Saturday, December 17, 2011

Gluten Free Baked French Toast

It's been awhile since I've been able to bake along with Club Baked. But, as I am a french toast girl at heart when it comes to breakfast, this seemed like a good recipe to get myself back into my baking state of mind. As I'm gluten sensitive, the only major change was to swap out gluten free bread for the challah. This unfortunately did add a bit of blandness to the dish especially since challah tends to be a rich buttery bread. I think that this could easily be rectified by using a flavored half and half to add a bit of a flavor punch. Give the fact that gluten free bread tends not to be the sturdiest bread in my opinion, it still held up fairly well under the overnight soak with the egg/milk/half and half mixture and I only had a few minor problems with turning the bread slices over the next morning.

I would try this again, just with a few tweaks. Definitely, the first would have to be more raspberry sauce (can there ever be enough of that?). In addition, I would like to try toasting the almonds before sprinkling them to give it a richer and nuttier flavor and add more cinnamon - although the recipe called for a 1/4 tsp I used a full tsp and thought it needed more.Overall, a good breakfast dish . For the recipe, please check out Julie's blog, "A Little Bit of Everything" to see how she fared and don't forget to check out the other bakers over at Club Baked for their valuable feedback on the recipe.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Bourbon Baked Beans

Bourbon Baked Beans 
from Cooking Light: Comfort Food 

I had thought about not posting this recipe due to the...ahem...less than appetizing appeal of the photo. My fault in a couple of ways. I took the picture late at night when the lighting was bad and I slightly overcooked the beans thanks to my decision that cooking them on top of the stove was just as good as baking them in the oven AS THE RECIPE CALLED FOR (when will I ever learn) .  But having devoured a plateful I decided that photo or no photo, the recipe was too good not to be shared

Given the fact that this was the first time I cooked with navy beans and the 8 hour soaking process, I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out. There's a delightful tangy sweetness to them thanks to the maple syrup and mustard with an underlying smokiness that in due entirely to me doubling the quantify of bacon called for (can there ever be too much bacon?). I would definitely make these again, maybe, just maybe, with following the directions this time.

Bourbon Baked Beans 
from Cooking Light: Comfort Food 

1 pound dried navy beans (approximately 2 1/2 cups)
3 slices applewood smoked bacon (I doubled to 6 slices)
1 cup finely chopped onion
5 cups water divided (4 cups + 1 cup)
1/2 cup maple syrup divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp bourbon divided
1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
Chicken sausage(I just can't have baked beans without sausage)

Sort and wash beans; place in large dutch over. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; cover and let stand 8 hours or overnight. Drain beans. Wipe pan dry with paper towl.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat pan over medium high heat. Add bacon to pan and cook 4 minutes or until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving 1 1/2 tbsp drippings in pan; crumble bacon. Add onion to pan and cook 5 minutes or until onions begin to brown, stirring frequently. Add beans, bacon, 4 cups water, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup bourbon and mustard, worcestershire sauce and black pepper to pan. bring to boil, cover and bake at 350 degrees for 2 hours.

Stir in remaining 1 cup water, 1/4 cup maple syrup and 2 tbsp of bourbon. Cover and bake for 1 hour or until beans are tender and liquid is almost absorbed. Stir in vinegar and salt. Yield: 6 1/2 cups.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Gingerbread Souffle

You know you have a serious sweet tooth when you're laying on the couch most of the weekend with a bad head cold and can still motivate yourself to bake dessert. I'm not sure if making this was good for my heath since dairy and head colds are not a match made in heaven, but my inner child thinks it's a damn fine idea. Then again my inner child thought it made sense to eat cheese puffs for dinner tonight.

I haven't made a lot of souffles in my lifetime but even so, it still seemed like a lot of time was required required between steps. In other words, this is not a recipe to whip up on impulse and serve it for dinner. Between steeping and chilling, it takes at least 3 hours before you can even fold the egg whites in and pop the souffle into the oven. However, I was pleased with how well it turned out considering I used gluten free flour. Well, and also because my fear of working with egg whites still continues to worry me anytime I have to whip egg whites. 

Overall, a solid B+. It may be an A by the time this head cold is over and I find a sauce that would work well with the gingerbread flavor.  Although the recipe calls for a white chocolate vanilla creme anglaise, I wasn't terribly fond of the combo and would like to try the souffle again with a different flavor contrast.

Gingebread Souffle 
In The Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 vanilla bean, split
3 large egg yolks
2 tbsp molasses
1/2 cup gluten free all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnmaon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
4 large egg whites room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Unsalted butter and sugar for coating dishes
Individual Souffle Dishes 

1) Combine milk and vanilla bean in 2 quart heavy duty saucepan. Bring to just below a boil on medium high heat, then remove from heat and allow to infuse for 1 hour.

2) In medium bowl, whisk egg yolks and molasses together and set aside. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, spices and salt. Add 1/2 cup infused milk to flour mixture, whisking to form a thick paste. Add more milk if paste is too thick. Scrape paste into pot containing remaining milk and place over medium heat. Whisk constantly and cook mixture until thickened and smooth, approximately 5-7 minutes.

3) Pour hot mil mixture into bowl containing egg yolk and molasses mixture. Whisk to blend. Place plastic wrap directly onto surface of mixture and cut several slits into the plastic wrap, allowing stem to escape. Chill mixture a minimum of 2 hours or overnight.

4) Allow souffle base to come to room temperature for 1 hour before baking. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously coat souffle dishes with butter and sugar so that it is thoroughly lined, including rims.

5) Whip egg whites in very clean bowl until just foamy before adding cream of tartar. Whip until very soft peaks form before gradually adding sugar. Fold egg whites into base mixture in 3 parts, then divide amongst individual souffle dishes.

6) Place dishes on cookie sheet in center of oven for 16-20 minutes. Edges will appear slightly darkened and matte. Serve immediately using sauce of choice.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nutmeg Spice Cake

When, oh when oh when oh when will I learn to READ the directions thoroughly when I'm baking.

Although you can't tell from this picture, I had made a gorgeous buttercream frosting earlier in the day. I'm talking glossy, fluffy almost too pretty to eat it buttercream. Which got stored in the fridge as I'd made the frosting before the cake. And then, the disaster. I pulled it out of the fridge and immediately started to mix it again in the stand mixer instead of bringing it back to room temperature first. The worst of it that I attempted to fix it on my own by throwing things into the buttercream to thicken it and pull it back together when all I had to do was leave it alone for another ten minutes and let it mix itself back into shape.

Still, never mind, the cake was really good. And in an effort to put a positive spin on my comprehension skills, I like to think that I saved myself a few thousand calories because had the frosting been delicious, I would have eaten it straight out of the bowl and skipped the cake altogether. Which would have been a shame as the cake is really good.

I made a few modifications to the cake by doubling the spices as I had attempted this once before sans frosting and wasn't terribly impressed with the flavor of the cake. I also submitted gluten free flour for the regular flour and cut back on the baking time by 5 minutes.

Overall grade: B. I liked the cake quite a bit. The frosting, even before I desecrated it, was a bit heavier and and butter than I normally like my frosting. I would definitely try the cake again, maybe with a apple based frosting that I think would go great with spiciness of the cake.

Modified from "Flour" by Joanne Chang 

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
2 cups gluten free flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2  tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup nonfat buttermilk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter and oil on medium speed for 1 minute or until well combined. Slowly add sugar and vanilla and mix until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition until combined.

In medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. On low speed, add 1/3 of flour mixture to egg butter mixture and mix until just barely combined. Pour in half of buttermilk and mix until almost thoroughly incorporated. Add half of remaining flour and mix until just combined, adding remaining buttermilk and mixing until incorporated. Add remaining flour mixture and mix until completely incorporated. Divide batter evenly between prepared cake pans.

Bake for 30 - 40 minutes (25 if using smaller cake pans) or until cakes spring back when pressed in middle. Let cool completely before turning out on rack.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sage and Pancetta Biscuits with Fontina Cheese

 I love cooking for myself on some evenings. Because of that I can decide that I want to have biscuits for supper and there's nobody around to tell me that it's not a balanced supper or encourage me to pair it with more than just butter.
I've spent some time this evening trying to figure out how I could describe my baking efforts tonight. Biscuits just don't seem to work because they don't look anything like them. And while these do resemble a hockey puck, they don't taste like them at all. Actually, they taste quite good which one should always expect with bacon, cheese and buttermilk.I did make these with gluten free flour but I don't think that's what caused the biscuit pucks to fail to rise. I'm pretty sure that they are  as small as they are because I rolled the dough out too thin before cutting them out. 
Seriously good biscuits/pucks though. Enough to motivate me to find something that would pair well with them and have a biscuit sandwich for tomorrows dinner too.
Sage and Pancetta Biscuits with Fontina Cheese
from: Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh

3 oz package thinly sliced pancetta, chopped
2 cups all purpose gluten free flour
2 tbsp sugar
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (I used smoked salt - it rocked)
6 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1 cup coarsely grated fontina cheese
1 tbsp chopped fresh sage
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp chilled buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Sautee pancetta in medium skillet over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove form heat and cool.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl to blend. Rub in butter with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in fontina and sage, separating strands of cheese. Add 3/4 cup buttermilk and pancetta with pan drippings and stir until moist clumps form. Turn dough out into floured work surface and knead just until dough holds together, about 4 to 6 turns. Flatten dough to 3/4 inch thickness (totally missed the mark on that one!). Using floured 2 1/4 inch biscuit cutters, cut out rounds. Flatten dough to 3/4 inch thickness and cut out additional rounds until all dough isused.

Transfer biscuits to large ungreased baking sheets, spacing them apart. Brush biscuit tops with remaining buttermilk. Sprinkle with smoked salt (optional). Bake until biscuits are puffed and golden, about 14 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

TCS: Zebra Cake

Zebra Cake
 This months winning cake over at The Cake Slice was Zebra Cake. Which in theory, means that there should be even or semi even stripes of alternating chocolate and white cake.

Alas, not in my case.

 I have some serious cake envy right now after having looked over the posts of those who had baked early. My poor sad mutant cake looks nowhere near as pretty as theirs. I had a suspicion that something might be amiss when the chocolate batter seemed thick but somehow, despite the fact that the regular batter was thin, somehow I rationalized that this was how it was supposed to be..that there had been some culinary magic thanks to a little cocoa powder. In hindsight, I realize now that this was really nothing more than my sad math skills trying to eyeball what a third of the batter meant and missing the quantity completely. And sure enough, when the cake baked up, there was a core center of chocolate and a uneven ragged outer portion of plain cake and that was about it. Fortunately, the cake was tasty enough between all that butter and oil so it was still eaten even if is the ugly stepsister of cakes.

I thought briefly of trying to re-bake to see if it would turn out any better, but with the heat wave we're having in the Midwest, I just could not make myself turn on the oven.  And although the cake was tasty, it wasn't so "wow, this is the cake of cakes" for me so I don't see myself making this again. So I'm hoping for a better result with next months cake.

Please check out the other bakers over at the Cake Slice who made their cakes look so much prettier and stripey than I did.

Zebra Cake
From: Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman

2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
4 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup whole or 2% milk
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9 inch pan, line with a circle of parchment paper, grease the parchment and dust with flour. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.
Combine the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until thick and pale, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, stir in the milk, butter, oil and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. Stir in the flour mixture, ½ cup at a time.

Transfer a third of the batter into another bowl and whisk in the cocoa powder.

Place a quarter cup of the vanilla batter into the centre of the pan and let it stand for a few seconds so it spreads out slightly. Place 2 tablespoons of the chocolate batter right on top of the vanilla and wait another few seconds until it spreads. Continue alternating vanilla and chocolate until you have used up all the batter and it has spread to the edges of the pan.

Bake until the cake is set and a toothpick comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pan and invert the cake onto a cutting board. Peel away the parchment paper. Re-invert onto a wire rack and cool completely. Slice and serve.
Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for 3 days.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sweet Corn Ice Cream

 When I had the chance to go to San Francisco a few weeks ago, one of the first things I knew I had to do was go to Slanted Door at the Ferry Building. I thought I had been going to have the Shaking Beef but as it turns out, my destiny was actually to be introduced to Sweet Corn Ice Cream. It was one of those things that on my own on any average day, I might have actually turned it down because it really sounds a bit odd for an ice cream base. But on vacation, somehow, your culinary bravery rears its head and takes you down those foodie roads you wouldn't have ordinarily traveled. 

When I figured the hot weather here in Chicago meant Ice Cream was in my future, I started digging around on the internet for a sweet corn ice cream recipe. And thanks to Rick Bayless, I found one that seemed close enough to the original to work for me. And except for the fact that the flavor wasn't as pronounced as the one I had in San Francisco - not Rick's fault but a lack of corn kernels on my part - I thought this was a really good runner up to the original dish. 

The only thing that can be slightly off-putting about this recipe, both at Slanted door and this homemade version, is that it does tend to leave a minimally waxy feeling in your mouth after eating it. But for the sake of having another bowl, I'm going to be strong and overlook that sensation as soon as possible. I think the next time I make it I might cut back on the cinnamon a little as it did tend to overpower the dish very easily - although that could be a difference of opinion in what Rick Bayless and myself would call a scant half teaspoon of cinnamon. 

So if you have any leftover corn from the holiday, definitely consider giving this recipe a shot. If you're an ice cream junkie like me, let me know what you think of it :) 

Sweet Corn Ice Cream By Rick Bayless
Recipe from Season 6 of Mexico - One Plate at a Time

Makes 1 1/2 quarts

2 to 3 ears fresh sweet corn
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
4 egg yolks
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup evaporated milk
A scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican cinnamon
2 tablespoon orange liqueur, preferably Gran Torres
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice


1.   Set up a double boiler.   Set up a 4-quart saucepan, filled halfway with water, into which you can nestle a 3-quart stainless steel bowl.  Bring the pot of water to a boil over high heat while you're preparing the custard base.

2.   Cook the base.   Husk the corn and pull off all the silk.  Cut the kernels from the ears and measure 2 cups.  Scoop into a blender and add the half-and-half.  Blend until smooth.  In the 3-quart stainless steel bowl, stir together the egg yolks and sugar until thoroughly combined. Add the corn mixture and whisk to combine thoroughly. Reduce the temperature under the pot of boiling water to maintain a gentle simmer.  Set the bowl of custard base over the simmering water and whisk frequently, until the mixture thickens noticeably, about 20 minutes.  The custard is sufficiently cooked when it reaches 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.  (You can also test it by dipping a wooden spoon into the custard, then running your finger through the custard:  if the line holds clearly, the custard has thickened sufficiently.)  Pour the base through a medium-mesh strainer into another bowl (preferably stainless steel for quick cooling).

3.   Cool the base.    Fill a large bowl halfway with ice. Nestle the custard into the ice and whisk regularly until completely cool.  Refrigerate if not using immediately.  

4.   Finish the base, freeze the ice cream.  Stir the heavy cream, evaporated milk, cinnamon, orange liqueur and lime juice into the base.  Freeze in an ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer's directions. Scrape into a freezer container and freeze for several hours to firm.
Publish Post

Friday, July 1, 2011

CB: New York-Style Crumb Cake

Having baked our way (or semi baked as was my case) through the Sweet Melissa cookbook, the consensus among the SMS bakers was that we were having too much fun baking and blogging to just stop The call was put out, the challenge was accepted and we have now begun our journey through "Baked Explorations."

I actually hadn't heard of the book before that. But I am nothing, if not flexible, when it comes to needing to buy a new baking cookbook especially when it is right at the time where I have a Barnes and Noble Gift Card burning a hole through my pocket. So it was with some happiness that I realized the first cookbook was a coffee cake considering how readily I will leap at the chance to attack any baked good with an obscene amount of streusel topping.

But to be on the safe side, I halved the recipe and hoped for the best. I used an odd little pan I'd bought a few months back that was touted as a mini monkey bread pan. Why I bought this, I'm not sure as I have never made monkey bread and probably never will, but it worked perfectly for this cake. Even with halving the recipe I still managed 5 of these mini cakes, one of which left me blissfully full.

This recipe adapted very well to gluten free flour, and was wonderfully moist when I baked it. Given the smaller pans, I cut the baking time back to 30 minutes which worked out well. And even though I did not wait nearly long enough (or anywhere near it ) to let this cool, it still held it's shape as I popped it out of the pan and began to devour it.

I would like to say that I shared this but can't. I did however freeze a couple of the mini cakes for a future sugar fix and am hoping to have one soon.

Please check out Karen's blog over at Karen's Cookies, Cakes and More for the recipe and swing by our Club Baked Blog when you have a chance to see how the other bakers fared with our inaugural recipe.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Greenhouse Herb Chicken

 I'd wanted to buy this cookbook for a long time before I found it on sale at Borders a month or so back. I mean, we're talking a cookbook titled "Bite Me." What's not to love about that? But apart from the sheer fun of reading through the book (the photographs are not be missed, both food and other) there were some good recipes that I'd been ignoring for too long.  This was one of those recipes where I had all of the ingredients on hand, but would not myself have thought of putting them together like this. So it's a good thing the authors of this book did as it would have been a shame to miss something this good.  It reminded me a lot of chicken parmesan actually but in a slightly different can't put my finger on it way. Although the dish was good, I think next time I would skip the breading and just season the chicken well before putting it into the sauce to cook for a lighter taste and flavor.

Greenhouse Herb Chicken
Adapted very slightly From 
"Bite Me - A Stomach Satisfying Visually Gratifying Fresh Mouthed Cookbook" 
by Julie Albert and Lisa Gnat 

2 large egg whites
1 cup gluten free bread crumbs
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
6 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 tbsp olive oil

Herb Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup finely sliced green onions
(recipe called for 1/4 cup but there can never be too many green onions)
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 tbsp dried thyme
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp basil (optional)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 cups chicken broth
4 tbsp tomato paste

Mix breadcrumbs, oregano, basil, salt and pepper in large bowl. Dip Chicken breasts in egg whites and then into breadcrumb mix, pressing down firmly to evenly coat chicken.

Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in large skillet on medium high heat. Brown chicken breast in olive oil, two minutes on each side, or until brown. Remove from pan and set chicken aside. Wipe skillet clean (or skip it like I did).

Add 1 tbsp olive oil to pan over medium heat. Add green onions, oregano, garlic, thyme, basil and parsley. Saute for 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Add balsamic vinegar and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and tomato paste. Bring to boil, before reducing heat to low and simmer uncovered for 2 minutes. Add chicken, cover pan and cook for 20 minutes. Serves 6.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

SMS: Pear (Raspberry) Pie with Gingersnap Crumble

 I'm delighted to be hosting this week's recipe for Sweet Melissa Sundays. Although I've been a little lax with baking along with the rest of you due to time restraints for a few months, sometimes you just have to put  down your foot and make the time for a pie that sounds as good as this. Also, after having been given the chance to host one of the recipes, not making the pie in the end is rather like inviting everyone to your home for a party and leaving the guests standing out on the lawn because you went out of town and didn't tell anyone. But having made the pie, I'm thinking I might still leave the guests out on the lawn because I would be too busy devouring the pie in kitchen to answer the door.

Pies have always been a bit of a culinary catastrophe in my house, at least for my poor sister, because when she was growing up she would never be able to enjoy a piece of pie since they were always missing something. My mother would either eat all of the crust  and leave the filling, or I would eat all of the filling and leave the crust. The most unfortunate part of this was that my mom and I NEVER did this on the same pie. Didn't matter what type of pie we had, it would either be missing the filling or the crust depending on how got to it first before my sister had a chance to eat a piece. But this pie would have been the one that finally appealed to all of us at the same time. Which is nothing short of a culinary miracle in my family. It is just that delicious. Between the gingersnap crust and the combination of sweet and slight tart filling, it is the pie that would have finally ended  my sister's long standing drought if we were all still living under the same roof.

Given the fact that I could not find fresh or frozen cranberries at the store as I was told by a clerk that they were out of season and I had my doubts about using canned cranberries, I substituted fresh raspberries for the cranberries.   And considering raspberries were always my mom's favorite thing to snack on, it was a nice way to remember her and her love of all things pie today. I did also go with a frozen gluten free pie crust instead of using one of Melissa's recipes because we're trying to go gluten free in the house and for convenience  I went with store bought gluten free gingersnap cookies because trying to make more than one recipe today was just not going to happen.

I loved loved loved the gingersnap crumble. And despite the fact that using raspberries made it a little difficult to cut the pie because it made the pie a tiny bit more watery (has nothing to do with the fact that I dug into the pie long before it cooled to room temperature of course) I thought the combination of pear and raspberry was perfect. I would totally made this again, maybe with cranberries, definitely with this combination today. Then again, I think skipping the pie crust and making a crumble from this with just the filling and topping would be sublime, especially with a huge dollop of whipped cream on top.

I think my only mistake was removing the pie a little early so the pears will still a little firm but it was still quite enjoyable. 

 Rating: A+. This one for me is a keeper.

Pear Cranberry (or Raspberry) Pie with Gingersnap Crumble
from: The Sweet Melissa Baking Book by Melissa Murphy

Gingerbread Crumble:
1 cup all purpose (we used gluten free with great success) flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 pound gingersnaps, approximately 10 cookies, crushed

1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp kosher salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Pear Cranberry (or Raspberry) Filling
2 lbs ripe bosc pears (approx 6) peeled, cored and quartered, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
1 1/2 cups raspberries (or fresh/frozen cranberries)
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/t tsp salt

Before beginning - preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and place rack in bottom third of oven. 

To Prepare the Pie Crust
Roll pie dough out into a round 12 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. Gently fit into 9 inch pie late. Fold edges under and crimp. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

To Make the Crumble
  1. In Medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, gingersnaps, ginger and salt.
  2. Stir in melted butter. 
Crumble will last in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days on in the refrigerator up to 7 days. Let crumble come to room temperature before using.

To Make the Filling
  1. In medium bowl, combine pears, raspberries (or cranberries), zest, lemon juice and vanilla and mix gently. If using raspberries,they will pretty much disintegrate at this point and turn the pears pink. 
  2. In small bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Stir sugar mixture into fruit mixture. 
  3. Pour fruit mixture into unbaked pie shell. 
To Complete Pie 
  1. Sprinkle gingersnap crumble on top of fruit mixture.
  2. Place pie pan on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour 15 minutes or until juices are bubbling and thick. remove to a wire rack to cool to room temperature before serving. Pie is best eaten the day it is made.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Dreamy Orange Waffles

I've known my best friend since we ended up in a split grade class in grade school. I was in third grade, she was in fourth and after a fight to start out with, we settled into a best friendship that's lasted for way longer than I'd like to admit to. But considering my blog is called "Growing Up and Having Fun After 40", my age can be pretty much guessed at. I've known J for 37 years and beside being bookworms, we're also foodie fanatics. Although our preference of cookbooks varies...when we went shopping, she picked out a Bisquick book, I picked out a Macaroons cookbook...we both love good, simple food especially when we have to be out the door on a Sunday morning at a reasonable time.

This was a recipe both of us nearly drooled over when we were checking out breakfast recipes and I am really craving another one right about now. Simple enough to put together on a Sunday morning especially with the ingredients being ones that you're likely to already have in the pantry.

Rated: A. The batter tasted great even with using gluten free bisquick but the syrup is absolutely delightful.

Dreamy Orange Waffles
Adapted slightly from:  Best Bisquick Recipes Cookbook

Orange Syrup
1 cup brown sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup orange juice
1 can (11 oz) mandarin orange segments, drained
Chopped Pecans (optional)

Waffle Batter
2 cups Gluten Free Bisquick mix
1 1/4 cups milk
2 tbsp butter melted
1 tbsp grated orange peel
1 egg

Heat brown sugar, cornstarch and orange juice to boiling over medium heat until slightly thickened and mixture is clear. Remove from heat and stir in mandarin orange segments. Keep warm while making waffles.

Heat waffle maker. Mix ingredients until thoroughly combined. Pour batter into center of hot waffle maker and bake for 3-5 minutes or until waffle maker stops steaming. Pour sauce over waffles and enjoy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Tropical French Toast

After a day of being cooped up in the house due to some miserable weather outside, I was in the mood for something yummy that didn't require going outside. And as always in situations like this, whatever I'm in the mood for for the most part is nowhere to be found in the kitchen. Of course, as always in situations like this, there is my inherent tendency to say "well that seems close enough." Such as in telling myself that 3 eggs will work just as well as 4.

Due to the modifications I had to make with the sauce, this is a pretty sweet caramel...the recipe calls for heavy cream which I did not have so I made do with a  half cup of sweetened condensed milk and half a cup of whole milk. This was a little sweet, even for me (although I made do nicely and tasted it many times to make sure of the sweetness), with the sauce but overall, I liked it and would make this again...just maybe  reading the instructions a little more closely especially with the  french toast recipe (note to self..soak both sides in egg mixture) and turning down the heat a little with my electric oven for a more even brown on the toast. The french toast tasted better than I had thought it would using gluten free bread so I'm a little more cheered up about possibly needing to stay gluten free for awhile.

Grade: B

Tropical French Toast

French Toast
Adapted from: The Gluten Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam

8 slices gluten free bread

1/4 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp agave nectar 
3 large eggs (recipe calls for 4)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger (recipe calls for cinnamon)
Cooking spray
Shredded coconut for garnish (optional)

In medium bowl, whisk together coconut milk, agave nectar, eggs, vanilla extract, salt and ginger until thoroughly combined. Pour mixture into 13X9 inch baking dish and soak slices of bread in mixture for 5 minutes on each side. Coat pan with cooking spray. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden brown. Transfer to plate.

Banana Caramel Syrup
Adapted from: Seduced by Bacon  - Joanna Pruess

1 cup sugar
14 cup water
1 whole banana sliced thin
2 tbsp corn syrup
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk with 1/2 cup whole milk
(or 1 cup heavy cream if you have an organized kitchen)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp rum

Combine sugar, water, corn syrup and banana over medium high heat in medium sized heavy pan. Cook, stirring frequently until sugar is dissolved. Bring mixture to a boil and cook undisturbed until sugar turns golden. Swirl pan to color evenly and cook until sauce becomes a rich amber color.

Remove pan from heat. Carefully stir in cream or milk mixture which will bubble up. Return to heat and bring sauce back to boil. Remove from heat. Stir with wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in butter, vanilla and rum. Serve warm.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Lemon Chicken

I've been intending to make this dish for awhile now. I even went so far as to defrost the chicken a couple of times and picked up green scallions at the store (which slowly faded away in the fridge during its long wait to be used). But while I was in the kitchen today baking with the Sweet Melissa Bakers with Cherry Clafouti Tart, I figured I might as well go for broke while I was throwing my kitchen into complete chaos with dirty dishes and clutter.

So glad I did. Curiously enough, I've never ordered lemon chicken when I have Chinese food. I think I might have had some bits of leftover versions of it after an event at work, but for some reason, this recipe piqued my interest some weeks back and I've had the page marked ever since then.

Although the chicken never really browned like it was supposed to do (I'm not sure if it was the gluten free flour coating or just not having the oil hot enough) the chicken did get crispy enough to work wonderfully with the lemon sauce. That delightful, tart and sweet lemon sauce that could be dangerous if I made that often enough - I could seriously see myself making a batch of that for one lonely chicken breast and managing to finish the sauce off.

Grade: A. Would made this again without a second thought. Now if I can only leave the rest of the chicken alone so I have leftovers to take to work tomorrow.

Lemon Chicken

From: Quick and Easy Chinese by Nancy McDermott

1 1/2 cups all purpose gluten free flour
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken

Lemon Sauce
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp chopped fresh ginger (optional)
1 tsp gluten free so sauce 
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp thinly sliced green onion (garnish)

1/3 cup vegetable oil

Combine flour, salt, and pepper in medium bowl and whisk well. Cut chicken breasts crosswise for wide, thin pieces.  Dip each piece of chicken in flour to coat well and gently shake off excess. Arrange pieces on large plate and set by stove.

Combine water and cornstarch in small bowl and mix well. In medium saucepan, combine chicken stock, sugar, ginger, soy sauce and salt. Bring to gentle boil over medium heat and stir to dissolve sugar and salt. Bring to gentle boil and add lemon juice. Bring sauce to boil again and add cornstarch mix. Cook, stirring often, until sauce turns clear and thickens to shiny glossy state, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and keep warm while preparing chicken.

Heat oil in large deep skillet over medium high heat. Working in batches, cook chicken 1 to 2 minutes until golden and crisp and cooked through. Transfer to serving platter and keep warm.

Pour hot lemon sauce over chicken and sprinkle with green onions. Serve hot.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

SMS: Cherry Clafoutis Tart

First things first: thanks, Tessa,  for a great recipe pick this week!

It's been way too long since I've been able to bake along with everyone over at Sweet Melissa Sundays.  But one thing I don't turn down whenever given the opportunity to devour/eat it, is a custard pie. So off I went to the grocery store this morning (nothing like some last minute procrastination to start my day) only to find out that my local Jewel was not carrying cherries, fresh or frozen. If they were, they were hiding them. Very very well I might say. So after twenty minutes of frustrated shopping, I grabbed a couple cans of cherries and hoped for the best.

My biggest modification for the recipe apart from the cherries was to swap out the crust and exchanged it for a gluten free pie crust (which surprisingly was actually really nice and flaky at least in the parts where it wasn't burned on the bottom). I also opted due to time restraints to use raw slivered almonds instead of toasted. And my time restraints, I mean I was hungry and wanted to eat the tart now. Okay, so that's actually quite a few changes for a fairly straight forward recipe. But, despite all of my best intentions (which usually do not turn out so good when it comes to baking) I ended up with a tasty pie. Some of my cherries migrated during the baking process so that half the pie ended up with more then their fair share, but fortunately for me the drained canned cherries worked well with the custard. But I would still like to try this recipe again with fresh cherries as I'm pretty sure this would be an amazing dessert with them.

Please check out Tessa's blog, The Cooking Chemist, for the recipe which should be posted there shortly. And check out the other bakers over at Sweet Melissa Sundays for their experiences with the recipe.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

TCS: Cold Oven Cream Cheese Pound Cake

It's been awhile since I've baked along with everyone over at The Cake Slice. Life got in the way for awhile. Add in my inherent tendency towards procrastination and there just wasn't time. So despite being late this month, I'm proud that I actually got off my...couch...and into the kitchen to make this months cake.

I've been trying somewhat unsuccessfully to live more of a gluten free life. Mostly because eating gluten I've found leaves me feeling exhausted and scatterbrained, not to mention cranky.  But after last weeks attempt to bake gluten free cookies, I was a little leery about trying it with a cake. And as I understand the Gluten Free baking world, one does not typically take a recipe and swap out the main ingredient without repercussions. So yes, of course, I thought "hey, I'll just switch out the KAF Gluten Free Flour for the cake flour. And while I'm at it, I'll just toss in some arrowroot powder for binding and swap out some of the flour for cornstarch."

I consider myself extremely lucky that I have a cake to talk about at all, not to mention one that was actually pretty good and even tasty. The cake was tender without the funky gritty aftertaste I found with the rice flour I'd used for the cookies last week. Then again, with two sticks of butter and a package of cream cheese, this cake had some tasty friends to help it on its way. The only issue, and it was minor, that I did have was that the outside of the cake (crust for want of a better word) had a somewhat curious taste...not unpleasant but there a slight bit of chewiness there.

To be on the safe side, I baked the cake for 65 minutes...lucky for me as it was done. And actually, lucky for me that the cake came out of the pan and I had skipped the flouring process when I was prepping the pan from sheer laziness.

Overall, I really liked this cake. For gluten free, way better than I had expected and makes the prospect of gluten free baking much more appealing (thanks KAF). The photo doesn't do the cake full justice...I took the picture late at night with overhead lights but it does have a nice color to it in real life.

Rating: A-

From: Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman

3 cups King Arthur Gluten Free Flour
(minus 3 tbsp/replaced by 3 tbsp cornstarch)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 sticks butter, softened
1 tsp arrowroot powder
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 eggs (room temperature)
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp lemon zest powder

Adjust rack to lower middle position. Grease bundt pan and flour (trust me, the flouring step is important as I learned when I fought to get the cake out of the pan.) Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cornstarch and arrowroot powder in bowl.

Combine butter, cream cheese and sugar and cream using electric mixer on medium high for 3 minutes or until fluffy. Lower speed to medium and add eggs, one at a time, scraping down as needed after each addition. Beat in vanilla, ginger and lemon zest.

Turn mixer speed to low and add flour mixture in half cup increments, scraping down bowl as needed. After last addition, increase speed to medium for 30 seconds. Pour into bundt pan.

Put cake in cold oven. Turn heat to 325 and bake WITHOUT OPENING DOOR for 65 to 80 minutes. I highly recommend checking at 65 minutes as my cake was already done at that point. Cool in pan for 15 minutes and invert onto rack. Cool completely before slicing and serving.

Store cake in cake keeper at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Gluten Free Thin Mints Style Cookies

There are some words that strike fear into my culinary heart.

Whipping egg whites. Folding with a light hand. And now a new one.  Gluten free baking.

Now mind you, it's not an official diagnosis by my doctor. Just a suggestion from one of my friends who thought that my irritability, tiredness and spaciness seemed to coincide mostly after I'd been eating something with gluten. And gave me a challenge to try going gluten free for a week. I would of course like to blast holes into the theory, except that I'm very crankily unhappy  to announce that I have more energy and concentration just after 24 hours of not eating gluten products. So, I might just have to settle for pelting said friend with dinner rolls until I feel better. Just for bringing logic into my happy food based life.

I'm really really REALLY hoping that this is just something that got triggered into going overboard because of a lot of stress. And that if I"m really good about behaving myself I might be able to go back to the real deal. But in the meantime, I'm at least going to  give gluten free baking the benefit of the doubt until the weather gets warmer for ice cream. At least to post about it. I very happily eat ice cream when it's well below zero.

As for gluten free baking, I did try making these mint cookies t with brown rice flour and wasn't too happy with them. I know that Bob's says they grind the flour super fine but it still tasted gritty to me. Didn't stop me from eating several of the cookies although I think that had more to do with the fact that they were covered with chocolate that helped console me somewhat.I have a box of King Arthur Flours multi purpose gluten free flour that I think I'll try again with the recipe to see if that would help at all. Either that, or pulverize the brown rice flour in my food processor to see if fixes the gritty issue.

Overall, these were okay. Given my preference for chewy cookies, I should have probably gone with another one from the book but I think with practice and time, I might try these one more time to see if I can fix the issues I had with it.

Thin Mints -Style Cookies
from: The Ultimate Gluten Free Cookie Book by Roben Ryberg
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 egg
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp vanilla extract

12 oz broken milk chocolate bar
2 tbsp confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp mint extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheet.

In medium bowl, combine oil and sugar. Beat well. Add brown rice flour and beat well. Scrape sides of bowl down at least once during mixing. Add remaining ingredients and beat well. Beat until dough comes together. Dough will be soft and oily to the touch.

Roll small balls of dough and flatten slightly on cookie sheet. Bake 8-9 minutes or until tops are dry (mine took closer to 12 minutes in electric oven). Cool well - cookies should be crisp when completely cooled.

Melt milk chocolate in microwave, 1-2 minutes on high or until melted. Stir in sugar and mint extract and mix until creamy. Dip cookies into chocolate and place on waxed paper.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dilly BLT Pasta Salad

No need to worry.

If you think that the earth did stop spinning for one brief second last week, you are correct. Not only did I cook twice (and blog about it to boot) I actually cooked from one of my brand new cookbooks. Regarding my dozens of other abandoned and neglected cookbooks, let's just all pretend they don't exist and avoid that sad topic for another day.

One of my favorite things to get for a quick evening meal (although out of sheer laziness it's few and far between) is Jewel's BLT pasta salad. Totally yummy and all it requires of me is to find a clean dish and a fork (although, I've been known to eat directly out of the container at times and skip the plate altogether). This recipe is not quite as convenient and does require more organization but it's just as equally yummy and should last me for a few lunches or dinners easily this week.The recipe states that it serves four, but I think I could easily get six fairly nice sized meals out of this as long as I stay out of the kitchen and stop picking out of the bowl.

Apart from eating several slices of the bacon and having less for the salad, the only other substitution I made was to swap dill for the thyme called for. One, because I had no thyme and having discovered how awesome fresh dill tastes, I wanted to use some more of it before I have to throw it away. Also, in an effort to eat somewhat healthier, I did use fat free mayonnaise and fat free sour cream. Comparing the store bought version with this, there was definitely a little decrease in the flavor but I think that if I had added a little more dill it would have complemented the overall dish nicely.

Overall rating, a solid A. And with the lettuce and tomatoes in there I can rationalize it as being healthy for me, hopefully enough to compensate for all that lovely bacon! Plus, even the bacon has got to be good for me because I made it in the oven laid out on a cooling rack on top of a cookie pan. So that makes it healthy with all the grease dripping below. Right?

Dilly BLT Pasta Salad
Slightly Adapted from: Food Network "Great Easy Meals"

12 oz tri-colored rotini pasta
1/2 cup milk
12 oz lean bacon
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes with onion
1 tbsp fresh dill
1 clove garlic, minced
Kosher Salt and fresh ground pepper
1/2 cup fat free maynnnaise
1/4 cup fat free sour cream
4 tbsp chopped scallion greens
5 cups chopped romaine hearts

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain, toss with milk and set aside.

Cook bacon in oven, laid out on rack slightly elevated over cookie pan so that grease drips below and does not saturate bacon. Drain on paper towels. Crumble into bite sized pieces.

Toss pasta with diced tomatoes, dill and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Mix mayonnaise, sour cream and 3 tbsp chives with pasta until evenly combined.Add lettuce and toss again to coat. Top with reserved bacon and remaining scallion greens. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Blueberry Upside Down Cake with Yogurt Sauce

This happened to be one of the books I bought sight unseen. I had drooled (and bought) Roland Mesnier's other book, "Dessert University," after a visit to my local library. Come to think of it, this was also during the dreaded cake phase I was going through where I felt I had to have cake books. All of them. Now.

Fortunately, my wallet did not agree with the decision to buy all of the available cake books. So, I had to make do for a few weeks while this stage lasted by checking out books at the library. But on impulse, based on my love of "Dessert University" I bought his other book sight unseen over at Amazon. And since this book was the opposite of what I normally go for in cookbooks, I didn't do much with it. We're talking no glossy pages or full color photos. In other words, no visual string pulling on my culinary heartstrings. So I tucked it away on my bookshelf and left it there for a few years. Until I had one of my rare, "I must have cake and bake it myself moments" that inspired me to finally crack this open again and give it a second chance.

As recipes go, this is a slightly complicated simple recipe. There's a minimum of ingredients which is always a plus with a baking technique that I've had very little experience with. But I would still give this a enthusiastic thumbs up for flavor and texture. The cake was very light, with the blueberries playing a big role in providing sweetness. I wasn't terribly fond of the yogurt sauce recommended to go along with the cake and would prefer a lightly sweetened whipped cream instead. It's a cake that would be very easy to overbake (as I did) so start checking your cake early. After a few hours of sitting, the juice from the blueberries will soak into the cake making it very tender and melt in your mouth. I would prefer this as a dessert although the recipe also recommends it for breakfast and brunch. Be warned - it's a dessert/brunch/breakfast with a short life was great the day of, but it had definitely gone slightly stale by the next day.

My only substitution was to use frozen blueberries instead of the fresh recommended which worked out well. I also skipped the step of melting jelly and glazing the berries, mostly for convenience.

Blueberry Upside Down Cake with Yogurt Sauce
From: Roland Mesnier's Basic to Beautiful Cakes 

3 cups blueberries
4 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
pinch salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups plain yogurt mixed with 1/4 cup honey 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Grease cake pan. Line bottom with parchment paper and grease paper. Arrange blueberries in even layer on bottom of pan.

Pour 2 inches of water into medium saucepan and bring to bare simmer. Combine eggs and sugar in bowl of stand mixer. Place bowl over simmering water and whisk constantly until egg mixture is lukewarm and reads 86-90 degrees ( I went by touch).

Return bowl to stand mixer with whisk attachment. Whisk on high speed for 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium and whisk until mixture is cool, thick and creamy, approximately 12 minutes.

Using rubber spatula, fold in flour, salt and vanilla. Pour batter over blueberries, Tap cake pan on counter 4-5 times to eliminate any large air pockets. Bake until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, approximately 40 minutes.

Remove cake from oven and let cool in pan 5-10 minutes. Invert onto plate, berry side up. Allow cake to cool completely. Serve with yogurt sauce if desired.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ricotta, Ham and Scallion Tart

 Egg and ham to me are just a marriage made in heaven. Whenever I have the chance to go out to breakfast, it's pretty much a given that I'll order either an omelette or a skillet, heavy on the ham. Somehow, in the back of my mind, I can rationalize the fact despite being about  to eat hundreds of calories in this innocent looking food, I can still rationalize it as being healthy when I compare it with the pancake side of the menu.So when I saw this recipe in my latest impulsive cookbook purchase, I was off to the grocery store. Even more amazing...I ONLY HAD THE BOOK FOR A WEEK BEFORE I COOKED FROM IT!

It's the little things in life that mean a lot.

 However, my quest to not burn a crust continues. Although this recipe calls for refrigerated pizza crust, it still gave me the culinary twitches. I put tart exactly where I was told to, at the right temperature, checked the tart early and STILL burned the crust.

No matter. The rest of the tart was still delightful. While mixing the ingredients together, I realized that the filling wasn't going to be enough for the size of the tart pan so I doubled that part of it(reflected below.).

My only problem with the recipe was that the list of ingredients did not include water (I added it to ingredients below) but it was called for in one of the steps. Also, I felt that the tart could have benefited with a touch of salt. Apart from that,  I would definitely make this again. It's a light, simple and quick meal after work, even for someone as lazy as me.

Ricotta, Ham and Scallion Tart
Modified slightly from Food Network Great Easy Meals

3 tbsp unsalted butter
One 13.8 oz tube refrigerated pizza crust dough
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 large eggs
2-3 bunches scallions
4 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
3-4 tbsp chopped fresh dill
freshly ground pepper
5 oz deli sliced ham
2 tbsp water 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place baking sheet on top rack of oven  (I did not do this but placed tart pan in correct area with burnt crust after 18 minutes.)

Grease tart pan. Line pan with pizza dough, press carefully against sides and trim excess dough.

Whisk ricotta, cream and eggs in medium bowl. Mince enough green scallions to make 2 tbsp, add to ricotta mixture with parsley and dill. Season with pepper. Slice remaining scallions into small pieces.

Heat 2 tbsp butter in skillet over high heat. Add sliced scallions and water, cook until scallions are tender, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add ham. Spread most of scallion mixture on crust. Pour in ricotta mixture and scatter remaining scallion mixture on otp.

Bake tart for 20 minutes or until crust is golden and filling set. Rest in pan for 5 minutes, then slice and serve.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Citrus Cornmeal Shortbread

 I've had Martha Stewart's Cookies book for some time. Originally I checked it out from the library, drooled over the recipes and then decided I must absolutely, positively have this cookie book or perish from the lack thereof. This was around a year or more ago and if you've read my blog before, you know the next one is coming a mile in advance.

And the book sat on my shelf unopened all that time.

Which is a shame, because as photos go, Martha's cookies always look sublime and it's just so much fun to flip through all those nice, shiny glossy pages.

 So, after realizing I had been neglecting my blog again, I flipped through, found what looked like to be a fairly simple recipe (it's usually hard to find a 7 ingredient recipe with Martha) and headed back into the kitchen.

It just feels wrong to say I didn't care for this cookie. I mean, we are talking Martha Stewart after all. But considering my coworkers happily gobbled them down it's probably just me. I prefer a sweeter shortbread cookie. Martha's cookie is very light and very subtle with a lovely hint of orange as you bite into it.  I feel like I had overbaked them somewhat but nobody seemed to mind or notice so I'll just keep that info to myself (at least when it comes to them knowing about it).

Overall a B cookie. I think I might give this a shot with some chocolate chips another time...the combo of orange and zest in a shortbread cookie sounds sublime.

Citrus Cornmeal Shortbread
from: Martha Stewart's Cookies

2 sticks butter, unsalted, room temperature
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla paste or extract
2 cups regular flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp yellow cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp finely grated orange zest 

Mix butter and sugar in mixer with paddle attachment on medium speed until creamy, approximately 2 minutes. Add vanilla and zest. Mix until combined.

Reduce speed to low. Add flour, 2 tbsp cornmeal and salt for 3 minutes or combined well. Halve dough and roll into log. Wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate for minimum of 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place remaining cornmeal on sheet of parchment paper. Roll dough logs in cornmeal to coat. Cut into slices and space rounds 1 inch apart on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until golden, 30 -35 minutes (less for me but my cookies were smaller). Cool on wire rack.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mom's Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet

My mom's favorite drink had to be a Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet. Which to the best of my knowledge is a drink that is pretty much popular in Wisconsin (at least this version of it is) and those who may have hailed from there. So in memory of my mom, who would have turned 69 today, I made her favorite drink. And given my love of maraschino cherries despite the knowledge that all those chemicals are probably going to lead to me growing a third arm someday, I went a touch overboard with adding them to the drink. But considering my mom and I always shared a serious sweet tooth, I like to think she would have approved.

Angostura Bitter
Sugar cube
Old fashioned glass (nowhere to be found in my kitchen)
sweet soda (sprite, sierra mist etc)
marachino cherries

Place sugar cube in glass with splash of water. After sugar cube soaks up some water, mash cube with handle of a wooden spoon (or you could do what I did...add a tsp of granulated sugar and still be happy). Avoid leaving large chunks of sugar cube.

Add ice to glass. Add 1 1/2 oz brandy. Add three shakes of bitters, then sweet soda and stir. Garnish with maraschino cherries and serve.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Baked Shrimp with Fennel and Feta

I was going to credit making this recipe to my desire to do the right thing by my cookbook collection and use it a little more. But I have to be honest. It's all about the shrimp. And when you tell me that not only can I have shrimp but I can also have some feta cheese and garlic with it, then you have my heart and my stomach right there.

And maybe there was a tiny bit of wanting to do the right thing by cracking open this long unused cookbook anyway.

Now I did not really (as usual) make this as I'm sure the fine people over at Fine Cooking intended it to be. I went with a different size shrimp as that was on sale at the store and then I added insult to injury by using cooked shrimp. So I consider myself to be one lucky girl that this turned out to taste pretty darned good if you ask me (and I really couldn't answer with my mouth full of shrimp anyway). The feta cheese and tomatoes worked very well with the shrimp and even though I started out with cooked shrimp, I couldn't tell the difference when all the flavors pulled together in the oven.

Even more interesting, as far as I know, this was my first time with fennel in a recipe and I actually liked it. Not sure if this is exactly Weight Watchers approved as I haven't figure out the points yet, but it was a fine splurge for a Sunday evening dinner.

Baked Shrimp with Fennel and Feta
From: Fine Cooking Annual 2007

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced fennel bulb
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dry white wine
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
2 tbs dried parsley
1/4 lb feta cheese crumbled
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 lb large shrimp peeled and deveined

Preheat oven to 450 degrees with rack placed in center of oven. Heat 2 tbsp oil at medium high. Add fennel and cook for 7-8 minutes or until slightly softened and lightly brown. Add minced garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add wine and bring to boil. add tomatoes with juice, season with salt and pepper, and cook until heated through. Spread tomato mixture evenly through pan.

Combine bread crumbs, parsley, feta, remaining olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange shrimp in single layer over tomato mixture and sprinkle with breadcrumb mixture. Bake until shrimp are cooked through and cheese is melted, about 12-15 minutes.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Peruvian Roast Chicken with Garlic and Lime

It's now time to break up with Boston Market's chicken.

Roast chicken has been one of my weak spots in the culinary world. I successfully did one. I failed at my next attempt. So, I figured it was time to get off the fence and try one more time. Roast chicken for me is such a comfort food and when it doesn't work out, it just leaves a flat note in the day.

My only concern was some of the spices as I'm usually not a big fan of them. It used to be that I considered myself daring and on the edge if I used pepper. Now, I can border out as far as tossing in some sweeter milder chili powder and feel like I've conquered the villain and saved the world.

I am proud to say that having made this chicken, I can now boldly face down the rows of whole chickens at the grocery store without fear. Although I had some concerns about the spices, letting this marinate for 24 hours tempered it perfectly and the rub gave the chicken a lovely crispness to the skin. The smell alone very nearly had me salivating while I waited for it to cook.

Grade: A. Sorry Boston Market. There's just no comparison.

Peruvian Roast Chicken with Garlic & Lime
very slightly adapted from Cooks Illustrated - February/March Magazine 

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lightly packed fresh mint leaves
2 tbsp kosher salt
 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
 1 tbsp black ground pepper
 1 tbsp ground cumin
 1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground oregano
2 tsp grated zest and 1/4 cup juice (from 2 limes)
1 tsp ancho chili powder
4 pound whole chicken

Process all ingredients except chicken in blender until smooth paste forms (10-20 seconds). Using fingers or handle of wooden spoon, carefully loosen skin over thighs and breast and remove any excess fat. Rub half of paste beneath skin. Spread entire exterior surface of chicken with remaining paste. Place chicken in gallon sized zipper lock bag and marinate for 24 hours.

Roast at 400 degrees for 1 hour fifteen minutes or until done based. Rotate chicken while cooking. Carve, serve and enjoy!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Greek Chicken Salad Pitas

I have no excuses for not blogging these past two weeks. Could have cooked, didn't want to. Could have rambled, but was already doing enough of that in real life. But it's amazing how a few days of doing close to nothing can leave me relaxed and even slightly bored enough to get into the kitchen and do something productive. 

Like most of my cooking magazine purchases, this sat on my shelf unopened (apart from the browse at the store) for about 6 months until today. And once I saw this recipe, I realized that this was simple enough and very nearly healthy enough to pull it off today. This of course after I realized another recipe I had been thinking of was going to take 6-24 hours to marinate and was not going to make it as a post today. 

Super simple to pull together. I added more chicken then the recipe called for as it didn't seem quite enough and added extra red onions as well. Although the recipe was very good, it would have been even better with some sort of greek side dish to complement the flavors. 

Overall rating: A- for simplicity, B+ for flavor (maybe a little more lemon juice next time?)

Greek Chicken Salad Pita
Adapted very slightly from: Cooking Light 5 Ingredient 15 minute recipes 
serves 4 

2 cups sliced romaine lettuce
2 cups chopped roasted chicken breast 
2/3 cup seeded cucumber
1/.2 cup red onion
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp salt (forgot this...might explain the taste)
6 tbsp roasted red bell pepper hummus
1 6 inch whole wheat pitas, cut in half

Combine first five ingredients in large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper: toss gently.

Spread 1 1/2 tbsp hummus inside each pita half and spoon salad mixture evenly into halves. Serve immediately.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cinnamon Madelines

I have a thing for madeleines. Not so much for eating them but just admiring how cute they look with those scalloped edges. Which is probably why I bought a special madeleine pan that has been sitting in my kitchen cupboard along with all the other pans I haven't used while the ones I do want seem to have fallen into some sort of culinary black hole. In any event, the madeleine pan finally had its official unveiling last week when I was desperate for a sweet and came across a very simple recipe on the back of the box.

At first, the cookies seem a little on the simple side. I had made some adjustments to the original recipe and whether it was the changes or even a tiny second or two of overcooking, I found them to be slightly on the dry side. In retrospect, I wish I had given them a slight dip in some rum or other type of booze to moisten them up and give a little kick. But they were good enough that I ate more than I ought to have had threw half the batter away so I wouldn't be tempted to eat more.

Overall, I'd grade these a B. But to be fair to them, I'll give the recipe one more try without the substitutions to see if that makes a difference.

Cinnamon Madeleines
from: Chicago Metallic

2/3 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter melted and cooled
2 eggs
1/2 tsp cinnamon extract
1 cup powdered maple sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray pan with nonstick spray. Sift together flour and baking powder in small bowl and set aside. In an electric mixer, beat eggs and maple extract on high speed for 5 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar. Beat another 5 minutes or until thick.

Gently fold in flour mixture, then melted butter. Mix until smooth. Spoon into cups filling approximately 3/4 full. Bake approximately 8 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool in pan 1-2 minutes. Loosen cookies with knife and then invert pan onto rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar when cool. Makes 25 madeleines.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Easy Pork Tacos with Mango Salsa

Yes, it is true. I have cooked twice, in one week, and from the same cookbook I had bought during a just because I want it moment. Cue the made for tv movie with  inspirational music and a close up of me saying in a slightly tremulous voice "I ...I knew I could do it...all I had to do was try."

Okay, so being snowed in over here in Chicago did give me some extra time on my hands to get this done as well.

I don't think I've really tried the tropical fruit salsas (at least not as far as I remember) but I'm definitely glad I got out of my same old same old food ruts that I slip into from time to time and tried this. I did make a few substitutions as I am a wimp when it comes to very spicy foods and there was no way I was going to go down that canned chipolte chile road they suggested so I substituted some generous dashes of chili powder instead. Also, I chose to be a little lazy and went with dried cilanto (which I rehydrated) versus fresh.

Total revelation: I really liked this. The combo of the very slight spicy hint from the pork mixture combined with the mango salsa was great. The only thing I did not like was the corn tortilla as it bought a blandness to the dish so I would try something different the next time I make this.

Overall grade: A-. Yum.

Easy Pork Tacos with Mango Salsa
Very slightly adapted from: The Best Simple Recipes
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups chopped mango
1 small red onion chopped fine
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp lime juice
Salt and Pepper
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tsp canned chipotle chiles (or chili powder for the less brave)
1 1/2 pounds ground pork
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
12 6 inch corn tortillas, warmed

Combine mango, half of chopped onion, 1/4 cup cilantro, 1 tbsp lime juice, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in bowl. 

Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat until it begins to smoke. Add onion, chipotle and salt and cook until onion in softened, approximately 3 minutes. Stir in pork and cook until no longer pink.

Remove pan from heat and add remaining cilantro, lime juice and cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with tortillas and mango salsa.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chicken and Spinach Farfalle

Well, it's official. Either the end of the world is near or I have had a good spell cast on me by a culinary genie. Because I've actually made a recipe from a cookbook that I did not need but bought anyway, rationalizing it as being meant to be due to the living social amazon gift card deal. And I did all of this within a week of getting the book. Plus I've already earmarked several recipes that I want to try in the future. That is the sign of a good cookbook find.

Although, if I have to be honest, this recipe sounded delicious and it wasn't really as hard as I had thought it might be to motivate me to get up from my computer desk and into the kitchen. This is a super simple recipe even for someone who is having a semi meltdown about work issues and trying to figure out where Office 2007 is hiding on the computer anyway because I'm trying to take a online computer course all at the same time.

The recipe called for the spinach to be added at the last minute, shortly before tossing, I cooked mine until wilted in the sauce and then added all of the remaining ingredients at the end. This recipe has some good, simple flavors and even better, plenty of leftovers so I can eat healthier for the rest of the week and stay out of the beguiling snare of McDonalds.

My only glitch (which I discovered while typing the post up) was that I completely missed the part about cutting the chicken crosswise before cooking. I ended up browning the chicken in the skillet and then sticking the chicken in the oven to finish cooking. 

Chicken and Spinach Farfalle 
Adapted ever so slightly from: The Best Simple Recipes from America's Test Kitchen 
Serves 4

2 bonless skinless chicken breasts (approximately 3/4 pound) - cut crosswise into 1/4 inch pieces
salt and pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tsp grated lemon zest
3 tbsp juice from 1 lemon
1 pound farfalle
1 6oz bag of baby spinach
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pine nuts (omitted in recipe above)

Bring 4 quarts of water to boil.

Pat chicken dry, then season with salt and pepper. Melt 2 tbsp butter in large skillet over medium high heat. Cook chicken until no longer pink, about 3 minutes, and transfer to plate.

Add garlic to empty skillet and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in cream, lemon zest, lemon juice, and spinach leaves until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and cover.

Add 1 tbsp salt and farfalle to boiling water and cook until al dente. Reseve 1/2 cup cooking water, drain pasta and return to pot. Add sauce, parmesan cheese, pine nuts (if using) and cooked chicken to pot. Toss to combine, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Season with salt and pepper before serving

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ragu Alla Bolognese

Due to an assortment of chaos going on in life recently, I haven't had time to cook along with the group over at Cooking Italy. Which is a shame as Angela comes up with some to die for recipes between Marcella Hazan and the occasional guest recipe so to speak such as this recipe for Ragu Alla Bolognese from la Cucina Italiana. 
Compared to my regular quick bolognese, this was was much more labor intensive and time consuming. I was worried for a bit as I did not see my sauce reducing as much as the recipe said it would, but after realizing I hadn't had the heat high enough, a quick adjustment pulled the recipe together within an hour. 

I found the recipe to be a rich and savory delight for the tastebuds.  I am not a fan of carrots and celery at all, but after several hours of simmering the flavors all meld together perfectly and the vegetables were a good pairing for the rest of the dish. If you're a meat lover, you will love this recipe. I could not find veal at my local grocery store (they said they were out) so as the recipe suggested I substituted extra beef and pork and found the flavor to be perfect.  My picture may not do this justice as I took it at night without some natural light, but please take my word on really need to try this at least once and you'll be hooked.

 Ragu Alla Bolognese (from La Cucina Italiana)


  • For the sauce:
  • 1 (14-ounce) or 1/2 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, preferably San Marzano
  • 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste, preferably double concentrated
  • 1 teaspoon beef base (available in some supermarkets and specialty food stores) or 1 beef bouillon cube
  • 1 celery rib, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 medium carrot, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces sweet Italian sausage, removed from casing
  • 2 ounces pancetta or slab bacon, finely chopped
  • 3/4 pound ground beef (not lean)
  • 3/4 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • For serving:
  • Fresh tagliatelle, or other pasta, cooked until tender in salted water
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Purée tomatoes and their juice in blender until smooth; set aside.

In a small saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a simmer; whisk in tomato paste and beef base. Remove from heat; set aside.

Make a battuto (the foundation for many Italian soups, stews and sauces) by finely chopping together (by hand) celery, onion and carrot.

Heat butter over medium-low heat until melted and foaming; add battuto, sausage and pancetta. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sausage is broken into small bits, then continue cooking, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened (do not brown), about 25 minutes.

Add beef, pork and veal; increase heat to medium. Cook, stirring until meat is broken into small bits, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly for 10 minutes more (do not brown).

Add wine; bring to a boil and cook until wine and juices in pot are mostly evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Add reserved puréed tomato, reserved beef base mixture and bay leaf.

Cook ragù at the barest simmer, stirring occasionally (making sure to stir into edges of pot), until meat is very tender and sauce is thick (as sauce thickens, add water, bit by bit, if necessary, to keep sauce moist and just barely liquid), about 2 1/2  hours.

Add milk and continue cooking for 30 minutes more. Stir in pinch nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
To serve:
Toss the ragù with pasta using 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups of sauce per pound of pasta. Serve immediately with cheese.