Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Vanilla bean cheesecake with walnut crust

I've made this cheesecake plenty of times, but it's been a while. It was requested for a dinner in April and I figured I'd better find it sooner rather than later. I'll be making it again soon, just to make sure my technique hasn't suffered in the last few years.

from Food and Wine

1 1/2 cups walnut pieces
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
2 pounds cream cheese, softened
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise, seeds scraped
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/2 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter a 10-inch springform pan. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts with 1/4 cup of the sugar until finely ground. Add the butter; pulse until the mixture resembles moist sand. Press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 12 minutes, or until browned around the edges.
In a small bowl, mix the sour cream with 1/4 cup of the sugar and 1 teaspoon of the vanilla.
Reduce the oven temperature to 300°. In a standing electric mixer fitted with a paddle or using a handheld electric mixer, beat the cream cheese at low speed with the remaining 1 1/4 cups of sugar and the vanilla seeds just until combined. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of vanilla and the almond extract. Slowly beat in the cream until smooth. Pour the cheesecake batter into the pan and bake for 65 to 70 minutes, until lightly golden and slightly jiggly in the center.
Immediately pour the sour cream topping over the cheesecake and smooth the surface. Return the cheesecake to the oven and bake for 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a rack and let cool to room temperature. Run a sharp, thin-bladed knife around the cake and remove the ring. Refrigerate the cake for 3 hours, then cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Spinach and Feta Puff Pastry Bites (or pies)

From: The Food Network

I made half of these as appetizers according to the instructions, and the remaining half I made into 4 larger entree-size "pies." Rather than rolling the puff pastry out into the large 12 x 24 rectangle per the instructions, I first cut it in half (much easier to work with a smaller portion). I rolled out two 12 x 12 squares - made half into appetizers, and cut the other half into 4 big rectangles.

1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach
1/4-pound firm feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
2 cloves garlic, pressed
About 20 grinds black pepper
Small dash nutmeg
Flour, for dusting
1 (10 by 9.5-inch) piece of packaged puff pastry

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Thaw frozen spinach in microwave according to package directions or by running under warm water. Drain spinach, squeezing the excess liquid from it. In a bowl, mix the spinach, feta, garlic, pepper, and nutmeg together.

Flour a clean, dry countertop or other flat working surface (I used a large cutting board). Lay out the puff pasty on the floured surface. Flour the top of the dough. Roll out the puff pastry until it is half as thick (about 1/8-inch) and about 24 by 12 inches (or, divide and make two 12 x 12 squares). Trim edges to size if necessary. Cut into 3-inch strips crosswise and lengthwise, making 32 (3-inch) squares. Make sure the squares are well floured then stack them in a little pile.

Fill a little dish with some room temperature water. Imagine each square you work with is separated in half by a diagonal. Place a couple teaspoons of filling in the top half. Dip a finger into the water and moisten the edges of the top half with water. Fold the bottom half to meet the edges of the top half. Use a fork to seal the edges. (For the larger rectangles, I just spooned the remaining filling onto one half of each piece of pastry, so I could easily fold the dough in half, trapping the filling into a neat rectangle).

Place finished pockets on a nonstick baking sheet and bake about 15 minutes until golden brown and puffy (Mine took about 20 minutes). Serve warm.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pancetta-wrapped pork roast

In our house, everything is made better by bacon. At least, that's the theory according to my dad and Ernie.
We didn't have any pancetta, so we used bacon instead. And a happy Christmas dinner was had by all.

From Giada

8 large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) tied boneless pork loin roast
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups dry white wine

Blend the garlic, rosemary, thyme, and oil in a small food processor, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the garlic is minced.
Sprinkle the pork roast generously with salt and pepper. Arrange the pancetta slices on a work surface, overlapping slightly and forming a rectangle. Spread half of the garlic mixture over 1 side of the pork and between the 2 loins that meet in the center of the tied pork roast. Place the pork, garlic mixture side down, in the center of the pancetta rectangle. Spread the remaining garlic mixture over the remaining pork. Wrap the pancetta slices around the pork. Place the pork in a roasting pan. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Pour 1/2 cup of broth and 1/2 cup of wine into the roasting pan. Add more broth and wine to the pan juices every 20 minutes. Roast the pork until a meat thermometer inserted into the center registers 145 degrees F for medium-rare, about 1 hour. Transfer the pork to a cutting board. Tent with aluminum foil and let stand for 10 minutes. Pour the pan drippings into a glass measuring cup and spoon off any fat that rises to the top.
Using a large sharp carving knife, cut the pork into 1/4-inch-thick slices and serve with the pan juices.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bacon-Wrapped Water Chestnuts

From: All Recipes

One of my favorite appetizers. Mm. Bacon.

1 (8 ounce) can water chestnuts, halved
1/2 pound sliced bacon, cut in half
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup tomato-based chili sauce

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Wrap each water chestnut with a piece of bacon. Place the rolls seam-side down in a baking dish.
3. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until bacon is crisp and cooked through. Drain off the grease. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, brown sugar and chili sauce; pour over the bacon-chestnut rolls. Return to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes.

Peppermint Bark

Yum! This was delicious, and makes a great gift. You can also just do one type of chocolate, rather than layering like this recipe calls for. A single layer would be easier, as you would not have to worry about freezing the bottom layers completely so they don't swirl when you add the top layers of warm melted chocolate. Either way, delicious.

I used this recipe for the layered bark. Here is a recipe for a single layer bark.

17 ounces high quality white chocolate, finely chopped
6 ounces peppermint candy canes, crushed (this was 12 candy canes, but I think 8 would be plenty.)
7 ounces high quality bittersweet chocolate
5 1/2 tablespoons whipping cream
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract

Turn large baking sheet bottom side up. Cover securely with foil. Mark 12
x 9-inch rectangle on foil. Stir white chocolate in metal bowl set over
saucepan of barely simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch
water) until chocolate is melted and smooth and candy thermometer
registers 110°F. (chocolate will feel warm to touch). Remove from over
water. Pour 2/3 cup melted white chocolate onto rectangle on foil. Using
icing spatula, spread chocolate to fill rectangle. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup
crushed peppermints. Chill until set, about 15 minutes.

Stir bittersweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract in heavy medium
saucepan over medium-low heat until just melted and smooth. Cool to barely
lukewarm, about 5 minutes. Pour bittersweet chocolate mixture in long
lines over white chocolate rectangle. Using icing spatula, spread
bittersweet chocolate in even layer. Refrigerate until very cold and firm,
about 25 minutes (I put mine in the freezer).

Rewarm remaining white chocolate in bowl set over barely simmering water
to 110°F. Working quickly, pour white chocolate over firm bittersweet
chocolate layer; spread to cover. Immediately sprinkle with remaining
crushed peppermints. Chill just until firm, about 20 minutes. If you let the bark go much longer than this - it will be very hard to cut neatly.

Lift foil with bark onto work surface; trim edges. Cut bark crosswise into
2-inch-wide strips. Using metal spatula, slide bark off foil and onto work
surface. Cut each strip crosswise into 3 sections and each section
diagonally into 2 triangles. You can also just break into large chunks and enjoy!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hazelnut Biscotti

These are still baking, so I'm not sure what they taste like, but they sure smell good!

From Betty Crocker

1 cup hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1. Heat oven to 350F. Spread hazelnuts in ungreased shallow pan. Bake uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Cool.

2. In large bowl, beat sugar, butter, almond extract, vanilla and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed. Stir in flour, baking powder and baking soda. Stir in hazelnuts. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Gently knead 2-3 minutes or until dough holds together and hazelnuts are evenly distributed.

3. Divide dough in half. On ungreased cookie sheet, shape half of dough into 10x3in rectangle, rounding edges slightly. Repeat with remaining cookie dough on same cookie sheet if room or second sheet.

4. Bake about 25 minutes or until centre is firm to the touch. Cool on cookie sheet 15 minutes. Move to cutting board and cut each rectangle crosswise into 1/2in slices.

5. Place slices cut sides down on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake about 15 minutes or until crisp and light brown (I turned mine once). Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Monday, December 15, 2008

spicy chicken rub

(Ew, that sounds DIRTY, that's what she said, etc. etc.)


I am now officially Trying to Eat More Protein, so I started off by roasting a whole chicken tonight, which I have never done before. It wasn't as challenging as a turkey, and it turned out really well. I won't copy out the Bittman recipe I used because I think it's pretty basic, and also that most normal people have roasted chickens before, but here is a spice rub I found online somewhere that really made it delicious.

1/2 t of the following:
ground black pepper
dried oregano
dried basil

1/4 t cayenne

Mix with 6 T olive oil. Before baking, I rubbed it under the skin and drizzled half of it on the potatoes and parsnips and garlic roasting beside the chicken; after the first 20 minutes at the high temperature, I flipped the chicken and poured the rest of it on top. Dee-licious.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

from Everyday with Rachael Ray Magazine

This was a nice change from the standard pasta dish. I served it as a side dish tonight, but it would also be good as a main dish. It was very easy and quick to throw together.

1 pound penne pasta (I used whole wheat)
2 T butter
1 onion, chopped
(next time I'll add a clove or two of chopped garlic)
salt & pepper
1 15-oz. can pure pumpkin puree
1 cup heavy cream (I used evaporated whole milk)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for topping
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Cook pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water.
In the same pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion (and garlic, if using) and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring until softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin and heavy cream and bring to a boil. Return the pasta to the pot, along with the reserved pasta water, and toss. Stir in the parmesan; season with salt & pepper. Top pasta with parsley and more parmesan to serve.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ellen's Hot Chicken Salad Casserole

Ok, so this is totally unhealthy, but delicious. Ellen brought this to a pot-luck lunch I attended this week. Apparently the church ladies ask her to bring this dish every time, so she never gets to make anything else. At any rate, it was tasty and she gave me her recipe. It specifically says not to use reduced fat ingredients, but I'm going to give it a try when I make it to see what happens. I'm guessing that reduced fat ingredients will probably be ok, but non-fat might not work as well. I'll report back.


4 whole chicken breasts
3 hard cooked eggs, diced (optional)
½ can condensed cream of chicken soup
2 cups finely chopped celery
1 cup mayonnaise - (do not use light or low fat)
1 cup sour cream - (do not use light or low fat)
1 can sliced water chestnuts, drained
½ cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 regular size can French fried onions

1. Cook chicken, remove skin and bones and cut into 1 inch pieces.
2. Mix chicken with hard cooked eggs, celery, water chestnuts and slivered almonds.
3. Mix cream of chicken soup, mayonnaise, sour cream, minced onion, lemon juice, salt and pepper together.
4. Combine the chicken mixture with the soup-mayonnaise mixture. Put in a 13”x9”x2” casserole dish. Top with shredded cheese.
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Sprinkle French fried onions over top and bake for approximately 5 minutes longer or until onions are browned. Watch carefully so that they don’t burn.

Ellen's notes: I do not use hard cooked eggs when I make this casserole. This casserole can be made ahead. Bake time might need to be longer if casserole is cold.

Peanut Soup, Sengalese Style

This is from my new favorite cookbook, Mark Bittman's veg book (move over Nigella!) and I am obsessed with this recipe. No, it's not the lowest fat thing in the world but it is hearty and delicious and should very easily be able to be made in a crock pot. My problem with the crock pot is that by the time I get around to thinking about making dinner in one, it's usually too late. Oh, and this is vegan so for those of us trying to cut back on dairy, it's so yummy you won't even think about cheese.

3/4 C roasted peanuts
2 T oil
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced in half moons
1 T minced fresh ginger
1 T minced garlic
pinch cayenne or so to taste (I also added red pepper flakes at the end)
6 C veg stock or water
2 sweet potatoes (total of 1 lb), cut in thin half moons or small dice
1 can diced tomatoes (recipe says to reserve liquid for another recipe but I dumped both tomatoes and juice in the pot)
1/2 lb collards, kale or spinah
1/4 C chunky peanut butter

Chop peanuts into small pieces (or use food processor but don't make peanut butter by accident). In deep skillet/medium saucepan or my favorite, dutch oven, heat oil over med-high het and add onion, ginger and garlic until soft. Add peanuts, cayenne, S&P and stir in stock and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil, partially cover with lid and then turn down heat to a gentle simmer and cook until potatoes are tender (~10 min). Stir in tomatoes, spinach andPB. Cook until greens are just tender, adjust seasoning and serve. We served ours over steamed brown rice but Mark also recommends millet if you have it on hand. Frankly, almost any grain would do here. This makes great leftovers and we got a total of 7-8 servings out of it.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Shepherd's Pie

Geoff and I made this on Sunday, and had the leftovers on Monday, all because I was craving this dish after having a shepherd's pie tart when I was having tea with friends a few weeks ago. Awesome. If you've got leftover mashed potatoes from Turkey Day (or after Christmas in a few weeks), this is a good way to use them up.

From The Joy of Cooking (75th Anniversary edition, page 102-3).

If you've used Joy before, you know that ingredients are incorporated into the recipe, rather than listed at the beginning. Like Joy, I'm putting ingredients in bold, to make them stand out a little more.

Place in a large pot of cold water over medium heat:
1-1/2 pounds all-purpose potatoes, peeled and quartered

Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl and mash with a fork or potato ricer or masher, adding the reserved cooking water along with:
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and white pepper to taste
(we used black pepper)

Beat with a wooden spoon until fluffy. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 400. Combine in a large skillet:
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
(we used a bunch of baby carrots)
1 celery rib, chopped

Cook over low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender but not brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and add:
2 cups finely chopped cooked lamb or 1 pound raw ground lamb (we substituted ground sirloin)

If using cooked lamb, cook, stirring, until the meat begins to brown, about 5 minutes. If using raw lamb, cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the lamb loses its pink color, 5 to 10 minutes. Spoon off excess fat. Stir in:
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add:
3/4 cup beef or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary or 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
Pinch of grated or ground nutmeg
Salt and black pepper to taste

Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a greased 9-inch pie plate or 8x8-inch baking dish. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top, making peaks with a fork. Scatter over the top:
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Bake until the potatoes are browned and the dish is heated through, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool slightly, then serve directly from the baking dish.

Serves 4.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Lidieth's Banana Bread

When we were in Costa Rica for our honeymoon, we stayed at the Arco Iris (Rainbow) Lodge near the Monteverde Cloud Forest. We had breakfast at the lodge twice. The first day I tried a slice of a dark brown quickbread, but I wasn't entirely sure what it was. It looked like a date bread, but tasted like banana. It was a really dark color, and came in small squares about 2 inches in size. It was really good. The second morning I tried it again, and decided it was definitely banana bread. I went for a second piece, but it was gone. I waited about 20 minutes to see if the cook would bring out another one. She did, and it was still hot from the oven. I grabbed 4 slices, wrapped them in a napkin and slipped out the door. We ate the banana bread later that morning on our drive to the next town. I declared it the best banana bread I had ever had, and wished I had absconded with the whole loaf. A few weeks ago I emailed the Arco Iris Lodge and begged them for the recipe. I told a sappy story, pleaded my case, it was our honeymoon, yada yada, and literally begged for the recipe. I got a quick response saying the recipe is on their website. Doh.

So I tried it tonight. It wasn't the perfection that we had in Costa Rica, but it was tasty. I will definitely make it again. I thought it needed a little something, perhaps a dash of salt. Given the list of ingredients, I wasn't sure it would turn the dark color that we had in C.R., but it did. The recipe calls for a standard loaf pan. I made two mini loafs, and I think the batter could have filled 3. It puffed up way over the top of the mini loafs. I think if I would have made it in 3 or 4 of the mini pans, it might have turned out like the small darker squares that I had in C.R. So, long intro aside, here's the recipe. :)

1½ cups flour
1½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
5 med sized VERY ripe bananas
1 tbsp butter
½ to 1 cup sugar (raw cane or Demerara recommended)
1 egg
½ tsp vanilla


Grease a standard loaf tin. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
Sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda.
Mash the bananas.
In a separate bowl, soften the butter with an electric mixer.
Mix in the sugar and then add the beaten egg and vanilla.
Combine with mashed bananas.
Pour into the flour mixture and blend well.
Pour into greased baking tin and bake for 45 mins – 1 hour.

* I used turbinado sugar, which I understand is the same as Demerara but just smaller crystals. I baked the 2 smaller loafs for about 45 minutes.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

White bean chicken chili

We had this with the cheesy beer bread. This is the most cooking I've done in several weeks -- it was like I knew what I was doing with an infant and a 6-year-old.

From Annie's Eats

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into ½ -inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
1 ½ tsp. garlic powder
1 tbsp. oil
2 (15.5 oz) cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
2 (4 oz.) cans diced green chiles
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 cup reduced fat sour cream
½ cup whipping cream
fresh cilantro and paprika, for garnish

In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, sauté chicken, onion and garlic powder in oil until chicken is no longer pink. Add beans, broth, chiles and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; let simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the sour cream and whipping cream. Sprinkle with paprika and top with fresh cilantro for garnish, if desired.

Cheesy Beer Bread

Look at this, me cooking like I had my act together or something.
This bread was really good. We've still got half a loaf of it, and I'm resisting the urge to go eat it all right this moment.
Only thing I would add is that next time I might use even more cheese. Because you can never have too much cheese.

Adapted from Annie's Eats

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar (or more!)
12 oz. beer (we used a really light time I'll use an ale or dark beer)
2 tbsp. butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly grease a 9×5” loaf pan.
In a large bowl, combine flours, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and garlic powder. Whisk to combine well. Add cheese and whisk to combine. Slowly add beer to dry ingredients and stir lightly until just combined, and all ingredients are completely moistened. Place into a prepared loaf pan and pour melted butter over the top. Place in the oven and bake for 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Black Forest Cake

Todd asked for a Black Forest Cake for his birthday this year. I've never made one, but this one was pretty easy. Many recipes I looked at called for more alcohol (kirsch or cherry liquor). This one didn't call for it at all, but I added a bit of brandy to the cherry filling mixture. I thought the cherries were really tasty. A little on the sweet side, but matched well with the cake which was moist but not overly sweet. All in all, it worked out well and everyone liked it.

2 1/8 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 (20 ounce) cans pitted sour cherries (I used 2 bottles of Morello dark cherries from Trader Joes)
1 cup white sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup of brandy or kirsch, optional
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

Drain cherries, reserving 1/2 cup juice. Combine reserved juice, cherries, 1 cup sugar, and cornstarch in a 2 quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly (I briefly brought mine to a boil before dropping it back to medium to thicken up). Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla and brandy or kirsch if using. Cool before using. Do this step first, so the cherries can chill in the fridge while you work on the rest of the cake. You want the cherries to be cold when you fill the cake layers.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour two 9 inch, round, cake pans; cover bottoms with waxed paper (I used cocoa powder to dust the pans, rather than flour).

In a large bowl, combine flour, 2 cups sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add eggs, milk, oil, and 1 tablespoon vanilla; beat until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool layers in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Loosen edges, and remove to racks to cool completely.

Combine whipping cream and confectioner's sugar in a chilled medium bowl. Beat with an electric mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form.

With long serrated knife, split each cake layer horizontally in half. Tear one split layer into crumbs; set aside (I did not do this - I split both layers and used all 4 layers in the cake). Reserve 1 1/2 cups Frosting for decorating cake; set aside. Gently brush loose crumbs off top and side of each cake layer with pasty brush or hands. To assemble, place one cake layer on cake plate. Spread with 1 cup frosting; top with 3/4 cup cherry topping (I put the cherry layer down first, so that the cherry juice could soak into the cake and make it more moist, then topped with a layer of whipped cream). Top with second cake layer; repeat layers of frosting and cherry topping. Top with third cake layer (and fourth, if you're not going to use the last layer to make crumbs for decorating). Frost side of cake. Pat reserved crumbs onto frosting on side of cake. Spoon reserved frosting into pastry bag fitted with star decorator tip. Pipe around top and bottom edges of cake. Spoon remaining cherry topping onto top of cake.

Notes: I did not tear the last layer into crumbs. Instead, I made a bit more of the whipped cream frosting, stacked all four layers of the cake with the cherry filling and whipped cream between each layer, and then I frosted the entire cake with whipped cream frosting. If you do this, you can't really pour the extra cherry mixture on top of the cake, because it will just turn the top of the cake pink and will probably run off the sides. So, just decide ahead of time how you want to decorate your cake, and plan accordingly. I frosted the whole thing in the whipped cream frosting, and then gently placed just a couple of cherries (no juice) in the center top, and then I sprinkled chocolate shavings around the top (just use a vegetable peeler on a bar of chocolate).

Adapted from Allrecipes

S'Mores Bars

From Williams Sonoma by way of Annie's Eats

I don't know why I made these, since I knew I was going to have a big cake. At any rate, they turned out pretty well.... almost fudge-like in consistency. I was afraid the graham cracker crust would crumble, since it didn't require baking, but it didn't. It held together well. Also, this is listed as one of W-S's kid-friendly recipes, since it doesn't require baking and the steps are pretty simple.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
6 whole graham crackers
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
1 1/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt
1 cup miniature marshmallows
2 whole graham crackers or 1 cup mini-graham cracker shapes

Line an 8-inch square baking pan or dish with aluminum foil so that the foil hangs over the sides. Grease the foil with butter. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the 3 tablespoons butter. Using a pot holder, move the pan to a heatproof surface. Let cool for 5 minutes. Put the 6 whole graham crackers into a zippered plastic bag. Press out all the air and seal the bag. Using a rolling pin, gently but firmly crush the cookies to make tiny crumbs (or, process in a food processor). You should have 1 cup of crumbs. Add the crumbs to the melted butter and stir with a wooden spoon until blended. Scrape the crumbs into the baking pan.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap loosely over the crumbs. Place your hand on the plastic wrap and spread the crumbs to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the crumbs are in place, press down firmly to make a solid, even layer. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, combine the condensed milk and chocolate chips. Heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Add the vanilla and salt and stir until blended. Pour the filling over the graham cracker crust and spread evenly with the spoon.

Scatter the marshmallows evenly over the chocolate filling and press them in gently. If using the 2 whole graham crackers, break them into little pieces. Stick the broken crackers or mini-cracker shapes into the filling among the marshmallows.

Cover and refrigerate the bars until they are firm, about 4 hours. To serve, lift the foil from the pan and set the s'more square on a cutting board. Peel the foil away from the sides, and cut the square into rectangles with a sharp knife. Keep refrigerated until just before serving.

Makes 12 bar cookies.

Cheesy Bread

From Simply Recipes

I made this as one of the appetizers at Todd's party tonight. I actually halved the recipe, because we only had 12 people, and 2 loaves of bread seemed like too much. The amount of cheese (1/2 the recipe) worked well with the one loaf of Italian bread that I bought. I also popped the bread under the broiler first for a couple of minutes first, before I topped it with the cheese, to toast it up a bit. It was a big hit.

8 oz shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 lb shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 to 1 cup chopped green onion (to taste)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp sour cream (optional)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 stick unsalted butter (1/2 cup, 4 ounces), softened to the point of being slightly melted
1 to 2 loaves of French or Italian bread, depending on the size of the loaves

1 In a large bowl, mix together the cheeses and the green onion. Stir in the mayonnaise and sour cream. In a separate small bowl blend the butter and garlic until smooth. Add the butter mixture to the cheese mixture (I did not mix together with the cheese - I spread the garlic butter mixture on the bread first, then topped with the cheese mixture).

2 Preheat broiler. Slice loaf of bread in half horizontally, lay crust side down. Spread cheese mixture over the bread. Place under the broiler until nicely browned, about 3 to 5 minutes.

3 Remove from broiler and let sit for 5 minutes until cool enough to handle. Slice the bread with a bread knife. Serve.

Makes 30 to 40 slices.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Heather's Black Bean Pinwheels

Heather always has these at her parties, and made them for my bridal shower earlier this year. I'm going to make them for Todd's birthday party game night this weekend...if I don't eat them all first.

4 oz. (1/2 pkg) cream cheese, softened
1/2 C. shredded jack, pepper jack or cheddar
1/4 C. sour cream
1/4 tsp. onion salt
1 C. canned black beans, drained, rinsed (Heather suggests using a full can)
3 flour tortillas (10")
Salsa for dipping

Mix cheeses, sour cream, and onion salt with electric mixer on medium speed. (Or, mix by hand).
Puree beans in food processor.
Spread a layer of beans on tortilla.
Spread cheese mixture over beans
Roll tortillas up tightly. Refrigerate 30 minutes (or overnight).
Cut into 1/2 inch slices.
Serve with salsa.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Cassoulet

From: Cooking Light

I make this a lot in the fall/winter. I can't believe I never posted this recipe before, but I couldn't find it in the archives. I like this dish, but I think it needs to be seasoned well or else it is a little bland. For this reason, I typically increase the amounts of herbs, salt and pepper, and I use the full head of roasted garlic instead of just the half that the recipe calls for. Tonight I tried roasting the butternut squash first, and it honestly didn't make a ton of difference in my opinion. But the herbs and garlic do make a difference here. Don't skimp on those things.

8 servings (serving size: 1 3/4 cups)

1 whole garlic head
4 ounces pancetta, chopped (regular bacon is also fine)
2 cups vertically sliced onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
4 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
1/2 cup organic vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (I used a little more)
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used a little more)
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (again, I used more)
4 (16-ounce) cans cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
1 bay leaf
2 (1-ounce) slices white bread (I used some panko breadcrumbs instead)
2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350°.

Remove white papery skin from garlic head (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap garlic head in foil. Bake at 350° for 1 hour; cool 10 minutes (I actually roast this in the toaster oven while I'm working on the rest of the ingredients). Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Set half of garlic pulp aside; reserve remaining garlic pulp for another use. (I actually put all of the roasted garlic in this dish. I think it needs the extra flavor). Discard skins.

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté 5 minutes or until crisp. Remove pancetta from pan, reserving drippings in pan. Add onion and 1 tablespoon oil to drippings in pan; sauté 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 25 minutes or until onion is very tender and browned, stirring frequently. Stir in vinegar.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Add garlic pulp, pancetta, squash, and next 6 ingredients (through bay leaf) to onion mixture, stirring well. Place bread in a food processor, and pulse 10 times or until coarse crumbs measure about 1 cup. Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and 1/2 teaspoon olive oil; sprinkle evenly over squash mixture. Cover and bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until squash is tender. Uncover and bake an additional 15 minutes or until topping is browned. Discard bay leaf. Sprinkle with parsley.

Tomato and Spinach Soup with Tortellini

Yes, another soup recipe from Isaac's. But it's good and why not, anyway? I did this from memory so the quantities are not exact. This is so easy and fast and makes great leftovers for lunch. You could make this in your crockpot but it's not the kind of thing where you could dump all of it in along with the tortellini and leave it for 6 hours or so b/c your pasta will probably fall apart. If you're going to be home, then add the tortellini an hour or so before serving.

1 package tortellini (I used cheese and roasted garlic)
3 large tomatoes, chopped (you can use canned but we still have fresh 'maters at the market)
1 medium onion, small dice
1 small carrot, small dice
1 stalk of celery, small dice
fist-full of a combination of thyme, oregano, parsley and basil (or to taste)
46 oz (give or take) of tomato juice
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 large pkg of baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 T o.o.

Saute onions, carrot and celery until softened and add garlic. Add spinach and stir until mostly wilted. Add remaining ingredients EXCEPT tortellini and bring to a boil. Add tortellini and cook according to pkg directions (you could cook them separately but why bother dirtying another pot?). Serve with crusty bread and a sprinkling of parmesan.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Chopped Miso Salad Recipe

the love-hate relationship with Heidi continues...
I can't get enough of this salad, but I just start go all RachRay on her a**when she starts with the holy grail ingredients and meticulous prep instructions.

(even my inner kitchen witch sees no need to improve on this perfect dressing)
2 tablespoons miso
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard (or a bit of whatever mustard you have around)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (or honey or agave)
1/4 cup (brown) rice vinegar
1/3 cup mild flavored extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon pure toasted sesame oil (optional)

1/2 of a medium-large cabbage (bag o' slaw. BAM. done. Both regular cole slaw mix or Trader Joe's broccoli slaw mix are awesome.)
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted (I rock and roll two handfuls of roasted almonds with my mezzaluna)
1/2 medium red onion, sliced (I saute these for a couple of minutes to take the onion bite down.)
3/4 cup chives, minced
8 ounces extra-firm or baked tofu (I like teriyaki flavored baked tofu), room temperature

(there's this whole part about sauteed shallots that I DELETED, Heidi. Kiss!)

Make the dressing by whisking the miso, mustard, and brown sugar together. Now whisk in the rice vinegar and keep whisking until it's smooth. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, and then the sesame oil. Two pinches of fine grain salt. Taste and make any adjustments if needed.

(paragraph including the phrase "whisper thin slices" DELETED!)

Gently toss the cabbage, almonds, red onion, chives and tofu in a large mixing/salad bowl. Add a generous drizzle of the miso dressing and toss again - until the dressing is evenly distributed. Add more a bit at a time if needed, until the salad is dressed to your liking.

now all it needs is a perky new name...

Serves 3 - 4 as a main dish, 6 - 8 as a side.

adapted from

The chocolate chip cookies everyone is going nuts over

I made a batch of these for company. The company went a little nuts for them. My husband went a little nuts for them. The neighbors enjoyed them the following day. These are the kind you eat one, maybe two of (and I am NOT usually that girl) and are full.
This recipe does things a little differently and I went ahead and listened instead my usual routine of sniffing skeptically and making up work-arounds that require minimal effort and time.
I saw significant effects from:
1) letting dough set up overnight in the fridge
2) using the paddle instead of the wire whip attachment on my mixer
3) using two kinds of flour and sifting each like crazy

Leite’s Consummate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from David Leite via The New York Times

Takes: 45 minutes, plus at least 24 hours’ chilling
Makes: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour (I used pastry flour and could taste it, which was both good and bad)
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter (whoops, I just realized I used 3...I'll be back; I need to go for a run now)
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (I found dark chocolate chunks at Wh. Fds.)
Sea salt (skipped this step)

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and try to incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. [Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.]

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Spinach Squares

I had a giant clamshell of spinach in my fridge that wasn't getting eaten fast enough, so I adapted a recipe I found in Simply in Season. It was very easy and who doesn't like egg, spinach and cheese? It would be a good potluck or brunch contribution.

4 eggs
1/2 C wheat flour
1/2 C wheat pastry flour
1 lb spinach, chopped
3/4 C shredded cheese
1 C cottage cheese
1/2 t nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350.
Mix eggs, wheat four, pastry flour, nutmeg and salt in bowl.
Stir in cottage cheese and shredded cheese.
Fold in spinach.

Grease a square baking pan.
Bake for 30-40 min.

Baby Bok Choy and Shiitake Mu Shu Wraps

I especially like to eat food that I can wrap up in a tortilla. We often have "chinese burritos" in our house, and even though I adjusted some of the ingredients (portos instead of shiitake, reg. bok choi instead of baby, reg, stir fried tofu for smoked) this particular recipe is really really good. From Veg Times, Jul/Aug, 2008.

2 lg eggs
2T sesame oil
1/2 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
3/4 lb baby bok choy
2 med carrots, matchsticks
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T soy sauce
1 t balsamic vinegar
5 oz. smoked tofu, matchsticks
12 warmed tortillas or mu shu wraps
hoisin for garnish

Make omelet with egg; transfer to cutting board to slice thin ribbons.

Stir fry in sesame oil in the following order:
mushrooms - 5-7 min.
bok choi, carrots, onions - 3-4 min
garlic - 1 min
Add soy sauce & vinegar to pan.
Add tofu & egg to warm through.

Serve with wraps & hoisin

Apple-Raisin Bread

thank you again, "The Helpful Housemate"

1/2 C sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
2 C flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 egg
1 C applesauce or chopped apples
1/4 C melted butter, or veg oil
1 t vanilla
1/2 C raisins
1 C milk (handwritten under typed ingredients)

Preheat oven to 350.

In a medium sized bowl, sift together the sugars, flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices.

Add the egg, butter, apples and vanilla. Finally, stir in the raisins.

Pour into a greased loaf pan or muffin tin and bake at 350. The loaf will take 1 hr to bake and the muffins will take 20-25 min.

Scotch Oaten Bread

another one from "The Helpful Housemate"

makes 12 muffins or 1 loaf

2 C flour
1/2 C sugar
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 C oatmeal
2 T veg oil/melted butter
1 1/4 C sour milk (mix milk with 1 t vinegar)
1/2 C dried fruit
1/2 C nuts
cinnamon & sugar

Prehead oven to 350.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and oatmeal.

Add the oil or butter and milk and stir until smooth. Stir in the fruit and nuts.

Pour into greased loaf pan or muffin tin and dust the tops with cinnamon sugar.

Bake loaf for 1 hr.
Bake muffins for 20-25 min.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ken's Light Wheat Pizza or Calzone Dough

from a homemade cookbook called "The Helpful Housemate," written by my friend Emily's friend, Kristen

makes 1 lg pizza crust or 4 calzones

1 1/2 C lukewarm water
1 T (or 1 pkg) yeast
1 T honey
1/2 C whole wheat flour
3 1/4 C (divided into 1 1/2 and 1 3/4 C) unbleached white flour
1/3 C cornmeal (plus some for baking sheet)
1 1/2 t salt
2 T olive oil

In a large bowl, dissove yeast and honey in water. Cover and let it stand for 10 minutes or until frothy.

To the yeast mixture, add the whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 C white flour and cornmeal and beat thoroughly. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let mixture stand for 10 min.

Add salt & olive oil and slowly begin to stir in the rest of the flour until the dough becomes kneadable. Turn it out onto a clean surface and knead for 5 min., until the dough is smooth and elastic. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let it rise in a warm oven for an hour. (turn on oven to 200, until it gets warm, then turn it off.)

Preheat the oven to 425. Divide the dough into four if you're making calzones. Otherwise, press out onto baking sheet (dusted with cornmeal) and top with whatever you wish. Bake for 20 minutes, or until edges and bottom are crispy.

This dough can be frozen! After rising, punch down the dough and put it into a ziploc, making sure to leave extra room in the bag in case it keeps rising. To use dough, let it thaw and then press it out fro pizza or calzones.

borrowed from Ken Haedrich's Country Baking, Bantam, 1994.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Carrot Casserole

I had this recently at a pot-luck, and many people asked for the recipe. It's similar to (but surely does not top) Gwen's mom's carrot casserole. Most people thought it was made with sweet potatoes instead of carrots. It seems like a simple side dish that is quick to throw together. When I make it I might try to cut back on the butter just a bit, and maybe add some cinnamon.

Carrot mixture:
1 lb. carrots
2 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. melted butter
1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 c. pecans, chopped
3 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. butter, softened

Cook carrots until tender. Drain. Puree carrots in a food processor or blender. Stir in eggs, sugar, flour, vanilla, butter and baking powder. Pour into a buttered casserole dish. Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Meanwhile, mix topping ingredients together in a small bowl. Take the casserole out and sprinkle the topping over it. Put back in the oven and cook for another 15 minutes.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Bacon wrapped stuffed chicken

This is adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe, and it was really good. Next time, though, we'll make the pockets deeper so we can get more of the filling in each breast.

4 pieces boneless, skinless chicken breasts
salt and pepper
4 to 5 ounces blue cheese (or Asiago) crumbles
A handful arugula leaves from bulk bins, chopped
A handful baby spinach leaves from bulk bins, chopped
4 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Using a small sharp knife cut into the thick end of the chicken and make an incision reaching 2/3 the way down the breast. Loosen up the incision with your fingers to make a hole. Season the chicken with pepper. Combine the cheese with arugula and baby spinach and stuff the breasts. Spiral-wrap the breasts with the bacon tightly to cover the meat evenly. Place chicken on a nonstick baking sheet and roast 20 to 22 minutes until bacon is crispy and chicken is firm.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Slow cooker french onion soup

This is adapted from a recipe found here. It was incredibly easy and tasty. Definitely not vegetarian, but I'm sure you could make it that way by substituting mushroom broth and leaving out the Worcestershire sauce.

2 boxes (32 oz) beef broth (low sodium kind)
6 T butter
3 large, sweet onions
1/2 T granulated sugar
1/4 cup sherry (or dry white wine, which is what I used)
Worcestershire sauce
French bread
swiss cheese

Heat your slow cooker to high and plop your butter in to start melting. Slice the yellow onions into rings. Break up the onion slices with your fingers, and stir them around in the melted butter. Cook this way for at least an hour, possibly two. Check to make sure there's no burning.
Add the beef broth, sugar, a few splashes of Worcestershire sauce and sherry/wine. I used 1 1/2 boxes of broth for the amount of onions I had.
Cook on high for 6-8 hours or low for 10-12. It takes a while for the onions to get translucent and pliable
Before serving, slice bread and toast it to desired crunchiness. Put soup in oven-proof bowls, add bread on top and swiss cheese. Put in oven (I used broil setting) until cheese is melty and good.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Debbie's Indian potatoes

I just saw Shannon's request for this now. This recipe comes with the caveat that even though I have cooked this about 20 times with Debbie, it never comes out as well when I do it alone as it does when she makes it. That said...

Cut a mix of sweet and regular potatoes (or either one you have on hand) into about 1" dice. Chop an onion while you're at it.

Boil water for the potatoes and cook them until they're almost soft enough to eat.

Heat oil in a skillet; I think she often uses a blend of olive and vegetable to get them crunchy. Put in about a teaspoon of whole mustard seeds and a teaspoon of whole cumin seeds to flavor the oil.

Saute onions until translucent and add potatoes. The trick is getting them really browned on at least one or two sides... this is the part that never works that well for me. It's important not to disturb them too much. Season with salt and pepper and eat a lot of them.

pasta with chicken, asparagus and blue cheese

Had some extra blue cheese to use up, so I tried this recipe without much variation. I poached the chicken, which was really easy and lets you avoid cutting it up raw.

1/2 lb. Farfalle (bow-tie) pasta [I used ziti]
6 oz. cooked chicken breast, sliced 1/4" (may be grilled, poached or broiled)
2 TB. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 C. onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed, cut into 1-1/2" lengths
1/2 C. red bell pepper, diced
1/2 C. basil leaves, loosely packed, sliced thinly [I used one of the frozen basil cubes in the freezer]
4 oz. Blue Cheese, crumbled

Serves 4

Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse, drain and set aside.
In medium nonstick skillet, heat olive oil; add onion and sauti until translucent. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more; add asparagus, red bell pepper, and 1/2 cup water. Cook uncovered until water evaporates and asparagus is tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Stir in basil, pasta, and sliced chicken; add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Gently blend in Blue Cheese and serve immediately.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blackened catfish

Alright, so I think this falls under both technique and really good fish recipe. I think you could easily use this for chicken, if you wanted blackened chicken, you just might want to increase the cooking time in the oven until the chicken is done.
Another product of having too much time on my hands, and Food Network almost constantly on my television.

From Guy Fieri

2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 (6-ounce) catfish fillets
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 lemon wedges

On a plate, mix together the paprika, cayenne, thyme, chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, salt and pepper for the blackened spice mixture. Dredge the catfish fillets in the spice mixture and set aside.
Heat a large cast iron fry pan or saute pan over high heat until it is "white hot."
Add oil to pan. When oil begins to slightly smoke, add catfish fillets and cook on each side, about 2 to 3 minutes. Cook in batches, if necessary, and transfer cooked fillets to a preheated 200 degree F oven while cooking remaining fillets.
To serve, top each fillet with 1/2 tablespoon of butter and serve with lemon wedges.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cake

From: Annie's Eats

I made this cake for a friend's birthday this past weekend, and it was a big hit with everyone. I had to take lots of pictures of it, because it was the most impressive-looking cake I think I've ever made.

For the cake:

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled (optional)

For decorating:
1 ½ - 2 batches peanut butter frosting (below) (I made a double batch and had about 1.5 cups leftover)
miniature Reese’s cups, halved and/or chopped

For the cake, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°. Butter two 9×2” round cake pans, dust the insides with flour (I used cocoa powder), tap out the excess and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper (don’t skip the parchment paper. I only used parchment in one pan, and that layer came out of the pan ok. The one without parchment stuck to the bottom and I end up with an uneven cake as a result). Place the pans on a baking sheet.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for about 2 minutes, until thoroughly blended into the butter. Add the eggs and yolks one at a time, beating for one minute after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk; add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 (beginning and ending with the dry ingredients). Mix each addition only until it is blended into the batter. Scrape down the bowl and add the melted chocolate, if using, folding it in with a spatula. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans.

Bake for 26-30 minutes or until the cakes feel springy to the touch and start to pull away from the sides of the pans (One of my layers needed about 32 minutes, and the other needed closer to 40 minutes, but definitely check periodically because all ovens have their own quirks). Transfer to wire racks to cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up.

To assemble the cake, place one cake layer on the serving dish, or cover a cardboard circle with foil to use as a serving tray. Spread peanut butter frosting on top of the cake layer. (If desired, sprinkle with chopped Reese’s cups.) Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting. Frost the top and outside of the cake with remaining peanut butter frosting. Decorate with halved and chopped Reese’s cups as desired.

Peanut Butter Frosting
From Ina Garten

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Monday, October 27, 2008

White Bean Dip

I made this to bring to a World Series party tonight, and served with pita chips. I guess it's the same basic recipe as hummus, but with different beans. It was nice to have something just a little different. I'm sure you could play around with it and add other flavors as well, such as sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, different herbs, etc.

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves garlic (I just used one large clove)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil (I used less than this)
1/4 cup (loosely packed) fresh Italian parsley leaves
Freshly ground black pepper


Place the beans, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and parsley in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture is coarsely chopped. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer the bean puree to a small bowl. Serve with pita chips or veggies.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Chocolate Cheesecake Cupcakes

These are also known as Black-Bottom Cupcakes, from David Liebovitz's "The Great Book of Chocolate." Smitten Kitchen and Annie's Eats have also posted this recipe with nice photos. See my notes at the bottom regarding the debate between regular-size muffins and mini-muffins, paper cups versus no paper cups, and filling to the brim versus filling to 90%.

Yield: 12 full-size or approximately 48 mini cupcakes

For the filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, regular or reduced fat, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-process)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
1/3 cup unflavored vegetable oil
1 tablespoon white or cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Make the filling: Beat together the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the chopped chocolate pieces. Set aside.

Make the cupcakes:
1. Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F (175°C). Butter muffin tin, or line the tin with paper muffin cups. (See notes at bottom)
2. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and stir in the wet ingredients, stirring until just smooth. Stir any longer and you will over mix the batter and end up with less-than-tender cupcakes.
4. Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spoon a few tablespoons* of the filling into the center of each cupcake, dividing the filling evenly. This will fill the cups almost completely,** which is fine.
5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the tops are slightly golden brown and the cupcakes feel springy when gently pressed. These moist treats will keep well unrefrigerated for 2 to 3 days if stored in an airtight container.

* I made these into mini-muffins. It was just the right amount of batter for 2 full trays, or 48 mini-muffins. On the first batch, I used paper muffin cups and cooked them for about 17 minutes. This was too long, as the muffins were a bit dry and totally stuck to the muffin cups. Since they're so small anyway, when half of the muffin gets stuck to the paper, it's just not worth even trying. On the second batch, I sprayed the muffin tin and did not use muffin cups. I took them out after approximately 14 minutes and they were perfect. I used a toothpick to pop them out of the cups, and they were moist and delicious, with no paper to fiddle with. If I make these again, I will definitely skip the papers and use the shorter cook time.

* The recipe says for full-size muffins you can fill the cups to the brim with batter. I would not recommend this for the mini muffins. See Smitten Kitchen's post where she talks about her mini-muffins spilling over. She recommends filling the mini cups with 1 Tbsp of batter. This is exactly what I did and it was the perfect amount. I used a 1 Tbsp measuring spoon to dole out the chocolate batter, and a 1/2 tsp spoon for the cheesecake filling.

pasta e fagioli soup

This is from Recipes from the Night Kitchen, another great cookbook I got from the library. Sally Nirenberg opened a soup restaurant (the Night Kitchen, duh) in the early 80s in Brookline, MA, and then collected her recipes into this book. She tells little stories in the margins and has photos and drawings and I love it... I think I need to buy this one.

Anyway, this soup was delicious. Here are her margin notes:

There are many versions of Pasta e Fagioli, Italian Pasta and Beans. Southern Italians make it differently than Northern Italians, and Italians in America make it yet another way. This is the American-in-America version, a synthesis of them all. Feel free to experiment with different kinds of beans and different shapes of pasta, but don't leave out the rosemary, it is especially wonderful here. [I totally left out the rosemary... somehow we don't have any! I quadrupled the basil, though, using one of the pre-pesto cubes I froze in the ice-cube tray during basil season in the garden.]

And here's the recipe:
1 T olive or safflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, pressed or finely chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and diced or sliced
1 c kidney or white cannellini beans [I used 1 can cannellini]
1/2 c tomato puree, or 1 tomato, chopped
10 c low-salt chicken stock [I used vegetable Better than Bullion]
1/2 c dry white wine [I skipped]
1 bay leaf
1 t dried rosemary or 1 T chopped fresh
1/4 t dried thyme, or 1 t chopped fresh
1/4 t dried basil, or 1 t chopped fresh
1/3 c orzo
1 T chopped fresh parsley
freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1. Heat oil over low flame in a 6-quart soup pot. Add onion, garlic, celery and carrots and cook, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

2. Add beans, tomato, chicken stock, wine, and herbs, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, partially covered, for 2 hours. [I shortchanged this and it was fine]

3. Remove half the vegetables and place in a food processor or blender. Process briefly. [I just stuck the immersion blender in] Return to soup and bring to a boil.

4. Add orzo and parsley, and cook until orzo is done, about 20 minutes.

5. Sprinkle with cheese before serving.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Pumpkin Pancakes


I was in the mood for pancakes and pumpkin and this is a great way to have both.

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground allspice (I didn't have any--all I had were cloves and cinnamon so used a 1/4 t of cloves and an additional 1/4 t of cinnamon)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (I was out so I used fresh ginger)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vinegar
*I also added a dash of vanilla

In one large bowl, mix the dry ingredients. In a second bowl, mix the wet ingredients and pour over the dry ingredients. Mix just enough to combine. Grease a hot griddle with oil or butter and pour 1/4 C of batter per pancake. Use more if you like larger pancakes. I sprinkled some toasted walnuts on top of the pancakes while they cooked and they were yummy. The batter is a little thick so I spread it around with a rubber scraper. I could have added more milk but didn't want to dilute the yummy pumpkin flavor. Serve with butter and warmed maple syrup.

p.s. Gwen, this is a great recipe for your iron skillet (even if you're more of a waffle person:>)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Chicken and spinach lasagna

I saw this recipe a long time ago and stuck it on the back burner because it was still so hot outside.
It's not hot anymore, and this smells really good baking in my oven right now. And easy to make.

From Annie's Eats

1 chicken breast
salt and pepper
1-2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
½ large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 (24-oz.) jar pasta sauce
8 oz. ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
9-12 lasagna noodles, uncooked (depending on size of dish)
2 cups spinach, chopped
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Place the chicken breast in a large non-stick skillet and season with salt and pepper. Grill over medium-high heat until cooked through. Cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
Add 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil to the skillet and heat over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic to the pan and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until onion is tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add the pasta sauce and the chicken to the skillet. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer about 5 minutes while making the ricotta layer.
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, egg and Italian seasoning. Stir until well combined.
In a baking dish, spoon a thin layer of the pasta sauce mixture so that it just coats the bottom of the dish. Top with one layer of lasagna noodles so that they cover the sauce completely. Spread one half of the ricotta mixture over the noodles and sprinkle with one cup of chopped spinach. Layer with one third of the pasta sauce mixture. Repeat the layers again with noodles, ricotta mixture with spinach, and pasta sauce. The last layer will be noodles, the remaining pasta sauce and shredded mozzarella.
Cover with foil and bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes more. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Butternut Squash with Blue Cheese and Pecans

From Nigella Lawson (I can't remember which cookbook). I remember she cooked this recipe on Rachel Ray last year around Thanksgiving. I made myself watch the show b/c I love Nigella but Ms. Ray's t.v. persona makes me nutty. We were strolling through the farmer's market this weekend and lots of vendors were selling squash and this recipe came to mind. Yum-o. (Seriously? Did I just write that?)

4.5 lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 T o.o.
1/4 C. maple syrup (my addition)
1 C blue cheese, crumbled
1C pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (I used walnuts this time but both are good)

Preheat oven to 450. Toss butternut squash cubes with o.o. and maple syrup and dump into a baking dish. Roast for 30 - 40 minutes until done. Toss with chopped nuts and blue cheese crumbles and serve. We ate it as a main course but it would be a lovely side dish with pork or chicken.

lentils and yellow mung beans

The dal obsession escalates: I took "The Indian Vegetarian" out of the library, and this is the first one I've tried. The topping, specifically the browned onions -- made easy by my new birthday iron skillet from Kelly, hooray! is beautiful! -- is what made this flavorful, and even more might have been better; the beans are kind of bland. But it's good. The author says this dal is "considered light and easy to digest" and was one of her family's favorites. It was good topped with plain yogurt and would be better topped with raita.

1 c dried pink lentils (I used red; are those the same?), picked over and washed
1 c dried yellow mung beans (I used split), picked over and washed
6 c water (this is what I used, but I had to boil it for a long time -- next time, I'll do less)
5 fresh serrano or dried red peppers (I used crushed red pepper)
1 t salt, or to taste
1 T peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 c loosely packed finely chopped cilantro (I used mint, which is still magically growing in the freezing garden)

for the tarka topping:
3 T vegetable oil or clarified butter (I used olive)
1/2 c finely chopped onion
2 t cumin seeds
1 T ground coriander
1/2 t paprika
2 small tomatoes, cut into 6 ot 8 wedges
3 T chopped cilantro for garnish (I used mint)

Place the beans, water, peppers, turmeric and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan partially (thi sisessential because this dal produces a froth that rises to the top and spills over if covered, creating a mess that has to be cleaned), and simmer until creamy, 20 to 25 minutes. Stir a few times during the simmering process.

Transfer to serving dish, gently stir in the ginger and cilantro, and keep hot.

Heat the oil in a small saucepan over high heat and cook the onion, stirring, until medium brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add cumin seeds, coriander and paprika, then add the tomato wedges, and cook until they become slightly soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Immediately pour over the hot dal and mix lightly with the back of a spoon.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve as a main dish with any vegetable side dish, yogurt raita, and rice or bread. (I served with my old roommate D's Indian potatoes -- also made in the new skillet!)

Potatoes with bacon and onions

Okay, so I made this to go with the steak. And mine didn't turn out nearly as pretty as the ones on the television, but they were really good so I didn't care.

Adapted from this recipe on Food Network.

3 pounds baby Yukon potatoes
2 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
3/4 pound bacon, diced
2 yellow onions, diced
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons Parmesan

In large stock pot add potatoes, cover with water and add salt. Set heat on high and boil until fork tender.
In a large saute pan over medium heat cook bacon and saute onions until caramelized. Remove bacon and onions from pan on to a paper towel to absorb grease, keep warm on platter, and leave remaining fat in pan.
When potatoes are fork tender, drain, and with a clean kitchen towel, palm smash the hot potatoes to approximately 1/3-inch thick.
Reheat fat in saute pan and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat to oil medium heat and place potatoes in oil. Season with salt and pepper and brown on both sides, then transfer to onion and bacon platter. Repeat until all potatoes are cooked crispy.
Top potatoes with Parmesan.

Peppered Steak with Cabernet Balsamic Sauce

I turned on the television the other day randomly and watched the chef on the screen make this steak. I usually could take steak or leave it, but this one looked good.
The steak is easy to put together, and so is the sauce. I didn't actually have any sauce, because it had a lot of garlic and I was afraid of exacerbating the ever-present heartburn. But Ernie said it was really good, so I trust him.

This recipe can be found on Food Network.

2 pounds flank steak or tri-tip, cut into 8-ounce pieces
4 tablespoons black peppercorns, lightly cracked
2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Cut flank steak into 8-ounce portions and lightly tenderize with mallet. Dust with crushed black pepper and kosher salt. Press salt and pepper into steak with the palm of hand. Transfer steaks to a baking dish and place in the refrigerator. Let marinate for 4 to 8 hours.
In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, add extra-virgin olive oil and onions and lightly saute until onions are caramelized. Add garlic and cook until garlic begins to turn brown. Deglaze with wine and balsamic vinegar. Add sugar and let simmer and reduce for 20 to 30 minutes until mixture reduces to 3/4 cup.
Place steaks over a hot grill. Move once on first side to mark the steaks, cook for 5 minutes and flip, again only moving once to mark steak, cook for 4 minutes. When desired doneness is achieved, remove steaks from grill and let rest for 3 to 4 minutes.
Strain wine mixture and return to heat to reduce for 5 more minutes or until thick syrup is created. Serve with the steaks.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Spaghetti and meatballs

After a brief hiatus of eating a lot of random stuff, I'm cooking again.
I've been craving spaghetti and meatballs since Wednesday, so I got off my rather large behind today and actually made it. This is bubbling away on the stove right now, and I've tasted both the sauce and the meatballs and they are GOOD. The recipe calls for beef and sausage...I think you could substitute turkey and it'd be just fine.

From the ever-wonderful Simply Recipes, which always has the recipe I need when I'm craving something.


2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves chopped garlic
½ chopped sweet yellow onion
1 cup very finely chopped carrots
1 cup chopped crimini brown mushrooms
2 28-oz cans Italian plum tomatoes (get San Marzano brand if possible)
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 Tbsp tomato paste concentrate in tube
¼ cup grated parmesan-romano cheese blend
Salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)
¼ cup red wine


1 lb ground beef (USDA prime is best)
½ lb fresh bulk Italian style pork sausage
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ cup finely chopped crimini brown mushrooms
2 eggs
¾ cup unseasoned bread crumbs
¼ cup grated parmesan-romano cheese blend
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
Red wine

Prepare the sauce. Heat olive oil in 4-5 quart pot on medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add carrots and mushrooms, blend together for 2 minutes. Add canned tomatoes, stir together. Add basil and parsley, stir tomatoes with a potato masher until sauce starts to thicken about 5 minutes over medium high heat. Add tomato paste concentrate, stir to blend. Reduce heat and simmer while preparing meat balls, stirring occasionally.
Prepare the meatballs. Mix by hand in a large bowl beef, Italian sausage, basil, parsley, mushrooms, eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, herbed salt, and pepper until well mixed. Use small melon baller, or teaspoons to form 1-inch round meat balls. Roll and compress into tight balls.
Heat frying pan on high heat. Add olive oil. Sear and brown meat balls on all sides. About 2-3 minutes. Depending on pan size you may need to brown two batches of the meatballs. Do not crowd the pan by stacking the meatballs. Cook in a single layer. Do not over-cook. As meatballs are finishing, add a little bit of red wine to de-glaze pan.
Add ¼ cup red wine to the sauce. Then stir in ¼ cup cheese. Add salt to taste. Add meatballs, gently stir. Simmer sauce and meatballs for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
While the sauce is cooking, bring to a boil a large pot with 4 quarts of water in it. Once the water is boiling, salt it with 1 Tbsp of salt. Once the water returns to a boil add the pasta to the pot. Leave uncovered, cook on high heat with a vigorous boil. Put the timer on for 8-10 minutes, or whatever your pasta package says is appropriate for al dente (cooked but still a little firm). Drain.
To serve, place thin layer of sauce on plate, add pasta, add sauce and meatballs, sprinkle with grated parmesan-romano cheese.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Spinach and Cheese Squares

I made this for a pot-luck dinner tonight. It was intended to be an appetizer, to be cut in squares. However, the dish I used was a tad bit smaller than the dish called for, so they ended up fairly thick. (I used an 8x8" instead of 9x9", which doesn't seem like much but does make a difference.) I ended up just serving the dish as a side, and people used a large spoon to scoop out portions. It went over well. I would recommend using a larger pan if you want to cut into clean squares for apps. Otherwise, I could also see making this again as a side dish, or even serving larger pieces as a main dish, with soup or a salad.

16 oz. cottage cheese
2 large eggs
4 egg whites
1/4 c. chopped green onion
2 oz shredded sharp cheddar
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
20 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 oz. fresh grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350.
In a large bowl, whisk together cottage cheese, eggs, egg whites and green onions until well combined. Mix in cheddar, butter, flour, salt, garlic, and peppers until thoroughly mixed. Fold in the spinach.
Scoop mixture into a 9" square baking dish coated with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle the top with parmesan. Bake until set and the top is golden, about 45-55 minutes. Remove and let cool to room temperature to cut clean squares.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Spinach & Blue Cheese Stuffed Portobellos

If I tell you where I got this recipe they might send their mafia after me b/c I changed some of the ingredients.

Serves 4

6 portobello mushrooms (4-5")
olive oil
1 pkg baby spinach (or thawed frozen chopped spinach)
3 T bread crumbs
1 T butter
1 medium onion (small dice)
2 medium garlic cloves (minced or pressed)
2 oz crumbled blue cheese (or goat cheese)
1/2 C toasted pine nuts (or walnuts)
cooking spray

Place rimmed baking sheet inside oven and preheat oven to 400. Prepare mushrooms by wiping caps clean and scraping gills out. Cut off stems and reserve. Turn 4 mushrooms cap side up and score cap in a crosshatch pattern 1/2" apart. Brush olive oil on both sides and sprinkle with salt. Place mushrooms gill side up on preheated baking sheet and roast in oven about 8-12 minutes. Turn caps over and roast an additional 8-12 minutes until caps are golden brown and liquid has evaporated. Once mushrooms are done, set aside and set oven to broil.

While mushrooms are in the oven, dice remaining 2 mushroom caps and reserved stems. Set aside. Place spinach and a splash of water in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave 3-4 minutes until spinach is wilted and decreased in volume by half. Strain spinach in a colander and press with the backside of a spoon to remove excess moisture. Once cool, roughly chop and set aside.

Heat 1 T oil and 1 T butter in a skillet and add mushrooms. After 2 minutes, add onions and stir occasionally until onions are lightly browned. Add spinach, cheese and pine nuts. Cook until cheese is melted and vegetables are well coated. Remove from heat and add S&P to taste.

Turn caps gill side up and distribute filling evenly. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and spritz with cooking spray (or use melted butter). Place mushrooms under broiler for 1-3 minutes until breadcrumbs are browned. Serve immediately.

*I'm not sure how well these would reheat so I only made enough for one meal.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Broiled Tomato and Blue Cheese Salad

Courtesy of Mark Bittman and Gwen who gave me one of his cookbook's for my birthday (additional thanks to Alissa who got me a subscription to Cook's Illus--yummy portobello recipe to come next week)

Okay, this is not so much a recipe as it is a way to use up some yummy late summer tomatoes from the farmer's market.

EVOO for brushing and spraying
6 plum tomatoes, cored and halved lengthwise (I used heirloom)
6 oz blue cheese of your choice
1 large head of Bibb or Boston lettuce, leaved pulled from core intact (I used mixed greens)
1/4 C vinaigrette (make your own or from a bottle - I used light bals. vin. by Newman's Own)
1/4 C chopped fresh chives or parsley for garnish (I didn't have any and it still tasted good)

Adjust oven rack so it is 4" from broiler. Turn oven on to broil. Brush/spray baking sheet with EVOO and put tomatoes cut side UP on sheet. Smoosh a little if they don't stay level. Sprinkle withh S&P and crumble blue cheese and flatten on top of the tomatoes. Broil for 2-3 minutes until cheese is golden brown and delicious. Remove from oven and allow to rest to set. Divide lettuce among plates and top with 3 tomatoe halves. Drizzle with dressing and serve. Yum!

Breakfast casserole

I found this recipe on Mandajuice, and adapted it slightly based on what we had in the house. I think it'd be good with turkey sausage, if that's what you wanted to use. And you could certainly add more veggies -- if I make this again, I'll add green peppers, and maybe even tomatoes.
This fed four of us for two days in a row, and there's still some in the fridge that will probably feed me for a few more days. So it makes a lot. But it was easy and then I didn't have to cook breakfast on Sunday when we had Richie and Sylvia here.

One 2-pound bag of thawed hash brown potatoes (the cubes, not the strips)
1 lb of breakfast sausage
1 onion
1 package mushrooms
2 cups of cheese
1 dozen eggs
1/2 a stick of butter

Combine chopped onions, mushrooms, potatoes and half a stick of butter in a large nonstick skillet and cook until brown, turning as infrequently as possible so as to avoid smushing the potatoes.
Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish and preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Brown one pound of breakfast sausage. Grate two cups of cheese. Beat one dozen eggs.
Layer your casserole as follows: vegetables, sausage, cheese then eggs.
Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until set.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Pumpkin cream cheese muffins

Yesterday I swung through Starbucks for some hot apple cider and a muffin on my way in to do some freelance copy editing. They had pumpkin cream cheese muffins, and I snagged one of those -- because it's fall and now I want to eat pumpkin all the time.
Or maybe I'm pregnant and that's why I want to eat pumpkin all the time. In any case, today I made these muffins. They're fantastic. The recipe makes a whole lot of muffins, but you won't mind.

from Annie's Eats

For the muffins:
3 cups flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tbsp. and 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
4 eggs
1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree

For the filling:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar

For the streusel topping:
½ cup sugar
¼ cup and 1 tsp. flour
4 tbsp. butter, cubed
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and whip until smooth. Form into a log on plastic wrap or foil, making sure that the diameter is small enough to fit into the well of a muffin pan. Wrap the log up tightly and freeze until slightly hardened, 1-2 hours.

To make the muffins, combine the flour, spices, salt and baking soda in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, sugar and pumpkin puree. Mix until well combined. Add in the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined.

To make the streusel topping, combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Mix together with a pastry blender or two forks until crumbly.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line two muffin pans with paper liners. To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well halfway with batter. Remove the cream cheese log from the freezer and slice into 24 equal slices. Place a slice in each muffin well. Divide the remaining muffin batter evenly among the muffin cups, on top of the cream cheese. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the top of the batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool completely before serving.

Sour cream coffee cake with chocolate and nuts

I needed a cake to take to a coffee I'm going to tomorrow (even though I'm not drinking coffee) and this one, which I stumbled upon a few days ago, fit the bill.
This cake is not quick, I have to say. It requires a lot of bowls, and has a lot of different steps. It's worth it, though.

Recipe from Bake or Break

Chocolate mixture
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 cup pecans
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Break chocolate into 1-inch pieces. Place in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until chocolate is finely chopped.
Add nuts, sugars, and cinnamon. Pulse until nuts are finely chopped.

Cake batter
1 & 1/4 cups sour cream
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 & 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 & 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, slightly firm
1 & 1/4 cups superfine sugar, divided into 1 cup and 1/4 cup
4 large eggs, separated
1 & 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a 10-inch Bundt pan and dust with flour, shaking out the excess.
Stir together sour cream and baking soda in a small bowl. Set aside.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.
Cut butter into 1-inch pieces. Mix on medium speed with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of sugar, 1-2 tablespoons at a time, taking 4-6 minutes. Add egg yolks, two at a time, and beat for 30 seconds after each addition. Mix in vanilla.
Stir the milk into the sour cream mixture. Reduce mixer speed to low. Alternate adding the flour mixture (in 3 parts) and the sour cream mixture (in 2 parts), mixing just until blended after each addition.
In another bowl, beat egg whites on medium speed until frothy. Increase mixer speed to medium-high, and whip until soft peaks form. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, a tablespoon at a time, taking about 15 seconds. Beat for another 15 seconds.
Fold one-third of the egg whites into the batter, taking about 20 turns. Then, fold in remaining whites, taking about 40 more turns.
Spoon about one-third of batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle about one-third of the chocolate mixture evenly over the batter. Cover with half of remaining batter, and smooth evenly without disturbing the chocolate layer. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate mixture. Cover with remaining batter. Marbleize batter using a table knife cutting almost to the bottom of the pan.
Bake for 50-60 minutes, until top is golden brown and springy to the touch. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Cover with a wire rack, invert the cake, and lift off the pan.
Store in an airtight container for 5 days. May be frozen.

Note: If you can't find superfine sugar, you can always just run your regular old granulated sugar through the food processor a few times. That's what I did.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


This isn't much of a recipe, but I've finally figured out a good combination of flavors, so I thought I'd share.

I've been making smoothies with my immersion blender, trying different combinations of ingredients. I make them right in the container that came with my immersion blender.

Start with vanilla soy milk (about a cup or so, depending on how much smoothie you want)
Add a few chunks of frozen banana.
Add a few chunks of frozen mango (Trader Joe's has bags of frozen mango chunks year-round)
Add a few spoonfuls of vanilla yogurt.

Blend. Add more soy milk if it's too thick.

I like the vanilla soy milk for the smooth texture and the sweetness of the vanilla. I don't drink soy milk, but I like it for smoothies. I also found the the yogurt makes a big difference. The smoothies taste a little bland without it - it adds a nice tangy-ness.

I've also tried frozen raspberries, blueberries, pineapple, etc, but the mango and banana is my favorite combination.

that's it. :)