Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thai Chicken

I'm moving back to school in five days, and I'm beyond excited. Going back to college as a sophomore is so different from moving in as a freshman. That fear of the unknown (which drives me crazy. I like to be in control) is pretty much gone. I have friends and familiarity to return to. And by this time you kinda realize who you are and what you need. Example: I did not iron my clothes for the first 18 years of my life, and I did not suddenly start ironing in college. Stupid example, haha. 

 Before I leave I have to have my favorite foods that I won't get for months. I did try and create this chicken at school once, but it required a lot of advance planning. It's just one of those things probably better made in the comfort of your own home. Over the years I've adapted this recipe until reaching what I believe to be coconutty curry perfection. Nom. 

Oh, and if you're a college freshman, or nearing that time in your life, no worries. It may be tough at first, but you'll find your place. I mean, I did, and I'm kind of a "socially retarded misanthrope",  to quote Gesine Bullock-Prado. So you'll be fine.

So tasty I forgot to take a picture, haha
Thai Curry Chicken
adapted from the Usborne Children's World Cookbook


2 medium onions
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp chili powder
a dash curry powder
pinch of salt a pepper
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
6 skinless chicken breasts
1 lime 
1 can coconut milk
1/4-1/2 c cream of coconut (the stuff to make, pina coladas, y'know?) 
1-2 tsp red curry paste

Peel and chop the onions into small pieces. Mix the ginger, curry powder, chili powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the chicken breasts and cook them for 5 minutes on each side. Lift the chicken breasts onto paper towels. Pat them dry with another paper towel to remove excess oil. Cut the lime and squeeze the juice over the chicken, then sprinkle each piece evenly with the spice mixture. In a bowl or measuring cup, combine the coconut milk, cream of coconut and curry paste until combined. I like my sauce a little on the sweeter side, so I tend to add more cream of coconut and less curry paste. Up to you. Heat the oil in the frying pan again. Cook onions and garlic over low heat until soft. Put the chicken back in the pan and pour the coconut sauce over it. Stir everything together well. Cook the chicken for twenty minutes, until it is cooked all the way through. Serve with sticky, short grain rice.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chocolate Matcha Swirl Bread

Do you judge food by its color? Would you eat a blue piece of chicken? In a study done in the 1970's, participants were given a steak and some fries and asked to just...eat the meal. Nothing appeared strange, but it was soon revealed that special filtered lights were being used in the room, and when the normal lights were switched on, the steak was blue and the fries were green. Immediately after, everyone become quite ill. Weird, right? 

Maybe we've gotten more adventurous since the 70's, I dunno. Cause matcha is showing up all kinds of places where green isn't expected. Green cupcakes, green mousse, green cookies....you get it. What is matcha, you may ask? It's finely milled green tea, popular in Japan. Traditionally, it's used the the Japanese Tea Ceremony, but it has made its way into other things. For cooking, you definitely don't want to use a high grade matcha (it would be an expensive waste!) 

I decided to make a chocolate matcha swirl milk bread as my first foray into the world of matcha baking. This bread is special because it uses something called the tangzhong method. I'd seen it floating around the interwebs, but was always kind of intimidated because it seemed like it would be something complicated and fancy. Not so. This method just involves making a water roux starter and adding it to the dough. It makes the bread soft and fluffy, it won't get stale fast at all ^_^ 

The verdict on this bread? Awesome. First of all it's beautiful, but more importantly it's sooooo soft and tasty. Even though half the dough is chocolate, it's not really sweet at all. It has some intriguing, pleasingly bitter (like darkdark chocolate bitter, not poison bitter) notes, but can really be paired with anything. 

On a side note, don't eat two pieces of this before bed. Matcha is tea after all, and tea has caffeine. Just thought I'd spare you from a sleepless night. I think it was worth it though :)

(Another note. If you don't have matcha, that's fine. You can just leave it out. Play around with other flavors, or just stick to a classic milk bread)

Chocolate Matcha Swirl Bread 

2 1/2 cups bread flour, split
4 Tbsp. sugar, split
1/2 tsp. salt, split
2 tsp. instant yeast, split
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
120 g. tangzhong (about 1/2 of the mixture below)
3 Tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
1 Tbsp. matcha powder
1/6 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

For the tangzhong:
1/3 cup bread flour
1 cup water

To make the tangzhong, mix the flour and water together and whisk until it is completely dissolved and there are no lumps. Pour into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat. Begin stirring constantly as the mixture heats up - it will begin to thicken. When the temperature of the mixture reaches 150 F, turn off the stove and remove it from the stove to let it cool. 

Grab two medium bowls and divide the flour, sugar, salt and yeast evenly among them. To one bowl add the matcha powder and to the other add the unsweetened cocoa powder and mix well. In a large liquid measuring cup, combine the milk, egg and tangzhong and mix very well. Add one of the dry ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer and make a well in the center. Look at your wet ingredient mixture and look at the volume as indicated by the measuring cup, then pour exactly half of the mixture into the center of the well. Fit the mixer with the hook attachment and begin mixing on medium speed until the dough comes together, then add the butter in and continue kneading. Knead until the dough is smooth, not too sticky on the surface and elastic, about 18 - 20 minutes (but each mixer varies). When ready, you should be able to take a chunk of the dough and stretch it to a very thin membrane before if breaks. When it does break it should form a circle. Remove the dough from the mixer and knead into a ball. Take a large bowl, grease it with oil, then place the dough into the ball and cover with a wet towel. Let it proof in a warm place until it's doubled in size, about 40 minutes. With a clean mixer, repeat the process.

Once the doughs have doubled in size, transfer the doughs to a clean surface. For each ball of dough, roll out each portion with a rolling pin into an oval shape. Take one end of the dough and fold it to meet the middle of the oval, then take the other end and fold it to meet the middle. Flip the doughs over with the folds facing down and flatten with a rolling pin. Roll out the doughs until they form thin rectangles - make sure they are about the same size. Place one rectangle on top of the other and begin rolling up the dough along the wide/ long side of the rectangle so you end up with a long skinny roll rather than a short and fat one. Place the swirled roll into a 9x5" bread pan lined with parchment paper. Cover in plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about another 40 minutes. Beat an egg and brush the mixture on top before baking. Bake at 325 F for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Shhhhhh....(Butternut Squash + Bacon Pasta)

I've been feeling kind of quiet lately. I dunno how many of you blog, but do you ever feel blogged out? Like, I've definitely been making food, no doubt, like The Pastry Affair's Chocolate Banana Cake, tomato basil bisque, and monster zucchini bread. I mean, look at this sucker! 

Also look at my fancy nails. 

But sometimes I don't have a story to go along with my food. Or, I could create one, but it would feel forced and distract me from simply enjoying the process. I'm not the kind of person who talks because they like to hear their own voice (I'm not sure anyone would willingly admit to being that person, but you can ask my close friends and family, it's definitely not true for me). I'm okay with long silences. I frequently revel in them. 

Hi! I'm a cute and annoying butternut squash who is far too difficult to cut!

So here's a many stepped but uncomplicated recipe, perfect for getting lost in the quiet of your thoughts. I made it for my family while they were out of the house, and it was a lovely treat to get to cook with the only sounds being a knife hitting a cutting board and the sizzle of oil in a pan. 

Butternut Squash + Bacon Pasta
adapted from Cooking Light magazine 


  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash
  • 6 sweet hickory-smoked bacon slices (raw)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced onions
  • 8 ounces uncooked penne
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella
  • 1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese


  • Preheat oven to 425°.
  • Combine 1/4 teaspoon salt, rosemary, and pepper. Place squash on a foil-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray (don't forget the cooking spray like me, haha); sprinkle with salt mixture. Bake at 425° for 45 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Increase oven temperature to 450°.
  • Cook the bacon in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 1/2 teaspoons drippings in pan; crumble bacon. Increase heat to medium-high. Add onions to pan; sauté 8 minutes or until tender. Combine squash mixture, bacon, and onions; set aside.
  • Cook pasta according to the package directions, drain well.
  • Combine flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually add milk, stirring constantly with a whisk; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add mozzarella, stirring until cheese melts. Add pasta to cheese mixture, tossing well to combine. Spoon pasta mixture into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish lightly coated with cooking spray; top with squash mixture. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and begins to brown.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Comfort Food

I hate this kind of question, but have you ever been asked what you would eat if you could only have one thing for the rest of your life? For me, there's no hesitation at all. I would totally choose spaghetti and meatballs. Wait, let me add to that - my mom's spaghetti and meatballs. No contest.

I'm a meatball snob. I don't like not knowing how they were prepared, so I rarely eat meatballs outside of my own home. Except, y'know, spaghettios with meatballs. Somehow, those are okay. But they're kind more like cat food than anything else, so they don't really go in the meatball category. Anyway...

I will reveal the family recipe here. It's powerful, so use it wisely. Like, to woo a date. Maybe with some focaccia too. No, wait, save the focaccia. Make straight up italian bread. The following recipe (yes, two recipes!) makes the most beautiful loaf of bread I have ever seen. Not kidding, it looked plastic it was so perfect. I don't care that it's August, make these now. And then report back to me and tell me how it went over.

Amazing Meatballs
(I'm going to assume you have a pot of sauce that's been cooking for a while. If you just want to eat sauce-less meatballs, that's okay too. Oh, also, this recipe makes like, 30 meatballs. So if you don't want that many, feel free to fiddle with the measurements.)

2 eggs
2 lbs ground beef
8 oz. box panko (or bread crumbs. Panko has less salt.)
2 or 3 cloves crushed garlic
2 tsp black pepper
1 cup milk
1/4 fresh, chopped parsley or 2 Tbsp dried
1/4 - 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment or a silpat, set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs well. Add the ground beef, panko, garlic, pepper, parsley, salt, and cheese and mush together with your hands (yep. Best way to do it.). Add milk until desired consistency is reached, you need to be able to roll a golf ball sized piece without it falling apart. Roll into balls (mine were somewhere in between a golf ball and a tennis ball). It doesn't matter how close together they are. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping them halfway through. Okay. If you are adding these directly to a premade sauce and eating immediately, you need to cook these longer, until the internal temp reaches 160 F, probably around 45 minutes. If you are letting these cook with your sauce for at least an hour, you should be fine taking them out at 20 minutes. I prefer this way, it makes the sauce more flavorful and your meat very tender.
Serve with spaghetti and fresh parmesan cheese.

Italian Bread


2 cups lukewarm water (~100°F)
1 package active dry yeast
5 to 5¾ cups bread flour
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2½ teaspoons salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Stir the yeast into ½ cup of the warm water. Let proof as you measure out the dry ingredients.
Combine 5 cups flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the yeast mixture, remaining water and olive oil. Using a dough hook attachment, mix on lowest speed of electric mixer (stir setting on a KitchenAid) until a dough starts to form, adding more flour as needed. Knead on low speed (2 on a KitchenAid) for 7 minutes. Transfer dough to lightly floured surface and need by hand for 1 to 2 minutes, or until a smooth, firm, elastic dough is formed.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and spray the dough with a thin coating of cooking spray. Wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to proof in a warm, draft-free place for 1½ hours or until doubled in size.
Remove the plastic wrap, punch down and flatten the rounded dough with the heel of your hand. Roll the dough up tightly, sealing the seam well after each roll. The dough should be elongated and oval-shaped, with tapered and rounded (not pointed) ends.
Preheat the oven lined with a baking stone or unglazed quarry tiles to 425°F.
Place the dough on a baker’s peel heavily dusted with flour, or alternately on an inverted baking sheet. Allow the dough to proof, loosely covered with a floured canvas cloth, for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Brush the dough with the egg white and sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top. Using a razor blade or sharp knife, slash the dough lengthwise about 1/4-inch deep, keeping the blade at a 45 degree angle.
Spray the dough generously with water from a water bottle and place in the oven on the baking stone. Immediately close the oven and bake for 3 minutes. Open the oven door and spray the dough again with the water bottle. Close the oven door and bake for an additional 3 minutes before spraying the dough for a third time (the spraying of the dough will ensure a crisp golden brown crust).
Bake the dough for a total of 45 minutes, or until a hollow thud is heard when tapping the bottom of the bread. Allow the bread to cool before slicing.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chocolate Macarons

Summer seems to be winding down. The colors of my backyard, bright pink bee balm and verdant peppers, are fading. As I sit outside writing this, a gentle breeze tousles my hair and the sun warms (but not burns) my skin. Not exactly summer weather, rather, something transitional. Fall's coming.

With fall comes a return to school. As much as I can't wait to go back, I'm also faced with the reality that my baking abilities will once again be greatly reduced. So I have to take advantage of these last weeks to experiment in the kitchen, create elaborate desserts and family dinners.

Maybe that's why I had the uncontrollable urge to make macarons yesterday. They're something I will definitely not be able to make at school, due to their delicate and finicky nature. In general, I enjoy making macarons much more than I do eating them, which is true of a lot of things I make, but these especially. But chocolate macarons are different. Up until now, I've only made macs with a citrus flavor, and they never really did much for me. Chocolate macarons are rich and gooey and taste like brownies, but fancier and infinitely more adorable. If you've never tried tried making macs before but are interested, I'd encourage to try out this recipe. Enjoy your last weeks of summer!

Chocolate Macarons with Nutella Ganache
adapted from Desserts Magazine

3 egg whites, aged in the fridge
25 g granulated sugar
225 g powdered sugar
125 g almond meal
15 g cocoa powder

 Line cookie sheets with parchment or silpats.

 Mix together almond meal, powdered sugar and cocoa, set aside (if you want to make sure it's mixed thoroughly, give it a quick pulse in the food processor).
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites into a foam, then gradually add granulated sugar, until you obtain a glossy meringue.
Add the dry mixture to the meringue. With a rubber spatula, use quick strokes at first to break down the mass, then slow down until everything is incorporated. This should not take more than 50 strokes. To test, spoon a small amount onto a plate. If the tops flatten, you're good. If a small beak remains, give it a few more strokes.
Fill a pastry bag with a small round tip and pipe small rounds onto the cookie sheets. Preheat oven to 300 F. Let cookies sit and harden for an hour before placing in the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes, let cool completely before filling.

Nutella Ganache

 ½ cup of heavy cream
2 oz bittersweet chocolate
3 Tbs Nutella

Place chocolate and Nutella in a medium sized heat-proof bowl. In a small saucepan, bring heavy cream to a simmer. Pour hot cream over the chocolate and Nutella and let sit for 20 seconds. Stir to combine until smooth. Place ganache in the refrigerator until thickened, but still pourable. Make sure to stir a few times during the process so the ganache is a uniform consistency throughout. Using an electric mixer, whip ganache until it is a pipeable consistency and light in color. Place ganache into a piping bag and pipe a small circle onto one macaron shell. Top it with a similar sized shell and squeeze together carefully.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


Hello blog friends. I wish I could be posting more than I am at the moment, but my life has been really busy and kinda stressful as of late. And when I'm stressed, I like to bake, but I haven't had much time, so I just get more stressed cause I don't have a form of release! I'm the kind of person whose stress manifests itself in physical ways. So right now, I'm breaking out, have developed a wicked headache, and woke up to the realization that I have a sty. Lovely. 

Things slowed down a  bit today, so after taking an unintentional nap in the middle of the day, I woke up feeling somewhat refreshed and set out to whip up an old favorite - brownie bites. Using only one bowl and a spoon, this recipe is quick, simple and incredibly delicious.

I am completely serious here. I'm baffled by how good these are. It's been years since I last made them, and definitely have developed a more sophisticated palate, but these taste just as great as I remember.

Well. I can barely keep my head up right now, so sleep is probably a good option. Good night world, and may your days be stress free!

Brownie Bites
makes 24 mini brownies
from The Pampered Chef Kids in the Kitchen cookbook


1/2 cup stick butter or margarine
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup miniature candy-coated chocolate pieces

Heat oven to 325 F. Place paper liners in cups of mini muffin pan.

Melt butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly (or microwave it!). Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes.

Stir in sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Add flour and 1/4 cup of the candies and mix well.

Fill muffin cups. Sprinkle remaining candies over batter.

Bake 12-13 minutes (don't overbake!). Remove pan to cooling rack. Cool 5 minutes and remove brownies from pan.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Roast Chicken

You're going to want to take off your jewelry for this one. 

It's a recent development that I've found I enjoy getting my hands dirty. Building, digging, painting...there's a meditative quality to it. And you don't really appreciate the work put into a wooden park sign until you've made one yourself, or the careful eye and patience required to cultivate a superb vegetable garden. 

Naturally, I apply this to cooking as well. I feel this deep appreciation for meals I know has been  laboriously crafted with loving hands. It creates this special connection. I think oftentimes it's a simpler recipe where this quality shines through the most, but that's really just a personal thing. So....if you feel like getting your hands dirty, stick with me.

I've been making roast chicken with my mom since I was little, but I always made her do the gross parts. But I'm an adult in the kitchen now, and I sort of consider this a rite of passage.

Carefully unwrapping the bird in the sink, I note that it's kinda...juicy. And slimy. I stare at the chicken, somehow feeling like it's staring back. Sigh. Gotta get that bag of creepy bits out of the inside somehow. I tug at the plastic insistently, but it just won't budge. My mom made this look so easy! Why...won't....it...move? Oh...hehe. Wrong side. There we go!

If you're feeling brave, which by this point you should be, go ahead and reach under the skin and rub some herbs down there. Being one who does not eat chicken skin, it's a must for me to get that flavor infused into the meat.

Now, sit back, and admire your handiwork. Beautiful, no? Best chicken you ever tasted? Pretty much.

I was so hungry at this point I forgot to take an end picture. It was good chicken. 

Roast Chicken
from the ever reliable Magic Spoon Cookbook


1 large roasting chicken (the size is up to you really. It depends how many people are eating.
3 carrots, cut into discs
3 stalks celery, cut into pieces
1 large onion, cut into eighths
1/2 to 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp dried sage
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp dried thyme
1 Tbsp dried parsley

Preheat the oven to 425 F and prepare a large roasting pan.
Rinse out your chicken and remove the inside bag thing. Do with it what you will (I threw it away). Mix all the herbs and spices in a small bowl. Place the chicken in the roasting pan, and squeeze lemon juice over the bird. Take at least a tablespoon of the herb mixture and sprinkle it over the skin of the chicken. If you have a big bird, feel free to use it all, otherwise just save the extra for another time. If you'd like, gently lift the skin and rub herbs into it. Scatter the vegetables around it, and pop it into the oven for at least an hour, or until a thermometer in the thigh reads about 180 F. Halfway through, baste the chicken with its juices (or add some water to the pan if it's looking dry). Enjoy!