Posts Tagged 'food experiment'

Stuffed Mushrooms

This past weekend at the grocery store, I was restocking my pantry and picked up some whole wheat plain breadcrumbs. The front of the container had a picture of some delicious-looking stuffed mushrooms…which made me want to make some for dinner, so I did!

Wash a package of mushrooms (about 10 big ones). I don’t care what everyone says about not washing mushrooms and to just wipe them with a damp dishtowel. They even have mushroom cleaning brushes, and you know how I feel about uni-taskers! They say if you get them wet, they’ll get tough and rubbery and change colors. Well, we’re not talking about Mogwai (Gremlins) here, we’re talking about mushrooms. Just use them immediately after washing and you’ll be just fine. Nuff said.

Pop out the stems and chop ’em up

Get a bowl and add the chopped mushroom stems and 1/2 lb of bulk Italian sausage. I used mild turkey sausage to be on the healthy side, but you can use whatever you’ve got. You can use breakfast sausage or just plain ground meat, but, if you do, please season it up with Italian seasoning, fennel seeds, garlic and some S&P.

Even though I used Italian sausage, I added some garlic salt and pepper to make sure the mushrooms were well-seasoned.

Grab up a little ball of meat and pack it into each mushroom cap, forming a little mound. Put some breadcrumbs into a shallow dish. I seasoned my plain breadcrumbs with Italian seasoning and garlic salt.

Before you get your hands covered in meat, put a pan on the stove with some olive oil in it and get it to medium-high. If you’ve used regular Italian sausage or breakfast sausage, skip the oil. There will already be enough fat in the meat filling!

Turn the mushrooms upside down and press them into the breadcrumbs. Then place them, meat side down, into the heated skillet.

Once they’re nice and golden brown, turn them over and cook for about 5 minutes.

Transfer them into a 350 degree oven and bake for 20-30 minutes until the meat is cooked through.

Serve this with a simple pasta with butter and herbs..maybe a salad…YUMMY!!

These would also make a great appetizer, but maybe use some smaller mushrooms. To go the vegetarian route, you could substitute prepared stuffing for the meat.

Icebox Tiramisu

I make a pretty mean tiramisu from scratch, but considering my current icebox obsession, I thought I’d continue the theme!

Here’s what I’d call Quick-and-Dirty Tiramisu.

Microwave 1 cup of water in a mug for 60 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon of chocolate chips:

1 tablespoon of instant coffee granules:

1 heaping teaspoon of sugar substitute:

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract:

1 teaspoon of sweet Marsala:

Place that in the fridge to cool downl.

2 tablespoons of sweet Marsala, then fill it to the 2 cup line with skim milk to make the instant vanilla pudding (3.4 oz package):

Lighten the pudding with half a tub of fat-free whipped topping (you know the drill):

Quickly dunk the vanilla wafers in the chilled coffee mixture and place them in a 8×8 square dish. I say quickly because you don’t want them to turn into mush. If you’ve got ladyfingers, by all means, use them. I was just trying to use ingredients I had on hand. Ladyfingers can linger in the liquid for 1-2 seconds, but not the wafers!!

Top with 1/2 of the pudding mixture, more dunked wafers, and the second half of the pudding mixture.

I topped it off with the 9 remaining unbroken wafers in the box and a dusting of unsweetened cocoa powder:

Cover and chill for at least 2 hours (up to overnight). If you used ladyfingers, you’ll need to chill it overnight.

This was SUPER DELISH!! It’s obviously not real tiramisu, but the flavor and texture is absolutely phenomenal. You can’t beat that for something that only took 10 minutes to throw together!! No zabaglione, no mascarpone cheese, no problem!!

Boston Cream Pie Parfaits (for two)

Now that the weather is so warm and I had success with the Dulce De Leche banana pudding, I have become completely obsessed with icebox cakes/desserts. The concept is basically a cookie, layered with some kind of pudding and/or cream, and when left in the refrigerator; the cookies will soften into a sumptous cake-like texture. One of the most notable icebox cakes being the “Famous Chocolate Icebox Cake”, made from Nabisco’s Famous Chocolate Wafers.

This morning, I had a terribly unsatisfying Boston Cream Pie flavored fat-free Yoplait yogurt. I decided for dessert, I’d make a tastier version.

Make some vanilla instant pudding (3.4 oz box) with two cups of skim milk.

Lighten the pudding by adding half a tub of fat-free whipped topping:

I know this sounds retarded, but get a big shot glass and fill it with skim milk.

Dunk three vanilla wafers in and place them at the bottom of the glass. They’ll be nice and evenly coated with milk…wayyy better than trying to spoon milk over the wafers.

I always keep some chocolate ganache in the fridge (don’t ask me why), but if you don’t have any, just melt some chocolate or you can use chocolate syrup!

Drizzle some over the wafers:

Top that with some of the pudding mixture:

Repeat…milk-dipped wafers, ganache drizzle, pudding….end with milk-dipped wafers and another drizzle:

By the time you’re done just making two, you will have used only half of the pudding mixture. I’m sure I’ll come up with another icebox dessert later this week!!

Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours:

Double yummm…

This dessert was AWESOMELY delicious! I will definitely be making this one again and again! I want one right now!!

Dulce De Leche Banana Pudding (for two)

I am a firm believer in the idea that there is always room for dessert. I get it from my mom who, no matter how full she is, can always have some sweets after dinner.

I had a craving for banana pudding…the kind you’d find at barbecue joints like Rudy’s. Layers of vanilla pudding, softened Nilla wafers, and whipped cream…Yummm.

Suddenly, I had a bright idea. I always keep Jell-O Dulce de Leche pudding in the fridge.  The awesome thing about this recipe is that you can make as many as you want…just one or six…It’s a make-ahead and it’s healthy!

Here’s my quickie dessert fix:

All the ingredients. Reduced fat vanilla wafers, skim milk, a banana, and two Jell-O sugar-free dulce de leche pudding cups…yes, I buy store brands! haha

Place 3 vanilla wafers in the bottom of the glass. Spoon on a tablespoon or so of milk to moisten the wafers.

Scoop out half of the pudding cup and place it on top of the wafers.

A layer of banana:

Another layer of wafers and milk, then the second half of the pudding cup. Top with more banana, wafers and milk.

Top with fat-free whipped toppping:

Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.


I hated this dessert. 😛

Homemade Banh Xeo (Vietnamese crepes)

The next item on our agenda was Banh Xeo, or Vietnamese crepes.

First, I roasted a pork tenderloin the night before:

We bought a banh xeo mix at the Asian grocery store. Just add water, coconut milk, and chopped green onions. It comes with a packet of turmeric, for color. My mom, of course, would have soaked rice and grind it herself…but we are lazy…

My sister painstakingly shelled and deveined the shrimp and steamed them.

Heat up a big, non-stick skillet and put in a heaping tablespoon of canola oil.

One ladle-full of banh xeo batter into the pan…

A handful of pork tenderloin slices, steamed shrimp, and as much bean sprouts as you like.

As soon as the edges are crisp and the bottom is golden, fold it over the filling and slide out onto a plate!

Serve with leaf lettuce, basil, cilantro, and any other herbs you like (such as dandelion leaves, purple basil, etc)…those are home-grown!!

Don’t forget the nuoc mam!

We also like to have some rice paper (banh trang) on the table to wrap it all up and eat, but lettuce wraps alone would be fine!


Homemade Bo Bia

My mom is visiting family in Vietnam right now, so my sister got the bright idea of making some authentic Vietnamese cuisine for my dad while my mom was away.

What spurred this idea was my sister’s discovery of the Wandering Chopsticks blog. There, you can find a dizzying plethora of Vietnamese recipes and recommendations, all fully documented and photographed!

We adapted the Wandering Chopsticks recipe for Bo Bia, recalling our mom’s variations.

– Saute the julienned jicama along with julienned carrots.

– Slice the Chinese sausage crosswise and saute it with the reconstituted dried shrimp, along with a bit of green onions. (They actually make “extra lean” Chinese sausage now! Even a chicken variety too!)

– Spread a little sauce directly onto the rice paper as you wrap it. No need for dipping sauce on the side…for the ultimate street food experience!

– Omit the omelet…there’s already enough flavors going on in there…

Here are all the ingredients, ready for assembly.

It helps if you have these stackable plastic thingies for the rice paper…so you can avoid using a bunch of plates:

Everyone loves macro shots…

We added garlic chives for garnish…totally optional.

Yummm…salty, sweet, crunchy, chewy…

Homemade Oreos and Thin Mints

I saw this picture in a Food Network newsletter and I knew what I’d be doing this weekend!

The recipe was given by Trois Pommes Bakery in New York. It is definitely a keeper!

Here are some of my observations:

It calls for Dutch process cocoa powder, which isn’t sold in regular grocery stores, so I headed over to Whole Foods and picked some up for a hefty $8.99. I figured I shouldn’t try to substitute regular cocoa powder and mess up the recipe. Wondering what’s the big difference? Here’s your answer.

It doesn’t say “Dutch Process” on the box. It just says imported from Holland. Here’s a picture of what it looks like:

It says to only re-reoll the scraps once, but I did it maybe 3 or 4 times to use up all the dough…no big deal. (Especially since I spent $9 on the cocoa powder!!)

It says the recipe yields 64 cookies or 32 when sandwiched together. I got about 100, probably because of all the re-rolling I did.

I used a 2-inch round cookie cutter like the recipe suggested, but I think a smaller bite-sized one would be better.

I used my linzer cookie cutter set (just the heart) to make decorative imprints in the cookies. Since the cookies don’t rise, you can take a lot of creative liberty here. You could use rubber stamps (with not too much detail) or even just prick them with the tines of a fork.

It also says to space them 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets. This is totally unnecessary since they don’t spread. You can just space them 1 centimeter apart!

Here are all the cookies: plain round, imprinted round, and round with fluted edge.

Since Girl Scout cookie season ends on March 29th, I thought this would be a good time to experiment with making Thin Mints. I melted some Andes Mint chips in the microwave and dipped all the ones with a fluted edge.

I sandwiched the rest with the creme filling:

The final product!

They don’t really look like the ones in the Food Network picture, but hey, I am really proud of them!!

McGriddles: Unwrapped

You either hate them or love them, but I’m a part of the latter camp who loves these quirky calorie bombs called McGriddles. Nutritionally unsound, these satisfy the tooth of all those who adore the combo of sweet and salty.

I was perusing Not Martha, when something caught my eye. SplatgirlCreates…McGriddles! My heart went pitter patter as I clicked the link and read the blog. I was a little disappointed with the end appearance and the result of her attempt at making the syrup blobs. I then went on to read many other blogs and the chronicles of those who have tried to conquer this elusive fare.

I was on a mission to make these at home myself and pare down it’s uber caloric contents.

Here are my accoutrement:

The first challenge was how to make those glorious little syrup blobs. I once saw a Food Network special about the McGriddle and how they used little syrup candy-looking chips. Obviously, the home cook can’t get our greedy little hands on these, so I googled. I found these mini maple chips, but I didn’t think that they would work. They looked too creamy.

So I squirted about a tablespoon of regular syrup into a silicone baking cup (for anti-sticking insurance) and popped them into the oven at 250 degrees, just to evaporate some of the water, and hopefully, yield a “syrup candy”.

Refrigerate until chilled. Pop them out of the cups and dice (with some pancake mix to reduce stickiness) with a very sharp knife.

The result: little syrup gummies! Kind of like a mini, syrup-flavored Turkish Delight.

I went on to cook the other items…turkey breakfast sausage patties and egg (cholesterol-free, fat-free egg substitute)…using my trusty Ateco round cookie cutter as a mold.

The last step was to cook the pancake buns using the round molds (and lots of Pam) and placing the “syrup gummies” onto the batter just before turning. I poked them down into the batter to prevent them from oozing out onto the pan.

I was  delighted to see the results! They looked way better than I imagined.

Assemble (with a slice of processed cheese, of course!) and bon appetite!

Here is an up-close image. You can see the syrup pockets.

We enjoyed these for a lazy Saturday brunch. I would call it a success, although the syrup blobs did not really remain as blobs…they kind of absorbed into the surrounding pancake bun.

Next time, I’ll make thinner sausage patties (less like sausage burgers!) and not fuss with perfectly shaped eggs. I’ll just make a big thin omelet and cut into pieces. I’ll also try another technique for the syrup blobs…maybe mix in some tapioca flour or cornstarch…

Valentine’s Day 2009, Part Trois (last one!)

Project 3: Alfajores

Many of my co-workers are Argentineans. I have also traveled to Argentina for work and I couldn’t help but notice the Starbucks-like popularity of these Havanna Cafes. These chic cafes, nestled on every corner in Buenos Aires, peddle rich espressos and delicious confections.

One confection in particular, alfajores, are extremely popular. You can’t leave Argentina without a box of these. They are shortbread-like cookies filled with dulce de leche and coated in chocolate, coconut, or meringue. The Havanna variety are wrapped in regal, gold wrappers…Think, the Rolls-Royce of Hostess Ding Dongs.

I tried my hand at making these, with a Valentine’s flair, of course.

I used this recipe I found on the net, but any shortbread recipe would do. I would also highly recommend the “semi-homemade” version of making rolled cookies by kneading 1/4 C. of all-purpose flour into one tube of sugar cookie dough. I got that idea from Giada. It yields an ever-so-slightly-cakey cookie that is just sweet enough. Plus, they really keep their shape while baking; no need for spacing them out because they don’t spread!



For the dulce de leche, I was fortunate enough to find it in the international foods aisle of my local grocery store, but you can easily make it by boiling a can of condensed milk for hours and hours. Instructions found here.


I dipped them half way in semi-sweet chocolate melted in a double boiler.


Place them on a platter and adorn with wrapped chocolates and watch them disappear!

They were a HUGE hit and even the Argentineans raved about them. I will definitely make these again, maybe with a fluted round cookie cutter next time…

Valentine’s Day 2009, Part One

This year, I decided on some semi-homemade gifts for co-workers and friends. Inspired by a few of my daily blog habits, I grabbed my apron and my exacto knife and went to work.

Project 1: Apple Pie a la Twig & Thistle


I used store-bought pie dough, rolled it out on a floured surface and cut out circles for the little pies using a paring knife…and conveniently, this yogurt container was the perfect size for the pies.


To save time, I used canned apple pie filling. Don’t put in too much or you won’t be able to close the pie!


Brush on a little egg wash and seal with a fork. Then brush some more all over the pie and prick to let the steam escape.


Make a slew of these adorable pie boxes. It will be handy if you have these tools.


My pies did not look nearly as good as hers, but I was happy with the results. I wrapped the pies in wax paper before inserting into the boxes. Next time, I’ll cut out the wax paper squares with my rotary cutter’s pinking or scallop blade.


November 2020