Thursday, September 16, 2010


Chilaquiles are all the rage... no seriously, they are. I first encountered these on a menu at El Rey in Philadelphia. I had never heard of them, so I asked the server, and I am glad I did. The server described them as their homemade tortilla chips tossed, until slightly soft, with salsa verde. Then, they are topped with cotija cheese and Mexican crema. THEN!... (the best part)... they are topped with 2 fried eggs. There are other variations that include topping the chilaquiles with chicken, skirt steak, etc. However, I just had to try it with the fried eggs. So amazingly good.

Since then, I have seen the Executive Chef from El Rey on a local news show, making this exact recipe [Side note: Apparently these have been voted best hangover food in Philadelphia]. And, I have also seen Marcela Valladolid make it on her Food Network Show, Mexican Made Easy.

I decided to give these a try, using Marcela's recipe. I have made other salsa verde in the past, but Marcela's version won me over. It is a little more labor intensive, but it is well worth it. Chips, salsa, and eggs sound like a strange combination, but trust me, this is delicious!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

I was asked to make cupcakes for my nephew's birthday, and I was excited to come up with a fun combination. My nephew turned 10 this year - I cannot believe how old he is!

Since my nephew loves chocolate cake, I chose a Martha Stewart Cupcakes recipe for Devil's Food and decided to pair it with Swiss Meringue Buttercream. This was a delicious combination.. the devil's food was moist and slightly tangy, while the buttercream was buttery and subtly sweet.

I also made a batch of sugar cookies with royal icing to decorate the cupcakes. (I used the same recipe from the previous blog post,) Since the party was Sponge Bob-themed, I chose a yellow coloring with white writing. For the birthday boy, there was a special Sponge Bob candle!

Devil's Food Cupcakes
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot water
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1-1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1-1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter
2-1/4 c. sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 c. sour cream, room temperature

1. Preheat oven to 350. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cocoa and hot water until smooth. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

2. Melt butter with sugar in a saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring to combine. Remove from heat, and pour into a mixing bowl. With an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat until mixture is cooled, 4 to 5 minutes (Mine took longer.. more like 10 minutes). Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add vanilla, then cocoa mixture, and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, and beating until just combined after each.

3. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester in centers come out clean, about 20 minutes.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 large egg whites
1 c. plus 2 tbsp. sugar
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a stand mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved.

2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff peaks form. Continue mixing until mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool, about 10 minutes.

3. With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all the butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lighter Chicken Enchiladas

Because I am such a maniac for Tex-Mex/ Mexican food, I am always happy to find a recipe for a lighter version. I found this recipe on Martha Stewart's website a couple months ago, and we've made it several times. In fact, this was the first time I was able to get a picture of the finished product (not the most beautiful presentation) because Jim and I generally do not want to wait around for a picture to be taken.

In addition to the listed ingredients, we added in chopped, yellow onion with the chicken. It gave it a next texture and flavor. I thought the enchilada sauce was especially delicious, but I have found that the longer it cooks, the better the flavor meld and thus, taste!

Along with the enchiladas, I made a variation on a pico de gallo, including homegrown Jersey tomatoes - look how beautifully red they are!

Lighter Chicken Enchiladas recipe

Avocado and Corn Pico de Gallo
Frozen corn, defrosted
Ripe red tomatoes
Yellow onion
Lime juice
Salt and pepper

This recipe is all about balance and what you prefer. Add all the ingredients together, except the avocado, and add more of a certain ingredient if necessary. Fold in the avocado at the end so that it stays partially in tact.

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Honestly, I was a bit nervous about my first experience with royal icing. However, I did a lot of research and asked around, so when it came time to actually make and decorate with royal icing, I was a bit more comfortable. The purpose of these cookies was for the favor of a retirement party. Since my co-worker is moving to the Orlando area and is a big fan of Disney, I wanted the cookies to reflect the Disney theme. So, I chose a Mickey Mouse cookie!
I used The Way the Cookie Crumbles blog to find the perfect sugar cookie recipe. After reading Bridget's comparisons, I chose her recipe (the first one listed on the blog entry). These cookies were delicious - soft but sturdy with a delicious flavor (from the extracts and lemon zest).
All I can say is - Thank goodness for Annie's Eats step-by-step instructions on royal icing decorating. I followed these directions closely. Since I was doing Mickey cookies, I decided on doing some black and some white. I was pleased with how they came out! And, everyone RAVED about the taste and look of these cookies. Royal icing is definitely a time-consuming process, but I think it's well worth it. I can't wait to work with it againg and to perfect my techniques.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pull Cake/ Monkey Bread

Sweets do not get much better than pull cake/ monkey bread. I always knew this delicious, sweet, cinnamony treat as 'monkey bread;' however, when I met Jim, he always referred to it as 'pull cake.' Regardless of the name, this is an awesome treat for brunch or dessert.

Today I was lucky enough to have my nephew over for several hours. He's 9, going on 10, and is one of the best cooks/bakers that I know! Pull cake is one of his favorite things to make and of course, EAT! The following is my own adaptation with my nephew's special techniques:
1 1/2 loaves of white bread dough, allowed to rise for 3-6 hours hours (I use frozen white bread dough, thawed, and then allowed to rise)
1 1/2 sticks of salted butter, melted
2 cups white sugar
approx. 4 tbsp. cinnamon

Grease bundt pan with cooking spray. Combine sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Cut bread dough into bite-sized pieces. Dip the dough into butter and then into the cinnamon/sugar mixture and coat evenly; place into bundt pan. Repeat until all pieces are in the pan. Pour remaining butter over the bundt pan (if desired - this makes it extra gooey). Allow dough to re-rise in bundt pan, approximately one hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for approximately 25 minutes. Cover the bundt pan with foil and then allow the cake to cook for another 5 minutes.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then flip onto a plate. Enjoy!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tagliatelle with Smashed Peas, Sausage, and Ricotta Cheese

For my birthday, Jim gave me a cookbook (yay!) of Giada deLaurentiis' called Giada's Kitchen: New Italian Favorites. One word sums up this book: YUM! I do not know why or how I was drawn to this recipe as the first one I made from the book, but I've made it twice now. And surprisingly, Jim ate and actually LIKED the peas. This is major.

Last time I made it I used hot (turkey) Italian sausage, this time around I used sweet (turkey) Italian sausage. Both were equally delicious... I am not sure which I preferred. Both times I used fresh, hand-cut pasta. In my mind fresh pasta really makes the dish.
This recipe serves at least 4-6 people (or 2 people with tons of leftovers). I am not complaining about the leftovers :)

1 pound fresh or dried tagliatelle (I used pappardelle)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 lb. hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 lb. frozen peas, thawed
1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese (I used part skim)
1 bunch of fresh basil leaves, chopped - about 3/4 cup
1/4 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 tsp. salt

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 minutes if dry or according to package directions if fresh. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking water.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil and garlic in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until the garlic is fragrant. Add the sausage and cook, using a wooden spoon to break it up into bite-sized pieces. When the sausage has browned, about 5 minutes, push it over to one side of the pan. Add the peas to the pan and, using the back of the wooden spoon, smash the peas. Turn off the heat. Add the ricotta cheese to the pan and stir to combine, then add the cooked pasta and toss to coat. Add the pasta water 1/4 cup at a time, it needed, to make the pasta moist. (Both times I made this recipe, I used the entire cup of pasta water). Add the basil, Pecorino, and salt. Toss gently to combine and serve immediately.

Carnitas with Homemade Guacamole and Salsa Verde

One of Philadelphia's best-known restaurateurs, Stephen Starr, opened a new Mexican restaurant in Philly, called El Rey. HOLY COW is this place good! It has a kitschy feel with casual Mexican food. The portions are actually tapas-sized and are encouraged to share. My 3 co-workers and I each ordered and item, and each were equally delicious. Since that night, I had been craving Mexican food, but carnitas in particular.

A' google searchin' I went... where I stumbled upon this recipe from Williams Sonoma. It was easy to put together, and it made the whole house smell delicious. We served our carnitas with flour tortillas, homemade guacamole, homemade salsa verde, and cotija cheese. Que delicioso!
I used this recipe for the salsa verde (I halved it, which still yielded a TON of salsa). This recipe calls for 'green chiles' - I used a poblano, which added a safe amount of heat. Enjoy - you will not be disappointed!