Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Carrot (or Broccoli) and Raisin Salad

From: Serious Eats

This is an old-fashioned kind of veggie side dish, but healthy and delicious. As much as I love carrots (yum!), I had a bag of TJ's organic broccoli slaw that I wanted to use up, so I just used that instead. I also used some frozen TJ's pineapple tidbits, which I thawed before adding. It created enough pineapple juice during thawing to add to the sauce.

4 cups shredded carrot
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple in juice, drained and liquid reserved
1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted and cooled completely
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of salt

1 In a medium bowl, combine shredded carrot, pineapple solids, pecans, and raisins.

2 In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons reserved pineapple juice with all the yogurt, sugar, and salt. Stir until no lumps are left.

3 Add yogurt mixture into carrot mixture. Stir thoroughly to combine. Let sit a few hours in refrigerator so flavors can meld, though you can serve immediately if desired. Serve.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Super Crunchy Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Adapted from Piece of Cake.

Makes about 2 lbs of candy and is rather addictive. Chocolate-y and peppermint-y deliciousness!

 24 oz dark chocolate, either good quality chips (Ghiradelli 60%) or bar (I used TJ's Belgian dark chocolate), chopped
15 Peppermint Jo-Jo's from TJs or Oreos, crushed
3 oz. white chocolate
3/4 C crushed candy canes or Starlight mints (use 1 C if using plain oreos)

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and set aside. In a large glass bowl, place chopped dark chocolate and microwave at 30 second intervals until chocolate is melted and smooth. Stir in cookie crumbs and pour onto baking sheet. Use an off-set spatula to spread chocolate mixture into an even layer. Sprinkle crushed candy cane bits all over chocolate in an even layer. In a small bowl, melt white chocolate in microwave in the same manner as dark chocolate. When melted, drizzle over chocolate and candy. Place baking sheet in fridge to firm up for at least 30 minutes. When firm, break into pieces and serve. Makes a lot which is good because people will think you're a genius when they've tasted it and keep coming back for more.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Party Menu

We had our annual Christmas party this past weekend. I had lots of help in the kitchen this year (special thank-you shout-out to Kelly and Grg!) and we churned out some tasty treats! I had lots of people asking for recipes, and I directed them here, so I wanted to include a list of all the recipes they may be looking for.

Here is what we served:

Savory:
Bacon-wrapped water chestnuts
Pizza Bites
Caramelized Onion and Apple Tarts
Onion Dip from Scratch w/ crudites and honey-wheat pretzels
Skinny Artichoke Dip with bruschetta pita chips
Spanish Fig and Almond Balls, served with cheese board
Cheese: brie, sharp cheddar, manchego, toscano, stilton w/cranberries
variety of crackers, grapes, fig-orange marmalade, honey

Sweet:
Kahlua-Spiked Pecans
Chocolate-covered Matzah
Soft Molasses Cookies
Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Apple pie (not homemade, ahem, sorry)
Peppermint Crunch Bark

Soft Molasses Cookies

Adapted from: King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

I LOVE molasses cookies. I had them at my wedding. The recipe we used at my wedding is already posted here on the food blog as Karen's Molasses Cookies. That recipe is almost identical to this one, except that this one calls for less sugar and Kelly added more ginger and freshly-ground black pepper when she made this for our party. The end result was basically the same.

8 Tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsulfured molasses
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 tsp ground ginger (Kelly said she used a little more)
1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
freshly-ground black pepper, optional (a few twists of the grinder?)
granulated sugar to coat cookies

In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, shortening, and sugar. Beat in the molasses and eggs.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda and spices. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and blend until smooth. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until the dough has stiffened sufficiently to handle easily.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll the dough into balls about the size of a golf ball - about 2 Tbsp of dough. Roll each ball in a sugar-filled shallow bowl to coat it. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on lightly greased or parchment-lined cookie sheets.

Bake for 13 min. They will have flattened but won't have browned sufficiently. If you let them get brown around the edges, they'll be less chewy and moist. When you take them out of the oven they should still feel soft on top and be just barely colored.

Cool the cookies completely on a wire rack and store them in a plastic bag with a slice of apple to keep them soft.

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Adapted From: King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion

Kelly used spiced rum-soaked raisins in this recipe - just pour some spiced rum over the raisins and heat briefly in the microwave so the raisins soak up the rum. Drain any excess liquid before you throw the raisins into the dough. You can skip that step - it wasn't part of the original recipe, but we thought it would be good.

2 1/4 cups (9 1/2 oz) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
4 tbsp butter
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup yogurt, plain or vanilla, reg, low-fat or nonfat
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups rolld oats
1 1/2 cups raisins
spiced rum, optional, for plumping the raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

If you want to plump the raisins, put them in a large mug and cover with hot water, or pour a bit of spiced rum over the raisins and microwave briefly (maybe 30 seconds?) Let sit for a few minutes to plump. Drain excess liquid from the raisins before you add them to the dough.

In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, butter, oil and brown sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the yogurt and vanilla.

Stir in the oats and raisins, then add the flour mixture, in three additions, beating well after each addition.

Drop the batter from a tablespoon-sized cookie scoop (or from a tablespoon) onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake the cookies for 14 min. They'll still be light tan; don't let them brown or they'll end up crisp instead of chewy. Let them cool on the parchment until lukewarm, then carefully transfer them to a wire rack; they'll be delicate when warm, then chewy as they cool. Store cookies in a tightly closed container or plastic bag.

Caramelized Onion and Apple Tarts

From: LOL Foodie

1 sheet of frozen puff pastry dough, thawed
2 tbs butter
half of a large onion
2 apples (Granny Smith or another tart variety)
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/3c fontina cheese, shredded
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt

Instructions

Begin with prep work. Slice/chop the onion very thinly. Peel and core the apple, and chop it into pieces approximately the same size as the onion.
Heat the butter in a saute pan over medium. Once it’s melted, add the onions and 1/4 tsp of salt. Saute onions until soft, about 5 minutes.
Add the apples, and reduce the heat to low. Cook over low for about 30 minutes. The onions should be nice and caramelized, and lightly browned. Stir in the pepper and remaining salt. Remove from heat and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Unwrap and unfold the puff pastry dough. Slice along the folds already present in the dough, creating 3 even “strips” of dough. Cut each strip into 3 squares, then slice diagonally through each square to create 2 triangles. This should result in 18 triangles from the entire sheet of dough.
Place each dough triangle on your prepared baking sheet, without touching.
Spoon about 2 teaspoons of the onion-apple mixture onto each dough triangle. Sprinkle some of the grated fontina cheese on top. Sprinkle thyme on top of the cheese.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, and serve warm!

Make-ahead note: You can caramelize the onions-apple mixture and store it in the fridge up to two days beforehand. You can assemble the tarts one day before you serve them, and just store in the fridge, wrapped in cling wrap or foil on a baking sheet. Just pop them into the oven when you are ready!

Spanish Fig and Almond Balls

From: BBC Good Food

I really liked this. Makes a delicious addition to your usual cheese board. I think many of our guests didn't know what to do with it (despite my helpful signage suggesting people try it with cheese and honey). My suggestion is to start with a cracker, top with a slice of cheese (manchego, perhaps), a slice of the fig cake, and then a drizzle of honey. Yum! These also make a nice gift - just tie up a couple in a cellophane bag. Please note that you need to make these in advance because you have to let them dry for about a week before you serve - otherwise they will be a sticky mess.


Ingredients

100g whole almonds , toasted
500g pack dried whole figs , hard stalk and centre of base removed
85g dried apricots , chopped into small pieces
50g dried cranberries
1 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp clear honey
1 tsp ground cloves
100g sesame seeds , toasted

Directions:
Whizz the almonds in a food processor until most are finely chopped, then tip into a large bowl. Roughly chop the figs, then whizz to a smooth sticky paste. Scrape onto the almonds then, using your hands, mix together well with the dried fruit, brandy, honey and cloves.
Divide the mixture into 6 and roll into balls (I made about 15 golf ball-sized balls). Tip the sesame seeds onto a tray, then roll the balls in them until covered. Cover the tray loosely with a clean tea towel, then leave the fig balls to dry for a week before packaging. Will keep in a cool place for 2 months.

Onion Dip from Scratch

From: Alton Brown

Definitely make this one the night before you plan to serve it. It needs time for the flavors to meld. The onion flavor intensifies overnight, too.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onions
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

In a saute pan over medium heat add oil, heat and add onions and salt. Cook the onions until they are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Mix the rest of the ingredients, and then add the cooled onions. Refrigerate and stir again before serving.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pizza Bites

From: Annie's Eats

These were good, and could be adapted to a variety of fillings. I used pre-sliced pepperoni, which I halved. When I filled them, I put in 2 pepperoni halves, then a bit of mozzarella, and then 2 more pepperoni halves. These would also be good with pre-cooked, crumbled sausage, veggies, etc. Serve with a pizza sauce for dipping. I used on batch of pre-made pizza dough from Trader Joe's.

pizza dough (enough for one pizza)
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, cubed (about 20-24 pieces)
Sliced pepperoni

For topping:
Olive oil
Italian seasoning
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 400˚ F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie plate or cake pan. Divide the pizza dough into 20-24 roughly equal sized pieces. Take one of the dough pieces, top with a cube of cheese and a slice or two of pepperoni. Pull the edges of the dough around the fillings and pinch closed. Place seam-side down in the baking dish. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.

Lightly brush the tops of the dough balls with olive oil. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and grated Parmesan cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Serve warm, with dipping sauce as desired.

Skinny Artichoke Dip

From: Gina's Skinny Recipes

You can make this in advance and just throw in the oven when your guests are about to arrive. I doubled it and it made a ton, which was unnecessary. I also forgot to put the bread crumbs on top, which I think would have been good. I served this with bruscetta-flavored pita chips and a variety of veggies.

13.75 oz artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
2 tbsp chopped shallots
1/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt
1/4 cup light mayonnaise
1/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 cup (2 oz) shredded part skim mozzarella cheese
salt and fresh pepper to taste
2 tbsp whole wheat bread crumbs
olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 400°.

In a small food processor, coarsely chop the artichoke hearts with the shallots.

Combine artichokes, yogurt, mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, mozzarella, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Place in an oven-proof dish and top with breadcrumbs. Lightly spray the crumbs with olive oil then bake at 400° for 20-25 minutes, until hot and cheese is melted. Serve right away.

Can be made one day in advance without the breadcrumbs and stored in the refrigerator before baking. Add breadcrumbs before baking. Makes about 2 1/2 cups.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

instant chocolate cake in a mug

I hate to play into stereotypes, but there are some times in a woman's month -- er, life -- when she just needs chocolate cake. This isn't the finest gourmet cake you'll ever eat, but it exactly does the trick.

From the Food Network, with a few modifications...

Whisk 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder, 1 egg, 4 tablespoons milk, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and a dash of vanilla extract and salt in a large mug until smooth. Throw in a handful of chocolate chips and mix again. Microwave until puffed and the top is done, about 4 minutes.