Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Crab Cakes

I hate coming up with clever titles for blog posts, but I think the words "crab cakes" can stand on its own...just typing the word makes me want to drool on my keyboard. The recipe I used came from the recipe booklet sold on Tangier Island to raise money for the school. I think the PTA sells them. Anyway...here's the recipe:

1 lb crab meat
1 beaten egg
2 slices white bread
1 tbsp yellow mustard
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
2 tbsp mayonnaise

You first remove the crust from the white bread and tear it into small pieces and add it to the beaten egg so it soaks up some of the egg. Then add everything else except the crab meat. Once the egg/bread mixture is combined, add the crab meat, and shape into patties. One pound of crab meat should yield 4 large patties or lots of mini ones.
If you don't plan on eating all of the crab cakes right away, you can freeze the extras by wrapping them individually in waxed paper, then foil. I formed five patties from this pound of meat and froze the other two patties. I also hate admitting this, but this particular pound of crab meat was only okay. I've gotten used to blue crabs steamed with the guts removed prior to steaming (that's how they do it on Tangier), and you can definitely taste the difference between steamed crabs with guts and steamed crabs without guts. The meat tastes sweeter and purer with the guts removed prior to steaming. This particular pound of meat had bits of guts AND a few rogue bits of shell...not ideal.

Here's an overexposed shot of the final product:
Given this particular pound of crab meat's faults, they still tasted good.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Food Memory Friday--Eat your heart out

My friend is in France right now as a chaperone for her high school students' France trip. I don't envy her chaperone duties, but I do envy her ability to eat some of these:
The French know how to make pastries!

Her access to fancy cheese that is difficult to find in the US:
Nothing beats Raclette on a summer evening!
AND eating lots of this:
For now, I will daydream of food adventures as I try to conquer this:
Hello Dissertation: I will be done with you soon!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Oven Fried Chicken

I was craving fried chicken recently, and I decided to go for a lighter version of fried chicken. I initially started creating my chicken with this recipe from Better Homes and Gardens, but I veered drastically off course by using different ingredients for the coating:

Specifically in my breading mix:
Panko Bread Crumbs
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Smoked Paprika

If you have never used smoked paprika before, you have to give it a try. You definitely don't add the smoked paprika for color: it provides a smoky and somewhat spicy element to the chicken that is delightful. I bought my container of it at Kroger, but I have seen it at (of all places) T. J. Maxx in their food section.

I followed the procedure to coat and bake the chicken from the recipe by combining the egg and milk in one shallow dish, and my crumb mixture in another shallow dish. I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts, and then baked for around 30 minutes:
I forgot to take a close up before i put it in the oven. oops.
Here was the full meal--rice and carrots and strawberries as the fruit component. I like eating food in separate bowls and plates.

Seriously give smoked paprika a try!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Brochettes Two Ways

I ran across this recipe in my 1994 Best of Cooking Light Cookbook, and I had to give it a try. I inherited one of my grandmother's broiler pans, and it is one of the greatest kitchen devices I didn't know I needed. Using my broiler pan was one of my motivations for giving this recipe a try. You first marinate pork tenderloin for a few hours, put the chunks on skewers, and broil.

I also decided to try this same technique but with different flavors and a lamb chop I have been needing to eat. As for the flavoring for the lamb, I combined about a tablespoon of olive oil with a heaping tablespoon of Dijon mustard, some minced, fresh rosemary, and some freshly ground pepper. I then added the lamb chunks to that mixture, and skewered them to be broiled:
I would definitely broil meat on skewers again. The Cooking Light recipe was okay, but I think I would try a different flavor combination. The pork recipe called for cumin, and cumin is not one of my favorite flavors. I would make the lamb brochettes again in a heartbeat if I had lamb or felt like buying lamb. Both brochettes would be great on the grill, but if you're not in the mood to get the grill going, broiling is an easy option.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day Food Memory

My sister is in Florida on vacation, and she sent me this picture from some restaurant she was at to me and my parents. She sent this to us because of the pancake sampler description:
 Growing up, my dad would make breakfast quite often, and when he made pancakes, he would always add extra stuff: banana, chunky peanut butter, flax seed, whatever else he thought would taste good. For most people this combination would probably taste good, but for my sister and I, his pancake experiments weren't usually successful. I will give him credit for being trendy by adding flax seed to the pancakes before flax seed was trendy, but flax seed isn't delicious when you aren't expecting it (I am not a fan of food surprises at 7am), and my sister cannot stand bananas. So, unfortunately for my dad, his pancakes were less than a success for us, AND when we requested plain pancakes he would still add stuff to them. Now, when I make pancakes, the only thing I add is a bit of cinnamon.
My dad circa 196?
Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Food Memory Friday--Chocolate Birthday Cake

My birthday and my cousin's birthday are two days apart. When we were living in New Mexico, we decided to throw ourselves a birthday party, and he said we needed to make a vegan chocolate cake. I am not a vegetarian or a vegan, and he is a vegetarian, but not vegan. I was skeptical at first, but this particular cake has become my go to whenever I need to make a chocolate cake. This isn't the exact recipe we use, but it's close: Vegan Chocolate Cake (Lisa's Chocolate Cake) I have also learned that my cake decorating skills need some work. My chocolate cakes end up looking kind of ugly, but they taste great!
Chocolate ganache and pecan topping (not vegan)
This had a chunk missing on the side, but luckily the ganache topping and pool in the center made it better.
I should have followed Martha's advice by putting parchment down under the cake to catch my messy frosting job...oops.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lemon Salad Dressing

I recently started buying bags of fresh lemons or limes that I use to make this salad dressing. If you have access to Meyer Lemons, definitely give this a try:

3 tablespoons sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon or lime zest
2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice (Meyer Lemons are best!)
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
Dash pepper
1/3 cup salad oil

Combine ingredients in blender or small food processor, and mix until combined. If you have a food processor or blender with an opening at the top, combine all ingredients except oil. Then turn on processor or blender, and add oil in a steady stream while blender or processor is running.
This dressing adds an interesting flavor dimension to smoked ham on top of a salad.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thai Beef with Chiles and Basil over Coconut Rice

Well, the title of this recipe describes almost everything in this dish. I really like watching cooking shows on PBS on Saturday mornings, and this particular recipe was featured on Everyday Food. You can also find the recipe here on Martha Stewart's Website. What interested me the most about this recipe was the simple and few ingredients that pack a lot of flavor into this. The recipe calls for fish sauce, which I can never seem to find, but it still tastes good without it. You can add extra soy sauce to compensate for the lack of fish sauce.
Ground beef never seems to photograph appealingly to me, but this is definitely good stuff.
You definitely want to add in fresh basil at the end--I tried dried as a substitute, but it doesn't taste the same. The best part of this recipe is the coconut rice where you use coconut milk instead of water to cook your rice. I also used three different types of chiles in this: Anaheim, poblano, and jalapeno.
Top (long, light green) is the Anaheim, Bottom left is the poblano, and the two small ones to the right are the jalapenos. Anaheims can have varying heat levels, Poblanos are usually mild, and jalapenos pack some heat. Generally, the smaller the pepper, the more heat it packs.
You can find these peppers in just about any grocery store, but fall is the best time to get Anaheims. When I lived in New Mexico, they would sell 25lb. bags of Anaheims that they would roast for you at the grocery store or farmer's market--BEST SMELL EVER. 25lbs. may seem like a lot of chiles, but they taste good in just about anything.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Biscuits Supreme

I think I finally found the best biscuit recipe where my homemade biscuits taste just as good as the frozen ones by Pillsbury:

I cut the recipe in half since I didn't want too many.
Follow this recipe: Better Homes and Gardens Biscuits Supreme

The trick is to not over work the dough--you really only do want to knead it the recommended amount (4-6 times). I also formed it into a thick rectangle (around 1-in. to 1.5-in.) and cut the biscuits with a knife. I have a biscuit cutter, but reforming the dough for a second round of cut biscuits could over work the dough too much. Did I mention you don't want to overwork the dough? Once they are baked, they look like this:
The leftover biscuits taste good reheated.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Food Memory Friday--Bernachon

This is a strangely composed picture--this is my lap with chocolate goodies from Bernachon--the chocolate house in Lyon, France. I studied in Lyon during the summer of 2004, and this particular chocolate house was recommended by the travel guide Let's Go France. My friends and I decided that we needed to check this place out and it didn't disappoint. We each chose two things, and my choices are the top row. The upper left hand chocolate swirl thing turned out to be a prune covered with a thick, rich blob of chocolate. Prior to purchasing my chocolate blob covered prune, I didn't realize it was a prune--but I think it is the best prune I have ever eaten. Right next to the prune is a chocolate covered cherry. Just looking at this picture makes me want to hop on a plane and go directly back to Bernachon--I don't think I've ever been to a place that can even compare to it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer Garden Update: Preventative Measures

Well, something chewed off, took one bite, and then discarded the baby eggplant I had growing...I wasn't pleased. So, off to the hardware store I went to buy fencing to block out whatever critter tested the eggplant:
Chewed stem....
One bite and then discarded....
Hello fencing! The "X" is to keep the door stable, and maybe if backyard critters can read, they will know not to go back there.
Super fancy hook to keep the door closed...yes that is duct tape holding it there.
It was 94 degrees on Wednesday in Virginia, and I created this masterpiece around 6:30pm to beat the heat. On Wednesday morning when I discovered the violated eggplant, I also ran into this creature:

When we first spotted each other, my gut reaction in my head was: "I hope he doesn't charge and bite me."

My next thought was: "Why in the world would a turtle charge and bite me?" Well, after our first encounter, I rushed into the house to get my camera, and I found him lurking around the pepper and eggplant plants. I was paranoid he would start munching on them, and I tried to chase him away, which resulted in him retreating into his shell:
He wasn't too thrilled for his glamour shot to be taken--I didn't give him enough time to get ready.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Blue Cheese and Bacon Chicken Salad

The Cooking Light recipes continue...this time it's a lighter approach to chicken salad but with lots of flavor. This chicken salad recipe is meant to be mixed together with romaine lettuce and tomatoes, but I was afraid the lettuce would become soggy and disgusting since I wasn't going to eat all of the chicken salad right away. You can find the recipe for Smoky Bacon and Blue Cheese Chicken Salad here. The picture included with the recipe is prettier than what mine looked like, but it was still delicious:
To make the shredded chicken necessary for this recipe, I took two frozen chicken breasts and put them in my crockpot for around 3 hours on high with a little chicken broth and pepper:
Uncooked meat never looks appealing to me, and this photo attempt doesn't really help...
This allowed them to shred after being cooked. I did let the chicken cool completely before I mixed everything together. This stuff looks so sinful and rich, but you use yogurt (I used fat free Greek yogurt) instead of a lot of mayonnaise (only 2 tbsp of mayo).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ginger Crinkles

My mother makes the best gingersnaps. I happened to run across a recipe for Ginger Crinkles in my Best of Cooking Light 1994 cookbook. Well, my ginger crinkles didn't turn out as good as my mom's, but they were okay. The recipe called for margarine, and I only had this stuff:
I wasn't sure if this margarine would work, but they turned out okay. I think there was too much moisture in the dough because it was super sticky even after being in the refrigerator for an hour:
I had to use two teaspoons to get these somewhat round mounds to form
I looked for the recipe I used online, but this one actually looks better than the one I used: Ginger Crinkles October 1998

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Summer Garden Update

Well, the first garden harvest is in--a cucumber!
This particular cucumber was harvested BEFORE I needed to take care of the ant problem with some less than organic measures. It is short and fat, and I guess it is under watered. I've had more problems with the cucumber plants that I thought I would. At one point, I wasn't sure if they would make it, but we still have three more months to see if anything else comes from the plants. But the tomatoes and everything else seem to be doing okay:
It's still a jungle!
Heirlooms are getting big.
Tomato cluster!
I really want them all to ripen soon!
Green pepper! I'm waiting for it to get bigger before I pick it.
Eggplant flower!

Gyros and Homemade Pita Bread

I really feel like I should rename this blog Bananas for Cooking Light! I've been making a lot of their recipes lately, and whenever I am looking to try something new, I usually go to one of my Cooking Light cookbooks or their website. The recipe for gyros that I use from Cooking Light is so good--to me it really does taste like a gyro you can get at a restaurant. You end up making loaves of meat from ground lamb and beef, so it isn't thin shaved meat from a restaurant, but to me it has the same flavor. I've made this particular recipe before for gyros, but I decided to try making my own pita bread this time around.

The whole wheat pita bread recipe I used came from Gourmet and it's fairly easy. The recipe for the pita bread can be found at epicurious.com. After trying out this recipe, I decided it was good, but not always worth the effort if I need pita bread. the big problem I had was placing the rolled out dough directly onto my oven rack. The dough hung through the rack, and some of the edges were burned on the heating element. I wondered if this would work better if you used a pizza stone to cook the pitas on. Here was the result of my pita adventure:
These were the pretty two, and the pita in front puffed up the best. You can sort of seen the one in the back hanging over the edge.
Two from the first round that didn't turn out so pretty--the burnt edges are from the heating element.
This pita ended up oddly shaped, and the pocket never really formed to stuff the gyro into. It still tasted just fine even though I had to use a fork to eat it with :).

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Pina Colada Smoothie

I recently ran across this idea from Shape magazine for a pina colada smoothie. What you do is add one cup of low-fat yogurt (I used vanilla) with 1 frozen banana, around 1/2 cup of pineapple, and 2 tablespoons of unsweetened coconut (I used sweetened because that's what I had on hand).
Blend until smooth. It really is delicious. I used fresh pineapple, but I think canned would work fine. If you have fresh, definitely give this a try.
A closer look at the pineapple side of the blender.