Friday, April 15, 2011

Churro Bites

Everything is better as miniature sized.  And nobody can deny that fried food is just...delicious.  That makes these Churro Bites a 1-2-punch, a knockout.  These were so good when they were fresh out of the fryer that it was hard to keep up with my husband eating them.  I was surprised at how easy they were to make.  Just mix together the batter, put it in a piping bag with a large star tip (I used a Wilton 1M) and then squeeze into the hot oil cutting it off with a knife in 2" intervals.  Then, roll in cinnamon sugar goodness.  Yum!  For my more visual readers, check out the recipe source for some great step-by-step photos.

I made these as part of our Tapa's Theme Dinner Club.  There was an extraordinary amount of food there...40 dishes to be exact.  And in true Dinner Club style, folks didn't seem to scale back their portion sizes so we had enough food to feed at least 20 people while there were really only 10 of us.

I'll be posting the rest of the recipes once I'm back from vacation as part of my Cinco Recipes for Cinco De Mayo collection and for now, I leave you with this drool worthy dish as #1 in this series :).  Call it a teaser, if you will.

One Year Ago: Summer Corn and Vegetable Soup
Two Years Ago Penne a la Vodka

Churro Bites

Churro Bites

  • 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • Oil for frying  
  1. Combine sugar and cinnamon in bowl and set aside. Heat about 1-2 inches of oil in a deep sauce pan until it reaches 325 degrees F.
  2. In a medium saucepan, heat water, butter, salt and 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and stir in flour. Remove from heat and stir vigorously until mixture forms a ball of "dough", about 1 minute. Add beaten eggs and stir until fully combine and dough is smooth.
  3. Transfer dough into a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip (I used a Wilton 1M Tip). Holding your piping bag straight up and down over your pot of oil, squeeze out about 2 inches of dough and slice it off into the oil with a knife. Fry until golden brown about 4 minutes, making sure to flip the churros around in the oil to fry each side evenly.
  4. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Toss in cinnamon sugar mixture and enjoy!  They're obviously best fresh and hot!
Source: Dollhouse Bake Shoppe

Recipe Swap: Roasted Sweet Potato Coins with Pancetta and Chives

So, I signed up to do this week's recipe swap knowing full well that I'd be super busy with work and personal things as I prepared to go on vacation.  Clearly I was being too ambitious.  I'll admit to being a bad blogger and not getting around to making my swapped recipe which makes me really sad because it looked so delicious!  I had the groceries and everything bought...I just couldn't find time in my schedule to make a side dish that took an hour to bake :(.

In the interest of still sharing this recipe, please check out Roasted Sweet Potato Coins with Pancetta and Chives at The Jey of Cooking.  It's her own original recipe and her photo is much more attractive than mine would have been, anyway!  I do hope to make this sometime once I'm back home so review will come eventually!

Oh and by the way, I submitted Ina Garten's Cauliflower Gratin as seen on Smitten Kitchen (check out her wild colored purple and orange cauliflowers!).   Lemon's and Love got my recipe this time and I actually haven't shared this recipe on this site yet but it was delicious so that's what I went with for the swap.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Chinese Steamed Fish

Well, based on my Google Analytics for the month, fish is pretty much the new black.  Or, it could just be Lent.  So, as Easter is coming up and you're rounding up the last of your Lenten specialties or you just want to try to eat healthier, I encourage to give this a try.

Asian-style steamed fish is one of my favorite things to order at Chinese restaurants.  I made this along with several other Chinese goodies as part of my Chinese New Year celebration.  Fish, or "yu", is symbolic of richness and abundance.  If you eat the fish for Chinese New Year, you will be prosperous.  And, the saying goes that you should leave a little bit on your plate to save for that you have prosperity in the future, too!  I don't know about all the traditional/superstitious mumbo jumbo but prosperity sounds good to me :).

If you're going all out, you'd buy a very fresh piece of intact fish - skin, bones, and *gasp*...head!  In Chinese culture, it's the head (with the fish's clear glassy eyes) that lets you know that it's really fresh.  Heck, you might have even selected it from the tank yourself!  Since I live in Cincinnati and am personally a bit squeamish, I went with filets and it still tasted just like the restaurants to me.  And, less work because you don't have to pick out tiny bones or (if you're like me), discard the skin while you're eating it.  My mom eats the skin though.  And the meat in the head.  She'll fight you for it because she claims the cheek meat is the sweetest.  Don't worry Mom, it's all yours!

This preparation of fish is relatively healthy since it is steamed.  There is a moderate amount of oil used in the "sauce" but you can either reduce the amount used or just not spoon as much of the "sauce" on top of your fish serving when you go to eat it.  The flavor really comes from the ginger and scallions that flavor the oil in addition to the soy sauce.  Yum!

One Year Ago: Slow Cooker Carnitas
Two Years Ago: Cake Balls (Truffles)

Chinese Steamed Fish
Printer-Friendly Version

  • 1 pound whole fish (or fillets 1″ or thicker) yields the best results
  • 4 stalks, scallions – cut into 3″ lengths
  • 3″ piece of ginger – slice into “coins”
  • small bunch of cilantro
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine to pour on fish prior to steaming (or any cooking wine like dry sherry)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons rough chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon white pepper (or black pepper if you don’t have white)
  • fresh chilli – thinly sliced (optional)
  • 2 stalks, scallions – cut into 3″ lengths
  • 2″ piece of ginger – finely julienned to the skinniest, thinnest strips you can possibly manage without a microscope
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
Equipment: shallow pan to hold fish and large pot or wok for steaming. If you don’t have a fancy steamer or steamer insert, take a shallow-ish bowl and invert to use as a stand. Or…3 shot glasses inverted.

  1. Clean and Stuff: Clean your fish, pat dry. Season generously inside and out with salt and pepper. Take half of (A) and stuff inside the fish. If you are using fillets, skip this.
  2. Make your bed: Take the other half of (A) and lay it in a shallow pan. If using fillets, just use all of (A) for the bed. Lay the fish on top of the bed. If fish is too long, cut in half. Pour 1 1/2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine on top of the fish. 
  3. Steam: Add 2″ of water to your large pot, cover and boil. When it is boiling, uncover and wipe the inside of the cover clean of any condensation (all this condensation will drip back down on your fish, diluting the flavor) Put your fish pan inside, propped up with a small inverted bowl. Steam the fish on medium (see below for cooking times).
  • Whole fish 1 lb: check at 12 minutes, add 2 minutes for every 1/2 lb
  • Fillets 1″ and thicker: check at 10 minutes, add 2 minutes for every 1/2″ more thickness
  • Fillets less than 1″: check at 7 minutes
  • Super thin fillets: check at 5 minutes
    1. Check to see if its done at the times indicated.  Poke your chopstick at the flesh near the top fin. If flesh flakes easily near the top fin, then its done. If flesh sticks together still, then add 1-2 more minutes to cooking time. For fillets, just gently poke at the flesh in the middle. Timing really depends on the thickness of your fish.  Also check to make sure you haven’t run out of steaming water.
    2. Aromatics: Towards the end of the steaming process, you’ll want to start preparing the aromatics that garnish the finished dish. Take a microwave-safe bowl, add (B) and microwave for 30 seconds. Set aside. When fish is done steaming, carefully lift the fish out onto a serving platter, discarding all of the cooked cilantro/ginger/scallions and the fish juice in the pan. Pour the hot (B) over fish.
    3. Now we’ll work with (C): In a separate pan or wok, heat up cooking oil until you see smoke. Add the ginger and scallions, fry for 10 seconds to “pop” the flavors. Pour this cooking oil + herbs over the fish. You’ll hear a very satisfying sizzle!
    Source: Steamy Kitchen

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    2nd Blogiversary Celebration: Banana Split Cupcakes

    Can you believe that it has been two years since I started my cooking blog adventures?  Me neither.  To celebrate I gave away a signed copy of Pioneer Woman Cooks.  It was won by lovely reader S who happens to be a local Cincinnati Nestie that I met earlier in the year when I went to a Christmas cookie swap.

    Since not everyone was able to win the grand prize, I'm sharing a consolation prize so that you can all still celebrate this milestone with me.  These banana split cupcakes are like a secret adventure.  The outside gives you no hint of what lies inside.  As my sister Kelly's boyfriend/prom date stated when he bit inside, "Oh my god!  There are strawberries and pineapples!".  It's such a pleasant surprise and I think the filling keeps the cake extra moist.

    Speaking of the cake, I would have liked the flavor of the banana to come through more but I think had I put in more banana than called for it would have ended up with a texture of banana bread rather than this fluffy cake.  If there were more room I would have stuffed a banana slice into the center of the cupcake but it was already pretty full.  The whipped cream frosting was perfect (and soooo easy to make.  Don't waste your time on the pre-made stuff like Cool Whip or Ready Whip.  This is infinitely better!).  The chocolate topping really pulled the taste together in my opinion and it gives it that festive look once its finished with sprinkles.  Overall it takes a little effort to make each component and assemble but nothing was especially hard and the look is worth it.  This tasted and looked just like a sundae but in cupcake form.  So fun to eat!

    Tip: You can assemble the cupcake through piping the frosting a day or two in advance.  Then, store the cupcakes in your refrigerator until you're ready to finish with the gananche, sprinkles, and cherry.  Don't do the finishing steps until you're almost ready to serve because otherwise the color of the sprinkles will bleed into the chocolate and whipped cream, becoming muted in color.  Unfortunately I learned this the hard way!

    Happy 2nd Blogiversary to me!  Thanks for coming to my party :).

    One Year Ago: Blueberry Citrus Cake
    Two Years Ago: Crockpot Turkey.  Why or how this became the first recipe I ever posted I am not quite sure but wow how far I've come in such little time!

    By the way, need a way to use up the rest of your buttermilk after making this recipe?  Check out my buttermilk tag for ideas.

    Banana Split Cupcakes
    Printer-Friendly Version

    Yields: 30+ Cupcakes


    For the cupcakes:
    • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 tbsp. baking powder
    • ½ tsp. salt
    • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 2½ cups sugar
    • 6 eggs
    • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
    • 1 1/3 cups mashed ripe banana
    For the filling:
    • 1 lb. strawberries, hulled and diced small
    • 2 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
    • 12 oz. crushed pineapple, drained
    For the frosting:
    • 1½ cups heavy cream, chilled
    • 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
    • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
    For the ganache:
    • 8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1 tbsp. light corn syrup
    For garnish:
    • Multi-colored sprinkles
    • Maraschino cherries
    1. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt; whisk together and set aside.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium low and add in eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Mix in 1 the mashed banana until well combined.  With the mixer on low speed alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients and mixing only until just incorporated.
    2. Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling each about 2/3 to ¾ full.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes.  Allow to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
    3. To make the strawberry filling, combine the strawberries and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl.  Toss well, smashing slightly with a fork.  Allow the berries to macerate at least 20-30 minutes.
    4. To fill the cupcakes, cut a small cone out of the center of each cupcake with a paring knife or small biscuit cutter.  (The excess cake can be discarded or saved for cake balls or parfaits)  Add a teaspoon or two of the strawberry filling to the center of each cupcake.  Top with a teaspoon or two of the crushed pineapple, filling to the top of the cupcake.
    5. To make the frosting, add the heavy cream to the chilled bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Whip on medium-high speed until soft peaks form.  Add the powdered sugar and continue to whip until thoroughly combined and stiff peaks form.  Be careful not to over-beat!  Blend in the vanilla extract.
    6. Add the whipped cream to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip.  Pipe a swirl of the whipped cream onto each filled cupcake, covering the filling.  Transfer the filled and frosted cupcakes to the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes.
    7. To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Remove from the heat and pour the hot cream over the chocolate; let stand 1-2 minutes.  Whisk together until a thick, smooth ganache forms.  Blend in the corn syrup.  Let stand at room temperature at least 10 minutes so the ganache is not hot.
    8. To finish the cupcakes, pour a spoonful of the ganache over the whipped cream topping of each cupcake.  Garnish with sprinkles and maraschino cherries before the glaze sets.  Chill the assembled cupcakes until ready to serve.
    Source: Annie's Eats 

    2nd Blogiversary Giveaway: And the WINNER is...

    Before I jump straight into announcing the winner I just wanted to say thanks to everyone that participated in my first blog giveaway.  I had fun and hope you did, too!  As I was keeping a record of all the comments I couldn't help but to do mock drawings along the way to see who would win should the contest have ended at that time :).

    Alright, here we go.  No more stalling.  Time to announce the WINNER!  Drum roll please....

    Today's winner is...

     Lucky commenter #32!  And that commenter is brought to you by the letter S!

    I'm so glad that blogs like mine inspire you to cook.  If you are mysterious letter S, please email me at with your name and address by 12:00PM (noon) tomorrow (Sunday, 4/10).  This will help me mail your prize out before I leave town so that you can begin enjoying it faster!  If I don't hear back from you by the deadline above, I'll be forced to draw another name.

    Congratulations, S!

    For everyone else, I hope you had fun playing.  Please continue to follow my adventures and leave a comment on what you'd like to see in the future: recipe requests, giveaway prize ideas, etc!

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Recipe Swap: Spaghetti and Meatballs

    Sarah (oct11bride) of Taste of Home Cooking organized another recipe swap due to the smashing success of last time's swap.  It looks like its going to be a weekly thing which is really cool!  The theme of this one was "Pasta".  I submitted Cincinnati Style Chili (because I simply cannot resist sharing this stuff with the world!) and in return I received Displaced_Kiki's Spaghetti and Meatball recipe.  Check out Jey of Cooking's write-up of my beloved chili in her blog...such a great pic for something I know doesn't exactly photograph so well!  Guess it's all in the talent of the photographer :).

    When I got the recipe I was both excited and disappointed at the same time.  As I alluded to in a recent post, I recently accumulated a stockpile of about 40 boxes of free (yes, free) pasta.  See...this is what 24 boxes of free pasta (and a few other items which I purchased for a total of just over $4) looks like.  Now imagine 16 boxes more...

    Yep...we've got a lot of pasta to work through.  So, the fact the theme itself was pasta made me excited to start and I couldn't wait to get all sorts of new recipes to try out as I worked my way through the stock.  Then I got my recipe.  My heart sunk a bit when I saw spaghetti and meatballs because it was so familiar and I already had a great recipe from my mother-in-law that I frequently make.  But, I looked at the bright side of things and figured in the spirit of trying new things and possibly finding something better, I'd give it a shot.

    I was intrigued by the addition of spinach in the meatballs but ended up leaving it out because I didn't want to buy a whole bag of fresh spinach just to throw in a handful of it.  I'm not sure what trio meat is nor how much was in "1 package" so I just used what I had on-hand which is 1/2 pound ground turkey and 1/2 pound ground mild italian sausage.  I figured if it made 12 meatballs this amount of meat seemed about right versus what I'm used to in my normal recipe.  The amount of egg (3) called for though seemed a bit much.  Still, I powered through and had faith.  I probably should have gone with my gut though because after adding all the meatball ingredients together I found it to be extremely wet/mushy and it wouldn't hold its shape.  I ended up adding a couple slices of shredded bread pieces.  I probably should have added more because they were still a bit soft and after baking my meatballs were more like meatmounds.  They didn't hold their shape as I had hoped and once I added them to the sauce they disintegrated into the sauce and kind of became meatsauce.  I also  ended up with over 20 meatballs (roughly 2" in diameter) so I'm still scratching my head over where I went wrong.

    The sauce was a bit better.  I added a couple glugs of red wine for depth and cracked red pepper for heat.  I still craved more flavor from the sauce after it simmered.  I think this version tasted more fresh and acidic versus I'm used to and prefer a more deep, slightly sweet slow cooked flavor from simmering for hours.

    Overall it was fun to try a new version but I think I'm still sticking with my tried-and-true family recipe.  Below is the original recipe submitted to me, without any of the modification of the ingredients I mentioned...just in case I did something wrong and there's operator error!  I did re-write the directions to reflect how I prepared this recipe.

    By the way, time is running out to enter my 2nd Blogiversary Giveaway!  Don't miss out on this opportunity to win an autographed version of Pioneer Woman Cooks!

    One Year Ago: It was a Dinner Club Brinner (Breakfast for Dinner) Theme with Bacon Egg and Toast Cups, Belgian Waffles, Pancake Syrup, Strawberry Topping, and Country Fried Steak!

    Spaghetti and Meatballs

    For the Sauce
    • 1 big can crushed tomatoes
    • 1 regular size can tomato sauce
    • 1 small can of tomato paste
    • garlic, salt and pepper,  basil, thyme, oregano, and parsley to taste
    • 2 bay leaves
    For the Meatballs:
    • 1 package trio meat
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • hearty handful of baby spinach
    • 1 medium yellow onion
    • 1 red pepper
    • small handful of fresh basil
    • about a tbsp each of fresh thyme, rosemary, oregano, and parsley
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a large rimmed cookie sheet with cooking spray.
    2. Combine ingredients for sauce in a dutch oven or large pot.  Bring to a boil then reduce to simmer.  Allow sauce to simmer while you prepare the meatballs.
    3. Add spinach, onion, pepper, and spices in a food processor.  Pulse about 5-6 times until finely chopped.
    4. In a large mixing bowl, using your hands mix together processed vegetables and remaining ingredients until combined.  Shape meat into balls and place onto cookie sheet.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes.
    5. Add meatballs to the sauce and serve.
     Source: Displaced_Kiwi

    Sunday, April 3, 2011

    Fish Tacos

    One fish, two fish.  Red fish, blue fish.  Okay...I'm no Dr. Seuss and this is actually a white fish.  A little white fish that has taken the food blogging world by storm.  Why it's taken me so long to try I do not know.

    It's light and fresh.  Perfect for the weather as it begins heating up and/or if you're needing some easy family-pleasing seafood recipes for lent.  I feel like most Americans really only know one kind of fish.  Fish sticks fried to a golden crisp and served with a big side of tarter sauce for dipping.  Or, maybe you're like Cincinnati and have a bazillion Fish Frys on Fridays during lent.  No shame in that.  I'll admit I kind of like fish sticks and even McD's Filet-O-Fish...but...the friedness and tarter sauce, though yummy, are not so healthy.  Good thing I only eat them once in a blue moon.
    This recipe will expand your fish horizons and it's healthy enough to eat without shame.  It's not fried and there is no tartar sauce (*gasp*).  Speaking of, I personally I am in love with the sauce in this recipe.  But then again, I'm a cilantro lover.  Yum!  The flavor reminds me of the uber delicious fish tacos that I got at Maui Taco when I was in Hawaii last year.  Ahhh...Hawaii.  Let's leave this post with that thought in mind.  *cue ukulele*

    One Year Ago: Berry Buttermilk Cake.  Wow I'm glad this popped back up because I just so happen to have some leftover buttermilk to use AND last year when I discovered this recipe I made it twice in a single week.  Yep, it's that good!

    And hey, did you remember to enter my 2nd Blogiversary Givaway yet?  If the drawing were today you'd have about a 1 in 30 chance of winning your very own AUTOGRAPHED Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook!  I'd say those are some pretty good odds :).  But don't drag your heels too long.  Contest ends at 11:59PM this Friday!
    Fish Tacos


    For the fish

    • 2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
    • 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
    • 3 Tbsp. minced cilantro
    • 1/4 tsp. cumin
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 lb. white fish (halibut, cod, tilapia, etc.)
    • Salt
    For the cilantro cream sauce
    • Juice of 1/2 lime
    • 1 Tbsp. cilantro, minced
    • 1/3 cup nonfat greek yogurt
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • Pepper, to taste
    For serving
    • Cherry tomatoes, quartered
    • Green onions, chopped
    • Red cabbage, shredded
    • avocado slices
    • 6-inch flour tortillas
    1. Combine the lime juice, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, cilantro, cumin, and garlic in a shallow dish.  Whisk together until well blended.  Place the fish in the mixture, turning to coat.  Let marinate 15-30 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile, prepare the cilantro cream sauce.  Combine the lime juice, cilantro, greek yogurt, garlic and pepper in a small bowl.  Mix until well blended.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
    3. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
    4. Place the fish in the pan and cook without disturbing for about 3 minutes.  Flip the fish and cook on the second side 2-3 minutes more.  (Cook until fish reaches 130 degrees)
    5. Remove to a plate and season with salt and let rest for a few minutes.  Shred the fish into bite-sized pieces with two forks.
    6. Assemble tacos on flour tortillas with shredded fish, cilantro cream sauce and toppings as desired.
    Source: As seen on Christine's Cuisine, Annie's Eats, and it all began with The Way the Cookie Crumbles