Wednesday, March 30, 2011

If You Like Piña Coladas…And Sustainable Fish

I learned a lot about sustainable dish when making this dish. Not only did I become more aware of overfishing and the importance of opting for sustainable seafood, but now I can spread that knowledge to you. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, “Nearly 75% of the world's fisheries are fished to capacity, or overfished. Our seafood choices have the power to make this situation worse, or improve it.”

Various fishing methods worldwide put our oceans in peril by endangering fish populations, destroying their habitats, and polluting the water. By choosing to purchase sustainable seafood you no longer contribute to these harmful practices, helping to conserve diverse, healthy and long-lasting ocean ecosystems.

Of course, our personal efforts are only a small advance in a much larger movement. The restaurant and retail stores that sell seafood must be tuned in as well; many have begun, with major companies like Walmart, Whole Foods, and Costco vowing to sell only sustainable.

While I was familiar with the premise of sustainability, I found that when trying to think up a dish, I wasn’t exactly sure of what fish were most sustainable and where I would be most likely to find them. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website is a very helpful resource.

As part of their Seafood Watch program, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has developed a list of recommendations for the most sustainably conscious fish to buy in different regions of the United States. They’ve done careful research based on each fish species and the factors that affect them individually, rating as “best choice,” “good alternative,” and “avoid.”

Other than on their website, recommendations are also available in pocket guides and mobile apps.

Baked Cornflake-Crusted Tilapia with Piña Colada Sauce, & Pickled Mango and Pineapple Relish

I ended up picking U.S. farmed tilapia, which is one of the most widely available sustainable fish. The piña colada inspiration came from warm, tropical thoughts, and my fidgety anticipation of spring to finally get a move on.

I’ve wanted to cornflake-crust something for the longest, so here she is. The cornflakes don’t take away from the fish at all, especially since it is baked; they just add a nice crunchy consistency. I did not crush my flakes too much, but that was just my preference. For the accompaniments, tangy pineapple and mango relish offsets the sweetness from the sauce, and the simple coconut rice is great for sopping up all that is leftover.

Baked Cornflake-Crusted Tilapia with Piña Colada Sauce, &
Pickled Mango and Pineapple Relish:
Yield: 4 Servings
For Tilapia:
- 4 tilapia fillets
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 egg
- 1 box cornflake cereal (use as much as needed; crush to desired consistency)
- ½ cup flour
- Salt and pepper
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
• Prepare breading procedure: lay out 3 separate vessels with flour seasoned with salt and pepper in one, egg whisked together with coconut milk in another, and cornflakes in another.
• For each tilapia fillet, bread with flour first, then coconut milk mixture, and then cornflakes. Lay on a sheet tray and bake in 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until the fish is white and flaky.
Piña Colada Sauce:
- ½ pineapple, cubed
- 6 oz pineapple juice
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons minced shallots
- 2 tablespoon coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon rum
- Slurry: (1:1 ratio) 1 tablespoon cornstarch + 1 tablespoon water whisked together
• In a food processor or blender, puree pineapple with pineapple juice; reserve.
• In a small sauce pot, heat butter and add shallots; cook until translucent. Add puree to cooked shallots, and then mix in coconut milk and rum. Bring to a boil.
• Strain the pineapple sauce through a sieve back into a small pot. Bring back to a boil and reduce to a simmer. To thicken, slowly whisk in slurry.
Pickled Manago and Pineapple Relish:
- ½ pineapple, small dice
- 2 mango, small dice - ¼ cup red onion, small dice
- 2 jalapeno, small dice
- Juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
- 1 cup orange juice
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 8 tablespoons rice vinegar
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
• In a small sauce pot, bring orange juice, sugar, and rice vinegar up to a boil.
• In the meantime, mix together all ingredients up to grated ginger in a medium bowl. Once the orange juice mixture has come to a boil, pour over. Add cilantro, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours, or up to overnight.
To serve:
• Spoon sauce onto plate and place tilapia fillet over the top. Serve with the pickled pineapple and mango salsa on the side and coconut rice (recipe follows).
Coconut Rice:
Yield: 4 servings
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup rice
- 1 cup coconut milk
- 1 cup chicken broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
• In a small/medium pot, heat butter until melted. Add rice and stir until well-coated with butter. Add the coconut milk, broth, and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for about 20 minutes until done.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Princess Leia Cupcakes

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

It is a period of celebration. On the 21st of March in the year 2011, Adam has won his 24th victory against the forces of life to survive another year on Earth.

During this day, his girlfriend, Marisa, secretly managed to execute the perfect dessert for the ultimate Star Wars fan, the PRINCESS LEIA CUPCAKE, a confection with enough delicious frosting and Oreo hair to destroy an entire appetite.

Pursued by the cupcakes sinister good looks, Adam races to the table aboard the starship in his head to devour the edible clones and become custodian of the birthday cake that can save his sweet tooth and restore freedom to his nerdiness…

My boyfriend is a BIG nerd.

I say this in the most affectionate way. In fact, he takes it as a compliment. Lucky for him, he is a cute nerd, so I deal with it, and obviously support it too.

He loves everything Star Wars, and ever since I came across these adorable Princess Leia cupcakes on back in October, I’ve wanted to make them for him.

With these being Princess Leia cupcakes, of course the hair is the most important detail. Star Wars nerd or not, the two braided buns are immediately recognized as a ‘do that is distinctly hers. Two Oreo cookies adhered to each side of the cupcake with frosting complete the look.

Justjennrecipes, recommends using cream cheese and black frosting for the face and hair; I made vanilla and chocolate buttercream frostings instead, but after the fact I think the cream cheese would have been much easier to spread/pipe. And as you can see, pink or red heart sprinkles work perfectly for the lips.

To make these for the Star Wars fan in your life, get the step-by-step design instructions, here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

St. Patrick’s Day Chicken Pot Pie

In preparation for the one day when everyone gets to becomes Irish, I cooked a meal true to my inner brogue-talking, green-wearing, Irish self.

I’m really not Irish at all. I don’t know what a shillelagh is and the “o” in my name comes at the end, not the beginning. What I do know, is that Ireland is a beautiful country with a fun, spirited holiday called St. Patrick’s Day that typically gives people in America an excuse to drink lots of beer and get wasted.

From a culinary standpoint, I can appreciate the hearty, homey and cozy foods that come from Ireland and the northern European area. To me, nothing fits the above description quite as well as pot pie. Creamy, flavorful chicken pot pie, bubbling beneath perfectly browned pastry, hugs you from the inside out. It won’t be too much longer before it will be too warm to enjoy foods like this, so there is no better time to really appreciate it.

Maybe there was four leaf clover stuck under my shoe or a leprechaun in my pocket; perhaps there was even a rainbow leading to my stove top, because my pot pies might as well have been pots of pure gold. They were…magically delicious! Was that enough clichés for you?

Man, I like being Irish. This is so easy to make, and you probably have most of the ingredients right in your refrigerator. So go get to making some pot pie, grab a green beer, summon your inner Irish self, and have a Happy St. Patty’s Day!

P.S. If you haven't  yet, please visit Kelly Ripa's Tea Party for a Cause at Kelly Confidential by Electrolux. Simply pick a tea party dress and Electrolux will donate $1 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. While your there, I would love for you to check out some of my featured tea party recipes under, "Host Your Own Tea Party."  :-)

Chicken Pot Pie
Yield: 8-10 servings

- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 pounds boneless chicken (breasts/thighs), cut into small cubes
- 2 tablespoons whole, unsalted butter
- ½ cup onion, small dice
- ½ cup celery, small dice
- ½ cup carrots, small dice
- 1 leek, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces flour (weighed)
- 4 ounces whole, unsalted butter (weighed)
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 box/3 quarts chicken stock, warm
- ½ fresh or frozen peas
- 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tubes, premade dough sheets ( I used Pillsbury Crescent Seamless Dough Sheets)
- 1 egg, whisked to egg wash the dough
• Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
• In a large, deep pot, heat olive oil and add chicken until it is almost fully cooked. Remove the chicken and reserve.
• Heat 2 tablespoons of butter. Add onion, celery, carrot, and leeks and sweat. Add flour and 4 ounces of butter; mix continuously to create a roux. Once the mixture looks like wet sand, stir in white wine and then all of the chicken stock. Return chicken to the pot.
• Bring to a boil, stirring frequently throughout as not to let the flour burn at the bottom. Reduce to a simmer and cook until nicely thickened, about 30 minutes. Continue to stir occasionally. In the last few minutes, add peas, sage, and salt and pepper to taste.
• While waiting for the soup mixture to cook, roll out the dough and cut into circles large enough to cover the crock or bowl you will be serving the pot pie in.
• When ready, ladle into crocks or bowls and cover with dough; pinch the sides of the dough to secure. Line up on sheet tray. Brush egg wash over dough for a shiny presentation. Cook in a 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes until the dough is puffed and browned.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tea Party for a Cause: Cook’s Book Tea Party Recipes Featured on Electrolux Ovarian Cancer Research Website!

As you might remember, back in September I took part in the Foodbuzz 24 x 24, a monthly event where 24 bloggers are chosen to host a unique meal within the same 24 hours and post them all on the same day.

September’s event was unique in that it was in support of Ovarian Cancer Research; for every meal hosted, Electrolux donated $250 to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. I was so happy to be able to contribute to such a great cause, and knew exactly what I wanted to do. In the spirit of getting women together, I chose to host a tea party.

Today, Electrolux launched a new website in support of Ovarian Cancer Research and guess what the theme is? Tea Party! And guess whose tea party recipes they recently asked to feature? Yes, Mine!

The site is called Kelly Confidential (Kelly as in Kelly Ripa), where you can join Kelly’s virtual “chari-tea” party for a cause. When you do, $1 will go towards the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund and you are entered for a chance to win an Electrolux washer and dryer.

There are a bunch of fun “tea party” themed links to click around on the site, including ideas for how to host your own. Under “host your own tea party” you’ll see my picture next to “tea party recipes.”

It’s like, there’s Kelly Ripa and Buddy Valastro of Cake Boss, and then there’s me! I’m very excited about it and I love that it is all for a great cause!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mardi Gras King Cake

With a rich food culture immersed in pride and tradition, New Orleans is one of my top-desired culinary destinations.

From bananas foster to the Bloody Mary, it is the birthplace of many favorites that I would love to experience straight from the source. I can just see myself taking large gaping bites of po’ boy and mufaletta sandwiches, devouring Cajun and Creole classics like crawfish étouffée and jambalaya, and having deep-fried love affairs with hush puppies and biegnets.

Mardi Gras is coming up this Tuesday and to celebrate I made another New Orleans food that I’ve always wanted to try: King Cake. The customary Mardi Gras King Cake is a round, braided cinnamon brioche bread that is covered in glaze and drenched in decorative green, purple and gold sugar sprinkles. The colors are said to represent faith (green), justice (purple), and power (gold).

I am so proud of how this cake came out. It looks so authentic and festive; I could harldy take my eyes off of it! P.S. Those alligator beads are really from New Orleans. My cousin Eloise brought them back from when she visited.
I found John Besh’s recipe for King Cake on Besh is the acclaimed chef of six New Orleans’s restaurants, most notably, August, so I trusted him for a great recipe and definitely got one. For the icing, I just have to note that I ended up using a lot more lemon juice than the recipe called for to make it pourable (about 3 lemons).

King Cakes were originally made to celebrate the coming of the Epiphany. In Louisiana, they are usually only baked and eaten during the Mardi Gras/Carnivale season, which stretches from Twelfth Night (January 6) to the day before Ash Wednesday, aka Fat Tuesday.

It is tradition to insert a small plastic baby into the large coffee cake-type loaf to represent the baby Jesus. Pecan halves, fava beans, peas, coins, and other trinkets are also used as substitutions. I didn’t have a plastic baby, so I made one out of Sculpey clay. Isn’t he the cutest?

Looking for the baby is all part of the fun; among the many different explanations, whoever gets the piece with the baby is said to be king/queen for a day, have good luck in the coming year, and is appointed to host the King Cake celebration next year.

We cut into the King Cake tonight, and so far no one has found the baby. I wonder who it will be…

King Cake:
Recipe from My New Orleans: The Cookbook, by John Besh, found at
For the cake:
- 1 cup lukewarm milk, about 110°F
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons dry yeast
- 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup melted butter
- 5 egg yolks, beaten
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh lemon zest
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon
- Several gratings of fresh nutmeg
For the icing:
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (plus more as needed)
- Purple, green, and gold decorative sugars
- 1 fève (fava bean) or plastic baby to hide in the cake after baking
• For the cake, pour the warm milk into a large bowl. Whisk in the granulated sugar, yeast, and a heaping tablespoon of the flour, mixing until both the sugar and the yeast have dissolved.
• Once bubbles have developed on the surface of the milk and it begins to foam, whisk in the butter, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the remaining flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg and fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a large rubber spatula.
• After the dough comes together, pulling away from the sides of the bowl, shape it into a large ball. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes.
• Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside in a draft-free place to let it proof, or rise, for 1 1/2 hours or until the dough has doubled in volume.
• Preheat the oven to 375°F. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough between your palms into a long strip, making 3 ropes of equal length. Braid the 3 ropes around one another and then form the braided loaf into a circle, pinching ends together to seal. Gently lay the braided dough on a nonstick cookie sheet and let it rise until it doubles in size, about 30 minutes.
• Once it's doubled in size, place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake until the braid is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the oven, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool for 30 minutes.
• For the icing, while the cake is cooling, whisk together the powdered sugar, condensed milk, and lemon juice in a bowl until the icing is smooth and very spreadable. If the icing is too thick, add a bit more condensed milk; if it’s a touch too loose, add a little more powdered sugar.
• Once the cake has cooled, spread the icing over the top of the cake and sprinkle with purple, green, and gold decorative sugars while the icing is still wet. Tuck the fève or plastic baby into the underside of the cake and, using a spatula, slide the cake onto a platter.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Beer and Lime "Touchdown" Chili

Beer and lime chili is one of the first recipes that I ever created on my own; it remains one of my favorites, and a popular request. A little tangy and a little bit spicy, this chili is the epitome of the flavorful, hearty comfort food that we all crave in the winter.

A few years ago, I started making this chili for the Super Bowl. The top-watched televised sporting event of the year and biggest American food holiday second only to Thanksgiving was never an event here. You can keep the football, and you can even take the commericals, but I will not be skimped on the snacks.

Now, “Super Bowl” at my house stands for a super bowl of chili. None of us watch, care about, or really have a clue when it comes to football, yet we’ve been tuning in the past few years to see what happens anyway. I’m starting to learn a little bit about the game, but haven’t really learned to like it yet. I’d much rather be watching the Yankees play.

I know enough that a touchdown is a good thing, which is why this year I deemed our now-standard pot of Super Bowl chili as “Touchdown Chili.”

The picture doesn’t really do it justice. Despite my efforts to pretty it up a little bit, ground meat is just not all that photogenic. If only I could give you all a taste! My boyfriend describes it as, “the best chili ever in his life,” and until you try it out for yourself, I guess you’re just going to have to take his word for it. :-)

P.S. Please vote for Cook's Book on Just look for my Web address on the list--it's all the way down there somewhere! I appreciate it!

Beer and Lime Chili:
Yield: 6-8 servings

- 1 large white onion, small dice
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 medium hot peppers (I usually use the long green cayenne peppers but you can use any kind), small dice
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced on bias
- 1-1 ½ pound ground beef
- 1, 6 oz can tomato paste
- 4 limes, juiced (about ½ cup)
- 1 bottle/12 oz beer, such as Budweiser
- 1, 15. 5 oz can kidney beans
- 1, 19 oz can black beans
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- Chili powder, curry powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste
- Put in bowls for garnishing: 2 scallions slices on bias, grated cheddar, sour cream
• In a large, deep pot, sweat onions over medium heat. Add peppers and cook until soft, then add scallions and cook until lightly wilted. Lastly, add garlic and cook until fragrant.
• Turn up the heat a little, add ground meat and brown. Once the meat is browned, stir in tomato paste and lime juice. Add beer and beans, and cook down until thick and saucy, about 15 minutes. Add sugar and seasonings to taste.
• To serve, garnish with scallions, grated cheddar, and sour cream, or put bowls out for everyone to do themselves. Enjoy the chili on its own, in a baked potato, or with tortilla chips and/or corn bread.