Friday, June 5, 2009

The Dankest Brownies Ever

I found this recipe while perusing the Treasury of Chocolate cookbook. (The pictures of chocolate deserts in this book are so mouthwatering and tempting that I think I gained five pounds just by looking.) I looked at this recipe and thought to myself, "Wow, I have all those ingredients on hand, I wonder how it tastes?" And that was it, I was sold. About an hour later, I had the yummiest, gooiest brownies I had ever had, and I had made them from scratch, and unbelievably they weren't hard to make at all. I have more trouble with cookies.

Here's a picture of the finished brownies.

Notice the piece missing, my brother got to the brownies before I got a picture of them.

I will warn you there is some baking (ok, it is baking) involved. This means I had to actually measure ingredients and mix them according to set directions.

You'll need:

1/2 cup of butter (1 stick) melted
1 tsp Vanilla
1 cup Sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup Hershey's Cocoa Powder
1/2 cup Flour
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt

Preheat the oven to 350 F

Start by melting the butter.

mmmm butter...

Throw your all your dry ingredients EXCEPT the sugar into a bowl. (That would be the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

Mix until combined and set aside.

I mixed dark and regular cocoa powder, but that's not necessary. If you like milk chocolate then stick with regular, if you like dark...ok you get it.

In a second large bowl, mix the sugar and the melted butter and vanilla. Once it's mixed, add the eggs.

Break the yolks...

And mix well...

Now here's the tricky part. Add a little bit of the dry ingredients to the egg/butter/sugar mixture. Mix well after each addition with a wooden spoon. As you add more and more of the dry, it gets harder and harder to stir.




Is anybody else's mouth watering yet?

At this point you might want to use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl in order to get it all mixed.

Once it is well combined, pour the ooey gooey batter into a greased 8x8 baking dish.

Make sure to scrape the sides of the bowl, you don't want any of that yumminess to go to waste.

Bake at 350 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until brownie begins to pull away from the edges of the dish.

These were so good, we couldn't wait to dig in.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fried Chicken Cutlets and Chicken Parmigiana

Fried chicken cutlets is a dish that I grew up eating. With pasta, lots and lots of pasta. What do you expect, my mom is Italian. It's actually pretty easy to make, and if you are not so hot on frying foods, you could always bake it. And if you want to up the tasty quotient you could turn it into Chicken Parmigiana.

Here is our cast of characters for just the Chicken Cutlets:

~ Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
~ Eggs
~ Milk
~ Italian Breadcrumbs (love these because I don't have to season them)
~ Parmesan Cheese
~ Vegetable Oil

If you want to up the tasty quotient you could turn it into Chicken Parmigiana by adding these ingredients:

~ Tomato Sauce (I like the pre-seasoned ones, but don't tell)
~ Shredded Mozzarella Cheese or an Italian blend

Start out by getting your chicken ready.


You'll notice that I placed the chicken on some saran wrap on my cutting board. This is to keep the bits of chicken from flying all over the place when you do this:



Doesn't that just make you smile :)? OK so maybe I have some pent up emotions that get taken out on the chicken at this point, but if I didn't take it out on the chicken it might all come pouring out on to some innocent bystander like my sister in law. I like my sister in law too much to hit her with a rolling pin.

So anyway, the point of hitting it with the rolling pin (or a mallet or hammer wrapped really well with saran wrap) is to tenderize the chicken and get it to a nice even thickness. This makes it tender when its cooked and helps it to cook faster and more evenly.

Once you get your chicken beaten into submission, it's time to do the same with some eggs and milk.



Only I used a whisk. No need to bust out the heavy machinery on some eggs. They'll submit much easier then the chicken. If you don't have a whisk, a fork works just fine. This is about a quarter cup of milk to two eggs. I don't ever measure this, I just pour in some milk.

I usually make a little tray our of tinfoil for the bread crumbs, but you could just as easily use a shallow baking dish. You can add some Parmesan cheese to the breadcrumbs if you want. About a tablespoon of cheese to a half cup of bread crumbs. Not that I measured any of this.

Also, at this point I am heating up the oil in a large frying pan of between med and med low heat. Just put enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan with about 1/8 of an inch of oil.


If 5 is medium then set it to about a 4. Every stove and pan combo is different, and you will want to find a temperature that works for you. You can check if your oil is hot by swishing it around in the pan, hot oil has a lower viscosity. That means it slides around the pan more like water then like how it poured into the pan. And there is your engineering term for the day, viscosity.

Now that you have the oil warming up, it is time to bread the chicken. Dip the chicken in the egg wash, and flip it over so both sides get coated with egg, then transfer it to the bread crumbs.

Flip it over on both sides in the breadcrumbs, kind of shaking the pan and using your fingers to pat it down to ensure the crumbs get on their real nice.

Next transfer it to the hot oil with a fork. Gently lower it into the oil. The oil should start to bubble up around the chicken.


See the little bubbles around the chicken and how the breadcrumbs that fell off are already starting to brown?

You can see in this next picture that the chicken is starting to cook around the edges. Oh and at this point your kitchen is starting to smell yummy and your roommates are starting to hover. (At least mine were until I chased them away with my rolling pin...*sigh* I guess I have some more issues to work out.)


Now is a good time to flip your chicken. And here is a time saving tip, while your cooking this chicken, you can bread the next few pieces.


Look at that lovely golden brown color. If your oil temperature is too high, the chicken will brown really fast, but the inside of your chicken will still be raw. If your temperature is too low, the breading will soak up more oil and you will end up with soggy breading.

On chicken you are looking for an internal temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit. While you are cooking it you can check the chicken by pressing on it with a fork. If it is still raw in the center it'll be squishy. Chicken that is done will feel more firm. To get an idea of what I mean, press the raw chicken with a fork and feel how soft it is. If the chicken in your pan feels like the raw chicken it is definitely not done. If you are still not sure you could always cut open a piece and check that the middle is not pink.


At this point you could serve the chicken with some pasta and a green veggie to balance it all out, or you could go a little further and make Chicken Parmigiana.

Yeah I want Chicken Parm too! (Yummy) So while I was cooking the chicken I was also warming up a can of spaghetti sauce. I like to mix the different flavors. I think for this dish I mixed the four cheese with the garlic herb.


I guess I should mention that I was also heating up a stock pot of water for some pasta. You can see all three of my pots in this picture. To the left is the chicken and above is the stock pot.

So first lay out your cooked chicken in a baking dish. I like to spray the dish with some spray release like PAM before hand because it makes clean up easier later. Then cover your chicken with sauce.


I had more pictures of this process, but my camera's software randomly deleted some of the pictures I took for this post when I was uploading them...I'm still not sure why.

Any way, once you get it nice and covered with sauce, then smother it with shredded cheese.


That shadow is my hand sprinkling on some more Parmesan cheese.

Bake it in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the cheese is nice and melted like so.


I made some garlic bread too, but I'll save that for another post.

Once it is melted it is ready to serve.


Mmm, if only you could smell it. I let my roommates back into the kitchen so they could eat, now that I was done cooking. They weren't mad at me anymore for chasing them with a rolling pin.

My brother just commented that the chicken parmigiana should have a slightly more crispy cheese coating. He suggested turning on the broiler for a few minutes to get the right texture.

It was so yummy, and I was so full I couldn't even finish it. But it was well worth it.

Oh, I also have a recipe for the left over eggs and breadcrumbs coming soon!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Coming Soon

I have lots of cooking plans for the upcoming week. I'm thinking of making fried chicken cutlets and whatever meat is on sale at the store. I actually made the chicken on friday and then again last night, but both times I was trying to finish in a hurry so I could head back out the door. (It's been crazy busy around my place for the last two weeks) So there was no time to take pics so I could blog about it. But the recipe is really easy. Yet again, no measurements, but there is some fun stress relief when you tenderize the chicken.

I also made some brownies from scratch. Not too hard, and this one does have measurements. I'm still undecided if these are appropriate for my blog, since baking isn't always considered easy. But, this is the best recipe for brownies I've found and it blows the box mix out of the water.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Not Your Usual Suspect Potato Salad

It's spring and almost summer, and that brings all kinds of fabulous fresh foods at the market.

Did I mention that spring is my favorite season

It is, and not just because of all those great fresh fruits and veggies, but also because I can finally hit the beach after that long cold boring winter.

Let me get back on track, I'm here to talk about food, not the beach. I'm here to talk about this:

This is a potato salad, but it instead of mayo you drizzle olive oil on it. The sharpness and crunchiness of the onions contrasts beautifully with the smoother milder flavor of the boiled potatoes. The tomatoes, fresh basil, and olive oil round out the rest of the flavors for a refreshing fabulous salad. And the colors are beautiful. Make this for your mom and she'll start to wonder if you were abducted by aliens.

It's so easy to make and its great for lunch, or a picnic on the beach. And it only takes 5 ingredients plus some salt and pepper.

2 medium Tomatoes
6 medium Red Potatoes
1/2 Red Onion
2 or 3 pieces Fresh Basil
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil

Start by cleaning and then cutting your potatoes into manageable sized pieces. Cut them in half and then quarters or sixths, depending on how big they are to start with.

Drop them into a stock pot and cover with water. Add about a half a teaspoon of salt. Turn the pot on med high and boil until tender. I really don't know how long that is because it depends on the size of the pieces. Check them after about 5 minutes with a fork and that will give you an idea of how much longer they need. If it is easy to stick a fork in them, then they are tender, if not keep cooking.

Meanwhile you can cut the onions and tomatoes and the basil. There is a great video on food network on some
basic knife skills. Alton over at Good Eats demonstrates about half way through the video how to chop your basil. He even shows you how to pare, slice and chop a red onion at the end of the video. You'll notice he uses a paring knife and a chef knife. I did all my cutting with the chef knife pictured above. His entire episode on knives was great and I highly recommend it.

So I sliced the onions into long slices and I cut the tomatoes into about eight slices each and then cut those in half so they would be closer to bite sized. I sliced the basil like Alton demonstrated, and then chopped the slices to make them smaller.

If you don't want to wait for your potatoes to cool, you can drain the hot water in the sink carefully and then fill the pot again with cold water to speed the cooling process. They don't have to be really cool, you just need to be able to handle them comfortably.

Once the potatoes are cool, transfer them to a large bowl. Next I dropped in the tomatoes. See how boring this salad looks without the onions and basil.

Then add the onions and basil. Add a liberal amount of salt and some pepper. This is ultimately up to you, but I feel like it needs a lot of salt. Gently toss the the ingredients together and you could taste the corner of a potato to test the seasoning. Drizzle with olive oil, I used about a quarter cup. Use enough so that when you gently toss the salad again, everything is coated. I used a big plastic bowl with a lid. I popped on the lid and gently shook/rolled the ingredients around.

I cooled the potatoes enough when I made it so I could serve it right away by letting the sink run for about 2 minutes with cool water. But I think this salad tastes much better if you let it sit in the fridge overnight. The flavors all seem to incorporate.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Yota's Yummy Meatloaf

I told a friend that I was going to make meatloaf for my next blog post. He thought it would be too hard. What he doesn't realize is that after Mac and Cheese, the next thing I learned to make was meatloaf, from scratch. My mom's instructions were pretty simple. Open fridge, remove eggs and whatever condiments or other stuff looks good, and mix it with the ground beef and some breadcrumbs. No real measurements, and lots of messy fun, because the best way to mix the meatloaf is with your hands.

Let me introduce my ingredients (This time :))

So we've got ground beef, eggs, mustard, Italian bread crumbs, salsa, and ketchup. I've also been known to add BBQ sauce, chopped onion, diced tomato, or whatever else is on hand. I cheat by using Italian bread crumbs so I don't have to season. Yet again I made enough for lots of people, so what's pictured is more than you'll need. I've cut the recipe down for you. I don't really measure when I make this recipe, but I'll give you my best guess.

1 lb ground beef
1 egg
2 tbsp mustard (yellow, spicy, whatever makes you happy)
4 tbsp ketchup
4 tbsp salsa
2 tbs Parmesan Cheese (not pictured, just pretend its there)
1/4 - 1/2 cup bread crumbs (Start with 1/4 and add more until you get the right consistancy)

So throw everything in the bowl, like so:

Looks like a big goopy mess! The kid in me is cheering right now.

Now add the bread crumbs:

This is the point where we get our hands dirty. Just dig in. You could start one handed so you have a free hand to sprinkle in some more breadcrumbs if necessary. Or you could jump in with both hands. Ok so both hands is way more fun.

You looking for a consistency that is still moist, but not falling apart. Also, you don't want to over work the meat because you'll end up with a brick instead of a meatloaf. (Think Hagrid's tea cakes).

Now its time to shape our meatloaf. All you need is a baking dish, and either some oil or some spray release like Pam. Spray your pan, drop your meatloaf in the middle. Shape it like, well, like a meatloaf.

At this point some people slather the top of their meatloaf with ketchup like its some kind of frosting. I never do. I just don't get the concept, I spent all that time making the meat moist and flavorful, why would I want to bury all that flavor under ketchup?

Bake at 350 for about 1 hour. You're looking for an internal temperature of 160 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Or you could cut it open and make sure it is not pink in the middle. A meat thermometer is not expensive, is easy to calibrate, and best of all keeps you from getting food poisoning from your own cooking. The one I have even has a handy chart with internal temperatures.

Anywho, now that I've finished my rant about the strange ketchup frosting (why?) and the joys of a thermometer (brilliant!), let me show you what my meatloaf looked like before I cooked it.

Hey, um Yota? that doesn't look like a meatloaf. You know that looks a lot like, well, I don't want to hurt your feelings.

No really you can tell me.

It looks a lot like hamburgers.

I knew I couldn't pass off my hamburgers as meatloaf. But wait! I use the same recipe to prepare the meat for meatloaf and hamburgers.

I put these on the grill, but you could just as easily put these in your fry pan. Add a little oil to your fry pan and cook over med heat. cook about 7 minutes per side, depending on thickness. You want the same internal temperature of 160 to 170 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now this is the point where I would post a lovely finished shot of my hamburgers, but the battery died on my camera, and well honestly, we were too hungry to save one while we waited for the camera to charge. So just pretend that there is a nice picture of a hamburger with all the fixings here.

Hope you enjoy!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Upcoming recipes

I just made meatloaf with the leftover ground beef from more than just mac & cheese, and a potato salad that uses olive oil instead of mayo. Very yummy and refreshing for summer. Updates coming soon!

Friday, April 24, 2009

More Than Just Mac & Cheese

Ah, Mac & Cheese. I have such fond childhood memories of this classic straight from the box. It's the first thing I probably learned to cook.

Yes, I said from a box. I could make it from scratch, but that wouldn't meet one of the requirements I set for this blog: cheap. Oh and easy. Anyway there are already some really great recipes for homemade Mac and Cheese like this one over at Pioneer Woman. Hers looks mouthwatering. I haven't had a chance to make it, but it requires making a roux. (A what?!? Exactly)

But the point here is not to just read the directions on the box for you, but rather to give you a few tips on how to make Mac & Cheese more than just Mac & Cheese. Let's start with the cast of Characters:

Ok so I know it looks like a lot, but I made a double batch (I was cooking for four), so I'm going to cut all the amounts I used in half for you.

1/2 pound Ground Beef (I used chuck because it was on sale, and drained off the excess grease)
1 box Mac & Cheese (the kind with the powdered cheese)**
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine (equivalent to 1/2 stick)
8 ounces frozen broccoli
1/2 tsp Lawry's Seasoned Salt
Salt and Pepper to taste
**If you get the Velveeta kind, you won't need the milk or butter.

In your spiffy new Sauce Pan either spray some non stick spray (Pam) or add about a tbsp of vegetable oil. Turn the heat to medium high. Meanwhile in your new sauce pan boil some water. I usually fill the pan just less than half full for mac and cheese, but you can follow the box directions for exact measurements. Turn this pot on high, and cover so it boils faster.

Once the oil is hot, (it will flow more easily around the pan), add the ground beef. Season with the Lawry's Seasoned Salt. (I will admit I guesstimated this measurement a little conservatively. Taste it once the meat is cooked and add more if you like.)

Using a wooden spoon or a spatula, break the meat up and mix around as you brown it. You don't have to stir it constantly, but you do have to watch it so it doesn't burn. Cook until there is no more pink. Remove from heat, drain the excess fat, and set aside. This is a good time to taste it to see if it needs more Lawry's or you could add garlic, salt, pepper, whatever floats your boat.

Meanwhile your water should start boiling. Go ahead and add the pasta from the box of Mac & Cheese. We're cooking the mac and cheese per the directions on the box. Meanwhile, drop the broccoli in a microwave safe bowl with about two tablespoons of water. Microwave on high for about 6 minutes. (Check the package, I cooked a whole pound, it might be less for a half a pound) If you don't like broccoli you could add any other frozen veggie that you like.

Once the pasta is cooked, (You can check if it's cooked by fishing out a piece, rinsing it in cool water and tasting it. Or look it see if the edges are starting to turn lighter in color then the centers. Or if it sticks to your cabinet when you throw it at it a la You Can't Do That on Television).

Anywho, once it is done, strain the pasta. In the now empty sauce pan, add the butter, and milk. Warm that up on the stove on a medium low heat to melt the butter. Then added the cheese packet and stir until smooth. This seems to make the cheaper versions of Mac and Cheese taste less powdered.
Add the pasta and stir until mixed. Now I added the pasta to the dish with the meat, but if you could do it the other way around too.

Finally I added the broccoli and stirred it all together.

Then just scoop some onto a plate and enjoy.

Ok so just to recap:

1/2 pound Ground Beef (I used chuck because it was on sale, and drained off the excess grease)
1 box Mac & Cheese (the kind with the powdered cheese)**
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine (equivalent to 1/2 stick)
8 ounces frozen broccoli
1/2 tsp Lawry's Seasoned Salt
Salt and Pepper to taste
**If you get the Velveeta kind, you won't need the milk or butter.

Brown the ground beef and season to taste.
Cook the Mac and Cheese per the package directions
Cook the Broccoli per the package directions (I microwaved it)
Mix the three together.
Do a final taste test and add more Lawry's Seasoned Salt, or Salt, or Pepper, or Garlic, or whatever floats your boat if necessary.

This is just one way that I turned Mac and Cheese into a meal. There are lots of things you could do. Instead of Ground beef you could use cooked hot dog or sausage. Broccoli could be green beans or peas, or no veggies if you are so inclined. All you need is a little imagination, and willingness to experiment. Sometimes you'll fail, but sometimes you'll amaze yourself.

I hope you like it!