Monthly Archives: February 2010

Iron Chef Blogger Challenge: Butternut Squash!

This week, in the Iron Chef Blogger Challenge, we had a choice in our secret ingredient: spaghetti or butternut squash.

I’ve never used either, but I did previously have an unfortunate run-in with a butternut squash, so I decided to tackle that one again. About a year ago, I picked up a butternut squash at the Farmer’s Market. It was so pretty, and I had this recipe where you just half it lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, sprinkle some cinnamon and brown sugar or something, and roast. Sounds fantastic, right?

The only problem is the instruction “just half it lengthwise”, as if butternut squash were not built like someone was hiding secret treasure inside them. After some time had passed, the squash rolling around on the counter every time I went to cut it like we were in some sort of slapstick comedy, and me coming dangerously close to slicing my hand open on several occasions, I threw the damn thing away and made something else for dinner.

It was definitely time for a rematch.

This is absolutely the point in my story where I would now proceed to make the greatest butternut squash recipe known to man and emerge a hero. That is not what happened at all. I did make something. The cutting went much better this time, possibly because the squash I used was a bit smaller. The recipe I used was for Candied Butternut Squash, which is squash roasted, then cubed, then cooked longer with honey, nuts, and probably something else that I’m forgetting. But, after the squash was roasted, it wouldn’t cube properly, so it was more like a mash. And I thought the ingredients involved were just too much (although there is a definite possibility that my squash was just too small).

All in all, while the squash was not terrible, it was not great either. The picture looked really unappetizing, so I just decided not to post it. I do think there are good uses for butternut squash though. It has a nice texture, and I’d really like to try making ravioli with it.

There are other good blogs out there, some with actual pictures. Carrie at Two Friends Cook opted for the spaghetti squash, which looks pretty good (even though the extent to which it looks like spaghetti still freaks me out a little). There are also some blogs from last week’s peanut butter challenge that I didn’t link to previously: Becky’s Indonesian Peanut Chicken and Sara’s Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes. I’m definitely planning to save both of these recipes, they look fantastic.

That’s it for now, can’t wait to see what the next ingredient is, although I won’t be doing much cooking this weekend. We’re headed to Anza Borrego Desert State Park!

Iron Chef Blogger Challenge: Peanut Butter!


This week, it was my turn to select the ingredient for this week’s Iron Chef blogger challenge. I turned to Travis, who unfortunately rarely eats the things that I make for the challenge. His request? Peanut butter.

I had planned to make peanut butter bars, but we have so many sweets still laying around from Valentine’s Day, I decided to go with a more savory peanut butter dish instead. So – chicken satay! You may notice my chicken is not on skewers. I was having a time… didn’t feel like messing with them.. so I just grilled it. I know. That probably makes it not actually chicken satay or something. But, you know? I just don’t care.

I served it with rice and some stir fried garlic asparagus. It all came out nicely, and I managed to find a nice looking piece of chicken to take a picture of. I cooked it on a cast iron grill plate, and the chicken stuck really badly. Most of the pieces sort of shredded. But, as long as it still tastes good, I don’t think that matters.

I really need to work on my food photography. I bet that green place mat would have looked much nicer under the dish than off to the side.

In other peanut butter news, Carrie has made this delicious-looking Tofu/Noodle/Peanut Sauce combination over at Two Friends Cook.

Chicken Satay

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pound each chicken breast to 1/4 inch thick between two pieces of plastic wrap. Cut into 1 inch strips.

Whisk together the garlic, peanut butter, coconut milk, sesame oil, hoisin sauce, lime juice, ginger, salt and pepper in a small mixing bowl. Move at least 1/2 cup of mix to a large ziploc bag. Add chicken and seal the bag, squish it around until the chicken is coated. Refrigerate 2 hours. Hold the remaining sauce at room temperature until serving (if you’re serving the same day).

Remove the chicken from the marinade, thread each piece onto a bamboo skewer. Throw the leftover marinade away. Heat cast iron griddle. Place the satay onto the griddle, cook for 1 1/2 to 3 minutes per side, depending on size of piece of chicken. Serve immediately with reserved sauce for dipping.

Chocolate Strawberry Shortcake


This was the dessert that I decided to make for Valentine’s Day. It turned out well, although the cake was a bit dry, at least before I added the strawberries and whipped cream. I had some issues with ingredients again on the way. I didn’t have enough shortening and had to add some butter (only ended up using margarine instead, because I needed it to be softer). I don’t think it was a huge deal, as I was pretty close to the right amount of shortening to begin with. In retrospect, I should’ve just softened some butter, the flavor probably would have been better. But, all in all, a successful Valentine’s Day dessert.

My original plan was to cut the cakes in heart shapes. But, the cake ended up thicker than I thought. Also, when I pulled out the heart cookie cutter, it was sort of rusty, and that’s no good.

CHOCOLATE STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE

2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 whole eggs or 3 egg whites
1 quart fresh strawberries, rinsed and sliced
1 cup whipping cream, whipped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients in order listed, except strawberries and whipping cream. Beat with mixer on low speed, scraping bowl constantly for 30 seconds. Beat on high speed, scraping bowl occasionally, for 3 minutes. Pour into greased and floured 13×9-inch pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool cake completely.

Cut into squares. Place 2 or 3 squares in dessert cups and layer with small amount of strawberries and whipped cream. Garnish with a whole berry.

Makes 15-20 shortcakes

Iron Chef Blogger Challenge: Turnips!


I’m sort of cheating with this blog, because while I did make a turnip recipe, I didn’t like it that much. I made a turnip puff, which is basically a bunch of boiled mashed vegetables mixed with bread crumbs and egg to make sort of a casserole. The recipe I liked to is actually to make a parsnip puff. However, you can replace the pound of parsnips with a pound of turnip. Be sure you peel the turnip, and you just cut into cubes before boiling. The texture was sort of weird, and I wasn’t crazy about the nutmeg involved either.

I’m also going to link to a turnip recipe that I actually like: The Lady’s Pork Stew. (The recipe is a ways down the page.) It’s really good, but don’t listen when she says to leave the skin on the turnips. I think they’re way too bitter. The downside is that it can sometimes be difficult to tell the turnips from potatoes in the finished product; which is better stressful for any vegetables haters you may have in your life.

I also roasted some new potatoes, and the most exciting bit – I fried chicken! I’ve never really done that before, except to make oven-fried chicken. But, I was very proud. It didn’t quite get done and I had to finish it in the oven, but it was so delicious. And, I’m going to list that recipe today instead, because I recommend it much more highly than weird turnip puffs!

As a side note, I had the most amazing mac and cheese for lunch today, after Travis took me to the aquarium for Valentine’s Day. It had cremini mushrooms, chicken, smoked bacon, and truffle oil. What a lovely day! Now, I’m taking some chocolate shortcake out of the oven (for chocolate strawberry shortcake later) and preparing to sear some duck breasts for dinner. In retrospect, this place might be cleaner if I didn’t cook so much… oh well!

Southern Fried Chicken (from the Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook)

3 eggs
1/3 cup water
2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon pepper
One 1 – 2 1/2 pound chicken, cut into pieces (I just used thighs and drumsticks)
Crisco shortening for frying (I didn’t have enough, so I used peanut oil as well)

Season chicken and return it to the refrigerator for at least 2-3 hours. I used some seasoning salt a garlic powder/salt/pepper mixture that I keep in a little tupperware container.

Beat eggs with water. To just enough self-rising flour to coat all the chicken, add black pepper. Dip seasoned chicken in egg; coat well in flour mixture. Fry in a dutch oven (or I guess a fairly deep cast iron skillet) in moderately hot shortening (350 degrees) until brown and crisp. (I used about an inch of oil… I don’t know if that’s right, but internet research led me to believe it was reasonable.) Remember that dark meat requires longer cooking time – about 13-14 minutes, compared with 8-10 minutes for white meat.

Note: My chicken was not done after the allotted time, so I put it in a 400 degree oven for a few extra minutes. (It was already pre-heated from the turnip puff. Is it just me, or does just the name turnip puff sound strange? Ah well.)

Easy Coffee Cake


This coffee cake is very, very tasty. It actually is pretty much exactly like this amazing cream cheese bread that my friend Jennifer used to make, back when I worked at DSS in North Carolina. I made it for breakfast on Sunday. Even after trying to slim it up as much as possible (using neufchatel cheese instead of cream cheese, etc.), it is still definitely not a healthy breakfast. After the first day, I switched it to a dessert. Travis liked it as well, enough to take it out of the fridge for more during the week (which doesn’t always happen).

The recipe is from the Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook, by Paula Deen.

2 (8 ounce) cans refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1 cup sugar
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg separated
1/2 cup whole pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread one can of the crescent rolls in the bottom of the 13×9 pan. Pinch all the edges together to make one sheet. Cream together 3/4 cup of sugar, cream cheese, vanilla and egg yolk till creamy and smooth. Spread over crescent rolls. Top with the second package of crescent rolls. Again, pinch together all the edges to make it one sheet. Beat the egg white until it is frothy, spread on top. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and pecans. Bake 30-35 minutes until golden brown.

Iron Chef Blogger Challenge: Alcohol!

This week we finished a full rotation of the Iron Chef Blogger Challenge! It was back to Sarah to pick the ingredient, and she chose alcohol. It could be any variety, as long as you didn’t just pour and drink it.

I had been planning on making Chinese food for Sunday dinner anyway, so it worked out well. I decided to make these Soy Sauce Fish Fillets, from Simple Chinese Cooking by Kylie Kwong. You can pick from a lot of different types of fish, I chose salmon. The fish is poached in a Red Master Stock, which is primarily sherry and soy sauce. I had never poached anything before, so it seemed like a good choice.

You can see my ingredients below. The recipe calls for both light and dark soy sauce. I bought some dark soy sauce at a nearby Asian grocery store. I had read online that Kikkoman is all light soy sauce. If we’re all being honest with each other, I’m not sure I could tell a color difference, so I may have used all one or the other.


I had to do a lot of ingredient substitution… you have a choice of shao hsing wine or sherry (I already had sherry). The recipe calls for sesame oil, which I didn’t have (I threw some sesame seeds in the stock though) as well as star anise and a cinnamon quill, which I couldn’t find (I used Chinese five spice powder and a pinch of ground cinnamon instead).

All in all, it turned out great. I’m not sure the bok choy was really necessary, especially since I had also made some sweet and sour tomatoes for an extra vegetable. The salmon had a really fantastic texture, and so much flavor from the stock. It seemed to be a big hit with Travis as well. Also, it turns out that poaching really isn’t that hard. Who knew!

Soy Sauce Fish Fillets

4 fish fillets (about 3.5 ounces each)
1 bok choy, core removed

Red Master Stock:
6 cups cold water
3/4 cup shao hsing wine or dry sherry
1/2 cup dark soy sauce
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup ginger slices
2 spring onions (scallions), trimmed and cut in half crosswise
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
2 star anise
1 cinnamon quill
2 strips fresh orange zest

Place all stock ingredients in a wide, deep pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 40 minutes to allow flavors to infuse.

Lower fish into simmering stock and cover with parchment paper to be sure it is fully submerged. Poach fish gently for exactly two minutes; there should be no more than an occasional ripple breaking the surface. Immediately remove pan from the stove and allow fish to steep in the stock for 5 minutes to complete the cooking process.

Meanwhile, separate bok choy leaves and wash thoroughly. Add bok choy to a saucepan of boiling salted water and blanch for 30 seconds or until almost tender. Drain immediately.

Using a slotted spoon, gently remove fish from stock and transfer to a serving bowl. Spoon 2/3 cup of the master stock, along with some whole spices and aromatics, over the fish. Top with bok choy and serve immediately.