Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kale Chips

I know, by this point in time, kale chips are no longer an innovation.  I remember reading about them a couple years ago, but for some reason I never got around to actually making them until last Thanksgiving.  I had various reasons to put it off — I couldn't justify turning on my oven just to dehydrate a leafy vegetable, I don't actually like kale that much, I thought the recipe was harder than it actually is — but now I am so glad I finally gave in to my curiosity.  This is one of the easiest and healthiest recipes ever.  Honestly, it's not even a recipe so much as a set of easy-to-follow instructions.  But please.  Learn from my mistake.  Make these.  Really.

All you do is get yourself several pounds of kale, wash it, dry it well (salad spinners are great for this), and cut out the hard fibrous ribs of the kale.  Gather up all the large leafy greens you have and toss them with a very minimal amount with olive oil (I'm talking about 1 teaspoon for a pile of greens the size of a newborn child) and a dash of salt.  You can even eliminate the salt and the oil if you're feeling really healthy.  Spread the leafy greens out in a thin layer on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake at 350F for about 4-8 minutes (depending on the size of your pieces of kale).  It's so easy!

I check on the kale at about 4 minutes, rotate/flip any pieces that are bigger and start removing smaller pieces.  It's a very fast process.  If your oven has a convection setting, you can do 3 trays at a time.  I actually had two Cornish hens baking while I baked two cookie sheets of kale.

And the end result?  Tasty!  It's fun and easy to eat, and best of all, healthy.  The crispiness of the kale is fantastic.  My family scarfed down a huuuge bowl of this during Thanksgiving.  My mom even suggested that the next time we have a family movie night (which we always do around Christmas) that we make kale chips instead of popcorn.  Mmmm, a delicious way to get a good dose of beta-carotene, vitamin K, and vitamin C.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's 5 o'clock somewhere - Grapefruit and Rum Cocktail

I wouldn't call myself much of a cocktail girl.  I enjoy them from time to time, but I have a very small build and Asian genetics, which means that it doesn't take much for me to get tipsy.  And when I say that it doesn't take much, I mean it only takes about one cocktail.  As such, I don't casually indulge in happy hour or after dinner drinks, and normally choose to just abstain from drinking.  But sometimes, after a long day, available supplies and the alignment of the stars make it such that I come home and decide to mix myself a drink.  (For my parents who are reading this, you know your little girl is all grown up when she starts posting recipes for cocktails on her blog.)

Now, wikipedia defines a cocktail as a mixture of liquor, sugar, water, and bitters.  I'm no expert on alcoholic beverages, but I'm going to go ahead and call this concoction a cocktail because it's vaguely similar to a mojito and I know mojitos are cocktails.

The idea for this drink came about simply because I currently have an abundance of grapefruits on hand.  A family friend who lives about 10 minutes away from me stopped by almost two weeks ago and dropped off 13 grapefruits.  For just me.  I told her it was too much, but she insisted that I take them. So I've been eating a lot of grapefruit.  Needless to say, I don't think I'll be developing scurvy any time soon.

Today, I still had four left, and as I was segmenting them into a bowl, I thought to myself that I wanted to do something else with the fruit than just mix it with honey and eat it.  It occurred to me that the grapefruit juice would probably make a great base for a drink.  The only alcohol I ever really keep on hand is rum, and so I thought I would make something vaguely like a mojito.  In the summer, my mom and I often make mojitos at home.  We let the sugar, muddled mint, and lime juice marinate in the fridge for a few hours before mixing our drinks and we sip at them while playing Scrabble.  We live very exciting lives.  But I digress.

I reduced the grapefruit juice with a little bit of sugar down to a syrup and then combined that with some rum and seltzer and it made a delicious little end-of-the-day cocktail that I'm now sharing with you.  You can play around with the ratios a little bit, but I like the balance of sweet, sour, and alcohol that the recipe below provides.  The resulting grapefruit and rum cocktail has an absolutely gorgeous color, and it tastes crisp and refreshing.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Light Valentine's Day Dessert - Ginger Pear Granita

Valentine's Day is approaching and I know for some people this carries with it the pressure to create a magical day for their significant other.  If this sounds like your situation, or if you're just looking for a quick, easy and fairly healthy dessert to make, I'm glad you stopped by.

I've always liked the idea of a granita.  A granita is essentially a classy version of a slushie that you make by hand.  The only slightly annoying thing about making granitas is that you can't forget about them while you're making them because in order to make a granita, you need to scrape at it with a fork or knife every hour or so to prevent it from freezing into one hard block of ice.  But I have found an easy solution to this very irritating problem: use a carbonated beverage and mix it with fruit.

The combination of ginger ale and pears chunks in this granita prevent it from freezing into a chunk of ice and also make this a refreshing dessert.  The most important thing now becomes finding good ginger ale.  I cannot stress enough how vital this is to the recipe's success.  Normal grocery store ginger ale does not taste like ginger.  It is simply sweet carbonated water.  That will not do.  Go out and buy the real stuff.  Boylan's makes a good ginger ale that uses real cane sugar and Reed's makes a deliciously spicy ginger ale that is my new favorite soda.

From there, all it takes is four easy ingredients (or three if you feel like omitting one) and you've got a palate cleansing, refreshing, and healthy dessert that takes absolutely no time to make.  I also like this dessert because it is light and almost ethereal in quality.  The frozen ginger ale bubbles a little bit as it melts in your mouth and because there is no cream or fat in the dessert, it doesn't weigh you down.  I know this a bit different than the standard chocolate and strawberry desserts that people normally associate with romance, but let's be frank here: who feel sexy after a heavy dinner of creamy, fatty foods?  And besides, ginger is an aphrodisiac and pears are sexy.

Now if you're wondering why there's only one glass pictured (especially considering the fact that this is a Valentine's Day dessert), well, it's because I only own one martini glass.  I once had two, but then, sadly, I broke one while washing dishes and I've never felt the need to go buy more given that I neither drink martinis nor thrown swanky parties at which my guests would be drinking martinis.  Instead, my martini glass tends to be used to dress up yogurt parfaits, chocolate mousse, and, now, a granita.  Also, despite posting a recipe for a Valentine's Day dessert, I will not be making this tomorrow for my special someone so there is no need for a second glass.  Why is that?  Not because of a lover's spat, I assure you, but rather because balancing a long distance relationship in which one partner works on one side of the Atlantic and the other attends medical school on the other side of the ocean means not seeing each other for Valentine's Day.  But it's okay because I don't need a holiday to remind me to appreciate my sweet B. and he makes me feel loved regardless of what day of the year it is.  So I will have a single martini glass of this granita tonight and another glass again tomorrow night.  If you're single, come on and do the same.  After all, Valentine's Day is really just an elaborate excuse to enjoy good food and good company, and this granita qualities as both.

Happy [early] Valentine's Day, all.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Buttermilk" Roast Chicken

Buttermilk and chicken are a classic combination.  In fact, when I hear the words buttermilk and chicken together in the same sentence, I automatically think moist, tender, and flavorful.  Buttermilk marinades are often used for fried chicken, which is delicious, but also unhealthy, not to mention a nuisance to make at home (it's messy and  makes the whole house smell like oil).  So how can we get both delectable crispy skin and moist and tender meat at the same time without frying?  Well, with the recipe I'm about to give you.

Besides having incredibly tasty results, this recipe is great if you're busy because it requires no special attention.  The chicken has a long marinating time during which you can leave it in the fridge and forget about it for a day or two, and then while it is roasting, you don't have to worry about checking on the chicken constantly either.

And, to make this recipe even easier, it requires no special ingredients.  This is why "buttermilk" is in quotations; this recipe doesn't actually use buttermilk.  Why?  Because let's be honest, how many people out there normally have buttermilk in their fridge?  I know I don't.  I do, however, almost always have milk and yogurt on hand.  So that is what I used.  This combination is a great substitute, and it tastes every bit as delicious as the buttermilk version.

The end result is a very healthy meal of moist and tender chicken with lightly browned, crispy skin.  Serve it with a side of rice and some asparagus or green beans and you have a fast and delicious dinner, no sweat.

A busy life doesn't mean you can't eat good food.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Salted Caramel Cupcakes & Frosting

As a follow up to my post about salted caramel, I return with a recipe for salted caramel cupcakes and frosting.  That's right, take out a pen and start taking notes because this is what you're going to want to make for your next party.  Actually, this is what you're going to want to make tonight.  Because they are to die for.  Stop going to those expensive bakeries and paying $3 for one lousy cupcake; make this at home instead.  It will be better and cheaper and it will impress everyone around you.  Salted caramel cupcakes with salted caramel frosting.  Grab yourself a cup of milk and settle in for the night, because this is the life, my friends.

These cupcakes don't take that long to make (the longest part, besides the baking and waiting, is making the caramel) and they require no special ingredients, but they taste phenomenal.  They are great gifts or dessert items for potlucks or dinner parties.  They are also the type of thing that is easy enough to throw together that you can justify baking it for yourself.  So why not?  The world could use a little more salted caramel love.

These cupcakes really do taste like they have salted caramel in them, which is exactly the quality I wanted.  I didn't want them to taste like sweet vanilla cupcakes; I didn't want to have to fill them with caramel sauce.  I wanted cupcakes that I could eat alone, on their own, and think mmm, salted caramel.  And that's exactly what this cupcake recipe achieves.  It is perfect on its own, it is delicious with milk, it is decadent with frosting.
The recipe has parts and pieces taken from many different recipes I've read online, but ultimately I wrote it based upon what I thought would make the best cupcake in terms of a light, moist, and flavorful crumb.  The one slightly uncommon ingredient on the list is "pourable" yogurt, but that's because I happen to have on hand Organic Valley's yogurt which comes in a bottle that you shake and pour.  I thought that yogurt's texture and viscosity were perfect for the recipe, but if you can't find something similar, regular yogurt or buttermilk will work just fine.

 As for the frosting recipe... I've said it once and I'll say it again: I don't do frosting.  With the exception of the Bailey's Irish Cocoa Frosting that I made once during an inspired moment, I think frosting is fairly overrated.  If a cake or cupcake is good enough, it shouldn't need to be covered in frosting.  Also, most frosting is just a lot of butter and sugar, which doesn't sound that great to me.  Except that this frosting tastes like heaven, if heaven were made predominantly of butter.  This salted caramel frosting is the perfect balance of sweet and salty, and it is creamy in a decadent way that manages not to make you feel gross, even when you eat a spoonful straight out of the bowl, on its own (not that I'm speaking from experience or anything).  And the frosting recipe obviously doesn't have to be for just these cupcakes.  It would go well with any cupcake recipe. You can even eat it with slices of apple or pear.

Salted Caramel Frosting, aka the only frosting recipe you need from now on

So really, I don't think I need to do any convincing, right?  Because you must know that this recipe is a crowd pleaser.  And when I say crowd, what I really mean is that you'll make these cupcakes, frost one, try it, and decide not to share with anyone because these are that darn good.

Food is love?  Salted caramel is love.