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Blackberry Bars

Summer is in full swing and so are all the summer get-togethers! I needed to throw together a dessert and this is a great one since you probably have everything in your pantry!

These fruit bars are also known as struesel bars or linzer torte bars (depending on what fruit you use). You can use ANY fruit jam, preserve, or even mash up some fresh fruit with a fork (maybe run it through a sieve to get the seeds out though…)

You can also use any kind of nut you have on hand. I used a combination of almonds and walnuts because that’s what was hanging out in my freezer.

AND this is a super simple recipe…so simple that I’ve memorized it!

Start with 1 cup of flour, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 stick of softened butter.

Use the butter wrapper to grease your pan!

Mix in 1 cup of finely chopped nuts (you can use ground nuts if you’d like, but I like it chopped) and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon…it’ll be course and crumbly like this:

Press 2/3 of this mixture in the bottom of a pan (9X9 or something close to that).

Bake it for 10 minutes at 375 degrees, until slightly golden. Spread 2/3 to 1 cup of preserves on there…depending on how fruity you like it. I used sugar-free blackberry preserves here.

Throw the rest of your crumbly mixture on top of the fruit layer.

Bake for 15 minutes, until it’s golden and the preserves are bubbly.

Let it cool completely before you cut it into squares.

Enjoy!

Tips:

Lightly toast the nuts and cool them before adding them to the crumble mixture. You’ll get a better flavor.

Walnuts are really recommended for this, but you could use almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, or macadamia nuts…I wouldn’t recommend peanuts or cashews though.

Use jam or preserves, not jelly. The jelly would just melt…and I don’t think there’s any real fruit in jelly…

Seriously…any fruit jam or preserve…strawberry, raspberry, orange marmelade, apricot…anything!

Asian Salmon

This recipe looked so easy, I had to try it! Plus, I already had all the ingredients on-hand! Yay!

Just mix all the ingredients, minus the panko…

Place 2 salmon fillets on a baking sheet and put the panko on top of it. Pour the dressing and soak the panko with it. I can’t believe that the recipe only called for one fillet…I used two…it would have been bathing in salty liquid otherwise…

Bake it.

Voila!

I served it with Crunchy Noodle Salad, but please don’t! The  salmon was sooo salty even though I baked two salmon fillets! It would be best served with steamed jasmine rice and a steamed/sauteed veggie.

Eli’s Asian Salmon
Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa
Episode IG0803H

2 1/4 pounds center-cut salmon fillet (1 1/2 inches thick)
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon toasted (dark) sesame oil
1 1/2 teaspoons chili paste
1/2 cup sliced scallions (2 scallions)
2 tablespoons minced garlic (8 large cloves)
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)

Directions

Line an 8 by 12-inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Place the salmon in the pan.

In a mixing cup, combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, lemon juice, oyster sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, chili paste, scallions, garlic, and ginger. Pour 1/3 of soy sauce mixture over the salmon fillet. Sprinkle the panko evenly over the fillet. Pour the rest of the soy sauce mixture evenly over the panko. Be sure to soak the panko completely and if any runs off, spoon back onto the salmon. Set aside for 15 minutes, leaving all the sauce in the pan.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Roast the salmon for 18 to 20 minutes, or for about 12 minutes per inch at the thickest part of the salmon. The internal temperature will be 120 degrees F on a meat thermometer when it’s done. Remove from the oven, wrap tightly with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Crunchy Noodle Salad

This is a bit of a misnomer…the noodles in this recipe are not crunchy, rather the other veggie-related ingredients are the crunchy part!

Start by boiling half a pound of thin spaghetti in salted water. Try using a bigger pot and more water than I did! hehe

In a large bowl, layer the ingredients. I had dry parsley on hand, so I put that at the bottom…so it could recontitute with the moisture from the other ingredients. If you’re using fresh, put it at the top!

Next, the al dente thin spaghetti and the blanched sugar snap peas. If you’ve snapped off the ends and removed any strings, there will be water trapped inside the sugar snap peas, so be sure to drain them well!

While the spaghetti was cooking, I chopped the veggies: orange, red, and yellow bell peppers and scallions on the diagonal.

Throw those in too.

Grate the ginger on a small grater or microplane. You can just get the thin skin off with a spoon or the back of a knife (even a butter knife!)…no need to cut it away and waste the ginger.

I usually like to shake dressing and marinades in a jar or plastic container. It combines it much easier and faster than whisking…and washing whisks are a pain anyway…

Just before serving, toss the dressing with the noodle salad. Toss in the remaining sesame seeds and fresh parsley if you’re using it. I wouldn’t dump ALL the dressing in. Two-thirds was enough for me.

See? Just saucy enough!

Notes:

I followed Ina Garten’s (Barefoot Contessa) menu and served this with Eli’s Asian Salmon (next blog). BIG mistake because there was wyyy too much flavor going on. This noodle salad is best served with a simple grilled meat (maybe chicken, flank steak, or shrimp).

You can make the dressing and arrange the salad ahead of time, but don’t mix them together until you’re ready to eat! The dressing would surely make the noodles mushy!

Feel free to add any veggies you like or have on hand that you think would be tasty…green bell peppers, blanched snow peas, red onion, bean sprouts, blanched green beans (cut into 1-inch pieces), julienned carrots, etc.

Crunchy Noodle Salad
Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa
Episode IG0803H

Kosher salt
1/2 pound thin spaghetti
1 pound sugar snap peas
1 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 tablespoons toasted white sesame seeds, divided
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded, and thinly sliced
4 scallions (with and green parts), sliced diagonally
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, bring another large pot of salted water to a boil, add the sugar snap peas, return to a boil, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until crisp tender. Lift the sugar snap peas from the water with a slotted spoon and immerse them in a bowl of ice water. Drain.

For the dressing, whisk together the vegetable oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, honey, garlic, ginger, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds and peanut butter in a medium bowl.

Combine the spaghetti, sugar snap peas, peppers and scallions in a large bowl. Pour the dressing over the spaghetti mixture. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and the parsley and toss together.

Green Tea Chiffon Cake

Yes, I am fully aware that I am very behind since this was a Father’s Day cake. Shame on me.

I decided to make an “Asian-y” cake for my dad for Father’s Day. Chiffon cake is a soft, moist cake made with lots of eggs for a very soft, spongy texture.

This also became the cake where every single thing went wrong. I love to bake, but cakes really are not my forte.

Also, I realized that I did not own a food scale since this recipe was in grams…off to Bed Bath and Beyond I go…

Start out with the milk, sugar, and oil.

Here are the dry ingredients: AP flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and the matcha green tea powder (optional).

I sifted the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir it a little bit first so that the dry ingredients don’t fly everywhere.

Add the yolks one at a time, blending a bit after each addition.

This mixture will be thick and gooey…if you’re gonna add flavoring extracts or coloring, do it now.

In another bowl, beat the egg whites. Once they get frothy, add a pinch of salt and the remaining sugar.

They’re done when it has medium peaks and is very glossy like this!

Fold the egg whites into the batter. I did 1/3 at a time. Be gentle and don’t deflate the batter by stirring it!

Put the batter into an ungreased tube pan. Mine is just an angel food cake pan and it comes in two pieces.

Do the toothpick test to see if it’s done.

Here’s the strange part. Now, while it’s hot, turn it upside down. I put it over a rack so that air could pass underneath it and it wouldn’t get steamy or soggy. That’s what the little feet on the pan are for. If you just let it cool sitting right side up, it could sink and become dense. Turning it upside down will allow the cake to stretch and be nice and soft and spongy. This is also why you don’t grease your pan. If you did, it would just slide right out. If your pan doesn’t have feet, you’re supposed to put the hole over a soda bottle, beer bottle, or maybe a funnel.

Once it’s completely cooled, run a butter knife around the edges and it should come right out. Then I put it on a foil-covered cake board. (I accidentally dented the top, but that’s okay because I’m gonna lop it off)

Cut of the mounded top to even out the cake and then cut the cake in half if you want to put filling in between. I used pieces of the top of the cake to fill in the hole. At this point, once I had cut into the cake, I was very sad because the cake was a light tan color and not a lovely shade of green. I guess the matcha powder changed color during the baking process. Sad day. Next time, I’ll just use green tea extract/essence and then some food coloring!!

Here’s where I make some stabilized whipped cream to ice the cake.

I started with 4 tablespoons of powdered sugar (use as much or as little sugar as you want) and a tablespoon of clear vanilla. Pour in 16 oz of whipping cream.

Get a packet of unflavored, powdered gelatin and sprinkle it in the water that you put in a small saucepan. Heat it over very low heat until it dissolves. Let it cool.

Once the whipped cream is about half way there, add in the gelatin and keep whipping.

Done! You’ve got a bowl full of whipped cream that will not “weep” if you let it sit. You must use this IMMEDIATELY. Do not make it in advance. Wait until your cake is ready to ice and then make this, or else it will set-up…that’s what the gelatin does!

I drained a can of fruit cocktail and mixed it with some of the whipped cream. I reserved some of the cherries and grapes to decorate the top of the cake.

Put the filling on the first layer and then place the second layer on top. Use more of the leftover cake to fill in the whole. Please eat the rest of the leftover cake for quality assurance purposes.

Here is the final product. As you can see, I have terrible cake decorating skills and I write like a 5-year old. Thank goodness this was for my dad, who loved it anyway.

Kettle Corn

I have a healthy obsession with things that are salty and sweet. When I head to a fair, carnival, or some other outdoor event, the smell of freshly popping kettle corn intoxicates me. It forces me to pay $4-$6 for a bag of this delicious popcorn that I will inevitably inhale within the hour.

I was sitting around at home when a case of the munchies hit me hard. I wanted kettle corn and I wanted it now!

Little did I know how easy it would be!!

The proportion is 1-2-1…1 part oil, 2 parts kernels, 1 part sugar…

Here’s 1/4 C. of canola oil (You can use vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, but please don’t use olive oil because of it’s low smoking point!)

Here’s 1/2 C. of unpopped kernels

Here’s 1/4 C. of plain granulated sugar (You could even use vanilla sugar, or heck, you can use a bit of colored sugar to achieve the crazy colored Pop-Secret “Pop-Qwiz” popcorn of the 80′s)

First, use a large pot with a tight-fitting lid. Not a heavy pot because you’re gonna have to pick it up and shake it around.

Place the pot over high heat. Once, the oil gets hot, throw the kernels in and sprinkle the sugar all over the top of it.

Cover the pot and wait until the popcorn starts to pop. Once the popping gets frequent, grab the pot by the handles, using pot-holders, and while holding the lid on, shake the pot vigorously for a little while and place it back on the stove. Keep doing this until the popping slows down.

Dump the popcorn into a bowl and sprinkle a tiny bit of salt (maybe 1/4 tsp) on top while the sugar is still nice and sticky. With that being said, DO NOT touch the popcorn with your hands right now. The caramelized sugar is HOT!! Use a long spoon (I used chopsticks! hehe) to toss it around.

One of my favorite parts about real kettle corn, is the random bits of caramelized sugar…like this:

Oooh…or like this!

Try making this at home and you’ll never pay for overpriced carnival kettle corn EVER again!!! Yummy!!

Better yet, make loads and loads of this for your 4th of July get-togethers! Your friends will love you for it!

A June Birthday

Wow…It’s July 1st already! The year is halfway over!

Just wanted to share a June 29th birthday that we celebrated at work.

Thanks to my good friend Rosaly for the cupcake stand and to Target for the silver tray I found on clearance, I’ve managed to create a happy little daisy cupcake display!!



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