Sunday, October 7, 2012

Caramel Apple Cheesecake

Photo: Annies-eats.com
Despite the calendar, Autumn has still not arrived in our neighborhood. It is warm and sunny and the skies are clear. My family and I live in a small town (population about 6,000), established in the mid-1800's. Every year, on the first Sunday of October, downtown (all two blocks of it!) is closed and townsfolk celebrate everything "apple". Today is that day--our annual community "Apple Squeeze".

For just a few dollars you can purchase a bag of apples and process them through a vintage apple press. Or, for just a few dollars more you can purchase a ready-to-go jug of apple cider. Vendors line the streets and sell "everything apple". If it contains apple (fritters, butter, slices of pie), or even hints of apple (quilts with an apple motif, apple cookbooks, etc) you will find it here.

Kinda hokey, but we look forward to this. And today I decided to carry the apple theme to our dinner as well. We had cider-braised turkey thighs with roasted root vegetables, and for dessert a caramel apple cheesecake pie. This recipe was adapted from the one on the blog Annie's Eats:

Ingredients

For the crust:

Directions



Saturday, August 11, 2012

Over-the-top pizza dough

Photograph: Tara Donne
For my birthday this year, I gave myself a subscription to Bon Appetit magazine (and it didn't hurt that they offered an amazing subscription rate of less than $1.00 per issue!!).

I will have to admit that I always assumed Bon Appetit was filled with gourmet artsy-fartsy foods (and you will find a few of those within its pages) but I have found that this magazine is primarily devoted to fresh ingredients skillfully prepared and assembled to create memorable foods from around the world.


The March 2012 issue of Bon Appetit featured a sneak-peak at Jim Lahey's new book "My Pizza--The Easy No-knead Way to Make Spectacular Pizza at Home." This isn't a recipe to opt for when you want dinner within an hour--but plan ahead (a day) and you will be rewarded with the most amazingly crisp, tender, delicious pizza crust.


Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza Dough

Ingredients
  • 7 1/2cups all-purpose flour (1000 grams) plus more for shaping dough
  • 4 tsps. fine sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast

Preparation
  • Whisk flour, salt, and yeast in a medium bowl. While stirring with a wooden spoon, gradually add 3 cups water; stir until well incorporated. Mix dough gently with your hands to bring it together and form into a rough ball. Transfer to a large clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rise at room temperature (about 72°) in a draft-free area until surface is covered with tiny bubbles and dough has more than doubled in size, about 18 hours (time will vary depending on the temperature in the room).
  • Transfer dough to a floured work surface. Gently shape into a rough rectangle. Divide into 6 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time, gather 4 corners to center to create 4 folds. Turn seam side down and mold gently into a ball. Dust dough with flour; set aside on work surface or a floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining portions.
  • Let dough rest, covered with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel, until soft and pliable, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Wrap each dough ball separately in plastic wrap and chill. Unwrap and let rest at room temperature on a lightly floured work surface, covered with plastic wrap, for 2–3 hours before shaping.

To Make the Pizzas
  • During the last hour of dough's resting, prepare oven: If using a pizza stone, arrange a rack in upper third of oven and place stone on rack; preheat oven to its hottest setting, 500°–550°, for 1 hour. If using a baking sheet, arrange a rack in middle of oven and preheat to its hottest setting, 500°–550°. (You do not need to preheat the baking sheet.)
  • Working with 1 dough ball at a time, dust dough generously with flour and place on a floured work surface. Gently shape dough into a 10"–12" disk.


If Using Pizza Stone
  • When ready to bake, increase oven heat to broil. Sprinkle a pizza peel or rimless (or inverted rimmed) baking sheet lightly with flour. Place dough disk on prepared peel and top with desired toppings.
  • Using small, quick back-and-forth movements, slide pizza from peel onto hot pizza stone. Broil pizza, rotating halfway, until bottom of crust is crisp and top is blistered, 5–7 minutes.
  • Using peel, transfer to a work surface to slice. Repeat, allowing pizza stone to reheat under broiler for 5 minutes between pizzas.


If Using a Baking Sheet
  • Arrange dough disk on baking sheet; top with desired toppings. Bake pizza until bottom of crust is crisp and top is blistered, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a work surface to slice. Repeat with remaining pizzas.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Where did Spring go?

Photo: Joseph De Leo (in "The Cheesemongers Kitchen" by Chester Hastings)

Last week our world was filled with sunshine; with highs in the 80's and blue, cloudless skies, people in the Pacific Northwest were scrambling to find sunblock and those long-lost sunglasses. It was heavenly! But all good things must come to an end, and that is certainly true of sunny skies in this corner of the planet. We have already had 2 inches of rain in the month of May.
My theory is if the weather can't keep us warm on the outside, we'll warm up on the inside. I have two recipes for you today--the first is a vegetarian chili I made for my daughter. The second is a homemade Cheez-it cracker that Dave Leite recently published on his blog (http://leitesculinary.com)


Buy the The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen cookbookDave found this recipe in the book "The Cheesemongers Kitchen" by Chester Hastings.

Red Chili and Cheddar Crackers Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the work surface
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper flakes
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and diced
  • 8 ounces best-quality aged Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cold water

Directions

  • 1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and chilies. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the cheese and pulse to combine.
  • 2. Add 3 tablespoons of the water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing until the mixture comes together in a ball. Pulse in an additional tablespoon of water if needed to get the dough to hold together. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  • 3. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C).
  • 4. Roll the dough out to a 1/8-inch thickness directly onto a baking sheet. (If the dough seems sticky, sprinkle the surface ever so lightly with flour.) Try to be as accurate as you can about the thickness of the dough, as the crackers won’t puff up nicely if the dough is too thin, nor will they be crispy enough if the dough is too thick. Using a cookie or biscuit cutter, a sharp knife, or a fluted pasta cutter, trim the dough into ½-inch diamonds (or any shape you prefer).
  • 5. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. (If you, like us, don’t have 3 baking sheets—well, 4, actually, counting the one you’re already using–simply line 1 or 2 or however many baking sheets you have and bake the crackers in batches, allowing the sheets to cool between uses.) Place the dough on the parchment-lined sheets, giving them just enough room so that they are not touching. Bake until the crackers are deep golden brown and crunchy, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of your crackers. Watch the crackers carefully as they go from almost done to a little too done quite quickly. Transfer the crackers to wire rack and let cool completely before serving. (The crackers can stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week, although they are best the first couple of days.)




http://Leitesculinaria.com

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

lasagne cups


Photo: www.laurenslatest.com
In a recent post I confessed to my addiction to Pinterest--the social media time-leaching site that transforms minutes into hours into days. It was on a food "board" that I discovered lasagna cups, and through that glorious photo discovered the blog Lauren's Latest--Every day Intredients / Extra Ordinary Food (www.laurenslatest.com).

Here is her description of how to make lasagna cups:

*************************

I have to tell you guys, I had a lot of fun with this recipe! I had a blast making these with my niece and turning this idea into dinner the other day. Who doesn’t love a pasta cup filled with delicious sauce and ooey gooey cheese? I think I could say that EVERYONE falls under this category. Oh mama are these good.

If you like lasagna, then you will love these. Basically, this is just the super cute version of plain ol’ lasagna. All the same stuff you would typically see in the making of a regular lasagna, just with a little more prep work. More or less, this is a method you can adopt while still using the lasagna recipe that everyone is used to. OR try my version out! Feel free to add in or omit anything you’d like. Make this your own. That’s the beauty of cooking! :)

Quick note: I used a new product called cooking cream {a Philadelphia product}. If you can’t find it in your store, just add in more ricotta!

Hope you like this one, guys! We all certainly did! Happy humpday


Lasagna Cups yield: 12

Ingredients for the sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion
1/2 pound lean ground beef cooked and drained
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
1-8 oz. can tomato sauce {+1/2 can water to wash out can}
1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sugar
salt & pepper to taste
for the cheese filling-
1-10 oz. tub Philadelphia Italian Herb & Cheese Cooking Cream
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, grated & divided
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg
21 lasagne pasta sheets
Directions:
For the sauce- heat olive oil over medium heat and saute onions, pepper, zucchini and garlic until tender, 5 minutes. Stir in cooked ground beef and tomato paste until well incorporated. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook 30 minutes or so. {The longer it cooks, the better it will taste!} This will be very thick.

For the cheese filling- stir all ingredients together excluding half of the grated mozzarella cheese. Set aside.

For the pasta- Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta sheets 2 minutes less than package directions and drain. Place pasta on greased baking sheet until you are ready for assembly.
For assembly- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 jumbo muffin tins with squares of parchment paper. If they don’t stay in on their own, that’s ok–the pasta will help with that. Line the edges of the muffin tins with 1 pasta sheet per cup. {Pasta sheet will overlap about 2 inches.} Spoon about 1/2 tablespoon of sauce into the bottom of each cup {#1}. Next cut 9 pasta sheets into quarters and press one of these pieces of pasta into the bottom on top of the sauce {#2}. Top pasta sheet with a generous tablespoon of sauce {#3} and then a generous tablespoon of cheese filling {#4}. Repeat this pasta-sauce-cheese layering one more time being sure to press out any air bubbles. Top these lasagna cups off with a 3rd piece of pasta, more sauce and the remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until everything is hot and bubbly. Serve hot.
Don’t these scream “Eat me! Eat me!”?


www.laurenslatest.com
Lasagna Cups
Posted By Lauren On March 30, 2011 @ 2:38 pm In dinner | 88 Comments

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The good neighbor policy


Photo: Somchai Som
My next door neighbor is one of the sweetest, funniest, kindest, most generous people I know. We share a love of decorating, gardening, animals, and (most of all) eating. That last one is especially important because from time to time she will travel back to the Midwest to visit her daughters and grandkids. I watch her house, water the plants, and in exchange I get whatever is left in her refrigerator.

It's like an episode of "Iron Chef America"--I never know what the secret ingredient will be.


This past week, my friend left once again for "Dorothy-land" and I was left with, among other things, a quart of buttermilk. (Cue dramatic music and wry smile by Mark Dacascos).

I did the obvious buttermilk waffles. Then a batch of buttermilk biscuits. But I still have half a quart left.

What to do?


Well, I love mashed potatoes and will look for any possible excuse to use them as a side dish. What better way to use mashed potatoes than with meatballs and gravy? Here's my version of Swedish meatballs, using ground turkey, and buttermilk in place of the traditional sour cream.

Carb Diva Swedish Meatballs
2 slices firm bread (Italian, French, or any rustic bread)
1/2 cup finely minced onion
1 egg yolk
1/8 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 tsp. olive oil

1 can condensed cream of chicken (or cream of mushroom) soup
1 soup can buttermilk

Into a blender tear bread slices and grind into fine crumbs. Transfer crumbs to a large bowl. Add minced onions. In a small bowl whisk together egg, nutmeg, allspice, salt, and pepper and add to bread crumb mixture. Add turkey and with your hands mix mixture until just combined (do not overmix).
Form turkey mixture into 1-inch meatballs.
In a 12-inch non-stick skillet heat oil over medium heat and brown meatballs, turning them occasionally, until browned on all sides.

Stir together condensed soup and buttermilk. Pour over meatballs, cover and simmer over low heat until cooked through, about 15 minutes.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

We need cookies!

I'm sorry for my absence. Believe me, I've been wanting to post but my "other" job has required far more of me, in time and spirit, than I had ever imagined.

At our church/school we have had a resignation, a new hire (replacement), and a reduction-in-force in the span of just 30 days.

When I was working for the Federal government these types of personnel changes happened often and without much drama. But now I'm faced with changes that feel very "personal". The people moving on, coming in, leaving....I know them well. I care about them. They are a part of my family. When they rejoice, I rejoice with them. And when they are stressed, I share their pain.

My personal diet has been apples and yogurt, ramen and veggies during the day, and frozen foods/pasta with sauce in the jar, etc. for my family.

So I've not been cooking. I've not been posting.

But now, I'm taking a deep breath and I'm ready to resume thoughts about taking care of my family. And I'm thinking about CARBS!

Really BIG Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats  (do not use instant or quick oats)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4  teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup coconut
1 12-ounce package semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Line two large cookies sheets with parchment paper. Lightly grease parchment paper.

Place oats and 1/2 cup flour in processor; blend until oats are almost ground, about 10 seconds. Transfer oat mixture to medium bowl. Mix in remaining 1 cup flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
Using electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter in large bowl until light, about 1 minute. Add both sugars and beat until well blended, about 1 minute. Add eggs and vanilla; beat until well blended, about 1 minute. On low speed, beat in dry ingredients just until blended (do not over beat). Stir in coconut and chocolate chips.

Drop batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto prepared sheets, spacing evenly apart and forming 6 mounds per sheet. Bake each sheet of cookies 16 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets for 5 minutes. Using metal spatula, transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.

(Can be made 2 days ahead. Store in airtight container at room temperature.)






Monday, April 9, 2012

Obsession

I know it's been a while since my last post. I wish I had a valid excuse (or a "get out of jail card") for my absence. Alas, I'm not basking on the beach at Maui, nor did I win the Mega Millions lottery. And I haven't been ill.

It's Pinterest.

My younger daughter made the unfortunate mistake of showing me her "pins" last week. And that's all it took. I fell into the abyss of Pinterest. It's like the crack cocaine of social media. Dear friends, I might need your help--an intervention.

But in the meantime, please let me share with you one of the amazing recipes I found today on Pinterest. This wonderful dish was created at the blog www.Laurenslatest.com



Lasagna Cups yield: 12
Ingredients:
for the sauce-
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 large onion
1/2 pound lean ground beef cooked and drained
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small zucchini, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-6 oz. can tomato paste
1-8 oz. can tomato sauce {+1/2 can water to wash out can}
1-14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 tablespoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon sugar
salt & pepper to taste


for the cheese filling-
1-10 oz. tub Philadelphia Italian Herb & Cheese Cooking Cream
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
3/4 pound mozzarella cheese, grated & divided
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 egg

21 lasagne pasta sheets


Directions:
For the sauce- heat olive oil over medium heat and saute onions, pepper, zucchini and garlic until tender, 5 minutes. Stir in cooked ground beef and tomato paste until well incorporated. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook 30 minutes or so. {The longer it cooks, the better it will taste!} This will be very thick.



For the cheese filling- stir all ingredients together excluding half of the grated mozzarella cheese. Set aside.


For the pasta- Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta sheets 2 minutes less than package directions and drain. Place pasta on greased baking sheet until you are ready for assembly.


For assembly- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 12 jumbo muffin tins with squares of parchment paper. If they don’t stay in on their own, that’s ok–the pasta will help with that. Line the edges of the muffin tins with 1 pasta sheet per cup. {Pasta sheet will overlap about 2 inches.}


Spoon about 1/2 tablespoon of sauce into the bottom of each cup. Next cut 9 pasta sheets into quarters and press one of these pieces of pasta into the bottom on top of the sauce. Top pasta sheet with a generous tablespoon of sauce and then a generous tablespoon of cheese filling. Repeat this pasta-sauce-cheese layering one more time being sure to press out any air bubbles. Top these lasagna cups off with a 3rd piece of pasta, more sauce and the remaining mozzarella cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until everything is hot and bubbly. Serve hot.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Another "use it up" recipe (or bravery in the kitchen)



I've travelled to almost every corner of the United States. Each area I have visited has its own unique beauty, but no where else have I found the diversity of plants that are here in my little corner of the world. My husband and I own a tiny little piece of the "Evergreen State"--one and one-half acres in the Puget Sound region.

When we bought the property years ago, it was completed blanketed with hazelnut, dogwood, maple, and alder trees and the undergrowth was a tangle of ferns, huckleberries, and briars. Twenty years later one acre has been pretty much "tamed"--wild berries and weeds have been replaced by shrubs, perennials and annual flowers. But the "back" one-half acre is still forested and wild.
There is a nature trail that meanders through that section of our property, providing an amazing display of native plants--huckleberries, ferns, trillium, and numerous wildflowers. We are so blessed to be here.


However, there is one rather unwelcome plant that raises its ugly little head each Spring--the stinging nettle. For the unaware or uninitiated, stinging nettles are a beautiful plant (see photo above), but the stems and leaves are covered with millions of tiny hairs--each one ready to release a painful dose of formic acid at the merest brush. The sting causes extreme pain and welts that can last anywhere from several hours to several days.

Well, guess what I did today? I harvested nettles!! Yes, call me crazy, but these denizens of the forest are wonderfully tasty and nutritious if you know how to conquer their "wild side". A brief simmer in boiling water is all that is needed to tame the beast and have a nutritious deep green vegetable ready to be sauted, simmered in soup, or turned into a rich pesto.  Cooked nettles are slightly remeniscent of spinach, but slightly less bitter. 

(I wonder what brave soul first attempted to eat nettles?)

First, you need to wear protective gloves when harvesting nettles. Not canvas or cotton--something non-absorbant such as vinyl or cowhide. Snip just the top part (or first three levels) of leaves and place in a clean bucket. Keep clipping until your bucket is full. Bring your harvest into the kitchen.

Next, bring a large pot of water to boil.

Don a clean pair of rubber gloves and place you nettles into the kitchen sink. Run a bit of water over your harvest and then begin plucking leaves from the plants. Place the leaves in a colander and discard the stems.

Scoop the leaves into the boiling pot of water. Set your timer for 3 minutes, and stir the pot once or twice so that all of the leaves are submerged into the boiling water.

After 3 minutes drain the cooked nettle leaves into a colander and let cool.
When cool enough to handle, squeeze the water out of the cooked nettles (yes, they are safe to touch!). Give them a rough chop on your cutting board and then toss into the food processor. Now you're ready to make pesto.


Stinging Nettle Pesto



  • cooked nettles, squeezed dry, roughly one cup
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Whir until finely chopped. While the blade is moving  slowly pour in:



  • 3/4 cup olive oil
Stop and taste your pesto. You'll probably need to add a bit of salt. If the mixture seems too thick, add some water (about 2 tablespoons).










Saturday, March 17, 2012

The REAL March Madness

It doesn't matter where the roots of your family tree were planted--today we're all a little bit Irish.


I come by this claim honestly, however. My paternal grandmama was Irish, so that puts me at a hale and hearty 25 percent. If eating at an Irish pub isn't your thing, here are several recipes that you might like to try in your own kitchen:



Irish Whiskey Cake


Spotted Dog (Irish Soda Bread)


Colcannon

Sunday, March 11, 2012

If there is cake in Heaven...

Photo: Jamie Chung

 

....this exactly what it will look like. It will be eight layers tall, full of butter and sugar, cream cheese and Southern Comfort (yes, in Heaven), and covered with toasted coconut flakes.

Martha Hall Foose created this spectacular dessert for Bon Appetit magazine (February 2012). This is not a simple one-bowl cake and it definitely requires an investment of time and money, so save this one for special occasions. Pull out this recipe when you want a cake that is definitely rich, over the top, indulgent, spectacular, decadent, and yes, Heavenly.

 

Southern Comfort Coconut Cake

Cake

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 3/4 cups cake flour plus more for pans
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut (not reduced-fat)*
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, warmed to melt*
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Frosting and Assembly

  • 4 cups unsweetened coconut chips*
  • 2 8-oz. packages cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 1/2cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup Southern Comfort
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 5 cups powdered sugar

* ingredient info: Unsweetened shredded coconut, coconut oil, and unsweetened coconut chips can be found at some supermarkets and at natural foods stores.

    Preparation

    Cake

    • Arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Coat cake pans with nonstick spray; dust with flour. Whisk 2 3/4 cups flour and next 3 ingredients in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and butter at medium speed, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth, 3–4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions. Beat until light and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Gradually beat in oil. Beat in dry ingredients at low speed in 3 additions, alternating with buttermilk in 2 additions, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Divide among four 9" cake pans (about 2 generous cups batter per pan); smooth tops with a spatula.
    • Bake until a tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, 22–27 minutes. Transfer pans to wire racks; let cool in pans for 5 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks, remove pans, and let cakes cool completely.

    Frosting and Assembly

    • Preheat oven to 350°. Place coconut chips in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Toast until some of the chips are golden brown (some will remain white), 5–7 minutes; let cool completely. DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.
    • Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter on high speed, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until smooth and creamy, 2–3 minutes. Add 1 1/2 Tbsp. Southern Comfort and salt; beat to blend, about 1 minute longer. Add sugar; beat on low speed to blend. Increase speed to high; beat until fluffy, 5–6 minutes.
    • Using a long serrated knife, cut each cake in half horizontally (most reviews of this recipe suggest that you omit this step). Place 1 layer, cut side up, on a cake stand or plate. Lightly brush with about 1/2 Tbsp. of Southern Comfort. Spread 1/2 cup frosting over. Repeat with remaining 3 layers, Southern Comfort, and frosting. Chill cake for 30 minutes. Leave remaining frosting at room temperature. 
    • Cover sides of chilled cake with frosting. Cover cake loosely with foil and chill overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let cake stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
    • Gently pat handfuls of toasted coconut chips over sides and top of cake and serve.

    Sunday, February 12, 2012

    When life hands you crushed pita chips

    Last Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday.

    Honestly, I can't get excited about a football game. Any football game. I don't even understand football. But, that's not the point. If your team isn't playing, it's all about the ads and the half-time entertainment, right?

    Well, last Sunday was that kind of Super Bowl for us. We were just here for the food. And food we did! One of the things we shared with our friends was a Greek Spinach Dip. The good news is that the dip was wonderful. The bad news is that there were a few last-minute cancellations and no-shows, so we had a lot of dip left over, and the pita chips I had purchased were.................well, they were broken. Crushed. (Maybe that's why they were on the discount rack).

    Yesterday I was determined to use up the leftover dip and the broken chips (waste not, want not). The dip is mostly Greek yogurt, spinach and feta cheese--sounds like the perfect stuffing for a boneless skinless chicken breast if you ask me. And the pita chips--I just crushed them a bit more in the food processor and made crumbs for coating those chicken breasts.


    Greek Stuffed Chicken Breasts (for 2*)
    2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
    2 heaping tablespoons Greek Spinach Dip (see link above)
    1 large egg, beaten
    1 cup crushed pita chips
    2 tsp. olive oil

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

    Place the chicken breasts on a flat surface, with the longest side facing you. With a sharp knife carefully cut horizontally into the chicken breast creating a “pocket.” Cut deeply into but not completely through the breast, so it holds together.

    Place the spinach dip into the pocket. (I used quite a bit of dip--in fact, I used so much the pocket was bulging open. That's not a problem).

    Place the beaten egg in a shallow bowl and carefully dip the chicken breast into the egg, turning to coat both sides. Carefully roll the chicken breast in the pita crumb mixture, pressing gently to help the crumbs adhere to the chicken.

    Heat a large oven-safe saute pan over medium heat. Add the oil to the pan, swirling to coat. Gently place the crumb-crusted chicken breasts into the pan. Cook about 3 minutes on each side or until the crumbs are beginning to brown.

    Place the saute pan and chicken in preheated oven and bake about 10 minutes or until breasts are done.

    * amounts can be doubled




    Tuesday, February 7, 2012

    Brownie Heaven

    
    Believe it or not, this is what a cacao plant
    looks like. The pods contain the cocoa
    beans from which we derive chocolate.
    I did a Google search on "chocolate" and got 66,700,000 hits. That's a lot of interest in a mere bean.

    ...I'm joking of course. Referring to chocolate as a mere bean is like calling Handel's Messiah a nice little song, or Water Lilies by Monet a pretty painting. I have had a love affair with chocolate for as long as I can remember (although some days that's not saying much). But even as a child I didn't care much for Hershey bars. My tastes leaned more toward the dark chocolate of Sno-Caps or nonpareil wafers.

    On Super Bowl Sunday we had two dear friends from church over to watch the game. Mary is an unabashed carb lover just like me. We can rhapsodize at length about bread and pasta, but for both of us it's chocolate that really brings a sigh from our chest and a smile to our lips.

    Yes, I made chocolate brownies but I must insert a word or two of warning. If you like light cakey brownies, this is not your recipe. If you prefer a sweet chocolate treat, this will not be to your liking. However, if you like the taste of really dark chocolate and a brownie the consistency of fudge--THIS is your recipe.

    Dark Chocolate Salted Brownies
    12 ounces (1 1/2 cubes) unsalted butter
    2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate
    1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    2 cups sugar
    3 large eggs
    1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
    1 cup flour
    1/2 tsp. coarse sea salt

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

    Line a 9-inch square pan with foil--the ends of the foil should extend over two sides of the pan to use as "handles" to help remove the brownies from the pan once they are baked and cooled. Lightly butter the foil, or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

    Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Add the cocoa powder and sugar and then whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly blended. Stir in the vanilla and flour.

    Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the edges are set. The center will still be soft. While the brownies are still not, sprinkle the salt on the top and press gently so that it adheres to the top of the brownies. Let cool to room temperature, remove from the pan, and cut into squares.

    Sunday, February 5, 2012

    Greek Spinach Dip

    Photo: James Baigrie; Randy Mon
    (Sunset Magazine)
























    I've not much time to write today--it's Super Bowl Sunday. I don't know who's playing, but I don't want to miss any of the ads.


    Here's an unusual (but tasty) dip I made for our visiting friends. It comes from the website www.myrecipes.com:


    Greek Spinach Dip

    Ingredients

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/4 cup roughly chopped shallots
    • 4 green onions, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
    • 12 ounces spinach leaves
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
    • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    • 1 cup Greek yogurt
    • 1/2 cup finely crumbled feta cheese
    • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
    • Freshly ground black pepper

    Preparation

    1. Heat oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Add shallots, onions, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add spinach and cook, stirring often, until wilted, about 2 minutes.

    2. Using a slotted spoon, scoop spinach into a food processor; pulse until roughly puréed, about 5 pulses. Add remaining ingredients except pepper, pulse once just to combine, then season to taste with pepper.

    Friday, February 3, 2012

    Birthday Cake


    Today is my birthday. I won't say how many years, but suffice it to say I was alive during the Eisenhower administration.

    OK, so today is also National Carrot Cake Day. ......That would not have been my first choice for a birthday cake, but I do have a recipe for carrot cake that I would like to share with you.






    Carb Diva Carrot Cake
    2 cups flour
    2 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. baking powder
    1 tsp. salt
    3 tsp. ground cinnamon
    1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
    1 3/4 cups sugar
    1/2 cup oil
    1/2 cup applesauce
    3 eggs
    1 tsp. vanilla
    2 cups shredded carrots
    1 cup flaked coconut
    1 cup chopped walnuts
    1 8-oz can crushed pineapple, drained


    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch cake pan.

    Sift together the first 6 ingredients(flour through nutmeg) and set aside. Place the sugar, oil, applesauce, eggs, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Mix together with a spoon. Add the dry mixture, and then stir in the carrots, coconut, walnuts and pineapple.

    Pour into prepared pan. Bake for about 45 minutes. Cool and frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting.

    Friday, January 27, 2012

    National Chocolate Cake Day!

    Photo: Hersheys.com

    Today is National Chocolate Cake Day. Could anything possibly make me happier? (Well actually, yes, if there was a National Mashed Potatoes and Gravy Day, but otherwise I'll settle for this).


    I found this recipe in the early 1970's on the back of a can of Hershey's Unsweetened Cocoa. I think I was trying to impress a boyfriend. Boyfriend is long gone, but the recipe still remains a favorite in my recipe file.


    If you like super moist intensely chocolaty cake, this is the recipe for you.

    Best Chocolate Cake
    1/2 cup Hershey's unsweetened cocoa
    1/2 cup boiling water
    1 3/4 cup sugar
    2/3 cup shortening
    2 eggs
    1 tsp. vanilla
    2 1/2 cups cake flour
    1/2 tsp. salt
    1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
    1 cup buttermilk

    Combine the cocoa powder and boiling water in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.

    Cream together sugar and shorting in large mixing bowl; beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time.

    Sift together all dry ingredients. Beat one half of the dry ingredients into the sugar/shortening mixture. Next beat in 1/2 cup of the milk. Add the remaining dry ingredients and then the remaining 1/2 cup buttermilk. Beat 3 minutes on medium speed.

    Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

    Wednesday, January 25, 2012

    Birthday Pie!


    Today is my older daughter's birthday. Unfortunately she has to work today, so we are planning a family celebration tomorrow. I asked what she wanted for dessert and she voted for Dutch Apple Pie.
     
    So what makes an apple pie "dutch"? I don't know where the expression came from, but a Dutch Apple Pie does not have a top crust. Instead, there is a layer of streussel topping. (Hmmm, so maybe the "Dutch" is actually "Deutch"). Anyhow, here is the recipe for Beth's birthday pie:
     
    Cinnamon-Brown Sugar Dutch Apple Pie

    Pastry for a single-crust 8-inch pie

    Filling:
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1/2 tsp. nutmeg
    2 teaspoons cinnamon
    1/4 cup flour
    6 cups sliced Granny Smith apples
     


    Mix the sugars, spices, and flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the apple slices and toss to coat the apples slices evenly with the sugar/flour mixture. Let sit for about 20 minutes or until the apples begin to release their juices and the sugar/flour mixture becomes moist.

    Mound the apples in the bottom of a pastry-lined 8-inch pie pan.


    Topping:
    1 cup flour
    1/2 cup butter
    1/2 cup brown sugar
     
    Combine the flour, butter, and brown sugar in a small mixing bowl until crumbly. Evenly distribute over the top of the pie filling.

    Place the pie on a pizza pan or cookie sheet to catch any drips of spillovers.
    Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 45 minutes.



    Cool in a draft-free place.