Saturday, 31 December 2011

Cheesy Tuna Phyllo Cups

This is one of my favorite appetizers to make because it looks so impressive but so unbelievably easy! By "easy" I don't mean "quick", you know my recipes are always extremely time consuming. But it doesn't require a lot of skill if you have tons of time on your hands. The ingredients in this recipe are store bought and ready to use, so I almost consider it to be cheating.

You'll need a spicy thai flavoured tuna, cream cheese, phyllo, and butter. Beware, it has that kick of spice at the end, so depending on your guests, you can adjust the heat level with regular canned tuna. Don't be afraid of working with phyllo dough; yes it might break but just make sure you let it thaw on the counter for 15 minutes and gently unroll it. After you are done with it, roll it up and put it back into the freezer.

3 cans of Clover Leaf Spicy Thai Chili, flaked light tuna
1 can of regular flaked tuna
1 8oz pkg of kraft cream cheese
2 sheets of phyllo pastry
melted butter

Because I was preparing for a big feast the next day, I did the phyllo cups ahead of time. Usually I would form the cups in a mini muffin pan, but because I left my pan in Kingston, I had to make these using mini muffin liners. The only problem with using liners is the final shape of the phyllo cups. They won't come out as uniform, or they might have an uneven bottom making it hard to stand up right.

After you've unrolled the phyllo pastry, take a piece and lay it out on a flat surface. Cover the rest with a damp cloth to prevent it from drying out. Cut the piece of pastry in half and lay one on top of the other. Then cut the pastry into 12 square pieces. you should end up with 24 pieces, one on top of the other. Take 1 piece, brush it with butter, and lay another one on top. Make sure the corners are offset from the other piece. Brush the second piece with butter and press the pastry into a muffin liner, butter side down. Shape it into a little bowl/cup.

Repeat with a second sheet of phyllo pastry and you should end up with 24 little cups.

Line them up on a baking sheet and bake it in a 350 degrees oven for 2-3 minutes until the corners turn golden and crispy. After they have cooled, you can remove the muffin liners and they will stand on their own.

To make the filling, take 1 pkg of room temperature cream cheese and beat it with a fork until smooth. Add in the canned tuna, one at a time until everything is well incorporated. At this point, mine had the right level of spice but it was still too creamy, so I added in half a can of regular tuna. If you like yours really spicy then go ahead and add in a 4th tin of spicy thai tuna.

To fill the cups, take 2 spoons and scoop a heaping tablespoon into each one. A melon baller would work perfectly in this case. 

The filling in this recipe could easily fill 36 cups so I had some left over. It was so good I just ate it out of the bowl with a spoon. Have fun!

My sister and I had friends over for dinner. I proudly present my day of hard work :)

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Gingerbread House

This post came a bit late, I know. I started writing it in the Toronto airport but had to abort when people started boarding the plane. Then we spent Christmas in Whistler and I had neglected my laptop. 

So here I am, 2 days past Christmas trying to catch up. I made the gingerbread house during exams and it took me a full day from start to finish. Well worth it though. I made a very simple template and the measurements will be posted below.

You can use any gingerbread recipe that you have, they all work the same. Here is mine.

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 3/4 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup molasses
  • 1 large egg

  • Combine all the dry ingredients in a big bowl and set aside. In a mixer, beat the butter and the brown sugar until fluffy. Add in the molasses and the egg and mix until well combined. Mix in the dry ingredients slowly by hand until you have a soft cookie dough. Divide the dough into 2, wrap them in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm.

  • After the cookie dough has had time to chill, roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick. Lay out your template on top of the dough and cut along the edges of the template. I had 3 different pieces and I laid them all down at once so that I can get all 3 pieces in one roll. 

  • Do the same with the second piece of dough. Once I had all my house pieces cut out, I made trees and snowflakes with the scraps.

  • The dough goes into a 350 degrees oven for 15 minutes. Let them cool completely before handling. 

The glue for this house will be royal icing. Beat 3 egg whites until it is light and frothy. Slowly add in 4 cups of icing sugar until the mixture becomes shiny and thick. Scoop the icing into a disposable piping bag and snip a big piece off the end.

you'll also need a cardboard of some sort that you can set the gingerbread house on. I just cut a piece off from my stand mixer box.

Assemble the house by gluing the 4 sides together first. Glue the front and 2 sides together first, then add the back piece. When the frosting is semi try, start on the roof. Pipe frosting along the top edges of the walls and place the roof on top. I cut 2 pieces of cardboard and stuck it under the roof to hold it in place. Do the same with the other side. 

Leave it to dry for 2 hours before decorating. I used some colored frosting left over from decorating sugar cookies the day before. 

For the trees, I just outlined with white frosting and colored in with pink or green. Then I took a tooth pick and dragged it across the tree from side to side. 

To make the snowflakes, draw lines from one corner to the other. Then make 2 little downward check marks at each tip. while the frosting is still wet, stick a silver ball in the center and sprinkle over colored sugar.

For illustration, these are some sugar cookies I made earlier.

Decorate the roof with waves of frosting and sprinkle over some red sugar. Glue the trees and the snowflakes with frosting and lean them against spice jars until the frosting is completely dry. I smeared the bottom with the rest of the royal icing, then dusted all over with icing sugar.

  • Gingerbread house template
  • sorry for the awkward cm measurements, I first made them in inches but now I cant find my inches ruler.

  • Side wall: 15.25 cm x 10 cm
  • roof: 17.75 cm x 11.5 cm
  • front and back wall (refer to the picture above, consists of a square on the bottom then a triangle on top): 10 cm x 12.5 cm (bottom), 12.5 base of the triangle, 6.5 cm to the tip of the roof.

Friday, 16 December 2011

First Successful Attempt Frosting a Bday Cake!

It's exam time, but obviously that's not going to stop me from baking. I've made 2 birthday cakes and a bunch of sweets that I'll be pkging into Christmas goodie bags. But those will be in another post because today is all about bday cakes.

It was one of Chris's friend's birthday (his name also happened to be Chris) so I decided to make a chocolate cake for him. Then Chris came up with the idea to put an ice inside. If you don't know what icing is then click here. So I got to work and performed surgery on this chocolate cake. It was all going well but since I started late, I was very behind on schedule. Chris got impatient and started rushing me so I literally had to frost this cake in 5 minutes.

As you can see, this is probably the ugliest cake ever existed on this planet. The moral of the story is, when you are frosting a cake, be patient!

The cake tasted great...just didn't look like it.

That was us at the dinner, and the 4th time Chris got iced that day.

Anyways, I needed redemption. Two days later was Mike's birthday so I made another cake. This time I had 2.5 hours to do it and I was very happy with the result. I made a vanilla butter cake but I was very disappointed with how dense it was. Definitely sticking with the chocolate cake next time (recipe follows)

I don't actually think Mike remembers what the cake tasted like. A bunch of us went out for dinner earlier and I think he had between 13-14 drinks within 2 hours. Then I made him do a shot of Chinese vodka that was 71%. We lit the shot on fire before giving it to him and somehow his finger caught on fire and he didn't even realize.

There's my redemption. I think it looks awesome :)

Chocolate Cake
1 3/4 cup flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup strong coffee (hot)

Butter cream
2 sticks butter
1 3/4 cup icing sugar
1 cup melted dark chocolate

set the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 2 9inch pans, line with parchment paper and set aside

Combine all the dry ingredients in a stand mixer bowl with a paddle attachment. Mix the wet ingredients together in a large measuring cup, making it easier to pour later on. With the stand mixer running on low, slowly pour in the wet mixture and mix until everything is combined. Pour in the hot brewed coffee and stir until smooth.

Pour into the greased pans and bake for 35-40 minutes. Let them cool on wire racks before frosting. I like a lot of layers so after they've cooled down, I cut each cake into 2 to make 4 layers.

For the frosting, whisk the butter with the whisk attachment until light and fluffy. Slowly sift in the icing sugar. Pour in the melted chocolate and whisk until everything is incorporated. 

Monday, 12 December 2011

Spicy Pork

This is probably as close to an authentic Korean dish as I can get. The hardest part about cooking Asian food is the collection of ingredients that you need, most of which I can't find in the grocery stores here in Kingston. I was in Toronto a few days ago so I picked up some red pepper flakes and cooking wine.

This recipe is super simple, just chop up the ingredients and cook everything together until the pork is done. I used a combination of pork belly and pork chops. It's a pretty rich dish so the portion in the picture above is not meant to be consumed by one person...Although Chris did anyways.

If you don't like the skin on the pork then you can trim it off. I trimmed off the extremely fatty parts but kept most of it.

1.5 lb of pork belly and pork chop
1 sliced onion
3 spring onions
1 jalapeño
1 nob of ginger
4 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp of soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
1/4 cup of hot pepper paste
2 tbsp of red pepper flakes
1tbsp of sesame oil

Cut the green onions and the jalapeño into small pieces. Smash the garlic and ginger on the cutting board then chop finely. Toss them into the pan. Add the sauces and spices into the pan and put it on a really high heat. Stir everything to mix as it is cooking, should take only 10 minutes. You'll be able to tell when the pork is done because it will start to shrink and seize up. Taste for seasoning but the sauces should give plenty of flavour.

Scoop some rice into a small bowl and pack it in. Invert it onto a plate and serve the pork beside it. It's not as spicy as it looks, trust me!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Chicken Noodle Soup

My grandma bought this pasta roller for my parents years ago. My mom isn't the kind of person that likes to spend her time in the kitchen, so when I came to school, I took the pasta roller with me. Making your own pasta isn't as fancy and sophisticated as it sounds, all you need is eggs and flour. 

I used 1 egg and about 1 cup of flour. Start with half a cup and add more as you go. When the dough comes together, knead it for 5-6 minutes. The more you knead it the chewier the pasta will be. After a nice smooth dough has formed, pass it through the pasta roller on the widest setting several times. I had to do it about 5 times until the dough came out smooth.

Take the width in a little and pass the dough through the roller again. Make sure you flour the dough really well to prevent it from sticking to the roller. Keep on doing this until you reach the lowest setting, or until your desired thickness.

You'll end up with a really long sheet of pasta. I cut mine in half to make it easier to work with.

 Flour the entire sheet of pasta and roll it up into a log. Using a really sharp knife, slice out thin strands. The dough will absorb a lot of water during the cooking process so it will expand quite a bit in width.

Toss in more flour to prevent them from sticking to each other.

For any soups or stews, I always start with mirepoix, which is a combination of diced onions, celery, and carrots. Cook the vegetables in butter until they are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add in flour to make a rue and cook for another 2 minutes. Pour in about 8 cups of chicken stock and bring it to a boil. When it comes to a boil, add in some pre-cooked chicken. The soup should thicken up just a little from the rue.

Cook the pasta right before serving. It only takes 2 minutes to cook and may become too soft if it sits in the soup for too long.

Fresh pasta cooks almost instantly, which kinda justifies the time it takes to make it from scratch. The texture is really amazing, soft yet chewy. If you don't have a pasta roller, regular dried pasta will work just fine. 

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Citrus Marshmallows

I made these marshmallows along with the chicken lollipops for the Christmas party. People didn't know what these were at first ,because the idea of making marshmallows seems foreign. Well, I don't exactly do things the easy way; I like to explore the different culinary adventures.

What most people don't realize is how different homemade marshmallows are from the store bought ones in terms of texture. The ones you buys are spongy and starchy, and I don't normally enjoy them unless they are fire roasted (yum!). The homemade ones are smooth and soft and they literally melt in your mouth.

This recipe is from one of Michael Smith's cookbooks. That normally means its simplified. I'm glad to say, Smith has redeemed himself from the pavlova disaster. I've made pavlovas a few times for my dad this summer, and each attempt has been successful. This time I decided to try a recipe from Michael's new book and I was so disappointed. The pavlova wouldn't cook to the right texture and it was sour when it came out of the oven. I compared the recipe to the one I had used earlier, and it called for 3 times as much vinegar, 6 times the corn starch, and powdered sugar (which already contains corn starch). It was so bad I had to dump it. With this confectionery disaster, it took quite a bit of courage to try another one of his recipes.

The marshmallows were very good and incredibly easy to make. All you need is gelatine, sugar, and water.

2 pkg gelatine
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
orange extract

zest of a lemon and a lime
1/3 cup of sugar

Dissolve the sugar in 3/4 cup of water on medium heat. About 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the gelatine evenly over the rest of the water and let it stand for 5 minutes.

Using a whisk attachment, give the gelatine a gentle stir to incorporate.

With the speed on low, slowly drizzle in the syrup. Once all the syrup has been incorporated, add the salt and crank up the speed. Whisk the mixture on high for about 13-15 minutes, until it becomes fluffy and has cooled. Take a little bit of the mixture with your finger and stick it in the freezer for 30 seconds to see if it sets. Add in the extracts and whisk for another 30 seconds.

Lightly oil a 8x8 inch pan, cover the bottom with a piece of parchment paper, and oil it again. Spread out the marshmallow mixture as evenly as possible. Oil another piece of parchment and place it on top of the marshmallow. Press down to smooth out any imperfections. Let stand until cooled and set. Mine took about 1 hour.

While the mixture is cooling, prepare the coating. Zest a lemon and a lime and mix with 1/3 cup of sugar.

Cut them into equal squares with a pair of kitchen shears. Pull them apart and toss them with the sugar coating.

Fudgy Brownies

Just a quick update, I'm supposed to be studying right now. I'm in Toronto for the week just to get a break from Kingston. I made these brownies yesterday cause Chris's grandma and Uncle are coming up from Sudbury.

I've always forgotten to write down my brownie recipes after I make them, so they turn out different every time. I felt such pressure this time...what if I mess up? I didn't though, and it was probably the best brownies I've made yet. Here is the recipe before I forget again.

5 oz of unsweetened chocolate
2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup flour

I finally found the secret to that crispy exterior that you only get from packaged brownie mix. I thought it was oil at first, but it's actually the temperature of your oven. Almost all the recipes I've seen so far (99% but don't quote me on that) tell you to preheat your oven to 350. Mine baked at 375 and it was perfect.

Melt the butter and the chocolate over simmering water until it becomes silky and smooth. Take it off the heat and add in the sugar ans sift in the cocoa powder. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon because you might get lumps at first from the cocoa. Add in the eggs one at a time until all are incorporated. Add the vanilla and salt and stir until well combined. Add in the flour and stir just until everything is incorporated.

I used a 8x8 inch pan and the brownies were thicker than I would have preferred. Use a 9x13 inch if you want a thinner layer of brownies. Butter the dish and line with parchment paper. Pour in the batter and smooth it out with your wooden spoon or spatula. If you are using the 8x8 dish, bake for 35 minutes. For the 9x13 dish, bake for 25 minutes.

It was crispy on the outside and fudgy in the center. SO good!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Chicken Lollipops

I did NOT know these thing existed until about 2 days ago, when I was watching Pepin debone a chicken. By the way, it was the most awesome thing I've ever seen...he barely used a knife!

Great timing because I was on the hunt for the perfect appetizer to bring to a Christmas party, and this was the one. It was a big hit, more so the idea of it than the actual taste I presume. It can't taste any different from a deep fried chicken strip or chicken wing. I don't really know, it was gone pretty quick.

The trickiest part of this recipe is getting the chicken to flip inside out. You'll need chicken wings, the "drummette" or the "flat", or both. If you watch the video I've posted above, Pepin shows you how to do a lollipop from the flat. The drummette should be even easier to do.  Start from the wider side of the flat. take a paring knife and cut between the 2 bones to separate them. Cut around each bone to loosen the ligaments and wiggle out the smaller one. Stand the flat on its narrow side and push down, scraping the meat to expose the bone. You'll be left with a clean bone and a blob of meat on one end. The same procedure goes for the drummette, only you'll be scraping the meat from the narrow side down to the wider part.

Phewww, that was hard to explain. And I know what you're thinking: It doesn't look very appetizing at this point, but we'll fix it, don't worry.

The next step requires some flour, an egg wash and some panko bread crumbs. Same procedure as my chicken fingers  that I had posted earlier.

In a big ziplock bag, add in some flour, salt, pepper, cayenne, paprika, and cumin. Give it a good shake to mix. Now dump in all your chicken lollipops, seal the bag and shake it until every piece of chicken is coated with flour. It shouldn't take long, you just need to throw it around a bit.

In a shallow bowl, beat together 3 eggs and season it with salt and pepper. Dip each chicken lollipop in the egg wash, then throw it in another bowl filled with panko bread crumbs. This might be the only reason that I would prefer the lollipops over the chicken strips. You never need to get your hands dirty! I just hold the lollipop by the bone and dip the meat side into the egg wash, keeping my fingers nice and dry. Anyway, so just roll them around in the bread crumbs until you get a nice even coating and set them aside for frying.

The oil can't be too hot because these take about 8-9 minutes and they may brown faster than they cook. The last thing you want is to serve raw chicken wings at a party. At least that's what I was worrying about the entire time. 300 degrees is a good temperature. Use a candy thermometer or a deep fryer.

I used a small pot so I had to do these in batches of 4 or 5. You can use a bigger pot but it takes more oil. Being a commerce student, that is highly uneconomical.

13 wings, 26 lollipops
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp paprika
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp pepper
2 tsp garlic powder

3 eggs
salt and pepper


Friday, 2 December 2011

Roasted Cauliflower

Unfortunately, the cauliflower season has officially ended as of last week. I'm pretty sure I got the last of the cauliflower at the farmers market. I'm not saying you can't find them anymore in the grocery stores, it's just going to be really damn expensive.

Roasted cauliflower has become my absolutely favorite dish. the cauliflower gets so sweet and the spices make it taste nothing like a vegetable. No I lied on that second part. You'll still know its cauliflower but I assure you that you'd want to eat it.

2 heads of cauliflower (small)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tbsp salt

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the spices and set aside. Tear out the stalk and break the florets into small pieces. Drizzle the cauliflower with oil and sprinkle over the spices. Use as much or as little as you want. Toss it around with your hands and pour into a baking dish. You want almost a single flat layer for even cooking and browning.

Place it into the oven for 40 minutes and enjoy!

I didn't end up sharing mine. Yes, I ate 2 heads of cauliflower on my own. I kinda had a third of it, then studied a bit, then ate a little more, back and forth. Anyway, I probably won't get to eat cauliflower for the next few months so I thought I'd document it. Oh it was so good!

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Tuna Casserole

For me, this is the dish that I can whip up when there's absolutely no food in the fridge. Canned tuna, pasta, and left over bits and pieces from the crisper. There's nothing easier. The usual tuna casserole call for a can of mushroom soup. I have just about anything "canned" in my cupboards in case of emergencies, but god knows why I didn't have this item. I had some mushrooms left over from the mushroom gravy in my last post, so I sauted as mush flavour as I can get out of them and made a white sauce.

Boil the pasta as instructed on the package. I made 3/4 of a package of rigatoni and mine went for about 13 minutes. When they are done, drain but don't rinse.

1 1/2 cup mushrooms
1 cup onion
4 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
3 1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper
1 cup shredded mozzarella
2 cans tuna

Saute the mushrooms and onion in the butter for 10 minutes. Sprinkle over some salt just to help them release the water. Once the onions are very translucent and the mushrooms have shrunk into tiny pieces, add in the flour. Cook for another 2 minutes then start adding in the milk.

 Start with 1/2 a cup and once the mixture thickens, you can add in the rest. Cook until the sauce becomes creamy and thick. Taste for seasoning. This step is extremely important because you need a lot of salt to balance out the sweetness from the onion and mushrooms. Take it off the heat and stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese and the tuna.

Fold in the drained pasta and pour into a baking dish.

Sprinkle over the rest of the cheese and bake in a 400 degrees oven for 20 minutes. The cheese should be melted and some parts should have turned a golden brown.