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.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Deleece and A La Card

We just ate at Deleece on Southport for the first time. If you live in Chicago I would definitely recommend this place. The food is delicious and the prices are not too high. They had a very wide selection on the menu. I had cavatapi with mushrooms and the most delicious tomatoes. There was truffle oil coating everything, and cheese. Oh, the cheese. My only complaint about this dish was that I would prefer a higher vegetable-to-pasta ratio. There was plenty of color and flavor, but I like my meals to be bursting with veggies whenever possible. I would still definitely order this dish again though. Tim had a stuffed poblano pepper. It had rice inside and was atop a bed of black beans. There was poblano sour cream and some tortilla strips for garnish. This was so good because it was not battered and fried like your typical chili relleno. Instead it was fresh, simple, and flavorful. You could actually taste the pepper instead of just tasting the batter and cheese. I love poblanos.
Here is the website for Deleece Definitely check this place out.
Since we are on the topic of trying new restaurants, I will tell you about one of my favorite purchases ever. We are on our second package of A La Card. If you like finding new restaurants that are smaller and owner managed, I would recommend this for sure. The pack is full of cards, each for a local restaurant, that are good for a calendar year, so all the cards expire on 12/31 of that given year. Each card gives you $10 off that particular restaurant, so you only have to use a few to get your money back. We go out at least once a week anyways, so it was a worthwhile purchase for us. We love looking through the deck and finding a new place to go that weekend. It's fun and exciting to always have a different place to try! It is also a great way to support local restaurants that you may not hear about otherwise. Some of our favorite restaurants were found through A La Card.

Summer Food, it's time...

What better way to welcome a beautiful blue sky, relatively warm weather, and the begining of the weekend than with a big plate of s'mores? I don't know about you but the combination of crunchy graham, gooey mallow, and rich chocolate is enough to help me visualize myself at the lake in front of a fire roasting marshmallows. I am ready. I know there are still some cold days ahead, but I can taste Summer, and that is all that counts right now. We had a few friends over last night, I served a big plate of these. They disappeared very quickly. Even your worst enemy would fail to turn these babies down.

S'mores Cookies
Recipe from: Savory Sweet Life

You will need:
1 box of graham crackers
1 bag of chocolate chips
1 bag of mini marshmallow-I did not use the whole bag, only most of it.

Turn your broiler on high.
Cover a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Break your graham rectangles into squares and lay as many as you can in a single layer on the parchment paper. Make sure to keep them super close together with no gaps in between. Pour your marshmallows over the grahams and then your chocolate chips. Put this in the broiler for 5-10 minutes. Mine only took 5 but every oven is different. Keep a close eye on them to make sure the tops of the marshmallows don't burn. When they are done pull them out and top them with the remaining graham cracker squares. I did not end up using the whole box, so just go with what fits on your cookie sheet. Push the top layer of graham crackers down so that they stick to the marshmallows. When they have had a few minutes to set break them into squares and eat, or store in an airtight container.
We ate these the day after I made them, which I liked. They had hardened a bit which made them a lot easier to eat.

If you love s'mores there is no reason for you not to welcome the warmer weather with this recipe. It's simple and comforting. nothin' better!