Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

We had expected people to come over tonight, so I specifically decided to make these cookies because the general idea had been requested. But no one is here so my parents and I are enjoying these cookies and an abundance of wine. The cookies are delicious. Definitely not healthy, but definitely delicious. I would highly recommend them.


Milk Chocolate-Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
Bon Appetit

Be sure to use regular peanut butter – not old-fashioned or freshly ground – for the best consistency in the cookie batter and the filling.

1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
½ cup plus 1/3 cup powdered sugar
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon (packed) dark brown sugar
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
½ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 1/3 cups (about 8 ounces) milk chocolate chips

3 ounces high-quality milk chocolate (such as Lindt or Perugina), chopped
¼ cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon coarse kosher salt
6 tablespoons whipping cream

For cookies:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat powdered sugar, dark brown sugar, and butter in large bowl to blend. Add peanut butter; beat until creamy. Gradually beat in vegetable oil and vanilla extract, then egg. Add dry ingredients; mix just until blended. Stir in milk chocolate chips.

Drop cookie dough by level tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing about 1 ½ inches apart. Bake cookies until puffed and golden brown, about 12 minutes. Cool slightly, then transfer cookies to rack to cool completely.

For filling:
Place chocolate, peanut butter, powdered sugar, and kosher salt in medium bowl. Bring whipping cream to boil in heavy small saucepan. Pour hot cream over chocolate mixture; stir until mixture is melted and smooth. Chill until filling is thick and spreadable, about 1 hour.

Spread about 1 rounded teaspoonful chocolate-peanut butter filling on flat side of 1 cookie. Top with second cookie, forming sandwich. Repeat with remaining filling and cookies. (Cookie sandwiches can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)

Yield: 2 1/2 dozen (we got 12 sandwiches)

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mexican Wedding Cookies

Over Thanksgiving I told my dad I'd be baking a lot while we visited for Christmas and I asked him for requests. He said he wanted "the sweet little pecan circles that have powdered sugar on them." To me that translated as "Mexican Wedding Cookies." So I found Paula Deen's recipe and decided to make them for him today.

Easy peasy recipe, simple, and makes the standard delicious wedding cookie. Not low fat, but do you really expect that from Paula?

The recipe says to make them into little crescents but I said, "No!" and made them into little circles instead. Much easier and more traditional. I would use this recipe again next time we need to make wedding cookies.


Mexican Wedding Cookies
Paula Deen

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, plus more for coating baked cookies
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting hands
1 cup pecans, chopped into very small pieces

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at low speed until it is smooth. Beat in the vanilla. At low speed gradually add the flour. Mix in the pecans with a spatula. With floured hands, take out about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into a crescent. Continue to dust hands with flour as you make more cookies.

Place onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in additional confectioners' sugar. Cool on wire racks.

Yield: 2 1/2 dozen

Peppermint Cheesecake Brownies

You know, I always expect brownies from Cooking Light to turn out well even though I know they never do. They're always too cakey and dry - the sacrifice from making them healthier. I thought maybe the addition of a cheesecake swirl would help make it more moist, but I was wrong. These are typical of CL. And to make it worse, the peppermint flavor is not very pronounced and it's all kind of odd. I wouldn't make these again.

I'm sorry all the pictures this week are crappy; we left the good camera in Maryland so we're using my little one.

Peppermint Cheesecake Brownies
Cooking Light, 12/08

You can tint the cheesecake batter with two or three drops of red food coloring to give it a pink tinge, if you like. When swirling the cheesecake and brownie batters in step 4, don't disturb the bottom brownie layer. Cool these bars completely before serving.

Cheesecake batter:
1 (8-ounce) block 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Brownie batter:
4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 large egg
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. To prepare cheesecake batter, place cheese in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Add granulated sugar and peppermint extract; beat well. Add 1 egg and 1 egg white; beat well. Add 1 tablespoon flour; beat mixture just until blended.

3. To prepare brownie batter, weigh or lightly spoon 4.5 ounces (about 1 cup) flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine 4.5 ounces flour, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine brown sugar, oil, buttermilk, vanilla, 2 egg whites, and 1 egg in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium-high speed until well blended. Add flour mixture to brown sugar mixture; beat at low speed just until blended.

4. Reserve 1/2 cup of brownie batter. Pour remaining batter into a 9-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Carefully pour cheesecake batter over top; spread evenly to edges. Dot cheesecake batter with reserved brownie batter. Swirl top two layers of batters together using the tip of a knife. Bake at 350° for 26 minutes or until top is set. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

Yield: 16 servings

Feeding My Parents

My parents like to only eat Lean Cuisine and other frozen meals, as well as going out to restaurants. My mom used to cook when we all lived at home, but I'm married and haven't lived at home for 6+ years, and my brother moved out over the summer. Plus both of my parents work now. So I guess there isn't a lot of time for quality, fresh, less-processed food.

In order to appeal to their frozen food niche, I prepared a nice big batch of Marinara Magnifica and froze it in individual servings in ziploc bags. This way all they have to do is boil some pasta and reheat the sauce and then they have a healthy, delicious dinner. Hope it works!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Connecticut Goodies Part 1

I brought a bunch of leftover homemade marshmallows with us to my parents' house in CT and Gibby had some hot chocolate.


Then last night, with the help of Gibby and Andy, we made some of the best Almond Roca and it was wonderful. It is even better today now that it's fully solidified. I love it!


We also gave out some of the limoncello and people seemed to greatly enjoy it. One entire bottle managed to be polished off in less than half an hour, so I guess it wasn't that bad. Some feedback we received though is that it "could probably be a little more lemony." Not that we're going to make it again, but still good feedback for those of you who may want to try it. Add some extra lemons.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cinnamon-Sugar Cookies

I saw these cookies posted on Joe's Blog and immediately decided that I needed to make them. I am taking them to work tomorrow for my coworkers since it sucks to be working on Christmas Eve. Side note: I will be in Connecticut for the holidays from Thursday through some time next week. I'll still be posting on occasion though because I plan to bake a ton of things while we're there. Gotta feed my boys! OK end tangent.

These cookies are super easy to make and are very yummy. We used red-hot decorating sugar instead of crushing up Red Hots and adding them to sugar. I like our version. I also did not use any shortening in the topping and see no reason why anyone ever should. And I used toasted almond meal (ground almonds) instead of bothering to grind them up myself. Easy peasy! Oh and I don't know why it says you'll get 56 cookies. We got maybe 2 dozen, if that.

We both agreed that we like the cookies and think my coworkers will like them, but we probably won't make them again.


Cinnamon-Sugar Sticks
Joe's Blog, originally from BH&G

For the cookies

7 ounces almonds, toasted and cooled
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the topping

3 ounces chopped white chocolate
2 teaspoons trans-fat free shortening
1/3 cup Red Hots (cinnamon candy), crushed
1/3 cup coarse decorating sugar

To prepare the cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, add toasted almonds and 2 tablespoons of the granulated sugar - process until almonds are ground.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, ground almonds, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add remaining sugar and mix until combined. Mix in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Mix in vanilla. Gradually pour in dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Scoop dough out onto a lightly floured surface - press or roll dough to 7 " x 14" rectangle, about 1/2" thick. Divide rectangle in half so you have 2 3 1/2" x 14" rectangles. Slice the dough, crosswise, into 1/2" wide sticks.

Transfer sticks to parchment-lined baking sheets. Place into the oven and bake until the cookies are firm and the edges lightly browned. Remove and let cookies set on the baking pan for 1 minute before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.

To prepare the topping

In a small microwave-safe bowl, add chocolate and shortening. Heat on medium power, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Pour chocolate into a shallow dish.

In another shallow dish, toss together crushed red hots and coarse sugar. Dip cookie sticks into the chocolate and then into the candy mixture - place sticks onto parchment-lined baking pans until set.

Yield: 56 cookies

Peppermint Bark

I planned out on Friday night which goodies I would be taking to work, and I specifically earmarked this peppermint bark recipe since it is interesting and uses Rice Krispies to make it more textured and not boring like regular peppermint bark. Then I went to my company Christmas party and my friend's husband went off randomly about how no one likes peppermint bark. I almost didn't make this because I thought perhaps that was a true statement. But I'm glad I made it because it's really good! I probably wouldn't make it again, and I'm nervous to see how it will hold up until tomorrow, but it's yummy! We used a package of red and green peppermints so it would be more colorful.


Peppermint Bark
Everyday Food, December 2005

One (7.5-ounce) package hard peppermint candies, unwrapped
1 pound white chocolate, chopped (do not use chips)
2 cups puffed rice cereal
Nonstick cooking spray

1. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray; line with waxed paper. Place candies in a doubled resealable plastic bag; seal, and wrap in a kitchen towel. Using a rolling pin or skillet, crush candies into tiny pieces. Sift to separate crushed candy from fine powder, reserving fine powder for another use; set crushed candy aside.

2. Place white chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water. Heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 4 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in rice cereal.

3. Pour mixture onto prepared baking sheet; using a spatula, spread evenly to a 1/4-inch thickness.

4. Sprinkle with crushed candy; with a piece of waxed paper covering entire surface, press in gently. Chill until firm, 20 to 30 minutes (no longer, as candy will begin to soften).

5. Peel waxed paper off. Break bark into 2-inch pieces. Store at room temperature in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Yield: 36 pieces

Goody Girl Championship Potatoes

Tonight we had tofu pups and some Goody Girl Championship Potatoes. Oh man, these are just so good. I need to make them more often.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Best Sugar Cookies Ever

This recipe is not going in the index. If you aren't special enough to be reading this right now, you'll never know I posted it. This is my mom's secret recipe for sugar cookies. Actually it's a Betty Crocker recipe but my mom has been making it for my entire life. They are popular cookies. She has sold them at auctions and knows how to decorate them really well. I don't. I can't even frost cookies properly so I skipped that and just sprinkled mine with some colored sugar.

I've made these a couple times on my own, and after tonight I have reached the horrifying conclusion that I am never going to be able to make them right. It will never be just like my mom's. I made some too thin so they're too crispy, I made some too thick so they're too soft, some burned around the edges, and only a few are perfectly fine. I'm taking them to my internship tomorrow and I'm kind of disappointed in myself that I'm bringing an inferior product that should have been amazing.

Hopefully if you try these (and you should) you will have better luck and yours will taste more like my mom's. And if you screw up, maybe some day you'll have a chance to go to my parents' house and eat some of my mom's cookies.

P.S. I finished the Marshmallows and they're set to go in gift bags!


The Best Sugar Cookies Ever
Diann McChesney & Betty Crocker

Warning: These cookies are addictive!

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup margarine or butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar

Mix powdered sugar, margarine, egg, vanilla, and almond extract. Mix in flour, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Heat oven to 375°. Divide dough into halves. Roll each half 3/16" thick on lightly floured cloth-covered board. Cut into shapes. (You can re-roll and cut the dough 2 or 3 times before it starts to taste flour-y). Place on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake until edges are light brown, about 7-8 minutes. Cool for 1 minute before removing from cookie sheet. Let cool on cooling rack.

Frost with Cookie Frosting: 1 cup sifted powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 1/2 Tbsp milk. Add milk gradually to get desired consistency....may need more or less. Tint with food coloring.

May do detailing with Royal Icing: 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 egg white, 3 or 4 drops lemon juice (or 1/4 tsp cream of tartar). Mix until smooth and creamy. It should be a bit thicker than the cookie frosting was. It will harden. (You may use dried egg whites mixed with water if concerned about egg safety).

Yield: 5 dozen

Egg and Cheese Breakfast Tacos with Homemade Salsa

This was just so boring and un-interesting that neither of us even bothered to comment on it. It wasn't bad, but I couldn't taste the eggs and it was just boring. I'm assuming by our apathy towards it that it is not a make-again. Oh and also subbed flour for corn since we hate corn tortillas.


Egg and Cheese Breakfast Tacos with Homemade Salsa
Cooking Light, 10/08

Fresh-made salsa tastes more vibrant than bottled, and you control the added sodium. The cheese and sour cream add salty notes to these tacos. Corn tortillas have a fraction of the sodium in flour ones, and they also contribute a pleasingly chewy texture. Round out breakfast with fresh mango slices.

1 cup chopped tomato
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon minced jalapeño pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice, divided
1 teaspoon minced garlic, divided
1 cup organic refried beans
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon 1% low-fat milk
6 large eggs, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1/4 cup chopped green onions
8 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeño peppers
8 teaspoons reduced-fat sour cream

1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a small bowl. Stir in 2 teaspoons juice and 1/2 teaspoon garlic. Combine beans, remaining 2 teaspoons juice, remaining 1/2 teaspoon garlic, and cumin in another bowl.

2. Combine milk and eggs in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add green onions to pan; sauté 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in egg mixture; cook 3 minutes or until soft-scrambled, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

3. Warm tortillas according to package directions. Spread 1 tablespoon bean mixture on each tortilla. Spoon about 2 tablespoons egg mixture down center of each tortilla. Top each serving with 1 tablespoon tomato mixture, 1 tablespoon cheese, and 1 teaspoon sour cream.

Yield: 4 servings

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Black and White Striped Cookies

Someone I work with once mentioned that when he was a boy in South Africa, he used to have chocolate-vanilla pinwheel cookies. He described them really well, so this year I attempted to find a recipe that fit his description. While the recipe talks about slicing them up into stripey cookies, the note mentioned rolling it up like a jelly-roll, so that is what I did. I know the recipient of these cookies isn't going to eat them - he doesn't eat carbs - but I thought maybe the nostalgia factor would be a nice gift in itself. A good thing for the person who already has everything, you know? As for the cookies themselves - they are very yummy. I probably won't make these again but they're a lot of fun and very pretty!

And P.S. I have a batch of dough for a super-special recipe that I will post about tomorrow night, and I have some marshmallows drying in the dining room. I'll toss them with powdered sugar tomorrow and then they'll be all set to give out as gifts for some special people!


swirl 2

Black and White Striped Cookies
Cooking Light, 12/07

Cutting and stacking the dough creates alternating stripes of vanilla and chocolate pieces. For pinwheel variation, stack the two (12 x 8-inch) dough rectangles on top of each other, and roll up into a 12-inch-long cylinder as if you're making cinnamon rolls. Chill the roll before slicing.

Vanilla dough:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (about 5 1/2 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons ice water

Chocolate dough:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 3 1/3 ounces)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons ice water

To prepare vanilla dough, lightly spoon 1 1/4 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 1 1/4 cups flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt, stirring well with a whisk. Place 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 egg yolk in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla. Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons ice water over surface of dough; beat just until moist. (Dough will be slightly crumbly.) Press dough into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap; cover and chill 1 hour or until firm.

To prepare chocolate dough, lightly spoon 3/4 cup flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine 3/4 cup flour, cocoa, and 1/8 teaspoon salt, stirring well with a whisk. Place 1 cup sugar, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 egg yolk in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until smooth. Beat in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Gradually add cocoa mixture to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons ice water over surface of dough; beat just until moist. Press dough into a 4-inch circle on plastic wrap; cover and chill 1 hour or until firm.

Slightly overlap 2 sheets of plastic wrap on a slightly damp surface. Unwrap and place chilled vanilla dough on plastic wrap. Cover dough with 2 additional sheets of overlapping plastic wrap. Roll dough, still covered, into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Place dough in freezer 5 minutes or until plastic wrap can easily be removed. Remove top sheets of plastic wrap.

Slightly overlap 2 sheets of plastic wrap on a slightly damp surface. Unwrap and place chilled chocolate dough on plastic wrap. Cover dough with 2 additional sheets of overlapping plastic wrap. Roll dough, still covered, into a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Place dough in freezer 5 minutes or until plastic wrap can easily be removed. Remove top sheets of plastic wrap.

Place vanilla dough on top of chocolate dough, plastic wrap side up. Remove plastic wrap from vanilla dough; turn dough over onto a lightly floured surface. Remove plastic wrap from chocolate dough. Cut dough stack in half crosswise to form 2 (8 x 6-inch) rectangles. Stack one rectangle on top of the other, alternating vanilla and chocolate doughs; wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze 10 minutes or until firm and plastic wrap can easily be removed.

Cut the dough crosswise into 6 (6 x 1 1/3-inch) strips. Stack 2 strips on top of each other to form a stack, alternating vanilla and chocolate to form a striped pattern; wrap in plastic wrap, pressing gently. Repeat procedure with remaining 4 strips to form 2 stacks (there will be 3 stacks total). Chill 30 minutes or until very firm.

Preheat oven to 375°.

Working with 1 stack at a time, unwrap dough. Carefully slice each stack into 12 slices. Place dough slices 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake at 375° for 12 minutes. Cool on pans 5 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.


Last year we made our friends a big batch of homemade Blackberry Brandy, and this year we decided to try another liquor so we made Limoncello. It's super easy and is a bright yellow color. We are not fans of it because neither of us like the taste of hard liquor and let's just say this doesn't taste like lemonade. We think other people will really like it though! I think it is a nice gift. We decanted into little liquor bottles and I will probably make some tags for them in the next few days.


Cooking Light, November 2008

This Italian liqueur is good ice cold on its own, in a lemon drop martini, mixed with sparkling wine, or splashed over a bowl of fresh fruit. Since it takes two weeks to infuse the bracing citrusy flavor into the vodka, start this gift early and decant it into pretty sterilized glass bottles.

4 cups vodka
1/2 cup lemon rind strips (about 7 lemons)
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar

1. Combine vodka and rind in a bowl. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 2 weeks. Strain through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids.

2. Combine 3 cups water and 1 1/2 cups sugar in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature. Add to vodka mixture.

3. Divide limoncello evenly among 3 sterilized (750-milliliter) bottles, and seal.

Note: Store in the refrigerator up to 1 year.

Yield: 7 cups

Chipotle-Squash Soup with Fresh Rosemary and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Technically my soup should just be called "Chipotle-Squash Soup" because I used dried rosemary and I didn't bother with the pumpkin seeds. Oh well!

This took awhile to make but was very yummy. We used a small acorn squash and vegetable stock. It wasn't as flavorful as I had hoped but we still liked it. We had it with some garlic bread. I wish it had been a little bit more substantial. We did like it though and I would recommend it. Not sure if we'd make it again.


Chipotle-Squash Soup with Fresh Rosemary and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Fresh Every Day by Sara Foster via CLBB

1 small winter squash (pumpkin, butternut or acorn - 2 to 2 1/2 pounds), halved and seeds removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 large carrots, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 chipotle chilies in adobo, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted and salted, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400° F

2. Place squash, cut side down, on a baking sheet with sides. Add 1 cup water and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the pan and roast the squash until it is soft to the touch, 40-45 minutes

3. Meanwhile, melt the butter and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil together in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until the onion is very soft and light brown. Add carrots and bell pepper and continue to cook until carrots are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes, until it's fragrant but not brown.

4. Add the broth, chipotle chilies, 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and bring the soup to a low boil over medium-high heat. While the soup is coming to a boil, scoop out the squash flesh with a large spoon. Discard the skin and add the flesh to the soup. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 25-30 minutes.

5. Remove soup from the heat and stir in rosemary. Allow to cool slightly before pureeing. Working in batches if necessary, pour the soup into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and puree until smooth. Or, puree the soup directly in the pot, using an immersion blender. Reheat if necessary, and serve warm, garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Eggplant Parm Pie

I love eggplant parm! LOVE IT. But it's traditionally fried so I'm always intrigued by recipes that used roasted or grilled eggplant instead. This pie uses roasted eggplant, and it is very yummy. It's great if you like eggplant parm. We probably won't make it again but I did enjoy it very much.

Sorry it's so messy, it's hard to get out of the pie plate.

Eggplant Parm Pie
Boston Globe 11/5/08

Making eggplant Parm at home is cumbersome and involves breading and frying slices of the vegetable. Eggplant Parm pie is easier. It begins with roasted slices, which are layered with traditional ingredients in a pie pan lined with pizza dough. Make a quick tomato sauce with canned tomatoes and fresh basil, roll commercial dough into a deep round pie pan, and start layering - eggplant, tomato sauce, cheese - until all the ingredients are used. You don't even need a top crust. The golden dough soaks up the sauce, the mozzarella and Parmesan melt into the vegetables, and you have a handsome supper to cut into wedges.

2 pounds eggplant, peeled and sliced 1/2 inch thick
Olive oil (for brushing)
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 can (1 pound) crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)
Flour (for rolling)
1 pound store-bought pizza dough
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
Extra chopped basil (for garnish)

1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Have on hand a deep 9-inch pie pan.

2. Brush both sides of the sliced eggplant with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and black pepper. Set them on a rimmed baking sheet without overlapping. Roast the eggplant for 15 minutes or until tender but not falling apart. Remove and set aside to cool. If necessary, roast the remaining eggplant in the same way.

3. Turn the oven temperature up to 425 degrees.

4. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the garlic and red pepper. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add the basil and taste for seasoning. Add more salt and pepper, and the sugar, if you like.

5. On a lightly floured counter, roll the dough to an 11-inch round. Brush the pie pan with olive oil. Lift the dough onto the rolling pin and ease it into the pan, so it hangs over the edges. Trim off any excess. With a fork, prick the dough well all over.

6. Spread 1/3 of the sauce in the dough. Top with a layer of eggplant. Pour in 1/3 of the sauce, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, and 1/4 cup of the mozzarella. Add another layer of eggplant, 1/3 of the sauce, and the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and 1/4 cup mozzarella.

7. Bake the pie for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden, the cheeses melt, and the sauce is bubbly. Let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Polenta & Vegetable Bake

Always looking for recipes involving pre-made polenta, I thought this recipe sounded delicious. It came together quickly, and I thawed out some of our favorite Marinara Magnifica to use as the marinara sauce. We liked this and would make it again.

I like a lot of the things I find on the Eating Well website. I need to subscribe to the magazine, I think.


Polenta & Vegetable Bake
Eating Well

This healthful and comforting vegetarian casserole is perfect on a cool night or any time of year when you want to remember clear, brisk October evenings.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 small zucchini, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup water
10 ounces baby spinach
1 1/2 cups prepared marinara sauce, preferably lower-sodium
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
14 ounces prepared polenta, sliced lengthwise into 6 thin slices
1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella, divided

1. Preheat oven to 450 degree F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant, zucchini, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Add water and spinach; cover and cook until wilted, stirring once, about 3 minutes. Stir marinara sauce into the vegetables and heat through, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in basil.

3. Place polenta slices in a single layer in the prepared baking dish, trimming to fit if necessary. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup cheese, top with the eggplant mixture and sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 cup cheese. Bake until bubbling and the cheese has just melted, 12 to 15 minutes. Let stand for about 5 minutes before serving.

Yield: 8 servings

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Black Bean Nacho Pizza

Another make-again tonight! We had Black Bean Nacho Pizza. I used some thin-crust pizza dough (storebought) and it was very nice. I think we're making something new tomorrow. Sorry it's been so boring.

Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

Last night we had Mozzarella Grilled Cheese and it was tasty. I was going to make a side dish but had limited time, so instead had tater tots. Always a winner!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Soft Tacos with Butternut Squash, Plantain, and Poblano Chilies

I've never cooked plantains before but they are very potato-ish once they are cooked. I've only had them fried before, so it was fun to try them out in a new way. Even though these tacos sound very odd, they are really yummy. Obviously we used storebought salsa instead of homemade because there's no way I'm making homemade salsa on a weeknight. And we used flour tortillas because I've decided I just really don't like corn tortillas. We liked this a lot and would make them again.

Note: Because of the larger flour tortillas, we had enough filling for two tacos each and didn't have any filling left over. So keep this in mind if you use small corn tortillas.


Soft Tacos with Butternut Squash, Plantain, and Poblano Chilies
Everyday Greens via CLBB

Notes from CLBB: can use store-bought fire-roasted salsa, don't double-up the corn tortillas, use a lot less oil, makes a LOT of filling - maybe too much for the small tortillas

1 tsp chipotle puree (Basically just a pureed can of chipotles in adobo)
2 roasted poblano chilies, diced, about ½ cup (Roast under broiler as you would a bell pepper and cool in a sealed bag or covered bowl, then remove skin.)
½ large butternut squash, cut into small cubes, about 3 cups
1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt and pepper
pinch of cayenne
1 ripe plantain, peeled and chopped, about 1 ½ cups
1 large onion, diced
2 large red bell peppers, diced, about 2 cups
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2-3 Tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro
2 dozen corn tortillas
6 oz. white cheddar cheese, grated, about 1 ½ cups
oil for the pan
romaine lettuce, cut into ribbons
crème fraiche or sour cream
fire-roasted salsa (see below)

Preheat oven to 400F.

Toss squash in a baking dish with ½ Tbsp olive oil, ½ tablespoon garlic, ½ tsp cumin, ¼ tsp salt, and a pinch each of black and cayenne pepper. Roast until tender, 15-20 minutes. Set aside.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil and drop in the plantains. Return to boil and simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and mash plantains with a fork.
Heat remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan and add the onions, ¼ tsp salt, and a pinch of pepper. Cook over medium heat until the onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the remaining garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the peppers, the remaining cumin, ¼ tsp salt, and cayenne and cook until tender, about 4 minutes, adding water as needed to keep vegetables from sticking to pan. Stir in plantains, squash, 1 tsp chipotle puree, and the chilies and cook together for 1 minute. Add the lime juice and the cilantro and season to taste with salt and chipotle puree. Keep filling warm over low heat. Have all your ingredients and toppings ready before you make the tacos.

Heat a little oil in a skillet and place two tortillas on top of each other. When the tortillas are soft and heated through, flip them over and heat other side. Sprinkle with 2-3 Tbsp of cheese and spread about 1/3 cup filling across center. Fold in half and keep warm in oven while you prepare the rest. Garnish with lettuce, crème fraiche, and spoonful of salsa before serving.

Yield: 12 small tacos or 8 big tacos

Fire-Roasted Salsa
1 lb plum tomatoes, cored
½ medium onion
1-2 jalapeno or serrano chilies
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 ½ -2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp coarsely chopped cilantro

Prepare grill. Brush tomatoes, onions, and chilies with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until tomatoes and chilies are soft and skins are blistered and onion is grilled on all sides. Let cool.

Coarsely chip the onion and tomatoes in a bowl. Slice chili in half lengthwise and remove stem and seeds. Chop chili and toss with tomato mixture, along with 1 ½ Tbsp lime juice, ¼ tsp salt, and pinch of pepper. Season to taste with salt and lime juice. Toss in cilantro just before serving.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

I need to start reading recipes more thoroughly before I start to make them. I hadn't realized these were roll-out cookies. I thought they were drop cookies and that they would end up soft and round like a sugar cookie or an oatmeal-raisin cookie or something. Nope! Roll-out cookie! And of course I did not have a gingerbread man cookie cutter so... I made gingerbread cats. From my Halloween cookie cutter set. Super.

These are easy to make and they are tasty. They did not take very long. Recipes from Cook's Illustrated magazine are unnecessarily verbose and make it sound really scary. It is not scary. This is a yummy recipe and I like the softness of the cookies. I didn't want it to be like a gingersnap and it isn't so that's perfect. I have a lot of other gingerbread cookie recipes to try, but I would consider making this one again.

Oh and PS I did add flour during rolling because otherwise the dough is very sticky and impossible to roll out. It did not affect my cookies. And I got about 18 cookies.


Thick and Chewy Gingerbread Cookies
Cook's Illustrated, 11/99

Because flour is not added during rolling, dough scraps can be rolled and cut as many times as necessary Don't overbake the cookies or they will be dry. Store soft gingerbread in a wide, shallow airtight container or tin with a sheet of parchment or waxed paper between each cookie layer. These cookies are best eaten within one week. If you make gingerbread people, this recipe will make about twenty 3-inch people.

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), cut into 12 pieces and softened slightly
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
2 tablespoons milk

1. In food processor workbowl fitted with steel blade, process flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda until combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture and process until mixture is sandy and resembles very fine meal, about 15 seconds. With machine running, gradually add molasses and milk; process until dough is evenly moistened and forms soft mass, about 10 seconds. Alternatively, in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, stir together flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, salt, and baking soda at low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop mixer and add butter pieces; mix at medium-low speed until mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal, about 1 1/2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and, with mixer running, gradually add molasses and milk; mix until dough is evenly moistened, about 20 seconds. Increase speed to medium and mix until thoroughly combined, about 10 seconds.

2. Scrape dough onto work surface; divide in half. Working with one portion of dough at a time, roll 1/4-inch thick between two large sheets of parchment paper. Leaving dough sandwiched between parchment layers, stack on cookie sheet and freeze until firm, 15 to 20 minutes. (Alternatively, refrigerate dough 2 hours or overnight.)

3. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

4. Remove one dough sheet from freezer; place on work surface. Peel off top parchment sheet and gently lay it back in place. Flip dough over; peel off and discard second parchment layer. Cut dough into 5-inch gingerbread people or 3-inch gingerbread cookies, transferring shapes to parchment-lined cookie sheets with wide metal spatula, spacing them 3/4 inch apart; set scraps aside. Repeat with remaining dough until cookie sheets are full. Bake cookies until set in centers and dough barely retains imprint when touched very gently with fingertip, 8 to 11 minutes, rotating cookie sheets front to back and switching positions top to bottom halfway through baking time. Do not overbake. Cool cookies on sheets 2 minutes, then remove with wide metal spatula to wire rack; cool to room temperature.

5. Gather scraps; repeat rolling, cutting, and baking in steps 2 and 4. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used.

Yield: 20-30 cookies

Rice Krispies Treats

Besides the spicy chex mix, another thing we were craving this weekend was Rice Krispie Treats. Under the guise of a treat for coworkers, I made some. This is not a special recipe. This is the regular Kellogg's recipe. But it's always fun and yummy and it's been a long time since I've made some!

rice krispies

Rice Krispies Treats

3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 package (10 oz., about 40) regular marshmallows or 4 cups miniature marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispies

1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

2. Add KELLOGG'S® RICE KRISPIES® cereal. Stir until well coated.

3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper, evenly press mixture into 13- x 9- x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

In microwave-safe bowl heat butter and marshmallows on HIGH for 3 minutes, stirring after 2 minutes. Stir until smooth. Follow steps 2 and 3 above. Microwave cooking times may vary.

La Tasca

Today was our six-month anniversary of being married, which really isn't that special unless you consider that it's 1/4 of the average length of marriage before divorce. So hooray for us for hitting this milestone!

We went to a La Tasca, a Spanish tapas restaurant in Rockville, MD. They have a couple other franchises in the DC area, too.

It was awesome. This is what we ordered:

Seafood Tasting Menu for Two:
A delicious array of the following seafood tapas:
Gambas al Ajillo (shrimp sautéed in olive oil, fresh
garlic and hot Spanish “Guindilla” peppers), Calamares
Andaluza (battered squid, deep fried with traditional
garlic mayonnaise), Salmon a la Plancha sobre Pisto
Manchego (grilled salmon over vegetables), Mejillones
al Vapor con Ajo, Perejill y Ribeiro (fresh mussels
cooked with garlic, parsley and Ribeiro white wine),
Patatas Bravas con Ali-Oli (deep fried potatoes in a spicy
sauce and garlic mayonnaise), Champiñones al Ajillo
(mushrooms lightly sautéed in garlic and olive oil),
Paella de Verduras (vegetarian paella with seasonal
vegetables), and Ensalada de Espinacas, Almendras y
Queso Cabrales (spinach salad topped with almonds and
Cabrales cheese salad)

All of it was delicious except for the salmon, but I never like salmon. It was our first time having mussels so that was fun. They look scary but they tasted yummy. We got a free carafe of sangria as well, which was nice and tasty. We got a strawberry-blueberry variation which was delicious.

Then for dessert we got:
Flauta Rellena de Crema de Platano y Carmelo con Helado de Chocolate
Banana-caramel cream wrapped in puff pastry with chocolate ice-cream

Happy half-anniversary to us! Hooray!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Scallop Chowder

Scallops were on sale this week, so I picked a nice wintery recipe that uses them. I originally wanted to put this in bread bowls but we couldn't find any good loaves to use. Oh well.

I eliminated the Pernod and the aniseed and everything licorice-related because that does not sound yummy to me at all. I'd read in reviews that it was a little bit strong, too, so I think I made a good decision. I also read in the reviews that people have substituted a can of chopped clams for the scallops and it worked well for them. If we make this again, that is probably what we will do. It is a delicious chowder base and does not taste light at all. It was yummy with the scallops, but the scallops got boring really quickly because the chunks are so big and there are just so many of them in the soup. I think we'd like it more with clams. And maybe a bread bowl.


Scallop Chowder
Cooking Light, March 2007

We liked the flavor of the clam juice in this soup, but you could substitute fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth. If you don't have Pernod on hand, or prefer to omit the alcohol, substitute one teaspoon anise extract or finely ground aniseed. Serve with crackers.

2 teaspoons butter
Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups chopped onion (about 1 medium)
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled Yukon gold or red potato (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
2 1/2 cups clam juice
2 1/2 cups 2% reduced-fat milk
1 tablespoon Pernod (licorice-flavored liqueur)
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 pounds sea scallops, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

Melt 2 teaspoons butter in a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and celery; sauté for 5 minutes or until tender. Add 1 teaspoon garlic, and sauté for 1 minute. Add potato, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3/4 teaspoon pepper; cook for 2 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Sprinkle flour over potato mixture, and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently. Add clam juice and milk; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender. Partially mash potato using a potato masher. Stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, Pernod, and thyme; simmer 10 minutes. Add scallops and half-and-half; cook 5 minutes or until scallops are done. Sprinkle with chives.

Yield: 8 servings

Spicy Chex Mix

This snack was specifically requested this week and I just happened to have this recipe from Joe's Blog that is called "Spicy Chex Mix." So I made some. Super easy, filled the house with the comforting smell of baking chex mix (you know what I'm talking about) and then ta-da! Spicy Chex Mix. We both love regular homemade chex mix so spicy is even better. He even said it tastes similar to the store-bought Spicy Chex Mix. Awesome. We'd make it again, but we would add more things in - bagel chips, peanuts, etc. This one is a good starting off point.

Can I say Chex Mix any more times in that paragraph? Chex mix chex mix.

Oh and also I don't know what butter buds are so I just diced up a tablespoon of real butter and scattered that over the mixture.


Spicy Chex Mix
Joe's Blog

3 cups Cheerios
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex
3 cups holiday pretzels
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
2 teaspoons butter buds
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
butter-flavored or olive oil cooking spray

Preheat oven to 200

In a large roaster pan or baking sheet, combine cereals and pretzels. Lightly coat with a butter cooking spray, drizzle worchestershire sauce. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl and sprinkle over the cereals, mixing to coat. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Corn Star Raviolis in Sweet Basil Cream Sauce

I sort of butchered this one but it still came out yummy. First, I didn't have cream so I picked up a little carton of whole milk at Rite-Aid on some errands. Worked just fine. I didn't have fresh basil so I used dried basil. No fresh corn, so canned corn. No bell pepper. Significantly reduced the amount of butter used. And most importantly, I didn't cut them into star shapes because when I did, the whole thing fell apart. So instead I just made our regular-shaped raviolis.

These were pretty good and we liked them, but I don't think we'll make them again.


Corn Star Raviolis in Sweet Basil Cream Sauce
Guy Fieri

2 ears Fresh sweet corn, shucked and removed from the cob
3 tablespoons Red bell pepper, minced
3 tablespoons sweet onion, diced
10 each Fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
Freshly cracked pepper
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 pinch nutmeg, ground
6 ounces ricotta cheese, room temp
6 ounces cream cheese, room temp
1 package wonton wrappers
2 egg yolks, beaten
3 tablespoons Parmesan, grated

Special equipment: cookie cutter (3-inch)

Melt butter in saute pan, add in corn, red bell pepper and onion. Let saute until onion is translucent and corn has released some of it's sugars. Add in 1/2 of the basil leaves and a couple of twists of black pepper. Add in 1/4 cup heavy cream and reduce by half. Set aside to cool.

When cool, smash up a bit with a fork, stir in ricotta and cream cheese. Place wonton wrappers down (three at a time works) and in the center of each, place 1 1/2 t filling. Brush exposed wrapper with egg yolk, carefully place a second wrapper on top and carefully seal edges, making sure to get out any air bubbles. Cut with star cutter, work fingers around edges to make sure seal is tight. Set aside on floured baking sheet and continue to assemble.

When finished, boil water and gently add raviolis a few at a time, cooking for 2 minutes or until they float. Carefully remove and drain.

For Sauce: In clean saute pan, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter, when melted, add in remaining basil, saute until crisp and butter is just very lightly browning. Add in remaining cream and reduce to thickened. Salt and pepper to taste, serve over raviolis immediately.

Garnish with Parmesan.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Had to co-lead a family therapy group tonight so we needed a quick dinner, and I like that the instructions for this one began with the word "microwave." It did come together quickly and was pretty good. Not anything special though so we wouldn't make it again. The curry flavor was a little bit strong, even for us, but that may have been because I used my super-pungent Hot Madras Curry Powder from Penzey's.


Curried Sweet Potato Soup
Shape magazine

1 large sweet potato, scrubbed thoroughly
¾ cup canned light coconut milk
2 ¼ cups vegetable or chicken broth, preferably organic
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced into ½-inch pieces
1 1½ teaspoons curry powder, preferably Madras
1 15-ounce can no-salt-added adzuki beans, rinsed and drained
2 packed cups coarsely chopped curly endive or baby spinach leaves
¼ cup coarsely chopped mint or cilantro
½ teaspoon sea salt

Microwave sweet potato on high for 4 to 6 minutes or until very tender. Split potato in half with a knife. Use a pot holder to hold each half and scoop pulp into a medium saucepan; discard skin.

Add coconut milk and mash with a potato masher or fork until mixture is fairly smooth. Stir in broth, bell pepper, and curry powder. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in beans and heat all the way through. Stir in endive or spinach; keep stirring until just wilted. Ladle into four shallow soup bowls and top with mint or cilantro and salt.

Yield: 4 servings

Monday, December 08, 2008

Turnip-Apple Gratin

As I mentioned on Saturday, I have a bounty of CSA vegetables from my boss. We already used up the beets, so today it was time for turnips. I do not have much experience with turnips. OK I don't really have any experience other than this cornbread dressing we made for Thanksgiving 2007. And we didn't even like that because the parsnips were so pungent. So today was our first REAL time using turnips. I figured the best way to try them was simply, and mixed with potatoes. That makes everything better. This is the most simple little recipe and it's very good. The swiss cheese is very nice. The apples mash together with everything and add a little taste of fall. It's really good and would work great as a side dish, particularly for you chicken-eaters. We enjoyed ours with some broccoli and salad. Probably not a make-again, but it was a fun way to learn about turnips.

Notice the steam coming off of it. Yum.

Turnip-Apple Gratin
CLBB (Clover)

1 lb turnips (2 or 3 medium)
1 lb potatoes (3 or 4 medium)
1 large apple
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
salt and pepper
1 cup (4 oz) grated Swiss cheese

Peel and slice turnips and potatoes. Peel, core, and slice the apple. Combine them in a large saucepan, cover with water, and boil until all are tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain and mash (or process) with the milk and butter. Add pepper and salt to taste.

Transfer to a 6-cup souffle dish or casserole. Sprinkle the top with the cheese. Heat in 400 degree oven until cheese melts and browns slightly. Serve hot. Makes 6 servings.

(The first part, with the cooking and mashing with milk and butter, can be done earlier in the day and reheated at dinner.)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

White Chocolate-Cashew Coffee Biscotti

Normally I do not like biscotti. I find it hard, bland, and not enjoyable. But everyone else likes biscotti so I decided to make some for my coworkers at my internship site. The coffee machine is in our office there, so people are constantly coming in throughout the day to get their coffee fix. I figured that I could make some biscotti and set it next to the machine for people to enjoy.

So. How do I pick which biscotti to make? This one has coffee granules in it, so it seemed to be a natural pick. It will go well with people's cups of Maxwell House. Excellent.

As with most biscotti, this was really easy to make. The only problem I had was with the white chocolate drizzle. I only got a few coated in chocolate because the rest of the bag decided to burn in the microwave. Awesome. So some do not have white chocolate on them. Other than that, no problems. And perhaps most surprisingly of all, I LOVE THESE A LOT. You have to like the flavor of coffee, but it just tastes so yummy with the cocoa and the nuts... I am even able to ignore the crunchiness. I am excited. Not only am I going to take some to my internship on Tuesday, I am also going to take them to my class on Thursday since we're having a party for the end of the semester (only one more left! Woo!).

OK so these are definite make-agains. I would make them for gifts for people, mail them to people since I feel like biscotti would ship really well, etc. It is a great little recipe to hold onto.


White Chocolate-Cashew Coffee Biscotti
CL Holiday Cookbook // CL Dec. 2004

A drizzle of white chocolate lends these biscotti holiday flair. For contrast, melt semisweet chocolate to drizzle over half the batch.

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup instant coffee granules
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 cup dry-roasted cashews, coarsely chopped
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
3 ounces premium white chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, and beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, instant coffee granules, cocoa, baking soda, ground cinnamon, salt, and ground nutmeg; gradually add to sugar mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in the cashews. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead lightly 7 times. Divide dough in half. Shape each portion into a 12-inch-long roll. Place rolls on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; pat to 3/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle rolls evenly with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.

Bake at 350° for 22 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut each roll diagonally into 21 (1/2-inch) slices. Carefully stand slices upright on baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 325°; bake 20 minutes (the cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet, and cool completely on wire rack.

Place chocolate in a small heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; microwave at high 1 minute or until the chocolate is soft. Knead bag until smooth. Snip a tiny hole in corner of bag; drizzle chocolate over biscotti.

Yield: 3 1/2 dozen

Cheesecake Thumbprints

Since it's the holiday season, I feel like I want to bake a lot of cookies. Maybe it's just something about December but it's making me feel like I should be baking nonstop. So that's pretty much what I did today. We also started a Christmas gift fermenting in the closet. Last year it was Blackberry Brandy. What will it be this year? You will have to wait 2-3 weeks to find out.

Although these cookies are not healthy at all, I decided to make a batch for his coworkers. I've only sent in one treat to his work before, but I decided it was time for more. This is still going with the theme of holiday-baking-craziness. I picked these cookies from Joe's Blog, although they are originally from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. They were easy to make, have only a few ingredients, and came together nicely. They do use two sticks of butter though since the cookie base is basically just a shortbread. Since we're used to cutting back on butter, we agreed that the cookies were a little buttery for us, but otherwise were very good. I hope his coworkers like them!

EDIT 12/8/08: His coworkers liked them a lot! Hooray!


Cheesecake Thumbprints
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook via Joe's Blog

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons sour cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

For the cookie dough

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
2 cups all-purpose flour

To prepare cheesecake filling

In a mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar and salt until smooth. Mix in egg yolk, sour cream and vanilla - cover and place into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

To prepare the cookie dough

In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugar and salt until creamy and combined. Mix in egg yolk until incorporated. Gradually add flour and mix just until combined.

Scoop out level tablespoons worth of the dough and roll into balls. Place balls onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Using the handle end of a thick wooden spoon, lightly dipped in flour, make an indentation in the center of each ball.

Place into the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully use your thumb (or the end of the same wooden spoon) to press the middle of the cookies back down, remaking the indentations. Place cookies back into the oven, rotating them from their original position, and continue to bake until slightly golden around the edges, about 7 minutes.

Remove cookies from the oven and fill the indentations with the cheesecake filling using a teaspoon. Place back into the oven and bake for 7 more minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer cookies to a wire rack to cook completely. When cool, place cookies into the refrigerator to chill before serving.

Yield: 30 cookies

Almond-Buttermilk Hotcakes with Blackberry-Grape Sauce

We like pancakes, and it's been awhile since I've made some, so naturally that means it's time for more pancakes. These are nice and remind me of the Harvest Grain ones at IHOP, which I put blueberry syrup on, so this whole dish kind of reminded me of a healthier IHOP meal. That is a good thing. The pancakes are nice, and the addition of almonds to the batter makes it interesting. The sauce is not so much a sauce as just a berry reduction type thing, but it's still very good. We used sugar-free blackberry jam and it worked very nicely. We both agreed this was very good and we would consider making it again.


Almond-Buttermilk Hotcakes with Blackberry-Grape Sauce
Cooking Light, July 2007

3 tablespoons seedless blackberry jam
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 cup seedless red grapes, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 cups fresh blackberries

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups nonfat buttermilk
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 large egg
Cooking spray

To prepare sauce, combine the first 5 ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat, and stir with a whisk. Add grapes to pan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute or until slightly thickened. Stir in the blackberries. Remove from heat, and keep warm.

To prepare hotcakes, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine buttermilk and remaining ingredients except cooking spray; add to flour mixture, stirring until smooth.

Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray. Cook 2 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges looked cooked. Carefully turn pancakes over; cook for 2 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Repeat procedure with remaining batter. Serve hotcakes with sauce.

Yield: 6 servings

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Roasted Beet Salad

My boss joined a local CSA, so he's getting a box of veggies and breads and various food items each week. Problem is, he doesn't eat carbs. So what is one to do when they receive a box of carb-filled beets and turnips? No need to even ponder. Just give them to Lauren.

I had to quickly figure out what to do with these items for the week (the turnips will show up in Monday's dinner) so I found this salad using the lovely beets. It is not quick because beets have to roast for forever before they are tender enough to cut. And once you cut them, beet juice goes everywhere and your kitchen will look like you have slaughtered a lamb. A hot pink lamb. But the salad was very yummy and worth the effort. The almonds were just freaking awesome and I ate some out of the pan, and it's been YEARS since I've had an Asian pear so I enjoyed that a lot. I'll have to buy those more often because they are yummy. Who would have thought the local grocery store would have them? How fascinating. Anyway this is probably not a make-again, but only because I'm going to explore more beet recipes and most of them involve being in a salad.


Roasted Beet Salad
Gourmet, 9/00

Beets may be roasted and tossed with dressing 1 day ahead, then chilled and covered. (Keep toasted almonds covered at room temperature. Bring dressing to room temperature before using.)

1 bunch beets (3/4 lbs without greens or 1-1/4 lbs with), trimmed
1/4 cup natural almonds, sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large Asian pear
3 cups mache or baby arugula (3 oz.)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Wrap beets in foil and roast in middle of oven until tender, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Unwrap beets and cool.

3. While beets are roasting, cook almonds in oil in a small skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until pale golden. Cool almonds in oil (nuts will get darker as they cool). Transfer almonds with a slotted spoon to a small bowl and season with salt.

4. Stir together shallot, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar, salt and oil from almonds in almonds in a large bowl.

5. Slip skins from beets and halve large beets. Cut beets into 1/4-inch-thick slices and add to dressing, tossing to coat.

6. Quarter and core pear and cut into julienne strips.

7. Arrange beets on a platter and drizzle with any dressing remaining in bowl. Top with mache, then pear. Sprinkle with almonds.

Yield: 4 servings

Pan-Seared Tilapia with Citrus Vinaigrette

Oh my gosh. A fish recipe that I LOVED, and it didn't involve curry or breading or anything that would typically cover the flavor of the fish. No, this method of cooking the tilapia actually enhanced the fish but made it not taste like butt. It was delicious. We both loved it. We will definitely make this again, because it is so ridiculously easy and quick and makes such a delicious meal.


Pan-Seared Tilapia with Citrus Vinaigrette
Cooking Light, January 2008

Cooking spray
4 (6-ounce) tilapia fillets
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2 cup white wine
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
4 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Sprinkle fish evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add 2 fillets to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork or until desired degree of doneness. Remove from pan; keep warm. Repeat procedure with remaining fillets.

Add white wine to pan; cook 30 seconds or until liquid almost evaporates. Combine shallots and remaining ingredients, stirring well with a whisk; stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add shallot mixture to pan; sauté 1 minute or until thoroughly heated, stirring frequently. Place 1 fillet on each of 4 plates; top each serving with about 3 tablespoons sauce.

Yield: 4 servings

Friday, December 05, 2008

Roasted Garlic Pizza

We've been trying out a lot of white pizzas lately (no sauce) and this is probably our favorite thus far. Instead of using sauce, or even ricotta, as the binding agent, this one uses deliciously mushy roasted garlic, which we then covered with cheese. How could it NOT be delicious?


The only thing I would change is the dough. Mine didn't rise, and although I was able to roll it out big enough, it didn't puff up or anything when we cooked it. Either I'd try another recipe for dough or I'd use some TJ's pre-made dough. But the simple, tasty toppings are a definite make-again.

pizza 2

Roasted Garlic Pizza
Cooking Light, November 2008

Roast the garlic a day ahead; cool, extract the pulp, and refrigerate until you're ready to assemble the pizza. A slice of this pizza makes a tasty hors d'oeuvre, or serve two slices with a tossed salad for supper.

1 whole garlic head
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
2.25 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)
2.38 ounces bread flour (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup (1 ounce) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Remove white papery skin from garlic head (do not peel or separate the cloves). Wrap head in foil. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes; cool 10 minutes. Separate cloves; squeeze to extract garlic pulp. Discard skins.

3. Dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm water in a small bowl, and let stand 5 minutes. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Place flours and salt in a food processor; pulse 2 times or until blended. Add oil to yeast mixture, stirring with a whisk. With processor on, slowly add yeast mixture through food chute; process until dough forms a ball. Process 1 additional minute. Turn dough out onto a floured surface; knead lightly 4 to 5 times. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)

4. Preheat oven to 400°.

5. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Roll dough into a 10-inch circle on a floured surface. Place dough on pizza pan or baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal. Spread roasted garlic evenly over pizza, leaving a 1/2-inch border; top with cheeses, oregano, and pepper. Bake at 400° for 12 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cut into 8 wedges.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Biscuits and Vegetarian Sausage Gravy

Once upon a time we went to 29 Diner with our friend Steven, and he ordered biscuits and gravy (in addition to like a million other things, like scrapple). It looked yummy, so I was excited when I heard good things about this old recipe from Cooking Light. It's super-quick, but it just isn't that good. The gravy is not very thick or peppery like a cream gravy is supposed to be, and while the biscuits and veggie sausage are good (we used Morningstar Farms veggie sausage) it isn't bound together very well. Not a make-again.


Biscuits and Vegetarian Sausage Gravy
Cooking Light, 9/04

1 (16.3 ounce) can reduced-fat refrigerated biscuit dough
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 (14 ounce) package meatless fat-free sausage (such as
Lightlife Gimme Lean)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups 1% low-fat milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare biscuits according to package directions.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage;
cook 3 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Remove from heat;
cool slightly. Crumble sausage into 1/2-inch pieces; return to pan.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine
flour and milk, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add milk mixture,
salt, and pepper to pan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover,
reduce heat, and simmer for 3 minutes or until thick. Split biscuits in
half. Place 2 biscuit halves on each of 8 plates; top each serving with
about 1/3 cup gravy. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 servings

Marinara Magnifica

Last night I got home later than I had hoped so I was panicking about what we would eat for dinner before I headed out to class. Thank goodness for the Marinara Magnifica we froze a few weeks ago! Pulled out a single-serving bag, defrosted, made some pasta, and we did not starve. Excellent.

I promise we're making some new recipes soon. It isn't all repeats.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sweet Potato Ravioli with Lemon-Sage Brown Butter Sauce

Because I microwaved the sweet potato for 4 1/2 minutes, our much-enjoyed recipe for Sweet Potato Ravioli with Lemon-Sage Brown Butter Sauce took only about 15 minutes to make tonight. We enjoyed it and it was yummy.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008 Round-Up

Alright, I've posted the new recipes individually but here's the big round-up. I also posted links to recipes my mom made prior to us arriving in Connecticut since I can't take credit for them.

So. Here is the table.

Here is what happened on Thanksgiving. We cooked a lot of things, and then 30 minutes before we were going to eat, the ovens broke. Both of them.

Everything cooked properly though so it was OK. My parents fried their turkey, which people seem to enjoy.


Obviously since I don't eat turkey, I needed lots of other food! So on we go to the side dishes.

Baby Brussels Sprouts with Buttered Pecans

Orange Cornmeal Bread

Green Bean Casserole

Steamed Carrots with Garlic-Ginger Butter - not delicious; too gingery and limey and we used baby carrots so it was just disappointing.

Roasted Cauliflower with Fresh Herbs and Parmesan

Cranberry-Pineapple Minis - not great either but I'm not a fan of Jello

This is some kind of cranberry relish my mom made but I don't know where it came from.

Spinach Salad with Gorgonzola, Pistachios, and Pepper Jelly Vinaigrette

Gibby's mom, Nancy, made sweet potato balls.

She also made sweet potato casserole.

My mom's herb stuffing which I think is loosely based on a Betty Crocker recipe

My mom's mashed potatoes

And then of course there are the desserts!
Pumpkin Caramel Toffee Pie

Pecan Squares

My mom also made our Cranberry-Oatmeal Bars and her cheeseball but we didn't take pictures of those.

And then of course we have the day-after Thanksgiving Magic Bowl.

So what did we learn this Thanksgiving? Our tried-and-true recipes were the best. Interesting.