Friday, October 25, 2013

My Cooking Attempts: Sopa de Albóndigas

I grew up eating warm bowls of albóndigas for dinner. I would so look forward to the cold weather because I knew my mom would soon be making albóndigas.

Funnily I never knew albóndigas meant meatballs. I just thought that was the name of the soup, like menudo or pozole. However, albóndigas specifically refers to the meatballs, not necessarily the soup. Weird, right? Once I asked a friend for her albóndiga recipe and she gave me the recipe for meatballs and nothing more. When I asked her for the rest of the recipe she said "Oh, you mean sopa de albóndigas?" Confused? Yeah, so was I! Don't despair! If you say I'm eating albóndigas most people (my friend excluded) will understand you mean the soup. Just in case you're still confused, this recipe is for meatball soup, not just meatballs!

1/2 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground beef
1 egg
2 green onion
1/2 bunch mint
1/4 cup rice
1/2 tomato
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

1/2 brown onion
1 tomato
7 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
2 carrots
2 cups of diced potatoes
1 zucchini
2 celery stalks
Salt to taste

Start with the rice: Rinse the rice and soak for 30 minutes. Just enough time to prepare your other ingredients.

Dice your brown onion and tomato. Add a little oil to a soup pot, medium heat. Add onion and tomato. Cook down for a few minutes.
Add water and chicken broth. Season with salt. Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile prepare your meatballs:

Finely dice the green onion and mint. Seed the tomato and finely dice.
Note: If the dice is too large the meatballs will fall apart. So, although it may seem like a bother, finely dice the veggies! It's an important step.
Drain the water from the rice. Add the veggies into a large mixing bowl with the rice, ground pork and beef, egg, and seasonings. Mix all the ingredients together, don't over mix. Form into balls.

I tend for smaller meatballs. They cook more evenly and are less likely to fall apart. Also, they don't feel overwhelming in your soup bowl. I don't want you to experience this:


Once the water is boiling, lower to medium heat and gently drop the meatballs into the broth. Allow to simmer about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile prep your other veggies:

Peel and evenly slice your carrots into bite-sized rounds. I don't peel my potato, but feel free to. Chop the potato, zucchini, and celery into even, bite-size pieces.

Once the meatballs have cooked for about 30 minutes add the veggies. First add the potatoes and carrots. Allow to cook about 10 minutes. Next add the celery and zucchini. Allow to simmer about 15 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adjust accordingly.
It makes a big ol' pot of soup!


My mom always serves our sopa de albóndigas with a side of slightly charred corn tortillas and some Tapatio. I skip the tortillas and enjoy as is.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Cooking Attempts: Arroz con leche

Believe it or not I didn't grow up eating arroz con leche. Despite my family's Mexican roots it wasn't a sweet treat in our home. By that I don't mean I rarely had it, I mean I never even tasted it until reaching adulthood. I wasn't able to luxuriate in the cinnamony aroma of sweet arroz con leche until I got married and my mother-in-law made it for my husband.
When I asked my mother-in-law for the recipe I experienced an Everybody Loves Raymond moment. You know the episode, when Marie gives Deborah the wrong ingredients so when Deb attempts the meatball recipe her meatballs don't taste as good as Marie's! When I attempted the recipe my mother-in-law gave me I ended up and a gooey, horrible mess! I wonder if that was a coincidence????
As I am no "giver-uper" I went about searching and adapting recipes until I found and prefected a delicious and oh so easy arroz con leche recipe. Pay close attention, I promise not to lead you astray!

2 cups long grain rice
2 whole cinnamon sticks
4 + 1/4 cups water
1 can condensed milk, 14 ounces
1 can coconut milk, 13.5 ounces
    Note: Make sure it's the canned, cooking coconut milk not the carton drinking coconut milk)
1 can evaporated milk, 12 ounces
1 cup whole milk + more if you like your arroz con leche a little looser
    Note: I tend use whatever I have on hand, usually almond milk
1 tbsp vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
Ground cinnamon, for dusting

Rinse the rice, to remove any dust and foreign debris. Set aside. Add water to a pot, add cinnamon sticks, and bring to a boil.

When the water comes to a boil, add the rice. Lower to medium low heat, cover, and cook until most, but not all, the water has evaporated. Turn off the heat. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID. The steam will complete the cooking process.

When all the water has evaporated remove the cinnamon sticks (otherwise you will end up with pieces of cinnamon bark whenever you take a bite). Add all four milks (condensed, evaporated, coconut, and, in this case, almond milk).

Turn the heat back on, low. Mix regularly or it will stick to the bottom of the pot. Add vanilla and raisins, if using. Allow flavors to meld. Cook for about 15 minutes. Serve in a bowl. Dust with ground cinnamon and enjoy.

Arroz con leche can be enjoyed hot or cold. I like it both ways, but David loves it hot. Oh and I never add raisins to my arroz con leche, that's a strict David rule! However, feel free to add them, as it is a traditional addition to arroz con leche.

Note: If you microwave any leftovers make sure to add a dash of milk so that it doesn't dry out. If you are not a big coconut fan and you're thinking of skipping this recipe, give it a try. The coconut flavor is so mild you don't even notice it. However, you can substitute the coconut milk with whole milk if you really can't stand the idea of tasting coconut in your arroz con leche.

Friday, October 11, 2013

My Cooking Attempts: Vanilla Chai Cupcakes

I have three favorite cold weather drinks: 1) green tea latte, 2) vanilla chai tea latte, and 3) champurrado. Today we are going to talk about chai tea lattes!

I love cradling a hot latte in both hands while curled up on my couch. I love the smell of the spicy chai tea & the sweetness of the vanilla. 
Chai tea is one of the only reasons I put up with cold weather. Well, that & being able to bake without dying from heat exhaustion, boots, & sleeping in on rainy mornings. In honor of my reason to wake up on cold mornings I've decided to replicate my favorite vanilla chai tea latte in cupcake form. Because then I get two of my favorite cold weather things, a chai tea latte & baking, in one little cupcake.

3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar, light or dark
4 eggs, room temperature
1 cup milk (I used vanilla almond milk)
4 chai teabags
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cloves

I know it may seem like a lot of spices, but they really make a difference, so don't skip any! I think its the perfect blend & depth of spices. You won't loose the taste of the spices in the sweet cupcake, yet I promise you won't feel overwhelmed by them either. Trust me, if my 6 year old nephew ate & enjoyed one, without frosting, then you will too!

Preheat oven 350 degrees.
Bring milk to a light boil. Steep teabags in milk for about 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, & spices (cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom, & cinnamon).

Cream your butter with both sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, & vanilla extract & paste. 

Mix in half the dry ingredients. Don't over mix. Add half the chai infused milk, blend to incorporate. Repeat with the remaining dry ingredients and milk. 

Fill in your cupcake liners 3/4 of the way up. Bake 15-18 minutes. 
Allow to cool slightly and transfer to cooling rack.

Meanwhile whip up some frosting. I opted for a stabilized vanilla whipped cream with a dusting of ground cinnamon to top it off. I figured I'd go for a literal interpretation of a latte topped with whipped cream.

1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin powder 
2 tbsp cold water
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tbsp confecctioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or 1/2 tsp vanilla paste
pinch of salt

In a bowl sprinkle gelatin over cold water. Scald 2 tablespoons of whipping cream & pour over gelatin. Stir until dissolved.
Refrigerate about 15 minutes. Then whisk until smooth.
*Warning: Don't let it sit for more then 15 minutes otherwise you will end up with lumps. And trust me they a'int no lovely lady lumps ;)*
Once it's smooth mix in the remaining cream. Slowly incorporate sugar, salt, & vanilla. Mix until smooth, stopping to scrape the bowl as necessary.

Frost cupcakes and sprinkle with a dusting of ground cinnamon. Now inhale. Literally take a whiff of that baby, it smells delicious. Now taste it. Wasn't it worth all those spices? I sure think so!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

My Cooking Attempts: Turkey Lettuce Wraps

I wasn't always obsessed with cooking and trying new recipes. I mean I've always enjoyed cooking, but in the past 5 years I've come to really appreciate trying new recipes, ingredients, and foods. I blame this partly on the Food Network and partly on this recipe for turkey lettuce wraps.
A few years ago I tried, and was truly impressed, with P.F. Chang's chicken lettuce wraps. I liked them so much I scoured the internet for a good copycat recipe. It was a while before I found a recipe I liked. I then took that recipe and began to experiment with it.  I played with it until I found what, in my opinion, is the best combination and measurement of ingredients. 
Since then I've become slightly obsessed with taking recipes and modifying them to my own personal taste. Here is my take on turkey lettuce wraps. Please keep in mind it has been years since I've been to P.F. Chang's, so although this recipe began as a copy cat recipe, it's now become my own creation.

  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stocks, diced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup of sugar snap peas
  • (20 ounce) package ground turkey 
  • Note: When I want a higher meat to vegetable ration I've been known to use as much as 2 lbs of ground turkey with this exact recipe. The results are just as wonderful, if a little more meaty. So feel free to adjust to your preference.
  • 8 ounces chopped mushrooms
  • (8 ounce) cans water chestnuts, drained and sliced
  • garlic cloves, minced 
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced. 
  • 1/3 cup teriyaki sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter 
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 cup sliced green onions 
  • head butter or iceberg lettuce
  • Toppings
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Slivered almonds or crispy chow mein noodles

  • Dice celery and carrots. Cook with 1/2 cup water in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat, stirring until the veggies soften and the water has evaporated. Remove from skillet and set aside. 

  • Meanwhile, boil a pot of water. When water is boiling add the sugar snap peas. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Blanche in ice cold water so they stop cooking and retain their color and "snap."

  • Heat pot. Yes, I said pot. Trust me, if you use anything smaller you will run out of room! Spray with nonstick spray (I find turkey sticks very easily).  Medium heat, add turkey. You could add a little EVOO, if you find your turkey is sticking more than you'd like. Stir periodically as it cooks. 

  • Meanwhile prepare your other veggies. Chop your mushrooms and water chestnuts. I buy sliced water chestnuts. They cost the same as whole water chestnuts and it saves a little time and effort. I don't take the time to dice them any smaller, though I can see where one might argue for a smaller dice. I LOVE water chestnuts so it doesn't bother me to get a big ol' piece when I bite into my lettuce wrap. Slice or dice with prejudice! ;)

  • Slice the sugar snap peas diagonally, into thirds. Mince your garlic and ginger. 

  • When the turkey crumbles and is no longer pink add the garlic and ginger. Allow to cook for a few minutes. Next add the veggies (carrots, celery, mushrooms, water chestnuts, and sugar snap peas). Mix to incorporate. 

Now add all the flavorings: Teriyaki sauce, peanut butter, sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, and hoisin sauce. Mix well. 

  • Cook to incorporate the flavors, 4-5 minutes should do it. Fold in the green onions. Remove them heat.  
  • You are now ready to serve. Spoon mixture onto lettuce leaves. Any lettuce will do, however I prefer the way butter lettuce looks and the way iceberg lettuce tastes. I usually use one of those two options.
  • Dip or top with a squirt of hoisin sauce and slivered almonds or crispy chow mein noodles

  • Note: If you use the almonds be sure to toast them for a more developed flavor. Heat a dry pan to medium heat. Add almonds, spread evenly.  Shake pan frequently, to prevent burning. It won't take long, 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat and place in a bowl. 

  • You are now ready to eat!

  • I love this recipe. When I don't know what to make for dinner or what to take to a potluck this is my go to recipe. It easy, delicious, and makes a beautiful presentation. Hopefully, once you've tried the recipe, you will feel the same and add it to your list of "go-to" dinner recipes. 
  • Note: In the past I have also added bamboo shoots and bean sprouts to the mix. Add them if you'd like.