Friday, December 12, 2008

Chocolate Meringues

I was looking for a treat to bring to lunch with friends, and came across this recipe for chocolate meringues in my Dorie Greenspan baking book. This worked out perfectly, as I had just amassed 4 or 5 egg whites from making pastry cream over the weekend. The meringues came out GREAT. They were chocolately but so light. A wonderful treat!

Chocolate Meringues

1 cup powdered sugar
1/3 cup ground almonds (I omitted)
1/4 cup cocoa powder (I used 1/2 cup to make up for loss of almonds)
4 large eggs whites, at room temperature (I may have used 5, I forgot how many I had!)
pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter (I added this to help stabilize the egg whites)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup finely chopped bittersweet chocolate or finely chopped store-bought chocolate chips

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 300°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Sift the powdered sugar, ground almonds and cocoa.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large dry bowl (make sure the bowl is impeccably clean and dry), whip the egg whites and salt on medium speed until the egg whites are opaque (if using, add cream of tarter when egg whites are just getting frothy with large bubbles, like sea foam). Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whip as you add the sugar about 1 tablespoon at a time. Then whip until the whites are firm and hold stiff peaks - they should still be very shiny. Beat in the vanilla, and remove the bowl from the mixer. With a larger rubber spatula, quickly but gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the chopped chocolate. The whites will inevitably deflate as you fold in the dry ingredients, just try to work rapidly and use a light touch, so you deflate them as little as possible.

Drop the meringue by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between mounds. Dust the tops of the meringues very lightly with powdered sugar.

Bake for 10 minutes, then, without opening the oven door, reduce the oven temperature to 200°F and bake for 1 hour more. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and allow the meringues to stand in a cool, dry place (not the refrigerator) until they reach room temperature. Carefully peel the meringues off the parchment or silicone lining. Store in an airtight tin or uncovered in a basket at room temperature.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

BB: Coq au vin

This week's recipe for Barefoot Bloggers is coq au vin. I have been dying to make this, so I was excited for it. But then the holidays got the best of me and I got lazy and just threw it in the crockpot instead of making it the real way. This is my least favorite so far, I really couldn't get behind it. I'm hoping it's just because of the crockpot thing, so I'll see how everyone else faired and maybe try again when I have more time/patience.

Coq Au Vin
Back to Basics on page 116
Chosen by Bethany of this little piggy went to market

  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
  • 1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy
  • 1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy
  • 1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 10 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 pound frozen small whole onions
  • 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.

Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.

Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Apple Cranberry Pie

One of my favorite things about the holidays is getting to enjoy my grandmother's apple pie. She makes a double crust pie, filled with mcintosh apples sliced paper thin, and, of course, plenty of sugar and spice. Her recipe is quite simple, and I love making it when I can't be home with family for the holidays. This year, I decided to put a little twist on Grammy's Apple Pie, and give it a little twist, a la cranberry apple crunch.
It turned out much better than I expected, there was definitely enough sweetness to counteract the tart cranberries, especially when served with vanilla ice cream. I originally wanted to do a lattice crust, but after piling the apples so high, I knew that wouldn't happen! Grammy's tradition is to cut the vent holes in the top crust in some holiday/occasion appropriate design. I most definitely did not inherit her artistic abilities!

Cranberry Apple Pie

~6-8 McIntosh apples, peeled and sliced thin
~1.5 cups whole fresh cranberries
~1/4 cup white sugar
~1/4 cup brown sugar
~1 tsp cinnamon
~1-2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces (optional)
~2 crust pie crust (like Grammy, my crust comes in a red box in the refrigerated section at the grocery store) ;-)
~1-2 tsp flour

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place bottom crust into a 9 inch pie plate. Sprinkle crust with flour (will help absorb juices from the cooking apples and cranberries).

Combine sugars and cinnamon in a small bowl. Begin layering pie, starting with sliced apples. Toss some cranberries into the cinnamon/sugar mixture before adding to the apple layer. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the cinnamon/sugar mixture.
Repeat with another layer of apple, sugar dipped cranberries, and sugar mixture. Repeat again, piling as high with apples as you can, sprinkling the top with any remaining sugar mixture. Dot with butter (optional).
Cover with top pie crust and pinch the edges together with a fork to seal the pie. Cut vent in the top crust.
Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, then reduce heat to 350, and continue baking for approximately 45 minutes. Remove and let cool before serving. If edges of pie start to brown before baking time is done, cover edges with foil.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

BB: Mexican Chicken Soup

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Today I have another recipe for Barefoot Bloggers, Mexican Chicken Soup. We LOVED this soup! I ended up skipping the tortillas and avocado, but we really enjoyed this soup and I can't wait to make it again (maybe with some leftover turkey?). :-)

Mexican Chicken Soup
Barefoot Contessa at Home, page 34
Chosen by Judy from Judy’s Gross Eats

  • 4 split (2 whole) chicken breasts, bone in, skin on
  • Good olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
  • 1 cup chopped celery (2 stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)
  • 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 1/2 quarts chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes in puree, crushed
  • 2 to 4 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (I omitted)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves, optional
  • 6 (6-inch) fresh white corn tortillas


For serving: sliced avocado, sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the chicken breasts skin side up on a sheet pan. Rub with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until done. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones, and shred the meat. Cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the onions, celery, and carrots and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their puree, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, 1 tablespoon salt (depending on the saltiness of the chicken stock), 1 teaspoon pepper, and the cilantro, if using. Cut the tortillas in 1/2, then cut them crosswise into 1/2-inch strips and add to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and season to taste. Serve the soup hot topped with sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream, grated Cheddar cheese, and broken tortilla chips.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mediterranean Chicken

This is another recipe rave from Good Things Catered. I had this slated for the weekend, but we ended up going to a (fabulous) fish fry and brewery tour instead. I am so glad I ended up making it tonight! It's a simple, delicious way to do a basic chicken and vegetables. I served it with brown rice. Yum!

Mediterranean Chicken
Source: Good Things Catered

~2 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves
~salt and ground pepper
~1 tsp olive oil
~ medium sweet onion, halved and sliced thin (I used 1/2 an onion)
~1 small zucchini sliced
~1/2 small yellow squash, sliced

~2 cloves garlic, peeled sliced paper thin (I grated it)
~1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (small splash, really)
~1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
~2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (oops! I read that as 1/2 cup. I did about 1 cup)
~1/4 cup kalmata olives, halved
~1/8 c. fresh parsley, chopped (I omitted)
~1 Tbsp fresh/green za'atar (or 1 tsp dried) (I omitted)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pat chicken breasts dry and season with salt and pepper. In medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, bring pan up to temperature and place chicken, breast-down, in pan and cook until slightly browned, about 2 minutes. Flip breast over and cook until slightly browned, only 1 minute. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

Place oil and then onion (and zucchini/squash) into pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions start to caramelize, about 12 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Deglaze with balsamic vinegar and chicken stock and stir to combine. Let cook down for about 1 minute and then add remaining ingredients. Place skillet into oven and cook until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees, about 10 -12 minutes (depending on how much you browned the outside and the size of the breasts). Remove from oven, let cool for at least 5-10 minutes and plate.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream

Mint choc chip is my absolute favorite flavor of ice cream. When I got my ice cream maker, that is all I wanted to make! I originally was using the recipe that came with my ice cream maker, but before long I decided I didn't want to be making a recipe that used 2 cups of heavy cream all the time. After stumbling upon the Old Time Vanilla recipe that I love, I tried their mint version but something was... off. We didn't love it. I put mint on the back burner while vanilla and peanut butter became the mainstays in the house. This week, I knew it was time to get back to mint and work out the recipe. I am so glad I did!

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Adapted from Doc Wilson

~1/4 cup egg beaters
~1/2 can of fat free sweetened condensed milk
~6 Tablespoons white sugar
~4 ounces heavy whipping cream
~16 ounces fat free half and half
~4 ounces skim milk (or 1%, or 2%, whatever you have)
~1/8 tsp salt
~1/2 teaspoon mint extract
~2 tsp vodka OR mint schnapps OR "The Good Doctor" (optional)
~1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (I prefer small amounts of chocolate in my ice cream, feel free to load it up if you prefer more!)

In a large mixing bowl whisk together egg beaters, sweetened condensed milk, and sugar until thoroughly mixed. Add heavy whipping cream, half and half, skim milk, salt, vodka or schnapps, and mint extract. For the very best results (who wants anything less?), let the mix chill in the refrigerator for about four hours which allows the mix to "age" before freezing according to the directions with your ice cream freezer. Add the mini chips in the last 5 minutes of freezing. This recipe makes the perfect amount to fit in a 1.5 quart ice cream maker. Makes between 4 and 5 cups of ice cream.

yes, that's wrapping paper

Monday, November 17, 2008

2 RR: Cranberry White Chocolate Cake and Cranberry Apple Crunch!

One of my favorite blogs is written by Katie at Good Things Catered. She has amazing meals, party planning skills, and creativity in decorating. I love browsing all her ideas, and then promptly *stealing* them. (Seriously, if you haven't made Angie's Strawberry Cupcakes yet, you don't know what you are missing!) Anyway, this post is about two recipe raves for some recent jewels that she has posted!

A few months ago I feel in love with her Apple Crunch. I started craving it again as soon as she mentioned her new twist - cranberry apple crunch! I was sure I'd be a purist and stick to the original, but I bought a bag of cranberries for the other recipe I'm highlighting here, and figured I'd give the cranberry version a whirl to use up the extras. WOW, I am so glad I did! The cranberry take is even more amazing than the original, something I didn't think was possible! This stuff is heaven in a bowl - especially when combined with homemade ice cream. I altered it slightly since I'd be just me whoofing it down. :-)
Cranberry Apple Crunch
Source: Mixed and matched two recipes from Good Things Catered (here and here)

~1 to 1.5 cups fresh cranberries
~3 large apples, peeled, cored and diced (I used macintosh)
~1/2 cup oats
~1/2 cup packed brown sugar
~1/4 cup whole wheat flour
~4 Tbsp butter, cold
~1 tsp cinnamon
~1/4 tsp nutmeg
~1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray an 8x8 baking dish with baking spray (I used a 1.5Q oval casserole dish). Spread fruit mixture evenly in baking dish. In medium bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut butter into small pieces (or grate with a grater) and add to dry ingredients along with the vanilla. With pastry blender, cut butter into dry ingredients until all butter is about the size of a small pea. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over fruit. Place baking dish in oven and bake for 45 minutes or until apples have cooked down and begun to caramelize (oops! I left it in for 55). Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

The second recipe I wanted to talk about is Cranberry White Chocolate Bars. Now, I'm making them as written for a work event this week, but I figured I'd like to mess around with the recipe and see what I could do with the nutritional profile. (I mean, I realize I am still talking about a sugar filled dessert, but I can at least try, right?) I've had a bottle of agave nectar hanging around for a few months and I really wanted to experiment with using it in baked goods. I also wanted to revisit using pureed white beans in brownie/bar type recipes. Finally, I just picked up some whole wheat pastry flour, and hear that it can be used to substitute for white flour in these types of recipes (unlike whole wheat flour, which is only recommended for replacing half of the white flour in a recipe). So, I sat down and tweaked a little here, a little there, threw it together and ended up with an almost cake/quick bread like cranberry and (sunken) white chocolate bar. I can't wait to try the real version later this week, but so far, I am loving the results of my tweaking! I just have to remember next time to toss the chips in some flour so they don't sink straight to the bottom of the pan!
Cranberry White Chocolate Cake
Adapted from Good Things Catered

~2 Tbsp butter, softened
~1/2 cup packed brown sugar
~1 individual size container of unsweetened applesauce
~2 Tbsp agave nectar
~1/2 cup white beans (I used navy), pureed
~1/2 cup egg beaters (or 2 eggs)
~1 tsp vanilla
~1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
~2 scoops vanilla protein powder
~1/2 tsp baking powder
~1/4 tsp baking soda
~1/4 tsp salt
~zest of 1/2 orange
~1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
~1 to 1.5 cups dried or fresh cranberries
~1/2 cup white chocolate chips, tossed in flour to prevent sinking
~1/8 cup oats

Preheat to 325 degrees and line an 8x8 pan with parchment paper. In medium bowl, whisk together flour, protein powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt, zest, nutmeg and set aside. In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on high, about 3 minutes. (I actually tried doing this with a hand mixer and it was a failure so I can't comment on what it should look like!) Turn mixer to low and beat in applesauce, then agave nectar, then white beans. Slowly add egg beaters, then vanilla until thoroughly combined. Slowly incorporate flour mixture. Remove from stand mixer and stir in cranberries and white chocolate chips. Spread batter in pan, sprinkle over top with oats, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool on rack for 1 hour. Remove from pan and cut into squares.

So, the results? It may not seem like much, but I'm pretty happy with the 40 calorie drop, and the loss of over 4 grams of fat per 1/16 portion of the recipe. I also love the gain of some fiber and protein. YAY!

New Original
Calories 142.0 180
Total Fat 3.8 8.1
(Saturated Fat) 2.7 5.4
Cholesterol 5.9 41.9
Total Carbohydrate 22.8 25.1
(Fiber) 2.2 0.0
(Sugar) 13.0 16.0
Protein 4.8 2.4

Thursday, November 13, 2008

BB - Herb-Roasted Onions - spruced up!

Time for another episode of Barefoot Bloggers. I'll take this moment to say that I've loved everything we've made so far and am really glad I joined this group! This week's recipe is Herb-Roasted Onions - yum! I decided that just plain onion was a bit of a stretch for me, so I beefed it up a little by adding some chopped beets, butternut squash, and potatoes. These really added a lot to the dish (although I really should have sliced the beets into thin slices rather than cubes). I should have doubled the dressing with all that I added (even though I did use one less onion) but it was still great! We served with Herbes de Provence roasted chicken.

Herb-Roasted Onions
from Barefoot Contessa at Home on page 156
Chosen by Kelly from Baking with the Boys
  • 2 red onions (I used one)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 3/4 cup cubed butternut squash (frozen, because that's how I store it)
  • 1 whole beet, sliced (would be better than the cubes I did)
  • 3 small white potatoes, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley leaves
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the stem end of each onion and carefully slice off the brown part of the root end, leaving the root intact. Peel the onion. Stand each onion root end up on a cutting board and cut the onion in wedges through the root. Place the wedges in a bowl along with the squash, beets, and potatoes.

For the dressing, combine the lemon juice, mustard, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the onion mixture and toss well.

With a slotted spoon, transfer the onion mixture to a sheet pan, reserving the vinaigrette that remains in the bowl. Bake the onion mixture for 30 to 45 minutes, until tender and browned. (Took me longer because of the beets/potatoes - consider parboiling them first!) Toss the onions once during cooking. Remove from the oven, and drizzle with the reserved dressing. Sprinkle with parsley, season to taste and serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake

With all the experimental baking I've done, I've never made cheesecake before. This is probably due, in part, to the fact that I don't like cheesecake. However, my husband DOES love cheesecake and when he came home with 3 giant cans of pumpkin pie mix instead of pure pumpkin puree, I checked out to see what I could use it for and decided on pumpkin cheesecake. I was really nervous about making the cheesecake because I always hear about how it didn't go well... cracked top, shrinking, etc. I read up on how to bake using a water bath (thanks Allrecipes!), and learned a few other tricks for mixing the batter properly. (Oh no! It says no over-mixing!!! This is by far my baking Achilles Heel.)

I was very pleasantly surprised to see that everything went REALLY well. No cracking (though if it did, I had that lovely topping to conceal it!), or any other funny business. I may be underbaked it a tiny bit. I didn't really let it chill the recommended amount of time before slicing, so that may have something to do with it, too. I modified the baking instructions based on what I read on allrecipes (listed in italics in the instructions). As I said, I'm not a cheesecake fan, so my husband was the only litmus test. I had planned on saving him two pieces, then bringing the rest to work. He refused to let me take it... so I'm thinking that means it was pretty darn good! Time to make room in the freezer!
Pumpkin Praline Cheesecake

For the crust:
1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted butter

For the pralines:
1/2 cups chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons water

For the cheesecake:
1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 can (30 oz.) Libby's Pumpkin Pie Mix

Preheat oven to 350° F.
For the crust:
Combine graham cracker crumbs and granulated sugar in large bowl. Stir in butter. Press onto bottom and 1 inch up side of 9-inch springform pan.

For pralines:
Combine nuts, brown sugar and water in same bowl. Reserve 3/4 cup praline mixture for topping. Sprinkle remaining praline mixture over crumbs in pan. Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes.

For cheesecake:
Beat cream cheese in large bowl. Beat in brown sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Beat in eggs. Beat in pumpkin pie mix. Spoon over baked crust/nuts. Cover bottom of springform pan with foil to create a leakproof barrier for the water bath. Place springform pan into another, larger pan and place in the oven. Add boiling water to the larger pan to create the water bath. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until edge is set but 2-3 inches of the center still moves slightly. Sprinkle with reserved praline mixture. Bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the very center moves slighty. Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecake in, with door closed, for one hour. Run knife around edge of cheesecake. Cool in pan on wire rack. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Remove side of springform pan, slice and serve.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Turkey, Brie, and Apple Sandwiches

On a recent trip to LA, I had the delight of enjoying a turkey, brie, and apple sandwich at the airport. It was SO good, that I decided to recreate it at home for my husband. I probably should have asked the shop what went into the sandwich, but it seemed pretty straightforward so I just winged it.

I picked up a long french baguette from the bakery, and sliced it into medium sub sized pieces, the sliced in half. I layered some chicken (the original sandwich had turkey deli meat, but I didn't have any of that... I think some leftover carved turkey breast from Thanksgiving would go great in these!), slices of brie, and slices of granny smith apple. I popped sandwich (open faced) in the toaster oven to broil for a few minutes, until the bread started to brown and the brie melted a bit.

YUM! The chicken I had cooked the night before on the stove, just with salt and pepper, and it was a little to peppery for me, but my husband loved it. I can't wait for leftover turkey at thanksgiving to make this again!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Baked Brie

We are HUGE fans of brie, and typically I just wrap it up in some puff pastry and bake it. I got a different recipe for baked brie at my bridal shower from the famed Linda. Since we wanted to celebrate my certification exam victory (I passed!), we decided to give this recipe a try while we enjoyed a good bottle of wine from our trip to Door County a few months ago.

The recipe is quite simple, it just calls for topping the brie with apricot preserves and slivered almonds, then baking at 350 degrees for 15-20 min. Since I love it wrapped in puff pastry, I still wanted to incorporate that. Unfortunately, I didn't realize until too late that my one sheet of puff pastry in the freezer was no longer worthy of consumption. But, I did have some roll out pie crust, so I used that instead.

I started with rolling out the pie crust, and spreading with apricot preserves and slivered almonds in the center.

I layed down the brie (with the rind cut off), then wrapped the pie crust up around the brie, cutting away a few triangles so as not to have an excess of crust.

I flipped it over, and layed it down on a parchment lined baking sheet. I used some of the leftover dough to make little leaf cut outs for the top (Hi, fall!).

In the oven it went at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes (I left it in a little longer for the pie crust. Mine happened to crack, and I suppose I could have saved it from the oven before that if I had been watching more closely.

This was absolutely delicious, as I expected! We served with crackers.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween Pumpkin Cupcakes

I am still technically on a baking hiatus, but the cute Halloween related cupcake decorations at Target got to me. I decided that I NEEDED to bake cupcakes and bring them to work. The decision for what kind of cupcake was easy....pumpkin! I had seen a recipe in my google reader at Fresh From Cate's Kitchen and I instantly knew I wanted to make them! Pumpkin cupcakes with maple cream cheese frosting... how good does that sound?!

Along with the Halloween cupcake liners, sprinkles, and carved pumpkin flags that I planned to adorn the cupcakes with, I thought I'd try my hand at more decorating with royal icing. I had some leftover thinned royal icing that I wanted to re-thicken and make spiders with. I completely forgot about thickening it, and ended up working with the thinned icing. After about 24 hours of drying, they were completely dry, and I think they turned out really cute! I used an offset spatula to carefully dislodge them from the parchment paper, and only broke one leg. :-)

Behold... my army of spiders!

The cupcake recipe was soooo easy to throw together. I love the recipes where you just throw together all the dry ingredients, throw together all the wet ingredients, mix them together gently and you are done! The frosting recipe makes enough to quite liberally frost the 18 cupcakes I made, so if you are following the cupcake recipe and only making 12, you could cut down the frosting recipe a bit. Overall, the two go SO well together, the flavors really play off one another. Great dessert!

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting
From: Fresh From Cate's Kitchen
Yield: 12 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup applesauce
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup canned pumpkin

Preheat oven to 350 and line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, spices, and sugars.
In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.
Gently stir the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients, and pour into the prepared pan.
Bake for about 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool completely on a wire rack

For the frosting:
4 tbsp butter, softened
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 cups powdered sugar

With the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and cream cheese.
Add maple syrup and beat on medium until combined.
Mix in the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, then mix on medium-high until smooth.
Frost each cupcake liberally.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

BB: Vegetable (Chicken) Pot Pie

My husband wasn't going to let me get away with making a pot pie and NOT putting chicken in it. Really, it's fine by me because it's important to me to have a decent amount of protein in a main meal, especially if I am making a treat like pot pie. I made a few changes (listed in italics) with the vegetables she used based on what I had available, and cut the recipe in half. I also decided to try a lattice crust for the first time. I had so much fun making it! We loved the pot pie, and I thought the addition of saffron was really neat. (And I was happy it was in there after I realized I completely forgot to add the parsley!) It was a great comfort meal for a very windy, chilly day!

Vegetable Pot Pie
from Barefoot Contessa Parties! on page 255
Chosen by Deb of Kahakai Kitchen
See the other Barefoot Bloggers here

    For the pie:
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 2 cups sliced yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 1 fennel bulb, top and core removed, thinly sliced crosswise (omitted)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups good chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon Pernod (omitted)
  • Pinch saffron threads
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups large-diced potatoes (1/2 pound)
  • 1 1/2 cups asparagus tips (omitted)
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced carrots (4 carrots)
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, 3/4-inch-diced butternut squash
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions (1/2 pound) (omitted)
  • 1/2 cup minced flat-leaf parsley (used dried)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup chopped cauliflower
  • 2 cups diced, cooked chicken

    For the pastry:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper


Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and saute until translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Add the flour, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Slowly add the stock, Pernod, saffron, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the heavy cream and season to taste. The sauce should be highly seasoned.

Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes. Lift out with a sieve. Add the asparagus, carrots, and squash to the pot and cook in the boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain well. Add the potatoes, mixed vegetables, onions, and parsley to the sauce and mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Divide the filling equally among 4 ovenproof bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the sides, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers: Butternut Squash Risotto

My former childhood self would be appalled at my present love for butternut squash. I could bear to stomach it as a child, and after learning a few different ways to prepare it, I fell in love! So, I was excited to see that the next BB recipe was Butternut Squash Risotto. This recipe did NOT disappoint, in fact, it's my favorite risotto to date! We LOVED this and I can't wait to make it again! I cut the recipe in half and it was enough as a side dish for 4 meals.

Butternut Squash Risotto
~1 butternut squash (2 pounds)
~2 tablespoons olive oil
~kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
~6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
~6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
~2 ounces pancetta, diced (omitted)
~1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)
~1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
~1/2 cup dry white wine
~1 teaspoon saffron threads
~1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer. In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Platinum Chef 9: Apple Pumpkin Chili

I'm BACK! I've been quite busy in the last month preparing for a huge exam. It is OVER now, so I can finally get back in the kitchen and start sharing recipes again. YAY! I also happen to think this is the perfect way to come back... with the Platinum Chef Challenge! I love this event, as it seems to be the only way to get creative juices flowing in the kitchen.

This time, Lisa of Lime in the Coconut chose GREAT ingredients for fall! This round we had to create something with sage, bacon, apples, shallots, and mushrooms. All I have been able to think about since the arrival of fall is CHILI, and I decided that all these ingredients definitely belonged in a chili together. We already have a favorite red chili, so I decided this should go the white chili route. We're a no beef household, so I use either ground turkey or chicken and, for this challenge, turkey bacon (which really is nothing to write home about. I would have much prefered real bacon or some pancetta or something, but alas, those are off the list, too). The flavors really came together nicely in this, and the best part is that it's just an easy throw-together recipe for the crockpot. Love it!

Apple Pumpkin Chili

  • 1 pound ground turkey or chicken, browned in a skillet
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) white beans, I went for one can northern and one can navy
  • 1.5 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems removed, cleaned, and sliced
  • 4 slices bacon, browned and crumbled or chopped
  • one medium shallot, diced
  • 1 granny smith apple, diced
  • 1/2 of a 14oz can pumpkin puree (about 1 cup)
  • 2.5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • (optional) equal parts arrowroot or cornstarch and chicken broth, for thickening
  • grated gouda cheese, for topping

Combine all except thickener and cheese in a crockpot. Stir to mix ingredients. Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 6. Add thickener if desired and heat on high for a few minutes to thicken sauce. Serve, topping with grated gouda.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

No TWD. For a while. :-(

I made a very hard decision recently to leave TWD for a while. I have a lot going on right now (nothing really bad, in fact, most good!), and I have to put down the whisk and spoon and bowls and (gasp!) give ye ole stand mixer a break. One day I hope to rejoin the ranks and finish baking through the book. I have loved every second of being a part of such a great group, and already miss it very much! Keep bakin' strong!

Check out the other Tuesdays with Dorie bakers, and their Chocolate Malted Whopper Drops, here.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Banana Split Cupcakes

So I had a end-of-summer party coming up, and I had offered to bring two desserts. The problem is that I really had no idea what to bring. Last year I brought Stuffed Strawberries and the Better Than Sex Trifle (both of which were huge hits!).

As it turns out, this was my week for Tuesdays with Dorie, and since I had chosen cookies and was already planning to make them, that became one of my desserts. The other idea came from a stroke of genius from my good friend Katie. She was actually offering ideas to someone else who needed inspiration, and the idea for an ice cream sundae cupcake came flying out. I instantly thought it was just about the most fantastic idea ever, and we set to work on the logistics.

Somewhere along the line, I decided I wanted mine to be banana split cupcakes, with a layer of vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate cake, a layer of banana pieces, all topped with a fudgy chocolate frosting and, or course, a cherry!
For the actual recipes, I drew inspiration from Baking Illustrated (the vanilla/strawberry portions of cake), and from my cute little Cupcakes! book (for the chocolate portion). I have heard so much about Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake that I immediately thought of it for this recipe (well, the frosting, at least!).

For the assembly, the basic principle is to layer the vanilla, then strawberry, then banana, then chocolate layers, as I demonstrate here:

(Please ignore the fact that I forgot to take this last picture the first time around...and now the pan is dirty

Banana Split Cupcakes

Adapted from Baking Illustrated , Cupcakes!, by Elinor Klivans, and Hershey's.
Makes 24 cupcakes

For the vanilla/strawberry layers:
~2 ¼ cups ( 11 1/4 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour
~1 ½ cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar
~2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
~3/4 teaspoon salt
~1 ½ sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
~3/4 cup sour cream
~2 large eggs and 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
~2 ¼ teaspoons vanilla extract
~1/2 cup pureed strawberries, from fresh or frozen and thawed
~few drop red food coloring (optional)
~2 ripe bananas, sliced and quartered

For the chocolate layer:
~1 ½ ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
~½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
~¼ teaspoon baking soda
~¼ teaspoon baking powder
~1/8 teaspoon salt
~¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
~½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
~1 large egg
~½ teaspoon vanilla extract
~¼ cup sour cream
~¼ cup water

Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin/cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.

Begin vanilla/strawberry batter by whisking together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add butter, sour cream, eggs, and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no flour pockets remain.

Divide batter evenly into two bowls. To the strawberry bowl, fold in pureed strawberries until combined. Add food coloring, if desired, and mix well to distribute color.

Begin the chocolate batter by placing the chocolate in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler and place it over, but not touching, a saucepan of barely simmering water (or the bottom of the double boiler). Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from the water and set aside to cool slightly.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and sugar until smoothly blended and creamy, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape the sides of the bowl as needed during mixing. On low speed, mix in the melted chocolate. On medium speed, add the egg, mixing until well blended into the batter. Add the vanilla and beat until the mixture looks creamy and the color has lightened slightly, about 1 minute. Mix in the sour cream until no white streaks remain. On low speed, add half of the flour mixture mixing just to incorporate it. Mix in the water. Mix in the remaining flour mixture until it is incorporated and the batter looks smooth.

To assemble the cupcakes:
Layer 1 tablespoon of vanilla batter into cupcake liners. Follow with 1 tablespoon of strawberry batter, gently dropping it on top of the vanilla layer to reduce mixing of the two. Follow with 4 quarters of sliced banana. Finally, add 1 shy tablespoon of the chocolate batter, gently dropping it on top of the strawberry/banana layer. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to coop completely. Once cooled, frost cupcakes with chocolate frosting (recipe follows) and finish with a maraschino cherry.

Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Frosting

~1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
~2/3 cup HERSHEY'S Cocoa
~3 cups powdered sugar
~1/3 cup milk
~1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. About 2 cups frosting.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Chard, Walnut, and Gorgonzola Risotto

I had some gorgonzola cheese leftover from the Dinner Divas Chicken Cobb Burger, and didn't wait it to go to waste (as some cheese has, in the depths of that not-actually-so-deep cheese drawer). A quick googling brought me right to this amazing recipe. Not only to do I love risotto, but I had some chicken stock waiting to be used and this recipe brought a new challenge: chard. I have never cooked with (heck, eaten) chard, and truthfully didn't know it existed in the non-swiss variety. Thankfully, my local produce store is the BOMB and has everything under the sun. Finding chard was no problem (though now I have to figure out what do with the rest of it!).

This turned out much as I imagined. I couldn't really taste the chard, so I still don't really know what it tastes like, but still got the benefit of some vegetation in my carb heaven. The gorgonzola was a bit strong for someone who doesn't *love* it, but the toasted walnuts were such a wonderful addition. Since it's not really a strict recipe, and more a... handful of this and a hunk of that type recipe, I decided to measure along the way so I could remember how much of what I'd used. We paired it with some chicken breasts marinated in the lemon-rosemary paste from the Barefoot Bloggers Butterflied Chicken. :-)

Chard, Walnut, and Gorgonzola Risotto
from Cookthink

~1 quart (4 cups) of chicken broth
~2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
~1/2 cup diced onion
~1 cup arborio rice
~3/4 cup dry white wine (if you notice were I said my grocery store is the "bomb," I'll give you one guess as to where the rest of the bottle went)
~1 cup of chopped chard, stems removed (I used about 4 good sized leaves to get about 1 cup chopped)
~1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, toasted (I pre-chop mine as soon as I buy them because I use them a lot in baking)
~2 1/2 ounces gorgonzola cheese
~salt and pepper to taste

Heat chicken broth in a saucepan and maintain at a simmer. Meanwhile, head the olive oil in a large saute pan. Add onion and cook to allow to soften, about 5 minutes. Add rice and toast it, while stirring, about 2 minutes. Add the wine, stirring to combine, cook for 2-3 minutes. Add simmering chicken broth, one ladle at a time, stirring constantly with each addition until broth is absorbed. About halfway through the broth addition, add the chopped chard. When all the broth has been incorporated, add the walnut and cheese, stirring an additional minute or so to allow the cheese to soften and melt. Add salt and pepper to taste.