Monday, October 13, 2008

Pesto Tuna Cakes

Halloween is right around the corner, which means we're throwing our annual party! Yippee for costumes and a full spread and friends!

I'm trying out a few new things this year, and had to get a jump on it early. First I made the pumpkin truffles- my first venture into ganache and real candy making. What a pain- but I'll post about that another day. Then I needed to try out a recipe that sounded great in my head, but I didn't know if it would actually taste good or not.

The idea is pesto tuna cakes. You know, like crab cakes but with tuna... and pesto. Really my motivation for this recipe is to get something filling, finger-food friendly, and green on the table. I was wary about the basil and garlic flavor with the fish.

Well my friends, turns out it is delicious! Although my original plan isn't very green as I had planned. I made two versions of the recipe, one with the pesto inside and one with the pesto just on the outside. The inside idea was the one I wanted- I though it would turn the cakes a nice green, but they stayed a normal tan and didn't have as much punch to the flavor. The ones with the pesto on the outside was really more in case the flavor was crummy so we could scrape it off! Turns out the way to go is a nice combo- put the flavor on the inside for a complete experience and the pesto on top for a lovely presentation.

Pesto Tuna Cakes

  • 2 Cans Tunafish, drained
  • 1/2+ C. Plain Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Egg
  • Dash Mustard Powder
  • Dash Paprika
  • 1 Batch Pesto, divided (see below for recipe)
  • Olive Oil

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the tuna, breadcrumbs, egg, mustard, paprika, and half of the pesto.
  2. Form this mixture into small patties; for appetizers they should be about 1-1.5 inches across, for entrees around 3-4 inches.
  3. In a large pan, heat around 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, place cakes in the hot oil to brown on one side. Flip to brown the other side.
  4. Remove from pan and spread a small amount of the remaining pesto on top of the cake. Serve warm.

Pesto Sauce
  • 1 C. Fresh Basil
  • 2-3 Cloves of Garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. (about) Walnuts (or pine nuts)
  • 1/4 C. Grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 C. (about) Olive Oil

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Blend until smooth, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl.
  3. I prefer to start with a little oil and then add more as it needs to be moistened.

Chicken Mole

Mmmmmm, Mole! That spicy, Mexican flavoring that combines the heat of peppers and the bite of chocolate into one savory meal sure to please the senses. I've made moles before, the most notable was back in like 6th grade when I was supposed to make a Mexican dish for some school potluck which turned out just terrible. I think I got a little overexcited by the chocolate and I hadn't quite mastered the whole cooking thing just yet. I've also used it as inspiration in a past Platinum Chef entry.

As I stated back then, this is not a dish made by grounding up small ground-dwelling mammals. This is a Moe-LAY- much different. And this time it was fairly traditional and oh so tasty! It had a great low heat that built up and was unexpected. I'm sure if I were going full traditional, I would have been roasting all sorts of peppers all day and pulled out about 20 spices, but this was something a little easier. I mean, c'mon, how many exotic peppers can I get my hands on here in Maine anyway!

I served this over white rice with some sweet potatoes that I roasted with a little brown sugar and olive oil. It would have also been great in corn tortillas or just on its own!

Chicken Mole
Based off various recipes at

  • 1.5 Lbs. Chicken (I used breasts, but thighs or other parts would be fine!)
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp. + 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2+ tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2+ tsp. Paprika
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Chili Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp. Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1+ Tbsp. Chipotle Powder
  • 1 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2+ C. Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 tsp. Sesame Seeds, plus more for garnish

  1. Cut the chicken up into large chunks, the kinds that would take 2-3 bites to eat. Season with 1 tsp. of cumin. (I actually did this once the meat was in the pan.) In a large pan, brown the chicken over medium heat, flipping occasionally to get all sides.
  2. Add in the onion, garlic, and tomato. Continue to cook over medium heat so the onions and garlic gets delicious and aromatic, and the tomato starts to break down.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together all the remaining ingredients to make the sauce. Add it in to the pan and bring to a low simmer.
  4. Cover and let it cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid, stir, and let the mixture simmer for another 5 minutes to let the sauce thicken up.
  6. Remove the bay leaf, sprinkle with some sesame seeds, and serve warm!

Sweet & Sour Tofu

In a continuing effort to make more vegetarian dishes, I'm trying to incorporate more tofu into our diet. Adam just loves tofu. I'm not sure why... I mean it is very versatile and the texture is ok, but I don't see why it is so great. That's ok though- I am happy to prepare and eat it even I have no passion for it!

So not to continue on the "Negative Nellie" trend, but I have up until now avoided any sweet and sour recipes for the sole reason that I'm not a huge fan of bell peppers when they are so forward in a recipe. For example, never will I make stuffed bell peppers or get a pizza with mostly pepper topping. So the idea of sweet and sour anything with those big chunks of pepper just lightly sauteed really had no appeal. But, in the spirit of trying something again with an open mind and palette, I went for it.

I have to say, it was really good and the peppers were not "too much" for me. The flavors all mixed beautifully and I dare say it was a lot like the take-out version, but much healthier! Go tofu!

Sweet and Sour Tofu
Based from

  • 1 Package Extra Firm Tofu
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Clove of Garlic, minced
  • 1 Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 1 Carrot, sliced
  • 1 8 oz. Can of Chunk Pineapple
  • 1/4 C. Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 C. White Wine
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Cornstarch plus 1-2 Tbsp. Water
  • Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

  1. Press the tofu between 2 towels or thick layers of papertowels to drain. Once the tofu has been drained, slice it into large 1.5" chunks.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat some olive oil over medium-high heat and add in the tofu. Cook the tofu until it is browned on all sides.
  3. Add in the onion, garlic, pepper and carrots and saute until the onions start to become translucent.
  4. Add in the pineapple with juice, all the liquids & brown sugar and stir to mix. Let it simmer gently for a minute or two.
  5. Mix the cornstarch in the small amount of water and then add into the pan. Stir in the red pepper flakes and any salt and pepper you may want. Let it simmer so that the sauce thickens up.
  6. Serve hot over rice or noodles.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pumpkin Bundt Cake


Oh, pardon, I got a little excited there! Fall is my favorite season and nothing heralds in the season better than pumpkin foods. After my disastrous jell-o mold, I thought I'd get back up on the horse with the new silicone bundt pan.

After a quick hunt on the 'net, I found a great, moist pumpkin cake. The cranberries and orange really added something special to the cake, although I still have not mastered the whole bundt pan thing. My impatience and the heavenly smell got the better of me and I didn't wait for my silly cake to cool all the way. One quick flip of the pan and I got 7/8ths of my cake, with the top happily stuck up in the curves of the mold and steam rising from the remains!

It didn't matter though- it was delicious! We've been munching it for both breakfast and for dessert. Sorry coworkers- I was going to bring it in to share, but I think we're going to gobble it down ourselves!

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Orange Glaze
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 C. Shortening
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 16 oz. can Pumpkin
  • 2 C. Flour
  • 1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 Salt
  • 1/2 C. Whole Cranberries (I used Mariani brand.)
  • 1 C. Powdered Sugar
  • Grated Orange Peel from 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 C. Orange Juice

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If necessary, grease and flour your bundt pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, shortening, eggs, and pumpkin until smooth, 3-5 minutes.
  3. Slowly add in the dry ingredients, mixing as you go. I added in 1 cup of flour, then mixed, then a little flour plus the baking powder, baking soda, and spices (Not the powdered sugar, peel, or OJ), then mixed, then the remaining flour, and then one last mix.
  4. Make sure you batter is well blended. Fold in the cranberries.
  5. Pour the batter into you pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Remove cake from oven and leave on a cooling rack in the pan for a good long time. This is where I got a little overexcited. Once it is relatively cool, flip out onto a serving plate. Then let it cool some more!
  7. While the cake cools, mix together the powdered sugar, orange peel and orange juice until you have a thick glaze.
  8. When the cake is just slightly warm to the touch, drizzle the orange glaze over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature morning, noon, or night!

Spanish Skillet Chicken

Have you visited my friend Thatgirl's blog? You really should. She is smart, witty, and an excellent cook. She also puts my blog to shame with the sheer quantity of blogging she does- I mean, I was lucky to get what I did in this month, and she's posting like every day! Show off... I kid, I KID!

One of the best things about a number of her recipes is that they are simple. She uses good ingredients and lets them shine, and the meals are quick to prepare. And when this one popped up in my blog reader, I knew it was a keeper. In fact, I made it only about a week or two later to rave reviews. (Did I mention she's a lot better at posting than I am?)

This was perfect- my only tweaks were eliminating the parsley (that I didn't have on hand) and the addition of avocado. Which I can't believe she didn't add- she LOVES that green creamy fruit! It is so totally making a comeback to our kitchen, maybe in the dead of winter when we need a little of that Spanish sun feel!

Spanish Skillet Chicken
From Paved with Good Intentions

  • 1 Chicken Breast
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter, divided
  • 1 Shallot, chopped
  • 1 Clove Garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3/4 C. Chicken Broth
  • 2-3 Tbsp Green Olives, chopped
  • 1 Avocado, cubed

  1. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium high heat and cook chicken, flipping once, until it is browned on each side. Remove from skillet and keep warm with foil on top.
  2. Add shallot, garlic, and vinegar to skillet and bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes.
  3. Add broth and return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until broth is reduced to 1/2 cup.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in remaining butter.
  5. Serve chicken over couscous. Drizzle sauce on top and generously sprinkle olives and avocado for a delicious complete meal!

Eat to the Beat: Retro Coca-Cola Jello Mold

A.K.A. Not So Attractive Flesh Gelatin
A.K.A. Ballistics Jell-O
A.K.A. Very tasty, but very ugly dessert in my fridge we just can't get excited enough about to actually eat

Ok, so I really had such a great idea for this latest round of Elly's Eat to the Beat event. It's inspired by a song called "Jackie Will Save Me" by Shiny Toy Guns. It is about Jackie Onassis Kennedy and has a great angry techno electronica style. It's very good for blasting at the top of your car speakers with the windows down.

There is a verse that spoke to me for this event:

I think you're slipping
American Coca-Cola
Sugar Sweetness

Cooking with Coke, now that was something different. And what about the retro aspect of diving into old school dishes? I did a little hunting for recipes and found a totally kitschy dessert I thought would be perfect- Cherry Coca-Cola Salad!

First point of note: turns out jell-o molds were really more of a 50's thing and not a 60's thing. Oh well, close enough. Second point of note: who in their right mind considers gelatin, cream cheese, fruit, and soda a "salad" of any sort!? I loved that some of the recipes were described as "congealed salad." Mmmmm... congealed, appealing, huh?

All of that aside, this seemed like it would be fun. I went out and bought a silicone bundt mold and picked up a single Coke since we don't really drink soda in our house. I prepped this according to the directions and gave it a taste- yummy and saccharine as expected! Into the fridge it went overnight to set.

Well my friends, the first issue in this minor disaster was removing said dessert from said silicone pan. I've never used this type of pan before and it was frankly a little weird. It also wasn't so effective- maybe I should have greased it after all since the poor mold had its top ripped off on about 2/3 of the ring. D'oh! I had to oh so gently pry out the rest and place it top of the base.

Sadly, once "assembled" the dish was, well, hideous. Red gelatin + white cream cheese = pink gelatinous mess that looks just like a slightly sunburned arm! For those of you that enjoy the show Mythbusters, you'll note this looks a lot like Buster the Ballistics Gel Crash Test Dummy.

So that's my entry. A very tasty, creative, and repulsive-looking dessert. Better luck next time, eh?

Cherry Coca-Cola Jello "Salad"
Based from
  • 1 16 oz. Can Cherry Pie Filling
  • 1 8 oz. Can Chunk Pineapple
  • 2 3 oz. Packages Cherry Jell-o
  • 3-4 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 6 oz. Coke (or Diet Coke or Coke Zero)

  1. Drain all of the pineapple juice from the can into a glass measuring cup. Drain the liquid from the pie filling can into the same measuring cup until you have 1 Cup of total liquid. I probably had 2/3 cup of pineapple and 1/3 cup of pie goo. Dispose of the remaining liquid pie filling, leaving the cherries.
  2. In a small saucepan, pour in the liquid and bring it to a boil.
  3. Stir in the gelatin and whisk it together until everything is dissolved.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat. Mix in the cream cheese until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Add in the Coke and beat for 2-3 minutes. The original recipe says to mix until it is "fluffy" but I don't know what that means.
  6. Pour the warm mix into your mold. You may want to try greasing the mold or using a non-stick spray given the results I got. Then again, I'm no Jell-O expert, so maybe the fault is mine?
  7. Fold in the drained cherries and pineapple. Chill in the fridge for 6-8 hours or until the mold is set. Once ready to serve, cross your fingers and don't follow my example to turn out the mold onto a serving dish. Serve to blind or far-sighted guests!

Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto

Here in our house, we love the warm, creamy comfort that risotto brings to a meal. I think I've said it before, but I don't understand the idea that risotto is a difficult dish to prepare. Folks site the length of time involved or the amount of effort involved in "babysitting" the dish. For me, I am going to be in the kitchen prepping dinner for a good 30 minutes anyway, so what's a little stirring and pouring on the stovetop when I’m already involved in cooking!

So not only do I love that risotto fits into my dinner prep schedule, it is also so versatile! You can have your plain Parmesan version or you can kick it up with artisan cheeses, specialty mushrooms, savory vegetables, smoky meats, or fresh seafood. This chameleon dish is happy to be the star of the meal, or morph into a perfect complimentary side.

With all this adoration, I was pleasantly surprised to find a recipe for sun dried tomato risotto attached to the cap of my Bella Sun Luci bottle! We made it and devoured it- the flavors were fantastic together. It was the perfect addition to the stuffed chicken entree and will definitely be on the menu again soon.

Sun Dried Tomato Risotto
From Mooney Farms, Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomatoes

  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 1 C. Risotto (Arborio) Rice
  • 4-6 C. Chicken Broth, warmed
  • 1/2 C. Sun Dried Tomatoes (packed in oil), chopped
  • 1/4 C. Fresh Basil, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp. Dried Parsley (I didn’t have fresh on hand.)
  • Salt & Black Pepper
  • 1/4+ C. Parmesan Cheese, grated

  1. In a large saucepan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic until the onion starts to become translucent.
  2. Add in the dry risotto rice. Stir to coat the rice with oil and let it sit for a minute to brown.
  3. Pour in about 3/4 cups of broth to the pan. Bring to a low boil and stir the risotto. As the liquid starts to absorb, add in the tomatoes, basil, parsley and salt & pepper to taste. Give a good stir.
  4. Continue to pour in 1/2 to 1 cup of broth and stir until the rice is al dente and creamy. Personally, I pour the liquid in, give it a stir, and then let it sit for a few minutes while it simmers away. I only stir every few minutes, usually in between chopping something else that will go into dinner. When I give a stir and the bottom of the pan is dry, that's when I add in more broth.
  5. You may not need all of the broth. Other liquids can be used as well such as water or white wine. The stirring will create the creaminess and the slow simmering will make the rice soft and chewable!
  6. Just before serving, stir in the grated Parmesan until it melts and is thoroughly mixed in.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fried Tofu with Peanut Sauce

There's a fun game I like to play... it's called catch up! The premise of the game is you go back through your food pictures and see that you have great recipes from, um, July that you haven't posted yet and then you spend a Sunday evening finally putting them up for the "world" to enjoy!

It's a lot of fun. The best is trying to remember what the heck you changed from a recipe- d'oh!!!

This meal was really good, and I do legitimately remember that these 2.5 months later. But really, how can you go wrong with a peanut sauce, right?! I'm trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals and tofu is a great way to do it. It is cheaper and I really need to eat more greens! Now we'll just see if I can blog about these lovely recipes sooner so I can recreate them again!

Fried Tofu with Peanut Sauce
Loosely based from Food Network

  • 1 Package Extra Firm Tofu
  • 1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • 2 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 2 tsp. Cooking Sherry
  • 1/2 can Coconut Milk
  • 1/2 C. Smooth Peanut Butter
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Curry Powder
  • 1 Tbsp. Lime Juice
  • 1 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 2 tsp. Soy Sauce
  • Dash Cayenne and/ or Chili Powder

  1. Remove the tofu from its container and drain it by gently but firmly pressing the block between a few layers of paper towels. Does that make sense- gently but firmly? I mean that it is easy to break up the tofu if you are too rough, but you do need to apply some pressure to get moisture out.
  2. While the tofu drains, mix together the soy sauce, oil, and sherry from the start of the ingredient list.
  3. Slice the tofu into large chunks. In a large skillet on medium-high heat, warm up a splash of oil. Place the tofu pieces in the pan and let them sit so that they brown. It takes some time- I want to say a good 10 minutes. Once lightly browned, gently flip the pieces to brown the opposite side.
  4. I think at this point, I poured the sherry mix in the pan to season the tofu. But there is also a chance I either used it as a marinade as the recipe calls for, or I may have omitted that whole portion. (Sorry, the peanut sauce really was the star, so I didn't bother to remember these details!)
  5. While the tofu cooks, mix the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. The peanut butter will melt and the sauce will thin out.
  6. Serve the tofu over while rice or Asian noodles and pour the peanut butter goodness generously over the top!