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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cookie dough/pie dough tip


The kolachke dough came together much better
in the food processor today.

I found myself in the kitchen today making some more prune kolachke cookies, since there is leftover prune filling, butter and cream cheese.

When in Rome...

Today I made the dough in the food processor, and I will tell you that this is the way to go. I will not be making it by hand ever again (that is unless my processor should fail). The dough comes together much better than when I made it using just a pastry blender in a bowl. I'm going to try this the next time I make pie dough for crust, also. I suspect this method would also work well for the masa harina used for making tamales. I think it would also work for pizza crust dough. Hmmmm... I wonder if tamales and pizza will be something the kitchen wench tries to perfect this year.

ps. The dough rolled out much more uniform, so the cookies are the prettiest yet.

Monday, December 27, 2010

New Year's Menu - pork and sauerkraut

I've been invited to Jason's for a New Years Eve dinner which has me very excited. You see, his gram is a wizard at the Pennsylvania dutch type cooking. She makes a dish with mashed potatoes, pork and sauerkraut that I have tried before and it is very delicious. I will have to bring a six pack of Guiness or Bass or something as a housewarming gift since beer goes well with pork and sauerkraut.

Now that I think of it, I don't think anyone in that house drinks, hmmmm. All the more for me! I will come up with something good for dessert.

It will be a Happy New Year, indeed. Pictures pending and if I can pry the recipe from Virginia (Jason's gram) I will share that with you too.

Happy New Year from the Kitchen wench. Hope your day is filled with good eats too!

ps. This meal has been postponed to January 7. That's why I don't have the pix for you yet.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Year's resolution - eat out more often

We are very lucky in Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe to have great restaurants.

Here is a list of places I want to visit in 2011, as often as possible. This means I need to work harder, a sacrifice the kitchen wench is willing to undertake (for food). there a benefactor out there? I'm just saying...

Kohinoor Cuisine of India (480) 921-9144 - 1043 E Lemon St, Tempe, AZ
These guys have an amazing lunch buffet for under $10.00. Their naan is delicious as well as their samosas, lentils, chick peas and tandoori chicken.

Postino Winecafe (602) 852-3939

3939 E Campbell Ave, Phoenix, AZ

I like Postino for the barbara salad, that is not on their menu, but they designed it for a patron who goes there often. It has beets, field greens, dried fruit (strawberries?) and candied walnuts. Ask for it with chicken and their herb vinaigrette. I like it more than the one they serve it with (raspberry vinaigrette) because it is less sweet. And it comes with a walnut bread. Delish!

Cornish Pasty Company 894-6261 - 960 W University Dr, #103, Tempe, AZ

The kitchen wench accompanied her friend at a defensive driving class (the ticket wasn't mine, really) so she could receive a free meal at this place. A pasty with steak, potato (rutabaga?), onions and gravy with a black and tan. That's for me!

Hazelwoods Bar (602) 957-2462 -3626 E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ

These guys are right in front of where I live, like 300 feet. A good argument for trivia night (Wednesdays I think still) with a black and tan, buffalo wings and fried zucchini and mushrooms.

Golden Greek (602) 841-7849

7126 N 35th Ave, Phoenix, AZ

I love the Golden Greek. They have a chicken souvlaki sandwich that is very juicy on a yummy bread with tzatziki sauce and it comes with a side salad with big pieces of cucumbers.

Scottsdale, AZ 85255 480.289.6180 . Scottsdale and SHEA

These guys have a fresh & tasty tzatziki that warms the cockles of my heart (with pita chips and sweet potato chips). Try their steak sandwich on ciabatta with carmelized onions. They have all kinds of yummy baked goodies like sweet potato muffins. And they do catering.

Duck & Decanter - Phoenix, AZ 1651 E Camelback Rd, Phoenix Phone: (602) 274-5429
An institution. Order "the banger." A spicy German sausage on a french roll. Ask for sauerkraut.
Enough said! And get yourself a sasparilla in the bottle. If you're not the designated driver, they have a great selection of wine & beer.

George & Dragon Restaurant 4240 N Central Ave, Phoenix

(602) 241-0018

Get the fish & chips with peas. And a black & tan. The bangers & mash are pretty good too!

Carlos O'brien's Mexican Food Restaurant - Phoenix, AZAddress: 1133 E Northern Ave, Phoenix (602) 274-5881

I like the chicken fajita burrito with a side of rice. The tacos are excelente! Very fresh & tasty salsa with warm chips. The margaritas aren't bad, either.

Arriba Mexican Grill - Phoenix, AZ 1812 E Camelback Road, Phoenix (602) 265-9112

On Thursdays they have a $2.00 chicken chimichanga with red or green sauce. Ask for two or three and wrap up the extra one to take home with you (when your server isn't looking in tin foil that you bring from home). Order yourself some guacamole and tip your server well! They are slinging a lot of chimis on Thursdays at lunchtime.

The guy who has the little stand in front of the Home Depot
36th St/Thomas
He makes a tasty Italian beef sandwich, very reasonable.

Defalco's Italian Deli/grocery
(480) 990-8660

2334 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ

Go for their prosciutto sandwich and pick up some Italian sausage to make once you get home. Lots of Italian yummy things like sweets, wines, pastas, cheeses, etc. They also make Italian dinners you can eat in or take to go. And they do catering.

The little hot dog stand Nogales #2 at Indian School and 20th St. in Phoenix
Sonoran Hot Dogs.
Enough said.

Mariscos Playa Hermosa 1605 E Garfield St, Phoenix (602) 462-1563
Order a whole fried tilapia with a michelada to drink.

Aj's Fine Foods (602) 230-7015
5017 N Central Ave, Phoenix
AJ's has great pastries (blueberry scones are my favorite and palmier cookies) and also yummy pizza. A great selection of beer, chocolates and kitchen gadgets.

So many good eats here in the Valley...where to start?

The morning after (breakfast yummies)

Mom's chocolate sauce. Delicious on ice cream...

Breakfast a la Christmas Day dinner leftovers. Yummy ham on rye bread.

One of the best parts of Christmas is the leftovers. I would have to say the same for Thanksgiving and Easter too. We have a lot of good cooks in my family, so I'm always excited to have some parcels left over for future meals.

My aunt gave all of us quite a bit of chicken and spaghetti to take home (and meatballs!) after Christmas Eve dinner and then there was about 1/2 of a 1/2 ham left over from our Christmas dinner yesterday. My mom brought over a potato salad, some sweet gerkins, olives and beets. My bro and I had gone shopping for the vittles, which included a Cook's ham from Fry's (delicious and very lean...and on sale), rye bread, francisco brand buns, clementine oranges and golden raisins.

We had ants on a log yesterday before the meal which my brother really enjoys and I like them quite a bit too. That is when you spread peanut butter on celery and put raisins on top. I quite like golden raisins. They are pricey, but Fresh & Easy has a pretty good price. They are also nice for baking.

We had a great meal and finished with espresso and sour cream coffee cake. Everyone had a nice portion of ham and rolls/potato salad to take home. Speaking of leftovers, the topic of today's post...I was able to take advantage of them at breakfast, frying up some ham, and making a toasted rye bread ham sandwich. Yummy! I had some clementine oranges too and I'm working on one of the oatmeal cookies my Mom made. Mmm. She is a great (GREAT!) baker.

She also brought over some chocolate sauce (that was supposed to be fudge) but she used too much milk, so it wouldn't set. Well in my family when life hands you lemons (or chocolate sauce), you make lemonade (or in this case hot fudge sauce for ice cream). I had some of this last night with rocky road ice cream. I just heated a few tablespoons in a mug for 15 seconds in the micro and then scooped the ice cream on top. Normally the topping goes on top, but this "reverse sundae" was delicious and highly recommended. I suspect this would work well with Nutella chocolate spread (which is also delicious on french bread). I will have to try that out in the coming year and will let you know how it goes...

Happy leftovering!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

"Christmassy" sour cream coffee cake

The kitchen wench celebrates Christmas with a latte and a little murano glass tree.
Festive and low maintenance.

Sour cream coffee cake is great for breakfast and sharing
at holiday meals.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Yesterday my family spent part of the day at my aunt's. She made chicken cacciatore and perciatelli (a tube spaghetti) with an endive/romaine/orange salad. We had plenty of wine and my kolachke cookies for dessert.

Today everyone is coming over to the kitchen wench's pad for ham, rye bread and a relish tray. My Mom promised to make deviled eggs and a potato salad so we will have a delicious and casual Christmas lunch.

I'm in charge of dessert, which seems to be a consistent theme lately. Some would say that I am very sweet (haha). Sour cream coffee cake is a crowd pleaser so I made one last night that we can munch on today.

The nuts and the cinnamon make it a special cake. It is "Christmassy," in my opinion.

Sour cream coffee cake

1 cup butter (soften in micro for 30 sec)
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup sugar (I like Zulka azucar moreno at Food City)
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups flour, unsifted
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 tsp salt

Beat butter and sugar together. Add eggs and beat. Add sour cream and vanilla and beat again. Add dry ingredients and beat. Turn out 1/2 mixture into a buttered bundt pan (I just use the leftover butter on the wrapper when I take it out of the micro) and add your filling.
You can use preserves, brown sugar, chocolate chips and nuts (coconut works nice too).
The top with the rest of the batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Chef wanted: apply within

The kitchen wench's heart has returned. It was in Mexico temporarily, and I'm going to blame Gov. Brewer and SB 1070, at least in part. I know it takes two to tango, after all.

I'm ready to put my toe back in the water, as it were. (gasp!)

So, my letter to Santa this year goes something like this:

Dear Santa,

Please provide a chef, sous chef, prep cook or saucier. He should have good manners, a great sense of humor and be kind. 2nd language required, and he must enjoy travel and be ready to leave on short notice.

The Kitchen Wench

ps. Please put polvorones and palmeras de chocolate in my stocking!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Kolachke pastries (apricot & prune)

The prune version.

Flaky apricot and prune kolachke pastries are a
Christmas tradition in the kitchen wench's family.
(after they cool you can dust them with powdered sugar)

If you make your own apricot puree,
it will come out looking something like this.

First of all, a shout out to my friend who spent last night in the hospital. And just a short time ago he was telling me (and I agreed) that he prefers the way English people say being in the hospital (being in hospital - without the article). I'm trying to introduce some levity here, because I know he is hurting and feeling low. So, I'm sending you a big hug (you know who you are) and promises to visit you tomorrow with cookies and other yummy holiday eats.

Life sometimes just isn't fair. And that doesn't quite cover it here.

Continuing with today's post...

As long as I can remember my aunt has made kolachke pastries at Christmas. She usually buys the Solo brand prune and apricot filling in the can. This year, we had trouble finding it, and she was short on time, so she asked me to make them and kindly procured prunes and apricots so we could have homemade puree for our pastries.


I let the fruit soak in cold water for about 5 hours and then drained it. Then I put it in the food processor and pulsed it until it became a puree. I tasted both the prune and apricot versions and they are delicious, much thicker and tastier than the canned filling.

The recipe for the dough is very simple. You need:

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 8 oz package cream cheese (softened)
1 cup butter (softened)
1 tbsp milk and white vinegar (each)

Combine your cream cheese, butter, milk and vinegar in a bowl using a pastry blender. Then add your flour and salt and form into two or three balls. Then you refrigerate them a couple of hours, or you can cheat a bit, which is what I do, and put them in the freezer. Then you roll the dough out in between waxed paper with a bit of flour dusted on top to prevent sticking. Cut the dough into squares (1 1/2 " is good). You put the filling in the middle of each square and bring two opposite sides together to form a parcel. These bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

My aunt's advice (to me) was, "Make sure you get them brown enough..."

Enough said. I must defer to my more experienced relative in terms of kitchen activities.

Happy Christmas baking!

My first batch of apricot came out a bit haphazard looking but I can assure you, they are delicious, and quite addictive.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Gifts for kitchen buffs

A sugar shaker is great for topping desserts (or waffles!) with powdered sugar.
A silpat is a super gadget for baking. You can save a bundle vs. buying parchment paper,
and it is better for the environment.

With a french press, coffee is made without a heating element, so it does not get bitter.

I think Bento Boxes make a great gift for your foodie/kitchen giftee.

Lots of the food blogs I read are doing blurbies on what to get for your loved one who spends a lot of time in the kitchen. I like the New Times Chow Bella one, especially. They recommended a silpat, which is very practical and you can get them at any kitchen store, practically. You use it instead of parchment paper so your cookies don't stick to your cookie sheet. To get one, try Switchin' Kitchen first, since they are local and carry gently used (and new) kitchen items at a very reasonable cost.

I like lemon/lime squeezers as a gift, you can get a cheapie but very functional version at Food City in many colors (for $2!) or go for a more expensive version at Standard Restaurant Supply. These are great if you need to squeeze citrus for baking, drinks (gin & tonic, anyone?) or just to get your healthy morning juice on.

Another nice gift is a confectioners sugar Dad got one of these some time back, I think he found it at Macy's for $10 (I have also seen them at Target and in the kitchen sections at Ross and TJ Maxx). He likes to use it so he can have powdered sugar on his french toast that his girlfriend Saykham is a wizard at making. I sure hope she will come out to visit when he does in January so I can get an overdue dose of french toast in my tummy. Mmmm.

A french press is a nice gift too. You can get them everywhere. I would try Switchin Kitchen first. They have a very red cool/modern espresso maker that I am absolutely coveting.

And how about a bento box? This way you can take your lunch to work in a cute plastic box every day and you can separate items with silicone muffin tins to make your lunch look pretty (a trick from the New York Times food blog).

A microplane is always a good gift for the baker in your family. It is used to grate nutmeg and citrus zest. I use mine all the time.

Wishing you Happy gifting to your kitchen wench!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tortilla Española

Add your beaten eggs to the pan after your potatoes and onions are browned.

Then after it is done on one side, you flip it over, using a large plate.

Your finished product will look something like this.
Make one today and impress your friends!

I'm convinced that the potato omelet is the greatest invention. The first time I tried it I was in Vitoria, Spain, at the ripe age of 17. It was my last year of high school and I was trying to learn Spanish, as well as content in subjects like geology, literature and art. It was a huge challenge.

Thankfully, my host mother Malen made me comfort food in the form of Tortilla Española quite often, and it was always delicious. I suspect it's something her mother made very well and it is a practical dish, since potatoes grow abundantly in Spain. I remember the smell of Malen's kitchen as the olive oil would heat up and watching the potatoes crisp in her cast iron skillet.

Sometimes I would eat a whole Tortilla which is obscene, really. Malen would serve roasted pimentos in olive oil alongside, as a condiment. There was always french style bread with every meal. Sometimes she would make me a bocadillo de tortilla (tortilla sandwich made with french bread) to take with me on a school field trip. It was something just about everyone would bring, since it is very affordable and portable. It eats very well room temperature.

Tonight I'm making one for Jason. He is taking us to Carlos O'Brien's for dinner (the best tacos!) - which is not a bad trade, in my book. He likes it with onions, but it can be made many different ways: with spinach, chorizo (AJ's Fine Foods sells Palacios brand, mild and hot), asparagus and lately in Spain you see them layered, with a type of "salad" in between, which is sort of an anti-gravity work of art, if you ask me.

My version is made a bit healthier than the original, which uses fried potatoes. I bake mine in the microwave for about 5 minutes and then fry them in a bit of olive oil. I think they absorb less oil this way. For tonight's tortilla I microwaved a huge baking potato for 5 minutes (make sure you prick the outside to let out steam) and then cut it in cubes. Then it went in a pan with olive oil and 1 small white onion in chunks. You let all of this brown together and throw in 6 beaten eggs. Let it set on one side and then you will be able to "flip" it over onto a plate, then "flip" it back again into the pan so it can finish cooking.

This is a great dish to take to parties and picnics since it travels well and you can enjoy it room temperature with some crusty bread and maybe a vino tinto (a bottle of red wine).

Make yourself a tortilla today. You'll be hooked on this yummy dish from Spain.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A lazy Sunday at Burton Barr library and AJ's Fine Foods

Holiday views of Central/Camelback are very nostalgic for the kitchen wench.

Yesterday I went to the main library to kill time since I had just been to my Mom's and I wasn't due at Jason's for pizza until 6:30. I spent time in the non-fiction section on the 5th floor (I think it was the fifth) which I hadn't been to before. I found a cool book on Flamenco dance/music and a book about Latinos in politics during LBJ's Presidency. There's a really good selection of interesting books that I hadn't been aware I'm going to be spending more time at the library in 2011.

After the library I went over to AJ's Fine Foods at Central and Camelback. I'm a bit nostalgic about that area since I grew up near there as a girl and spent a lot of time at Uptown Plaza...Markgraf's Pharmacy, specifically. The pharmacy had the greatest selection of sundries (fancy brushes/lotion) plus wallets and purses, stuffed animals (I remember discovering Garfield there) and candy bars. The best part, though was the soda fountain where my Dad and I spent many mornings over breakfast...for me it was mostly an old fashioned glazed donut and grape juice, coffee for my Dad with "burnt toast" requested tongue in cheek from waitress Peggy or Maria. The latter made tamales every other Wednesday on Mexican food day. I believe both of these ladies went to work at an ice cream parlor on Scottsdale Road, and the name escapes me now. Maybe it is because I want to remember them still at Markgraf's.

This year I made a new client who worked at Markraft's location in Scottsdale. We shared some warm memories of simpler days. Those of you that spent time there will understand what I mean.

I digress...right now there are holiday lights at the M and I Bank building at Central/Camelback roads. The view from AJ's Fine Foods is pretty cool. Yesterday I got an orange blossom tea along with a sesame seed bagel, enjoying the view as the sun was setting. It's a speical area, and worth a visit if you are in the neighborhood.

Merry Christmas! And Happy Memories.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chicken salad @ Tokyo Express and Peppermint Gelato shake

The peppermint gelato shake from Gelato Spot will "hit your spot!"

Jason was sweet enough to treat me to a yummy chicken salad today at Tokyo Express. Their chicken salads have so much cabbage that I actually think you burn more calories "processing" the salad than you do if you hadn't eaten it all. The chicken is very lean and grilled, served with the cabbage/lettuce/carrots mixture and then there is a rice wine vinaigrette dressing. It is quite tasty and light.

Afterwards we went grocery shopping, as that is something people do, and Jason sprung for a Cadbury fruit and nut bar for yours truly. So I am feeling rather well gifted this holiday season.

Later on the way home I stopped at Gelato Spot and ordered a peppermint gelato shake. This is so creamy and pepperminty, but not too sweet. I highly recommend you go get one now. Right now! Especially since they are only making the peppermint version for a short time. I suppose if I was a more frequent customer I could request a special flavor be extended, but I'm kind of a "once a month type" customer and they probably wouldn't make a profit. If Oasis Raspados wasn't around, Gelato Spot would get more of my the way, speaking of which, Oasis is on holiday right now for the Christmas season and will be back in January. I will be so ready for a chamoyada with mango in a couple of weeks. The Oasis folks work hard all year long shaving ice and cutting up fruits like mango, strawberry and pineapple for us thirsty people. ¡Gracias, Oasis! I think Santa will be treating your folks there very well this year, as it should be.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Final Countdown (for holiday baking) - making your own fruit filling

My recent booty (thank you aunt Char) of apricots and prunes.

I was listening to the morning news today and anchor Harry Smith was talking about the final countdown to Christmas shopping. (8 days of shopping left counting today...but who's counting?) Harry Smith fills in for Katie Couric sometimes on the CBS evening news and I think he does a great job. Anyways, he's been let go from the morning show at CBS and I think that's a shame. Also he was working with Maggie Rodriguez who is no longer as well. Bummer. Well these folks will move on to bigger and better things, since they are very talented.

Sorry for the morning rant. And I did have my coffee already. What gives?

The final countdown phrase reminds me of that song "The Final Countdown" by Europe that was very popular in the late 80's (the kitchen wench is dating herself). That song is also prominent in the show Arrested Development which I understand is being made into a movie. (Yea!) The older brother character in the TV show has a cheesy magic act in which he emerges onstage to "The Final Countdown" playing in the background. It is quite a funny show, you can catch reruns on I highly recommend it.

Let's get down to business (finally). My aunt gifted me some dried fruit yesterday which consisted of prunes and apricots. She told me how to turn them into fruit filling for our kalochke (spelling?) cookies that she used to make every year at Christmas. The cookies are very crumbly and made with a good amount of butter and cream cheese. Not a bad combination. They are filled with prune and apricots. The dough gets rolled out between waxed paper and then you cut little squares where you place the filling and pinch opposite ends together to form a "parcel". They come out of the oven very pretty with the different colored fillings (orange and black respectively).

My aunt reminded me to be sure to bake the cookies long enough and in the same sentence she complimented me on the recent pumpkin pie slice I brought to her. She said I have surpassed (!) my mom in crust making. I was totally shocked and am still reeling from the compliment.

But I will take it. :)

So, to make your fruit filling for these cookies, you wash your dried fruit in a colander and then soak it overnight in cold water. The water should come about 1" above the fruit when you leave it out overnight. Then in the morning you take your fruit and pour the excess water off, and put it into your food processor and puree (a potato masher could work for this too). The prune should not need extra sugar, but the apricots will probably need a couple of teaspoons according to my source. (my aunt, of course.)

Then your filling will be all ready for your cookies, empanadas or other baked goodies. And it will be less processed because you made it at home.

Happy Holiday baking.
Kalochke cookies coming next week.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tamarind covered candy apples

Sliced tamarind covered candy apples are worth a try!

Not bad for a first-timer.

What you need: granny smith apple and Forritos
tamarind flavored candy for covering.

Sometimes things don't exactly turn out the way you expect them to. That is the case today with tamarind covered candy apples. But, I have 5 candy disks left, so there's still room for improvement!

The candy is very hard, so you need to microwave it for about 10-15 seconds before it will be pliable enough to put around your apple. Mine came out a bit haphazard/uneven but the taste is delicious, much like the tamarind candy straws that you get when you order a diablito drink at Reyna Michoacana.

It occurs to me that it is a good idea to share one of these apples, because with the coating they are a bit caloric (300 calories not including the apple). I didn't have any of the sweet/sour sprinkle candy to coat it in, and maybe that's just as well.

For me it's easier to eat an apple that is sliced than eating it the traditional way, on a stick, as most of us know candy and caramel apples are presented. So...I cut it up but it was quite hard (the candy thickens as it comes to room temp) so I think next time I will cut the apple and then microwave the candy and then roll it with a rolling pin to make it thinner and try to keep it as even as possible in terms of the thickness. Then it could be cut into four and placed on four apple slices.

Seems like a bit of a production number, but I've never been afraid of eating things that take work i.e. whole crab, crawfish and the like. It's worth a go to try something new.

Speaking of trying something new, here are some ideas via Germany (thank you Yecla) for building a gingerbread house and using gingerbread creatively. The Pac Man one is my favorite.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pie reprise

Yummy apple empanada with cinnamon and sugar.

Pumpkin pie #3 for this year.
The kitchen wench does pastry...almost!

I am making pies (well, one pumpkin pie and one apple empanada) this morning. For two weeks the kitchen wench has promised Mom and brother another pumpkin pie, and she must deliver.

Is it creepy when I talk about myself in the third person?

I digress...

The more I make pie crust, the more easy it becomes to get back in the kitchen and do it again. I used to balk at all of the clean up (the pastry blender, the mixing bowl, the countertop) but now I can do it lickety split. However, my crust is still coming out in pieces. It occurs to me that maybe the kitchen wench needs a pastry chef tutor of sorts. If anyone knows a single chef dude out there who wants to teach me (for butter or for worse), please refer them my way.

The last time I made pie it was for Thanksgiving. My aunt recently told me that I needed to check my oven temperature because the crust could have been baked longer. I told her that I have a meat thermometer (that I bought for Thanksgiving) and she told me that wasn't what I needed, instead I need a proper oven thermometer. It is good to have expert family bakers around to tell you when you need to modify things. My aunt is quite the perfectionist, however I am certain that will never rub off on me.

My mom and brother gave me snaps for the Thanksgiving pies (pumpkin and apple) and since my Mom is a master baker I'm going to defer to her on that one. She told my brother and I recently that she is planning on making cinnamon buns and fudge for Christmas. She makes the most delicious cinnamon buns. When you walk in the house after she is done baking them, it smells even better than the Cinnabon at the mall. Really!

I feel the need to celebrate a little at the moment since the kitchen wench recently completed studies towards a masters degree in teaching English as a second language. I'm not sure how to property celebrate this but it may involve a hefeweisen and buffalo wings. And maybe a big Cadbury nut and fruit bar. With our current economy I was going to make a joke about adding extra initials to my name qualifies me to wait tables.

But hey...I'm a foodie, so that would't be all that bad. I hear some folks out there are good tippers!

Happy Holiday baking.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Marionberry jam and where to get your holiday gift baskets

Here is a picture of one of the holiday baskets from Baseline Flower Growers.

Marionberry jam - from Washington - is great on toast.

My cousin Deenah shipped my Mom some marionberry jam from Washington state, in the spirit of Christmas. She also sent Sweets brand orange and raspberry sticks covered with milk chocolate. My Mom shared some of spoils with me last night.

Thanks cousin!

I tried the marionberry jam today on toast and it is so delicious. Very fruity with just the right amount of sweetness.

I'm not sure if we can get this locally. But, in the spirit of staying local, I'm going to recommend an Arizona business that makes (and delivers) great gift baskets, since Christmas is right around the corner and you may be thinking, what am I going to get my boss, my auntie, my etc.

Baseline Flower Growers sent baskets (on behalf of a satisfied client) to my former employer and I remember receiving parts of one that included fruit, little jams/jellies, chocolates and fancy chips/pretzels. I remember it clearly because the basket was an intricate weave and was perfectly wrapped in cellophane and tied with raffia. Such a pretty presentation. After that I sent one to a friend on a special occasion and now I don't remember what that occasion was.

The kitchen wench has early alzheimers!

Just joking, folks.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Bolillo for breakfast

Toasted bolillo roll with butter and honey makes a great breakfast.

The bolillo roll is way under-appreciated in this kitchen wench's humble opinion. This morning I decided to split one in half, dot it with butter and stick it under the broiler. Then I drizzled it with honey.


There are may ways to eat a bolillo roll. My favorite way to eat a bolillo is with pollo milanesa (breaded chicken), then it becomes a torta de pollo milanesa (a breaded chicken sandwich). Tortas Paquime does a great torta de pollo milanesa.

The bolillo also makes a great bun for a Sonoran hot dog.

Next time I make it for breakfast, it will have cinnamon and sugar. I don't discriminate, after all.

Food City has these 5/ $1.00... which is almost free.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Forritos - cubre manzanas/caramel coating for apples

Get your spicy/salty/sweet apples on with Forritos caramel coating.

I got very excited when I saw the "Forritos" box of caramel coating for apples tonight at the store (tamarind flavored). I heard about tamarind covered apples recently when a friend said his sister was making them to sell to her classmates in Hermosillo, and they were selling like hotcakes.

Being a big fan of chamoyadas - Mexican slurpees I affectionately call them (check out the url of this blog and that will tell you how much I like them), I enjoy the salty, sweet, savory taste of tamarind and I think it is going to pair great with a tart granny smith apple.

These candy "disks" are stacked and appear to be separated by waxed paper. I haven't opened the package yet but I have seen a similar product used in a You Tube video to make tamarind covered apples. According to the directions, you mold the caramel around the apple and insert a wooden stick, presumably so you have a handle to eat it with. Then you sprinkle it with something called Zumba which appears to be an sweet-sour type powder candy (think Lick 'em Aid) that I didn't buy so I will have to go back to Food City again and get tempted by some other treat that I don't actually need.

Someone once described me (affectionately) as a cross between a puppy and a five year old. It's true, I suppose. I get excited at small things, like puppies. And sweet things. And exotic things.

When I make these I will post a picture so you can see the finished product. I noticed on the ingredients that these contain tecojotes (small apples) instead of tamarind so apparently there is a bit (haha) of artificial flavor. And color. If you eat a lot of these your insides might turn red dye #40. The main ingredients listed are sugar, maltodextrin, water, small apples, citric acid and iodized salt. Chili powder comes shortly as you can see in this candy coating you get the salty, sweet and spicy which this kitchen wench enjoys so much.

It's like taking a trip to the State a Mexican state. ¡Arre!

Affogato in the morning

An affogato might not be your first choice in the morning...
but it could become so!

A scoop of ice cream and espresso is all you need.

When there's no milk in the house for your breakfast latte, what's a kitchen wench to do, anyways? Make an affogato, that's what!

Thanks to places like Gelato Spot and Postino, I know what one is, so I knew just what to do this morning when I remembered there was nothing to put in my coffee this morning to make a latte. But, was there?

I do have rocky road ice cream in the freezer which I recently learned can become "the cream in in my coffee" or espresso, that is.

So, when in Rome (or when you're out of the white stuff, soy, almond milk, that powdery stuff)...use ice cream in your coffee. In my case, it's rocky road, so there are bits of almond and marshmallows in my coffee, so it's like a crunchy hot chocolate.


Monday, December 6, 2010


Yummy champurrado will warm you up.

I was in Food City this morning on a mission to buy stamps (sometimes there is a long line at the post office) when I remembered they had advertised they are making champurrado for the holidays. I ordered a 12 oz cup for $1.59 and it is delicious. Just as wikipedia describes it, like a thick chai. The spices are very nice, they wake up your tastebuds...but do be careful as it is very hot. My tongue is still recovering.

Must. Learn. Patience.

Get yours now at Food City.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dinner and a movie with dessert (tiramisu)

Tiramisu, courtesy of the kitchen wench's friend
(from Fresh & Easy).

I was pleasantly surprised last night when my friend brought dessert for our dinner and a movie night. It was tiramisu from Fresh and Easy. Typically I am dubious about commercial made baked goods/desserts. This one proved me wrong. It was creamy and not too sweet, with a good ratio of cake (ladyfingers?) to mascarpone filling with a dash of almond liquour and a sprinkling of cocoa powder on top.

Tiramisu means (literally) "pull me up" in Italian. That is what this version of Tiramisu will do for you.


I made spicy garlic shrimp and thin spaghetti with a tomato/basil/red onion/olive oil salad and the focaccia bread came from Grande Orange. I was in there yesterday and that place does such a great business, no matter what time of day you go. They have all kinds of Christmas gift ideas right now from cute t-shirts to kitchen towels to candies you don't see everywhere and toys for the kiddos. Very fun stuff. Hard to resist and buy just bread.

Just buy bread. Just buy bread. I had to tell myself.

Their focaccia varies and yesterday's version had some type of grey sea salt that had been carmelized (how do they do that?) so it was a bit salty and almost savory. Very delicious. I had to "test" some before dinner. Just to make sure it was safe for human consumption, mind you. Focaccia bread is a great dipper for the tomato/basil/red onion/olive oil salad. It is a meal in itself if you make the salad large enough.


Last night's movie was Gypsy (courtesy of Phoenix Public Library) with Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood and Karl Malden. Talk about talent! Rosalind Russell plays the mother who lives vicariously through her two daughters who work in vaudeville as their manager Karl Malden waits patiently for her (Rosalind's) hand in marriage.

Dinner and a movie was rounded out by a not so fancy shiraz-cabranet wine called Big Kahuna which I would have balked at not so many years ago. It has a twist off top which I now know is popular because of the cork shortage. A delicious wine that paired well with our meal.

My companion agreed, it's more fun to cook for two than for one.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Kitchen Switchin' - consignment kitchen supply store

If you like to cook/bake, this is your store!

The outside is as cute as the inside.

I have been excited to visit Kitchen Switchin' ever since I read about it at Chow Bella (New Times food blog). I was able to go today and was pleased with the selection of gadgets, pots/pans, knives, small appliances and decorations. They have a good selection of gently used espresso makers, should mine ever go out... I will know where to get a new (used) one.

I also spied some gift ideas for Christmas. There are contemporary soy candles for $10 and holiday themed serving dishes and a pretty plate (for fruit?) that had mosaic blue tiles that would go so well with my kitchen. I also spied some Kosta Boda candle holders - the ones that look like snowballs. I have always wanted one so I might have to go back and get it...if it is still there, that is.

I digress. I was talking about gifts and then I was talking about what I thought would look good in my kitchen. How does that happen?

It will happen to you when you to go Kitchen Switchin'. You will find all kinds of kitchen supplies you didn't know you needed before (and some that you actually need). Centrally located on 7th St. just north of Glendale on the west side of the street.

Not only can you buy, but you can consign. You can get cash or trade for your gently used kitchen items. Just in time for the holidays...extra cash!

I was telling my Mom about the store today and she wants to go back over there with me next weekend. Sounds like a fun mother/daughter activity since we both enjoy cooking & baking.

Happy holiday shopping!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Christmas punch - courtesy of Food City

Many years ago I made a mulled wine with cinnamon sticks, red wine, brandy and dried fruits. It was really delicious and warms you up on the inside.

Last year I was introduced to champurrado, a Mexican drink that is made around Christmastime/New Years. I'm not sure what all it contains, so I'm going to defer to wikipedia " a warm and thick Mexican drink, based on masa (hominy flour), piloncillo, water or milk and occasionally containing cinnamon, anise seed and or vanilla bean (tasting somewhat like a thick masala chai).

Did any of you see the movie Quinceañera? The uncle character in the movie made champurrado and sold it in Echo Park to the neighbors. You must rent and see this movie if you haven't yet. It is very sweet.

I digress.

I was so taken with champurrado last year that I hope that some of my Mexi friends will gift me some this year. (Hint Hint) If not, Food City will save the day, they have it on sale right now for 99 cents for 20 ounces.

That is almost free!

I was shopping at Food City tonight and at the register there is a recipe in English (reverse side in Spanish) for Christmas Punch.

Here goes:

3 gallons water
10 oz prunes
3 cinnamon sticks
4 sugar canes
7 guavas
5 juicy oranges
10 oz tejocotes (these are like small apples)
6 oz walnuts
2 lb sugar
1 quart brandy (optional)

Wash all the fruits. Cut the sugar canes in sticks. Cut the guavas in quarters. Boil everything together except the sugar. When everything is cooked, add the sugar and brandy.

Sounds yummy. If you try it, let me know how it turns out.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Apple pie

Mmmm apple pie.

I'm doing some baking today before heading over to Mom's. My brother and his family are in town from Fillmore and we're going to do some major eating.

The apple pie is finished and the pumpkin pie is in the oven with about 30 minutes to go. The kosher bird goes in the oven at 10:00 am and will cook for 4 hours at 325 degrees until the internal temp is 165 degrees.

Details, details...

The apple pie filling recipe comes from

3 lbs granny smith apples, peeled and sliced
the juice of 1 lemon (so apples don't brown)
3/4 cup regular sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp butter
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp milk

Peel/slice your apples and juice a lemon over them and turn them around, so they don't brown. Then add your dry ingredients and stir, then place in your unbaked pie shell (Crisco recipe, posted recently). I topped this with a deconstructed style crust since my crust didn't come out in one piece. Originally I would have made a lattice crust since that always looks pretty. I sprinkled the top with sugar and baked it at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

I didn't use the butter, egg yolk or milk as the recipe calls for but I wanted to include them as per the original.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Spaghetti sauce with sausage, olives and bell pepper

Yummy pasta sauce with bell pepper, Italian sausage
and black olives.

This has become one of my favorite pasta sauces. You need:

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
8 oz can tomato sauce
1 handful whole black olives
1/2 bell pepper, sliced
2 Italian sausage links
a sprinkle of Italian seasoning
2 cloves garlic, minced
a drizzle of olive oil
1/2-3/4 pound of pasta, your choice

I brown the sausage a bit in the pan, then add the olive oil and saute the garlic along with the sausage for a couple of minutes. Then add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, the bell pepper, olives and a sprinkle of Italian seasonings.

I'm serving this over shell pasta tonight, but you can use angel hair or any other pasta you like.

The bell pepper adds a nice depth of flavor to the sauce.

This will feed three or four with a main course... or two if you are both super hungry.

If you can get a focaccia to go with this, that would be nice, along with a simple green salad. Tonight I'm serving it with a bottle of Tempranillo that I found at Cost Plus.

This is a very "homey" sauce that will make you feel like you're in the presence of your grandma. In my case, my late Grandma Pompeii, who was also a great cook.

Testing...pumpkin pie

The finished product!
Not as pretty maybe as the one on the Libby's can,
but it does smell amazing.

Here is the pre-baked version.
You can tell that the crust isn't exactly uniform.

When the head baker in your family (that would be my Mom) tells you to go by the recipe on the can for pumpkin pie, you don't waiver.

So, today I'm making a test pie, a few days early, so I can make sure what I'll be serving my family is first quality. I will need to try several pieces for quality control, most likely.

Here is the filling recipe from the Libby's pumpkin can (or calabaza, if you prefer).

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk
1 unbaked 9" deep dish pie shell

You mix the sugar, salt and spices together, then set them aside. Beat your eggs and then add the spices and pumpkin, stir them in. Then stir in your evaporated milk and you are all done. Pour this into your unbaked pie shell (recipe follows) and bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees then reduce temperature to 350 and bake another 40-50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean (my mom says the temperature reduction is very important, or your pie will be like "leather" on top).

Classic Crisco pie crust

2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 stick of Crisco shortening (3/4 cup shortening)
4-8 tablespoons ice cold water

Put your flour and salt in a bowl, then "cut" in shortening using a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs with pea sized pieces remaining. Then sprinkle in two tablespoons of water and stir the mixture with a fork and continue to add 1 tablespoon of water until your dough comes together. Then separate it into two portions and refrigerate for 30 minutes before rolling out.

I found that I should have refrigerated the crust more than the required time. It was very hard to keep together in one piece (it actually ended up in the pie pan stuck together manually by me) and it's not the prettiest pie crust, but it's going to taste delicious. Also I found that I needed to use about 1 portion plus half of another to get enough to fill the pie pan. I just pitched the other half, but you could save it and make some empanadas. Mmmm.

Thanks Mom for keeping me on track with your recipe tips (follow the recipe on the can). If any of you out there make pumpkin pie and want to share your pumpkin filling and crust variations with me, please please please send them my way.

Also, sometime soon I'm tempted to try a pie crust that uses a combination of butter and lard to avoid the trans fats in shortening. I just don't like the idea of using a fat that's been processed so much.

Happy Baking. And, Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cost Plus - control central for your Thanksgiving baking

I'm the proud and happy owner of a new pie pan.

My Mom was telling me today that since I'm in charge of making our pies for Thanksgiving this year, I need to get a 9" pie pan. She gave me a 10" pie pan today. That one is for apple pie. She told me to make the pie exactly according to the directions on the can of pumpkin, and the can says, use a 9" pie pan.

Enough said.

I was at Cost Plus tonight and spied this nice pie pan, it is stoneware and the outside is navy blue (sorry I didn't get a good shot of the outside). The best part is the price - $7.50. It was a promo, regularly $9.99.

So I actually saved money tonight. Riiiiight...

Cost Plus is also a great store for spices. If you buy your spices there, you will save a bundle vs. your regular grocery store. The exception to that rule is if you buy your spices at a Mexican grocery store like Food City. They have line of spices called "El Guapo" that is very reasonable.

So...head to Cost Plus for your baking needs for this Thanksgiving. They also have a lot of extras like a great selection of wine and imported chocolates. Mmmmmm.

Baked tilapia with brown rice and yams

The fish is hiding under the rice. I promise, it's there...

I've perfected a new dish: baked tilapia with capers and tomatoes. This is really delicious and inexpensive to make.

You defrost a couple of tilapia fillets (if you get them frozen like I do in the bag) and place them on a cookie sheet covered with tin foil. Drizzle them in olive oil and top with a little bit of minced garlic, capers and diced roma tomatoes. Bake at 400 degrees for 18 minutes.

I served this with brown rice (cooked in 1/2 chicken broth 1/2 water) and baked yams. If you start your yams first, you can use the same cookie sheet...just put them off to one side and cook about 20 minutes before your fish. I like to wash mine well and pat them dry, and then rub them in a bit of olive oil so the skin will be tasty.

You could also serve this fish with olive oil and garlic pasta.

The Grande Orange makes Herb Focaccia that goes very well with this. Mmmmm.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thanksgiving pie recommendations - straight from the Pie Social judge's mouth

This pie was my favorite. Mincemeat. Mmmmm.

In second place was an apple cranberry pie. Delish!

After applying to be a pie judge at today's Pie Social, the nice people at Phoenix New Times gifted me tickets so I could try 5 different types of pies today at the Pie Social at 5th Street and Roosevelt. Thank you Phoenix New Times!

On the way to my Mom's after the social, it occurred to me that I could get pulled over by Phoenix Police for DUIP, or Driving Under the Influence of Pie. Major major major sugar rush!

After reviewing 5 pies (and eating every last bite) I feel I can recommend pies for your Thanksgiving table, lest you not want to bake.

The one pie I did not try, but it looked delicious, was a dulce de leche and coconut number from Breadfruit restaurant. I am not a fan of coconut but if I was going to a dinner where there were lots of Almond Joy fans, I would not hesitate to bring it. The chef who made it told me they won for "Best Jerk" (chicken) last year and I think they have Jamaican patties too, so I need to get down there soon. That reminds me, I need to put Jamaica on my bucket list. Oh, how nice it would be to go there and zone out on Red Stripe beer and Jamaican patties. MMmmm. 108 E. Pierce St. 602-267-1266

I digress. Thinking about travel and food gives the kitchen wench wanderlust. Big time.

Another place you can get your Thanksgiving pie is at Pie Snob. I tried their Mississippi mud pie which was basically a very rich and moist brownie pie with some coffee flavor. I know it's not a traditional thing to serve for Thanksgiving but this pie was that good, I'm making an exception. 602-840-4995

The nice folks at That's A Wrap! in the old Lola Tapas location were hawking a pear and cranberry pie. I am a fruity pie person and I really enjoyed this one. The crust was very flaky and the quality of the fruit was very good, and spiced just right. 602-252-5051 800 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix

Beckett's Table was offering up a fig and pecan (or was it walnut?) pie that was very tasty. 602-954-1700

I am saving my two favorite pies for last. The apple and cranberry pie at Honey Moon Sweets had a streusel topping that I really enjoyed and it was packed with apples. Yummy. 480-517-9520

The last pie I think might have been my most favorite. I am a big (BIG) fan of mince pie and these guys nailed it, the mince filling and the crust were perfect. You need to try this one from Tracy Dempsey Originals.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Catching up with a great friend over a taco

"Taco, taco, burrito!" Or at least that's how Jennifer Lopez (played by Cartman) put it on the episode of South Park where Jennifer Lopez morphed out of his hand.

Yes, I must watch too much tv, you will say.

I will maintain that South Park is very entertaining.

I digress. Tonight I had tacos with Jason, a very good friend. Good friends can be far and few between in this life, so when we can spend time with them, it is a great thing. And over tacos...well then, it is a fabulous thing.

Don't have pictures of our tacos tonight. We had a lot of catching up to do and wern't concentrating on picture taking. But they were crispy and the chicken was juicy and flavorful. Suffice it to say, Carlos O' Brien's has great tacos (and rice) so you should go as soon as you can.

PHOENIX 1133 East Northern Avenue (602) 274-5881
(also in Scottsdale)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cost Plus - birthday goodies

My booty from Cost Plus.

Before starting this post I need to give a big thanks and shout out to my Mom and brother Mike who had me over for dinner tonight. My Mom made a dish with pork chops baked over rice that had a medley of veggies in it. Delicious! And she also showed me how to make a "catalina" style salad dressing using the blender with catsup, olive oil, garlic and red wine vinegar. I told her I'm going to be making it a lot for myself, since I love salads.

I digress, here we go with the main topic of this post. Birthday goodies!

Saykham, my father's girlfriend sent me $20 in today's mail, along with a pretty bamboo placemat/napkin/coaster/chopsticks set.

It was burning a hole in my pocket (my purse) so I made a trip over to Cost Plus. I have recently been reading a chocolate blog called Chocablog and it talks about chocolate from all over the world. Here's the link if you want to check it out. It's quite entertaining, and informative, if you are a big chocolate eater.

I enjoy good chocolate, but I an not a snob, I also like Hershey's :) Since I've been reading Chocablog I've been inspired to check out chocolate from different countries, and you can do that at Cost Plus. They have candy that typically you won't see at Walgreen's or the supermarket. When you want to try something different, head over to Cost Plus.

I also enjoy alcohol (in moderation mind you) so I picked up a 6 of Hefeweisen and a Tempranillo from Spain. Not sure which one I'm going to start with. First I'm going to unwrap a candy bar, and get a sugar rush, and then get a little "happier" if you know what I mean.
Makes for great birthday finale, in this kitchen wench's humble opinion.

Sacred Hogan - fry bread and red chili beef stew

What else could the Kitchen Wench ask for on her birthday?

My aunt and I went to Sacred Hogan today for lunch. Her treat, since it's my big day.

You gotta go, is all I gotta say.

We both had the red chili beef stew and fry bread. She had the 16 oz portion and I had the smaller 8 oz portion; both come with fry bread. The stew has a lot of veggies and tender beef. It is not too spicy if you are dining with people who can't tolerate too much. I spied another patron eating a "taco" made with fry bread, beans and beef. I'm going back for that, you can bet on it.

Their fry bread is so yummy. It is really good winter food.

Get yourself to Sacred Hogan soon. And bring a friend!

842 East Indian School Road Phoenix (602) 277-5280

Monday, November 8, 2010

New gadget and a Sonoran hot dog

A Sonoran hot dog a la kitchen wench.

A new gadget!

The Kitchen Wench's birthday is coming up and little gifties are starting to pour in. My Mom gave me a swiffer set (got to keep the kitchen clean) and my brother gave me an ultrasonic toothbrush. My teeth have never been so clean. My Aunt is taking me to lunch for Frybread at the Sacred Hogan on Wednesday and my Mom is making dinner (a surprise). I am feeling rather well gifted these days.

Tonight at Food City I spied a kitchen gadget I have been needing but have been putting off for some reason. They have lemon/lime squeezers in lots of different colors for two bucks in their produce section - so get down there quick and get one. I used it already and the quality is pretty good for the price.

I was at a Women's Finance Meeting tonight and came home rather hungry. Thank goodness I had a hot dog in the refrigerator and some beans, onion and spicy brown mustard. Made myself a "mock" Sonoran hot dog (no bacon). I used a bolillo roll for the bun and it makes a great (GREAT) hot dog bun. You've gotta try it if you haven't yet.

You can also get a great Sonoran hot dog in front of the mattress store on 20th Street and Indian School Road. They come wrapped with bacon and are placed in a steamed bun. You get the choice of all kinds of toppings like beans, mushrooms, salsa...I don't remember all of them but they are plentiful. The little hot dog stand is there most nights, so go check it out.

Another place that is good to try if you want to get your Mexican eats on is Tortas Paquime on 24th Street and McDowell. They have this sandwich called a Torta Milanesa de pollo (a breaded chicken sandwich) and it is so delicious. It comes with tomato, lettuce, onion, jalapeño and slices of avocado. They also make a drink that has lots of chopped up fruit and it is very creamy, but I don't know what it is called. You must go to Tortas Paquime and try their yummy food.

Sacred Hogan 842 East Indian School Road Phoenix (602) 277-5280

Nogales Hot Dogs 1945 East Indian School Road, Phoenix (602) 527-0208

Tortas Paquime 2541 E Mcdowell Rd # 100, Phoenix - (602) 244-1188
(2 other locations, one on west Van Buren and one on west Indian