Wednesday, February 27, 2008
While I love treating myself to a restaurant meal, I knew paying $12 for a pile of pasta was ridiculous. Luckily, I've found this series of books that I highly recommend to help you recreate your favorite meals at home.
Both these books by Todd Wilbur give pointers on American classics. I checked out Top Secret Recipes from the library and it's quite a concise little book for recreating fast food and junk food favorites, such as Carl Jr.'s Star burger or the Taco Bell encherito, which they no longer have on the menu anyhow. Another great aspect of this first book is that he outlines the history of the eatery and the item, like the fact that the first Dairy Queen was right in Joliet, Ill.
The second book my family purchased a while back and we have gotten our money's worth. Top Secret Restaurant Recipe's Two gives pointers to creating favorites like Red Lobster's cheddar bay biscuits or the Olive Garden's fettuccine Alfredo. I've already tried a few of the recipes and they're pretty close to the classic, except much cheaper.
Wilbur does outline the costs extensively in the first book, pointing out that it may initially costs more to make a Big Mac at home, but once you have the basic materials at home, you can make it for about the same cost as eating at McDonalds, but you know where your burger came from.
These are great books worth checking out for some great copy cat recipes.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active yeast
22 ounces flour (a little less than 4 1/2 cups)
2 ounces unsalted butter (half of a stick)
10 cups water
2/3 cups baking soda
1 egg beaten with about 1 tablespoon of water
Then add the butter followed by the flour a half-cup at a time. Make sure you're using a bread hook attachment and mix on low until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Then kick it up to medium speed for a couple of minutes until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the bowl.
Then place in a greased bowl, cover it with cling wrap and allow to sit in a corner of your kitchen for about an hour, or until the dough doubles in size.
Heat your oven to 450 and prepare a couple of baking sheets lined with parchment or foil that you lightly oiled or sprayed with cooking oil. Mix the water and baking soda in a pan and place on the stove so you have a little assembly line going.
Take the dough out of the bowl and onto a floured surface (I just threw flour on my parents' lovely counter tops). Divide the dough into 16 pieces. Working with one section, form the dough into a rope about two feet long.
Make it into a "U" shape and pinch the opposite ends to form a classic pretzel shape.
Next, bring the water/soda combination to a boil on the stove and place each pretzels in one at a time for 30 seconds each, flipping halfway through so both sides get boiled. This isn't meant to cook the pretzels, just to change the surface chemistry so it will brown evenly. Brush with egg wash, which will help the salt stick and aid in browning.
After that, place four pretzels on each cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Hands down, the best thing on the cruise was the melting chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. Baked in a ramekin, the chocolate cake was molten and dusted with powdered sugar. It was just the right amount of sweetness and made with very rich chocolate. I had it three times on the cruise; the other desserts such as Grand Marnier souffle couldn't hold up. Here's the best estimation of the recipe I can come up with:
Unsweetened cocoa powder
2 (8-oz.) packages semisweet chocolate squares, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup butter - do not use margarine
5 large eggs, separated1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
Grease a 9-inch springform pan, and dust with unsweetened cocoa powder. Melt chopped chocolate and butter in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until smooth. Whisk together egg yolks and vanilla in a large bowl. Gradually stir in warm chocolate mixture, whisking until well blended.Beat egg whites at high speed with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, beating until sugar dissolves and stiff peaks form. Fold one-third beaten egg white mixture into chocolate mixture; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture just until blended. Spoon batter into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. (Do not overbake!) Let stand in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes before removing sides of pan.
Another winner on the ship was the lobster tail served on the formal evening alongside with grilled jumbo shrimp. It was served alongside a butter sauce, brocoli and rice. The lobster meat was savory and the smokey flavor from the grilled shrimp were a welcomed accompanment. Another item I really liked was the veal parmesan, a breaded veal chop topped with cheese and marinara sauce served over angelhair pasta. Tasty.
I wouldn't mind a little cruise sunshine today ...
Tomorrow: Grand Turk food finds
Monday, February 18, 2008
There is food available 24 hours per day, no joke. There's ice cream and pizza as well as room service around the clock. There's a seated and buffet option for every meal and sushi most evenings. Breakfast is the same every day, but there are myriad options for lunch -- there's always a themed buffet such as French, American or Mexican along with another general buffet, Thai stir fry made to order, burgers and a rotisserie station.
As for dinner, it's an event. There's a seated dinner that's business casual most nights and formal one night, so bring nice clothing. Otherwise, pack less clothing than you would suspect you need. You'll be lounging in the sun most of the time anyhow and these are small rooms. There's a menu with starters, salads, entrees and desserts. Order what you like according to your appetite -- it's all included. If you really hate it, try again, but I never had that problem.
Everything is included except for drinks. And the cheapest drink is $4, so plan accordingly. The only complimentary cocktails you'll find are at the captain's reception, a painfully short engagement featuring awesome live jazz, tasty snacks and small cocktails. It's a must attend for the music alone -- it's the only time on the cruise you'll hear the band unaccompanied by dancers and singers.
The best deal as far as adult beverages are concerned is purchasing a bottle of wine to enjoy at dinner. They'll store it for you between meals and it will be waiting for you when you get there. If you're a big fan of caffeine, my advice is avoid the soda. Juices, water, coffee and milk are included, but if you're looking for anything bubbly, it's going to cost you. Sodas cost $1.75 each or you can buy a fountain pass that entitles you to as many Coca Cola products as you can handle, but it's $5 per day for adults and $4 for kids. You'd have to drink at least 20 sodas per day to get your money's worth. Have a lemonade instead.
My only issue with our Carnival cruise was the room. We got an upgrade to a room with portholes, which was pretty cool to have a view and such. However, our room was at the very front of the boat and every time we docked, I might as well have pulled up a cot to the engine room. We also needed motion sickness bracelets in a big way because we felt every single wave. On this particular ship, the smaller the room number, the closer you are to the front. If you have a choice, pick the cheapest room in the middle of the boat. Every room is going to the same place and eating the same food, so in my mind, an executive penthouse suite just isn't worth it. Those suites run up to $4,000 on my particular boat and I would suspect that if you have that kind of cash, there are more exclusive ships. Or, you can choose to invest in Kelly the Culinarian ...
Tomorrow: The first on cruise food highlights
Sunday, February 17, 2008
I can't wait to share the food and attractions this week, but let's get back to routine with this week's stand mixer recipe. I've tried this focaccia a few times and it was a hit -- nice a chewy as well as salty. It's perfect for sandwiches, so perfect that Panera uses it and charges $7 for their bistro sandwiches. Never fear, I've cracked the code.
First, the focaccia:
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/8 teaspoon instant yeast
2 cups minus 2 Tablespoons warm, filtered water
3/4 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon table salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary needles
2 tablespoons sea or kosher salt
To start the dough, mix the flour, yeast, sugar and water with a dough hook on the lowest setting. Add the water gradually and mix on the No. 2 setting until incorporated, about three minutes. The dough will be a bit thin. Then turn it up to setting No. 4 and let it rip for 20 minutes or so, until the dough is a shiny ball like fresh mozarella. It's really important to allow it to mix for quite some time in order to develop the glutens and such.
Put the ball in a greased bowl and allow to rise until doubled, about four hours. Take out a half-sheet baking pan and use one Tablespoon of the oil to coat the surface. Pour out the dough and try to stretch it to fill the pan without breaking it. Let it rest for 10 minutes, then try again to get it to fill the whole sheet without tearing or crushing the bubbles in the dough.
Let it rise for another hour, until it's about doubled. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees with a rack on the lowest level. Put a baking sheet on that too to preheat.
Use your fingertips to create little dimples in the dough. Top the focaccia with the remaining olive oil and dust with the salt (I like my focaccia salty). Don't sprinkle the rosemary on top or it will just fall off -- stick the needles into the dough.
Place the sheet pan on top of the baking pan. Also, place another metal dish with ice cubes in the oven. This helps keep the bread moist and develops a crust. But don't use a glass dish or you'll be using garden gloves to clean a million little shards of glass out of your semi-hot oven ... I've been there.
Bake for 12 to 13 minutes or until it's golden brown.
If you'd like to make a sandwich out of the tasty results, try this chipotle mayo, which is similar to what you'd get at Panera.
1/2 cup mayonaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 chopped chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
Mix all the ingredients together and refridgerate overnight to let the flavors combine.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Friday, February 8, 2008
After working at a few places and going to school part time to major in English, the author applied for a job at Per Se and started something of an MBA in food. The waitstaff learned everything from what kind of olive oil was used in the main course and what the difference is between various types of caviar.
I found the book to be to the food world what Pledged: The Secret Life of Sororities was to greek life. While I worked at a restaurant whose star classification I was oblivious to, Service Included is a window into fine dining that the average eater doesn't get. For example, the waitstaff is prohibited from changing their haircuts and cannot wear any toiletries with a discernable scent.
I had hoped for some juicy gossip on celebrity eating habits, but no such luck. While there are some great anecdotes about diners, there's very little in the way of culinary trade secrets or four-star cooking insights. This is more a novel about the interaction of Per Se's staff, the opening of the eatery and how the author finds love in a sommelier whose cooking career started out at a Texas McDonald's. Oh how far he came, I suppose.
While this is worth reading, especially when getting shut inside during this horrible weather, it's not a book I would buy. It's interesting, but just one person's perspective.
Thursday, February 7, 2008
This place is a bit of a staple around here. I've been going there for years. The chips are a crunchy, thick corn mixture and the salsa a bit watery with bits of tomato, onion and cilantro. Yum. We also ordered some guacamole, which wasn't quite as spicy as the menu promised, but it was still tasty.
As for the main course, Tim and I both went with combos. I went for the taquito combo, which was topped with guac, sour cream, shredded lettuce and tomato along with a side of Mexican rice and beans. The rice is cooked in a combination of smoky spices and the beans are a bit smooth in consistentcy. As for the taquitos, I got shredded chicken, which was moist and flavorful. The outside was crunchy. They were great to dip in the toppings and beans. Yum!
Tim got the chimichanga meal. It came with two shredded chicken chimichangas that he said were delicious as well as the same toppings and sides. All in all, a real tasty favorite. At least my tastebuds are hot ...
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
I heard at work that the last time it snowed like this was in 1979 and dump trucks loaded with snow were instructed to drive out onto frozen bodies of water around here and dump the snow in the middle. I don't think things are that dire yet, but who knows. The sound of snow blower in my neighborhood is just a steady, buzzing din.
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
- Beauty products made with sushi ingredients
- A garden centerpiece made by Vern Yip
- A history of Chinese food in America
- Court show hosts' favorite dishes (I had no idea there were so many of them. Yet Judge Judy isn't included. She's probably too big of a deal to do that.)
- The best of frozen pizzas
- A day in the food life of Vanessa Williams
- Delicious pasta dishes, such as roasted potato penne
- Dressed up take out recipes, such as Chinese five-spice chicken
- A round up of the best toasters (my singing Winnie the Pooh model didn't make the cut)
- Seafood gumbo made with canned tuna (sounds fishy ... I'm so punny)
- One-pot recipes that sound amazing
- A cute, no recipe twist on alphabet soup
- Children's birthday party recipes
- A recipe book for a chili-themed party
- A travel log of Bermuda
- The fridge of Susie Essman
And with that and the impending snow warning, you know what I'll be doing for the rest of the night -- settling in with my cookbooks and Every Day in head to toe fleece. I can't wait to go on vacation.
Monday, February 4, 2008
That's how I'm pitching my baked rigatoni. This Kelly original got high marks from my taste testers, but didn't photograph well. Sometimes you just can get that perfect score, but read on, I have tips to make it more pretty.
Here's what you need:
16 ounces rigatoni pasta
1 Tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 28-ounce can of diced or whole tomatoes with juices
1/8 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, crushed to release the spices
1 box thawed and drained spinach
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded mozzarella, divided
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Start a large pot of water to boil and then in a separate sauce pan, start heating the oil, then add the garlic and cook for about one minute to release flavors. Add the canned tomatoes with the juices or you could use four fresh tomatoes, if you're not in the middle of a snowy Midwest winter ... but I'm not bitter.
Anyhoo, add the chili powder, salt, sugar and Italian seasoning. Cook until it starts to thicken, about 20 minutes. During this time, the water should be up to a boil, so add salt liberally to the boiling water and then add the pasta and cook as directed.
Once the sauce has thickened and reduced, add the spinach. Then add the heavy cream and half of the cheeses. Mix the pasta with the sauce and then transfer to a casserole dish. Top with the remaining cheese and put in a 400-degree oven for 20 minutes. Allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.
I baked mine a day after I put together the casserole and still had success. It produced a rich, colorful sauce that stood up to the large pasta and offered a few veggies in the process. You could even add some shredded chicken or chopped prosciutto or ham, whatever protein you have on hand, to make a one-dish meal. A great serving companion would be a mixed green salad and focaccia, a recipe that will be featured on Stand Mixer Sunday shortly.
To make this a more attractive dish suited for company, here are a few changes:
- Use a smaller pasta, such as a penne rigate. A whole-wheat pasta would make this healthier too.
- Go about the recipe as normal, but instead of using a casserole dish, opt for ramekins or mini-casserole dishes that you would use for individual mac and cheese or something similar.
- Add breadcrumbs to the cheese mixture and top the individual casseroles. Bake for 15 minutes or until the top is golden.
Serve individually on a nice platter or trivet as it will be very hot. Garnish with julienned basil, a sprig of parsley or chopped chives.
Delicious! Happy eating.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
Friday, February 1, 2008
In case you're in the same boat as me, here's an interesting recipe for what to do with snow. Make a snow slushie, of course! I don't know if we have any Kool-Aid