Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie #1

I joined a Blog Baking Club last week. It is called Tuesdays with Dorie, and all recipes are chosen from the cookbook Baking: From My Home to Yours, By Dorrie Greenspan. Every week one member picks a recipe we all make, and it's posted on Tuesday.

Pecan Sour Cream Biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour (or 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/3 cup cake flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 10 pieces
1/2 cup cold sour cream
1/4 cold whole milk
1/3 cup finely chopped pecans, preferably toasted

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Get out a sharp 2-inch-diameter biscuit cutter and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
Whisk the flour(s), baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a bow. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips (my favorite method) or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly. You'll have pea-size pieces, pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pieces the size of everything in between-- and that's just right.
Stir the sour cream and milk together and pour over the dry ingredients. Grab a fork and gently toss and turn the ingredients together until you've got a nice soft dough. Now reach into the bowl with your hands and give the dough a quick gentle kneading-- 3 or 4 turns should be just enough to bring everything together. Toss in the pecans and knead 2 to 3 times to incorporate them.
Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Dust the top of the dough very lightly with flour, pat the dough out with your hands or toll it with a pin until it is about 1/2 inch high. Don't worry if the dough isn't completely even-- a quick, light touch is more important than accuracy.
Use the biscuit cutter to cut out as many biscuits as you can. Try to cut the biscuits close to one another so you get the most you can out of the first round. By hand or with a small spatula, transfer the biscuits to the baking sheet. Gather together the scraps, working with them as little as possible, pat out to a 1/2-inch thickness and cut as many additional biscuits as you can; transfer these to the sheet. (The biscuits ca be made to this point and frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight and kept for up to 2 months. Bake without defrosting-- just add a couple more minutes to the oven time.)
Bake the biscuits for 14-18 minutes, or until they are tall, puffed and golden brown. Transfer them to a serving basket.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Easy Valentine's Dessert

JJ's favorite dessert is Bananas Foster, so I had to make it for him for Valentine's Day. I didn't really measure when I was making this, but it's the kind of thing you can just approximate.

2 tbsp. light butter

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

pinch of ground cinnamon

2 under ripe bananas, sliced

1/2 cup Captain Morgan's spiced dark rum

1 cup non-fat vanilla frozen yogurt

Melt butter in a nonstick saucepan over medium. Add in brown sugar and cinnamon, melt together about 3 minutes. Add in bananas, gently toss to coat. Add in rum, and light on fire. Wiggle the pan while the flame cooks off. Put back on the heat and simmer until the sauce is caramel like. Spoon over frozen yogurt, serve immediately.

My First Blog Event - Eat to the Beat!

As I've ventured into the world of food blogs, I learned about blog events. It's sort of like my country challange, but it's an event for many people to be a part of. I love Elly of Elly Says Opa!, her blog is great and her food is photographed so well, it's mouthwatering! I knew I wanted this to be my first event because 1. it's Elly's, and 2. it's about music and food!
The event is Eat to the Beat, and Elly's instructions were to create a dish in honor of a song. I knew right away what I had to make, because I've been wanting to make it for so long - Pineapple Upside Down Cake! My absolute favorite movie is 50 First Dates. The movie is wonderful, but the soundtrack is AMAZING! I love every song on it. The movie takes place in Hawaii, so all of the music has an islandy feel. There are a mixture of old songs, new songs, remakes of old songs, and a song from the movie. Listening to the music in the dead of winter keeps me hopeful that it will warm up someday!
Thanks, Elly for creating this wonderful event!
As I've become more comfortable baking in the kitchen, I've been healthy-editing existing recipes from foodnetwork. It's a tricky thing to do with baking, but I decided to make my own recpe for this cake! As I've been trying to with most things lately, I made a lighter cake. By no means will I say this is healthy because there is a bit of sugar, but there isn't much fat. The end result was pretty good. JJ said he missed the gooey, buttery topping in the pineapple, but overall it was a decent cake.
Lightened-Up Pineapple Upside Down Cake
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup skim milk
2 tbsp. spiced rum
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
7 slices fresh pineapple
21 marischino cherries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a 10 in. cake pan with nonstick spray. Lay pineapples in the pan, 3 cherries in each center, and sprinkle with the brown sugar.
In a stading mixer, combine sugar, applesauce, and eggs. Beat for 2 minutes. Add cinnamon, salt, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 cup flour. Mix for 20 seconds. Add 1/4 cup skim milk, mix for 10 seconds, add 1/2 cup flour, mix, add the rest of the milk, mix, add the wheat flour, mix, add the rum, and mix. Use a spatula to scrape down sides and combine anything stuck to the bottom. Be careful to not overmix. Spread on top of the pineapple mixture, and bake for 40 minutes.
Let cake sit 10 minutes, then invert onto a cake pedistal. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Note - The wheat flour leaves this cake a bit gummy, so all white flour can be used, the wheat flour is just to make it a bit healthier.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More Valentines!

I made these chocolate cupcakes to bring to work tomorrow for Valentine's Day. They're a basic chocolate cake recipe found at the Hershey's website, here, with a Strawberry Cream Cheese icing I made up. And by the way, I just tonight discovered the Hershey's recipe website, definitely look forward to many more recipes from there to show up on my blog!
Strawberry Icing:
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup cream cheese
1/4 cup strawberry jam
4 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Beat together butter and cream cheese, mix in jam, then vanilla, and finally confectioner's sugar a bit at a time. Add more sugar if the icing is too runny.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Restaurant Favorites

Like anyone, JJ and I love eating out, however it’s quite pricey, and you cannot control the amount of fat/calories in your food. I like to recreate meals that we’ve had at our favorite restaurants for the challenge, and also so I can tweak it a bit so it’s exactly what I want to eat. The blue cheese chopped salad is something I’ve had at outback. From what I can remember, it is just lettuce, pecans, blue cheese, and scallions with some sort of little crunchy tortilla strips. I love pairing blue cheese and pear, so I thought that would be a good addition, as well as cucumber and peppers, salad staples. I had some leftover Chinese rice noodles from PF Changs night, and I decided to sub those for the tortilla strips. I think what I love the most about this salad is the blue cheese dressing is a vinegar based dressing, which I much prefer over a mayo base. I think it tastes pretty similar! I also added grilled chicken for protein and balance.
The sweet potatoes were a Texas Roadhouse inspiration. JJ loves their cinnamon-honey butter, and I think it’s pretty good too. Sweet potatoes are much healthier than russets, and match wonderfully with the butter. They’re not complex, but the combination of flavors is delicious. I don’t think TR adds vanilla to their butter, but I like a little vanilla with my whipped sweet potatoes.
Blue Cheese Chopped Salad with Grilled Chicken
Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cinnamon-Honey Butter

1 head romaine lettuce, chopped finely
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded and finely diced
3 scallions, chopped
1/2 pear, peeled and finely diced
1/4 cup cinnamon pecans (recipe follows)
1/3 cup blue cheese vinaigrette (recipe follows)
¼ cup blue cheese crumbles
½ cup crushed Chinese rice noodles
2 chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2 inch thickness
1 tbsp. grill seasoning
2 sweet potatoes
2 tbsp. cinnamon-honey butter (recipe follows)

Blue Cheese Dressing:
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. vinegar (white, champagne, apple cider)
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. sour cream (or fat free buttermilk)
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. sugar
¼ cup blue cheese crumbles
Combine all ingredients until smooth and incorporated. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for a few days.
Cinnamon Pecans:
1/4 cup pecans (or walnuts work well too)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp. brown sugar
¼ tsp. cinnamon
Melt butter and brown sugar in a small nonstick skillet. When combined, turn heat off and toss nuts and cinnamon in mixture.
Cinnamon-Honey Butter:
4 tbsp. light butter at room temp.
1 tbsp. honey
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Tiny splash of vanilla extract
1 tbsp. brown sugar
Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, leftovers can be stored in the fridge for weeks.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke the potatoes a few times with a fork all over. Bake directly on the oven rack for 50-60 minutes, until tender.
Season chicken breasts on each side and cook on a grill pan for 6-7 minutes on each side. Take of the grill and let it rest and cool.
Mix lettuce, pepper, cucumber, scallions, pear, noodles and half of the dressing in a big salad bowl. Top with pecans, then with grilled chicken. Add blue cheese crumbles and the remainder of the dressing on top. Serve immediately.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Valentine's Treats

This past Christmas, I was planning to make tons of cookies for all of my family and friends, but it was right after my wedding and all of my baking supplies were at home from when I made my wedding cake. I decided to delay my bake-a-thon, and make Valentines packages for everyone.

The packages consist of:
Coconut White Fudge Truffles
Peanut Butter Hearts
Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies
Kahlua Dark Chocolate Truffles
Strawberry Jam Thumbprints
Outrageous Brownies
Cranberry White Chocolate Biscotti
Banana Spritz Hearts

Coconut White Chocolate Fudge Truffles
For these, I use the basic fudge recipe on Jet Puff marshmallow cream jars. I make the fudge according to the package, but substitute white chocolate for regular, and coconut extract for vanilla. I shape the fudge into balls, dip them in white chocolate, and roll in coconut. JJ calls them snowballs, they're delicious!

Peanut Butter Hearts
I made up the recipe for the filling based on cake filling/icing. They resemble a Reeses.
Peanut Butter Hearts
3 cups dark chocolate chips (recommended Ghirardelli)
4 tbsp. butter
1 cup peanut butter
½ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter chips
Heat a large glass bowl over a pot of simmering water. Add chocolate chips and stir until just melted. While chocolate is melting, add butter, peanut butter, sugar and vanilla to a mixing bowl and mix until combined and smooth. Scoop into a piping bag with a small round tip (wilton #4). Pour melted chocolate into a squeeze bottle. Squeeze a light coating in the bottom of the mold, put in the freezer for 1 minute, remove and pipe peanut butter in the center of the heart. Squeeze chocolate to cover and fill the heart. Put back in the freezer for 3-5 minutes. Pop out of the mold and lay on wax paper. Repeat process until you’ve used up all the chocolate and peanut butter mixture.Melt peanut butter chips over double boiler and pour into another squeeze bottle. Drizzle over hearts, let hearts cool and harden, store in bags or food storage containers.

Chocolate Covered Cherry Cookies

Banana Spritz Hearts
My mom makes banana spritz christmas trees with her cookie press and they're my favorite Christmas cookie. I couldn't have Valentines subbing for Christmas cookies without them, so I thought I'd make them hearts instead. I used a cookie press for these cookies, which can be quite a headache, but the key is to make sure the dough is cold, and the cookie sheet isn't hot.

Cranberry White Chocolate Biscotti
I used Giada's recipe, found here, but I didn't use the pistachios. I also drizzled pink white chocolate over the biscotti, but didn't photograph the final product. (This photo is the biscotti after I cut the log, but before the second bake).

Strawberry Jam Thumbprints

The recipe I used can be found here. These are a classic cookie that was very popular this past Christmas. They were on the cover of Gourmet, and there were recipes in Bon Apetit, Cooking Light, and other cooking magazines I subscribe to. They looked so good I just had to make them.

Not photographed: Outrageous Brownies, recipe found here

Kahluah Dark Chocolate Truffles, recipe found here

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Dinner...and an unexpected dessert

I love a good one pot pasta dish that’s hearty, comforting, and fresh tasting. Roasted garlic is what makes this meal different. I do not like cooked tomatoes (except in sauce when they’re pureed) so I add my cherry tomatoes at the end, but they can be roasted with the garlic for a sweeter flavor, or added in at the end raw for a fresher flavor.
Roasted Garlic Pasta with Prosciutto, Spinach and White Beans
½ lb. penne (recommended Barilla plus)
½ lb. prosciutto
6 cloves roasted garlic
1 cup white wine
2 cups baby spinach leaves
1 15 oz. can cannellini beans
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup parmiaggiano reggiano cheese, grated
½ cup (or more) warmed chicken stock
Salt and Pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt heavily and drop in pasta. Cook 10 minutes until al dente, drain.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay prosciutto on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until crispy.
Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add roasted garlic and white wine, simmer until alcohol cooks off. Add spinach and cover, let spinach wilt, about 5 minutes. Turn heat off, add beans, pasta and cheese. Toss to coat, if dry, add chicken stock until it reaches desired sauce. Toss in tomatoes and break in prosciutto, to serve, top with parmiggiano reggiano and basil.
Roasted Garlic - I made this on Saturday and kept it in snapware for use today.
1 head of garlic
1 tbsp. extra virgin onlive oil
salt and pepper
Roast garlic at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes until golden brown.
It should look like this:
And Dessert!
(My blog, my soapbox)

When I got home tonight, there was a package on the doorstep. I was so happy to find a valentine from my parents. It contained 4 chocolate bars of fair trade chocolate (2 mint chocolate, perfect for cookies this weekend...) If you're interested, and I hope you are, visit www.lwr.org/handcraft for fair trade products.
I am so lucky to have parents who are so invested in social justice! They have educated me, and I try to educate others about such an important issue! There are so many fair trade food products to use, as well as gift items that are fair trade as well. Please take the time to read up on these issues, and consider spending a bit more on products that are fair trade. I love baking with this chocolate, and I also have fair trade vanilla, coffee, soup mix, olive oil and nuts.