Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fried Asparagus

















My Venture into Fried Asparagus

Just a short post this week. My inspiration for this recipe comes from the fried green beans (and fried pickles) from a local bar called Larry Bud's. I'm not a huge pickle fan but their fried green beans are really addictive. The reason I made this recipe is simple: I had asparagus I needed to get used up and I wanted to throw out the oil from the Southwestern Eggrolls I made a while back. I rarely deep fry and I know you can strain the oil and save it for later use. However, because it could be MONTHS before I fried something else, there's no way I am going to use oil that I used once before that I've been storing for the last 1 or 2 years. That's just totally gross. The spears of asparagus are coated in bread crumbs, which really dirties the oil when they're fried. So, I fried a batch and then recycled the oil.

The real reason my post is so short this week is because I have a cold. I keep coughing and coughing and I just don't feel like doing squat. When I was growing up and my mother had a cold, she still cooked and cleaned, did laundry, got us ready for school, and more. When my father had a cold, he whined a lot and my mother had to take care of him like he was on his deathbed. You know, I'm beginning to speculate that men are just babies when they get sick. Hmmmm. Surely, there is another plausible explanation.

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Fried Asparagus
(Printable Version)

1 lb asparagus (thin stalks)
1 1/2 c dry seasoned breadcrumbs
1 c freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
4 eggs, beaten
Oil for frying

Wash and dry the asparagus. Snap or cut the fibrous root ends off and discard. Thin stalks work best for this recipe since thicker stalks are too fibrous.

In a shallow dish, combine the seasoned breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and seasoned salt and mix well to combine. Set aside. In another shallow dish, beat the eggs and set aside. Place a rack in a sheet pan and set aside. Start preheating the oven to 200F.

Dip a few stalk of the asparagus on the eggs and allow some of the egg to drip off. Coat in the breadcrumb mixture. Re-dip the asparagus in the egg and the breadcrumbs to add a thicker layer of coating. Place the breaded asparagus on a sheet pan (not the sheet pan that has the rack in it). Repeat this process with the remaining stalks of asparagus.

If you have a fryer that is big enough to hold the entire length of the asparagus, you may deep fry the asparagus a few stalks at a time. Otherwise, you may shallow fry the asparagus in 1/2" of oil (preferably peanut oil). If using a fryer, heat the oil to 350F. If shallow frying, heat about 1" of oil in a medium skillet over medium heat until it is shimmering. When the oil is hot, fry the asparagus until golden brown, which should only take a minute or so. They cook fast! Transfer to the sheet pan equipped with a rack and place the pan in the oven to keep warm will you fry the remaining stalks of asparagus. Serve with your preferred dipping sauce (I prefer ranch dip).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

White Chocolate Easter Eggs

















White Chocolate Easter Eggs

First things first. Thank you to everybody who gave me recommendations on counter stools in my last post! I know it was hard to give me advice since you don't know my d├ęcor but I appreciate the effort. I'm still sorting through the responses to see if any particular stool was recommended more than others. Even more importantly, I want to announce the winner of the Sunbeam Stand Mixer giveaway! The winner was selected at random from all of my blog buddies who left comments about the counter stools. …And the lucky winner is:

Dana B.

Dana said, "I like the TMS 24" Double Cross Back Bar Stool in Black - 17524BLK. Just came across your site by way of Tasty Kitchen and I'm already making one of your recipes tonight =)"

Congratulations Dana! Please e-mail (cookingventures at gmail dot com) to make arrangements to have the mixer sent to you. May this be the first of many cooking ventures for you! Thank you Allbarstools.com and CSN Stores for making this giveaway possible.

Now for today's post. Easter is quickly approaching and I wanted to do a special post. Originally, I thought about doing leg of lamb (a personal favorite) but I didn't think that would have universal appeal. After giving it some thought, I decided to make some White Chocolate Easter Eggs.


Some of you may be familiar with White Trash Candy. White Trash is made a million different ways but it's usually cereals (such as Chex, Cherrios, etc), pretzels, nuts, etc that have been doused in white chocolate. White Trash is not my invention nor my choice of names. However, it is what it is. Today's post is nothing but White Trash that I've stuffed into plastic Easter eggs then unmolded. I originally planned to call them "White Trash Easter Eggs" but a couple of friends at work weren't fond of the name so I switched it to White Chocolate Easter Eggs.


I, personally, like seeing the pretty colors of the cereals and sweets used to make the eggs. Using less white chocolate makes the coating thinner so you can see the colors. This, unfortunately, is at the expense of not having smooth "egg shells" in the final product. If you bump up the amount of white chocolate, the egg shells are filled in and smoother but it's harder to see the trash on the inside. Oh, the decisions!


Anyway, congratulations again Dana! I hope whichever of my recipes you made turned out well. If you hated the recipe, blame my mother. That's what I do.


Enjoy – and Happy Easter!


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White Chocolate Easter Eggs

(Printable Version)

1/2 c Cheerios
1/2 c Captain Crunch Cereal

1/2 c Fruit Loops Cereal

1/2 c plain M&M's (in Easter colors)

1/2 c dried cherries

1/2 c salted cashew pieces

1 12-oz package white chocolate chips

Plastic Easter eggs, washed and dried

Cooking spray


Pull apart the eggs into halves and place them open-side-up in a mini muffin tin (to make it easier to fill them). Very lightly spray the inside of each egg with cooking spray.


Add the cereals, M&M's, dried cherries, and cashew pieces to a medium bowl. Gently stir to mix together.
Melt the white chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler per the package instructions. Pour the melted chocolate over the ingredients in the bowl and gently stir until the chocolate has been evenly incorporated.

Working quickly, spoon some of the candy mixture into the halved eggs (going right up to the rim of each egg half). As you are filling the eggs, ask helpers to close the eggs together – using a little muscle if necessary to get the eggs to close tightly. It's a little messy but the egg halves will come together with a little effort. Allow the eggs to completely cool and set up before attempting to remove them from the plastic eggs. It can take a little work to pop the plastic off the candy but be patient and take your time. Store the finished eggs in a sealed container.


Notes:

1) Plastic eggs come in different sizes. The number of eggs you will be able to make is dependent upon the size of the plastic eggs you buy.

2) I don't make this recipe the same way twice. Sometimes I add pretzels or peanuts instead of cashews. Sometimes I had soft sour balls. Sometimes I use Rice Crispies, Chex, or other cereals. The goal is to use a total of 3 cups of dry ingredients per bag of white chocolate.

3) As you can see from the picture, the mixture is dry enough that you can see some knooks and crannies in the eggs. I don't mind that. However, if want those spaces to be more filled in, you need to use more white chocolate. I recommend using another half bag (or whole bag!) of white chocolate to increase the white chocolate to dry mixture ratio.

4) Try using some semi-sweet chocolate (that you've tempered) instead of white chocolate to make brown Easter eggs.

Easter Nests
1 1/2 c firmly packed light brown sugar

4 TBSP butter

1 TBSP corn syrup

1/2 c milk

Pinch of salt

4 c chow mein noodles

Butter for lubricating bowls
Cooking spray

Butter some heat-resistant bowls or containers that you plan to use as molds for the nests. Trust me – you need to butter them well! This recipe makes three nests that are each about 7" in diameter. Depending on the size of your bowls, you may get additional (or fewer) nests.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, milk, and salt. Bring to a boil. Heat the mixture to 240F, stirring often. Turn off the heat and add the chow mein noodles and stir to coat. Immediately add some of the noodles to each of the bowls. Working quickly, use the back of a large spoon (sprayed with cooking spray) to help shape the bowls into something that resembles nests. They set up fast so you may want to enlist the assistance of a helper to shape the bowls before the sugar begins to harden. Allow the nests to complete cool before removing them from the bowls. Store in air-tight containers. These are best when used within 24 hours of making.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

March Giveaway!

Hello blog buddies! I can't believe that I've now posted over 80 recipes. My blog is a lot more work than I ever anticipated but I'm having a great time doing it. Thank you all for the kind e-mails that you've sent me over the last few months. You might be surprised to hear that I've also been sent hate mail…and a few pictures of older ladies in various stages of undress. Grandma – tell your friends to stop sending me those!!!

Many of you faithfully read my blog. As a big thank you to all of my blog buddies, I'm doing a giveaway! I was approached by CSN Stores to help sponsor a giveaway. Over 200 online outlets make up the CSN Stores so you can find ANYTHING you could ever want. I'm actually in the market for some new counter stools and I found some great ones on their website. Take a few minutes and check out their great selection of Counter Stools.

When I was growing up, my mother had a Sunbeam Stand Mixer. It was a workhorse. That mixer lasted years before it gasped its last breath while mixing a batch of thick peppernut dough. When I was browsing around the CSN Stores, I noticed that they also had a bunch of kitchen stuff – including Sunbeam Stand Mixers like my mom had when I was growing up. Check this one out:

I'm feeling rather nostalgic so I thought I would give away a Sunbeam Stand Mixer! Here are the rules:

1) You have to live in the U.S. (for shipping reasons). Sorry international blog buddies! Don't worry – I'll have another giveaway soon that you can enter.
2) To enter, leave a comment at the bottom of this webpage and include the name of the counter stool you like best from Allbarstools.com. Just let me know which one you'd get for your own home! This will help me narrow down my choices.
3) In your comment, please be sure to leave your first name and last initial (such as "Aretha F."). After all, I have to know who's entering!
4) You may leave ONE comment only to enter this contest. Be honest now! Your entry must be received by 5:00 pm (CDT) on Wednesday, March 24.
5) The winner will be chosen at random. You have to then return to my blog on Thursday, March 25 to see if you won. I will then ask the winner to send me an e-mail with their complete name and mailing address for shipping.

Good luck – and thank you CSN Stores for helping to sponsor this wonderful giveaway!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Southwestern Eggrolls

















My Venture into
Unconventional Eggrolls


My friend Denise got me hooked on Chili's Southwestern Eggrolls many years ago. They are SO good! I have to admit, these taste a LOT like the real thing (with a couple of twists of my own).

The ONLY reason I fixed them this week is because I'm experimenting with a completely separate recipe that requires frying. Because I rarely fry anything, I hate to throw out the oil after using it only once or twice. So, since I had the oil for the other recipe, I thought I would go ahead and share my recipe for Southwestern Eggrolls.

When I was a vegetarian, I fixed these often but baked them in the oven. I left the chicken out, of course, and bumped up the veggies. This is a GREAT way to get your kids to eat their vegetables…and there are a lot of them in this recipe! Vegetables, that is…not kids. Feel free to play around with the filling as you see fit. Try using cheddar instead of pepper jack. Try adding a little salsa. Try chorizo instead of chicken. Do whatever you want. This is more of a method than a recipe.

Before any of you ask, I've never tried reproducing Chili's Avocado Dipping Sauce. It's wonderful but I've never taken the time to replicate that recipe because I prefer to dip these in spicy ranch dressing instead. Yes, I know. I need help.

I fully planned to cut one of them open and taken a picture so you can see the inside. With the black beans and spinach, they look a little sinister but I don't mind. Unfortunately, the batteries in my camera gave out in the middle of taking pictures. I think I said something like "Gosh, darn it! These stupid rechargeable batteries give out at the most inconvenient dang times! " That's kind of paraphrased. Let's put it this way, if I were on TV, I probably would have been bleeped. Anyway, the eggrolls were getting cold and I was hungry so I ate 'em! Then the guilt set in… Oy. I should not be eating fried foods.

I hope you guys try this recipe. They're tasty! Next week, I'm doing a give-away!!! You're going to love the prize. Enjoy – and happy eggrolling!

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Southwestern Eggrolls
(Printable Version)

1 TBSP oil
1 1/2 bunches scallions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
Pinch of cayenne (optional)
1 15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 of a cooked chicken breast, roughly chopped
3 TBSP heated frozen spinach, drained
1 small handful of fresh cilantro
1/4 c water (or more, if needed)
1 tsp kosher salt (1/2 tsp table salt)
Black pepper to taste
2 TBSP frozen corn
2 TBSP red bell pepper
2 c pepper jack cheese, freshly grated
8 7" flour tortillas
Oil for frying

Heat a skillet over medium heat with one tablespoon of oil. When hot, add the scallions and minced garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the scallions are soft. Add the cumin, chili powder, and cayenne (if using) and stir to combine. Cook one minute longer then scrape the mixture into a food processor.

To the scallion mixture in the food processor, add the drained and rinsed black beans, chicken breast, spinach, water, salt, and some pepper. Pulse a few times until the mixture is roughly chopped. Set aside.

Wipe out the skillet you cooked the scallions in, add a little more oil, and set the pan over medium heat. Cook the corn and red bell pepper for a couple of minutes then dump in the bean mixture from the food processor. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. The mixture should be thick but if it seems rather dry, add another tablespoon or two of water. I usually end up adding more cumin and chili powder (and sometimes a little more salt) because I like my filling to have a rather robust flavor. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool for a few minutes. After the mixture has cooled, add the pepper jack cheese and stir to combine.

Warm the tortillas per the package instructions. Spoon the filling into a 1/3 measuring cup and gently pack the filling. Dump the filling onto a warm tortilla and mold the filling slightly into an oblong shape. Fold in the sides and roll it up as if you were rolling a burrito. Insert a toothpick to keep the eggroll closed. Repeat until you have used up all of the filling.

Begin heating about 3" of oil (peanut oil works great) in a deep sauce pan. Begin preheating the oven to 200F. Insert a wire rack into a sheet pan and set aside.

Once the oil reaches 350F, add 2 or 3 eggrolls (depending on the size of your pan) and fry for about 5 minutes – turning often. The eggrolls are done when the outside is brown and crispy. Transfer the eggrolls to the rack in the sheet pan and place in the oven to keep warm while you are frying the rest of the eggrolls. When finished, serve with your favorite dipping sauce.

Note:
Feel free to bake them. Check out my Oven-Baked Chimichangas for instructions on baking.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lemon-Garlic Chicken Wings

















My Venture into Airplane Wings

Back in the 1980's, I was flying from south Asia to the U.S. on an airline I've flown many times. I don't want to negatively influence your opinion about this lovely airline so, for this particular post, I'm going to refer to it as Acme Air. To get back to the U.S., I had to connect in Europe before heading home. During this era, there were still a few airlines that permitted smoking during the flight. Some international airlines, including this one, bent over backwards to accommodate smokers since smoking was more commonplace than it is today. They always reserved a certain number of rows in the back of the aircraft for smokers. When needed, some of the last rows of non-smoking would suddenly become smoking if there were more smokers than average for a particular flight. On that segment, I happened to be in the last row of non-smoking and the airline needed additional rows for smokers so I was not amused to discover after I boarded that the smoking section had, at the last minute, grown to include my row of seats. And, for the cherry on the cake of my day, I was in… a middle seat. Good times.

We got belted in and, almost immediately, a Polish lady seated to my left started talking – and didn't shut up until the plane landed hours later. I'm guessing she had just come from a garlic-eating contest because her breath was so bad it could have melted plastic. She kept griping about not being able to light up a cigarette or get a glass of scotch until after we got in the air. I couldn't help her with those things but I really wanted to give her an onion to chew on to make her breath smell better. She told me her name but I can't remember it because 1) I didn't care, and 2) I was looking for something to slit my wrists with.

To get a breath of fresh air, I turned to the 400-year old lady to my right and said "hi." She looked up from reading the dinner menu and dryly said "No English." I was suspicious she was lying since the dinner menu was printed in English. Anyway, I was thankful to not have gabbers on both sides of me. I was kicking myself for not using the "No English" excuse when the Polish lady started talking to me. Since that flight, I have to admit that I've used the "No English" excuse on SEVERAL occasions. No more having to sound interested when somebody is telling me about their collection of dried egg shells or how they got so many scars.

Right before takeoff, the flight attendant approached our row and handed me a dry washcloth. I asked her what it was for and she pointed up and said, "There's a leak above your seat." She then turned and walked away. I leaned over toward the old lady and jokingly asked, "What? Are we expecting rain or something?" She just looked up and said, "NO ENGLISH!" Sigh.

After take-off, I felt something drip down on my head. I'm not sure what it was. It was probably something unimportant. You know, like, hydraulic fluid or something. Anyway, I held the washcloth above my head while the Polish lady was telling me her life story – and she was only up to age 3. When one arm got tired, I switched to other arm. After an hour of this, I was sick of constantly having one arm in the air so I just laid the wash cloth on the top of head and stared at the back of the seat in front of me while the Polish lady rambled on and on. Drip. Gab, gab, gab. Drip. Gab, gab, gab. Drip. Oy! Every so often, a flight attendant would take the wet wash cloth and carefully place a dry one back on top of my head.

When it was time to serve dinner, my mood improved considerably. The flight attendant asked if I wanted chicken or fish and I opted for the chicken. Guess what cut of chicken they served? Chicken wings! Yes, chicken wings! See what classy meals people get served in steerage? I'm sure the people in First Class were getting their choice of prime rib or cornish hen with beluga caviar on bellinis. Those of us in the Hooters section of the plane got wings and fish sticks. How does one gracefully eat chicken wings with tiny sets of silverware? I looked around and saw other people using their hands so I decided to do the same. Luckily, I had a damp washcloth resting on the top of my head which I could occasionally reach up and wipe my fingers on.

One bite into that chicken and I felt like I was in First Class. It was lemony but not too tart. It was garlicky but not like my neighbor's breath. It was moist. It was soft. I was succulent. It was GOOD! Unfortunately, they gave me only 2 wings. I sucked the meat off those puppies! I'm glad they only gave me two because I could have eaten a dozen.

When I got home, I tried and tried to recreate those WONDERFUL wings I got on Acme Air. After several attempts, I finally came up with a reasonable facsimile of their lemon-garlic chicken wings. You HAVE to try them! Oh, and by the way, the next time you complain about a bad flight you've had, trying being a non-smoker in the smoking section in a middle seat in Economy Class next to a woman with bad breath while you're being waterboarded by the airline! Enjoy – and happy flying!

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Lemon-Garlic Chicken Wings
(Printable Version)

2 1/2 lbs chicken wings, separated into flats and drumettes
2 tsp kosher salt (1 tsp table salt) or to taste
1 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
2 TBSP olive oil
1 1/2 TBSP flour

Lemon Glaze
1/3 c freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice from about 2 lemons)
2 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp honey
2 cloves garlic, finely minced (I usually add 4!)
Pinch of kosher salt
Pepper to taste

1 TBSP chopped fresh parsley

Adjust your oven rack to the middle position. Set your oven to BROIL at 425F. If your oven does not allow you to specify a temperature for broiling, bake at 425F instead (the results will be different but still good). Make sure the oven door is closed while the broiler is preheating.

If needed, cut the wings to separate the tip, flat, and drumette sections. Discard the tips or freeze them for the next time you make chicken stock. My supermarket does not sell chicken wings that are already cut up for me. Therefore, I have to buy 3 pounds of chicken wings to end up with 2 1/2 pounds of useable wings since I use the tips for chicken stock later.

While the broiler is heating, add the chicken, salt, lemon pepper, olive oil, and flour to a medium bowl – tossing very thoroughly after the addition of each ingredient. Insert a rack into a foil-lined sheet pan. Place the wings on the rack in one layer, leaving at little room between the pieces.

Also while the broiler is heating, mince the garlic with a good pinch of kosher salt. Use the blade of the knife to really smash and pulverize the garlic – getting it to an almost paste-like consistency. Place the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, honey, and some pepper in a good size bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside. Later, you will be tossing the chicken in this bowl so make sure it is large enough.

Add the chicken to the oven and broil for 20 minutes (with the oven door closed). It's not going to get very brown but don't worry. After 20 minutes, flip the chicken and broil 20 minutes longer (with the oven door closed). Remove the wings from the oven and move the oven rack to the second-highest position. Turn up the heat to full broil (around 500F on many stoves) and close the oven door while you are getting the wings ready for the next phase.

Whisk the glaze then immediately add the hot wings and toss to coat. Wait about 10 seconds and toss again. Continue doing this for about 2 minutes or until most of the glaze has been absorbed by the wings. Using tongs, transfer the chicken back to the rack in the sheet pan. If there is any liquid or garlic left in the bowl, spoon it on top of the chicken. Place the sheet pan in the oven and broil about 5 minutes WITH THE OVEN DOOR OPEN. You want to get some color on those wings. Flip the wings over and broil about 5 minutes longer (with the oven door open). Transfer the wings to a serving dish and top with chopped parsley. Serve piping hot.
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