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. 


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.

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.

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.

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. 

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!

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.

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. 

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.

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!

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
Goat cheese with herbs
Fig spread (or fig jam, jelly)

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
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 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
Sweet potatoes
Delicata squash
Sweet Italian red peppers
Green bell peppers
Purple bell peppers
Mixed Greens