Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Lettuce Wraps - Take Two!

Awhile back I did a post for PF Chang's lettuce wraps.  I wasn't overly pleased with how they turned out and I certainly didn't think they were PF Chang quality.  I've had a serious hankering for lettuce wraps so I set out in search of better recipe.  And did I find it!  WHOOOHOOO!!!!

This recipe is SO much more flavorful that the one I found at recipezaar.  But what can you expect from a web site that doesn't spell czar correctly?  I hate this 'cute' little marketing ploy everyone does these days by spelling their names incorrectly.  How are the kids of this country going to learn to spell?  But I get side tracked. :) 

I found this recipe on my all time favorite recipe web site allrecipes.com...notice they spell their name correctly. :)  This recipe received an almost perfect five star scoring out of almost 17,000 people!  IT ROCKED!!!!  Even Alex was impressed and he isn't as fond of cute finger foods as I am. 

Lettuce Wraps - the RIGHT way!
16 Boston Bibb or butter lettuce leaves

1 pound lean ground beef
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons minced pickled ginger
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
Asian chile pepper sauce (optional)
1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 teaspoons Asian (dark) sesame oil

Rinse whole lettuce leaves and pat dry, being careful not tear them. Set aside.

In a medium skillet over high heat, brown the ground beef in 1 tablespoon of oil, stirring often and reducing the heat to medium, if necessary. Drain, and set aside to cool. Cook the onion in the same pan, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, ginger, vinegar, and chile pepper sauce to the onions, and stir. Stir in chopped water chestnuts, green onions, and sesame oil, and continue cooking until the onions just begin to wilt, about 2 minutes.

Arrange lettuce leaves around the outer edge of a large serving platter, and pile meat mixture in the center. To serve, allow each person to spoon a portion of the meat into a lettuce leaf. Wrap the lettuce around the meat like a burrito, and enjoy!

The recipe calls for ground beef...which I am not a fan of...so I used cooked chicken breasts that I cut up into cubes and cooked in the sauce. I also 86'd the water chestnuts and replaced them with cashews...SO MUCH BETTER!!!  This recipe is going to be a repeater.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


I don't know about you, but I have completely been sucked into the new cupcake craze that has hit the country.  Who wouldn't love sweet, little treats in a perfectly, packaged portion?  A new cupcake shop ( that will remain name-less) opened in Colorado Springs and I HAD to check it out.  I had an overall bad experience at the shop and was less than impressed with their product.  If you are going to charge me $3.00 a cupcake, I EXPECT it to be something to write home about!  As a result, I slammed them in an online review at yelp.com.  I went as far as to say that I could bake a better cupcake.  Well, I started to feel guilty because the only GREAT cupcake I had ever baked where the Irish Car Bomb cupcakes I made for St. Paddy's Day.  I have since felt obligated to bake a KILLER cupcake to help myself feel less guilty about my review.

AND IT DID IT!!!!  I can HONESTLY say I CAN make better cupcakes than that silly cupcake shop who charges $3.00+ a cupcake with nasty, sugary frosting that masks the flavor of their cupcakes so you can tell the different flavors apart.  Oh, goodness...I am getting carried away.

My big gripe about cupcakes you get at these hoytie-toydie bakeries is they advertise orange creamcicle cupcakes and peanut butter cupcakes.  But when you take a bit of them you wonder "what flavor was that cupcakes again?"  If I order a key lime cupcake, I want my taste buds to register the limey-ness in the frosting AND the cake!  I struggled to find a recipe that met my criteria, so I combined three different recipes for the ultimate Key Lime Cupcake.


Cupcakes - adapted from Open Source Cupcakes
3 cups cake flour sifted (Regular all purpose flour worked just fine.)
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter
1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups milk
2 Tablespoons key lime juice
2 Tablespoons grated key lime zest

Preheat your oven to 350 and line your muffin tin.

In medium bowl sift all dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt. Set aside.

In large bowl, add butter and sugar. Cream until light and fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla. Beat with electric mixer.  Slowly add your flour mixture, alternately with milk. Beat well after each addition.  Beat until mixture is smooth.  Fill cupcake liners about ¾ full.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cupcake comes out clean.  Let cool completely on rack before icing.

Key Lime Pie “Filling”  - from Bake Space Adapted from the Editors of Easy Home Cooking Magazine

6 oz cream cheese softened
5 oz key lime juice
7 oz sweetened condensed milk  

Place all ingredients in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low for 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and blend for 2 minutes. Place in a seperate bowl and place in fridge for 2 hours.

Topping: - from allrecipes.com

1 (4-serving size) package vanilla instant pudding and pie filling mix
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup Key lime or regular lime juice
4 drops green food color
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In large bowl, beat pudding mix and whipping cream with wire whisk 2 minutes. Let stand 3 minutes. Beat in 1/4 cup Key lime juice and the food color; stir in powdered sugar until smooth. Cover and refrigerate.

Key Lime Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened*
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened*
2 tablespoons key lime juice
1 teaspoon key lime zest or lemon zest (I used zest of one whole lime. )**
4 to 5 cups confectioners' sugar

Combine softened cream cheese, softened butter, lime juice, and zest in large bowl. Beat with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add sugar, one cup at a time, mixing in between. May use between four to five cups of sugar for this recipe, depending on the consistency you want. If it is too thin, add more sugar slowly to the mixture

Yes, these cupcakes are involved...but they were OH SO LIMEY!!!!  I made each part of the cupcake in the order listed above.  I made the cupcakes the night before so they were perfectly cool before manhandling the additional tast into them.  Second, I made the 'filling'.  I actually cut holes in the cupcake to fill them.  Third, I made the topping and piped it with a pastry bag to cover the hole made from the filing.  Fourth, I made the frosting and piped that on top of the topping. 

Because of all the cream cheese and butter in this recipe I refrigerated the finished cupcakes until I needed them for a party I was going to that night.  I pulled them out 45 mintues before I left to get to room temp.  That night the cake part was a little dense, but the flavor was RIGHT ON!  I left a couple of cupcakes behind to make sure I could get a second taste (because I knew there wouldn't be any left over from the party).  I left those out overnight...oops!  But the next day...they were PERFECT!!!  The cake part wasn't dense at all!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Falafel Veggie Burgers

A couple of weeks ago Alex and I checked out a local Israeli restaurant and tried the falafel.  FABULOUS!  It was like fried hummus.  I instantly fell in love.  What do I do when I find a food I love?  I find a recipe so I can make it at home.  I found this recipe at Allrecipes.com.

If you'll notice, the title of this blog entry is Falafel Veggie BURGERS.  I visited a local restaurant that had the BEST veggie burger I have EVER had.  TRULY!  It was made our of chickpeas.  I searched the net high and low looking for yummy recipes for chickpea veggie burgers.  I found a couple, but they looked rather bland.  So I figured I would search out straight up falafel...and stumbled upon the falafel recipe I had been wanting to make.  Instead of having these babies on a pita, I put them on hamburger buns with lettuce and mayo.  FREAKING PHENOMENAL!!!!  I am going to make these ALL the time!!!  We had them with a side of sweet potato fries.  I gorged myself on this meal tonight and just typing the words out is making my mouth water!!!

Sean's Falafel:
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained

1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 egg
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
1 dash pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dry bread crumbs
oil for frying
1 (6 ounce) container plain yogurt
1/2 cucumber - peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried dill weed
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon mayonnaise

In a large bowl mash chickpeas until thick and pasty; don't use a blender, as the consistency will be too thin.

In a blender, process onion, parsley and garlic until smooth. Stir into mashed chickpeas.

In a small bowl combine egg, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice and baking powder. Stir into chickpea mixture along with olive oil. Slowly add bread crumbs until mixture is not sticky but will hold together; add more or less bread crumbs, as needed. Form 8 balls and then flatten into patties.

Heat 1 inch of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry patties in hot oil until brown on both sides.

In a small bowl combine yogurt, cucumber, dill, salt, pepper and mayonnaise. Chill for at least 30 minutes.

I am getting pretty bad at taking pictures of the completed product.  The meals are too FAB to plate it up, take a picture and then eat...I just dive right in. :)  ENJOY!!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

HAPPY EASTER with Leg of Lamb!

The second half of the Easter from two years ago was the leg of lamb I served for dinner.  When I was a kid, I had a friend named Tricia that we invited over for Easter dinner one year.  Lamb was a tradition at our house on Easter...but my parents served it with BARFY mint jelly.  Not only did they serve it with mint jelly, my dad slathered it ALL OVER the poor lamb while it was cooking so it had a crust of mint jelly on the outside.  UG! 

I wanted to maintain the tradition of lamb for Easter, but I NEEDED to improve the recipe.  I score this SWEET Bobby Flay recipe for leg of lamb marinated in greek yogurt.  HOLY MOLY!  This recipe ROCKS!!!!!!  The first time I made it, I didn't have Greek yogurt...I didn't even know greeks had their own yogurt. :)  Fortunately, Dannon now carrys their own Greek yogurt in regular grocery stores.  If you can't find Greek yogurt, you can use regular plain yogurt by straining it with a paper towl to get rid of the excess moisture.

Bobby Flay Leg of Lamb
1 de-boned (5 pound) leg of lamb, trimmed of excess fat
5 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups Greek-style yogurt
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 to 5 dashes hot pepper sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Using a paring knife, make several small slits over the entire surface of the lamb, and stuff the slits with the sliced garlic. Add the yogurt, mint, cumin and hot pepper sauce to the work bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Place the lamb on a large baking sheet and rub the entire leg with the yogurt mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight.  TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY!  Don't marinate it for an hour or two and then throw it in the oven...it isn't necessarily for taste as much as it is for tenderness.
Preheat the grill to high. Remove the lamb from the marinade and season well with salt and pepper. Place the lamb, skin side down, on the grill. Grill until the skin side is golden brown, then turn the lamb over, and reduce the heat of the grill to medium so that the grill maintains a constant temperature of 350 degrees F. Continue grilling until a thermometer inserted deep into the meat reaches a temperature of 145 degrees F for medium-rare doneness, about 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove lamb from grill, cover with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes. Slice the meat on the bias into 1/4-inch thick slices.

Instead of grilling this dish, we cooked it in the oven at 350 degrees F until it was 147 degrees F.  I cooked the potatoes with the roast the entire time it was in the oven.  They turned out PERFECT and caught us some of the juices from the roast.  This recipe makes the most tender lamb I have EVER had!  I'm going to make gyro's out of the left over lamb tonight!  YUM!!!!! 

HAPPY EASTER with Eggs Benedict

Since having my daughter I have been trying to solidify our family holiday traditions.  Two years ago we invited friends over for an Easter brunch of eggs benedict.  That year I bought Williams Sonoma's egg  poacher pan and their fun Easter linens and we decorated cupcake's in the shape of Easter eggs with my egg shaped muffin pan.  It was AWESOME!  I wanted to recreate that Easter brunch of years gone by.  It isn't as though my daughter can appreciate it at 9 months, but it makes me feel better knowing she has something to look forward to at the holidays. 

The first time I made eggs benedict, I used a recipe that called to combine the egg and butter in a blender with the butter cooking the egg.  It emulsified FABULOUSLY, but while I was keeping it warm on the stove as my friends were showing up, it separated.  It was still GREAT...what isn't great smothered in egg and butter?...but it didn't make for a pretty presentation. 

This recipe ROCKED!  I cooked up the hollandaise sauce in a homeade double boiler using a metal mixing bowl over a pan of boiling water.  The key to this recipe is whisking the sauce the entire cooking time as you slowly add the butter.  AND....it didn't separate!  I left it out ALL DAY expecting it to separate and it didn't!  I had to throw it out afterward, but at least I was reassured that this recipe is fail safe. 

I poached (HAHAHAHA) this recipe off Allrecipes.com.  This truly is a handy website.  I LOVE that the recipes are rated.  There is nothing worse that spending a huge amount of time creating a dish only to find that it BLOWS! 

Eggs Benedict
4 egg yolks
3 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 pinch ground white pepper
1/8 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon water
1 cup butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 eggs
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
8 strips Canadian-style bacon
4 English muffins, split
2 tablespoons butter, softened

To Make Hollandaise: Fill the bottom of a double boiler part-way with water. Make sure that water does not touch the top pan. Bring water to a gentle simmer. In the top of the double boiler, whisk together egg yolks, lemon juice, white pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and 1 tablespoon water.

Add the melted butter to egg yolk mixture 1 or 2 tablespoons at a time while whisking yolks constantly. If hollandaise begins to get too thick, add a teaspoon or two of hot water. Continue whisking until all butter is incorporated. Whisk in salt, then remove from heat. Place a lid on pan to keep sauce warm.

Preheat oven on broiler setting. To Poach Eggs: Fill a large saucepan with 3 inches of water. Bring water to a gentle simmer, then add vinegar. Carefully break eggs into simmering water, and allow to cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. Yolks should still be soft in center. Remove eggs from water with a slotted spoon and set on a warm plate.  (FYI - This pan from Williams Sonoma makes poaching eggs so EASY!  Sadly, the pan has doubled in price since I bought it two years ago.)
While eggs are poaching, brown the bacon in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and toast the English muffins on a baking sheet under the broiler.

Spread toasted muffins with softened butter, and top each one with a slice of bacon, followed by one poached egg. Place 2 muffins on each plate and drizzle with hollandaise sauce. Sprinkle with chopped chives and serve immediately.

My only complaint about this recipe is that I thought it tasted a little too lemony.  Alex and my mom LOVED it!  Sometimes I wonder if they say that stuff to make me feel better about slaving away in the kitchen.  You'll have to let me know what you think!