30 March 2010

2 thumbs up: thumbprint cookies

I had a hankering to bake tonight, so I scrolled down my mental list of recipes to try and I settled on thumbprint cookies. They're so simple and I almost always have all the ingredients on hand. And there's something really homey about them, especially when done well. I've had well done cookies (hi Mary), so I figured I'd give a recipe a go. These turned out buttery, crisp but chewy, and cozy. There's room to tinker with it - try a different jam or give it a glaze - to dress it up a bit. But on their own, they're lovely.

Thumbprint Cookies
adapted from Food Network Kitchens

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 C sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
seedless raspberry jam

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla until just combined. Stir in the dry ingredients until combined. Refrigerate while the oven preheats at 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Scoop and form into 1.5" balls and place on cookie sheet. Use the back of a 1/2 tsp measuring spoon to press an indentation into the center of the ball. This is the thumbprint part, so you can, in fact, use your thumbs to do this. Fill with about 1/2 tsp of jam. Bake for 14 minutes or until edges just brown.

Makes about 2 dozen.

29 March 2010

easy weeknight shrimp and rice

I haven't made it to the grocery in a couple days, and I didn't really feel like going out, so I had to scavenge my pantry/freezer. Lucky for me, I had enough basics that I didn't actually have to go out to get a full meal. The only thing I was missing tonight was a veggie, but I just had fruit for dessert so good enough right :)

Oh, and what are these basics everyone should have in his/her pantry, you ask? Besides a nice variety of spices, some kind of starch (rice, couscous, pasta, etc), frozen shrimp (one of the fastest proteins to defrost), eggs (multipurpose - cooking AND baking!), parmesan cheese (keeps for a long time), butter (duh, it's butter!), frozen peas (personal preference, any frozen veggie will do), and lemons (keep in the fridge). You can make plenty of meals using these ingredients. And here's tonight's:

One note: I made a whole pot of brown rice first so I could have some for leftovers. I only used about a third of it for tonight's meal. I should have added peas to the rice... next time!

Salt and Pepper Shrimp
5 uncooked shrimps (16-20 count, just use 1 serving if using a diff size)
1/4 C cornstarch (or rice flour, or flour)
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground red pepper flakes
1/4 C panko bread crumbs
canola oil

Heat oil in the bottom of a pot (to avoid oil splash ups) over med high heat. Spread panko onto a plate. Mix the cornstarch, salt, and peppers. Dredge the shrimp in the spice mix, then press into panko. Fry shrimp on each side until they turn pink and curl (you're going for a "c" shape, not an "o").

Simple Fried Brown Rice
1 C cooked brown rice (day old is best, but you can use freshly cooked)
2 tsp canola oil
garlic powder
kosher salt
1 egg

Heat canola oil in pot until hot. Toss in rice. Season with salt and garlic powder. Stir fry until well mixed. Turn off heat. Clear room in the center of the pot and break egg into it. Season with salt and scramble. Mix into rice. Cook until egg is cooked through.

10 March 2010

A taste of Jamaica

Actually, I have little experience (read: never even tried cooking it until tonight) with Caribbean food. Never been Jamaica, and no clue what "the real stuff" tastes like. All that being said, you know what, this slow cooker Jamaican jerk inspired pork tenderloin (see why I didn't make that the title?) is fall-apart soft, moist, and perfectly seasoned. Translation: awesome. I coupled it with roasted sweet potatoes that were the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and spicy. This is so easy you can eat it on any given weeknight (where you can go home for lunch to set the slow cooker), or dress it up and serve to company.

And, before I forget, shout out to Brandt for trying this recipe first, giving me a sample of it, and essentially inspiring me to make it myself.
I woulda taken prettier pictures, but I was hungry. Look how moist. I was just pulling pieces off with my fork. And all those red pepper flakes. Mmm spicy.

Slow Cooker Jamaican Jerk Pork Tenderloin
inspired from The Examiner

2 C 99% fat free beef broth
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cloves
1 lb pork tenderloin
Special equipment: slow cooker, meat thermometer

Put the broth into the slow cooker tub. Combine all the spices into a small bowl (yay you've just prepped your dry rub!). Evenly coat/rub the entire ternderloin with the spice mix. Place in the slow cooker. Cook for 5-7 hours (mine took 5), or until the meat thermometer reads 170 degrees. Eat.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1" pieces
olive oil for drizzling
1 tsp kosher salt
ground red pepper flakes - I used about 7-8 grinds and didn't think it was hot enough, but I like it spicy

Preheat oven to 450. Arrange the potato chunks in an even layer and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and grind the red pepper flakes. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing every 10 minutes so it cooks evenly. It's the best if the edges get all crispy.
Oh and one more thing. Apparently leftovers are awesome on a sandwich, which reminds me of the Best Sandwich I Ever Had down in Peru. I would make my leftover sandwich like this: Crusty kaiser roll-ish bread, slices of pork (reheated), thin slices of fried sweet potato, mashed avocado with a bit of salt. I'm drooling just thinking about it.

06 March 2010

super easy pizza dough

We decided to have a make your own pizza girls night. Any time I've made pizza before, I just bought some premade dough from the grocery, but this time I wanted to give it a go myself. Turned out it's really easy to make! The original recipe says you can let it rise for only 30 min, so you'd be able to eat in about an hour, but I let mine rise over an hour just because I had that much time before going over to Melissa's house. Turned out light and the bottom was nice and crisp.

I actually made 2 doughs - a plain one and one with 1/2 tsp each of garlic powder and oregano. Once we covered the 2 half pizzas with some mushrooms, tomatoes, diced onions, and over a pound of cheese (seriously - 1 lb mozz and maybe a quarter cup of grated parm), you couldn't tell the difference in doughs. But I think the garlic/oregano one would be awesome on a white pizza or as breadsticks.

Super Easy Pizza Dough
adapted from allrecipes.com

1 packet active dry yeast
1 C warm water (around 110 degrees, if you have a thermometer)
2 tsp white sugar, divided
2 1/2 C bread flour
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
cornmeal for dusting (optional)

In a small bowl, dissolve the dry yeast into the water, and sprinkle 1 tsp white sugar on top. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes, or until foamy.

In a large bowl, combine the other tsp sugar, flour, salt, and olive oil. Pour in the yeast mixture and beat until a stiff dough has formed. I used my kitchen aid hand mixer with the dough attachments to make it super quick, then knead it 4 or 5 times until it was a soft, supple ball.
Take it out of the bowl long enough to coat the bowl with cooking spray, then drop the ball back in and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise for about an hour until doubled in size.
To make the pizza:
Preheat oven to 400. If using a baking stone, put into oven to heat up for 15 min, too. Roll out dough into pizza shape of your choice. (I did this on granite and it didn't actually stick, but if you have a stickier dough just lightly flour the surface first.) Sprinkle some cornmeal on the surface to coat the bottom of the rolled out dough.

If using a cookie sheet, place on sheet. If using a baking stone, either use a pizza peel to slide the dough ontot it, or carefully take it out of oven and place the dough on it, then put back in. Don't burn yourself! Make sure to kind of press little dents all over the dough so the middle doesn't rise so much.
Prebake for about 10 min, then take out and top with your favorite toppings and continue to bake until cheese is bubbly and edges are golden, about 15-20 min.