Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Steamed Pumpkin Sticky Toffee Pudding done Sous Vide

We are fast approaching the holidays and so it made me think of what I could make in my new SousVide Supreme that was holiday oriented. Last month I had made Filipino chicken adobo, a dish I grew up with from my Filipina mother. This month I'm going with my dad's British side and making a steamed pudding.

In the United States puddings mean soft, creamy, usually cold desserts. Chocolate pudding being the most popular. But in the United Kingdom, puddings are steamed cakes.  You make a cake batter, put it in a crock that you seal with foil, put it in a giant, covered stockpot, and steam for a couple of hours. Then you serve it with a sauce, oftentimes a boozy one. 

That's why it was a no-brainer to use the sous vide machine to make a steamed pudding. You can put the pudding into the machine and leave it without having to worry about monitoring it like you would a pot on a stove. 

Steamed puddings come out wonderfully moist and dense. This one did too. It was a very successful recipe and I look forward to trying other steamed pudding recipes in my SousVide Supreme in the future. 

Steamed Pumpkin Sticky Toffee Pudding 

1 cup dates, chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin spice mix 
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 cups of pumpkin puree, homemade or canned
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Find a glass or ceramic bowl that will fit inside your SousVide Supreme.  Butter the inside walls and set aside.  

Place the low rack into the Sous Vide Supreme and add about 1 inch of water.  Heat the Sous Vide Supreme to 90 degree Celsius. 

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until lightly beaten. Stir in the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, and vanilla extract. Stir in the dates. Gradually stir in the flour mixture just until blended. Scrape the batter into the prepared mold. 

Cut a piece of parchment paper the size to cover the top of the bowl. Butter one side and place the butter side down over the top of the bowl. Cut a piece of foil large enough to cover the bowl and seal around the sides. Take a piece of cooking twine and tie it around the edge of the bowl, sealing down the paper and foil tightly. Cut another piece of cooking twine large enough to tie under the bowl up the sides to the top. You are creating a twine handle to be able to safely lift the bowl out of the machine at the end when it will be very hot. 

Carefully lower the bowl into the SousVide Supreme. The water should come up the sides of the bowl, but be an inch shy of the top of the bowl. Place the lid on the Sous Vide Supreme and let cook for 3 1/2  hours. 

Using the twine handle, carefully remove the bowl and check the pudding; it should feel set to the touch, yet slightly moist. A cake tester inserted into the center should come out clean.

Allow the pudding to cool for 10 minutes, then turn it upside down onto a plate. Serve warm with the salted caramel sauce and/or whipped cream. 

Salted caramel sauce

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt

In a small saucepan on medium heat, melt the sugar and water together. Let boil until the sugar mixture starts to turn a nice caramel color. Remove from heat and carefully add in the cream and butter. When fully incorporated, add butter and mix in the sea salt. Serve warm over the steamed pudding. 

Recipe adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Entertaining
Disclosure: I was given a SousVide Supreme Demi and vacuum sealer in exchange for recipe development. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Sriracha Popcorn Balls for Halloween

I am not one of those Sriracha superfans. You know the ones. They carry Sriracha bottles around with them and put it on everything. In fact, I rarely use the stuff at all. But these days there is Sriracha chocolate, Sriracha chips, Sriracha candy.

Recently I started making Sriracha popcorn and just love it.  It's got the Sriracha flavor but without the heat. That is, it has the sugar/vinegar Sriracha flavor, but it loses a lot of the spicy heat when thinned out with the coconut oil.

I knew I wanted to make Sriracha popcorn balls for Halloween, but I wanted to maintain the heat that so many people love.  The way to do it....with the peanuts.

When I eat caramel corn I need to have the peanuts. To me they are the best part. So I decided to take the peanuts, coat them in Sriracha, and roast them in the oven.  

Success! Now you have the sweetness of the Sriracha caramel corn, but still have the spice when you eat the peanuts. 

Sriracha Popcorn Ball

1/2 cup of unroasted peanuts
3 Tablespoon of Sriracha sauce

1/2 cup butter, unsalted
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
2-3 Tablespoons Sriracha
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
5 cups popped popcorn

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Place the popcorn into a large mixing bowl.

In a small bowl toss the peanuts and 3 Tablespoons Sriracha to coat the peanuts. Spread them out evenly on a Silpat lined baking sheet or a baking stone. Roast for 20 minutes. Keep an eye on them because the Sriracha can burn. Remove from oven and let cool. When cooled, add them to the popcorn.

In a medium saucepan melt together the butter and brown sugar over medium high heat. Let boil for about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the corn syrup, Sriracha, vanilla, and baking soda. The mixture will foam up a bit. Immediately pour over the popcorn and peanuts and stir well to make sure all the popcorn is evenly coated. 

Put on a pair of vinyl kitchen gloves and take enough popcorn to squeeze together and form a ball about the size of a baseball. Set to cool on some waxed paper. 

Enjoy or wrap the balls in plastic wrap to save for later. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Cajun Smashed Fries for a Cause

Are you tired of French fries and looking for a different potato treat? Smashed fries are like a hybrid of French fries and home fries. If you like crispy, crunchy potato bits, smashed fries are for you.

The first time I had smashed fries was at Bacon and Butter, where they have become a signature side for them.  They are also a popular item on the Slightly Skewed truck where Rob adds Sriracha and a wasabi aioli.  

Smashed fries turn out to be quite simple to make and so I've chosen to make them with Tasteful Selections potatoes.

Many know that my charity of choice in Sacramento is the Food Literacy Center, which educates low income elementary school children on proper nutrition and to eat their vegetables. Well Tasteful Selections supports a charity that is another one geared to children and vegetables.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Paul Martin's Fall Menu is Here

Fall means a change in the weather, in the gardens, and therefore, on your plate. When the weather changes not only does our produce in the stores change, but so do our appetites. Fall means squashes, Brussels sprouts, and the beginning of braised meats. And in our new world of farm-to-table dining, the menus at your favorite restaurants change as well.

I haven't been to Paul Martin's American Grill in years. The main reason is that  I live about 30 miles away from the nearest one in Roseville. Recently I was invited to go and check out their fall menu and I figured it would be a good time to revisit them and to catch up with someone who lives out that way, my ex-husband.

Now as intriguing as that may sound, we're not here to talk about my cordial relationship with my ex. We're here to see what sorts of things are on the menu for fall.  I did not take any pictures because the lights were too low for good photos. These pictures were supplied by Paul Martin's PR firm.

One thing Paul Martin's does is have the server explain their motto = "Seasonal & Delicious". You are told that they try very hard to have everything be both seasonal and as local as possible. The meat and fish come from sustainable fisheries and from free-range and natural producing farms. The sauces and dressings are made in-house and the smoked fish and meats are also. This is definitely in line with Sacramento's Farm-to-Fork movement. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Filipino Chicken Adobo done Sous Vide

Almost two years ago I tried my hand at a sous vide cooking - McGuyver style. Using just an ice chest and water boiling on the stove, I managed to cook steaks to a perfect medium rare. The trouble is, the McGuyver method means you have to babysit your sous vide for the entire time. That can be a problem if you want to sous vide something for one or two days. That's when you need the real deal equipment.

Last month I was at the International Food Bloggers Conference and one of the sponsors was SousVide Supreme.  They are the ones who make water bath machines that are often used in restaurant kitchens and by professional chefs. They made a pretty sweet offer that I took them up on - a SousVide Supreme machine in exchange for some recipes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I Escaped Room Ω

I'm not a gamer. I don't own a Playstation or XBox. I have no interest in most computer games. When I play games on my tablet they tend to be advanced solitaire card games or Rummycube with people online. The other kind I will play is adventure/puzzle games.

Twenty years ago we all had big ol desktop computers and having 1 gig of memory was a big deal. That's when Myst came out and was a big hit. It was a puzzle game that was famous for fabulous graphics and complicated puzzles.The puzzles were often quite complicated and ranged from visual to auditory, mathematical, logical, etc. I managed to get through it with the help of some hints along the way.

On today's tablets you can play similar games such as The Room, The Room 2, and Machinarium. But did you know that you can play LIVE versions of these kind of games?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thai Corn Chowder with Sriracha Popcorn Garnish

When I was in Seattle recently I ate at Michael Mina's RN74 and ordered the corn chowder.  It was poured for me tableside and in the bowl was some popcorn as garnish. I found that an interesting and sensible garnish, one I had not thought of doing before.  So I've taken that and twisted it into a Thai version.

For the Srirach popcorn might I suggest that you use coconut oil instead of butter?  This is how I now eat my popcorn because it is a healthier alternative than butter. For this recipe, I actually had about 1/4 of coconut oil left in a jar and so I just nuked the jar in the microwave to melt it to a liquid state and then added the sriracha, closed and shook the jar vigorously to mix the two together, and then used that to drizzle over the popcorn.  This is the first time I've made sriracha popcorn and I am now a fan.  It's important that you are able to vigorously shake the two in a container because trying to whip them together with a whisk was not enough to blend them.  The sriracha stayed in globules when I tried it that way.

As to popcorn, I have given up microwave popcorn and instead have a West Bend electric popcorn popper that I love. It will pop every single kernel and the texture is better than from the microwave.  I highly recommend it.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Top Fall 2014 Kitchen Items at Sur la Table

If you've ever been in a Sur la Table, it's downright overwhelming.  If you have a lot of time and money, you could spend plenty of both there.  I tend to be a tightwad and am easily overwhelmed by their abundance. Therefore, I don't venture in too often. (Plus there's none really close by.) But this weekend I was privileged to go to the new Sur la Table headquarters in Seattle, Washington and they successfully made me want some new great items.

Our host was Doralece Dullaghan, Director of Strategic Partnerships and Public Relations. Doralece has been with Sur la Table for many years, starting with opening their second store in Berkeley. We also met with the CEO, Jack Schwefel, who talked about his history in retail and where the company has been and is going. 

But it was Jacob Maurer, their top merchandiser, that got me really excited by introducing us to some of the key products for the fall of 2014. I also learned some interesting new tips along the way.

KitchenAid's new items

These days it is tough to stay competitive when everybody can sell the same items at competing prices. To combat this, Sur la Table has agreements with companies to be the sole distributor of certain products. They have such an agreement with KitchenAid to be the only one to sell the Pro Line series and certain colors. The Pro Line series is designed with a retro look with rugged, sturdy construction. All of their pieces are heavy to ensure there is no wobbling or crawling on your counter top while in operation.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Peruvian Find!!

There's a new Peruvian joint in town and it is worth a visit! Jimmy's Peruvian is a true hole-in-the-wall joint at 3032 Auburn Blvd. Be careful. You'll drive right past it, especially since it's signage says Taqueria. In fact, it's pulling double duty serving both Mexican and Peruvian menus.

I don't know much about Peruvian food, but I do know that since it has a huge coastline, there is a lot of seafood consumption. This is what you'll find at Jimmy's, with the focus on seafood.

Another Peruvian influence is Japan. In the late 1800s Japanese went to Peru after hearing stories of gold and great farming. The gold turned out to be a lie, but the farming wasn't. Many ended up settling there and thus a small ethnic minority of Japanese were now in  Peru.

I started with the ceviche. I love ceviche and will often make it at home because it is easy and super healthy.  I was really pleased with Jimmy's.  It was plentiful, the fish had great texture, and there was a good kick to it.  If you don't like spicy foods, you might need to steer clear. I found it interesting that they also added hominy corn as part of the vegetable component.  I didn't care for those as the texture was too close to lima beans. (yuk).  Overall, a great ceviche.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Yay! Maggiano's Comes to Sac!

Years ago my then boyfriend and I went to the Winchester Mystery House for a Halloween night tour. Having arrived early, we were hungry and looked across the street at the Santana Row shopping/condo complex and ended up at Maggiano's for a fantastic Italian dinner.  It was so good, that even though I had no idea if they were independent or a chain or what, I remembered them.

Turns out they are a group of over 40 restaurants now and the latest one, and the fifth for California, has just come to Arden Fair Mall.

Here are some reasons Maggiano's is going to become your new favorite Italian restaurant.

  • They make all their pasta, sauces, and dressings, etc. fresh daily from scratch.
  • They have a new Lighter Take menu where they take some of your favorites and they lighten the calorie load. In my case, I ordered the chicken piccata and it seemed they reduced it by only giving a little fettuccine and instead added nice sauteed spinach. Loved it! 
  • They have gluten-free pasta.
  • They have a thing called On the House Classic Pastas.  You order a pasta dish to eat in the restaurant and then they give you ANOTHER one to take home!  Two for the price of one!  Update: They don't have to be the same!  I had Alfredo to eat and took home lasagna!
  • If you sign up for their e-newsletter you'll get a $10 coupon to your next visit. And if you complete your profile, you get a free dessert!
If these aren't enough reasons to try them out, plus the fact that Ms. Munchie loves it, then you can keep going to >>>>>> (I'll refrain from naming gross, low level chains and fast food.)