Monday, November 28, 2011

Deli Sushi

You know there are at least ten people on this planet who insist they personally know the person who invented deli roll.
True fact.
Well guys, I call this one:
 I served this last week as an appetizer. We had a huge platter of it in the middle of the table, with a few smaller salads on the side. (Don't worry, I have pictures of them all ready for future Real Food Wednesdays!) It was lots of fun, and being that Big D. is a self proclaimed fish hater, and my Super Awesome Sister-In-Law was there too, and she is also a self proclaimed fish hater (really? You are going to try to convince me that this does not run in the family??) they had a lot of fun pretending that they were eating sushi. While it does not taste like real sushi due to the lack of nori and fish, it was still a big hit!

Deli Sushi
2 cups sushi rice (Japanese short grained rice)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar ( I used plain distilled vinegar. Shhhhh...don't tell anyone.)
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons salt

4-6 ounces deli- pastrami or corned beef
1 chicken breast
3 tablespoons barbecue sauce
red pepper

ketchup & mustard (optional)

Important caveat:
This is my first time making sushi rice, let alone anything sushi related. And I do not plan on making authentic sushi ever in my life, when I can go to the takeout and get perfectly delicious sushi. And yes, you can quote me on that. So, any instructions here are completely a result of my 3 minute Google education on sushi making. If you are a professional sushi chef, please do not judge or critique my technique! This worked fine for Deli Sushi, and that was my goal. Thanks!

Place sushi rice in a strainer, run cold water over it,  and rinse until the water runs clear. (Don't skip this step.) Once the rice is rinsed, pour it into the pot you will be cooking it in. Fill the pot with water to a level just slightly higher than the level of the rice. Let the rice sit in the water for about 30 minutes. While the rice is soaking, prepare the rice seasoning. Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a small pot.  Heat the vinegar mixture until the sugar and salt have almost entirely dissolved. Don’t let the mixture boil.  As soon as the salt and sugar have dissolved, remove the mixture from heat. After the rice has soaked for 30 minutes, turn on the flame and bring the rice/water to a boil. Once the water begins to boil, lower the heat to the smallest flame and cover the pot. Since the rice is steamed, not cooked, its very important to keep the pot covered the entire time- no peeking! After about 10 minutes, take a quick peek to see if the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked. If the water absorbed, but the rice is still hard, add a splash of water and allow it to steam for a few more minutes. Once it is cooked, remove the rice from the flame, transfer rice to a larger bowl, and allow to cool. According to sushi experts, you should not use a metal bowl, since it will affect the taste of the rice. You also should use a wooden spoon to ensure that the grains of rice do not get damaged. Once the rice is transferred and cooling, pour the rice seasoning over the cooled rice, and gently stir until it is thoroughly combined. 

To prepare the filling:
Spray a small frying pan with non-stick cooking spray. Slice the chicken breast into 2-3 smaller pieces. Add chicken to frying pan, spread barbecue sauce on top. Cook over medium flame, 2-3 minutes on each side, until chicken is no longer pink. Allow to cool. Once it cools, slice each piece into narrow strips. Slice the avocado and pepper into thin strips as well.

To assemble the deli sushi:
Lay out a sheet of parchment paper on your work surface. Arrange the deli in a large rectangle, about 8''x10''. Gently press the rice mixture down on top of the deli, keeping it as smooth and flat as possible.  If you would like to put ketchup or mustard in the sushi roll, spread it thinly over the rice. (I decided to skip this to keep the flavors as close to authentic sushi as possible.) On the side of the roll, about an inch inwards, lay the chicken strips, avocado strips and pepper strips.

To roll:
Gently pick up the parchment paper to help you roll the first "roll." Pull the roll back towards you to ensure that it is rolled as tightly as possible. Let the parchment paper fall back to the counter and continue rolling up, keeping the roll as tight as you can. Roll the entire roll back up in the parchment paper to keep closed, and transfer to a pan. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight to help the deli sushi keep its form, before slicing. Slice with a sharp serrated knife and make sure to cut all the way to the bottom- otherwise the deli is still connected, and will ruin the slices. 


Here's what it looked like before I rolled it up: 

This video explains very clearly how to roll up the roll:


Friday, November 25, 2011

A Happy Story

Do you remember my awesome friend- Hyper D.? Well, see, there is a reason why she is so hyper. And I will tell you why. Once upon a time, Hyper D. was just plain ole' D. Super awesome, but not too hyper. Well, maybe a little hyper, but not enough to warrant a title. Then one day, Hyper D. met a dashing young knight named S-Dude.           S-Dude was so nice and sweet that D. said, "I want to marry him!!!" And S-Dude said, "I want to marry you too!!!" And ta-da, just like that, they got engaged! And Hyper D. has never been the same since...bouncing off the walls, that girl is. I had to peel her off the ceiling just last week, I tell ya. Anyways, so I told Hyper D., when she was just about half-way Hyper: "Listen girl, my superpowers tell me that you will be getting engaged soon, and I have a fancy pants cake I would like to make for your engagement party, so please please please, you have to tell me at least three days before so I have time to make this crazy cake for ya." And can you guess what happened? 
S-Dude, being his awesomely cool self, decided to surprise Hyper D. and proposed
 when she least expected it. 

Guys. They'll just ruin everything.

So, I got this call last Sunday from Hyper D. saying "I'm ENGAAAAAAAGED!!!!"
And we did a little dance around the room.
Seriously, Z-Monkey and Little D. are still dancing. 
(They have to practice for her wedding.)
Anyways, so after Hyper D. caught her breath, she said, "Ohmigoshguesswhatourengagementpartywillbetomorrownight!!!YAAAAY!!

Say what, now?

This was at 6 PM on a Sunday night.
As I was wiping down the last counter from a long day of recipe testing for the JoyofKosher
But, since I love Hyper D., and I express my love through cake, here's what I threw together:
8PM-3AM, my friends. From preheating the oven to washing the floor.

Now, any of you who have been following my blog long enough know that I am 16% cool, 11% awesome and 73% crazy, right? So at 3AM, my brain went like this:

Wow, 24 hours to make an engagement party. Hmmm, how will they get enough food together? Maybe they need more cake. Yeah, for sure they need more cake! Hyper D. needs to have an amazing engagement party. With lots of cake. So I have to make more cake. make more cake.make more cake.make more cake...zzzzzzzz.

Umm, yeah, so that's what happened:
Mocha Caramel Crunch.
I want one just for myself.
Ironically, this one was about 2 hours from beginning to end. 

In other news, it's my Super Cool Boss's Son-In-Law's birthday! You know what that means, right? Its cake time! 
(Click on image to enlarge)
He's in school for a PHD in psychology, hence the couch.

Now how many times did I write the words "Awesome", "Cool" and "Super'' in this post?
Me thinks its time for a thesaurus. Or a vacation.  Or both. Take your pick.
Or maybe everyone in my life is Super Awesomely Cool. there's something to ponder on.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Its no secret that I love all things cheese. And I'm a Perpetual Dieter. 
Put the two together, and you get:
Spaghetti Squash Casserole
1 large spaghetti squash
6 ounces baby portabella mushrooms, sliced
1 colored pepper, sliced in strips
1 Sicilian* eggplant, diced small
a handful of cherry tomatoes, whole
1 cup marinara sauce
1 cup cottage cheese
6 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat oven to 350°. Place the spaghetti squash, whole, in a 9x13 pan. Bake for about an hour. Let it cool, and slice in half. Scoop the insides back into the pan, discard the peel and seeds. Set aside.Raise the temperature of the oven to 450°.  Spray a large cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange the eggplant on the sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes. Add the peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes, and roast for an additional 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven, and add to spaghetti squash. Stir to combine. Add the marinara sauce, cottage cheese and shredded cheese- mix well. Cover pan, and bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Uncover, and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Oh, and by the way. It doesn't help to eat something healthy, when you devour half the pan. Just sayin'.

And hellooo, why has no one told me about baby portabella mushrooms before?! I am completely and totally in love. 

* You do not have to use Sicilian eggplant here, you can use any kind of eggplant.  I prefer Sicilian eggplant, because I find the "eggplant" taste to be more mild. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Simple Things

I think I've mentioned this before but it bears repeating. Sometimes, I get so caught up in an idea of a recipe, that I kinda lose site of the recipe. And yes, that makes a great Life Lesson, so you can read into that as deeply as you like. I let. Anyways, let me give you an example: Say, someone super cool is coming to me for the weekend. Like Hyper D. Or my Super Awesome Sister-in-Law. Say,we want to knock their socks off. So I start surfing Foodgawker, Pinterest, Tastespotting. Before you know it, there is a tidal wave of drool on my keyboard. (Ew, gross. TMI?) And then I have this monstrosity of an idea in my head for dessert: It sounds like this:
 Hey, I'll make a pie.No, no. Mini trifles are way fancier. Yeah, that will be good. It has to have chocolate, so I have to make some chocolate mousse. Oh, and I love brownies, so gotta have that in there. Peanut butter? Yep, hand in hand with chocolate. Oh, and caramel. I love caramel. And what is dessert without whip cream? Before you know it, this dessert is three feet high and your taste buds are so confused, they are like "What? What are you feeding us? How many tastes are you bombarding us with?"
Yeah, its kinda like that. 
Scary, I know. 
So sometimes, to remember whats really good in life, I ask my kids what they want me to make. So this week, Z-Monkey requested brownies. And then my brain automatically added ice cream and caramel to that. What?! I can't help it! It's like a knee-jerk reflex. Point is, its something I am working on. 
And here is something for you: 
I'm thinking of printing this strip of pictures and framing it in my kitchen.
Whaddya think?

Here's what you need to put this together:

Mary Poppins Brownies (Practically perfect in every way)
I totally just made that up by the way. They are really called Best Brownies.
  • 1/2 cup margarine
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup cocoa 
  • 1/2 cup  flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350°.  Melt margarine in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add sugar, eggs and vanilla. Stir by hand until smooth. Add cocoa, flour, salt and baking powder. Mix just until combined. Pour into greased 8'' square pan. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes. 

Non-Dairy Vanilla Ice Cream
16 ounces non-dairy whipped topping (Rich's whip)
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
6 eggs
2 tablespoons maple syrup

Using an electric mixer, beat whippped topping until stiff peaks form. Add sugar and vanilla sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add in maple syrup and beat until smooth. Pour into a airtight container and freeze overnight. 

  • 3 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 cups non-dairy whipped topping (divided)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large, heavy bottomed pot, combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1 cup non-dairy whipped topping. Heat over medium flame to 250° F. (Candy thermometer is a must here...keep a close eye on the temperature, it makes a big difference) Add the remaining whipped topping and vanilla. Stir quickly, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and allow to cool.

Caramel Troubleshooting

I've made caramel more times than I care to admit in the past month, and I've had to deal with caramel that was rock hard and caramel that was watery thin. Luckily, I was able to salvage both, so here's some tips that might help you:

1) If your caramel is too hard, it means you overshot the temperature mark and you just made candy. Congratulations! But never fear, it can be saved. Transfer the hard caramel to a pot. If you can't get it out, stick it in the microwave for 30+ seconds.  Reheat the caramel until its back in a liquid form, and add 2 tablespoons of creamer. Let it cool again back to room temperature.  Now, when I had rock hard caramel, it was really hard, I added 1/2 cup creamer and it was perfect. So it really depends on how hard the caramel is. I would start with 2 tablespoons, and if its not enough, add 2 more. The point is: to resoften hardened caramel, you need to add more liquid.

2) Caramel cooled completely, and its watery thin. In this case you undershot the caramel. It didn't reach the proper temperature to become a caramel consistency. (Very scientific terminology here. I had 5 hours of sleep! Its the best I can do!) So its pretty simple here- just dump it back in the pot, and reheat it again. If your thermometer originally said that it was  250° F, and it cooled to a watery consistency, your thermometer must have been lying. So reheat it to  260° F- 265° F. Let it cool completely, and you should be good to go!

P.S. I did not whip up the caramel because my brain told me to. (Obviously, I would never do such a thing.) I had some in the freezer left over from a Joy of Kosher recipe column.  It  freezes amazing, so its worthwhile to make some and keep for emergency times such as these.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tomato Salad

I know its been a while...just gathering up lots of yummy real food recipes to share with you. This salad is courtesy of my super awesome sister-in-law, and its hugely delicious. Its great for tomato and mushroom enthusiasts, but Big D. is a tomato-hater, and he loves this salad. He believes the tomatoes are just a vehicle for the dressing, which makes an awesome dip. Whatever floats your boat, man! Its just really good, ok?

Tomato Salad
5 garlic cloves, diced
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon parsley flakes
3 tablespoons vinegar
1teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon basil
1 bay leaf
Shake of black pepper

1 box cherry tomatoes, halved
1 box mushrooms, sliced

Combine all dressing ingredients together in container and shake well. Add the mushrooms, and let marinated for at least an hour. Add the tomatoes right before serving. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Today's Philosophy Lesson

You know that weird philosophical question :
"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?" 
Really. Can you believe that there are grown adults in this world taking apart that thought and digesting it academically. Really? Let's get real people. If a tree falls, BAM. It makes a LOUD sound. Trust me. After last week's crazy blizzard, there were trees falling all over the place. And every time one fell we jumped. I guess Mr. Philosophical will argue with me that it made a sound because there people around. Which brings us to a stalemate. Because really, I think that whole thing is just a bunch of humbug. Let's get real people. Live life. Who cares if a tree falls down in a forest? I sure don't. Unless I'm standing under it. And if I am, let's face it- I have a lot more problems than if it makes a sound. Point is: I match Mr. Philosophical with a much more relevant philosophical question of my own:

If you make a cake, but do not post it to your food blog, does it exist?

Chew on that Mr. P. 

Does everyone realize I am having a fictional argument with an imaginary philosophy professor? Goodness, all this baking this week really has gotten to my brain.
 I need a vacation. Big D. - did you hear that? V a c a t i on.

 Because I do not want to waste 6 hours making a cake, and then worrying about whether it exists or not, I am going to share with you all the cakes I've made in the past few months, and for some reason or another, have not posted them  yet. Then we shall be secure in the knowledge that my cakes do in fact exist.

(Photo purists: Please pardon all the terrible lighting and color balance. This is what happens when you snap pictures of your cakes at 1,2 or 3 am.)
Chocolate Chip Cookie Torte
Story of this cake in three sentences: 
1)I stayed up till 3AM making a 3D Teddy Bear Cake.
2) The cake collapsed in the middle of the night, and the kids woke up to their dream come true where it was raining cake and frosting (from the top of the bookshelf where said cake was kept for "safe" keeping).
3) I propped my eyelids open with toothpicks and at 8AM the next morning whipped up the above cake in less than 2 hours for customer who was coming to pick it up at 10AM. From scratch.
Embrace your failures, people. Embrace it.
(And don't worry, the customer requested any kind of teddy bear cake. I was the crazy lady who decided to make a 3D bear cake. After it flopped the first time around. Repeat after me: Crazy Lady. 
And the life lesson of the day is: If at first you don't succeed, try try again. And if you still don't succeed, then STOP.)
For Hyper D. This was 8 layers of sugar cookies. The whole thing is about 4 inches tall. 
If you want the story here, you'll just have to ask her.
Big D.'s boss ordered this one for the other bosses birthday.Awww, so sweet. 
Authentic Dodge font by the way. Just 'cuz I'm cool like that. 
Just a yummy cake someone ordered. No story here folks. 
This one was for Hyper D.'s birthday. My goodness Hyper D. 
You are just all over the place today.
Last but not least, a cake I made for my mother's friend whose son was getting married. 

Happy Monday guys! Take a lesson from me and stay sane
You can do it,  I'm a lost cause...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Boys and Baking

The CantStopBaking household is pretty much a male dominated domain. We've got a very masculine Big D., three very rambunctious Monkeys, and plain ole me. Sadly, my house does not smell like perfume and flowers. And you're more than likely to find a baseball mitt or stray piece of lego under the bed than hairbows and headbands. (Haven't even touched a scrunchie since 1993. Do they even make those anymore?) Having said that, I like to think that I raise my boys to have a healthy balance of boyish fun and domestic talent. I've come to terms with the fact that I won't be bonding with my oldest daughter on a chilly winter's night while baking cookies in our warm and cozy kitchen. We won't be planning our menus together or thinking up grand new recipe ideas. But whose to say I can't do that with my oldest son? I keep on telling Z-Monkey that the best cake decorators are men, and gourmet chefs are very often male. I'm not sure how much of it sinks into his seven year old brain, but hey, we can always try, right? He actually has this secret dream (that his mother is now broadcasting online) to bake and cook when he gets older, and by golly he will! As soon as he learns fractions, I am planting him in front of a cookbook and kitchen aid. And I have visions of my future daughter-in-law kissing the floor I walk on. (I've already trained all my boys to say "Mommy, you look so beautiful." Right down to Little S-Monkey.)  Anyways, the reason why I am all fired up about this now, is because we just picked up the most brilliant book from the library, and I just have to share it with you. My five year old generally pulls library books off the shelves that are: A. So long, I'd still be reading them long after the moon waxes and wanes or B. The title is so horrendous and inappropriate, it makes my eyeballs hurt and my ears turn red. (Yes, if you've seen them you know what I am talking about. In the children's section.) So when he came bouncing over to me in the library saying " Mommy, look look look at this book I found!" I was more than a little skeptical.  But the book he brought me was so adorable, and so delicious. Its just too cute for words. Here, let me show you:

Constructions trucks baking a cake. Absolute genius. My kids are enthralled with the concept. Its just too cute. Anyhow, now y'all will be wanting a recipe, I'm sure. So here's something insanely yummy to start off your week:

Brownie Cookie Dough Sandwiches
Spotted on Tracey's Culinary Adventures, who found it on Heat Oven to 350

Brownie Cookies
1 1/4 cups cocoa 
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract 

Cookie Dough Filling
1 cup margarine
2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
2 1/2 cups  flour
1 13 oz container marshmallow fluff
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° F.Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the cocoa, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together. Using an electric mixer, cream the margarine, granulated sugar and brown sugar together, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients in two addition, beating until just combined. The batter will be very thick. Roll dough into balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Place them on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Spray the bottom of a drinking glass with Pam, and press down on each cookie slightly to flatten. Bake for 10-11 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies are set and the tops are puffed and cracked (but still soft). Allow cookies to cool completely on the tray. (Since I have zero patience when it comes to waiting, I let the pan cool for 2-3 minutes, and then stick the whole pan in the freezer. ZAP - cooled cookies in five minutes.)

To make the filling:Using an electric mixer, beat the margarine on medium speed until fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add the brown sugar and beat until well combined. Mix in the flour (the filling will be almost crumbly). Add the remaining ingredients and beat until the mixture is smooth and thick.

To assemble the sandwiches: Match the cookies in pairs by size. Scoop about 2 tablespoons of the filling onto the flat side of one of the cookies in each pair.  Put the other cookie on top and press to push the filling to the edges.

Makes about 15-3'' sandwich cookies

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