15 April, 2012

Grilled Shrimp and Smashed Avocado

A perfect quick snack or light lunch. You will need skewers for the grill.

You will need:
10 shrimp, raw, shelled and deveined
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 avocado
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Lightly oil grates of grill.  Preheat grill to med-high heat.

In a bowl, toss the shrimp with 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.  Thread shrimp on skewers.

Cut lemon into slices.

Add lemon and shrimp skewers to grill.  Grill about 2-3 minutes, flipping both shrimp and lemon once.  Cook until shrimp is opaque.

In the meantime, peel and core the avocado,  Place in a mixing bowl and lightly mash with a potato masher, leaving kind of chunky.  Add lime juice, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, top the smashed avocado with the grilled shrimp.  Serve with grilled lemon.

14 April, 2012

Cardamom Scented Carrot Cheesecake

I first became aware of celiac disease when I met my step-dad.  At first, it was hard to comprehend.  No flour??!!  No bread? Pasta? Cake? Pizza???!!  etc, etc....  WHAT DO YOU EAT?!!?

That was before the surge in public awareness of gluten free eating.  Now it's pretty mainstream- with people choosing to go gluten-free for it's health benefits.  When I look at my step-dad's diet, it's completely apparent to me that gluten-free diets ARE more healthy.  To make up for the calories missing from bread and other 'glutinated' items, he eats extra veggies, and more often eats quinoa and brown rice.  

Since becoming more aware of gluten-free eating, I have gone completely gluten free in the past, and currently attempt to make healthier, gluten-free choices when possible (fairly speaking though- I DO eat   my share of gluten).  I enjoy the challenge of trying to make recipes gluten-free.

I am not, by any means, saying the following recipe for Carrot Cheesecake is healthy...  :)  But is IS gluten-free.  And DELICIOUSSSSS.

Cardamom Scented Carrot Cheesecake

This cake is time consuming (plan a whole day to prepare), but worth it.  I brought it to Easter dinner and got RAVE reviews.  Make it a day ahead- it's better the second day.

2, 7.25 packages of Pamela's Pecan Shortbread Cookies
5 tbsp butter

4, 8 ounce bars cream cheese
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp plain greek yogurt
4 eggs
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cardamom

2 cups gluten-free flour mix- I used Betty Crocker Gluten-Free baking mix
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, room temp
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
3 cups peeled and grated carrots
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardomom
1 tsp salt
1 cup walnuts
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Cream Cheese Icing:
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 ounces unsalted butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla

You will need a 9 inch springform pan, 9 inch round cake pan, and parchment paper.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.

2. Melt butter.  Add shortbread cookies to a food processor, and process until crumbs.  Slowly drizzle in the butter while still processing, allowing it to gradually wet all the crumbs. The crumbs should stick together a little when you press a handful into a ball.  If they don't add another tbsp of butter- but adding too much butter will make the crust very heavy, so be careful.

3. Dumb the cookie/butter mixture into the springform pan.  Press it down with the palms of your hand until it forms a solid, flat layer of crust.  When you think it's been pressed down well, press it down some more.  Do not press the crust up on the sides of the pan, keep it flat- as a base for the cake.

4. Bake in oven for 20 minutes.  LET COOL before adding cake batters, but leave oven on at 350.

1. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and brown sugar until smooth and light.  Blend in cream, and then add eggs one at a time, mixing just to combine the eggs with the cream cheese mixture.  Mix in the rest of the ingredients  Set aside, and make the carrotcake.

1. Lightly grease the cake pan, and place a circle of parchment paper down, leaving a little parchment hanging over for easy removal of the cake.

2. In a large bowl, cream sugar and eggs. Add vegetable oil and vanilla, mixing until smooth.

3. In another bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour mix, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cardamom.

4. Gradually add the flour mixture to the sugar and egg mixture, stirring gently to combine.  Once combined, fold in the carrots and walnuts.

To assemble:
In the spring form pan:
1. On top of the cooled crust, add 1/2 of the cheesecake batter.

2. Add 1/2 of the carrotcake batter on top by small spoonfuls.  If it is poured on top in the center, you won't be able to spread it without combining it with the cheesecake layer.  By adding it with small spoonfuls, you can get the cake pretty mush covered, using a rubber scraper (or butter knife) to drag the spoonfuls together, making one solid layer.

3. Add the rest of the cheesecake batter, spreading evenly.

4. Bake in preheated oven for one hour.  After the hour, turn off oven, but leave cake inside for two hours.  Take out and cool completely on wire racks.

In the 9 inch cake pan:
1. Add the remaining carrotcake batter to the cake pan.  Bake in oven (with carrotcake) removing after 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Halfway through cooking time, switch the positions of the two cakes, so they cook evenly.

2. Let cool completely.

Once cool, use the parchment paper to remove the carrotcake from the pan.  Very carefully, place this layer ON TOP of the Cheesecake.  Try to keep the carrotcake from crumbling when doing this, but f it does you can hide it with the cream cheese frosting.

You now have a cake with 4 layers- cheesecake, carrotcake, cheesecake, carrotcake.

The frosting:
1. Cream the cream cheese and butter together until light and fluffy.  Add vanilla.  Gradually add the powdered sugar.  Mix until frosting is light and fluffy.  Apply to cake with a rubber scraper, spatula,  or spoon into a piping bag to decorate.

Store in fridge overnight.

04 April, 2012

Blogging is hard.

So I've had a blog site and been on Twitter for about 2 weeks now, and I've come to the realization that blogging is hard!  In this food-blog era, there are so many awesome blogs that have been existence for a while and have kinks worked out.  I can't even figure out how to get tabs at the top of my page to organize recipes, links, etc!  How the heck do you bloggers do that?!?

But I'm working on it.  It's taking a while to figure this all out, being new to blogs and blogging and having not much computer knowledge.  I don't know what I'm doing.  I just make up stuff as I go.  Cooking too.  Let it be noted that I am no chef, no expert in the culinary field.  I post recipes of things I made that are good (I don't post ones that didn't work out haha, but maybe I should.)  I throw in a little of this and a little of that, and voila!  My boyfriend likes these meals.  Though I take inspiration from other recipes or restaurant meals, these dishes are my own creation (unless otherwise noted).    I look forward to developing what exactly I am doing in the culinary field, where I am going with this, and I invite you to watch me keep making up stuff as I go!

So far, most of my dishes are healthy, using fresh, seasonal, and as much as possible organic ingredients.  I believe in real food, not canned, chemically injected, pesticide ridden, mass produced 'food'.  You'll find I often make gluten free dishes- I do not have celiac disease, but my step-dad does, and I think it's a healthier way of living anyway.  So I'll continue on, reforming my blog, tweeting away.  I'll start a facebook page shortly as well so stay tuned!

And here's my fresh side dish of the day!

Super Simple Heirloom Tomato Salad

This is so simple and easy I'm not sure I can call it a recipe.  Just something I threw together real quick. Fresh, sweet, and juicy heirloom tomatoes are really what does it here- don't even bother if you have any other kind of tomato on hand.

3 Heirloom tomatoes, in different colors and sized for distinction on plate
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (plus little extra for drizzling)
Fresh parsley
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Mix balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and 1 tbsp fresh parsley together in bowl.

Slice tomatoes into 1/2 thick slices. Pour a little balsamic vinegar on plate.  Layer 1 slice of each tomato on a dish, layering smaller slices on top of larger slices.

Drizzle with olive oil mixture.


03 April, 2012

Mango Chorizo Stuffed Pork Chops

I have a recipe from a cookbook by Chef Bob Peterik that I've been anxious to try.  It was for Mango Chorizo Stuffed Chicken, but it works great with pork.  The mango chorizo marinade and stuffing is pretty much his recipe, I made a few minor tweaks and changed cooking methods.

Mango Chorizo Stuffed Pork Chops with 
Raw Honey and Mango 

You will need:

Pork marinade:
2 bone in center cut pork chops
2 mangos, peeled and pureed
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar

1 mango, peeled and pureed
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
1/4 pound chorizo sausage
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, stem and seed removed, diced small
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1/2 cup butter, melted

1 mango, peeled and pureed
2 tbsp raw honey
1 tsp cayenne pepper plus a pinch

Combine the mangos for the marinade with the sugar and white wine vinegar in a tupperware, mix thoroughly.  Add the pork chops, and marinate for 2 hours to overnight.

Cook the chorizo in a saute pan until brown and crumbly.  Remove, drain accumulated fat, and set chorizo aside.  Using same pan, heat olive oil and add the onion and jalapeno.  Cook until onion is soft and getting tan, about 8-10 minutes.

Add the chorizo, 1 of the 2 pureed mangos, onion and jalapeno to a bowl and mix well.  Season with a little salt and pepper.

Preheat grill to med heat.

Remove pork chops from marinade.  Discard marinade.  Season chops with salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne.  Using a paring knife or small sharp knife, cut a small pocket in the pork chop, cutting all the way to the bone.  Stuff the each chop with the stuffing, pressing as much in as you can.  Secure with a toothpick.

Place chops on the grill over heat.

Combine mango, raw honey, and cayenne. Reserve 2 tbsp, and baste the pork chops with remainer every 5 minutes or so (it keeps them nice and juicy!)  Flip after about 20 minutes.  Cook a total of 45 minutes, or until done. Top each chop with a reserved tbsp of mango and raw honey mixture.  Enjoy!

Some other favorite recipes:
Turkey Piccata with Charred Penne
Tomato Braised Kale

01 April, 2012

Philly Farm and Food Fest

Gardening, Local Foods
I've decided I want to be a beekeeper.

I wrote that sentence, spent about 2 minutes researching beekeeping, and would like to retract that statement.  The condo is apparently not conducive to raising bees.  Or 'keeping' them I should say.  C'mon, I knew that!  Was thinking when we moooove!  I think I'd be a great beekeeper.  I'd keep those bees real good.  They'd be 'kept' bees.  :)   I didn't realize when considering keeping bees, you'd have to also consider where they fly for pollen and water, how much they might bother neighbors if neighbors are nearby, where their excrement is going to land (it apparently damages car engines somehow), etc etc.  I kind of thought they'd just do their thing.  And I'd just go get some honey here and there.  That said, I'm still going to think about it.  Do more research.

Anyway, what got me started on the whole beekeeping thing- I've been interested in general, and then I went to the Philly Farm Fest and found Urban Apiaries and Subarashil Kudamono.  Urban Apiaries has this awesome raw honey that has a grainy texture, and Subarashil's Asian Pear Blossom Honey is amazing!!  As I understand it, honey from local bees is pretty much infused with asian pear blossom.  I can't wait to cook something with it, I just don't know what yet.  I did use my raw honey in tonight's dinner.  I made Mango-Chorizo Pork Chops with a Raw Honey and Mango Glaze.  I'll post the recipe tomorrow.  I can't wait to use the rest of the items I bought:

Goodies found at the FarmFest
The FarmFest was a good opportunity to meet local farmers, learn about food co-ops and CSA's, learn about gardening and bees and other farming related things!  I'll be volunteering at a local CSA this spring and I can't wait. In case you don't know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  The community helps support the farm.  They do this by buying a share (maybe $300 for a membership for the year).  Then every week during growing season, they get a share of the crops.  They are supporting the farm by sharing the risk; i.e. if the farm does not produce many crops, the members don't get much produce.  But the farmer still survives.  If the farm has a great season, then members get tons of local farm-fresh produce!  It's a great way to get local, often organic fruits and veggies.  It's also a great way to be exposed to things you wouldn't normally buy (like maybe you've never cooked with leeks or used swiss chard...your share of crops gives you a sampling of the farms produce).

Some CSA's offer work-shares, which is what I'll be doing.  You commit to volunteering for a specified amount of time every week for the season (I'll be working 4 hours) and you get your 'share' of produce free!  Here's more info if you are interested.  http://www.localharvest.org/csa/  If you are going to buy a share at a farm near you, try to meet the farmer.  There's been recent controversy over what a CSA really is.  I've heard some farms are importing items so they can support more CSA shares (make more money), which completely defeats the purpose!  The purpose is to support your local farm!  Where real food comes from!  If he can't make money, he must sell his land.  And then townhouses will be erected where farm used to be, and this will happen all over PA until there are no farms.  And then over the U.S.  I really could continue this tirade, but I'm just not going to right now.

Let me just say this- If you went out to dinner, ordered a steak, and then saw your waitress injecting your steak with some unknown substance with a big syringe before bringing it out, would you eat it?  That's what genetically modified food is.  It's no different.  A tomato being injected gets shipped to a supermarket, where you purchase it, and bite into it like an apple and the juices and chemicals and genes from other species drip down your cheek.  Are you thinking 'well I'll just buy organic!  I won't buy genetically modified food!'  Well the U.S. Food and Drug Admin has decided you don't need to know when food is genetically engineered, although 40 other countries clearly label food that has been genetically modified:  http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/03/27/149474012/activists-say-americans-support-labeling-genetically-modified-food?sc=tw  Pretty rude.  How can we trust the food in our own supermarket?  I didn't mean to get so far off track, but that is why it's important to support your local farms.

Anyways, here's a few more pics from my day:

Philly Farm and Food Fest
Hydroponic Garden
Outback Farm

Reading Terminal Market, Andrew Zimmerman
Well as long as it's anatomically correct...
Stopped by the Reading Terminal Market since I was in the area, and found these weird chocolates.  I think Andrew Zimmerman is some kind of ambassador of these products, but I can't be certain..

Reading Terminal Market, Andrew Zimmerman
Chocolate Dentures