Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mary's Donuts

"Why would we drive to Santee for donuts?"

Famous last words, D. He would eat them as heartily as he ate the donuts.

After reading this thread on Chow, I had to try Mary's Donuts. I was once a disciple of the Krispy Kreme craze and seriously burned out on them. Truth be told, I thought Krispy Kremes were too sweet and occasionally greasy (i.e. one bite produced a little gush of oil). I swore KK off for a while and returned to worshipping the mom-and-pop donut shop.

I only have a picture of the shop because we ate the donuts before I had a chance to photograph them. Santee is a little bit of a haul from North Park, but those donuts are absolutely worth it. Alice listed them in her list of 100 good things to eat in San Diego.

Go to Mary's. Be happy.

Mary's Donuts
9031 Mission Gorge Rd
Santee, CA 92071

Friday, February 27, 2009

A request for help

Well, it's been a busy few months for me, but now I'm finally getting back into semi-regular blogging, I thought I'd do some spring cleaning. Update my blogroll, tinker with the layout, and change a few other things. One of the things I wanted to change was the "Meet Moowiesqrd" entry. When I originally wrote it, I had no idea what to put, so I made up a few generic questions. Inspired by Rebecca's (In)Frequently Asked Questions, I thought I'd seek some input. So... give me a hand. Is there anything that y'all in the great abyss of the interweb want to know?

Leave a comment or send me an email (address is on the left sidebar).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

When butternut squashes are cheap...

J.T. and I try to go to a Pilates class on Sundays and, afterwards, head to the Hillcrest farmers' market to pick up produce and the occasional loaf of bread. On a recent visit, I found a stand that was selling small butternut squashes. They were small, but they were tender and flavorful. I had a craving for risotto and found this recipe on Epicurious. The blue cheese was intriguing and I discovered that it added a lot to the dish and paired well with the sweetness of the squash.

However, I omitted the whipping cream in favor of vigorous stirring of the risotto. Go ahead, beat the crap out of it. Lots of agitation ensures maximum starch release into the dish, resulting in a creaminess that doesn't need any cream. Also, I halved most of the ingredients, added 2 tablespoons chopped fresh garlic, exchanged the rosemary for thyme (which is what I had on hand), and almost bought a bunch of dandelion greens to replace the spinach. Unfortunately, D. doesn't like "weedy" greens, so I kept the spinach. Party pooper.

Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese Risotto
(adapted from, featured
Bon Appetit, February 2005)

4-5 cups organic free-range chicken broth
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 1-pound butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch dice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 cups arborio rice (about 13 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup (be generous and add a splash more) dry white wine
2 cups baby spinach leaves, packed
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, for taste
crumbled blue cheese, for garnish (don't use too much or it will overpower the dish)

Bring broth to boil in large saucepan. Cover and reduce heat to low.

Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté until tender. Add squash and thyme; sauté to coat with butter. Add rice and stir until grains are slightly translucent. Add wine and simmer until evaporated, about 1 minute. Add broth one cup at a time, stirring vigorously until the broth is absorbed. Continue until rice is just tender and risotto is creamy and slightly soupy. Stir in spinach and Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer risotto to large bowl. Sprinkle with blue cheese and serve.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

When carrots are cheap...

D. and I found ourselves with a bag of carrots and weren't sure what to do with them. The first thing we came up with was easy. Cut the carrots into smaller pieces, drizzle with really good olive oil (I busted out the Pasolivo for this) and honey, and strip a few fresh branches of thyme. Toss together in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake until tender.

As for the rest, I had a sudden craving for carrot cake. We didn't have enough carrots for a cake, so I made cupcakes. The original recipe, from Maida Heatter and reprinted in Kathryn Kleinman's Birthday Cakes, makes one 9-inch 3-layer cake. I halve the recipe and it produced exactly one dozen cupcakes. They come out dark, but absolutely delicious. D. and I are purists and don't like our carrot cake sullied by walnuts or raisins, so we omitted them.

Carrot Cupcakes
(Recipe from Maida Heatter via Birthday Cakes by Kathryn Kleinman)

Recipe halved from original

For cupcakes:

2 cups shredded carrots (approximately 1/2 pound whole carrots)
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 plus 1/8 cup corn oil
3/4 cup walnuts, optional
1/2 cup raisins, optional

For cream cheese icing:

8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with cupcake wrappers. If using, steam the raisins for 10 minutes. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and cocoa together. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the eggs until blended. Beat in vanilla, both sugars, and oil. Turn the speed to low and add dry ingredients. Mix until just incorporated. Stir in carrots, raisins (if using), and nuts (if using). Spring-loaded scoops work very well for distributing the batter into the muffin tin, but a ladle will work just fine. Fill the cups evenly and bake 25-30 minutes or until the tops spring back when gently pressed with a fingertip. Remove cupcakes from the oven, cool enough to handle, and very gently move the cupcakes to a rack.

Beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth. Incorporate vanilla and confectioners' sugar slowly on low speed. Beat until smooth.

I find that these cupcakes are best after being refrigerated for a little while. Once cool, move the cupcakes into the refrigerator for 1 hour or so. Ice and serve.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ginger Honey Chicken

What can be keeping me from blogging, you ask? Applications are done, we're eating at home more than ever, and with all of the cooking, there definitely has to be something to write about.

Well, there is. However, there's a huge time-sucking obsession that's superseded blogging and taking good pictures of food. Some of you may have heard of it... hell, some of you may be as obsessed as I've become.

Battlestar Galactica. The current version.

Don't worry,
Star Trek, you're still my first love.

Since we're really late in jumping on the bandwagon, we've been watching the last 3 1/2 seasons on DVDs via Netflix. D.'s folks gave us all of the seasons for Christmas, which sped things up in time for us to start watching the last 10 episodes of the series. The last 10 episodes ever. Thus, I eagerly await every Friday evening until the last episode airs, after which I'll be beside myself with grief and withdrawal.

Anyway, continuing on the cooking-whatever's-in-the-pantry/freezer trend, we decided to take some of the ingredients from the curry mee to my mother's recipe for ginger honey chicken. My disclaimer to this recipe is that my mother didn't give me the measurements and these estimates have worked for me. Play around and adjust the taste to your liking.

Ginger Honey Chicken
(Recipe courtesy of Mom, amounts are rough estimates)

2 tablespoons oil (any kind works... I prefer olive)
1 cup young ginger, cubed
1 cup chicken thigh, cubed (breast meat is fine)
1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
1/4 cup light soy sauce (use more if necessary)
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons dark or mushroom soy sauce (for color only... add gradually and stop before the sauce becomes too dark)
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed into 1/4 cup water
scallions, chopped into 2 inch pieces for garnish

Heat olive oil and toast ginger cubes until fragrant. Add chicken and cook until mostly done, then add garlic. Add light soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, pepper. Stir well and gradually add dark or mushroom soy sauce for color. Once a caramel brown is reached, stop. Add chicken broth. Taste sauce, which should be smooth and not too salty. There should definitely be hints of oyster sauce and it should not be dominated by the soy sauce. Mix cornstarch in water and slowly dribble into the sauce to thicken. Add honey, stir, and add scallions. Toss everything thoroughly until scallions wilt.

The sauce should showcase the sweet young ginger and the soy sauce should be balanced, made richer by the honey. Adjustments can be made to the amounts at any point.

Up next: What do you do when you have extra carrots?