Saturday, November 10, 2012

Comfort Cooking

Death is inevitable. There was recently a death in one of my very close friends family, her grandmother. I am very uncomfortable in situations such as these. Though I can relate to death because I have had to deal with death of grandparents in my own family, it is just difficult to sense what people want. I don't want to make people talk it out, or not say the right thing. I just want people to know I am there for them, and I do this with my cooking. I told my friend whatever she wanted me to make I would. She came over one afternoon, looked through my cookbooks and picked out one entree and one dessert. She chose a recipe for Layered Chicken Three-Cheese Enchiladas and a chocolate roll. I am not an expert with dessert but I told her I would try my best. The enchiladas came out really well but the chocolate roll wasn't as pretty as I would like it to be, but it did taste good. I feel like it is possible to communicate through food and express emotions. Without saying anything I feel like my friend could tell I really cared and was there for her if she needed me for anything. 

Since the Enchiladas were so good I will share the recipe with you to try. Enjoy!

Layered Chicken Three-Cheese Enchiladas

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 1/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 3/4 cups red enchilada sauce
9 corn tortillas, each about 6 inches in diameter
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup shredded white cheddar cheese
3/4 cup shredded yellow cheddar cheese
Sliced green onion tops for garnish
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Preheat an oven to 350°F.

In a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, 6 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Add the chicken to the onion and stir well to combine.

Spread 1/4 cup of the enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 3 1/2-quart round wide Dutch oven. Arrange 3 tortillas in a single layer on the sauce, overlapping them as needed to cover the sauce. Top with a generous 1 cup of the chicken-onion mixture, 1/2 cup of the sauce and 1/4 cup of each cheese. Repeat the layering 2 more times, alternating the direction of the tortilla layers and finishing with 1/2 cup sauce and 1/4 cup of each cheese.

Transfer to the oven and bake until the ingredients are heated through and the cheese is melted, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and garnish with green onions and cilantro. Serves 4 to 6.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ni Hao (Hello in Chinese)

I love Chinese food! Whether it is homemade or at a restaurant. As I have said before I love spicy foods and Chinese food is definitely one type of food that can be super spicy and still good. When my family and I wanted Chinese food but didn't feel up for going out to eat or ordering in, we made it ourselves. It was so fun creating something that most people only see in a restaurant because who cooks Chinese food on the regular? I have a couple favorite recipes but this one is definitely great. I like this one because nothing is fried, there are plenty of vegetables, and it can be super spicy if you want it to be! It is just a simple stir fry dish but boy is it amazing and simple to create. 

In the grocery store I like to get the bagged oriental mix of vegetables. You cook them according to the package, make some white or brown rice and then you pour this sauce over it all and it truly transforms the whole dish.

Chinese Brown Sauce

½ cup vegetable oil
¾ cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp sesame seed oil
2 Tbsp (heaping) corn starch
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
Crushed red pepper flakes – To taste
¾ cup hot water

In a sauce pan, add the vegetable oil, soy sauce, sesame seed oil, vinegar and pepper flakes.  While sauce is heating, thoroughly mix the corn starch into the hot water.  When the sauce is almost boiling, while constantly stirring, slowly pour the corn starch mixture into the sauce until the desired consistency is reached.  The more corn starch, the thicker the sauce.

So easy and delicious, enjoy!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Caesar Salad

I grew up loving salt. I couldn't get enough. I would sit on the couch, watch Barney, and suck on a bullion cube. I would definitely prefer a bag of potato chips over a cupcake any day. Another thing I really enjoyed snacking on were anchovies (weird I know). My mom couldn't believe it when she saw me eating the anchovies out of the can while she was making her Caesar salad dressing. Still to this day my mom's Caesar salad dressing is the best I have ever had. I love making it myself now, and if you love Caesar salad and anchovies as much as I do, definitely try this recipe, I guarantee you will love it!!

Caesar Salad

Serves:  2 main-course, or 4 side dish servings

2 Tbsp Mayo
1 tsp salt
2 Large cloves of garlic, minced
4 Anchovies, minced
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp dry mustard
Juice of ½ large lemon
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup olive oil
1 bunch romaine lettuce
Homemade croutons
1 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Preparation:  About 30 minutes
Sprinkle salt in large wooden salad bowl.  Add garlic and anchovies; mince into paste with two forks.  Blend in vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, pepper, and Worcestershire.  Whisk in olive oil and mayo.  Pour dressing into smaller bowl.
Wash and dry romaine; break into pieces into prepared salad bowl.  Sprinkle with croutons and Parmesan; toss, gradually adding desired amount of dressing.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ciao Bella

My family is Italian, very Italian. There is nothing like a nice big Italian meal with the family. Though some Italian dishes don't take much work to prepare, our whole family is in the kitchen helping out. We make dishes from spaghetti and meatballs to homemade gnocchi. When we cook Italian we don't use a recipe we found in a cookbook, we use my grandmother. My grandmother is no longer alive but we remember her every time we smell garlic in the air. You can never have too much garlic. One of our favorite Italian dishes to make was lasagna. Lasagna is great because I think it may be even more delicious the next day for leftovers. Almost everyone enjoys a good lasagna and this one may be the best, and that's why I am going to share the recipe with you, it's truly amazing, you have to try it!

....and now I am craving it myself just thinking about it :P yummm

Lasagna Ala Paola (Susan’s Lasagna)

Serves: 8 – 10

1 lb Sweet Italian Sausage ( I prefer 1/2 lb hot and 1/2 lb sweet)
1 lb Ground Beef
4 Cloves of garlic – minced
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 tsp salt
1 large can of tomatoes
2 6oz cans tomato paste
½ cup dry red wine
8 oz lasagna noodles
2 Eggs
3 cups Ricotta cheese
½ cup parmesan cheese – grated
2 Tbsp parsley flakes
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 lb mozzarella cheese slices

Brown meat in heavy skillet.  Spoon off fat and add garlic, basil, salt, tomatoes, paste and wine.  Simmer uncovered 30 minutes stirring frequently.  Cook lasagna package and drain.  Beat eggs and mix with ricotta, parmesan, parsley, salt and pepper.  Blend.  Layer half lasagna in buttered 13x9x12 baking dish.  Spread half ricotta mixture, add half mozzarella cheese then half meat sauce. Repeat.  Bake in 375* oven about 30 minutes until bubbly.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Where it all started

          My mom and I have been cooking together ever since she trusted me in the kitchen. I was fortunate enough to have family dinners every single night of the week. My mom would always be in the kitchen and searching for new recipes to make for our family. I remember always wanting to cook just like her. I don't think my family has ever ordered a pizza and had it delivered. If we wanted pizza, we made it ourselves. We also never went out to eat, my dad always thought home cooked meals were better than anything that was served in a restaurant.
          I have always loved cooking, especially for my family because they were never too harsh on me. I love putting my own twist on traditional dishes so who ever tastes my food can get a sense of who I am. I love spicy foods and even if I am making roasted potatoes I put a little curry on top just to spice them up. My mom has shelves filled with cookbooks, old recipes, and family recipes just waiting to get used. It's impossible to make everything, but it sure is fun to try. I enjoy cooking meals more than I do desserts. With desserts I feel like you have to follow the recipe specifically or else it will not bake correctly. With cooking meals it is much harder to mess up, and it's easier to experiment with. Now that I am away at college I am still cooking constantly and I still have my mom at the other end of the phone feeding me recipes and giving me new ideas. It's not the same without her in the kitchen. It's more fun to share the experience and thrill of cooking with someone who enjoys it just as much as you do. I always say I should have gone to culinary school, I believe I would have done very well. The food network is my news channel. I love learning about new ways people are using ingredients and discovering new recipes. I am most creative and I use my imagination the most when I am in the kitchen. 

Here is one of our favorite recipes: 

Crab Meltaways
1 Package English Muffins
7 oz Crab
1 Stick of Butter
(one) 6 oz Jar of Old English Sharp Cheddar Spread
2 Tbsp Mayonnaise
1/8 tsp Lawrys seasoned salt
1/2 tsp Garlic Salt

Slice English muffins in half, set aside. Mix all ingredients together and spread over English muffins. Cut into quarter pieces and freeze for at least 30 minutes. Broil for about 5 minutes. Serve Hot.