Archive for January, 2009

Dark Chocolate Fondue

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Mmm, Chocolate. Who doesn’t love chocolate? The crown on our delicious fondue feast from last weekend was a rich, dark chocolate fondue that couldn’t have been easier. Or more delicious.



Dark Chocolate Fondue

  • 12 ounces dark chocolate (I used Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate (60% ) chips)
  • 8 ounces heavy whipping cream

1. Heat the chocolate and cream in a Pyrex bowl over simmering water. Be sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.

2. Stir gently until the chocolate and cream are combined, about 3 minutes.

3. Transfer to a fondue pot with heat source lit (or, in our case, a crockpot on warm (not low, warm)).

4. Enjoy!

Note: As I said before, I don’t have a fondue pot, so we had to enjoy our fondue out of a regular old crockpot, with regular forks. So what? It turned out great: rich, dark, and creamy. It gave me another chance to admire my new fancy crockpot from Christmas, also. The multiple inserts were awesome for this; I just swapped crockpot bowls between the cheese and chocolate. I’ll bet your “real” fondue pot doesn’t do that!

I served this chocolate fondue with apples, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, pretzel chips, and chunks of pound cake. Yum!

Crockpot Fondue Vudu

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

Every year, my friends and I celebrate what we like to call “Fake Holidays.” Because we all have family obligations on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve, we have taken to having our own private celebration on completely separate dates. For Fake Thanksgiving, we cook a full-out Thanksgiving Feast, usually the weekend before the real event. And for Christmas and New Year’s, we find a weekend that we can all get together, and observe Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day all in the span of about 48 hours. It’s one of my favorite traditions, and rivals real Christmas and New Year’s every time.

For Christmas Day/New Year’s Eve dinner, I decided to make fondue. Since we scraped every last bit of cheese off of the bottom of the pan, I’m going to say it was a hit.

Fondue Vudu
Adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe, as seen on Good Eats.

  • 1 clove garlic, halved
  • 8 ounces hard apple cider
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
  • Pinch kosher salt
  • 5 ounces (2 cups) Emmentaler cheese, grated
  • 5 ounces (2 cups)  Sharp Cheddar Cheese, grated (I used Tillamook Special Reserve Extra Sharp Cheddar)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • Several grinds fresh ground black pepper


Rub inside of fondue pot or heavy small saucepan with garlic. Pour cider into pot. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, the brandy and salt and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, grate the cheese and toss well with the cornstarch in a large bowl. When the cider just begins to simmer, gradually add the cheese a handful at a time, allowing each addition to melt completely before adding the next. Continue adding cheese and stirring until all cheese is incorporated, about 3 minutes. If mixture starts to bubble, reduce heat to low. The mixture is ready when creamy and easily coats the back of a spoon. Stir in curry powder and pepper. If cheese seems stringy, add some or all of the remaining lemon juice. Transfer mixture to a fondue pot or crockpot for serving.

Note: I followed the procedures from Alton, but I did use different cheese. The recipe called for smoked Gouda, but reading the comments at Food Network’s site made me decide to use something that melts a little better. It was delicious with the extra sharp cheddar. I also swapped Emmantaler for the Gruyere that the original recipe called for. Just a personal preference.

I have a confession to make: I don’t own a fondue pot. Or fondue forks. Or little cans of blue flammable gel. Or any of that. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my new crockpot was the perfect substitute. I set it to low for a few minutes while I made the fondue, so that the bowl was warm when I transferred the cheese from the stove. Once I put the cheese in the crockpot, I flipped the setting to warm, and it was perfect for as long as the cheese lasted (which wasn’t all that long!).

I served this cheese fondue with chunks of crusty bread (a basic french and a roasted garlic sourdough), cauliflour, broccoli, baby carrots, apple slices, pretzels, and par-boiled new potatoes. Because they happened to still be out on the counter, we also dipped the leftover pepperoni slices from the pepperoni and parmesan pinwheels, which made surprisingly delicious dippers.

Pepperoni and Parmesan Pinweels

Monday, January 19th, 2009

While my friends were in town, we had a rather elaborate dinner on Saturday night. As is usually our way, by the time I started making dinner, everyone was already starving–and these quick & easy little appetizers were the perfect stop-gap. They were simple, tasty, and kept everyone happy while I made dinner. Exactly what you want from an appetizer!


Pepperoni and Parmesan Pinwheels
Adapted from The Bon Appetit Cookbook.

  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed
  • 2 tablespoons honey-Dijon mustard
  • 2 ounces packaged sliced pepperoni (about twenty-four 1 1/2-inch-diameter slices)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • Nonstick vegetable oil cooking spray

1. Mix first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Cut puff pastry crosswise in half to form 2 rectangles. Spread 1 tablespoon mustard over 1 puff pastry rectangle, leaving 1-inch plain border at 1 long edge. Place half of pepperoni in single layer atop mustard. Top pepperoni with half of cheese mixture. Brush plain border with egg.

2. Starting at side opposite plain border, roll up pastry, sealing at egg-coated edge. Transfer pastry roll, seam side down, to medium baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pastry rectangle, mustard, pepperoni, cheese mixture, and egg. Chill rolls until firm, about 30 minutes, or wrap and chill up to 1 day.

3. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line 2 baking sheets with foil. Lightly spray with vegetable oil spray. Cut each pastry roll into about thirty 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Transfer pinwheels to prepared sheets. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer to platter; serve.

Note: These were delicious, and as I’ve already said, very simple. I did not have any honey Dijon mustard on hand, so I mixed 2 tablespoons of the American Dijon mustard we had with a tablespoon of honey. The original recipe called for Asiago cheese, but Parmesan is what we had on hand, and it worked perfectly. Next time, I think I would double the layer of pepperoni–we put down a single layer of pepperoni on the puff pastry, but more would’ve been good. They might have turned out prettier if I had cut the slices a little thinner, but they turned out nice enough as it was.

I’ll definitely make these again sometime. It’s a great go-to appetizer for when you need to throw things together quickly. Also, a shout-out to Jeff, who did most of the assembly on these while I worked on actual dinner. Thanks!

Top Chef Rundown – January 14, 2009

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

This week’s episode focused on two completely opposite ends of a spectrum. Hung, winner of season 4, showed up for a Quickfire Challenge that had the “cheftestants” creating a dish from only canned, processed foods while the Elimination Challenge sent them all to the farm to start with the freshest, highest quality ingredients possible.

It was great to see Hung back for a Quickfire, since he’s pretty much the quickest chef in the show’s history. He ran around the kitchen like a maniac, and broke down poultry like a machine. In honor of his speediness, the chefs were given just 15 minutes to create a dish from a collection of canned and processed foods, like Spam, Velveeta, and pork rinds.

I always get a little annoyed when the chefs start whining about poor ingredients. The show is a game, and of course there have to be restrictions. If you’re not ready to be limited in six different ways, what are you doing on the show? And yes, of course fresh ingredients are preferable, but not every one has access to fresh ingredients all the time, especially not the home cooks that are such big fans of the show. It’s good for the chefs on the show to stretch their imaginations and get outside their comfort zones.

There were a lot of mediocre results, I thought (Note to Jamie: just because you put it on toast doesn’t mean it’s a bruschetta), but I think Hung picked the winners pretty well. Hosea and Stefan were on top with variations on Spam (Hosea: Split Pea & Spam soup, Stefan: Spam & Velveeta Grilled Cheese), but Stefan won the prize: Immunity for the Elimination Challenge.

This week’s Elimination Challenge was basically the opposite of the Quickfire. The chefs headed to a Blue Hill Farm north of the city, where they broke into teams and got up close and personal with the finest and freshest ingredients available.


I thought that the Chicken team did the best. Everyone else was trying too hard. I think that if the ingredients really are fantastic, then you shouldn’t have to do too much to them to make them amazing, and everyone else tried to do too much.

The high points: Team Chicken’s strongest players, Jamie and Stefan butt heads, but get it together in time to put out a good meal. Carla makes dessert, again, proving that at least one chef has seen the previous seasons and came prepared to make a dessert.

The low points: Ariane butchers a lamb leg, both figuratively and literally. Watching her pound the leg of lamb with that saucepan, I actually felt bad for the cut of meat. Jeff forgets that some things (pork!) are meant to be fattening. Fabio buries what looked to be awesome ravioli under a huge dollop of pesto sauce. Radhika and Leah do nothing.

Team Chicken won the Elimination Challenge, and with uncharacteristic generosity, the judges voted them all winners.

Team Lamb ultimately lost, mostly due to Ariane’s lamb, and she went home for it. I think that was fair, since she took the lead on that dish, and that was the one that the judges liked the least. The new judge Toby doesn’t add a lot to the mix, in my opinion, but he was absolutely right when he argued to Padma that it’s not about what you cooked last week, or a month ago, but about what you cook tonight. The judges have to look at what’s in front of them now. Even if Ariane had done well in the past, she screwed up, and that meant it was time to pack her knives and all of that. I think the judges made the right call, though a poll at Bravo’s site seems to suggest that I’m in the minority on that one. (73% of voters think that Leah should’ve gone home). I wasn’t sad to see Ariane go, but I do believe that Leah doesn’t have too many more challenges in her. She’ll be gone soon.

Time with Friends

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

No real post today, because I’m celebrating Fake Christmas & New Year’s with my closest friends from college. I leave you with this adorable plastic salad, from my Christmas stocking. Isn’t it cute?


More recipes tomorrow!

Diet Coke Chicken

Friday, January 16th, 2009

I know, I know. It sounds strange. Stranger than Pizza Casserole. Stranger than me liking broccoli. But really, it’s not so unheard of to use cola in a recipe. In the south, you’ll often find ham glazed with Dr. Pepper. I’ve heard of cola burgers, and cola cakes, and root beer barbecue. With all of that in mind, let me introduce you to Diet Coke Chicken.

The recipe is simple, and the way we do it only calls for a handful of ingredients. But the chicken comes out tender, moist, and flavorful. The crazy-simple sauce, similar to a barbecue sauce, is tangy and sweet, and delicious over rice or pasta. I paired the chicken with a brown rice pilaf and some corn, but really, anything to soak up the sauce (pasta, rice, or bread) will work just fine. I like to eat the chicken as it is, but you could also shred it for barbecue sandwiches. And if you want to dress it up a little, I’ve heard peppers and onions make a tasty addition, but I don’t really like those, so I stick with the basics.

Diet Coke Chicken

  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup of ketchup
  • 1 can of diet coke
  • salt and pepper

1. Place chicken breasts in a non-stick skillet in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour ketchup and can of Diet Coke over the chicken breasts.

2. Cook the chicken and sauce covered, over medium heat until chicken is cooked through, about 25 minutes. Remove the cover and reduce until sauce thickens.

3. Serve over rice or pasta, or shred and make barbecue sandwiches. Both ways are tasty!

I know, I know. It sounds weird. But if you’re feeling adventurous, you should really give this a try. It’s easy, and tasty, and pretty healthy as well. If you dont have Diet Coke, I bet Coke would work, though naturally, the calorie count goes up. I’ve also tried it with Diet Dr. Pepper, which worked great, though it was a little sweeter than the original.

Review: Food Network Magazine

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

As you may have noticed, we watch a lot of Food Network around here. I like to have it on in the background. Even when they’re making something I’d never want to eat, I can usually learn some helpful tecnique or learn about some unknown ingredient…I just like to watch. So when Food Network announced that they were coming out with a magazine, I was ready to subscribe. In fact, I did subscribe, sight unseen.

Weeks later, I’ve had the chance to read two issues of the magazine, and I am impressed.

The layout of the magazine is very clever. Recipes divided into weeknight cooking and more advanced weekend cooking. In addition to the standard table of contents, there’s a recipe table of contents and a chef table of contents, so you can easily find tips and recipes from your favorite Food Network personalities.

In addition to a well planned layout, the magazine is full of excellent content. There are details about Food Network chefs, interviews with various people involved in making Food Network shows happen, behind the scenes stories about Iron Chef America, or Bobby Flay’s home kitchen. They’ve included interesting features on wine selection, kitchen gadgets, travel, and gift giving guides. And of course, the recipes.

Every time I turned a page, I found something else I wanted to make, like homemade papparadelle, garlic spaghetti, caramel delite sundaes (just like the girl scout cookies), and bacon (!) popcorn. That last one sounds just crazy enough to work. I’ll have to let you know when I try them out.

The conclusion: Two issues in, I think my subscription to Food Network Magazine was $15 well spent.

Bubble Up Pizza Casserole

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

I enjoy cooking, but sometimes I want something quick and easy and this definitely qualifies. It’s simple, but it really hits the spot for a pizza craving, and the way I make it, it’s a lot healthier too. It’s delicious as it is, but if you’re not very health conscious, you could certainly use higher-fat ingredients. I don’t think you need to, though.

Bubble Up Pizza Casserole

  • 1 pound 96% lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped (I skipped the onion)
  • 16 oz. low-fat pizza sauce
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 17 slices Turkey Pepperoni
  • 15 oz. refrigerated breadsticks or biscuit dough
  • 2 c. part skim milk mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Veggie Toppings (feel free to add any vegetables you’d put on pizza: mushrooms, olives, whatever. I personally skip the veggies on my pizza, so I skipped them here too)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In skillet, brown beef and pepperoni over medium heat until browned, stirring to crumble. Drain beef and return to skillet. Stir in onion, tomato sauce, Pizza sauce, basil, garlic and Italian seasoning.

2. Add veggies, if using. Add quartered biscuits; stir gently until biscuits are covered with sauce. Spoon mixture into a 9×13 inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese, and bake an additional 10 minutes or until biscuits are done. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Note: I’ve made this one before, and I’m sure I’ll make it again. I like it better with breadstick dough than with the biscuit dough, but it was good both ways. The directions may sound strange, but the dough pieces puff up from inside the dish to take the place of pizza crust. It’s really good.

Easy Chicken Dijon

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

This recipe is another one of those healthy ones–it’s from the most recent Weight Watchers Magazine. The recipe calls for chicken drumsticks, with the skin removed, but I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts; it’s pretty much all we stock around here. I also substituted “Mustard Girl” American Dijon Mustard (a very nice, flavorful mustard we found at Whole Foods on our last trip there–I’m anxious to try some of the other flavors), for the whole grain Dijon mustard the recipe called for. The mustard actually makes a pretty good substitute for a traditional breading. The chicken was crispy, in part due to the mustard (which in addition to being healthy and tasty, didn’t make the breading soggy at all) and in part due to the panko bread crumbs.

If you’ve never used panko before, they’re a special kind of japanese bread crumb that are more like bread flakes. They’re extra crunchy, and you can find them at just about any grocery store. They’re working their way towards mainstream, so you might find them with the stuffing and other bread crumb items, but if you don’t see them there, check with the asian foods. I’ll bet your store stocks them.


Easy Chicken Dijon
Adapted from Weight Watchers Magazine

  • 8 chicken drumsticks, skinned (about 2 lbs) — (I used 1 pound of boneless skinless chicken breasts instead)
  • 3 Tbsp. whole-grain Dijon mustard
  • 2/3 c. panko bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried herbs (such as tarragon, oregano, or thyme) — (I used oregano)
  • salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and lightly spray with nonstick spray.

2. Brush the drumsticks with the mustard. Mix the bread crumbs, herbs, salt, and pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag, add the drumsticks. Squeeze out the air an seal the bag, turn to coat the drumsticks.

3. Place the drumsticks on the prepared baking sheet and lightly spray with nonstick spray. Bake until browned and cooked through, 35-40 minutes, spraying the drumsticks with non-stick spray halfway through the baking time. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

Note: Be sure the chicken is dry (just pat it down with a paper towel) before you try to bread it, otherwise, it might get soggy on you. This recipe is mostly a method and could be changed quite a bit by changing up the seasonings. I skipped the whole shake and bake routine and just put out the crumbs in a pie tin to bread the chicken, but I guess the ziploc bag method will save you a dish or two.

This actually turned out a lot like that Paula Deen “Chicken Sticks” recipe but was much, much healthier. Nothing earth-shattering here, but I might make it again. It was certainly quick and easy! Next time, I might add a little bit of honey to the mustard before breading the chicken.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream

Monday, January 12th, 2009

It’s ice cream time again! I’ve been putting that ice cream maker to good use. This week’s batch: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.

The lessons learned before served me well again. Ice cream freezer frozen solid (24+ hours), chilled mixing bowl, ice-cold ingredients. All of it yielded a rich sweet cream base with a velvety texture. Yum.

For the chocolate chip cookie dough part I took a bit of a shortcut, and used store-bought cookie dough. The ice cream is still amazing.


Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ice Cream
Adapted from the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream & Dessert Cookbook

  • 1 tube of Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  • 2 large or extra large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or mini chocolate chips

1. Break chocolate chip cookie dough into teaspoon-sized pieces and roll in your hands to make round uniform cookie dough balls. Place cookie dough balls flat on a sheet pan and store in the freezer for 1-2 hours, until hard.

2. Whisk the eggs in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk in the sugar, a little at a time, then continue whisking until completely blended, about 1 minute more. Pour in the cream and milk and whisk to blend. Add the vanilla extract and blend again.

3. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker. Add while the mixer is on the low setting, then turn it up to high.

4. Once the ice cream is almost finished (about 1 minutes before it is done) add the frozen cookie dough pieces and chocolate chips and continue freezing the mixture until the ice cream is ready.

When it’s done in the ice cream machine, the ice cream will be the consistency of soft-serve. Freeze for at least two hours for a solid, scoopable ice cream.

Note: Turned out just as good as the Cookies & Cream–maybe better. I’ll definitely be making this again.

In the meantime, what flavor ice cream should I try next? This batch will only last a few more days, so at this rate I’ll probably have to make  a new batch next weekeend!

What kind of ice cream should I make next?

  • Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch (75%, 3 Votes)
  • Butter Pecan (25%, 1 Votes)
  • Strawberry (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Make that Oreo stuff again! (0%, 0 Votes)
  • I'll tell you in the comments... (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 4

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