Chicken Tikka Masala

I talked about my affinity for Chinese food takeout in my post about Crockpot Honey Sesame Chicken.  And that is still true.  I like it more than I probably should.  However, my love of Chinese takeout is eclipsed only by my love of Indian food (and maybe sushi…).  But seriously, I am unable to say no to Indian food.

Since moving out to the suburbs, we have yet to find an Indian restaurant in our area that will satisfy my cravings.  Rather than, you know, being patient or having self control, I took matters into my own hands.

Chicken Tikka Masala | A Nerd Cooks

I found this recipe through Bon Appétit, and made a few small modifications.

You’ll need:

  • 4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 3 tsp ground cumin
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 4 tbs peeled ginger, finely grated
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk yogurt (not Greek*)
  • 1 tbs kosher salt
  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 6 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 3 tsp curry powder
  • salt, to taste
  • steamed rice, for serving**

Combine the turmeric, garam masala, and cumin in a small bowl.  To another, medium-sized, bowl add half of the spice mixture, garlic, ginger, yogurt, and salt.  Stir everything to combine.

Add the chicken to the bowl and turn to coat everything.  Cover and chill for 4-6 hours.  Cover the remaining half of the spice mixture and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the sliced onion, tomato paste, cardamom, and red pepper flakes.  Cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften and the tomato paste has darkened (~5 minutes).  Add the remaining half of the spice mixture, stir to combine, and cook for another 4-5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes with juices, crushing the tomatoes with your hands*** as you add them.  Bring everything to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer.  Stir often, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot, until the sauce starts to thicken (~8-10 minutes).

Add the cream and cumin.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens a bit more (~30 minutes).

While the sauce is cooking, preheat the broiler to high.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, and top that foil with a wire rack (like the one you’d use for cooling your cookies).  Arrange the marinated chicken breasts on top of the rack.  Broil for 10 minutes, or until black spots start to form on the chicken.  Note that the meat will not be cooked the whole way through.

After broiling the chicken, cut it into bite-sized pieces.  After the sauce has been simmering for about 30 minutes, add chicken to the sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through (~15 additional minutes).  Add salt to taste.

Serve over rice.

This chicken tikka masala is pretty fabulous.  It’s very, very close to the stuff I would get from Lumbini or Mughal Garden in Baltimore.  I will be making this again and again, and hope that you will too!

*I had a bit of a difficult time finding whole milk, non-Greek yogurt.  The grocery store where I usually shop had exclusively Greek yogurt and low-fat flavored varieties.  I ended up finding it at Wegmans, though.

**I cooked some basmati rice according to the directions on the bag. Before putting the lid on to let things simmer, I added a bit of salt, a couple of star anise, and a few more crushed cardamom pods.

***Holy crap, these things were messy.  I should have taken a picture of the mess that I made.  Every now and then, when squeezing one, it would squirt across the room: on the floor, the (white!) walls, all over my clothes… you name it, it got dirty.  Please be more careful than I was! =)

Citrus Rosemary Mac and Cheese

I got it into my head that I just had to make macaroni and cheese a couple of weekends ago.  Not sure why.  It just happened.

I started looking around at recipes on Foodgawker, and came across this one.  I was a little hesitant at first.  I mean, citrus zest in mac and cheese?  Trust me.  It works.

Citrus Rosemary Macaroni and Cheese | A Nerd Cooks

I found this recipe on Local Kitchen Blog, and modified it ever so slightly.

You’ll need:

  • 1 box short cut pasta (I used small shells)
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 3/4 cup milk
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 fat stems of fresh rosemary, leaves removed and minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 4 oz. Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 4 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 2.5 oz. parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Take a 9×13-inch casserole dish, grease it, and set it aside.

Cook your pasta according to the directions on the box.  Undercook by a couple of minutes.  Your pasta will finish cooking while in the oven.  Drain and set aside.

While the pasta cooks, in a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter.  Whisk in the flour to make a roux.  Cook for a minute or two, whisking almost constantly.  Slowly pour the milk into the roux, whisking constantly to avoid lumps of flour.  Add the zest, rosemary, salt, and pepper to the béchamel.  Whisk occasionally, and allow the béchamel to warm and thicken (5-8 minutes).

Once the white sauce has thickened, add the Gruyère and cheddar and stir until it is all melted.  Add the pasta to the cheese, and stir to coat.

Pour the macaroni and cheese into the prepared casserole dish and top with the parmesan cheese.  Bake 30-35 minutes, or until the top is bubbly and browned.  Cool for about 10 minutes before serving.

Guys, seriously.  This combination works.  Amazing.

Oreo-Bottomed Chocolate Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Oreo Frosting + Third Blogiversary!

Happy third birthday to my little blog!  Each year, I try to make something a little special (and so far, sweet) to commemorate the occasion.  Last year it was The Buckeye State Ice Cream, and the year before that it was Chocolate Chip Cookie Stuffed Oreos (both seriously delicious).  This year is no different.  I’ve been eyeing these ridiculous cupcakes on Lauren’s Latest since they were first posted back in May.

Oreo-Bottomed Chocolate Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Oreo Frosting |A Nerd Cooks

I used Lauren’s Perfect Chocolate Cake recipe for the cupcakes, and this for the frosting and method.  Note: the cake recipe produces about 30 cupcakes, while the frosting recipe makes enough for 18 cupcakes.  So you can either halve the ingredients for the cake or double the frosting.  Or just have some extra cupcakes hanging around!

You’ll need:

For the cupcakes -

  • 18 Oreo cookies (or as many Oreos as the number of cupcakes you plan to make)
  • 2 cups milk, plus 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt

For the frosting -

  • 1 stick butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1-4 tbs milk
  • 6 Oreo cookies, pulverized

For the drizzle/garnish -

  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • Extra Oreos for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners and deposit 1 Oreo cookie into the bottom of each liner.  Set aside.

Combine the milk and vinegar.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, whip the oil and sugar together.  Add the vanilla.  In a separate medium bowl, whisk all of the dry ingredients together.  Little by little, in an alternating fashion, add the dry ingredients and milk/vinegar to the sugar mixture, stirring to combine after each addition.

Pour the cake batter into the lined muffin pan, over the Oreo cookies that are in the bottom of the liners, filling to 3/4 full.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick, when inserted into the center of the cupcake, comes out clean.

Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting, combine butter, peanut butter, and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat for a minute or two on low speed.  Slowly drizzle in the milk until it’s moistened and has come together.  Once it comes together, beat for a couple of minutes until the frosting is fluffy.  If you accidentally thin it out too much with the milk, you can always add a little more powdered sugar until you reach the consistency that you’d like.  Stir in the Oreo bits.  Frost the cooled cupcakes generously.

To make the drizzle, microwave the peanut butter and maple syrup until it’s warmed up and thinned out (30-40 seconds).  Use a spoon or a squeeze bottle to drizzle this over each cupcake.  Top each cupcake with half of an Oreo cookie.

Do yourself a favor and make these cupcakes right away.

I mean, come on.  Look at this.

Inside of cupcake


Oreo-Bottomed Chocolate Cupcakes and Peanut Butter Oreo Frosting |A Nerd Cooks

Chocolate Chip Scones

I had a craving for scones over the weekend, so I searched through the recipes I’ve had bookmarked for a while and came across this one.  The results were excellent.  These scones are tender, and not overly sweet.  Sean and I each had one for dessert, and I plan to have them for breakfast this week as well.

Chocolate Chip Scones | A Nerd Cooks

This recipe comes from Food Librarian‘s blog.

You’ll need:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 stick butter, cold and cut into smallish cubes
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 425 F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together.

Add the butter to the dry ingredients.  Using a pastry cutter, two knives, or your fingers, work the butter into the dry ingredients until the butter is the size of small peas.  (As a side note: sometimes I will put the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. Then I’ll add the butter and pulse some more until the butter is well-incorporated and, again, the size of small peas.  This is faster but results in more cleanup).

Now add the heavy cream and chocolate chips.  Using a spatula, mix until everything is well-combined.

Turn the dough out onto a clean surface, and shape it into a disc.  Transfer the disc to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush the top with the beaten egg and sprinkle, pretty liberally, with sugar.  Cut the dough into eighths.

Bake 14-16 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Chocolate Chip Scones | A Nerd Cooks

Broccoli Pesto – Updated!

As you can see, I’m continuing to update some older posts.  With this one, I’ve updated the photo, and also tweaked the recipe slightly.  The addition of feta cheese, along with the parmesan, is just what this pesto needed.

This pesto has no oil, and is packed with nutrients from all of the broccoli.  The Greek yogurt adds a nice bit of protein, too.  Even though all of the carb-y pasta probably isn’t ideal, you can still feel a bit better about this healthier sauce.Broccoli Pesto | A Nerd Cooks

My original blog post for Broccoli Pesto Pasta can be found here.

You’ll need:

  • 4-5 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 lb short cut pasta (I used penne)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1 cup basil leaves, packed
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium-large pot, bring water to a boil on the stovetop.  Boil the broccoli florets for 4-5 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon to a blender or food processor.

In the same pot, add the pasta.  Cook according to package directions until al dente.

While the pasta cooks, pulse the broccoli until it’s chopped up a bit.  Add the garlic, cheeses, and basil.  Process until the mixture is relatively smooth.  Add the Greek yogurt and process until the mixture is creamy and smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and return it to the pot.  Add the pesto to the pasta and mix until the noodles are well coated.  Top with a little extra cheese and enjoy!

Classic Waffles

What are your thoughts on breakfast for dinner (i.e., brinner)?  Sean and I are big, big fans.  In fact, we had brinner tonight!  I’ve made these waffles a few times now, and they’re fantastic every single time.  They’re a “classic” version of waffles that can easily be dressed up any which way you choose.  Want to add other spices?  Maybe some chocolate chips or nuts?  Feel like going crazy with toppings?  Do it.Classic Waffles | A Nerd Cooks

I found this recipe on the blog Average Betty.

You’ll need:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbs baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tbs sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 egg whites, whipped until stiff

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.

Pour the milk, beaten egg yolks, vegetable oil, and vanilla over the flour mixture.  Whisk until just combined.  The batter will be lumpy; never fear.

Gently fold the egg whites into the batter.  The batter will still be lumpy.  This is still okay.

Pour batter into your waffle maker and cook until they reach the desired color.

Top with whatever your heart desires.  I went with butter and syrup for these photos, and then later sprinkled them with mini chocolate chips.

Classic Waffles | A Nerd Cooks

Oreo Chocolate Chunk Cookies – Updated!

I’ve started updating some of my old blog posts (take a look at the new S’mores Cookies post here), taking new and more appealing pictures to go along with the delicious recipes.  These Oreo Chocolate Chunk Cookies have been some of the best I’ve made so far.  I’m heading to the beach this weekend with Sean and his family, and made a batch of these cookies to bring along.  I hope you enjoy them as much as we will!

 Oreo Chocolate Chunk Cookies | A Nerd Cooks

I found this recipe on the blog Butter Baking.  My original blog post can be found here.

You’ll need:

  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 15 Oreos, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla until well-combined.

While creaming the butter and sugars, whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together in a medium-sized bowl.  Little by little, add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar.  Scrape down the sides of the stand mixer bowl as necessary.

Add the chocolate chips and Oreo chunks and mix until just combined.

Scoop tablespoons of the mixture onto the parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the edges are just golden.

Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before removing them to wire racks to finish cooling.