Friday, December 18, 2015

Deep Fried Chocolate Wontons

A New Holiday Tradition by For The Culinarily Challenged



There is a running joke among people of all faiths that Jews spend Christmas having Chinese food. I get the feeling that there’s some truth to this myth, for like the Jews, many Chinese don’t celebrate Christmas and keep their restaurants open, making them the ideal place for all non-believers to break bread if too tired to cook. Since Chanukah’s over, indulging in fried things must sadly be relegated to the realm of occasional treats and snacks. As many non-believers go for wontons at Christmas and the Chosen people love fried things over the holidays, I thought: why not combine both traditions into one cohesive dish?

That’s how I came up with Deep Fried Chocolate Wontons. They’re easy, delicious, and look fancy, making them the ideal dessert or snack no matter your holiday.

Here’s How You Do It
Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep and cook time: 20 Minutes
Serves 6 or More depending on your crowd

Ingredients

1 Pack of Wonton Skins or Dumpling Wrappers – You can get these in any Asian market or the freezer section of some grocery stores. If you can’t find them, try egg roll wrappers, which might be easier to find. Your wontons will be a bit bigger, but delicious just the same.

1 Cup of Chocolate Spread – I used Nutella the first time, but any thick chocolate or chocolate hazelnut spread will do the job.

2 Cups of Frying Oil – Corn, Canola, Crisco, or Vegetable oil will work fine.

Water to Seal the Wontons

½ a Cup of Sugar Mixed with 4 Tablespoons of Cinnamon

Icing sugar for decoration, optional


Equipment

1 Deep Frying Pan

1 Pair of Metal Tongs or a Metal Slotted Spoon

Measuring Spoons

Measuring Cups

1 Baking Pan

1 Plate

1 Wooden Spoon or Chopstick

Dump the cinnamon and sugar in your baking pan and swirl it around to combine.

Using your trusty measuring spoons, put a 1 teaspoon of chocolate spread in the center of each wonton skin leaving a quarter of an inch border. Since wonton skins vary in size, you may need to increase or reduce the amount of spread to ½ a teaspoon per wonton.

Using warm water and your fingers, Wet the edges of the wonton skins.

Fold the skins over and press the edges together, making sure to squeeze out any air.

Pour the oil in your frying pan and heat it on high until a wooden spoon or chopstick bubbles when dipped in the oil for a few seconds.

Carefully put 2 or 3 wontons in the oil and fry them until golden brown on each side, flipping once.

Using a slotted spoon or tongs, immediately dump the hot wontons into the cinnamon sugar and move them around to coat. The hot oil will allow the cinnamon sugar to stick to the wontons.

Move them to a paper towel lined plate and add a little powdered sugar for decoration if you wish.

You’re now ready to serve!

Enjoy!

And stay tuned for next week when I’ll be showing you a meal fit for the holidays that will feed a crowd on a budget!

-Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Laudable Latkes

Potato Latkes with Herbed Sour Cream
I’ve been resisting the pull to do holiday stuff not because I consider myself to be a Grinch but because most holiday treats are pricey and the kitsch surrounding things like Christmas stuff, often elaborately presented with excessive icing sugar and plastic looking holly sprigs makes me want to gag. I love the holidays, I just don’t like them shoved down my throat before I’m ready. I believe the best holidays are the ones that reflect the people you love to celebrate with and that contrary to every store display, less is more.

It is on that note that I present to you my recipe for potato latkes. Latkes are potato pancakes traditionally eaten at Chanukah. Chanukah is the Jewish holiday usually celebrated right before Christmas and follows the reason for most Jewish holidays:

“They tried to kill us, they failed, let’s eat.”

This is the one holiday that you get a free pass to eat the greasiest food imaginable. The reason for this is because there was only enough oil for this lamp to burn for one day of celebrations after the Israelites won the war against the Syrians yet due to a miracle it burned for 8 days instead. We therefore celebrate by eating all things oily.

This potato latke recipe is my take on my great grandmothers’. It uses the traditional potatoes, onions, and eggs, but I add apples for extra sweetness. You can have these over the holidays as a snack or side dish or as a tasty alternative to hash browns at breakfast. They’re great as is or with a nice dollop of sour cream or apple sauce. If you want to jazz up the sour cream, add half a teaspoon of salt,  1 clove of grated garlic and 2 tablespoons of your favorite chopped fresh herb (dill, cilantro, or mint are great) to half a cup of sour cream.

Here’s How You Make My Latkes
Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep: About 30 Minutes
Serves 6 or More depending on your crowd

Ingredients

3 Large Potatoes
I like yellow fleshed potatoes, also known as Yukon Gold, because they’re the perfect balance of starchy and waxy and are therefore all purpose, but you could also use russet or white fleshed potatoes as they fry up well. If you have any doubts and the taters come prepackaged, check the bag. The producer will indicate if they’re good for frying.

1 Medium Onion

2 Apples – any variety

1 Cup of Finely Crushed Crackers or Matzoh Meal (available in grocery stores near Jewish communities) or All Purpose Flour

3 Large Eggs

1 Teaspoon of Baking Powder

1 Teaspoon each of Salt and Pepper

½ Teaspoon of Garlic Powder

2 Cups of Oil for Frying
Peanut, Vegetable, Canola, Grapeseed and Corn Oil are all good choices as they can withstand high heat. DO NOT USE BUTTER OR OLIVE OIL AS THEIR LOW SMOKING POINTS WILL GUARANTEE A FIRE. Remember this and fry fry away!

Equipment

1 Box Grater

1 Mixing Bowl

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Frying Pan
Something at least an inch and a half deep so it will hold the oil.

1 Spatula

Grate the potatoes, onions, eggs, and apples into a bowl.

Crack in the eggs and add the baking powder and flour. Mix everything with a wooden spoon.

Put the pan on the stove, add the oil, and turn the heat on high.

Wait a minute or three and then stick the handle of your wooden spoon into the oil. If tiny bubbles form around it, you can now start frying.

Scoop 1 heaping tablespoon of your latke batter into the oil and then flatten it with your spatula. Repeat at least twice depending on the size of your pan. You want to make sure there’s at least half an inch of space between them so you can flip them easily.

The oil will splatter a bit while you’re frying, but that’s normal, just be sure to keep a safe distance from the pan. If you’re really scared and have safety goggles and this is your first time frying anything, feel free to put them on. 

Once the edges of the latkes are brown, flip them over and cook for another minute before transferring them to a plate lined with paper towels or a clean dish towel. The towel will absorb any excess oil.

Repeat until you’re all out of batter.  If the oil starts to smoke, turn off your stove for a minute or 3 but continue frying your latkes. Oil can hold high heat for a little while so you won’t jeopardize your latkes by giving the pan a break. Once you feel safe again, you can turn the heat back on.


Once the latkes are done, turn off the heat but DO NOT IMMEDIATELY RINSE YOUR FRYING PAN. This is the way many kitchen fires start. Leave the pan on the stove (you can cover it if you wish to prevent any bugs from getting in there) until the leftover oil is room temperature or cool and then pour it into an air tight container. You can reuse this oil for cooking or frying at least twice before tossing it, though sadly there’s no strict rule about how many times you can. When in doubt, use your common sense and smell it. If it smells gross, don’t use it and Google community organizations that will dispose of your used oil safely – they exist.

Now forget about the oil and enjoy your latkes!

And stay tuned for next week when I’ll show you a new Chanukah tradition: Deep Fried Chocolate Wontons!


-Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.












Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with Salty Pretzel Crust

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie with Salty Pretzel Crust

When it comes to cream pies I’m always reminded of the slapstick comedies of the 1920 to 50s. Whether it was the Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers, you were always guaranteed that at some point or other someone was going to end up with a pie in the face. As a food blogger, I can’t help but wonder why you’d waste a good pie like that. Maybe the pies weren’t that good and people were so pissed off with the quality that they decided they made for the ideal weapon.

Whatever the reason, this is NOT the case with my Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie.

It’s so easy anyone can make it and it’s so good no one will want to waste it! It requires no baking, just a fridge and a little elbow grease. Though I use salted pretzels as the base for my crust, feel free to use a regular store bought graham cracker crust if you’re feeling extra lazy.

Here’s How You Do It
Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep: About 20 Minutes
Serves 3-6 depending on your crowd


Ingredients

PEANUT BUTTER MOUSSE

¼ Cup of Smooth Peanut Butter

¼ Cup Cream Cheese, left out of the fridge until it softens to room temperature, about 15 minutes

1 Tablespoon Softened Butter or Margarine

3/4 Cup Whipping Cream

½ Cup Granulated Sugar

CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

¼ Cup Chocolate, Melted and cooled for 1 minute + If ya wanna get fancy, extra for decoration
I prefer to use a plain milk or dark chocolate bar (Aero bars work well) over bakers’ chocolate as it’s already sweet and gives tons of flavor to the mousse but use whatever variety of chocolate you like. To melt the chocolate, cut it up and put in a microwave safe bowl nuking for 30 second intervals, stirring between intervals until it’s completely melted. No microwave? No problem! You can melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl seated over a pot of simmering water, just be sure to wear oven mitts and stir the chocolate to ensure it melts evenly.

 3/4 Cup Whipping Cream


CRUST

2 Cups of Salted Pretzels

½ Cup of very soft Butter
If you live in a well heated or overheated home, leave the butter on the counter for an hour and it will be plenty soft. Or if you’re feeling extra lazy and own a microwave, pop the butter in a bowl and nuke it for 15 seconds.

1 Tablespoon of Brown Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon (Optional)

Equipment

2 Mixing Bowls

1 Whisk

1 Zip top baggie

1 Rolling Pin, Meat Mallet, or Wine Bottle
Something you can bash things with.

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Round Cake Pan, Pie Plate, or Glass Bowl

1 Rubber or Silicone Spatula


Put the pretzels, butter, sugar, and cinnamon (if using) in your zip top bag, seal it, and bash the contents until everything is coarsely ground and sticking together slightly. This would be a good job to give any kitchen helper with anger management problems.

Pour the contents of the baggie into the pie plate or cake pan and press it in with your fingers, making sure to build little walls with it on the inner sides of the pan.

Stick the pan in the fridge and get to work on your filling.

For the peanut butter mousse, whisk the cream cheese, tablespoon of butter or margarine, and peanut butter together until you can’t tell them apart in the bowl.

Clean your whisk and in a separate bowl use it to beat the heck out of the whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form. 

Carefully, using vertical circular motions with the rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the peanut butter mixture. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.

Whip the remaining cream until stiff peaks form and then carefully fold in the melted chocolate.

You are now ready to assemble the pie.

Pour the peanut butter mousse into your crust and carefully spread it around using your rubber spatula.

Clean your spatula.

Pour the chocolate mousse on top of the peanut butter one and spread it carefully around so it covers everything.

If ya wanna get fancy, drizzle with a little melted chocolate.

Enjoy!

And stay tuned for next time when I'll show you the first of many holiday classics: Potato Pancakes!

 -Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.


















Thursday, November 12, 2015

Easy As Apple Pie

Apple Pie with Cheddar Crust
I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: As American as Apple Pie.

I say: Why should the Americans have a monopoly on good apple pie? With all the delicious and inexpensive varieties of apples available in Canada, we can do it just as well as our noisy neighbors south of the border and I say, we can do it easier, too.

This is not your typical pie recipe. While I do have an amazing recipe for crust, it’s still a pain in the butt to make, so I’m going to show you an easy speedy version that takes a fraction of the time and effort. For those of you who are feeling ambitious, click here for my family’s signature cheddar cheese crust.

Now on to the easy pie!

Here’s How You Do It

Sammy’s Easy as Apple Pie
Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep: About 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Serves 6


Ingredients
2 Pre-made Pie Crusts OR 1 Batch of Homemade Cheddar Crust
The latter will turn your pie from great to outstanding, but as I said, it’s a pain the ass to make.

3 Cups of Peeled and Sliced Apples
The variety doesn’t matter that much. Buy whatever you can get for cheap in large amounts and don’t be afraid of the slightly ugly apples that have a dent in ‘em. They’ll taste just fine.

Juice of 1 Lemon
This keeps the apples from browning and enhances their flavor.

1 Tablespoon of Brown Sugar

1 Teaspoon of Ground Cinnamon

¼ Teaspoon of Nutmeg (Optional)
My mother doesn’t like nutmeg so I often leave it out even though it adds a delightful spiciness. Just be sure to use no more than a ¼ teaspoon at a time as a little does a lot.

1 ½ Tablespoons of Butter

1 Tablespoon of All Purpose Flour
This keeps the filling from getting too soupy


Equipment

1 Knife and Cutting Board

1 Mixing Bowl

1 Peeler

1 Pot

Measuring Cups and Spoons

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Fork

1 Pie Plate or Round Cake Pan


Put the apples in the bowl with the brown sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, and nutmeg, and stir everything to coat.

Melt the butter in your pot on medium high heat and dump in the coated apples.

Cook everything together, stirring with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes or until the apples start to fall apart and then add the flour.

Cook it all together for another 5 minutes, and then dump everything back in the bowl.

Pop the bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes to cool down the apples quickly.

Preheat the oven to 400 0F and unroll the first pie crust into your pan, pressing the edges into the top rim of the pan with your fingers or a fork.

Using a fork, stab (aka score) the crust all over. This will keep it from poofing up too much while the pie bakes.

Dump the cooled apples into the crust, spread them out, and roll the second pie crust over the top, pressing the outer edges of the top crust into the edges of the bottom one with a fork or your fingers.

Using your trusty knife, cut slits into the top crust all over to allow steam to escape while baking.

Lower the oven’s heat to 375 0F and bake for 1 hour or until the crust is golden around the edges.

Cool for at least 15 minutes or the inside of the pie will be napalm in your mouth.

Enjoy!

And stay tuned for next time when I will show you the ultimate no bake dessert: CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER PIE!

-Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.








Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Perfect Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie

Pecan pie is the first pie I ever learned to make. 


I learned this at a time when I had all the appetites of a growing teenager and was regularly sneaking off to finish the pies my mother would occasionally bring back from the grocery store. Then one day my grandfather fell sick and I was visiting him in the hospital when my aunt brought him a pie. A pecan pie that was homemade! I begged her for the recipe which she immediately provided. I was shocked by how easy it was to do, and that's why I have chosen to use it to introduce you to the art of making sweet pies...

Well, that and it's getting colder, and hot desserts like fresh pecan pie seem just thing on a chilly night.

All that said, let's get started.

Auntie's Perfect Pecan Pie
Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Serves 4-6 depending on sweet tooths


Ingredients

3 Large Eggs

1 Cup of Corn Syrup, Maple Syrup, or Honey
Darker syrups work better than lighter ones for a more intense flavor

1 Cup of Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup of Melted Butter, cooled until it's lukewarm
I like half salted or salted butter because I like a little extra salty with my sweet, but you could use unsalted butter too

1/2 Teaspoon of Salt

1/2 Teaspoon of Cinnamon

1/4 Teaspoon of Ground Cloves
Cinnamon and Cloves are two of the main spices in apple and pumpkin pie. A little of these does a lot to enhance the flavor of the pecans, but I want to keep the emphasis on the caramel and nuts, so I've kept them to a minimum.

2 Cups of Pecans

1 Pre-made pie Crust

Equipment

1 Pie Plate or Round Cake Pan

1 Small Knife

1 Whisk

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Mixing Bowl

Measuring Cups

Measuring Spoons

1 Microwave safe bowl or saucepan to melt your butter

Preheat the oven to 375 oF.

Put your pie crust in your pie plate or pan and being careful not to tear it, press it into the bottom with your fingers. Press the top edge of the crust into the top rim of the pan and trim any overhang off with your knife.

In your mixing bowl, whisk the syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, spices, and salt together until well combined.

Add your pecans and stir with wooden spoon to coat them in the syrup mixture.

Pour everything into the crust.

Bake for 45 minutes or until the middle no longer wobbles when you give it a gentle push, the top has hardened, and the crust is golden around the edges.

Leave on the counter for 10 minutes to cool. 

Cooling the pie is essential as hot sugar is napalm-hot and you don't want to burn your mouth!

Enjoy!

And stay tuned for next time when I'll show you a classic: Apple Pie!

-Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.







Monday, October 5, 2015

Peasful Fish and Seafood Pie


Fish pie is a fishy version of a meat or shepherd's pie that contains seafood and/or chopped up fish turned into a creamy filling, which is then covered with a crust usually made of potato and baked in the oven.

There are a lot of variations of fish pie out there. From the French, you have Coquilles St Jacques, a bed of fish and/or seafood swimming in a rich creamy sauce and covered in mashed potatoes fortified with egg yolks, P√Ęte au Saumon consisting of salmon and vegetables covered with cream sauce and baked in flakey pastry, and UK versions consisting of a creamy fish stew covered in mashed potatoes, baked until the potatoes are slightly crisp on top and served with peas.

Since I have a tendency to tinker with traditional recipes, I couldn't help but tinker with this one. My goal: make it as easy, tasty, and budget friendly as possible. And I surprised myself. The pie has all pleasures of a chowder, with the added textural bonus of slightly crisped mashed potatoes, and a refreshing nutritional boost from frozen peas and mint. Don't like fish? No problem! Use shrimp or seafood instead. Don't like peas? I don't either, but the frozen peas in this dish are somehow delicious.

Here's How You Do It
Sammy's Peasful Fish and Seafood Pie
Difficulty Level: Easy
Prep: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes or until the potatoes are slightly brown around the edges - don't be afraid to check
Serves 2 -4

Ingredients

CHOWDER FILLING

1 Leek, the bit at the tip removed, the layers rinsed of all dirt, and thinly sliced
Leeks are a relative of the onion and go great with fish and potatoes. Like onions, leeks have layers sometimes dirt gets in between them, so rinse carefully, Grasshopper.

1 Carrot, peeled and chopped as small as possible

1 Stalk aka Rib of Celery, rinsed and chopped as small as possible

3 Strips of Bacon, thinly sliced

1/2 a pound of Fish thinly sliced, and/or Seafood
I used a 1/4 pound of frozen pollock (the cheapest fish money can buy) and a 1/4 pound of frozen cooked shrimp, but you can use just about any fish or seafood so long as there are no bones or shells to deal with. Have some leftover fish or seafood from the night before? Feel free to chop it up and throw it in your pie filling. This is a great way to use them.


3 Tablespoons of Butter or Margarine

4 Tablespoons of All Purpose Flour

2 Teaspoon of dried Tarragon
This slightly anise-y herb goes great with fish and pairs well with the minty peas in the crust.

1 Cup of Milk - ideally full fat milk, but you can use partly skim too.

Zest (the very outer skin before the white bit) of 1/2 a Lemon, thinly sliced or grated

Salt and Pepper to taste


THE CRUST

4 Medium Potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters

3 Cloves of Garlic, peeled

1 Cup of Hot Milk - If you have a microwave, you can heat the milk in a mug the same way you would for hot chocolate, otherwise, do it on the stove in a small pot, just remember that the milk has to be HOT NOT BOILING.

3 Tablespoons of Butter

Zest of 1/2 a Lemon

1/2 Cup of Frozen Peas - Peas are frozen when they're at their best so they don't have the nauseating odor of the canned stuff and are quite palatable even to those of us who don't like them.

Salt, to taste

1/2 a Teaspoon of Dried Mint
Mint isn't just for breathmints and desserts. It can add a refreshing element to savory dishes too! And it goes GREAT with peas.

Equipment

1 Baking Dish
You'll want something with some depth to it, as the filling is a bit liquidy

2 Medium sized Pots - 1 to prep the filling, 1 to Prep the crust

1 Mixing Bowl

1 Potato Masher

1 Wooden Spoon

1 Knife and Cutting Board

Measuring Spoons

Measuring Cups


Put the bacon in the pot with a little water and heat over medium high until the water has completely evaporated and the bacon is cooking on its own fat, about 10 minutes. When the bacon is looking reddish brown around the edges, add the celery, carrot, and leeks and stir everything together with a wooden spoon for another 5 minutes until the veggies have softened.


Now you can add the milk, tarragon, lemon zest, salt and pepper and stir everything to combine. Bring it to a boil and add your fish of choice and stir again. Simmer for 1 minutes and then add your flour and butter and stir quickly with a wooden spoon until the chowder thickens.


Turn off the stove and pour the contents into your baking dish and set aside. You might want to put the pot you used in the sink and fill it with water right away as it will be a bitch to clean later.


While the chowder is cooling, put your peeled potatoes in a pot with the peeled garlic and cover completely with cold water. Put the pot on the stove on high heat and boil the potatoes until a piece is easily mashed with a fork aka fork tender.


Preheat the oven to 350 F.


Put the frozen peas in a bowl, add the mint, and 1/2 a Cup of the hot liquid used to boil the potatoes. This will thaw them a bit. Mash the peas with your trusty potato masher until they're a rough paste, taste them and season them with salt and pepper and set aside.


Drain the remaining liquid from the potatoes and add the hot milk and butter. Mash the potatoes until they reach the texture you like and add the lemon zest and a little salt.


To the mashed peas, add 1/4 cup of the mashed potatoes and stir. This is a trick I learned watching Jamie Oliver on TV and I find it helps integrate the peas into the entire dish, making it impossible for fussy eaters to separate them out without tasting them first.


Spread the mashed peas and mashed potatoes over the top of the fish chowder and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until it's bubbling and the edges of the pie are brown.

Let the pie cool for 10 minutes on the counter so it doesn't burn your mouth and serve!

Enjoy!


And stay tuned for next time when I take a sweet turn and show you my all-time favorite: Pecan Pie!


-Samantha R. Gold


Questions? Comments? Requests?

Bring it on!

I can be reached at:  for.the.culinarily.challenged@gmail.com

Trolls will be unceremoniously deleted and dismissed.