Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Quick Chocolate Treats

Need to provide a dish for a party, but don’t have the time? Need it to look homemade even though you don’t want to actually make anything? This is a quick chocolate treat idea for lazy hosts and lazier guests. If you're going to a party or having a party, this is an easy dish to whip together with almost zero effort (the most annoying part is unwrapping the candies).

Quick Chocolate Treats

You’ll need:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Arrange pretzels on a baking sheet (putting wax paper underneath will make cleanup a breeze). Top each pretzel with a peanut butter cup or chocolate caramel (if it was just me, I’d use only peanut butter cups, but Camera Girl likes the caramels, and it makes for a better variety if you’re making the dish for guests). Place baking sheet in oven for 4 minutes to soften chocolates. Remove baking sheet from oven and top softened chocolates with pecan halves. For variety, top some of the chocolates with pretzels. Allow chocolate to cool before removing treats from baking sheet.

That’s it! Pretzels, chocolate, and nuts…who doesn’t like that? It’s easy peezey and a great treat to serve when you don’t feel like making a great treat.

Bon appétit!

(I like pretzels on the bottom and top with a peanut butter cup in between. Camera girl likes the pretzel on the bottom with pecan half on top and a chocolate caramel in between; she says it's like one of those "turtle" candies. Pecans are okay, but they're too expensive...pretzels and peanut butter cups are all you really need, but get the rest if you're tryin' to be fancy pants.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Spicy Fried Shrimp

I love fried shrimp, and “tempura” is just a fancy pants word for “fried”. This dish is a knock-off of a dish I love to order at a Chinese restaurant when I’m down in Tampa, but since I don’t live in Tampa, I had to figure out how to make the recipe for myself—and I’ve done it! The key is cilantro, and lots of it—also lots of garlic and a little hot pepper, too! Be sure to use a non-stick pan to cook up the spicy pepper mix, otherwise you’ll be setting yourself up for a headache and burned garlic!

1 lb SHRIMP (peeled and deveined, tail on)
1 bunch CILANTRO (1 to 2 cups chopped)
10-12 cloves GARLIC (chopped)
1 or 2 hot PEPPERS (chopped)
1/2 cup GREEN ONION (chopped)
1 tsp RED PEPPER FLAKES (or two tsp!---optional)
1 cup ice-cold WATER
frying OIL
SALT (to taste)

Chop up 1 bunch of cilantro, stems AND leaves. Chop 2 green onions. Dice peppers, I like to use 2 green chili peppers, but use whatever peppers you like depending on how much heat you want in the dish. Finely chop 10-12 cloves of garlic. Heat a non-stick skillet with 2 Tbsp of oil—definitely use a non-stick skillet!!
Add peppers to skillet and allow to cook 1 minute, then add garlic and red pepper flakes (adjust pepper flakes to taste). Cook for 1 minute and then add green onions. Be sure to keep ingredients stirring, reduce heat as necessary to prevent garlic from burning. As garlic browns, add the cilantro and continue to stir ingredients, cooking out the moisture. It’s okay if the garlic browns well, as long as it’s not burned; the dryer the ingredients get the better. Cook the ingredients down and then remove the skillet from the heat and set aside.
Heat up the oil for the shrimp. While the oil heats, prepare the tempura batter. It’s best not to prepare the batter ahead of time. In a bowl, beat 1 egg, add 1 cup of ice-cold water, then add 1 cup of all purpose flour. Mix together into a thin batter, but don’t over mix—it’s okay if there are some lumps. Test the batter in the frying oil; the batter will sizzle and float if it is ready.
Use peeled and deveined shrimp with the tail still attached—the tail makes a perfect handle. Dip shrimp in batter and then shake off the excess. Lay shrimp in the hot oil and cook 3-4 minutes, turning once. DO NOT cook too many shrimp at the same time because they will stick together and not crisp and brown evenly. When the shrimp are golden, remove from oil and drain on a paper towel (the 1st batch I put into the pepper mix to drain).
When all the shrimp are fried, add them to the pepper mix and return the skillet to the burner on low heat. Salt to taste and toss the shrimp GENTLY and thoroughly with the spice mix. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

I like to serve this dish with sticky rice and a sautéed green, something like cabbage or bok choy. Give it a try a let me know what you think, and bon appétit!