Monday, April 30, 2012

Artichoke Dip Wontons

One day I made mini lasagna cupcakes - which basically meant I put all the ingredients to make a lasagna into a wonton wrapper and baked them in a mini muffin pan. And it changed my life. It made such a labor-intensive dish much more manageable, especially on a weeknight or hosting a medium-sized dinner party. 

Seriously, go out and buy wonton wrappers. Round, square - whatever floats your boat and make your favorite dip . Shove the wonton wrappers in a mini muffin pan and fill with your desired dip, in this case - spinach and artichoke dip. You can't beat hot, bubbly and crispy.  Nope. Never.

Artichoke Dip Wontons

1 cup thawed frozen spinach
1 1/2 cups thawed frozen artichoke hearts
8 ounce cream cheese
3/4 cup mayonaise
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder

Boil spinach and artichokes in 1 1/.2 cups water until tender. Drain, squeeze out excess liquid. 

Heat cream cheese in microwave for one minute or until hot and soft. Stir in the rest of the ingredients. 

Place wontons in mini muffin and fill with dip. Heat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 20 minutes.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Cheesecake Brownie Bites

I am not a big cream cheese fan. In fact, I don't even really like it on my bagel. But combine it with brownie batter, and I am a huge fan. This is like combining two of my favorite desserts! Brownies + cheesecake = pure heaven! Don't believe me? Try this recipe for yourself.

Cheesecake Brownie Bites
Makes 30 brownie "bites"

For the Brownie Batter:
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups baking cocoa
1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon instant espresso powder, mixed with 2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2cups all-purpose flour

For the cheesecake filling:
1 (8-oz.) package cream cheese, softened
3 T. sugar

1 large egg yolk

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, baking cocoa, salt, baking powder, espresso mixed with water, and vanilla until well combined.

Stir in the sugar and melted butter until well combined, then stir in the flour. Set brownie batter aside.

In a separate bowl, prepare the cheesecake filling by stirring together the cream cheese, sugar and egg yolk until well combined. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag or plastic bag.

Grease a non-stick mini-muffin pan with cooking spray or butter and then spoon a tablespoon of brownie batter into the greased cups. Pipe a generous amount of cheesecake filling atop the brownie batter, and then top off each cup with an additional teaspoon of brownie batter.

Bake for about 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Let the brownie bites cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then transfer them to a cooling rack to continue cooling, or enjoy warm.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pad Thai Noodles

Believe it or not, one of my favorite Pad Thai Noodles can be found in none other than the San Diego Zoo. Yes, you read that right. I did indeed say the San Diego Zoo. By no means was it authentic Thai noodles, but it had just the right amount of peanut-y taste that I knew I could replicate at home without presuming to be a world-class Thai chef. And might I add, it turned out all right. This recipe is simple and flavorful. What more could you ask for?

Pad Thai Noodles
Serves 4

8 ounces dried rice noodles
4 cloves garlic, optional
2 ounces (about 1/4 cup) fish sauce
2 ounces (about 1/4 cup) tamarind concentrate
1/2 – 1 teaspoon ground chili pepper
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/3 cup roasted peanuts, crushed or finely chopped
4 ounces palm sugar
8 ounces meat (shrimp or chicken)
8 ounces firm tofu
8 ounces bean sprouts
2 bunches scallions

Prepare all your ingredients ahead of time. Soak noodles in warm water for 30 mins. Rinse bean sprouts and scallions. Drain and cut 8 oz. of tofu and about 8 stalks of scallions (use green parts) into 1-inch long sticks. Dice garlic and cut lime into quarters. Crush or chop peanuts. Take out 4 eggs.

For the sauce, heat a small pot on medium. Mix tamarind, palm sugar, fish sauce, 1/4 cup of water and chili pepper, to taste depending on spice tolerance. Stir and crush sugar until fully dissolved and turn off heat.

When noodles are soft enough (but still slightly harder than al dente pasta), rinse them in cold water and drain. Make sure all of your ingredients are set up and divided into equal portions. Note: You’re cooking one portion at a time. Add 2 tbsp. oil to a wok or large non-stick pan. Heat on medium-high, until very hot. Add chicken (if using) and cook for 1 min, then add tofu and garlic. Cook for about 45 secs, stirring frequently. Garlic should now be brown. Stir in noodles, then add 3 tbsp. of sauce mixture. Coat noodles and meat well and stir vigorously to keep noodles from sticking. After about 2 mins, taste noodles to check if they’re soft enough. If not, add 2-3 tbsp. of water and continue to cook for a little longer.

Add shrimp (if using) and combine with noodles. Push everything aside creating an empty space in the middle. Crack an egg, wait 15 secs to set, then mix into the noodles. Sprinkle some white pepper, add bean sprouts and up to 1 tbsp. more sauce. Stir everything for 1 min, then add scallions. Turn off heat and toss. To serve, top with crushed peanuts, dried onions and a generous squeeze of lime juice.