Archive for September, 2010

Cheryl’s Chewy Cookies

Posted in Dessert with tags , , , , , , , on September 28, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

Just a word of caution: these are the most addictive cookies I have ever tasted. This recipe is a Cheryl Naugle original (Mark’s Mama). I have been attempting to make these for the past four years, and have never really been successful (mostly because I can’t follow directions); but this time I came pretty close.

Moms always know what to do to make their kids feel better after a no good day.  Growing up these were Mark’s favorite treats his mom made (and still are). So when Mark was feeling a little down I knew this was just the thing to make, and it worked! His entire attitude changed as soon as I took these out of the oven. So if you want to cheer someone up, make a peace offering with someone, or want to get the attention of a certain boy the following recipe is your secret weapon.

These cookies are also extremely quick & simple to make, but you have to make sure to follow a few tips to get them right. Just be careful to pack in the brown sugar, and not pack in the flour. Although the batter will only take you a couple of minutes to prepare, the difficult task, however, is knowing when to take these out of the oven.  Cook them a minute less and you will be eating them with a spoon. A minute too long and they won’t be soft and gooey in the center.  The trick is to take these out when they look almost done. The center will look slightly undercooked, but they will set once they are cooled. And finally, share with your neighbors so you don’t end up eating all of them…cause trust me, you will be tempted!! It takes a Chewy expert to get these perfect, but as long as you come close enough they will still be the best cookie you put in your mouth.

Ingredients:

  • 2 c. packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 c. shortening or 1 1/2 sticks of butter, @ room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 c. flour, sifted (do NOT pack the flour. If you don’t want to sift take a spoon and sprinkle flour on to measuring cup for correct measurement)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 c. semisweet chocolate chips (or a combo of semisweet, dark, peanut butter chips…etc.)
  • 2/3 c. chopped walnuts

Directions:

  1. Cream shortening and (packed) sugar until creamy. Add vanilla. Incorporate eggs, one at a time.
  2. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients.
  3. Add chocolate chips and nuts
  4. In greased medium cookie sheet (15 x 10) spread mixture evenly
  5. Bake in preheated oven at 350 for about 12.5-14 minutes. Do not overcook. Cookies will look like they are not done, but they will continue to set once they are out of the oven.
  6. Do not cut until completely cooled.

** Cookies should have a caramelized crust on the top. The center may still look like it’s not done, but once it’s cooled it will set.

Note: At sea level these were cooked at 13 minutes.  You may need to adjust depending on your location…do a google search if you’re not sure.

Salmon, Crab and Veggie Puffs

Posted in Seafood with tags , , , , , on September 26, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

Mark loved the veggie sweet potato pot pie so much that after he finished his giant sized bowl, he asked if there were leftovers.  I asked if he was still hungry, but he went on to explain that although he was extremely full, he was already looking forward to eating the leftovers for tomorrow….WHAT?? This was extremely surprising since Mark HATES leftovers, unless they are cookies or Dominos pizza.  So when he asked if I could make this again the next day I thought I would blow his mind with something even better.  Take something delicious and pair it with something that’s awesome. Awesomely delicious is what this is.  I added 3 of his favorite ingredients: salmon, crab, and bacon.  It was originally just going to be Salmon, but added crab because it was on sale and his face lit up as soon as he saw it at the grocery store…couldn’t say no to that face. And the bacon…well it had been in the fridge for a while from BLT sandwiches so it needed to be used up. But I have heard seafood + bacon is a big hit, so I went with it. And a big hit it was.

I hope you guys make this soon, cause it is SO good, I promise!

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • Veggie concoction (click here)
  • 1 sheet puff pastry (thawed and slightly rolled out)
  • 1 lb salmon
  • Crab
  • Bacon

Directions:

  1. Slightly roll out puff pastry out.  Take something round (like margarita glass) and press it down on the pastry to make a round cut out (4 times).  Now take a smaller circle (like a regular glass) and make a smaller circle in the middle, without actually cutting it out.
  2. With pastry brush, apply egg wash on top
  3. Bake at 425 for about 10-15 minutes, until golden brown
  4. When ready, cut out top and fill inside with veggie concoction, crab, and salmon.
  5. Sprinkle with bits of bacon.

Salmon:

  • On med/high heat with a bit of olive oil, add room temperature salmon seasoned with salt and pepper.  Cook about 1.5 minutes on each side, then transfer to aluminum foil teepee for about 5 minutes.  The steam will continue to cook the fish, resulting in a med/rare filet.  If you like it more well done, then increase the the cooking time a minute or so.

After Mark had 2 puff pastry cups, I could see he was still hungry.  Then I remembered I still had a little bit of pastry dough left so I made a mini pot pie for him as well. Third one’s a charm, and this one finally hit the spot.

For the pastry dough recipe, click here.

Enjoy!


Fall Salad

Posted in Salads with tags , , , , , , on September 24, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

I know a lot of you have an abundance of apples and pears. So make something healthier than apple pie with this fall spinach salad tossed with grapefruit, red pears, green apples, walnuts, gorgonzola cheese and an easy raspberry vinaigrette. Best of all, you can eat this salad before your meal or save it for dessert.

Ingredients:

  • Spinach
  • Grapefruit
  • Green apple (with a bit of lime to prevent browning)
  • Red pear
  • Gorgonzola cheese
  • Walnuts
  • Raspberry vinaigrette (raspberry jam, red wine vinegar, olive oil)

Baked Blue Cheese Jalapeno Poppers

Posted in American, Mexican with tags , , , , , on September 24, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

Huge jalapenos stuffed with a mixture of cream cheese, blue cheese and green onions.  My only regret is that I didn’t have more jalapenos.

Whenever I buy chilies I remember going to the mexican grocery store with my Mom.  We were making a recipe that called for 1 chili pepper, and I got exactly one.  My mom hadn’t noticed, and when the lady at the register saw my one chile, they both started laughing uncontrollably. But in my defense, I didn’t want to be wasteful and have extra chilies spoil in our fridge! But I should have known that in our Mexican household, they would not have spoiled. I guess the correct thing to do is buy pounds of chiles. And with this recipe, I now will too. So go to your local Mexican grocery store and get a a bag full of jalapenos, cause everyone will be wanting more!

Ingredients:

  • Jalapenos, sliced and seeded
  • Filling: cream cheese, blue cheese, parmesan cheese, green onions, salt, pepper
  • Coating: flour (with salt, pepper & paprika), egg (with Frank’s buffalo sauce), and panko bread crumbs.

Directions:

  1. Slice and seed jalapenos
  2. Combine cream cheese, blue cheese, parmesan, green onions, and salt and pepper until smooth and creamy
  3. Fill each sliced jalapeno with filling and squeeze each half together.
  4. Place jalapenos in freezer while you make coating.
  5. Pre heat oven to 425 degrees
  6. Dip jalapenos in flour, then egg, then panko. Repeat process one more time.
  7. Bake jalapenos until coating is golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Note: if you want a better crunch, you can also fry these up, if you don’t mind the extra calories.



Spicy Sweet Potato Pot Pie

Posted in American with tags , , , , , on September 24, 2010 by Cooking For Mark


If there was a time where I wish you could taste pictures, this would be it.  Mainly because you can’t see what’s underneath that flaky pastry, but also because it very very tasty, and according to Mark, “one of my top 5 this month”. Hmm, I will take that as a compliment considering Mark hates soups and pot pies. But not this one!  This pot pie was made with the nutritional all star sweet potato, fresh corn, juicy mushrooms, and chipotles! The melody of flavors explodes in your mouth, with excitement and a little bit of hatred, wondering why other pot pies taste like bland old people food. But not this one I’m telling you!

I usually don’t like telling Mark what I’m making for dinner. Mostly because it’s veggie this…or lentil and veggie that. And when I say that I know his heart sinks a little, and he wants to take a sneaky trip up to Taco Bell.  So most of the time I keep it a surprise so he doesn’t have time to think about it. And 98% of the time he absolutely loves the meat-less meals I prepare. This time, however, it slipped out that I was making veggie pot pie, and I felt his eyes roll…not physically but mentally (really!). He is usually excited for dinner, and I felt zero motivation from him.  When he saw the individual bowls with his own flaky buttery crust, there was a glimmer of hope. He took his first bite, said nothing, but started eating a little more enthusiastically. When he was 1/4 way into he bursted out saying it was “soo good”. When he finished off the entire bowl, he raved…about pot pie! As soon as I realized he was being serious I hurried and wrote down the recipe before I forgot. It’s the little things that make me happy, like having Mark enjoy something he would have otherwise hated. Successful night.

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • Olive oil, to coat pan
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 fennel
  • 2 sweet potatoes (or regular), chopped
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 sticks of celery
  • 2 corn cobs
  • Salt + pepper
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 can chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1/2-1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 tbsp chipotle sauce
  • 2 tsp Franks Red Hot Buffalo Sauce
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp fresh fennel leaves
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 package mushrooms, cut in 4ths
  • 1/2 c. parmesan cheese

Directions:

  • Cut all veggies
  • Saute onions in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add fennel, garlic and potatoes and cook on med/high for about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add carrots, celery, and corn, cook for a few minutes and season.
  • Spread flour over veggies and cook for a few minutes.
  • Add broth and milk, chipotle sauce, hot sauce, paprika, dill and fennel leaves. Taste and adjust salt.
  • Let vegetables simmer for about 10 mites.
  • For the last few minutes add mushrooms. Turn off heat and add parmesan cheese. Set aside.

Pastry Dough Ingredients:

  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 c. cold butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • a few tbsp cold water, add slowly until dough comes together
  • Egg wash for brushing on top of pastry before baking

Directions: Combine dry ingredients.  Incorporate butter, and mix cold water slowly until dough comes together.  Divide dough in 4 pieces (if making individual pies). Place dough in freezer for 10 mutes. Quickly roll out dough, place on top of veggie bowl (or casserole), and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes.


Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Posted in American with tags , , , , on September 23, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

This is one of my favorite pizzas.  It has a perfect combination of flavors that go extremely well together.  It has a creamy buffalo sauce with gorgonzola cheese. Sliced jalapenos and artichokes are tossed in, as well as grilled chicken topped with mozzarella cheese. After it’s baked it is lightly drizzled with a bit more buffalo sauce. It is simple, yet unbelievably delicious.

I wish I could take credit for this creation, but I cannot.  This pizza is featured in a local pizza joint in Seattle, Mod Pizza, and they have called their creation the Calexico. It’s pure genius, and I have managed to clone their recipe. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Sauce

  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1-2 tbsp Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp gorgonzola cheese (Do not skip, it is essential!)

Toppings

  • Sliced Jalapenos
  • Artichokes (canned)
  • A bit more gorgonzola cheese (optional)
  • Mozzarella Cheese
  • Grilled chicken
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • More Buffalo sauce, to top after pizza is baked.

Dough: Click Here

Project Food Blog & Guava Cheesecake!

Posted in Dessert with tags , , , on September 19, 2010 by Cooking For Mark

In just a few hours Foodbuzz’s “Project Food Blog” contest will commence. In short, there will be a total of 10 challenges with a final prize of 10K.  There are about 2,000 contestants and only 400 will move on to challenge #2. I think my chances are quite good, no?

And no, challenge #1 has nothing to do with “the best cheesecake ever”, but if it did, I might have this one in the bag.  But at last, the first challenge is as follows:

What defines you as a food blogger and why should you be the next food blog star?

Like many food bloggers, their title is a great indication of their niche.  My title, however is not only my niche, it is what defines me as a food blogger all around. You may only see “Cooking For Mark”, but there is more. It’s a little hard to read, but below you will find “Around the World Cooking Made Simple”.

“Cooking For Mark”

Mark is my fiancee, whom I cook for.  But that is not what defines my blog.  Mark is also my loved one who enjoys the dishes I create for him.  Cooking, for me, is about family, about friends.  It’s about socializing, comforting people, and making them just a little happier.  This is the reason I cook. Sure, people need to eat. But when the food is delicious and enjoyable  it converts your soul. And it’s not only about the food.  It is my way of showing people my love and appreciation for them.

“Around the World Cooking”

If there was something I loved more than cooking (besides Mark, my family, and my pug Chups, of course), it would be traveling.  When traveling to a new country you are literally experiencing a part of the world for the first time, in all respects–It’s exhilarating!  It’s the greatest learning experience about both the world and about yourself. But be careful not to mistake being a traveler versus being a tourist.  Tourists sightsee, but travelers see beyond.  They get to know the people, experience the culture, smell the air, and seek out foods they have never tasted.  I’ve had a squid sandwich in the city of Madrid, snails in the great medina of Fez, and BBQ crickets in the jungles of Siem Reap.  But I’ve also had the best noodles in Hangzhou, the best Doner in Bilbao, the best sweet tea in Bangkok, and the best cider in Oviedo.

My  memories of traveling are best revived in my kitchen.  Closing my eyes and smelling the sweet spices in the air takes me to another world.  And when I take a taste, it brings that world to me. Even if I can’t travel all the time, I can bring a piece of Delhi, Tapei, Azerbaijan, or Sao Paulo to my kitchen, and to the kitchen of my readers.

“Made Simple”

I am not a chef. I am an amateur in every sense.  In effect, the things I make will never be beyond the capacity of anyone. Everyone can cook, and everyone can make my recipes.  It’s that simple.

And now, to the final question, “why should I be the next food blog star”? Because I feel people want and need to cook out of their comfort zone.  Doing so will be such a rewarding experience not only for the cook, but for the families you cook for. It will teach your kids about different cultures and different foods, resulting in a more tolerable, culturally sensitive generation.

Further, in the 1 in 2,000 chance I have to win the final challenge, I would take my 10K and really travel the world!  My dream is to visit remote areas of the world, sit down with the family’s grandmother and learn from her. Everything from the culture, to the food, to her cooking methods. Because becoming a great cook does not begin in a class room.  It originates in the heart and comes out through curiosity, getting stronger the more you experience.  This will be a lifelong journey. It is not the end for which I am looking forward to, but everything in between.

And now, I will bribe you with a cheesecake recipe, to urge you to vote for me. Remember, 80% of the contestants will be dropped after this first challenge, so if you want to help me out, please take a minute and vote here. (Voting ends Sep 23).

Guava Cheesecake

I made this cheesecake for my brother’s 20th birthday.  He just moved to Washington from Utah about a month ago and I wanted to make a little something that reminded him of home.

In our home we grew up with cheesecake.  We also grew up with a special dessert my Mom makes made of guavas and a milk-based jello, which is honestly the best dessert I have ever had.  So I decided to incorporate the two and make a guava cheesecake. And what a great combination of flavors! It was tart, sweet, creamy…it was perfect.  Since the cheesecake was so big I was planning on freezing a large portion of it, but before I knew it the guys had devoured it entirely. They loved it.

As the guys took their first bite they both groaned with pleasure (my favorite sound to hear when people taste my food). I then went on to explain that it was a guava cheesecake.  Mark, being the picky eater that he is, replied “good thing you told me afterwards, or I wouldn’t have wanted to taste it”. So, even Mark, who dislikes guava greatly enjoyed this guava cheesecake. Give this one a try, even if you aren’t particularly fond of guavas. You will not regret it!

Pecan Walnut Crust

  • 1 c. pecan shortbread cookies (about 8 cookies)–optional. Can just use 2 c. gram crackers
  • 1 c. gram crackers (about 8 crackers)
  • 1/3 c. walnuts
  • 1/4 c. melted butter

Directions: blend all ingredients except butter.  Place in bowl and add melted butter. Combine.  Mold mixture into bottom of spring form pan. Bake at 375  for 8-10 minutes. Place in freezer until ready to use.

Guava Cheesecake:

  • 4 packages cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar

Cream together, but don’t over-beat

  • 3/4 c. coconut cream
  • 7 guavas (canned), seeded

Blend together and strain

  • 1 c. sour cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • zest of 1 lime

Combine with guava and coconut milk mixture

  • 4 eggs
  • 3 tbsp flour

Slowly incorporate eggs and flour. Be careful to not over-beat.  Incorporate mixture with cream cheese. Fill the spring form pan and bake in pre heated oven at 350 for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 250 and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. DO NOT open the oven door.  Turn off heat and let the cheesecake sit there for 4 hours with door slightly open.  When cake is completely cool, place in refrigerator overnight.

Guava Cream Topping:

  • 5 guavas (canned), seeded
  • 1/4 c. coconut cream
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions: Blend together and store in refrigerator until ready to use.