Tuesday, December 27, 2011

BBQ Chicken Quesadilla with Smoked Onion Dip

I hope you all had a great Christmas surrounded by loved ones.

I must apologize that its been a while since I last posted a recipe. I've been so busy with Christmas preparations that I haven't tried any new recipes. As some of you may know, holidays are celebrated twice in our family. Once with my side of the family, the other time is spent with hubby's side. And we always host Christmas for hubby's side. So our household was pretty hectic. And since we host Christmas day at our house, we always end up with more leftovers than the two of us can handle. I say "two" because our daughter hardly eats any of the leftovers. So to avoid the tons of leftovers that takes up space in both of our refrigerators, I told all our guests to take home the leftovers. When we were left alone after the party, hubby decided to look for leftovers. He was a little disappointed to find out there was hardly anything left. I felt bad, so I planned to make it up to him.

When I saw a dish of BBQ Quesadilla with Smoked Onion Dip on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on the Food Network, I knew I had to find a similar recipe to make. My mouth was watering just watching the TV. So I knew this was the dish to make it up to him. After doing a quick search online, I came across this recipe from My Stained Apron and decided to make it for dinner tonight. This recipe certainly did the trick. It was so delicious and the Smoked Onion dip really enhances the overall flavor of this dish. This dish was so easy, it'll be a definite do-again recipe. The longest part of the process is cooking the onions, but don't let that deter you from making this. This is a must to be made. Hubby asked for more, and I know he will be thinking about this dish for a long time.

BBQ Chicken Quesadillas
6-8 flour tortillas (soft taco size)
3/4 cup BBQ sauce
2 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, boiled and shredded
1/2 red onion, sliced
fresh chopped cilantro

1) Place 3-4 tortillas on a flat surface. Spread each tortilla with desired amount of BBQ sauce, all the way to the edge of the tortilla. Evenly distribute shredded cheese, shredded chicken and desired amount of sliced onions on top of BBQ sauce. Sprinkle desired amount of chopped fresh cilantro.

2) Spread a thin layer of BBQ sauce on the remaining 3-4 tortillas and place on top of prepared quesadilla, sauce-side down. Cook on a skillet over medium-low heat until tortilla has turned golden brown and the cheese has melted. Cut into wedges and serve hot with Smoked Onion Dip.

Smoked Onion Dip
1 medium onion, sliced
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

1) In a medium sized skillet, saute onions over medium-low heat until it begins to soften. Add liquid smoke and continue to cook until the onions have caramelized, about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place cooked onions in a food processor to chop finely.

2) In a medium bowl, combine prepared onion with the remaining ingredients. Adjust seasoning with more salt and pepper according to taste.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sugar Cookies

I've always envisioned baking sugar cookies with my daughter around the Holidays, where I would let her cut out the shapes and decorate with the frosting and sprinkles. I thought baking sugar cookies would be an easy thing to do. But when I look up the recipes, they just seem so complicated. Where the most complicated thing was the the frosting....royal icing. Where in the world can I find meringue powder? I've looked at the craft store where I buy a lot of my baking needs, but no such luck. Another problem I have is the counter space to roll out the dough. I have the old-school tiled counter top. Not ideal if you want to roll out dough of any kind. So the closest I got to sugar cookies was when I made these Soft Frosted Sugar Cookies, where I didn't really have to roll out the dough. But they still weren't the shaped cookies that I've always wanted to make with my daughter.

This week was her last week at school before her Holiday break and I decided to have her give out cookies to the kids on her last day. So she and I made Chocolate Chip Cookies and I decided to tackle the task of making Sugar cookies using this recipe from Annie's Eats. Making the cookies was really easy and the ingredients were straightforward. I decided to use our dining table to roll out the dough and have my daughter cut out the shapes, which she enjoyed doing.

To tackle the meringue powder issue, I decided to search online to see if there are any substitutes for meringue powder. Sure enough, I found this substitute, using egg whites. Its an extra step, but it definitely works if you can't find meringue powder like me. Its definitely worth the extra step to see my daughter having a good time frosting and decorating these yummy cookies.

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, sifted

1) Using an electric stand mixer, cream butter over low-medium speed. Slowly add confectioner's sugar. Blend in egg, almond extract, vanilla extract, salt and flour. Continue beating until well incorporated. Form dough into a disk and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill dough until firm.

2) Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Grease 2-3 cookie sheets.

3) Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness on a well-floured surface. Cut with cookie cutters and place on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, but do not let the cookies brown. Cool completely before frosting and decorating.

Royal Icing
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp. water
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
4 Tbsp. sugar

4 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
5 Tbsp. water
food coloring

1) In a bowl of a double boiler, whisk together egg whites, 2 tablespoons of water, cream of tartar, and sugar. Place bowl over boiling water stir frequently with a rubber spatula. Cook mixture until temperature from a candy thermometer reads over 160 deg F. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

2) Using an electric stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine egg mixture with confectioner's sugar on low speed for 7-10 minutes, until icing has a matte appearance. Remove bowl from the mixer and add water, 1 tablespoon at a time until desired consistency.

3) Place icing in separate bowls per food coloring. Frost cooled cookies and immediately decorate (with sprinkles). Allow frosting to set before serving.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tom Kha (Thai Coconut Soup)

I've noticed that I've been getting sick a lot more frequently lately. Yup, you guessed it. I'm sick again. I think this is the 2nd time in the past 6 months that I've been home sick with either a cough or cold or both. This time, this cough hit me pretty hard. I've had it for almost a week with no relief in sight. Before I had my daughter, it was rare that I would be out sick from work. I'll have a slight cold, but not enough to have to call-in sick. My motto back then was "through rain, sleet, hail, or snow, I'll still report to work." Nowadays, I get so sick that my whole body aches and I can't even get out of bed. Call it age or stress or whatever the cause may be, whenever I'm sick, I always crave for some soothing soup. And because of my sore throat, I wanted a sour soup.

I've made this recipe for Tom Kha a while ago but haven't put it in this blog yet. And I've been meaning to make it again. We order Tom Kha at our favorite Thai restaurants most often during the cold season. And when I found it in my Thai cookbook, I couldn't believe how easy it was. The only hard part was getting all the ingredients. I'm fortunate to have my office close to a Thai market where I can get most of my ingredients whenever I feel like cooking Thai food.

4 stalks of lemon grass, roots trimmed
2 (14 oz) cans coconut milk
2 cups chicken broth
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
10 black peppercorns, crushed
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
10-12 shrimps, peeled and de-veined
1 cup button mushrooms
1/2 cup baby corn, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 Tbsp. lime juice
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
1-2 Tbsp. Thai chili paste
chopped green onions, for garnish
chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

1) Cut off the lower 2 inches from each lemon grass stalk and chop finely. Bruise the remaining pieces of stalk.

2) Bring the coconut milk and broth to boil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add chopped and bruised lemon grass, ginger, and peppercorns. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Strain the soup.

3) Return the soup into the pan over low heat. Stir in chicken, mushrooms, and corn. Simmer gently, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes, or until chicken is cooked. Add shrimps during the last 2 minutes of simmer. Stir in lime juice, fish sauce, and Thai chili paste until well incorporated. Serve hot in bowls with green onions and cilantro for garnish.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

With the Holidays comes Holiday baking. One of my favorite things to do around the Holidays is not shopping. But baking. Don't get me wrong. I love shopping just as much as the next guy/gal. However, I find I'm most happiest in my kitchen baking (or cooking). Every year, I always try to bake something new to give out as Holiday gifts for our neighbors. There's something about homemade gifts that makes me feel so domesticated like a housewife. Wishful thinking, I guess. But I do like to make homemade gifts. Besides, its the neighborly thing to do.

I discovered this recipe, of all places, from Facebook. I'm a fan of the Betty Crocker group, and everyday, they post yummy recipes and this particular recipe was posted. I love the combination of mint and chocolate. To me, this flavor combination is what Christmas is all about and what reminds me most of Chistmas. Its the time of year when you'll see a lot of Peppermint Hot Chocolate or Peppermint Mocha being advertised (think Starbucks or McDonald's). So its the perfect time to make these delicious cookies. If you love mint and chocolate, you'll love these cookies. So easy, yet so yummy. Eat these cookies and it'll remind you of eating a scoop of mint & chip ice cream.

1 pouch sugar cookie mix (I used Betty Crocker)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 tsp. mint extract
6-8 drops green food color
1 egg
1 cup mint baking chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1) Preheat oven to 350 deg F.

2) In a large bowl, combine cookie mix, butter, mint extract, food color and egg. Mix thoroughly using a hand mixer or an electric stand mixer until soft dough forms. Stir in mint and chocolate chips.

3) Using a small cookie scoop or teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until the cookie sets. Cool for 3 minutes, and then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

Christmas is less than 3 weeks away. So I've been trying to get ideas for our Christmas meal with the families. I was thinking of a Latin themed menu. Mainly because a lot of my Latin dishes can be made ahead of time. There's just too much for me to do that I have to plan and make things ahead. I've thought of some casserole dishes that I can prepare ahead and then bake the day-of. And of course there's the crock pot that I can have on overnight to help save time. What I have left is dessert. I don't think I have the energy this year to bake cupcakes that I have to bake and frost. And then this recipe came to mind from What's Cookin' Chicago? that I've had saved up for a while. Joelen's version is gluten-free. So I decided to use my go-to Chocolate Cake recipe.

I remember having a Chocolate Tres Leches cake a while ago from The Kogi truck and I thought how great of an idea it was. And when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it. I love the traditional Tres Leches cake. But having it in a chocolate form just brings this yummy Mexican dessert over-the-top good.

1 recipe Chocolate Cake divided into 2 pans, cooled

Tres Leches
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup heavy cream

whipped cream for topping

1) Combine milks in a medium bowl and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Remove cakes from their pans and place each cake on separate platters. Using a fork, generously poke numerous holes into prepared cakes. Pour milk mixture over both cakes. Refrigerate overnight. Serve with whipped cream on top.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mashed Potato Soup

Its been about a week since Thanksgiving, and I still have some leftover side dishes in the fridge that I have to decide whether to throw away or not. Specifically mashed potatoes, dressing, gravy and cranberry sauce. My co-worker, Stacy, had mentioned that a friend of hers had made tons of mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and then used it to make some delicious potato soup for her because she was sick this past weekend. I asked her to try to get the recipe and she lead me to this from The Rachael Ray Show.

This recipe couldn't be any easier. It asks for leftover mashed potatoes and chicken stock, but I happen to have turkey stock from our Thanksgiving turkey carcass. It was so delicious and so comforting for a chilly evening like it was last night. Its a potato soup kind of night.

6 slices of bacon, chopped
4 Tbsp. butter
1 medium onion, chopped
4 Tbsp. flour
4 cups chicken or turkey stock
2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
chopped chives or green onions for garnish

1) In a medium pot, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until crispy. Remove bacon and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.

2) Drain off excess bacon fat from the pot and add butter. When it is melted, add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour into pot and cook with a wooden spoon for 1 minute. Whisk in stock and bring to a bubble. Cook until slightly thickened, about 2-3 minutes.

3) Whisk in mashed potatoes. Stir in cheddar cheese with a wooden spoon and cook until potatoes are hot and the cheese is melted. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with bacon and chopped chives/green onions.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chicken & Shrimp Pad Thai

Ever since I saw this recipe for Pad Thai from What's Cookin' Chicago?, I have been craving it. I haven't made Pad Thai since making this version, which is a little more time consuming. It requires to boil the Pad Thai sauce to caramelize it. And I don't have time for that tonight. Besides, that version was a little too dry for my taste. I like my Pad Thai to be a little more saucy. Joelen's version seemed much quicker and easier. It had a little bit of kick to it from the chili, but it was quite good. And the noodles were saucy. Just the way I like it.

8 oz Thai Rice Stick noodles

Pad Thai Sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp. tamarind paste, dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
3 Tbsp. fish sauce
1/2 - 1 Tbsp. Thai chili sauce, or more to taste
1/4 cup dark brown sugar

2 Tbsp. oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized cubes
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/4 cup chicken stock
3 cups fresh bean sprouts
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro
1/3 cup roughly chopped peanuts
lime wedges for garnish

1) In a large bowl, place noodles and pour hot water over them to cover. Allow to soak noodles until noodles are softened and al dente. Be careful that they do not get too soft. Drain and set aside.

2) Prepare Pad Thai sauce by combining tamarind paste, fish sauce, Thai chili sauce, and brown sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.

3) In a wok or large saute pan over medium-high heat, add 1-2 tablespoons of oil. When it begins to shimmer, add minced garlic and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken and stir-fry until opaque in color, about 5-7 minutes. Add shrimp during the last 2 minutes of cooking the chicken.

4) Add chicken stock and Pad Thai sauce, stirring to coat the chicken and shrimp. Add the noodles, and using tongs carefully stir-fry the noodles to coat with the sauce. Continue to stir fry until noodles have soaked up most of the sauce, being careful not to break the noodles. Add bean sprouts, green onions and cilantro. Toss to combine. Serve and garnish with more chopped cilantro, chopped peanuts and lime wedges.