Monday, November 29, 2010

Balsamic-Pomegranate Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Did you know they were called Brussels sprouts?  You know, Brussels, like the city?  I didn't.  I always thought they were brussel sprouts.  Ah, the factoids we learn when we spend our free time surfing the Internet for newer, tastier, and more original recipes...

I made these delicious Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving dinner (along with a pumpkin cheesecake with bourbon-sour cream topping).  There were only five of us this year, so my mom and I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try a couple of new things.  That way, if they weren't well received, we weren't disappointing too many people or embarrassing ourselves too badly.  The Brussels sprouts brought me success on both accounts.  They were very tasty; reminiscent of roasted broccoli, actually.  Plus, they were quick and easy to make, which is a definite bonus for something that has to be prepared just before serving.  The only thing that took any time at all (and a minimal amount, at that) was removing the outer leaves and chopping off the tail end of the sprouts before slicing them in half.

If you're someone who has never liked Brussels sprouts before, I think you should try this recipe.  The original uses only balsamic vinegar, but I subbed in some pomegranate juice for extra punch (and a pretty garnish).  I'm sure it's wonderful with only balsamic.  So give it a whirl, this recipe may just help you find a new vegetable to love!


Balsamic-Pomegranate Roasted Brussels Sprouts
adapted from www.seriouseats.com

Ingredients:  
2 c. Brussels sprouts, cut in half lengthwise 
3 TBSP olive oil 
salt and pepper to taste
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP pomegranate juice  
1/4 c. pomegranate seeds, for garnish
Directions:
1.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit.

2.  Heat oil in an oven-proof skillet, preferably cast iron.  Place sprouts cut side down, then salt and pepper lightly.  Allow sprouts to cook until the bottoms brown and develop a crust.

3.  Once sprouts are nicely browned, transfer skillet to the oven for four minutes.

4.  Remove the skillet from the oven and use tongs to turn each sprout over.  Add the vinegar and pomegranate juice to deglaze, gently shaking and tossing the skillet until there is no excess vinegar in the pan. Season once more with salt and pepper.  Place sprouts in a serving bowl, garnish with pomegranate seeds, and serve immediately.

one year ago: Caramel corn, one of my Twelve Treats of Christmas.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mesa Grill's Pumpkin Soup

Leading up to Thanksgiving, I was really trying to be thoughtful about what I was eating.  I wanted to be able to enjoy my holiday meal (and dessert!) but I also didn't want to throw away all the hard work I'd been doing to get myself into better shape.

I knew starving myself wouldn't be the answer (it never is) but I also knew I needed to be extra aware of the ingredients I was using.  I saw this one on CBS's "Sunday Morning" and immediately knew I had to have it.  Luckily, I have the Mesa Grill cookbook, so it was a done deal.

I wouldn't say this soup is the ultimate in healthiness, but it isn't exactly bad for you, either.  The molasses and honey do bring up the sugar content, but pumpkin is a great source of fiber, beta-carotene, potassium, and zinc.  Plus, the pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds used in the garnish are good for you, too!  I'd say it was a good compromise between feeling indulgent and being mindful of nutrition.  It also comes together in a flash, which is always nice on a busy weeknight.  I'll definitely be having it again this winter.


Mesa Grill's Pumpkin Soup
adapted from Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill Cookbook

Ingredients:
4 c. chicken stock, vegetable stock, or water
3 c. pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
2 tsp. ground cinnamon (Mexican canela, if you can find it), divided
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. freshly-grated nutmeg
2 TBSP honey
2 TBSP maple syrup
2 tsp. finely minced chipotle peppers in adobo (1 large or 2 small peppers)
3/4 c. crema, creme fraiche, light sour cream, or plain Greek yogurt
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 c. roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), for garnish
1/2 c. pomegranate seeds, for garnish

Directions:
1.  Bring stock to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat.  

2.  Whisk in pumpkin, one tsp. cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, honey, maple syrup, and chipotle.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. 

3.  Remove soup from the heat and whisk in 1/4 c. cream or sour cream.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

4.  Mix together the remaining crema or sour cream wit the remaining one tsp. cinnamon.

5.  Ladle soup into bowls.  Drizzle or dollop the cinnamon cream over the soup, then garnish with pumpkin and pomegranate seeds.

one year ago: The kickoff to my Twelve Treats of Christmas--peppermint bark.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cranberry Turtle Bars

I'd love to be able to claim some kind of stroke of genius with this recipe.  The truth is, though, I set out to make cranberry bars.  But when I typed in "cranberry bars" in the search box over at Epicurious, these came up.  And that. was. it.  I knew I'd be making these instead of plain ol' cranberry bars.  I'm so glad I did.  These were outstanding!

Even better, I got to make caramel from scratch, which is always fun.  If you've never made your own caramel, don't be scared.  It's pretty cool to be able to watch butter and sugar turn from pale yellow to a beautiful, rich caramel color.  Plus, it smells so delicious!  I will warn you, though, the caramel will seize up when you add the cranberries.  Don't worry, remember the cranberries are frozen, so they'll drop the temperature enough to make the caramel seize.  Just be patient and give the caramel some time to melt back down.  It will happen.  And it will be delicious.


Cranberry Turtle Bars
adapted from www.epicurious.com

Ingredients:
For the base:
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 c.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 

For the topping:
2 sticks (1 c.) unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
1 (12 oz.) bag frozen cranberries (not thawed)
1 tsp. vanilla
3 c. pecans, toasted and chopped
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line a 9x13-inch baking pan with foil, leaving a two-inch overhang on all sides. Butter or spray the sides (but not the bottom) of the foil with baking spray.

2.  To make the base, blend flour, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor, then add butter and pulse until mixture forms pea-sized lumps.  Pour into prepared pan, then press down firmly all over with a metal spatula to form an even layer. 

3.  Bake in middle of oven until golden and firm to the touch, 15 to 17 minutes, then cool in pan on a rack.

4.  While base is cooling, melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat and stir in sugar, corn syrup, and salt. Boil over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until caramel registers 245 degrees Farenheit on a candy thermometer, about eight minutes. 

5.  Carefully stir in cranberries.  At this point the caramel will seize.  Allow the caramel to melt back down, stirring, as necessary, to prevent burning.  Boil until caramel returns to 245 degrees Farenheit. 

6.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, then stir in pecans until well coated.

7.  Working quickly, spread caramel topping over base, using a fork to distribute nuts and berries evenly. Cool completely.

8.  Lift bars in foil from pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into six vertical strips, then five horizontal strips to form 30 bars.

9.  Melt chocolate in top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Alternately, melt in the microwave, stopping to stir every 20 seconds.

10.  Transfer chocolate to piping bag or small heavy-duty sealable plastic bag. If using a sealable plastic bag, seal top and snip off a tiny piece of one corner to form a hole.  Pipe chocolate decoratively over bars. Let stand at room temperature until chocolate sets, about one hour. 

one year ago: ginger-pear-walnut bread
two years ago:  My two all-time favorite Thanksgiving desserts, pear pie with maple and ginger and pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust and bourbon-sour cream topping.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Desserts to be Thankful For

Are you still struggling to choose a dessert or two for your Thanksgiving feast?  If you are, I'd like to humbly suggest the following options.  They're some of my favorites.


Thanksgiving just wouldn't be Thanksgiving without my pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust and bourbon-sour cream topping.  I first made it for Thanksgiving 2007 and, after her first bite, my sister told me I was going to be bringing it for every family Thanksgiving from then on.  I'm okay with that because I love this cheesecake.


 My other Thanksgiving favorite is this pear pie with maple and ginger.  It uses naturally sweet, seasonal pears, which offer a perfect contrast to maple syrup and warming ginger. 


Pear and apple upside-down gingerbread cakelets are chock full of fall flavors all in one individual cake.  Who doesn't love getting their own little dessert?


If you're looking for a new take on pumpkin pie, try this pumpkin tart.  The filling has all the smooth richness you love about pumpkin pie with a more refined look.

 
Perhaps you're looking to put together a dessert table so your guests can nibble on several different sweets.  You'll want to include these pumpkin chai blondies with spiced cream cheese frosting.  They're out of this world. 
 

Another great addition to a dessert table would be mini pumpkin cheesecakes with cinnamon crust.  Everyone loves cheesecake and keeping them small means your guests won't feel so bad reaching for another dessert if you keep everything small.


No dessert table would be complete without cookies, so I recommend these oatmeal, date, and walnut spice cookies.  They are full of flavor without being too sweet.


If dates aren't your thing, might I suggest these variations on classic pumpkin cookies.  One uses chocolate and walnuts and the other uses dried cranberries and pecans.  How could you possible go wrong?


Quick breads are another Thanksgiving favorite, and one of my all-time favorites is this tasty and fluffy ginger-pear-walnut bread.


This autumn harvest bread is a wonderful and flexible quick bread.  The base is a delicious apple pumpkin bread.  I like to add dried cranberries, golden raisin, chopped apple, and walnuts, but you can add whatever combination of mix-ins you'd like.

I hope these suggestions have helped you out and I hope you and your family enjoy whatever desserts you've chosen to make them. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Slow Cooker Cranberry-Orange Pork Roast

For most of my life, I've lived in a different state than my Daddy.  Luckily, the bank he works for has opened a couple of branches out here in the last couple of years.  Even luckier, the bank chose him as the guy to come out here once a month to keep an eye on things.  This means I get to see him for dinner every month, which I enjoy so much.

So months M and I take him out to dinner and some months I cook.  For this month's visit, I had my recipe chosen well in advance.  My dad loves pork loin and cranberries, so this was sure to please.  Served with a simple spinach salad and garlic rice pilaf, this easy slow cooker meal did not disappoint.




Slow Cooker Cranberry-Orange Pork Roast
adapted from Beantown Baker, who saw it on A Year of Slow Cooking

Ingredients:
1 (3 lb.) pork loin roast or rib roast
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. dried mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 TBSP cornstarch
1 c. fresh cranberries
1/3 c. light brown sugar
1/3 c. golden raisins
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 c. cranberry juice
1/4 c. orange juice
1 small orange, thinly sliced

Directions:
1.  Place ginger, mustard, salt, pepper, and cornstarch in a plastic bag and shake to mix.  Add pork and shake once more, to coat. 

2.  Place coated pork loin in slow cooker.  Add cranberries, both sugars, raisins, and garlic.  Pour in juices, then top with orange slices.

3.  Cover and cook on low for seven-eight hours.

one year ago: easy chicken noodle soup
two years ago: lemon-glazed spiced persimmon cake

Sunday, November 14, 2010

31 While 31--Pumpkin Pecan Ebelskivers

When I was making my list of 30 Things to Make While I'm 30, M, who is of Swedish heritage, asked me to include Swedish pancakes.  I happily obliged because I was eager to make him some of his childhood favorites.  Plus, I'd found another reason to use my poor, neglected ebelskiver pan.

But funny story...when he said Swedish pancakes, I thought he meant Swedish puffed pancakes, or ebelskivers.  Apparently he was thinking of thin pancakes that more closely resemble crepes.  It's the thought that counts, I suppose.

Luckily, this thought led to a very tasty breakfast.  The Muirhead pecan pumpkin butter, which my mom brought home from her job at Williams-Sonoma, was a delicious and seasonal filling.  If you're not into pecan pumpkin, apple or any other fruit butter would be delicious.  I'm already making plans for a summer brunch with strawberry and raspberry ebelskivers.  After I tackle the Swedish pancakes M had in mind, that is. 


 Pumpkin Pecan Ebelskivers

Ingredients:
4 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 c. Muirhead pecan pumpkin butter (or other fruit butter)
2 c. all-purpose flour
2 TBSP sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs, separated
2 c. buttermilk
4 TBSP melted unsalted butter, plus more for cooking 

Directions:
1.  Using a hand held mixer fitted with the beater attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until softened, about 30 seconds. Add the pecan pumpkin butter and beat until smooth, about one minute. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 

3.  In a separate, small bowl, whisk the egg yolks.  Whisk in the buttermilk and the 4 TBSP of butter. 

4.  Whisk the yolk mixture into the flour mixture until well combined.

5.  In another bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed until stiff but not dry peaks form, about two minutes. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whites into the batter in two additions.

6.  Put 1/2 tsp. melted butter in each well of an ebelskiver pan set over medium-low heat.  When the butter begins to bubble,  pour a heaping TBSP of batter into each well (fill to just below the edge of the well). Cook until the undersides begin to set and turn light golden brown, about one minute. 

7.  Using two wooden skewers, tilt each pancake at an angle on one edge, allowing some of the batter to flow out. Put one tsp. pecan pumpkin filling inside and cook for 30 more seconds.

8.  Using the skewers, turn the pancakes completely over, allowing the remaining uncooked batter to flow out and enclose the filling in the center. Continue cooking until the pancakes are browned evenly on all sides.  If necessary, turn them over once more and cook two more minutes. 

9.  Repeat with the remaining batter and filling. Makes about 35 ebelskivers.

two years ago: pumpkin-orange waffles with sweet orange butter

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Reduced-Fat Basil Ice Cream

Four months from today, M and I will be married.  I cannot wait to be married to the most wonderful man I've ever known.  He has terrific ambitions, works so very hard, and still finds time to let me know just how much he loves me.

One of those very special times, of course, was the surprise vacation he took me on this past June.  I didn't find out until we got to the airport that we were going to San Francisco.  I had no idea where we were going all weekend.  Best of all, we left as boyfriend and girlfriend and came home as an engaged couple. 

While in San Francisco, M took me to an incredible and indulgent dinner at Michael Mina in Union Square.  While there, we had a dessert we both quickly agreed was among the best we've ever had.  We're huge fans of basil, so when the server mentioned a vanilla panna cotta with basil granita and fresh strawberries, we were in.  No questions, no hesitation.  Just a quick look at each other and a "Yep, we'll do that!"  It was incredible.  Just incredible.  When leaving the restaurant, we mentioned to the Maitre d' how much we enjoyed the basil granita.  He told us about a fantastic basil gimlet at a super cool bar around the corner.  We walked straight from Michael Mina to the bar for our after dinner drink.  Wonderful.

To celebrate our upcoming wedding, I wanted to make a dessert to remember our wonderful engagement weekend.  I knew I could never make exactly what we'd had at Michael Mina, so I put my own spin on it.  Using basil from our very own basil plant, I adapted David Lebovitz's recipe for basil ice cream and served it in a martini glass reminiscent of our after dinner drink. 

M loved it and I was so glad.  I can't wait to be his wife.


Reduced-Fat Basil Ice Cream
adapted from David Lebovitz, The Perfect Scoop
Ingredients:
1 c. packed fresh basil leaves
3/4 c. granulated sugar
2 c. half and half
1 c. 2% milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
pinch of salt
5 large egg yolks
1 TBSP vodka

Directions:
1.  Process the basil leaves, sugar, and one cup of the half and half in a blender until the leaves are as fine as possible.

2.  Pour half of the mixture into a large bowl and add the rest of the half and half. Place the bowl in an ice bath.

3.  Warm the rest of the mixture in a saucepan  with the milk, vanilla, and salt. 

4.  In another bowl, whisk the the egg yolks together. Slowly pour the warmed basil mixture into the egg yolks a little at a time while continuously whisking. 

5.  Pour the egg yolks back into the saucepan.  Constantly stir the mixture over medium heat. Scrape the bottom as you stir until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream.  Stir the custard until cool.  Add the vodka.

6.  Pour the custard into a quart size container and place until the refrigerator at least four hours, preferably overnight. Freeze according to your ice cream manufacturer’s instructions. 

one year ago: basil pesto a la Kelsey
two years ago: magic blondies

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

White Turkey Chili

I love chili.  Love, love, LOVE it.  Truthfully, it is one of the things I most look forward to about fall and winter.  I already have my favorite standard chili recipe.  It's hearty and tasty and so, so comforting.  But, with the wedding coming up, I was looking for an equally hearty and tasty, yet wedding gown-friendly, recipe.

Enter Ellie Krieger.  I knew my favorite health-conscious nutritionist/cook would be able to help me out.  Once again, Ellie did not disappoint.  This white turkey chili not only helped me take advantage of the buy one, get one free sale on ground turkey, it also came together quickly and with tons of flavor.  My fiance loved it and, after just one bite, requested we have it again.  I'm good with that!


White Turkey Chili
adapted from Ellie Krieger, So Easy

Ingredients:
1 TBSP olive or canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 medium poblano (pasilla) peppers, seeded and ribs removed, finely diced (about 1 1/2 c.)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper, more to taste
1 tsp. dried oregano, divided
1 to 1 1/4 lb. ground white meat turkey
2 (15.5-oz.) cans white beans, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed
4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1 (15.5-ounce) can white hominy, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. salt (less if not using reduced-sodium beans)
1/4 c. nonfat plain Greek-style yogurt or low-fat sour cream
1 avocado, cut into 1/2-in. cubes
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
lime wedges

Directions:
1.  Heat the oil in large pot or dutch oven over moderate heat. Add the onion, celery, peppers, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft, about eight minutes.

2.  Add the garlic, cumin, cayenne, and 1/2 tsp. oregano and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3.  Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking up the meat with a spoon, until the meat is no longer pink about four minutes.

4.  Add the white beans, broth and remaining oregano. Cook, partially covered, stirring occasionally, for 25 minutes.

5.  Add the hominy and salt, to taste.  Cook, partially covered, ten minutes longer.

6.  Ladle into individual bowls and top each serving with yogurt or sour cream, cilantro, avocado, and a lime wedge.

two years ago: swirled pumpkin-bourbon cheesecake squares and autumn fruit streudel

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pumpkin Tart

Pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin.  Come fall, I just can't get enough of it.

This tart was super simple to assemble, especially with the help of frozen puff pastry or phyllo dough.  For some reason, I could only find the phyllo dough at the store.  However, I do think puff pastry would give a better taste and texture.  The filling was delicious; essentially the same as a pumpkin pie.  Garnished with some whipped cream or spiced cream cheese frosting, candied ginger, and pecans, it made for an elegant end to a fall dinner.


Pumpkin Tart

Ingredients:
1⁄2 lb. frozen puff pastry, thawed
OR
8 sheets phyllo dough and 3 TBSP butter, melted
1 c. pumpkin puree
1⁄3 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
3 TBSP granulated sugar
1 1⁄2 tsp. all-purpose flour
1⁄8 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp. ground ginger
1⁄4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1⁄2 tsp. ground cloves
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
1⁄2 c. heavy cream or half and half
3⁄4 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. brandy, rum, or bourbon (I like bourbon)

any of the following garnishes:
lightly sweetened whipped cream
candied ginger
pecans

Directions:
1.  Roll out the puff pastry and cut to fit your tart pan.  Alternately, prepare phyllo dough by layering sheets with butter.  Cut edges to fit tart pan.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about one hour.

2.  Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400°F.

3.  Line the tart shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil sprayed with baking spray and fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake until the edges begin to brown, about 15 minutes. Carefully remove the parchment and weights and continue baking until the center is golden, 7 to 10 minutes more. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely, about 30 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

4.  In a large bowl, combine the pumpkin puree and sugars. Add the flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves and stir until smooth.

5.  Add the egg and egg yolk and stir until combined. Add the cream, vanilla and liquor and stir until smooth.

6.  Pour the filling into the shell. Bake until the filling is just set, 20 to 25 minutes.

7.  Transfer the pan to the wire rack and let the tart cool completely, about two hours, before serving. Accompany each slice with a dollop of whipped cream or use a piping bag to decorate the tart with frosting.  Garnish, if desired.

two years ago: an election night meal, Barack-li, red pepper, and cheddar chowder

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rosemary Chicken with Two-Corn Polenta

A couple of months ago, M and I decided to decorate the completely bare patio at my townhouse (the one we'll be living in together in 129 more days!).  And by decorate, I mean we bought a small basil plant and a small rosemary plant.  That's it.  We thought about buying some furniture, too, but we lost track of that idea when our thoughts turned to wedding planning.  I'm okay with the trade off.

I'm also totally okay with the generous amount of basil and rosemary we've enjoyed from our little ol' plants.  We've been enjoying lots of meals with our own fresh herbs, including this one.  The rosemary added the perfect bit of earthy flavor to this healthy dinner.  As an added bonus, it was so quick and easy to prepare, I'll be adding it to my arsenal of fantastic weeknight meals.


Rosemary Chicken and Two-Corn Polenta
from The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook
Ingredients:
For the polenta:
1/2 c. yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. water
1/2 c. corn kernels (fresh or frozen and thawed)

For the chicken:
4 (4 oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1/4 tsp. salt
freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
1 TBSP chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

Directions:
1.  Place cornmeal and 1/2 tsp. salt in a large saucepan.  Gradually add water, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and cook for ten minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in corn kernels.  Cover to keep warm and set aside.

2.  Meanwhile, heat oil over medium-high heat in a large saute pan.  

3.  Sprinkle chicken pieces with salt, pepper, and rosemary.  Place in saute pan and saute until cooked thorough, about three minutes on each side.

one year ago: banana-oat muffins with apricots
two years ago: classic roasted chicken and vegetables, a family favorite