Friday, December 13, 2013

Gnocchi with Fontina Sauce

After having a lot of fun with the last Blogger's Choice swap, I was eager to join in for this round.  The blog I was assigned was The Cookaholic Wife.  There were so many yummy looking things on there, but after much deliberation I settled on trying my hand at homemade gnocchi,

I love gnocchi and if it's on the menu, 9 times out of 10 I will order it, but I had never made it myself.  ----- made it sound so simple that I knew this was the recipe to go with.  And it was definitely easy!  To save time I opted to heat my potatoes in the microwave, then while they were cooking I prepped the rest of the dish.  She said to use 1/2 - 3/4  cup flour.  I used 1/2 and thought the consistency was good but I think I'll use a bit more in the future, as the dough got sticky as I rolled it out.  I also was using a small cutting board to roll the dough, so I did it in a few batches and would toss each batch into the pot as I went along, removing them when they started to float..  Next time I will prep all of the gnocchi and put it in the pot all at the same time since I ended up with mostly cold gnocchi,  I don't know why I thought this way was  good idea!

The sauce was so rich and creamy.  I may, in the future, cut down a little on the butter and use skim milk instead of heavy cream just so it doesn't feel as heavy.  I think this was the first time I thought a sauce was too cheesy.  But I would totally try this sauce out on macaroni & cheese.  Maybe I'll make some homemade macaroni in a few weeks...hmm....

Honestly, if I knew how easy it was to make gnocchi I would have done it years ago.  Who knows what's in those prepackaged ones you buy at the store?  I think homemade is the way to go for this in the future!!  I have so many more dishes that use gnocchi that could benefit from this change.

And a big thank you to our trusty swap leader Sarah of A Taste of Home Cooking who does all the leg work for us so we can just cook and enjoy!

Gnocchi with Fontina Sauce (from The Cookaholic Wife)

Gnocchi  Slightly Adapted from Closet Cooking
1 lb. baking potatoes
1/2 - 3/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
 1 tbsp. milk  

- Scrub the potatoes well and prick with a fork. Use your desired method to bake the potatoes. (I cheat and use the microwave for the sake of time, but the oven is fine too.)
- Once the potatoes have cooled enough to handle, scoop out the insides of the potatoes into a medium bowl and mash with the milk.
- Add the egg and salt and stir with a fork until combined. Start with the 1/2 cup of flour and use your hands to combine until a soft dough forms. If the dough is too sticky to work with, add additional flour.
- Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Roll the dough into long 1/2 inch wide rolls.
- Cut the dough into 1/2" pieces and dip in remaining flour, shaking off the excess.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Place a dish towel over a wire rack.
- Using a slotted spoon, drop batches of the gnocchi into the boiling water, making sure not to crowd the pot. Once the gnocchi float, about 2-3 minutes, remove with the spoon and transfer to the dish towel. Let drain before serving.

Fontina Cheese Sauce
Slightly Adapted from:

6 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. shallots, minced
1/2 cup heavy cream
7 oz. Fontina cheese, shredded
3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
- Once the pot of water for the gnocchi is boiling, heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Add the butter and shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the butter is melted and the shallots are soft.
- Stir in the heavy cream and heat to an almost boil. Gradually mix in the Fontina cheese and Parmesan cheese, stirring until the mixture is smooth.
- Remove immediately from the heat.
- Serve the cheese sauce over the gnocchi. Garnish with oregano. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Crunchy Molasses Cookies - Great Food Blogger Cookies Swap

Last year I participated in a cookie swap from a message board I'm on.  I had fun with that swap, so when I heard about the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap I knew I wanted to be a part of it this year.  The concept of it is that food bloggers from all over join in for a small donation to Cookies for Kids' Cancer, then you are assigned three bloggers to send a dozen cookies to and you'll receive three dozen cookies in return from other bloggers.  Doesn't that sound like a great swap?!

There are so many food blogs out there, so it was nice to be connected to blogs I otherwise wouldn't have known about.  The bloggers I was assigned were:
The Crafty Foodie
Embracing Homemaking
Cardio Cats and Cooking

Knowing I needed to make at least 3 dozen cookies (with a few extras for us to enjoy here) and knowing that this was to raise money for Cookies for Kid's Cancer, I turned to my Best Bake sale Cookbook, which happens to give all proceeds from book sales to the same charity!  I wanted to make something "holiday"-ish.  One of my favorite holiday flavors is gingerbread, so these molasses cookies are the perfect holiday treat!  And my favorite part of these cookies is the sugar coating they get before going into the oven.  It helps bring out the sweetness from the otherwise spicey cookies.

I baked them, packed them up and sent them off to the recipients.  Then as I was on my way home from the post office I realized that I hadn't taken a picture of them!  What is a girl to do??  Bake more, of course!  I knew that I wanted to make holiday treats for our neighbors, so I whipped up another batch for them, and this time I remembered to take a picture before giving them away.  And another thing about making the extra batch was that I adjusted the bake time so they didn't come out quite as well done as the ones I had sent to my swap recipients.

Oh, and the best part of this swap?  Receiving cookies!  I was sent walnut sable cookies from La Peche Fraiche which I think lasted 2 days in our house, Ritzy Peanut Butter Crackers in Chocolate from Crackers on the Couch (when I opened this box the scent of chocolate and peanut butter wafted through the air...every box should have this scent!) and yummy jelly cookies from Mooshu Jenne.

I'm looking forward to doing this swap again next year!

Crunchy Molasses Cookies (slightly adapted from The Best Bake Sale Cook Book)

1 1/2 sticks (6oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, plus additional for rolling
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup robust molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom

- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle and beat until smooth and creamy.  Add the egg, molasses, and vanilla, one at a time, beating well between additions.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Place the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices in a separate bowl and mix well.  Add to the butter mixture.  Beat until everything is well incorporated.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again.
- To form the cookies, break off small pieces and roll into 1 inch balls.  Roll the balls in sugar and place 2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets.  Using your hand or the bottom of a water glass, press down until flattened.  Transfer to the oven and bake until the cookies begin to brown at the edges (approx. 10 minutes).  Cook on the cookie sheet.  Transfer to a wire rack and repeat with the remaining dough.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo Pasta

Remember the swaps I used to participate in?  Well, the format has now changed (and for the better!).  Instead of being assigned a recipe that I might not be too excited to make, we are now given the theme and a blog and we get to choose what recipe within the theme to make.  I love this change, because there have been one or two recipes that I had been assigned that I wasn't so thrilled about (and you could probably tell from my posts about them).  So I jumped at the chance to participate in this month's swap under the new rules.

The theme for this month was Vegetarian.  I was assigned A Taste of Home Cooking, which happens to be the blog of the swap organizer, Sarah (no pressure, right?!).  I went through her vegetarian recipes (love that she has a "vegetarian" label, hopefully the gal who was assigned my blog knew to look at anything labeled dairy or parve for an easy search!).  A few jumped out at me, but after a little deliberation and an e-mail of my top choices to my husband, we settled on Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo Pasta, which is a recipe from Marcus Samuelsson.  We're big Marcus fans from watching him on Chopped and have eaten at his restaurant Red Rooster, so we were excited to try this out.

Neither of us are huge roasted red pepper fans, but we decided to give this one a shot since we liked everything else about it.  I wasn't 100% sure how much "3 peppers" was, so I just bought a 12oz jar and used that.  Maybe that wasn't as much as I was supposed to use, but for us it was the perfect amount.  As my husband wanted me to say - if you usually don't like roasted red peppers, don't shy away from this recipe!

And the pasta was even better the next day for lunch!  I warmed mine up, but my husband ate his cold (I've mentioned before his fear of using his office's microwave, yes?) and he said it was just as good right out of the fridge.

I'm very glad that I chose this recipe to make.  And I'm even more excited to see what I get to make in the next swap!

Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo Pasta (recipe by Marcus Samuelsson, submitted to the swap by Taste of Home Cooking)

1/2 lb pasta (I used fettuccine)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, grated
1/2 cup half and half
4 oz goat cheese
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
3 roasted red bell peppers , coarsely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
1 handful basil
8 oz artichoke hearts, cut into quarters

- Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and reserve.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute.
- Add the half and half, goat cheese, Parmesan and roasted red peppers and simmer until the cheese is melted. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and add the basil. Puree with an immersion blender or food processor. Add in the chopped artichoke hearts.
- Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cornmeal-Crusted Flounder Sandwich with Tarter Sauce

I enjoy fast food as much as the next person, though I have never been a fan of hamburgers.  When I want a fast food fix my usual meal is a Filet-o-Fish from McDonald's.  My husband is not a big fast food person but he enjoys a good fish sandwich.  Whenever we go see the Mets play at Citifield, our go-to meal is a flounder sandwich from Catch of the Day.  When I came across this recipe in a cookbook I knew that I wanted to try this out since it would probably be 100x healthier than getting a fish sandwich at any of these places.

Not only was the fish delicious (and less greasy than their fast food counter part) but the homemade tarter sauce was surprisingly tasty.  When I get my fish sandwiches when I'm out I normally add ketchup to the usual tarter sauce.  This combo of flavors was so good as is that I actually have mixed this sauce up and added it to deli sandwiches since I made this dish.

These were so ridiculously easy to make that I'll definitely be making them again soon.  Even reheating some leftover fish tasted great!

Cornmeal-Crusted Flounder with Tarter Sauce (from Kosher by Design: Short on Time)

6 large flounder or sole filets
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten with 2 tbsp water
1 cup ground yellow cornmeal
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more if needed (***I used grapeseed oil, as it has a higher heat tolerance)
1 cup mayonaise
2 sour pickles, very finely chopped
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp hot sauce

- cut each filet on either side of the spine and remove the spine; you will be left with 2 long pieces of flounder from each filet
- season both sides of each piece of fish with salt and pepper
- arrange 3 bowls on your work surface (I find it easiest to use deep dishes like a pie dish for this)
- place the flour in one bowl, the beaten egg in the second bowl, and the cornmeal in the third bowl.
- take the fish, one piece at a time.  Dip it into the flour; shaking off the excess.  Dip it into the egg; shaking off the excess, and then dip it into the cornmeal; shaking off the excess.  Repeat with the remaining 11 pieces.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the fish in a single layer, working in batches if necessary.  Cook for 4 minutes per side, or until a crisp crust forms and the fish is slightly firm to the touch.  Remove to a plate or platter.  If you are doing this in batches you will need more oil.
- Meanwhile, prepare the tarter sauce:  In a small bowl whisk together the mayonnaise, pickles, Worcestershire sauce, and hot sauce.
- Serve the fish on rolls with the tarter sauce.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Butternut Squash Lasagna

When most people think of fall flavors the #1 thing that probably comes to mind for most people is pumpkin.  I'm pretty sure 99% of my newsfeed on Facebook was dedicated to the arrival of the pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks on the day they made their return appearance.  However, when I think of fall I immediately think of butternut squash.  I seriously can't believe that before 2011 I don't think I had even tasted it.  I now want to put it in everything!  My butternut squash soup made an appearance on our table a few weeks ago.  But I'm always looking for different things to do with it.

So I was incredibly excited when I flipped through this month's issue of Food Network Magazine and in their weekend meal section featuring different lasagnas they included a recipe for one using roasted butternut squash.  I basically started salivating as soon as I read the title of the recipe.  I knew that I had to make it in the near future.

I was able to get this done on a Sunday night, when my husband was home to help with the baby.  Though I will say, although this recipe straightforward probably does take the 2 hours listed, it's easy to do some of the parts earlier than others.  For example, I put the squash and onions to roast and then went to feed the baby.  When I returned to the kitchen maybe 30 min later (my husband was on oven duty and had taken the pans out when they finished cooking) I then did the sauce.  I like when a more time consuming recipe doesn't leave time constraints.  Much easier to handle making a dish like this while I can't give it my undivided attention.

Although I typed out the recipe below as printed in the magazine, I adjusted the recipe slightly to suit our tastes:
- I used a red onion instead of a basic "cooking onion" as I usually do.  Roasted red onions may be another new favorite of time
-  I didn't use sage leaves just a sprinkle of dried sage. While I'm not the biggest sage fan my husband absolutely hates it and wouldn't touch a dish with sage leaves
- I used skim milk instead of whole
- I changed the size of the pan and made 2 pans. Since there are only two of us and I'm heading back to work in a few weeks I want to start stocking up the freezer.  One pan was plenty for dinner 2 nights and now we have some in the freezer to enjoy later.

This came out so delicious, I am sure it will make a return to my fall menu next year!

Butternut Squash Lasagna (from Food Network Magazine)

for the vegetables:
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt
1 onion, halved and sliced

for the bechamel:
2 tbsp unsalted butter
10 sage leaves
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk
pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

for the lasagna:
unsalted butter, for the baking dish
1 cup grated fontina cheese (about 4 oz)
1 cup grated low-moisture mozzarella cheese (about 4 oz)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 oz)
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
9 no-boil lasagna noodles

- Make the vegetables: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Toss the squash with 1 tbsp olive oil on a baking sheet; season with salt.  Toss the onion with the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil on a separate baking sheet; season with salt.  Roast, rotating the baking sheets once, until the vegetables are tender, 18-20 minutes; set aside.  Reduce the oven temperature to 350.
- Meanwhile, make the bechamel: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the sage and cook 1 minute.  Whisk in the flour until smooth, cook, whisking, until the flour is lightly golden but not brown, about 2 minutes.  Gradually whisk in the milk until smooth.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the nutmeg.
- Assemble the lasagna: Butter a 9x13 inch baking dish.  Toss the cheeses and the flour in a bowl; set aside 1/2 cup for topping.  Evenly coat the bottom of the dish with 1/2 cup of the bechamel.  Lay 2 noodles side by side on top.  Cover with one third of the remaining bechamel.  Sprinkle with half o the remaining cheese mixture, then top with half of the vegetable mixture.  Arrange 3 more noodles on top and repeat the layers (bechamel, cheese, vegetables).  Top with the remaining 3 noodles, then cover with the remaining bechamel; sprinkle with the reserved 1/2 cup cheese.
- Loosely cover the dish with foil and bake until bubbly, about 45 minutes.  Turn on the broiler.  Uncover the lasagna and broil until browned, about 2 minutes.  Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Primavera Chicken

Now that we have the baby, I am always looking for recipes that take very little prep time but still look and taste like I slaved for hours in the kitchen.  Flipping through my Kosher By Design: Short on Time book the other day I came across this recipe that not only was a perfect fit for a delicious fall dinner, but also takes no time at all to prepare.

All you have to do is slice up the zucchini, squash, and tomatoes the dish is basically ready to go!  Of course it takes 2 hours to cook but as someone who is home for most of the day but doesn't have all afternoon to cook, this is something that can easily be done.  Once I go back to work I would only make this on a weekend when we're busy around the house but even if you get home before 5:30 you can still have dinner on the table by 7:30.  I halved the recipe, but I typed it up as is below in case you have more than 3 people to feed.  It's very easy to halve since the original recipe calls for it to be baked in two separate 9x13 pans.

I actually threw in a few more vegetables (butternut squash and red onion), though I roasted them separately just in case they didn't all work well together.  In the end I served the added veggies underneath the rest and thought the combination was great.

This chicken dish will definitely make its way into our dinner rotation.

Primavera Chicken (from Kosher By Design: Short on Time)

6-8 chicken legs, with bone and skin
6-8 chicken thighs, with bone and skin
1 yellow squash, unpeeled
1 green zucchini, unpeeled
1 qt cherry tomatoes, halved
1 8oz bottle of Italian dressing

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place the chicken pieces in single layers, skin side up, into two 9x13 inch baking pans.
- Slice the squash and zucchini in half lengthwise and slice into 1 inch thick half-moons.  Scatter over the chicken.  Toss on the halved tomatoes.
- Shake the dressing and drizzle it over the chicken.
- Bake, uncovered, for 2 hours
- Remove the chicken to a platter.  Toss the vegetables in the pan liquid and then scatter them over the chicken.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Cranberry Walnut Scones

One of the big selling points for moving to my new town was the proximity to a Wegmans.  For those of you who aren't aware of this magical place, it is a super market that has a café, lots of prepared foods, a wonderful natural food section, amazing store brand items, and a toy train that runs above part of the store.  The one near me (and hopefully all other locations) has a great kosher selection, including a kosher counter in the area where they have the deli, bakery, seafood, etc.

Another reason I love Wegmans is the events!  From family movie nights to book signings, they cater to all audiences.  Which brings me to why I'm telling you about my supermarket...

Last week they had a book signing for chef Anne Burrell's new cookbook "Own Your Kitchen".  It happened to fall on the day I planned to do my food shopping, so that afternoon I packed up my son and off I went.  Anne is every bit a crazy/funny as she appears on TV.  After telling her that my husband would be jealous that our infant son was meeting her and he wasn't she replied "oh, I'm sorry...wait, no I'm not".  She called my baby her "littlest fan".  I knew I was right to start him young on his love for cooking!

When I got home and broke open the book, my eyes immediately fell to the Brunch section where the first recipe was for cranberry walnut scones; which was perfect since this month's What's Baking theme was scones!  So I set out to make them on a day when we were having company over (no need for my husband and me to eat all 8 scones ourselves).

The scones were simple to make, even if I second guessed myself on if the consistency of the dough was actually correct (they came out exactly as they should, so I guess it was right).  The one thing that I found to not work from the original recipe was the cook time.  After the suggested "16 to 18 minutes" the scones were definitely not done.  I happened to be in my kitchen with a friend who was a professional baker who mentioned that her scones usually take 30-40 minutes to bake.  I kept mine in for another 10 minutes and they came out perfect.

For the honey butter that goes with the scones, I decided to be ambitious (and work on my arm muscles a bit) and I whipped it by hand.  It took longer than I remembered whipping cream to take, but we were all standing around the kitchen drinking coffee while I was whipping so I didn't mind.  Have I mentioned how happy I am to have a kitchen big enough for people to stand around in?  So much better than my old tiny one where I would be running in and out of the room to join in the conversation happening in the living room/dining room.  Of course the next day I remembered that my immersion blender has a whisk attachment...oh time!

This recipe was one that I actually felt I made in the allotted amount of time.  From start to finish it really didn't take more than an hour, even with my adding the extra cook time.  And the consensus of all my guests was that the scones came out delicious.  And after eating one I wish we had more than 2 left over....

Cranberry Walnut Scones (very slightly adapted from Own Your Kitchen by Anne Burrell)
3 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsps baking powder
zest of 1 orange
pinch of kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsps) cold unsalted butter, cut into pea-size pieces
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw)
- Preheat the oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper
- Place the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, orange zest, and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.
- Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like crumbled parmesan cheese (20 to 30 seconds).
- Add the cream and continue pulsing until the mixture begins to come together in little balls about the size of gravel, being careful not to overwork the dough or it will become tough.
- Turn the mixture onto a lightly floured work surface.  Add the cranberries and walnuts and gently work them into the dough.  Don't knead the dough - just bring it together until it forms a homogenous mixture, be gentle, but firm.
- Flatten the dough into a round disk about 1 inch thick.  Cut the disk (pizza style) into eight triangles.
- Place the dough triangles onto the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle with a little turbinado sugar.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden on top.
Honey Butter
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
- chill a metal mixing bowl in the freezer for 15-20 minutes (you can use your electric mixer bowl or, if you are whipping by hand, any metal mixing bowl).
- pour the cold heavy cream and honey into the bowl and beat until the cream begins to clump together (10 or so minutes).  Use right away or store in the fridge.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Parsnip and Potato Soup

I am so happy that my son's schedule is starting to get a slight bit more predictable and I am able to cook dinner again!  Usually it ends up being a quick and easy meal that gets made as my husband is putting the baby to bed, and dinner time ends up being 9pm, but we get to eat a home cooked meal, so we're ok with that.

One of my go-to shows to watch during this maternity leave is The Rachael Ray Show (it happens to fall at a time that usually ends up as my son's morning meal time and it keeps me entertained).  While I enjoy watching the show in general, it's also a great place to get meal ideas!  Last week she made a parsnip and potato soup that looked so delicious that I knew I needed to make it as soon as possible.

The soup starts out with bacon, which (obviously) I can't use, so I substituted a little oil and added a little more salt than it would have taken if we used salty bacon.  I didn't feel there was anything missing flavor-wise with these substitutions.  Something else I did that wasn't in the original recipe is that while I blended the soup I left some chunks of potato and parsnip, which my husband agreed was a nice touch.  It added a little more texture to the soup (we always laugh when the judges on Chopped refer to texture in dishes, but it's a very valid point!).

This soup is a perfect dish for a fall evening.

Parsnip and Potato Soup (slightly adapted from Rachael Ray)

2 tbsp cooking oil (I used grape seed oil)
2 tbsp butter
2 large Russet potatoes, 1 1/4 lbs, peeled and diced 
3 to 4 large or 6 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped (3 cups)
1 onion, chopped 
4 cloves garlic, chopped 
Black pepper 
1/8 tsp grated or freshly grated nutmeg 
1 bundle of parsley, tied with string
1 qt Imagine No-Chicken stock or vegetable stock
1/2 pt cream 
Toasted pumpkin seeds to garnish
Sourdough rolls to serve 
- Heat a soup pot with the oil over medium-high heat. Add butter to melt.
- Reduce heat a bit, add potatoes and stir to coat.
- Add parsnips, onions, garlic, black pepper, nutmeg and parsley; partially cover and cook to soften 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. (The color of vegetables should be light golden.)
- Remove parsley.
- Purée potatoes and parsnips in batches if necessary in a food processor or blender with stock or just add stock to the soup pot and use an immersion blender, leaving some chunks.
- Stir in cream then season the soup with salt to taste.
- Serve in bowls, garnish with pumpkin seeds, with sourdough rolls on the side for dunking.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Irish Tea Cake

I should start by apologizing for my absence of new posts lately.  A lot has happened since my last update and this post is long overdue.  I am going with the theory of "better late than never" on this one.  But let me back up and explain from the beginning...

About two months ago I received an e-mail inviting me to participate in a "virtual baby shower" for Jessica of Sunny Side Up.  A virtual baby shower is when a "host" blogger reaches out to a group of other bloggers and assigns a theme for the "shower" and a date for their blog post to go live.  Essentially everyone invited makes a dish that they would bring if they were invited to a real baby shower but instead they blog about it.  I was excited to participate because A) I had never participated in a virtual shower before and I had always wanted to be involved in one and B) Jessica and I had become "labor buddies".  She was due 15 days before me and although we met originally through a cooking message board over a year ago, we ended up on the same pregnancy board so we paired up to talk about everything we were going through.

The date for the shower was August 27th.  With everything going on between the move and preparing for our baby, I had set aside the morning of August 25th to bake my contribution.  And then that morning rolled around, and SURPRISE!!  My water broke!  So instead of doing something to celebrate Jessica's baby, I ended up with one of my own!

So as you could guess, the last month has been quite busy.  We're finally getting a hang of this parenthood stuff and I was able to get back into the kitchen this weekend and bake.  The first thing I wanted to do was to actually make my baby shower dish since we were actually looking forward to eating this one and were a little disappointed we missed out last month.

The theme of Jessica's shower was to make something Irish, to celebrate her daughter Maeve.  After some Googling, I found this recipe for Irish Tea Cake.  It is a super simple recipe, and doesn't take much time at all to prepare.  And best of all, I had all of the ingredients in my pantry already!  I think that this is the perfect treat for any daytime party (such as a shower) or when you have company over for tea (or coffee).  This might end up as my go-to dish when I want to have something around the house or to bring to a friend's house for a visit.

You can check out the full shower "menu" at Jessica's blog here and be sure to check out her latest blog post to see baby Maeve, who arrived on September 3rd (and is quite the little cutie!).

Irish Tea Cake (slightly adapted from

1/2 cup butter; softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup milk
confectioners' sugar for dusting

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 9 inch round pan.
- With your mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs (one at a time), then stir in the vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.  Stir into the batter in small amounts, ,alternating with milk.  If the batter is too stiff, a tablespoon or two of milk may be added.
- Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Cool in pan on a wire rack, then turn out onto a serving plate.
- Dust with confectioners' sugar right before serving.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My new digs

You've probably been wondering where I've been in the past several weeks.  No, it's not baby time quite yet (few more weeks to go!) but we DID make a big change in our lives.  We bought a house!  And the best part of the house?  Our kitchen!

We went from this tiny thing...

(photo is property of Equity Residential)

To this....

Just look at how much more space we have!  Especially counter space!  And the light!

I cannot wait to share with you the delicious things that we make in our new home.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Margarita Chicken

During the summer I am always looking to make dishes with a lighter feel, and ones that don't take long are even better so I don't have to be in the kitchen for longer then necessary on a hot day.  This recipe fits perfectly on any summer menu.  And an extra bonus for me, since I can't enjoy a nice cold margarita this summer, I do get a little of that flavoring in this dish.

The one thing about this dish (which I've questioned with other dishes as well) is it says to serve it with a warm tortilla.  What is the purpose of this???  My husband cut up his chicken and made it into a taco which he said wasn't bad.  I ate the tortilla plain on the side.  If anyone has other ideas as to why they tell you to serve it with tortilla, please let me know.

The glaze on this chicken in so light and delicious, I could put this on the menu a few times a month and not tire of it.

Margarita Chicken (from Better Homes and Gardens Big Book of 30-min Dinners)

1/2 tsp finely shredded lime peel
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tbsp tequila
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp cooking oil
2 tsp cornstarch
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
4 medium skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (about 1 lb total)
4 flour tortillas, warmed
1 medium tomato, cut into wedges
1 medium avocado, seeded, peeled and cut up
lime slices, cut in half (optional)

- For glaze, in a small saucepan stir together lime peel, lime juice, tequila, honey, cooking oil, cornstarch, garlic salt, and pepper  Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly.  Cook and stir for 2 min more.
- Rinse chicken; pat dry.  Place on the unheated rack of a broiler pan.  Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat for 6-7 minutes, turn once, broil for another 2 or so minutes.  Brush with some of the glaze and broil for an additional 5 minutes (chicken should be tender and no longer pink).
- Arrange chicken, warmed tortillas, tomato and avocado on 4 plates.  Drizzle chicken with the remaining glaze.  If desired, garnish with lime slices.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

S'more Bites

The summer is always full of barbeques and other outdoor get-togethers, and I'm always searching for the perfect dish to bring to the party.  When this month's issue of Self magazine showed up, it had a section of "fresh, easy, fun" dishes that don't take a lot of cook time.  The recipe for the s'more bites immediately jumped out at me because, well, who doesn't like s'mores?!

I made these for a 4th of July barbeque and they were a big hit.  And according to the magazine they're not too unhealthy

They were pretty easy to make, though I had to make sure I was spreading things out evenly.  The rice crispy layers I ended up just using my hands to break it apart and make sure I filled in any holes.  And I had spread the chocolate a little too thin and in some pieces the graham cracker didn't adhere to the chocolate, so next time I'll make sure that I leave it a little thicker so it can fuse together a bit better.

What's also great about this is that you mix the butter, marshmallow and rice crispys on the stove, and you have to melt chocolate, but there's no oven used in this and it's served at room temperature, so I was able to make this shortly before we walked out the door and didn't have to make it in advance enough to cool down, etc.

S'more Bites (recipe from Self magazine)

3 tbsp unsalted butter
1 bag (10oz) marshmallows
6 cups rice-crisp cereal
1 cup melted, semisweet chocolate chips
rectangular graham crackers (approx. 15 squares)
1 cup marshmallow crème (such as Fluff)

- In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Stir in marshmallows and cook, stirring until smooth, 2 minutes; remove from heat.
- In a bowl, combine marshmallows with cereal; mix well.
- In the bottom of a 9x13 in pan, spread half of the cereal mixture into a thin, even layer.  Top with warmed chocolate.  Place graham crackers in a single layer over chocolate, breaking crackers as needed to fit; top with crème.  Spread remaining half of cereal mixture over crème; press lightly to cement layers together.
- Let it sit at room temperature for at least 15 min before cutting and serving.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cold Chicken Satay Noodles

I've mentioned in the past that my husband and I like to cook together.  Well, sometimes he takes over in the kitchen and makes dishes entirely on his own (or maybe with me as his sous chef chopping, etc as needed like he does for me).  The following is his first guest blog post, featuring one of our favorite summertime dishes - Rachael Ray's Cold Chicken Satay Noodles.....

This is a great recipe because the hardest part of it (the rotisserie chicken) is already made.
The rest is just simple ingredients that require very little prep work.  It is also a great summertime
 dish because as delicious as it is warm, it tastes even better when served cold as leftovers. 
The peanut butter and whole wheat pasta are a very flavorful combination and the vegetables add a 
nice freshness to it.  Just slice the vegetables, cook the pasta, combine all of the ingredients, 
dig in and enjoy!

Rachel Ray’s Cold Chicken Satay Noodles (recipe from Rachael Ray)
Salt 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti
1/4 to 1/3 cup smooth or chunky peanut butter
2 tbsp honey
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup tamari
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Juice of 2 limes
1 tsp hot sauce
3 tbsp peanut or sunflower oil
Handful of shredded carrots
4 scallions, thinly sliced on an angle
1 cup spinach, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
2 cups shredded store-bought rotisserie chicken
2 tbsp chopped, fresh cilantro or flat-leaf parsley 

- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Salt the water liberally, then add the pasta and cook to al dente.
  Run the pasta under cold water to cool.  Drain well. -  While the water comes to a boil and the pasta cooks, heat the peanut butter in the microwave in 10
second-intervals until softened.  Place in a large bowl with the honey and warm water.  Whisk in the
tamari, garlic, lime juice, and hot sauce, then whisk in the oil in a slow stream.  Add the noodles,
veggies, and peanuts to the bowl and toss until the ingredients are well mixed.  - Serve the noodles in shallow bowls topped with the chicken and cilantro

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Milk-Chocolate Tart with Pretzel Crust

This month's theme for What's Baking was "sweet n salty".  This left open so many possibilities!  I had made salted caramel blondies last fall which were delish, but did I want to go that route again?  I turned to trusty ol' Google and came across this recipe for a chocolate tart with a pretzel crust.  Yes, please!!!

It was a little time-consuming, though I could have split it up a bit more and done the crust either earlier in the day or the night before, but I didn't mind spending the time on it (it was a lot of "do this then let it chill for 30 min" steps so I had some free time to do other things).

One issue I ran into was with the crust.  It was super hot in my apartment when I was making this, so I'd take the dough out of the fridge from chilling, and it would warm up pretty fast.  This may have been the cause for the crust not staying formed when I went to bake it.  Even with the pie weights the crust rose more than it should have.  But even if the end result was more crust than chocolate (I ended up being able to put in maybe 3/4 of the filling) it still came out delicious.  I don't know if I needed more chocolate, and the crust was so good I wanted more of it.

I ended up bringing this as a dessert for our Father's Day celebration with my in-laws and not only did everyone enjoy it, but I got the best compliment of all - as we were saying our goodbyes my nephew only wanted to know if the chocolate pie was staying!

Milk-Chocolate Tart with Pretzel Crust (slightly adapted from

1 stick unsalted butter, softened 
1 1/4 cups coarsely crushed thin pretzels (3 1/2 ounces) 
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar 
1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
1 large egg 
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

1 1/2 cups heavy cream 
3/4 lb milk chocolate, chopped 
sea salt, crushed pretzels and crème fraîche, for serving  

- In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter with 3/4 cup of the pretzels and the confectioners' sugar at low speed until creamy. Beat in the flour and egg. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of pretzels, being sure to leave some pretzel pieces intact. Flatten the dough between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes.

-  Roll out the dough between the sheets of plastic wrap to a 12-inch round. Peel off the top sheet and invert the dough over a 10-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Press the dough into the corners and patch any tears. Trim the overhanging dough and refrigerate the shell for 30 minutes or until firm. 

- Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Off the heat, add the milk chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Transfer the filling to a bowl and let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

- Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line the shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake for about 30 minutes, until nearly set. Remove the parchment and weights and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the tart shell is firm; cover the edge with foil if it darkens too much. Let the shell cool completely. Brush the melted chocolate over the bottom and up the side and refrigerate for 10 minutes, until set.

- Pour the filling into the shell and refrigerate until set, at least 4 hours. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and crushed pretzels. Cut into wedges, top with crème fraîche; serve.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer Vegetable Chili

One of our absolute favorite meals to make at our house is three bean chili.  But when the weather turns warmer, it just seems a bit too hearty for a summer dish.  Don't take me wrong, we still make it in hot weather from time to time, but when I saw this recipe for Summer Vegetable Chili in this month's Food Network Magazine, I knew it would be a good alternative to try out.

It takes less than an hour to make (and goes quicker if you have two of you in the kitchen chopping the veggies) and tasted delicious.  Our market didn't have fire-roasted frozen corn, just the regular kind, but I thought it tasted delicious and the corn was maybe my favorite part, so I don't think I was missing anything.  Not to say I won't try it with fire-roasted eventually if I find it elsewhere, but I don't think it makes or breaks the meal if you have regular corn instead.  Also, if you leave off the cheese and sour cream there's no dairy in this, which is always a nice option.

As per our usual chili tradition, we ate it with tortilla chips, though the original recipe says to have it with a side of warmed corn tortillas.  Maybe you're supposed to rip them up and dip them?  I wouldn't think you'd make a burrito out of it, so not sure how that would work, but I guess it's personal preference.

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Summer Vegetable Chili (from Food Network Magazine)

3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1 poblano chili pepper, seeded and diced
2 portobello mushroom caps, chopped
2 cups frozen corn (preferably fire-roasted), thawed
2 14oz cans no-salt-added pinto beans
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, and/or fresh cilantro for topping (optional)

- Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add all but a few tablespoons of the chopped red onion.  Stir in the garlic, chili powder and cumin and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion  begins to soften, about 3 min.
- Add the poblano, mushrooms and corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 3 more minutes.
- Add the beans, tomatoes, 1 1/2 cups water and /2 tsp each salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then stir and reduce the heat to medium.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the chili is thick, about 20 min.  Season with salt and pepper.
- Divide the chili among bowls.  Top with the cheese, sour cream and/or cilantro; sprinkle with the reserved red onion.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pesto Chicken Burgers

It's my favorite time of the month, the week after I get my Food Network Magazine and try out all of yummy looking dishes in the latest issue!  This month had a lot of good recipes, but one that stood out was the Pesto Chicken Burgers.  I actually changed it up a little bit to make it kosher, and used the dairy-free pesto that I used for my pesto chicken rolls last year.  Also, my supermarket doesn't regularly have kosher ground chicken so I bought stir-fry chicken and ground it myself.  But even adding the time of grounding the meat myself didn't add too much time to this, so it still makes a good weeknight meal.

We did question the lack of seasoning in the chicken burger (it's just bread, chicken, salt and pepper) but honestly, the pesto added so much flavor that we really didn't think it was underseasoned at all.  Though my one note - when you cut up the roll to add to the chicken, I'd cut it into tiny pieces.  My pieces were small, but not tiny and I ended up having to separate them a lot more with my hands as I worked in into the meat.

We had this with a side of kale chips and it was a nice, filling, easy meal.  Definitely adding this to the rotation.  I may experiment with added seasoning in the burgers, but I would also make them again without.  And another good thing about this, the extra pesto that I made will end up being used for pasta next week.

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Pesto Chicken Burgers (adapted from Food Network Magazine) 

5 whole-wheat hamburger buns (1 cut into tiny pieces, 4 split open and toasted)
1 1/4 lb ground chicken
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 medium tomato, thickly sliced
pesto (dairy-free recipe below)

- Toss the cut-up bun with 3 tbsp water in a large bowl; set aside1 minute.  Add chicken, 3/4 tsp salt, and pepper to taste.  Mix with your hands until combined.  Form into four 3/4 in patties (best to do this with wet hands)
- heat the olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add the chicken patties and cook until no longer pink, about 7 to 8 minutes per side.
- Serve the burgers on the buns; top each with a spoonful of pesto and a tomato slice.

Dairy-Free Pesto (from Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom)

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1/3 cup Ppne nuts
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 and 1/2 tsp. fresh squeezed Lemon Juice (more or less, to taste)
1/2 tsp. sea salt

- In a food processor or blender, combine the basil leaves with the nuts, lemon juice and sea salt.  Pulse a few times until mixture is reduced in volume and the mixture is well incorporated.
- Add the garlic and pulse a few times more.
- Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the blender or food processor is running, stop to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.
- Taste.  Add more lemon juice and/or salt if needed.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Three-Vegetable Penne with Tarragon-Basil Pesto

I think I found the secret to making Rachael Ray's 30 minute meals in about 30 min - get your husband (or whoever) to wash and prep everything while you make the dish.  Seriously, this was the first time one of her "30 minute express lane" meals took well under an hour.  Maybe it was about 40 min, but that was because we also had to clean some dishes in the sink first.

A few months back while browsing through Rachael Ray's Express Lane Meals I came across this recipe for Three-Vegetable Penne with Tarragon-Basil Pesto.  It just sounded so good I knew I needed to make it immediately!  Of course I ended up eating it as soon as it was ready and not taking any pictures so I couldn't blog about it then, but when my husband and I were coming up with our menu for last week and knew that we wanted some good, considerably healthy summer meals my mind immediately went to this recipe.  There's nothing too fancy about it so aside from the cleaning and cutting of the veggies and herbs, it's pretty simple to make.

What I also like about this meal is that it also doesn't make a mess.  Yes, you have to clean the food processor (which is always so much fun) but I toss it all together in a large Pyrex bowl, then serve from that and when we're done eating I just pop the lid on the bowl and put it in the fridge.  And this reheats well for an easy lunch or dinner later that week.

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Three-Vegetable Penne with Tarragon-Basil Pesto  (recipe by Rachael Ray)

1 lb penne rigate pasta
1/2 lb asparagus, rough ends trimmed
1 small zucchini
1/4 lb haricot verts or regular green beans, end trimmed
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup fresh basil (about 20 leaves)
1/2 cup fresh tarragon, leaves stripped for 10 to 12 stems
handful of fresh parsley
zest of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 cup grated parmesan
coarse black pepper
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

- Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta.  Salt the water, add pasta and cook to al dente; it should still have a bite to it.
- Cut the asparagus spears on an angle into 2-inch pieces.  Cut the zucchini into matchsticks.  Cut the haricot verts or green beans on an angle into 2-inch pieces.
- When the pasta has been cooking for about 5 minutes, add the vegetables to the pot.  Boil the veggies and pasta together for 2 minutes.
- While the pasta is cooking, toast the pine nuts in a small dry skillet until golden, then cool.
- Place the nuts, basil, tarragon, parsley, lemon zest, garlic, parmesan, and a little salt and pepper in the food processor.  Turn the processor on and stream in the olive oil until a thick sauce forms.
- scrape the pesto into a large, shallow serving dish or serving bowl.  Add a ladle of hot, starchy pasta water to the pesto.
- Drain the penne and veggies and immediately add them to the pesto.  Toss to coat the pasta and vegetables evenly.  Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tilapia Francese

I was so excited when I saw the submission request for a Fish/Seafood swap!  Then I realized how many restrictions I had on what I could make.  Obviously it had to be kosher (so any shellfish or bottom-feeding fish are out, plus anything that added bacon or other such ingredients).  But also I currently have more food restrictions and can't have anything that is high in mercury - because I'm expecting my first child this September!  We are very excited to be expanding our family.  Little One is doing well and growing as it should.  This also explains why my blog posts since January have lagged a bit (I basically had zero energy for several months).  But now I'm back and ready to hit the kitchen more frequently.

Sarah (who organizes the swaps) was very amenable to assigning me something that fits all my crazy restrictions.  Actually, she assigned me the recipe that she herself had submitted!  And I am so glad she did.  The tilapia francese was out of this world.  I had never made a francese before, but it was so easy I would do it again in a heartbeat.  And the sauce with the pasta?  Amazing!  I like to do these swaps to expand my repertoire, and I think that this one gets on the list of things I will make again.  And except for the fish and fresh lemons, I had everything in my kitchen already.  That's the best kind of assignment!

Another big plus for this one?  It takes almost no time at all.  We had it after a long day at work where I didn't start cooking until about 8 and we were still sitting down at the table maybe 45 min later and that includes clean up time.  I highly recommend this recipe.  You won't regret it!

Tilapia Francese (recipe submitted from A Taste of Home Cooking)

3 pieces tilapia filets
1 egg
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth (or No-Chicken Broth for those who keep kosher)
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp minced parsley
1/2 lb spaghetti or other pasta, cooked according to package directions


- Place flour in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. Beat the egg and water in a pie plate. Gently coat each tilapia filet with flour on both sides, then place in the egg wash, coating on both side, then put back in the flour and coat on both side.
- Heat butter and oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Place tilapia in pan and cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side until golden brown. Add lemon juice and wine and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Do not flip the fish over once the liquid has been added. Remove the tilapia from the pan. Add the chicken broth and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Top the tilapia with some of the sauce and garnish with lemon slices and chopped parsley. Toss the spaghetti or pasta with the rest of the sauce. Serve immediately. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Derby Tartlets

This month's What's Baking theme was mini bites.  So when I got this month's issue of Food Network Magazine and saw this recipe for Derby Tartlets I knew that was what I wanted to make.  The combo of the walnuts and chocolate is delicious and brings me back to my childhood when I would get Derby Pie from a local restaurant.  This was a perfect bite sized way to enjoy this old favorite.  And, of course, to make it a little more "derby" appropriate it incorporates bourbon, like all good Kentucky dishes should.  I used the complete amount of bourbon in the filling, but didn't add as much to the whipped cream as I need to watch my consumption of non-cooked alcohol.  But I used a splash so that the cream still had a bit of that flavor.

They were pretty easy to make, though there's a lot of non-active time spent.  But at least partway through you can take a break.  I ended up making the crusts as I was doing some work around the house and then when they went onto the rack to "cool completely" we went out for dinner, then I made the filling when I returned home.  So it's not something where you really feel like you're stuck home all day to make.

I think my favorite part of this is the walnut crust.  Definitely makes a difference!

Derby Tartlets (from Food Network Magazine, May 2013)


for the crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
4 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in pieces
2-3 tbsp ice cold water
cooking spray

for the filling:
1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup plus 3tbsp heavy cream
2 tbsp burbon
1 tbsp confectioners' sugar
candied walnuts, for topping


- Make the crusts: pulse the flour, walnuts, granulated sugar and salt in a food processor until finely ground.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse meal.  Drizzle in 2-3 tbsp ice cold water and pulse until dough starts to come together.  Turn out onto a sheet of plastic wrap; shape into a disk, then wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
- Spray  an 18-cup mini-muffin pan with cooking spray.  Press 1 tbsp dough into the bottom and up the sides of each cup (it helps to flatten dough into mini discs first).  Refrigerate 20 min.
- Preheat oven to 375.  Bake the crusts until golden brown, 20-25 min, then press the centers of the crusts down with a small spoon.  Let cool in the pan 10 min, then remove to a rack to cool completely.
- Make the filling: Combine 3 tbsp cream and 1 tbsp bourbon in a small, microwave-safe bowl and microwave until simmering, about 30 seconds.  Put the chocolate chips in a bowl and pour the hot cream/boubon mixture over the chocolate chips and let stand 1 min, then stir until smooth.  Let cool slightly.
- Spoon the filling into the crusts and let set, about 20 min.  Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup cream and 1 tbsp bourbon with the confectioners' sugar until soft peaks form; spoon into the tartlets and top with candied walnuts.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Three Cheese and Artichoke Calzones

Some of our best weekend mornings are spent eating breakfast or drinking coffee curled up on the couch while watching Food Network (have I mentioned that it's almost all we watch at my house?).  This past weekend I flipped on FN in time to see Giada making delicious looking calzones.  We were basically drooling as we watched this episode, so I knew we needed to add this to our menu ASAP.

I love a good calzone, but normally get them with just cheese or cheese and mushrooms, so this was a nice twist on them.  I didn't even need sauce to dip them in!  I did have to go to the store to buy almost all of the ingredients (none were really staples in our pantry/fridge) but aside from that they were pretty easy to make.  The hardest thing to me was rolling out the dough into the 6 inch circles.  I'm pretty sure the end result was smaller than they were supposed to be, though they still tasted delicious!

Three Cheese and Artichoke Calzones (recipe by Giada De Laurentiis)

Yellow cornmeal
4 oz frozen artichoke hearts, thawed
1/2 cup finely shredded Pecorino Romano
1/2 cup whole milk ricotta
1/3 cup shredded fontina
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for sprinkling
Zest of 1 lemon
All-purpose flour
One 1-pound ball purchased pizza dough
All-purpose flour, for dusting
1 large egg white, beaten
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

- Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Lightly sprinkle a heavy nonstick baking sheet with cornmeal. Set aside. - In the bowl of the food processor, add the artichoke hearts, Pecorino Romano, ricotta, fontina, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Pulse until combined and chunky. - Using a knife, cut the pizza dough into quarters. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into four 6-inch circles, each about 1/4-inch thick. Using a pastry brush, brush the dough with the egg white. Place a quarter of the filling on one side of each circle of dough. Fold the dough over the filling, forming a half circle. Pinch the edges of dough firmly together and crimp to seal. Place the prepared individual calzone on the prepared baking sheet. - Drizzle the calzones with extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Using a sharp knife, cut a slit on the top of each calzone. Bake until golden brown and the filling is bubbling, 30 to 35 minutes.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Matzah Meal Pancakes

Every year during Passover I try to not stock up on boxes of the mixes you can buy to make pretty much anything.  I like making things from scratch, if possible.  So I turned to a packet of family recipes that I was given at my bridal shower.  My aunt had given this packet to my cousin (her niece)at her bridal shower back in the 90's, so when my shower came around the cousin made sure to pass it along to me.  Of course, to give proper credit I have to remind myself who these were originally typed up for ("Mom" is actually Aunty Barbara and "Uncle Steve" is really my dad).  Though I also have insider info of knowing that this recipe for matzah meal pancakes, which is credited to my dad is actually a recipe from his mother (different sides of the family, so my cousin wouldn't know who my grandma is necessarily).

I grew up eating these pancakes, though I had forgotten all about them until I saw this recipe and asked my dad to clarify something.  When he mentioned what he puts on his pancakes (a sprinkle of sugar) memories of eating them as a child came rushing back to me.  This was my first attempt at making them and they ended up coming out pretty good!  They're not quite as fluffy as non-Passover pancakes, but they're not too dense, and they don't taste as fake as the stuff from the box.

My only complaint is that it only made 9 pancakes, so after my husband and I split a batch we were still a bit hungry.  But I definitely plan on making these again next year.  With a little maple syrup on them...delicious!

Matzah Meal Pancakes  (my grandmother's recipe)

3 eggs, separated
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup matah meal
1/2 cup water

- mix yolks gently in small bowl
- in a medium bowl, beat egg whites until "fluffy" (they should be bubbly and forming soft peaks, not hard like a meringue)
- in a small bowl mix matzah meal, salt, and water.
- mix matzah meal mixture into the yolks.
- fold into the egg whites.
- fry on greased skillet or griddle.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Decadent Fudge Brownies with Glossy Fudge Frosting

It's Passover again!  I'm trying to expand my Passover repertoire this year (and not make so many things from boxed mixes), so I cracked open A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking which I had received as a Chanukah gift from my husband's aunt and uncle.  Many recipes looked delicious, but this one really stood out to me.  Brownies that were Kosher for Passover and tasted good???  What??!!  So I decided to give them a whirl.

Boy am I glad I did!  They really are decadent, and everything about them is delicious, down to the mocha frosting (the recipe says you can use either water or coffee, I highly recommend using the coffee!).  To be honest, these were some of the best brownies I've had, Passover or not.  I think I may even break this out at other points of the year!  Maybe I should stock up on Passover cake meal.....

And the best part?  This month's theme for What's Baking is "sprinkles", so these qualify for my submission there, too.  Though regular sprinkles have corn starch, so I used the sugar crystal type.

Decadent Fudge Brownies with Glossy Fudge Frosting


for the brownies:
2 cups white or brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or unsalted Passover margarine, melted and cooled
3 eggs
1 tablespoon brewed coffee
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
1 scant cup matzah cake meal

for the frosting:
2/3 cup water or brewed coffee
7 oz semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp unsalted butter or Passover margarine, softened

- preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
- lightly grease a 7-by-10 inch rectangular baking pan, a 9-inch square pan, or an 8 or 9 inch springform pan.
- in a bowl, mix the sugar into the melted butter, then the eggs, coffee, cocoa, salt, and cake meal.
- spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 25 min.  Do not overbake.  The brownies should be set and seem dry to the touch, but there should not be a crust around the sides.
- Cool in the pan

For the frosting:
- heat the water or coffee in a small saucepan.
- as it comes to a boil, reduce the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate.
- remove the pan from the stove and stir until the chocolate is thoroughly melted.
- cool in the refrigerator for about 30 min.
- whisk in the softened butter or margarine and spread the frosting on top of the cooled brownies.
- let frosting set
- cut into squares (or wedges if using a round pan)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Caramel Shortbread Bars

It's time for the monthly recipe swap, hosted by the fabulous Sarah of Taste of Home Cooking.  When I saw the theme of this month's recipe swap, I immediately got excited.  Who doesn't love dessert??!!  I sent off my submission and eagerly awaited my assignment.  When I first saw these caramel shortbread bars I was excited, they looked delish!  It wasn't until I went to go make them that my feelings for this dessert started to sour.

I try not to adjust recipes that I'm assigned.  The point of the swap is to make what is sent you, not just something like what is sent.  So although I was a little surprised at just how much butter went into a dish baked in an 8x8 pan (3 1/2 sticks!!) I went with it and hoped for the best.  Thankfully I didn't have much planned the weekend I made this.  There are so many steps and most of the stuff has to then chill for an hour.  I ended up making this over the course of 2 days.

The end result was just ok.  It seemed way too butter-y and the chocolate was a bit bitter.  I think if I made this again I'd adjust a few things - I'd make less dough (and definitely use less butter), more caramel and use 70% cocoa (the original recipe said "the higher percentage, the better" so I aimed high).  My proportions seemed a bit off from what Coleen had ended up with.

Thankfully my husband's coworker will eat almost anything put in the break room, so I sent these treats with him and they were gone within a few days.

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Caramel Shortbread Bars (submitted by The Redheaded Baker)

For the cookie crust: 
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, soft 
- ¼ cup granulated sugar 
- ¼ cup powdered sugar 
- 1 tsp vanilla extract 
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 
- ¼ tsp salt
For the caramel:
- ½ cup light brown sugar 
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk

For the chocolate glaze: 
- 9 ounces chocolate, finely chopped (the higher percentage, the better) 
- 1 ½ tsp light corn syrup 
- 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, soft

- Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving three to four inches of overhang on two sides.  
- Cream the butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and creamy. Beat in the sugars and vanilla.  
- Whisk together the flour and the salt, then fold into the butter mixer. Spread the dough into the baking pan and smooth in an even layer. Chill for one hour.  
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes, just until the cookie crust starts to brown at the edges.  
- Refrigerate crust until ready to add caramel layer, at least one hour and up to two days.  
- Place the brown sugar and sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan. Cook on low heat, stirring frequently, for one hour to 90 minutes, until caramel-colored and thickened.  
- Pour over cookie crust. Place in the freezer for one hour.  
- Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before adding chocolate glaze.  
- Place the chocolate, corn syrup and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water over lowest heat. Stir frequently, until only a few lumps of chocolate remain. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Pour over caramel layer. Refrigerate at least one hour.  
- To cut, dip knife in boiling water, wipe clean with a kitchen towel, and make a cut. Dip knife in hot water, wipe dry, make another cut. Repeat with entire sheet. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator with wax paper between each bar.