Friday, May 30, 2008

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet cake. It's something I had never tried yet saw pop up everywhere - recipe mags, Food Network shows, other food blogs. Even Bobby Flay had a cupcake throwdown where the challenged baker's most famous cupcake was her red velvet. I knew sooner rather than later I would give into the desire of trying these out for myself. That time was this past weekend. I made a long one of it taking Tuesday off to make it a 4 day-er and since I had some downtime I couldn't wait to start baking.

I used a recipe for Red Velvet cupcakes from my friend Danielle of Make No Little Meals. She made mini-cupcakes but instead I went for jumbo cupcakes. That's right, I baked them right in my jumbo muffin pan! Ok, well, I actually didn't own a jumbo muffin pan until about a week ago when I decided that since I've always wanted one and these cupcakes would be the perfect excuse to finally invest in it! I actually halved Danielle's recipe (the full recipe appears below) and it made 6 perfectly sized jumbo cupcakes (which took about 26 minutes to bake).

For the frosting, I opted for a typical cream cheese frosting consisting of cream cheese (duh), confectioner's sugar, butter, and vanilla extract.

So, what was the verdict on red velvet cupcakes??? Yummy! I actually may bake another batch this weekend!

Red Velvet Cake
(from Confetti Cakes)

3 ½-cups cake flour
½-cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½-teaspoons salt
2-cups canola oil
2 ¼-cups granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1/3-cup red food coloring
1 ½-teaspoons vanilla
1 ¼-cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 ½-teaspoons white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350* and prepare pans accordingly.

In a large bowl sift together the flour and cocoa, set aside. In a stand mixer with your paddle attachment, combine the oil and the sugar on medium until combined.

Set mixer to low, add the eggs one at a time. Add the food coloring and vanilla slowly until incorporated. Slowly add the flour mixture and the buttermilk—alternating, beginning with the flour. Mix until well combined.

While batter is mixing, whisk vinegar and the baking soda together in a small bowl. Immediately add this mixture to the batter, speed set to medium and blend for only about 10-seconds.

Divide batter into pans and bake until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 20-minutes before removing from pan.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Recipe Remix: Grilled Breakfast Sandwich

It's Recipe Remix time again. This an entry into the second installment of mine and Danielle's adventure - this time the theme was breakfast. There were 6 different foods to choose from - pancakes, french toast, crepes, breakfast sandwiches, eggs benedict, or continental breakfast.

Me, I chose breakfast sandwich because I knew there were so many different ways I could "remix" a typical breakfast sandwich that you would get at a fast food chain. The hardest part was deciding on which direction I wanted to go with it. In the end I decided that I'd pay homage to my grill, yup, that's right, I made a breakfast sandwich on the grill.

Thomas's English Muffins are now making sandwich size "grillers" and that began my grilled breakfast sandwich inspiration. I knew eggs would be involved but, what else? Not ham, not sausauge, not bacon - they are all too predictable. So, I decided on Portuguese Chourico instead!

There is no true recipe for this, more of a method. As my pieces of chourico were grilling, I buttered the outside halves of my english muffins (I had multigrain ones). I actually used melted butter that I seasoned with some garlic powder and onion powder for some extra kick and let those grill away. I finally got to use the side burner of my grill and made the eggs over there (I chose to make the eggs overeasy, but really you could make them however you want). Meanwhile I added American cheese to one side of my muffins and spicy brown mustard. Once the chourico was nice and grilled up I placed it on top, along with the egg and top half of the muffin. The following resulted....

Oh and to add the the "remix" flair of this - we had it for dinner, not breakfast! Who says breakfast sandwiches are just for the morning hours??? Anyway, despite not having an actual recipe, the theme of my entry is it's not only different ingredients that can make a recipe new again, but it can also be the method, which in my case involved grilling!

We have gotten a ton of great entries this time around and are looking forward to posting the roundup sometime next week so keep an eye out for it!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

TWD: Pecan Honey Sticky Buns

When this week's TWD recipe for Pecan Honey Sticky Buns was announced part of me was excited, but part of me was tempered with a little fear. Working with yeast has always been something to intimidate me until my friend Danielle and I had a "cook date" a couple of months ago. She was determined to help me overcome my fear of yeast and we made a lovely french bread together.

Armed with that knowledge and experience, I went into the newest Tuesdays With Dorie assignment with excitement with an ever-so-little nagging fear I might mess something up. Conversely, I knew that this was a chance to boost my confidence if this turned out right.

While the process of making these sticky buns was a bit labor intensive - it's basically a back-to-back days process of letting the dough rise - it was well worth it. I am happy to report I did not mess anything up! Admittedly I was initially concerned with how dense the dough seemed when I took it out of the fridge on Sunday morning. Those fears, however, were alleviated when everything came together beautifully.

The morning I made the actual buns I had opened pretty much every window on the first floor of the house. It was so nice and breezy outside. Then I realized in order to get my buns to rise one last time before baking they were supposed to go into a warm place. My answer to this was to heat my oven to 170 degrees (the lowest it would go) until the preheat phase was over. I then turned it off and propped the door open while I finished up the rolling and cutting processes. So the oven was warm but by no means hot (i.e. I could touch a rack without issue). I then put them in my baking dish, covered with wax paper as Dorie suggests and put them in the oven, with the door still propped open. This gave them a slightly warm environment for rising that my house would not have given with that beautiful breeze flowing in through the windows. About halfway through the rising process I turned the oven on again for about 1-2 minutes, not even letting it heat up to the 170 degrees and turned it off (all while leaving the oven door propped open a couple of inches). This, of course, may not be the right method to go about this, but it worked for me as my rolls rose nicely and were pretty much touching each other which Dorie indicated (see picture above) was the green light for baking.

As far as baking times goes, I am beginning to realize I need to cut the baking time for all of Dorie's recipes down a couple of minutes. I checked my buns after they had been in the oven for about 22 minutes and they were already golden brown. I took them out and realized they were still slightly soft inside so I popped them back in for about 2 minutes and they were perfect. So, it took about 24 minutes to finish mine, not the full 30, which, on the flip side could be due to me cutting them a little small since I got 17 buns out of the recipe, not 15. (But for what it's worth, I needed to cut down the time for the brioche loaf too....)

These sticky buns are absolutely decadent, I think I may have gained a few pounds just by eating one. Anything with that much butter ought to be good. I baked the other half of the dough recipe right into a brioche loaf as suggested in the directions rather than freeze the dough, I've frozen the bread which I look forward to having someday soon as well. All in all, this recipe was definitely time well spent!

Pecan Honey Sticky Buns
(from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)

Makes 15 buns (I got about 17 out of my recipe, I think I cut the first few a little small)

For the Glaze:
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1/4 cup honey
1-1/2 cups pecans (whole or pieces)
For the Filling:
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the Buns:
1/2 recipe dough for Golden Brioche loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating it overnight)
Generously butter a 9-x-13-inch baking pan (a Pyrex pan is perfect for this).

To make the glaze: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the brown sugar, butter, and honey to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Pour the glaze into the buttered pan, evening it out as best you can by tilting the pan or spreading the glaze with a heatproof spatula. Sprinkle over the pecans.

To make the filling:
Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in a bowl. If necessary, in another bowl, work the butter with a spatula until it is soft, smooth and spreadable.

To shape the buns: On a flour-dusted work surface, roll the chilled dough into a 16-inch square. Using your fingers or a pastry brush, spread the softened butter over the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the cinnamon sugar, leaving a 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Starting with the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it for up to 2 months . . . . Or, if you want to make just part of the recipe now, you can use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder. Reduce the glaze recipe accordingly).

With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends of the roll if they're very ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into 1-inch thick buns. (Because you trim the ragged ends of the dough, and you may have lost a little length in the rolling, you will get 15 buns, not 16.) Fit the buns into the pan cut side down, leaving some space between them.

Lightly cover the pan with a piece of wax paper and set the pan in a warm place until the buns have doubled in volume, about 1 hour and 45 minutes. The buns are properly risen when they are puffy, soft, doubled and, in all likelihood, touching one another.
Getting ready to bake: When the buns have almost fully risen, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the sheet of wax paper and put the pan on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the sticky buns for about 30 minutes, or until they are puffed and gorgeously golden; the glaze will be bubbling away merrily. Pull the pan from the oven.
The sticky buns must be unmolded minutes after they come out of the oven. If you do not have a rimmed platter large enough to hold them, use a baking sheet lined with a silicone mate or buttered foil. Be careful - the glaze is super-hot and super-sticky.

What you’ll need for the Golden Brioche Dough (this recipe makes enough for two brioche loaves. If you divide the dough in half, you would use half for the sticky buns, and you can freeze the other half for a later date, or make a brioche loaf out of it!):

2 packets active dry yeast (each packet of yeast contains approx. 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

What you’ll Need for the Glaze (you would brush this on brioche loaves, but not on the sticky buns):
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. (Robin's note: watch your stand mixer during this process since it will take a walk on you....mine crashed into my nearby toaster oven unattended!)

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight. (After this, you can proceed with the recipe to make the brioche loaves, or make the sticky buns instead, or freeze all or part of the dough for later use.)

The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.

Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.
Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fun with the new grill...and leftovers!

I'm the kind of person that dreads letting any kind of food go to waste. I'm not afraid of leftovers or figuring out new ways to make them into something new. When I was kid, my mother had "leftover night" about once a week. I do something similar, or leftovers become lunch for another day, or if I have a lot of excess it goes in the freezer (as long as it's freezer friendly). Let's face it, food is expensive and not getting any cheaper in this economy so I try to always get enough bang for my buck.

This week's leftover challenge: grilled steak. Early last week I made a beef fried rice (complete with veggies and scrambled eggs) with some of the steak but I still had some left and decided to make some quesadillas with the rest on the grill. There's no recipe for this - you could put anything you really want in these. In fact I had a small piece of leftover chicken I diced to make one chicken quesadilla.

Since my steak was already grilled and seasoned I only put steak and cheddar cheese, with some grated pepper jack on these. Onions and peppers would be fabulous on these as well, at least as long as you don't have a onion & pepper hating husband like I do!

To make them, I just brushed olive oil on one side of a flour tortilla, and placed that side down on the grill. Working quickly I placed my steak and cheese over this tortilla, placed another on top, and then brushed the top of that flour tortilla with more olive oil. Then just flip once the cheese is melty and they are ready once you have the appropriate grill marks. Yum!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Panzanella Salad

I mentioned in my previous post that we had my parents and my in-laws over for dinner on Sunday night. We served steaks, baked potatoes on the grill, and my other side was a Panzanella salad.

There is pretty much no way you could go wrong with this salad, anywhere. It's full of bread, yummy veggies, and balsamic vinegar. No matter how you slice it (no pun intended), it's a winner!

This recipe is actually a merging of two recipes that were shared on my local Nest board (one of them being from Stephany). I took some of my favorites from both and made it my own. This is a really great starter or side did for any summer meal.

For us, this recipe was hit as the bowl was emptied at dinner, and it was a big bowl!

Panzanella Salad

1 loaf French bread
1 container of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 seeded and diced cucumber
1 ball, diced fresh mozzarella
1 bag baby arugala
1 for garnish, chopped fresh basil

For dressing:
Olive oil (no measurement, I did this by eye)
Balsamic vinegar (same as above)
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (you may want to adjust your tastes on this and next 2 depending on how much dressing you like/need)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt

Cut bread in cubes and dry out in the oven - about 15 minutes at 375

Combine arugala, bread, tomatoes, cucumber, basil, and cheese in large bowl.

Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, pepper, and salt. Pour over contents in bowl and toss to combine.'s what was for dinner...

Sunday night we had my parents and my in-laws over for dinner. It is something we try to do every other month and always works well. Since my husband and I recently acquired our new grill all I want to do is use it of course! I went through websites and my new Semi-Homemade Grilling cookbook and finally settled on the fact that I wanted to make was just a matter of choosing how I'd like to marinate them.

I finally settled on a red wine marinade from Semi-Homemade. The recipe called for T-Bone steaks but I just bought a few London Broils and cut them up (yes, I know London Broil refers to a cooking method, not a cut of steak, but that is what they call them in the store!).

The rest of the recipe calls for making a red wine butter which did not tickle my fancy at all so I didn't make it, but the marinade was great and the steaks were really tender considering the cut (yeah, I'll admit it, I can be cheap sometimes!). Since I had such large pieces of steak, I did increase all of the amounts of the ingredients since I had to marinate each steak in a separate bag but below I listed the original measurements.

Despite this being a Sandra Lee recipe (yes, flame away!) - I feel like Robin Miller this week. I may be cheap but I always over buy so we had/have quite a bit of beef leftover so Monday night I put it in a fried rice I made and tonight I think I'll be making some steak quesadillas!

Oh and those beautiful cross grill marks on the steaks? Thank Alton Brown for that. I was watching his show recently and he talked about how to get those grill marks so I made my husband do the same. Who doesn't want a purdy steak? Hehehe...

Red Wine Marinade for Steaks

(From Semi-Homemade Grilling 2)

1 1/2 cups red wine

4 1/2 teaspoons salt free garlic-herb seasoning

1 tablespoon Montreal Steak seasoning (I used a reduced sodium version)

Place steaks in a large zip-top bag. Add 1 1/2 cups red wine, the garlic herb seasoning, and steak seasoning. Squeeze air out of bag; seal. Gently massage bag to combine. Marinate in refrigerator for 2-4 hours.

Set up grill for direct cooking over high heat. Oil grate. Let steaks stand at room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Remove steaks from marinade; discard marinade. Place steaks on hot, oiled grill and cookf or 5-7 minutes per side (we needed more time since our steaks were larger and thicker). Transfer steaks to platter and let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding Trifle

Read that blog title again.
No, you aren't dreaming, I'm for real! The title alone caught my attention with this recipe, i.e. had me glued to the screen for when the recipe was finally going to be shared!

I saw this recipe on Paula's Party a few weeks back. Katie Joel (Billy Joel's highly age inappropriate wife) came on the show to make it. My husband and I watched, and drooled, over this concoction. With everything in it it just had to be good!

I have a confession to make about the recipe...
It was even better than I imagined!!!!

Yes, it was just that good. This whole dessert was absolutely decadent from start to finish. I brought it to my best friend Michelle's house as she and her fiance had us over for dinner last weekend. Since the host half of our gracious host/hostess duo did not like butterscotch pudding I used chocolate pudding and I imagine it would be just as tantilizing with vanilla pudding.

My only complaint is that my whipped cream totally flattened out. I assembled the trifle in the morning and by the time we left the house it had flattened significantly. I'm not sure if this was caused by the weight of the bread pudding, or the fact that I used light whipped cream, or maybe even that I should have used more (which is my preferred theory, I love whipped cream).

I am also submitting this to Weekend Cookbook Challenge which monthly has a new theme - this month's theme is recipes seen on cooking shows. I participated in this challenge a few months ago when the theme was pressure cookers, slow cookers, and dutch ovens. With the amount of Food Network I watch, I knew meeting this month's challenge would be no difficulty!
Oh, and where did I find chocolate croissants you may ask? Au Bon Pain - since they have the best ones I know of!

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding Trifle
(from / Paula's Party)

1 (6-ounce) box butterscotch pudding, cooked according to package directions
4 bananas, sliced
4 snicker bars, chopped fine
1 (12-ounce) container whipped topping

Let the Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding (recipe below) cool to room temperature.

Into the trifle bowl, add half of the croissant pudding. Spread it out evenly. Scoop in half of the butterscotch pudding, add a layer of banana slices and half of the chopped snickers bars. Smooth on half of the whipped topping. Repeat the layers, ending on whipped cream, top with a final sprinkling of snickers.

Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding:

6 chocolate croissants, very coarsely chopped
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Put chocolate croissant chunks in an 8-inch baking dish. In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and eggs. Pour mixture over croissants. Let sit for at least 10 minutes.

Bake for 40 minutes

Cookie Carnival!

I recently joined Cookie Carnival hosted by The Clean Plate Club - every month members are sent a new cookie recipe to try out.

The timing of when I received this month's recipe was uncanny. Just the day before I had agreed to participate in my local nest board's "Secret Baker" swap - where we were paired up with another nestie and were to send them baked goods of our choice. This recipe reminded me of a blueberry muffin and I figured it's rare that you can go wrong with a blueberry muffin!

I halved this recipe and unfortunately it only made 1 dozen so I'm not sure how much I buy into the fact that this recipe supposedly makes 4 dozen. I also found the batter a tad dry so I added some butter to it (about a tablespoon - remember, I halved the batch). All things being said though, they passed the taste test I had prior to sending out these cookies to my secret recipient. I was fairly happy with the outcome. They did, indeed, remind me of a blueberry muffin!

Blueberry Drop Cookies
(courtesy of Emeril Lagasse)

One-half cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
One-fourth cup milk
One-half teaspoon almond extract
One and one-half teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
One-half teaspoon salt
1 cup blueberries, rinsed and picked over

In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening, sugar, egg, milk, almond extract and lemon zest, mixing well after the addition of each ingredient. Slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt. Fold in the blueberries and mix until well blended.

Cover and chill for 4 hours. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls, one and one-half inches apart onto greased cookie sheets. Bake 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before removing them with a spatula.

Makes about 4 dozen.


Danielle & I have decided to extend the deadline for Recipe Remix by a week. So if you wanted to participate and didn't have the time, you still do! All entries are due by Wednesday, 5/28.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

TWD: Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie-Cake

This week the chosen recipe for Tuesdays with Dorie was for Madeleines, which call for a special baking pan so we were given the option of making one of the past recipes from the rotation instead. I almost bought a Madeleine pan then decided to save my money and go for the Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie-Cake. I had trouble deciding on this one as there have been so many great recipes that TWD has made in the past. I decided on this recipe, however, since we were having my parents and my in-laws over for dinner on Sunday night and I knew that this recipe would be a hit. Anything with apples is a hit in our family!

I had a pretty easy time of this recipe for the most part. I did not need the extra 1/4 cup of flour, my dough was definitely dough without it. I did have some trouble rolling it so patchworked it as Dorie suggests. I used Splenda for the apples since my father-in-law is diabetic and did sub half of the sugar in the dough for Splenda which could be one of the reasons my dough came out a little dry from the oven, however, it was certainly still very much edible and delicious! Another reason the cake part could have come out dry - I only baked this for 65 minutes and it did come out a bit browner on top than expected, next time I would definitely cut the baking time down to 60 minutes.

The only thing I wish I hadn't done was not use 10 apples, I used 2 large apples and 6 medium ones and it seemed like a lot of apples. While my filling was not lacking, after getting a taste of this I wanted more of them! Perhaps this was another reason it cooked up quicker than I expected. Next time though. Overall this was a great recipe and it may become a new fall favorite (since my husband and I have a habit of picking way too many apples each fall!)

Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie-Cake
(From Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking: From My Home to Yours”)

For The Dough
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 1/4 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

For The Apples
10 medium apples, all one kind or a mix (I like to use Fuji, Golden Delicious and Ida Reds; my grandmother probably used dry baking apples like Cordland and Rome)
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar, for dusting

To Make The Dough: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice - the dough will probably curdle, but don’t worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3 1/4 cups of the flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down the bowl as needed. The dough is meant to be soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra 1/4 cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)

To Make The Apples: Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice - even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that’s fine - and add the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon, and/or lemon juice if you like.

Getting Ready to Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9×12-inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking shee tlined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it’s a little more malleable, you’ve got a few choices. You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan - because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven’s heat. Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about 1/4 inch thick - you don’t want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that’s fine; if it doesn’t that’s fine too.

Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenely across the bottom.

Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you’ve got a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don’t have that much overhang, just press what you’ve got against the sides of the pan.)

Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.

Bake for 65 to 80 minutes, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature. You’ll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The newest member of our (culinary) family

Behold.....the new Charboil....

Isn't he just the cutest grill you ever did see?

Ok, enough gushing, we bought this baby last week and could not wait to use it. Unfortunately weekend plans and weather prevented us from using it until a full week later after we brought it home. Finally Wednesday night arrived and the weather was perfect for some grilling.

I recently bought Sandra Lee's "Semi-Homemade Grilling 2" book. It has a lot of great recipes in it and I can't wait to use it more. DH had actually pointed out this particular pork recipe when I first bought the book a few weeks ago. Since the grill is his domain, he was actually interested in this cookbook which I thought was pretty impressive on its own!

I had bought a pork roast over the weekend and decided I would modify this recipe and make the roast on the grill instead of chops. The lore of brines and how wonderful they are always intrigued me but this being my first brine I am hooked! This pork roast came out incredibly moist, flavorful, juicy, and tender. I made minor measurement adjustments considering this was a roast and not 4 chops as Sandra's recipe was written for, and put it in the brine in the morning before I left for work, so it was in there a good 8 hours.

To go along with our lovely pork roast, I whipped up a Bobbly Flay recipe for Grilled Sweet Potato and Scallion salad to which I only made minor adjustments. Between the pork and this salad I was on a taste of summer overload and it's about time! I can't wait to do lots more grilling as the weather warms up!

Beer Brined Pork Roast
(Inspired by Sandra Lee's "Semi-Homemade Grilling 2")

1 3 - 3 1/2lb pork roast

For beer brine:

3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 (12oz) bottle lager style beer
2 1/4 tablespoons spicy brown mustard
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Place pork roast in large zip-top bag; set aside. For Beer Brine, in a small saucepan combine water, salt, sugar, and peppercorns. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Simmer until sugar and salt are dissolved. Remove from heat. Stir in beer, mustard, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. Pour over roast in bag. Squeeze out air from the bag and seal, and then gently massage bag to coat the roast. Marinate for 4-8 hours in refrigerator.

Set up grill for indirect cooking over medium heat. Oil grate when ready to cook. Let roast stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Remove roast from brine and pat dry with paper towels. Discard brine. Place roast on hot, oiled grill and cook for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours rotating roast about halfway through cooking. Serve hot.

Grilled Sweet Potato and Scallion Salad

2 large sweet potatoes, par-cooked and cut into 1/2-inch slices
4 scallions
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoons honey
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat grill to high. Brush potatoes and scallions with oil and arrange on grill. Grill potatoes for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until just tender. Grill scallions until softened and marked. Remove scallions from the grill and cut into thin slices.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup olive oil, the mustard, vinegars, and honey. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add potatoes, scallions, and parsley and toss until potatoes are well coated. Transfer to a platter and serve

(picture of finished product above with pork)

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Chili Rubbed Tilapia

Let me just make a confession.

I've never really cooked fish unless it was a meal from Super Suppers. I love to cook my own meals but I always like to have a couple of Super Suppers dinners on hand for those long days when I just don't feel like cooking and usually those meals that I do buy are fish because for some reason I've been apprehensive about cooking fish. And we love fish so it's ashame I don't really make it.

The other night, however, while in the supermarket making a quick run for a few things I needed for the week the mood struck me for fish so I bought some tilapia.

I got it home, and mind you, I was home alone that night as my husband was away on business and now I've decided that I'm making myself fish for dinner merely because I felt like it. Yes, an odd craving to have!

I immediately came online when I got home to look for some inspiration how to season/cook it and I found a recipe for a chili rubbed tilapia that sounded good - and it was - despite the horrid picture in which my fish kind of fell apart and my camera went blurry on me. I would definitely make this again.

Quick, easy, delicious....I think I can handle this fish thing!

Chili Rubbed Tilapia

2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pound tilapia, Pacific sole or other firm white fish fillets
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice

Combine chili powder, garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt on a plate. Dredge fillets in the spice mixture to coat. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook until just opaque in the center, gently turning halfway, 5 to 7 minutes total. Divide among 4 plates. Immediately add lemon juice.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

TWD: Florida Pie

It's Tuesdays with Dorie time again! Dianne from Dianne's Dishes chose this week's recipe for Florida Pie - i.e. Key Lime pie jazzed up with some coconut!

Until Sunday, I had never had Key Lime pie - ever. There is always room in my stomach to try something new, though! I decided to make it to bring to my parents' house for Mother's Day. All in all, it went well, except that I overbeat the meringue. I had never made meringue before Sunday and I honestly was a little frightened by it. It was goin gwell though. I checked my stand mixer and it looked good to me at some point. But the instructions said to beat it until it was room temperature and I still felt the whites were pretty hot, so I kept the beater going. I checked not a minute later and the meringue had flattened, a lot. Despite my meringue being a bit flat, the pie overall was pretty tasty, just wished I had gone with my gut and stopped beating the meringue when it looked right.

I'm a big fan of coconut and I thought it was a great combo with the lime. It was a nice slice of tropical heaven!

Florida Pie
(from Baking from My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)

1 9-inch graham cracker crust (page 235), fully baked and cooled, or a store-bought crust
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
4 large eggs, seperated
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup fresh Key (or regular) lime juice (from about 5 regular limes)
1/4 cup of sugar

Getting Ready:

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the pie plate on a baking sheet lined with parchment of a silicone mat.

Put the cream and 1 cup of the coconut in a small saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-low heat, stirring almost constantly. Continue to cook and stir until the cream is reduced by half and the mixture is slightly thickened. Scrape the coconut cream into a bowl and set it aside while you prepare the lime filling.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl beat the egg yolks at high speed until thick and pale. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the condensed milk. Still on low, add half of the lime juice. When it is incorporated, add the reaming juice, again mixing until it is blended. Spread the coconut cream in the bottom of the graham cracker crust, and pour over the lime filling.

Bake the pie for 12 minutes. Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes, then freeze the pie for at least 1 hour.

To Finish the Pie with Meringue:

Put the 4 egg whites and the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat over medium-low heat, whisking all the while, until the whites are hot to the touch. Transfer the whites to a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, or use a hand mixer in a large bowl, and beat the whites at high speed until they reach room temperature and hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold the remaining 1/2 cup coconut into the meringue.

Spread the meringue over the top of the pie, and run the pie under the broiler until the top of the meringue is golden brown. (Or, if you've got a blowtorch, you can use it to brown the meringue.) Return the pie to the freezer for another 30 minutes or for up to 3 hours before serving.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Don't forget....

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Entries are due by 5/21

Friday, May 9, 2008

Giada to the rescue!

This weekend I took some ground turkey out of the freezer with no idea what to make with it in the coming week. I did not feel like making something typical - so that meant no meatloaf, burters, meatballs, or shepherd's pie (since I sometimes use ground turkey to make that). So I started browsing some of my favorite websites for inspiration. I came across a Giada recipe for Turkey & Artichoke stuffed shells and I had everything in the house, except the shells. After a quick market run, I was in business!!!

I made a few changes to this recipe (which is how it will appear below). I used a can of artichokes rather than the frozen since that is what I had in the house and I used dried herbs instead of fresh as her recipe called for, I just can't justify the high cost for fresh herbs right now for a meal that's just for my husband and I. I have to say, modifications and all, this was great!! My husband and I love artichokes and it had been quite some time since I made stuffed shells at all so this was perfect.

Giada says this makes about 24 shells, and she includes freezing directions. Either I have small shells, or I was stingy on my stuffing because I made somewhere around 40 or so shells. So I cooked some for dinner immediately and froze the rest per her directions. My husband isn't a huge fan of any kind of red sauce so I still found this recipe made plenty even though I almost doubled the amount of shells! I did add more cheese though to compensate for my large batch! I certainly don't mind that this recipe made a ton of shells - it will make a great quick meal one night when I don't feel like cooking!!!

(And in a shameless plug - don't forget about the Recipe Remix event!!!)

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce

1 (12-ounce) box jumbo pasta shells (recommended: Barilla)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus 1/4 teaspoon
1 (15 oz) can artichokes, drained and roughly chopped
1 (15-ounce) container ricotta cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
5 cups Arrabbiata Sauce, recipe follows
1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella (about 5 ounces)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and partially cook until tender but still very firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 4 to 5 minutes. Drain pasta.

Meanwhile, in a large heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and the garlic and cook until the onions are soft and starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Add the ground turkey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is slightly golden and cooked through. Add the artichoke hearts and stir to combine. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl combine the cooled turkey mixture with the ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, eggs, basil, parsley, and the remaining salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

To stuff the shells, cover the bottom of a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish with 1 cup of Arrabbiata sauce. Take a shell in the palm of your hand and stuff it with a large spoonful of turkey mixture, about 2 tablespoons. Place the stuffed shell in the baking dish. Continue filling the shells until the baking dish is full, about 24 shells. Drizzle the remaining Arrabbiata Sauce over the shells, top with the grated mozzarella. If freezing, cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 1 day and up to 1 month.

To bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until the shells are warmed through and the cheese is beginning to brown, about 60 minutes (20 minutes if shells are unfrozen.)

Arrabbiata Sauce:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 ounces sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 cups jarred or fresh marinara sauce

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until tender, about 1 minute. Add the marinara sauce and red pepper flakes and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and let cool until ready to use.

Yield: approximately 6 cups

You Make My Day!

I am honored to be given the "You Make My Day" award from my friend Danielle of Make No Little Meals. Now it's my turn to spread the happiness to others who make MY day...

Dell of Cooking and the City (although if I had to guess she's already gotten this award, she's such a sweetie!)

Baking Blonde - fabu recipes here - I want to try them all!!!

Cara of Cara's Cravings - another sweetie with fabulous recipes!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Curried Chicken Salad

I finally used my "Food Network Favorites" cookbook! Well, I always get around to using my cookbooks, sometimes it just takes longer than I would like....

I had an extra chicken breast recently that needed to be cooked so I did, figuring I'd use it for chicken salad sandwiches for lunch. Then I remembered one of the recipes I wanted to try in my aforementioned cookbook for Curried Chicken Salad.

This is a Dave Lieberman recipe, who I don't really watch on Food Network, so it's almost ironic that his was the first recipe I made out of the book - either way - it was yummy and a nice change fro mthe usual!

The original recipe calls for the salad to be served in lettuce cups and with 4 whole chicken thighs. As I mentioned, I used a large chicken breast instead, and I adjusted my measurements as I saw fit. I'm leaving the recipe as it's published since I think the lettuce cup idea is a great one (even though mine is obviously on bread!) and a way I will look forward to serving this in the future!

Curried Chicken Salad in Lettuce Cups
(from Food Network Favorites)

4 whole chicken thighs
1 lemon, quartered
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro stems
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3/4 cup halved seedless red grapes
Butter lettuce leaves, for serving

Put the chicken thighs, lemon, cilantro leaves and stems into a skillet or saucepan. Fill with water just to cover the chicken and season generously with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to maintain a very gentle simmer. Cook until the chicken is tender and falling from the bones, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and allow to cool. When cool, remove the skin and strip the meat from the bones, discarding the skin and bones. Reserve the meat.

In a bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, curry, honey, and lemon juice. Stir in the scallions, celery, and grapes until combined. Add the cooled chicken meat and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve heaping portions of the salad in butter lettuce leaves.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


As I mentioned previously, I hosted a brownie swap this past weekend. It was a blast and so much fun to see all of the different brownies there can be! Blondies were accepted too of course. Half of the fun of hosting something like this is trying to figure out what you will make yourself!

Since I figured there would be a lot of chocolate confections, I stuck with 2 blondie options as my contributions. The first is for Cinnamon Toast Blondies, from The Girl Tastes. This recipe won the first ever Master Baker challenge with the secret ingredient of cinnamon so I knew it had to be good, and boy, was it! I skipped the sugared pecan step since I was running a little short on time but honestly these were fabulous and I'll definitely be making them again. My husband is a cinnamon fanatic so he was probably even more pleased with the results than I was! I baked these in a 9x9 pan since I doubled the batch and only have one 8x8 pan. I cut the baking time down and they still turned out fine!

My second contribution was a Paula Deen recipe for Orange Brownies. I'm not sure why they are called brownies since they truly are a blondie, there is nothing chocolate related in them, but either way I thought it was a pretty unique recipe that I thought was perfect for this event. I'm not the biggest orange fan around, I can take it or leave it, but I have to say they came out pretty tasty. Again this is another one that received 2 thumbs up from the hubby, he loves orange too, which is another reason I made them. Isn't he a lucky guy????

All in all, I would definitely do this again some time. I think it was a fun variation on the typical cookie swap. And plus, who doesn't like brownies????

Orange Brownies

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
4 eggs
2 teaspoons pure orange extract
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 recipe Orange Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 13 by 9 by 2-inch pan.

Stir together flour, granulated sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add butter, eggs, orange extract, and orange zest. Using a handheld electric mixer, beat until well blended.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until light golden brown and set. Remove from oven, allow to cool and pierce entire cake with a fork. Spread the Orange Cream Cheese Frosting over completely cooled brownies. Cut into squares.

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons softened butter
1 (1-pound) box confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice

In a large mixing bowl, whip the butter and cream cheese together with a hand-held electric mixer. Gradually beat in the confectioners' sugar until it is all combined and smooth. Beat in the orange zest and juice. Spread over brownies.

Cinnamon Toast Blondies
(from The Girl Bakes)

Oven Temp.: 350°
Approx. Bake Time: 20-25 minutes
Yields: 8×8 inch dish

1 c. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
7 tbsp. butter, melted
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 c. pecans, toasted and chopped

2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Whisk the flour, salt, and cinnamon together. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar with the melted butter. Stir in the egg and vanilla. Stir in the dry ingredients. Stir in the pecans. Spread batter into an 8×8 baking dish.

Mix together the cinnamon and sugar for the topping. Sprinkle this mixture over the batter. (You will likely have more than enough.)

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Don’t over-bake. The blondies may seem underdone, but will set as they cool. Allow to cool before cutting into bars.