Monday, July 28, 2008

triple chip chocolate cookies~

As a hostess for a "couple shower" for my friend's son and his bride-to-be, we were all supposed to bring cookies. I'm happy to say, out of 8 hostesses, I'm one of only 2 who brought homemade cookies - 2 kinds: standard peanut butter, and these, a "tweaked to suit me" recipe. Nothing against Oreo's or chocolate stripe cookies, they are delish too, but nothing beats a homemade cookie.

The peanut butter recipe I used was the classic one from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. You can google it and there it is. I never use crunchy PB and never add nuts, either - just good ol' smooth peanut butter deliciocity.

I also wanted to bake something chocolate, so I searched around a little. This recipe started out as one in a cookbook I have that's devoted to just cookies, and I messed around with it just a bit to satisfy myself. When I test a new recipe, I always watch to see reactions from other people, especially when they don't know that I was the one who made it, so I can get an honest idea of whether it's a recipe worth keeping or not. At the party, I overheard several people asking "who made these?" and another couple of times, I heard "you have got to try these" so I think I'm safe in assuming that they were a hit and this one's a keeper. In my book, it's become my favorite cookie ~ at least for now!

If you are a chocoholic, make this. It's soooooo good.

Triple Chip Chocolate Cookie
(makes about 5 dozen)
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup softened butter
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup milk chocolate chips
1/3 cup white baking chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large mixing bowl, combine sugars, butter, eggs, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until well blended and creamy. In another bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add to creamed mixture and beat at low speed until combined well. Stir in all the chips. Drop onto ungreased baking sheets by heaping tablespoons, 3 inches apart. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes, or until set. Let cool for 1 minute before removing from sheets.

People, I must tell you that these are so excellent dipped in cold milk. Mmmm. Oreo's, move over.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

my new favorite cookbook~

I just have to recommend this. It was a gift to me that I'll treasure, not only for the recipes and the lovely photographs, but for the well wishes and the friendheart behind the gift. Anne, I love you, my friend! You are truly a kindred spirit, my sister!

Let me introduce you to:

'Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors'

by Andrea Nguyen

If you have any interest at all in Vietnamese cooking, get this cookbook!

Monday, July 21, 2008

broiled chuck roast & bleu cheese sandwich~

This one's for Ginni! I know she loves bleu cheese...

Today for lunch, I knew I was gonna have a sandwich, but I really am not just a "meat sandwich" kind of person, unless it's bologna (yum!), so I wasn't looking forward to just having a roast sandwich. I spied the wheat sub rolls I had picked up the other day, and somehow, something inside my foodbrain just went 'ding!' and I had an idea.

I split the roll, shredded some roast, topped that with thin sliced bleu cheese, and sliced red onions (God's gift to my mouth!). Then I set it in the oven to broil for a few minutes, and the smell was heavenly. Immediately upon removal from the oven, I put some fresh spinach leaves on, a strip of Miracle Whip, and salt & pepper, and went to town.

Ginni, it was so good - you gotta try it.

Vietnamese beef noodle soup (pho bo)~

My apologies to Ginni and anyone else who might have been wondering what great recipe I cooked and consumed Saturday night for supper, and promised to blog about on Sunday - I am just now getting here after a packing marathon to get my two older kids off to camp as youth counselors - a last minute request from our pastor...

But, they are on the road now, and I have a few minutes.

Y'all. May I say, I have now made Pho Bo (except I don't have the font to put the proper dots and squiggleys to make it look like it should) which is, as the title says, Vietnamese beef noodle soup. And may I say, it took a long time to complete it. And may I also say, it was 100% well worth it.

The recipe comes from a cookbook that a wonderful friend and fellow rose grower/food lover sent me, to "christen" the new blog. (Thank you, Anne! XOXO)! Am I supposed to post recipes from new cookbooks, are they copyrighted? Right now, I won't post it, because I'm not sure, but the cookbook is written by Andrea Nguyen, and it's called "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors" and it's absolutely beautiful, both recipes and photographs.

At this time, I'll just sort of list the ingredients and the steps I took to make it, and there are a few photos to go along with it.

First, I dug around a bit in the freezer and took out 2 packages of soup bones. These are wonderful bones, because they come from steers that my daddy raised and fed out. The meat is tasty and there was a good bit of marrow in them as well. I thawed those and then put them in water to cover in a large stock pot, and set it to boil.

Those are figs from my mom's tree, there in the back. I've already put those in the freezer for future cakes and biscuits, yum!

While the bones were heating up in the water, I lit the grill outside and charred some whole, unpeeled yellow onions and a big piece of ginger. Never knew something burned could be 'pretty' LOL.

While they were cooking on the grill, the soup bones came to a boil, and I let them boil hard for 5 minutes, dumped everything in the (clean) sink, and rinsed off the bones with clean tap water. Then I cleaned the pot, put the bones back in, and added 6 quarts of cold water, and set it back on the stove to come to a boil again. This got rid of tons of impurities (all that nasty brown foamy stuff). I had to lightly skim the pot once or twice more, but nothing like what came up with that first boil.

When the onions and ginger had cooked for about 20 minutes on low heat, I brought them in and peeled them, and washed them off; then I added them to the stock pot, along with the required spices and seasonings: cinnamon, star anise, cloves, fish sauce, rock sugar, salt, and several chunks of chuck roast. When it came to a rolling boil, I turned down the heat to a steady low simmer and left it for 1 1/2 hours, checking occasionally to make sure it was still simmering. Oh, I almost forgot, don't cover the pot (psst - in addition to the figs, look at all the beautiful tomatoes my brother gave me!).

After 1 1/2 hours, remove the chunks of chuck roast, and cover them with water for a while to cool them; drain and put in a bowl, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to prepare the bowls of soup. Let the rest of the ingredients remain in the pot and simmer for 1 1/2 hours more.

Next, strain the soup, removing everything, leaving a clear, beautiful broth. This is the point where my daughter and I tasted it. I thought my eyes were going to roll back in my head. I've never made a broth with "cake spices" LOL ~ but it was absolutely the smoothest broth I've ever had. My daughter loved it, even though earlier, when my older son asked "what's cooking?" she replied "some stinky soup." haha

I let the broth cool, then refrigerated it over Friday night, because I wanted to pick up the fat off the top and toss it. I did leave a little bit of fat for more flavor. You can see it in this photo, glistening on the surface.

My broth may not be as clear as it's supposed to be, I'm not sure. But I was pretty happy with it, for my first time ever.

OK - chow time! I took the broth out of the fridge, removed most of the solidified fat, and heated the broth to a rolling boil. In the meantime, I set a pot of water on to boil, and placed some small rice noodles in hot water to soften. While all that was going on, I chopped some yellow onion, green onion tops (I don't have shallots), and cilantro, and sliced the cold chuck roast into very thin slices. You can use thin slices of uncooked sirloin in addition to the cooked meat, but I didn't do that this time. After 10 minutes of soaking, I took a serving size bunch of noodles, placed them in a long handled strainer, and boiled them for about 1 1/2 minutes, then drained them and placed them in a large bowl. I laid slices of chuck over the noodles, put a big spoon of chopped onion in the middle, and sprinkled green onion tops and cilantro over all of it. Then I ladled boiling broth over it all, until it covered it well. We ate it immediately, and absolutely loved it. As for personal tastes, there are other garnishes you can add, but we didn't; my daughter thought it was too much cilantro, and I thought it needed salt. But we both agreed, it's a winner and a keeper.

It's so worth the time and effort, and it's so much fun for me to eat foods from other cultures, that I've prepared myself. Please comment on this post, if you like, and if you make this regularly or for the first time ever, I'd love to hear from you.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

just wait til I get back on here this afternoon...

I am so dadgum excited about what I had for supper last night...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

lemon mango scones~

One time, a while back, I called myself making up a recipe, it was a stirfry recipe that was, at best, only ok...I've never gone back to it, because since then, I've tasted some pretty awesome stirfries that make me embarrassed about my first attempt, LOL.

Today, I decided to try making up another recipe - I got the idea that maybe mango and lemon would marry well together. I googleeyed "baking recipes mango lemon" or something like that, and got basically nothin' so I took a little breath and went for it. I made this thing up and could hardly wait until the timer went 'ding' because it was starting to smell pretty awesome the longer it cooked.

All I can say's the best scone I've ever put in my mouth. Seriously. I ain't meanin' to boast on myself none, haha, but it is. Now I pronounce you lemon and mango, you may kiss the bride...

OK - here goes...please try it sometime and give me some feedback, and thanks!

Lemon Mango Scones

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

finely grated zest from 1 large lemon

1 1/2 sticks butter, cubed but still cold

juice and pulp from one large lemon

3/4 cup cold milk

1 mango, peeled and diced into small cubes and pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In large bowl, mix dry ingredients, including zest. Using pastry cutter (or in your mixer), cut cold butter pieces into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture. In bowl or cup, mix lemon juice and milk, and then gently pour into well. Using flat spatula or fork, gently blend ingredients. When they hold together a little bit, add mango pieces and continue to gently mix. Make a ball from the dough and place it on floured surface. Using floured hands (and adding flour by the tablespoon if needed due to being too moist), gently fold and knead the dough about 5 or 6 times. Pat out into large circle, about 1 1/2 inches thick. Using sharp knife, divide into 12 wedges. Transfer to seasoned baking stone or lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 30-35 minutes, checking toward the end for overbrowning.

If desired, after the scones have cooled, drizzle a mixture of powdered sugar and a little lemon juice (to make a thick icing) over each scone.

Monday, July 14, 2008

grilled lemon grass pork chops~

Jack has been on a grillingfest lately and I'm totally good with that - he does a pretty good job, too, considering the first time he tried to grill a brisket, it was half frozen on the inside and burned to a crisp on the outside and our tough ol' outside dog Rudy refused to eat it. While I snicker at that fun memory, I'll continue...

On Saturday, I was taking engagement portraits of my niece and her fiancee, and by the time we'd finished, it was dark and I was starved. My dear spouse had grilled some chops, and he took care of the ones I had left marinating in the lemon grass mixture I had put together. It was heavenly to walk into the house and smell those wonderful smells floating through the air...ahhh.

OK - so here's the recipe for the marinade. I got it from Mai Pham's cookbook, "The Best of Vietnamese & Thai Cooking" but it was taking forever to chop that lemon grass - either I let it dry out too much or my knife is just way too dull - anyway, this recipe is not the exact same as the one in Pham's cookbook, but instead it has a couple of small changes that I made - still, it was delish.

Grilled Lemon Grass Pork Chops

2 green onions, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced lemon grass
1 teaspoon fish sauce (I'll double this next time)
2 teaspoons soy sauce (I'll make it 1 tablespoon next time)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 pork chops
Mix all the ingredients and pour a little in 4 spots (one for each chop) on a deep platter or large flat storage container. Place the chops on top and sort of smush them around to cover the bottom of the chops. Divide the remaining marinade between the chops and rub in with your fingers. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. Grill 5-7 minutes per side, depending on thickness of chops.

I must admit that I took a couple of photos of these luscious pork chops before devouring them - but I accidently erased them from my camera, dang it. So I just dragged out a previous photo of some chops on the grill. Not as pretty as the lemon grass ones, because the tiny bits and pieces of the marinade were grilled onto the pork, and it made an attractive as well as tasty presentation.

If you try this recipe, please let me know, and any changes you made.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

nuoc cham~

Or, Vietnamese Dipping Sauce. Apparently as varied in Asian cooking as Thanksgiving dressing is in the South - every mom has her own way of doing it.This first try is using my friend Tom Tran's recipe. I liked it so much, I wrote it down in my Vietnamese cookbook so I won't lose it. The same ingredients in both, but different quantities. I think Tom's must be extra sweet, but I loved it.

I have to say - I had no idea what to expect. I've never had this before. I was out of limes, so I ran to town to get some, and though in our small town, rice paper is not available on the shelf (BUT...Chuck at one of the markets is ordering some for me, it will be here Monday - Yay for Chuck!), I found some frozen pork and shrimp egg rolls. I grabbed those, just to have something to dip, because I couldn't wait til Monday (patience is NOT my middle name).

Can I say that my mouth did a happy dance when I tasted the first dip? Is it ok to drink nuoc cham? lol

Here it is...try it and enjoy...and thank you, Tom, for sharing your recipe with me.

Tom Tran's Vietnamese Dipping Sauce
1 cup sugar
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
Mix these 3 ingredients in a pot and bring just to a boil, to make sure the sugar is dissolved. Let cool completely.
In a mortar & pestle, smash 4 cloves garlic and fresh red chili to taste. If you don't have fresh peppers, you can use red chili paste but don't add it yet. Add smashed garlic/chili mixture to cooled sugar mixture. Add juice and pulp of 1 lime and mix. If you are not using fresh chili, add red chili paste to taste now, and then add 1/4 cup fish sauce. Mix it well and serve.

Husband Jack was online at the time I was finishing this, and I asked him to search for the sauce to see about storage. When he found that info, I was so happy to see that the online picture of dipping sauce looked just like mine! Is that not awesome? And isn't it pretty?

In my opinion, cooking experiment number one is a total success. Please try, and come back to post your results. I'll be checking in on these recipes periodically, just to get some input.

just a little change~

Now that I've got your interest, HAHA, let me throw a wrench into the gears...I'm changing the name of this blog to Cast Iron Kitchen. After all, it needs to be made totally of cast iron to withstand me, lol...

I think this name will be better because I intend to explore other recipes besides just Asian. So...sorry to put you through the trouble of changing your blogs, if anyone had already put me on their blogroll (Gin!). Please forgive!

And, I'm going to transfer the Vietnamese Dipping Sauce post I had already made, so look for a repeat - I don't want to lose the recipe for Tom's nuoc cham.

I lost the first post on the other blog, but it's no big deal - it was just saying how I wanted to learn more about Asian cooking, especially Vietnamese. But there are tons of other cooking experiments I want to try, too - and a special request from a friend, for Pumpernickel Bread. Gotta get on that one, lol.

Anyway - I hope whoever reads this blog will find it entertaining, and the recipes appealing enough to want to try them too, or at least to get in the kitchen and cook something. Most of all, I hope everyone goes away feeling happy and with smiles on their faces. May God bless you all with everything you need and desire.

See ya later, gators!