Saturday, January 16, 2021

Prosperity Brownies 2021

Happy New Year and all that jazz.  I can say with fair certainty, that we are all glad it is in our rear view mirrors.  These brownies are an homage to the promise of a brighter year, more time enjoying family and friends, better decisions, more unity, understanding and growth, Prosperity.  
This year has presented with muted tones of 2020, and some audacity galore, but there may be hope yet.  Maybe it starts with a good recipe for brownies!  I created this dish for my bestie, a dear mutual friend of ours and my girls, to nosh on while watching Sunday Night Football and a series of animated delights like the Simpsons, Bob's Burgers, and Family Guy.  
We paired the warm cake-like brownies with some Vanilla Bean ice cream, much to our satisfaction.  Admittedly, I am more of a fudgy brownie kind of girl, but this recipe proved worthy and down right fabulous.  I am glad that I can start  the New Year strong, with a new brownie recipe sure to please and designed to be eaten with the ones you adore. Here's to taking a big, warm and gooey bite out of a prosperous new annual chapter.  Cheers!
Warm Prosperity Brownie w/ Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

1 1/3 c. self rising flour, sifted
1 c. granulated and light brown sugar, mixed together, (1/2 c. each)
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips, melted
4 tbsp. full fat sour cream
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2/3 c. vegetable oil
3 tbsp. salted butter, melted and cooled
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. Reese's Pieces or other favorite stir in, optional
1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips, plus more for garnish if desired
Non stick cooking spray
parchment paper
"9X"13 inch baking dish 

Preheat oven to 350* F.
Line and grease baking dish with a slightly over-sized sheet of parchment paper.
Combine flour and salt and set aside.
Microwave 8 oz. chocolate chips until softened, about 30 seconds. 
Stir the chips until smooth.
Add sour cream to the melted chocolate and blend well by stirring vigorously. This will keep the chocolate from hardening before incorporating into other ingredients.
In a medium mixing bowl, cream sugar, eggs, butter and vegetable oil.
Incorporate melted chocolate into creamed mixture and blend.
Gradually add flour to chocolate creamed mixture, careful not to over mix, stirring and folding only until 
 Pour into baking dish and spread evenly across dish.  Sprinkle half of batter with Reese's Pieces and 
Sprinkle on 1/2 c. chocolate chips onto whole batter surface.
The Reese's will sink completely as it bakes.
Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 30 minutes, less for fudgy ones, about 25 minutes.
Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with more chocolate chips, if desired.
Allow brownies to cool for about 15 minutes to serve warm with ice cream or about 1 hour to serve cool and for easier cutting.  
The surprise comes in when you get a square that contains both chocolate and peanut butter flavors!!!
"Seriously though, who the Hell wants to wait a whole hour?" Asking for a friend, Literally! (I was really asked this question while the brownies cooled and I literally lol-ed)

Prosperity Brownies fresh out of the oven! Some servings will harbor a Peanut Buttery surprise.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Crispy Pepperoni Flowers

 Good Day! to you all.  I just wanted to drop in and share a little tidbit of sunshine to brighten a  gloomy day when you need it.  If you are a fan of pepperoni and mozzarella cheese, this ensemble will serve you over and over.  The pepperoni becomes extra crispy when either rendered in a saucepan or a plate in the microwave.  I used a microwave for convenience and speed.
*The pepperoni is simply arranged in an overlapping patter making sure there is contact between each slice, in one form or another. Use 5 slices for this flower design and 1 placed on the centered area of the layers, for a total of 6 slices per Fragaria.  The flower will fuse together as it crisps and can be held as you would a large cracker.  
 *Have fun with the kids by letting them assemble the flowers and creating custom flowers of their own design.
* I used a 1/4 tsp. measuring spoon as a cookie cutout for the cheese, but you may use what you feel is suitable to make your desired pattern for the centerpiece. The pepperoni may be microwaved for about 2 minutes, give or take, until the protein is crisp.  
*After the pepperoni is transferred to a paper towel to drain, promptly add the cheese centerpiece and allow to melt slightly, completing the flower and the snack.  

Make as many as you like, 2 flowers would be considered a serving.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Mom, You're Always "Doing the Most"

Indomie Stir Fry Noodle Bowl with Fish Cake

 Our family has grown to know and love Ramen in all its familiar complexities.  As our awareness of the beauty in other cultures bloomed, Asian cuisine in particular, our palettes for better and better ingredients also grew.  At one point, during the what we thought was the apex of the pandemic, last summer,  I amassed in excess of 23+ different types of Ramen, from many cultures including Japan, China, Korea and even Indonesia. They all have their nuances and characteristics we adore, and we consumed different brands and styles, depending on our moods.  

Most of the time, the fiery versions took the forefront, though some days, for reasons of our gastrointestinal health and our overall feelings, we would opt for the toned down varieties like Chow Mein, Teriyaki and basic beef, chicken, or my personal favorite, Kimchi, which is an amazing dish of fermented Napa Cabbage, full of vinegariness, packed with heat and ginger, and tangy, crunchy goodness!  Nongshim makes my favorite Kimchi flavored noodles. 

Normally, we would consume our Ramen with only the provided accouterments, if any and would dive in with our personal pairs of chopsticks.  At this point in the game, we have evolved to creating the Noodle Bowl at times, turning the snack between meals into an actual meal.  We have a new favorite place to dine, Saigon Palace, where we partake in delicious Bahn Mi sandwiches, both classic and chicken and the smooth and unctuous pate, plus succulent pork belly or the fantastic Chicken Vermicelli Bowls, teeming with deliciously perfect slices of marinated grilled chicken, heavily brown sauced Beef Broccoli or the massive bowl of enlightening Pho, chock full of delicious morsels of beef and pork, submerged in a most flavor filled broth, spice forward, warm and full of depth, plus loads of fresh Thai basil, jalapenos, been sprouts, julienne of carrot and other crunchy delights.  

We have come to favor adornments and stir ins, from more Sriracha and soft boiled egg to Everything Bagel sprinkles, not missing also the chance to throw in some extra 'Veg' to meet our day's requirements.  The featured Noodle Bowl is one such combination.  My 13 year old asked for some noodles.  I had a bunch of fresh veggies to use up and also found the ever interesting steamed fish cake, like the slivers found in the Hot and Spicy noodle bowl by Nongshim. I stumbled across this umami candy looking gem while dropping by one of my favorite places, the "Oriental" Market in a nearby Lynchburg, Love it!!!  The Noodles for this bowl are from Indomie, stir fry flavor and all the other ingredients are from the fridge.  I could have just served the noodles, plain with a pair of custom chopsticks for a quick meal, but I wanted to create an experience, so I went ahead and 'tricked the noodles out'!  Yeah, I  guess you could say I'm a little 'extra', but I like a good photo too, so I did what I do best, the 'most' I could to elevate the dish and the moment, packing in more colors and flavors, adding a little more personality and certainly more Love, my super secret ingredient, of which I like to show the most of, especially to my kiddoes and I want it to reflect in all that I do, anything less would be "sus"(pect)!

This post is brought to you in part by Generation Z tweens, teens and their slang. I find great humor in today's kids' verbage and admittedly, a little has rubbed off on me.  For mention's sake, that makes me kinda cringy, whatever that means...

Happy Birthday today to my nephew Rob!  We share the culinary passion bug and our left-handedness.  I hope your day is Magnificent and We Love You!! :)

Thursday, January 7, 2021

'Pass the Spaghetti, Betty' and other Random Lines from Children's Books about Spaghetti

Baked "Spaghet," as my youngest teen calls it!
A simple and easy way to dress up your normal baked spaghetti is with a pepperoni border!  Execution is a cinch and the end result is a crispity crunch and flavorful addition to a recipe you already have.  Simply outline the place where the top of the spaghetti (before baking) meets the dish.  Sprinkle with desired cheese or cheeses, embellish the top with a simple design and a little dried parsley, and bake as usual.  The finished product is as shown above, but also depends on the top portion of the vessel you use to bake in. 

The pepperoni for this recipe are also arranged under the cheese, though sparsely.  The border helps make sure every serving has pepperoni in it .  If you are worried about the fat content, as I am sometimes, you may easily substitute in Turkey Pepperoni, which I simply adore.  Alternately, you may crisp the pepperoni on paper towels in the microwave and render them of their excess fat before creating a border for your baked dish. I like to grate the mozzarella cheese straight from the block onto this recipe.                                                    The title of this entry is a line from a children's book about spaghetti that I purchased while in college.  Every line in the book, rhymed a name to a food item, making for a fantastically wonderful read, suitable for any age, especially those who love reading. Published in 2000, "Pass the Celery, Ellery" by Jeff Fisher and Gaga is full of vivid and engaging illustrations, rhyme and word play, that deserves a few minutes of your extra time. Plus, "Pass the Celery, Ellery" is relevant, ahead of its time and even includes a recipe card, which is one of my favorite aspects.  I can guarantee that once you read this book, whether to the young or for yourself, you will read it again and again.  Don't be surprised if you develop a hankering for a nice plate of spaghetti, Eddie...or even some 'Abalone, Tone'!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           


Saturday, January 2, 2021

Cold Smoked Cherrywood Oyster Mushrooms w/ Farro and Black Garlic Risotto

 Along with the uncertainty of one moment to the next this crazy year has brought us, the same can be said  about the weather of 2020.  Just last week, here in Central Virginia, we had freezing rain, flooding, winter storms and tornado watches and warnings, all at the same time!! 2020, am I right? Granted, much of the weather's paradoxical misgivings, is due to our increasing and ever volatile climate change, but I would like to think it also has to do with the Grace of God and a certain Earth cleansing agenda.  Along with those happenings, we are doused with little sprinklings of Hope and magic in nature and omnipresence in the world, trinkets for us to find, signaling that everything will be okay, some day, soon.  Edible mushrooms are one such byproduct of time, steady moisture and luck of the draw in stumbling across the desirable ones while just living life...
The discovery of the mushrooms featured is one such jewel.  I am an avid and engaged mushroom enthusiast, learning and growing as I go. I have photo-logged at least  60 different types of fungi that flourish in our area, including the phenomenal day my cousin Bradley and I, happened upon the mother lode of fresh Morels, the 'early' variety and ultimately the only variety of the season for us, for the most part.  We gathered in excess of 120 mushrooms that afternoon.  I encouraged Bradley to assist with his trusty pocket knife, cutting just above where the mushroom's trunk exits the ground, to leave the remnants in case there were spores left behind, to be further spread by the wind and woodland creatures alike. 
 The mushroom itself grows underground and the visible portion is called the fruit or fruiting body.  Prior to this magnificent marvel of an event, I had only found 3 in the wild in several years, while Brad had never even heard of nor seen one, until that day in late March, when he happened to catch a ride with me.  
We hit the proverbial jackpot, making a memory that will last a lifetime. We had the best time, he was tickled that I was tickled, his laughter louder and longer, after every fruit body I found, my excitement and squeals of joy, like that of a school girl, ducking and dodging the pursuer in a game of tag or dodge ball.  The moment was ethereal.  I appreciated the excursion, but didn't fully realize the full brevity of that fateful day, until just a couple of weeks ago...
The Oyster mushroom or Pleurotus Ostreatus above were stumbled upon in our backyard, growing conspicuously on a piece of cut log, too knotted for our wood splitter to accommodate.  I was out and about, piddling with this and that, getting in a bit of exercise, when I spotted them.  I immediately hurried to get my camera, to log and capture the specimen in the natural light of the sunny day, hoping they were, in fact, what I perceived them to be.  I was probably about 20 feet away when I first spotted them.  I walked down to the stump, leary and questioning if this could really be happening.  I was a bit skeptical, because I had been 'pseudo certain' about another specimen, which turned out to be the 'cousin' of the desired Turkey Tail Fungus or Tramedes Versicolor Polyporales.  
After due diligence double checking my information and following ID procedures/characteristics, I triple checked with my mushroom group with a description and photo check, I felt victorious!  The best part is that there were 5 more clusters, in different stages, growing on another stump juxtaposed to the first stump!  Initially, I left it to chance, growing where it was, but with the weather dipping down into the super low digits, I thought it would be best to haul the stump inside, protecting it from various scenarios the Arctic chill, pets and people.  I read that a good cold snap is what gets Oyster Mushrooms going this time of year! Things are going swimmingly.  
This was my first experience with Oyster Mushrooms and I was elated to take on the task at hand.  I wanted to make the most of my bounty and create a recipe equivalent to my appreciation and excitement, also using ingredients I had on hand.  I used a packet of Knorr, featuring Farro.  This worked for me because I envisioned a risotto of the Farro, being par cooked helped with the time allocation for the project and was an excellent chance to try my hand at a risotto, of which I was not as experienced, certainly not with Farro standing in for Arborio or risotto rice.
I love using my cold smoker and felt the mushrooms could benefit from a kiss of Cherrywood, subtle and sweet nuances, yet smoky and fruit forward.  I smoked them for about 5 minutes, as the mushrooms were eager to soak in its surrounding aromas and flavors.
Afterwards, I simply sauteed them in a small pat of butter and some extra virgin with fresh garlic.  I wanted to keep the flavors clean and complement the Farro.  
I used some black garlic grated into the risotto and some Parmigiano Reggiano, a splash of cream, helped to marry the flavors very well.  
The dish overall proved delightful and the tasters agreed, this one is a keeper!  

This entry is dedicated in memory of my cousin and 'Morel Support' buddy, Bradley Spencer Smith, 10/20/1983-12/08/2020. We had the best time ever gathering Morels, I'll never forget that day and I'm glad I was able to share it with you.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Korean Barbecue Meatball Subs


I'm not going to 'beat around the bush', this recipe is bad ass!  I'm proud to share it with you, plus it's a less stress, no mess ingredient call and with the use of a pressure cooker or crockpot,  the flavors can be super infused for a bevy of bold taste, in a short period of time!  The flavors of Korean Barbecue kick you right in the mouth and finish with warm buns and tangy toppings.  I used sweet and hot banana peppers for a splash of color and some mozzarella cheese, bringing in some neutral and stretchy cheese goodness that we look for in a meatball sub. I used store bought, precooked chicken meatballs for a fast, familiar and complimentary flavor profile, mimicking the flavor of Korean Barbecue chicken! 
 Once the veggies have been chopped, the rest is smooth sailing into a delicious and unforgettable lunch, dinner or game day special feature, so easy, a toddler could do it!  No shade toddlers, I'm just saying, it's crazy easy!  This dish is not too  harsh on the middle, so what the hell, have 2, just wait until the next day for the second one, the taste is even better after the cavorting of ingredients overnight!  
2 lbs.  store bought or precooked chicken meatballs
1 11 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 c. ketchup
1/2 c. veggie stock, you may also use less sodium beef or chicken stock
1/4 c. Gochujang
5 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
1/2 c. yellow onion, chopped
1/4 c. pure cane sugar
2 tbsp. liquid aminos or soy sauce
2 tbsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. mirin 
2 tsp. Liquid smoke, mesquite 
1 tbsp. dried cilantro, divided
12oz. grated whole milk mozzarella
1 small jar sweet/hot banana peppers
 4 green onions, trimmed, white and green parts, sliced
8 to 10 hoagie buns
Olive oil for drizzling
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Place meatballs frozen or thawed in Ninja Foodi. 
Add stock first, pouring over meatballs.
Add remaining ingredients, down to cilantro, adding 2 tsp. to the pot. The remainder will be for garnish.
Place the Foodi on pressure cook mode and set time for 30 minutes.
Once 30 minutes is up, carefully release pressure and remove
 top and stir.
Place Foodi on Sear/Saute mode at medium high and reduce until desired consistency of sauce is reached, generally about 10 minutes.
Place oven on broil setting.
Split hoagie buns and place a bit of sauce and a scant amount of cheese to each bun.
Add up to 5 meatballs to each bun.
Sprinkle generously with cheese.
Drizzle all subs with olive oil.
Sprinkle on remaining cilantro and place under broiler.
Broil until golden and bubbly, about 4 minutes.
Garnish with sliced green onion and sweet/hot banana peppers.
Makes 8 to 10 Subs. 
Serve with chips, fries or green salad.

If using a crockpot, simply place all ingredients in the vessel, then place on high setting for 4 hours.
Follow assembly instructions as stated for the Foodi.
If using a stovetop, place all ingredients minus meatballs in a medium heavy bottomed pot with lid and bring up to a boil, add meatballs and simmer for 2 hours, then place on medium high setting for the last 15 minutes to thicken the sauce.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Ramen: Mukbang Style

This post is simply dedicated to the one that got away.  Featured is a photo of my rendition of How I do 
 Ramen, a contest sponsored by Nissin, which was founded by a Japanese fellow by the name of Momofuku Ando, in 1958, who invented chicken Ramen.  He later went on to create "The original Top Ramen in 1970 for the United States. For  the 50th anniversary, Nissin launched a contest seeking a person to fill the newly created position as the "Chief Noodle Officer", by submitting a photo of 'how you Ramen', recipe and short paragraph on why you would be the one for the job.  The winner was to receive 50 years worth of Ramen, $10,000, and exclusive rights to different aspects of the Noodling process with Top Ramen for a full year, pretty cool right?! But yeah, the concept I came up with is an homage to Korean origin Mukbang, which started gaining popularity around 10 years ago, and has since become a phenomenon that has swept world for obvious and some not so obvious reasons.  I was also amidst another chef's challenge at the time, which I go into in previous articles, so I was pouring most of my time and energy into that project. I really enjoyed the Spiceology challenge and know my creations will go towards a good cause, that makes me smile.  The noodle bowl for the aforementioned contest was a fun one too. 
 The bowl consists of three types of Ramen flavors, chicken, shrimp and beef.  The seasoning packets are combined to create the broth for the recipe.  I only added enough to be visible in the photo, maybe about 1/3 of yield.  I included some sweet and sour shrimp, simply marinated and broiled to perfection  and brushed with some Thai Chili sauce, after marinating in some rice vinegar, garlic, brown sugar and liquid aminos.  I also included some crispy, crunchy and appetizing Hot Cheetos Chicken, cutlets of sliced chicken breast, double breaded with an egg wash and deep fried to a heavenly crunch, with the chicken breast retaining its moisture within the Cheetos barrier.  I also have some Everything Bagel fried Spam.  I made a quick batter using buttermilk pancake mix and a tablespoon of Everything Bagel blend, rendering a nice and crunchy shell over the Spam, imparting much needed texture to a versatile and often loved or hated protein source, I for one, enjoy a piece of pan fried Spam every now and then, there is no shame here.  I also included an egg, steeped and slowly cooked in concentrated green tea and liquid smoke!  I sliced some sweet red peppers and added fresh cilantro and Serrano Chiles, plus some crunchy, pungent and tangy Kimchi, fresh lemons and sliced green onions, all adorning the top of this dish to feed several or one Mukbanger.  I made sure to add an umami rich dipping sauce full of Sambal Oelek, with a touch of brown sugar and reduced sodium soy and a splash of fish sauce, plus the ever popular Cheese Sauce for dipping and I guess helping food slide down your gullet, chewing optional.  Please chew your food lol.  I made sure to include a nice tall mug of dark soda, diet for,  me, which is usually always included, ice cold with a straw to top it all off and of course provide much needed service when applied.  

Due to a technicality, my submission was not able to be accepted, I worked literally up to the minute to get it in on time, alas I digress.  I failed to email the tiny paragraph about why my photo and recipe would be the right  choice for representing the new CNO. And to think, I submitted the writing part the next morning on a whim, an added incentive, and just to be on the safe side.   Oh well, you win some, you lose some, but I feel like a winner, because I came up with a Fantastic presentation, concept and recipes.  This bowl is something serious, seriously good, my family and I shared this bowl after the photo shoot and all was well.  Next time, I'll make sure the fine fine print is taken care of, in the meantime, I hope this feature fills your head with creative energy and your bellies with delicious rewards.