Sunday, June 24, 2012

Curry Chicken

Curry Chicken over Rice

So there's an amazing Thai food place right by Arizona State University's main campus that was introduced to me a couple years ago. Since then, I've fallen in love with Thai food. And since one of my favorite things to get at Thai Elephant is any of their curries particularly their Green Curry or Red Curry. Oh my god so yummy, I'm going to start to drool now. I saw this recipe and I felt the need to try it...and then buy a Thai food cookbook, so once I start playing around with those recipes I'm sure they'll make their way onto my blog. This recipe actually came from one of my Taste of Home cookbooks, it's really simple to make and it tastes pretty damn delicious.

So here's the recipe that I started with out of the cookbook...along with my additions

1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into 1" pieces
2 teaspoons of curry powder (I added more to taste, probably around an extra 1/2-1 tsp)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper (I probably easily doubled this because I love pepper)
1 small onion, chopped (small...medium...same difference)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1-1/2 cups uncooked instant rice
1 can (14oz)  coconut milk (I used Thai Kitchen Organic Lite Coconut Milk)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 cups baby spinach
1 cup chopped tomato

Sidenote: so I was making this for my roommates and one of them doesn't like tomatoes and he picks them out of anything I make--granted I used to do the same thing but with more than just tomatoes--so to make it easier I substituted 2 medium sized carrots sliced about 1/2 inch thick for the tomatoes. Also feel free to add any other veggies you want. Broccoli would be yummy in this, along with mushrooms if you like them. Probably somewhere from 1/2 up to 1 cup of the veggies you're adding, not too too much because you don't want to lose the chicken in the least I wouldn't want to.

So let's get started! First thing I did was sprinkle the chicken with the curry powder, salt, and pepper. In a large skillet, I used my Cuisinart nonstick sauté pan, cook the chicken and onion in the canola oil until the chicken is done. The chicken is done when there's no more pink, with chicken pink is bad. Very, very, very bad.

This is about when you can start cooking the rice. My rice that I had wasn't the 5 minutes instant cook, it's the one that takes like 20 minutes so it worked out perfectly timing wise.

So the chicken is cooked, yay! Now it's time to stir in the coconut milk and the tomato paste. I alternated how I added in the coconut milk and tomato paste. I added a little milk, a bit of the tomato paste, and so on and so on until everything was nicely mixed in like so...

See the tomato paste is nicely blended in with the coconut milk here.

Another bonus to adding the carrots and other veggies now is that it gives them time to soak up some of the curry flavor!

The recipe says to bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes. Because I added carrots and carrots are a very crunchy vegetable I wanted them to be cooked a little more so they would be soft, but obviously not mushy because mushy carrots taste weird and aren't very attractive to my taste buds. So I added in the carrots as I was bringing the chicken coconut milk mixture to a boil. I would recommend if you're opting to add in any other vegetables like broccoli and mushrooms to add them in at this point too so they can have the chance to cook in the mixture.

After you get this to a nice boil, then reduced the heat and let it simmer for about 5 minutes until it has thickened up a bit. I used this time to check on my rice make sure everything was going the right way. Now always, always, always taste what you're making as you're making it. During the 5 minutes simmer I tasted my food and added little bits of spices that I know I enjoy the taste of. Little bit of garlic powder, little bit of onion powder (I know we already have onion in there but I wanted just a little extra). I might have sprinkled some chili powder and just a tad bit of white pepper along with some more black pepper.

Always make sure you start off with just a small amount. Doesn't matter if you really like garlic powder you add 2 tablespoons of the stuff it's not gonna taste fantastic. Not to mention your breath won't be ideal either. This being a curry and making me drool as I think about how delicious the curries are at Thai Elephant I added just a bit of crushed red pepper flakes into the mixture as I went along to give it a little kick.

OK so once the curry has thickened up to your liking it's time to add the spinach (and tomatoes if you're including them). But before you do, if carrots are included maybe take a bite of one of the slices to see if they're cooked and softened up enough for your liking. The spinach (and tomatoes) will only be cooked for about 2-4 minutes, until the spinach is wilted, so nothing would throw off the texture of having nice juicy pieces of chicken, spinach and all that good stuff with a really hard crunch of a carrot. Soft crunch is good, hard crunch? Well that depends on you. Remember to keep the element temperature at that low/simmer level so the spinach can slowly wilt into perfection.

This is my Curry Chicken when the spinach was allllllmost completely cooked and wilted. I tested the carrots throughout the process to make sure they were nice and tender, the chicken remained juicy, and the spinach tasted yummy. Now all that was left to do was put it all together on a place over some rice! This recipe serves about 4 nice sized servings and according to my cookbook is relatively low in calories only about 520 calories per serving. Of course it varies with the type of rice and using the lite coconut milk probably reduces it a little bit. I liked to top my Curry Chicken with some crushed red pepper flakes to add a little spice to the dish.

There should be enough of the coconut milk curry sauce so you can drizzle some extra on top and really mix it in with the rice, it tastes so good when it's all mixed together! It'll look more like the title picture at the start of this blog. This one seems a little easier than the Boston Cream Cupcakes from last time, definitely less time consuming!

Voila! Yummy curry chicken done in about 30 minutes!

Alrighty, 'til next time!!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Boston Cream Cupcakes

Boston Cream Cupcakes

OK! So last night I decided to finally make a recipe that I've been dying to try for the past few weeks! It's in one of my recipe books and it's just been there staring at me waiting for me to get my ingredients out and finally put it together. Basically I've been wanting to try these (1) because they look so delicious in my cookbook and (2) because I love the Boston Cream Pie yogurt that I eat.

First of all, here is what you're going to need for these delicious treats:

6 tablespoons shortening (I used butter flavored)
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour (I added like probably an extra 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons milk (recipe says 2% I used 1% because that's what I had)
about 1 cup vanilla pudding
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Now the original recipe only made 6 cupcakes, I doubled it here so it would make an even dozen. First thing I did was make the vanilla pudding. I just used Jell-O instant Vanilla pudding, it's so quick to make. I was just glad I had milk this week to make the pudding. Getting this done first allows you to just whip it up then put it in the fridge until you're ready for it.

After I finished the pudding I started on the cupcake batter. So go ahead and grab a medium sized mixing bowl and preheat that oven to 350 degrees!! Take the shortening and sugar and mix it until it's fluffy. I used my hand mixer, which works to blend it perfectly. Add the eggs after and beat that until the mixture is smooth. Follow that up with the vanilla, again beating the mixture until you feel the vanilla is thoroughly mixed in.

In a small bowl get the flour, baking powder, and salt together. Now what you're gonna do it put about half of it in with the shortening/sugar/egg/vanilla mixture. Beat that in really well, the batter will feel thick, but that's OK because now is the time to mix in 3 tablespoons of milk! Blend it together with that trusty hand mixer...or it can be done by hand with a whisk if a hand mixer is something that doesn't live in your kitchen. Getting a hand mixer was a life saver for me, for some reason I didn't think it was that bad using my arm strength to mix everything together? I know, clearly I wasn't thinking right.

Alrighty, so the first 3 tablespoons of milk are in the batter and mixed in well. So go ahead and mix in the rest of the flour/baking powder/salt combo. Again, mixing in well so you can add in the other 3 tablespoons of milk! Once that is all mixed in the batter is ready. Now I would recommend scooping the batter into a Ziploc bag and cutting a corner off so you can use that to distribute the batter into the paper-lined muffin cups. I did not do this last night when I was making like the whole hand mixer thing I wanted to make it harder on myself. Fill the muffin cups about half full, do your best to keep them even so that your cupcakes are the same size, I still have problems with this. Even this batch had a few cupcakes that were smaller than the rest. Oh well, nothing HAS to be perfect, right?

Now, I put my cupcakes in for about 18 minutes. The recipe said do 15-20. Baking times really depend on each individual oven so always, always, ALWAYS keep an eye on whatever is in the oven the first time you make it. Cookies, muffins, cupcakes, cakes no one likes burnt cookies...except my step-mom she likes it when cookies are really crunchy.

So here are my cupcakes at around 10 minutes, as you can see they're not done. But I thought they were rising up quite nicely so I took a picture! So what I like to do while a batch of cupcakes or cookies or brownies are in the oven is to get some of the dishes done. I hate leaving it all for the end because then I feel like I have a huge mess to clean up. This makes stuff easier.

So once I decided my cupcakes were done, and not over done/burnt. And obviously still moist, dry crumbly cupcakes are not too delicious. Now aren't these beautiful? The vanilla in them really makes them smell nice, if you don't believe me...well that's fine. I just really like the smell of vanilla. So I tried my best to wait a full 10 minutes before popping these bad boys out of the pan and onto a wire rack to cool. Really, the important thing is making sure once they're on the wire rack to you let cool COMPLETELY. I'm horrible at this, I never let things cool completely I'm too impatient. But since you need to fill these with pudding I would say waiting for them to completely cool is a very smart idea and surprisingly I actually did manage to hold my horses and allowed them to cool.

So for the task of filling the cupcakes with the pudding there is a few different ways you can go with it. First is to once again grab a Ziploc bag, cut a small hole in the corner of the bag...after you reinforce it with a couple layers of tape I might add, get a small frosting tip (I remember buying pretty cheap ones at the grocery store a couple years ago that work nicely) and voila! Instant pastry bag! Fill it up with the pudding.
Or you can be fancy like me and have a auto-frosting pen. It's pretty sweet I must admit. just fill it up and attach on the "filler" frosting tip and I have a very easy way to fill cupcakes, muffins or anything else I want.
This is my frosting deco-pen by Kuhn Rikon
purchased at Sur La Table

My Cupcake Corer, also from Sur La Table
Now as far as actually filling the cupcakes again you can go 2 or 3 ways. You can either shove the frosting tip into the top of the cupcake and add the pudding until it starts to come out the top through the hole. You can cut a cone out of the top take some of the inside out and fill the cupcake with the pudding that way. Oooooooor you can be like me and get a $4 cupcake corer and make your life so much easier. This one I got from one of my favorite cooking stores Sur La Table.

Here's how mine looked when I was finished with this part!

 These are the cupcakes with simply stuffing the pudding into them (left) and coring them with the cupcake corer (right).

**UPDATE!** Just thought I'd mention this, since I've had some comments from some people, there needs to be more cream/pudding. Well, why yes I do believe that is true! So when you're filling these up, put in as much cream as you want!! **END UPDATE!**

 OK Sorry this entry is getting long. But I swear, we're almost finished!! Now that all this is finished with. Time to get that lovely Chocolate Ganache topping going! Take chocolate chips and put them in a small bowl. Take the heavy cream and put it in a small sauce pan, bring the cream to a boil and then transfer it into the bowl with the semi-sweet chocolate chips! Stir it up with a whisk until it is smooth. It'll thicken a bit as it cools off. Stir it a bit to keep the smooth consistency and once it's cooled down a fair amount (I waited until it was just a little warmer that room temp); you don't have to cool the ganache completely. So here's what I did, the recipe I used said to spoon the ganache over the cupcakes, which is fine but it doesn't look quite as pretty. So take the cupcake and hold it upside down. Place it in the ganache just enough to cover the top of the cupcake twist it around a little bit and pull it out. The chocolate should look really nice and smooth on top like so...

See how nice and smooth those look! Now let that Chocolate ganache set, I put a piece of wax paper under the cooling rack just in case some chocolate dripped down off the cupcakes. What's it's set, if you want (and if you have left over ganache like I did) feel free to double dip the cupcakes. I just didn't want to waste the chocolate.

So the cupcakes are finished!! These need to be stored in the fridge so I put them in one of my Glad/Ziploc containers to keep them fresh and they're sitting in my fridge now...well some of them. OK half of them. My brother and a couple of his friends have eaten some...and me too.

 I had fun, hope you did too! Til Next Time!!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Let's Start at the Beginning

I have a few passions in life: Dance, writing, and cooking seem to be the three that stand out the most. I figured I might as well see if I can combine two of my passions, the writing and the cooking--I do dance around my kitchen so I guess that could be considered combining all three of my passions into one. And I've always wanted to try my hand at blogging, so we'll see how this goes!

Now I've always been pretty good at making cookies and doing the whole baking thing. When I was younger I mastered the art of making chocolate chip cookie dough, just for the pure joy of eating the dough and not even making the cookies some of the time. Let's face it, chocolate chip cookies are great, but the dough is clearly the best part...raw eggs and all.Not really the healthiest way to go...I'm sure there's a way to figure out how to make it without the raw eggs.

But, anywho... it's been in the last 8 or so months that I've decided to branch out and dip my toes into other areas of cooking. To me baking/cooking has always seemed simple enough, you just follow the recipe and it should turn out the way it's supposed to. That's not really the case 100% of the time. My friends always ask me what my secret is to making food that looks and tastes so good, my response is usually that I follow a recipe or just follow my instinct on what I think will taste good. I add more of some ingredients, less of others and it just kinda works out! Over the past couple of years I've discovered little things that can largely affect the way food turns out, sometimes a little extra flour goes a long way and trying different spice combinations works out for the better. Of course, there are times when there are things that just do not turn out no matter what I try.
The most important thing I've learned though is to just go with what feels right, if you think you need to add something or take something out go for it! What's the worst that can happen? Okay, okay when dealing with food yeah, a lot of "bad" things could happen. Just make sure your food is always cooked properly and pretty much anything else you can play around with. I always do my best to have fun while I'm in the kitchen, I expect to make a mess, I expect to trip over one or two of the three dogs, and I expect to drop stuff on the floor and have to toss it--granted, I try really hard not to do that, it's a waste of food! Accidents in the kitchen happen, but whatever if it makes an amusing story what's the harm? Bottom line is basically you just need to trust yourself in the kitchen and then you can see how things go. Make a mistake? No worries now you know not to do it next time!

I have so much fun in my kitchen, I want others to enjoy it as well! I'll post recipes that I've made, pictures, and of course those amusing little stories, which will almost always involve something about my dog, since it's pretty much impossible for me to be in the kitchen without her sitting at my feet drooling on the floor.

'Til next time!!