Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Experimenting In The Kitchen

I follow a few different blogs that chronicle cooking adventures. In the same spirit, I often find myself cooking and working with recipes that I think others might enjoy. I cook every night, I usually bake once a week, but it's pretty rare that I take photos while cooking. It's also rare for me to measure spices and ingredients.

The pictures I took are somewhat hodge-podge, so I'm only posting final products. Cooking/baking with a 15 month old in tow often means that there isn't a spare hand available to take pictures, your "spare" hand is covered in something that you won't touch the iPhone with, or your iPhone is across the house in your toddler's mouth. I'll have to work on the pictures. I'd also love to hear feedback if you try something I post!

Sunday night was our "big" Valentine's dinner. James and I rarely eat out, and we're so much happier avoiding the crowds. It's even easier to convince James to eat at home when I entice him with something good. On Sunday I made chicken fried steak, risotto, sauteed spinach with mushrooms, and homemade oreos. Completed product photos below. So what if I ate some of the chicken fried steak before remembering to take a picture...
I have no idea why this photo is so blurry or upside down. I'm still learning here...

Chicken Fried Steak
I adapted this recipe from one my sister-in-law gave me. I only say adapted because I never actually took the time to read the real recipe. I just watched what she did and adjusted as I worked with the food. I have also tried this recipe with chicken, and it came out beautifully.

What you need: Cube Steak, Olive Oil, Flour, Seasoning, Eggs, Bread Crumbs
*Tenderize the cube steak with a meat tenderizer. When you think you've overdone it, turn the piece of meat over and repeat. You have nothing to lose with this step. The more you tenderize, the more tender the meat. My goal is to someday make chicken fired steak that doesn't require a knife.
*At this point, each piece of meat is absolutely huge, so I generally cut each steak into two or three pieces.
*I use three separate paper plates for breading for easy clean up. The first plate should contain flour mixed with your choice of seasoning. This week, I used Julio's. I wasn't too impressed. My favorite so far is DL Jardine's 5-Star. The second plate should hold 2 beaten eggs. With a little care, you can actually do this in the plate. The third plate should hold bread crumbs. My favorite are the Italian Style Progresso ones.
*Dredge each piece of meat through the flour. Thoroughly coat the surface, but knock off the excess. Then, dredge each piece through the egg without allowing any egg to stay "attached." You want the meat coated, with egg, not dripping with egg. Then dredge each piece through the bread crumbs making sure not to miss any spots.
*In a skillet or flat-bottomed pan, heat a light coating of olive oil prior to cooking. When the oil is hot, drop each piece of meat in the pan. How long the meat cooks really depends on the thickness of the steaks. I try to keep the heat around medium to not burn the yummy crust.
*Once the meat is cooked through, I place it on a plate in layers of paper towels to soak up the excess grease.
*Most people love chicken fried steak with white gravy. As I'm still perfecting my white gravy, I serve mine with hot sauce. :)

Sauteed Spinach & Mushrooms
What You Need: Spinach, Mushrooms, Garlic, Olive Oil
*Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a wok on medium-high heat.
*Add garlic and mushrooms. Stir continuously until garlic begins to brown.
*Add spinach to wok and stir.
*Keep the veggies moving to keep things from sticking.
*The spinach will cook down in a major way. One large bag of spinach will only feed 3 people.
*In less than five minutes, your veggies are ready for dinner!

Basic Risotto
What You Need:
48 Ounces Low-Sodium Chicken Broth
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Chopped Yellow Onion (Not Sweet)
2 Cups Arborio Rice (If You Can't Find Arborio, You Want Short-Grained Rice)
1 Mini Bottle Dry White Wine (Come In 4 Packs)
1/2 Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese (The Fresh Stuff Is The Only Way To Go)
*Pour broth into medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer.
*Over medium-high heat, saute onion in olive oil in large Dutch oven for 3 minutes. Add rice and continue sauteing for another minute.
*Add wine and cook until reduced by half.
*Add hot broth to rice 1/2 cup at a time; stirring and allowing rice to absorb broth before each addition.
*Continue adding broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring until the rice is creamy with its grains cooked al dente and broth is absorbed. Remove pan from heat and stir in cheese. Serve.

Homemade Oreos
My version is a little less Oreo than usual, because I don't like using Crisco for the traditional filling. I designed my own creme, and I'm pretty happy with how they turned out. These are best served chilled.

What You Need For The Cookies:
1 1/4 Cups All-Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1 1/4 Cups Sugar
1 1/4 Sticks Room Temperature, Unsalted Butter
1 Large Egg

What You Need For The Filling:
8 Ounces Softened Cream Cheese

1 stick Unsalted Butter, Room Temperature
16 Ounces Powdered Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/4 Teaspoon Cinnamon

*Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375°F.

*In a bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.
*Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.
*Cream Cheese Filling: Beat together cream cheese and butter. Add powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon.
*Using a pastry bag (or a ziploc with the corner cut off), pipe filling onto the flat side of half the cookies and top with another piece.

I hope you enjoy the above recipes. So happy to share!

xoxo Ashley

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