Sunday, January 31, 2010

Symon Sundays Week 1 Recap

I am so happy to say that the first week of Symon Sundays was a big success! It seemed as though everyone enjoyed both of the recipes. I am so excited to cook through this book, I highly recommend buying it. Chef Symon has some amazing recipes in there, so innovative and creative.

If you don't really know much about Chef Symon, you should read up about him. He's got 2 extremely sucessful restaurants in Cleveland, Lola and Lolita. I went to Lolita for my birthday a few years ago, and it was awesome. I hope to go to Lola next time I'm visiting my sister in Cleveland. What I love the most about Chef Symon is how he always seems to be so happy, and having so much fun in his kitchen. He's always laughing and smiling. He is very genuine, true to his roots, and loyal to Cleveland. He is an amazing Chef and person, and I'm so glad that I get to cook through his amazing book.

Here's a recap of the photos from our bloggers. If you look on the right column of my blog, you'll see a list of the participants (linked to their blog) and then under it, the schedule for the first round of recipes.

Joanne's salad

Tasha's salad

Meredith's salad

My salad

Natashya's salad and keftedes

Meredith's keftedes

My keftedes

Joanne's keftedes

Tasha's keftedes

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Slow Roasted Beets with Buttermilk Blue Cheese, Watercress and Toasted Walnuts

For the first week of Symon Sundays, a blogging/cooking group I created to cook through Chef Symon's Live to Cook, I decided to pick two recipes to pair together as a meal. The first thing I saw in the cookbook that caught my eye was this beet salad.

I absolutely love beets, especially with nuts and in the form of a salad. The photo in the cookbook makes it look absolutely delicious, tender beets with sharp blue cheese and toasted walnuts. Chef Symon claims he likes to make dishes that showcase ingredients that people might not have liked as children with the hope to convert them. That was my idea and hope with making this meal, to convert JJ to the beet-loving side.

It wasn't hard to do, as we're big fans of The Office, and Dwight often talks about his beet farm. JJ also was excited to provide latex gloves for me when I asked him if he had anything in his Athletic Training pack that would keep my hands from being stained purple.

I was hoping I would be able to find all of the components to this dish, as golden beets and maytag blue cheese aren't as readily available... but Whole Foods delivered, and I found them there. The only ingredient I did not find was the watercress. I used a bed of romaine, but would have opted for Arugula if JJ didn't object.

This salad was all I hoped it would be, and so much more. The vinaigrette was simple, the beets were the star, and when I got a forkful containing every element of the salad, it was phenominal.

Slow-Roasted Beets with Buttermilk Blue Cheese,
Watercress and Toasted Walnuts
Live to Cook, Michael Symon pg. 74

1/2 cup walnut pieces
Kosher salt
3 medium golden beets
3 medium red beets
1 head of garlic, halved through the equator
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
Fresh ground black pepper
1 shallot, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1 tbsp. honey
1/4 c. EVOO
1 tbsp. aged balsamic vinegar
4 oz. Maytag blue cheese, crumbled (1 c.)
1 cup loosely packed watercress

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Spread walnuts on a baking sheet, sprinke with salt and toast in the oven for 5 minutes, cool.

Lower oven temperature to 325.
In a shallow baking dish, place the beets, garlic and thyme.
Season with salt and pepper, fill with water to reach 1/4" up the side of the pan.
Cover with foil, roast until beets are tender, about an hour.
Remove foil, cool.
Peel beets, cut into wedges.

In a large bowl, combine shallot, garlic, a pinch of salt, orange zest, juice, honey and vinegar.
Whisk, taste for seasonings.
Whisk in EVOO, add beets, toss to coat.

Divide beets among 4 places, top with toasted walnuts, crumbled blue cheese and watercress.
Drizzle with additional vinaigrette from the bowl, finish with ground black pepper.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tortellini Primavera with Sun-Dried Tomato Ricotta Sauce

One thing I'm working on this year is keeping our grocery budget in check. Sometimes when you're a blogger and you find a recipe or dream up a recipe, you stop at nothing to make it. And you justify your expenses because it's for the blog. It doesn't matter that the cheese is $17.99/lb, or the prosciutto is $11.99/lb... and when you've made the switch to buying all organic meats and dairy, it gets even worse. So I've been trying to focus more on shopping sales and utilizing my freezer as well as make meals where some of the ingredients can be used for another.
So far, it's going ok. I try to get in 'empty the pantry' mode, but then I go shopping and it turns into 'stock the pantry cheaply' mode. I can't tell you how many bags of frozen cascadian farms vegetables and fruit I got last week. They were on sale.... and I had coupons... So I decided to make a meal that used a few of my fully stocked pantry items - tortellini, ricotta, and vegetables. Paired with some vegetables on sale and at the farmer's market, I came out very cheap on this dinner!

Tortellini Primavera with Sun-Dried Tomato Ricotta Sauce

1 package frozen tortellini
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups button mushrooms, quartered
1 orange bell pepper, sliced
1/2 lb. asparagus spears, cut into 1" segments
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup ricotta
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup oil packed sun dried tomatoes
Vegetable or chicken stock, for thinning
1 sprig of fresh thyme or basil leaves
Salt and pepper

Heat a large skillet over medium heat.
Add 1 tbsp. EVOO, garlic, mushrooms and bell pepper.
Saute' for 8-10 minutes, until vegetables are softened.
While veggies cook, bring a pot of water to a boil, salt heavily.
Add tortellini, cook according to package directions, during the last minute, drop in the asparagus and peas.
Drain and set aside.
In a food processor, pulse together ricotta, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest and juice.
Add vegetables and pasta to the skillet.
Add ricotta sauce, herbs, salt and pepper.
Stir to combine, thin with stock if necessary.
Heat everything through, plate, garnish with crushed red pepper and parmesan, if desired.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bridget's White Cupcakes

I love making cupcakes or cookies for my co-woker's bithdays. See, I work with a group of 11 men, and they have no shame about eating baked goods. They might not be good critics (because they'll eat anything and think it's decent), so when I do get a compliment, I know it's genuine. I love when they request something fun or new, but often times it's carrot cake, chocolate chip cookies, or like this time, white cake with vanilla frosting!
So I turned to Bridget's blog, because she often does cupcake recipe comparisons, which I love. It's really hard to duplicate a recipe, but when Bridget blogs something and I make it, it tends to come out very close to hers. In other words, I trust her recipes and cooking. Trust is big in baking... it's easy to go wrong!
So thanks, Bridget, for taking one for the team and making dozens and dozens of cupcakes so I could pick a foolproof recipe!

from Cooks Illustrated’s Classic White Cake

Nonstick cooking spray
2¼ cups cake flour (9 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
1 cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites (¾ cup), at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups + 2 tablespoons granulated sugar (11.35 ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1½ sticks), softened but still cool

Set oven rack in middle position. (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions.)
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds.
Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.
Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.
Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.
Add all but ½ cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1½ minutes.
Add remaining ½ cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more.
Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.
Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.)
Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes.
Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes.
Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks.
Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1½ hours.
Yield 12 Cupcakes

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper and Sweet Potato Soup

One of my favorite dinners is a soup/salad combination. It's easy, simple, and generally healthy. I had a few sweet potatoes in the pantry, and jarred roasted red peppers that I got on super sale, so I combined the two! I wanted to make it a little spicy, but really focus on the sweet potato flavor, and the smoky red peppers.
You can microwave your sweet potatoes if you're in a rush, but they just have such better texture when roasted. I prick mine with a fork and place them directly on the oven rack. They roast for close to an hour, and then slip right out of their skins like a jacket!
This soup can be completely pureed and made thinner, or it can be left with a little texture and chunk. I know JJ likes chunky soups, so I chopped half a sweet potato and added it at the end.

Roasted Red Pepper and Sweet Potato Soup

2 medium sweet potatoes, roasted and skinned
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup roasted red peppers (jarred pieces or 2 whole fresh)
2-3 cups chicken/vegetable stock
1-2 cups water
Salt and fresh black pepper
Sprinkle of cayenne
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili powder
Sour cream and green onions, for garnish

Heat a soup pot over medium heat.
Add 1 tsp. EVOO, garlic and onions.
Season with salt and pepper, stir and cook for 3-4 minutes.
Take pot off heat, add onions and garlic to a blender.
Add 1 1/2 sweet potatoes, red peppers, half of stock and water, pepper, cayenne, cumin and chili powder to the blender.
Blend until smooth, add more stock/water if necessary.
Add soup back to the pot, add more stock to reach desired consistency.
Chop the other 1/2 sweet potato, add to soup, stir gently.
Bring to a simmer, taste, adjust seasonings.
Serve with sour cream and onions.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Kale and Bean Enchiladas with Pumpkin Sauce

Last week my friend Sheri told me about a recipe she found and loved for Pumpkin Enchiladas. She sent me the recipe, and said she couldn't wait to see what I came up with (clearly she knows I don't follow recipes!)
On the same day, I saw this recipe for Kale and Bean Enchiladas pop up in my google reader. I thought it would be really interesting if I tried pairing the two, rather than make chicken enchiladas as Sheri's recipe instructed.
I loved the filling for these enchiladas, it made what can be a very caloric dish seem extremely light and healthy. Cate used pinto beans, but I had kidney beans on hand, so I used them. The sauce was really creamy, and made it seem like the enchiladas had much more cheese on top.

Kale and Bean Enchiladas (via Cate, adapted from Daily Unadventures in Cooking)
Pumpkin sauce (via Sheri, adapted from Great Food Fast by Martha Stewart)

2 cloves garlic
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 jalapeno, finely diced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 zucchini, grated
Salt and pepper
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
1 can light red kidney beans, rinsed
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
Pumpkin sauce, below
6 tortillas (I used flour, but they got soggy, I'd recommend corn)
Handful or two of grated cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 400.
Heat a skillet over medium high heat.
Add the olive oil, garlic, onions, jalapeno, zucchini, cumin, pepper and a big pinch of salt.
Cook for about 5 minutes, add kale and stir until soft.
Remove from heat and stir in a a few grinds of black pepper, the pinto beans, cilantro, and a few tablespoons of enchilada sauce.

Pumpkin Sauce

1 15oz can pumpkin puree
2 cups vegetable stock
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 jalepeno pepper, quartered (remove ribs and seeds for less heat if desired)
1 tsp chili powder
2 tbsp tomato paste

In a blender, puree the pumpkin, stock, garlic, jalepeno, chili powder, tomato paste, salt and pepper until smooth.
Pour 1 cup of sauce in the bottom of an 8in square (or other shallow 2 qt) baking dish.
Spoon kale mixture into tortillas, roll and place in baking sheet.
Finish with all tortillas, cover in sauce, top with shredded cheese.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sweet Potato Falafel with Tzatziki

Last week as I was browsing through my google reader, I saw Kelly's post for Sweet Potato Falafel. They looked fantastic! I was imagining a blend of chick peas and sweet potato, so I starred it and put it on the menu. Then I went back and pulled up the recipe, and saw that it was quite different from my imagination. See, I have a tendency to read a recipe and then create the process and ingredients in my brain without actually reading it. Sometimes this is detrimental because I'll end up without an important ingredient. But then sometimes it works out ok because I end up creating what I thought the recipe would be, and it's delicious.

In this situation, I ended up creating what I thought the recipe was going to be rather than what Kelly wrote. Though I do want to go back and try it the original way, I really liked my adaptation. These were slightly sweet, but had the familiar taste of a falafel. They were healthy (baked rather than fried) and I enjoyed them 'meatball' style over couscous and roasted vegetables instead of wrapped in a pita. I can't ever have enough tzatziki, I think JJ and I were fighting over the reminants. Overall, this was an absolutely delicious and really healthy dinner!

Sweet Potato Falafel
adapted from Kelly, who adapted it from the Happy Herbivore

1 large sweet potato
1 cup chick peas
1 tbsp. tahini
1 tsp. fresh minced parsley
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup. breadcrumbs (wish i had panko, but just had regular Italian style)

6 oz. plain greek yogurt
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp. minced dill
1/2 cup minced cucumber
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. tahini
1 garlic clove, grated on a microplane

Whole wheat cous cous, prepared
Roasted butternut squash and brussels sprouts

Pierce sweet potato, wrap in a paper towel.
Microwave on high for 6-8 minutes, until softened.
(On a weeknight, I didn't have the time to bake the sweet potato, but that would be the preferred method)
Let potato cool for 5 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
In a mixing bowl, add chick peas, mash with a fork.
Add sweet potato, tahini, parsley, salt, pepper, cumin, and garlic.
Mix well, leaving some little chunks of chick pea and sweet potato.
Roll into walnut sized balls, roll in breadcrumbs, place on a lined baking sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes, until crisp on the outside.

In a small dish, use a fork to whisk together all tzatziki ingredients, refrigerate until use.

Plate cous cous, vegetables, top with falafel and tzatziki and extra parsley.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

Saturday is my brother in law's birthday, so as I usually do, I mailed him off some cookies! I asked my sister what he'd like, and she said peanut butter and chocolate chip, so I combined the two. I made up the recipe, and it came out great! I've been trying to experiment more and more with baking at home, using my judgement to try to create sucesses.  Though there's an occasional flop, I've had some great cookies come out recently!
I decided to go for a chewier cookie, light on peanut butter so it didn't overpower the cookie.... but I think any amount of PB added to anything gives it strong flavor.
Happy Birthday, Dan, hope you like them! I'm sure they'll be great skiing this weekend with some hot chocolate... or beer :)

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies

2 sticks (1/2 lb.) butter, room temperature
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a standing mixer, cream together butter and peanut butter.
Add sugar, beat until pale and combined, about 3 minutes.
Turn mixer to low, add eggs one at a time, mixing well.
Beat in vanilla extract, baking soda and salt.
Add flour, mix until just combined, add chocolate chips and mix for 10 seconds.
Refrigerate batter for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Scoop in heaping tablespoons onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
Bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown.
Remove, place on a wire rack and cool.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Vegan Italian Lentil and Vegetable Stew

While this may not be the most attractive dish, it was absolutely delicious! I've been fighting an awful cold for about a week. On Sunday night, I decided to fight it naturally with a warm stew, full of vegetables, and broth. I can't say that it cured me, but I am feeling much better today! This stew was basically all of the vegetables I had in the pantry and fridge, but you can also swap lentils for other dried or canned beans, and add other vegetables, such as green beans, brussels sprouts, okra, celery, and other squash varities.
I un-veganed my bowl by adding a sprinkle of parmesan and crushed red pepper after the photo, but it had great flavor, and could do without it. I also whipped up a loaf of whole wheat beer bread for this, which was great for sopping up the last of the broth!

Italian Lentil and Vegetable Stew

1 cup dried brown lentils, soaked overnight and drained
2 tbsp. EVOO
1 yellow onion, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 large carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced
2 small yellow summer squash, quartered and sliced
8 oz. white button mushrooms, sliced
Salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1 cup dry white wine
4 cups vegetable stock
1 28 oz. can Italian style diced tomatoes, divided
1 tbsp. dried Italian herb mix

Heat a dutch oven over medium-low heat.
Add EVOO, then chop vegetables and drop them in as you go (onions, garlic, carrots, zucchini, summer squash, mushrooms).
Season with salt and pepper, stir with a large wooden spoon and cook for about 10 minutes, until tender.
Add half of tomatoes and juice to a blender, puree half, leave the other half diced.
Add white wine, reduce, add stock, tomato puree, diced tomatoes, and herbs.
Bring to a simmer, stir, reduce heat to low, and cook for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
Add more stock, if necessary.
Serve with crushed red pepper flakes and beer bread.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Happy 2nd Blogiversary, A Year in the Kitchen!

Today is a very special day for me, it's my 2nd Blogiversary! Last year I celebrated by making these meatloaf cupcakes. This year, I've decided to go back and pick my absolute favorite dishes from each month of 2009. They might not have been the most popular (though the Twilight cake seems to be!), but they were delicious! It's been a little slower this year on the blog than last (500 posts in year 1, 275 in year 2), but I know for a fact that my cooking skills continue to improve as well as my photography.

Thank you so much for the continued readership and support, it means so much to me! This year has been very busy with so many changes and posts got a little spotty over the summer... but we're happily settled now and I hope the blog continues indefinitely!

Here are my favorites from 2009, do you have any favorites from the blog??

January - Cheddar Peirogi

February -  Twilight Valentine's Cake/Cookies and Party

March -  Black Bean and Rice Stuffed Poblanos with Creamy Corn and Avocado Salad

April - Eggplant and Cannelini Ragout over Herbed Polenta

May - Coco Peanut Noodle Salad

June - Tapas Dinner Menu

July - Natural Hawaiian Pizza

August - Afghan Vegetarian Plate

September - Warm Butternut Salad with Chickpeas and Tahini

October - Pumpkin Meatloaf with Cranberry Topping

November - Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecake

December - Prosciutto and Asiago stuffed Chicken Marsala

Friday, January 15, 2010

Gorgonzola and Caramelized Onion Cheeseball

On Monday, I hosted my book club. I decided to make a few different things because it's kind of a pot luck event and I didn't know what was coming. I figured I'd do an appetizer (this), a main (quiche) and a dessert (cookies in last post). Most people seem to love a good cheeseball smeared on a cracker, so I decided to make one. I got the main flavor ideas for this from Joelen and her blog, but went a different way with the other ingredients. This cheeseball was great, really creamy and flavorful. The gorgonzola was present, but not overpowering. I think everyone really enjoyed it!

Gorgonzola and Caramelized Onion Cheeseball

1 tbsp. butter/EVOO
2 large yellow onion in a small dice
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp. dried
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup gorgonzola crumbles
1 cup crushed walnuts
Crackers or vegetables, for serving

Heat a skillet over medium-low heat.
Add butter or EVOO and onions.
Season with salt and pepper, saute' for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Add thyme. Cool to room temperature.
Add softened cream cheese and gorgonzola to a bowl.
Top with onions, stir well to combine.
Lay saran wrap on the counter, scoop cheese mixture into a ball, wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.
Before serving cheese ball, add walnuts to a bowl. Drop cheeseball in and coat with walnuts.
Place on a platter and serve.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Orange-Oatmeal-Currant Cookies

99.9% of the time I love being a blogger... if that's a word? It's a creative outlet where I can share my ideas and some of the hidden gem recipes that most of the people who read my blog might not find on their own (and by reading other blogs, I see the recipes that they find, which I might not). There are also times where I find myself trying so hard to make a recipe that it makes me crazy. This usually occurs when I find a recipe with an obscure ingredient, or a seasonal ingredient.

When I was working on my Country Challenge, I found myself spending entire Saturdays hitting all of the grocery stores in Bloomington looking for things like fresh pomegranates, figs, peaches, currants, chayote squash, heirloom tomatoes, tomatillos and sopressata (I have very clear memories of these, I'm sure there were others). I know seasonal cooking is best, but sometimes you just see a recipe and no matter what obstacles are in the way, you just have to make it.

Then there are times when you're just on a regular weekly grocery shop, not looking for anything special, and you stumble upon one of those ingredients mentioned before... and it's on sale! As I was nearing the checkout line last week, I found this little box of dried Zante Currants on sale for $1.10! I spent 3 weeks looking for fresh, and another 2 looking for dried about a year ago when I made these Fiji Rum Currant Scones.  I grabbed the box and spent the drive home remembering what recipe I had decided to make when I found currants again.

A long time ago I saw this recipe pop up in my google reader, starred it and figured I'd get to it when the currants found ME. I waited a while, but the happy ending to this story is these cookies were everything I had hoped for and more! When you read through the ingredients, you'll see so many strong, competing flavors (orange, nutmeg, currants, molasses), but they all work so well together and create a balance that is delicious. They are perfect for afternoon snack with coffee or tea, and I think I'll be saving this receipe to make next Christmas.

Note - I omitted the corn syrup because I was out, and added 1 more tbsp. of molasses. This might be why my cookies spread more than Bridgets. I also think I rolled my log a little fatter.

Orange-Oatmeal-Currant Cookies
from Tartine, by Elisabeth Pruett and Chad Robertson

Makes 80 2-inch cookies
(I got about 50 fatter cookies)

1½ cups (7 ounces) zante currants
2 cups (10 ounces) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
1 cup (8 ounces/16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1¼ cups (8¾ ounces) sugar
1 large whole egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon blackstrap or other dark molasses
½ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoon orange zest, grated
1½ cups (5½ ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats

In a small bowl, combine the currants and warm water to cover and set aside for about 10 minutes until the currants are plumped. Drain well and set aside.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, and nutmeg into a mixing bowl and set aside.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light and creamy.
Slowly add the sugar and mix on medium speed until light in color and fluffy.
Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
Add the whole eggs, egg yolk, vanilla, corn syrup, molasses, salt, and orange zest and beat until well mixed. Stir in the flour mixture, currants, and oats until well incorporated.

Divide the dough into 2 equal portions.
Working on a large sheet of parchment paper, shape each portion into a log about 14 inches long and 2 inches in diameter.
Gently Press each log to give it an oval shape.
Wrap tightly in parchment paper or plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator or freezer overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick liner.

Unwrap the logs.
Using a sharp knife, slice the logs into ovals about ¼ inch thick.
Arrange the ovals on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake until the edges of the cookies are lightly browned but the centers remain pale, 7-10 minutes.
You may bake both pans at the same time, but rotate them 180 degrees at the midway point if they are not baking evenly.
Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.
The cookies will be soft when they cool.
They will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.

Symon Sundays Reminder!

If you haven't already read, starting January 31, I will be cooking through Chef Michael Symon's new cookbook Live to Cook.  Right now it's a small group, which is what I expected. However, I want to make sure if anyone else wants to join that you please send an email to so I can make sure you're on the email list.

I will send out an email Sunday with the first selection as well as the roatation for members to choose a recipe. We will begin blogging on Sunday, January 31, and will blog every OTHER Sunday.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Garlicky Almond and Sun-Dried Tomato Green Beans

For our office Christmas lunch, my co-worker and I tried to think of a good vegetable to pair with lasagna and turkey. We figured green beans would be a safe bet. He said he has a favorite way of preparing them, which is with lots of garlic, sun dried tomatoes and almonds. I made mine in a more brothy sauce, where his were in a bit more EVOO. Either way, these greens beans have lots of flavor, and are an easy side to any main course.

Garlicky Almond and Sun-Dried Tomato Green Beans

4-6 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. EVOO
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 lb. trimmed green beans or Haricot Vert
1/2 cup julienne sun dried tomatoes
1/4 cup almonds, slivered or chopped

Heat a saute' pan over medium-low heat.
Add EVOO and garlic, season with salt and pepper.
Cook for 8-10 minutes, until garlic is soft and just starting to brown.
Add vegetable stock and green beans, toss and cover.
Turn heat to medium, cook green beans for 5-10 minutes, depending on thickness, until al dente.
Uncover, toss in sun-dried tomatoes and almonds, serve.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Asiago and Provolone Macaroni and Cheese

In my family, it's a tradition to have Macaroni and Cheese at Thanksgiving. I never gave it a second thought, but later in life found out that not many people eat Mac and Cheese on Thanksgiving. Keeping with the Mac and Cheese at the holidays theme, I decided to make a variation on Christmas day. I had a huge block of Asiago to use up, and a bit of Provolone. I knew this would create a sharp tasting Macaroni and Cheese, but since those are two of my favorites, I decided to try it out and hope everyone else would appreciate the slighty stinky Mac and Cheese. It was great, easy to make ahead of time and reheat, and made a huge tray with plenty of leftovers.

Asiago and Provolone Macaroni and Cheese

1 1/2 lbs. cavatappi or any short cut pasta
1 stick of butter
1 small yellow onion, grated
1/3 cup AP flour
1 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
4 cups 2% or whole milk
3 cups grated asiago cheese
1 cup grated provolone cheese

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt heavily, add pasta and cook until al dente.
Drain well, set aside.
In a large stock pot, melt butter over low heat.
Grate in onion, sweat onion for 2-3 minutes.
Sprinkle in flour, whisk and cook for 2-3 minutes, until it is a light brown color.
Add milk, whisk, bring to medium heat.
Sprinkle in cheese, whisking in completely before the next addition.
Add pepper and nutmeg.
Pour pasta into a casserole dish, pour cheese sauce over top.
Stir to distribute cheese.
Transfer to a 350 degree oven, bake for 25-30 minutes, until crisp and bubbly.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Charlotte and Belle's 1st Birthday Cakes

Yesterday was Charlotte and Belle's first birthday! We celebrated by having birthday cake last night. I was going to make one cake, but I would personally not want to share my birthday cake with someone else...
So I whipped this up just by throwing their favorite things in the mixer and baking it. I didn't use precise measurements, so I approximated here!

Peanut Butter-Pumpkin-Carrot-Oat Dog Cake

1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup shredded carrots
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup plain yogurt (as icing)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a cake pan (I used 2-6" pans, or 1 9") with parchment.
Add pumpkin, eggs, milk and peanut butter to a mixer, mix until smooth.
Add carrots, baking powder, oats and flour, mix until just incorporated.
Pour into cake pan, place in the oven.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack until room temperature.
Spread with yogurt, serve!

Monday, January 4, 2010

White Bean Cassoulet

I have been wanting to make cassoulet for a long time, since I saw Lisa Garza make it on the Next Food Network Star. Bobby Flay told her it was the best cassoulet he'd ever had, so when I was choosing a recipe, I immediately thought of hers.
I haven't had another cassoulet, so I don't really have a comparison, but this was just as I expected. It was flavorful, warm, comforting, and cheap!
Lisa serves her cassoulet with sausage, spinach pesto and parmesan crostini, but I didn't look at the recipe until I was about to make the cassoulet, so I didn't have those other elements. I served this with the brussels sprouts in my previous post.

by Lisa Garza, click on link for entire meal

***The original recipe blogged is NOT Lisa's recipe. I'm hoping to get it soon and give it a try***

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts and Pancetta

I made these brussels sprouts last week on a whim. I love pairing pancetta with brussels sprouts, and I had some in the fridge. I also had some chestnuts that needed to be used up, so the dish kind of made itself. Since it was going to be salty, earthy, and very savory, I thought adding a sweet note would round out the dish, so I tossed everything in a drizzle of pure maple syrup. This is definitely my favorite way I've prepared brussels sprouts. I'm sure I'll be making these again soon, however with chestnuts going out of season, I might swap in hazelnuts, almonds or pecans.

Maple Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts and Pancetta

1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1/8 lb. pancetta, minced
1/2 cup chestnuts, halved
2 tbsp. pure maple syrup
Fresh ground black pepper
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Heat a small skillet over medium heat.
Add pancetta, saute' for 5 minutes, until just crisp.
Spoon out and drain on a paper towel.
Add sprouts, chestnuts and pancetta to a baking dish.
Drizzle with maple syrup, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to distribute evenly.
Roast for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your sprouts.
They should be slightly caramelized on the edges and tender.

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The group will close on January 17, when I'll announce the first recipe and the rotation for selection. The first post date will be January 31.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Spinach and Emmenthaler Quiche Tart, Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche Tart

For our final brunch item I made two quiche varities. I was going to make them in pie plates like normal, but one of my pie plates was at JJ's parents house. A few weeks ago I told JJ how convienient it would be if pie plates had removable sides like tart pans. I had a lightbulb go off during my pie plate fiasco - what if I use the tart pans for quiche! They would be bigger, but easier to cut and they would cook faster. The tart pans worked like a charm, and I will probably use them from now on when I make quiche!

Spinach and Emmenthaler Quiche Tart
Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche Tart
2 10" pie crusts:
3 1/2 cups AP flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
2 sticks of butter, frozen
2 tbsp. shortening
1/2 cup ice water

Spinach and emmenthaler filling:
1 cup chopped spinach, drained well
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
4 oz. shredded emmenthaler cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
1/2 yellow onion, minced

Broccoli and cheddar filling:
1 cup chopped steamed broccoli florets
6 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Dash of tobasco
1/2 yellow onion, minced

Make the tart crusts first.
Add flour, salt and sugar to a large bowl. Whisk with a fork.
Cut butter and shortening into flour in pea sized pieces.
Add water and use a fork to mix until dough just comes together in a ball.
Wrap in plastic wrap, refrigerate for an hour (or overnight)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out tart crust, place in tart pan. Place tart pans on cookie sheets.
In large mixing bowls, whisk together eggs and milk.
Add cheeses, vegetables and spices, whisk to combine.
Pour into tart pans.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until puffy and set.
Cool for 5 minutes, pop out of tart pan.
Slice and serve immediately.

Blueberry Almond and Cranberry-Orange Muffins

For brunch, I decided to make 2 types of muffins. I'm a big fan of cranberry-orange, but I know some people don't like cranberry, so I also made blueberry. Our internet was down, so I couldn't look up an recipes, so I grabbed my go-to baking book, "Baking From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan (the Tuesdays with Dorie book). She had a recipe for Orange Blueberry Muffins, so I adapted it to make both recipes. The muffins came out a bit on the dry side, so next time I might undercook them for a little less time.

Blueberry Almond and Cranberry Orange Muffins
adapted from Dorie Greenspan

Blueberry Almond:
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
3 tbsp. honey
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. almond extract
Raw sugar, for dusting the tops

Cranberry Orange:
3/4 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
Juice of 1 orange
1 stick of butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
2 1/2 baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 tbsp. orange zest
Raw sugar, for dusting the tops

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a 12 cup muffin tin (or 2 if making both recipes).
Add sugar to a bowl, add zest and rub zest into sugar with fingers.
Add buttermilk, eggs, honey or orange juice, extract and melted butter to the bowl. Whisk well.
In a seperate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients.
Add wet ingredients to dry, whisk until just incorporated.
Add berries, fold in with a spatula.
Divide batter evenly into muffin cups.
Bake for 10 minutes, sprinkle the muffin tops with sugars.
Bake for another 11-13 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack, store in an air tight container.