Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pizza Puffs

These are incredible. I'm not sure what else to say. These are fast, delicious, and sure to be a hit anytime. It is all the flavor of pizza in a quick and easy bite. These have quickly become one of my all time favorite game night snacks. These could be changed for different flavors,  I am hoping to try a ham and cheese variety for a brunchy type of item. The only thing I would advise about changing these is to be aware of the moisture content in the added ingredients, things like pineapple and mushrooms release moisture. I am not sure how they would affect the baking. I will experiment and update this. Otherwise feel free to play around with your favorite pizza toppings Also, this doubles well and unused batter can be refrigerated. Just make sure to bring it to room temp before you bake it and it will tend to cook a little quicker, so watch it.

* For those of you that don't have mini muffin pans, the next time I make this I will just blob out the batter on a cookie sheet and see what happens. I know they won't look as nice, but they may cook just fine.

Pizza Puffs 
(Adapted from Gimme Some Oven)

3/4 cup flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. dried basil (or fresh if you have it)
3/4 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 oz.(about 1 cup) mozzarella cheese, shredded
4 oz. (about 1 cup)pepperoni, diced
1/2 cup pizza sauce (I like Barilla Tomato and Basil Sauce)
    Preheat oven to 375o.  Grease a 24-cup mini muffin pan (really important-not just for getting them out, but also for browning).  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and basil; whisk in the milk and egg.  Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni; let stand for 10 minutes.
    Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups ( like to use a cookie scoop).  Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan after cooling a few minutes.Warm the pizza sauce. Serve the puffs with the pizza sauce for dipping.
    Enjoy, because I know you will!

    Tuesday, November 9, 2010

    Coconut Cake

    For his birthday, my husband asked for a coconut cakeHe even found a recipe in my America's Test Kitchen cookbook and  without even looking at it I said "sure, no problem I can do that". Here is a little tip for you all: always look at the recipe. Once I looked at it I saw that it called for cream of coconut, not only did I not know what that was, I also didn't know where to find it ,or how much 3 cups of it was going to cost me. Not that I am blaming my husband for giving me some crazy cooking challenge, I knew that he simply wanted a coconut cake. So the hunt was on for the the perfect coconut cake recipe. And where else to go then to the Barefoot Contessa, who is always serving her husband wonderful things on perfectly coordinated  and decorated lunch trays? Oh to live the life of the Barefoot Contessa... except I would hate for Scott to be gone all the time and I would get sick of  always wearing denim button-up shirts. Anyway, back to the cake, I found both  a recipe for coconut cupcakes and coconut cake and the only difference was that the cake used milk and the cupcakes used buttermilk. I wanted the flavor and moist texture from buttermilk, so I used the cupcake recipe and just baked it in cake pans for longer. If you wanted to make cupcakes, simply bake for 25-30 minutes.
    This cake turned out wonderful and while the softness of the frosting made it a little tricky to frost, it balanced nicely with the dense cake.

    Coconut Cake
    (The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook)

    Cake Ingredients
    3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
    2 cups sugar
    5 extra large eggs at room temperature (or six large eggs, since I never buy extra large)
    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract ( I used 1 teaspoon coconut extract since I had some on hand)
    3 cups flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup buttermilk
    7 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut

    Frosting Ingredients
    1 pound cream cheese at room temperature
    3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1/2 teaspoon almond extract (I used coconut)
    1 1/2 pounds powdered sugar, shifted

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two round  8 or 9 inch cake pans. I like to add a circle of wax paper  or parchment paper  on the bottom of the pans and then grease over that (wax paper is way cheaper and will work just as well for this). This will help the cake come out without getting stuck.

    In an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This should take about five minutes. It is important that your butter is really soft, or creaming it could take awhile. With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time. Make sure to scrape the bowl after each egg is added. Add the vanilla and almond or coconut extract.

    In a separate bowl, shift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Alternately add the dry ingredients and buttermilk into the bowl. Make sure to start and end with the dry  and mix briefly after each addition. Mix only until is is just combined, over mixing will cause a dry and dense cake. Gently fold in the coconut. Pour the batter into the cake pans. The batter should come up almost to the edge of the pan. If you are using 8 inch pans, you will have a little left over. I poured it into a mini loaf pan and cooked it along with the cakes. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is browned on top and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in the pan and then remove and cool on a cooling rack for a few hours.

    For the frosting, add the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla and almond or coconut extract to the bowl of a mixer and cream together on low speed. Once this mixture is smooth, add the sugar and mix until smooth. To avoid a large cloud of powdered sugar, make sure to add the sugar in increments. Brush off the crumbs from the cakes and frost. Garnish with toasted coconut.

    To toast coconut: Place about 1 cup of sweetened shredded coconut in a single layer on a sheet pan. Put it in the oven after removing the cake. Since it is small and sugar coated, coconut can go from nicely toasted to burned really quickly. It should only take about 3-5 minutes, but keep an eye on it. Once it starts to brown remove it and cool on the pan.

    * Since it is a dense cake and a light frosting, make sure to watch the cake after you cut it. If it is off balance, the top layer might slide off. Like into a bowl of tortilla chips for instance...

    Sunday, October 31, 2010

    HerbTwice-baked Potatoes

    Sorry it's been forever since I posted. I'm working swing shift at my new job and it has taken getting used to.

    Potatoes are always a great side dish, but sometimes I don't like having to mash potatoes right before a meal and plain baked potatoes are kinda boring and dry. These are an impressive and easy side dish that can be made a day or two before and just popped in the oven when you are ready to serve them. They class up any meal, which is always nice. While I am giving you estimations of ingredients you may want to add a little more or less of some ingredients (such as sour cream) depending on your  tastes and how dry the potatoes are.
    Also, you can play around with flavors and even makes these a full meal if you add meat. Such as a ham and swiss potato or broccoli cheddar.

    Herb Twice-baked Potatoes
    (Serves about six depending on the size of potatoes)

    6 large russet potatoes, baked  and cooled (cover with foil and pierce a few times, bake one hour at 375 degrees)
    2/3 cup low fat sour cream
    3-4 tablespoons butter (softened)
    2-3 tablespoons milk
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
    2 teaspoons fresh chives
    Salt and pepper to taste
    Optional: 2/3 cup grated cheddar cheese

    Lay the potatoes down and lengthwise cut the tops off.  Scrape the flesh off the removed tops into a large bowl. With a spoon, scoop out the insides of the potatoes, leaving about 1/4 of an inch lining the potato skins. Add the removed flesh to the bowl. Add the milk, butter, sour cream, herbs, and salt and pepper and mix well. This should resemble a dense mashed potato. Adjust seasonings as need, also if it is too dry add a little more milk or sour cream. If making cheese variety add the cheese in and stir.  Spoon the mixture back into the potato skins. It should mound over the edges, make sure that each potato has an even amount. Sprinkle either herbs or cheese on top of each to add to the presentation. At this point you can either refrigerate the potatoes to serve at a latter time or bake them
    To bake the potatoes, place them in a 9 X13 dish and put in a 350 degree oven. Cook until the tops start to brown, and cheese is melted, and the potatoes are heated through. This should take 20-30 minutes. If baking straight from the refrigerator, cook for 30-40 minutes. Serve hot.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2010

    Potato Leek Soup

    Potato leek soup is one of the classic leek dishes. It is also easy to make and is a nice warm and filling fall meal. Leeks are one of those forgotten vegetables. To be honest I had never tired a leek until about a year ago, but it is a great ingredient to add a little different flavor to your food. They have a mild onion taste and are related to scallions. With leeks you have to know which parts to use and how to clean them. The only part of the leek you want to use  is the stem. The green tops are bitter and tough. Next, since the leek grows in consecutive rings, dirt will get trapped between the layers. It is important to rinse the leeks after chopping to make sure that the grit doesn't end up in your food.

    Potato Leek Soup
    serves 5-6

    2 tablespoons butter
    1 large onion, chopped
    2 leeks chopped
    2 tablespoons flour
    4 cups chicken broth or stock
    3 medium potatoes peeled and cubed
    1 cup low fat milk
    salt and pepper
    chopped parsley (optional)

    Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and leeks and saute until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Slowly stir in the broth. Add the potatoes and some salt and pepper, bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes (until potatoes are soft). Stir in milk. Puree the soup in a blender (or if you have one of those cool hand held immersion blenders, use that) and adjust seasons by adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve with parsley sprinkled on top.

    Friday, October 15, 2010

    Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Chocolate chip cookies can be absolutely delicious if baked right, but otherwise they are simply overcooked and bland. I wanted to find a recipe for the perfect cookie and I think this is a winner.  This recipe is a homemade version of large and chewy cookies found at bakeries. I included the weights for ingredients, since your baked goods will turn out better if you cook with weights rather then measurements. A kitchen scale is nice item to have, although if you don't do a lot of baking it really is not a necessity.

    Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
    (From The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Cookbook)
    Make about 18 large cookies

    2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour (10 2/3 ounces)
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    12 tablespoons  (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled (you can use salted butter, just omit the 1/2 teaspoon salt)
    1 cup (7 ounces) brown sugar
    1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) white sugar
    1 large egg
    1 large egg yolk
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 1/2 cups (9 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips ( I like to use half chips and half chunks)

    Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line two cookies sheets with parchment paper. Make sure the oven racks are in the middle of the oven.
    Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl.
    With a stand mixer or hand mixer beat the sugars and butter together until smooth. Add the egg, egg yolk, vanilla  and beat until well mixed. Add the dry ingredients and mix until it is all combined. This should only take about 30 seconds. Mix in the chocolate chips.
    Divide the dough into 18 portions and roll them into balls. To create a nice bumpy texture on top of the cookies: take a dough ball and pull it into two equal halves, push the two halves together with the uneven surfaces ( where the dough pulled apart)on top, Place these on a cookie sheet. Space six cookies on each sheet.
    Bake until the cookies are light brown on the edges. They should be puffy and soft on the inside (they will flatten as they cool). This should take around 15-17 minutes. If baking two pans at once make sure to rotate the baking sheets halfway through baking time. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets.

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Laurie's Aunt Suzy's Crepes

    One of my best friends and college roommate, Laurie, brought this recipe to our apartment and it has been my go to crepe recipe ever since. It cooks up well and has wonderful flavor. While crepes may take a little more time then something like pancakes, they aren't as hard or time consuming as people tend to believe. Plus they are a classy and fun breakfast option. I love to fill them with fresh fruit  (I put raspberries and peaches in the one pictured),  cinnamon sugar and butter, or for an extra treat- Nutella and banana. These could also hold up to savory ingredients like ham and cheese. The best thing about crepes is that they are small enough that you can try multiple filling options in the same meal. Just imagine a big pile of crepes and a table full of filling options- breakfast heaven!

    Laurie's Aunt Suzy's Crepes
    Makes about 12-14 crepes in an eight inch skillet

    3 large eggs
    1 cup milk
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon sugar
    1/2 cup flour
    3 tablespoons melted butter

    Mix the eggs, milk, sugar and salt  in a bowl with a hand mixer. Mix in the flour and then the melted butter.

    Heat a greased eight inch skillet on medium-low heat.

    Pour about 1/4 cup of the batter in the middle of the hot pan. Turn the pan in a circular motion until the crepe covers the bottom of the pan in an even layer. When the edges start to pull away from the pan and it no longer looks wet on top, flip it to the other side. Cook about one more minute, until lightly browned.   Remove from pan and fill.

    Note: Some pans hold heat better then others. I generally have to continually adjust the heat to make sure the crepes don't cook too fast and burn, or under cook.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Pork Cutlets with Noodles

    This month's Real Simple magazine has a section of easy menus for the entire month. Quite a few looked delicious, so expect to see more posts from this magazine. This recipe comes together quickly and has a nice Asian flavor (the original title calls it spicy noodles, but no one in my family felt it had much heat). It uses Udon noodles, which add a nice texture and soak up flavor. Overall, I would say this is a filling and different week night hit.

    Pork Cutlets with Noodles
    (taken from the October 2010 Real Simple Magazine)

    4 cups low sodium chicken stock (since all the liquid is soaked up by the noodles, make sure to use low-sodium broth or use a mixture of broth and water)
    1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
    1/2 pound udon noodles (found in the Aisan section of grocery stores, or at specialty markets)
    1/2 pound mushrooms, de-stemed, and sliced (I used regular white mushrooms, but shiitake would also work)
    1 red jalapeno, seeded and sliced thin
    4 thin pork cutlets (about 1/2 inch thick)
    Salt and pepper
    1/4 cup flour
    1 large egg beaten
    3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
    2 tablespoons cooking oil
    2 green onions sliced (I absolutely hate green onions, so I left them out)

    In a  large pot, bring the broth and ginger to a boil. Add the noodles and cook, stirring, until the broth is nearly absorbed and the noodles are almost done (about 6 minutes). Add the mushrooms and jalapenos and simmer until mushrooms are done. Stirring to avoid the noodles sticking to the pan.

    While the noodles are cooking, cook the pork. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Coat with flour, then egg, then panko bread crumbs.  Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, cook the pork for about 2-3 minutes on each side, or until nicely browned and cooked through.

    Dish out the noodles and top with slices of pork. Sprinkle with green onions, if desired, and serve.

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Honey Lime Fruit Salad

    Here is my farewell to summer. While the weather seems to refuse to believe it is fall, stores have moved from school supplies to Christmas decorations. Since I can’t freeze time and prolong summer, at least I can give you a quick and yummy way to enjoy the flavors of summer year round.  In my mind, summer is connected with citrus, especially limes. I think it is the combination of delicious smell, bright flavor, and wonderful color. When I saw this recipe combining limes and fruit, I knew it was going to be a hit.

    Honey Lime Fruit Salad
    Adapted From My Kitchen Cafe

    1 large can pineapple chunks- drained
    1 can mandarin oranges-drained  
    3 ripe kiwi, peeled and sliced into thick half moons
    1 cup halved green grapes
    1 cup strawberries sliced in quarters
    Zest from one lime
    1-2 tablespoon lime juice
    Any other fruit in season (I used blackberries)
    2 tablespoons honey
    1 teaspoon poppy seeds
    Combine the fruit in a medium-large serving bowl (except for any juicy berries, gently place those in just before serving). Add the lime zest, juice, and poppy seeds and gently toss. Drizzle the honey over the fruit and again, gently mix until the fruit is evenly coated with the honey (it helps to microwave the honey for a few seconds; this will make it runny and easier to mix in). Serve as soon as possible, since some of the fruits (mainly the berries) will stain the others.

    Thursday, September 23, 2010

    Basil, Chicken and Orzo Soup

    I love chicken noodle soup. Not the greasy kind that comes in a can, but delicious homemade soup full of vegetables and identifiable chicken pieces. It is one of my standard answers to the generic question of "what is your favorite food". Although, good dark chocolate does give it a run for its money. I have also recently discovered how great orzo pasta is. If you have never used orzo, it is a small pasta that looks like rice and cooks quickly.  So when I saw this recipe, I knew it would be delicious.

     Basil, Chicken & Orzo Soup
    (adapted from the blog Gimme Some Oven)
    1 tsp olive oil 
    1/2  onion, diced
    2 stalks of celery, diced 
    2 carrots, peeled and diced 
    1 clove of garlic, minced (the original recipe called for three, but I found it too garlicky and it overpowered the freshness of the basil)
    8 cups chicken stock or broth ( I used broth)
    3 cooked medium chicken breasts, diced into bite sized chunks (you want around 2 cups of cooked meat
    2 bay leaves 
    salt and fresh cracked pepper 
    5-6 fresh basil leaves, chopped 
    1 cup dried orzo pasta

    Heat oil in a large cooking pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated, add onion and stir for 2 minutes. Then add carrots, celery and garlic then stir for one more minute. Add broth, chicken, and bay leaves, and salt and pepper (to taste, you can always add more later).  Lower heat and let simmer for about an hour. Remove the bay leaves and heat to the soup to a boil.  Then add basil and dried orzo pasta and cook until the pasta is done (about 10-12 minutes).  Taste, add  more salt and pepper  if needed, and enjoy!

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Cider-Glazed Pork Chops

    I have been talking about starting a food blog for months and so here it is. Enjoy!

    For my birthday my amazing husband gave me The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook and for the past few months I haven't been able to put it down. I'm sure I have spent hours leisurely flipping through this book, time I consider well-spent. I think it is only fitting that my first post is from this book. Since fall is in the air, I decided to try these cider-glazed pork chops which were both easy and delicious!

    Cider-Glazed Pork Chops
    (Taken From The Complete America's Test Kitchen TV Show Cookbook)

      1/2 cup cider vinegar
      1/3 cup brown sugar
      1/3 cup apple cider or juice ( I used juice since that is what I had, but I will try cider next time)
      2    tablespoons dijon mustard (or spicy brown will work)
      1    tablespoon soy sauce
            pinch of cayenne pepper (use more if you like heat)

    Pork Chops
      4 boneless pork chops 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch thick with excess fat trimmed off
      Salt and Pepper
      1 tablespoon of cooking oil

    Combine all the glaze ingredients and set aside.

    Take your chops and cut two slits, about two inches apart, through the fat and skin layer of each. This will keep the meat from buckling as it cooks ( This cookbook is full of amazing tricks and tips, like this one). Pat the chops dry with a paper towel and season both sides with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium-high heat until the oil is extremely hot. Add chops, and cook one side until it is well browned (about 5 minutes). Flip the chops over and cook the other side for one minute. Place the chops on a platter and discard any remaining oil.

    Place the chops back in the skillet, with the browned side up, pour in the glaze, and cook on medium heat until the center of the chop is about 140 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. This will take about 5-8 minutes. Take the chops out, place on a plate, and loosely cover with foil. Let the chops rest until the temperature rises to 150 degrees, about five minutes.

    While the chops rest, pour any juices from the plate the chops are on into the skillet with the glaze. Whisk this constantly until the glaze has thickened. This should take around five minutes. Once it is thick, place the chops back in and coat both sides. Place the chops (browned side up) on your serving dish, pour the remaining glaze on top, and serve.