Monthly Archives: February 2013

Dark Chocolate Espresso Oreo Balls

Only 3 ingredients! Thanks to Grandma Bev for her Chocolate Oreo Balls recipe, which led to this slightly altered version. She made some for the holidays and nobody could eat just one. I changed it up only because I love dark chocolate.

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Ingredients:

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened

1 package (16 oz.) Oreo cookies, crushed (I used a store brand and it was about 40 cookies)

12 oz. dark chocolate bark/bar, chopped (I used 4 packages of “Endangered Species Natural Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans” which donate 10% of net profits to endangered animals)

  • Using a blender or mixer, mix the cream cheese with Oreo cookies.
  • Roll into about 1-inch balls, using wax paper to set them on if you need to
  • Chill for at least 30 minutes

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  • Melt the chopped chocolate bars or bark in the microwavable bowl, 1 minute at a time, stirring occasionally

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  • Using a toothpick or two spoons, roll the balls in the melted chocolate to coat. Set aside on wax paper or on a wire rack

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  • Chill again for at least 30 minutes, the longer the better. Serve cold or room temperature.

Salmon Sushi Roll

Even without a bamboo sushi mat, you can still make homemade sushi rolls. This version is my one of my favorites, but instead of cream cheese, I normally like it with Avocados. Here’s a simple version of a Salmon Roll, of which you can use many substitutes such as tuna instead of salmon, or cucumber instead of cream cheese, or both. We used FRESH, raw fish. Here in Washington, it’s possible to get the best Salmon around. Regardless of which fish you use, make sure it smells like nothing but the ocean or salty sea air.

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Ingredients:

  • Fresh, raw or cooked fish (raw Salmon, this time)
  • 1 package Seaweed wrap (also known as Nori, and available at most grocery stores now)
  • White rice (you can use a sushi rice recipe that requires vinegar for an even more authentic taste)
  • Narrow cucumber slices
  • Cream cheese
  • Pickled ginger and Wasabi for garnish (we used our homemade pickled ginger, but you can buy it in jars)

Cut the skin off the fish it’s still on. This is best to do with the skin facing down, hand placed on top of the fish, and slide the knife horizontally through, in a long sawing motion (get as close down as you can to the skin with your knife). Then slice the fish into half-inch thick, narrow pieces.

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Lay out a sheet of seaweed wrap. Using a spoon, spread on an even, thin layer of rice to cover entire sheet. You can wet the spoon a few times to keep it slippery and keep the rice from sticking. Pat down with the wet spoon to set the rice.

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Place the fish slices toward the bottom and any other topping on top like the cucumber or cream cheese. And roll up firmly.

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Cut the roll carefully (sharp knives come in handy here), starting from the center. You should be able to get about 8 pieces.

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Place the pickled ginger and wasabi on the side. Serve with soy sauce. The ginger can be eaten in between bites as a palette cleanser or at the end of your meal. It’s purpose is not only to be a palette cleanser, but is also known to help reduce the Mercury content commonly in fish. I just happen to like the taste of it with my sushi. Wasabi can be mixed into the soy sauce for a spicy kick, but some people just place tiny pieces of it onto the sushi bites.

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Natty Patty Banana Nut & Chocolate Cupcakes

These are the most fun cupcakes! The biggest hit at Julius’s 4th birthday party. Small and cute, kids and adults love them. My favorite part is that instead of battling with frosting on top, the frosting is in the center!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 package Banana Nut muffin mix
  • 1 package or box Chocolate cake mix (and milk, eggs, or oil according to the back instructions)
  • 1 can or jar of white frosting, butter milk or vanilla
  • food coloring, liquid or gel, doesn’t matter (red, green, yellow)
  • Non-stick cooking spray or cupcake paper liners

Bake the chocolate cake package according to directions in a cupcake or muffin pan, lined or not (I’ve tried both, just do what you think is best for your muffin pan.

Separate the frosting into three even amounts. Mix in the food coloring a little at a time to get the desired color. I chose red to look like ketchup, green to look like lettuce, and yellow to either look like mustard or cheese.

The photo above features the yellow looking like mustard. Below is a photo that shows the yellow in a square outline to look like cheese corners. For best results, pipe the frosting out of a plastic bag corner with the tip finely cut off. All you need is a little frosting around the outside edges to be visible. You don’t need to fill the center.

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Cut the cooled chocolate muffin-tops off. This will be the “patty”. I discarded the bottom.

Cut the cooled banana nut muffin-tops in half and these will be the top and bottom “buns”.

Pipe on the frosting in whatever order you like, I put “ketchup” on top of the bottom bun, then the chocolate patty next. Then “lettuce, and cheese or mustard” on top of the patty. Make these ahead of time too, and save them in the refrigerator.

Dinner Party with Chef Liberty Duncan

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As she calls it, “The best job I’ve ever had,” Liberty Duncan (pictured far right) takes full pride in working in a restaurant. Sous Chef in-training, Liberty falls under the wing of Darin, the owner of Boccata Deli & Market in Centralia, WA (a Mediterranean restaurant with a warm, European-style feel). Darin has taught Liberty enough about cooking to have her ecstatic to be a part of our dinner party. She made Beef & Barley Stew with Root Veggies; and for dessert, a Chocolate Avocado Pie. To complement her meal, Chef Jimi brought homemade rolls and homemade croutons to top our salad. I brought drinks and made the Oreo crust in Liberty’s pie. With her experience in the restaurant, combined with some experience cooking for her family, and inspiration from her grandpa, it’s needless to say that her dinner turned out delicious.

Liberty“It’s great to see people enjoy it, come together, and everyone’s happy.” -Chef Liberty

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A specialty of hers is, “Lemon Salmon with Rice and Green Vegetables. And stews. And pretty much any pasta.” So in conclusion, I think I speak for everyone at the dinner party that we’ll be having Liberty cook for us again. 

Photo Credit: Chris Newhall and Aaron Deager

Jim’s Dough Makin’

Crostinis, loaves, croutons, French bread, Italian bread, pastries, he makes it all.

He gets upset when a grocery store doesn’t carry Pita bread.

He is… Chef Jimi Karanikolaou.


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With a collection of recipes from his Grandma Bev, to his own creations, Chef Jimi is a bread connoisseur! He makes the best, buttery dinner rolls.  

Croque Madame: The Fancy Breakfast

This is the style I would use to make someone breakfast in bed for a special occasion. And it’s easy!

Ingredients:

  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 6 slices of white bread, with crusts cut off
  • 6 eggs
  • Butter
  • Bacon (or Ham)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Shredded cheddar and Colby cheese for garnish

Béchamel (cheese sauce):

  • Butter
  • Flour
  • Milk (I used whole)
  • some grated Parmesan cheese

For the Bacon:

Preheat oven to 425° F.

Cut bacon pieces in half and place flat on baking dish. Bake until almost crispy (usually under 10 minutes).

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For Béchamel cheese sauce:

In a pan, melt butter and mix with equal parts flour to make a roux. Make it a little thicker than usual. Add milk and stir constantly. Then add some grated Parmesan cheese to taste, not much, we’re not making an Alfredo Sauce. Add salt and pepper.

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Turn oven to down to 350°s F.

Cut edges off the bread and flatten with a rolling pin.

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Brush melted butter around the edges and corners. Today, I didn’t have a brush so I drizzled the butter on with a spoon.

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Spray a muffin pan with non-stick spray. While folding the edges to fit, place the bread slices in. Press the inside down slightly to mold it in.

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Place one bacon piece in each mold.

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Crack open the eggs over a bowl and get rid of a little of the egg whites. The entire egg would over-flow in the mold. Place egg on top of bacon. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Using a spoon, pour on the cheese sauce to each one. Bake for 15 minutes if you want your eggs over-easy and 17 – 18 minutes for more well done.

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Sprinkle on shredded cheddar cheese for added color and garnish.

The Delectable Burger

These burgers are my take on In-N-Out Burgers. In-N-Out is a classic burger joint located mostly in California. I highly recommend you go there. I will say that they have the BEST burgers.

For the buns, we used homemade burger buns by Chef Jimi.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • Mustard
  • Burger buns
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • Lettuce
  • Tomatoes
  • Cheddar cheese (we used ones mixed with Colby cheese)
  • Extra Virgin olive oil
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper

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Secret Sauce: I admit, I have never used measurements when making this. Maybe one day I’ll update this post with exact measurements. Until then, we’ll keep it called the “Secret Sauce” because you have to figure out. MWUAHAHAHAHA!

  • Mayo
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Pickle Relish
  • Vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

In a pan, add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and stir in chopped onions. Add salt and keep heat on medium-low, so the onions can sweat out and caramelize. This can take up to 20 minutes, and you may want to adjust the heat.. keeping it on low for a long period, but then turning it up at the very end to get a little charring going on.

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In a mixing bowl, combine the ground beef with the egg, salt, and pepper. You can leave the egg out, I like it because it binds the meat together. Then separate into even balls, and flatten each one into a patty. Keep in mind the patty will shrink when cooked, so don’t be afraid to make them larger than you think.

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Spread a thin layer of mustard on each patty before cooking. This gives the meat a great flavor you wouldn’t expect.

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Have some butter in a pan and set it to medium-high. Sear the patty for about 3 minutes, mustard side down. Then spread mustard on the other side. Flip and add a slice of cheese on top. Cover with a lid to melt the cheese. They’re done after about another 3 minutes. Set on a plate and cover to keep warm.

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While the patties are cooking, you can toast your buns in another pan. Just with a little butter at the bottom. If the heat is pretty high, it’ll only take a couple minutes.

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My preferred arrangement of ingredients:

  • Sauce smothered on each bun
  • Then grilled onions on each bun
  • Lettuce on bottom bun, then tomatoes, then patty, then top bun

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These were made a little small, but larger than sliders. Perfect for each person to have two.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Sausage & Bell Peppers

Mmm Creamy Alfredo sauce. My absolute gluttonous favorite. I would eat it everyday if it didn’t mean suffering the consequences. This version is paired with a sausage and bell pepper medley. Just because the Alfredo sauce is so creamy and flavorful with garlic, the sausage and bell peppers could be replaced with any meat and veggies. And this isn’t limited to Fettuccine pasta noodles either, try it on top of any pasta! It’s just THAT glorious.

Fun Fact: When choosing bell peppers at the market, think about what you’ll cook them with. Bell peppers with 3 bumps (or points) at the bottom, tend to be sweeter and keep their shape; great for eating raw or dipping in Ranch dressing. Bell peppers with 4 bumps are better for cooking and getting that nice, charred taste. To me, there’s not THAT much of a difference. Just cool to know.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 package Fettuccini pasta, boiled ‘al dente’ (“to a bite”, not too cooked and soft)
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons Flour
  • 4 tablespoons Butter
  • 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (not pictured)
  • 4 – 6 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • About 1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream (1 med. container is fine) (Or milk)
  • About 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (a 5 oz. container will do)
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, chopped length-wise
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped length-wise
  • 1 package of Smoked Sausage (about 1 pound)
  • About 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning (not pictured)
  • Optional: cilantro or parsley for garnish
  • Salt & Pepper

Boil pasta in large pot with a lot of water. (Read my “Boiling Pasta” post for great details on mastering al dente pasta. Unless you’re confident they’ll turn out great, the extra seconds to read it is well worth it.) Reserve about 1 cup of the starchy water and set aside. Drain and set aside.

Sauté the bell peppers and sausage in a little olive oil on medium-high heat. Add salt and pepper. They’re done when softened and charred around the edges. Set aside in separate bowl or container.

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In the same and emptied pan, add the butter to make a roux (pronounced “rue”). After it melts, add equal parts flour, or a little less at first. Add more if you want it thicker. Turn up the heat a little. Stir constantly to prevent burning. Then add the minced garlic to slightly toast before pouring in heavy whipping cream. Keep stirring.

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Turn the heat back down and add the parmesan cheese. This is the part where you add as much starchy water as you’d like from the pasta earlier. Season with salt and pepper, and Italian Seasoning. Taste the sauce at this point and see if it needs more seasoning.

Pour the Alfredo sauce over the pasta, and add the sausages and bell peppers. Depending on how large your pans are, I usually do this part in the same pot I used to boil the pasta.

Serve with garlic toast (See my “Seasoned Garlic Butter” post)

Recommended: Garnish with diced tomatoes and cilantro or parsley.

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Spring Rolls

Traditional spring rolls

Pictured above are traditional Vietnamese Spring Rolls. Usually filled with rice noodles, pork, shrimp, cilantro, and wrapped in rice paper. I added shredded carrots here.

There are many places you can find in Westminster, CA that make spring rolls fresh and daily. If there’s an Asian community near you, chances are you kind find these pre-made and packaged with a dipping sauce. It is great while on-the-go. My family and I used to sit around the dinner table and roll our own Spring Rolls for dinner. It’s a fun way to get people to interact; adding more or less of different ingredients, and building their Spring Rolls together.

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I’ve been able to find rice paper and other oriental ingredients at most grocery stores. Big corporate grocery stores are very likely to have them now.

Below is my version of Spring Rolls with what I had instead of rice noodles—regular rice. And it worked perfectly. Dipping it into your sauce of choice was a little difficult with the rice falling out, so I started spooning on my sauce, which worked as well.

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Step 1: Wet the rice paper in warm water for up to 15 seconds (it will drastically soften in no time). Here, I filled a large bowl with warm water, almost a little hot, which gets the job done faster.

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Step 2: Lay the rice paper on a plate and fill with ingredients. I used rice and chicken stir–fry. Add veggies for crunch if you wish.

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Step 3: Fold as shown above. Sides first, then bring the bottom up and keep rolling it.

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Here’s a couple of them next to a fish sauce I used for dipping.

Seasoned Garlic Butter

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  • Melt 3 tablespoons of butter (or margarine, if you prefer). You can do this in a microwave for about 30 seconds.
  • Add about 1 tablespoon of Italian Seasoning or your favorite herbs.
  • Mince 2 cloves of garlic finely, then add to butter sauce.
  • Drizzle while warm or baste with a brush onto bread to make garlic toast.

Garlic Butter on Toast

Asian Food Essentials

Asian Sauces
These are the sauces that I have recently used in all my Asian dishes. The combination of these flavors make your dish taste oriental and makes your kitchen smell like a Chinese restaurant. I add about 1 tbsp of soy sauce and equal parts of the rest (1-2 tsp) to beef, pork, or chicken, it doesn’t matter. I have no brand preference. Shown are sesame oil, soy sauce (I prefer low sodium), Worcestershire (not very Asian but I like the smokiness), Hoisin (an Asian BBQ sauce), and rice vinegar.

One of the next essentials is either rice or noodles. Or both.

Here you can see how to cook rice without an automatic rice cooker.

Step 1: Whether it’s a small pot or large one, make sure the dry rice is only 1/3 of the way up or less. When cooked, it expands like crazy.

Step 2: Rinse the rice and pour out the cloudy water a couple times while the rice stays at the bottom. The more you do this, the more starches wash away and causes the rice to be softer and fluffier.

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Step 3: Add enough water to cover over the rice about an inch up or so. The method my mom taught me was to place my index finger tip at the top of the rice. The water level should come to the first line up on your finger (sounds crazy, it really is just about an inch, but that’s what the Asian lady did). Supposedly, it doesn’t matter if you’re cooking 3 or 10 servings, this form of measurement works.

Step 4: Bring the water up to a light boil. Then turn it down to a simmer. If you don’t have a lid, you can just place aluminum foil to cover. Doesn’t have to be too tight.

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Step 5: Check on the rice after about 15 minutes. I carefully fluff it with a fork to see how cooked the bottom is compared to the top. If it seems soggy towards the bottom, leave the cover off and leave on low. If the whole thing seems dry, add a tiny bit more water, cover, and continue to cook on low. This seems tedious, but without an automatic cooker, different stove tops and burners changes everything.

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The next essential is meat of choice. I’ve tried these sauces with beef, pork, and chicken. All equally delicious when you sauté it with garlic, onions, and vegetables. Probably also great with fish. In this case, I finely sliced beef and chose to side it with sautéed spinach and garlic.

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Spinach. Not just for Popeye..

Spinach can be juiced, put in salads, sandwiches, creamed, and so much more. Here are a few ways I’ve used it.

Stir–Fry

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  • In a pan, add a little olive oil. The spinach will wilt so much that you don’t want too much oil to make it soggy. The spinach can also look like it’s over crowding the pan, but you can pile it pretty high.
  • On medium heat, slowly stir, letting the several layers wilt.
  • Add minced garlic, salt and pepper.
  • That’s it! SO good as a side for rice and stir–fried meat.

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This is how much the same pan reduced down. I leave the garlic pieces a little bit chunkier in this dish and it’s amazing.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

This was soo good that we forgot to take an official photo. This picture was found but it captures the need we had to cut up crostini bread to eat with the dip right away.

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  • 1 small package (10 oz.) of frozen chopped spinach
  • equal parts chopped artichoke hearts (jarred, canned, or frozen, doesn’t matter)
  • 1 package (6 to 8 oz.) of cream cheese.. Melt slightly in microwave.
  • 1/3 cup mayo
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • salt and pepper

Serve at room temperature or warm.

Just Raw

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Great as a salad or as the greens in a hearty sandwich.

The Simple Breakfast

Bacon… and… Eggs.

The most simple yet satisfying breakfast I can think of.

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Align bacon on baking dish.

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  • Place bacon in oven for about 10 minutes or until desired crisp.

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  • In a small pan, spray lightly with non–stick spray, and crack 2 eggs in (I wouldn’t do more than 3 at a time).
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • Keep on medium–low heat.

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  • Immediately place a lid on. I like my eggs over–easy so it takes just a few minutes.

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If your eggs are very fresh, you’ll notice a layer that isn’t cooking very well. Tilt the pan back and forth a little until the edges of this layer reaches the heat. That helps. FYI: This layer is called the middle albumen and is very high in protein and riboflavin! 

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The bacon looks super greasy here so I normally place them on paper towels when they’re done.

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I would always like at least one piece of toast to sweep up what’s left of the yolk on my plate.