Sunday, May 31, 2009


It's Wild Animal Week at our house, so I made lion and elephant waffles for the boys.

I have a great recipe for waffles that uses a sourdough starter, but I don't always have that defrosted, fed, and ready to go. This is the recipe I use most of the time - these waffles turn out crisp, tender, and delicious.

Waffles (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon (optional - just gives a hint of flavor)
2 egg yolks
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup cooking oil
2 egg whites

1. In a medium mixing bowl stir together flour, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of dry mixture; set aside.

2. In another medium mixing bowl beat egg yolks slightly. Stir in milk and oil. Add egg yolk mixture all at once to the dry mixture. Stir just until moistened (batter should be lumpy).

3. In a small mixing bowl beat egg whites till stiff peaks form. Gently fold beaten egg whites into flour and egg yolk mixture, leaving a few fluffs of egg white. Do not overmix.

4. Cook waffles according to manufacturer's directions. Keep waffles in a low oven until finished baking. Makes 12-16 4-inch waffles or 8 Belgian waffles.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fried Rice

I love to make fried rice with leftovers. In fact, it pretty much has to be made with leftovers, because you need to start with cold rice. If you use hot, fresh rice, the oil won't coat each individual grain - big clumps of it will soak it up and you'll have to use a lot more.
I like fried rice with brown or white rice, but in this case we had white leftover. We also had extra chicken from roast chicken and about 3-4 oz. of leftover steak. I used edamame and carrots for vegetables, but I like broccoli, green beans, bell peppers, mushrooms, and peas as well. This recipe is adapted from Recipezaar.
Fried Rice
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil or peanut oil
1-2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 drops of soy sauce
3 drops of sesame oil (optional)
1 T. chopped fresh ginger or 1 t. dried ginger
2 cloves of garlic, minced
8 ounces cooked chicken, beef, or pork, chopped
1 cup finely chopped carrot
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
4 cups cold cooked rice, grains separated (preferably medium grain)
4 green onions, chopped
4 tablespoons light soy sauce (add more if you like)
1 t. sesame oil (optional)

Heat 1 tbsp oil in wok; add chopped onions and stir-fry until onions turn a nice brown color, about 8-10 minutes; remove from wok.

Allow wok to cool slightly.

Mix egg with 3 drops of soy and 3 drops of sesame oil; set aside.
Add 1/2 tbsp oil to wok, swirling to coat surfaces; add egg mixture and stir-fry until dry. Remove egg from wok and chop into small pieces.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in wok; add ginger and garlic to work; stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add selected meat to wok, along with carrots, edamame, and cooked onion; stir-fry for 2 minutes.

Add rice and green onions, tossing to mix well; stir-fry for 3 minutes.

Add 4 tbsp of light soy sauce and chopped egg to rice mixture and fold in; stir-fry for 1 minute more; serve.

Servings: 4
Calories: 498

Island Cake

For Jack's last day of school party, we had a luau, with sweet and sour chicken, rice, ham sandwiches on Hawaiian rolls, and fruit. For dessert I made this Island Cake. It's basically the same as the Beach Cake I made last year, but rearranged as an island.
One thing I'd do differently is double the cake. The ratio of frosting to cake was like 1:1, and it was very sweet! I got the great gummy sharks, whales, rainbow fish, etc. at Fuzziwig's.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Easiest Roast Chicken (with bonus vegetables!)

I love roast chicken - it's delicious, and I like its elegant symmetry: 2 breasts, 2 wings, 2 legs, 2 thighs. I also like how frugal it is: it's roughly a dollar a pound, and a three pound chicken will feed 2 parents and 2 kids (more symmetry!). A slightly bigger one will leave you with more leftover options.
But it's easy to ruin roast chicken. You have the same challenges, though on a smaller scale, that you have with a turkey: relatively lean meat that dries out when overcooked yet needs to be cooked thoroughly to avoid food poisoning. Also, it's a sphere with a hollow core, basically - with legs at one end that need to be cooked longer than the breast at the other. So there are challenges.

Roast chicken may never be truly easy, but this is the easiest way I know to make it. And two out of three Carnes men agree that it makes a wonderful meal!

This post is going to be a long one, so settle in.
Roast Chicken
To make roast chicken, you need a few tools:
1. kitchen shears (scissors)
2. 9X13 pan or small roasting pan
3. cookie cooling rack or rack for roasting pan
4. tongs
5. meat thermometer (highly recommended, but not critical)
And some ingredients:
whole chicken (3-4 lbs.)
kosher salt
red potatoes or baking potatoes
1. First, you are going to butterfly the chicken. Basically, you are going to cut out the backbone so you can flatten it and it will cook evenly. Take the chicken out of the package and rinse it. Dry it thorough with paper towels so it doesn't steam in the oven. Put it on a cutting board, back side up - you'll see a little heart-shaped nugget of fat at the bottom. Save the neck if included but not the gizzard and heart.
2. Using your kitchen shears, cut up along the backbone on both sides. You'll make cuts about 1 1/2 inches apart. It's a bit tough cutting through the bone, but just move a bit further out if you have too much resistance. Turn it over so it's breast-side up. Push down on the breast or use a meat mallet to sort of even out the thickness of the butterflied chicken. Cut the backbone into 2 inch pieces, and set aside with the neck. (In a future post, I'll explain how to use these pieces to make a pan sauce/gravy since you won't have pan drippings.)
3. Take one tablespoon of kosher salt, and sprinkle it all over the chicken - front and back. If you are sensitive to salt, try 2 teaspoons. (Diamond salt is saltier than Morton's. The reason you need a lot of salt is for flavor and tenderness. I'll explain more when I write about brining in a future post.)
4. Cut up carrots, potatoes, and onions into chunks. Spray roasting pan with cooking spray, and add vegetables - cut up enough to fit in one layer. (If you have lots of layers, the veggies will steam, not roast. The carrots get saltier than the potatoes. Our theory is that their higher water content allows them to absorb more salt. Anyway, you can pepper the vegetables, but don't salt them.)
5. Put the rack on top of the pan. Put the chicken, skin side down, on the rack. Roast at 500 degrees for 10 minutes. Take chicken out of oven and turn over with tongs, skin side up. Put it back in the oven for 20-40 more minutes, depending on how big the chicken is. When it's done, the chicken skin will be brown and blistery. The breast should register 160 degrees, and the legs should register 165 (it's more important to check the legs).
6. Take the chicken off the rack and put it on a cutting board to rest for five minutes - cover it with foil to keep the heat in. Roast the vegetables for 10 minutes until they are browned.
7. There are lots of great instructions for carving the chicken that you can find online. Here's how I do it. I only hope my pictures don't scare you away!
First, pull the leg and thigh away from the body by gently pulling on the leg. Cut through the skin. Repeat on other side.

Separate leg from thigh by cutting where you see my knife. If you meet too much resistance, you aren't in the right place. Move the knife slightly until you can cut through quite easily.

Make vertical cuts on either side of the breast bone. Cut around and underneath the breast to remove. You can cut it in half if you have a larger chicken or you want more choices for each person.
As I mentioned earlier, you have no pan drippings, so you can't automatically make gravy for this meal. The pan drippings are making your vegetables wonderful, though! The chicken will be moist and flavorful enough that you don't have to have a sauce. But if you feel the need, you can always do what Thomas Keller, chef of the famous French Laundry does: slather your chicken with butter. (Whaaat? and also, yum!)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Asian Broccoli Slaw

This slaw is the perfect marriage of healthy, fresh, ingredients with the lowest-quality foodstuff you can purchase at your grocery store! Sounds great, huh? I'm talking, of course, about ramen noodles, that staple of college dining.

I've had versions of this slaw made with cabbage, but I prefer broccoli slaw because it is more colorful and flavorful. In the picture above I used a broccoli slaw that had broccoli florets and snow peas. The boys wouldn't eat the florets, but once Ben decided the snow peas were "green tacos," they were a hit.

When I make this for guests or a party, I add cashews or some other kind of nut - almonds are good, too. Most versions of this recipe call for you to add the ramen noodles early in the recipe so they soften, but I like to add them right before serving so they are still crunchy. The recipe makes more dressing than you probably need, but save it in case it dries out overnight.

Asian Broccoli Slaw

1 package broccoli slaw (16 oz.)

1 package ramen noodles (original flavor), noodles crushed and seasoning packet set aside

1/4 cup sliced green onions

1/2 cup cashews or cashew pieces (optional)

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 T. rice wine or white vinegar

2 T. sugar

1/4 t. salt

In a large bowl, combine broccoli slaw, green onions, and cashews (if using). Mix oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, and contents of seasoning packet in a small bowl; whisk until emulsified. Pour over broccoli slaw mixture and stir. Refrigerate for 1-24 hours. Right before serving, sprinkle crushed ramen noodles on top.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Baked Tortellini

In our town there is a restaurant called Giorgio's that we order from occasionally. It's a typical red-sauce neighborhood place with yummy food and family owners. I actually had the owner in one of my English classes a few years ago: I asked her if she ever shared the recipe for their marinara and she said no! I always say I should have asked have asked her before I turned in her final grade.

Our favorite meal from Giorgio's is their tortellini marinara. It's cheese tortellini in a very light, delicate marinara topped with mozzarella cheese. I keep all the ingredients on hand to make it because it's relatively quick and we love it. I usually make a quick marinara, but jarred sauce is fine, too.

Baked Tortellini

1 package frozen cheese tortellini - 16 oz.
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I usually use Muir Glen, but Hunt's are not as thick - they make
a sauce actually more like the restaurant one)
1-2 T. olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
basil (optional)
8 oz. mozzarella or mix of Italian cheeses, shredded (whole milk mozzarella gives it the
restaurant taste, but I usually have part-skim)

Cook tortellini according to package instructions; drain.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil with the salt, pepper, red pepper, and garlic just until the garlic becomes golden. Take pan off heat and add tomatoes (to avoid splattering). Simmer 5-10 minutes, adding chopped basil at the end if desired.

Mix tortellini with sauce and pour into casserole pan. Top with cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes at 350. Turn on broiler and let cheese bubble and brown just a bit - watch carefully so it doesn't burn. Remove from oven and serve.