Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Día de los Muertos Sprinkled Cookies


This year I'm participating in a Christmas cookies event and a most of the event sponsors sent out product to try. Two of the sponsors were completely new to me and I loved what I received...so much so that I've already ordered three times on my own from one of them, Sprinkle Pop


When I saw their Día de los Muertos sprinkle mix, I couldn't resist. I ordered that and some sugar skulls for a batch of Halloween cookies. Last night I baked cookies late into the evening and wrapped them up for the robotics team, Jake's office, and a few lucky friends. 


And a quick note about the frosting: I know they look colorfully toxic, but these were made with vegetable and fruit-based food dyes. I'll write more about them later as they, too, are a #ChristmasCookies sponsor. But I will share that I love that the colors are made from fruits, vegetables, and spices. No Red No. 40 here!


 Ingredients makes approximately 60 cookies

Almond Cookies
  • 1-1/2 C butter, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 C organic granulated sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 4 C flour (I used a mixture of all purpose, brown rice, and banana flours)
  • 1 C ground almonds
  • 2 t pure vanilla extract
  • 2 t pure almond extract
  • Also needed: parchment paper, baking sheet, and cooling rack

Royal Icing
  • 3 egg whites, or more to thin icing
  • 6 C organic powdered sugar, or more to thicken icing
  • juice from 1 to 2 organic lemons (I used a Meyer lemon)
  • food coloring, optional

To Finish
  • sprinkles
  • sugar skulls

Procedure

Almond Cookies
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in the eggs until incorporated. Stir in the flours and ground almonds until a flaky dough is formed. Add in the extracts, gently working the dough until it forms a ball. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes before proceeding. While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  
Pinch off pieces of dough and form into small balls, about the size of a walnut in its shell. Place each ball onto a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet. Flatten the balls to between 1/4" and 1/2". You can use your hand or a rolling pin. I used my wooden fermenting tamper!

  
Bake until golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. Let cookies cool for several minutes on the sheet before transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.


Royal Icing
Beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar and lemon juice. Beat for another minute. If the icing is too thick, add more egg whites; if it's too thin, add more sugar. Add food coloring if you desire. This icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

  
To Finish
Spread the royal icing over cooled cookies and add sprinkles. Let icing set before storing or serving.

 

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Flakey Green Onion Pancakes for Dee


I saw a post yesterday that a blogging friend of mine - Dee from On the Move - In the Galley - had succumbed to cancer this month. I rarely use the f-word, but, I seriously wanted to scream 'F--- you, cancer!'

Her husband shared on social media: "I am sad to tell all Diane's close friends that my beloved wife and friend of forever passed away on October 16, 2018 of Sarcoma. She asks all of you to take only a moment or two to remember her and her Galley, and then move forward in your own world of international cooking. Create something special for the "Onthemove-in the Galley" and friends to enjoy and send a taste to Dee. She will still be in the Galley!! - Ron Parypa, Husband Still Close At Hand in the Galley"


I spent some time re-reading her posts and decided to make one of her more recent posts: Flakey Scallion Pancakes. I had made them before, starting with this recipe while Dee used this one as her starting point.


My Enthusiastic Kitchen Elf has made a version before, too, back in 2012. Wasn't he cute?!? Flash forward six and a half years and I had to make them because he was busy with homework. Mine barely differed from his, except that I didn't have Spring onions, I only had green onions. Still tasty...


Ingredients

  • 2 C flour, plus extra for dusting work surface
  • 1 C boiling water
  • toasted sesame seed oil, for brushing and cooking
  • 1 C thinly sliced green onions + more for garnish

Procedure
Place flour in large mixing bowl and slowly add in the boiling water until it just comes together. Transfer to a floured work surface and knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Place in a bowl, cover with a damp towel, and allow to rest for 30 minutes at room temperature.

Divide dough into four even pieces and roll each into a smooth ball. Working one ball at a time, roll out into, roughly, an 8-inch disk. Paint a very thin layer of sesame oil over the top and roll into a jelly roll; twist roll into a tight spiral, tucking the end underneath; flatten gently, then re-roll into an 8-inch disk.


Paint with another layer of sesame oil, sprinkle with 1/4 C green onions, and roll up like a jelly roll again.


Twist into a spiral, flatten gently, and re-roll into a 7-inch disk. Repeat with remaining pancakes.

Heat a splash of sesame oil in a large flat-bottomed pan over medium-high heat until shimmering and carefully slide the pancake into the hot oil. Cook until the first side is an even, golden brown, about 2 minutes. Flip carefully with a spatula taking care not to splash the oil and continue to cook, shaking pan gently, until second side is an even, golden brown, about 2 minutes longer. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate.


Cut into wedges and sprinkle with more green onions. Repeat with remaining pancakes.


These were delicious. We served them with a spicy chile dipping sauce and thought of Dee. I loved telling the boys how the blogging community brings like-minded, sometimes adventurous, cooks and eaters together across the world!

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Pesto Sheetpan Chicken with 2015 Trefethen Merlot #MerlotMe #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf Trefethen, one of the #MerlotMe event sponsors.
Complimentary wine was provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.
However, all opinions expressed here are my own.

It's still October! And I am still making my way through the bottles of Merlot sent to me by the #MerlotMe sponsors. You can read the post I did for the #WinePW #MerlotMe event a couple of weekends ago: So Many Merlots, So Many Pairings.


This Merlot comes from the Trefethen Family Vineyards* in the Oak Knoll district of Napa Valley and is a blend of 95% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec. I loved that this wine was silky yet vibrant, fruity yet earthy. 


The first sniff - and taste - had me thinking about roasting mushrooms, but one of my trio doesn't care for mushrooms. I know, I know: whose kid is that!? Certainly not this fungi-lovin' gal! But, oh, well, the earthiness in the wine led me to pesto next. What a great match! I whipped up a baby kale pesto, smeared it on some boneless chicken thighs and potatoes, and stuck it all in the oven for an easy week night dinner. I served this with roasted carrots and a kale salad. Easy peasy.

Ingredients serves 6 to 8

Baby Kale Pesto (makes more than you need, but depends on your preference)
  • 4 C baby kale greens, rinsed and dried
  • 1 C fresh herbs (I used basil and parsley)
  • 1 T crushed garlic
  • 1/2 C ground almonds
  • 1/2 C shredded parmesan
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper
  • freshly ground salt

Sheetpan Chicken
  • 6 to 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 4 C cubed potatoes (I used Yukon gold)
  • 2 to 3 T olive oil, if needed
  • freshly ground salt, to taste
  • freshly ground pepper, to taste


Procedure
Baby Kale Pesto
Place all of the ingredients into the blender. Pulse a few times, drizzle in olive oil, and resume pulsing.  Pulse. Oil. Pulse. Oil.

If you want a smoother, sauce-like pesto, add more olive oil and blend longer; if you want a chunkier pesto, use less oil and blend for less time.  So simple. So fresh. So fragrant. Set aside until you're ready to make the chicken.

Sheetpan Chicken
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheetpan with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside.

Place the cubed potatoes and chicken in a large mixing bowl. Spoon 1 C pesto over the top and use your hands to coat the chicken and potatoes completely with pesto. Add more pesto, if you wish.

Turn the chicken and potatoes onto the prepared sheetpan and arrange so that they are in a single layer, that is nothing on top or underneath any thing else. Place in the oven and roast for 35 to 40 minutes. The chicken should be cooked through.

Turn up the oven to broil for 3 minutes to crisp the top of the chicken and potatoes, if desired. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve hot.


Find the Sponsor
on the web, on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram
*Disclosure: I received compensation in the form of wine samples for recipe development and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

Nostalgia-Inducing Lumpia


Earlier this month the boys were on Fall Break from school. We had a robotics tournament on the first weekend and the second weekend, we worked on Halloween costumes. But we didn't travel anywhere and my parents couldn't take them to Hawaii with them because they weren't getting home in time for the boys to be back at school on Monday.

And since Jake and I were both working, the boys scheduled bike rides and park playdates with friends who live nearby. One afternoon, they headed to the park and came home to for a Filipino dinner. Their buddy J said that he had never had lumpia, but he was game to make some.


I sent a few home with him that evening and his mom called me the next day to thank me and tell me that she remembers going to festivals at the DLI (Defense Language Institute) with her dad when she was a kid. He'd let her pick her where she wanted to buy lunch and she always picked the Filipino booth. So, she was very excited that J had learned to make it. Love that!


Ingredients makes 2 to 3 dozen

  • 1 pound ground meat (typically I use pork, but I had beef for this version)
  • 1 C diced onions
  • 1 C diced celery
  • 1 C diced carrots
  • 1 T olive oil
  • lumpia wrappers (I found ours frozen at a local Filipino market - they told me to get the round ones), defrosted and separated
  • water
  • oil for cooking (I used a canola oil)
  • sauces for serving
Procedure

In a large skillet, heat 1 T olive oil. Add in the onions, celery, and carrots. Cook until the onions are slightly softened and the carrots are fork tender. Stir in the beef and cook until no pink remains. Spoon the filling into a colander - over a bowl - and let drain until nothing drips when you press down on the filling. Now you're ready to roll.

Keep the lumpia wrappers covered so they stay pliable while you roll and have a small bowl of water nearby to seal the lumpia.

Place a lumpia wrapper on a plate. Place about 1-1/2 T of filling on the wrapper. Fold in the edges and roll it as tightly as you can without breaking the wrapper. But, if you happen to tear one, don't worry. Double wrap it and that one will just have extra crispy goodness around it!



Wet the edge of the wrapper and complete the roll, placing the lumpia, seam-side down, while you finish wrapping the rest.


To cook, heat oil in a rimmed skillet. Use tongs to gently lower the lumpia into the hot oil. Turn them as they brown and crisp. Once they are nicely crisped, remove them to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.


Move to a serving platter and serve with a dipping sauce of your choice. This was our first course. For the second course, I made chicken adobo; and for dessert, the boys made halo-halo. More on that later.


So happy that this deliciousness was nostalgia-inducing as well. Food memories are the best.

Gazpacho, Spanish Small Bites, + Sherry Tasting #GonzalezByass #InternationalSherryWeek #Sponsored

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of González Byass, an #InternationalSherryWeek sponsors.
Complimentary wine was provided for this post and this page may contain affiliate links.
However, all opinions expressed here are my own.

A couple of weeks ago, Jeff from FoodWineClick! shared an opportunity with the #WinePW (Wine Pairing Weekend) crew to receive samples of Sherry. Since my experience with sherry is next to nothing, I was excited to taste and learn more. Really, whenever I think of sherry, I think of cooking sherry. I was thrilled to be proven incorrect.

The Sherry

I received two bottles of Sherry from González Byass* and really wasn't sure how to pair it. I am still definitely in the novice-Sherry camp; but I can happily say that both Jake and I are fans! 

After reading the tech sheets from the sponsor, I wanted to pour the Sherry with a wine-braised chorizo (similar to this one) and some other small Spanish nibbles. I settled on the Leonor, a beautiful Palo Cortado sherry. In the glass, the Leonar pours a rich, amber color with golden highlights and an orange rim. On the nose, we got nutty aromas of roasted chestnuts and toasted almonds. And, on the tongue, this wine was powerful, well-balanced, and made me think of salted caramel that's more salty than sweet. What a delicious sip!

The Soup

While I made an al fresco dinner out of braised chorizo, olives, and some Spanish cheeses, I wanted to serve a homemade gazpacho with the Sherry as well. Originating in the Spanish region of Andalusia, but popular all over the Iberian Peninsula, gazpacho is a soup made of raw vegetables and served chilled. More of a drink than a soup, this version has no bread and is a creamy, orange-pink color rather than a dull lipstick red. 

Last year I had the pleasure of having gazpacho at our Spanish friends' house! And I asked her her secret because the color was beautiful. Two words: olive oil. She said to add more olive oil than I would think necessary. This is not Susanna's recipe because I forgot to use bread and added vinegar; I also added a splash of honey because there was something bitter about the soup. However, after letting it sit overnight, everything had mellowed and was more balanced.


Ingredients
  • 2 pounds ripe red tomatoes, cubed
  • 1 bell pepper (I used an orange bell), seeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 cucumber, about 8 inches long, peeled and roughly cut into chunks
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
  • 2 t balsamic vinegar, more to taste
  • fleur de sel
  • ½ C olive oil + more to taste
  • 1 t raw honey, if needed
  • Also needed: food processor or blender, fine mesh strainer, shot glasses for serving

Procedure
Work in batches, if necessary. Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, and garlic in a food processor or blender. Blend until very smooth, at least 2 minutes.

With the motor running, pour in the vinegar and 2 teaspoons fleur de sel. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mixture will turn bright orange or dark pink and become smooth and emulsified, like a salad dressing. If it still seems watery, drizzle in more olive oil until texture is creamy. At this point, there was something really bitter about mine, so I added in a tad of honey.

Strain the mixture through a strainer or a food mill, pushing all the liquid through with a spatula or wooden spoon. Discard the solids. Adjust seasoning with salt and vinegar, as needed. Transfer to a glass pitcher or jar and chill until very cold, at least 6 hours or overnight.

Serve in glasses, over ice if desired. You can also add a few drops of olive oil and vinegar on top before serving.


Find González Byass
on the web, on Twitter, on Instagram
*Disclosure: I received compensation in the form of wine samples for recipe development and generating social media traction. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the organizer and sponsors of this event.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Paella Party for My Parents #KitchenMatrixCookingProject


My parents' birthdays are five days apart. Well, two years and five days. Kinda funny that Jake and I  also celebrate our birthdays within a week - again, two years and a week. So, our family birthday celebrations are slightly easier to schedule because we have joint dinners for them and for us. This year, my parents were in Hawaii for my dad's birthday; I scheduled a party when they came back. Happy birthdays to Nonna and Nonno!


While they were in Hawaii, I asked my mom if they wanted lasagna or paella for their party. She didn't even hesitate...and she didn't ask for my dad's input either. "Paella!" she declared. Perfect timing, too, because I knew I needed to post a paella dish for this week's #KitchenMatrixCookingProject. Before I get to our paella party, here's what the other gals are sharing this week...






For years, my paella pan languished in the cupboard, collecting dust. Then a friend from Spain gave me a paella lesson. And it's been on our table pretty often after that. I just needed a confidence boost and a nudge. If I might say so myself, I have mastered getting that desired socarrat at the bottom of the rice! Practice indeed makes perfect.


This week I suggested the Kitchen Matrix Cooking Project crew use Bittman's Paella Generator as inspiration. You can read more about our year-long project here. In any case, Bittman gives universal directions and an ingredient wheel with suggestions that include mussels, squid, chickpeas, snowpeas, almond, bacon, and more. I went with prawns, chicken thighs, and littleneck clams for this paella party. I made two pans' worth. You can halve this recipe for a single pan.

Ingredients serves 12
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 pound fresh shrimp, peeled (peels and heads reserved)
  • 1 pound littleneck clams, scrubbed clean
  • 12 T olive oil (Juan told me 1 T per serving)
  • 2 organic onions, peeled and diced
  • 2 bell peppers (I used a yellow bell pepper and a red bell pepper)
  • 5 ripe, organic tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 C Spanish paella rice
  • 2 generous pinches saffon
  • 2 Carmencita Paella Spice Mix sachets+
  • 2 coloring packets, optional+ 
  • 7 to 8 C fish stock, warmed
  • 1 to 2 C white wine
+Juan used these and they brought some back from Spain for me, so I use it. But, in a pinch, you can add a blend of paprika, pepper, and clove to the pot. These packets also include a food coloring that makes regular paella a rich golden color.

Procedure

Peel and dice the onions. Deseed and dice the bell pepper. Heat olive oil in the paella pan. Stir in the onions and bell pepper. Cook the chicken through. Sauté until the onion is softened and translucent. Add in the tomatoes and cook until they have lost their shape slightly, approximately 6 to 7 minutes.

Sprinkle the seasoning packet into the pot and add the saffron to the side so it's not where the heat is most concentrated. Tip in the rice.


Nestle the shrimp and clams into the rice. Pour in the stock and the wine. At this point, do not stir. Gently shake the pan to distribute the rice and seafood evenly. But do not stir. Ever. As Juan instructed me: "This is not risotto."

Bring the pan to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Watch the pan and keep turning it so that the rice cooks evenly. As it cooks, the stock will be fully absorbed.

You will see fewer and fewer bubbles popping up through the top. When it is completely dry, it's done. The rice should also be crackling. It reminds me of rice krispies. Snap, crackle, and pop!

When you no longer see any bubbles, remove the pan from the heat. The shrimp should be opaque and the clams open, too. Tent it with foil and let it steam for 10 more minutes.


To serve, use a flat spatula to scrape the soccarat from the bottom. Invert the scoop onto the individual plates to show off your soccarat, that delicious, crusty goodness on the bottom of the pan! 

Puerto Rican Papas Rellenas (Picadillo-Stuffed Potatoes) #FoodieReads


When I heard Chef José Andrés being interviewed on NPR last month, his story was intriguing and compelling, so much so that I went home and ordered the book - We Fed an Island: The True Story of Rebuilding Puerto Rico, One Meal at a Time by José Andrés* - immediately. 

I'm including a link to the broadcast because, honestly, I think you must hear his story, but you can skip the book. The story is so important and what he accomplished was phenomenal, but I found the book tedious and difficult to read.

On the Page

José Andrés is a chef, humanitarian, and founder of World Central Kitchen. He arrived within a week of Hurricane Maria devastating the island of Puerto Rico and set about trying to feed everyone he possibly could. Andrés rallies huge support from volunteers and organizes a network of kitchens around the island to provide chicken and rice as well as ham and cheese sandwiches to everyone struggling to live without food, clean water, electricity, and other services and conditions after Maria.

He's passionate and dedicated. There's no doubt about that. And he's openly critical of FEMA, Trump, the Red Cross, and other agencies who stymied his efforts with bureaucratic red tape again and again.

But there are only so many times that I need to read how inedible military MREs (meals-ready-to-eat) are. Actually, once is sufficient. I would have preferred he get on with detailing the food he was able to provide instead of harping on the fact that what was provided by our government was not a good option.

And FEMA is ineffectual. I get it. I didn't need a communication log with how many contracts they held up because of a chain of command, or lack thereof. Or how many times he tried to get access to a meeting, but didn't have the proper credentials.

Also, Trump is uninformed and says asinine things. Yep. Not news to me there either. I actually found myself cringing as Andrés quoted Trump. It's one thing to hear those soundbites on NPR; it's another to see how inarticulate Trump is...in black and white...on the page. Ugh.

I struggled to finish this book which I found so disappointing because I wanted to love it. I wanted to shove my copy into friends' hands with a hearty endorsement and gush, 'you have to read this!' But I found it pure drudgery to keep flipping these pages. However, this doesn't diminish what José Andrés was able to accomplish in Puerto Rico, or take away from his critique of our current disaster relief procedures. He's amazing and we need more people like him. I just think he needs a ghost writer, or a better editor.

On the Plate

I thought about making ham and cheese sandwiches - with lots of mayonnaise as Andrés instructs his team of volunteers - but, then, I wanted to make something new-to-us and a little bit more local to Puerto Rico. And when I started to search for recipes, I loved the idea of these mashed potato balls filled with spiced ground beef. It sounded delicious...and they were.

Picadillo is typically made with potatoes, olives, and raisins. Since the picadillo was being surrounded by potatoes, I skipped those...and I didn't have olives or raisins. I swapped in capers for the olives and skipped the raisins altogether. Also, instead of tomato sauce, I used fresh tomatoes from D's garden. So, this is definitely not a traditional recipe, but we loved it and will definitely be making it again.

Ingredients

Picadillo
  • 2 pounds ground meat (I used a mixture of ground turkey and ground beef)
  • 1 C diced onions
  • 1 C diced bell peppers (I used red bell peppers)
  • 1 to 2 T oil
  • 1 C sliced tomatoes
  • 2 T capers
  • 2 t ground smoked paprika
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 1 t ground sweet paprika
  • 1 T fresh oregano leaves
  • freshly ground salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Papas Rellenas
  • 2 pounds potatoes (I used red potatoes)
  • water
  • cornstarch for rolling
  • 2 T butter
  • oil for frying
  • sauces for dipping (I used an aioli with a tad of sriracha stirred in + a drizzle more of sriracha on the potato ball for serving)

Procedure

Picadillo
Heat oil in a large pan and stir in onions and bell peppers. Cook until the onions are softened and beginning to turn translucent, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Add the ground meat and season with paprika and cumin. Cook until the meat is browned completely. Stir in the tomatoes and capers; simmer until the tomatoes have lost their shape and liquid has been absorbed into the meat. Season to taste with salt and pepper, as needed. Stir in the fresh oregano leaves and set aside to cool.

Papas Rellenas
Cube the potatoes and place in a pot, covered with water. Boil until fork tender, approximately 20 minutes. Drain potatoes and return to pot. Mash with butter 2 T until they are smooth and gummy. 


Dust your hands with cornstarch and place 1/2 C cornstarch in a small mixing bowl. Flatten about 1/2 C mashed potatoes into a disk in the palm of your hand. Add a tablespoon of picadillo to the center of the disk and bring the edges of the potato up and around. Seal the edges by rolling the potato into a smooth ball. Roll the ball in cornstarch. Repeat until all the potato has been used, making sure to coat your hands each time so they don't get sticky.

Pour oil (I used canola oil) into rimmed skillet. You'll want the oil to come up to about half the height of the balls. Once the oil is hot, gently lower the balls (I did this in two batches) into the oil and cook until golden brown. I turned mine occasionally, but they took about 6 to 7 minutes to get completely browned.

Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.


To serve, place small pool of sriracha-spiked aioli on an individual serving plate. Top the aioli with a potato ball. Drizzle with more sriracha and serve immediately.

*This blog currently has a partnership with Amazon.com in their affiliate program, which gives me a small percentage of sales if you buy a product through a link on my blog. It doesn't cost you anything more. If you are uncomfortable with this, feel free to go directly to Amazon.com and search for the item of your choice.


Here's what everyone else read in October 2018: here.

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