Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Not-So-Rocky Road Ice Cream

Last week I was in Denver visiting my sister. One of the many perks of visiting her is getting to use her kitchen. She has lots of fun kitchen gadgets that I don't have at home, so I take advantage of them when I'm there. This last trip, I put the ice cream maker to work a couple of times. As I've mentioned before, she recently bought Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home, a delicious ice cream cookbook with all sorts of different recipes. Some of her recipe are a bit too out there for me, like beet ice cream, but others sounds delicious. This recipe was definitely a winner.

I have always loved rocky road ice cream, but ever since I was a kid (and I don't really know why I always do this) I pick around the almonds. By the time I get to the bottom of a tub of rocky road, it's just a pile of rejected almond pieces. Go ahead and add some smoked almonds to this ice cream if you absolutely love them, but I was thrilled to finally have rocky road ice cream with all the good parts, but none of the rejects. The praline sauce is a very necessary addition to the rocky road creation. You can make it a few days ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in your fridge. It would also be a great topping for a bowl of store bough ice cream if you don't have the time/resources to make yourself homemade ice cream. If your are also a fan of Jeni Britton Bauer's recipes and like to keep tabs on what's what, this chocolate ice cream recipe is called milkiest chocolate ice cream in the world.

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Friday, May 25, 2012

Rosanne Cash's Potato Salad

Last summer, my sister mentioned that she found a great potato salad recipe. Somehow, we both forgot about it until I was visiting her last week. We wanted to have the first barbecue of the summer and I asked her if she knew of any good potato salad recipes to make as a side. We both had one of those "haven't we had this conversation before?" moments and she quickly pulled up this recipe. I have to admit that potato salads are one of those dishes where I find mayo acceptable. I try to avoid it for many reasons in my everyday cooking (I once worked in a restaurant with giant tubs of mayo, which is extremely off putting when you see it on a daily basis), but there are a handful or traditional, old school recipes that wouldn't be complete without the addition of mayo.

Roseanne Cash (Johnny Cash's daughter) created the original recipe for this potato salad. Deb from Smitten Kitchen tweaked it by adding more seasoning to it, and I just made one change. I try to avoid using raw onions when I can. I don't mind them, but if I can easily swap red or white onions for scallions in a recipe, I usually do it. Also, go ahead and make half of this recipe if you're cooking for fewer people. This make A LOT of potato salad. If you prefer red onions over scallions, feel free to use them instead. This potato salad is a great, all American type of recipe that make an excellent side to any summer meal.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Grilled Steak with Avocado Salad

I've been visiting my family and friends back at home this past month and have been on an avocado kick the whole time. We're lucky to have readily available, delicious avocados here in California, so I've been taking advantage of it. I can't even count how many times I've made guacamole or sliced avocado into a salad. The other week I was flipping through the pages of Sunset magazine and came across this steak recipe. It looked delicious and luckily I had almost everything at home to try it out (I used yellow onion instead or red onion for the sake of not going to the grocery store).

I ended up loving this recipe and didn't do the best job of sharing the avocado salad. Sadly, I didn't have any tortillas at home, but this would be delicious wrapped in a warm tortilla. If you're not a fan of red or yellow onions, you could always use scallions instead since they have a milder flavor, which I sometimes prefer. This is a great dish to make for any kind of summer barbecue, whether it's for a few people or if you increase the recipe and make it for guests.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Strawberry Butter

A while back I ran into the dilemma of what to do with strawberries that didn't have a lot of flavor. It turns out this problem has come up again. I love a perfectly ripe strawberry that's bursting with flavor, but the last 2 time I bought them they were pretty sad excuses for strawberries. Yes, they looked beautifully red and delicious, but the taste was not impressive. This time, I decided to take those berries and make some strawberry butter.

Strawberry butter is a great way to switch up your standard toast with butter. It's sweet and the added sugar brings out the hidden flavor in the berries. I imagine if the strawberries are flavorful to begin with this might be even better. But I was really happy with the result of this butter. It's great on English muffins, scones, and pancakes. You can adjust the sweetness to your preference really easily, but I like mine the way the recipe was written. You can also swap in different berries, like raspberries, if you have them on hand. In the recipe, the berries and butter are blended together in a food processor, but if you don't have one, you can get away with smashing all the ingredients together until you get the right consistency, which is what I did.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Quick Thai Curry

For years I have been lucky enough to have friends who make amazing Thai curries. For some reason I was never involved in the making of any of these, but I always loved them. When I came across this recipe and saw how easy making a curry can be, I had to give it a try. Yes, technically this can be even more homemade if I were to make my own chili paste, but the stuff out of a jar tastes great too. Make this oh-so-easy curry for an impressive, last minute dinner. It took me 20 to 25 minutes total, including washing and chopping time.

I made this recipe with whitefish, but shrimp was used in the original. Feel free to use either, or any kind of fish that would stay together during the cooking process. You can double or triple this recipe really easily if you're cooking for a crowd. This curry is not spicy (the store bought chili pastes aren't too spicy in general). You can definitely add some heat to this if you want to in a number of way. Adding in some finely chopped Serrano peppers, putting in a spoon of sambal sauce or sriracha, or just tossing in some crushed red pepper flakes are some options.

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Sour Cream Banana Pancakes

I realize I just put up a post involving bananas, but these pancakes would make an amazing Mother's Day breakfast treat. The first time I tried this recipe I was probably 19 and had just recently discovered Ina Garten. I made these for a family breakfast and they were a hit with everyone. Although I usually just grab a bowl of cereal for breakfast, banana pancakes are one of my favorite hot breakfast foods. They're fluffy and the flavor from the lemon zest is amazing. But, if you're not a fan of lemon zest, you can leave it out and still enjoy these pancakes.

I almost always top these with maple syrup. On the rare occasion that I am out of maple syrup, I'll just eat these plain or add a little bit of butter on top. They really taste amazing either way. If I know I don't have any real topping for the pancakes at home, I usually slice some extra bananas into my pancakes. If you don't like bananas, feel free to add whatever fruit or berries you like to the batter. Or just make them plain.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Hoisin Chicken with Cucumber Salad

I love anything that involves hoisin sauce. I came across this recipe last week and really wanted to give it a try. I was in a mood for a chicken dish since I've been eating my fair share of fish lately, and this sounded like the great, semi spicy recipe.

Even though the cucumber salad is only a side dish in this recipe, it is amazing. It tastes similar to the kind of cucumber salad you can order at a Thai restaurant. The dressing makes a pretty big batch, so you can either add more cucumber or use fewer ingredients. You could probably also save it in the fridge for about a week if you wanted. I could have easily had that salad more than once a week.

The chicken in this recipe has a great spicy flavor. I used one seeded jalapeno in the sauce and found the heat to be perfect. For people who do not have a high tolerance for spicy foods, I'd suggest sticking to half a seeded jalapeno, or even less if it's a large pepper. If you have time, let the chicken marinade for at least 30 minutes, but it will still be delicious if you don't have time for this step. In the original recipe, chicken thighs are grilled direct heat, then finished off in a covered grill over indirect heat. Since I made this on a night when the weather was chilly, I cooked chicken breast strips in a wok, which was really easy. The chicken was still tender since I cooked it just until it was cooked through.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Banana Nut Muffins

When I feel like baking, but don't really know what to make, I like to check out Joy of Baking for inspiration. Most of the recipes I've tried from that website have been great and are fairly easy to execute. I wanted to make a banana something or other, that's all I knew. I had some bananas sitting the the fruit bowl and figured they were spotted enough to bake with (usually, the browner your bananas, the better they are for baking, until they are actually just rotten). After I read the recipe for these muffins I realized I had everything at home to make them and got started.

This is one of those easy recipes you can make without any fancy kitchen gadgets. What I love about these muffins is the subtle hint of cinnamon you taste with every bite. Be sure to toast the walnuts before baking, it brings out a richer flavor than just throwing raw nuts into the batter. Make sure the bananas are spotted and on their way to looking really unappealing. If you use a bright yellow banana these muffins will not be as sweet and they're more difficult to mash. In other words, don't make these if you don't have slightly overripe bananas.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Herb and Mustard Glazed Salmon

Some nights, after a long day, I only have energy and patience to make a quick, simple dinner. On those nights, fish is a great way to go since it cooks quickly and can taste delicious with little effort. I like to try out different salmon recipes when I can, and this one sounded like it would be a winner. If you have a food processor or blender, the glaze takes no time at all to make, then all you have to do is broil the fish.

The combination of the garlic, herbs, and mustard make this salmon really flavorful, and just a little but sharp. It tastes like it should have taken lots of hard work to make, but it's the exact opposite. Prep time is 10 minutes, and then it only take about 7 minutes to cook. My dad, who is not a big fan of salmon, loved this recipe and surprised himself when he realized he liked a salmon dish. The salmon I used still had the skin on it, that way it is easier to lift off the baking sheet when it comes out of the oven. The skin sticks to the aluminum foil and the filet slides off easily. I also only used whole grain mustard in the glaze, but add the Dijon if you want.

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