Monday, December 13, 2010

Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

What could be wrong when you have salted caramel?  Nothing.  It holds true for these cookies for sure.  You expect a mouthful of overwhelming sweetness when you bite into these, but the salty flavor sneaks in there and completes the flavor profile in an amazing way.  These are also super easy so you really have no excuse not to make these right away. 

Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies
**Recipe from A Cozy Kitchen


1 1/2 Sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 Cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 Cup all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 Cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/4 Cup heavy whipping cream

To make cookies:
Cream butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Mix in vanilla.  Separately sift together flour and salt.  With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar.  Mix until dough comes together.  Place on a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten into a rectangle, wrap up in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees F when you take the dough out of the fridge.  Roll the dough into 1 1/4 inch balls and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Lightly press your finger into each cookie to make an indent.  Bake for 10-15 minutes or until they are just golden.  Let them cool.

While cookies are cooling make your caramel: combine sugar with 2 tablespoons of water in a saucepan and do not stir.  Cook over medium-high heat, swirling as it begins to brown, until it has become a dark caramel.  While the sugar is caramelizing, heat your cream either in a saucepan or in the microwave, until just warm.  Take your caramel off of the heat and stir in your room temperature butter.  Whisk until completely combined.  Add warmed cream and whisk vigorously. 

Once the cookies are cooled spoon a teaspoon of warm caramel into the indentation on each cookie and top with sea salt.  These can be eaten warm and gooey or cold and set.  Either way they are perfection. 

Home Made Peppermint Patties

These were amazingly good, and that's a good thing because they were a serious pain in the butt to make (and clean-up was a ton of work).  Before I tasted them I vowed to never make them again.  Then Tim and his friends came upstairs to test them out.  They really liked them. I tried one and had to admit that they had a point.  I was still defending my position on never making them, but they chose to ignore me and keep eating.  Then, I took them to church the next day, and everyone loved them-even a friend who does not especially like the chocolate-mint combo.  So now I think I will have to make them again.  Probably only once a year, but that will be enough to appease Tim and everyone else who got to taste the glory of these little bundles of goodness.  I think it is something you should try once.  Have an extra set of hands around for the chocolate dipping phase-this gets really messy, and you have to move quick. 

Peppermint Patties

*Recipe from Savory Sweet Life

1 Can of sweetened condensed milk
5 1/2 Cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 Tablespoon peppermint extract
3 Cups semisweet chocolate chips
3 Tablespoons shortening

Combine sweetened condensed milk, peppermint extract, and 2 cups of powdered sugar in a mixing bowl, and mix on medium speed until well blended. 
Add more sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough is firm, and can be handled somewhat easily.
Using slightly wet hands (this helps keep the patties from sticking to you) roll the dough into 3/4 inch balls and place on parchment paper.  Slightly flatten each ball.  Put patties in the freezer for 30 minutes.
Toward the end of the freezing time get to work on your chocolate.  Put the chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave in 30 second increments.  Stir after each heating, and stop once chocolate can be stirred smooth.  Stir shortening into chocolate. 
Dip each patty into the chocolate to completely coat it.  You will have to see what method works well for you.  You can do this by placing the patty on a fork and dipping it, or by simply using your hands to dip and coat each patty.  I found that the fork got caked with chocolate and peppermint so the extra chocolate could not drip off, and abandoned the fork pretty quickly.  You have to work pretty fast, and return the patties to the freezer if they start to get too soft and sticky.  This is why it is good to have an extra person around for this step.  Place coated patties on parchment and allow them to set until they are dry to the touch.  These are also delicious straight out of the freezer.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Yeasted Thanksgiving Cornbread with Cranberries

Mmmmmh  this was good.  Maybe more of a dessert than a mealtime bread, but I happily ate it next to my turkey and mashed potatoes.  The cranberry center is moist and refreshing next to all that heavy food, and I wouldn't mind seeing this at more family dinners.  You can also bake up a loaf of the basic dough to have a plain "cornbread" that we all thought tasted more like sourdough, but was delicious anyways.  The base dough recipe is supposed to make three loaves but I used all of it to make two: one plain, and one with cranberries.  I think that is the way to go, and I plan to do this again soon.

**both recipes are taken from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a day**

Broa (Portuguese Corn Bread)
3 Cups Lukewarm water
1 1/2 Tablespoons Granulated Yeast
1/1/2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
1 1/2 Cups Corn Meal
5 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Mix the yeast and salt with the water in a 5-quart bowl (preferably the bowl to your stand mixer if you have a dough hook).  If not, and 5-quart container will do.

Mix in the remaining dry ingredients without kneading, using a spoon, a 14-cup capacity food processor with a dough blade, or a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.  If you're not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.

Cover (not air-tight), and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses, about 2 hours. 

The dough can be used immediately after the rise, or it can be refrigerated and used within 10 days.  The dough is MUCH easier to work with after it has been refrigerated. 

When you are ready to bake your bread:
Dust the surface of the dough with flour and cut of a 1-lb (grapefruit sized) piece.  Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating a quarter turn as you go.  Flatten and allow to rise on a cornmeal covered pizza peel for 40 minutes.

Twenty minutes before baking time, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees F with a baking stone on the center rack, place an empty broiler tray on any other shelf that won't interfere with the rising bread. 

Just before baking sprinkle the loaf liberally with cornmeal and slash a tic-tac-toe pattern in the top with a serrated knife.

Slide the dough onto the baking stone.  Pour one cup of hot water into the broiler tray and quickly shut the door.  Bake for about 30 minutes, until deeply browned and firm.

Allow to cool before slicing or eating.  (You better hope Tim is not around if you want to follow that step).

Yeasted Thanksgiving Corn Bread With Cranberries

1 1/2 lbs broa dough (approximately one cantaloupe sized piece)
1/2 cup fresh cranberries or 1/3 cup dried
4 tablespoons Sugar
Zest of half of an orange
3 Tablespoons softened butter
12-inch cast iron pan

Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with flour and cut off a 1 1/2 lb piece.  Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating a quarter turn as you go.

Flatten the ball with your hands to a thickness of 1/2 inch.  Sprinkle the dough with cranberries, sugar, and orange zest.  Roll up the dough-jelly roll style-to incorporate the filling.  Shape into a ball again and flatten until it is about the size of your pan. 

Grease a cast iron pan with butter, being sure to coat the sides of the pan as well, Place the dough into the pan.  Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour and 20 minutes (just 40 minutes if you are using fresh, unrefrigerated dough), 

Twenty minutes before baking time, pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F and place a broiler tray on any other shelf that won't interfere with the bread rising. 

Just before baking, heat the cast iron pan on the stove over medium heat for about 2 minutes-just enough to start caramelizing the bottom crust. 

Place the pan on a rack near the center of the oven.  Pour one cup of hot water into the broiler tray and quickly shut the door.  Check the bread for browning after about 20 minutes.  The baking time will depend upon the pan being used, but will probably be about 30 minutes.  The loaf should be a rich yellow-brown when done. 

Carefully turn the hot loaf out onto a plate or cut wedges directly out of the pan. 

Honey-Preserved Clementines

I am pretty excited about this.  Clementines are one of those things that pop around once a year and disappear just as you are getting into the habit of enjoying them every day (at least once a day).  They are delicious little, seedless, easy-to-peel beauties.  They are bright. and festive, and easy to stick in a bowl as an edible centerpiece when you have friends or family over.  This recipe gives the ability to preserve the delicious flavor of winter for a few extra months.  I haven't been able to taste the results as I just made these last night and they have to sit in the fridge for about a week before you can eat them.  They smell wonderful though, and this method supposedly transforms the structure of the clementine, making the rind ultra tender so that you can eat the entire thing.  I cannot wait to pop this jar open next week.

Honey-Preserved Clementines
*recipe from Fine Cooking Dec '09/Jan '10
1 Cup Honey
1 Cup Granulated Sugar
5 Whole Cloves
2 Green Cardamom Pods
1 Cinnamon Stick
5-7 Firm Clementines cut horizontally into 3/4-inch slices
1 Quart sized canning jar with a lid

Thoroughly wash your clementines.
In a 4-qt saucepan, bring 1 cup water, honey, sugar, cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon stick to a boil over high heat.  
Gently slip the clementines into the liquid without stirring.  If any slices are mostly rind, place them rind side-down.  Return liquid to a full boil and then reduce heat to low.  Cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.  Remove the pan from heat, cover, and set aside for 8-12 hours.
Spoon and gently pack the slices into your quart jar.  Bring the syrup to a boil over medium-high heat, boil 3 minutes to concentrate the flavors.  Pour syrup over the slices to cover and discard any extra,  Cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 week before eating.  These will store in your refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Serving Suggestions:
Stir into yogurt
add to frosting for a cake
use as a topping for ice cream
stuff into cored apples before baking
add to beef stew
add to lamb tagine
use in a stuffing for roast turkey, chicken, or duck

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Home Made Potato Chips

Yes, you can make potato chips without a deep fryer contrary to what Tim seems to think.  These were so easy to make using a mandolin with the thin slice attachment and a baking stone.  These are also delicious, and crispy! 

What you'll need:
Potatoes (I used gold potatoes, but you could use russet as well)
olive oil
coarse salt

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Scrub your potatoes well, but leave the skins on.  Slice potatoes very thinly.  Brush a thin layer of olive oil over a couple of baking stones (the number of baking stones you need will depend on how many potatoes you have so do this as you go).

Lay potato slices on the baking stone in a single layer and so that none of the potatoes are touching each other. 

 Bake the potato slices for about 10 minutes.  Pull them out, flip them over,
 and return them to the oven until crispy.  This will be another 10 minutes probably.  You want to keep a close eye on them.  I was multi-tasking so some of mine burned. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spinach and Feta Quiche

One of the saddest things about pregnancy is that you are advised against eating soft (aka the best) cheeses unless they are cooked through.  This means that, as a result of my love for soft cheese, I have been making a lot of hot dishes with my beloved feta, goat cheese, etc.  Here is one example of this in action.  Don't be scared or think that you cannot make a quiche.  This is so easy, all it requires is a little time.  Even the crust is fool-proof.  On that note-I say this every time, but please do not do this recipe the injustice of serving it over a store-bought pie crust.  It will save you about a half hour if you do, but you will be sacrificing all of the flavor and instead you will be eating a delicious filling surrounded by cardboard.  Ok, that's all of the judgment and lecturing that you will get out of me tonight.  Thank you for listening. One other word of caution: Eat this with something healthy like carrot sticks, or a light salad.  This will help you to feel better about this delicious, butter-laden decadence that you are about to eat.

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt   
 3-6 Tablespoons ice water
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold butter or Shortening

For the spinach and feta Filling:
2 Tbsps olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
8-12 ounces fresh chopped spinach
8 ounces feta cheese 
1 cup milk
nutmeg to taste
salt and pepper to taste
2 egg yolks 
3 eggs

To make the Crust:
-Mix the flour and the salt together in a medium bowl.
-Cut the butter into the flour and salt mixture until it resembles coarse peas -Drizzle the ice water over the top of the dough starting with 3 tablespoons and adding more as needed
-mix the dough until it starts to come together. Form the dough into a disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes
To make the filling:
 -Preheat the oven to 375 degrees f.
Do this while the crust is refrigerating-It will take you about 30 minutes.
-Heat the olive oil over medium heat
-Sweat the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onions are translucent
-Add the spinach to this mixture and continue cooking until the spinach is just cooked, not completely soggy and wilted. Remove from
the heat.
-Crumble the feta into the spinach mixture and mix together. Set aside to cool. -Pull your pie dough out of the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured board to the size you need for your pie plate 
-Place the rolled out dough in the pie plate, place the spinach mixture in the dough.
-Beat together the eggs, yolks and milk. Add a little bit of nutmeg, fresh ground pepper.  Pour this mixture over the spinach/feta mix in the pie shell and mix together with your hands carefully so as not to puncture the crust.
-Flute or fold the edges of your pie crust . You can either bake this now, or chill until you need it.
-Bake for about 45-60 minutes, or until  brown on top and the eggs have set up.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cabbage Soup

First I have to apologize for the horrible pictures lately.  I have been using our point-and-shoot camera since dinner usually isn't ready til after dark and my Flash is currently being repaired.  So, hopefully that issue will be resolved soon, but bear with me for now.
Now, on to the soup!  I love cabbage, and I love soup. If I could eat soup every day I would.  Tim hates cabbage, and is okay eating soup about once a week in the colder months to entertain my love for it.  I never buy cabbage because I know Tim won't eat it, but it's not my fault if our CSA box contains a big head of it.  We already paid for it so we may as well eat, that's my argument!  The fact that I love cabbage soup and have never been able to make it is just an added bonus.  Tim ate the soup with no complaint, and said it was not as bad as he expected.  I count that as a success.  Baby steps.
This was not a sweet and sour cabbage soup as I seem to be averse to sweetness infringing on my savory lately.  This was a basic, hearty soup with a beef broth base and lots of other  chunky veggies.  The cabbage cooks down to a meaty consistency which I loved and We were both stuffed after one bowl.  I served this with a toasted piece of sourdough.  Tim topped his with Swiss cheese (of course).  We both walked away full of healthy foods. 

Cabbage Soup:
Adapted from:

2 medium onions, sliced
a few tablespoons of olive oil (enough to coat the pan)
2 cans of beef broth
1 head of cabbage, torn or coarsley shredded
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tomatoes chopped
1 teaspoon dried dillweed
1 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper

Heat oil in a dutch oven and add onions.  Cook until tender.  Add broth, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots, and enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil.  Add seasonings and reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer for 2 hours.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Delicata Squash and Feta Risotto

This was a perfect combination of sweet and tangy.  The delicata squash has a very sweet flavor that would be too much for me on it's own, but the feta balanced it out well, and added enough tang to keep things interesting.  Lately I have been averse to sweet meals that are supposed to be savory. For some reason I have very little taste for sweetness and all I want are heavy, comforting carbs.  I have been seen picking dried cherries out of my stuffed squash and just throwing them out.  Something my normal self wouldn't ever do.  The sweetness of this squash though was perfectly appealing.  Subtle, yet rich.  I highly recommend this, though please, plan better than I did and do not do this on a 90 degree day.  Thank you.

****I made this recipe up so as usual, amounts will probably not be exact.

2 delicata squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 cups arborio rice
5 cups chicken broth
1 container (about 6 oz) feta cheese
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly

pre-heat oven to 375
Halve your squash and remove the seeds.  Place cut-side down on a baking sheet and bake for about 30 minutes, or until tender.  Set aside.
Heat oil in a dutch oven or other large pan.  Cook onion and garlic until tender.  Add rice and cook, stirring, about 2 minutes.  Add 1/2 cup chicken broth.  Simmer and stir frequently until liquid evaporates.  Repeat with remaining broth, adding only 1/2 cup at a time, until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, with a little bite.  When you get down to about 2 cups of broth, put your feta cheese in a baking dish and stick it in the oven. Cook it until it is starting to melt and is slightly bubbly. 
Once the rice and feta are cooked, scoop the flesh of the squash into the risotto and add the feta.  Stir well, and make sure the feta is smoothed out.  You may need to leave the burner on for a few  minutes to make sure that the cheese is melted completely.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What to do with a Pie Pumpkin

 The obvious answer would be to make a pie.  But how do you get from the actual pumpkin to that canned stuff that you buy in the store?  So easy you will not believe it.  Simply cut the pumpkin in half.  Remove the seeds and the stringy goop.  Place, cut side down in a greased baking dish, cover with tinfoil and bake at 350 for 1- 1 and a half hours (til the pumpkin is very tender). It would be wise to do this while you are baking something else in your oven, or if you just want to warm up your house a bit :-)
Once the pumpkin is cooled a bit scrape the flesh into a food processor and process until smooth.  You can now use this immediately or put it in a freezer container and save it til you need it. 
Reasons to use real pumpkin:
it tastes better than canned stuff
it has not been sitting on a shelf for 12 years
you get a bonus of pumpkin seeds if you cut open a real pumpkin, and hey, you will be using the oven anyways!
It's fun to use pumpkins for something other than jack-o-lanterns, since ya know, they are food :-)

Fall=Applesauce+ode to Grandma

Apples are one of  my favorite foods.  Throughout the year I like to dip them in peanut butter, honey, or enjoy them plain.  I love the crisp sound that comes from biting into a big juicy apple.  And I love making applesauce.  This is one of the many activities that reminds me of my Grandma.  I loved my Grandma like no other, and am always happy to bring back her memory at any opportunity.  Every year she would make a ton of applesauce and share it with everyone in the family.  Like me, my Grandma loved food, she loved preparing food, and she loved extending food as a gift to others.  I am always grateful that she passed this passion onto me. 
Applesauce is one of those things that takes hardly any talent, but it does take time.  This year I tried a new method of prepping my apples.  Instead of hauling out the slicer/peeler/corer, I simply washed them, cut them into chunks and put them into a huge pot.  I later pulled out the skins with tongs.  I had a hard time getting all of the skin out so I am not sure that the saved time was worthwhile, I will decide when I crack open the first jar. 
I also never bother with smoothing out my applesauce by putting it in a food mill or blender.  I like my food chunky, and Grandma's applesauce was always chunky, so I wouldn't change it!
You don't,as far as I know, have to add any extra sugar to apples to make them safe for canning.  I like my applesauce less sweet, so after a few recipe references, I decided to try seasoning my sauce with honey and cinnamon this year.  I really like the way it turned out.  The honey adds a nice mild sweetness, and it still tastes closer to unsweetened than sweetened.  Tim insisted on the addition of cinnamon, which is fine by me.  The key is using a mixture of apples-I used Jonathans and Fujis-that are not too tart.  Then, once the apples are cooked down into a sauce, taste it and see what you want to add.  Go with your gut on this one, the fun is in the experimentation.
If you have never made applesauce before I would consult the Ball website for a tested recipe. This is a good way to make sure that what you are canning is safe.  I did consult their website last night, just to make sure that I was on the right track. 
I am excited for Fall to be here, I am sick of hot weather.  I am enjoying the memory of my Grandma today as I still have the canning supplies out from last night. I am hoping to make more applesauce before the season is over. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sorry for Being a Slacker

So, sorry that I have not posted any new recipes since June.  It's not that I haven't been cooking, it's just that I have not had a whole lot of extra energy these past few months.  The reason behind all of this laziness is that most of my energy has gone into building a baby.  That's right, I am pregnant-due in March.  Most of my free time has been spent napping, but I hope that is soon to change.  I have a lot of recipes to add so I hope to be on here catching up in the coming weeks!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Spinach and Feta Hummus

Another item in our CSA box last week was spinach.  A nice big bag over-flowing with crisp, green leaves.  I could have easily gone the route of spinach salad, or spinach pizza but I wanted to try something different.  After perusing the internet for different ways to use spinach I came across several recipes for hummus that used spinach.  I had never thought to do this before but I figured I like hummus, I like spinach.  How bad could it be?  The result was a smooth, rich dip with a color reminiscent of guacamole.  Tim says this may be his favorite hummus, and that guy has eaten his fair share of different hummus flavors, so he knows his stuff!

Spinach and Feta Hummus

15 oz garbanzo beans
2 tablespoons tahini
4 oz feta cheese
a big handful of fresh spinach
a small handful of sundried tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
lemon juice to taste

Throw everything in your food processor and process til smooth.  Serve with pita, veggies, or anything else you like to dip!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Curried kale with lentils and mango

This is one of the delicious things that has been inspired by the CSA produce box.  In my box this week I got a big, beautiful, green bunch of kale.  Now, it's not like I have never eaten kale before, but it is definitely not on regular rotation in our kitchen.  Plus, when I signed up for this weekly produce delivery I promised myself that I was going to find fun and different ways to use the ingredients that I recieved each week.  I vowed not to waste anything, and to experiment even with the most seemingly boring of ingredients.  The nice thing about the CSA that I joined (Simply Wisconsin) is that they send you an e-mail a few days in advance letting you know what will be in your box so that you can plan accordingly.  This gave me a little time to search for fun ways to use kale.  This recipe caught my eye, and I am so glad that I tried it! You know I am a sucker for beautiful food and this dish is bright and colorful, with great teture and depth.  It also tastes great!  I ever expected Tim to like Kale, but he ate it happily, and even packed some of the extras up in a tupperware for his lunch the next day. (I usually have to guilt him into taking leftovers that he is not interested in so that they don't go bad, but I did not say a word with this.) The curry powder adds a distinct flavor to otherwise boring kale, and the mango adds a nice sweet balance.  Please try this whether you are a kale devotee or not.  You will not regret it.

Curried Kale with Lentils and Mango
*Recipe from Tasty Kitchen poster Foodology

What you need:
1/2 Cup of lentils, rinsed and sorted
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 Medium Onion, thinly sliced
1 Shallot, sliced
1 cloce Garlic, minced
1 bunch Kale, washed, stemmed, chopped-be sure to remove the large ribs from the kale leaves because they are hard to chew
salt and pepper
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 whole lemon
1 mango, peeled and chopped into large chunks

Boil your lentils for 20-25 minutes.
While the lentils cook heat the oil in a large pot (I used my dutch oven and it was the perfect size).  Add the onions and shallot and cook for about five minutes-until translucent.  Add garlic, kale, salt, pepper, and curry powder.  Cook about 2 minutes.  Add the lentils and juice from the lemon and cook until kale is wilted, but still bright green in color.  Once the kale is cooked, turn off heat and stir in the mango.  We had this with lamb chops and it was the perfect accompaniment.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

I have been wanting to try this method out for a while now.  I have heard nothing but praise for this book.  I love making bread, I love eating freshly made bread, I also work full time.  I have always wanted to make all of our bread from scratch, but just have not found a good way to make that happen in real life.  That is where this method comes in.  I will not give away the whole technique, but the basic idea is that you mix up a big batch of wet dough in the beginning of the week.  Each day you tear off a piece, shape it, allow it to rest a bit at room temperature, and bake it.  The five minutes is actual hands-on time.  The resting period is about 40 minutes and the baking time is 30 minutes.  I managed to make a delicious loaf of bread today despite working a full day and dealing with getting my camera repaired.  I had fresh bread on the table with dinner!
The authors insist that you start with their master recipe and become familiar with that before moving on to the other breads.  The master recipe is very basic and makes it easy for you to focus on the method rather than on the ingredients.  
The result:  I was skeptical from the time that I mixed the dough yesterday.  I knew that the dough was supposed to be wet, but should it be that wet?  Then when I went to pull off my piece today I had the same thought.  Yep, I guess it was supposed to be that wet, because once baked it yielded a moist, light, perfect loaf of bread with a thick, hearty crust.  I am a complete novice when it comes to this method of bread baking yet I was able to pull bakery quality bread out of my oven on the first try.   The book is also really cool because the first several chapters are dedicated to explaining the technique, how it differs from traditional bread baking, and why it works.  I love learning this kind of stuff, so I had a lot of fun reading through that part.
I am excited to move onto the other recipes in the book and experiment with more flavors! This book is a definite keeper!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lamb Chops with Pistachio Tapenade

Oh. My. God.  That is all that I have to say.  Now I have to go eat more lamb.

Just kidding, I would not be so cruel as to leave you without the recipe to this heavenly dish.

Lamb is definitely one of my favorite foods, and it is by far my favorite type of meat.  I always order it at restaurants, but this is the first time that I have made it at home.  Lamb, you see, is crazy expensive, at least in my frugal little mind it is.  I saw this recipe though, and I knew I had to at least give it a whirl.  Next time I host someone for dinner, this is what I am making.  It is simple to throw together, the meat melts in your mouth all the while hitting every taste bud with a delicious combination of nutty, salty, and fresh.  Please make this.  You will impress people immensely.  And do me a favor.  Serve this with a simple salad or green veggie.  Do not make anything that will try to compete with this delicious meat.  You will be sorry.  Yes, that is a threat. 

Lamb Chops with Pistachio Tapenade
*Slightly tweaked from Smitten Kitchen who slightly adapted it from Anne Burrell

1/2 cup pistachios, shelled and toasted
1/2 cup pitted green olives
2 tablespoons capers
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zested
Fresh Lemon Juice
6 lamb chops

To make the pistachio tapenade: In a food processor combine the pistachios, olives, capers, garlic, herbs and puree. While the machine is running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until the mixture becomes a paste. Add the zest and pulse 1 more time, drizzling in more oil if necessary. Add lemon juice to taste.  This just helps to counteract a little of the saltiness.  It was a bit too much for me.  Reserve until ready to use.
Cook your chops: Season your six lamb chops generously on either side with salt.  Allow them to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before cooking.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Coat a large saute pan generously with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, add the lamb chops and cook for about 2 minutes on each side to brown. If the pan begins to smoke, lower the heat. The chops should be beautifully caramelized on both sides. Remove the chops to a sheet pan and top with the pistachio tapenade. Use all of it.  I know it looks like a lot.  Too much even.  It's not.  Trust me.  Place in preheated oven and cook another 4 to 5 minutes for medium rare. I had to cook mine for way longer than 4-5 minutes.  Probably closer to 10.  Maybe my lamb chops were gigantic, but I would recommend checking the internal temperature after 4-5 minutes, and then continue cooking as needed until the internal temperature reaches 140 degrees F.  Remove chops from oven and let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Polenta Bread

You really can't go wrong with this bread.  It is simple, both in it's creation and in it's flavor.  If you are scared of making bread on your own, this would be a great recipe to start with.  There is really hardly any work involved, just be sure to allow time for one 45 minute-to an hour rise time.  

The polenta flavor in this bread is so subtle and sweet.  It is just a hint, like something you can almost put your finger on.  The crumb is light and the crust is slightly harder than the crumb, but just barely.  The bread is a great addition to a simple meal of salad, or as a snack after work.  Try it lightly toasted with softened butter on top and a tiny bit of honey.  It will melt in your mouth.  

Polenta Bread
Recipe from Taste and Tell

2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup polenta (or cornmeal)
2 teaspoons salt
6 1/2 cups bread flour

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water (around 100 degrees, or slightly warmer than room temperature).  Let mixture sit until it bubbles slightly on top to show that the yeast has activated. 
Combine polenta, salt and bread flour in mixer bowl fitted with the dough hook. Add olive oil and yeast mixture and mix well. Knead dough with dough hook for 8 to 12 minutes (the temperature of your kitchen will make the difference in the timing.) You know that the dough has been mixed enough when it clears the sides of the bowl and all ingredients are incorporated. Turn off mixer and let dough rest for 1 minute in bowl.

Divide dough into thirds and shape into loaves. Place on greased cookie sheets. Cover dough and allow it to rise until the loaves have doubled in size. This took 45 minutes for me. You know that your dough has doubled when you lightly press it with your finger and the dough springs back, but not all of the way-a slight indent will remain. 

Bake for about 30 minutes at 300F. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Burnt Carrot Salad with Goat Cheese and Garlic Chips

I have to say I am really really sorry that I do not have a picture of this. Work has been really busy, and I am lucky to get a home cooked meal on the table at all, so snapping some photos before we dig in is usually too much to ask right now. This was a gorgeous dish though. Bright orange carrots with little charred sections contrasted against leafy green arugula. Crumbled goat cheese and little golden chips of toasted garlic. This was a meal for those of us who appreciate the aesthetics of food as well as the flavor.
This was another one of those meals that I hesitated to tell Tim about in advance. My anticipated reaction from him went something like this: "You mean we are having burnt carrots and some lettuce for dinner? And the cheese cost you how much?" I expected that this would be too sophisticated for his simple, meat-and-potatoes palate. I under-estimated him, and the work that I have done to introduce him to good food over the last few years. Luckily, and surprisingly when we sat down with this beautiful salad accompanied by a slightly toasted piece of bread, Tim took his first bite and said "wow, this is good. I really like the carrots this way" and then I almost choked. But he was right. Something happens when you char carrots. It is so simple, but their sweet, rich flavor really comes out.
Now, I know this is really going to shock you, but what really made this salad for me was the garlic. It's flavor is quite subtle in relation to everything else. The toasting of the garlic chips really brought out the sweetness and balanced out some of the garlic's usual spice. Every once in a while you get a bite that has the subtle garlicky kick, and it is so good. Okay, you all know how much I love garlic so I will just give you the recipe.

Burnt Carrot Salad with Goat Cheese and Garlic Chips
Adapted from the Chicago Tribune Good Eating Section

1 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic, very thinly sliced
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
black pepper
8 Medium Carrots, peeled
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Thyme, or 1./2 teaspoon dried
1 small bunch Flat Leaf (Italian) Parsley, leaves only
2 small bunches of Arugula, trimmed and rinsed
6 oz Goat Cheese

Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add garlic and cook, stirring, until just golden, about 20 seconds. immediately remove and place on a plate layered with paper towels. Let the oil cool and pour into a bowl. Wipe out skillet.
Put vinegar in a small bowl and whisk in 5 Tablespoons of the garlic oil. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and pepper to taste.
Cut the carrots into rough sticks. Toss in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of the garlic oil , thyme, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the same skillet over high heat. Cook the carrots in a single layer. Cook until lightly charred on one side, 3-5 minutes. Turn and cook until lightly charred and tender on the other side, 2-3 minutes.
Toss the parsley and arugula with half of the vinaigrette on a large platter. Arrange carrots on top. crumble goat cheese over the carrots and top with the garlic chips. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the salad. Serve with toasted bread.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Real S'mores Brownies

I recently tried an impostor brownie.  This brownie tried to claim that it was a s'mores brownie.  This was a flat-out lie.  This brownie had no graham and one measly marshmallow.  Big fat thumbs down from me.  Ever since that experience I have been craving a real s'mores brownie and we all know that if you want something done right sometimes you just have to do it yourself.  Well, I have to say that this little experiment turned out to be quite delicious. 
These brownies were a little better chilled than they were slightly warm.  This made them less messy and gave them a more solid consistency.  The marshmallows were a little hard to eat when they were still warm.  They were also next to impossible to cut before they cooled all the way. 
I used a brownie recipe that was supposed to go in an 8X8 pan, and made this in a 9X13 so that there was not chocolate overload.  This is very rich, so I think that this was a good choice, but who am I to tell you how much chocolate to consume.  I will not judge you if you do not thin out your brownie batter :-)  I used my favorite brownie recipe which I will include below.  Feel free to use whatever brownies you desire.  The only changes I made to the brownie batter were:
I used 3 oz semi-sweet chocolate and 3 oz bittersweet chocolate to make them less sweet
I did not use nuts-there are no nuts in S'mores.  Duh. 

That's all

Real S'mores Brownies

 1 1/4 C graham cracker crumbs
4 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 recipe brownie batter
mini marshmallows

Mix the graham cracker crumbs and the butter together.  Use your hands to make sure that it is mixed well and that the crumbs are sticking together.  Press this mixture into the bottom of a  greased 9X13 inch pan.

Pour brownie batter over the crust.  Bake this at 350 degrees until a clean knife inserted in the center of the brownie comes out with only a few crumbs on it.  Turn your oven off and turn your broiler on High.  Sprinkle an even layer of marshmallows over the brownie.  Put this under the broiler and watch it closely.  Once they start to turn a nice golden brown pull them out.  Two minutes was the perfect amount of time for mine. 

Allow these to cool completely before slicing.  They can be stored in the freezer if you want to eat them slowly (in a freezer-safe container of course!)  and thawed for a few minutes on the counter when you want to eat them. 

Double Fudge Brownies
*Recipe from The Chicago Tribune Good Eating Section

3/4 C Flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, not dutch processed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 C Chopped walnuts or pecans
1 tablespoon flour
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 C sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8X8 inch baking pan. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Mix the nuts with the 1 tablespoon of flour. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the chocolate and cook, stirring, until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat immediately and stir in the sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Let this mixture cool for about 10 minutes.
Whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture one at a time. Beat until smooth and glossy-about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour mixture and the nuts and mix until just combined.
Spread the batter into your prepared pan and bake until a tester inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean. This should be 20-25 minutes. Cool pan on a wire rack for at least 1 hour.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Java-rubbed Chicken with Garlicky asparagus

I saw the recipe for this chicken rub in last week's Tribune Good Eating section.  I saw the word java and knew I had to keep reading.  This rub is a good balance of a little sweet and a little spicy.  It is a tiny bit too salty for me, so next time I will reduce the amount of salt, but other than that this is a definite keeper. This paired well with some fresh, lemony asparagus and a hearty slice of bread.  A perfectly light and satisfying spring meal.

Java-Rub Chicken
***Recipe from the Chicago Tribune Good Eating Section
6 Tablespoons ground coffee
2 Tablespoons each: brown sugar, sweet paprika, coarse salt
2 teaspoons each: garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper
1 tsp each: ground cumin, ground coriander, unsweetened cocoa powder
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

Prepare a grill for medium heat.  Combine the coffee, brown sugar, spices, and cocoa in a mixing bowl.  Stir to mix. 
Rub the chicken on all sides with the java mixture.  Place the chicken on the grill and cook until heated through.  5-7 minutes per side. 

I could tell that I was going to have extra of the rub, so instead of coating my chicken in the bowl, I spooned the rub out onto the chicken.  This way I was able to save the extra and use it again later.  This is probably not that novel of an idea, but it is worth mentioning so that you are not throwing these wonderful ingredients away for no reason!


This is very simple to throw together and it pairs great with most grilled meat
1 bunch of asparagus, cut up into smallish pieces with the tough ends removed
drizzle of lemon juice
3 cloves of garlic VERY thinly sliced
Put your cut-up asparagus into a bowl.  Drizzle with enough lemon juice to coat.  Stir in garlic.  Put the asparagus mixture onto a heavy duty sheet (or two normal sheets) of aluminum foil.  wrap it up nice and tight and place this right on the grill next your chicken (or whatever else you are grilling).  Let this cook for 10-15 minutes.  The asparagus will get nice and soft, and the garlic will produce a smooth, sweet flavor. This is a perfect way to celebrate Spring!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Cookies n Cream Cookies

These cookies were good for the most part.  I thought that they were a little dry, so in the future I would add less oatmeal and bake them for a shorter time, but all-in-all they were really good. I just realized that I left out the brown sugar from the original recipe, but I cannot imagine these cookies being any sweeter, so I don't think that I will add it in the future either.  The combination of white and semi-sweet chocolate works really well, and the coconut adds some interest to some otherwise plain cookies.  The cookies have a lot of texture due to the oats and the coconut, which I like a lot. This is a good twist on your basic cookie without adding any extra work.  Who can argue with that?
The original recipe that I followed said to use a Cookies n Cream candy bar, but our grocery store didn't have them so I subbed in a combination of white and semi-sweet chocolate chips and that worked great!  I wouldn't waste the money on the candy bars, just do it my way!  :-)  If you do want to disobey my request then simply sub in two cups of chopped Cookies n Cream candy bar for the chocolate chips.  But I'm tellin' ya, it's a waste of money.  Okay, do what you want, I don't care :-p
One more note on cookie baking, and then I will let you look at the recipe.  I like to pull my cookies out of the oven a few minutes before they are actually done baking.  I let them complete the baking process on the cookie sheets.  This produces a much more moist cookie.  People who see me do this often tell me that I am making my cookies the wrong way, or that they are not cooked all they way, blah, blah, blah.  Then they try my cookies and they stop complaining.  I highly recommend this method.   All cookies made any other way now seem dry and over-cooked to me.
Okay, you may read the recipe now.

Cookies n Cream Cookies
Recipe adapted from Taste and Tell

2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
1/2 C granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 C all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C white chocolate chips
2 C old fashioned rolled oats
1 C sweetened coconut

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Cream your butter and sugar together until light and creamy.  Add eggs and mix one at a time.  Stir in vanilla.
Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Add and mix gradually to the butter mixture until combined.  Stir in oats, chocolate, and coconut.
Drop batter in spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets, or, my personal favorite, baking stones.  Bake 16 minutes.  (Watch them as they get close to 16 minutes, mine were definitely over-cooked at the 16 minute mark, but everyone's oven is different).

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tuesday Night Dinners

We always try to eat light on Tuesday nights.  We end up eating a lot for dessert because we meet up with a small group of couples from our church, so we try to save room for whatever goodies await us.  Last week we tried this Israeli style salad for dinner, and we loved it.  Of course I got the idea from my favorite cookbook-Simple In Season.  You do not need a recipe for this, and I basically looked at their idea once and threw it together based on memory. It is so simple to throw together and you just feel good after you eat it.  It brought me back to my visit to Israel several years ago.  Meals were so simple there-you would grab a hard boiled egg and some fresh produce.  Maybe some warm pita and be on your way.  We decided to institute this as our Tuesday night meal until we get sick of it. 

The amount of veggies that you use will depend on how many people you are feeding.  This is enough for the two of us, plus a little extra.

2 Tomatoes
1 Cucumber
1/4 Large Sweet Onion
1 Small Green Pepper
2 hard boiled eggs
Fresh bread
Olive Oil
Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper

Cut up all your veggies.  I like to keep my veggie pieces pretty big, but cut them however you like. Put all of the veggies in a large bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil and lemon juice.  Mix, taste, adjust.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve in a bowl and top with a hard boiled egg.  Serve with warm pita or a hearty bread. 
The first time I made this I had some leftover cooked brown rice, so I added that.  It was a good addition that made the salad a lot more filling.  It was also a good way to use up that extra rice!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Bleeding Heart Bakery Red Velvet Cupcake

This cupcake was just okay.  The cake did not have a ton of flavor to it.  The consistency was nice-light and airy.  The cream cheese frosting was really good.  If I could have just eaten the frosting I would have been much happier, and found the caloric intake to be more worthwhile.  This was a very rich cream cheese frosting, but there was only a relatively thin layer of it on the cake so it was perfect.
The presentation-like everything else from BHB-was great!  The top part of the cupcake was sliced open to make a space for the frosting.  This not only looks awesome, but makes the cupcake much less messy to eat. 
I would not buy this cupcake again, but I may look for other items at their bakery with this same frosting.  Or maybe they should sell frosting shots.  I would buy those. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Asparagus Soup

I realize that this may not sound like the most appealing thing in  the world.  I hesitated to tell Tim that we were having it for dinner because I figured he would cringe at the thought.  I am not a huge fan of pureed soups, so I was unsure of how I would like this recipe.  Basically this was a toss-up and it turned out to be a good one.  I am so glad that I tried this soup!  Last night was a perfect soup night (many nights are perfect for soup in my opinion) I am suffering from some pretty evil allergies and it was cloudy and gloomy outside.  The soup features one of my favorite spring veggies-asparagus.  I love when those big, bright green stalks show up in the market looking so vibrant and delicious.  The plain yogurt adds a wonderfully acidic balance to the flavor, and a few chopped and blanched asparagus tips make the soup seem less overwhelmingly beverage-like.  I served this with whole wheat biscuits (recipe still under construction, but coming along smoothly) in order to make Tim happy.  He actually seemed to like the soup a lot, which was a huge surprise to both of us!
I also love the color of this soup.  It is almost a pastel green once the yogurt is mixed in-way more appealing than I imagined when I read the recipe initially.

Asparagus Soup
Recipe from Simply In Season

1 Pound Asparagus
2 Cups Water
1 Small Onion, chopped
1 Medium Potato, peeled and chopped
2 Cups Broth
1 Cup Dry Milk Powder
2 Tablespoons Flour
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 C Plain Yogurt

Cut off the tips of the asparagus and blanch until just tender but still crisp-about 3 minutes.  Set aside and reserve the water.
Chop the asparagus spears and remove tough ends.  Cook asparagus with the 2 cups of water, potato, and onion until tender-about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool for a few minutes.  Pour this into your food processor or blender and puree until smooth. 
Mix broth, dry milk powder, flour, and salt and pepper.  Add this and the pureed soup into a large stock pot. You can add in your reserved blanching liquid here if you want to.  I did, but you don't have to. If you are not going to use it here, you can toss it. Cook over medium heat until thickened.  I cooked mine about 10 minutes to get it nice and thick.  Do this to whatever consistency you desire.  Throw your perfectionist tendencies out the window and do whatever you feel like, it's way more fun that way!
Grab some bowls and spoon some plain yogurt into the bottom of each one.  Ladle hot soup over the yogurt and top with reserved asparagus tips.  Serve with a hearty biscuit or home made bread.  I hope that this soup surprises you as much as it did me!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Bleeding Heart Bakery- S'mores Brownie

This was a good brownie.  Rich, sweet, dense, moist.  I would not, however, say that BHB is justified in calling this a S'mores brownie.  There was only one little marshmallow on top and no graham that I could detect.  It seemed to me to be a decent brownie with a random marshmallow that landed there on accident. When I think s'mores I think lots of gooey marshmallows with some crunch from the graham.  If I was going to make a s'mores brownie (and now maybe I will, because I kind of want one!) I would make some kind of bottom crust with graham incorporated into it, a rich chocolate brownie-probably with some dark chocolate incorporated to balance out some of the sweetness- and then do a thin layer of marshmallows on top.   I don't think that I would buy this brownie.  It was good,  but not great, and I am guessing that it is pretty pricey (most things from this bakery are).  To me, a brownie is a brownie, and this one did not break that mold at all. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I have no idea if this is at all authentic.  I really just guessed at the ingredients and ratios, and have no clue if this is like the real thing or not.  It tastes really good.  It is nice, fresh, and tangy.  The idea came about when I made this spinach and ricotta pie.  The filling tasted similar to Spanikopita so I thought I would try to turn it into that Greek pastry that I love so much.  This recipe doesn't really resemble that pie too closely either, but it was the source of inspiration. This was my first experience with Phyllo dough.  It was not as hard as I had expected, though it was a bit tricky to not tear the dough.  I definitely had to throw a few sheets away because they were so badly torn.  It did take a long time to assemble all of my triangles, but it wasn't bad. 


1 lb fresh spinach, cooked and chopped
6 oz feta cheese
5 oz creamy goat cheese
1 bunch of Italian parsley, chopped
Juice from 1/2 small lemon
2 sticks of butter, melted
1 package (2 rolls) of phyllo dough, thawed

Put all of the ingredients, except for the butter and the dough, into a medium bowl and mix well.  I found it helpful to add my spinach while it was still warm in order to melt the cheeses and help everything to mix better. This can be made the day before.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Open up one package of phyllo dough and cover it with a damp towel.  Remove one piece of phyllo, leaving the rest under the towel to keep the unused dough from drying out, and lightly brush it with melted butter.  Lay one more sheet of dough on top of your buttered piece.  Brush this one with butter too.  Now fold the two sheets in half to make one long rectangle.  place a scoop of filling onto one end of your rectangle.  Roll it into a log shape, or fold it corner-to-corner to make a triangle.  Brush both sides of the outside of the dough with butter and place on a cookie sheet.  Repeat these steps with the remaining dough and filling.

I had used up all of my filling and still had a good amount of dough left so I made a few pastries filled with goat cheese and a tiny bit of honey.  They were delicious as well.  Really, what wouldn't taste good wrapped in layers of flaky dough and a lot of butter?

Once you are done rolling up all of your triangles, or whatever shape you pick, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Cook these until golden brown-about 30 minutes.  In the future, I may try cooking them at a higher temperature for less time, but 350 degrees worked well too.   Allow to cool slightly and dig in.  Let me know what you think after you try them!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Verruca Salt Cupcake

This cupcake from the Bleeding Heart Bakery was the perfect balance of salty and sweet.  I love that sea salt has dominated the baking scene recently.  A lot of times I find baked goods to be way too sweet, and I think that this is a fun way to counteract that.  The cake part of this seemed to be a plain vanilla cupcake with a nice consistency and a simple flavor.  It had a simple white frosting that was topped with a sprinkling of thick, crunchy sea salt.  I like that this cupcake was not anything super complicated.  It was a plain, normal cupcake with a nice little surprise on top.  I would definitely get another one of these.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Cake Balls

This was my first experience with Cake balls.  I have read about them-they are the big thing right now it seems.  From what I saw on blogs I imagined a thick coating of frosting with a light, crumbly cake filling. I thought they may be kind of bland and dry.  To be honest I never really had a desire to try them.  These Cake Balls from Bleeding Heart Bakery are nothing like that, and that is a good thing in my eyes.  They are rich, and like the scones, very dense.  The outer coating is a thin layer of frosting dipped in crushed nuts, coconut, sprinkles, or crushed cookie.  The "cake" layer really seems more like fudge to me.  Rich and moist, and no crumbles anywhere to be found.  They were kind enough to give us a few flavors in our box-peanut butter coated in coconut, chocolate covered in nuts, and chocolate covered in cookie crumbs.  I have only tried one so far, Tim has tried two, and they seem to be consistently yummy.  Another two thumbs up for the Bleeding Heart Bakery.  I am starting to wonder if I will dislike anything in that box of goodies. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Take A Hike Scones

This is the first of my Bleeding Heart Bakery reviews.  I have to say, based on this scone, I may be hooked.  This thing was colossal.  Tim and I could have split one, but they gave us two, so we each ate our own :-)  The flavor balance was wonderful.  Slightly sweet with a bit of molasses flavor. Densely packed with fruit and nuts.  Crusty and hard on the outside with a soft, moist interior.  This was a great scone.  The texture was better than that of most scones that I have tried.  It was not so dry that I felt like I needed to dip it in my coffee.  I was able to eat it easily without it crumbling everywhere.  The interior had an almost cake-like consistency-very dense, but smooth and moist.  It had to be filled with nutritional value, although I am sure the portion size was totally out of control!  The nuts and fruit make it feel like a satisfactory meal, and believe me, you will not be hungry after you eat this thing!  I will definitely go back for another one of these, and I suggest that you get your butt in there and try one for yourself.  Two thumbs up!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Bleeding Heart Bakery Reviews

We recently bought a Groupon for a variety box from the Bleeding Heart Bakery.  This box includes a lot of yummy stuff!  I have never been to this bakery before.  It is super cute and I have always wanted to go in and try it, but I have heard mixed reviews because it is definitely on the pricey side and some people do not think that the quality matches the price.  Others have said that they love this place.  Through this box I will decide for myself. The box includes 2 Take a Hike Scones, a variety of six cake balls, a Verruca Salt Cupcake, a Red  Velvet Cupcake, 1 Lemon Bar, 1 S'mores Brownie, and 1 Rockie Road Brownie.  The bar/brownies/scones are all gigantic!  They look delicious, I can't wait to try them!  I will dedicate a post per item to review and show you pictures.  I can tell you already that they have their presentation down.  Everything is very aesthetically pleasing, the color combinations are nice, and their in-store displays make you want to order one of everything.
Stay tuned for my reviews!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Nutella Infused Brownies

In an effort to find another vehicle for my beloved Nutella I decided to experiment with making Nutella brownies. I did not want to simply mix the Nutella into the batter because I thought the flavor would get lost. I have also seen other people make a frosting out of the Nutella but I thought that that would be a bit much. I ended up piping the Nutella into already-baked brownies. This gives each brownie a little pocket of gooey Nutella. Pure decadence. These brownies are not for the faint of heart. If you don't really love chocolate you probably won't like them. But, if chocolate is your drug of choice you need to try these.
You can make these with boxed brownie mix or from-scratch brownies. We actually ,made them both ways, and both were good. I definitely liked the from-scratch ones better because they were less sweet and way more moist. But, if you are in a time crunch, or money crunch, and you want to dress up some plain, out-of-the-box brownies, this definitely works. We added chopped walnuts, and topped our brownies with Bittersweet chocolate. This works to cover up the holes from the Nutella and balance out some of the sweetness. I would definitely not recommend using semi-sweet or milk chocolate for the topping. These are way sweet as it is, and it takes a lot for me to say that.

Nutella Brownies

1 recipe prepared brownies
Bittersweet chocolate pieces

Prepare your brownies. Put your Nutella into a frosting bag, or a Ziploc bag with one corner cut open. While your brownies are still warm pipe the Nutella into the brownies at equal intervals figuring that you will have one Nutella bite per brownie. If you are using a Ziploc, I would recommend making holes for the Nutella with a knife first and then squeezing the Nutella out of the bag into the holes. Sprinkle the bittersweet chocolate pieces in a thin layer on top of the brownies and place in a warm oven for about a minute. Watch them closely, and as soon as they look shiny take them out. Immediately spread the chocolate over the brownies in a even layer. The chocolate on top will harden while the brownies cool. Let them cool completely before cutting and serving.

Double Fudge Brownies
*Recipe from The Chicago Tribune Good Eating Section

3/4 C Flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, not dutch processed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 C Chopped walnuts or pecans
1 tablespoon flour
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 C sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Pre heat your oven to 350 degrees. Prepare an 8X8 inch baking pan. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. Mix the nuts with the 1 tablespoon of flour. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the chocolate and cook, stirring, until chocolate is melted. Remove from heat immediately and stir in the sugar and vanilla. Mix well. Let this mixture cool for about 10 minutes.
Whisk the eggs into the chocolate mixture one at a time. Beat until smooth and glossy-about 2 minutes. Stir in the flour mixture and the nuts and mix until just combined.
Spread the batter into your prepared pan and bake until a tester inserted in the center of the brownies comes out clean. This should be 20-25 minutes. Cool pan on a wire rack for at least 1 hour.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Garlic-Roasted Chicken

This recipe was so, so easy, and also very good.  It felt like a bit of a fancy meal because it involved thick, crusty bread, smooth roasted garlic, and tender, juicy chicken.  The meat was so moist and flavourful-even as a leftover for lunch the next day.   We also used all the  extra roasted garlic to make garlic butter.  Just soften a stick of butter and stick it in the food processor with the roasted garlic.  Yum!

Garlic-Roasted Chicken
*Recipe from The Food Network

 2 Tablespoons extra virin olive oil
1  1/2 lbs chicken breasts
kosher salt, pepper
2 heads of garlic
4 sprigs of fresh rosmary
4 slices sourdough bread, toasted
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Heat oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat.  season the chicken breasts and place them in the dutch oven.  cook until browned on one side-about 5 minutes.
Seperate the garlic into cloves but do not peel.  Flip over the chicken and add the garlic and rosmary to the pan.    Transfer the dutch oven to the preheated oven.  cook until chicken is cooked through-about 20 minutes.
Place the bread slices on plates and top with chicken breasts.  Add the vinegar to the dutch oven and scrape up the stuck on chicken pieces with a spoon.  Add 3 tablespoons of water and simmer until sauce thickens-about 2 minutes.  Pour the sauce and garlic over the chicken. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sun Dried Tomato and Artichoke Hummus

Sunday afternoon the same question always rolls around..."What are we gonna do for dinner?" Tim will say.  I usually do not have anything planned for Sunday night, and usually end up throwing together some sort of pasta dish, or just eating cereal.  Last night I decided to go with a good standby: Hummus.  I had some sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts leftover from another dish, and I knew I wanted to use them up in an interesting way.  Sun dried tomatoes are always good in hummus-I add them any time I can!  I had never tried adding artichoke hearts though.  They added a really nice flavor balance.  Their tartness helped to make up for the fact that I did not have nearly enough lemon juice for my normal hummus recipe. Tim thought that they made the hummus smell funny, but I think it smells funny anyways.  The color of this hummus was also more appealing than the normal beige color.  It had a slightly red tint, and you could see small pieces of the tomatoes in there.

Sun dried tomato and artichoke hummus

1 15 oz can chick peas
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 large cloves garlic
2 tablespoons chopped onion
4 pieces artichoke hearts
sun dried tomatoes-I am not actually sure how many I added...eyeball it.
good quality olive oil

Add all of the ingredients, except the olive oil, to a large food processor and blend until smooth.  Drizzle in some olive oil and blend again.  Keep adding olive oil until it is nice and smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and drizzle some more olive oil on top.  Serve with warm pita or pita chips and fresh veggies.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mushroom, Spinach, and Ricotta Pie

This pie is the epitome of comfort food. Three types of fancy cheese, Lots of vegetables, and butter all wrapped up in a soft, flaky, thick double crust. I enjoyed that this was a hearty, comforting dish with a little bit of elegance. The goat cheese adds a grown-up flavor to the pot pies we remember eating at Mom's table. I would definitely consider this company-worthy. I would probably serve it with a refreshing glass of iced tea and some fresh fruit.
This recipe does require some time, and the ingredients are a bit on the expensive side, but it is totally worth it. If cooking is your therapy, this is a good recipe to go to as it comes together a bit slowly. This is the first involved meal I have been able to make since we adopted Samson three weeks ago.
He is cute, but I missed spending a couple of hours in the kitchen winding down after work, and am glad to be back.

Wild Mushroom, Spinach, and Ricotta Pie

Adapted from the Chicago Tribune

2 Tblsp butter
1 lb fresh spinach, chopped
3 large leeks, very thinly sliced, white and light green parts only
20 oz mixed mushrooms, sliced- I used half baby bellas and half white mushrooms
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1/4 C water
2 eggs
8 Oz Ricotta Cheese
6 Oz soft goat cheese
1 Tblsp dried thyme
1 Tblsp fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 Tblsp lemon juice
1 C fresh grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1 recipe savory pie dough-recipe follows, chilled
***Please do not use store bought pie crust. It will severely diminish the deliciousness of this dish. Once you learn how easy home made pie crust is to make, and how much better it tastes, you will never even think of buying one of those flavorless, insanely expensive things that are sold in the grocer's refrigerator. Thank you.***

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add the spinach and stir to coat. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the water is evaporated. Move the spinach to a bowl.
Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the dutch oven. Add the leeks, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook over high heat until the garlic becomes aromatic. You will have no doubt when this happens, it should take 1-2 minutes. Add the water and reduce the heat to medium. Cook until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is gone. This will take about 10 minutes.
while your veggies are cooking whisk together eggs, ricotta, goat cheese, half of the thyme, the parsley, nutmeg, lemon juice, and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Remove your dough from the fridge and divide it in half. Roll each half out to a 12-inch disk. Lay one disk into a 9-inch pie plate.
Spread half of the cheese mixture over the crust. Top with half of the spinach, and then half of the mushrooms. Sprinkle in the remaining thyme. Now layer the remaining spinach, then mushrooms, followed by the rest of the cheese. Place the second dough disk on top, remove the excess dough from around the sides and crimp edges together. Cut a couple of vents in the top of the crust and bake until golden brown-50-60 minutes.

Savory Pie dough
2 sticks butter, at room temperature
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 C half and half
1 tsp salt
2 2/3 C flour

Beat together the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Stir in the cream and salt.
Stir in the flour gradually, mixing with a fork as you go. Handle the dough as little as possible so as not to make it tough. Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate one hour-24 hours.