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.