Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mango Cilantro Salsa

This recipe was born out of necessity: I had planned to make a strawberry cilantro salsa to go with the Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas from a previous post. But alas - the strawberries in my fridge had gone bad, and were beginning to mold! Thankfully, mangoes were 58 cents at Jewel that day, and a little improvisation gave birth to this yummy topping, which sports a nice blend of sweet, spicy, tangy, and salty flavors.


  • Flesh of 1 large, ripe mango, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 red or green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 green onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely diced
  • 1 fresh jalapeño, with seeds removed, finely diced
  • Juice of 1 fresh lime (approx 2 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Salt


  1. In a medium sized bowl, combine mango, pepper, green onion, cilantro,  jalapeño, lime juice, lemon juice, and a generous pinch of salt. Mix well.
  2. Cover with Saran wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. (Will keep up to 48 hours in the fridge).
And that's it!


The cornucopia of flavors in this simple salsa balanced the umami and spice of the chicken fajitas very nicely. And the chilled salsa was a nice contrast to the warm meat, just out of the slow cooker. I wouldn't change a thing, except that if I were making this to consume with chips instead of using them as a topping, I cut the mango and pepper small enough to be easily scoop-able. As it was, there was no salsa left over after dinner anyway!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Slow Cooker Chicken Fajitas

A simple, tasty slow cooker recipe (aren't they all?) that comes out with all the flavor of slow-roasted Mexican chicken and the tenderness of carnitas.


  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved
  • 1/2 jar (8 oz.) medium salsa
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 small red onion, coarse chopped
  • 1/2 small white onion, coarse chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, coarse chopped
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 fresh cracked black pepper.


  1. Place the chicken breasts in the bottom of a slow cooker. Pour salsa and tomato sauce on top. Add onions, garlic, pepper, cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. Set cooker to low, and cook until chicken is tender and pulls apart easily, 4-6 hours, stirring every couple hours. Shred the chicken, and return to cooker on low for another 1/2 hour before serving.
(Yes, there's only one step)


Myself, my roommate, and his girlfriend at this with fresh, homemade tortillas, mango cilantro salsa , and shredded sharp cheddar with Spanish rice on the side.
Chicken Fajitas are a  balanced part of this completely mouth-watering dinner.
The look on Mike's face as he digs in says it all. It was delicious.

There's so much room for experimentation in this recipe, it hardly qualifies as unique. Adding more bell peppers, sliced hot peppers, ancho spices, or fresh tomatoes would be tasty, as would varying the mix of spices: perhaps some cayenne or paprika for those who like it hot? Or a little liquid smoke for some of that barbequed goodness? So simple, so tasty.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Hungarian Cinnamon Bread (Kalacs)

Having made a couple savory dishes in the past couple weeks, it seemed time to make a sweeter dish, but having made cookies recently as well (and, truly, many many times before that), the time seemed right to try out a new, sweet baked bread recipe. I give you Kalacs, a Hungarian cinnamon bread:


For the Dough:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt salt
  • 1 package dry active yeast (1/4 oz)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 1/4 cup hot milk (110 degrees or so)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (imitation or regular)

For the Filling:

  • Melted butter for brushing (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3 tbsp semi-sweet chocolate chips, finely chopped


  1. In a small bowl, combine hot milk and yeast package. Allow to proof 5-8 minutes, or until a light froth is visible on the surface of the milk.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, melted butter, vanilla extract, and milk and yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, combine flours, white sugar, and salt.
  3. Add the dry mix to the wet ingridents and kneed well until an elastic dough is formed, approx 4-5 minutes. Add up to 1/4 cup additional all-purpose flour if necessary to get the dough to cohere.
  4. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover, and set in a warm place to rise until the dough doubles in bulk, approx 1 1/2 hours.
  5. While the dough is rising, prepare the filling. In a small bowl, combine 1/4 quarter cup brown sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine remaining brown sugar and cinnamon, cocoa powder, brown sugar, vanilla, and chopped chocolate chips, and mix well.
  6. Punch down the dough, divide into two equal pieces, and roll each into a long rectangle, approx 8" by 15", on a well-floured surface. Brush each rectangle with melted butter. Sprinkle each with one of the prepared filling mixtures.
  7. Firmly roll each rectangle into a log, pinch the ends closed, and place into individual greased loaf-pans. Cover, and allow to rise in a warm place approx. 1/2 hour.
  8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  9. Brush the tops of the loaves with melted butter. Score the tops of the loaves diagonally with a sharp knife. Bake in preheated over until the loaves are golden brown, about 30 minutes. 
  10. Turn out onto a cooling sheet. Slice and serve while warm.
When your filling looks this good, you know you're in for a tasty time.


The experimental part of this recipe was the chocolate and cocoa filling - far less traditional than the simple cinnamon sugar mix. Both turned out deliciously, though I would have added more brown-sugar filling to the traditional loaf. These would make an excellent french toast, and have been great in the mornings with a little butter. The traditional loaf is also great with some Olallieberry jam. (Thanks, mom!)
Kalacs with cocoa filling on the left, and traditional cinnamon sugar filling on the right.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Parmesan Crusted Asparagus

What goes better with a delicious cheesy casserole than delicious cheesy veggies? This recipe was incredibly easy and full of flavor.


  • 1 pound asparagus spears (thin)
  • 1.5 tbsp extra virgin olive out
  • 2 ounces shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar, or to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Lay asparagus on sheet in a single layer. Drizzle olive oil onto asparagus, or brush on with butter brush. Spread Parmesan cheese over asparagus evenly, and sprinkle with black pepper.
  3. Bake 12-15 minutes until cheese is melted and asparagus is bright green and slightly crisp. Serve immediately. Spinkle with balsamic vinegar to taste.
The asparagus with Parmesan, ready to go into the over


If you like asparagus, you'll love this simple modification. If you don't, this won't convince you to eat asparagus. It's just that simple. Using shaved Parmesan instead of grated or shredded left the Parmesan in large, tasty continents of cheese, which definitely improved the flavor of the overall dish.

A simple and yummy side. And healthy too!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Corn and Chilis

With a surprise Easter Sunday off of tech, what else was there to do but cook for some friends? No experiments this time, just a classical casserole from my childhood that my parents and our good friend-of-the-family Laura used to make on holidays. It's so simple and delicious - why wasn't I making this all these years??

Corn and Chilis


  • 3 cans creamed corn
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp garlic salt (or 3/4 tsp garlic powder and 1/4 tsp Laury's seasoned salt)
  • 3/4 cup yellow corn meal
  • 5 tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 cans Ortega green chilis (diced)
  • 12 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix creamed corn, eggs, garlic salt, corn meal, and cooking oil. Stir well.
  3. Pour half of the above batter into a casserole dish or large baking bowl.
  4. Sprinkle chilis and cheddar cheese onto the dish.
  5. Cover with the remaining batter.
  6. Bake until firm, approximately 1 hour. The top may or may not brown a bit, especially if there is exposed cheese. This is normal.
Corn and Chilis, pre-baking


Delicious, tasty, and oh so simple. Between myself and three friends we killed an entire pan of Corn and Chilis in under half an hour, and that was in additional to raspberries and Parmesan asparagus (more on that later). Will definitely be making this again. I coooked it about 55 minutes until it had just started to brown around the edges, but in the future I might leave it another 10 or 15 minutes to let it firm up a little more on top. 

Molly has a secret: it's how good this casserole is.
Childhood tastes so, so good.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Baking Experiment: Bailey's Irish Cream Cookies

Another experimental recipe, but this time, I'm writing the entry after preparing, baking, and eating the food. Trust me on this one, y'all, remember that this was an experimental recipe, and that you should read all the way to the end to get all the juicy tidbits and results.

The Recipe


  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3/4 cup Irish Cream liqueur (i.e. Baileys)
  • 1/4 cup butterscotch schnapps
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour


  1. Cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in vanilla, egg yolk, and egg until combined, then beat in egg; beat until smooth. Add Irish Cream and schnapps, and mix until incorporated.
  2. Sift flour into the mixture. Stir well until evenly mixed.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  4. Scoop the dough (which should be fairly soft and sticky) into a piping bag. (In a pinch, a gallon sized ziplock with the tip cut off will work. Consider reinforcing the tip with gaff or duct tape.) Pipe into flatted fingers or wavy shapes, keeping the cookies fairly flat to ensure even cooking, onto a greased cookie sheet or parchment paper.
  5. The piping bag can be a mess, but it does make it easy to make a variety of interesting shapes.
  6. Bake 8-10 minutes (or 16-18 minutes, see below). Remove to cooling rack to set afterward.
Some possible shapes: squiggly snakes and flat fingers.

The Results

These cookies as baked were a bit of a let-down. They didn't have a whole lot of flavor, and you definitely couldn't pick out anything that distinctively said "Baileys!"

Cruising the internet, it became clear that most variants of this recipe include two more ingredients than I do: salt, presumably for flavor, and baking powder. Baking powder! Of course. Definitely would have helped these cookies be a little less spongy and more crisp, like sugar cookies should be. The snake-shapes especially (that you can see in the above picture) were pretty moist in the middle, and not that flavorful. For the later trays that went in the over, I shifted to the flatter finger shapes and even flattened circles, in an effort to get more consistent cooking.
The flatter cookies baked more evenly and avoided the cakey texture that the snakes had.
At this point my roommate and his girlfriend came home, and lost as I was in their delightful friendship, I left a batch of circles in the oven for over 17 minutes. I assumed they'd be a lost cause, but they actually came out crisper and tastier than any of the other batches. I left the remaining batches in for about the same amount of time, and they too were delicious.

Even with the overbaking, the cookies were still a little bland. These really being sugar cookies, it would have been nice to throw some icing on them, but without powdered sugar, I didn't feel I could make a solid and sturdy enough icing to hold up to the hardness of the cookie.

Schnapps and brown sugar to the rescue! I brushed each cookie with a little more butterscotch schnapps, pressed a generous pinch of brown sugar on top, then brushed more schnapps over the top and let them dry. These made a sugary crisp topping that really added to the flavor of the cookie. If I'd have had cinnamon, I think cinnamon-sugar would have worked as well, but might have disguised this as a typical snickerdoodle, instead of a sugary butterscotch cookie.
The butter brush: no longer just for butter. The emergency cookie fix made quite a mess, but it was worth it.

Next Time

Add salt and baking powder. Ditch the piping bag - a lot of mess for not that much added value or taste. Bake a solid 12 minutes at least. Add icing. Clearly, these cookies are begging for a second baking.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pizza Experiment: Spicy Kielbasa and Onion

Fair warning, y'all: this recipe is written exactly as it was prepared. It is in the oven at the time of writing, and is therefore an untested experimental recipe. I make no claims for its tastiness or success at this point in the post. See the results section below for the conclusion on this pizza..

Tonight's pizza experiment: a pizza with a little more zip and spice than the traditional cheese, and a crust that (hopefully) gives a heartier and richer experiments than a plain white-flour variant. Tonight's pizza is the spicy kielbasa and onion.


The Dough

  • 1/4 oz active dry yeast (1 package)
  • 1 cup warm water (100+ degrees)
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp cajun spice seasoning
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp white sugar
The Sauce
  • 6 oz jarred pizza sauce (Ragu or your favorite)
  • 1/4 tsp Sriracha (Rooster) sauce
The Toppings
  • 1 regular kielbasa sausage
  • 3-4 oz shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 small sweet onion
  • 1/2 tsp butter
  • Louisiana-style hot sauce


  1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let stand until creamy or foamy looking, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In a large metal bowl, combine the bread flour, garlic powder, chili powder, cayenne pepper, cajun spice, olive oil, salt, sugar, and the yeast-water mixture. Mix and kneed well until a stiff (fairly dry) dough is formed. Cover and let rise in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume and is puffy to the touch.
    • For best results, fill a large pot with more hot water, and float the metal bowl of dough in it, covering the combination with a dish towel or two. This will keep the dough warm and help the yeast to rise.
  4. While the dough is rising, cut the Kielbasa into small circles (~1/8" thick). Fry in a pan with 1/2 tsp. butter until slightly blackened around the edges and noticeably crispy. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Toss in a small bowl with a generous splash of Louisiana-style hot sauce.
  5. Section the sweet onion into medium-size chunks.
  6. Mix the pizza sauce and Sriracha in a small bowl. (DO NOT attempt to mix the sauces together on the pizza itself: it will result a normally-sauced pizza with pockets of fiery mania.)
  7. Place the rough on a well-floured surface. Form the dough into a round, then transfer to a pizza pan. (In a pinch, a cookie tray will do. Especially if you like rectangular pizza!)
  8. Spread sauce liberally over pizza. Apply kielbasa and onion evenly around the pizza surface, then sprinkle Parmesan and mozzarella over the top.
  9. Bake until crust is golden brown and slightly crispy, 18-20 minutes.
  10. Let cool a couple minutes before slicing, eating, and enjoying.
Pizza topped with lucious goodness, pre-cheese. Note the orange tint of the crust due to the chili powder.
You can never have too much cheese on a pizza.


Really, you can't go wrong with kielbasa and onions on pizza. That's just a fact. They look and taste juicy and delicious no matter what else you throw at them.

Baked 19 minutes to a slightly soft crust.

What's surprising is how much the spiciness of both the Louisiana hot sauce and the Sriracha deteriorates when you expose them to heat. Anyone who's ever tried cooking with Sriracha knows that after just a few minutes on the burner, it looses a serious amount of its firepower. But the piquant flavor of the Sriracha and the spicy creole taste of the hot sauce live on in the sauce and kielbasa respectively, and were noble additions to the flavor of this pizza.

Next Time?

I would definitely try to punch up the spicy quotient of this pizza. Some more cayenne in the crust, more hot sauce on the kielbasa. Though even now, five minutes after finishing a slice, my mouth has a pleasant tingle to it. Not a spicy, painful tingle, but the satisfying afterglow of spices doing their job.