Friday, December 29, 2006

Bread Machine and Sugar Bread

For Christmas, one of my gifts from Gibby was a breadmaker.

I am excited. It can do everything. We will hopefully be making a lot more bread now, since the machine will do all of the kneading and whatnot for me. We have a good recipe picked out for our first foray into bread-machining when we get back to Maryland (we are currently in Connecticut for the holidays).

On another bread-related note, last night my mom and I baked some Suikerbroode - Dutch sugar bread. I don't have the recipe typed up on this computer so it will have to wait until we're back in Maryland, but it was good. It's wheaty and spicy with lots of sugar and cinnamon and cardamom swirled through it. I'll post the recipe with pictures and a more detailed review in a few days. :-)

I hope everyone (all 3 of you?) is having a wonderful holiday and best wishes for the New Year!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Oreo Truffles

I made these tonight to take to my work Christmas party tomorrow. Holy crap, these are amazing. And they're pretty easy. I had some issues with dunking them in the white chocolate coating, but then I made an effort to decorate with some melted semi-sweet chocolate and they turned out looking kind of pretty. I put each one in a mini-cupcake wrapper so people can take one easily. I am so excited. I will definitely make these a billion times in the future.

Oreo Truffle Balls
Recipe from desertculinary

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
16 ounces oreos, broken into quarters
Enough best quality white chocolate chopped to measure about 2 cups

In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese for a couple minutes to smooth out. Add in just over 1/2 of the broken oreos and mix until thoroughly combined. Add in the rest of the oreos and mix just until combined - some bigger pieces are ok.

Cover bowl and chill for at least 2-3 hours. Scoop out dough with a heaping teaspoon and roll into 50-60 balls. Cover and place back in the refrigerator to firm up.

Slowly melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, stirring occasionally, until most of the chunks are smooth. Remove and stir to melt the rest of the chocolate. Dip each truffle ball and set aside on a silpat or parchment paper. If the chocolate mixture starts to firm up, place back over the double boiler to slowly remelt, or gently rewarm in the microwave. Store in the refrigerator after all are dipped.

Yield: Mine made about 40, but the recipe yields 50 to 60 apparently.

Picture of my truffles!
truffles

Monday, December 18, 2006

Homemade Marshmallows

For dinner tonight we had Spaghetti Pie and it was tasty and I am set for lunch. However, this is not the point of this post.

Yesterday and today I made homemade marshmallows to give some of my friends as part of their Christmas gifts (along with a tin of hot chocolate and a mug). It was fun and made me feel all hardcore-chef, which was cool. They're actually surprisingly easy as long as you have a mixer and a candy thermometer. They ended up looking really nice. I cut them into one-inch cubes, so probably only one at a time would fit into a mug. I am also curious as to how these would hold up as s'mores. Hmm. Who knows! Anyway. I like these and think they are going to go over very well as gifts. I would make these again, absolutely.

The recipe was originally from The Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. Her recipe also calls for toasted coconut to go on the top of the marshmallows, but I didn't want to do that so I just made the standard recipe. You could also do interesting variations like adding peppermint extract, topping it with chocolate chips or candy canes, etc.

Also, a note! When you're cutting the marshmallows, wet the knife before you start slicing so the knife doesn't stick. It's very helpful.

Homemade Marshmallows
3 packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water, plus 1/2 cup
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Allow to sit while you make the syrup.

Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Remove from the heat.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Pour the marshmallow batter into an 8 by 12-inch non-metal pan and smooth the top of the mixture with damp hands. Allow to dry uncovered at room temperature overnight.

Remove the marshmallows from the pan and cut into squares. Roll the sides of each piece carefully in confectioners' sugar. Store uncovered at room temperature.

Yield: 20-40 marshmallows

Mine, resting before being packaged:
mallows

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Vegetable Cheese Melt

I meant to make this last week but couldn't, so instead I made it today. I got the recipe off the CLBB but it's apparently originally from the Weight Watchers Versatile Vegetarian cookbook.

It was simple and cheesy but kind of bland. Even with all my changes (double garlic, added some fontina and pecorino romano cheeses, some butter, etc)! If I made it again I'd have to tweak it a lot - maybe some different vegetables, different herbs, etc. It was okay but just not flavorful enough to be a make-again.

Vegetable Cheese Melt
4 cups chopped broccoli florets, steamed
1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 T chopped fresh basil, or 1 T dried
1 T chopped fresh thyme, or 1 t dried
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
1/4 t salt
1 8-oz loaf French bread

Preheat oven to 375 F. in a large bowl, combine the broccoli, cheeses, basil, thyme, garlic, pepper and salt. Split the bread lengthwise almost all the way through; spread open. Fill it with the broccoli mixture, then wrap in foil. Bake until the cheese is melted, about 20-25 minutes. Cut the loaf crosswise into 4 portions.

Yield: 4 servings

Vegetarian Chipotle Nachos

I haven't posted since Tuesday because I have been sick and unable to eat. I got a flu shot on Tuesday that made me nauseous til Friday, and I have bronchitis on top of that. Ugh. But then Friday night I got better so we went out for sushi, and tonight I was finally able to cook again, hooray!

We made Vegetarian Chipotle Nachos from the October 2006 issue of Cooking Light. They were very easy and tasty but we had a few suggestions. First, it needs more chipotle. I don't know how much more, but more. The flavor is intermittent, and we wished it was more prominent. Second, as the recipe notes, the bean mixture probably would work better as a taco filling because it's hard to keep on the chips. If I made nachos with it again I'd use the Scoops chips so it would hold everything. And last, the soy crumbles kind of got lost with everything else going on. They add a nice nutritional benefit but could probably just be replaced with some more beans or something. Anyway. All that said, we might make this again in taco form.

Vegetarian Chipotle Nachos
The spicy bean mixture also makes a good filling for tacos and burritos. Look for meatless crumbles near the tofu and other soy products in the produce section.

Cooking spray
1 cup chopped green bell pepper (about 1 medium)
1 cup chopped onion (about 1 medium)
1 (12-ounce) package meatless fat-free crumbles (such as Lightlife Smart Ground)
1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano, undrained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
8 cups baked corn tortilla chips (6 ounces)
2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
1 cup diced peeled avocado (about 1 medium)
3/4 cup vertically sliced red onion
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
6 tablespoons fat-free sour cream

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Add bell pepper, chopped onion, and crumbles; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove 1 chile and 1 tablespoon sauce from can; reserve remaining chiles and sauce for another use. Chop chile; add chile, sauce, beans, and tomatoes to pan. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro. Arrange 1 1/3 cups chips on each of 6 plates. Top each serving with 1 cup bean mixture, 1/3 cup lettuce, about 2 1/2 tablespoons avocado, 2 tablespoons onion, 2 tablespoons cheese, and 1 tablespoon sour cream.

Yield: 6 servings

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Latkes

Sunday night we had Black Bean Chilaquile because Giant had some lovely Bright Lights chard in stock again, hoorah. Gibby liked it but maybe wasn't the hugest fan of the chard. Oh well. It continues to pass the Lunchbox test and is especially tasty warmed up and scooped with tortilla chips.

Last night we had Baked Potato Soup, one of my favorite soups. Gibby liked this a lot and all was happy.

Tonight we had potato latkes from a box. Yummy as always. I make these every year around Hannukah even though I'm definitely not Jewish and don't celebrate Hannukah. I really just enjoy latkes, especially with sour cream and applesauce. Yum. The mix I use is Manischwitz or something like that and is found in the kosher aisle of the grocery store.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Vegetable Biryani

Last night we had Vegetable Biryani again and it was tasty. I forgot to buy chickpeas for some reason so we omitted those, but it was still good. Although I missed the chickpeas. But that's ok.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Southwest Pinto Bean Burgers

Tonight I made Southwest Pinto Bean Burgers again. Gibby liked them and all was well. I was nervous he wouldn't like the chipotle mayo but he did and that is super since this is one of my favorite things to make.

We also discovered that Trader Joe's Garlic Fries are vastly inferior to their Chipotle-Ranch fries, which are amazing.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mashed Potato Gratin

Someone on my cooking forum reviewed this recipe from the November 2006 issue of Cooking Light and said that it was excellent but more suited as a main dish than a side dish (as it was labeled). So I decided to have a little comfort-food meal with this recipe paired with some salad and fruit.

I liked it a lot but think it probably should have remained just a side dish. I didn't feel it was substantial enough to carry a meal as a main dish. But it was definitely tasty and just cheesy enough without being overpowering. I would definitely make this again, as a side dish.

Mashed Potato Gratin
Although Yukon gold potatoes give this cheesy gratin extra buttery flavor and color, russets also will work.

4 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 cup (4 ounces) fontina cheese, shredded and divided
3/4 cup (3 ounces) Gruyère cheese, shredded and divided
1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup warm 1% low-fat milk (100° to 110°)
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°.

Place potatoes in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until tender; drain. Return potatoes to pan. Add 3/4 cup fontina cheese, 1/2 cup Gruyère cheese, butter, salt, and freshly ground black pepper to pan; mash with a fork or potato masher until well combined. Add warm milk to pan; continue mashing potato mixture until desired consistency. Spoon into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/4 cup fontina cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Gruyère cheese. Cover with aluminum foil lightly sprayed with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes. Remove from oven; remove and discard foil.

Preheat broiler.

Broil gratin 5 minutes or until cheese is brown and bubbly.


Yield: 14 servings

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Tofu Fried Rice

This is a simple recipe and is pretty quick to throw together. And it comes out looking a lot like restaurant tofu.

The concensus was that it was a good, solid fried rice recipe with the added benefit of being lower in fat than a traditional fried rice recipe. It was easy to make and was mostly tasty - however, I had an issue with it. Apparently my wok is oxidizing and left this subtle metallic taste that only I could detect, since I'm really sensitive to iron content since I don't eat meat (for example, I can't eat Total cereal because it tastes like aluminum foil to me). Anyway so this put a damper on my enjoyment of the recipe, and indicates that I either need to fix my wok or buy a new one, because that probably isn't too healthy.

I was originally going to file it away as a "worth keeping but probably won't make again" recipe, but now that I've pinpointed the wok as the culprit of the odd taste I'm rethinking my decision. I would probably try making this again in a different pan and see how it turns out.

Tofu Fried Rice
Cooking Light, September 2004
Using frozen peas and carrots plus bottled minced garlic and ginger speeds up preparation of this simple Chinese standby. Keep any leftover sake tightly capped in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, or you can substitute a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar for the sake.

2 cups uncooked instant rice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 (14-ounce) package reduced-fat firm tofu, drained and cut into (1/2-inch) cubes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup (1/2-inch-thick) slices green onions
1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
1 teaspoon bottled minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons sake (rice wine)
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon dark sesame oil
Thinly sliced green onions (optional)

Cook rice according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.

While rice cooks, heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu; cook 4 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Remove from pan. Add eggs to pan; cook 1 minute or until done, breaking egg into small pieces. Remove from pan. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil to pan. Add 1 cup onions, peas and carrots, garlic, and ginger; sauté 2 minutes.

While vegetable mixture cooks, combine sake, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and sesame oil. Add cooked rice to pan; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add tofu, egg, and soy sauce mixture; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Garnish with sliced green onions, if desired.


Yield: 4 servings

Monday, December 04, 2006

Cheese & Bean Enchiladas

Tonight I made Cheese & Bean Enchiladas. Boyfriend has avoided eating beans for a long time for some odd reason, and I largely rely on beans as a staple of my vegetarian diet, so it was time to introduce him to beans. He is a big fan of Mexican food and cheese and sour cream, so I made these enchiladas. It worked out well. He approved of the recipe and all was well, and hopefully he will enjoy beans in their myriad variations on our dinner table.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Fresh Cranberry-Orange White Chocolate Cookies

Today I went to a cookie swap, the first meeting of our local Cooking Light Supper Club. It was fun. We had some tasty cookies and it was nice to meet some more people in the area. The cookies I brought were Fresh Cranberry-Orange White Chocolate Cookies, found on the CLBB.

I liked them a lot. I like the cranberry-orange combination in general, but it was nice and kind of unexpected as a cookie. I was a little bit concerned while Boyfriend and I were making them this morning because the dough seemed extremely painfully dry and crumbly. But it actually came together and worked just fine. But if you decide to make them, keep this in mind and do not panic. Anyway. These cookies are tasty and I would make them again.

Fresh Cranberry-Orange White Chocolate Cookies
Originally from One Smart Cookie cookbook, posted on CLBB

1/4 cup butter -- softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 packed cup packed brown sugar
grated zest of 1 orange
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries -- coarsely chopped
1/2 cup chopped white chocolate or white chocolate chips -- optional (1/2 to 1 cup)

Preheat oven to 350 deg.

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugars, and orange zest until light and fluffy. Add egg white, orange juice, milk and vanilla and beat until smooth.

In a small bowl combine dry ingredients. Add to the sugar mixture and stir by hand until almost combined; add cranberries and white chocolate (if using) stir just until blended. Do not overmix.

Drop spoonfuls of dough about 2" apart on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed w/ nonstick spray. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden around the edges but still soft in the middle. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Yield: 1 1/2-2 dozen

A PICTURE OF MY COOKIES!
cookies

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Index of Recipes

I created indexes of all of my recipes so that it will be easier to locate specific dishes. I divided them into two sections: sweet and savory. Then within those categories there are smaller sub-categories. Please let me know if any of the links are broken so I can fix them. :)

You can click the links on the left (under "Recipe Index") or click here:
Savory Dishes
Sweet Dishes

Very Creamy Potato-Cheese Soup

Tonight we decided to make this potato-cheese soup recipe from the Moosewood Restaurant website. I am generally a fan of their stuff so I was excited for this soup.

It is very straightforward and simple, and is indeed quite creamy. I liked it. It would probably be even creamier with full-fat ingredients (I used reduced-fat cheeses and milk). If I make this again I probably wouldn't puree it, I'd probably just mush it with a potato masher to leave it chunky. When I pureed it, it became completely liquefied, which was good but didn't feel quite substantial. I would make this recipe again.

Very Creamy Potato-Cheese Soup
This is one of our customers' all-time favorite soups and probably the richest soup we offer. Cream cheese is our secret for giving it a velvety texture. You may substitute Neufchatel cheese which is lower in fat, tastes very similar, and is also very creamy.

Reprinted from New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, ©1987


3 to 4 tablespoons butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed
2 large potatoes, unpeeled and coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, unpeeled and coarsely chopped
3 cups vegetable stock or water
1 1/2 cups milk (or part cream)
4 ounces of cream cheese or Neufchatel
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (3 ounces)
salt and black pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley

In a large soup pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the butter until the onions are translucent. Add the potatoes and carrots and sauté for 5 to 10 minutes longer. Add the stock or water and dill and simmer until all the vegetables are tender.

Puree the vegetables with the cream cheese and milk in a blender or food processor. Return the soup to the soup pot. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the cheddar cheese and reheat gently.

Serve each cup or bowl garnished with chopped fresh parsley. A simple green salad is the perfect complement because opposites attract.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Friday, December 01, 2006

Ravioli, Calzones, and Broccoli

Wednesday night I made Toasted Ravioli again, which I always enjoy.

I made it with roasted broccoli, from a recipe I tried like 4-5 years ago and never made again. After a bit of research I discovered it is from an old episode of Cooking Live with Sara Moulton on the Food Network. Anyway. It's very very yummy. I like it as a cooking method for broccoli. I will make this again.

Roasted Broccoli
1 lb broccoli
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 500°. Wash and drain broccoli. Pat dry. Cut into florets. In a large bowl, toss the broccoli with the oil and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange florets in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast, turning once, for 12 minutes, or until just tender. Transfer broccoli to a serving bowl. Toss with butter and season with salt and pepper.

Yield: 4 servings

Photo added on May 31, 2008:
broccoli


Last night I made Calzones from a quick recipe found on Baking Sheet. Pretty quick and simple, but the pizza dough I bought was kind of sub-par and I wasn't impressed. I don't think it's the recipe's fault but I still probably won't repeat it.

Calzones
1 recipe basic pizza dough, risen once
cheeses: mozarella, ricotta
veggies (pre-cooked) : broccoli, spinach; mushrooms
meats (pre-cooked): sausage, chicken
marinara sauce: optional

Preheat oven to 400F.

Divide the pizza dough into 6 equal pieces and let rest for a few minutes. Working with once piece at a time, roll out into a thin, flat circle, about 1/4-inch thick. Spread half of the circle with filling of your choice (a little bit of sauce topped with a pile of meat/cheese/veggies) and fold over the other half of the circle. Pinch tightly with the prongs of a fork to seal. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

Cut a small slit or two into each calzone with a sharp knife and bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve hot.
Makes 6.

Note: The calzones can be frozen when they are filled but unbaked. They will take longer to bake, but they can be placed directly into the oven from the freezer - on a baking sheet, of course.