Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon and Rosemary

It's not even close to soup weather here. Not. Even. Close. Sure, the temps have been better lately. I even opened my balcony door this morning and let the cooler, fresh air come in while I ate breakfast. But that was at 6:00 a.m. It was 90 degrees by 3:00 p.m. Still, that's better than 115 degrees, so I'll take it.

But nothing else will do when you've got a soup craving. When you want soup, you want soup. And you'll want this soup. It was so easy to make. Pair it with a grilled cheese or some Parmesan toasts and you've got a great (gee, I wish it really was) fall meal!

 


Hearty Tomato Soup with Lemon and Rosemary

from Giada DeLaurentiis, Giada's Kitchen

printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:

2 TBSP butter

1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes

3 c. chicken broth (can use vegetable broth)

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of fresh rosemary, plus 1 tsp., minced

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

3/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2/3 c. Greek yogurt (Giada uses creme fraiche)

zest of one lemon
additional rosemary and lemon zest, for garnish

Directions:

1. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, carrots, and garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes.


2. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, bay leaf, 1 teaspoon rosemary, and red pepper flakes. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes, covered.

3. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in a regular blender in batches, being careful to remove and discard the bay leaf. Return the soup to a soup pot and keep warm over low heat. Season with salt and pepper.

4. In a medium bowl fold in the lemon zest and the remaining teaspoon of rosemary to 2/3 cup Greek yogurt.

5. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and dollop each bowl with the lemon rosemary yogurt. garnish with a small amount of additional lemon zest and rosemary, if desired. Serve immediately.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Black Forest Cheesecake

Special occasions call for special desserts. This decadent delight was for my mom's birthday celebration.

Black Forest cake is her all-time favorite, but my sister (the one who hosted the celebration, no less) and M aren't really the biggest fans of chocolate (WHA???) so I was looking for an alternative. However, M is a HUGE fan of Oreo cookie crust and requested that I find a way to make it part of the dessert. It didn't take me long to realize that I could make everyone happy by turning my mom's beloved Black Forest cake into an over-the-top cheesecake. With a chocolate wafer crust, white chocolate cheesecake, and cherries on top, this hit on all levels. Everybody--M, sister, and most importantly, birthday girl Mom--absolutely loved it!

 
 

Black Forest Cheesecake
cheesecake from Williams-Sonoma,
Essentials of Baking
cherry topping and syrup an "Apple a Day" original

printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients:

For the crust:
1 (9 z.) package chocolate wafers

6 TBSP unsalted butter, melted


For the cheesecake:

8 oz. white chocolate, chopped

2 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature (I used low-fat and nobody even knew)
1 1/4 c. granulated sugar

2 TBSP all-purpose flour

4 large eggs, at room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 tsp. almond extract

2 TBSP heavy cream (I used half and half)


For the topping:

2 (approx. 12 oz.) packages frozen, unsweetened, pitted cherries or equivalent amount of fresh cherries, if in season

1/3 c. granulated sugar
1 TBSP kirsch


Directions:

1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325 degrees F. Butter or spary the sides of a nine-inch springform pan.


2. To make the crust, pulse chocolate wafers in a food processor until fine. Stream in butter and pulse until evenly mixed.


3. Press mixture into the bottom of the springform pan and bake until crust feels firm if lightly touched, about eight minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.


4. Raise oven temp to 350 degrees F.


5. While crust is baking, place the white chocolate in the top of a double boiler over (not touching) barely simmering water. Heat, stirring often, until the chocolate melts. Remove from over the water and set aside to cool slightly.

6. To make the filling, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese on low speed until creamy. Add the sugar and mix slowly until smooth. On low speed, mix in the flour. Stop the mixer and scrape down the beater and sides of the bowl.


7. Add two of the eggs and mix until smooth. Repeat with remaining eggs. Scrape down again.


8. Pour in the extracts and cream and mix until smooth.


9. Using a large spoon, stir in the melted chocolate until incorporated.


10. Pour the batter into the prepared crust. Wrap the outside of the springform with foil to make it watertight. Place the springform pan into a large baking dish with sides at least two inches high. Create a water bath by pouring hot water into baking dish until it reaches one inch up the sides. Bake until set but the center still jiggles slightly, about one hour.


11. Meanwhile, make the cherry topping by pouring all ingredients into a medium saucepan over medium heat. Let simmer for ten minutes. Strain juice from cherries. Store cherries in an airtight container and let cool completely in the refrigerator. Return juice to pan and let simmer 15 minutes more, or until desired syrupy consistency is reached. Store syrup in separate airtight container and allow to cool completely.


12. Remove the baking pan from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Cover the cheesecake lightly with a paper towel and let cool in the water bath, on the rack, for one hour.


13. Remove paper towel and remove cheesecake from water bath and let cool on rack until it feels cool to the touch, one hour more.


14. Cover the cooled cheesecake and refrigerate overnight.


15. Two hours before serving, pour cherries on top of cheesecake, being sure to leave outer edge clean. To serve, cut into wedges and drizzle cherry syrup on plates, if desired.




Happy birthday Mommy!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chicken with Maple-Mustard Pan Sauce

The original version of this dish calls for the chicken to be breaded in a mixture of panko and Dijon mustard. I wanted to make it a little healthier, so I deleted the breading. It turned out really well, though I would say I missed the flavor of the Dijon just a bit. Next time I may sub in some of the coarse-grained mustard for the Dijon and/or add some garlic to the pan sauce. Overall, though, a winner. What a simple, healthy, budget-friendly weeknight meal full of delicious fall flavors!

Chicken with Maple-Mustard Pan Sauce
adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2009


Ingredients:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half
salt and pepper, to taste
2 TBSP olive oil
1 c. low-sodium chicken broth
3 TBSP pure maple syrup
2 TBSP plus 1 tsp. coarse-grained mustard
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 TBSP parsley, chopped

Directions:
1. Heat oil in large non-stick saute pan or skillet. Salt and pepper chicken and cook through, about four minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, whisk chicken broth, maple syrup, coarse-grained mustard, and dry mustard in a glass measuring cup.


3. Pour broth mixture into pan. Boil until reduced to 3/4 cup, stirring occasionally, about four minutes.


4. Return chicken to pan to bring back to temperature, turning once to coat with sauce.


5. Serve chicken with some sauce spooned over the top and a parsley garnish. Extra sauce can be served on the side, if desired.


One year ago:
applesauce spice cookies

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Apple Rosemary Tea Bread

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've declared it fall in the desert and I'm cooking as such. Apples are one of my favorite ingredients to use in fall cooking. I love making apple muffins, pies, crumbles, and even applesauce. I've got so many apple dishes planned for this fall, especially with Dorie Greenspan's amazing write up on apple desserts in this month's issue of Bon Appetit. I love all those sweet apple dishes, but I thought I'd mix it up a little by combining the apples with a more savory herb.

I really loved this bread. It had just the right amount of sweetness and a very interesting and unexpected flavor from the rosemary. It's especially wonderful with a little plain yogurt on top or drizzled with some warm honey.

Apple Rosemary Tea Bread
adapted from, The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook
Ingredients:
4 TBSP plus 1 TBSP unsalted butter
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. whole-wheat flour
1/4 c. plus 1 TBSP milk
1/2 c. raisins (I used golden), chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 c. plus 1 TBSP sugar
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary, plus more for garnish
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 large egg
turbinado sugar, for dusting
baking or cooking spray

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. With baking or cooking spray, generously spray three 5 1/2 x 2 1/2 x 2-inch loaf pans.

2. In a saucepan, heat milk over medium-high heat, bringing just to a boil. Remove from heat, add raisins. Stir in 4 TBSP butter and let cool.

3. Meanwhile, in a skillet over medium heat, melt the remaining butter. Add apples and cook with 1 TBSP sugar until the apples are glazed and soft, about three minutes. Stir in rosemary.

4. In a large bowl, sift flours, remaining sugar, baking powder, and salt to combine.

5. Whisk egg into cooled raisin mixture.

6. Add the diced apples to the dry ingredients, but don't combine. Pour raisin mixture over the dry and mix with a few quick strokes, until dry ingredients are just moistened. Be careful not to overmix.

7. Fill prepared pans three-quarters full. Place rosemary sprig on top and sprinkle with turbinado sugar, if desired. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, rotating pans halfway through baking, about 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

One year ago: Ellie Krieger's healthy and simple sloppy joes

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Butternut Squash, Black Bean, and Feta Quesadillas

I am so ready for fall. The problem is I live in Phoenix and we don't really have fall. I didn't really have this issue until I went to college in Washington, D.C. (Go Eagles!) and experienced fall for real. Leaves, pumpkin, apple festivals, and that irreplaceable crisp smell in the air. I just can't get that here.

Sure, I'm as happy as the next Phoenician that the highs are now generally in the double digits and it gets down in the 80s at night, but it's just not the same. So I'm doing what so many other people in this city do--I'm just proclaiming it fall and acting as such. I'm now stocked on apples, squash, cranberries, and pumpkin. Let the fall food extravaganza begin!

These quesadillas were absolutely fantastic. They are the newest addition to my favorites. They are healthy, out of the ordinary, and equally pleasing to the palette and the eye. The vibrant colors of the ingredients really draws you right in and the first bite keeps you there. With the orange squash and the black beans, these would even be fun for Halloween!

**Note: This recipe could be a very easy weeknight meal. Just make the squash puree the night before so it's ready for assembly the night you want to eat.


Butternut Squash, Black Bean, and Feta Quesadillas

adapted from Bon Appetit, October 2009

Ingredients:
1 (1 1/2 lb.) butternut squash
1 TBSP olive oil
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1 tsp. cumin, divided
1/2 tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg
1/2 c. low-fat plain yogurt
zest of one lime, divided
juice of 1/2 lime
6-8 whole-wheat tortillas
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Cut top off squash and then halve lengthwise. Scoop seeds out. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet (I like to turn the edges up to contain juices) with the flesh side up. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper, to taste, 1/2 tsp. cumin, and nutmeg.

3. Roast squash in the oven until fork tender, approximately 30 minutes. Place on a wire rack until cool enough to handle, then scoop out flesh and puree in a blender or food processor.

4. While the squash is cooling, make the sauce by mixing yogurt, half the lime zest, lime juice, remaining 1/2 tsp. cumin, and salt and pepper, to taste.

5. Equally divide the puree between three or four tortillas. Then layer on beans, jalapeno, feta, and cilantro. Place remaining tortillas on top.

6. Cook quesadillas on the grill or in a grill pan or large saute pan. Let cool one minute, then cut into quarters and drizzle with yogurt sauce.

One year ago: one of my top three fall recipes, autumn harvest bread

Friday, September 18, 2009

Quick Puff Pastry

I'll be honest. The prospect of making my own puff pastry terrified me. I could've made classic puff pastry, but I chose to take baby steps with this easier version.

I can't believe I let this scare me! It was so simple, especially with the help of a food processor. Plus, it can be used in a multitude of dishes.


**Note: If at any time the dough begins to warm and the butter begins to soften, place the dough int he refrigerator to chill 20-30 minutes.

Quick Puff Pastry
from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking

Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 c. cake flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. (two sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
1/2 c. ice water

Directions:
1. By food processor--combine the flours and salt and process briefly to mix. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour and pulse about ten times until the mixture forms large, coarse crumbs the size of large peas. Pour in the water and pulse two or three times until the dough starts to gather, but before it forms a ball.

Alternately, by stand mixer--In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, stire together the flours and salt. Scatter the butter over the flour and mix on low speed until the butter is coated with flour. Pour in the water and mix just until the water is absorbed and the butter is still in large pieces.

2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, dust the top with flour, and pat into a rectangle 3/4 in. thick.

3. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 in. by 7 in. wide and 1/2 in. thick. With he short side facing you, fold the bottom third up. Then fold the top third down, as if folding a letter.

4. Rotate the dough a quarter turn clockwise (so a seam is on your left) and repeat the process, rolling the dough into 12 in. by 7 in. rectangle and folding into thirds.

5. Repeat the process a third time.

6. After the third and final turn, wrap the dough in plastic wrap, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate for at least four hours or up to overnight before shaping. For longer storage, cut the puff pastry into quarters, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, place in an airtight plastic bag,a dn freeze for up to one month.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cheese Straws

The Internet amazes me. Really. First, there's the incredible ability to find any information about anything imaginable in a matter of only seconds. The there's the fact that you can find virtually anyone on the Internet. I suppose I could let this scare me, but I'm not going to think about it too much. Instead, I'm going to be glad for all the old friends I've reconnected with.

Like Autumn. Autumn and I were grade school friends who were separated by a combination of me leaving our public middle school to go to a private one and her family's move to a different part of the city. Thanks to Facebook, we've reconnected!


Autumn was always full of energy and ready with a big smile. I can tell nothing's really changed about that. She amazes me. She is now married and stays home with her two precious boys. As if that wasn't enough, she also keeps two blogs. A precious family one and a baking blog, Make It a Cupcake Kind of Day!, inspired by "Julie & Julia". Autumn plans to make all the recipes in Williams-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking.

When she and I realized we both have this book (though I have the revised edition, which includes a whole chapter! on chocolate!) we decided we should blog something together. We decided on these cheese straws. And just in case you needed more proof that Autumn is amazing, she made these cheese straws with traditional puff pastry. I used the quick recipe. How does she do it?



Cheese Straws
from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking

Ingredients:
1 lb. quick puff pastry (about one recipe)
2/3 c. coarsely grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, beaten
coarse sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:1. Prepare the puff pastry and refrigerate to chill as directed.

2. Line a baking pan with parchment or a silicone baking mat.

3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the chilled pastry dough to 1/2 in. thickness. Carefully lift the pastry and set aside. Remove any dusting flour from the work surface. Sprinkle the work surface with a light dusting of some of the cheese.

4. Return the pastry to the work surface and roll it out to a 14-in. square about 1/8 in. thick.

5. Brush the half of the pastry farthest from you with some of the beaten egg and sprinkle half the remaining cheese over the egg-brushed surface. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Fold the bottom half of the pastry up over the cheese and press the edges to seal. Roll a rolling pin lightly over the pastry . Brush the pastry with the rest of the egg and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

7. Cut the pastry vertically into strips 1/2 in. wide. Pick up each strip and twist in opposite directions four or five times to make a spiral.

8. Place the straws on on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them one inch apart. Press the ends down to seal. Cover the pan with parchment and refrigerate 45 minutes before baking. **Note: Do not skip the refrigeration. The straws need to rest, or they will untwist in the oven.

9. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F.

10. Bake the straws until golden brown, 13-17 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely on the pan. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days.


One year ago: a heavenly treat made for Elly Says Opa's Eat to the Beat, lemon crostata with fresh figs and goat cheese

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sugar and Spice Cupcakes


Snips and snails and puppy dog tails,
that's what little boys are made of.
Sugar and spice and everything nice,
that's what little girls are made of.

One of my teammates at work just had her second precious little girl. Right before she left for her maternity leave, I made these adorable mini cupcakes, a delicious combination of spice cake and brown sugar buttercream, to celebrate her at our staff meeting. They were tiny, sweet, and full of sugar and spice, just like K's little girl will certainly be. Congratulations, K!


Sugar and Spice Cupcakes
cupcake recipe adapted from www.williams-sonoma.com
frosting recipe from www.marthastewart.com

Ingredients:
For cupcakes:
2 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole-wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. milk
1 TBSP vanilla extract
16 TBSP (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 2/3 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar
4 eggs

For frosting:
4 large egg whites
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (my addition)
1/2 tsp. freshly-ground nutmeg (my addition)
1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons

Directions:
For the cupcakes:**Note: Have all the ingredients at room temperature.

1. Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 325°F. Line standard muffin tin or mini muffin tin with paper liners or spray with baking spray.

2. Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt.

3. In a small bowl, combine the milk and vanilla. Set aside.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy and smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the granulated sugar and brown sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

5. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

6. Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the milk mixture and beginning and ending with the flour. Beat each addition just until incorporated, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl.

7. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, dividing it evenly. (I used a small scoop for mini cakes; I would use a standard scoop for standard-sized cupcakes.) Bake 13-16 minutes for mini cupcakes and 20-22 minutes for standard-sized cupcakes.

8. Let cool in the pan for five minutes, then turn out to cool completely. While cooling, prepare the frosting.

For the frosting:
1. In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water, whisk together egg whites, sugar, and salt. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.


2. Transfer to the clean bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until fluffy and cooled, about 15 minutes.


3. Raise speed to high; beat until stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to medium-low. Add cinnamon and butter, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, until fully incorporated.

4. Pipe or spread on completely cooled cupcakes. Frosting may be easier to work with if refrigerated for 15-20 minutes before use.

One year ago: warm couscous salad

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Frittata with Zucchini and Goat Cheese

I love cooking breakfast. Strange as it may sound, it's my favorite meal to cook. Maybe it's because I just love breakfast food. Maybe it's because I love starting out the day with a good solid meal in my belly instead of a rushed bowl of cereal or piece of toast in the car. Maybe it's because I usually only cook a real breakfast on the weekends. I may never know.

Many times, I end up making a heavier carb-based breakfast like waffles or muffins. But this morning, M and I didn't want that. We wanted something healthier, with more protein and a lighter feel. M loves zucchini, so as soon as I came to this recipe, I knew he'd choose it. This frittata, served with a simple arugula salad with lemony white wine vinaigrette, was just what we were looking for. Quick, delicious, and much healthier than the pumpkin waffles we were also considering (although I'm sure we'll get to those if the weather ever cools off here).

**Note: Since there were only two of us, I halved the recipe. I have typed the original amounts here but adjusted the cooking methods since I don't have a specialty frittata pan (and don't really feel the need to buy one).

Fritatta with Zucchini and Goat Cheese
from www.williams-sonoma.com

Ingredients:
10 eggs
1 tsp. salt, divided
1 TBSP unsalted butter
2 to 3 small zucchini, sliced 1/8 inch thick
2 TBSP fresh oregano leaves
2 tsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for garnish
4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Directions:
1. Preheat oven on the broiler setting.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1/2 tsp. of the salt. Set aside.
3. In a large non-stick saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter. When it foams, add the zucchini and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 tsp. salt. Sauté for one minute. Add the oregano and the 2 tsp. parsley and cook for 30 seconds more.

4. Add the eggs and, using a rubber spatula, quickly and lightly stir in a small circular motion to combine them with the zucchini. Let cook for two minutes.
5. Using the spatula, gently lift the cooked edges to allow the uncooked eggs to flow underneath. Sprinkle the cheese on the frittata; do not stir. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, without stirring, 4 to 5 minutes more.

6. Place pan under broiler to finish, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool just enoug to fully set, about 2 minutes.

7. Using the spatula, loosen the edges of the frittata and gently slide it onto a plate. Cut into wedges and garnish with parsley. Serves 8 to 10.

Simple Arugula Salad

This simple salad is a great, light accompaniment to any bistro-style meal. I served it alongside a zucchini and goat cheese frittata and it was divine!


Simple Arugula Salad
from www.williams-sonoma.com

Ingredients:
1 garlic clove, minced to a paste
pinch of lemon zest
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of dry mustard
1 TBSP white wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 TBSP olive oil
5 oz. arugula

Directions:
1. In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, sugar, the 1/2 tsp. salt and pepper. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly. Adjust the seasonings with salt.

2. In a salad bowl, combine the arugula and the vinaigrette and toss well. Serve immediately. Serves 8 to 10.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Banana-Nut Bread

Normally, I am very careful to not let food go to waste. It's just one of those things that makes me kind of crazy. Produce is, of course, the number one food item that gets wasted. I try to only buy what I know I'll use. Except for bananas. When it comes to bananas, I often buy a couple extra with the intention of letting them get overripe. That way, I have a legitimate excuse to make yummy banana treats!

I loved this recipe. It had the perfect balance of sweetness from the bananas and spice from the cinnamon and nutmeg. The extra walnuts and sugar on top were a nice touch, as well. Normally I leave things like that off because it seems like one way, albeit tiny, to cut a few calories. (And yes, I realize I just referenced cutting calories in a post about banana bread.) But these mini loaves were for thank you gifts, so I wanted them to be pretty. They were a hit!

Banana-Nut Bread
slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Baking


Ingredients:

2 large very ripe bananas
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. whole-wheat flour
2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 TBSP lemon or orange zest

3/4 c. toasted, chopped walnuts

2 large eggs

3/4 c. firmly packed dark brown sugar

6 TBSP unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. 2% milk
Demerara or Turbinado sugar, for dusting (optional)
walnut halves, for decoration (optional)


Directions:

1. In a dry skillet, toast walnuts until fragrant. Set aside to cool before chopping.

2. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour or spray one 9x5 loaf pan or three mini loaf pans.


3. In a small bowl, mash the bananas. You should have about 1 1/2 c.


4. In a medium bowl, stir together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, citrus zest, and chopped walnuts. Set aside.


5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine eggs, brown sugar, butter, and milk. Beat on medium-low speed until just blended.


6. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the bananas, and beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Do not overmix.


7. Pour the batter into prepared pan or pans and smooth the top. If desired, sprinkle Demerara or Turbinado sugar over the tops and stud with a lone of walnut halves.


8. If making one loaf, bake approximately 55-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. If the surface gets too brown, cover with foil for the last 15 minutes.
If making mini loaves, put the three pans on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes.

9. When done, remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool in the pans for five minutes. If making one loaf, turn out onto the wire rack after five minutes to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for two to three days or freeze for up to one month.


One year ago:
Korean barbecued beef

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Super Snickerdoodles

These cookies were light and delicious with a cakey center and slight crispness on the outside due to the cinnamon sugar. If you're looking for simple, family friendly cookies to impress, look no further.
 

Super Snickerdoodles
adapted from Martha Stewart, "Holiday Cookies"


Ingredients:

2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1 c. unsalted butter, softened

1 3/4 c. sugar, divided

2 large eggs

4-5 tsp. ground cinnamon


Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.


2. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.


3. Put butter and 1 1/2 c. sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about three minutes. Mix in eggs.


4. Reduce speed to low and gradually incorporate flour mixture.


5. In a small bowl, stir together remaining 1/4 c. sugar and cinnamon to preferred ratio.


6. Shape dough into 1 3/4 in. balls (you should have about 20). Roll in cinnamon sugar and place three inches apart on baking sheets lines with Silpat or parchment paper.


7. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, twelve to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire racks. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in an airtight container for up to three days (but they won't last that long!).


One year ago:
a great memory of my annual trip to South Carolina, honey peach ice cream

Monday, September 7, 2009

Raspberry Chess Pie

Raspberries were 99 cents a container this week at the store, so you know I grabbed some. I love raspberries. Honestly, I could've just eaten the berries all by themselves. I wanted to do something different, though. Not necessarily different as in "Wow, I've never thought to use raspberries that way." I was thinking more along the lines of something different than I usually make. I do lots of muffins, cookies, and cupcakes. I hardly ever do pies. So, pie it would be.

I liked this recipe, though I did have some trouble getting it to set up properly in the center. I don't know if it has to do with Paula Deen cooking in super humid climates and me being in the desert, but the pie never did completely set in the very center. It wasn't completely runny; it did congeal somewhat. The pie was also very tasty. I'd like to give it another go so that I can get it just right.


Raspberry Chess Pie
crust an "Apple a Day" original
pie adapted from Paula Deen, The Deen Family Cookbook

Ingredients:

For the crust:
1 3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs (about one sleeve)
3 TBSP granulated sugar
2 TBSP bourbon (optional, but the crust won't be as good without it!)
5 TBSP butter, melted

For the pie:
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. packed light brown sugar
4 TBSP unsalted butter, softened
4 eggs
1/3 milk (do not use skim)
2 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt

For the berry topping:
1/4 c. seedless raspberry jam
1 TBSP Chambord or other raspberry liquer
2 pints raspberries

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. To make the crust, pulse all ingredients in a food processor. Pat into a nine or ten inch extra deep pie dish. Bake six to eight minutes. Set aside to cool.

3. While the crust cools, being pie filling. Using an electric mixer, cream the sugars and butter. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Scrape down sides of the bowl.

4. Beat in the milk, flour, vanilla, and salt until smooth.

5. Pour the mixture into the cooled crust and bake until filling is dark golden and just set (the center should still jiggle), 40-45 minutes. Let the pie stand at room temperature until completely cooled.

6. When the pie is cooled, heat the jam over medium heat in a small saucepan until melted, about three minutes. Stir in the Chambord.

7. Sprinkle the berries over the top of the pie. Pour glaze over the berries and serve.

One year ago: raspberry-filled pancakes (Ebelskivers)--apparently raspberry sales are a very important Labor Day weekend tradition...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Chicken Stuffed with Kalamata Pesto, Feta, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

This dinner just kind of came up. I didn't really plan it in advance. I was thinking I'd put the pesto, feta, and tomatoes on top of the chicken breasts, but once I saw how ugly the pesto was, I decided stuffing the chicken would be better. It turned out moist and bursting with yummy, salty flavors. I will most definitely be making this again!


Chicken Stuffed with Kalamata Pesto, Feta, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
an "Apple a Day" original


Ingredients:

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1 recipe kalamata pesto
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese

1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1/4 c. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Slice chicken breasts horizontally, making sure not to go all the way through. Pull flap back to open pocket.


3. Using a spoon, load in pesto, feta, and tomatoes. Close chicken flap and secure with a toothpick, if necessary.


4. Rub chicken breasts with olive oil, then salt and pepper to taste.


5. Place chicken in a shallow baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes (mine were perfect at 22 min.). Let cool three minutes before serving.

One year ago:
aromatice noodles with peanut-lime sauce

Kalamata Pesto


WARNING!!!

Ugly food ahead.

Ugly, but delicious.

I had a whole lot of fresh basil to use up and a mean hankering for some pesto. As I went through my fridge and pantry collecting the traditional pesto ingredients, I realized I was lacking pine nuts or walnuts, but man, did kalamata olives sound good. Time to get experimental.

This experiment paid off. It paid off in ugly food, but still. As long as it tastes good, it works for me. Luckily, you can disguise it's homely appearance by using it, along with feta and sun-dried tomatoes, to stuff some chicken breasts fit for company.


Kalamata Pesto
an "Apple a Day" original

Ingredients:
4 oz. fresh basil
1/3 c. pitted kalamata olives
1 TBSP brine from olives
1-2 cloves fresh garlic
1/3 c. freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
juice of 1/2 lemon
2/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if thinner consistency is desired
salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Place all ingredients except for oil, salt, and black pepper in food processor. Pulse six to eight times.

2. With food processor running, drizzle in olive oil until desired consistency is met.

3. Taste pesto. Salt and pepper to taste.

One year ago: heirloom caprese salad with pesto vinaigrette (anyone else see a pattern?)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin

Wow! For a sort of thrown together dinner, this was fantastic. My family was satisfied and impressed and couldn't have been happier. Next time you need a quick, easy, healthy weeknight roast that can even be prepped the night before, try this. I hope you'll like it as much as my family did.


I promise the tenderloin tastes much better than this (can you tell I was having a last minute kind of day?!?) picture lets on.

Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin
an "Apple a Day" original

Ingredients:
2 TBSP chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. allspice
1/2 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, if desired
1 1/2 lb. pork tenderloin, trimmed of silver skin
2 TBSP olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced

Directions:
1. Mix all dry spices in a small bowl.

2. Rub on pork loin. Wrap tightly in two layers of plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for as little as 30 minutes, up to over night.

3. When ready to cook, pull loin out of refrigerator. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Heat oil in a large oven-proof saute pan. Saute garlic until fragrant, about two minutes.

5. Place pork loin in pan and sear about five minutes on each side.

6. Transfer tenderloin to oven. If you do not have an oven-proof saute pan, place the tenderloin in a glass roasting dish with 1/4 in. water in the bottom. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the tenderloin reads 155 degrees F.

7. Let rest ten minutes, then slice and serve. Serves 4-5.

One year ago: a whole bunch of hyphenated goodness, balsamic-marinated skirt steak, basic oven-roasted potatoes, and mango-pineapple salsa