Yummy Lettuce Wraps

Did you know that Mr. O bought me a bib for our first date?

 I mentioned that I was going to make a big hot mess when I ate (I was planning on getting lettuce wraps, which is how this whole side story actually relates to this post), so he bought me a bib and presented it to me (along with a few other gifts, because he is über charming) when he picked me up. Yes, I did mention how messy of an eater I was. Sexy, huh? I’m one classy first date.

Anyway, I love lettuce wraps. Some of my favorite are at Cheesecake Factory and P.F. Changs. I was lucky to find this recipe from Iowa Girl Eats, and both Mr. O and I were huge fans. It tasted great. By the way, her website is awesome. You’ve got to check her out.

However, something huge felt missing from the recipe. I was bummed, because the recipe really tasted great, and I couldn’t figure out what was missing…until last week! Mr. O and I went to the Cheesecake Factory, and of course, I ordered the wraps. The additional fillings were missing! Bean Sprouts! Shredded Carrots! Rice Noodles! Cucumbers! Oh, and cabbage shells. The Cheesecake Factory uses cabbage leafs as decoration to hold the fillings I just mentioned, but I use the cabbage leafs just like I use the lettuce leafs: as shells for my yummy food. Now that I’ve figured that out, I’m sure to use the same recipe as before, but prepare some of those fillings as well.20120112-105537.jpg20120112-105613.jpg20120112-105550.jpg20120112-105544.jpg

Chicken Mozambique

So, I showed you how to make Shrimp Mozambique, so now let’s move on to Chicken Mozambique. I’ll be honest. There really is very little difference between the recipes, besides the obvious: one has shrimp and the other has chicken. So the first thing I did was to cut my chicken into small little sections. Its going to fall apart a bit, so don’t cut your chicken too small. I’m going to approximate that mine were about an inch or two long, and maybe a little less than an inch thick… Who knows. You don’t have to worry about this too much, because I just cut them however I could to keep them small and get the fat off. If you want tiny itty bitty little pieces of chicken then go nuts and chop it up!

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Now, I made this dish for the holidays, so I made a LOT of food. You don’t need to make as much, unless you have a small army to feed. I basically tripled my recipe from last time, but I also increased a few things. I’ve made a whole bunch of Chicken Mozambique since this first recipe, and Mr. O seems to think I’ve perfected the recipe, so I’m going to do a post in the very near future with my own fancy recipe for y’all.

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Wolverine loves to help out cleaning and cooking, so he helped me mix the ingredients. While your butter and onions are cooking, you’re going to want to mix the garlic, wet crushed red pepper, Goya, tabasco sauce, parsley. He did a fantastic job of trying to keep them all a little separate so that I could take a picture.
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Basically, after you get the ingredients together and the onions are a bit softer, you can throw them all into the pot and mix them around. Oh, and don’t forget to pour all the beer in at this point as well. (This is an easy step!)
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Alright, so now that you’ve mixed up everything, you can toss your chicken into the sauce. At this point, you’ve got nothing to do but cover the pot and let the chicken cook!
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I took this picture to show you what everything looked like when my chicken was done cooking. You’ll know your chicken is ready when it turns “white.” You don’t want to see any pink inside the meat. However, it’s actually going to take the color of the sauce, so it will be a tad orange-colored. The meat doesn’t take too long to cook, so technically you would be free to serve this right away, but I prefer letting it sit a while to really absorb the flavors. That is up to you. If you let it sit, you’re obviously going to need to reheat it before eating.
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You can serve this anyway you please. For this meal I made a whole lot of white rice, and we just scooped the chicken and sauce over the rice. You can also serve it over pasta. You can serve it as is too, especially if you’re got some nice bread to dunk in the sauce. Enjoy!

Honey Garlic Pork and Hasselback Potatoes

I cooked Pork for the first time in January. I also tried to recreate these Hasselback Potatoes as well.

The first thing I did (which was suggested to me in a cooking conversation with a real life friend) was to line the bottom of the pan with apple slices. I can’t remember her reasoning, but I did it anyway, and then I threw in a bunch of dried cranberries for good measure. If there is anything I have learned from this cooking experiment overall, it is that I have a strong urge to add items to recipes.20120110-220547.jpg

After I covered the bottom up, I made little slices in my pork and stuffed a bit of garlic in, and then just put it in the middle of my pan. Then I made a juicy little mixture to cover up my pork. I put two parts honey, one part lemon juice, and then topped it off with about 4 cloves of garlic, a tiny bit of salt and a little bit more pepper. After I whisked the mixture together a bit, I poured the whole thing over the pork and stuck it in the oven.

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While the pork cooked, I carmelized some onions, because obviously I can’t seem to cook anything that doesn’t have a heap of onions and garlic in the recipe.

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The apples also seemed to melt away when cooking, so to keep the flavors and juices mixed, I just made an effort to keep moving the meat and cranberries around in the pan. I found that they crisped a bit when I didn’t do that, which was not my plan. Checking on it regularly and moving it around kept it nice and juicy.

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So I also attempted Hasselback potatoes. I didn’t get the best pictures of them, but they were a huge hit with both me and Mr. O. They were also easy as hell to make. Here is the recipe I followed, but basically, all you have to do is wash your potatoes well. Then thinly slice them almost all the way to the bottom (but not all the way!) Then drizzle olive oil over them, slick tiny slices of garlic in between the slices and stick in the oven until they are cooked. Again, I can’t follow directions so I shook a bunch of dry red crushed pepper over my potatoes. Yummmmm. Good decision.

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And that is it folks! I can’t say the whole thing was my favorite meal. It was all cooked well, and I enjoyed it, but I liked a few previous recipes better. The potatoes were incredible though, and I’m sure I will eat them again in the near future.

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creamy garlic wine spaghetti with little necks :)

Days until 2012: (via)

So this was my first big undertaking for the cook weekly challenge: Littlenecks over spaghetti with a creamy garlic wine sauce. Yummmm. Looking back it wasn’t my favorite meal, but I did pretty good for my first meal that I cooked from scratch. I’ m just sharing the photos today, because I followed this recipe and they deserve the kudos.

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Trying to follow the recipe!

I think next time, I will put less lemon or possibly a different white wine (I went into a little lemon squeezing craze).20111201-184514.jpg20111201-184447.jpg20111201-184528.jpg

Oh, and don’t forget to enter my very first giveaway on Reinventing Erin for a $25 gift card to Overnight Prints!. You do not want to miss it. Click here to find out all the ways you can enter.

technically it was round two, but officially will be round one

 Days until 2012! VIA

A week in recipes??? So remember how I decided to start cooking weekly as part of my 101 in 1001 project? Remarkably, I have been doing just that 🙂 Since I have about 6 or 7 meals completed, I figured I’d spend the week posting about the food I’ve cooked.

The first meal was on 10/19/11; I made spaghetti and meatballs and foolishly didn’t photograph the meal. Since it is a pretty big deal for me to photograph ALL of my 101 challenge, I’ve decided to just start the “challenge” with my first photographed meal, which was technically week #2.

Chow Mein on 10/24/11! I should let you know that I consider myself a Chow Mein rock star. I’ve improved my recipe over the past year, but it is a pretty easy meal to cook, and it is also something I can eat pretty regularly. Mr. O and I are pretty obsessed with our homemade dumplings, so we decided to cook those as well (Mr. O cooked them, while I watched).

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There isn’t much to tell you about cooking. I tend to eat my chow mein with meat. Usually pork or chicken, although I did make good use of my Thanksgiving leftovers by cooking turkey chow mein! So the first thing to do is cook your meat. While it is on the stove, I chop my vegetables and prepare my sauce. I usually put onions, bean sprouts and occasionally mushrooms in my chow mein. My mother puts celery in hers, but both Mr. O and myself aren’t fans of celery, so we don’t. We buy our chow mein noodles and mix in bulk at Oriental Chow Mein Company which is run by the sweetest woman who I consider part of my family. She is the person who taught my mom to cook so well when she was growing up, so I’m pretty grateful for her. The sauce is slightly tricky to mix, but once you get the hang of it, it’s no biggie. Basically you just mix the powder with water; if the water is too cold, the powder won’t liquefy well. If the water is too hot, then the powder turns into a jelly, and it is a pain in the ass to turn it back into a liquid. So my trick is to start to boil water on the stove, but before it begins to bubble, I scoop out some water and mix my sauce. Once the sauce is ready, I pour it into the remaining water on the stove, and toss in my veggies and meat.

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From here on is a waiting game. I generally never cook my sauce higher than medium temperature, but I like to get the sauce to thicken, and also let the add-ins absorb the flavor before I plate it. It worked out well this night, because we didn’t start making the dumplings until I threw all the ingredients in the sauce pan. This is a picture of the dumplings as soon as they went into the pan. Like I said, Mr. O cooked them, so I really don’t have much to remark yet about dumpling cooking. The final thing to do when everything is ready is fill a bowl with crunchy brown chow mein noodles and then cover it with as much sauce as you like. I’m a HUGE fan of putting some balsamic vinegar in my chow mein, but Mr. O thinks that is gross.

Here is to the official week one, and to kicking off one of the goals on my 101 list. Check back tomorrow for another sneak peek at my cooking skills.

Oh, and don’t forget to enter my very first giveaway on Reinventing Erin for a $25 gift card to Overnight Prints!. You do not want to miss it. Click here to find out all the ways you can enter.

tada! yummy oreo cheesecake

I’ve been in a pretty domestic mood lately. A few weeks ago, my friend Lauren posted on Facebook about how she was making a Bourbon Apple Pie, and since then, I’m been jonesing to bake. (Well, I haven’t made the Bourbon Pie yet, but it will happen soon). Yesterday, I posted about how I want to learn how to cook. I blogged about this a while ago too, and when I did, I promised I would share photos of my experiences. So…. drumroll please…here goes nothing!

I kept bugging Mr. O about baking. I wanted an excuse to make a pie, but neither of us wanted to eat the whole thing. We’re trying to eat more healthy. So I decided no matter what, I would bake this evening; I could just give the pie to his parents or my parents if we didn’t want to eat it. So I was planning on making the aforementioned Apple Pie and a Pumpkin Pie, but last minute Mr. O suggested an Oreo Cheesecake, and I decided to go for it. I found an amazing recipe here, and followed it pretty closely.*

I didn’t take as many pictures as I would have liked, but here they are, start to finish.
I baked the cheesecake in my mom’s kitchen so that I could use her KitchenAid mixer. (I want one!) I wish I would have put the eggs or the sour cream in with the cream cheese, because let me tell you, no matter what mixing head you use, it is very difficult to mix cream cheese alone.20111024-141002.jpg

* Obviously, the recipe I was following was for Oreo Cheesecake Cupcakes, but I decided to make an Oreo Cheesecake in a graham cracker crust. There was some extra mixture, so I made four cupcakes as well. I put a whole Oreo at the bottom for a crust, and then filled the cupcake liners almost to the top.

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Then everything went into the oven! Again, I followed the recipe and cooked the cupcakes and cheesecake at 275 for 22 minutes. But I ended up increasing the heat to 325 halfway through. The cupcakes only took about 25 minutes total, but the cheesecake took about 35-40 minutes at 325.

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After I took the cupcakes out, I let them cool in the pan for about 15 minutes. Then I took them out, put them on a plate and they immediately went into the fridge. The cheesecake kept cooking during all of this.

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I knew the cheesecake was done when it wasn’t so wobbly when I tried to wiggle it (fancy cooking terms, i know). I let the cheesecake sit for about 15 minutes at room temperature, and then I stuck in in the fridge.

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Since I made the cheesecake for Mr. O to eat, I rushed the cooling process a bit. I’d say I put it in the fridge for about 2 1/2 hours, then the freezer for about 45 minutes, and then the fridge for another 45 minutes before we ate it. It tastes great, but from what I understand, most people will tell you to wait at least 24 hours before serving.

Note: If you clicked over to the blog I found the recipe, you might have noticed that the recipe calls for 1/2 cup of sour cream. Well, Mr. O hates (really hates) sour cream. But, since this was the first cheesecake I ever made alone (and the ones I assisted my mom in cooking before all had sour cream in them, I decided to go ahead and use the sour cream). His verdict? He liked the cheesecake a lot, but he did think it was a little tart, and wished it were a bit sweeter. He wasn’t all that excited when he found out I used sour cream in the recipe, but he is kind enough to admit that he still enjoyed my baking. And because I love him, I’ll refrain from the sour cream next time.