Friday, January 22, 2010

Cheesecake Cupcakes

Don't ask me how I managed to stumble upon a website called "Cooking For Engineers". I think I had googled "Dirty Rice" and it was listed as having an explanation. Things escalated from there. I still think it's a hilarious concept, cooking for engineers. The good part, that I've discovered so far, is that the few recipes I've read over come with explanations about the "why" of cooking/baking. Hurray! I have one of those brains that is always wondering why.

I thought I'd make this recipe as a lark. I try not to bake much because I'm usually the only one eating the goods, and ingesting a lot of baking would most likely accelerate the secretary spread process that I am already constantly fighting with my sedentary job. Luckily, I was invited to a games night at my friend Carmen's place tonight so I had a good reason to try this recipe. I can lick the beaters and foist the rest on my friends. We all win! If they like the cupcakes, I might even get asked back some other time.

As recipes go, this one is dead easy, aside from the extra step that my anal-retentive self took in using my beloved kitchen scale to measure out the EXACT weight of required cream cheese. I was pooling 3 different sources, and each of the complete sources weighed 250g. Using two complete resources would have been too much weight (would it have mattered?), but since I'm baking for other people, I thought I'd go exactly by the recipe for the first time.

I softened the cream cheese and used room-temperature eggs. I read somewhere that was a good idea. Sorry to say, but I used the artificial vanilla since I'm trying to get rid of it. I also used Splenda instead of sugar so that if my friends become diabetic after tonight, I'll not be to blame. I happened to top my cupcakes with mandarin orange segments because then I get to eat the rest of the tin of oranges, yum!

I'm not a big cheesecake eater. In fact, I almost never eat it because I find it so very rich. My favourite dessert is fresh fruit and I'm not saying that to make the sweets cravers feel bad. Ask my mom; I've loved fruit since I was wee. Since I almost never eat cheesecake, I've never made it before, and I figured little cheesecakes like this recipe would be a good starting point. That, and no one at the party has to feel that they need to be the first to cut a piece from a giant cheesecake. There's also less to dispose of in this format if you don't like it. Ties in well with my cupcake obsession of late too.

I must admit that, at the time of this posting, I haven't actually sampled the final product. I did lick the beaters a bit, but wanted to deliver the goods intact to Carmen's party. That, and I haven't eaten dinner yet. I'll try to get a review from the girls to post here later.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cajun Dirty Rice

Recipe #45:

Don't ask me what the "Dirty Rice" part means. I rinsed mine as directed. Is it dirty because the rice is brown instead of white? Bah, I'm so not Cajun-wise.

Well, I made almost this entire recipe while on the phone with a friend. Hats off to me for multi-tasking! Luckily, it wasn't a horribly complicated recipe or I probably would have messed it up somehow.

So, the alterations: I didn't use chicken liver (are you KIDDING me??), soy replacement (barf), ground pork or ground beef. I used ground chicken instead, because I can. It was more expensive than ground beef, but it's leaner so I thought I'd give it a try. I didn't have authentic big carrots to cut so I hacked up some baby carrots, roughly a handful. I used a tin of chopped tomatoes (you'll have lots of liquid at the end, fyi), and about 3 large handfuls of baby spinach because the grocery store didn't sell it in bags. I happend to choose chicken broth because it was where my hand landed in the cupboard, and I used a small dab of coriander from the squeeze tube because I couldn't find cilantro at the store and they both start with "C". I skipped the salt and pepper because I forgot about them (I was on the phone, remember?), and used olive oil to saute my vegetables.

I didn't adjust the amount of liquid I added to the recipe so my liquid hadn't quite evaporated/been absorbed as it was supposed to. After the 15 minutes of covered cooking, I still had lots of liquid left so I just turned the heat up a bit and left the lid off, stirring periodically until most of the remaining liquid had disappeared.

My version of this recipe is quite tasty. I have no idea how cilantro would have tasted instead of coriander, but I like what I made. Good thing since there's a lot of it and only me to eat it. The only thing I will mention is that the ground chicken looks a little white and pasty in the dish, in case that's something that might bother you. I'm sure ground beef would give a nice, darker contrast and perhaps a more favourable flavour? Try it and let me know :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Black Bean-And-Cheese Chicken Fingers

Recipe #44:

Oh boy, this recipe is REALLY good! I'm a little surprised at that statement, but it's completely true in my opinion. Funny, I came home from work today and almost made spaghetti instead. I'm glad I stuck with my decision to try this recipe.

I have to say that I thought this recipe sounded a little ghetto when I read that I was supposed to be using corn chips. I'm glad I was pleasantly surprised to find that their crunchy saltiness blends well with the rest of the ingredients. By using them, I also got rid of the corn chip temptation lying around the kitchen. 9.75 oz was a lot more corn chips than I figured I would need. I had a lot of fun smashing them up with the rolling pin.

I made a few minor adjustments to this recipe as I so often do. I ran out of regular flour while measuring the 1/2 cup so I made up the difference with whole wheat flour. I don't think I did a precise job of cutting the chicken breasts as directed, but hey, I got the job done and they taste good so who cares if they look a little strange? I opted to use plain yogurt in lieu of sour cream, and my can of black beans was 19 oz, not 15 oz. Don't tell Rachael on me. I skipped the scallions because they're gross, and used marble cheese not cheddar because that's what was in the fridge.

This was my first dip-dip-dip recipe, and by that I mean the kind of recipe where you dip something in something, then dip it in something else, etc... You get the idea. My fingers got pretty gross and gunky and disgusting pretty quickly so be prepared for that. You'll have leftovers of your dipping ingredients too, but trust me, you won't want to eat the leftover corn chips. Even I, queen of keep-it-forever ingredients, threw mine out afterward.

The assembly of the finished product where you add the beans and the sour cream/yogurt and the tomatoes is a bit tricky. I used the beans as a base and pressed them onto the chicken fingers. Then I used the yogurt as a glue to keep the tomatoes from falling off the top. It might not be pretty but it worked pretty well.

If I had to describe what this recipe tastes most like, I would describe it as either a crunchy chicken burrito or a chicken taco with black beans. Either way, I loved it! I'm glad I've got leftovers....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Timesaver Beef and Tomato

Well, since I've been off the recipe track for a while, I thought I'd start back with a fairly simple one. It was chosen predominantly to fulfill my desire to eat up meat and soup at home, both of which I seem to have a lot of.

Nothing terribly exciting or complicated about this recipe, and only a few substitution/modifications on my part. I didn't have fresh oregano (I haven't been home much over the last couple of weeks) so I used 2 generous tbsp of dried oregano. I may have used a bit too much, in hindsight, but at least the dish has flavour of some kind. I got to crack open my garlic powder for the first time which was kind of exciting. Best not to get too carried away with that one.

I used a mixture of omega-3 and multigrain rotini pasta to finish off the box of one and open a new box of the other. They had the same cooking time so I figured what the hell, live dangerously! The suggested mozzarella cheese became what little cheddar I had left, and the difference in marble that I had just bought. Mozzarella is probably a better suggestion if you have a choice. I just didn't want to be stuck with a lot of mozzarella cheese afterward so I picked the marble which I would eat by itself. I bought sliced (fresh) mushrooms since they were the same price as the diy ones, but I'd recommend hacking some of those giant pieces up to cook them. I just used the side of my spatula while they were in the pot, but I guess most people would use a knife before adding them.

I didn't really cry at all while chopping the onion for this recipe. That's a big improvement since August. Maybe my cooking heart is becoming more hardened, ha! I drained the meat/mushroom/onion mixture after cooking it even though the recipe didn't mention draining. I'd recommend doing so unless your meat doesn't leach any moisture when you cook it. I used extra lean ground beef, just in case you're taking notes. I had some difficulty with the draining because I suddenly realized that my other crappy oven mitt was at the bottom of the clean laundry hamper in the other room that I hadn't folded yet, and I was too lazy to go dig it out so I used two potholders. Pretty tricky and the contents are hot. I'd recommend oven mitts but not mine.

I noted late that the cheese was supposed to be sprinkled on, but I vigorously mixed mine in after sprinkling it so my photo looks different than the Campbell's one. Mine's better :) It's a tasty recipe, filling too. There's a bit more meat in it than what I'm used to of late, but if that doesn't bother you, then you'll probably like this recipe too.