30 July 2011

Buttery mussels

I was so happy yesterday…the start of the weekend. I was planning to do absolutely noting, but this morning I suddenly had the urge to clean up my little “storage” room. First we took out all of the stuff, man it was a lot! Then I vacuum cleaned it and dusted every off. We had to sort out what we wanted to keep and then put everything back. I think that was the hard part…throwing stuff away. Cuz what if I might need it some day. I guess this was why the room was so packed we couldn’t even find anything there anymore. So I pulled myself together and threw everything out that I haven’t looked at since it moved to the storage room. It took us about half a day to do this and now the room is still packed, but better organized. At least now we can find our stuff, if needed.

After that was done I got the brilliant idea of cleaning out my kitchen cupboards. That took the other half of the day so you can imagine that dinner was quite quick. But hey, before all 7 cupboards were packed and now I filled 6 and have one empty one left! Time to go shopping for some more baking stuff to fill out the empty space (don’t tell my hubby, he’ll freak out)!

Anyway since dinner was so good I thought I’d share this super simple, yet fantastic mussel recipe.

All you need is alot of mussels, butter, garlic and some fresh chilies.
I rinsed and cleaned about 4 kilo mussels. Although I don’t like to waste food, it is not a good idea to eat the mussels that are cracked or open and don’t want to close after you tap them. So I threw those out. Some mussels had a “beard” so I ripped that off as well. Not so jummie.
The butter (use as much or as little as you want, it will all taste good) and the fresh chilies (again as much as you prefer) went into a pot.
Then after the butter has melted and the chilies turned it slightly red, I added some crushed garlic.
Let it all infuse a little, so don’t put the fire too high. When the garlic starts to brown I added the mussels. My pot wasn’t big enough for 4 kilo at one time so I had to make 2 batches. The moment they went in I tossed them a bit and put the lid on and the fire on high.
After a few minutes they started to open up. Once every mussel is open I added some parsley (just because I could get it fresh out of my neighbor's garden, thanks Georgia) and served it.
Some people use an empty shell to eat mussels, but we didn’t, except for this picture. It was so good the only appropriate way to eat it was with our hands. We love our mussels with some garlic sauce.
Since there was no way we could finish 4 kilos I removed all the shells and kept the mussels in the juice. This would be a great broth for clam/mussel chowder. To be continued tomorrow =)

Ps: sorry the pictures are not as clear as I would like them to be. The cleaning must have worn me out so I couldn’t keep the camera still. Or maybe it is just time for a new camera…
Hope your weekend is more relaxed then mine so far!

26 July 2011

The mini series: date cupcakes

My colleagues got me a mini cupcake mold for my birthday and it was slightly bended, meaning it wouldn’t sit straight on my baking rack. On the package it said 5 year warrantee so I emailed the company explaining the situation and asking them how I could qualify for that. They came back to me saying that the warrantee was only for the anti sticking surface but if I would give them my address they will send me a free replacement. Here in Holland we are not use to this kind of service and I wasn’t sure if they would send it to me, but they did. Today my new cupcake mold arrived by post! And this one was straight! I had another look at the bended one and tried to bend it straight and it went. So now I have 2 mini cupcake molds =) Lucky me. These are slightly bigger then the purple one I use for my mini series, but they’ll do.

I’ve been thinking of using the dried dates I have sitting in a jar for a while now. When I first bought them they were nice and sticky but now they kinda dried out a bit. Not so good for eating, but great for baking so that’s what I did. Tonight, right after dinner and watching the finals of Australian’s Junior Masterchef (those damn kids are TALENTED!) I whisked this recipe together.

For about 24 mini cupcakes and one mini pound cake mold I used:
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 18 dried dates
- ½ cup of water
- 1 small cup of espresso coffee
- 150 grams of butter (about 2,5 cm)
- 4 tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 bag of vanilla sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup of flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
I put about 18 dates in one pot.
And use a scissor to cut them in little pieces.
Then I added the lemon juice and enough water to cover the dates. I let it boil for a bit and added some more water when needed. I wanted it to fall apart.
There were still some small pieces left, but that’s ok the main part is mashed. To this I added the espresso coffee and let it to cool for a bit.
In a big bowl I put the room temperature butter, the sugar, vanilla sugar and egg and creamed it all together till it was smooth and the sugar dissolved.  Then the cup of flour, the salt en baking soda went in.
By this time the date mixture cooled down a bit and was ready to be added.
I mixed it for a couple of minutes till everything was incorporated.
Before I start filling the molds I preheated the oven on 180C degrees.
This very useful mini ice scoop was also a gift from my colleagues. One scoop was enough to fill one mold. I should’ve bought one earlier, would’ve saved me lots of time.  
Since there was some batter left I filled this pound cake mold. 
I set the timer on 30 minutes but took them out after 22 minutes, except for the cake mold. Since this had more batter I let it bake a bit longer. The cakes rose beautifully.
This is why you need to be patience and let it cool off for a bit before you try to get them out. The first mold is from the batch I took out when they got straight out of the oven. The second mold is from a couple of minutes later. Needless to say that it sometimes is better to be patience.
The cupcakes were better then expected. You see how fluffy and moist they are? After tasting one I thought why not dress them up a bit with some caramel sauce.
I put about 100 grams of butter, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 5 table spoons of whipping cream in a pot and brought it to a boil. It took quite some time for the mixture to brown and I notice that it helps to add a bit of water while the mixture cooks. Slowly but surely I go the slightly golden brown caramel.
I drizzled some caramel on top. By the time I almost finished all the cupcakes the caramel wasn’t as runny as needed so I headed it up for a little and then finished all the cakes.  
This recipe is a keeper and I am happy my little “experiment” worked well. Both my sister and my hubby loved the cakes and they were surprised it had dates in it. I’m telling you: anything baked in a mini mold would taste good!

25 July 2011

Pho ga (or lazy woman's noodle soup)

I had one happy family at home today. Although the chicken version of pho was not their first preference they figured that any pho would be better then no pho at all. I normally make pho bo, with is the noodle soup with a beef broth, but this dish is very time consuming and takes twice a much work as noodle soup with a chicken broth. I made pho ga once before and it tasted so good, I decided to share the recipe.

Because I think the broth tasted better when you make it one day ahead this is a dish that needs some planning. I actually started to cook this dish on Saturday and we didn’t get to eat it till today because we had dinner at my mom’s yesterday.

Let me give you a list of ingredients to make things easier. Feel free to adapt the quantity because the list of ingredients is what I used for my hug pot of pho ga. Since the family love it so much I always make a big pot so we can eat it for 2 days and if they are lucky for another 3rd day.

For the broth:
-          one handful star anise
-          1 cinnamon stick
-          half an onion
-          about 4 cm of ginger
-          3 fresh bay leaves
-          almost 2 kilo of chicken legs and thighs
-          salt and pepper

The broth is the deal maker or breaker. It needs to be clear and have a slightly star anise and cinnamon flavor.

I started with toasting the star anise, the cinnamon, the onion and the ginger. This will bring out all the nice flavors. Then I put the star anise in a coffee filter and tied it with a string. The rest of the ingredients went straight into the pan. You don’t want to put the star anise straight in the pan otherwise it will fall apart after you boil it for a long time and it will take you lots of time to remove them.

I cleaned the chicken and removed the skin. You can leave it on and take it out later, but I figured as I didn’t going to eat it, I might as well remove it now.
You’ll have to make sure you scoop the foam out frequently so you end up with a clear broth. Make sure you season the broth before the chicken goes in and after when the chicken is cooked. Since the water reduces while cooking you can add more and then season it to your taste.

Cook it for at least one hour and then set it aside. I had my pan outside the fridge and therefore I had to bring it back to a boil every day so it didn’t turn bad. Of course it would be better to store it in the fridge, but mine was totally packed.

The next day soak your dried noodles till they are soft. I soaked mine before I went to work. After I got home I got the chicken out and shredded the meat in big pieces. Then I brought my broth to a boil.

To finish this dish off you’ll need:
-          bean spouts
-          coriander
-          spring onion
-          sweet Thai basil

I chopped the coriander and spring onion and mixed them together with some slices of raw onion.

I boiled some water in a pan for my noodles. Instead of boiling all the noodles at one time I boiled every portion separate in a kitchen sieve.
I started with cooking some bean sprouts. They only take a couple of seconds.
Same goes for the noodles. If you are not sure if they are cooked just try one.
Since the chicken was cold I put them in a big spoon and held it in the broth for a little.
This all is topped with the coriander/spring onion mixture.
Make sure the broth is boiling when you poor it into your bowl.
Sprinkle some drops of lemon, one dollop of hoi sin sauce and some chili sauce and you are ready to go.
I love my pho with some sweet Thai basil. Here you go, my lazy woman’s pho recipe.

23 July 2011

The mini series: Baileys bread pudding

- 50 gram cold butter
This bread pudding is as easy as 1-2-3 so I had to share it with you. It takes about 30 minutes (that’s prep time and baking time) so if you are in a rush you can still make this. Just need to have these ingredients:
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 package vanilla powder
- 3 egg cakes (in Holland we call them “eierkoek”)
- a whole lot of Baileys liqueur
The round cakes were the “eierkoeken” and they were about 2-3 days old. Time to eat them before they go to waste. If you can't find these, about 4 slices of brioche bread would work as well.

Crack 2 eggs in a big bowl and add the vanilla sugar and the 2 tablespoons of regular sugar. Mix everything together till the sugar dissolves. Then add as much Baileys liqueur as you want, about ¼ of a cup should be enough and mix that with the eggs.
Then cut the cakes in little cubes. Remember they have to fit in a tiny mold.
Mix the cake cubes with the egg/Baileys mixture and let it soak for a little. Now peheat the oven on 180C degrees.

When the oven reaches the right temperature it is time to put the pudding in the molds. Add one or two little butter cubes on the top and you are ready to go.
Bake them for about 15-20 minutes till they are golden brown.
OMG they were to die for!
Nice and crunchy and with a hint of Baileys. They are so addictive you can’t stop eating them so make sure you make a double batch!

22 July 2011

How we met

This post is dedicated to the love of my life, the thorn in my side =) …my hubby. You should know today is his birthday and this was his birthday meal:
Medium grilled rib eye with fresh cut potato fries, fresh corn on a cob and some mini Yorkshire puddings with a gorgonzola mushroom onion sauce. Just the right celebration meal for my birthday boy!

Next to food he is the only one who is always on my mind. I choose him over food any time so that says a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever blogged about how we first met. It is such a great story to tell.

It started end of 2003 when we first met online on a chat site. That time chat sites were just hitting the internet and getting somewhat famous. I’ve been “online” since my 18th so I knew my way around. I’ve made some good friends online so chatting was something I was familiar with.

He asked me to come to Rome for his sister’s wedding. I said no. Rome is too far for me to return back home if things didn’t work out. And by that time we were only chatting for a few months, barely enough to become “friends”. Then I was supposed to see him in Paris, but I wasn’t sure if I could have time off so I invited him over to Holland. I had just move to my very own little apartment and didn’t had anything to worry about so I thought why not. If for some reason I didn’t like him I could still kick him out. So we decided to meet in Den Haag and I would pick him up from the train station. Guess what? He was late!! Missed his train and had to take the next one. Good thing he had my number so he could call me to pick him up otherwise he would still be standing there.

He stayed for a long weekend and the first night we went to eat out and clubbing. The next day I introduced him to a good friend of mine and we hung out there. The third day we had steak dinner and a movie. I think the first movie we ever saw together was Troy, with super gorgeous Brad Pitt.
The last day he was in Holland I had to work. I remembered thinking: “I hope all my stuff is still there when I get back home”. I did came back home to make noodle soup lunch for him. Funny the things you still remember.

He wrote me a poem on a postcard and left that with a little present (Mont blanc pen) on my table. And days after he left he sent me a postcard from Italy. I still have both as a reminder of how our friendship started and grew to what it is now.

We didn’t instantly fell in love. I didn’t thought I would end up with him the first time I saw him. After he left we became closer and closer. At one point we talked to each other every day either on the phone or online. Those were the days that I barely had any sleep and I didn’t seem to need any either.

We were from two different worlds. My world was 7 hours ahead of his. When my world was covered in darkness and a new day started, he just finished work. I didn’t sign up for a long distance relationship but when we came to realize that we wanted to be together things got better. We had more peace and less doubts. I didn’t get to see him for one year and in that year we got to know each other pretty well. Amazing how well you get to know someone if you aren’t able to physically be together. He totally run me over with his personality. That first year laid the foundation of our relationship.

After one year he took me to California to meet his family. They instantly took me in as one of their own. I remembered the first question his mom asked me was “when are you guys getting married?”. It was soo weird, but also flattering.

In the next 3 years we were flying back and forth. Since I had 5 weeks holiday every year I tried to fly to the States as often as I could. And beginning 2007 I was done flying. I didn’t have enough holiday days left and I couldn’t do it anymore. The flying and staying up late was wearing me out. So after his brother’s wedding he packed his things and left the States to be with me. To live with me in the apartment where we first met.

I haven’t been cooking as much as when I started living together with my hubby. The moment he came in my life things chanced. No more eating the same dish for at least 3 days in a row, but freshly cooked homemade meals almost every day.

We tied the knot about one year after he came to Holland in April 2008. The whole family came together for this event. Since his brother’s wedding in 2007 the family has been able to have a reunion every year. The next one is planned in January 2012.

So this is in a nutshell how we met. He is the most kind, sweet and generous man I ever met and I am very luck to have him in my life. Every day has been an adventure and it is one I don’t want to share with anyone else then my BOEBOE (my nickname for him). I hope we can enjoy each others company for many more years to come.

20 July 2011

The mini series: puff pastry with corn

Since I had 3 little squares left and I didn’t want it to go to waste I decided to do another mini series. I had some left over corn so I thought why not make something with that as well.
I made stuffing with lots of corn, a little bit of ground meat, some chopped parsley, garlic powder and a pinch salt and pepper.
I filled all the molds with puff pastry and stuffed them with the corn mixture.
As everything taste better with some grated cheese I added that on top.
They went into an 180C degree oven for 15-20 minutes till the cheese melted and the puff pastry browned. 
It was the perfect snack dipped in some sweet and sour sauce.
We didn’t finish it all (can you believe it?) so I put them on a rack in an oven and preheated them till 180C degrees and gave them another 5 minutes. They came out just like I freshly baked them.

Don’t you just love puff pastry?

The mini series: puff pastry with hazelnut and pear

I am all rested from quite a hectic Saturday and really to go on with my mini series. Remember the hazelnut stuffing I made earlier? It’s been sitting in my fridge for about 2 weeks now. All the flavors are nicely mixed and I was ready to use them. At first I wanted to make the stuffed cookies I remembered from my childhood, but I didn’t have the right ingredients.
I did have some frozen puff pastry. I just love puff pastry. I know some will make it from scratch, and maybe one day I will do to, but for now I just love the frozen all ready to go puff pastry. I try to have at least one package (about 10 sheets) in my freezer so I can make a sweet or savory snack in no time.
I also had some ripe pears so I thought why not use at least one of them.
One puff pastry sheet was enough to fill nine little molds.
I made 24 pieces so I needed about 3 sheets of puff pastry.
On top of the pastry I put a scoop of hazelnut stuffing.

Then on top of that some thinly sliced pear. I preheated the oven on 180C degrees while finishing all the other moulds.
I baked them for about 15-20 minutes and after around 15 minutes I kept coming back to check up on them every couple of minutes. Just to make sure I didn’t burn them.
I was so exited when they were done. I was soo looking forward to make something with my hazelnut stuffing.
The puff pastry was nice and crispy and very flaky.

The hazelnut stuffing went really well with the pasty, but blew the pear right out of the water. The pear was nowhere with the strong hazelnut flavor around and tasted really bland. Next time I will lose the pear and just go with the hazelnut stuffing.