Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Fettuccini with braised Kale

Can you believe that the end of 2010 is almost here?! I'm soaking up the last bits and pieces of 2010 while enjoying two weeks off from work (and really, I ask myself once again, why would anyone choose a job that doesn't give you two weeks off at Christmas?)
Like many of you, I'm spending the next couple of days baking yummy treats and enjoying the Christmas season. Which means I'll have a few recipes to post in the next couple of days (ok, and I'm trying to make up for the complete lack of posts in November- yikes!) The recipe for today doesn't fall in the "yummy treat" category, but it did make a yummy dinner, (I'm officially banning myself from using the word yummy any more in this post!) and I'm particularly fond of the Christmas lights in the pictures!

Fettuccine with Braised Kale

1 pound of Kale
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
8 cloves of garlic, sliced or pressed in garlic press
1/2 pound of fettuccine or spaghetti
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
grated Parmesan cheese

1. Remove the stem and center rib from the kale. Chop cross-wise into 1/2 inch pieces. Rinse Kale and place in bowl, allowing any water to remain on leaves.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onions and cook until soft, stirring occasionally. Add pressed or sliced garlic and sprinkle with salt. Continue cooking until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally.

3. Add the Kale and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Toss for about 3 minutes, or until Kale is wilted. Cover and reduce heat to medium low. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes or until Kale is very tender. Stir occasionally and add a teaspoonful of water every so often if dray.

4. While Kale is cooking, cook fettuccine or spaghetti in a medium pot of water. Drain pasta and reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking water.
5. Add Kale cooked pasta to Kale mixture. Add Lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of cooking water. Toss to combine. Add more liquid if dry. Top with grated Parmesan Cheese.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Late night Snack

So the other night Josh got home from music practice and all I could think was that I wanted (no, needed) a sweet treat. Now, normally in such instances we are prone to slum it, and a Wendy's frosty or some soft serve ice cream is the perfect fix. Not this night though. I was comfy and cozy in my sweats and had no desire to leave home. Not to mention I'd been eying the bowl of pears on my counter all evening and wondering how a pear crisp would taste. Enter Pear Crisp with Vanilla Brown Butter . The results just may have put an end to any future late night food slumming. oh, and it's not to bad heated up for breakfast the next morning either!

I made a few changes to the original recipe as found on Smitten Kitchen. The original requires you to refrigerate the topping for an hour and then allow to come back to room temperature before baking. I also replaced whole vanilla bean (which I did not have on hand) with vanilla extract. Mine still came out delicious (remember the drooling?), but I'm sure the extra steps will have equally, if not better results!


1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup almonds with skin
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1. Combine flour, almonds, brown sugar, and salt together in a food processor or blender until almonds are finely chopped. Add butter and mix until just blended; crumble and spread on the bottom of a 8x8 baking pan and place in freezer.

1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1 pound (about 6) pears, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons brandy

2. melt 1/2 stick butter and 1 teaspoon vanilla together over medium-low heat. Allow butter to brown and become fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.

3. combine flour and sugar with a pinch of salt. Add pears and brandy and mix.

4. Toss browned butter with pear mixture. Spoon filling into 8x8 baking dish then top with crumbled topping. Bake at 425 for 30 minutes until filling is bubbling and topping is golden brown. Cool until warm and top with vanilla ice cream.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Savory Pumpkin Scones

I've never been someone who loved the color orange. In fact as I kid I distinctly remember thinking that kids who said their favorite color was orange were weird (boy, I must have been a snobby little kid!). I guess the tables have turned because orange has grown to become one of my favorite colors- especially this time of year. From the bright orange of pumpkins to the deep orange of changing leaves, or the reddish orange color of my mums (which, by the way it has taken four years, but I finally have kept my mums alive!) I just love the harvest look of the color orange. I guess I'm the weird kid now.
Along with decking my house out in all the orange I can find, I've been scouring recipe books and magazines for new fall recipes. Last month Better Homes and Gardens did a feature article with Nigella Lawson which included a recipe for pumpkin scones. However, don't be deceived into thinking of a sweet breakfast treat. These scones are savory (and in my opinion more like a biscuit) and the perfect accompaniment to a good soup!
oh, and by the way, they come out a beautiful shade of orange!

Pumpkin Scones

3/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 2/3 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 cup teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl mix the pumpkin, Parmesan, melted butter, egg, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Mix well.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Fold dry ingredients into pumpkin mixture, stirring until just combined into a dough.
3. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat down until dough is 1 inch thick. Using a biscuit cutter or a turned over drinking glass, cut out biscuits and place on a an ungreased baking sheet. Reform dough and repeat until all the dough is used.
4. Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the biscuits with milk to glaze. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
5. Cool slightly and eat with butter.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Favorite Cook-books and Pepper Crusted Steak

When Josh and I got married, one of my great-aunts (collectively we refer to my great-aunts as "The Aunts") gave us two cook books from the Best Recipe Classic collection, which are published by America's Test Kitchen. They are, hands down, my favorite cook books. What I love about America's Test Kitchen is that not only do they give you the best way to cook practically everything, but they also tell you why it is the best way. Maybe I was one of those kids who always wanted to know why, but I'll admit I really like knowing that it's better to boil your potatoes with the skin on when your making mashed potatoes (they retain more flavor), and seemingly insignificant things like that. I also like knowing these things without being the one trying 50 different ways to make mashed potatoes (although Josh would appreciate eating them).
All that to say, this recipe is from America's Test Kitchen, and is probably my most successful attempt at steak to date. My only caution is that once in the oven, the steak cooks up fast, so keep an eye on it to avoid over cooking!

pepper crusted steak

5 tablespoons black peppercorns, cracked
5 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 -4 steaks (the original recipe is for filet mignon) 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick, dried with paper towels

1. Heat the peppercorns and 5 tablespoons of oil in a small sauce pan over low heat until bubbles begin to appear. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally for about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

2. When the pepper mixture is at room temperature, stir in salt. Rub the steaks with this mixture, coating all sides of the steak with the peppercorns. Cover with plastic wrap and press the peppercorns into the steak. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
3. Heat a rimmed baking sheet in the center of the oven at 450 degrees.
4. After the steaks have sat for an hour, heat the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet until it begins to smoke. Place the steaks in the oil and allow a dark crust to form by not moving the steak for 3-4 minutes. Turn the steaks over and repeat on the other side.

5. Transfer the steaks to the hot baking sheet and roast in the oven until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 125 degrees (medium rare) or 130 degrees (medium). This will take approximately 5 to 9 minutes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Surprise Produce and Plum Sauce

A few nights ago I picked up my camera to take some pictures while I was making dinner and realized I couldn't even remember the last time that I had photographed while I was cooking. (Although the bamboo spatula I set on fire a few months ago while photographing a saucy tomato experiment might think this is a good thing. . .). Needless to say the past month has been busy, but really who couldn't use that excuse?

A few things have changed in our kitchen since my last post, the biggest being the way we buy our produce. We recently joined a local organic produce food co-op called Abundant Harvest Organics. Each Saturday we pick up our box of produce for the week. Obviously this changes the way that I grocery shop- instead of shopping around the menu I've planned for the week, I now plan my menu around what's in the box. I'm enjoying the challenge!

Now, I know what some of you are thinking..."oh, their those kind of people (meanwhile picturing your classic Birkenstock wearing, Tom's of Maine toothpaste using, "earthy" person)." Now, I may or may not have used Tom's of Maine in my dental hygiene, and I may or may not have owned Birkenstocks...I make no promises. However, it's not just the fact that the food is organic that drew us in. We love knowing where our food came from and I just have to say that it has been the best produce we've ever had. All that and I really like the excitement of seeing what's in each box!

So whether or not you get excited about organic produce or not... I think you'll like this Plum Sauce recipe made from the plums in our box this week. And now that I have my camera back in hand (to the peril of all my cooking utensils), more recipes to come this week!

Plum Sauce (Great on Vanilla Ice Cream)

So when I saw the plums in this weeks box I had this hankering for ice cream with some sort of plum sauce. This is what I came up with and just typing it up makes me want to go make some more!

5 Tablespoons of water
3 Tablespoons of sugar
2 plums pitted and sliced

1. heat water to a boil and dissolve sugar in water.
2. Add plums and simmer until the plums soften and thick sauce begins to form.

3. Remove from heat and serve over ice cream. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

birthday pie

Ever copy down a recipe and then when you go back to make it find that you've left something important out in the process of copying? Well, making Josh's birthday pie was one of those times. Chocolate Silk Pie has been a Thanksgiving tradition in our house ever since we got married. So when Josh asked for it for his birthday I was a little surprised (he doesn't categorize his foods by holidays and seasons like I do). I found the recipe in a holiday magazine several year ago, but decided last thanksgiving to copy it out onto a recipe card to make it easier to find. However, when I got to the end of the recipe and realized I had only used half of the heavy cream I was a little worried. I quickly assessed that it must be for making whipped cream, but I was a little worried up until that first bite was taken. In the end though it turned out just right!

Chocolate Silk Pie

** For the crust I used the super-flaky crust recipe. Line pie crust with foil and weight with pie weights or dried beans. Bake at 450 for 8 minutes then, remove foil and bake for 5-6 minutes more until crust is a flaky, golden brown. Allow to cool.

2 pints heavy cream -only one of which will go in the pie :)
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate roughly chopped
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
6 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1. In a small bowl combine 1 pint of the cream, chocolate and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Cook this in a sauce pan over medium-low heat, whisking frequently until chocolate melts.

2. In a bowl combine corn starch and remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar. Add egg yolks and whisk. Add 2 tablespoons of warm chocolate mixture to egg mixture.

3. Whisking constantly, slowly add egg mixture to pan. Cook still whisking until thickened (about 2 minutes).

4. Remove from heat; add vanilla and butter. Whisk until butter melts

5. Pour filling into crust. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Dust the top with cocoa powder before serving.

6. The remainder of the whipping cream can be used to make whipped cream. Combine with 2 tablespoons of sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla. Using an electric mixer, beat on high until soft peaks form.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sisters and Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Living in Southern California, the only way to tell that fall is here is if Starbucks is selling pumpkin spice latte's, and today I had my first one of the season. I will confess that it was a contraband pumpkin spice latte though. While other friends apparently had no problem getting their pumpkin spice today, our Starbucks informed me that I couldn't order one until next weekend. I was so disappointed...until the barrista handed me my drink and whispered that he had made it a pumpkin spice for me. I'm definitely leaving bigger tips from now on!

Despite my urge to pull out my fall decorations and start adding pumpkin to everything I bake, I am forcing myself to not really consider it fall until after labor day. (Hopefully by then I won't have to buy my pumpkin spice latte's under cover). And since it's still summer I have a few more summer recipes to post this week!

This recipe for Haddock with Zucchini Salsa Verde is one that I made a few weeks ago in New Hampshire when I got to cook with my sisters. Just writing about it makes me miss them (and makes me want to make this again!).

Haddock with Zucchini Salsa Verde (revised from Epicurious)

2 medium sized zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 cup chopped white onion
5 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped and seeded chiles
1 14 teaspoons finely grated lime peel
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
6, 6- ounce haddock fillets (original recipe called for Halibut but we decided to go with a more New Englandy fish!)

1. Combine zucchini, cilantro, onion, lime juice, chiles, and lime peel in a blender or food processor. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons coarse salt. Puree until salsa is smooth. Cover and chill.

2. Preheat broiler and arrange fish on a foil-lined pan. Season with lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Cook in broiler for 3 to 4 minutes per side or until fish is flaky.

3. Transfer fish to plates and top with salsa.


Friday, July 30, 2010

The most disgusting thing. . .

I really don't like touching raw meat (not that anyone does). The first time I cooked a turkey and realized I had to reach into the turkey and pull out the innards, I was ready to throw in the towel right then and there. Fortunately for my husband (who happens to like turkey on Thanksgiving), amidst my cries of disgust I managed to get all of the innards out and move on with the day.

At the beginning of the summer I decided I wanted to grill a whole chicken. I can now say that although the process (and I'm sorry, but the pictures too) was a little gross (and by that I mean much more disgusting than having to pull the innards out of that first turkey), in the end it was all worth it. The chicken came out tender and juicy with lots of flavor. It was worth every disgusting step!

Grilled Whole Chicken

Although you can grill a whole chicken without doing any butchering, by butterflying the chicken it cooks faster while still staying nice and juicy and getting the crispy skin on the outside.

1. While grill is heating, clean out the inside of the chicken, remove the gizzard, rinse, and pat dry with paper towels.
2. In order to butterfly the chicken use kitchen shears to cut about 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart on each side of the back bone. Cut all the way down the backbone and then pull out the back bone (if you hadn't guessed this is the gross part!)

3. After removing the backbone, open the two sides of the chicken and break the breast bone by firmly applying pressure and pressing down. Tuck wing tips under the upper wings.
4. Brush both sides of the chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

5. Place on grill skin side down over indirect heat (flame should not be directly under the meat, but to one side). Grill for 25 minutes. Turn chicken over and and brush skin with BBQ sauce. Grill for 25 to 30 more minutes or until juices run clear and thermometer in thigh reads 180 degrees.

By this time the meat should just pull right off the bone and the skin should be nice and crispy- perfect and ready to eat!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Back into the kitchen

So cooking in our house was put on hold last week while my kitchen was overrun with tools and sawdust. The happy results of all this mess and lack of cooking? A new kitchen floor! Good-bye yucky linoleum, hello beautiful laminate floor!

That said, I do feel the need to makeup for my lack of new recipes, so I have a few in the works for this week. Today's recipe is what I would call a "refined" take on traditional pizza taken from Food & Wine magazine. It included a few ingredients not included in my usual cooking repertoire, but I was very pleased with the results.

White Bean and Pancetta Pizza

4 ounces pancetta (Italian style bacon), cut into 1 by 1/4 inch strips (Trader Joe's sells diced pancetta that also works well!)
extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon chopped Rosemary
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 can cannellini beans or white kidney beans
4 pocketless pitas, flatbread, or naan
6 ounces thinly sliced Fontina cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450
2. heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and cook pancetta until crisp, then transfer to a plate. Add the garlic, rosemary, and crushed pepper to the skillet and cook for 20 seconds.
3. Mash beans into the mixture in the skillet, stir in the pancetta and season with salt.
4. Brush flat bread with olive oil and then spread with bean mixture. Top with slices of fontina cheese.
5. Bake flat bread pizzas about 7 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

I love the flavors of the cheese and rosemary in this super simple, summer meal. And if you don't feel like heating the oven on a hot summer day, simply cook pizzas on the grill!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Nothing Says Happy Fourth of July like a Pie

Happy 4th of July! Our otherwise quiet neighborhood comes alive on the 4th of July; music from the park drifts (okay, occasionally blares) in, everyone is outside talking and laughing, and the streets are lined with lawn chairs as everyone jockeys to reserve the best spot for watching the fireworks. In many ways it seems to signal the start of summer.

Once again I am realizing that, at least in my mind, holidays revolve very much around the food we eat. For me July 4th means lots of bbq, rocket pops (remember those red, white and blue popsicles?), and of course pie. This year's pie was an experiment, but one my husband, after much reflection and only a little prodding, called "the best fruit pie" he's ever had. Now lets just hope I'm able to recreate this success again!

My original idea was to make a classic apple pie, but alas- not enough apples! In an attempt to use what I already had on hand I combined a few different recipes to concoct my very own Apple-Peach & Apricot Pie. In addition I tried out a new pie-crust recipe, which came out with such flaky, buttery goodness that even Martha Stewart might cry (those would be tears of joy of course).

The crust recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen's Pie Crust 102 tutorial with a few additions from America's Test Kitchen's Apple pie crust recipe. The two keys to getting this crust super flaky are not breaking down the butter too much, and keeping it cold, cold, cold! Here goes:

Super Flaky, Buttery Crust

Makes one double crust pie or two single crust pies

2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup or 16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, very cold!

1. Measure out 1 cup of cold water and add a few ice cubes; set aside.
2. In a large bowl mix together flour, sugar and salt. Dice cold butter into 1/2 inch pieces and add to dry mixture.
3. Using pastry blender, cut in the butter and work into flour mixture until butter is the size of tiny peas and no smaller!
4. drizzle about 1/2 cup of the ice water (but not the ice!) over the flour & butter mixture. Blend and gather dough together using a rubber spatula. Add additional water as needed 1 tablespoon at a time (you will probably need about 1/4 cup more all together). Once you have large clumps of dough, use your hands to gather it all together and gently knead into a ball. Divide the dough in half and shape each clump into a disk, then wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour, but preferably two. (Dough will last for about a week in the fridge, or longer if you freeze it).

5. After dough has chilled, prepare your pie filling and proceed as follows.

6. Liberally sprinkle work surface with flour (you can always wipe off excess flour so use enough to really be sure your dough won't stick). Take first mound of dough out of the fridge and place on top of floured surface, sprinkle top with more flour and roll out dough from the center. Continue rolling dough until you have enough rolled out to cut into a 12 inch circle. Trim dough using knife. Move to pie plate by folding dough loosely into quarters and then unfolding in pie plate.

7. During this process keep dough COLD! You should always be able to see the pieces of butter throughout the dough- this will help create that flaky crust you want. If needed you can place dough back in the fridge throughout the rolling process.

8. Repeat steps 6 & 7 with the other half of the dough. Fill crust with pie filling of your choice and then top with crust- you can create a lattice top for the pie, or simply cover with the rolled dough and slit the top to vent.

9. Another key to a FLAKY CRUST: before baking place pie in the freezer for 10 minutes. During this time place a baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 500 F. After chilling the pie reduce heat to 475 and place pie on baking sheet in the oven. Bake for about 25 minutes or until top is golden. Reduce heat to 375 and rotate pie; bake for another 30 to 35 minutes and filling is bubbly and top is a nice golden brown.

Filling for Apple Peach & Apricot Pie

6 cups of peeled and sliced fruit including apples, peaches, and apricots
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice

1. You want enough peeled and sliced fruit to equal about 6 cups. I used 4 cups of apple (about 5 medium apples) 1 1/2 cups peaches (3 medium white peaches) and 1/2 apricot (4 small apricots).
2. In a medium bowl mix together sugar, flour, salt and spices. Add fruit to the flour mixture and toss to fully coat the fruit. This mixture will become very juicy. Fill pie crust shell with filling and bake as directed above.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Time and the Living is Easy. . .

In the words of Sam Cooke, "Summer Tiiiime, and the living is easyyyy. . ." It took about two days for me to de-program my brain from teacher mode (I kept feeling like there was something I was supposed to be grading!), but summer time has finally set in.

One of the things I have been looking forward to this summer is more time to cook. So what's on my "to cook" list this summer? Well, to name a few things I want to BBQ a whole chiken (please don't ask me why, I'm not really sure), I'd like to make homemade tiramisu (my favorite dessert), and maybe experiment with some seafood like Lobster or Mussels (but that might have to wait until our trip to NH- I don't trust California sea creatures).

So my first dish of the summer is a super simple pasta dish with shrimp.
I kind of just created as I went, but I was very happy with how it came out. Paired with a salad this made a light and tasty summer meal.

1 package whole wheat linguine
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 small to medium white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
4 tomatoes chopped into small pieces
1 Tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 pound shrimp

1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
2. In a large skillet heat olive oil and add onion and garlic until they begin to soften.
3. Chop tomatoes- I like fairly large chunks of tomato on my pasta, but feel free to chop to any size you like. Add to onion and garlic along with any juice from the tomatoes. Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes, adding basil, salt and pepper. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp is nice and pink.
4. Serve over pasta and enjoy!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Cake Boss

My life for the next 8 weeks consists of a slew of bridal showers and weddings- it's going to be a busy summer! This week was a bridal shower for a new, but very dear friend. It was such a joy to celebrate her upcoming marriage with her, and of course I enjoyed the opportunity to try a new recipe.
First, I have to admit that when I saw these amazing root beer float cupcakes I almost couldn't help myself. . . Can anyone say 4th of July though??
After talking some sense into myself about the root beer float cupcakes, I finally decided on something a little more elegant- Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake. Strawberry season is here (is it ever not when you live in Southern California?) and I love the simple elegance of strawberry desserts for events such as bridal showers.

This particular recipe is from Joy of Cooking via none other than Smitten Kitchen. Like any new recipe I try (and yes, sometimes the old ones) it wasn't without a few minor catastrophes, but in the end it turned out pretty well I think.

Catastrophes? Well, en route to the bridal shower, the middle layer slid out and landed in my hand/ on the side of the cake plate (I wasn't driving). At that point I wasn't sure whether to cry or throw the cake out the window. Fortunately, my husband quickly - ok not too quickly because, face it I was holding a cake and a handful of strawberries- brought us home and we repaired the damage. While I was still slightly panicked, my husband turned to me and said, "I've seen Cake Boss" and calmly reconstructed and cleaned up the cake! So I guess watching all those food shows paid off!

Strawberry Chiffon Short Cake

I created my cake in 3 layers because I ran out of whipped cream and time, but the recipe makes 4 layers which makes for a good sized slab of cake.

Cake Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups of sifted cake flour
1 1/2 cups super fine or regular sugar, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
3/4 of a cup cold water
1/2 vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large egg yolks at room temperature
8 large egg whites at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tarter

2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 quarts strawberries, bulled and sliced

1. Take eggs of refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature. Prepare two 9 inch round baking pans by lining with parchment paper and lightly spraying with cooking spray. While you can do this without the parchment paper (I did), the edges of your cake will come out much prettier and smoother if you use the parchment. Preheat over to 325 F.

2. Sift the flour and then measure out 2 1/4 cups. I'll admit it was early and I didn't have time to go get cake flour, so I used regular, but the cake flour would have made for a less dense cake, so I recommend it.
Sift the flour, 1 1/4 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt together- do this twice.

3. In a separate bowl beat the egg yolks, water, oil, lemon zest and vanilla on high speed until the mixture is smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir until smooth.

4. In another bowl combine the egg whites and cream of tarter. Beat until soft peaks form and then add the other 1/4 cup of sugar and beat until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Using a rubber spatula add 1/4 of the egg whites to batter and gently fold in. Add the rest of the egg whites and continue to gently fold them with the spatula until egg whites are no longer visible, but being careful not to deflate the batter. Scrape into the two pans and spread evenly. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the top springs back at your touch and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool on racks for at least an hour.

5. Make the whipped cream by beating together the heavy cream, confectioner's sugar, and vanilla until it makes stiff peaks.

6. Once cakes are cool, run knife around the edge and flip onto a plate. Create the layers by cutting each cake layer in half using a bread knife. Begin with a cake layer and then top with whipped cream and a layer (or two) of strawberries, followed by the next cake layer. I only did 3 layers and then froze the extra layer for later use . . . or you could always eat it then and there. . . I won't tell!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

chicken or meat?

I am fairly adventurous when it comes to cooking with new ingredients and trying new foods, though I am by no means a connoisseur of fine foods (yet). However, previous to trying out this recipe, my only experience with goat products is a vague memory of my mom buying goats milk at a farm back in New Hampshire (I'm assuming this means I drank it at some point?) and eating goat meat during a six week trip to Uganda. Most of that trip I tried to opt for chicken as the question, "Would you like chicken or meat?" always left me with doubts as to the ambiguous origins of the "meat."

That said, I opted to try something new when I was planning my weekly menu and found this recipe at Smitten Kitchen, which also gave me the chance to use the beautiful asparagus I bought at the farmer's market on Friday!

I do have to confess that I'm still not sure how I feel about this recipe. I love the combination of the lemon juice and basil, and the creamy taste without the richness of an Alfredo sauce. Somehow, I just keep picturing those goats. . .

Goat Cheese Pasta with Asparagus and lemon

1 lb. spiral pasta
1 lb. asparagus cut into 1-1 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp. fresh chopped basil (the original recipe calls for tarragon, which I did not have on hand)
5- 5 1/2 ounce log fresh, soft goat cheese (not the pre-crumbled variety, which I'm told will not melt as easily)
1 Tblsp. finely grated lemon peel
fresh lemon juice to taste

Begin by cooking your pasta in a large pot of water. When Pasta is roughly 3 minutes from being done, add the asparagus and allow to cook for 3 minutes. Asparagus should still be firm. Drain pasta and asparagus together, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water.

While the pasta is cooking, mix together the olive oil, basil (or tarragon), and goat cheese, and lemon peel. After you have drained the pasta and asparagus, add to the other ingredients. Mix together, adding reserved water as needed, until the cheese is completely melted and coats the pasta. Season with salt and pepper as well as lemon juice to taste.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Garlic Lime Chicken

My mom made this recipe for us when she was visiting back in February and it's one of our new favorites. The chicken comes out flavorful and tender. My mom left a supply of the spice mixture for me in my pantry, making it a great week night meal with half the prep work already done!

Garlic Lime Chicken

Mix together the following ingredients:
1 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoons pepper
1/4 teaspoons cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoons paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoons thyme

Additional Ingredients:
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (I use fewer and then save the rest of the seasoning)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup chicken broth

Sprinkle this mixture over boneless, skinless chicken breast halves.
In a skillet heat 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil together on medium-high heat. Saute chicken for about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove the chicken and add 4 tablespoons lime juice and 1/2 cup chicken broth to the pan, stirring in with the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add chicken back to pan and continue cooking until internal temperature of chicken reaches 165- about 15 to 20 minutes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Grammy Witham's Banana Bread

The best recipes are those that are time tested. This recipe for banana bread (I just realized via spell check that it's not bannana- way to be an English teacher) is just such a recipe.

Grammy Witham was a close friend of my mom's. As a widow in our church, she offered her time to my mom and served her by doing our ironing. Not only did our clothes come back perfectly pressed, but they were usually accompanied by a loaf or two of Grammy's banana bread. It's the only banana bread I ate growing up, and it's the only banana bread recipe I use today. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Grammy Witham's Banana

3 Ripe banana's
1 cup sugar
1 or 2 eggs
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
dash of salt
3/4 cups of nuts (optional)

1. Mash banana's; stir in sugar, eggs and butter.

2. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix.

3. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 1 hour or until a knife comes out clean.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Friday Night Cooking

The weekend is here! To celebrate I got brave and tried several new recipes that I can't wait to share.
I am not very brave when it comes to cooking meat. I can do chicken. No problem. Ground beef- no problem. Since getting married and hosting a few holiday meals I've even gotten up the gumption to cook a turkey, although admittedly with more than a few panicked phone calls to my mom. But when it comes to moving beyond those basics, it definitely puts me out of my comfort zone. So tonight I chose to challenge myself a little and make pork chops. Why pork chops? They were on sale of course!
After checking the sales fliers and deciding on pork loin chops, I found this recipe for Saucy Pork Chops with Orange Slices from Southern Living. Since I was already stretching myself I decided to make my own BBQ Sauce for the first time too- now I don't know if we'll ever be able to go back to store bought! I've included both recipes below. And by the way, you've got to love the name of the BBQ sauce:

Big Daddy's Carolina Grilling Sauce

Time: 40 minutes

1 cup prepared yellow mustard
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon liquid smoke (hickory flavoring)

1. Mix all except soy, butter and smoke. Simmer 30 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 more minutes.

While the BBQ Sauce was simmering I put together the Pork Chops together and let them marinate.

Saucy Pork Chops with Orange Slices

4 (1 1/4-inch-thick) bone-in pork rib chops or loin chops*
½ cup orange juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup sweet orange marmalade
½ cup bottled barbecue sauce
4 (1/4-inch-thick) orange slices

1. Pierce pork chops with a fork several times on each side. Combine pork chops and next 3 ingredients in a large shallow dish or large zip-top plastic freezer bag. Cover or seal, and chill for 30 minutes.

2. Remove chops from marinade, discarding marinade. Sprinkle chops evenly with salt and black pepper.

3. Stir together marmalade and barbecue sauce in a small bowl. Brush one side of pork chops evenly with half of marmalade mixture.

4. Grill chops, marmalade mixture side up and covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat (350° to 400°) 10 minutes. Turn pork chops, and brush evenly with remaining half of marmalade mixture. Grill 10 minutes or until done. Remove chops from grill, and let stand 5 minutes.

5. Grill orange slices, covered with grill lid, over medium-high heat 1 minute on each side. Serve with pork chops.

*4 (1 1/4-inch-thick) boneless pork loin chops may be substituted. Reduce grilling time to 8 minutes on each side or until done.

I forgot all about grilling the oranges until we sat down to eat- but they would definitely be a great flavor combination with the Pork Chops.

The other recipe that I tried out and will definitely become a standard is this recipe for Roasted Spiced Potatoes from 64 Sq ft Kitchen. I love, love, love the flavors of garlic, lemon, and cilantro in this recipe!

Roasted Spiced Potatoes

Serves 4

Six big Yukon Gold (or any of your favorite yellow flesh potatoes)
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt (to taste)

Fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp of your favorite hot sauce (Optional)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced

1. Preheat the oven at 400F. Peel and slice the potatoes into wedges or fries. Put them in a bowl, along with the olive oil, salt, black pepper, ground cumin, paprika and harissa, if used. Toss the potatoes to combine.

2. Arrange them in a baking sheet in a single layer and bake until golden brown and crisp on the outside, turning them over once, about 25-30 minutes.

3. Mix the herbs, garlic, lemon juice in a bowl. When the potatoes are baked, toss them quickly with the garlic infused herbs and serve.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Addicted to Fruit Dip

On Saturday I hosted a bridal shower for a friend of mine from work. I had so much fun planning this, and we all had so much fun celebrating her upcoming marriage with her!

My friends wedding colors are pink and green, which are just so fun to decorate with! I made chocolate cupcakes with pink frosting and had so much fun frosting them. Now, maybe I'm the only cupcake novice out there, but this was the first time that I used a cake decorating bag and tips to frost cupcakes. . . my life will never be the same. I will never frost cupcakes with a knife again! Not only was it super easy, but they came out looking oh, so cute!

Aside from the cupcakes, I am most excited about the new fruit dip recipe I found. I found a recipe for Double Chocolate Cinnamon Dip in one of my Pampered Chef Season's Best Recipe Collections and figured that chocolate and a group of women are always a good pairing. I had no idea that it would be the beginning of an addiction! The fruit dip was a total success, and since I had extra leftover. . . I have been compelled to eat the rest of it myself (not unwillingly, I assure you).

I've included the recipe below, but must warn you that once you make it, addictive behaviors may follow! Enjoy at you own risk!

Double Chocolate Cinnamon Dip

3 squares (1 ounce each) white chocolate for baking
1 container (8 ounces) frozen whipped topping, thawed and divided
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon and brown sugar mixture (an even amount of each)
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons chocolate ice cream topping

7 cups of assorted fresh fruit for dipping (strawberries, apple or pear wedges, etc.) or cinnamon crunch chips

*Chill serving bowl ahead of time to help cool dip to serving temperature.
1. coarsely chop chocolate. Place in a microwave safe bowl along with half of the whipped topping. Microwave, uncovered on high 1 minute or until melted and smooth, stirring after each 20-second interval.
2. In a small bowl, combine chocolate mixture and cream cheese; whisk until smooth. Fold in remaining whipped topping and cinnamon sprinkle.
3. Spread half of the dip into serving bowl; drizzle with 1/4 cup of the chocolate ice cream topping. Spread to form an even layer. Top with remaining dip; spread to form a smooth surface. Drizzle the remaining 2 Tablespoons of ice cream topping (microwave if necessary to achieve a consistency that will drizzle). Drizzle in a spiral pattern over dip. Drag a wooden pick through ice cream topping to form a swirled pattern.