Monday, January 28, 2013

Where's The Macaroon Brownies!

There is a method to my madness you guys.  I swear there is.  I asked on Facebook how many of you like coconut.  I couldn't believe it!  I always thought most people DIDN'T like it.  You proved me wrong in a hurry.  I don't care for coconut unless it involves lotions, oil, or flavoring.  I don't enjoy the real deal.  This is how I keep from eating these things, I just make things I don't like! HA!  Genius, right?  I knew you were thinking it, it is OK to admit it. 

Anyway, when I named these all I could think of is "Where's Waldo?" when my husband asked, where the macaroon part was.  Thus, we got this name for them.  They are really so delicious, I even tasted one.  All good cooks taste their own food before they serve it.  WAIT, for the love....are you telling me if you make something you don't like, you don't TASTE it?  You just feed it to the masses?  I feel faint.  I actually loved these.  So moist and delish on the inside, soft and chewy brownie on the outside.  Perfection!

Let me tell you something that will make some of YOU faint.  Ready?  I can't type it, I am laughing to hard, because some of you FRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREAK out over this.  Ready now?  I used a BOXED brownie mix!  You busy moms will thank me.  I figure, what the heck.  End of my story.  So go ahead, purchase your favorite brand because I KNOW you have one, you sly cat.....I know you do!  Prepare it per the package directions and set the batter aside.  You have some other work ahead of you!

1 cup coconut
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
1 tbsp cornstarch
Combine all ingredients.  Form into balls.  You should get 15, you only need 12.  Feel free to bake the others off as plain macaroons.  DO NOT feel tempted to add to the others to make them all bigger.  If they are bigger the brownie batter won't cover!  Bake away my dear chefwannabe.....and just trust me.  Put them in the freezer for 15 minutes.  I can be longer, just at least 15. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spray your muffin tin with non stick cooking spray, liberally.  Add 1 tbsp of batter into the bottoms of each cup.  Now, take the ball of macaroon mix, flatten it out just a wee bit and put it on top of the batter.  Don't push it down once it is in.  Make sure it has room to groove all around it so that the rest of the brownie batter can get around it.  When you have placed all of the balls, cover each with more batter.  Just keep feeling by the tablespoon until they are all filled and you can no longer see the macaroons!!

Bake for 30 minutes.  Let sit in the pan until completely cooled!  Carefully run a knife around the edges and they will pop right out.  If you try to do it while they are hot, they will come apart to easy.  They need to carry over cook and they are perfection!  You can do the toothpick test but not sure how accurate it will be with the macaroon centers.  The tops will be nicely firm, you will know when they are done, I have faith in you!

These will pop in your freezer nicely as well!  You can make them ahead or take one out at a time for a treat!  Let it sit 30-60 minutes on the counter and you are good to go!

Your "does NOT care for macaroons but these, are different" chefwannabe

Friday, January 25, 2013

Beef Enchiladas (Taco Inn Style)

What can I say?  I love Taco Inn.  Unless you live in Lincoln, NE or the area, you have no idea what I am talking about, but you have to trust me on this one.  I live in Omaha, and make what we call "taco runs" every month or 2.  It is an hour to get these enchiladas but who cares?  My nieces who grew up in Lincoln, and I occasionally torture each other with photos if we are on a "taco run".  Do you have a place like that?  A place you love and so you occasionally indulge and when you do it is all fireworks and rainbows?!  Once in awhile Geo will say, "Let's go somewhere for lunch we haven't been in a long time".  When I have no response, just an empty stare he will sigh and say, "You want a taco run don't you"?  THIS is why I love this man. 

Now this recipe is just crazy easy.  I even considered not writing about it, but I decided my beloved Taco Inn deserved to be written about.  I think I hit these dead on.  Or as close as I can possibly get.  I have made them before with no onion.  You all know how I feel about onions.  BUT.  This can't be recreated properly without them.   I know everyone of you are at different cooking levels, is a "to easy" recipe such a bad thing?  I serve these with some rice and chips and call it good.  I mean after all, at Taco Inn, they come alone, but we all know a side of Meat Nachos is a must. 

So amigos, let us move into the important part of this recipe.  The MAKING.  Oh and let me tell you, without sounding to "Steel Magnolia's" on you...these freeze beautifully.  As I typed that, I said it with a southern accent in my head, just so ya know.  I love having things I can pop out of the freezer on a night when my kitchen vibes are weak!

For 12-15 Enchiladas you will need:
2 lbs ground beef
1/2 onion diced fine (do a little bit of extra if you want to top your enchiladas with raw diced onion)
2 cans of  RED enchilada sauce
6 inch corn tortillas
1 pkg taco seasoning
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Brown hamburger and onion together. Mix the taco seasoning packet into 1 cup of water, then pour over the browned hamburger. 
Heat your corn tortillas in the oven or in the microwave, you need them very warm (almost hot) to make them pliable enough. 
On a cookie sheet, lay down a shell, cover half of it in your hamburger mixture and fold in half.  Repeat this until all of your hamburger is used.  Arrange on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan.  Cover with red enchilada sauce and cheese.  Bake for 10-15 minutes.  Remove and serve!

Your "why is it that it is STILL better to get it from Taco Inn"chefwannabe

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Crab Cheese Wontons

The sun is shining so bright today.  You know Mother Nature has one hand on her hip, and using the other hand to point and laugh, right?  Because it is cold as crap outside, but from inside you think it might be ok for shorts and flip flops.  You put said items on to go to the store and people look at you funny.  I mean if you DID it, they would look at you funny.  WHAT?  Ok, so yea, I DID.  They are all dressed up like Eskimos.  Pfftttt.

Anyway, I FINALLY got this recipe.  I know you can find these recipes anywhere, but the right amount of this and that, is an art, and my friend Leng is on it.  She made these for us so long ago, back when we were friends in Jersey!  She and her husband and family live back in Vegas, we are back in Nebraska, so I knew my only immediate chance of getting them again was a Facebook email and making them myself!  Thankfully Facebook had taken its meds that day and the email was delivered.  When I saw how easy this was I couldn't believe it.  Easy AND awesome. You know how we feel in our family about Chinese food.  I mean seriously, we should just change our last name to like, hmm, I wonder what the Asian version of "Smith" is.  Seriously when I just said that the first name that came to mind was "Long Duck Dong".  A complete 80's teen.  Did anyone else want to BE Molly Ringwald?  Anyone else want to marry JAKE RYAN? Sorry, off topic.

Anyway, so do you call these crab cheese wontons or crab rangoon.  I always called them crab cheese wontons when they were from a real Chinese restaurant and crab rangoon when they were mall Chinese.  What do you call them? 

Here is Leng's recipe for,  Crab Cheese Wontons,.  Thanks so much for letting me share Leng!! I did add an extra ingredient on accident, grabbed the wrong bottle but loved it so gonna through it in!

1 pkg wonton wrappers
1/4 cup crab meat FINELY chopped (real or fake!)
4 ounces softened cream cheese
1 tsp worchestire sauce
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1-2 green onions,  minced
1/4 tsp sriracha (or any hot sauce) OPTIONAL

Combine softened cream cheese, worchestire, soy sauce, garlic powder, green onion and hot sauce.  Fill your wontons with 1/2 tsp of the mixture in the center and fold however, you like them folded.  Just make sure to run water around all the edges so it seals well and no cheese leaks out. Prepare all wontons before frying!!

Now prepare your oil  I use peanut oil.  Put 3-4 inches in a heavy medium sauce pan.  Heat oil to 350 degrees.  Make sure to fry only a few at a time so you don't overcrowd.  This should make between 22-28 wontons.  (I think, LOL)  I did double fry a few of mine just see the difference.  I fried them, let them cool, and then fried a second time.  Was ok but not worth the time.  Drain on paper towels, or newspapers!  Sprinkle with salt when they come out if you wish!!  I would do it though!  I mean I DID do it. You know what I mean.

Use your favorite dipping sauce OR, don't use any at all!  Word to the wise, only make as many as you will need or eat, they aren't as good reheated!  I guess you could REfry them, get what I am saying!

Your "more Chinese takeout recipes than you can stand"chefwannabe
PS. If you don't groove on CRAB cheese wontons, try my regular FRIED WONTONS!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins!

I sometimes get so confused about muffins.  I mean......  Ok.  Some are so sweet I think they SHOULD be cupcakes.  They just don't have frosting, most of the time.  I have some muffins here that do have white chocolate drizzled on top.  But I mean, how do you KNOW?  I feel like it I am asking how you know someone you are dating is THE ONE.  How do you know it IS a MUFFIN?  For some reason, as a kid, I always though muffins had to be dry, and they had to have oats in them.  Yes, that was my prerequisite for being labeled a "muffin".  Only old people ate them too.  Oh the things we think when we are kids.  Normally I would blame my moms cooking but I don't recall her ever making muffins! (no offense ma, I swear)

I must admit I have created some great muffins.  You should check them out.  Well my husband created the Blueberries and Cream Muffins but, other than that.  There is no bad time for one.  Breakfast, brunch, lunch, snack, dinner, and in this case dessert even!!  I don't know if a recipe could be any easier.  Through stuff in the bowl, mix and bake.  Right?  These muffins taste like the softest, chewiest chocolate chip cookie you have ever eaten.  I am just warning you , don't think you will stop at just one.  No, really, I am serious.  In fact I noticed they LOOKED a little plaine Jane, humdrum and boring.  These babies pack a flavor and texture you won't soon forget.  I promise!

You will notice an odd ingredient, or not so odd, just different.  It is the Nestle's Media Crema Table Cream.  Here is a photo of it.  You will find it either in the Mexican Food aisle at your store, OR near the evaporated and sweetened condensed milk.

I sent my hubs to the store last week and in his quest to buy one thing he found this and brought me like 5 cans.  I finally opened one and it is so thick, I actually think I now have an equivalent to "thickened cream" that my Aussie friends talk about!  I used it in these muffins and holy chocolate chips batman..........

Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins (best EVER)
1 1/4 cups AP flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsps baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 -7.6 ounce can of Nestle Media Crema (found near the evaporated and sweetened condensed milk)
1 egg
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a muffin tin with nonstick spray.  I find liners hard to remove from muffins alot so just forget about those babies!  I put them in liners when they come out for serving.  If you are using a stand mixer, just use that bowl.  Otherwise in a large bowl add in flour, white sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Mix to combine.  Then add in oil, crema, and egg.  Again mix just until combine, don't over mix!  Pour in chocolate chips and give it one more mix!

Bake for 16=18 minutes.  17 minutes was perfect for mine. 

This will make 12 regular muffins.  Make sure to cool COMPLETELY before removing from pan. 

I hope you try these bites of heaven.  I am serious, this is completely unbiased...HA!  I have NEVER tasted chocolate chip muffins this good. 

Ok, done bragging

Your "youngest child syndrome never stops"chefwannabe

P.S.  Before you even ask, YES you COULD replace the Media Crema with milk, 1/2 cup.  But it won't be nearly as amazing and it is cheap to buy.  You could possibly find it in the Mexican food aisle at your grocery store as well!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Creme Brulee

Hey guys!

I know that I am early on this Valentine's Day thing but I know some of you like to plan.  I will be alone on Valentine's Day this year.  So nothing to really plan. (gimme some awwwwwww's)

In case some of you do not know what creme brulee is...  It is a custard dessert, made in individual servings and when it has baked and chilled, then brought out to room temp, it is topped with sugar (I prefer flavored or just plain white granulated) and using a torch you heat the sugar until it turns brown, not burns, and creates a shell on top.  It is hard and crispy, but not hard to eat because it is so thin.  It is heaven.  Pure heaven.  Well, if you ask me anyway.  This recipe is from my beloved Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  It is really pretty much the going recipe however. 

Regardless, this dessert makes an appearance every Valentine's Day.  I make it a few other random times of the year but always on Valentines Day.  It is a completely sexy dessert, you know you can just picture a commerical with someone eating a bit reeeaaaaaaaallllyyyy slooowwwww.  Yea it is that kind of dessert.  Creamy custardy (is that a word?), inside and a hard and crunchy sugar shell on top! YUM!!  This can really be flavored any way you want.  Vanilla is traditional, but how about orange zest, or rum, or Grand Marnier, coconut, amaretto......the options are endless, (I just don't recommend Mad Dog)

Here is what you will need:
4 ramekins (oven proof!)
1 3/4 cups heavy cream (can use half and half)
5 egg yolks lightly beaten
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar (reserve for the tops)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  In a small heavy saucepan heat cream over medium heat until just bubbly.  Remove from heat and set aside. 

In a seperate bowl combine egg yolks, 1/3 cup sugar, vanilla and salt.  Whisk until just combined.  Slowly whisk hot liquid into mixture.  Divide into 4 ramekins (6 oz).  Place into a 9x13 baking dish and then fill the dish with boiling water until it comes up the ramekins half way. 

Bake 30-40 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.  The centers will still be jiggly!! Remove from water bath and put them on a cooling rack until they come to room temp, then cover and chill for 1-8 hours. 

Let stand at room temp for 20 minutes before serving.  Sprinkle sugar on top and using a small kitchen torch, heat the sugar until it turns brown.  DO NOT BURN it, just caramelize it! Let it cool and eat!

I hope you enjoy this as much as we do.  It is so easy to make at home, just do it!!!
Your "creme brulee is bringing sexy back"chefwannabe

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Roasted Leg of Lamb, Simmerman style.

 Can I tell how much I dislike lpreparing lamb?   I don't dislike it, if I don't have to cook it.  But let me explain why I can't eat it if I have prepared it.  The texture of the skin on a leg of lamb, feel much like cutting human skin to me.  OK.  Gross, I know.  But, has that ever stopped me before?  I seriously can't believe I just wrote that, but, my bigger concern is you all wondering how I know what cutting human flesh is like. (if you could hear how hard I am laughing, I think out of nervousness). I just can't prepare it, and then have to eat it.  I will eat it from a restaurant, no problem.  But there are a few other misconceptions about lamb I want to set straight.  Well, according to me anyway.

"You must eat lamb with mint of some sort".  Not in my world.  In my world mint is to cover up the flavor of a poorly prepared roast.   I had lamb the first time years ago and it tasted "dirty" to me.  After I met my husband the lamb lover,  I took some tips from him, and learned to roast this to perfection.  We don't use traditional items, mint or rosemary.  We do however use TONS of garlic!  I guarantee your lamb will be perfect every single time, full of flavor, and moist!!  The flavor will be amazing and you will wonder how you ever didn't like it before.  So for the sake of my undying love for my hubby, (and son, who always requested leg of lamb for his birthday meal) I bring you, a lovely roast leg of lamb

You can prepare this lamb as per the directions, put it in a large Ziploc or cover tightly and let sit in your fridge for up to 24 hours.  I did not marinate mine, and it was still incredible.  So if you are a "do ahead" kinda person, you have the option.   Purchase a leg of lamb, bone IN as big or small as you need it.  Lamb is expensive right now.  I happened to hit a 50% off sale using my member card at this grocery store I loathe.  That is an entirely different blog.

You will need:
1 bone in leg of lamb
1 head of garlic, separated, peeled and left whole (12-15 cloves)
2 tbsp dried Italian seasoning
1 tbsp dried basil
olive oil
salt and pepper

You will preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place lamb into a large baking pan or roaster.  Taking a knife, cut deep slits all over the outside.  Make as many slits as you have pieces of garlic.  (feel free to use even more garlic if you like).  After you have placed your garlic, drizzle about 3-4 tbsps of olive oil all over.  Take your dried spices and sprinkle or rub into the meat all over.  Salt and pepper as much or as little as you prefer.  Oh yea,  I believe I used about 15-20. It should look like this....

Cover with foil, and roast until your internal temp is 140-150.  We like ours pretty med-rare so I roasted it to 140 degrees.  Perfection.  It took approx 2.5 hours for a 7 lb leg of lamb but make sure to use your meat thermometer, that is the only way to make sure it is cooked to a safe, and preferred temperature!  I removed my foil about 30 minutes before I took it out.  Let it rest a good 15-20 minutes before slicing!

Here is what we got when we pulled it out...(I made a big one and didn't even have a big enough platter so plastic it was!)

So there it is.  I know what you are thinking there is no way it can be juicy when I have cut all those slits in it.  It is, they are all on top, no juice runs out the bottom and it is so juicy you can SEE it in the cover photo!  No mint, no dirty taste, simply a masterpiece! HA! The Simmermans way to a beautiful roasted, garlictabulous roast leg of lamb!  Forget about the human flesh thing and just enjoy! xoxo
Your "still SLIGHTLY unsure about lamb in general" chefwannabe




Monday, January 14, 2013

Easy Angel Food Cake with a Pink Moscato Icing!

You know what is coming up, don't you?  Of course you do, VALENTINE'S DAY!  As a single friend of mine calls it, "Singles Awareness Day"!  Regardless of if your Valentine is a boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, son, daughter, whoever it is, just celebrate a day of loving the ones in your life!  Wait.......hold up.  Do NOT celebrate your love for your children with this cake. 

I was at the grocery store last week and popped over to the liquor section to pick up my husbands guilty pleasure, "MD 20/20", yeah, I know...keeping it classy.  Anyway, to make my trip even more full of class and hoity toityness, I eyed a 10.00 bottle of sparkling pink moscato.  My eye is always drawn to pink things, especially pink things I can consume. 

A week passes and I have still not popped the cork on this baby.  So Saturday, the Internet went down for 3 hours during the evening hours.  What better thing to do than have some drinks right?  It was sparkling, bubbly, sweet goodness!!  I decided it had to become something for Valentine's Day.  And this is how the cake was born.  I decided with Moscato in the icing, the cake had to be plain, but amazing.  I am lover of angel food and so it was.  I found my favorite angel food recipe, and made it.  I will share it with you.  This dessert is so easy and though I know everyone loves decadent beautiful desserts to feed your lovey dovey on VD  (wow, that was awkward)  sometimes there is only time for something quick.  What you don't use in the recipe you can drink so it serves double duty! 

My darling, adorable, and cutie patootie husband loved this.  I would change only ONE thing.  I actually thought about not posting this because there was something I would do different next time but then decided it was good to post something I would change.  It happens to everyone and the change is cosmetic mostly anyway.  I would add fancy dollops of whipped cream on the top with a strawberry in each one.  So if you make this, and you do that on top, take a photo and post it on my face book page so I can see!!!

Here is the angel food cake recipe I have been using for years, it is easy and SO delish, it is from!

You will need:
1 1/2 cups egg whites (this was 12 large eggs for me.  SAVE your yolks for something else!)
1 1/4 sifted cake flour (I always use plain AP flour)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cream of tarter
2 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

In your stand mixer bowl or large bowl (if using a hand mixer) separate eggs, whites into your bowl and let stand at room temp for 15 minutes.

Sift flour with 3/4 cup sugar, sift 3 times and set aside.

Beat egg whites on medium speed with salt and cream of tartar.  Gradually beat in remaining sugar, 3 tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat at high speed until eggs for soft peaks.  Turn up the speed and add in vanilla.

Add in flour mixture 1/4 at a time, mixing on low for 3 seconds after each addition or until mixture is completely blended.

Using a rubber scraper, gently push better into an ungreased 10" tube pan.  Cut through the batter twice with a knife to level center and remove any air pockets. 

Bake on the lower rack of your oven for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean of wet batter.

Invert pan over a bottle to cool.  Let cool completely, about 2 hours.  After it is cool, flip the cake pan back over and run a knife carefully around the edges to free it from the pan.  Invert unto a plate, you might need to reach in and help it, but it will come out!

Pink Moscato Drizzle:
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp sparkling moscato
pink food coloring (optional)

Using a whisk or electric hand mixer combine until smooth.  Carefully pour around the top of the cake until it begins to drip down the sides!  Let stand for 15-30 minutes before serving!

Remember, I said, if I did it again I would pipe dollop's of whipped cream with a strawberry in the middle, so there was one in the middle of each cut piece!

Enjoy and make sure you love the moscato you are using, because you definitely taste it!  Delish!

Your "moscato lovin" chefwannabe

Friday, January 11, 2013

Asian Chicken and Vegetable Soup w/Egg

There isn't much background on this one.  I am tired of plain vegetable soup, I love Chinese food, (my husband is OBSESSED going on like 35 years now and no end in sight as you all know).  And it is DIVINE my friends.  It reminds me of when I mix half Hot and Sour Soup and half Egg Drop Soup.  Yea, it is a marriage of sorts..........a beautiful one at that!

I used my favorite Asian inspired veggies, homemade stock, but please feel free to use store bought.  Instead of using some flavor boosters I would get at the Asian Market I decided to keep it simple with things I know you ALL can get near and far, city and country, etc.  Aren't I nice?  No, I really try to always do that, I am not always successful but, I think I keep it pretty real, real food, real folks that whole thing.  I would also love this with pork.  I would not love this with beef.  If you use pork, make your stock a half and half combo of chicken and beef, it makes it pork like.  Or just use chicken.   I also used ginger powder and onion powder, I don't like biting down on bits of either, but I wanted the flavor in this soup.

I also took the time to julienne  my veggies in long(ish) thin strips.  I like the look, I like the texture, and to me, it matters.  I also cut my water chestnuts into sticks.  I got the already sliced ones, stacked a few and made sticks.  If you want a chunkier soup, well you just cut things the way YOU like them!

I am hoping you will love this as much as we do, you can really change the veggies out for whatever you want but you will then turn it back into vegetable soup and didn't we say we were bored of plain old veggie soup?  We as in "I"?  Doesn't it bug you when people say that.  A waitress will as just you, "what are WE having today".  Why does that bug me?  Anyhoodle, onward we go, to Asian Chicken and Vegetable Soup.  Super love!

You will need:
2 1/2 quarts of chicken stock
1/4 cup shao hsing wine (optional)
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 tbsp onion powder
1 tsp ground ginger
3 eggs
1 cup (8ozs) bamboo shoots
1 cup (8ozs) water chestnuts
10-14 ounces bean sprouts
1 lg carrot (mine was HUGE)
3 stalks celery
1 cup of sliced mushrooms.  I prefer and only use fresh, you canned if you like
2 cups COOKED chicken cut SMALL!
Salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes, optional

Prep all veggies.  Heat stock, wine (if using), soy sauce, onion powder, and ginger until boiling.  Add in all veggies and let simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes.  In a small bowl whisk eggs with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove lid after 20 minutes and using a spoon stir in circles while drizzling in the egg mixture.  Add chicken and let simmer 5 more minutes.  Serve!

Remember my veggies were cut long and thin so you may need an extra 10 minutes if you left them chunkier!

Enjoy this healthy and DELICIOUS soup!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Vanilla Slice

Hey mates!!  It's finally Wednesday, the week is half over. WOOHOO!

This blog post is so fun for me.  You know I spend a lot of time recreating my favorite dishes, dishes that my mom made.....pretty good, but I make better, and things I eat out that I want to make at home and some things, are just my husbands middle of the night brain children.  THIS recipe though, if it turned out was going to make someone very happy! Let me explain....

There is a new officer at my husbands job, who my husband thinks it a really great guy.  He is from Australia and has lived in the states for a few years.  Of course my husband was telling him how madly in love I am with pavlova and he mentioned his favorite dessert was "Vanilla Slice" and how I should try to make it.  He also said it was like this iconic Australian dessert and I was devastated!  What about my heavenly PAVLOVA?!!?  Anyway, he said he hadn't had it for years and being the kind, loving, generous woman I am (shut up, I AM) I took that on as a challenge. 

I was presented with a few obstacles with this however. When I looked up the recipe, it seemed rather easy except for this whole "thickened cream" issue.  I know about thickened cream because of a YouTube channel I watch (holla, David) and he is from Australia.  I did a little research and watched back an old video or 2 and felt it was OK to go with just heavy cream since I can not purchase thickened cream here.  Also I could not find custard powder, BUT, by way of my faithful foodie readers, I learned I could make it myself.  Thank God for them, because I obviously forgot how to use Google!  Thanks guys, really!  So I had to tweak this recipe a bit, I also put the ingredients into American terms, even though you could likely figure it out, some might not and I just wanted it to be clear.  This is one recipe I would measure everything out first and have it ready to go.  This custard moves so fast you won't have time to stop whisking so measure it all out and get your head in the game! 

This will come out with a beautiful top and bottom "crust" and a thick, firm custard center.  This isn't an overly sweet dessert, however, it is pure vanilla perfection!

Without further adieu let's get on with this Australian classic!  Glad you liked it Steve and I appreciate the feedback!!  (I adjusted the recipe to reflect it)

Here is what you will need for your Vanilla Slice:
1 box of puff pastry (there should be 2 sheets in one box, you need 2 sheets
1 cup milk
1 vanilla bean (optional) if you don't use a vanilla bean you will need 1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 HEAPING T's cornstarch
1 cup granulated sugar
3 cups HEAVY cream
3 1/2 tbsp butter
3 egg yolks
powdered sugar for dusting

Thaw your puff pastry in the refrigerator.  When it is thawed, unfold each and put on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake at 410 F for 8-10 minutes.  Remove and set aside to cool. 

In a small saucepan slowly heat up your milk, if you are using a vanilla bean split it in half and add it in while the milk is cold, so it warms up together and infuses vanilla into the milk.  Do not do this on high, heat it up slowly for the most flavor and the least chance of scalding or burning!  When it is done set it aside to cool for 10 minutes.  (NOTE: if you are using vanilla extract do NOT add it to the milk, you will add it later)

In a medium pot combine, cornstarch, sugar, and the milk you heated.  If you used a vanilla bean strain it first.  Add in heavy cream and bring back up to a boil, whisking constantly.  Did you hear that?  CONSTANTLY.  This puppy will go from nothing to fried in a New York minute!  When it is thickened, add in egg yolks one at a time whisking like a banchee!  Then add in butter and vanilla. 

Place a strip of parchment or foil into the bottom of a 9x9 square baking dish.  You want it long so you can lift the slice out when it is done for cutting and serving.  Place one of your puff pastry sheets firmly into the bottom.  You will likely need to trim it, but you want it to fit perfectly down into the bottom of the dish.  Add your custard mixture on top and smooth out evenly.

Then trim the second puff pastry sheet and place firmly on top.  Give it a little push down.  Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight!

Dust heavily with powdered sugar before serving!

This is so light and refreshing!  You will love it!  Make sure to let it sit overnight, that is important!!!  Plan ahead!


Your "channeling her inner Aussie"chefwannabe

Monday, January 7, 2013

Light and Delicious Chicken Pot Pie Soup

It is Sunday night.  Want to know what is going on around here?  I am writing you this blog and my husband, who eats the freakiest stuff has made up a small batch of wasabi to dip his slim jims while drinking Mad Dog 20/20 and watching the History Channel. (it is his Saturday)  Don't try to stop us, we will live as dangerously as we WANT!  Just in case for a second you thought, "hmm, wonder what a Sunday night at Chefwannabe's is like".  There ya go.  It is ok to cry.  Sometimes I do too. HA!

So anyway, with it being the new year and all, everyone and their pet is on a diet.  What most of you don't know, because I choose to keep some things to myself.  Odd to think that, I know.  I have been on my own little weight loss journey but here is how I roll.  I don't diet.  I am changing my food mind.  I refuse to eat bird or rabbit food.  In fact, I refuse to cut out anything I love.  I have been doing a great job of controlling portions and getting off my behind!  Though you will not find me talking about this, it has been a very successful 3 months.  Some things are very personal to me, I know you will understand.  So as you can see by what I am posting and cooking, I again, refuse to cut anything out I love. 

That being said, most of you know I love chicken noodle soup.  Isn't that an odd favorite food?  Anyway in a close second, is Chicken Pot Pie.  Now, I have posted a beef pot pie, and have seen so many chicken pot pie recipes, that all look divine.  Just because I refuse to cut anything out doesn't mean I don't try to find healthier ways to make things.  So I took all of the elements I love about chicken pot pie and worked it out in a soup.  A thick creamy soup that has no cream, no half and half, just cornstarch to thicken and a splash of skim milk.  You can add any veggies you like to this soup, I just chose what I like in a pot pie.  It is easy and you won't even miss out on the pie crust part......just keep reading!

You will need:
1 cup skim milk
1/3 cup cornstarch (you MIGHT need 1 extra tbsp but I doubt it)
5 cups chicken stock (low sodium and no msg if you can find it) I used my homemade.
3-4 cups cooked chicken (cubed or just torn)
1 cup green beans
2 large carrots (diced)
3-4 stalks of celery (chopped)  use the leafy parts too!
1 large potato (peeled and diced small)
1 tsp poultry seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

In a bowl combine cold milk and cornstarch.  Whisk until cornstarch is incorporated.  You will need to give it another whisk or 2 before you add it into the soup so keep your whisk handy!  Set aside. 

Prepare all veggies. Add chicken stock into a pot, add poultry seasoning and salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and add in all green beans, carrots, celery, and potato.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes. 

Make sure your cornstarch is mixed well into your milk and while stirring, pour in the mixture.  Keep it boiling and it will begin to thicken right away.  Remember you can't add cornstarch to HOT liquid or you will get lumps!  Should you want your soup thicker, add another heaping tbsp of cornstarch to 1/4 cup cold water and whisk.  Add into the soup along with your chicken.  If you find your soup is thicker than you prefer, add in another cup of chicken stock, skim milk or water.  Easy, eh?  I told you it would be!

Now for the final little bit of "ohhh this IS chicken pot pie" you will need a pie crust.  I had an extra store bought one in the fridge so I used it.  Lay it out and using a cookie cutter or a glass cut out shapes.  I used a music note, since I am a musician, music lover, etc.  But you can use something just smaller than the opening of your bowl you will be serving in, to get the most crust you can!  Place on a greased cookie sheet or parchment, brush lightly with milk, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 375 degrees for about 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.  

Fill up your cup or bowl of soup, set a pie crust shape on top and go to town.  You get "enough" to make you feel like you aren't missing out but not getting all the calories and fat from a top and bottom crust!

See, I DO keep you health nuts in mind sometimes! HA!  Really though, this will satisfy every single chicken pot pie craving I could ever have.  So much better for my health, and yet, I don't feel like I have missed a dang thing!

I hope you try it and let me know what you think!

Your "needs to go make brownies now"chefwannabe

Friday, January 4, 2013

Blueberry Crumble Pie

Happy Friday!  Hoping you all are looking forward to a relaxing weekend!!  No snow predicted for us, so that alone makes the upcoming weekend awesome!!

As most of you know, because you graciously voted for me, I won a Holiday Recipe Contest with my Mini Caramel Cheesecakes.  It was hosted by Jen and Maria over at Amateur Kitchen.  Jen and her daughter Maria host a ton of great video cooking webisodes.  You can find them here.  Their recipes are easy, and they show step by step direction, and they are DELICIOUS!  Jen is a mom who encourages kids helping in the kitchen and it is obvious by Maria's excitement on each video she has done a great job getting her to help, try new things and understand cooking.  I just love their YouTube channel and never miss a new upload!

When I won this contest, I was awarded a beautiful cookbook, pie plate, spatula's, and adorable pie crust design cutters! (great pick Maria, you rock)  As a "thank you" I wanted to prepare a dish from the cookbook in this pie plate/casserole that I LOVE.  Seriously, I LOVE it.  So I adapted a recipe out of the cookbook.  I had been wanting to make my husband something blueberry and I couldn't decide on a crisp or a pie and this is the collision of both of those worlds!  You get blueberry crisp and blueberry pie in one. 

This recipe is adapted from the Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking Cookbook.  Though you can't see it, the pie plate they sent me was the exact one on the front of the cookbook.  So cool.   I served this straight out of the oven almost, alongside a scoop of vanilla ice scream.  You still get the crust of the pie, the crumble of the top and the hot sweet blueberries melting your ice cream a little.  Complete joy!!!

Here is how this is gonna roll.............ready?  You will need:

1 pie crust.  I used a premade pie crust but my pie crust recipe is the best you will ever eat.  You can find it here with my recipe for Caramel Apple Crostata Basic Pie Crust.  This will make 2 crusts, you only need one so either half the recipe it!

You will need to place your shell in your pie plate and partially bake it.  Place the dough into your pie plate, then, cover the bottom with parchment or foil and fill with dry beans or pie weights or rice.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool.  Turn oven down to 375 degrees at this time.

5 cups blueberries (fresh or if frozen, allow to thaw and drain!)
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Set aside and make crumble topping.

Crumble Topping:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup butter (COLD and cut into cubes)
In a bowl mix flour, sugar and vanilla.  Add in cold cubed butter and with your fingers or a pastry cutter, combine until your mixture is pea size.  The chunkier you leave the crumble the the chunkier it will be on your pie. 

Pour blueberry mixture into your partially baked pie shell.  Distribute the crumble on top evenly.  I admittedly, made a batch and a half of the crumble because I wanted ALOT of crumble.  It was the perfect amount. 

Bake for 50-60 minutes.  The recipe says to let it cook before serving.  You decide, I served it hot over ice cream!!  YUMMO!
Enjoy this delicious blueberry delight!  Thanks to Jen and Maria for this gorgeous pie plate you KNOW I love! 
Your "here is to new friends and great food"chefwannabe

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Homestyle Gnocchi Soup

I could eat soup for every single stinkin' meal.  Trust me on this.  If it is -20 outside I want soup and if it is 110 outside, I still want soup.  My favorite soup is Chicken Noodle Soup.  When I see a fellow foodie post a picture or a recipe for it or a new blog post about it, I always share it.  I have to.  The world NEEDS more versions of chicken noodle soup, right?  Big noodles, little noodles, skinny noodles, fat noodles, TONS of noodles....  Let me calm it down, I am almost breaking a sweat.  The point is, there could never be enough kinds of soup in the world.

I have never made homemade gnocchi.  I admit it.  Honestly, I am not a HUGE gnocchi fan.  I make a few different things with it, including a sweet dish but, just was never hellbent on making my own.  In fact, you know where I buy it?  My local Dollar Tree.  Yes I am serious.  Now if you don't know what gnocchi are, they are a soft dumpling made from potatoes, and various other "usual suspect" kind of ingredients.  Here are the ones I use.

I love them in soup.  You have to be careful not to over cook them in soup or they just become mushy, which isn't horrible either in reality.  This soup is just a lovechild of my need to use up veggies and some chicken and this poor lone package of gnocchi.  You may find it tastes MUCH like the Chicken Gnocchi soup at a chain Italian resturant. (wink, wink) Here we go!!

Home style Gnocchi Soup
2 cups veggies of your choice I needed to use up carrots, celery and bell peppers.  Whatever you choose just make sure it all equals up to 2 cups
1-2 cups chicken cut into small pieces (I used boneless thighs)
1/4 cup corn (optional, I just had some leftover)
5 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups skim milk (any milk will work or cream or half and half)
1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp basil (I used dried)
1/2 tsp rosemary (dried)
1/2 tsp thyme (dried)
1 package gnocchi 

In a large pot saute all veggies in 1 tbsp olive oil.  After sauteing for 2 minutes add in chicken. Let cook for 3 minutes, stirring often.  

Add in basil, rosemary, thyme and chicken stock.  Let this simmer for 5 minutes.  

While it is simmering combine your cornstarch with your COLD milk.  You can NOT add it into warm liquid or it will lump on you.  Whisk into milk and then when soup is at a boil, add it in stirring constantly.  It will begin to thicken almost immediately.  5 minutes before serving add in gnocchi.  If you know the entire pot will be eaten go ahead and do it this way.  If the soup will need to last a few hours, make the gnocchi separate and add them to each bowl of soup.  Mine is in the fridge with the gnocchi IN it, so the choice is yours, I just wanted to share the suggestion.

This soup is creamy yet brothy.  I was so happy with how it turned out!  I am known as the "queen of soup" in my family and among my friends.  This is one of my favorites.  I will be making this one often.  Serve this with some warm bread or bread-sticks, maybe a nice panini.........oh heavens!!

Feeling like a bedtime snack......another cup of soup!

Your "gnocchi is such a funny looking word" chefwannabe

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Scalloped Cabbage

Weird right?  I know!

It is a new year, I wanted to start it off with something you thought was going to be healthy but alas, is not.  HA!  I was looking through an old cookbook of my sisters, it is from our hometown church 30 years ago!  I found some recipes in there that I had never heard of or eaten so I took the liberty to find one I thought we might enjoy and go with it. 

What is it about these old cookbooks.  The way they wrote recipes is bizarre.  I mean, they call for ingredients that should be an entirely different recipe on their own, but aren't and there is no recipe FOR them.  They only sometimes give oven temps and even have little notes in parenthesis that say things like "even if cabbage is hard on your stomach you can usually eat this".  What does that have to do with anything?  Who thought to put that in there?   I even found a recipe for "Mock Chicken", made with hamburger?!?!

Anyway, I love cabbage.  So if you love cabbage, you should try this.  I made a few command decisions on this one.  The recipe was very vague, with you making many choices so I made them and should thank me for it, it is awesome!

And really, "even if cabbage is hard on your stomach youc an usually eat this". Mwaaahahaha! Why does that crack me up so much?

You will need to make a white sauce first, so here is what you need for that:
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
2 cups milk (called for sweet milk, wth is sweet milk in a savory dish??? go with regular!)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add flour.  Cook for 1-2 minutes whisking constantly.  Add in milk and continue to whisk until it is creamy and thick.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  You don't want it to taste like nothing so make sure to season well with both.  Set it aside and move to the next steps.

For the rest of the recipe you will need:
1 sm/med head of cabbage  (no need to fret this to much at ALL)
1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1/3 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Chop your cabbage into chunks.  Not shreds, not HUGE chunks just get 'er down to size peeps.  Bring a large pot of water to boil and get it in.  Boil for 5 minutes and then drain.

In a small casserole, I think I used about a 7x10 (ish) casserole.  Lay half of your cabbage on the bottom.  cover with half of the white sauce, and half of the cheese.  Get how we are doing this?  Now, add the rest of the cabbage, rest of the white sauce and the rest....................oh the cheese!  

Here is the first layer.

Cover the top with the bread crumbs, salt and pepper again lightly and then drizzle with your melted butter.  You made need a wee bit more butter, ya know, for the sake of the breadcrumbs.  Bake in a 350 oven for 30 minutes. 

This is unlike anything I have eaten and it is SO good.  I mean different and so good.  So quick and easy.  You will be a rockstar for making a healthy food, UNhealthy!

This is not a sponsored blog but I have one reminder..."Take BEANO before and there will BEANO gas after", 

Your "like to cover all consequences of cabbage eating"chefwannabe