Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Cheese Stuffed Dates

A couple of months ago, some friends had a house warming party.  They served this appetizer.  They went fast!  I recreated them for something to snack on on Christmas day, while we were cooking and waiting for dinner.  I made half with the prosciutto and half without.


1 pound dates
4 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces marscapone cheese
10 fresh basil leaves, torn
Salt and pepper to taste
Prosciutto (optional), cut into 1 1/2 inch strips

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Slice the dates length wise and discard the pits.  In a small bowl, combine the cheeses, basil, salt, and pepper.  Stuff the dates with the cheese mixture.  If you choose to make this vegetarian, skip ahead to the baking instructions.  If not, wrap each date with a strip of prosciutto. 

Place the dates on a baking sheet (lined with aluminum foil makes clean up very easy).  Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the cheese is slightly melted and the prosciutto is crispy.  Serve while warm.

Creamy Pasta with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Mint

I was in charge of the veggies and whatnot for Christmas dinner, while my brother cooked all the meats.  I decided to have a vegetarian main dish in the form of a creamy pasta dish. 
 
*Sun dried tomatoes aren't shown in the picture due to a food allergy...No one's getting sick because of my food!


1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Break the asparagus in about two inch pieces.  Then toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Roast for about 10-15 minutes, until the asparagus is just beginning to crisp.  You can also put them on a grill pan instead (or if you have a "real" grill, you can just toss them on there).  Remove from heat and set aside.

1 pound whole wheat pasta
4 ounces goat cheese
4 ounces Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint, separated
1/8-1/4 cup pasta water
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta until al dente. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the cheeses,butter, 1/4 cup mint.  Slowly add pasta water until the desired "creaminess" is achieved (don't add too quickly or sauce will be runny).  Then add salt and pepper to taste.

When pasta is cooked, drain and place in a large serving bowl.  Add the cooked asparagus, and sauce.  Toss well.  Add sun dried tomatoes for extra flavor and top with rest of mint.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Feast of the Seven Fishes!

The title of this post may be slightly off...should really be Feast of the Four Fishes (how's that for alliteration??).  Feast of the Seven Fishes is a southern Italian tradition.  It is mainly celebrated here in the United States by Italian Americans. In theory, seven fish dishes (often heavy in the shellfish department) are served on Christmas eve.  It takes hours and hours to do all the cooking and eating.  Typically, food comes in shifts.  Cook a little, eat a little, cook some more, eat some more.  Since it was just me and my father this year, we did an abridged version of four fishes instead.  (Seven seemed a bit ambitious to eat by ourselves.)  We still ate in shifts.  We cooked two of the fishes and ate them...then while we were making the next dishes, we were making room in our bellies for more.  Good system!  Here are the recipes from the night!  Oh, a pleasant surprise was the calamari.  I had always been intimidated to make it, but wow!  So light and delicious...and easy to make.  *There isn't a picture for the stuffed jumbo shrimp only because we went a little overboard with the stuffing...you couldn't even see the shrimp.
 
Baked Scallops

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
6-8 bay scallops
Salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a small baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste. Add the scallops and toss to coat. Allow to sit for 5-7 minutes to marinate.

Then place the scallops into the baking dish in one layer. Top with the bread crumbs and cut butter. 

Bake for about 15 minutes, until bubbly and the topping is golden.  *Check the scallops at the 10 minute mark.  If they are drying out, add a couple of tablespoons olive oil to the top and return to the oven to continue cooking.

Fried Calamari

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound cleaned squid (tentacles too!) bodies cut into 1/3- to 1/2-inch-thick rings

Canola oil (several cups)
Lemon wedges for serving
Marinara sauce for serving

In small bowl, combine the flour, parsley, and salt and pepper.  Toss well.  Set aside.

Cut the squid into 1/2 inch rings. Leave the tentacles intact.

Meanwhile, place enough oil in a large saucepan to reach about 2-3 inches.  Heat over medium-high heat.  Make sure the oil is hot before you start (I had a "sacrificial tentacle" to test when it was hot enough.)  Place the squid in the flour mixture to coat.  Be sure to coat the entire ring (inside part too).  Then in small batches, add the squid to the oil.  Cook for about 1-2 minutes until golden brown (any longer and they get chewy).  Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.  Hint: cook the rings together and cook the tentacles together.  They cook at a slightly different speed so it's easier to keep track if you keep them separated.
Serve with lemon wedges and marinara.



Cod with Orange Juice, Chives, and Spinach

1 cod fillet (or other white fish like tilapia)
1 orange, juiced, seeds removed
1/4 cup chives, chopped
1/2 cup balsamic marinade (I used ones you can find at Whole Foods, a substitute can just be olive oil and balsamic vinegar)
1 cup fresh spinach, loosely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil, juice, and chives over medium heat.  Cook for five minutes.  Add the cod (whole fillet is fine).  The cod breaks apart as you cook it.  Cook for 3-5 minutes and then add the marinade.  Stir well.  Add the spinach and salt and pepper. Continue to cook for another 3-5 minutes.  Serve while hot. (Actually does well reheated for lunch the next day!)


Baked Stuffed Shrimp
Adopted from Whole Foods

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided

8 jumbo raw shrimp, deveined, shelled, tail left on (if you have a dad standing right there...make him do this part)  :-)
2  large cloves garlic, finely minced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, finely minced (used a food processor...easy smeasy!)
1 cup bread crumbs (I used whole wheat)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup butter, melted
Salt and pepper
1/8 teaspoon chili pepper
Serve with lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray.

Butterfly the shrimp so they lay flat. Place in the baking dish.

In a small saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and mushrooms mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes until the liquid is released.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the bread crumbs, parsley, chives, butter, salt and pepper to taste, and chili powder.

When the mushrooms are done cooking, remove from heat and add the bread crumb mixture.  Combine well.  Then top the shrimp with the mixture (again we got a little zealous with how much we added...but it was so yummy!!).

Bake for 15 minutes until the shrimp are pink and the topping is lightly browned.  Serve with lemon wedges.




Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coconut Macaroons

One of my favorite indulgences would have to be coconut macaroons.  So much sweetness, great texture...and my personal trainer yells at me, but oh so yummy.  I made these for a Toys for Tots bake sale yesterday.  This was our second bake sale for them and we raised about $1000 for their cause! 


1 cup all purpose flour
1 bag shredded coconut
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line and grease a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients.  Drop the dough about one inch apart (they don't spread).

Bake for 12-15 minutes until lightly toasted.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Roasted Sweet Potato with Rosemary & Garlic

Sweet potatoes was on sale the other day at the market and I think I went a little overboard.  I brought home about 10 pounds of sweet potatoes...for one person.  I have gotten a little bored with just roasting it with a little salt and pepper.  This is a slight twist to keep my taste buds happy.



2 small sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon rosemary (fresh or dried)
2 large garlic cloves, sliced very thinly

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly oil a baking dish/pan. 

Cut the sweet potatoes in half length wise.  Make cuts in the potato in diagonals (forming a diamond shape).  Place smooth side down on the baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the orange juice, oil, salt, and pepper. Brush the sweet potatoes with the juice mixture.  Sprinkle with rosemary over top.  Then top with the garlic.

Bake for 20-24 minutes, until sweet potatoes are soft when tested with a fork.



Scrambled Egg with Parmesan & Herbs

Tonight was definitely a breakfast for dinner kind of night.  This dish only took about five minutes total to make, so dinner was fast on my table (a plus after a long day).



1 tablespoon butter (or margarine)
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 egg

In a small bowl, scramble the egg with a fork.  Add the dill and turmeric.

Melt the butter in a small saute pan over medium heat.  Once the cheese melts, about two minutes, add the egg mixture.  Cook for three minutes, until the egg is cooked. 

Spiced Apple with Caramel Drizzle

I made these cupcakes last week and haven't had a chance to put them up yet. I will be posting often over the next few days to keep up with the Feast of the Seven Fishes (love those Italian traditions...always centered around food).  Tonight's dessert includes handmade cannolis with ricotta, so be sure to check back often!


Cupcakes:
2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped small
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup apple sauce
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roast the chopped apples on a baking sheet about 15 minutes, until soft. Set apples aside to cool.  Lower the oven to 350 degrees and line a cupcake tin.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, spices, salt, and baking soda. Set aside. In a large bowl, add the eggs, oil, juice, apple sauce, and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in batches to the egg mixture. Mix until smooth.  Fold in the baked apples. 

Fill the liners until about 2/3 of the way full and bake for 18 minutes. These tend to cook quickly, so if your oven is hot, be sure to keep an eye on them.

Frosting:
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups confectioners sugar

Combine all ingredients, adding the sugar until the desired consistency is achieved.  Top the cooled cupcakes. *Optional* Drizzle caramel on top of the cupcakes for extra sweetness.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Bean Burger with Spicy Guacamole

After so many posts on desserts, it is necessary to branch out again. Necessary in the sense that my waistline is suffering.  These burgers have lots of protein and fiber, all while being vegan.  The guacmole adds a great kick; however, if you're not a fan of guac, I'd suggest adding some cayenne pepper to the burgers. 



Burgers:

1/4 cup quinoa, cooked
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 can black beans, mashed
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a medium skillet.  Add the onion and cook until lightly fragrant.  Add the garlic, beans, paprika, and cumin. Remove from heat and add to a large bowl.  Combine the quinoa, flour, cilantro, salt and pepper.  Mold into a large bowl and wrap with plastic.  Refrigerate for a half hour.

To cook, mold the bean mixture into a patties.  Heat the skillet and add one tablespoon of oil.  Cook the burgers about four minutes on each side.

Guacamole:

1 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice from 1/2 lime
1 tablespoons onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (to taste)

Mash the avocado in a small bowl together and combine all ingredients. Top the bean burger.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tabouleh

I'm a big fan of Mediterranean food.  Greek, Italian, Lebanese...it all makes me very happy.  One of my favorite Lebanese foods is tabouleh.  I think when you go out to eat at a restaurant, it's only as good as it's hummus and tabouleh.  Tells a lot about a place. 



1 large bunch parsley, chopped
4 tablespoons bulgur (cooked)
Juice from one lemon
1 tablespoon mint, chopped
1 large tomato, chopped
1 cup romaine lettuce
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss well.  Allow to sit for about 20 minutes before serving to allow for flavors to meld.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Chocolate-Raspberry Torte

My very good friend, Mindy, came to visit this weekend.  Rather than run around the city doing touristy things like seeing the monuments or museums, we spent our time eating at a couple of the city's great restaurants.  We went to Founding Farmers - a place where the menu is based on sustainable and local when possible foods - where I had an amazing lemon-pepper fettuccine (note to self: figure out the recipe for this one.  Amazing!) and Zaytinya - a Greek/Mediterranean tapas-style restaurant, fast becoming one of my favorites.  While we weren't engorging ourselves on restaurant food, we were baking at home.  We made pizzelles and a very rich chocolate-raspberry tart.  I had a small piece and wow.  Mindy deserves all the credit for this one.  Thank you Mindy for the wonderful recipe!  My co-workers will be quite happy tomorrow (and my personal trainer will not be as happy with me tomorrow evening).



Crust:

1 ¾ cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs (13-14 whole crackers)
½ cup sliced, toasted, cooled, and finely chopped almonds
1/3 cup sugar
7 tablespoon butter, melted

Heat oven to 350. Have ready a 9-in. tart pan with removable bottom.

Mix crust ingredients in bowl until moistened. Press over bottom and up sides of tart pan. Bake 15 minutes.


Filling/Topping:

12ounces semisweet or dark chocolate chips
1 ½ cup heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons raspberry flavored liqueur (such as Chambord)
2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam
2 tablespoons sugar


Heat chocolate chips and 1 cup of cream in microwave until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. (Tip: heat for 30 –45 seconds at a time, stirring well after each heating. Chocolate chips will hold their shape until you stir them.) Do not cook too long or the chocolate will burn. Once mixture is melted, stir in 3 tablespoons of liqueur and let stand 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, spread raspberry jam over bottom of crust. Pour chocolate mixture over the raspberry jam layer; refrigerate 4 hours or until firm.

Shortly before serving, remove tart from pan. Beat remaining ½ cup whipping cream, 1 tablespoons liqueur, and sugar until stiff peaks form (about three minutes). Serve with tart.

Pizzelle

Growing up, my dad would make pizzelles.  They are one of my favorites.  Light, crispy with a hint of anise.  Yum!  For those of you who aren't the biggest anise fans, don't be deterred.  I actually hate liquorish flavors, but it's such a light hint, that it actually compliments the other flavors. 



1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 - 1 1/2 teaspoons anise
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted


In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and anise together.

Using a mixer, combine the eggs and sugar and beat for about one minute. Then add in the melted butter in a steady stream as you mix.

Add the flour in two batches to the egg mixture. Mix only for about 20 seconds.  Don't overmix.

Then using a pizzelle press, add one teaspoon of batter.  Allow to cook for about one to two minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool on a flat surface.  It becomes crispy as it cools.  If you want, replace the anise with one teaspoon of vanilla for canoli shells and cool around rods.  Another thing you can do is cool the pizzelles around a ramican.  The cooled shells can then be used as an edible bowl.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Lemon Cupcakes with Blueberry Frosting

Today is the last day of one of my co-workers.  She is an amazing, talented, and will be missed!  But alas, her fellowship is only so long.  Thankfully she will be staying close.  In true fashion I insisted that she put in a request for a baked good.  She requested lemon cupcakes.  I think these would also be good with raspberry frosting (didn't have any frozen from the summer...only blueberry).



Cupcake:
2 1/4 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
Lemon zest from one lemon
Juice from one lemon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.  Line the cupcake tin with liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another medium bowl, whisk together the milk and egg whites until well blended.

Then in another bowl, combine the sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix until the sugar is just moistened.  Add the butter and mix until fluffy. 

Taking the egg mixture bowl, add half the flour mixture and mix well.  Then add half of the sugar mixture.  Then add the remaining flour and sugar mixture, alternatively.  Add the vanilla.

Once the batter is smooth, pour into the cupcake tin.  Bake about 18 minutes.

Frosting:
1/4 cup blueberries (thawed if frozen)
1/2 cup  unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of salt
3 cups confectioners' sugar

In a food processor, puree the blueberries.  Place in a large bowl and add the butter, vanilla, lemon, and salt.  Mix until well incorporated.  Then slowly add the confectioners' sugar, a cup at a time, until desired thickness is achieved. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Champagne Cupcakes!

I was looking through foodbuzz.com to gain inspiration for new types of cupcakes to make.  And then (dramatic pause here), I found cupcakes with (another dramatic pause) champagne!  I've had a bottle of champagne in my house for a couple of months and thought with the end of the year, it would be really festive to bake with it.  Okay, I just wanted to see how the whole baking with champagne would go.  It definitely adds quite the sweetness to the cake.  Wow.  Prepare for the sugar rush!  I made them in a "regular" sized cupcake pan, but think these would be great as mini-cupcakes due to their sweetness.  I did add in a pastry creme filling; however, I found that it didn't enhance the cupcakes the way I thought it would.  Frankly, I had people either loving the filling or being the dreaded lukewarm about it.  So, for this recipe, I omitted it. 





Cupcake:

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup champagne or prosecco

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with liners.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add vanilla.

In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup champagne and 1/2 cup sour cream (mixture will fizz).

Then add the flour and champagne mixtures alternately, beginning and ending with flour. Batter will be thick.

Fill cupcake tin about 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 15 minutes. Set aside and allow to cool.


Frosting:


1 cup plus 1 tablespoon champagne or prosecco
1 cup butter, softened
2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

Place 1 cup of champagne in a small saucepan. Simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to 2 tablespoons (will be lightly browned). Transfer to a small bowl or condiment cup and allow to cool.

Then in a large bowl with an electric mixer, combine the butter and powdered sugar until fluffy.  The add the reduced champagne plus the remaining 1 tablespoon champagne.  Mix well.  Frost the cupcakes and enjoy!




Monday, December 5, 2011

Tiramisù

I have promised one of my classes that I would make Tiramisù for them.  Since I had been sick with the evil cold turned laryngitis for the last two weeks, I've been putting it off.  This weekend, I was finally feeling better.  I made a huge platter of it and was very tempted to sample it, but my will power won out...until tonight's class when I will engorge myself try a little.

1 1/2 boxes of lady fingers
3/4 cup brewed strong coffee, cooled
1 ounce grated semi-sweet chocolate
8 ounces marscapone
4 egg whites
1 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
2 egg yolks
cocoa powder for dusting

In a large bowl, mix the sugar and yolks together until fluffy.  In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed.

Fold in the marscapone to the yolk mixture.  In batches, fold in the egg whites.  (Fold in, do not mix!)

Briefly dip the lady fingers into the coffee and place in a single layer in a baking dish (close together).  Sprinkle the chocolate over top and then spread half the egg mixture over top.  Put another layer of lady fingers (dipped in coffee) on top.  Spread the other half of the egg mixture on top.  Dust with the cocoa powder.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving.  May be made a day ahead.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Apple and Cranberry Crisp

While at Trader Joe's, I saw bags of fresh cranberries.  Other than canned and juiced cranberries, I have not seen, let alone cooked with fresh cranberries.  I know!  It was so bad that I even had to look up how to cook and prepare them.  Thankfully, all that is need is to wash and heat to release their juices.



Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a pie dish with non-stick cooking spray.



Filling:

1 cup fresh cranberries
2 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger

Combine the above ingredients in a bowl. Add to the prepared pie dish.

Topping:

4 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 tablespoon flour
1/2 stick butter, softened

Using your hands, combine the above ingredients until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add to the top of the fruit.  Bake for 30 minutes until lightly golden and bubbly.

Roasted Sweet Potato with Saffron Butter

Sweet potatoes are a staple at farmers markets this time of year. I decided to make a slight twist to the standard roasted sweet potato: flavored butter.  I actually haven't made flavored butter before.  Infused olive oils, yes.  Flavored butter, nope!  The saffron complimented the potato quite nicely if I may say so myself.  Ha!



2 sweet potatoes
1 container of fresh butter, softened
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1 large garlic clove
2 tablespoons milk, warmed slightly
Pinch of saffron threads

Place the sweet potatoes in an oven preheated to 300 degrees.  You may do a couple of things with them.  One, keep them whole and roast them until they are soft through when poked with a fork.  You can also chop the potato.  Either way, drizzle with olive oil and cook until soft through.

In a small bowl, combine the milk and saffron threads and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, process the garlic and parsley well.  Add the softened butter and milk and process until well combined.  Then put the butter into a container.  Refrigerate for a half hour.  Top potatoes with butter.

Arugula Salad with Marinated Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

I've been craving this all week, but have been too sick with a cold to have the energy to make anything.  There's something about arugula that is so satisfying.  This salad is easy to put together and incredibly flavorful.




Salad:

8 mushrooms, stems removed
1 teaspoon thyme
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 handful arugula
2 tablespoons goat cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Place the mushrooms on a baking sheet. Drizzle with the olive oil, garlic, and thyme. Cover with foil. Roast fo 30 minutes, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes.

Dressing:

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon olive oil

Combine all ingredients to make the dressing.

Place the arugula in a bowl or plate. Add the roasted mushrooms. Sprinkle with a small amount of salt and pepper to taste. Top with the goat cheese and parsley. Enjoy while the mushrooms are still warm.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Croutes au Fondue Duxelle

Last weekend, my friend Kelly and I went to Cook in Ashburn, VA. We had gotten a great deal on Groupon. It was a blast!  The instructor was extremely knowledgeable and gave all sorts of cooking hints.  The place itself was beautiful, clean, and the layout was conducive to watching the instructor while cooking.  I have been to other cooking schools and this one was by far the best.

The theme of the class was Dinner with Julia...Julia Childs that is.  Our menu included Steak au Poiver (pepper steak with brandy sauce), Gratin Dauphinois (scalloped potatoes with milk, cheese, and garlic), Mousseline au Chocolat (chocolate mousse), and Croutes au Fondue Duxelle (toasted bread with mushrooms and cheese).  It was absolutely delicious and so much fun! 

Here is my re-creation of the Croutes. Be forewarned however.  They are addicting.  I just polished off an entire pan.



Croutes
Sliced bread, cut into rounds (crusts removed)
Melted butter

Brush the tops of the bread with butter.  Place in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Toast in the oven for five minutes. 

Fondue Duxelle

1 cup mushrooms, minced
1 tablespoon butter
Salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet, melt the butter.  Add the mushrooms.  Continue to saute until the liquid is evaporated and the mushrooms cook dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 tablespoon flour
3/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon butter

In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter and whisk in the flour. Cook together for 2 minutes without coloring. Remove from heat and whisk in the milk and seasonings. Return to heat, whisking continuously, and boil for one minute. Sauce should be very thick. Taste for seasoning.

Remove from heat. Place the egg yolk in the center of sauce and beat vigorously with the whisk. Beat in cheese, mushrooms, and remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.

Place the filling on top of the croutes and enjoy!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes


So, the last couple of weeks, I have pretty much only posted cupcakes.  For those of you who read regularly, you know I am in charge of making about 150 cupcakes for a company awards party.  My little one bedroom apartment kitchen will be put to the test.  I have faith!  I promise to do some good non-cupcake cooking this weekend. 

Cupcakes:
1 cup flour
3 tablespoons + ½ teaspoon cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon butter, softened
¾ cup + 2 teaspoons sugar
1 ½ eggs
1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon sour cream (full fat)
3 tablespoons + ½ teaspoon milk
1 ounce red food color
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

*Note the odd amounts of ingredients.  I reduced it by half.  Currently, it makes 20 cupcakes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Then switching to a whisk, add the eggs and mix.  Add the sour cream, milk, food color (typically whole bottle), and vanilla. 

Fill the cupcakes about ¾ of the way.  Cook for 18 minutes.


Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar

In a large bowl, beat the all ingredients together until smooth.  Frost the cooled cupcakes.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Three Squash Soup

Last week, I brought my graduate students to the diner that the nutrition department bought out.  I challenged them with each bringing one item of their choosing (no discussion beforehand on who brings what) from the farmers market.  Then they had to cook using only those ingredients.  I did bring olive oil, salt and pepper.  The rest was up to them.  I was so impressed with how creative they all immediately got.  The whole point to the exercise was to see what the meal nutritionally lacked or satisfied and how easy/difficult it was to cook seasonally, especially as the weather turns colder.  An interesting observation was few people brought the more expensive items, like bread, meats, eggs, honey.  Lots and lots of veggies.  So in addition to just what was available, they understood how finances often dictated how people shopped and in turn, what they ate.

Anyway, one of the hits of the evening was a three squash soup.  We used delicata, acorn, and butternut.  I recreated it this afternoon.  Well, almost.  I couldn't find any delicata at the market, so I substituted fresh pumpkin and I did use some whipping cream and milk in this version to thicken it up a little and added some spices/herbs on hand.  I would also have a post on roasted pumpkin seeds, but alas, they are already all gone.



1 butternut squash, chopped, de-pulped and peeled
1 acorn squash, chopped, de-pulped and peeled
1 small pumpkin, chopped, de-pulped and peeled
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups water
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1/4 cup milk
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

On a baking sheet, spread out the chopped squash.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, until soft. 

In a small pan, combine the olive oil, garlic, and onion.  Saute until soft, about 2 minutes.

Then using a food processor, process the onion, garlic, and squash until smooth.  Add to a large pot, along with the water, cream, milk, nutmeg, and ginger.  Raise the heat to medium, until lightly simmering.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Zucchini with Poached Quail Eggs

While I was at Whole Foods this afternoon, I came across quail eggs.  I have seen quail eggs many times before, but have never tried them.  With my dad's help (who has eaten them many times), we created the recipe below.



1 zucchini
1 1/2 teaspoon  mayonnaise
1 lemon, juiced
Salt and pepper
Quail eggs (I used three, but wish I made more!)

Using a mandolin, slice the zucchini thinly.  Then slice them into thin strips.  Set in a bowl and using about 1 teaspoon of lemon, toss.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

In another small bowl, combine the rest of the lemon, mayonnaise, and a little more salt and pepper (little!). 

Once the zucchini has sat in the lemon juice for about five minutes, arrange on a plate.  Add the poached quail eggs to the middle.  Top with the dressing. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Cupcake #2 for the cupcake tasting.  This one is a little more labor intensive than most cupcakes as it requires a few steps. 



Cupcakes:

1 2/3 cup flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cupcake tin with liners.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, combine the sour cream, milk, vanilla, butter, and sugar.  Add in the eggs.  Add the flour mixture to the sour cream mixture.

Filling:
1 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter (smooth)
1/2 stick butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using an electric mixer, beat all ingredients well in a medium-sized bowl.

Fill each tin with one tablespoon of batter.  The take a small about of the filling and roll into a ball.  Place in each cupcake tin.  Cover with another tablespoon of batter.  Bake for about 18 minutes.




Frosting:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons whipping cream (or soy milk)

In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese, peanut butter, and vanilla together.  Add the vanilla, sugar, and milk.  Mix until smooth.  Frost the cooled cupcakes.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sur La Table Giveaway!

Welcome to my first giveaway! Enter to win a $10 gift card to Sur La Table. A winner will be randomly selected on Friday, November 4th at 12:00 (eastern standard time). 

To enter to win, leave a comment describing what you would use with the gift card. 

For additional entries (separate comments for each please):

1. Become a Google Friend Connect follower (if you aren't already) and leave a comment saying so.

2. Like Vita e Pane on Facebook and leave a comment saying so.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mocha Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream

Tomorrow is round two of cupcake tasting.  That means that tonight I have been baking away.  First up, Mocha Cupcakes.



Cupcakes:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup brewed bold coffee, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cupcake tin with liners.

In a large bowl, combine the vanilla, butter, and sugars.  Mix well until fluffy.  Add the egg and beat well. 

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and soda, and salt.  In a small bowl, combine the coffee, milk, and vanilla.  Add the coffee mixture and flour mixture to the sugar mixture.

Fill the cupcake tins 3/4 of the way and bake for 16 minutes. 

Frosting:
1 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon ground coffee

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, combine the butter, sugar, vanilla, and coffee.  Mix well until smooth.  Frost the cooled cupcakes.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Vita e Pane on Facebook

I have created a facebook page for Vita e Pane.  "Like" the page to get updates on blog posts, as well as other fun tidbits!

Vita e Pane on Facebook

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Caramel Cupcakes with Salted Carmel Frosting

The cupcake tasting went wonderfully!  No cupcakes were eliminated from the running.  I'll be making three additional types of cupcakes for tasting next week.  This may be an interesting run-off next week since I'd like to not make all six for one event!


Cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick of unsalted butter, soft
1 cup + 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoons vanilla
2/3 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with papers.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt together.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter, vanilla, and brown sugar. Add one egg at a time, beating after each one. Then in batches add the flour mixture and buttermilk, mixing well after each addition.

Fill the cupcake pans about halfway with the batter. Bake for about 12 minutes.

Frosting:
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoon water
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 stick salted butter, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat. Continue to cook until the sugar turns a light brown. Pour into a small bowl and add the heavy whipping cream and vanilla. Immediately mix well until combined. The sugar is likely to harden quickly. Set aside to sit to allow the cream to be flavored by the caramel.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, cream the butters and salt using an electric mixer. Add the confectioners’ sugar. Pour in the cream and mix well. Add more sugar as needed to get desired consistency.

After frosting the cupcakes, I found that the sweetness was...quite profound (I can only handle so much sugar), so I lightly (very very lightly) sprinkled a small amount of salt on top.  This helped to put emphasis on the salty/sweet aspect.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes

In a few weeks, my company will be having a large awards celebration.  I'm on the committee to chose the awards.  Somehow that got translated into me also making about 150-200 cupcakes for the event.  Not that I'm complaining (hopefully I can pull off making that many in my small apartment kitchen), I enjoy doing these things.  I put together a list of cupcake ideas and they promptly requested a taste testing.  How else could they properly evaluate?  (My kind of people!)  Last night I made a few different cupcakes as part of the "taste testing".  One of which was the Vegan Lavender Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting.  The others were a Salted Caramel Cupcake (to be posted over the next day or so) and the Spiced Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon and Cream Cheese Frosting. 


Cupcakes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground all-spice
4 large eggs
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 cup light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Line cupcake tin with paper liners.

In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together flour, baking powders, salt and spices. In another large bowl, combine sugar, eggs, melted butter and pumpkin puree with an electric mixer on med-low until well combined.  (You want the melted butter to be cooled slightly as to not cook the eggs when combined.)

Then in batches add the flour mixture. Beat until well combined and there are no clumps.  The batter will be thick.  Add the batter to the prepared tin.  Fill about halfway.  Bake for 15-17 minutes.


Frosting:
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoon Vietnamese cinnamon

Using an electric mixer, cream the cream cheese and butter together. Add the vanilla and cinnamon. Then in batches, add the powdered sugar. You may need to add in additional confectioners’ sugar to get the desired consistency (for thicker frosting, add more sugar). At first this doesn’t seem like a lot of frosting, but it will easily frost at least 24 cupcakes.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pear and Fig Open-Faced Pie

The effort to only use foods bought from my local farmers market is continuing!  Officially the EcoChallenge is ending this Saturday.  I have found that there are some challenges that go along with buying only local and organic.  Mainly the convenience issue.  This point was driven home when I used my lunch hour to go to the farmers market, only to discover the market had been cancelled that day (not on the website or anything!  Still slightly annoyed by that).  I had to rush to find another market and leave work a little early in order to fit everything in before guests came over that night.  While it would've been much easier to stop off at the grocery store, I took comfort in knowing that not only was I staying true to my commitment, but I was serving my friends the freshest possible ingredients. 

I bought milk (first time I've bought milk from the farmers market) and pears that day.  I had honey still from earlier in the season (also a market purchase).  I imagine that apples and other fruits could be substitutes for the pears.  It's not overly sweet; however, the raw sugar dusted on the crust helped a bit!


Crust
12 dried figs (stems cut off), quartered
2 large Asian pears, peeled, and cut into 1" cubes
1/4 cup raw sugar (plus extra for dusting)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon milk

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a a large baking dish with aluminum foil.  Spray with cooking spray.  Roll out the crust.  Beauty about this pie is that it doesn't have to be a perfect circle. 

In a large bowl, combine the figs, pears, both sugars, cinnamon, salt, and honey. Spoon the mixture into the center of the crust.  Fold the edges of the pie around the pear mound.  Pinch the edges together slightly to prevent them from unfolding during cooking.  Then brush the edges of the crust with milk.  Sprinkle with the raw sugar.  Bake for about 45 minutes.  Cover the crust with foil halfway through if it starts to brown too much. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Garam Masala Deviled Eggs


I absolutely LOVE deviled eggs.  It's rare for me to find a type that I don't want to make everyday for the next month.  I decided to do a twist on the classic version (here's a recipe from earlier this year deviled eggs). 



8 hard boiled eggs (I made these a day ahead)
2 tablespoons mayo
2 sprigs green onion (more if they're small and thin)
1/2 jalapeno, de-seeded
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 heaping teaspoon mango jam (found at Trader Joe's)
Italian sweet pepper, chopped (for the topping, may substitute other peppers)

Slice the eggs in half long ways, removing the yolk.  Add to a food processor, followed by the rest of the ingredients (omitting the Italian sweet pepper).  Process until smooth.  Taste and adjust the mango jam, garam masala, or jalapeno as necessary.  Spoon mixture into the egg whites and top with the peppers (adds a nice crunch to the texture). 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Crostini with Goat Cheese, Fig, and Fried Sage

This is a continuation of the foods served at my party on Friday.  This combines several different flavors and textures, the salty from the toasts, the sweetness of the fig, creaminess of the goat cheese, and crunch from the sage leaves.  Perfect for snacking.


1 loaf water bread, sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Goat cheese with herbs
Fig spread (or fig jam, jelly)
Sage

Spread the sliced bread in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil.  LIGHTLY (not too much) sprinkle with salt.  Bake until they are a light golden color.

Allow the bread to cool to room temperature.  Then heat a small saute pan over medium heat.  Add enough olive oil to the pan to fry the sage (completely cover the bottom of the pan with oil).  Once the oil is hot (don't burn the oil), add several sage leaves.  The sides will roll and remove after about 30 seconds.  Transfer to a paper towel to absorb the extra oil. 

Spread the goat cheese on the toasts, followed by some fig.  Top with a sage leaf.

Carmaelized Onion and Eggplant Crostini

I had my get together the other night.  I had to rush to the farmers market (the second one that day) and thankfully, it was open.  Phew!  I sped home (thankfully, no tickets) and got to work.  Here's one of the appetizers.  I was expecting this one to not be the favorite, but people polished it off!  (Sorry for the picture being a little blurry.  My phone isn't the best at taking pictures.)



1 small eggplant, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt
Pepper
1 loaf of the water bread
Fat free feta, crumbled

Heat two saute pans over low heat.  Add about three tablespoons of olive oil in each.  To one pan, add the onion.  In the other, add the eggplant.  Toss to coat well.  Continue to cook for about 8 minutes.  Add the garlic to the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.  Do not allow to brown (add olive oil to the eggplant and onion if needed).  Then add the onion to the eggplant (the eggplant should be soft) and add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, slice the bread and lay on a baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake until lightly browned. 

Take one tablespoon of the eggplant mixture and top the bread.  Crumble the feta cheese on top and serve. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Water Bread

As part of my EcoChallenge goal, I have not gone to the grocery store for any food (I did run out for laundry detergent yesterday...just about ran out of clothes!). While I was at the farmers market last Saturday, I did not buy any bread. I am a HUGE bread baker. There’s something about the kneading the dough, smelling the yeast and freshly baked bread from the oven that is incredibly therapeutic. Tonight I am having a bunch of friends over for a get together. Some of what I’m making require toasts. This is the bread I’m using…it has a great “crusty” crust, similar to French bread and has a simple and fresh taste as to not take away from the flavors that I will be piling on top of it.



1 ¾ cups warm water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
2 pinches of sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
5 cups all-purpose flour + extra for dusting

In a large bowl, pour in ¼ cup of the water. Add the yeast and sugar. Stir well and let stand until foamy (about 10-15 minutes).

Then add the rest of the water, oil, salt, and egg whites to the yeast mixture. Whisk well. Beat in the flour a little at a time until a dough forms. Turn out on a floured surface and knead well until the dough is smooth.

Lightly grease your original bowl and return your dough to the bowl. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for about one hour.

Grease a baking sheet with cooking spray. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead for only about one minute (if you knead too much it can become tough). Shape your dough in rolls, loafs, etc. Let rest for about 15-20 minutes (the dough will rise some).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (make sure the oven is heated all the way before baking the bread.

Lightly dust the bread with flour and bake for about 15 minutes. The dough will sound hollow when you tap on it with the back of a spoon and be golden brown.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Delicata Squash Salad

When I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner, I opened up my fridge and was quite happy to see it full of colorful veggies. I decided to experiment with delicate squash. I had read online (consult the “google”) that the skin is quite thin and is able to be eaten (unlike butternut squash which tends to be thicker and more tough). I was pleasantly surprised when I sampled the roasted squash. Very sweet (in addition to the honey) and light. I suggest using some sort of bitter greens to go along with the squash just to off-set the sweetness. The beans give extra nutrients and help fill you up.


Delicata squash, de-pulped, and sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 small onion, minced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
½ cup white cannellini beans, drained, rinsed
Kale (or other more bitter green)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly coat the squash with the olive oil. Lay the squash in one layer on a baking sheet. In a small bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar and honey. Brush the squash with the mixture. Bake for about 15 minutes. Careful not to burn the bottoms of the squash.

Meanwhile, heat a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook while continuously stirring for about 2-3 minutes. Do not allow to brown. Add in the leftover balsamic vinegar mixture, along with a splash of red wine vinegar (about 1 tablespoon). Reduce by cooking for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Lightly toss the reduction with the kale and beans in a large bowl. Add the squash to the top and enjoy!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

EcoChallenge 2011


Welcome to EcoChallenge 2011!




Today is Day One of the EcoChallenge.  The EcoChallenge is put on by the Northwest Earth Institute and asks people to pledge to change one unenvironmentally friendly habit they have for two weeks.  This could be simply to turn off lights when they leave the room, eat more local foods, take shorter showers, etc.  The hope of course, is that people keep these friendlier habits after the challenge is over.  Since I love food, my challenge completely food related.  Here's what I have committed:

Purchase ALL my food from the local farmers market...no running to the grocery store to supplement.

Purchase ONLY organic/ecoganic foods from the farmers market.

No eating out at all (not even grabbing a bagel for breakfast). Cooking all my meals and snacks at home, where I control the ingredients and production.

I eat fish once a week (no meat otherwise), so I will only chose fish that has been sustainably raised...again from the farmers market only.


To start the two weeks off right, I went to the farmers market and stocked up on lots of veggies...all organic and ecoganic.  So, the next two weeks will be a food challenge!  I will be using what I bought at the market and combine with staples I have at home already (whole grains, etc). 




 Here's what I'll be working with:

Butternut squash
Eggplant
Sweet potatoes
Delicata squash
Sweet Italian red peppers
Green bell peppers
Purple bell peppers
Onions
Cilantro
Tomatoes
Kale
Eggs
Mixed Greens

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Mint Frosting


My sweet tooth was triggered with my vegan lavender cupcakes, so I decided to make some more cupcakes.  Since I'm not going to the farmers market until Saturday morning and I'm out of eggs, vegan cupcakes to the rescue!

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon distilled vinegar
1 cup water
Mint frosting (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake muffins.

In a medium sized bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together. Then add the oil, vanilla, vinegar, and water. Mix well. Pour into the prepared cupcake tin and bake for about 30 minutes.

Frosting
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
2 cups powdered sugar
6 teaspoons soy milk

Mix the ingredients together using an electric mixer. Add more or less soy milk depending on your desired consistency.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pasta with Creamy Italian Sweet Pepper Sauce

I bought a few Italian sweet red peppers at the farmers market last week.  I hadn't cooked with them before, but they looked so fresh and tempting.  They are similar to a bell pepper, only longer and more narrow.  And they taste even sweeter than its bell pepper counterpart.  I first thought about stuffing them with goat cheese and then roasting them.  Then I got a little addicted to the goat cheese one morning and promptly ran out.  Oops.  So, a new sauce emerged. 


3 Italian sweet red peppers
1 large clove of garlic
Salt
Chili powder
1/4 cup reduced fat cream cheese
1/2 cup fat free milk
Freshly torn basil leaves (about 6)
Whole wheat pasta cooked al dente

Add the peppers (deseeded and trimmed), garlic, and a pinch of salt to a food processor.  Process until smooth.  Remove the pepper mix and add to a medium sized skillet over medium to high heat.  Add a dash of the chili powder to offset the sweetness of the peppers.  Then add the cream cheese and milk.  Continually mix well and cook for about 5 minutes.  Toss with the pasta and add the torn basil on top.  Serve while hot. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Vegan Lavender Cupcakes with Lemon Frosting

I love the smell of lavender!  It's second only to the smell of fresh bread from the oven.  I decided to go vegan for this recipe mainly because I was completely out of eggs.  I need to go grocery shopping....I digress.  These cupcakes are light and not too overwhelming in either sweetness nor flavor.



1 cup plain soy milk (unsweetened)
Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 vegetable oil
3/4 cup raw sugar
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoon dried lavender flowers
Lemon frosting

Preheat the oven to 350. Line muffins pans.

In a small bowl, mix the lemon and milk together. Sit aside for 10 minutes to allow the milk to curdle.  You have now made soy buttermilk!  (So much cheaper than buttermilk you buy in the store...you can do this with regular milk and lemon as well.)

In a medium sized bowl, combing the flour, corn starch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Mix briefly.

In a separate medium sized bowl, whisk the oil, sugar, and vanilla extract together.  Add the flour mixture and combine until smooth.  Sprinkle in the lavender, roughly rubbing the lavender between your fingers are you add (this will help release some of the flavor of the flower).  Mix and then add the mixture to the prepared pan.  I made mini-cupcakes which took about 12 minutes to cook.  If you use regular sized muffin tins, increase the time to about 15 minutes.  What carefully to not brown.  Top with the frosting.

Note - The flowers on top are made out of gum paste.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ravioli with Mushrooms and Mascarpone with Pesto

In addition to the dishes in my previous post, I also made homemade ravioli with portobello mushrooms and mascapone.  It's a little more labor intensive and requires a longer recipe, hence the split from that post.  This is my favorite ravioli recipe (no cheating with wonton on wrappers!).  You do need a couple of tools (yay for kitchen gadgets!): ravioli press, rolling pin, and a pasta maker - hand crank. Warning, it does take a couple of hours to make, add in a little extra time if it's your first try at making ravioli.  It takes some getting used to in order to figure out what is a good consistency and how thick to make them.  Trust me, it's completely worth it!


Pasta:
Flour
Eggs
Olive oil
Salt

In true home cooking fashion - particularly Italian home cooking - there are no amounts of how much to use of each.  Don't panic!  Stay with me....

In a large bowl, crack two eggs.  Then add in flour.  You want approximately one cup of flour for each egg.  Then put in about three tablespoons of olive oil.  Then add a pinch or two of salt.  Using your hands, yes be prepared to get a little messy, combine the ingredients well.  Knead until the dough is smooth.  If you're noticing that the dough is sticky after kneading it for several minutes, add some more flour.  If it's crumbly and dry, add some more olive oil (or a splash of water).  What's important is that the dough becomes smooth and elastic.  Form a ball and cover with a damp towel.  Allow to rest for about 30 minutes. 

Filling:
2 packages of baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 green onion sprigs , chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 8-ounce container of mascarpone (found in most grocery stores)
Salt and pepper

In a food processor, add the mushrooms and chop (much faster and easier than doing it by hand).

In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and saute for about 2 minutes, do not allow to brown.  Then add the mushrooms and onion.  Cook for about 7-8 minutes, until the mushrooms release their juices.  Continue to cook for a few more minutes until most of the liquid is cooked off.  Remove from heat. In a medium sized bowl, add the mushroom mixture.  Then stir in the mascapone.  The heat will melt the mascarpone somewhat and that's fine.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Pesto:
Fresh basil
Olive oil
Salt
Garlic
Parmesan cheese
Pine nuts, lightly toasted

In a food processor, add the garlic cloves, pinch of salt, olive oil (about 1/3 cup), Parmesan cheese, a handful of pine nuts and basil together.  Blend until smooth.  You may need to adjust by adding more olive oil if it's very thick or more basil if there's too much olive oil. 
Assembly:

Breaking off a handful of dough, run it through the pasta maker on the thickest setting, making a flat lasagna-like sheet.  After running it through a couple of times to get a smooth sheet, lower the thickness setting by one.  Run the sheet through a couple of times.  Keep doing that until the thickness is at 4.  I've found this to be ideal.  Not too thick and not too thin to tear.  The sheet will be long

Laying the sheet on top of the ravioli press, with one end lined up with the end of the ravioli press, put about a 1/2 teaspoon of filling in the center of each mold.  Fold the "extra" dough on top of itself.  Then roll the dough out on the press.  This will seal all edges.  Be aggressive with it!  Press hard or else the edges won't close.

Push out the ravioli and lightly dust with corn starch or flour.  (Corn starch is good if you're going to wait a couple of hours to cook - the dough will get gooey if you don't put corn starch on it.)

Repeat the above steps for the rest of the dough and filling.

Cooking:

Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add in 5-6 ravioli at a time (don't overcrowd).  Cook for about 3 minutes.  Remove from water.

Toss the ravioli with the pesto and serve hot.