Saturday, January 31, 2009
I've recently started a love affair that Hubs is only beginning to understand. It started in the freezer aisle of the grocery store, and continues into my kitchen... What am I talking about, you ask? lol Frozen puff pastry! Not only is it fairly cheap (compared to the price of butter and flour here), it's super easy to work with and tasty to boot! I decided to do a post to show the versatility of this kitchen wonder, using another recipe from America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book, as well as a simple and delicious dessert that is fantastic with tea.
May I humbly present: a Tomato & Goat Cheese tart and a Blueberry Whipped Cream tart.
Tomato & Goat Cheese Tart (This recipe makes 2 tarts, the size of the one pictured- since I only made one savoury, I'll list the scaled quantities I used.)
1 (9.5x9") sheet of dethawed frozen puff pastry
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 c. cherry tomatoes
1.5 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, sliced thin (I used 1/4 of a white onion)
1 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1/2 tsp. sugar
3/4 c. goat cheese, softened (herbed goat cheese is great in this)
1/4 c. cream cheese softened (The mix of goat and cream cheese is great for people who don't like the strong flavor of goat cheese!)
1 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped (I omitted this)
Blueberry & Vanilla Whipped Cream Tart
1 c. fresh blueberries (or whatever berry you'd like)
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2/3 c. powdered sugar
For both tart bases:
1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (or use the paper that the puff pastry comes wrapped in!).
2. Cut the puff pastry into 2 9.5x4.5" rectangles. Brush each piece lightly with egg wash, and poke them each thoroughly with a fork.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350°F. Continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the pastry shells are golden brown. Remove from oven and let pastry cool for 20-30 minutes. Leave the oven on for the tomatoes!
4. With a paring knife, cut a 1/2" border around the edges of the cooled pastries. Lightly press down on the center piece until it rests 1/4" or so from the top edge.
For the tomato tart:
1. Toss the tomatoes with the 1 Tbsp. of the oil, shallot, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper. Spread the tomatoes in a baking dish, and roast the tomatoes without stirring for 30 minutes. Their skins should be slightly shriveled, but they should still be cute round little buggers.
2. Increase the oven back to 425°F. Mix the goat cheese, cream cheese & remaining 2 Tbsp. of oil until smooth.
3. Smooth the cheese mix evenly over the center piece you pushed down. Spoon the roasted tomatoes on top of the cheese.
4. Brush the edges with egg wash and bake again for 10-15 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet halfway through baking.
5. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then cool for longer on a serving platter.
For the blueberry whipped cream tart:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with your hand mixer), whisk the cream until soft peaks form.
2. Gradually add in the powdered sugar a few tablespoons at a time. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl after each addition. Add in vanilla and whisk until slightly stiffer peaks form.
3. Evenly spread the whipped cream over the center piece that has been pushed down.
4. Arrange blueberries on top of whipped cream. You can either enjoy as is, or top with more powdered sugar.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Usually when I say "It's that time of the month", Hubs throws massive amounts of dark chocolate in my direction and heads for the hills. However, he's started to understand that there is a mighty tasty "time of the month", and it's all thanks to The Daring Bakers!
The fantastic hosts, Karen and Zorra, chose Tuiles, a seemingly easy recipe. And not only did they pick an easy recipe, they provided us with SO many options, it was hard not to participate this month!
This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.
I chose to make the sweet version of tuiles for now. The requisite sweet tuiles I made were paired with a pear and apple "salad" dressed with lime and orange juice and coconut. Because I'm not good with molds, I chose to pipe out some designs instead. Make sure to visit the other Daring Bakers on the blogroll to check out everyone else's amazingly creative tuiles. If you'd like to try the recipe, head on over to Karen's blog to check out the recipe! :)
Saturday, January 24, 2009
"Vegetarian" is not a word that is part of my household's lexicon. Between Hubs's and his mom's Persian background and my Southern background, red meat is pretty much a staple for every meal. After taking a class about heart-smart eating last fall, we've made the effort to eat more chicken, less white carbs (which is fantastic for me, since I LOVE brown rice more than any normal person should), and more vegetables (also, great for me, since I've always had an irrational attraction to perfectly shaped peppers and tomatoes, etc).
I've offered a recipe before from a Cooking Light cookbook (see: Skillet Chicken), and there are a couple particularly tasty and easy recipes that have made their way into normal rotation for my growing list of "go-to" dinners. One that I felt was worthy of sharing is the Italian Vegetable Pie. While it is a totally vegetarian dish, there's one ingredient you can add to fool any meat lover...
I tried something new this time. Allow me to present my attempt at a Mise en Place. I don't typically have everything chopped and ready to go, because most of my recipes don't involve much cutting (my poor nails and fingertips have been through enough!). This time, I felt it was necessary. Besides, aren't those bowls adorable?! Mother-in-law bought them at the Asian market 2 nights ago, along with a ton of sushi and sesame crackers. What better way to use such lovely little bowls than for a Mise en Place. :)
Italian Vegetable Pie (adapted from Cooking Light)
2 tsp. olive oil
1 c. chopped green bell pepper (roughly one medium-sized pepper)
1 c. chopped onion (I just use one medium yellow onion)
1 c. chopped mushrooms
1/2 c. chopped carrot
1/2 c. chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, chopped or grated
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp. fennel seeds (I omitted these and used 2 tsp. curry powder for a different flavor)
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 package (12.3 oz) firm tofu, drained and crumbled (**see note at the end!!)
1 bottle (25.5 oz) fat-free marinara sauce
6 cooked lasagna noodles, cut in half (I used whole wheat noodles)
1 1/2 c. shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray 9" deep dish pie plate.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet, over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, celery, carrot and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or so, until vegetables are softened.
3. Stir in tomato paste, spices, tofu, and marinara sauce. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
4. Arrange the lasagna noodles in a "spoke-like" pattern in the bottom and up the sides of the sprayed pie dish. Spread 3 cups of the tofu-sauce mixture over the noodles. Folds end over the top and cover with remaining sauce.
5. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake on a tin-foil covered baking sheet for 20 minutes.
6. Let cool for 5 minutes or so. Cut into pizza-like slices, and serve with salad on the side!
**NOTE: So, I said that this is a dish that would appeal to meat-lovers and vegetarians. I know that most meat-lovers will shudder at the mention of "tofu" but look in the produce section of your grocery store for a "veggie meat" substitute. I personally recommend Yves Veggie Cuisine "Ground Round"-- I fooled my meat-eating Hubs THREE times before I told him that it wasn't actually meat. :-D It's a great way to cut down on your meat intake and still get the protein you need in a meal.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Last month's winner of the RFJ was delicious-looking recipe for Banana's Foster cupcakes that used rice flour, presented by the lovely Elle at Elle's New England Kitchen. Congratulations to her and everyone else who participated in the January Joust!
When Jenn from Leftover Queen posted that the ingredients for the February Joust were mushrooms, cauliflower and noodles, I got very very excited. Why you ask? Because I'm totally, utterly, inexplicably addicted to carbs. The amount of carbs and chocolate I consume in a month could possibly feed a small village for a year. Hehehe. But really, what better way to utilize these fantastic ingredients than with a fantastic vegetarian dish: roasted cauliflower and mushrooms mac'n'cheese!!
Roasted Cauliflower and Mushrooms Mac'n'Cheese
1 head of cauliflower (any colour), cleaned and cut into small-ish florets
2 c. mushrooms, cleaned and quartered
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 box/1 lb. rotini pasta (I use Catelli Smart- it has the nutritional value of whole wheat pasta but tastes like white carb pasta!)
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. butter (or more olive oil, whatever your preference is)
3 Tbsp. flour
3 c. vegetable stock (or chicken stock if you're not vegetarian)
1 c. milk
1/2 c. Oka cheese, grated
1/2 c. Fontina cheese, grated
1/3 c. Gruyere cheese, grated
1/3 c. Mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese, grated (NOT the stuff in the green can, please! It doesn't melt the same.)
2 tsp. dijon (or grainy) mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2-3/4 c. breadcrumbs
1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Toss cauliflower with 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, 1/2 of the red pepper flakes, 1/2 of the salt and pepper. Roast for 10-12 minutes, stirring/shaking occasionally to make sure nothing sticks or burns.
2. Toss mushrooms with remaining olive oil and seasonings, and add to cauliflower in the oven. Roast everything together for an additional 6-8 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool slightly. 3. Put a big pot of water on to boil. This will be for your pasta, so when it boils, add about 1 Tbsp. of salt and the box of pasta. Undercook it slightly, since it will be baked with the cauliflower, mushrooms and sauce. (If the box says 8 minutes, cook it for 6.) Drain pasta and set aside.
4. To make the mac'n'cheese: In a medium saucepan, soften onions and garlic in 1 Tbsp. of olive oil. Melt butter into onions and garlic. Sprinkle in flour and let the raw flour taste cook out- this usually takes 2 minutes. Stir constantly to keep it from burning. (Yay! You just made a "roux"! A roux is also the basis for bechamel sauce.)
5. Add vegetable stock and stir until thickened. Add milk, and keep stirring until slightly thickened and bubbling but not boiling.
6. Turn off heat and add cheeses and mustard. Stir until the cheese is melted. Mix in cauliflower and mushrooms and cooked pasta.
7. Spread pasta into 9x13" baking dish and top with bread crumbs. (You can drizzle olive oil over the breadcrumbs to encourage browning.) Bake for 15-20 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and breadcrumbs are browned.
Garnish with fresh Enoki mushrooms (or just snack on these while you're cooking... which is what I did. They were supposed to be used in the dish, but I got distracted with munching on them. Oops.)
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Hubs got me The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book for Christmas this past year, and I've finally gotten around to testing some of the recipes in it. I tried out their "Blue Ribbon Apple Cake" a few nights ago and wasn't entirely thrilled with the combination of pre-cooked Granny Smith apples and cooked brown sugar. I plan to make it again, but I want to tweak the recipe slightly to suit my family's tastebuds.
Since the apple cake didn't quite live up to my expectations, I've been craving something baked with apples. I bought a ridiculous amount of Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, and Pink Lady (my FAVORITE!) apples yesterday, for the sole purpose of baking muffins and another cake. So the basic muffin recipe from the cookbook, with my own additions, were on the breakfast menu this morning!
Big Beautiful Muffins- Apple Cinnamon variation
3 c. all purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. yogurt (low-fat, whole, whatever you have on hand)
2 whole eggs
1/2 c. (8 Tbsp./1 stick) butter, melted and cooled
2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced in 1/2" cubes
1 Tbsp. all purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla extract/vanilla bean paste
1. Preheat your oven to 375°F, with the rack placed in the middle. Spray your muffin tins with cooking spray and set aside. (Cupcake/muffin liners are okay, but these guys slide out very easily, and you won't have any muffin wasted by pulling off the paper if you just grease your tin!)
2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder & soda, cinnamon and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together yogurt, eggs and vanilla.
3. Fold the yogurt mixture into the flour, until *just* combined (it's okay if there are still some streaks of flour). Fold the melted butter into the batter.
4. In a small bowl, toss together the apples and the 1 Tbsp. of flour until the apples are well coated. Fold the apples into the batter.
5. Scoop 1/3 c. of batter into each pregreased muffin cup. Bake for 25-30 minutes. A toothpick poked into the middle will come out with a few crumbs clinging to it for dear life.
6. Remove the tin from the oven, and let your muffins cool IN THE TIN for about 5 minutes. After that 5 minutes, you can either turn the muffins out on to a rack or carefully pull each one out and place them right-side-up on your rack. (If you let the muffins cool in the tin before messing with them, it'll be much easier to get them out because they'll have rested and won't be as delicate as they are straight out of the oven!)
There are so many possibilities with this basic muffin recipe... You can do blueberry instead of apples; omit the cinnamon and apples, and use orange zest and chocolate chips; you can use dried cranberries, nuts, etc. As long as you have this basic muffin recipe, the breakfast/snack muffin "world" is your oyster! :)
Saturday, January 10, 2009
So I'm super excited that so many people voted in my impromptu poll, asking which flavor of Larabar I should attempt to make. The first time I checked it, all three flavors were in a dead heat! I panicked for a bit and then more people voted... And the people have spoken!
Pecan Pie is what you asked for, and Pecan Pie is what you're gonna get!
I got ridiculously addicted to Larabars a couple of months ago. I was out grocery shopping and got hit by the hunger bug. If there's one thing I've learned, it's do NOT shop on an empty stomach, or you'll be explaining to your hubby why 2 opened boxes of cookies, a half-eaten bag of Sour Cream & Onion potato chips, and a case of soda missing one can came home with you. And trust me. He won't believe you if you say they just followed your car.
But I digress... I decided to buy a Larabar at the checkout of my favorite organic store before heading to Costco. That little bar changed my life. Seriously. I got the Pecan Pie flavor and, after one bite, had to check the ingredient list. Imagine my amazement at the shockingly short list of ingredients that had no sugar, no preservatives, no extra bells and whistles. Dates, Pecans, Almonds. That's it!! I've since tried almost every flavor they make, including the Jocolat bars. If you haven't tried these yet, and you're not keen on spending almost $2 for a small bar, try this recipe first. I'd even encourage you to do a "side-by-side" taste test of sorts! :)
Homemade Larabars: Pecan Pie Flavor
1 1/2- 2 c. pitted dates (**See note at bottom about this!**)
1/4 c. pecan halves
1/4 c. whole almonds
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (Entirely optional- This was my own little variation)
1. In your food processor, roughly chop the dates. It won't become a paste, but it will look a little chunky (the closest texture I can think of is after you cut butter into really small pieces in the flour when you make pie crust).
2. Remove the dates from the food processor and put them into a bowl. Add the nuts and cinnamon into the food processor and pulse until ground up.
3. Pour nuts into bowl with dates. Wash your hands, remove all of your rings, and get your mitts into it. Smush all of the nuts into the dates, until distributed fairly evenly throughout.
4. Line a bread baking pan with plastic wrap and mush the date & nuts mixture into an even layer. Wrap the plastic wrap around the mix and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes. This will make it easier to cut.
If you use a typical rectangular baking pan, you should be able to cut it into roughly 6-2" bars.
**Side note: I had to approximate the amount of dates used, because I used a mix of regular pitted dates from the bulk bin at the grocery store, and a pitted date "block" that I bought at the local Persian store. If you have a Meditarranean store near you, don't hesitate to visit and ask about dates! :)
Saturday, January 3, 2009
I realize that "fajilada" may or may not be a real word, so please forgive me if it means something bad or dirty. Mmkay? I just thought that this was an appropriate name for the Mexican-inspired concoction I made for dinner last night!
Fajita-type filling baked in an enchilada-type sauce, then covered with cheeeeeese... authentic or not, it was certaintly delicious, and Hubs-approved!
**I have to warn you guys- this is a recipe you attempt when you have the time to spend on each element!**
I usually make a recipe at least twice before I post it but this is the second time I've made this one, and Hubs insisted that I need to post these with a picture before they disappeared like the first batch! I guess that means this meal is a winner, and has earned a spot in the ever-growing book of Husband-approved foods. :)
Shredded Chicken Fajiladas (Fajita filling baked like Enchiladas)
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, coated in chili powder
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ c. low-sodium chicken stock
½ packet low-sodium taco seasoning
juice from roasting pan
¼ c. low-sodium chicken stock (optional)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Peppers & Onions:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
½ red onion, sliced
1 green bell pepper, seeded & sliced
2 tsp. lime juice
Black Bean Spread:
½ red onion, diced
1 can black beans, drained & rinsed
2 tsp. ground cumin
¼ packet low-sodium taco seasoning
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. lime juice
½ yellow onion, diced
½ can tomato paste
1 can chili
¼ packet low-sodium taco seasoning
1/3 c. hot water
1 ½ c. shredded Cheddar cheese
1 c. shredded Monterey Jack cheese
6 large whole wheat tortillas
For chicken filling:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Sear chili-coated chicken breasts on both sides. Remove chicken breasts to greased baking dish.
2. Pour ½ c. chicken stock into pan, and scrape up blackened bits on bottom of pan. Pour stock over chicken breasts, cover with foil and bake in oven for 20 minutes or so. (If you want to check, use tongs to pull one out, and cut it in half—you don’t need to worry about these staying whole, since they’ll be shredded in a minute!)
3. Remove chicken from oven and let cool.
4. Using 2 forks, shred each chicken breasts. Add shredded chicken and juices from baking dish to skillet.
5. Add taco seasoning. You can add additional liquid if you’d like (this is where I added the extra chicken stock). Heat chicken and let “simmer” for 10 minutes or so, until liquid is almost all gone. Stir in cilantro, if you choose to use it.
For pepper & onion filling:
1. Heat olive oil in skillet (you can use the same one that you did the chicken in, but make sure it’s big enough to hold the shredded chicken later.
2. Dump in peppers and onions. Soften slightly, then add lime juice. Remove to a plate and let cool.
For black bean spread:
1. In a small-skillet, heat olive oil. Soften diced onion.
2. In a food processor, pulse beans until smooth (you will still see some black bean skins). Add onions, lime juice and spices and puree into beans. (You can do this without a food processor too- I used to mash these with a potato masher before I got my wonderful Kitchenaid food processor for Christmas!)
For enchilada sauce:
1. Heat olive oil in small saucepan. Soften diced onion. Add taco seasoning and water.
2. Add tomato paste and chili. Heat until just bubbling.
1. Spoon a small amount of sauce into bottom of greased 9”x13” baking dish. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. To make one “fajilada”: Spread about 1 Tbsp. of the black bean spread down the middle of a tortilla. Spoon about 2-4 Tbsp. of shredded chicken over spread. Arrange a few pieces of peppers and onions on top of chicken. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. of cheddar cheese as the last layer before rolling.
3. Arrange rolls snugly into baking dish (you can tuck the ends if you’d like). I can typically only fit 6 of these into a 9”x13”, with a bit of each filling leftover.
4. Pour sauce over rolls. Use a spoon (or spatula) to spread to edges, covering every bit.
5. Cover the dish with foil. Bake for 10 minutes.
6. Remove foil. Spread remaining cheddar over top. Sprinkle Monterey Jack over cheddar.
7. Bake for another 10 minutes.
8. Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes.
9. Serve warm with sour cream on the side.
Friday, January 2, 2009
So, this blog has certainly influenced how my family treats me and how they buy gifts. My Christmas this year consisted of cookbooks and cooking equipment-- in particular, my other kitchen "baby", a 7-cup Kitchenaid food processor. (I only say "other" because the Kitchenaid standmixer is still the #1. Heh.)
My first thought when I ripped open the wrapping paper on the little beauty? "SOUP!!!" The simplest, cheapest soup I could think to make was roasted red pepper soup.
Little did I know, recipes for red pepper soup vary more than hair colour boxes in the drugstore! So my variation is something of a mash-up of those various recipes. It was wildly simple, delicious, and oh-so-creamy without having any dairy!
Roasted Red Pepper Soup
4 red peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, and sliced
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 medium Russet potato, peeled and cubed
3 c. low-sodium chicken stock
1 c. water
1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1. Heat olive oil in medium-sized saucepan/pot. Add onions and potato, and stir around for 2-3 minutes.
2. Add red pepper slivers and chicken stock. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, uncovered, stirring often.
3. Test "doneness" of potatoes with a knife- if the tip of the knife slips in with no resistance, then they're ready! When potatoes are cooked through, add the beans and let them warm through. This takes only a minute or two.
4. Remove pot from heat, and let cool for 10 minutes.
5. When veggies are cooled, add in small batches to food processor (or blender). Blend until smooth.
6. Pour soup into bowl/serving dish. Stir in salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm! (I topped my little bowl with a dash of Tony Cachere's and a teeny bit of olive oil.)
This soup was perfect-- the potato added just enough thickness to keep it from being runny, and the beans add enough creaminess that no dairy is needed! It's a good soup for watching snow... which is what I did this morning... :)