Thai Basil Shrimp with Coconut Rice

This recipe stems back to my post a couple nights ago about my love/obsession with good Thai food.  The moment I tasted this recipe about 6 months ago, I was hooked and knew it would make a frequent appearance at the Jones dinner table, which it does.  I am addicted to jasmine rice right now and it is perfect in this dish.  The other key, in my opinion, is a very generous dose of lime zest, lime juice and coconut on top of each serving.  Original recipe stems from Rachael Ray, but I've made a few minor adjustments which are included below.

Thai Basil Shrimp with Coconut Rice
1 C shredded sweetened coconut
1 C jasmine rice
2 1/2 C chicken broth, divided
2 T canola oil
1 red bell pepper, sliced 
2 serrano chilis, seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 lbs peeled and deveined shrimp
2 t fish sauce
2 C torn basil
2 limes, zested and juiced
1.  Toast coconut over medium heat in a skillet until evenly browned.  Reserve half and combine other half with rice and 2 C broth in a small sauce pan.  Cook rice according to package directions.
2.  Heat oil in large skillet or wok until smoking hot.  Add shrimp, red and serrano peppers, garlic and sautee 3-4 minutes until shrimp is cooked.  Add 1/2 C broth, basil and fish sauce.
3.  To serve, spoon coconut rice into bowl, top with shrimp mixture then generously top with reserved coconut, lime zest and lime juice.

Take 5 Cookies

I put full blame on my friend Stephanie Southam for my love of Take 5 candy bars.  During a visit to Ohio one summer, she pulled one out of her fridge and told me to enjoy it later once the kids went to bed.  That was it.  No warning given about the life-long addiction that would haunt me every time I checked out at the grocery store and saw them staring at me!  

Needless to say, when I saw this recipe , I HAD to make them.  Peanut butter cookie dough with chocolate chips, pretzels and drizzled in caramel....sounds like heaven to me!  The end result is a good cookie.  Not a knock your socks off cookie like I was hoping for, but it got my mind racing with how I was going to turn this into a prize winner.  I have an amazing peanut butter cookie recipe I will use as the base next time because this one just didn't do it for me.   It also needs considerably more pretzels so you get that contrast of the salty crunch.  The caramel on top was a good amount and looks beautiful but when you bit into the cookie, most of it pulled off with the first bite.  I'm thinking I will use caramel filled Ghirardelli squares or Caramel Hershey's Kisses next time and wrap them in the dough.   I'll keep at this one because the flavor combination is too good to just give up on!

Dan Dan Mian Noodles

Confession:  I absolutely love Chinese and Thai food.  That being said, I find most Chinese/Thai dishes in restaurants and recipes in cookbooks to be disappointing.  Not the case with this wonderful dish.  This is my second time preparing this recipe for the masses and prefer the changes I made this time around, which is often the case when I try new recipes. If you can't find tahini (sesame paste) you can use natural unsweetened peanut butter but if I can find it in Marshall, Minnesota, you should be able to find it by you too!  There wasn't a bean sprout to be found in town this week, but they are a nice addition on top.  I'm going to try this next with more veggies like pea pods, matchstick carrots, and bok choy.  Below is the recipe with the changes I made tonight.  Don't be intimidated by the size of the ingredient list.  It is a very easy recipe and if you don't have these Asian condiments in your pantry, get 'em!!  You won't be sorry!

Dan Dan Mian Noodles
8 ounces ground pork
3 Tb soy sauce, divided
1 Tb sherry vinegar
1 Tb water
ground pepper
2 Tb oyster sauce
4 Tb tahini
1 Tb rice vinegar
1 1/4 C chicken stock
1 Tb peanut oil
1 inch piece fresh ginger, minced
6 medium cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tb toasted sesame oil
12 ounces dried Asian wide rice noodles
1/2 head of Napa cabbage, chopped into wide strips
3 scallions
2 C bean sprouts

1.  Combine pork, 1 Tb soy sauce, sherry vinegar, water and pepper in small bowl and set aside.  Whisk together oyster sauce, remaining soy sauce, tahini paste, rice vinegar and pepper in a medium bowl.  Whisk in chicken stock and set aside.
2.  Cook wide rice noodles according to package directions.
3.  Heat large skillet over high heat until hot and add peanut oil.  Add pork mixture and cook until well browned, breaking up pork into small bits with spatula while cooking.  Stir in ginger, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant.  Add tahini mixture and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium, add napa cabbage, sesame oil and cooked noodles.  Use tongs to combine all together until cabbage wilts, sauce thickens and coats the noodles.
4.  Serve in bowls and sprinkle with bean sprouts and scallions.

Outrageous Brownies

Tomorrow I'm having a bunch of friends over for a scrapbooking night since my boxes of pictures are dying to escape their dusty grave.  Out of the six friends coming, only three actually scrapbook and the others just wanted to get away from the kids and enjoy some fun conversation.  I figured I better feed them so they will stay past 7:30.  I'm taking the easy route with pizza for dinner but decided to find something yummy for dessert. This recipe is one I have wanted to make for a long time but since it makes so many and isn't cheap, I needed the right event.  I think this is it....friends, conversation, scrapbooking and intense chocolate!

The original recipe is Ina Garten's but like I usually do, I tweak it just a bit to fit our needs and tastes.  I used less coffee (and decaffeinated at that), used pecans instead of walnuts and less nuts overall.  The result is a very intense chocolate brownie.  If there are dark chocolate lovers in your family, they will flip for these babies!  The recipe claims to cut them into 20 brownies, but I cut mine into 36 and still could only eat half of one.  I put half of them in the freezer for another next time my kids drive me crazy and I begin to wonder if I was insane to have five of them!!!!

Outrageous Brownies
1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 large eggs
1 1/2 Tb instant decaffeinated coffee
2 Tb vanilla extract
2 1/4 C sugar
1 1/4 C all purpose flour, divided
1 Tb baking powder
1 t salt
2 C chopped pecans
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2 inch pan.
2.  Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate on top of  a double boiler.  Add coffee powder and cool slightly.  Stir together the eggs, vanilla and sugar.  Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.
3.  Stir together the 1 C of flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to cooled chocolate mixture.  Toss the pecans and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 C flour to coat and keep them from falling to the bottom of the batter.  Mix them into the batter and pour into prepared pan.
4.  Bake for 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.  Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough.  Do not overbake!  Cool completely and refrigerate well.  They are very fudgie and need to be refrigerated so they cut well and stay together.

Overnight Oatmeal Pancakes

My husband, Donny is out of town this week which means a week full of quick and easy meals.  It isn't that I don't want to cook for my children.  They just don't appreciate the effort that goes into a full meal and would rather have pancakes anyways!  Why spend my precious "free" time in the kitchen this week when my "To-Do" list is officially two pages long?

The original recipe was given to me by my sister which I adapted slightly and they are our favorite.  The only downfall of this recipe is that it requires some forethought so the oats can soak.  I suggest a minimum of 8 hours (But I use whole oats.  Quick oats would require less time!)  I've done less and they are still good, just not as tender.  Anyone who has experience with whole grain baking knows the magic of buttermilk.  Between the buttermilk and the beaten egg whites, these pancakes are light and tender while being quite filling with all those oats!  

My favorite way to serve is with my homemade raspberry freezer jam, but we also use applesauce, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, syrup (boring!), sauteed apples or strawberries and whip cream. I make a recipe and a half for our family!

Overnight Oatmeal Pancakes (makes 24 pancakes)
2 C whole oats
2 C buttermilk
1/2 C whole wheat pastry flour
2 Tb sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, separated
1/4 C canola oil

1.  In large bowl,  mix together oats and buttermilk.  Cover and refrigerate overnight.

2.  In the morning, heat your griddle over medium heat.  Add the egg yolks and canola oil to the oats and stir to combine.  Next add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and mix just until moistened.  If batter is too thick, add additional buttermilk until batter is a pudding-like thickness.

3.  Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until medium peaks.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold egg whites into pancake batter until combined.  Pour 1/3 C of batter onto hot griddle for each cake.  Cook pancakes until bubbles appear in the middle, flip and cook until brown on the bottom.  These will take longer to cook than conventional pancakes!

Yellow Cupcakes with Rich Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

I made chocolate mocha cupcakes last week and promised Benjamin, who hates chocolate, that I would make him some "plain" cupcakes.  This recipe is from The New Best Recipe cookbook and I loved the cupcake itself.  Dense, moist and a richness to the flavor that I credit towards the extra egg yolks in the recipe.  Will definitely use this recipe again and try filling with different flavors and topping with different frostings!

The recipe says it makes 12 cupcakes, but I followed the instructions to use a 2 oz scoop and I only came out with 10...some of which when baked, were a bit overflowing so use a bit less than 2 oz and you should be fine.

I honestly did not care for the frosting on these cupcakes but it was a frosting I had never made before so I love to try something new.  It is made from eggs and sugar that you put over simmering water to cook then beat in the butter, but the frosting just had an "egg" flavor that I just couldn't get past.  It is ultra light and melts in your mouth though.  If you are interested for that recipe, let me know and I'll post it.

Yellow Cupcakes from The New Best Recipe
1 1/2 C all purpose flour
1 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 t salt
8 Tb unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C sour cream
1 large egg, plus 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin tins with liners.

2.  Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in your mixer bowl.  Add the butter, sour cream, egg, yolks and vanilla and beat the wet ingredients into the dry at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds.

3.  Divide batter evenly into the 12 cups using a 2 oz scoop or spoon.  Bake until tops are pale gold and a toothpick inserted comes out clean, 20 to 24 minutes.  Cool cupcakes on a rack until room temperature, about 45 minutes.

Pan Fried Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi

I wish I had a picture to post, but it was too crazy of a night on Sunday to take the time to click a few pics.  Just glad to have the family at the table eating and not complaining...too much!  My son, Benjamin (11) kept telling me they sounded gross when told him they were gnocchi.  Donny and I loved them while the kids thought they were "OK", but what do you expect?   Click here for some great pics of the recipe from the site I found it on.  I served our gnocchi over some spring greens dressed with an easy lemon vinaigrette.  They are absolutely delicious and rich so the salad balances that very nicely.  For our family, I used a recipe and a half.

Pan Fried Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi

1 C whole milk ricotta
1/2 C parmesan cheese
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C all purpose flour, sifted
1 Tb chopped parsley
2 Tb butter
1 Tb olive oil

1.  Combine ricotta, parmesan, yolk, zest parsley and salt in large bowl.  Mix well.  Sprinkle half the flour on the mixture and gently turn with spatula a few times to incorporate.  Dump mixture onto lightly floured surface and sprinkle remaining flour on top.  Gently knead dough with fingertips just until flour is incorporated, only a minute or two.  Do not overknead.

2.  Divide dough into four parts, roll each into 1" diameter log and cut gnocchi into 1" pieces.

3.  Heat skillet over medium-high heat.  Add butter and olive oil and allow butter to brown lightly.  Add gnocchi in single layer and fry on one side for 2 minutes until brown and flip over for another 2 minutes.  Taste your gnocchi and be sure the flour taste is gone after cooking.  If not, just give them another minute or two in the pan.

4.  Serve with a sprinkling of additional lemon zest, parmesan and parsley.

Here goes nothing!

I've been sharing my recipes with many different people in many different ways and thought this would be a universal method to do so!  I don't promise any certain  number of new recipes a week because it will all depend on how crazy the rest of my life ends up.  I love to be in the kitchen testing new recipes any chance I get and I hope this will encourage you to do the same!  Please let me know what you think and if you try something, be sure to post your results!