Mocha Almond Shortbread Bars

I love shortbread cookies, and with a cup of  tea it’s is so perfection. I ran across these at a local cafe and eatery in uptown(Gigi’s). They were so amazing! I ordered this huge bar of this coffee shortbread cookie with almond slivers and chocolate chips pressed in it was just crumbly buttery bliss, and just over halfway through I realized I was supposed to share with my husband.

A few months ago I sent a batch to my Aunt Maria, she said they were very good and was going to be sharing with my other aunts when they were stopping by the coming weekend, I never got the result but I hope it was good. I knew they were a success because my husband was trying to eat them as I was putting them in the tuperware to send. The recipe is basic, simple and quick. What else could you want in a cookie? Oh, chocolate? Yep! It has that too.

Mocha Almond Shortbread Bars

  • 1 c Unsalted Butter, room tempature
  • 2/3 c Frosting Sugar
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Almond Extract
  • 1 tbsp Espresso Powder
  • 1 tbsp Water, boiling hot
  • 1/8 cup Chocolate Chips, finely chopped
  • 2 c Unbleached Flour
  • 1/3 c Slivered Almonds, crushed
  • 1/3 c Chocolate Chips

In a 9×13 pan. Line with a 20″x9″ piece of wax paper so it forms a type of tray so you can lift the bars out of the pan when finished cooking.

In a stand mixer on medium cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.   In a small cup combine the vanilla and almond extract, espresso powder, and boiling water.  Stir until the powder has dissolved.  With the mixer on medium speed add to the butter mixture until well combined.

Turn mixer down to low and add in the flour until well combined. The dough will be soft and sticky similar to sugar cookie dough. Fold in the finely chopped chocolate chips into the moist dough. Turn it out into the prepared pan and press down pushing into the corners of the pan. When the dough is leveled sprinkle the almonds and other portion chocolate chips on to the dough and gently press down into the dough to secure.

Cover and place pan into the fridge for 1 hour.

When ready to bake preheat oven to 350°F

Bake for 18-20 min until edges are lightly browned and center is firm to the touch.

Cool for 30 min remove from pan by lifting the ends of the wax paper and place on a cutting board. Cut into 12 bars and store in air tight container for upto two weeks.

Adapted: Annie’s Eats

Advertisements

Chicken Tostadas with Black Beans & Pico de Gallo

I realized while making this dish that in the almost 10 years we have been together I have never made tostadas. I think it was because in my family tostadas mean beans, and my husband is not a fan. I on the other hand like them a lot so having to change some of my old family dishes to now suit my new family is a slight trial.  First of all it was adding flavor to the beans enough and keeping the texture and look from being just what unfortunately in store-bought and some restaurant refried beans resembles cat food, eww.  I realized that using whole beans was the way to go.  I used the black bean recipe that I previously posted.  Which worked out perfectly for this.

This is very simple and actually quite healthy.   Most people have this image of Mexican food being sloppy, too spicy to tolerate, and slathered in cheese. This is far from the truth. It can be healthy, pretty, and still have that spicy subtly and packed with flavor. This was my goal and I feel it was quite accomplished.   You prepare everything from the tostada shell to the pico, you control the sodium which in a lot of food now a days is scary to know how much salt you’re having in prepared food.  That is why I will always let you add the salt to taste, or omit it if you prefer.

The longest part of preparation is boiling the chicken once that is done, which can be accomplished in a crock-pot on slow for a few hours while at work, or an hour on the stovetop.   Otherwise preparation only takes 15-20 min once that step is completed.  As far as assembly goes, it’s pretty much up to you.  I went with what not only made a nice presentation but really brought out the flavors well when taken as a complete bite.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Chicken Tostadas with Black Beans & Pico de Gallo

Makes 6 Servings

Pico de Gallo

  • 3 Roma Tomatoes, Diced
  • 1 small White Onion, Chopped
  • 1 sm Serrano Chili, finely minced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, finely minced
  • 1/2 c Cilantro(Coriander), finely chopped
  • 1 tsp Lime Zest
  • Juice of a Lime
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Cut the tomatoes in half and using a spoon scoop out the inside veins and seeds leaving just the flesh.  Finely dice the tomatoes and put in bowl with the onions, chili, garlic, and cilantro.  Stir with a spoon.  Now add in the lime zest.  With the palm of your hand roll the lime on the counter top to loosen up the pods that hold the juice it will require some muscle and it will feel very squishy and soft when you know it’s ready.   Now add in the juice of the whole lime, add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover and place in fridge.  The longer the flavors get to meld together the better I think it gets, but fresh and in season vegetables make the best pico you will ever have.

Shredded Chicken

  • 4 Chicken Leg Quarters
  • 2 cloves of Garlic
  • 2 dried Ancho chilies
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper, ground
  • 2g Fresh Oregano
  • 2g Fresh Thyme
  • 1/4 c Cilantro(Coriander), roughly chopped
  • 1 can (7oz) Tomato Sauce
  • 1 Quart of Water
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Chipotle Pepper, ground

In a stock pot over medium heat add in the water, tomato sauce.  Crush the garlic with the side of a knife, peel and add to stock pot.  Add in the dried chili pods.

Using your kitchen scale place a bowl on the scale and tare it out flat.  Tear pieces of fresh oregano adding to the bowl until it reaches 2 grams.  Leaving the bowl of oregano on the scale, now add the fresh thyme stems and all until your scale now reads 4g.  Add contents to the stockpot.  Add in the cilantro and 1 tsp of Cayenne pepper.

Add in your chicken quarters and salt.  Bring to a boil, place on lid and boil for 1h or until the flesh is starting to separate from the bone, but not falling apart in the stock.

Turn off the heat.  Remove the chicken from the stock and place on a platter to debone and shred.   Allow chicken to cool to cool for 10 min before handling.  Using two forks strip and shred the meat from the bones.

Place in a 10″ fry skillet over medium heat. (At this point you can start cooking your black beans as well and prepare your tostada shells for the oven, recipe is located below)

Place the now shredded and deboned chicken into the skillet.  Add in 1/2 cup of the stock you cooked the chicken in and 1 tsp paprika and 1/2 tsp chipotle ground pepper.  Stir, cooking until all the liquid is gone.  Now add another 1/2 cup of the stock and cook until all the liquid is once again cooked out.  Salt and pepper to taste, now add 1/4 c of the stock and cook out all the liquid again.  Once all the liquid is cooked out it is ready to serve.  Takes about 10-15 minutes.

Spicy Black Beans

  • 1 strip of Bacon, diced
  • 1/8 of a Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1  can (15 oz) Whole Black Beans, undrained
  • Small Pinch of Cumin
  • Very Small Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper

Head up a 10″ skillet to medium, once hot add the bacon to pan and cook until crispy.   Remove all of the bacon grease.

Add the diced bell pepper to the bacon and cook until the peppers turn a vibrant red, slowly add in the can of beans, with liquid and all.  Add in a pinch of cumin and salt to taste, and simmer until liquid is reduced by half.  About 10-15 min.

Tostada Shell

  • 6 White or Yellow Corn Tortillas
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Turn oven to 400°F.   Brush both sides of the tortillas with olive oil and sprinkle one side with salt.  Place the salted side down on the cookie sheet.  Place on lowest rack in oven for 10-15 min or until dark golden brown.  Cool for 5 min before serving.

Gyoza with Dipping Sauce

There is a place in the skyway in downtown Minneapolis called Zen Box. It has the best gyoza I have ever had. This is as close to their recipe as I can get. I have read about 25 recipes and based on taste tests this is the result, which is soft, savory, crunchy and holds up well when piced up which is a cooked-to-perfection test of a good gyoza. I have had good and bad potstickers – bad being Panda Express – and good which are in my opinion, these. It is one of those items that wherever you go you tend to order it. The results can vary widely from place to place and well have our favorites. If you like a slightly more crunch testure, keep in a 200°F oven until ready to serve. It adds an extra crunch to them that really is pleasant.

Gyoza is basically the Japanese name for potstickers or dumplings. The sauce for this I took the inspiration from another local restaurant (Fuji-Ya). They have this spicy dipping sauce that is just amazing! The following recipe makes 24 and they freeze exceptionally well. I hope you try them.

Gyoza Dipping Sauce

  • 3 tbsp Mirin
  • 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 3 drops Chili Oil
  • 2 drops Sesame Oil

Combine and mix. Set aside to let flavors blend until ready to serve.

Gyoza

  • 2/3 c Napa Cabbage, minced
  • 1/4 lb Ground Pork
  • 1 tsp Ginger, fresh grated
  • 1 tsp Soy Sauce
  • 1/8 tsp Sesame Oil
  • 1/8 tsp White Pepper
  • 1/3 c Scallions, minced
  • 1 tbsp Egg White
  • 2 tbsp Water
  • 2 tsp Flour
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 drops Sesame Oil
  • 20-25 Gyoza wrappers
  • 1/2 c water

Shred and mince the cabbage, wash and drain and place on paper towels to dry.

In a bowl combine pork, ginger, soy, sesame oil, and pepper. By hand mix throughly. Add in egg white and continue to mix by hand. Add in the onion and cabbage keep mixing until one cohesive mass.

In a small bowl combine the 2 tbsp of water with 2 tsp of flour. This you will use to we the rims of the wrappers to seal. So place near your work space.

Get an empty plate or tray to place your prepared gyoza. Line it wax paper.

Now the tricky work.

Step 1: Place a gyoza wrapper in your hand and add 1 teaspoon of the pork mix in the center.

Step 2: Dip your finger in the flour water and run it around the rim of the wrapper. Make sure you are going over the very edge so you get a good seal. Fold the wrapper in half pushing all the air out from around the pork mince as you line up all the edges.

Step 3: Now the folding seal edge over edge in a Z shape starting in the middle.

Step 4: Then repeat working out from the middle one side to the edge and then the other. It should take no more then 2-3 crimps per side. Being sure to pinch the seal closed between your fingers.

Step 5: Place the dumpling fat side down on the plate. (If freezing, Line a flat sheet with wax paper, and place them in the freezer. When completely frozen transfer to a freezer bag. Keeps well up to 2-4 weeks.)

Repeat steps 1-5 until all the dumplings are made. After step 5 this is the point that if you want to you can freeze the dumplings.

Place a 10″ non stick skillet over medium heat. When it is hot place 1 tbsp olive oil and 2 drops sesame oil in pan.

Arrange 10-12 dumplings in the pan when it is browned to your personal preference.

Get the lid for the pan ready. Now add 1/2 cup of water and immediately place the lid. You will be able to hear when all the water has simmered out. Should be 5-8 minutes.

Test the seams for doneness. They should be A slight transparent oily color. If needed add two more tbsp of water. If it is ready remove from pan add 1 tsp of water and place on lid quickly and remove from heat. Shake pan to loosen dumplings.

Serve garnished with scallions and dipping sauce. Enjoy!

Kofta on Rosemary Skewers with Tzatziki and Cucumber Citrus Salad

I was watching an episode of Junior Masterchef Australia.   This show has 9-12 year olds making the most complicated dishes, and just the talent on these kids is inspiring.  They made kofta on rosemary skewers with a yogurt and spinach sauce, with rosemary flatbread.  I knew I had to try this!  So in the midst of my expanding adventures in cooking these might not have looked the best but they tasted amazing.   It’s very simple, and fun.  This could be a great dish to make for when kids are around.  There are some parts that are slightly more intensive but timed right your dish finishes up all at once, and is healthy and fun to eat.  I personally had a lot of fun making it, it’s a great dish.  Fairly quick with the help of a food processor and using you’re multi tasking skill to complete other parts of the meal while one is blending or cooking.

The changes I made are only to the side salad and the sauce.  I think you can respect the changes keeping everything in theme and blending well.  I hope you are willing to give this a shot.  It’s amazing how quickly it comes together and how much flavor is packed in to every bite. I hope you enjoy it.

Cucumber Citrus Salad

  • 2 Cucumbers, Washed, optional to peel completely or leave slivers (I leave a little bit of the skin on for color and nutrient value)
  • 1 tsp Lime Zest
  • 2 tbsp Lime Juice
  • 1 tsp Lemon Zest
  • 1 tbsp Lemon Juice
  • Pinch red pepper Flakes

Cut one cumber in half width wise and set aside for the Tzatziki Sauce.

Take the cucumber and slice it length wise.  Lay the flat side down on the board, cut length wise again.  Now dice.  Repeat this for all the remaining cucumbers with the exception of the one you set aside for the sauce.   Once the cucumber is all ready toss it into a bowl, add the lime and lemon zest, and lime and lemon juice.  Add a pinch of Kosher salt and the red pepper flakes, toss lightly with a fork to mix.  Cover and set in the fridge to marinate.

Tzatziki Sauce

  • 1/2 Cucumber, washed, peeled
  • 1 (7oz) container of Greek Style yogurt
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest

You will need a clean kitchen towel or a piece of cheese cloth works best.  Shred the 1/2 of the cucumber with a cheese grater.  Place in the cheese cloth and squeeze to drain out all the excess liquid from the cucumber.

In a bowl combine the yogurt, dill and zest, stirring until incorporated.  Add in the now drained shredded cucumber, stir to combine.  Cover and place in fridge until ready for use.

Rosemary Flatbread

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
  • Extra flour for dusting
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

For flatbread, combine olive oil and water in a jug. Process flour, salt and rosemary in a food processor. Slowly pour olive oil and water mixture into flour and until mixture forms a soft dough. Transfer dough to a floured work surface and knead until smooth. Place dough into a bowl covered with a dry cloth and set aside for 30 minutes.

To finish flatbread, divide dough into 12 and shape each piece into a ball. Roll out each piece on a floured work bench until very thin. Heat a small fry pan over a medium heat and dry fry bread for 3 minutes on each side until golden. Transfer to a roasting dish lined with foil, brush with melted butter and keep warm in the oven until needed.

Kofta (Meatball)

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds or 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds or 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped coriander
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 500g beef mince (roughly 1 lb)
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 6 rosemary sprigs, most of the leaves removed
  • Extra olive oil for brushing

For meatballs, heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Roast cumin seeds, stirring with a wooden spoon until fragrant. Transfer cumin to a mortar and pestle. Roast coriander seeds in the same frying pan until fragrant and place into the mortar and pestle. Pound until spices form a fine powder. Stir in paprika.

Process herbs, onion, beef, spice mix and zest into a food processor until mixture forms a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper.

Brush a baking tray and rosemary skewers with a little olive oil. Squeeze a portion of mince around each skewer, brush mince with a little olive oil and place on baking tray. Repeat until 6 skewers are made.  Heat a grill pan over a high heat, add skewers and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Rest for 5 minutes on a clean tray.

Adapted: Jr Masterchef Australia


Black Beans & Rice with Eggs

Just a little background on me.  When I first go to any restaurant I am really not adventurous when it comes to choosing off the menu.  Hence, my New Years Resolution, my husband orders off the menus for me this year.  As I tend to stick to meals I have had before or what my husband calls bland/boring.   So, when I seen this on the menu at a local Cuban restaurant I was intrigued.   Beans and Rice sure, I’m latin, it’s a staple food, but add in eggs?  It almost lost me.  Now?  This is my favorite breakfast ever.  Which is funny because when I first had it was the only thing on the menu that sounded like would be a good first step, a typical ‘me’ choice.  When I finally got to dig into it, it was anything but bland and boring the spicy beans over the rice with the soft creamy eggs was happiness on a plate.   Add in a cup of steaming hot Cuban coffee and it was perfection.

I wanted to make this at home one winter because with 3 feet of snow outside, and more coming down as I peeked out the blinds, going to this restaurant was not high on my to do list.  So, a few tweaks and modifications it finally came to be.  I cheated with using canned Organic Whole Black Beans for this recipe and now it only takes around 20 min to prepare.  The list of ingredients are pretty minimal and typical to what most have in their pantry.  It makes a great go to breakfast for a busy summer day.  Tons of flavor, protein, and carbs to get you through a day of shopping, or a day trip to the locals farmers market.

Black Beans & Rice w/Eggs

  • 1 C Jasmine Rice
  • 1 1/2 C Water
  • 1 strip of Bacon, diced
  • 1/8 of a Red Bell Pepper, diced
  • 1  can (15 oz) Whole Black Beans, undrained
  • Small Pinch of Cumin
  • Very Small Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 2 eggs, per serving
  • 1 tsp olive oil

Over medium high heat, place a small sauce pan with the rice and water.  Once it comes to a boil turn down to low, put on lid, and cook for 20 min.

While the rice is cooking.  Head up a 10″ skillet to medium, once hot add the bacon to pan and cook until crispy.   Remove all of the bacon grease.

Add the diced bell pepper to the bacon and cook until the peppers turn a vibrant red, slowly add in the can of beans, with liquid and all.  Add in a pinch of cumin and salt to taste, and simmer until liquid is reduced by half.  About 10-15 min.

By now your beans should be almost done, and your rice should have all the liquid cooked out.  Take the rice off heat and fluff with a fork.

Place a small pan over medium heat, pan should have a lid.   Once the pan is hot add the olive oil, after about 30 seconds oil should be hot.  Add in eggs and place the lid on the pan.  Cook for 3 minutes if you like your yolks easy, 4 min for medium, and 5 min for hard yolks.  By placing the lid on the pan you’re cooking the top slowly as you cook the bottom, I found this makes for a softer egg yolk and creamer texture.

To serve spoon the beans over the rice and serve eggs on the side.  This goes great with a fruit salad on the side.  Toast is optional.

Makes 4 Servings

Popcorn

Ok, who doesn’t just love popcorn?  Then again, who has time to make homemade popcorn over the quick but questionable microwave version?  Well, if you have those small brown paper lunch bags, a bag of popcorn and a microwave and two minutes to spare, then you have time to make healthy microwave popcorn in any flavor you want with out all the questionable ingredients that the store bought kind contains.

We found this method almost a year ago on LIfehacker it’s ingenious!  Being quite the fan of popcorn having my own fresh and ready in two minutes and knowing exactly what is going into it, is like a mastercard comercial, it’s priceless.

The bag of popcorn costs around $3, the lunch bags around $2 for 100.  Now figure out how much you spend on microwave popcorn with questionable and unpronounceable contents, a lot more then you thought isn’t it?  Now, for around the price of one box you get around 10x’s the quantity with this method.

Like I said this is simple and easy, and yummy.  1/4 cup of kernels makes a perfect amount for a personal serving plus a little extra, but do not exceed 1/2 cup kernels in one bag.  Also, it may take a trail and error test but for my microwave 2 minutes and 10 seconds is perfect.  It still has a few kernels unpopped but avoids burning, which can happen easily.    You can try many combinations of your favorite flavors.   I like the basic clean Olive Oil and Salt.  I will include a few topping ideas i’ve tried and like.  Enjoy!

Paper Lunchbag Popcorn

Olive Oil & Salt

  • 1/4 c Kernels
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil
  • Generous pinch of Salt

Butter & Salt

  • 1/4 c Kernels
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • Generous pinch of Salt

Parmesan & Garlic

  • 1/4 c Kernels
  • 1 tsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Dried Grated Parmesan (like Kraft)
  • 1 tsp Garlic Powder

Cheddar Cheese & Butter

  • 1/4 c Kernels
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1 tsp Chedder Cheese Powder
  • if unsalted powder add a pinch of salt, if contains salt omit
  • Sprinkle with Cheddar Powder after in bowl for more cheese flavor, optional

Pour contents into paper bag.  Fold top over around 1.5″ (one and one half inch) and fold in half again to make a seal.

Place bag upright in microwave for 2 min, I HIGHLY recommend not going longer your first time making it, eventually can add 5 seconds each time to get the most out of your kernels.

Removing bag from microwave will be EXTREMELY HOT, Turn bag upside down into bowl and let cool for 30 seconds.  Shake the bag upside down to remove the yummy contents.

French Styled Omelette Filling

What is better on a weekend morning then a nice dark cup of coffee and an omelette with a side of toast and fruit? To me it is a relaxing breakfast to set the weekend off to a slow and peaceful start.  This weekend was a nice long and peaceful one, so much so I neglected making posts for almost a week, sorry.

Omelets have always been a favorite of mine and I like to try different fillings.  My requirements are simple, very quick, and packed full of flavor.

The technique on the eggs is adapted from Alton Brown, where you do not flip the egg but just push it around and then optional fill while still soft and turned out of the pan. I love it to have that soft egg creamy center to the outside slight textured crunch.  Which is not typical of French Omelets but is a favorite of ours.

Filling

  • 3 slices of bacon diced
  • 1/2 Leek, diced and washed
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 1 1/2 tsp Herbs de Provonce
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp minced parsley
  • 1/4 c Gruyere, shredded
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Eggs

  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tbsp cream (optional)
  • 1 tsp water
  • Pinch of salt

Makes one omelette to serve two.

In small pan crisp the bacon pieces. Remove 1/2 of the bacon grease.

Sauté the leeks, shallots, herbs, and zest with bacon until vegetables are transparent.

Add the vinegar and slowly cook all moisture out of mix. About 2-4 min.

At this point turn on the pan for your eggs. Heat pan before adding 1 tsp olive oil and 1 tsp clarified butter(if you don’t have clarified butter just omit)

Remove the filling from the heat. Stir in the parsley and add salt and pepper to taste.

Whisk your eggs, cream, and water in a bowl. Once well combined pour into heated pan. Cook to your own preference.

Once the eggs are cooked to your preference spoon in your filling and sprinkle with the cheese. Turn onto plate and serve.