Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bananas Foster Chimichangas

I traveled back home last weekend to celebrate my youngest sister's birthday. It was such a good feeling to be around my family having a great time laughing and reminiscing about how we're so good at giving each other a hard time. My family is hilarious and we love to laugh together.

I usual stay with my middle sister and her boyfriend, but they were moving this weekend. Not a big deal usually, but now I have a puppy - a BIG puppy - that comes with me. I immediately thought of my fabulous friend Sooki and her family. I've been friends with Sooki since middle school. She's a fascinating and very talented person. I love having talks with her and her mom any time I'm in town. We can talk about anything for hours. Thankfully, they generously opened their home to me and Tasha for the weekend.

One evening Sooki was making dinner - an Asian coconut soup with rice dish (which was amazing!). We were discussing what dessert we should have that would go well with the meal. I volunteered to make something, but didn't have anything in mind. We did a quick survey of ingredients and I decided to use bananas which would match the coconut perfectly.

At the time, I was so proud of myself for coming up with the idea of frying the bananas in a tortilla and serving it with ice cream. I love the feeling of coming up with a dish that's "new" and worked out so well. However, after a quick search online, it appears people have been making this dessert for quite some time. The recipe is mine since I did not copy one, but I certainly did not invent it. Oh well. Maybe I'll take that as a sign I think just like other brilliant chefs and was born for cooking. ::rolls eyes::

The great thing about this dessert is it's quick and can be prepared beforehand for easy serving after dinner. Several ingredients can be substituted or added to personalize the flavor as well. It can also be prepped to the stage just before frying and then be refrigerated for later use.

The sweet filling and crunchy tortilla and gooey topping will just melt in your mouth. I'm already craving for more...

Bananas Foster Chimichangas

1 1/2 cups organic all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water

3 medium bananas
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp turbinado*
4 tbsp maple syrup*
1 tbsp rum

2 cups peanut oil

In a large bowl, mix together the flour and water. The dough should be slightly sticky. Divide dough into 5 even balls. Lightly flour the working surface and roll a ball into a very thin tortilla. Repeat for each ball. Each tortilla should be roughly 6 inches around, but no less. Place a sheet of wax paper between each tortilla if stacking on a plate to prevent sticking. On medium heat in a preheated shallow pan, cook each tortilla for 30 seconds on each side using a wide spatula until they are slightly browned. Set aside.

In the same pan, turn up the heat to medium-high and add the ingredients from butter to rum. Cook for 5 min stirring constantly. Set aside.

(The syrup will harden slightly. It can be reheated to pour easily over the chimichangas if needed.)

In a medium bowl, add the ingredients from bananas to nutmeg and also add 2 tbsp of syrup. Mash together well.

Take a tortilla and add 2 - 3 tbsp of the banana mixture. Seal each end by folding over and securing with a toothpick.

Make sure the tortilla does not have any of the banana mixture seeping out so it does not splatter in the hot oil.

In a deep pan, add the peanut oil and bring to 325*F on medium-high heat. Add the chimichangas, 3 or 2 at a time, and cook for 1 1/2 - 2 min on each side until golden brown (use tongs for easy flipping and for safe removal from the oil). Drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

Once cooled, remove all toothpicks and slice the chimichangas in half diagonally, then top with the syrup. Serve with butter pecan ice cream.

~Yields 5 servings.

~Original by Brie.

*Or substitute 8 tbsp dark brown sugar.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast with Bulgur Mint Salad

Lately I've had less time to devote to the kitchen, but I still crave a satisfying and delectable meal. I thumbed through my homemade cookbook for something new and quick I could whip up, but would seem like I spent an hour or two in the kitchen. I came across a recipe which featured bulgur in a salad that peaked my interest. I decided to pair it with stuffed chicken and had my meal plan. I love it when things come together when needed.

Even though I strive for making fantastic meals, I still have this yearning for trying new things. I do have some old standby recipes that I make repeatedly, but I feel like I'm missing out on further great culinary adventures if I start to get into a cycle of the same dishes. Take my homemade cookbook for example; it's actually two giant binders stuffed full of recipes I've collected over the years from various sources, not to mention a few actual cookbooks and notebooks I've scribbled in that are hiding in a cupboard. No matter how ordinary a recipe may sound, if it's something I'd be willing to try, I am unable to pass it up. It's like a never ending journey to appease my palate. I take pleasure in knowing this is a life long path I can meander and will never become complacent in appreciating the variety of cuisines. Even on an evening when I'm crazy tired, I can't pass up a new taste - in this dish it's bulgur.

The stuffed chicken is so moist and tender, helped by finishing it wrapped in the oven. This salad features bulgur which contains more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than white rice or couscous. The taste was comforting and matched with the medley of herbs - I totally went back for seconds. I grabbed some chocolate mint to use in the salad and was so glad I did. It's an easy recipe when you need a quiet moment in the kitchen after a long day, but needs no effort so you can relax and enjoy.

Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken

4 oz garlic & herb goat cheese, softened
3 tbsp basil, roughly chopped
3 chicken breasts, 6 oz each
salt & pepper to taste

Combine goat cheese and basil in a small bowl and set aside.

Clean and trim the chicken breasts. Butterfly each breast, careful not to cut the breast into two pieces or cause an opening on the seam. Stuff equal portions of the goat cheese mixture into each breast and fold.

Preheat the oven to 350*F. In a large pan set on medium-high heat, cook the chicken for 7 min on each side, sprinkling with salt and pepper. The chicken will still be slightly pink on the inside. On a cookie sheet, lightly wrap the chicken all together in foil and bake for 15-20 min.

Notes: Using tongs while cooking and transferring the chicken will help keep the filling from spilling. If a non-stick pan is unavailable, coat the bottom of your pan with a little butter so the chicken does not stick. Finally, if the chicken skin has browned too much or became tough while cooking on the stove top, place one large ice cube in the center of the foil wrap to moisten the chicken while baking.

~Original by Brie.

Bulgur Mint Salad

1 cup uncooked bulgur
1 cup boiling water
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large tomato, cubed
1 medium cucumber, cubed
1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
3 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp chocolate mint, roughly chopped
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

Combine bulgur and water in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 30 min. Fluff the bulgur and mix in the juice, oil, and garlic. Then combine with all ingredients.

~Adapted from Cooking Light.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Devil's Food Cake

We had a group of birthdays at work and everyone brought in a dessert to celebrate. When a large group of people are involved, it's usually a good idea to try a universal dish. I had heard wonderful things about a Devil's Food Cake by David Lebovitz and so I chose this as my dessert.

Everyone raved over the ganache icing and loved the swirls I copied. In fact, the cake was gone so quickly I wasn't able to snap a shot of a single slice! The cake itself was light from the use of cocoa powder, which allowed the sweet and creamy ganache to stand out. It was simple and delicious.

Devil's Food Cake


11 ounces 60% cacao chocolate chip
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 sticks butter, cut into 1 ounce pieces

Place the chocolate chips and cream in a heat proof bowl set over a small pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally.

Once the chocolate is completely melted, remove from the heat. In 4 ounce increments, whisk the butter into the melted chocolate until completely incorporated.

The ganache icing will need to rest at room temperature for 1 hour before it can be spread onto the cake (or you can place it into the refrigerator for 15-20 min to harden faster).


9 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups non-self rising cake flour (King Arthur Flour)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup coffee (hazelnut flavor)
1/2 cup 2% milk

Adjust an oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350*F. Butter two 9x2 cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper (I use a shortcut I learned from watching the tv show Good Eats: fold the parchment paper into a square and then twice over; line up to the center of the pan and then cut. This method will save a lot of time!).

Sift together the cocoa powder, cake flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a mixer, blend the butter and sugar for 5 min. Next add the eggs one at a time. Add half the dry ingredients slowly, then half the coffee and milk. Then add the rest of the dry ingredients and the other half of the coffee and milk.

Divide the batter equally into the two cake pans and bake for 25 min. Cool completely before icing.


Take one cake out of the pan and remove the parchment paper before inverting onto your serving plate. Smooth a good amount of icing over the top. Repeat with the second cake except place all the remaining icing on top. Smooth the icing over the sides of the cake first and then smooth the top, or add a design.

Store the cake at room temperature under a cake dome.

~Recipe by David Lebovitz.

Friday, September 11, 2009

True Blood Martini

Oh, True Blood. How I love thee.

I have become quite infatuated with this show, and have been suffering withdraw all week - and the season finale hasn't even aired yet! I love the mystery and sexuality involved in the series. I usually enjoy vampire tales of the Romantic era, but this modern version has me enamored as well. Plus I currently live in the South, so I probably spend a little too much time daydreaming on what could be lurking in the woods...

The characters have evolved from the first season, so catching new quirks and rhythms between the actors is another level of enjoyment. Bill's old world charm is a great appeal and Eric's witty humor provides amusing moments. Sookie's strength is refreshing for a lead female character, while Tara is lost from caring for her mother for so long. Sam has great compassion and Jason may need attention and other's approval, but he has a soft spot for those whom he loves. I've even taken a liking to some of the new characters. Jessica's innocence and Maryann's mysteriousness throw interesting twists into the story.

In honor of True Blood, I have created a martini to savor while watching. I needed something dark and delicious to match the show, which is why I choose açaí & pomegranate juice. Both have tartness, but açaí is slightly sweeter and brings balance to the martini. I used my mortar and pestle to grind turbinado sugar into a powder for this drink, but you can purchase superfine sugar or use simple syrup as a substitute. I also keep my alcohol of choice in the freezer, so no need to shake or stir the ingredients in a separate glass before drinking- unless you'd like to impress someone, then by all means partake in some showmanship.

True Blood Martini

1 tsp ground turbinado
2 ounces Smirnoff vodka
1 ounce Grand Marnier orange liqueur
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
3 ounces açaí & pomegranate juice by Bom Dia

In a martini glass, combine ingredients in the above order. Enjoy with True Blood.

~Original by Brie.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Soy-Glazed Tofu with Soba Noodles & Orange Sauce

Several months ago, a friend and I attended a cooking class at a local co-op, which is a favorite food shop of mine. A personal chef was teaching how to prepare nutritionally rich and delicious dishes with minimal ingredients. One of the first items she brought forth was soba noodles - and, embarrassingly, I do not believe I had ever been introduced to this type of Japanese noodle before, which is made from buckwheat flour. I was impressed with how quickly they are prepared and by their versatility. While the class was more of a watch and learn session, we were able to sample the dishes she had created. The soba noodles were a welcome break from regular pasta noodles. They had a mild flavor and neutral element that allowed strong flavors in the sauces to come through, without mellowing the taste with a starchy quality like some pastas.

Soba is higher in amino acids, such as thiamine and lysine, and antioxidants, like rutin which prevents high blood pressure, than white rice and pastas. Soba can be served hot or cold, plain with a dipping sauce or as part of a meal or soup. It usually is bought in a package with three bundles, which I like to cook separately so the serving sizes are equal. 

This meal was savory and delicious, with great nutritional value. The sauce and glaze compliment each other's citrus elements and are important for the soba and tofu which are naturally mild. It cooks quickly for a meal on a busy day or an unexpected visit from friends.

Soba Noodles & Orange Sauce

4 bundles soba noodles
1 tbsp ginger, freshly grated
2/3 cup chicken broth
3 tbsp orange marmalade
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the bundles individually to retain equal portion sizes for 5 min each. Drain and rinse with cool water. Plate each bundle after cooking.

In a small saucepan, sauté ginger for 1 min on medium-high heat. Stir in chicken broth, marmalade, and soy sauce; bring to a low boil and cook until mixture is slightly thick. Add lemon juice just before plating. Pour 2 tbsp over each serving of soba noodles.

~Adapted from Cooking Light.

Soy-Glazed Tofu

1 package firm tofu, drained
3 tbsp brown rice vinegar
2 tbsp fresh orange juice
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp grated orange rind
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
2 tbsp green onions, thinly sliced diagonally

Cut the tofu square in half horizontally, then cut each square into triangles, making four servings. Place the slices between paper towels, press down to remove access water, and allow them to rest for 15 min.

Combine the ingredients of brown rice vinegar through the orange rind in a small saucepan and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 6 min or longer depending on the desired thickness of the glaze.

Heat toasted sesame oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tofu and cook 5 min each side or until they are golden brown (if desired, use tongs to hold the tofu and cook the edges as well for 1 min). Once the tofu is finished cooking, remove from the pan, then add the sesame seeds and toast for 30 - 60 seconds. Remove and set aside for garnish.

Arrange tofu slices on soba noodles and top with soy sauce glaze, toasted sesame seeds, and sliced green onions.

~Yields 4 servings.

~Adapted from Cooking Light.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Organic Peanut Butter Dog Treats

Yes, the title is correct. I had to work in my new pup onto the food blog somehow.

Although she's not quite as small as the 'pup' title suggests. Meet Tasha. She's nine months old today - a German Shepherd and Catahoula mix (although I'm suspicious a little Rhodesian Ridgeback might have slipped in somewhere due to the unusual cowlick down her entire neck). I've wanted to adopt a dog for some time now, and am thrilled to finally have one. I adopted her from a family a few hours away - thanks The H's!

I have spent the last month getting to know my new family member and I picked a very special dog. I have the satisfaction of knowing we're eerily alike and it's not from her living with me her whole life, so that settles the nature vs nurture debate on personality traits between us.

She likes to do things the hard way. For example, when we play fetch, it's not with a normal ball. Oh no. It's with a basketball (and the remnants of what used to be a volleyball). I have several smaller balls I try to use, but she just looks at me like I'm crazy and scoffs at fetching them. These toys came with her, and I would have never guessed a dog her size could learn how to carry a basketball in her mouth.

She's highly intelligent and quickly absorbs new commands, but we're still working on her following them when I lack a food reward. Who can blame her? Who doesn't want a delicious treat for following someone else's orders?

I love how she frolics through the grass any time I let her outside and looks at everything with innocence and an unspoiled yearning to befriend anything that moves. She also looks like a kid on Easter any time we play in the backyard, always amazing herself when she finds her toys in the bushes - kind of reminds me of my brother when we were younger, although he liked to cheat and stare out the window counting up all the eggs he could see before anyone else woke up, but that's another story.

Most importantly, she adores water. I can spend hours in the backyard with the water hose turned on and she'll wear herself out until she just can't go anymore. I have no doubt she's going to be my new companion in the pool.

I can't help but have a huge smile any time someone is captured by her beauty. I've heard remarks of her looks ranging from a hyena to a wolf mix - all of which I adore. She's a special lady, my Tasha.

I bought her some Newman's organic dog treats, and although they're great, I knew I could make them myself and save some money, too. I was unable to find a dog bone cookie cutter, so I had to improvise. I found a set of flower shaped cookie cutters at Bed, Bath, & Beyond for $3 that worked very well. All I had to do was flatten one petal on either side and voilà! I used the smallest one in the bunch which measures 2 3/4 inches by 1/2 - 1 inch in the bone shape.

In honor of all our furry (and perhaps not so furry) friends, I hope you'll take a moment to bake up some treats. These come Tasha approved.

Organic Peanut Butter Dog Treats

1 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups organic white flour
1/2 cup organic peanut butter
1 cup water
2 tablespoons peanut oil
Preheat the oven to 350*F.
Combine peanut oil, peanut butter, and water. Sift flours together and add to the wet mixture forming a dough. Knead the dough into a firm ball and roll to 1/4 inch thickness.

Use a bone shaped cookie cutter to create bite sizes treats. Place on a cookie sheet and bake at 350*F for 20 min.
~Yields 7 1/2 dozen cookies.

~Adapted from All Natural Dog Treats.