Category Archives: Blog

Braised Short Ribs — Easier Than You Think!

There are not many things in this world that intimidate me. Well except for sharks and Ronda Rousy. That’s all. But braised short ribs came close! Funny story… a client of mine ordered them for her annual holiday dinner party and I was more than happy to make them for her and her guests. But the second I hung up the phone, I ran to the computer to look up a recipe. And of course, I made them twice before her party to get them right.

In the end, I’m so glad she hired me because these are now on my menu and I honestly make them for myself (and Truman) literally once a week. And shockingly, they are SO EASY.

Let’s get right into it. Here is what you’ll need:

Ingredients:
Bone-in or Boneless Short Ribs (1/2 lb. per person)
4 Garlic Cloves, chopped
1 Onion, chopped
1/2-1 C Carrots, diced
1/2-1C Celery, chopped
1 C Mushrooms, chopped OPTIONAL
2T Fresh Thyme
1 small can Tomato Paste
1/2-full bottle Red Wine
2-4C Beef Stock
Flour for dredging
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

unnamed-1Gather all your ingredients and get ready to chop! Here is a shortcut. I hate nothing more than peeling and chopping whole carrots. It’s torturous. Luckily, I had my nephew Frankie over the weekend and had bought some pre-cut veggies for him to snack on! So, feel free to purchase these in the produce section of the supermarket where you find the produce snacks. You may spend a little more money but it’s worth it. Plus, for me, it reduces the danger of cutting myself, which as you know I do often.

Chop the garlic, mushrooms (if using), onion, carrot and celery. Next, season your meat WELL with salt and pepper, then coat with flour.

In a large pot, preferably a Dutch oven, sauté the meat in enough Olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Sear the meat on all four sides, remove from the pan and set aside. (In this recipe, I chose to use boneless short ribs. Shown below is about 3/4 of a pound.)

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Add the vegetables and garlic to the same pan and sauté until sweated. Season with salt and pepper. Do not burn the garlic! After about 5 minutes, add about 2T – 1/4 cup of red wine. You just want to break up all the yummy flavor bits from the bottom of pan from when you seared the meat. While the wine is deglazing the pan, make sure you scrape the bottom to help release those flavors. When you’re done, add the thyme.

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This is what it should look like (left).  How you doing? Easy enough, right? Good. Add the tomato paste and stir. Now it should look like the photo on the left… but very red. Next, add the red wine. Depending on how much meat you are cooking, I suggest a full bottle for 8 people and a half a bottle for 4. Stir and let simmer for a couple of minutes.

Add the meat back into the pot and add enough beef stock to completely cover the short ribs. Cover with the lid and place in a 350 degree oven for about 3 hours.

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The meat should be VERY tender and the liquid should be dark in color and rich in taste. Thanks to the flour used to sear the meat, the liquid thickened making it the perfect consistency for dipping with a fresh loaf of bread.

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The BEST Spinach & Artichoke Dip

I think it’s safe to say we have all tried at least a dozen versions of classic spinach and artichoke dip. Right? Some we like, some we hate. Some are creamy and cheesy and delicious, and some taste like the bottled glue we used (and ate) off a wooden ruler in kindergarten. Well, after MANY recipes and experiments, I think I finally came up with the best version.

Of course, however, I didn’t follow a recipe nor did I write anything down. So this is off the top of my head. You all should know by now I’m not a fan of measuring… ANYTHING. I strongly promote the whole “taste and fix as you go” theory. If you think something needs more of something… THEN ADD IT.  Follow your taste buds not some piece of paper somebody else created.

I used to make a cheese sauce and then I just added the spinach and artichoke, but I didn’t like the way the dip settled after about five minutes. It was kinda like a bowl of fettuccine alfredo that had been sitting out on the counter… just gross. You know that look. So here is what I came up with:

Ingredients:
16 oz. Frozen Spinach, thawed & drained
2 cans, Artichoke Hearts, chopped
1C Ricotta Cheese
1C Sour Cream
1 – 8 oz. bag shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1/2 C Light Cream
Salt & Pepper

In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the spinach and artichokes for about one minute. They don’t really need to be cooked, but we have to start somewhere, right? So toss those in a pan. No need to add any oil or butter. You can add salt and pepper to taste but the artichokes may be salty to watch it. Once the veggies (are they both veggies?) have warmed through, add the ricotta cheese. Stir. It’ll be thick. Then add the sour cream which will immediately loosen it up. Stir. After a minute or so, add the mozzarella cheese. Now it’s thick again… but it’s getting cheesy! Once the mozzarella has melted a little, add the cream.

If you think you need to add more cream, go ahead. I honestly don’t remember the exact measurements but I know these were the only ingredients I had and used. And I loved the fact that I didn’t use any gross mayonnaise. Don’t get me wrong, I love mayo, just not in a dip.

unnamed-2I served this dip two ways: One with crackers and pita chips (not shown) and the other in mini phyllo cups that are available in any grocery store and are an absolute game-changer when it comes to serving dips, or really anything soft. I’m obsessed with these little mini cups and I always have at least two boxes in my pantry. (I just sounded really cool… I don’t think I have a pantry, it’s more like a little hall closet I stuff food into.)

In any event, I highly recommend using the phyllo cups. Otherwise, you can toast some fresh pita bread, or if you’re lazy just buy pita chips in the potato chip isle.

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Enjoy! And if you do make this dip, please tweet or Facebook photos with any suggestions or changes you made to the recipe.



Asian Sticky Wings — Very Sticky Wings

If you follow me on Twitter you already know that half way through cooking these wings I claimed it was an epic disaster. Everything went wrong… no joke. But luckily, I know exactly where I went wrong and how to fix it. And I plan on telling you all about the disaster while I’m typing out the GOOD recipe. The actual recipe was great, to be honest, but my execution was a mess. Shocker!

Ingredients:

2 lb. Chicken Wings
1 C Soy Sauce
1 C Orange Juice
1/3 C Pineapple Juice
1T Ginger grated
1/2 C Honey
1/2 C Brown Sugar
4 Garlic Cloves chopped
1T Sesame Oil
Small Bunch of Fresh Cilantro whole
Salt and Pepper
Sesame Seeds
Fresh Cilantro chopped

unnamed-6Rinse the chicken under cold water to clean. Pat dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, mix the soy sauce, orange and pineapple juice, sesame oil, brown sugar, honey, garlic cloves and about 10 strands of leafy fresh cilantro. Whisk. Add the chicken. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a few hours, preferably overnight.

After the chicken has marinated, you can bake them now in an oven-safe dish, or you can fry them for a more crispy wing. I opted to fry them.

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My mistake: I covered the wings in a mixture of flour and corn starch, but didn’t pat them dry enough… which means my wings had this floured wet goo on them. And I couldn’t get it off. I then tried to bake them on a cookie sheet with a rack, but the wing juice dripped off and burned in the pan… smoke everywhere.

So pat them dry and fry… that’s my suggestion. Once they are crispy on the outside, set aside. Note: You don’t have to cook them all the way through… they will cook again in the oven.

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Strain the marinade and place in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce by half. Note: You’ll see the marinade liquid go from a watery substance to a near-syrup in the pan. It will reduce even more in the oven.

unnamed-1Once the liquid has reduced, place it in a bowl with the wings. Let the wings soak up the syrup for a couple of minutes. Once they’re completely covered, place them on a baking sheet with a rack and bake for about 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

Garnish with sesame seeds and fresh cilantro. Oh, and don’t do what I did, which is nearly burn your house on fire.

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Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 50% OFF. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Oh the things you can do with an eggplant

I love eggplant. I love it so much I sometimes buy it for the hell of it. I just like to know I have one in my fridge. Why? Because when you crave it, it’s so easy to make! And there’s so many different ways to cook it. I have a couple more recipes up my sleeve but I’ll save those for a later blog because they’re a little more complicated. For now, though, here are a few ways you can cook eggplant.

unnamed-3And of course I have to tell you how cheap they are, especially in Haymarket Square. If you live in Boston, I highly recommend taking a trip to Haymarket on a Friday or Saturday to load up on your fruits and veggies. The two eggplant I cooked with today… cost me $1.00.  Yes, that’s 50 cents each. And I literally could feed 8-10 people OR MORE with both of them.  And of course I picked up an enormous bunch of fresh basil…

The three ways I’ve chose to cook my cheapo eggplant today for you are: Fried (two ways). One in an egg batter and one with breadcrumbs. Both can be used as parmesan, in a sandwich, or eaten simply on it’s own, which is what I do. Grilled, which can be served on an antipasto or in a sandwich as well. And tapenade, which is like a chunky spread that can be served on top of meat or chicken, or served with bread. It’s a winner either way.

Fried Eggplant — Two Ways

Ingredients:

1 Large Eggplant
4 Eggs beaten
2C Flour or 2C Breadcrumbs
Olive Oil for frying
Salt and Pepper
Garlic Powder

Breadcrumbs: Slice your eggplant, skin on, into 1/4 slices. You can slice it the long way or the short way. Heat some olive oil in a skillet, about a 1/2 inch. Season the eggplant with salt, pepper and garlic powder… about 1t of pepper and 1T of garlic powder. Mix. Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl.

Drop the salted eggplant into the egg batter followed by the breadcrumbs. Fry until golden brown.

Egg Batter: Slice the eggplant the same way, skin on, and season with salt. Heat some olive oil in a skillet, about a 1/2 inch. Same. This time, however, you are going to season the flour with the pepper and garlic powder, same amounts… 1t of pepper and 1T of garlic powder. Drop the salted eggplant into the FLOUR FIRST, followed by the egg. Fry until light, golden brown.

Season both versions of fried eggplant with salt the absolute second it comes out of the oil.

Grilling: Slice the eggplant the same way…. or if you want a thicker cut you can go to 1/2 inch. With a culinary brush, cover each eggplant slice — both sides — with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill on each side for about 3-4 minutes.

IMG_8102If you want to make eggplant parmesan, I suggest using the egg-battered eggplant. If you missed that blog post, it’s linked here, where you’ll also find a recipe for homemade marinara sauce that goes great with the parmesan dish. You could even make the sauce and serve it as a dipping option for either version of the fried slices.

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Tapenade:

Ingredients:

1 Large Eggplant
1 Shallot chopped
1 Can Diced or Whole Tomatoes
1/2 C Fresh Basil chopped
4 Garlic Cloves  chopped
1/4 C Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Optional:
1/2 C Green Olives chopped
1/4 C Capers

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Dice the eggplant, skin on, into 1-inch cubes and place in an oven-safe casserole dish, i.e. glass Pyrex. Add the olive oil, shallot and basil, season with salt and toss. Add the can of tomatoes, no juice. Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes until the eggplant is soft.

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Eggplant 2You can also STUFF eggplant by scooping out the middle and using the pulp  in the stuffing. I can’t post that recipe though… it’s in my latest cookbook. See below for purchase link.



Quick, Easy and Cheesy Quiche

“You don’t spell it son, you eat it.”

One of the best lines from “Sixteen Candles.”

In any event, quiche isn’t for everyone. Or at least people don’t think they like quiche… until they eat it. Or eat one with bacon and cheese. I may all kinds of quiche. Meat, meatless, veggie, four cheese, no cheese… the varieties are endless. Here’s a tip, next time you’re in the grocery store, look for the bin that has meat and cheese “ends.” No joke. You can get the ends (and most of the time they throw some other scraps in the package) for a margin of the price at the actual deli where you take a number. You can get a package of cheese (variety) for about $2.00 and make an entire macaroni and cheese.

For this quiche, the “end bin” at Market Basket had SLICED honey ham… no ends. I think it cost me about $3.00 for about two pounds of honey ham. SCORE. And like I’ve talked about in previous blogs, when you see bargains like this, think to yourself, “what can I make with this?”

I ended up getting two quiches out of all that ham and gave one to Ma Royle. They were both delicious. And I didn’t even bother with the pie crusts. I had two in the freezer leftover from a catering job. Remember what I told you to do before you go shopping? Take inventory of what you have in the house and build off of that in the store.

Ingredients:

4 Eggs
2 Egg Whites
1 Small Onion chopped
2 Garlic Cloves chopped
2T Olive Oil
1/4 C Milk any
2C Ham chopped
1/4 Parmesan Cheese shredded
1/2 C Mozzarella Cheese shredded
1/4 Fresh Parsley chopped
6 oz. Goat Cheese
Salt and Pepper

Pre-bake you pie crust until its LIGHT brown, about 15 minutes, at 350 degrees. Note: This is an important step or you’ll end up with a soggy crust.

In a large bowl, combine the eggs and the milk and season with salt and peppers. Whisk until blended as if you were making scrambled eggs.

In a small sauce pan, sauté the onion and garlic in the olive oil. Once they’re soft, add to the empty pre-baked pie crust. Add the ham, mozzarella, parmesan cheese, and parsley. Once all the solid ingredients are in the pie crust, pour in the egg mixture. Add just enough egg mixture to leave about a 1/4 between the filling and the crust. (The egg mixture will rise, and then fall)

Lastly, break the goat cheese into about 8-10 dollops and place on the top of the quiche in random spots.

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Bake the quiche until its hard to the touch… about 30 minutes. Keep checking it to make sure it’s hard to the feel. Yes, again with the feel!

Note: If you notice the edges start to get close to burning, simply cover the edges of the pie crust with foil.

It’s that simple! Enjoy!



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Asian Chicken Dumplings — Part II

Recent Blog Photos

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This is Part II of a two-part Dumpling blog. In Part 1, we made our own dumpling dough instead of using wonton wrappers below.

Dumplings. Potstickers. Shumai. It’s all the same, right? Yes and no. While I’m no expert on Asian cooking, I did take a dumpling class at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts last summer. Thanks, Chef Mark!

Since my taste buds… or I should say my ability to identify ingredients more easily, has changed over the past few months, I know, for me, how much ginger, garlic, etc. I want in my food… in this case, dumplings. I am able to show a lot more restrain. I used to always say, “Damn, I put too much of this,” or “Damn, this is way too overpowering.” But now, through trial and error, I can balance things out.

How do you do that? Well for one, you practice. Two, you make a mini sample of something before you make the entire batch. For instance, if you’re making meatballs… make one tiny one the size of a quarter, cook it, taste it, and adjust the seasoning. You can fix most things very easily… unless your mistake is adding too much salt. (insert “This is why Jen was voted off The Taste” joke here.)

As I think I’ve been teaching you, make things the way YOU want. If you want more ginger in your dumplings, add more. If you like your dumplings spicy, add some red pepper flakes DAMN IT! You’re the boss. Not Tony Danza… YOU!

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Green Onions/Scallions and Fresh Ginger are a must.

For the filling: You can use chicken or pork. Or both. In this recipe, I used chicken. You can also add mushrooms to this recipe but… I don’t love mushrooms in dumplings. You can also use Napa Cabbage… GREAT addition, but again, I opted out. This time, I’m all about the MEAT.

For the wrappers/dough:  In this version, I used store-bought wonton wrappers. VERY different texture and taste. Personally, I like the wrappers better. For one, they are lighter so you taste more of the filling. And two, it saves a ton of work… and mess. One package costs less than $3.00 and you can get at least 24 dumplings out of the pack. Steal.

Filling:
1lb. Ground Chicken or Pork
2T Fresh Garlic grated
1/3 C Green Onions/Scallions chopped
4 Garlic Cloves chopped
1/4 C Fresh Cilantro chopped
1/4 C Soy Sauce
2 T Sesame Oil
1/4 C Rice Wine Vinegar
2 T Corn Starch
Salt and Pepper

Optional:
2 C Napa Cabbage shredded
1 C Mushrooms finely chopped

Dipping Sauce:
2T Soy Sauce
2T Rice Wine Vinegar
2t Sesame Oil
1 Thai Chili sliced, optional

Equipment:
Steam Basket for steaming, optional

In a large bowl, ready… mix all of the ingredients for the filling. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Done.

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One thing I learned in Culinary School is the importance of making things the exact same size so they cook evenly. You don’t want to have to keep checking back to a pot or pan to take out things that have cooked faster, right? Exactly. So do yourself a favor and make things uniform. It’ll save time and you’ll avoid the hassle.

With a small ice cream scoop, ONE OF THE BEST THINGS YOU CAN HAVE IN THE KITCHEN, drop a spoonful of mixture into the middle of the wonton. Now you can shape the wonton any way you want. You can fold it diagonal like a triangle and seal or primp the edges. Or you can turn the triangle into a little envelope by wrapping and pinching the corners. Or you can fold the dough up and around the filling and pinch to make a little pocket… almost like a shumai.  See below.

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In a skillet, heat up some oil, preferably Grape Seed Oil because it is flavorless. Note: You can use Olive Oil but I don’t love the flavor. If you have Canola or Vegetable oil, use that over Olive Oil. Brown the dumplings on both sides until they reach a dark golden color. Remove from the pan and set aside or place directly into a steam basket.

unnamed-1Ok… I know not everyone has a steam basket so here is the alternative. If you don’t have a basket, simply add 1/2-1 inch of water to the pan and put a lid on it. Let the dumplings steam for at least 5 minutes.  Since consuming raw chicken and pork is dangerous, if you need to cut one open to check, go for it. You can also feel them, (yes, back to feel) and if there is no bounce-back, they’re done.

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Serve with soy sauce (add a little rice wine vinegar and sesame oil) or even duck sauce…  Enjoy!

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Asian Chicken Dumplings — Done Two Ways — Part I

Recent Blog Photos

[metaslider id=650]

___________________________________

This is Part I of a two-part Dumpling blog. In Part II, we used store-bought Wonton Wrappers instead of making our own dough below.

Dumplings. Potstickers. Shumai. It’s all the same, right? Yes and no. While I’m no expert on Asian cooking, I did take a dumpling class at The Cambridge School of Culinary Arts last summer. Thanks, Chef Mark!

Since my taste buds… or I should say my ability to identify ingredients more easily, has changed over the past few months, I know, for me, how much ginger, garlic, etc. I want in my food… in this case, dumplings. I am able to show a lot more restrain. I used to always say, “Damn, I put too much of this,” or “Damn, this is way too overpowering.” But now, through trial and error, I can balance things out.

How do you do that? Well for one, you practice. Two, you make a mini sample of something before you make the entire batch. For instance, if you’re making meatballs… make one tiny one the size of a quarter, cook it, taste it, and adjust the seasoning. You can fix most things very easily… unless your mistake is adding too much salt. (insert “This is why Jen was voted off The Taste” joke here.)

As I think I’ve been teaching you, make things the way YOU want. If you want more ginger in your dumplings, add more. If you like your dumplings spicy, add some red pepper flakes DAMN IT! You’re the boss. Not Tony Danza… YOU!

unnamed-1
Green Onions/Scallions and Fresh Ginger are a must.

For the filling: You can use chicken or pork. Or both. In this recipe, I used chicken. You can also add mushrooms to this recipe but… I don’t love mushrooms in dumplings. You can also use Napa Cabbage… GREAT addition, but again, I opted out. This time, I’m all about the MEAT.

For the wrappers/dough:  In this version, I made my own dumpling dough which is flour and hot water. Yes, that’s it. Crazy, huh? But I kind of like that shumai-type dumpling so I’ll pick up some wonton wrappers tomorrow and show you how to make them a different way. This way you can see the difference… and hopefully taste the difference, too. So here we go:

Ingredients:

Dough:
2 1/4 C Flour all-purpose (and more for kneeding)
3/4C HOT water
2 T Oil vegetable, canola or olive

Filling:
1lb. Ground Chicken or Pork
2T Fresh Garlic grated
1/3 C Green Onions/Scallions chopped
4 Garlic Cloves chopped
1/4 C Fresh Cilantro chopped
1/4 C Soy Sauce
2 T Sesame Oil
1/4 C Rice Wine Vinegar
2 T Corn Starch
Oil for pan-frying
Salt and Pepper

Optional:
2 C Napa Cabbage shredded
1 C Mushrooms finely chopped

Dipping Sauce:
2T Soy Sauce
2T Rice Wine Vinegar
2t Sesame Oil
1 Thai Chili sliced, optional

Equipment:
Steam Basket for steaming, optional

In a large bowl, ready… mix all of the ingredients for the filling. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator. Done.

In another bowl, mix the flour, oil and water until a dough is formed. I have found that you do need extra flour. If  you need more flour, as small dustings as you kneed. Remember… cooking is all about feel. People ask me all the time, “How did you know that steak was done?” Well… “I just felt it.” In time, you will learn.

Kneed the dough into a ball until smooth… it’ll take a few minutes. Add enough flour until dough particles stop sticking to your fingers… it’s really that simple.

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One thing I learned in Culinary School is the importance of making things the exact same size so they cook evenly. You don’t want to have to keep checking back to a pot or pan to take out things that have cooked faster, right? Exactly. So do yourself a favor and make things uniform. It’ll save time and you’ll avoid the hassle.

If you have a circle cookie cutter, use it. Roll out small amounts of dough as thin as you can and cut into a perfect circle with a cutter, about 3 inches in diameter. Note: You can make your dumplings in any shape or size you want. Remember, you’re always the boss in the kitchen.

With a small ice cream scoop, ONE OF THE BEST THINGS YOU CAN HAVE IN THE KITCHEN, drop a spoonful of mixture into the middle of a dough circle. Fold the dough over and pinch the edges.

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Steam Basket… They sometimes come with large pots.

In a skillet, heat up some oil, preferably Grape Seed Oil because it is flavorless. Note: You can use Olive Oil but I don’t love the flavor. If you have Canola or Vegetable oil, use that over Olive Oil. Brown the dumplings on both sides until they reach a dark golden color. Remove from the pan and set aside or place directly into a steam basket.

Ok… I know not everyone has a steam basket so here is the alternative. If you don’t have a basket, simply add 1/2-1 inch of water to the pan and put a lid on it. Let the dumplings steam for at least 5 minutes.  Since consuming raw chicken and pork is dangerous, if you need to cut one open to check, go for it. You can also feel them (yes, back to feel) and if there is little bounce-back, they’re done.

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Serve with soy sauce or even duck sauce…  Enjoy!



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Double-Fried Plantains — A Salty and Sweet Tasty Snack

DOUBLE-FRIED PLANTAINS — ONE TASTY SNACK

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Yellow plantains peeled and sliced on an angle in 1/4 inch pieces.

Not to be confused with Plantain Chips, which stem from the green plantains and are sliced paper thin with a mandoline, fried plantains are soft, sweet and salty, and a perfect snack. Not to mention, they are VERY easy to make, it just takes a couple of steps.

Ingredients:
3 Yellow Plantains sliced thick
Canola Oil (375 degrees)
Kosher Salt

First, peel the plantains. (If the peel is difficult to remove, you can slice the plantain peel down the middle and soak in some warm water.) Once the peel is removed, slice the plantains on an angle about 1/4 of an inch thick.

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Smashed after the first fry… about 3 minutes.

Heat some Canola or Vegetable Oil to 375 degrees. Fry about 10 Plantain wedges until they turn slightly darker. See photo to the left.

Allow the plantains to cool for a few minutes. Using parchment paper, cover the plantains. Then take the back of a spoon and apply pressure onto the plantain wedge. This way, the back of the metal spoon won’t stick to the plantain and rip them in half. Once all the plantains are smashed, drop them back into the fryer until they’re golden brown. Like everything you fry, season with kosher salt as soon as they are removed from the fryer. Rest the smashed wedges on paper towels to remove some of the excess oil.

Note: As you know I’m not a fan of resting anything fried on paper towels. I find it leaves the finished product soggy, but not these!

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Final product after the second fry and seasoned with Kosher salt.



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Low Fat Chicken Salad… Salad

Last week I met a new friend for lunch at Tap Trailhouse in Boston’s historical Faneuil Hall District. And as usual, while I was eating I said to myself, “Hmm… I bet I can make this at home.” So I did.

It’s that time of year when I, like most others, finally start to eat healthy after a not-so-healthy New England winter. Last year around this time, I lost 15 pounds and couldn’t have felt better. After filming “The Taste” in Los Angeles, I ended up putting half of those pounds back on, 7 to be exact. So the winter food fest is officially over!

Yesterday I posted a recipe for turkey chili that is 95% fat free. I added about a cup of brown sugar and served it with sour cream and cheddar cheese… but those were the only truly fattening things in the recipe. I cook the turkey separately and drain any fat that may be left at the bottom of the pot. This time, I used extra lean turkey so there was barely any fat to drain. And last I checked, vegetables, beans and tomatoes are pretty damn good for you.

The key to making healthy but TASTY food is the herbs and spices you use. The Chili is a perfect example. I put so many different spices in the turkey you never noticed for a second there was no fat. But back to the chicken salad…

I had this salad for lunch and it was delicious, filling, healthy and different. I altered the recipe a bit by substituting the sliced almonds for pine nuts, and I shredded iceberg lettuce instead of using whole romaine leaves. So there are two ways you can change this salad… lettuce and nuts can be switched.

Ingredients:

Salad:
1/2 lb. Boneless Chicken Breast baked, diced
1/2 C Celery chopped
1/2 C Pine Nuts
1/2 C Dried Cranberries
1/2 Head Romain Lettuce shredded
1/4 C Red Onion diced, optional
2T Mayonnaise
Salt and Pepper

Dressing:
1/4 C Apple Cider Vinegar
3/4 C Olive Oil
1 Shallot diced
1T Sugar
Salt and Pepper

Prepare all of your ingredients: Dice the red onion (optional), shallot and celery, dice the chicken, and shred the lettuce. In a medium bowl, combine the chicken, celery, onion (optional), pine nuts and cranberries and toss with the mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper.
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In a separate bowl, mix all of the dressing ingredients well. You can whisk until slightly emulsified or you and put in a sealed jar or bowl and shake!

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In a large bowl, toss the lettuce with the desired amount of dressing. Top with the chicken/cranberry mixture.

End of story. The moist chicken, sweet cranberries, and crunch of the celery and pine nuts with the creamy mayo is a perfect combination with great textural balance. The lettuce should be dressed JUST ENOUGH. Don’t let it take away from the flavor of the actual chicken salad.

Remember: You can always add more of an ingredient but you can very rarely take away. As Chef Ludo said to me in “The Taste” finale, “GO EASY WITH YOUR SALT!”  Well, that goes for pretty much everything, not just salt.

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Side Note: The best way to cook the chicken is to place two boneless chicken breasts on a foil pan or small oven-safe dish, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a tiny bit of olive oil. Bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees. If you need to cut the chicken in half to see if it’s cooked properly… go for it. Chill the chicken for at least a half hour. You really don’t want to serve anything warm with cold mayonnaise.

Enjoy!



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen

Marble Yogurt Loaf — It’s Kinda Low Fat. Kinda

If you’ve ever lived in New York City (like me.. 10 years in Greenwich Village) or visit frequently, you’ll notice that not only is there a deli on literally every corner of the city, but every deli sells Marble Loaf Cake. It’s very odd. If you think I’m lying… next time you’re in NYC make an attempt to check out a deli and you will find the famous Marble Loaf Cake. Promise! It’s weird.

I miss so many things about NYC… The pizza, restaurants, nightlife, subway rides and walks simply running errands, the cheap manicures and pedicures ($25 for both), sample sales, having a meal alone and leaving with five new friends… and so much more. NYC changed my life, so much that I have an apple tattoo on my right wrist. Oh yeah.

Well, I also miss the Marble Loaf Cake. Again, weird. I know. So… I googled a recipe and made one myself. The first one came out like a brick, but I know exactly what I did wrong. I used the wrong size pan and the temp of my oven was a little too hot. So, as usual, the second time was a charm. I got up off the couch around 9 p.m. last night and said to myself, “let me try to make that damn cake again.” And I’m so glad I did.

unnamed-18I altered the original recipe from the book, “Chocolate and the art of low fat desserts.” I found the recipe online since I don’t bake and couldn’t even begin to write a baking or dessert recipe myself. In baking, as most of you know, everything needs to be exact. But as I mentioned before, if things don’t come out the way you like, there are certain things you can adjust, such as the amount of chocolate, nuts, and sometimes even the flour etc. The only things you likely can’t adjust is the baking soda, baking power, etc. But we won’t get into that since I honestly don’t know enough about baking.

Ingredients:

Dry:
1 3/4  C Flour all purpose
1t Baking Powder
1/2t Baking Soda
1/2t Salt

Wet:
6T Butter softened
1 C Sugar
1 Whole Egg
1 Egg White
2t Vanilla
1C Plain Yogurt

Marble:
1/3 C Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/3 C Sugar
1t Vanilla
1/4 C Coffee or Espresso (wet)

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. No higher. I found this cake comes out better when it bakes at a low temp. In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients. I recommend sifting them but you don’t have to. In a mixer, or in a large bowl (using a hand mixer) beat the butter and sugar. Add the egg. Beat for another minute. Add the egg white and vanilla and beat for about five minutes until it’s light and fluffy. LIGHT AND FLUFFY!

In a small bowl, combine all of the marble ingredients. This should be a very loose and wet consistency… so don’t fret.

Combine the wet and dry ingredients and alternate with the yogurt. For example… put half of the dry ingredients into the wet bowl, then add a half a cup of yogurt, then add the rest of the dry, then the remainder of the yogurt. I have no idea why… that’s what it says and I know literally nothing about baking, so just do it. 🙂

Grease and flour a loaf pan. Pour the cake batter to fill about a THIRD of the pan. Pour half of the marble mixture over the cake batter, and with a butter knife (or other flat, kitchen object) swirl the marble mixture into the batter. Cover the marble with the remainder of the cake batter. Top the cake batter with the remainder of the marble mixture and swirl it again.

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Note: I screwed up the first loaf because I filled the pan with too much batter. You want to leave about a THIRD of the pan open so the cake has room to breath and rise. So do not fill the pan to the top or it’ll burn and the consistency will be way too heavy. We are going for a light and fluffy cake here!

Place the cake on the middle rack and check on it after 30 minutes. It’s not done… but take a look. It shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes… but keep tapping the top middle of the cake and you should be able to feel if there is wet batter in there. It’s not brain surgery… does it feel done? Yes. Then it is. None of this wooden toothpick crap…. JUST FEEL IT.

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Cupcakes:
I had a little extra batter left so I decided to make a few cupcakes. I hate cupcake wrappers. They are so 1980 and just so lame. So I cut up some parchment paper and used that instead. Here’s what I did:

Cut a sheet of parchment paper into four blocks. If you don’t have sheets and you have a roll, slice off a sheet the size of an average cookie sheet, then cut it in fours. Press the sheets into a cupcake tin and coat with baking spray. Using an ice cream scoop (for size consistency), add a scoop of batter followed by a tablespoon of the marble mixture. With a butter knife, swirl the marble mixture into the batter.

Mine are a mess… but I’m a mess so it’s par for the course.

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No frosting necessary! ENJOY! 



Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.48.58 PMDare To Taste Cookbook is currently 30% OFF with FREE Shipping. Pick up your copy today! Click on the photo to the left.

Recipes include:
Sweet Potato Gnocchi
Clams Casino
Lemon Chicken
Stuffed Baby Eggplant
Tomato & Ginger Soup
And much more…

Please allow 3-5 days for shipping and handling. Thank you for your purchase! ~ Jen