Better late than never…

Better late than never…

Here’s Make A Whisk’s top 10 posts of 2010.

1)      Coconut Cake (http://makeawhisk.com/2010/01/coconut-cake/)

If you like coconut, this cake is not to be missed. A lot of trouble, but worth every second. You have no idea how good real coconut can be until you try this cake.

2)      Easy Cheese Danish (http://makeawhisk.com/2010/02/easy-cheese-danish/)

A quick and dirty recipe for cheese Danish at home. A lot of the ingredients are things we have on hand anyway, so easy to throw together for a crowd in the morning.

3)      Wizarding World of Harry Potter Food Preview (http://makeawhisk.com/2010/03/wizarding-world-of-harry-potter-food-preview/)

No recipes, and I’d almost forgotten I’d written this one. But back in September, I got the chance to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, and am happy to report that the initial reviews got it right, everything was fantastic. The Pumpkin Juice was yummy, the Butterbeer (better frozen than not) was good, though too sweet for my personal tastes. We got cauldron cakes at Honeyduke’s, in addition to acid pops and sugar quills. For lunch, we ate at the Three Broomsticks and feasted on Roast Chicken, Turkey Legs, Fish and Chips, and more. Universal did a great job with the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, right down to the food and drinks.

4)      Caramelized Corn with Fresh Thyme (http://makeawhisk.com/2010/04/caramelized-corn-with-fresh-thyme/)

Such a great, simple side dish, with so few ingredients. Fantastic.

5)      Lost Finale Party. (http://makeawhisk.com/2010/05/well-lost-is-over/) So sad it’s over. But the food was good.

6)      It’s so hard to pick just one post from June. I got a grill for my birthday, and all we did was grill all month long, maybe all summer long. I guess I’ll go with the grilled pizza (http://makeawhisk.com/2010/06/grilled-blt-pizza-with-blue-cheese/ ), but really, I was just so excited to be grilling!

7)      Not something I cooked, but someplace we went—Girl and the Goat finally opened their doors, and we were there for the opening week! I’ve really been wanting to go back lately, too. (http://makeawhisk.com/2010/07/the-girl-and-the-goat-worth-the-wait/)

8)      For August, though there were lots of grilled recipes, and plenty of things to celebrate (like Kat and Jeff’s wedding shower), I’m going to have to go with the Two-Corn Polenta with Tomatoes & Basil, since it successfully brought polenta back into our lives. And our lives might be better for it. ;-) (http://makeawhisk.com/2010/08/two-corn-polenta-with-tomatoes-basil/)

9)      To highlight the grill, which was really the focus of our summer cuisine, I want to mention these Flank Steak Skewers from Everyday with Rachael Ray. I know we made them twice, but we might have actually had them three times. They were that good. And because they’re skewers, would be perfect for a crowd, as they cook  up quickly and can be prepped in advance. I’d almost go stand in the snow to make some more. Almost. (http://makeawhisk.com/2010/08/dry-rubbed-flank-steak-skewers-with-basil-butter/ )

10)   This copycat recipe for PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef was definitely one of my favorite new recipes this year. Just the right amount of spicy, rich and meaty, crisp around the edges. And the kind of sauce that demands to be served over rice, just so you don’t miss a drop.  http://makeawhisk.com/2010/12/copycat-mongolian-beef/

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Pioneer Woman’s Sloppy Joes

Ah, that Pioneer Woman. Everything over there is delicious. I don’t usually consider her food to be terribly original or inventive, just a really great solid version of whatever she’s trying to make. That’s what you get with these sloppy joes. If you’ve never made sloppy joes “from scratch” and have been relying on a mix or a can, you’re definitely in for a treat. The flavors are brighter, there’s just the right amount of spice, and browning the buns with butter is a great, simple touch that really makes a difference.

(If you have made sloppy joes from scratch, there’s probably not anything earth shattering about this recipe. My family used ketchup, mustard, and brown sugar to make their sauce, and this is certainly in that family. But the onion & bell pepper adds something to the mix, as does the fresh garlic.) This recipe is extremely flexible though, so you can leave out pretty much any of the ingredients that you don’t care for.

photo courtesy of thepioneerwoman.com

Sloppy Joes a la Pioneer Woman
Serves 8; Adapted from thepioneerwoman.com

  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 2-½ pounds Ground Beef
  • ½ Large White or Yellow Onion, Diced
  • ½ Large Green Bell Pepper, Diced
  • 5 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1-½ cups Ketchup
  • 1 cup Water
  • 2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Chili Powder (or use more or less to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Dry Mustard
  • ½ teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes (or use more or less to taste)
  • Worcestershire Sauce, To Taste
  • 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste (optional)
  • Tabasco Sauce (optional; to taste)
  • Salt To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
  • Kaiser Rolls, Hamburger Buns, or other soft sandwich rolls
  • Butter

Preparation Instructions

Add two tablespoons of butter to a large skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. Add ground beef and cook until brown. Drain most of the fat and discard.

Add onions, green pepper, and garlic. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until vegetables begin to get soft.

Add ketchup, brown sugar, chili pepper, dry mustard, and water. Stir to combine and simmer for 15 minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Also add tomato paste, Worcestershire, and Tabasco if desired. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

To prepare the buns:

Spread both halves of each bun with butter and brown on a griddle or skillet. Spoon meat mixture over the rolls. Serve hot.

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Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Cooking Light magazine recently had a feature on Banana Bread recipes.

I frequently have a freezer full of too-ripe bananas, just waiting to be turned into Banana Bread. (This has never been more true than lately; I think we’ve got about 12 frozen bananas in there!) I have an old standby recipe for banana bread from David’s family, and I’ve made other types of banana bread before, but I was excited to try some of the Cooking Light varieties, especially after seeing their outstanding reviews. The first one to catch my eye was this Peanut Butter Banana Bread.

I’ll admit, I made some tweaks. For one, I didn’t have chopped peanuts, or creamy peanut butter, so I cut out the middle man and used chunky peanut butter. Worked great. I’m not a fan of super-sweet desserts, usually, and Banana Bread is more of a breakfast treat to me than it is a dessert anyway, so I skipped the extra sweetness from the peanut butter glaze, though I’m sure it would’ve been tasty. I liked the way it turned out. Moist, rich-but-not-too-rich, with just a hint of peanuty goodness. The peanut butter added flavor without overpowering the bananas. The most successful Cooking Light recipes are ones that don’t seem “light,” and this definitely falls into that category. I’ll probably make this one again–if I was making it to give to someone else or to bring to a party or something, I’d probably try the glaze, too.

Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Adapted from Cooking Light, October 2010

For the Bread:

  • 1 1/2  cups  mashed ripe banana
  • 1/3  cup  vanilla fat-free yogurt
  • 1/3  cup  crunchy peanut butter
  • 3  tablespoons  butter, melted
  • 2  large eggs
  • 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
  • 1/2  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 3/4  teaspoon  baking soda
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/8  teaspoon  ground allspice
  • Cooking spray

For the Glaze (optional):

  • 1/3  cup  powdered sugar
  • 1  tablespoon  1% low-fat milk
  • 1  tablespoon  creamy peanut butter

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare bread, combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed. Add granulated and brown sugars; beat until blended.

3. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through allspice) in a small bowl. Add flour mixture to banana mixture; beat just until blended. Pour batter into a standard 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven; cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; cool.

4. If you want to make the glaze: combine powdered sugar, milk, and 1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle glaze over bread when cooled.

Nutritional Info: Calories: 198; Fat: 7.4g; Protein: 4.7g; Carbohydrate: 29.7g; Fiber: 1.9g
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Copycat Mongolian Beef

Since my mom made a point of calling out this recipe in yesterday’s update, I thought I’d go ahead and get this one out of the way.

My husband David is not a big fan of Chinese food. When we met, he didn’t like it at all, but I slowly wore him down with my homemade recipes and nagging requests to go to P.F. Chang’s, and now he’s made his peace with at least some chinese food. First, he found he liked my pepper steak. He eats the cashew chicken and sweet & sour chicken that I make from scratch. An occasional stir-fry or two. Then he branched out into similar dishes from Chinese restaurants, like beef and broccoli. Once we went to P.F. Chang’s, though, he was absolutely sold on Mongolian Beef.

And why wouldn’t he be? P.F. Chang’s Mongolian Beef is a delicious, tender, yet crispy pieces of thin steak, tossed in a delicious spicy-sweet sauce. Using a couple of recipes I found online, I was able to replicate the flavors almost perfectly. Keep reading to see how.

Copycat Mongolian Beef

  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, minced
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • vegetable oil, for frying (about 1 cup)
  • 1 lb flank steak
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 large green onions, sliced (you can skip these if you don’t like them)
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (also optional, or you can use less or more depending on how spicy you like your food)

1.      Make the sauce by heating 2 tsp of vegetable oil in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Be careful not to let the oil get too hot. It should shimmer, but not smoke.

2.      Add ginger and garlic to the pan and quickly add the soy sauce and water before the garlic scorches.

3.      Dissolve the brown sugar in the sauce, then raise the heat to medium and boil the sauce for 2-3 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Remove it from the heat.

4.      Slice the flank steak against the grain into 1/4″ thick bite-size slices. If you tilt the blade of your knife at about a forty five degree angle to the top of the steak you’ll get wider cuts.

5.      Dip the steak pieces into the cornstarch to apply a very thin dusting to both sides of each piece of beef. And let it sit for about 10 minutes so that the cornstarch sticks.

6.      While the coated beef is resting, heat up one cup of oil in a wok. (I don’t have a wok, so I used a dutch oven. Any heavy pan that holds heat well will work, as long as you can cover the beef with oil.

7.      Just as before, heat the oil over medium heat until it’s hot, but not smoking. Add the beef to the oil and sauté for just two minutes, or until the beef just begins to darken on the edges. (You don’t need to fully cook the beef here, since it’ll go to go back on the heat later.) Stir the meat around a little so that it cooks evenly.

8.      After a couple minutes, use a large slotted spoon to take the meat out and onto paper towels, and drain the oil out of your wok or pan. Put the pan back over the heat, dump the meat back into it and cook for another minute.

9.      Add the sauce from earlier, cook for 1-2 minutes while stirring, then add the green onions and red pepper flakes, if using. Continue to cook for one more minute, then remove the beef mixture with tongs or a slotted spoon to a serving plate. There will be extra sauce, but it’s delicious as a dipping sauce for egg rolls or dumplings, or just drizzled over the beef when served with rice. You’ll definitely want to serve this over rice to soak up as much of the rich sauce as possible.

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Christmas Round-Up and A Look Ahead

Hey everyone, it’s been awhile. I apologize for that. Things have been busy, blah blah blah, excuses, excuses. The truth is, I haven’t had time to try very many new recipes, so I’ve been lacking in the inspiration department. I’ve also been trying to figure out how to take better pictures, which I think I’ve gotten a handle on. Finally, we got a dog, and she takes up a lot of my time (in a good way!).

Obligatory Picture of the New Pup

I’m going to go ahead and make an early New Year’s resolution to get back to blogging more in 2011. That means making a point of trying more new recipes, which I’m also excited to do. Our old standbys are good, but we’ve been relying on them a little too often lately. I’m ready to be a bit more adventurous.

I thought it might be nice to mention some of the foodie Christmas gifts I got, since they’ll likely feature heavily in my future recipes, one way or another. Here they are, in no particular order:

  1. The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory–More than 150 Magical Recipes for Muggles & Wizards
  2. A new Cupcake Courier, that holds up to 36 cupcakes, but also, Bakerella assures me, Cake Pops!
  3. A Swissmar-Borner V-Slicer with Mandolin (I’ve wanted a mandolin for so long–can’t wait for an excuse to use it!) Also with a cut-resistant glove, for safety.
  4. The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Love that Pioneer Woman!
  5. A whole slew of Cooking Light’s annual editions, ranging from somewhere around 1987 to 1995. Lots of great hidden treasures in there, I’m sure!
  6. Glittery pinch bowls from Crate & Barrel. So cute!
  7. A big set of colorful, nesting mixing bowls from JC Penney. I love mixing bowls. Especially nesting ones. Always useful.
  8. A new crockpot. I love my old 3-in-1 Hamilton Beech, and have no intention of getting rid of it, but the new one has a timer, which is definitely helpful sometimes. I’ll keep ‘em both!
  9. A GIANT cupcake-shaped baking pan, to make GIANT cupcake-shaped cakes. Just need an excuse to try this one out!

I’m very excited to get in the kitchen and play with all of my new toys. And to share the results with all of you. Hope your holiday was great, and have a Happy New Year!

P.S. I seem to have missed a blogiversary! Make A Whisk has been here for two whole years. Keep an eye out for a year-in-review post of all my favorite recipes from 2010. You can also look forward to recipes for Cider-Glazed Chicken, Pecan Rice Pilaf, S’More Dessert Bars, Roasted Brussels Sprouts, a very successful copycat recipe for PF Chang’s Mongolian Beef, and Cooking Light’s Peanut Butter Banana Bread. See you soon!

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What’s for Dinner?

Thanks to the holiday weekend, we didn’t have too many dinners to pick for this week. Yay!

Tonight, based on a conversation last Tuesday, we’ll be having Sloppy Joes. I’m going to try my hand at The Pioneer Woman’s version, which looks pretty close to the kind I grew up with, anyhow. Sounds simple, but I’m looking forward to it. Go figure. We’re also making bruschetta, with awesome tomatoes from my cousin Becky’s garden. So that should be good!

Tomorrow, we’re having steak fajitas. Instead of our normal recipe, we’re starting with a fajita marinated skirt steak from Costco. I’m going to make up a knock-off of Chipotle’s cilantro-lime rice to go with.

Thursday, I’m making stuffed peppers. We haven’t had them in awhile, and we’ve got bell peppers from my cousin’s garden, too, so I figured it was a good time to do it.

That’s as far as we’ve planned. I might make a trip down to my sister’s new apartment and there was talk of making lasagnas. If it happens, I’ll take pictures and report back.

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Fettuccine Alfredo with Bacon

This recipe is from Cooking Light magazine. I’m going to say that again, because you’d never expect it from the title, and it definitely bears repeating. This recipe is from Cooking Light magazine. It was very tasty, but somehow manages to be good for you (relative to other alfredo recipes, at least.

The sauce wasn’t quite as thick as I would’ve liked, so I may adjust the amount of flour next time. Using bacon drippings for a roux was a nice touch, as it added a smoky, salty flavor that wouldn’t have been included in the traditional butter. Normally, you don’t need a roux, of course, but it helps to compensate for the 1% milk in the place of the more traditionally heavy cream.

This wasn’t the best alfredo sauce I’ve ever had, but it was absolutely the tastiest “light” alfredo sauce I’ve ever tried. We’ll be making this again.

Photo from cookinglight.com

Fettuccine Alfredo with Bacon
Adapted from Cooking Light magazine, January 2010

Ingredients

  • 1  (9-ounce) package refrigerated fresh fettuccine (I substituted a high-quality dry pasta)
  • 2  slices bacon, chopped
  • 1  teaspoon  minced garlic
  • 1  tablespoon  all-purpose flour
  • 1  cup  1% low-fat milk
  • 2/3  cup  (about 2 1/2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

2. While pasta cooks, cook bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat 4 minutes or until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove bacon from pan, reserving drippings. Add garlic to drippings in pan; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Sprinkle flour over garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly; cook 2 minutes or until bubbly and slightly thick, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low. Gradually add cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Stir in salt. Add hot pasta to pan; toss well to combine. Sprinkle with bacon, parsley, and pepper.

Note: Even with all that cheese, the sauce wasn’t terribly thick. The original recipe suggested using some of the starchy pasta-cooking water to make the sauce, but I skipped it because I was afraid the results would be too watery. I think that was the right call. We had some leftover grilled chicken, so I threw that on top, but it would be fine without the chicken. whatever you prefer.

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Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak Skewers with Basil Butter

First, I got a grill. Then, Rachael Ray dedicated a whole issue of her magazine to grilling recipes. The magazine had a great feature listing tons of grilled skewer recipes, including this one.

The dry-rub gave the steak an awesome flavor. It was slightly sweet with a smoky, spicy flavor. David grilled the skewers expertly, and we finished the steak off with a pat of basil-spiked butter. These were awesome. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

Dry-Rubbed Flank Steak Skewers with Basil Butter
Adapted from Everyday with Rachael Ray, June/July 2010

  • 3 tablespoons softened butter
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sweet smoked paprika
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut against the grain into 16 slices
  • 16 cherry tomatoes

In a bowl, combine 3 tablespoons softened butter and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil; season with salt and pepper; refrigerate.

Preheat a grill to medium-high.

In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons each sweet smoked paprika, garlic powder and extra-virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon each chili powder, dried basil and dried thyme and 2 teaspoons dry mustard. Add 1 1/2 pounds flank steak, cut against the grain into 16 slices, and 16 cherry tomatoes; season with salt and pepper and toss to coat.

Thread 2 pieces of steak, ribbon-style, and 2 tomatoes onto each of eight 12-inch skewers. Cover and grill, turning once, until the steak is just cooked through, about 7 minutes. Top with the basil butter.

Note: When grilling with skewers, it’s a good idea to soak the skewers in water for 15-20 minutes before loading them up with food. Wet skewers are less likely to burn over the high heat of your grill.

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Stir-Fry Rice Pilaf

If I were to say that say I’m making a rice pilaf, you could probably conjure up images of several different rice side dishes you’ve been served at various restaurants or dinner parties. And you probably wouldn’t be wrong. The only thing required for a rice pilaf is to sauté the uncooked rice in oil or butter to give it a nice toasted flavor, and then to cook it in broth. Nuts, seeds, veggies, dried fruits, herbs, and meat are all optional add-ins. That makes rice pilaf an incredibly versatile side.

Most people use a long grain white rice to make a pilaf, but we keep this short-grain brown rice on hand, and that’s what I used. It worked just fine. I adapted the recipe from that website, where they posted the perfect template for a make-your-own-pilaf. I added sesame seeds and frozen stir-fry veggies, along with a bit of hoisin sauce and ginger to the broth. Though it takes a bit of time to make the rice from scratch, this was a delicious and versatile side dish. I know I’ll be making other variations when the mood strikes.

Stir-Fry Rice Pilaf

  • 2 cups brown rice
  • 2 tsp oil or butter
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken)
  • 1/2 cup of toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 ½ cups frozen vegetables (I used a stir-fry blend)
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tsp freshly grated ginger

Heat a heavy skillet on medium heat. Add oil and stir with wooden spoon. Add rice and continue stirring for 5 min or until grains are toasted. Add broth, cover tightly and cook for 45 min. Stir in remaining ingredients and continue cooking for 5 min. Serve. Makes 6 servings.

Note: This made a lot of rice. I’d half this recipe next time, and probably still have leftovers. We served this with hoisin-glazed pork chops and grilled pineapple skewers. Yum!


Versatile Pilafs

Rice pilafs are a method of cooking rice that requires sauteeing of raw grains to add a nutty toasted flavor. Any combination of herbs vegetables nuts and seeds and meats can be used with the rice. Always use a wooden spoon to stir rice to avoid breaking the grains.

Cooking Instructions:

  • 2 cup Lundberg® Long Grain Brown Rice
  • 2 tsp oil or margarine
  • 4 cup broth or water
  • 1/2 cup any nutmeats or sesame seeds
  • 1 package frozen vegetables or
    2 cup fresh chopped herbs
  • salt and pepper as desired

Heat a heavy skillet on medium heat. Add oil and stir with wooden spoon. Add rice and continue stirring for 5 min or until grains are toasted. Add broth or water cover tightly and cook for 45 min. Stir in vegetables nuts etc. and continue cooking for 5 min. Serve. Makes 6 servings.



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Congrats to Kat & Jeff!

Since I usually post pictures of my cake pops, I figure I might as well post these:

Devil’s Food Cake with white chocolate on the outside and sparkly silver crystal sugar (Courtesy of Duff, a.k.a Ace of Cakes). I made them Friday night for Kat & Jeff’s wedding shower on Saturday.

I’m especially proud of the little tags, actually. I thought they were a nice touch.

Thanks to Sarah and Leah for their help (mostly with tying those adorable little bows!).

Finally, a quick public service announcement: When it’s hot outside, cake pops melt. That is all.

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