that these cookies had the potential to be either awful or awesome.

I agree.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Anywhere from 1 to 1 1/2 cups leftover Easter candy

I realized quickly that this would make a lot of (potentially frightening) cookies so I cut the recipe in half easily.

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  • Mix butter and sugar until light and fluffy; add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.

So this didn’t say anything about softening the butter first, and I remembered I can do this the easy way now.

However I’d recommend softening the butter a bit first. I actually made the mixer jump a couple times trying to mix a solid block of butter into the sugar. But no physical labor on my end!

  • Stir in your milk until incorporated.

My milk wasn’t really incorporating so I moved on to the next step and hoped for the best.

  • Stir the flour mixture in bit by bit, swiping down the sides of the bowl, until fully incorporated.

Incorporated.

  • Fold in your Easter candy.

I divided my dough into two bowls because was I imagining two different kinds of cookies coming out of this. The first I mixed in the jellybeans and malted eggs.

The second I mixed in chopped up peanut butter eggs.

  • Let the dough chill for at least one hour.

I missed this step at the start, which explained why my dough was so gooey when I tried to scoop my first cookie. So I jumped in the shower while waiting and put on my Cooking Naked apron to finish. You can add this to the list of things I promise not to do when I’m baking professionally – I won’t be naked in the kitchen, apron or not – however if you’re on my personal Christmas list you might want to specify no naked cookies.

  • Heat the oven to 400°F.
  • Using a cookie scoop, drop cookies about 2 inches apart on a lightly greased (or parchment-lined) baking sheet.

I have this cheap cookie scoop that was a silly impulse buy years ago.

While scooping I noticed a small hole forming in the plastic bit. Great, I thought, an excuse to buy a fancy new one. The hole never got bigger so now I’m thinking it was designed
that way all along, but still… excuse to buy fancy new one?

  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until almost no imprint remains when touched lightly.

I really expected the peanut butter egg ones to be the ultimate cookie but they were kind of disappointing. I don’t think the base cookie batter was that interesting, but the weird candy ones made up for it and were surprisingly better than expected.

I took them to work, put a label on the container that said “scary cookies” and still every single one was eaten and complimented. I’ve realized that the free food aspect adds a 20% or so bonus to the perception of tastiness so free samples are definitely the way to go when it comes to promoting my bakery.

I wouldn’t rule out the idea of making these again, but only if I had actual leftover candy to use up. I would also invest in the parchment paper because I still have this mess to figure out how to clean:

That’s my good cookie sheet too…

Now the next problem is what to do with all of this leftover Easter candy cookie candy?

Parsley potatoes

Posted in Potatoes on April 18th, 2011 by admin – 2 Comments

People who read my blog often tell me, “You eat a lot of fish.”

And what they mean is, “You write a lot about fish.”

Both are true – I love fish so I cook it often and therefore have plenty to write about. (Actually every time we go to a decently fancy restaurant Andrew will open the menu and say, “I know what you’re ordering” as soon as he sees the salmon.)

I’m afraid next there’s going to be comments on my frequency of mashed potatoes, so I’m sitting here thinking, ‘Do you really want to write yet another mashed potato post? Right after a fish and potatoes post even?’ ‘Yes, yes you do,’ I tell myself, ‘because that’s one more recipe tab that can be bookmarked and put away when it’s done.’

This was just another boring, everyday, I-have-too-many-of-this-ingredient-to-use-up recipe search, in this case parsley, hence Parsley Potatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds new red potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

I turned out to have exactly the one and a half pound of potatoes, mixed red and Yukon, also on their last days and needing to be used up or thrown out.

Directions:

  • Peel a strip of skin from around the center of each potato, place the potatoes in cold water. Set aside.

I honestly have no idea what this part is about…

I also realized this isn’t actually a mashed potato recipe, which is what I had my heart set on that night, but mashed potatoes are the scrambled eggs of potatoes. You practically have to go out of your way not to make them.

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Saute onion and garlic for 5 minutes or until tender. Pour in broth and 3/4 cup of the parsley; mix well. Bring to a boil.

  • Place the potatoes into a large pot full of salted water. Bring the water to a boil; then reduce heat. Simmer covered, for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Well I know how to make mashed potatoes so I pretty much ignored the recipe from this point on… but why were we supposed set them aside in cold water first in the original recipe?

They’re kind of pretty with their mixed colors, so I’ll pretend it was intentional. I had to go ahead and peel these since they were so far on the sprouty, rough-skinned side. Once they were cooked I mashed the whole deal together.

Actually it used up a lot less parsley than I was hoping. Parsley is a “fluffy” herb when fresh and a cup isn’t as much as it seems.

Yes that is my mango-sake sauce in the background, this time on halibut. I did say I’d be making it again as soon as I bought more sake, which turned out to be the next day. I’ll probably keep going until I’ve tried mango-sake sauce on every type of white fish I can find.

Roasted miso salmon with a bunch of other stuff and potatoes

Posted in Salmon on April 16th, 2011 by admin – 2 Comments

I managed to injure myself pretty well yesterday in what I’m sure was one of the most dramatic trip-and-fall episodes anyone’s ever seen… and of course there were plenty to see it, right outside of the Capitol Hill QFC. If you live in the area you probably know how busy that street corner is and in fact I think it was trying to sidestep out of the line of sight of one of the canvassers that caused me to lose my footing in the first place.

Well despite being in pain to walk, or to stand, or do anything that involves moving my knees in any way, I’ve realized I’m too stubborn to just sit still and heal. So I’ve limped through the grocery store, and continued to limp through the kitchen and keep cooking. The biggest issue has been when I come back to my desk chair to sit for a minute and am confronted with this:

She can perfect her sleepy, I’ve-been-here-alllll-day look in under 30 seconds.

So for once I did the right thing and read the recipe with too long of a name through from beginning to end and right off it annoyed me with one thing. The recipe is for 6 salmon fillets (which of course I cut back to a single for myself) but ends with,

Serve 4 of the salmon fillets with the cilantro sprinkled over top and all of the potatoes on the side. Reserve remaining salmon for salad.

It wouldn’t bother me so much if it stated up front something about using leftovers for another recipe, or even made some mention of what this salad is, but instead it just tells you to cook a bunch of food and not use it all. The ‘next recipe’ link isn’t anything to do with salad, but an even longer name that just needs to be shown off: Sea Bass Napoleon with Galangal Blackened Scallops and Smoked Salmon, Blackened Tomatoes and Coconut Lemon Grass Reduction. Someone needs to learn some brevity in their naming.

Now on to the recipe… except that it’s actually two recipes – the roasted salmon and rosemary Yukon potatoes. Despite my complaining, it’s probably the potatoes that sold me on the whole thing.

Ingredients:

  • 6 salmon fillets (about 5 ounces each)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine (mirin)
  • 1 tablespoon miso paste

To cut this back I approximated 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and eyeballed just under a teaspoon of the mirin and miso.

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a large roasting pan with cooking spray.

I ignored the whole cooking spray thing and just lined the pan with aluminum foil. Something about cooking with an aerosol can bothers me and I’ve never bought the stuff, but I do have one of those hand-pump olive oil sprayers.

  • Season salmon with salt and black pepper and place in roasting pan. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, rice wine and miso paste. Brush mixture all over salmon in pan.

My miso is drying out so it took a bit to mix it altogether and then I wasn’t impressed with what I had. There wasn’t a lot going on flavor-wise and I don’t care for mirin unless it’s been diluted by enough other ingredients. So I started adding more, pulling from typical ingredients of other recipes.

  • 1 teaspoon plum sake
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger

This is a lot more cinnamon than used in the original cinnamon salmon recipe but it seemed to make it thick enough to actually stick when brushed on.

I’m also still on a mango kick but since I didn’t want to deal with the leftovers if I was to make a mango sauce tonight, I thought the plum sake would add that fruitiness I was looking for.

Ingredients:

  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves

I cut this part in half pretty easily. Dried rosemary unfortunately – fresh is on the list to grow since fresh rosemary seems to show up in so many recipes compared to dried.

Directions:

  • In a large bowl, combine potatoes, oil, garlic, rosemary, and salt and black pepper to taste. Toss to coat potatoes. Arrange potatoes alongside salmon (or on a separate baking sheet if there’s not enough room).

I did it in plastic a bag, shake-n-bake style. Then I realized I unfortunately wasted a plastic bag and I could probably get the same effect from one of my reusable containers. (On the other hand, I’d like to see the phrase ‘shake-n-bake style’ show up in my search queries more often.)

  • Roast salmon and potatoes 20 to 25 minutes, until fish and potatoes are fork-tender.

As one of the commenters points out, 20-25 minutes is too long to cook salmon. I cooked for 15 minutes and the fish was done, however, the potatoes were not. I expected this and put the fish on a plate and potatoes back in the oven. If I had read the comments thoroughly too I would have taken their advice and put the potatoes in 20 minutes ahead of the salmon. When they were close to done and I was getting impatient waiting for them to cook, I sprinkled some asiago cheese over the potatoes to convince myself to put them back in the oven a bit longer.

The flavor combination I came up with was interesting…. I think “interesting” would be upgraded to “good” if the salmon hadn’t been sitting around getting cold waiting on the potatoes. And, ignoring that whole last section that says to reserve salmon for salad, I also forgot to top with the cilantro. However cilantro probably wouldn’t have gone along so well after my changes anyway.

Recommend serving with plum sake.

Lessons in Tapioca

Posted in Dessert, Fruit, Mango, Taro on April 8th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with tapioca this week. Mangos too of course, oh yes the mangos are coming, but first it was taro.

Looking for a way to use up that leftover coconut milk, I found Taro coconut milk with tapioca off of a blog with a really great name. Following her process all too well, I also ended up with a gelatinous blob of my first (and only) try, although looking back she said “solid block” so I’m thinking perhaps ‘gelatinous blob’ is just the natural state of cooked tapioca.

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup mini tapioca pearls
  • 600g (about one med) taro
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar

I cut this way way back to use up half a can of coconut milk, the end of a box of instant tapioca, and while I have some baby taro I originally planned to use, I went ahead and finished off the bag of frozen taro pieces I had in the freezer too.

Gelatinous tapioca blob and the coconut milk-taro didn’t want to mix so well but I could tell this would be a good one if done correctly. Apparently I wasn’t expecting much from the start because I didn’t bother to take pictures.

It did however set me off on a mission to find real tapioca pearls, whatever they might be. Hers were green. I ended up with a multicolor bag, because given the choice between plain old white and colorful I had to go with the colors. Actually given the choice between a package that gave some kind of cooking directions and one that didn’t I’d go with the former but it wasn’t an option.

Just… tapioca.

I had to use the cooking directions from the recipe instead, this time Mango Coconut Tapioca Pudding.

Ingredients:

Tapioca

  • 1/2 cup small tapioca pearls
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar

DIrections:

  • Soak the tapioca pearls in about 1 cup of water for about two hours.

  • Then bring another cup of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the sugar to the water and stir until completely dissolved. Then drain the tapioca pearls thoroughly and add to the boiling water. Immediately turn the heat down to low.

It continues with stirring and covering for 20 minutes to keep cooking but my tapioca was pretty much cooked at the time it went into the pot. Into the fridge to cool, as instructed.

Mango puree

  • 8 ounces mango flesh
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Put all the ingredients for the mango purée into a blender and pulse until they are completely blended. Refrigerate the mango purée.

The immersion blender has become one of those how-did-I-live-without-this items. This went into the freezer to hurry things along.

  • Add the mango purée to the tapioca pearls when chilled and mix thoroughly to make the pudding.

See, out of the fridge, gelatinous blob, and I followed the instructions.

It wasn’t breaking up so well here either so the only solution I could see was to get a bigger bowl where I could mix more vigorously.

Now that’s starting to look like something.

Garnish

  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 6 raspberries
  • 1 kiwi
  • 8 ounces fresh mango flesh

Of course I wasn’t going to go out and buy all these fruits and berries just for my little experiment, but I did happen to have strawberries. I even rolled my eyes at myself for cubing my last mango for a pretty picture.

But a pretty picture it did make.

Now is probably a strange time to admit that my only experience with tapioca before this has been in bubble tea, so I don’t even know what this is supposed to taste like. I offered Andrew a taste first and he didn’t like it. I found that eating it with the garnish, especially the cubed mango, made it pretty good, but not so much on its own.

My biggest complaint it that it’s too sweet. If I was to make it again I’d leave the sugar out of the mango puree – the sugar in the tapioca and the natural sugar in the fruit should be enough. Then I would have plenty of fresh fruit for a topping, enough to last the whole bowl, not as a “garnish”. Finally, I would remember that there are raspberries in the freezer which could have made for an even prettier picture.

Cod with Mango-Sake Sauce

Posted in Cod, Fish, Fruit, Mango on April 5th, 2011 by admin – 1 Comment

I think it might confuse people that Andrew and I don’t normally eat the same meals. With different schedules (and different tastes) we’ll occasionally plan ahead a meal for two, or make a lot of something and offer, but we haven’t gotten this “family dinner” thing down yet. Usually different schedules means we’re not even eating at the same time, but occasionally we’ll be trying not to bump heads in the kitchen as one of us (him) rushes to cook his ‘oops this was use-by yesterday’ chicken and one of us (guess which) already had fish in the queue.

Andrew was cooking something Indian with his oops-chicken so he asked me if I wanted any jasmine rice with my dinner. My favorite way to find interesting recipes is to throw random ingredients into Google – first I tried “jasmine rice cod” for ideas, and them “turmeric cod” and then finally “mango cod” where something caught my eye – Cod with Mango-Sake Sauce.

I glanced over the page, and then read it again thinking ‘where’s the recipe?’ She describes what she did but no explicit recipe. “How adventurous am I willing to be?” I asked and Andrew promised backup Indian food if I failed.

The rice was ready long before either of us were.

The mango was cooked down into a puree with just a touch of water (no sugar) to keep the fruit from sticking to the pan

From her description, one mango cooked down was used for multiple recipes so I knew I didn’t need to use a full one. So one slice in the pan, one slice in my mouth, repeat. I’ve never cooked down a mango before so I didn’t know if there was anything special I had to do… but then magically there was mango paste.

A jigger or two (probably two) of sake, a knob of butter, a pinch of sea salt and white pepper were added to some of the puree to create this sauce.

I had about 1/4″ of sake left in the bottle so that determined how much I used… seemed right.

The cod itself was seasoned with sea salt and a fish curry powder from Singapore, but any curry powder (Jamaican, Japanese, Malaysian, Indonesian, South Asian) with a bit of turmeric to lend a touch of bitterness to balance the sweetness of the mangoes will work.

Here is my cod seasoned with curry powder from… honestly, I can’t remember if it came from the QFC or the Safeway down the street, I left out the turmeric since there was already turmeric in the rice. Andrew had declared this “yellow food night” and so while waiting for stove space I contemplated sea salt and it’s appropriateness on something that came from the sea and noticed the ingredients.

Yellow.

The fish was then pan-fried and plated

Can you believe making something this extravagant and I still had to look up how to pan-fry to make sure I was doing it correctly? Melted a little butter with a little olive oil in the pan.

I’ve said before, my pan-frying technique needs some work… It took three tries to convince some part of the fish to stop sticking to the pan and then actually flip over. I should stick to baking or grilling.

Those are not black sesame seeds, but onion seeds, or kalonji, over the mango sauce.

Those are black sesame seeds on my sauce. I just wanted my picture to look pretty too.

I think cooking with mango is going to be my new obsession, competing with eating mangos on their own. I’ll be making this again as soon as I find more sake.

Amaretto Brownies and Rainbow Chips

Posted in Brownies on April 3rd, 2011 by admin – Be the first to comment

So I’ve made some mention of planning to start a baking business in the future. Michael has been insistent that I do not want that linked to my blog in any way at risk of scaring off my customers. My opinion is that if someone finds my blog through my bakery, then they already know how awesome my baking is.

Now I do play up my cooking mishaps because it makes for better stories. However when I’m working professionally, in a professional kitchen, I promise I won’t do thinks like grease the pans with olive oil because it’s what we have laying around. I promise I won’t leave food sitting in the car for hours and feed it to anyone but myself – I wouldn’t even risk that on my family. And if something like this cookie failure happens… well I’ll have a good blog post, but no one will be eating it.

Really I’ve been looking for an excuse to use this picture for something for years.

I’m even wondering how professional chefs keep their kitchens from being contaminated with cat hair. (My cats’ hair has even made it to other people’s offices.) I’m guessing that a separate set of uncontaminated clothes must be the answer.

A bit of blatant self-promotion, my Neiko’s Bakery Facebook page. If I collect 25 ‘likes’ I win a prize.


I had planned to lay off the baking for a while because i’m running out of people to help deal with leftovers without killing all of our diets. Andrew is such an enabler though – when I ran across an amaretto brownie recipe, he said he would have no issue with them appearing in our kitchen.

Within the hour a pan of brownies appeared in our kitchen.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 cup Amaretto
  • 1 cup almonds, chopped

I have a ‘no walnut’ policy in my baking. I have nothing against walnuts on their own, although they’re not my favorite nut, but they seem to just arbitrarily ruin the texture of a nice squishy treat – brownies, cookies, banana bread, etc. Almonds in amaretto brownies however made perfect sense so I allowed them.

This was a totally straight forward recipe – mix, pour, bake. (360 degrees, 25 minutes.) I was trying to guess from my current baking science knowledge what kind of brownies these would be. Fudgey? Cakey? The answer was… dry. I didn’t make the frosting that goes with them because as a spontaneous act of baking I didn’t have buttermilk, but these would have needed frosting to be passable.

It turns out though that it may have been my fault. I also didn’t have vegetable oil (and I do know better than to try to use olive oil in its place here) but using oil didn’t feel right to begin with. Instant mixes use vegetable oil but every homemade brownie recipe I have uses butter (lots of butter).

I made an estimated guess and substituted 1/2 cup of melted butter. I also learned, another example Michael gave for keeping the blog secret, that butter explodes in the microwave.

How did I not know this before? I’ve never melted more than a tablespoon or so in the microwave in the past, but I didn’t want to dirty a pan when I wasn’t also melting chocolate.

I would have guessed not enough butter was the problem, but recently I was listening to an episode of America’s Test Kitchen where they were trying to make better-than-a-box brownies. I wasn’t able to pay attention at the time so I’m going to go back to the DVR to take notes, but they were explaining the difference between saturated fats (butter) and unsaturated fats (oil) and how the proportions of each affect the texture of brownies.

So this recipe deserves a second try, without me getting cocky and trying to change things.


While the brownies themselves didn’t work out, my little experiment that went along with them did.

I’ve had the idea of “rainbow brownies” stuck in my head and have been trying to figure out a way to pull it off. I imagined melting, originally something like rainbow sprinkles, on top of the brownies and carefully swirling the colors together.

I actually had the ends of a bottle of rainbow sprinkles in the cupboard that I played with just to see if and how they would melt. While they did eventually melt, the oil that ran off and the brown goo I eventually ended up with, along with actually reading the ingredients label, has ruined my childhood favorite ice cream topping for me.

After some research I bought these “Premium Rainbow Baking Chips” off of Amazon.com, ultimately spending more on shipping than the chips themselves cost, but when I get an idea stuck in my head…

I just “borrowed” a corner of the brownies, hot out of the oven, to test my chips on.

After a few minutes to start melting I carefully ran a butter knife through them to swirl.

Success!