Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Kitchen Weapon: Ground Chipotle Powder

Sure—you can buy canned chipotles in adobo, slice/chop/puree them & use them in recipes.  That’s delicious, but it can be time consuming & messy.

Here enters my friend ground dried chipotle powder.
I go through 1.5-2 bottles of this a year...
 I love dried ground chipotle powder…it’s probably one of my favorite ingredients in my spice cabinet.  It is a quick, easy way to add smoky undertones & flavorful heat to a dish.  Sprinkle a little on flank steak or skirt steak with some garlic, salt & pepper when grilling out.  Add it to chicken seasonings & rub it onto chicken before you grill it. Use it as the base of a great dry rub for ribs (recipe coming soon)…

Chipotle mayo?  Don’t waste money buying it in a jar.  Make it yourself. Try dipping sweet potato fries into it, or using it on beef & cheddar melts. 
2 Tablespoons of your choice of Mayo + ¼ teaspoon of chipotle powder = a good basic chipotle mayo.
Not spicy enough for you?—add more chipotle powder. 

Are you a mayo hater? (craziness but understandable), substitute sour cream or Greek yogurt.    

Add a little chipotle powder to your favorite mayo, yogurt or sour cream based dip…yada yada yada…the possibilities are endless.

Chipotle Powder PSA = over. J

Chopped pork that was rubbed with chipotle dry rub.

Chipotle mayo

 Not a pretty picture...but it's a delicious sandwich.
Chipotle chopped pork, chipotle mayo & cheddar cheese on
 fresh baked Naan.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Pineapple Fried Rice

I love rice. White rice, brown rice, wild rice, black rice…I would have a rice problem if I let myself.  I can see the episode of Intervention now…

This is one of my favorite rice dishes…It combines sweet & spicy, and it makes incredibly delicious leftovers for lunch.  I never let myself make more than 4 cups at a time (unless feeding a crowd), because I’m pretty sure I would eat this, and nothing else but this for a full week.  

For this recipe you need to use cold, leftover long grain white rice (none of that parboiled Minute/instant rice junk).  It needs to be cold, otherwise you will end up with a starchy, gloopy, sticky mess. Normally I would make a 5-6 cup batch of plain white rice on a Sunday evening (Basmati or Jasmine rice) & serve it with Sunday night dinner.  Then I would use 2 cups of that rice for this recipe, and then use the remaining rice for another recipe, or to use as breakfast for the week (leftover rice, warmed up & treated like oatmeal is delicious).

However…sometimes I do dumb, ditzy things.  Like plan this dish as a side dish for dinner, tell my husband I’m making it (who also loves this recipe), and dream all day about the homemade fried rice I’m going to devour for dinner & at lunch the next day…only to realize at 2:00pm while sitting at my desk...”I didn’t make rice.”


Then I remembered something that I saw at the grocery store.  Confession--I laughed when I originally saw it.  Uncle Ben’s now makes warm & serve packets of different varieties of long-grain rice under their product line "Ready Rice."  You know…those things you put in the microwave, pray that the plastic they are cooking in isn’t toxic, warm & dish up?  I remember laughing when seeing those for the first time.  The seasoned rice blends I could kind of understand…especially for those that don’t cook.  But plain basmati or jasmine rice?...who wouldn’t just make their own?

Apparently…these are specially designed for the ditzy-cook-who-has-her-heart-set-on-pineapple-fried-rice-but-forgets-to-make-the-darned-ricecorner of the market.  I’m guessing there are others like me out there.

What is incredibly handy—this recipe calls for approximately 2 cups of rice…and that is approximately how much is in one of the packets of Uncle Ben’s instant rice.  Glorious. I just dumped it straight out of the packet into the pan (no microwaving). 

While it’s not an economical way to dish up dinner compared to cooking the rice from scratch…it saved our dinner last week.  The taste/texture of the rice was ok—but was not as good as precisely cooked basmati in this recipe, but it satisfied the pineapple fried rice craving.

Ok…enough rambling…on to the recipe.  I served this last week with Hawaiian Ribs & sautéed green beans.  Normally when I make this I do not add chopped vegetables to the rice, because I’m normally serving it with vegetables (plus…I hate peas).
My favorite leftovers...

Pineapple Fried Rice
Modified from recipe #28005 on, Cook time: 10 minutes, 4- ½ cup servings

Ingredient lineup...with the dinner-saving rice
  • 1.5 t. olive oil
  • 2 t. garlic, finely minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups leftover white rice (long-grain, not Minute rice)
  • 1-2 green onions, green & white sections, chopped
  • 2 t. soy sauce, your choice (gluten free, low sodium, etc)
  • 1 t. kosher salt (optional)
  • ¾ t. ground white pepper*
  • 6 T. pineapple, chopped or tidbits
  • chopped vegetables- i.e peas or carrots (optional)
  • 3 T. cashews, chopped (optional)

1.  Preheat oil in the bottom of a wok or large skillet.  Add garlic & sauté until it starts to brown.  Add chopped vegetables (optional).  

2.  Put rice into the pan, fold together with oil & garlic.  Add the soy sauce, salt, white pepper & pineapple.  Stir until well mixed. 

3.  Scoot rice over to one side of the pan.  Crack the 2 eggs side-by-side on the empty spot of the pan.  Using a rubber spatula, scramble the eggs until mostly cooked, breaking up any large chunks.  Stir eggs into the rice.  (If you stir the eggs into the rice uncooked…you will end up with a gloopy mess.  If a little rice gets into your eggs while you are scrambling them…that’s not a problem at all).
Crack eggs into the pan
Scramble the eggs.  Don't blend them into the rice yet.
Now it's ready to blend together...
4.  Fold in green onions & cashews…and serve.  
Love it.

*A note on white pepper- (1) You want to use white pepper not black pepper.  It is the “heat” element in this dish.  Black pepper will not taste remotely the same.  (2)If halving the recipe, use ½ teaspoon of white pepper.  If making 3 cups of rice, use 1 t. ground white pepper. 4 cups of rice=1.25 t. white pepper…etc.  White pepper is one of those ingredients that you do not want to truly double.  The heat from the pepper doesn’t double…it quadruples.  Along those lines…if you are cooking for a family that doesn’t like spicy foods—in the recipe above use ½ t. ground white pepper instead of ¾ t.  

Slow Cooker "Hawaiian" Ribs

This is a recipe I found when I was on a gluten-free experiment last year from the blog  If you use gluten-free soy sauce—the recipe is gluten-free.  I loved the flavor that this recipe creates (once it is modified a bit.)  The super-great thing about this recipe is that the sauce & cooking method can be used for So Many items.  For this round of the recipe, I used some beef ribs I had picked up on sale.  I usually use pork spareribs for this recipe.  Both style of ribs have their pros/cons.  

Beef ribs:  pro—the ribs stay solid when being slow cooked for so long, con-- I don’t think the meat picks up the flavor of this sauce as well.

Pork spareribs: pro—these get incredibly tender & the meat soaks up the flavor,  con—The cartilage’y bones in spareribs basically disintegrate & turn into soft rubber pieces, making eating these a little trickier, and a little more difficult to consume in front of company.  

You could also use pork babyback ribs. Pork loin or shoulder substituted in this recipe could make some delicious ‘Hawaiian” flavored pulled pork.  Perhaps serve it on the Hawaiian mini sweet rolls with some coleslaw, pickles, or grilled pineapple pieces?  Just a thought…not something I have actually tried yet. 

The night last week that I made this I served it with pineapple fried rice & sautéed green beans. The meat gets a lovely dark caramelized appearance during cooking & is ridiculously tender.

Hawaiian Slow-Cooker Ribs
Prep time: 5 minutes, Cook time: 7-9 hours in a slow cooker. Serves 4-6

Ingredient Lineup.  I used a snack pack of pineapple for this
because it was midnight on a workday when I was assembling this...
and I got lazy.  A can of pineapple is more economical...

  • 1 rack of beef ribs (can substitute 1 rack pork spareribs, 1 rack babyback ribs, 2-3 pounds boneless beef roast, or 2-3 pounds pork loin or pork roast)
  • 2/3 cups soy sauce of choice (gluten-free, low-sodium, etc)
  • 4 T. brown sugar
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 t. Chinese 5-Spice powder* (see note below)
  • 1/3 cup pineapple juice  
  • 1/2 cup pineapple tidbits
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced

1. In a small food processor or blender, pulse the soy sauce, brown sugar, honey, 5-spice, pineapple, juice & garlic until well mixed. (This step can be omitted…I’ve done it both ways, I actually didn't blend it this time preparing the recipe…and the flavor is deeper if you mix it in advance instead of layering it in the slow cooker).

2.  Cut the rack of ribs into 2-4 smaller pieces.  Layer 1 layer of ribs in the bottom of a large slow cooker, with the bones on the bottom.  Spoon 2-3 large spoons of the sauce mixture over the first layer of ribs. Add the 2nd layer of ribs & pour the remaining sauce over the top of the ribs.  
Assembled ribs.  I always get this ready the night before & let
it marinate in the fridge overnight.  Then I just pop it in the slow
cooker before I head into work.
3.  Cook on Low for 6-8 hours, or on High for 4-5 hours. If you are around home while these are cooking- move the top layer to the bottom & the bottom layer to the top about halfway through cooking.
Scene I came home to.  It's not pretty...but it's yummy.
4.  Be prepared for the meat to be SUPER tender & for it to fall off of the bone.  Have a slotted spoon on hand to remove stray chunks of meat from the cooking liquid.  Enjoy!

A brief note about Chinese 5-Spice powder.

What is it?  Chinese 5-Spice is a blend of 5 spices that are frequently used in Chinese-style cooking.  Personally, I buy mine at The Spice House (I love the freshness & quality of their spices).  You can find this in some grocery stores—if you do not find it in the regular spice/spice blend section, check the international food aisle in the Asian section.

If you can’t find it…you can always make your own.  Our friend Google will point you in the direction of a ton of different ratios for making up your own blend…but I will just copy over the one used on this recipe from Crockpot365.

Chinese 5-Spice Powder
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. crushed anise seed
¼ t. ground fennel
¼ t. ground black pepper, fine
1/8 t. ground cloves

Mix ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lemon Lover's Coffee Cake

I've had this recipe in my cookbook for about 5 years.  It is one of my favorite things to take for breakfast pitch-ins because you can do most of the prep work the night before, mix it for a few minutes & then let it bake while you get ready in the morning.  It is delicious warm, & is equally delicious when it is room temperature or chilled. I glaze this 5 minutes after removing it from the oven.  I then cover it with paper towels (to trap the steam) & put the lid on my Pyrex container & take it into work.  It is still hot when it's time for the breakfast meeting to start.

Not the best photo (taken right before a
morning meeting...but it tasted great!)
Not much else to say about this one...except to enjoy!

Lemon Lover's Coffee Cake
Prep time: 10 minutes, Cook time: 30 minutes, Modified from Betty Crocker

Ingredient Lineup

  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3/4 c butter, softened
  • 2 t. grated lemon peel
  • 3/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. vanilla (I add closer to 1 t.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 jar lemon curd (I like Dickinson's, but you could also make your own if you are ambitious)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottom & sides of an 11x9" baking dish.

2.  In a large bowl beat together the sugar, butter, lemon peel, baking powder, vanilla, & eggs with electric mixer on low speed until well mixed. Mix on medium speed for an additional 2 minutes. Fold in flour & stir until incorporated.  Spread cake batter into the bottom of the prepared baking dish.  Spoon lemon curd by rounded teaspoonful onto the top of the cake. I make 4 rows of 3.

I grate the lemon peel the night before, preserve it with a little
squeeze of lemon juice & tightly seal it in the fridge overnight..
This cuts down on the prep time in the morning.

Raw cake.  When it cooks, the curd will
sink down into the cake.
3.  Bake for 23-26 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from oven & let cool for 5 minutes.  Drizzle with glaze (recipe below).

Apparently it was a success...this is what
I brought back home that night...

Lemon Glaze

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 2-3 T. lemon juice

Mix together.  If you want a stiffer glaze, add more sugar.  

No-Knead Bread-- Rustic, Easy, Cheap and Delicious

I have a goal to start making most of our own baked products for two reasons: (1) I will know what is in them that way  (2) When you look at the cost of necessary ingredients versus the cost bread is sold's a huge markup.

Because of this, I have started browsing a lot of bread recipes.  A lot of them require a lot of different mixing,kneading & rising steps until you get to the baking stages.  That's fine...if it's a weekend & I have a lot of time to do this.  But what about on weekdays?

I think I have found a good solution.  This bread is Super Easy, Super Cheap, Vegan/Vegetarian, and it is DELICIOUS.  The end product is a rustic looking loaf that has a crust that is both crispy & chewy, and the inside is incredibly light & airy. Granted, this dough has to hang out on your counter for a long time...but you don't have to do anything with it. No complex kneading. No tired arms from kneading for 30 minutes, etc.  I highly recommend this recipe, and I will be making this again in the very near future. I'm really excited to try out French Toast with this bread later this week.

Fresh baked bread that is near-zero on the effort scale? Yes please.

This recipe is modified from a recipe by Jim Lahey as featured on the New York Times on 11/8/2006.

No-Knead Bread
Working time: 8 minutes. Rising time: 10 hours to 24 hours. Baking time: 45-60min. Makes 1 Loaf

Ingredient Lineup: Water, Salt, Flour, Yeast & a tad bit of sugar....
that's it.

  • 3 cups all purpose flour or bread flour, plus additional for dusting & surface prep
  • 1/4 t. instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 t. raw sugar or granular sugar (optional)
  • 1 5/8 cups of warm water
1.  Place flour in large bowl.  Mix in yeast, salt & sugar.  Gradually stir in warm water until dough is incorporated.  It will be a very wet, sticky dough.  Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap & leave on the counter to rise for 10 hours to 24 hours.  I mixed this up at 10:00pm, & it went into the oven at 7:00pm the next day, total rising time was around 19 hours + an additional 2 hours for step 3.

Ingredients post mixing.

Dough in the morning after 10 hours of rising.
Dough after 19 hours

2.  Prepare your counter top or a large cutting board with a generous sprinkling of flour.  Move the dough from the bowl to the floured surface.  Sprinkle the top of the dough liberally with flour, and fold it over on itself twice.  Gently coat all sticky surfaces of the dough with a light dusting of flour.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap & let rest for 15 minutes.

3.  Place a kitchen towel (cotton, not terrycloth) in a large bowl.  Liberally flour the surface of the towel (this keeps it from sticking).  Place the dough on the towel & cover with a 2nd towel.  Let stand for 2 hours.

Use a lot of flour.  You don't want the dough to mate with
the towel. 

Put dough in floured towel.

Cover the dough. (Thanks to my cousin Michelle for the
uber-fun embroidered kitchen towels. :-) )

Dough after an additional 2 hours of rise time.

4.  Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  While oven is heating, place a 5-6 quart lidded enameled dutch oven, cast iron pot, or large casserole dish in the oven.  You need this container to be as hot as the oven.  Place the dough in the bottom of the pot & cover.  Bake covered for 30 minutes.  Uncover & bake an additional 15-30 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Preheat your pot! Without using oil or anything, the dough will
fuse to a cold pot.

Raw dough, ready to get toasty.

After first 30 minutes of baking.  It looks delicious already.

After an additional 15-30's done.
5. Carefully remove pot from oven & remove loaf from the pot.  Cool on a cooling rack.  Dust off excess flour, slice & serve.  

Let the loaf cool on a rack for awhile.  Make sure to dust off
excess flour.  


& Serve. :-)  We had ours with lemon curd & homemade
blueberry preserves for dessert.  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lamb Burgers with Herb Yogurt Sauce

This was a quick, easy meal I made earlier this week with some ground lamb we had picked up on sale.  These burgers can be cooked on the grill, on a cast iron grill pan, or pan seared on the stove. The burger meat could also be formed into lamb meat balls with a little bit of cracker & egg binding. 

I made these burgers on toasted 100 calorie sandwich rounds, topped with steamed spinach & herb yogurt sauce (recipe below).The herb yogurt sauce is a perfect fat-free alternative to cheese, and it added a lot of flavor to the burgers.  It is also great as a dip for fresh veggies. For the spinach I used a box of frozen spinach, steamed it in the microwave & then pressed all of the excess water out of the spinach.  I served these with roasted red potatoes. The hubs requested that I make this meal again sometime I guess it was ok?

Not the best photo...but it was delicious.

Lamb Burgers
Prep time= 8 minutes.  Cook time= 15-20 minutes. Serves 4.


Ingredient Lineup
  • 1 pound lean ground lamb
  • 1 t. ground rosemary (needles will work, but crush or grind them first)
  • 1/2 t. dried oregano
  • 1/4 t. ground white pepper
  • 1/4 t. ground black pepper
  • 1/4 t. dried basil
  • 1/4 t. dried thyme
  • 1/4 t. salt (optional)
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1 T. olive oil

1.  Mix all ingredients together.  Form into patties. Grill over Medium to Medium High heat to desired doneness.  While burgers are cooking, prepare the yogurt sauce & spinach. 

Spices mixed up & ready to be added to the meat.

Patties ready to be grilled...

Patties on the grill...yum.

Herb Yogurt Sauce
Prep time 5 minutes. Serves 2-3


Ingredient Lineup
  • 1/2 cup fat free greek style yogurt (I love Fage 0% Greek Yogurt)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 2-3 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade
  • 1/4 t. dried oregano
  • dash freshly ground pepper

1.  Gently fold all ingredients together.  Do not stir too vigorously or it will break the texture of the yogurt.  

Yogurt Sauce

Talbot Street Art Fair Finds

For the past few years, I have wanted to go to the Talbot Street Art Fair.  It's a free art fair downtown Indianapolis that takes up 4-5 blocks & the surrounding area.  It seems like we normally have something else going on & we don't get to go.  This year it worked out for us to go to BOTH days of the art fair.  We had GORGEOUS weather this weekend.  It was perfect for browsing around outside.

I love art fairs.  I love looking at the results of someone else's creative processes.  There is normally a ton of stuff I'd love to have on my walls (almost always above my price range).  Typically there is also a lot of stuff that I find hideous, but I can still respect the time & effort that went into making the pieces.  These are the things we walked away with this weekend...

I have wanted an olive oil bottle for awhile.  I cook with olive oil almost everyday, so the bottle never seems to make it back in the cabinet after meal prep.  Since you aren't supposed to let olive oil be exposed to excess air & light, that's poses an additional problem on top of the eyesore labeled bottle sitting on my counter 24-7. I've looked for ceramic olive oil bottles before & just haven't found one that I like.  That problem was fixed this weekend...

The colors are a little more muted than
they appear in this photo...

I'd like to tell you who the potter was for it...but his flyer apparently didn't make it into the bag with the bottle.  I love this bottle.  The way it was squeezed before being fired causes it to fit perfectly in my hand, & also has a good amount of "grippiness" to it because of the dents.  The green color on top is a perfect muted shade of our accent green color from our kitchen, & the muted yellow/beige color on the bottom coordinates with our tiled backsplash.

There was also this great vendor called Of Nature at the art fair.  This guy takes natural elements like flowers, leaves, seed pods, etc. and copper plates them, & turns them into earrings, pendants, brooches, etc.  Perhaps it is my inner nature lover & biology nerd...but I thought these were incredibly fun.  I ended up getting two pendants.  I can't wait to get them mounted on cords & wear them.

My 2 pendants. A daisy & an orchid.  Perfectly preserved
in copper.
Our final purchase is what necessitated going back to Talbot St for the 2nd day of the art fair.  There was a vendor from Louisiana who takes weathered wood, makes fun planters, planting tables & other outdoor patio elements out of the wood, & then paints them in bright colors & adds distressing & patina elements to the paint. I'd tell you his name, but he didn't have it posted.  I fell in love with one of the bright green ladder planters.  I had been trying to think of a fun way to switch up how I am growing my herb garden, instead of the boring planters I've been using the past 4 years. We didn't end up getting it yesterday since we were rushing to get to dinner plans with my coworkers...but after discussing it last night, we thought it was worth the trip back downtown today to get the planter.  I would have loved one of the planting tables that matched...but that wouldn't have been practical (nor would it have fit in Jason's car :-P).

My fun new planter...with the boring white one
behind it.  I did re-purpose the white planter into
another basil planter.  You can never have
 too much basil... :-)
I found some bamboo fiber "plastic" planters at Menard's that fit perfectly.  The end result is slightly Mardi Gra'ish...but I love it.  It's a fun bright spot on our very brown patio.  I can't wait to see how it ages over time...

My new herb corner of the patio. I think it
turned out pretty cute...
Yay for art fairs!  Hopefully we will be able to get to a few more this summer & fall...including Penrod.  It NEVER works out for us to go.  It seems like we always have 9 million things going on that weekend in September each year.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ultimate Coffee Cake

This coffee cake is delicious.  My mom introduced me to this recipe last year, and it's been a staple in my recipe box since.   This is the recipe for "Ultimate Coffee Cake" as presented on the Paula Deen show.  Per the comment sections on the recipe on, this is an old recipe from the Rhodes bread company.  No matter who came up with the original is still wonderful, quick, easy & makes an impressive breakfast dish.

Gooey Awesomeness

I made this earlier this week for a work breakfast pitch-in.  It was still yummy as the day went on, even once the caramel sauce had cooled down (it stays gooey, it doesn't get chewy). I still want to experiment with this recipe to see what it tastes like when using different flavors of pudding, like vanilla. You want to be sure to use raw rolls (not the warm & serve frozen type) & cook and serve pudding (not instant). The bread will need to sit out 8-10 hours to rise prior to baking.  Therefore, you can make this recipe the night before, let it do it's thing on the kitchen counter overnight, and pop it in the oven before you get ready in the morning.  

Ultimate Coffee Cake
16-18 servings, Prep time= 5 min, Rest time= 8-10 hours, Cook time= 30 minutes

Ingredient Lineup

  • 16-18 unbaked/raw frozen yeast rolls (I used Rhodes traditional rolls.)
  • 1 package of Jello Cook & Serve Butterscotch pudding (3.5 oz)
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup of pecans, chopped
  • 1 stick of butter, melted

1.  Grease a large bundt pan with butter or cooking spray.  Place the frozen rolls in the bottom of the pan.  (They will not take up much room--don't worry.  Do not put extra rolls in the pan, they will rise up & out of the pan.)

2.  Sprinkle the entire package of jello pudding over the top of the rolls.  Sprinkle the brown sugar over the top of the rolls.  Evenly distribute the chopped nuts over the top of the rolls.  Pour the melted butter all over the assembled ingredients in the pan.  (You do not need to stir the ingredients.  The "toppings" will fill in the crevices between the rolls as it cooks & when you plate the finished coffee cake.)

Ready to chill on the counter overnight & get puffy.

3.  Tightly cover the bundt pan with plastic wrap, this prevents the dough from forming a hard crust.  Let the dough rise overnight (8-10 hours).
4.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If the dough has grown taller than the pan, very gently "punch" the dough back down into the pan 1-2 inches. Bake cake for 25-30 minutes.
The dough after its morning punching

5.  Remove cake from oven & let cool 5 minutes.  Turn pan over onto a large plate or platter.  Gently scrape out any extra caramel & nuts out of the bundt pan.  (If you are using a "new to you" bundt pan, verify in advance that it will fit on the plate you are planning on using.  I learned the hard way that my new bundt pan is bigger than my old one...and I caramelized my counter & stove this time around)

Finished product on the pitch-in counter
I'd say it was a success...because this was all
that was left.