The Kitchen Prep: October 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Made in Vietnam

There is something living in one of the legs of our dining room table. 
We have never seen it, but we hear it daily. It sounds like it is steadily gnawing its way from the inside out.  And it scares me.
I am convinced that this creature is some sort of Vietnamese monster insect {the table has a sticker underneath that says  “Made in Vietnam”}, and that it is going to eventually make its way out of the table and into our living room where it will breed millions of babies and invade the United States, upon which we will be deported for starting a nation-wide infestation.  Either that or it will decide to crawl up my leg while I am sitting at the table and I will die of sheer terror.  Neither scenario sounds like a good one to me.
I had to restrain myself from taking audio footage of this noise and posting it to see if any of you can help me figure out what it is that has made it a mission to devour our table and annoy the hell out of me. I'll spare you since it isn’t all that interesting to listen to {and for fear that you’d report me for insanity harboring an alien}.
I decided that making Vietnamese food for dinner might pacify whatever it is that has decided to take up residence in our table leg. Perhaps the aromas of its native land will lull it into a state of restful slumber. On the other hand, I hope it doesn’t perceive the dish as an offering and invitation to join us.
Either way, this strange incident inspired me to make a mighty tasty meal.

This Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad is flavorful, easy, and pretty healthy, too. In our house, that constitutes a winner. The combination of the fresh herbs {Mint?! Who would've guessed?}, fish sauce, and garlic is unusual but delicious. The original recipe calls for one whole jalapeno {which intimidated me a little because I'd rather keep all of my tastebuds in tact}, but after making it with only half I decided that next time I'll definitely add the rest for a spicy kick. I also added in some shrimp for extra substance and protein. I served it warm but it can be eaten cold as well.

Hope you'll enjoy a little taste of the exotic... without experiencing a run in with any native creatures. ;)

Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad
Recipe from Food Network
  • 1/2 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed {I only used 1/2}
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice {about 2 limes}
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 pound dried rice vermicelli {I used these noodles}
  • 2 carrots, julienned
  • 1 cucumber, halved, peeled, seeded and sliced into thin halfrounds
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded napa cabbage
  • 1/4 cup chopped dry roasted nuts
  • olive oil
Heat olive oil in pan over medium high heat. When oil is slightly rippling, add shrimp to pan. Cook for 5-8 minutes or until shrimp is opaque and cooked through, careful not to overcook. Set aside.

Place the garlic, cilantro, jalapeno, honey, lime juice, fish sauce and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until almost smooth.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the noodles and cook for 2 minutes. Drain, rinse well with cold water and drain again. {Skip the rinsing step if you want warm noodles.}

In a large bowl, combine the sauce, noodles, carrots, cucumber, mint and napa cabbage. Add cooked shrimp. Toss well and garnish with peanuts.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

{Pumpkin Spice} Krispie Treats!

Hello all! I have a quick non-recipe recipe to share with you today that is PERFECT for the Fall season.

You know that line from Twas the Night Before Christmas... "while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads"? Well, once Fall begins, I tend to have "visions of pumpkin spice" dancing in my head. And this Fall is no exception.

A few weeks ago I thought to myself, "What's one treat that I've yet to see 'spiced up' for Fall?" And let me tell you, it wasn't easy to think of something. Those marketing gurus know how the masses love their pumpkin spice, and they cash in on it -- big time. Pumpkin Spiced lattes, ice cream, coffee creamer, cookies, cakes, granola bars, syrups, teas, HERSHEY'S KISSES!, malted milk balls, you name it. There are even oodles of inedible Pumpkin Spiced delights like facial scrubs, candles, hand soaps, and lip gloss. The world has lost it's pumpkin-lovin' mind.

As I sat around thinking about Fall treats begging for some spice, it hit me. Treats. As in, Rice Krispie Treats! Brilliant!

As you might have guessed already, I'm a fan of Rice Krispie Treats.  I haven't come across too many people who aren't. {Except for the husband of one of my favorite bloggers... I was in complete & utter shock when I read this!!} So I knew this was it. I whipped up a quick batch of these babies and brought them along with us for our tailgate when we went up to Gainesville for the Florida - Alabama game. {Which we lost. Boo.}

They were a complete success! {One of my friends said they tasted "like Cinnamon Toast Crunch... but better!"}

For a little extra pizzazz, I dipped part of my Pumpkin Spice Krispie Treats in white candy coating, but I promise you won't miss a thing if you just enjoy yours the good old fashioned way.

After I was done patting myself on the back for coming up with such a creative Pumpkin Spiced treat, you'll never guess what I saw:
Now, you can even skip an ingredient in making your own Pumpkin Spice Krispie Treats because the spice comes right in the marshmallows. {Although I can't tell you if they're good or not because I haven't tried them.}Oh well. Great pumpkiny minds think alike, I guess.

No matter how you decide to make your Pumpkin Spice Krispie Treats, do yourself a favor and make some. In fact, make a bunch! Because these spiced up sweets tend to disappear!

Pumpkin Spice Krispie Treats
A Kitchen Prep original... sort of. :)

  • 3 tablespoons butter

  • 1 package (10 oz., about 40) regular marshmallows {or Pumpkin Spice flavored}

  • - OR -
    4 cups miniature marshmallows

  • 6 cups Rice Krispies®

  • 1 teaspoon Pumpkin Spice

  • 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Add spices, and stir until incorporated. Remove from heat.

    2. Add cereal. Stir until well coated.

    3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

    {Optional: Dip treats in chocolate or candy coating and allow to set until hardened.}

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Sweet Potato Week{s} Wrap-up: Cookies Sent From Above

    When I was a little girl, one of my mom's friends made me a sweet rag doll to look like a brown haired angel. I named her Jean. She was designed just for me because, from what I am told, I had a problem with the fact that most of the pictures & figurines of angels I had ever come across were blonde. {I guess blondes do have more fun, even in Heaven. Go figure.} :P

    Anyway, I still have the doll to this day. {She mainly hangs out in the back of my closet, but hey, she could be worse off.} Here's a picture of her:

    A few months ago I found a fabulous looking recipe for Sweet Potato Latkes posted by the ever-so-talented Jenna over at Eat, Live, Run. {She happens to be blonde & adorable, but I won't hold it against her like I did with the blonde-haired angels.} They looked so delicious, in fact, that I decided I could not wait another second to try them out and coerced my husband into letting me make them for dinner that very night. {He ate all but 2, which I managed to steal away before he devoured the entire stack.}

    Jenna's recipe called for two sweet potatoes, shredded, which I happened to have ready in no time flat with my handy-dandy food processor shredding blade -- one of the Best. Inventions. Ever. But I digress... {What else is new?} It turns out that two sweet potatoes make an awful lot of sweet potato shreds. As in, enough to feed a pretty large crowd of latke-lovin' friends. And there are only two of us. What's a girl to do?

    In this case, the girl consulted Food Network to see what else she could make with shredded sweet potato. And that's where I came across Brown Angel Iced Sweet Potato Cookies. Immediately, I thought of Jean, the brown haired angel. I'm pretty sure it was Divine Intervention.

    I think they would have caught my eye anyway since the idea of "sweet potato" & "cookies" combined in one place are as good a reason as any to take a second look at something.

    As unusual as these cookies may sound, they are worth breaking your cookie ingredient rules and making them. This recipe yields cakey little bites of sweet potato heaven. {What else do you expect from "angel" cookies. Hardy, har har...} Added bonus: They make your house smell like Fall. {Take THAT overpriced Bath & Body Works Candles!}

    Seriously... Can't you smell these?? Ahh...
    I know we officially entered Fall a few weeks ago, but remember that Florida likes to take it's sweet time adjusting to the change of season. However, when college football once again becomes a part of our Saturday agenda, it's officially Fall in my world no matter what the thermostat tells me. The scent of these cookies just helps to make it feel all the more real.

    Well... this wraps up Sweet Potato Week(s) {even though I had grand plans to share one more main course dish with you & never got around to it}. If ever you had any doubt that sweet potatoes are a versatile ingredient you should keep around your kitchen, here's your proof!  Hope sweet potatoes will make an appearance in a few of your own recipes this Fall. ;)

    Brown Angel Glazed Sweet Potato Cookies
    Adapted from Food Network
    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour {I used about 1/3 - 1/2 cup extra due to very wet looking dough}
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1 stick butter, room temperature
    • 3/4 cup sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 1 1/2 cups peeled and finely grated sweet potato
    • 2 teaspoons grated orange zest {or 1/2 tsp orange extract if you find, last minute, you have no oranges! Not that that happened to me or anything....}
    • 1/2 cup chopped pecans, optional
    Cinnamon Glaze

    1 cup powdered sugar
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2-3 tbsp water or milk, depending on how thick you want glaze

    For the Cookies

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

    In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.

    Whisk together, with an electric mixer, the butter and sugar. Add the egg, brown sugar, vanilla extract, sweet potato and orange zest.

    Carefully fold dry ingredients into butter-sugar mixture with a rubber spatula. Stir in the pecans, if using.

    Drop spoonfuls of dough onto parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

    Once cooled, drizzle Cinnamon Glaze on each cookie.

    For Cinnamon Glaze:

    Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Stir together, slowly adding water or milk one tablespoon at a time,  until the desired consistency is reached. {I like it a little less runny so you can see it on top of the cookie.}

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    Sweet Potato Week{s}: More Than A Biscuit

    Yeah, yeah. I know I said I'd be posting sweet potato recipes "throughout the week". But I lied. But what I really meant was throughout the week(S). Plural. Because that's what time is allowing right now, and I've decided to stop fighting the whole "Let's try to squeeze more than 24 hours in a day" thing.

    Anyway, let's get to the good stuff.

    So, I've shared a unique sweet potato drink recipe, a fantastic sweet potato starter, and now I'm moving on to give you a little taste of fabulousness: Sweet Potato Biscuits. Oh, yeah.

    Remember back in May when we drove up to Gainesville to move my little sister out of her dorm for the summer and discovered The Flying Biscuit Cafe? {You know, the place that has the best grits EVER, featured in this post?} Well, these biscuits are their recipe. So you know they've got to be good. What am I talking about... they've got to be UH-mazing.

    My mom gave me a copy of The Flying Biscuit Cafe cookbook for my birthday, and as soon as I saw the title of this recipe, I knew it was something I had to try. Immediately.

    These biscuits are exactly what you'd think yet not at all what you'd expect. The addition of orange zest gives them a little citrusy edge, and the sweet potato, though not highly detectable, makes them just different enough to give traditional biscuits a rest and give these a try.

    I made a batch last week and brought them along to our tailgate last weekend. They made a fantastic base for breakfast sandwiches, but are certainly yummy enough to nibble on them all by themselves.

    If you love someone, you will make them these biscuits. That is all. :)

    Sweet Potato Biscuits
    Slightly adapted from The Flying Biscuit Cafe Cookbook

    3 cups all purpose flour
    1 tbsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp double-acting baking soda
    3/4 tsp salt
    3 tbsp brown sugar
    Generous pinch ground ginger
    1 tbsp freshly grated orange zest
    6 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled & cut into small pieces
    1 cup mashed cooked sweet potato
    2/3 cup buttermilk
    3-4 tbsp melted butter

    Preheat oven to 370 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

    In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, brown sugar, ginger, and orange zest.  Using your hands or a pastry cutter, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the pieces of butter are the size of small peas. Add sweet potato mash and fully incorporate.

    Add buttermilk and mix just until dough comes together. {If you are using your hands, it will still stick to your fingers at this point.} Once you add the buttermilk, it is critical that you do not over mix.

    Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead 4-6 times. Using lightly floured hands, pat out the dough to a thickness of 1 inch.  Dip a 2 1/2 inch diameter biscuit cutter in flour, then cut the dough.  Repeat until all the dough has been cut.  Do not twist the cutter - apply pressure straight down then pull back evenly.  Scraps can be gathered together and re-rolled one time.  Using a fork, prick the tops of each biscuit 3 times.

    Place the biscuits on the prepared sheet pan, leaving about 1/4 inch between them.  Brush the tops of each biscuit with melted butter.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Biscuits will be golden brown on top and flaky the center when done.