Foodie Reveal: June

This last month I learned about and decided to be a Foodie Penpal. I can’t remember how I fell upon this program, but it struck me as being so exciting. You sign up. On the 5th of the month you are given your assignment, of who you will be sending treats to. By the 15th of the month you send out your box of treats, having spent about $15 on what you put in the box. Finally on the last day of the month you make a post, sharing what you have and linking it to the roundup.

For my first month as a Foodie Penpal, Rose sent me a box of yummies. These treats hailed from Washington state, not too far from where I am in California. She sent me a variety of good things! I got things I can cook with, things I can snack on, and tea! Everything that I’ve tried out of the box so far has been delicious.

First I got a bottle of Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar from Trader Joe’s. I don’t really shop at Trader Joe’s for two reasons: first being I’m really cheap most of the time and second being there isn’t one around me. I love getting stuff from there though because everything is so exciting and not the norm you get at other grocery stores. I haven’t used this yet, but I was looking online about how people have used it. besides using it in salad dressings on lettuce and other vegetables, it also seems like it will make a great marinade. I was hoping to use all the ingredients Rose sent me and provide recipes to what I made with them, but unfortunately I just ran out of time for this vinegar. Keep your eyes open though, because I’m sure something involving this vinegar will grace my blog eventually.

This picture doesn’t do any justice to what’s inside the bag. Unfortunately the day the mail arrived it was flaming hot outside and the chocolate that was in the box began to melt. As soon as I saw, I threw all the melted stuff in the refrigerator and let it harden. It didn’t ruin any of the taste, but it lost some of its prettiness. Anyway, Rose shared with me some chocolate covered coconut. I love coconut and I love chocolate. I’ve brought these to work and they’ve been sitting in my drawer, getting munched on frequently.

Rose also sent me a bagful of Russian candies. I’m not going to lie – this intimidated me. My dad used to buy Russian candy when my brother and I were little and put it in our Christmas stockings, instead of the Hershey’s I’ve wanted. I really hated the chocolate he used to buy – it had all these strange fillings that I just didn’t like. When I saw all the Russian candy in my box I was worried that it would either go to waste or that I’d have to feed it all to Matt. I decided to not be closed minded about it though and to try some of the chocolate. My conclusion is that my dad just has bad taste in choosing Russian chocolates, because the ones Rose sent me have been delicious. I’ve been giving myself one treat of chocolate each night after dinner. This is a good lesson in not making judgments too quickly! Because I would have missed out.

Rose also sent me a bag of Northwest Vitality tea from her favorite tea store. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet (and really, I should have made myself a cup of it with the dinner I made from this box,) but oh well. I’ll make myself a cup as soon as I’m done with this blog!

Also included in the box was a bag of candied ginger. I’m not sure what I think about this yet! Ginger is such a strong flavor, and while I knew what it was when I stuck it in my mouth, it still caught me off guard and overwhelmed me. But how interesting! I love the concept.

Another treat in this box was a package of Trader Joe’s roasted seaweed snacks. This brought me back to grade school. The school I went to, in San Francisco, was very Asian. Growing up I have had a lot of Asian influence, including snacks. Back in the day, my friends would bring seaweed to school and they’d always give me some as a trade for a cookie. I remember how strange I thought the seaweed was before I first tried it, but then how in love I fell with the crunch and the salty flavor. This package also made it’s way into my drawer at work. It’s already gone. :X

The last part of this box actually assisted me in dinner tonight. Rose got me more from Trader Joe’s! She got me some South African Smoke Seasoning Blend and Rice Orzo Pilaf. I love to cook, so I was glad to get something I could create a meal with.  I wasn’t really sure what to do with the spice, but after looking online I found a delicious recipe that I had to try. I feel like I get the spice mix now and see what I can really do with it. I served the chicken dish with the pilaf. Delicious and easy!

Inspired by my Foodie Penpal box, dinner tonight was a hit! Matt usually hates cinnamon on savory dishes, but the South African Smoked Spice Blend combined with the cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice really created an incredibly interesting explosion in my mouth. The flavors of the pilaf blended perfectly.

I’m hoping every month with my Foodie Penpal box I can make some sort of meal from the contents!

DO YOU HAVE OTHER IDEAS FOR WHAT I CAN MAKE WITH THE SOUTH AFRICAN SMOKED SPICE BLEND AND/OR THE ORANGE MUSCAT CHAMPAGNE? 

Spiced Chicken and Mushrooms

Ingredients
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp garlic powder
dash of turmeric
dash of paprika
dash of South African Smoked Spice Blend
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
6 mushrooms, sliced

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. Pound your chicken breast to 1/2-inch in thickness. Cut each flattened breast in half. I’ve really found recently that pounding your chicken makes it cook better and also makes it appear to have more on the plate.

3. Mix the spices together in a small bowl.

4. Place the chicken in a casserole dish. Using a pastry brush, brush the chicken with the oil on both sides. Using the brush, brush the spice mixture evenly on both sides of the chicken.

5. Cover with mushrooms.

6. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the chicken, pour the rest of the vegetable oil over the chicken, and cook for 15 more minutes.

* serves 2
* 206 calories per serving

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Chicken Cacciatore and Sauteed Mushrooms

The only downfall of this dish is that I should have actually used the mushrooms as a garnish on top of the chicken instead of having them in their own little awkward pile. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but Matt definitely had the right idea when he topped his chicken with the mushrooms. Considering I was alternating between bites of mushrooms and bites of chicken, it really would have just been a better choice.

But each element on its own, the chicken and the mushrooms, were so flavorful.

Next time I know what I need to do different.

Chicken Cacciatore
(from the cookbook The Garlic Lovers’ Cookbook)

Ingredients
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb canned full tomato
4 oz tomato sauce
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp oregano
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350.

2. Pound the chicken until it’s 1/2 inch thick.

3. In a large skillet, brown the chicken in hot oil. Remove and set on paper towels to drain.

4. Saute onions and garlic in the remaining oil until soft. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, salt, oregano, and pepper. Smash the tomatoes with your wooden spoon. Bring to a boil, then cover, lower the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

5. Place the chicken and sauce in a casserole dish. Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove. Cover and sprinkle with cheese. Cook until melted.

* serves 2
* Shared with Cookbook Sundays

Sauteed Mushrooms
(source

 Ingredients
1 tbsp Brummel&Brown
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp dried oregano
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced

1. Melt the butter with oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir in balsamic vinegar, garlic, oregano, and mushrooms. Saute for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender.

2. Be smarter than me and top your chicken with these mushrooms!!

 * serves 2

Basil Fried Rice

Matt loves fried rice, so I’m frequently trying out new varieties. This dish was delicious, with a touch of basil.

BasilFried Rice
(inspiration)

 Ingredients
3 tbsp vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined, and minced
1 inch ginger, minced
1/2 onion, diced
12 mushrooms, sliced
2 cups cooked rice
1/2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp dried basil

Directions

1. Heat oil in a heavy skillet. Add the garlic, jalapeno, and ginger. Saute for a minute on high heat.

2. Add the onions and saute until slightly brown, about 3 minutes.

3. Add the mushrooms, soy sauce, and sugar. Continue to saute, several minutes.

4. Add the rice and mix well, making sure to coat the rice with the soy sauce and vegetables. Cook for about 5 minutes.

5. Add the basil leaves and mix well.

* serves 2
* 466 calories per serving

Strawberry Mint Chocolate Layered Mousse Cakes

Every month I try to participate in the baking challenge at BakeBakeBake at Livejournal. This month’s challenge theme was LAYERS. After racking my brain and surfing the web, I decided to make a layered mousse cake. After several days of contemplating flavors, I decided to make a chocolate cake topped with white chocolate mint mousse and strawberry mousse. They’re kind of messy looking, but being I’ve never worked with mousse in this capacity before and I was having a damned hard time getting the tubes made of wax paper to be straight and cylindrical, I am very proud of how these came out.

They tasted delicious.
It took me a total of three days to finish, but it was worth it.

Strawberry Mint Chocolate Layered Mousse Cakes

Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tbsp cocoa powder
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/2 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

FOR THE WHITE CHOCOLATE MINT MOUSSE
9 oz white chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
1 egg white
1/4 tsp peppermint extract

FOR THE STRAWBERRY MOUSSE
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 tbsp strawberry puree
1 tsp gelatin
3 tbsp cool water

Directions

FOR THE CAKE

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Place 3 ramekins on a baking sheet and coat with cooking spray. Set aside.

2. Stir flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add egg, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract. Beat in a stand mixer until well combined.

3. Divide the batter equally between the 3 ramekins.

4. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cake is cooked all the way through. Allow to cool before preparation.

 FOR THE WHITE CHOCOLATE MINT MOUSSE

1. In a double boiler melt the white chocolate chips. Stir gently occasionally. Once melted, set aside and allow to cool.

2. In the bowl of the stand mixer whip together the cream, egg white, and peppermint extract until you have created soft peaks.

3. Gently fold the cream into the melted white chocolate.

FOR THE STRAWBERRY MOUSSE

1. Bring the strawberry puree to a boil. Remove from heat and cool.

2. In a small bowl fill with the cool water. Top with the gelatin. Allow the gelatin to bloom.

3. Meanwhile, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form.

4. Heat the gelatin over simmering water. Remove from heat and stir into the strawberry puree.

5. Fold the strawberry mixture into the cream.

TO PREPARE THE CAKES

1. Once your cakes have cooled and have been removed from the ramekins, wrap them in wax paper to create a tube. (I should have taken a picture of this step, but I didn’t. Here’s a picture from Sugar For The Brain to demonstrate.)

2. In a pastry bag or a ziplock bag with the corner cut off, divide the white chocolate peppermint mousse between the three cakes, squeezing the mousse into the wax paper tubes. Smooth and place in the refrigerator for about an hour.

3. In a pastry bag or ziplock bag with the corner cut off, divide the strawberry mousse between the three cakes, squeezing the mousse into the wax paper tubes. Smooth and place in the refrigerator for about an hour.

* serves 3
* Besides BakeBakeBake, I’m sharing this recipe with The Recipe Box 

Cheez-It Chicken

Chicken is by far my favorite choice of protein ever. I’ve always loved chicken, since I was little. As I’ve gotten older one of the reasons I love chicken so much is because it’s so versatile. I feel like you can do more with chicken than most other meats. You can dress it up and make it fancy, you can downplay it and make it simple . . . It can wear so many different breadings and marinades. It can do no wrong.

This chicken dress wears a breading made of Cheez-Its. I had intended to buy plain Cheez-Its, but when I was in the store I saw the Pepper Jack variety and knew that my chicken really wanted that flavor on it.

I actually could have used even a little more spice, but the flavor of the crackers on the chicken was excellent!

I served the chicken with a Brussels Sprouts Casserole, which was okay. I’m not crazy about Brussels sprouts to begin with so they’re always just “okay.” I just have to force myself to eat veggies sometimes.

Cheez-It Chicken
(source)

Ingredients
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups Cheez-Its
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions

1. Cut the chicken breasts in half. Pound them to about 1/2 inch thin with a mallet.

2. Place the Cheez-Its in a ziplock bag and crush them with a rolling pin.

3. Preheat the oven to 375.

4. Roll the chicken in the sour cream. Cover with crushed Cheez-Its.

5. Place in a baking dish. Drizzle with the vegetable oil.

6. Bake for approximately 40 minutes.

* serves 2
* 443 calories per serving
* Shared with Foodie Friday & Foodie Friday 

Baker’s Edge Lasagna

For Christmas my boyfriend bought me a Baker’s Edge lasagna pan. I’ve been entirely intimidated to use it, so up until this lasagna dish it’s been sitting collecting dust. I shouldn’t have been so nervous about using it, because I’ve now decided it actually makes making lasagna a lot easier. Doing the layers was easier, serving it was easier . . . It really simplified the lasagna process. I’m glad I finally got over my baker’s edge anxiety and I will definitely be using this lasagna pan here on out!

I decreased the amount of beef in this recipe significantly, because I didn’t want to have to buy more so I just used all I had. But I don’t think that hurt the dish and actually may have helped it more.

Baker’s Edge Lasagna
(source)

Ingredients
15 oz ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 eggs
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
4 cups pasta sauce
1/4 lb ground beef
12 lasagna noodles, uncooked
6 cups shredded mozzarella

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. In a bowl combine the ricotta, Parmesan, eggs, oregano, and basil. Mix together well. In another bowl mix together the ground beef and the pasta sauce.

3. Spray the baker’s edge lasagna pan with cooking spray. Spread 1/4 of the meat mixture on the bottom of the pan. Layer one noodle in each section of the pan. Top with 1/2 ricotta, 1/4 meat sauce, and 1/3 of mozzarella. Repeat the process again, beginning with the noodles.  Top with the last four noodles, the sauce, and the mozzarella cheese.

4. Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil. Bake for 55 minutes. Uncover and bake for an additionally 10 to 15 minutes.

* serves about 8
* 569 calories per serving
* Shared with Presto Pasta Nights hosted this week at Bricole, Food of the Month Club, and What’s Cooking Wednesday

Presto Pasta Nights Roundup

How sad is it that the one week I decide to host PPN I don’t cook a pasta dish? This week has gotten ahead of me. For a little bit of non-pasta-related information, I’m interning this summer in a law office. It’s actually the same office I’ve been working in all year, but this summer is full-time and it’s intense. It’s looking like I might go to trial in a case on the 26th and I’m extremely nervous and have been spending a lot of time prepping for it. Because of that, I just haven’t been cooking as much as I usually do. But I’m disappointed because I was going to make this tomatillo cream sauce pasta and I just never got to it.

I’m glad the rest of you found time for your pasta dishes! They looked great!

Sarah from What Smells So Good? submitted One Day at a Time Lasagnettes with Dark and Rich Sundried Tomato Sauce. These mini lasagnas, or lasgnettes, look delicious. Sarah made the lasagnettes for an easy to warm up dinner, to help keep her family balanced during a rough time. Sarah, I hope things work out for the best with everything and keep up your spirits!

Graziana from Erbe in Cucina (Cooking with Herbs) shared Baked Pasta with Peppers and Cinnamon Basil. When I first saw this recipe I was overcome with intrigue.. What is cinnamon basil?! I wonder if I can find any in my neck of the woods, because Graziana’s description of it sounds delicious.

Katerina from Culinary Flavors shared her Pasta Alfredo with Jack Daniels Chicken this week. Katerina first had this dish when a Fridays opened in Athens, Greece. She decided that delicious as it was, she needed something healthier. Instead of opting out of the dish entirely, Katerina developed her own version of the dish. Jack Daniels chicken sounds delicious! This recipe is getting added to my bookmarks.

Last but not least in our small roundup this week, Joanne from Eats Well With Others shared her Coriander and Nori Pesto Soba with Wok Seared Greens. After returning home from BlogHer Food, Joanne felt the need to detox and eat very green! This Asian inspired dish sounds like the perfect detox with green foods, as well as being full of flavor!

Clearly I am scattered this week, because I forgot to post Ruth from Once Upon a Feast’s submission! Ruth shared her Shrimp & Fiddlehead Pasta with Garlicscape & Pistachio Pesto. Once again, I am intrigued by the ingredients in this dish. Fiddlehead must be something I should try! The combination of the shrimp and the pesto looks absolutely delicious as well.

Thanks everyone for sharing this week. I wish I had participated myself, but we all know how life works sometimes. The next Presto Pasta Nights announcement is already up! Check it out at Bricole!

Worcestershire Pork Chops and Vegetable Fried Rice

This was actually intended to be a soy sauce marinated pork chop, but I didn’t realize how low we were on soy sauce and didn’t buy any. Unfortunately by the time pork chop night came, the soy sauce was all gone because the boyfriend dumped it on his rice on Black Pepper Chicken night. I was racking my brain trying to figure out what to use without going to the store and opted for the Worcestershire. I later realized I had teriyaki sauce I could have used, but the Worcestershire worked well and the chops were delicious!

Worcestershire Pork Chops 

Ingredients
2 pork chops
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp sake
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus some more for cooking
1 tsp sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp ginger, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp corn starch
1/2 tbsp onion, minced

Directions

1. Combine the ingredients in a ziplock bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Shake the bag so the pork chops are covered. Put in the fridge for 20 minutes.

2. In a skillet heat up a little bit of oil. Cook long enough for the pork chops to brown on one side. Flip and let brown on the other side.

3. Cover with a lid, lower heat, and cook for 3 minutes.

4. Add any extra marinade to the skillet.  Increase the heat. Once simmering, pour over the chops.

* serves 2
* 261 calories per serving

 The rice was also a hit. I haven’t been very good about eating my veggies. I really need to do something about that, because I obviously need them. This rice dish was a nice way to incorporate veggies in without being a “veggie” dish.

Vegetable Fried Rice

Ingredients
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp uncooked rice
3/4 cups water
1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 mushrooms, chopped
2 oz canned bamboo shoots
1 carrot, chopped
3 tbsp snow peas

Directions

1. Cook the rice either in a pot or a rice cooker.

2. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a skillet. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook until tender.

3. In a medium bowl blend the eggs and 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce. Stir into the skillet and scramble with the garlic and onions. Remove the eggs from the skillet.

4. Heat the remaining oil. Place the mushrooms and celery in the skillet and cook until the mushrooms are tender and release liquid. Add the bamboo shoots, carrots, snow peas, and rice. Heat through. Then add the eggs and stir to combine

* serves 2
*146 calories per serving

* Shared with What’s Cooking Wednesday

Black Pepper Chicken

This month over at Food ‘n Flix we’re watching a movie called The Mistress of Spices hosted by Camilla. Tilo owns a spice shop and was trained in India, honing her natural skills of being able to read people. Tilo now lives in the Bay Area, selling spices to people – being able to pick out what they need for certain situations.

I wish there was a spice shop like Tilo’s around. I would love to learn what spices are best for my current life situation – reduce my stress, make me a good lawyer, accomplish my goals… I need Tilo in my life to inspire me to use the right spices!

For this dish I focused on black pepper. I feel like pepper is something so commonly used, but easily overlooked. I use black pepper in almost everything I cook – more than salt actually. I love the spice it can add to a dish and how it can help emphasize the other flavors of the dish.

According to wikipedia, pepper originates in South East Asia and has been used in Indian cooking essentially forever. In fact, the peppercorns used to be known as “black-gold” and were used as a form of money. Look how rich I am! This dish is like eating gold!

Black pepper is now commonly used in cuisines all around the world. It’s one of the most used spices in my kitchen, so I need to remember to not neglect it and to value it for what it is.

Black Pepper Chicken

Ingredients
1/2 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch fresh ginger root, skinned and minced
1 tbsp ground black peppercorns, coarsely ground
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp ground mustard
pinch of red chili flakes
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin

Directions

1. Marinate the chicken in the yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, pepper, chili powder, turmeric, and salt. Let sit for 20 minutes in the refrigerator.

2. In a deep pan heat the vegetable oil, on high. Add the mustard and chili flakes. Fry for 15 seconds. Add the coriander and cumin, and stir for 35 seconds.

3. Add the marinated chicken to the pan, browning the chicken on each side. Lower the heat, cover with a lid, and cook for 15 minutes.

4. Serve over rice.

* serves 2
* Shared with Food ‘n Flix

Cheese and Tomato Baked Egg

I don’t typically do eggs. I’ve been told I have high cholesterol, so I pretty much avoid eggs. It hasn’t been entirely hard because I’ve never really been an egg person. Really, I was never really a breakfast person and that’s probably why eggs and I never really got on. But I finally busted out these ramekins when I made the Dutch Babies recently and also made mini chocolate souffles for my mom’s birthday (which I forgot to take pictures of!) I’ve really liked the ramekins, so I’ve been bookmarking page after page of ramekin related recipes.

Breakfast for dinner is better than breakfast for breakfast, in my opinion. This meal was light and delicious, despite not really liking eggs most of the time.

Cheese and Tomato Baked Egg
(source)

Ingredients
1/2 tomato, chopped
1 tbsp grated cheddar cheese
1 egg
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375.

2. Place the tomatoes at the bottom of a ramekin and cover with half the cheese grated cheese.

3. Crack the egg and add it to the ramekin. Top with the remaining cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

* serves 1
* 113 calories per egg
* Shared with Foodie Friday & Foodie Friday