This post is mostly a precursor to tomorrow’s, but it shouldn’t be. That is, this is one of those times that a dinner, made mostly from someone else’s recipe, rolled into the next night’s dinner, in an original creation — again owing to my courageous and creative husband! This post commemorates the first dinner, because without it, we wouldn’t have stumbled on the second one…. and really, on its own, this is a fantastic and yummy meal! We were just so excited about the results from the second one that this got a little overshadowed.

That, and the pictures kind of stink….

Alright already, before you all stop reading and just come back tomorrow, here’s the recipe for our Chipotle Lime Shrimp Quesadillas. The shrimp come from Ezra Pound Cake (again….. it’s a great site, what can I say?) and I barely changed the recipe (more lime juice, more adobo, de-tail shrimp, etc.). Some authentic mexican cheese and the extra liquid from the shrimp made the quesadilla version of these already yummy shrimp top-notch. We’re lucky to live in a hispanic neighborhood where such cheese is readily available. It’s one of the foods I loved most in Mexico City!

Come back tomorrow to see incarnation #2 of these great shrimp!

Chipotle Lime Shrimp Quesadillas — serves 2, with leftover shrimp for the next day

Chipotle Lime Shrimp

from Ezra Pound Cake, who got it from Cooks Illustrated

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 pound 21/25 shrimp, peeled, deveined, de-tailed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 chipotle chile in adobo, minced
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice (from two small, really juicy limes)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

To make the glaze: Stir together chipotle chile, adobo sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, and cilantro in small bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch skillet over high heat until smoking, Meanwhile, toss shrimp, salt, pepper, and sugar in medium bowl. Add half of shrimp to the pan in single layer and cook until spotty brown and edges turn pink, about 1 minute. Remove pan from heat; using tongs, flip each shrimp and let stand until all but very center is opaque, about 30 seconds. Transfer shrimp to large plate. Repeat with remaining tablespoon oil and shrimp; after second batch has stood off heat, return first batch to skillet, add chipotle mixture, and toss to combine. Cover skillet and let stand until shrimp are cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. You’ll have some liquid left — this is the good stuff, don’t drain!


  • 1/2 pound (1/2 recipe) chipotle lime shrimp with reserved liquid, above
  • 2-3 cups shredded mexican cheese (queso chihuahua or oaxaca are my favorites… manchego is also nice, and let’s be honest, monterey jack is just fine too)
  • 10 small corn tortillas

Heat two tortillas at a time (or however many fit in your pan) in a dry skillet over medium heat, both sides (heating the tortillas through before adding cheese is a must! no more chewy tortillas!). Add a small handful of cheese to one half of each side, toss on three or four shrimp, a spoonful of lime-chipotle liquid goodness, and a little more cheese. Fold, flip, and heat until cheese is melted and gooey. Repeat until all quesadillas are made.



Andes Cocoa Brownies

Andes Cocoa Brownies

I grew up on cocoa-based chocolate treats. My favorite cookies while I was growing up were these cocoa drops that my mom made — chewy, puffy, soft, and really chocolatey but not rich. Someday I will definitely make and post them — they are a taste of home for me.

It wasn’t until I really started baking and experimenting a lot — maybe a year ago, now — that I started making a lot of recipes that use melted chocolate as a base for cakes, brownies, and even chocolate cookies. I knew how to temper chocolate, thanks to the number of chocolate-dipped candies that my mom and I make every year for Christmas (it’s an epic annual process, maybe this year we’ll document it), so for a while I happily melted and cooled and incorporated into batters for baked goods of all sorts.

Recently, though, I have been wondering what, exactly, is wrong with cocoa? I like the dusty, almost raw chocolate flavor it imparts. Buying a ton of chocolate (the higher the quality, the better, it seems) is expensive. And if I have gotten ahold of a high-quality chocolate bar, you know what I’m going to do? Eat it. That’s right. Not melt it, temper it, or coddle it until it’s totally lost its character and is ready to be incorporated into whatever chocolate creation is next on my list.

Andes Cocoa Brownies

Ok, ok….. there are some times when using high-quality, tempered chocolate is a good thing (see the Chocolate Espresso Fudge Cake, for example). But sometimes I like the ease and comfort of just using cocoa. And it tastes a whole lot like home!

All this to say, that when I saw cocoa brownies on smitten kitchen, I knew I’d have to try them. These are really low-maintenance, rich brownies — look at how dark they are in the pictures! With only a quarter-cup of flour, these babies are intensely fudgy, which is my favorite kind of brownie. I had some leftover Andes baking pieces that I added (you could use regular Andes mints and break them up). The mint was fantastic, and complimented the dark cocoa flavor perfectly. Speaking of cocoa, I used Hershey’s Special Dark. I read somewhere that it is half dutch-processed, half regular. It certainly is very dark, and gave the brownies an intense flavor and that beautiful black color. This recipe prove that cocoa-based treats can be just as chocolatey as chocolate-based ones — if not more than!

I made these for an info session I had for some students at work, and they loved them. I left the rest out for my colleagues the next morning, and by noon they were reduced to crumbs (who eats brownies at 10am? A lot of people I work with). Try them!

Andes Cocoa Brownies

Andes Cocoa Brownies
Adapted from smitten kitchen, who adapted from Alice Mendrich’s Bittersweet

Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies (I went with the 25-count size)


10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup Andes baking pieces or broken Andes mints (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a saucepan of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t worry — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the Andes, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me at few minutes longer to get them set. Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Andes Cocoa Brownies

Jen’s Fish-Flavored Pork

Just pictures today — I can’t take any kind of credit for this recipe, but I had to write about it because we seriously loved it that much! I have been on a real Chinese food kick lately (a couple of friends are coming over tonight and when I said we’re having Chinese food for dinner, one of them asked “When was the last time we had non-Asian food?” and I have to admit, it was a fair question). I think my enthusiasm has to do with the shock and awe I produce (in myself) by actually being able to produce food in my own kitchen that tastes Chinese. It still amazes me that by following a few basic principles and sticking to some flavor profiles (pork + ginger, for example), I can produce something Chinese-tasting!

Anyway, since I’m in the middle of this Chinese cooking phase, I tend to scour use real butter for Jen’s Chinese recipes, which always turn out for me. I found this recipe with the auspicious (or suspicious) name Fish-Flavored Pork and learned something new about the dried mushrooms I have been using for a few months now… they’re not mushrooms. They are tree ears, or wood ears, or cloud ears, depending on who you ask. The package I bought says “Dried Black Fungus”…. I naturally assumed dried black chinese mushrooms, which is what I needed, but alas…. when rehydrated, they are thin and chewy and have a distinct flavor.

For months, I basically ignored this fact (the fact that somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew these weren’t really mushrooms), and continued using the suspicious black fungus whenever I needed dried mushrooms. For the most part, they filled that role really well, and actually the distinct texture is surprisingly nice, especially in soups where a little added texture is welcome. But when I recognized them in Jen’s post, I realized I had found them a new home…… a dish where they really belonged.

This is one of those dishes that takes 10 minutes of prep and 5 minutes to cook — the kind of thing we make all the time for dinner. A bowl of rice, a few Korean banchans (veggie side dishes), and it’s done: you have dinner. Head over to use real butter for the recipe — and remember, you actually can make Chinese food at home!

Kimchi Fried Pork

Just as in my last post, I can’t really take credit for this recipe…. but luckily for me, I do get to claim it, because it came from my husband! Sean and I generally enjoy a nice synergy in the kitchen based on our natural talents and inclinations: I cook, he eats. We share a love of food, and although we come at it from different angles, we generally are happy to delight together in a successful meal — I because whatever new recipe I tried, has turned out; he because it just tastes so darn good.

Occasionally, though, we step out of our usual roles and he cooks while I eat. I have to admit that I struggle to give up the reigns in the kitchen. I enjoy cooking so much, and it’s both personally fulfilling to me as well as (I think?) healthy for us newly married people. Sean takes care of me so well — cooking for him is one of the few things I do for him that I think he honestly couldn’t do for himself! He totally ruins my theory when he takes over the kitchen and produces such successful food…… but that’s OK, because then I can slip right into his preferred role, the happy eater.

This is a really really simple stir fry that really doesn’t require a recipe, but in case you want to try your hand at Korean food at home, I’ll try to give a rough estimate of ingredients and some instructions.

Kimchi Fried Pork

Sean Park

Makes two generous servings

  • 1/2 lb (approx.) Samgyeopsal, or pork belly that is very thinly sliced and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2-3 cups kimchi (depends on your taste preference). Chop the kimchi into 1-inch pieces if there are any big chunks.

Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Flick a drop of water onto the pan — if it sizzles, the pan is hot enough. Spread the pork onto the pan in one layer. After one minute (no longer), flip the pork over to the other side. When it is cooked through, add the onions. Fry the onions in the pork fat until they soften a bit, then add the garlic. Stir fry for 30 seconds, then add the kimchi. Stir fry to mix the flavors and until the mixture thickens a bit.

Serve warm with rice and banchan.

I used to really not be an appetizer person. I generally took a strong “Don’t spoil your dinner!” stance on the appetizer vs. dive-right-into-the-meal debate. I also (let’s be honest) have a hard time pulling a whole meal together and getting it all on the table at one time: main dish, side dish, salad, etc. It is still beyond me to get all those components ready at the same time. Adding one more element just always seemed a little like overkill.

Then I had an important revelation: if I make an appetizer, then I buy myself a little more time. Nobody is grouchy while hungrily awaiting their food, and I get some wiggle room in terms of getting dinner on the table.

I’m not saying this happens every night I make dinner — ha! — but I have come to appreciate the power of putting out veggies and hummus, or whatever, when we have people over and I am still frantically cooking (this does happen quite a bit).

A couple of weekends ago we went away with some friends to their lakehouse and Emily and I made an appetizer to tie us all over before dinner. This is a SUPER easy one that we adapted from the recipe section of the Whole Foods website. Use whatever cheese you think you’d like — preferably something that melts nicely — the original recipe calls for brie, which I don’t like (!).

Baked Apple & Cheese Toasts

Adapted from WholeFoodsMarket.com

  • 3 tart apples, cored and sliced into eighths (we used Pink Lady apples, my favorites)
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 (350-gram) chunk smoked Gouda, sliced into 24 pieces
  • 24 baguette slices

Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss apple slices with melted butter and brown sugar. Bake apples until are tender, about 20 minutes.

Arrange Gouda evenly over the bread slices and top with the apple slices. If desired, broil 1 to 2 minutes until cheese is just melted. Serve immediately.

Beer Bread

Beer Bread

I discovered this recipe right before Christmas and have made it three times since then! It is amazingly simple (5-10 minutes of prep) and wonderfully delicious. I love LOVE love bread….. I am famous in my family for this trait….. so being able to have fresh bread basically whenever I want it is a huge improvement in my quality of life.

In my last post I used a lot of space to proclaim my love of a buttery texture, and this bread definitely adds to that butter-loving theme. The original recipe actually calls for an entire stick of butter to be poured into the pan and on top of the dough before baking, but I make do with a half a stick just fine. If you’re interested in what beer to pour in there — I dunno, I bought a six pack of Newcastle and used four bottles to make bread, so I can’t recommend anything else!

Beer Bread

Beer Bread

Adapted From Rebecca Crump (EzraPoundCake.com)

Makes 1 loaf

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 bottle (12 ounces) beer

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-x-5-x-3-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.

Stir the beer into the dry ingredients until just mixed.

Pour half the melted butter into the loaf pan. Then move the batter into the pan, and pour the rest of the butter on top of the batter. Slide a baking sheet onto a lower rack to catch any butter that might overflow from the loaf pan.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until golden brown. Serve immediately. If you can’t eat the whole loaf all at once (not recommending you do this…) the bread is also fantastic for about 5-7 days after baking, toasted!

This is a good idea.

I really love chocolate chip cookies — who doesn’t? I use the recipe from the back of the Nestle Toll House bag, just like my mom does. I like the ratio of brown sugar to white sugar (half and half), I like the good amount of butter, and I honestly like the way the cookies spread in the oven. A couple of years ago the New York Times published a very popular article about the best way to make chocolate chip cookies, and it recommended letting the cookie dough chill in the fridge for a few hours — up to 24 — to give the cookie a more cake-like, puffy texture. Letting the dough rest reduces the spreading and some of the greasiness.

Ok, but I like the spreading, and I like the greasiness — buttery-ness, to put it more nicely (if less grammatically). When I make cookies, I may let the dough rest for a few minutes before scooping and baking, but not that long. I don’t mind a thinner cookie, if it means that I get some nice buttery sweet-and-salty flavor.

What I don’t like are nuts, those crunchy interruptions in the smooth buttery texture of my chocolate chip cookie. I am really selective about where I like nuts, and my choices almost never include baked goods. I can handle the occasional peanut (especially when accompanied by peanut butter), but put a walnut in my brownie or a pecan on top of my hot fudge sundae, and I just won’t touch the stuff.

So when it comes to getting some texture variation into my cookies, my options are limited. I don’t want dry, and I don’t want nutty. However, a little bit of tasty crunch, or a slightly taller cookie, might interest me. Enter Rice Krispies (… or generic rice puff cereal, I used the Aldi kind).

Putting just a cup and a half of rice krispies into my favorite chocolate chip cookies didn’t detract from the buttery texture I love, and it didn’t necessarily introduce a new flavor, but it did add a nice crunch and some body into the cookies without drying them out. Try it!

Rice Krispie Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Nestle

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large eggs

1 ½ cups puffed rice cereal (Rice Krispies)

2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375˚ F

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl.

Beat butter, both sugars, and vanilla in a large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in cereal and chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.