Archive for February, 2009

carne guisada

Given the fact that Craig and I will both graduate from graduate school this spring, we are confronted with the reality that this year brings the last spring break we will probably ever have in our lives. We couldn’t just stay home for that, so we decided to book tickets to Texas to visit Craig’s best friend. He’s been pestering us to come down there for 3 years now, so it’s really the least we could do :). We’re really looking forward to the trip (leaving next Friday), and as a bonus, our trip coincides with the Houston Rodeo, which I hear is a great foodie experience. To start getting us in the mood, I decided to make this slow-cooked beef, Texas carne guisada, from the awesome Homesick Texan blog. Click the recipe link below to learn more about this dish and its importance in Texas. I loved this meal. It was pretty easy to make, and tasted better than a lot of what is served in most Tex-Mex restaurants, at least the ones where we live (far from Texas).

Texas Carne Guisada

Adapted from: The Homesick Texan


(this is for a half recipe, but it was so good that I would probably make a full recipe next time and freeze some)


2 pounds of beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch cubes (my package was actually 1.75 lbs.)

2 Tbsp. canola oil

1 small onion, diced

2 large or 3 medium cloves of garlic, minced

1 cup canned diced tomatoes

Hot peppers of the green variety, of your choice, minced – I used one fresh serrano and a handful of pickled jalapenos

½ Tbsp. cumin

½ Tbsp. chili powder

½ tsp. oregano

1 cup of water, plus more for adding later

6 oz. beer (the recipe calls for dark beer, but I forgot to buy some especially for this, so I just used the Yuengling we had on hand)


The original calls for cilantro, which would be good if you like it – we don’t like it enough to buy it.



1. In a large pot or a Dutch oven, brown the beef on medium high to high heat in the oil.  Remove beef from pot and set aside.  Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. of the drippings and cook on medium heat the onions and chiles for about 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute.


2. Add the browned beef, the tomatoes, and the herbs, spices, water and beer and mix everything well.  Turn up the heat to high, bring the stew to a boil and then turn heat down very low and simmer for five hours, mostly covered, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed. At this point, some of the meat will have turned to strings thus thickening the gravy.



To serve: Mexican rice as seen on the Dinner and Dessert blog (I simplified this recipe just a little bit – it was great), and avocado slices drizzled with lime juice and sprinkled with kosher salt.

Of course, this beef would also make a great taco filling! However, we both thought that this meal had an excellent blend of flavors and textures.


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red velvetredvelvet2

I know, another baking post – how weird! I just wanted to let you know about our very color-appropriate Valentine’s treat – red velvet whoopie pies. My desire to make these stemmed from two places – Craig’s recent facination with red velvet, and my love of cream cheese frosting. These pies, of course, combine those two things. These were pretty easy to make, but still one of the more involved among the limited number of baking projects I’ve attempted. They were definitely worth it. The cream cheese icing was delicious, and the cakes were soft, with a subtle cocoa flavor. My only critique was that they had a very, very slight sour taste (not very noticeable at all – everyone who tried these loved them), which could have been either from the buttermilk or from the amount of red food coloring that’s used. I would probably reduce the amount of food coloring next time since they didn’t need that quite much in order to be very red. Craig went to town on these, and I ate 3 in one sitting myself!

My only other tip is to bake these a little longer than you might otherwise think, so that they will be easy to handle. I was paranoid about burning them on the first batch and took them out when they were still a little too soft, probably. This made them harder to handle for frosting them and storing them. I let the next two batches go a little longer, and they were perfect. I will make these again, and I am excited to have such a great cream cheese frosting recipe for other uses, too.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Source: Bridget’s blog (The Way the Cookie Crumbles), cake recipe originally adapted from Better Homes and Gardens


2 cups (9.5-10 ounces) unbleached flour (I used 2 C. of all-purpose flour)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup (7 ounces) packed light brown sugar
1 egg, preferably room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk, preferably room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, softened
2 cups (8 ounces) powdered sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position; preheat oven to 375F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper (I used my Silpat). In medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

2. In large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium-high speed for 30 seconds, until smooth. Add brown sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. With mixer at medium speed, add egg and beat until thoroughly combined, then beat in vanilla. Add about one-third of flour mixture followed by half of buttermilk mixture, mixing until incorporated after each addition (about 15 seconds). Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk mixture. Scrape down sides of bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium-low speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour.

3. Spoon (or pipe) batter in 1-inch diameter rounds about ½-inch high on prepared baking sheets, allowing 1 inch between each round.

4. Bake 7 to 9 minutes, or until tops are set. Cool cookies on cookie sheets.

5. To make filling: Add cream cheese and butter to mixer bowl and beat until smooth. Gradually add powdered sugar, alternating with vanilla. Beat until smooth.

6. To fill, dollop (or pipe) cream cheese filling on flat sides of half the cookies. Top with remaining cookies, flat sides down.



A perfect treat for your valentine!

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Oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies


Oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies are, I think, my favorite type of cookie. I love their texture. So, when we decided that we should make more of our cookies ourselves instead of just buying some to put in our lunches every week, I knew I wanted to start with this recipe, which I had seen in Cate’s blog. We got in the kitchen together and whipped up a batch of these. These cookies were delicious – thick and chewy, just how I like them. Craig really liked them, too, although when I asked him what, if anything, he’d change, he said, “Probably cut out the oatmeal.” Oh well! That’s just personal preference, and I will have no problem eating these all by myself if he ever decides to pass on having one (not likely).

Oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies

Source: Cate’s blog

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar (I used light brown because it was what I had on hand)
2 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 12 oz bag chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 F
Beat the butter with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy. (I used a hand mixer on medium-low speed for most of the stirring steps)
Add both sugars and beat until homogeneous.
Stir in vanilla and egg and mix well.
Add flour, baking soda, and salt, and give the bowl a few good stirs. (Here is where I switched to mixing by hand)
Add the oats and chocolate chips, and mix until well-distributed.
Bake on silpat-lined baking sheets until just set and browning on the edges, about 10-12 minutes.
Let cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks (I moved them sooner because I like my cookies less crispy, and I always cool my cookies on brown paper bags since I don’t own wire racks. It’s what my mom always did!)

I will be making up another batch of these soon. Yum!

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The week before last, something possessed me to step outside my comfort zone and make not one, but TWO dishes that normally would not be my style: beef stroganoff and a shepherd’s pie. These “old school” kinds of dishes typically aren’t my style because I have a tendency to consider them bland and boring. I need a lot of exciting flavors in my dinners. However, through the recipes of Tyler Florence and Michael Chiarello respectively, I was inspired to try both of these classics out. I think that’s a mark of a good chef, and definitely of a good cooking show, if they can inspire you to try something that you normally wouldn’t pick out. And, to be honest, Tyler and Michael have put their own spins on these dishes that make them far more interesting than what was probably served up in the 1950s, so there’s already much less risk of ending up with something bland.

As for the stroganoff, this recipe uses short ribs that are slow-cooked in the oven and then sliced. The meat has tremendous flavor and is so delicious on top of the mushroom cream sauce and hot egg noodles. The method of cooking the meat and the fact that it uses short ribs is what makes this so different from other stroganoff recipes, or as Tyler would say, it’s what makes this dish “the ultimate.” So, even if you’re like me and think this kind of dish isn’t your style, I highly recommend trying this recipe.

“The Ultimate” Beef and Mushroom Stroganoff

Source: Slightly adapted from Tyler Florence, Food Network


2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped, plus 1 clove, minced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 large sprig fresh thyme, leaves removed

1 ½ pounds beef short ribs

8 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms

4 oz. sliced white button mushrooms

¼ cup chopped shallots

Splash of cognac (we didn’t have this, so I used sweet vermouth)

1 cup heavy whipping cream

½ Tbsp. Dijon mustard

¼ cup sour cream

8 oz. egg noodles

1Tbsp. unsalted butter



1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Place the chopped garlic, salt and pepper into a small bowl. Add enough extra-virgin olive oil to create a paste. Add the thyme leaves to the bowl and stir to combine. Set short ribs out on a foil-lined baking sheet and cover with herb paste. Roast in the oven for 2 to 2 and a half hours, until they are falling apart. Slice meat into thin strips.

2. Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and add olive oil. Add mushrooms and cook for 3 minutes until brown. Add shallots and minced garlic and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for a further 2 minutes until garlic and shallot become fragrant. Remove pan from heat and add cognac/vermouth to deglaze the pan. Return to heat and add cream. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half. Turn off heat and stir in Dijon mustard and sour cream. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Return to burner over low heat and warm through.

3. Cook egg noodles in salted boiling water according to directions on package. Drain and toss with butter while still hot.

To serve: Pile the noodles high on a plate, top with stroganoff sauce and finish with rib slices.

Yum. I can’t wait to make this again.

As for the shepherd’s pie, that turned out to be impossible to get a picture of, but very tasty nonetheless. Not as awesome as the stroganoff, but still very good. I mean, the title of the recipe involves the words “scallion-cheese crust,” so how bad could it be?! I also had to hand mince the lamb for the dish using loin chops due to a lack of lamb selection at the store, but that actually turned out to be a favorable development – the hand-minced lamb had a ton of texture. For Michael Chiarello’s recipe, click here.

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chickpea burgers

I flew by the seat of my pants a bit with this dish, but it ended up being a delicious vegetarian dinner. I was inspired by the stuffed chickpea patties I saw over at 101 Cookbooks, a vegetarian and natural foods cooking site. Her thought is that veggie burgers don’t need buns, because the beans provide enough of a bread-y texture. Instead, the burgers themselves should act as buns, and they should be stuffed with interesting ingredients. I agree, and decided to stuff mine with some cotija I had on hand and let it melt in there a little – cotija doesn’t melt much at all, so you could use a slightly meltier cheese, like manchego, if you wanted. These burgers cook on low heat for awhile, though, so you wouldn’t want to use a softer cheese than that. As a topping, I decided on an heirloom tomato and kalamata olive relish with a vinegar-y bite. These were really tasty, especially served with the oven fries I made. A great, healthy vegetarian twist on burgers and fries.

Cotija-stuffed chickpea “burgers” with tomato-olive relish

Inspired by: Veggie burger recipe at 101 Cookbooks


1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (I prefer Goya)

1 egg

¼ cup canola mayo

½ medium onion, cut into chunks

1 garlic clove, crushed

Juice of ½ lemon

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

Salt, pepper, and ground cumin to taste

6 pieces cotija cheese – the pieces should be sliced so as to resemble thin pats of butter

1 Tbsp. olive oil, for cooking the patties


For the relish:

1 very large heirloom tomato, roughly chopped

8 or so pitted kalamata olives, sliced

Generous drizzle of olive oil (about 1 tsp.)

Splash of red wine vinegar (about ½ tsp.)

Salt and pepper to taste




To make the burgers:

1. Place the chickpeas, egg, mayo, onion, garlic, and lemon juice in a food processor. Process on medium speed until well-combined but still chunky. Add the salt, pepper, and cumin and pulse to combine. Turn the mixture into a mixing bowl and fold in the panko crumbs. Let the mixture rest for a few minutes so that the crumbs absorb some liquid. At this point, the mixture should be very moist, but should still form patties without sticking to your hand. Add a little water or mayo if it’s too dry, or some more breadcrumbs if it’s too wet.


2. Grab about 1/6 of the mixture (it should be large meatball-sized), and form into a 1-inch thick patty. Press a piece of cotija cheese gently into the center, and bring the edges of the patty up around the cheese so that it is completely covered. Repeat to form 6 burgers.


3. Heat olive oil over medium-low heat in a cast iron skillet (a regular skillet would probably work, too, but I like the extra browning that cast iron gives to the burgers). When the oil is hot, add the burgers and cover. Cook, covered, for about 8 minutes per side.


4. Meanwhile, make the relish – combine all in ingredients in a small, non-reactive bowl and toss to combine.


5. To serve, plate patties and spoon some relish over each one. Serve with oven fries and enjoy!

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pasta e fagioli

As I mentioned in my previous post, I will be doing a series of entries over the next several months on classic versions of traditional Italian dishes. This is my first in the series, although I may eventually re-tag the bolognese recipe I made recently (see it two posts down from this one). My mom mailed me this recipe from her Marcella Hazan cookbook. There is no doubt that this is a classic recipe, as Marcella Hazan is the absolute authority on traditional Italian food. This soup was delicious and had so much texture, with a nice salty bite. The shredded pork definitely added a lot and made it different from other versions I’ve had. This is certainly not a quick version of pasta e fagioli, but it is worth the time.

One of the key ingredients in this dish is dried cranberry beans. Finding this item took an in-store call to my dad to have him Google and see if Roman beans were the same thing – I had seen pictures of cranberry beans before, and the Roman beans looked the same to me, but I wasn’t sure. Indeed, cranberry beans and Roman beans ARE the same thing, so if your store calls them Roman beans like mine does, now you’ll know what to buy. If you absolutely can’t find either one, you could use light kidney beans or pink beans.

Pasta e Fagioli

Adapted from: A Marcella Hazan recipe as recounted by my mom


¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

½ large sweet onion, finely diced

1 carrot, diced

1 rib celery, diced

Pork with a bone (you can use a few ribs, country ribs, a ham bone with some meat attached, or two small bone-in pork chops). I used 2 large bone-in country ribs.

2/3 cup Italian chopped tomatoes in juice (I used Pomi)

1 cup dried cranberry (aka Roman) beans, either soaked in cold water overnight or brought to a boil for 2 minutes and then allowed to sit covered for 2 hours

3 cups beef stock

¼ lb. small tubular pasta (I used mini penne)

2 cups baby or chopped spinach or chopped kale

1 Tbsp. butter (this is not optional if you want an authentic soup with a creamy texture)

2 Tbsp. freshly grated parmesan

Salt and pepper to taste



1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until pale golden. Add carrot and celery and stir well. Add the pork, turning to brown on all sides, and cook about 8 more minutes.

2. Add the tomatoes with their juice and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.

3. Add the beans and stir well. Simmer for 4-5 minutes, then add the stock. Cover pot and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a strong simmer and stir. Cook partially covered until the beans are tender, about 1 hour, adding a little water as needed.

4. With a potato masher, mash about half the beans in the pot, leaving the other half whole. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pull pork from the pot and shred with a fork. Discard bones and return shredded meat to the soup.

5. Add about 2 cups of water (as much as needed to thin it out to a slightly thinner consistency than you’d like to serve it), and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Add additional warm water if needed. When pasta has 1-2 minutes left, add greens and stir to wilt. Stir in butter and cheese vigorously and then remove from heat. Check seasoning.

6. Ladle into soup bowls and let cool 5 minutes before serving – serve warm rather than piping hot.

Serve with toasted garlic bread!

soup and bread

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