Saturday, April 9, 2011

Noodles for Noodles

This is Noodles.

She was our loving family dog of nearly 16 years. And trust me when I say that her name fit her personality perfectly. As a puppy, she would scamper around sticking her nose and head in every crack and crevice that she could find...and then whip around and  bound through the house and over anything in her way with a dirty sock or toy in her mouth.

Then she discovered human food. (Thanks to a Thanksgiving visit by Grandma.)

Bread was her favorite, preferably a loaf still in the plastic bag. Then there was raw meat - right out of the sink as it thawed. Oh, and let's not forget the potatoes, also raw from the bag.

In honor of Noodles, I made my own noodles. Pad Thai that is.

Now, my friends know that I'm a good Midwestern meat and potatoes kind of girl (Noodles was a puppy after my own heart). I'm not all that adventurous with ethnic dishes in the kitchen. But, I love me some good Pad Thai for takeout, so when I saw a healthier version in Cooking Light, I thought, "what the heck?"

It was delicious! And I made it at home! The aroma was just like it had arrived at my door step steaming hot in those little takeout boxes with weird sauces in squeeze packets (what's in those things anyway?!). 

So, Noodles, these noodles are for you baby girl.

I'm sure you're up in heaven enjoyng all the meat, bread and potatoes you can get. I love you sweet puppy.

Shrimp Pad Thai (from Cooking Light, March 2011)


8 ounces uncooked flat rice noodles (pad Thai noodles)
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon Sriracha or chili garlic sauce
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup (2-inch) green onion pieces
8 ounces peeled and deveined large shrimp
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil


1. Cook noodles according to package directions; drain.
2. While water comes to a boil, combine sugar and next 4 ingredients (through Sriracha) in a small bowl.
3. Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion pieces, shrimp, and garlic; stir-fry 2 minutes or until shrimp is almost done. Add cooked noodles; toss to combine. Stir in sauce; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly to combine. Arrange about 1 cup noodle mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1/4 cup bean sprouts, 1 tablespoon peanuts, and 2 teaspoons basil.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Own Little Piece of Earth

No, no, I have not succumbed to purchasing a little piece of Americana, the land that is luring me with its soft whispers to dig in the rich, cocoa-colored soil and nurture fragrant herbs and deep-hued flowers. No. This little piece of Earth comes in a 9-inch springform pan and literally melts onto your lips the moment they touch the fork.

Cracked. Chocolate. Earth. (aka flourless chocolate cake courtesy of hottie tottie celebrity chef Tyler Florence)

A few weeks ago, I hosted two of my sweet neighbors for dinner to celebrate their recent engagement (congrats Kinsey and Joe!) and was thumbing through my growing library of cookbooks (my equivalent of the Harlequin romance novel) to find dessert only to come across this recipe. Bingo.

How can you go wrong with a recipe for chocolatey gooey goodness that has only five ingredients?

The batter (which is easy enough for a toddler to make) glides into the cake pan like a silk cloud of chocolate mousse.

As it's enveloped by warmth in the oven, the batter deepens shade by shade until it becomes a dark, rich espresso color and calls your name..."Kristina, Kristina, Kristina..."

Finally, the moment arrives. That blessed moment when the agony of inhaling the intoxicating wafts of warm chocolate comes to an end, and I no longer had to gaze longingly from the other side of the oven window pane. The timer went off!

As the cake cools, the center sinks, the slightly crispy crust cracking to reveal the gooey, warm molten center of the Earth (science class was never this interesting). 

With a snowy light dusting of confectioners' sugar and some juicy, crimson strawberries as a garnish, this dessert will make your knees quake and your lips quiver.

Come to mama.

Cracked Chocolate Earth (courtesy of Chef Tyler Florence)


1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces

1 stick unsalted butter
9 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan.

Put the chocolate and butter into the top of a double boiler (or in a heatproof bowl) and heat over (but not touching) about 1-inch of simmering water until melted. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks with the sugar in a mixing bowl until light yellow in color. Whisk a little of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs - this will keep the eggs from scrambling from the heat of the chocolate; then whisk in the rest of the chocolate mixture.
Beat the egg whites in a mixing bowl until stiff peaks form and fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is set, the top starts to crack and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes, then remove sides of pan.

Serve at room temperature dusted with confectioners' sugar.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Setting Up Shop

I remember my first "adult" apartment...I was so excited to be living on my own with two other girls, setting up shop, setting up my kitchen! This momentous event (i.e., moving out of my parents' house) happened just as my food obsession was beginning, so I didn't have much to unpack in the way of utensils, glassware, small appliances. Nor did I have any of the jewels that now fill my pantry (yes, I live with only my dog and my pantry looks like I am feeding a small village).

Recently, I gave my first private cooking lesson (ahem, I use that term very loosely) to two sassy gals that are living up those glory days as roomies setting up shop as "adults."

On the menu:
  1. Citrus-roasted salmon (my go-to recipe to impress any guest, even Ina Garten)
  2. Couscous (ALWAYS in my pantry)
  3. Apple and blue cheese salad with lemon-mustard vinaigrette (classic, again)
And for and white angel food cake. Yum.

Let the cooking Grace and Whitney:

Grace got started on the marinade/basting sauce for the salmon.

Lather up the fish...

Meanwhile, Whitney took on the vinaigrette and salad.


And finally...fantastic, f-enomenal, frigging-awesome dessert.