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I had my third international cooking class at Kirkwood last night.
Mexican was the evening’s theme. Our menu includes pico de gallo, tortillas, tortilla soup, pork tamales in a red chile sauce and tres leche cupcakes.
I learned three things.
1 — I cannot fold a corn husk to save my life.
2 — Whisking egg whites by hand is a better for your arms than bicep curls.
3 — The combination of evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk should be bottled and sold on every grocery store shelf.
Tres leche cupcakes are my new favorite cupcake recipe. The recipe says to wait two hours, or overnight, to frost them, but I don’t know anyone with that kind of control. Luckily, the cupcakes taste just as good without frosting.
Next week — Japanese!
TRES LECHE CUPCAKES
Yields 6 to 8 cupcakes, depending on size
- 2 tbsp shortening
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 4 tbsp evaporated milk
- 4 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
- 4 tbsp coconut milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, butter and sugar until light and fluffy on medium speed; add egg yolks beating until all the yellow disappears. Add the vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add alternately with the buttermilk to the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the flour.
In a small bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold into cake batter.
Fill standard paper-lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to wire rack that has been placed over baking sheet to cool.
While cupcakes are still warm, stir together the evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and coconut milk. Using a small meat injector, inject each cupcake in several different spots with about 1/2 to 3/4 ounce of the mixture. If you don’t have a meat injector, poke several holes in the top of each cupcake and a 1/4-inch wooden skewer. Pour the milk mixture over each cupcake while they are still warm, filling each hole.
Refrigerate for two hours or overnight before frosting.
We didn’t have a frosting in class, so experiment with different buttermilk frostings. Personally, I thought the cupcake was perfect without frosting.
I’m a little behind posting Week 3 of my grocery shopping challenge, but I would like to announce that I spent less than $100 at the grocery store Saturday. Actually, I spent $79.81.
I swear I heard angels sing when the total was announced.
Here’s what was and still is on the menu for this week:
- SUNDAY: Super Bowl snacks, including baked ravioli and apricot chambord Brie.
- MONDAY: Chicken stir fry.
- TUESDAY: Leftovers
- WEDNESDAY: International cooking class tonight — Mexican food is on the menu.
- THURSDAY: I’m working tonight, so Scott and the kids are on their own.
- FRIDAY: Chicken Elegante (herb chicken in a white wine sauce served inside a crepe).
- SATURDAY: Homemade pizza.
The chicken stir fry and chicken elegante will both use some of the shredded chicken I have leftover from last week’s homemade chicken broth adventure. I also used the chicken as the base for several brown bag lunches this week.
I feel so proud of myself.
Every now and then I get the urge to completely reorganize my kitchen.
This leads to emptying every cupboard, drawer and the pantry. I wipe down shelves and imagine I will put things back in a streamlined process that will make my kitchen a well-oiled machine.
In reality, though, I usually put everything back where it was.
It’s not a total waste of time, though. Usually I find multiples of a food item that launches a week of productive cooking to beat expiration dates. In past bouts of organization, I’ve found three boxes of Bisquick, several bags of powdered sugar and, two weeks before Thanksgiving, I discovered I had 12 cans of chicken broth. Twelve cans! I was able to use eight making our family’s Thanksgiving dinner, but that seemed a little extreme.
I blame my mother for my food hoarding habit. I grew up one of six children in the family. Going to the grocery store was an adventure. Some people buy two cans of green beans; we’d buy 10. It was easy to go through a gallon of milk a day and there was never enough cereal in the house. In fact, my hometown grocery stores love the holidays because they know all of my mother’s children are coming home, which means one huge grocery trip. My dad has left the store with flowers as a thank you from management on several occasions.
I no longer live in a house of eight and my family of four doesn’t need me to shop like that anymore. One of my resolutions for 2012 is to get a handle on our grocery bill. This means no more buying chicken stock when it is on sale or I have a coupon. I need to learn buy what I need — no more, no less. To help with this effort, I spent an afternoon making chicken broth from scratch. I now have several canisters in the freezer, ready to be used if it ever gets chilly enough for soup, and plenty of shredded chicken chicken salad and nachos.
Here’s to one resolution I may actually keep!
Yield: About 2 quarts
- 4 pounds chicken wings, necks and thighs
- 2 medium onions
- 10 to 12 sprigs fresh parsley
- 2 carrots
- 2 stalks of celery
- 3 cloves garlic
- 10 black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 6 to 8 whole cloves
- 6 quarts cold water
Place the chicken in a colander and rinse with cold water. Allow to drain as you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Cut the onions in half without peeling them. Add to a pot large enough to hold all ingredients. Wash the parsley, shake and remove excess water, and dry by rolling in paper towels. Coarsely chop and add to the pot. Scrub the carrots, cut into large chunks, and add to the pot. Repeat with the celery. Add the garlic cloves, peppercorns, bay leaves and cloves.
Place the pot on the stove. Add the chicken and water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Skim any foam or impurities that rise to the top.
Decrease the heat to a simmer and cook for two hours. Continue to skim the stock as it cooks, about every 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes.
Drain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve or colander into a heatproof bowl or pan. After the contents have cooled, spate the chicken from the skin and bones, and reserve the meat for another recipe.
Cover and chill the stock in the refrigerator. Remove any fat that has hardened at the top and discard. The stock is now ready to use.
Note: Always thaw frozen chicken stock overnight in the refrigerator or on the stovetop over medium heat. Never thaw at room temperature.
Recipe: Teen Cuisine by Matthew Locricchio (2010; Marshall Cavendish Corporation)
As promised, my daughter and I made homemade pasta last night. She loves to help me in the kitchen. When she was younger, she had a pink chef’s hat and pink apron with her name embroidered on it. My husband called her Chef Boy-Are-You Cute. 🙂
Well, neither the chef nor myself one is very good at cutting uniform pasta, but it still tasted great even if it wasn’t pretty.
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 tbsp water
In a medium-sized bowl, combine flour and salt. Make a well in the flour, the slightly beaten eggs, and mix. Mixture should form a stiff dough. If needed, stir in water, one tablespoon at a time.
On a lightly floured surface, knead dough for about 3 to four minutes. Let dough rest under mixing bowl for 30 minutes. Using a pasta machine or by hand, roll out dough to desired thinness. Use machine ort knife to cut into strips of desired width.
Boil water and salt. Cook pasta in bathes to prevent sticking. Past will rise to the top of the water when cooked.
BASIC TOMATO SAUCE
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 Spanish onion, chopped in 1/4-inch dice
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
- 1/4 medium carrot, finely shredded
- 2 cups peeled whole tomatoes, crushed my hand and juices reserved
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the thyme and carrot, and cook 5 minutes more, until the carrot is quite soft. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as hot as thick cereal. Season with salt and serve.
I added cooked Italian sausage to my sauce. It added spiciness to the sauce; very good!
I had my second international cooking class last night and it was just as fun as the first class. Perhaps even more fun because I knew most of the people in the class and our focus was Italian cuisine.
Who doesn’t love Italian food?
I learned how to make a basic pasta and a basic tomato sauce. There is a good chance I’ll never use a canned sauce again because real tomato sauce has a flavor I can’t even describe. It’s like eating at a restaurant, but you’re at home. Also, squeezing the tomatoes is a great stress reliever!
I promised my daughter we’d make homemade pasta this weekend, but I don’t think it’s something I’ll do often. Talking to my cooking partner as we kneaded our dough, we asked each other why anyone would ever make homemade pasta. We assumed it would be to impress a date, but we’re both married, so …
Sweet potato gnocchi with brown butter rosemary sauce was another recipe we tackled last night. I am not a great sweet potato fan. Neither was my cooking partner. However, our gnocchi was actually really good. I think it was the cinnamon. Cinnamon makes everything better.
- 1 pound sweet potatoes
- 6 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus 2/3 cup for the work surface
- Recipe for Brown Butter Rosemary Sauce below
Pierce the sweet potato with a fork. Bake the sweet potatoes in the oven at 425 degrees until tender and fully cooked, between 40 to 55 minutes depending on size. Cool slightly. Cut in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl. Rice the sweet potatoes and transfer to a large measuring cup to make sure the sweet potatoes measure about 1 cup.
Transfer the sweet potatoes back to the large bowl. Add the ricotta cheese, salt, cinnamon, and pepper and blend until well mixed. Add the flour, a little at a time until a soft dough forms. Lightly flour a work surface and place the dough in a ball on the work surface. Divide the dough into two equal balls. Roll out each ball into a 1-inch wide rope. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces. Roll the gnocchi over the tines of a fork. Transfer the formed gnocchi to a large baking sheet. Continue with the remaining gnocchi.
In a large pot of slated water to a boil over high heat. Add the gnocchi in three batches and cook until tender, but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain the gnocchi using a slotted spoon onto a baking sheet. Tent with foil to keep warm and continue with the remaining gnocchi.
BROWN BUTTER ROSEMARY SAUCE
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp rosemary
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 tsp maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
While the gnocchi is cooking, melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the rosemary leaves when the butter has melted. Continue to cook, swirling the butter occasionally, until the foam subsides and the milk solids begin to brown. Remove the pan from the heat.
Stir in the cinnamon, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Careful, the mixture will bubble up. Gent;ly stir the mixture. When the bubbles subside, toss the cooked gnocchi in the brown butter.
Transfer the gnocchi to a serving dish and serve immediately.
Confession: I hoard kitchen appliances.
Not your everyday appliances, like a toaster or my Kitchenaid mixer, but one-use only items, like a panini maker and more than I’m willing to admit “incredible kitchen appliances” from late-night infomarcials.
Yes, I have a Magic Bullet.
But this blog will focus on the panini maker. My husband gave me one for Christmas in 2008 or 2009. I used it twice. It worked fine both times, but a lot more goes into getting the ingredients together for a perfect panini than you realize. Let’s just slap some cheese on bread and have a traditional grilled cheese instead, right?
Whenever Scott and I get on each other about holding on to things we no longer need, he brings up the Panini maker. I knew I had to use it quickly or lose the argument. I got out my 200 Best Panini Recipes cookbook, selected Chicken Pesto Panini, and made a great dinner.
The Panini maker is back in the pantry, but I will use it again soon. I might even blend a drink in my Magic Bullet to go with it!
- 2 Italian rolls, split (I used Pepperidge Farm Italian bread instead)
- 1 tbsp butter, melted
- 1/4 cup basil pesto (recipe below)
- 2 ounces roasted chicken breast, sliced thin
- 2 ounces provolone cheese
- 1/2 cup baby spinach
- 1 tbsp oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
- 4 slices of red onion
Heat Panini grill.
Place rolls, cut side down, on a work surface and brush with butter. Turn rolls over and spread with pesto. On bottom halves, evenly layer with chicken, cheese, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes and red onion. Cover with top halves and press gently to pack.
Place sandwiches on the grill, close the top plate and cook until golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Serve immediately.
Recipe from 200 Best Panini Recipes
- 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano cheese
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
- 3 medium-sized garlic cloves, minced
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Combine the basil in with the pine nuts, pulse a few times in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts instead of pine nuts and they are not already chopped, pulse them a few times first, before adding the basil.) Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.
Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Recipe from http://simplyrecipes.com/
OK, that’s not really true, but in a survey of clam chowder offerings at local restaurants, the creamy New England — the Patriot’s home turf — variety topped the tomato-based style from Manhattan, which of course hales from the Giant’s home state of New York. In fact, we were hard-pressed to find Manhattan clam chowder on any area restaurants’ menus.
“Usually when I am in the mood for clam chowder I want a big bowl with a nice piece of bread as a meal,” says Ryan Buresh, owner of Prairie Soup Company, 425 Second St. SE, Skywalk Level in Cedar Rapids. “Usually Manhattan Chowder is a little more delicate, and I am less likely to want it as a main course.”
A creamy milk base versus a tomato base — the choice is easy for Suzette Zoll.
“I tend to prefer the cream-based soups,” says Zoll, owner of Boston Fish, 804 Fifth St. SE in Cedar Rapids. “It is definitely a comfort food.”
Technically, a clam chowder must just contain both broth and clams. But, popular opinion, and that of some culinary experts, feels differently.
The late James Beard, a cookbook author and accomplished chef for whom the James Beard Awards are named, called Manhattan clam chowder a “rather horrendous soup” that “ … resembles a vegetable soup that accidentally had some clams dumped into it.”
A Maine assemblyman even went as far as introducing a bill to the Legislature forbidding tomatoes in chowder. This was in February 1939.
In Cedar Rapids, Zoll isn’t going to weigh in on the debate.
“I’m not going to say they’re wrong, but it is strange,” she says of the Manhattan version, adding that Boston Fish has its own take on the Manhattan clam chowder with its Bouillabaisse.
“It’s a tomato-based soup made with vegetables and shrimp, scallops, tuna, blue marlin, swordfish, mahi and wahoo,” Zoll says.
Prairie Soup Company has had Manhattan clam chowder on the menu, but Buresh says — with apologies to Eli Manning — New England is a customer favorite.
“We try and keep a nice variety of soups, so it would be tough to serve two clam based soups at the same time, and we might have a problem on our hands if we pulled the New England clam chowder from our menu,” Buresh says.
It should be noted, though, that there’s one area in which Manhattan comes out on top. Nutrition-wise the Manhattan clam chowder is the better choice for health-conscious football fans. Not that healthy foods are often a top concern at most Super Bowl parties.
“It’d be fun to have Manhattan and New England chowders at a party,” says Eric Stolzenberg of Iowa City.
Both chowders are slow cooker friendly. Stolzenberg has a problem, though. He’s a Giants fan, but he prefers New England clam chowder.
“We might order pizza instead,” he says. “It will be OK if we order Chicago-style, right?”
NEW ENGLAND CLAM CHOWDER
4 ounces bacon
4 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
4 stalks celery, diced into 1/4-inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup flour
4 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme
3 cups whole milk
1 pound potatoes, diced into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
15-20 oz whole canned clams
Cook bacon, drain off grease and dice.
Cook diced potatoes in boiling water for 5 minutes.
Drain clams, reserving clam liquid.
Saute onions and celery in butter until just soft. Add salt and pepper as vegetables cook.
Sprinkle vegetables with flour and cook for 1 minute.
Add chicken stock and reserved clam juices, scraping bottom of pan.
Bring to a boil, add milk and potatoes. Cook until potatoes are done.
Add cream, clams, thyme, Worcestershire and Tabasco.
Add bacon to soup, or use as garnish.
Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.
From Prairie Soup Company
MANHATTAN CLAM CHOWDER
8 pounds quahog or large cherrystone clams, scrubbed and rinsed (opened clams discarded)
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
2 cups finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
3/4 cup diced carrot
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
3 bay leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 1/4 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 3 cups)
1 cup chicken stock
3 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes or 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, chopped and juices reserved
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large stockpot bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add clams, cover and cook for 5 minutes. Uncover, quickly stir clams well with a wooden spoon, and recover. Allow clams to cook 5 to 10 minutes longer (this will depend on the type and size of clams you are using), or until most of the clams are opened. Transfer clams to a large bowl or baking dish and strain broth through a fine-meshed sieve into a bowl. (You should have about 6 cups of clam broth. If not, add enough water to bring the volume up to 6 cups.) When clams are cool enough to handle, remove them from their shells and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Set clams and broth aside.
In a large heavy pot add bacon and render until golden and crispy. Pour off all fat except 4 tablespoons. Add onions, celery, bell pepper and carrots and cook for 10 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Do not allow to color. Add garlic, bay leaves, oregano, thyme and crushed red pepper and cook an additional 2 minutes. Increase heat to high and add potatoes, reserved clam broth, and chicken stock and bring to a boil, covered. Cook for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and the broth has thickened somewhat. Add tomatoes and continue to cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add reserved clams and parsley and season with pepper and salt, if necessary. Allow chowder to sit for up to 1 hour to allow flavors to meld, then reheat slowly over low heat if necessary. Do not allow to boil.
From Emeril Lagasse’s “The Essence of Emeril.”
Jill Jones tells people it’s a good day when she can bake.
Of all her tasks as chef and food service manager at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, baking is one of her most enjoyable.
“It’s working with your hands,” Jones says. “You get immediate satisfaction, but then you have to wait. It’s kind of like life’s lessons. People want that immediate gratification, but you have to work, and have patience, for your ultimate goal.”
Jones is talking about bread, but she could just as easily be talking about herself. A former nurse, Jones retired after 32 years to enroll in the culinary arts program at Kirkwood Community College. She later taught at Kirkwood before accepting a position at Prairiewoods. There, she is responsible for all of the food served at the center for both residents and guests, including the most popular bread — oatmeal.
Bread can be intimidating, she says, but everyone gets better with practice.
“To quote King Arthur Flour, ‘There’s no such thing as failure. Only teaching moments and bird food,’ ” Jones laughs.
Yield: 3 loaves
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup shortening
3 cups water
1 3/4 cups rolled oats
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water
7 to 8 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 whole egg for egg wash
2 tablespoons water
Combine brown sugar, shortening and water in sauce pan and bring to a boil to melt shortening and dissolve brown sugar. Pour over oatmeal in bowl. Stir well and let cool thoroughly (100 to 110 degrees or cooler). Oats will plump up. If too hot, the liquid will kill the yeast.
Add yeast and warm water to oatmeal mixture. (Instant yeast can directly be added to flour, active dry yeast needs to be dissolved in water.)
Add salt and half of flour and combine in mixing bowl with a dough hook. Gradually add rest of flour until dough is no longer sticky. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Stretch and fold dough every 10 minutes three times. Cover with plastic or a cotton towel (not terry cloth) between stretching periods to strengthen the gluten development. Place in a greased container and leave at room temperature for 1 hour to start fermenting.
If baking the bread the same day, let the dough rise about 1 1/2 hours. If waiting a day, refrigerate the bread overnight. Let the dough sit at room temperature a couple hours the next day before baking.
Shape into 3 loaves and place in bread pans, or free-form a ball, and let rise, covered until doubled. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle some dry oats on top of loaf. If making free form, place 2 loaves on parchment paper-lined half sheet pans, dusted with cornmeal.
Score free-form loaves with an X with sharp knife and place in oven. You do not have to score bread if using loaf pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on wire rack. This bread freezes well.
Recipe from Chef Jill Jones, Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center.
Second week of my personal grocery shopping challenge and I spent $146.21 at the grocery store. That is about $30 more than I had hoped. The goal is to cut my grocery bill. I need to do a better job of planning meals around what’s on sale at the store and use coupons.
Still, I did make a menu for this week and have everything I need to make the meals on it. That’s something.
- SUNDAY: Leftovers!
- MONDAY: Garlic lemon pasta (vegetarian meal; new recipe)
- TUESDAY: Mexican chicken casserole (new recipe)
- WEDNESDAY: International cooking class tonight
- THURSDAY: I’m working tonight, so Scott and the kids are on their own.
- FRIDAY: Light chicken parmesan (new recipe)
- SATURDAY: Spaghetti and meatballs