Monday, August 30, 2010

BB: Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich

 I haven't been able to bake along with the Barefoot Bloggers as much as I have wanted to the past few months so it was nice to be able to catch up with them this month and bake along with all of the recipes. Even better, we got a bonus recipe this month from Ina Garten's new cookbook How Easy Is That? which is set to be released on October 26, 2010.  Ina’s cookbook publicist sent an advanced copy of the book to our blog leader, Tara, and has encouraged us to start trying some of the recipes. 

This is a seriously good grilled cheese sandwich recipe. Very decadent. And definitely not for those who are on a diet. I am currently on Weight Watchers and even after making some adjustments to the recipe (deleting the butter, using reduced fat cheddar cheese and mayonnaise, spraying the foreman grill with pam) one sandwich alone ended up being 16 points which is more or less 3/4 of my daily food calories.

That said, it is so worth it.  It was a little saltier than I had expected, most likely due to the bacon. And although I'm not sure how it would have tasted without the modifications, it still tasted very good to me.  I did not have a pannini press (despite my best efforts to rationalize buying one, I didn't get around to it) but my foreman grill worked perfectly.

Ultimate Grilled Cheese
as chosen by Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake
serves 6

12 slices thick-cut bacon, such as Nodine’s applewood smoked
1 cup good mayonnaise
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 white pullman loaf or sourdough bread, sliced 1/2 inch thick (12 slices)
6 tbsp salted butter, at room temperature
6 oz aged Gruyere or Comte cheese
6 oz extra-sharp Cheddar, such as Cabot or Shelburne Farms

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Arrange the bacon on a baking rack set over a sheet pan in a single layer and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, until nicely browned.  Drain on a plate lined with paper towels and cut in 1-inch pieces.

Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise, mustard, Parmesan, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Lay 12 slices of bread on a board and spread each one lightly with butter.  Flip the slices and spread each one generously with the mayonnaise mixture.  Don’t neglect the corners!

Grate the cheeses in a food processor fitted with the largest grating disk and combine.  Distribute the bacon evenly on half the slices of bread.  Pile 1/3 cup grated cheese evenly on top of the bacon and top with the remaining bread slices, sauce side down.

Heat an electric panini press.  When the press is hot, cook the sandwiches for 3 to 5 minutes in batches until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted.  Allow to cool for 2 minutes.  Cut in half and serve warm.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

BB: Mixed Berry Cheesecake

I love Ina Garten's food. Between how yummy it always looks and how calm she is when she's making it, it always makes me feel like I can do the same thing. So when I saw that Nathalie of Snowball Jewelry had picked cheesecake, I was optimistic. It's been a long time since I've made traditional cheesecake, but considering how I've struggled with not eating an entire pan of it in the past, I decided to quarter the recipe. Which is not as easy as it sounds when it comes to quartering 5 eggs and 2 egg yolks.

Poor little cheesecake. It never had a chance.

There were a couple of issues that I had with it. And by it, I mean the adjustments I made to it. The cheesecake recipe by itself would have been lovely. I was happy when everything came together well. The cheesecake filling tasted great despite the adjustments. . But I didn't quite compensate enough for the reduced pan size with the baking times, so the graham cracker crust tasted slightly burnt.  Also, the outside of the cheesecake turned very brown. And let's not forget the cracks in the crust ( from when the cheesecake rose too high, then cracked open and slightly caved in) that I decided to cover up by drizzling sarabeth's strawberry rhubarb jam over it until I realized that there was no way anyone would ever be able to identify that brown pat as a cheesecake unless I cut it open for them.

I thought briefly about trying to make this again, but realized that I'd be in trouble if it turned out well. And by trouble I mean, burying my face in the cheesecake, diet be damned. Which I'm trying very hard not to do after only gaining one pound after two weeks of going off the rails with watching what I ate earlier this month.

End result is that I liked it. But I don't see myself making this again. Just too much temptation in a creamy sweet just one more spoonful taste kind of way.

Mixed Berry Cheesecake

Recipe courtesy Ina Garten
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted


  • 2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract


  • 1 cup red jelly (not jam) such as currant, raspberry, or strawberry
  • 1/2 pint sliced strawberries
  • 1/2 pint fresh raspberries
  • 1/2 pint fresh blueberries


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake.

Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.

To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss berries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed. Arrange the berries on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

SMS: Sweet Almond Cupcakes with Lemon Curd and Mascarpone Frosting

I haven't baked with the Sweet Melissa Sundays Group for several weeks now to a host of varying (read sometimes boring and occasionally preventable) reasons. But when I saw this weeks recipe, selected and hosted by Katie of Katiecakes I had to face facts.

This was a recipe to make time for. Yes, okay, so I have a bit of a lemon fetish when it comes to baked goods. That was a helpful motivator right there. And mascarpone cheese wasn't something I had baked with before, but considering how delightfully it goes with my beloved Tiramisu it really didn't take a lot of persuading to set aside part of my Sunday to pull this together.

Excuse me for just a moment as I wipe the drool off my chin.

So good. Really. I knew it was going to be good when I kept tasting the batter. It had a taste similar to a french macaroon batter. Because I was a little worried about having an entire cake like this in my house, I ended up halving the recipe and going with cupcakes instead. There was a brief moment of panic when I saw how thin the batter seemed but I relaxed a bit when I figured that hey, for once I was actually making the recipe far enough in advance to redo it if the cupcakes turned out to be a dud.

I went with the 350 degree temperature called for with the cake but cut the baking time to 20 minutes. And they looked perfect when I pulled them out. Also, because I am so proud of having done this despite the fact that you cannot tell it from the photo, I have to tell you that I  even scooped out some of the cupcake center and filled it with lemon curd before covering it with the frosting and a tiny dollop of curd. The only bit I cheated on was going with a store bought curd instead of making my own. But it still tasted as good as the homemade lemon curd I've made in the past and it saved me a lot of time.

Go check out Katie's blog as she gets to post the recipe there and definitely try this yourself if you haven't already. Yum. Thanks Katie for picking an awesome recipe!

Friday, August 20, 2010

TCS: Tres Leches Cake

I really really wanted to like this cake due to my love of sweetened condensed milk. If I have to be honest, I'm known to dip a spoon into a can of sweetened condensed milk and eat a spoonful (and enjoy a potent sugar rush afterward).

That's why I was disappointed that it wasn't all that for me. I followed the instructions to the letter (which is unusual for me) except for quartering the recipe. I even added a little extra drizzle of sweetened condensed milk. Maybe it was just a question of having too high expectations for the recipe what with my SCM issues. But it was just okay for me. I don't think I would make it again at least not from Southern Cakes recipe but I would be interested in how it turns out using another recipe.

To console myself and get over how the cake turned out, I added whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup to ease my pain which helped a little :) 

Please check out the other bakers over at The Cake Slice to see how their recipe turned out.

Tres Leches Cake
Recipe from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup milk

Three Milk Sauce
1½ cups milk
½ cup sweetened condensed milk
One 12ounce can evaporated milk
1 tbsp grated lime zest

Sweetened whipped cream for garnish (optional)
Fresh fruit, such as kiwi or berries for garnish (optional)

Cake Method
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour a 13 by 9inch pan. In a medium bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and stir with a fork to mix well.
In a large bowl, combine the butter and sugar and beat with a mixer at high speed to mix well. Add the eggs one by one, beating well each time and stopping to scrape down the bowl now and then until the mixture is light, fluffy and smooth.
Add one third of the flour mixture and then half the milk, beating at low speed each time just until the flour or milk disappears into the batter. Add another third of the flour, the remaining milk and then remaining flour in the same way.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, springs back when touched lightly in the centre and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.
While the cake bakes, make the sauce. (You want the cakes to still be warm when you add the sauce)

Three Milk Sauce
Combine the milk, sweetened condensed milk, and evaporated milk a medium saucepan. Heat gently over medium heat, stirring often until the mixture forms a smooth, steaming hot sauce. Do not let it come to the boil. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before using.

To Finish
Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the lime zest over the cake. Punch holes with a toothpick in the top of the cake, about 1 inch apart.
Slowly pour the warm milk sauce over the warm cake, in stages, stopping to let the cake absorb the sauce before adding more. You may not need it all. You can add more later if needed.
Let the cake stand for 1 hour. Cover and refrigerate, allowing the cake to come to room temperature before you serve it. Cut into squares and serve right from the pan. Garnish with sweetened whipped cream and fresh fruit if desired.

Monday, August 16, 2010

CI: Spareribs with Tomatoes and Vegetables for Polenta

I really really wanted the picture to turn out as well as the dish but for the life of me, I could not get a decent least not one that showed off the dish I had actually made instead of resembling every other dish I've made with tomatoes recently.

I've recently had a chance to start baking along again with the group over at Cooking Italy. This past year we've cooking from Marcella Hazan's book "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking." And although I had to miss the first few recipes this month, I was finally able to catch up this week with the cumbersomely titled but still tasty "Spareribs with Tomatoes and Vegetables for Polenta."

Unfortunately, being the slightly lazy cook that I am, I wasn't able to quite manage to get spareribs that were cut into finger sized pieces as recommended by Marcella. When I asked the butcher at Jewel, she gave me a strange look and said that while they could cut the rack into single ribs, cutting the ribs into bite sized pieces might cause them to cut off a finger in the process. So I made do with that and tossed in some sausages per Marcella's recommendation.

Apart from substituting sausages for half the ribs, I also went with some fire roasted tomatoes in lieu of the Italian plum tomatoes and went with a white cornmeal polenta.

I'm not a big fan of ribs, and even though I liked this dish, I do see myself being converted to the joys of eating ribs. But for a Sunday dinner that didn't require a tremendous amount of work, I still enjoyed it.


3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 lbs spareribs cut into single ribs
1 pound mild sausages
2/3 cup chopped celery
2/3 cup chopped carrot
1 1/2 cups chopped Italian Plum Tomatoes with juice
Fresh Pepper ground from the mill

Place olive oil and onions in deep pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are a light gold. Place ribs in pan, turning them several times until browned. Add carrots and celery and cook until they are tender.

Add tomatoes, salt, and several grindings of pepper and place lid over pot, leaving lid slightly ajar. Cook at a slow simmer until meat is very tender, approximately 1 1/2 hours. Add 1/2 cup water if ribs being to stick to bottom of pan. Several over polenta.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Chicken with Balsamic Barbecue Sauce

One of my usual habits is to check cookbooks out from the library in order to save myself from financial ruin by keeping out of the book store. And then to flip through them, sigh happily, and never cook from them. So I'm pretty happy that I've actually been making recipes from a few of them lately as this is giving me hope that I might be able to break my love of browsing amazon for discount books that usually sit on my bookshelf until I fell guilty and usually give them away to my neighbors in order to make room for the new ones that I've been drooling over.

I'm pretty sure that had I followed the recipe exactly I would have ended up more with a actual sauce instead of a marinade. Giada's recipe called for ketchup which I did not have so I threw in a can of fire roasted tomatoes which I cooked on the stovetop hoping it would thicken up some and when it looked like it was not going to happen, I put four chicken breasts in a pan, covered it with the sauce/marinade and let it cook for around an hour at 350 degrees.Partially because the chicken was still half frozen and I was keeping my fingers crossed that this would help some.

While it did not make a sauce, it made a wonderful tasting chicken, especially with the fire roasted tomatoes that took on a vinegary/barbecue taste. And the chicken did cook up with a tasty glaze on top due to the sauce. So I think I would definitely make this again, both as directed and with my adaptation below.

Chicken with Balsamic Vinegar Sauce
Adapted from Giada's Kitchen by Giada de Laurentiis

2 cups assorted vinegar (balsamic, apple cider & white)
1 can (12 oz) fire roasted tomatoes
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 minced garlic clove
2 tbsp worcestershiresauce
2 tbsp dijon mustard
large pinch salt
several gratings freshly ground pepper
4 chicken breasts

Mix ingredients together in a saucepan and cook over low heat until tomatoes soften slightly. Place chicken breasts in baking pan and pour sauce over them. Cook at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour or until chicken is tender. Serve with  sauce and fire roasted tomatoes on top.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Prosciutto Mozzarella Pinwheels

I made this recently as part of Bacon Tuesdays for some friends at work. And I should warn you that Giada's picture of this is much more prettier. However, despite its lack of distinct layers, this is very yummy for something so easy to make. I would recommend using your best judgment for baking times depending on the thickness of the roll as it can take longer than the 25 minutes that she recommends. This would be something super simple to whip up on a weekday after work if you're a slightly lazy cook like me.

from "Giada's Kitchen" by Giada de Laurentiis

Flour for dusting
1 pound purchased pizza dough
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
7 ounces prosciutto thinly sliced
1 cup coarsely chopped baby spinach
1 tbsp olive oil
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat over to 425. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

On lightly floured surface, roll out pizza dough to 12 or 14 inch circle approximately 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle half of mozzarella cheese over dough and arrange prosciutto over cheese in single slayer. Sprinkle with spinach and top with with remaining cheese and mozzarella.

Roll dough into thin tube (as much as you are able to if you are like me) and tuck in ends. Brush with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet with seams down and bake for 25 minutes or until top is golden brown. Mine was a thicker tube, so it took over 35 minutes until it was done).

Cool for 3 or 4 minutes, then cut and serve.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tangy Yogurt Chops

Awhile back I bought a cookbook solely because I like butter. I know it's not healthy for you in great quantities. I know that if I wanted to be good girl with eating healthy, I would use less of it. But it just would not give the same taste to anything that I like to eat and even sometimes the things that I don't like to eat but do anyway because it's healthier than the things I like to eat.

Plus when you're browsing cookbooks at Barnes and Noble and come across a book that's called "The Great Big Butter Cookbook" and see a bowl full of butter balls on the front as artwork, you get drawn into looking at it and then leave the store quickly so you don't spent a fortune on it and go home and buy it used at Amazon.

So considering how long I've had this (months) it's amazing that I have never once cooked from it until today. And considering the number of desserts in this (naturally) it makes it even more strange.  But having eaten my fair share of sweets earlier in the day, it was a dinner recipe I went with instead.

 Tangy Yogurt Chops
From "The Great Big Butter Cookbook"

4 tbsp butter
4 pork loin chops
2 large onions, sliced
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms cleaned and sliced
1 tbsp paprika
1 14 oz can sliced tomatoes
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp marjoram
1 small bay leaf
2 tbsp flour
1/4 cup water
1 cup plain yogurt

Melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat. Brown pork chops on both sides, about 3-4 minutes and remove from pan.

Add remaining butter and onions to pan and cook until onions are tender and transparent. Add mushrooms and paprika and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, salt, marjoram and bay leaf. Return the pork chops to the sauce, raise the heat and bring sauce to a boil.

Reduce heat, cover pan and simmer for 1 hour. Remove pork chops and keep warm. Discard bay leaf.

In small bowl, combine flour and water until smooth. Gradually stir this into sauce and cook until thickened. Remove pan from heat and stir in yogurt.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Sesame Chicken

One of my favorite dishes in the world has got to be Sesame Chicken.  

That said, I have to be straight with you...this is not much like your Sesame Chicken that you get at your average Chinese restaurant. At least, it's nothing like my favorite Sesame Chicken dish  which is served with a thick and sweet (but oh so yummy) sauce. This is as close as I think I will ever come to a Sesame Chicken Recipe that might actually be healthy for me.

Personally speaking, I would give this an B+ only because it was a bit salty with the soy sauce but it would be an A for me with a lower sodium soy sauce.

Sesame Chicken
Adapted from Quick and Easy Chinese by Nancy McDermott

2 tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp Asian sesame oil
2 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh pepper
4 chicken breasts
1/4 cup chopped green onions.

Combine soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic, salt, pepper and toasted sesame seeds.

Transfer chicken to marinade, turning evenly to coat and marinate for 1 hour. Turn chicken over occasionally.

Put chicken in baking pan and cover with remaining marinade. Cook at 350 degrees for approximately 1/2 hour or until chicken is tender. Serve atop brown rice and sprinkle with chopped green onion. Serves 4.