Thursday, November 26, 2009

Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies Week #9: Linzer Torte Bars

Today is Black Friday and the official start for Christmas shopping. For the past couple years, my mom, my daughter and I have ventured out in the dark and cold night to go Christmas shopping. We usually leave around 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and laugh while we stand outside in freezing cold lines. My daughter refers to it as "shopping in the middle of the night" and she thinks it's the greatest thing in the world.

Another reason we love Black Friday shopping is because we always go out to breakfast. All three of us LOVE going out to breakfast and really enjoy having our own special girl time.

While out shopping, I will be packing a couple of these Linzer Torte Bars in my purse. After all, you cannot let a hunger pang pull you away from a great sale or bargain!

While commenting on Donna's blog, My Tasty Treasures, I noticed her Linzer Torte Bars. If you haven't been to Donna's site, then you must go now! She always has great recipes.

The Linzer Torte Bars are a real cinch to make, you can use any flavor of preserves or jelly, and they are seriously tasty and addictive. My mom loves blackberries, so I used a seedless blackberry jam and they turned out really tasty.

Linzer Torte Bars - adapted from Donna from My Tasty Treasures
1 cup flour
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup ground walnuts
1/2 cup softened butter
2/3 cup preserves/jam (Donna's recipe calls for raspberry preserves)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375F. Mix all ingredients with a spoon, except preserves, until crumbly. Press 2/3rds of the crumbly mixture into the bottom of an ungreased 9x9 square pan. Spread with preserves. Sprinkle remaining crumbly mixture; press gently into preserves.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until light golden brown. Cool completely one hour. For 48 bars, cut into 8 rows by 6 rows bars, or cut into any size you like.

Notes/Results: A super quick cookie or bar to whip up in no time! Although I am a chocoholic, I LOVE these bars. In fact, I have become addicted to them. I love that the recipe requires so few ingredients. I also love the idea that you can use any flavored preserve or jam. These are one of my favorite cookies/bars that I have made in quite some time. A great choice for a cookie platter.

Thanks to Donna of My Tasty Treasures for a new family favorite!!

Check out the cookie monsters below to see what they baked up this week:
Megan of My Baking Adventures
Barbara of Barbara Bakes
April of Abby Sweets
Megan of Megan's Cookin
Denise of Keeper Worthy Recipes

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Broccoli and Pasta with Mustard-Caper Sauce

I have a confession. I LOVE MUSTARD! It doesn't matter if it is Dijon, Spicy Brown, Stadium, Honey, or just plain old Mustard. I have been known to have at least five different types of mustard in my fridge at all times. It is by far my favorite condiment. When I was pregnant with my daughter I craved mustard on everything. I even went as far as to put it on english muffins, add it to my scrambled eggs, and pour it over mashed potatoes. I would eat specific foods just so I could dip them into the mustard. However, I never thought to put mustard on broccoli. Imagine my delight as I looked through my copy of Nigella Express and found the recipe Mustard-Caper Sauce for Broccoli. I knew I had to make this recipe for Sidedish Superstars over at I Heart Cooking Clubs.

Speaking of things I love, pasta is at the very top of the list. Ever since I was about four years old, I have been happily gobbling down all kinds of buttered noodles. My four year old friend and I would have discussions on whether or not we preferred shells over elbow or rigatoni. We would discuss which of our four parents made the best pasta and which of them used the correct amount of butter. I can still remember that her mom never put in enough butter and her Dad always put in a little too much butter.

Pasta was so loved in both households, that each family had a special pan, "the buttered noodle pan". Years later, as teenagers, buttered noodles were a food we made during all-night sleepovers, when we were upset about boys, or when we were giggling our heads off like young girls do. The "buttered noodle pans" were so important to us and always held special meaning. They were with us over the years as we grew up. Years ago, when my oldest friend got married, she registered for all kinds of beautiful china and new things. She loved them all, but her favorite was the gift her mom handed down to her. Can you guess what it was? Her mom surprised her by wrapping up the "buttered noodle pan" that we had grown up with. We laughed, we cried, and we remembered everything that we had shared over all those buttered noodles.

If only I had a penny for every single time I've cooked buttered noodles over the years. I would probably have enough to pay for a dream vacation! Since "buttered noodles" are my favorite way to eat pasta I decided to indulge and buy this Parmigiano Reggiano Butter, pictured below. I was saving this butter to use for a special occasion and decided to break it out today! I started off thinking that I would just use this butter to make "buttered noodles", and serve the broccoli with mustard-caper sauce on this side. Then I ditched that idea and decided what the hell....I'll just mix it all up together! I cooked one pound of mezze penne. Midway through, I threw the broccoli into the "buttered noodle pan" with the pasta long enough to blanch it. I tossed them together and served them with this delicious sauce.

Mustard-Caper Sauce for Broccoli- adapated from Nigella Express by Nigellla Lawson
6 tablespoons butter *I used Parmigiano-Reggiano Butter*
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons capers

Put the butter, mustard, and lemon juice into a pan over medium heat. As the butter melts, whisk all the ingredients together and then add the capers. Pour the emulsified sauce over cooked broccoli (and pasta) and serve. Makes enough to dress 1/2 to 1 pound broccoli.

Notes/Results: A wonderful, super quick, fresh, zesty and zippy pasta dish! I loved the zesty flavor from the mustard, lemon juice and capers. I topped off the pasta with some freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and it was a lunch to remember! This is a must make for all mustard lovers out there, it was delicious and a real "keeper" of a recipe.

I am submitting this dish to both Presto Pasta Nights and I Heart Cooking Clubs. You can find out how to join Presto Pasta Nights by clicking here or head on over to Deb's site here. Head on over to I Heart Cooking Clubs by clicking here to see all the other side dish superstars.

I hope you all have a tasty and delicious Thanksgiving!! I am hosting Thanksgiving at my house this year. We are having both my mother and father in-law, my sister and brother in-law, and my Mom. My Dad and his wife weren't able to make it, but we will be seeing them at Christmas time. Off to cook and clean for the next two days!!

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Marsala-Honey Pears with Gorgonzola

This week's theme for I Heart Cooking Clubs is potluck, which means that we can choose any recipe at all. Earlier in the week I was curious about Nigella's lunch box treats, which are made up from crispy rice cereal, cornflakes, quick-cooking oats and sesame seeds. They are held together with rice malt syrup, butter, milk chocolate and rolled into little balls. They were okay, and my son loved them, but I was uninspired with them.

When Saturday rolled around I realized that I didn't want to submit the lunch box treats. They were alright, but not really anything to post about. While flipping through my copy of Nigella's Express, I quickly noticed this recipe for Marsala-Honey Pears with Gorgonzola. I knew instantly that this was the recipe for me! I had all the ingredients on hand, except for the Gorgonzola. A quick trip to the store and I was all set. Marsala-Honey Pears with Gorgonzola - adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson Serves 6-8
2 pears (approx 1lb total weight), each cut into eights (but unpeeled and uncored)
2 tablespoons olive oil (regular not extra virgin)
3 tablespoons Marsala wine
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup walnut halves
1 lb ripe gorgeous Gorgonzola in perfect condition; it should never have seen the inside of your fridge

While you are cutting the pears into eights - i.e., quarter them and halve each quarter- let the oil heat in a large skillet. Fry the pears for 3 minutes a side, and while they are frying whisk the Marsala and honey together in a cup. When the pears have had their time, throw in the Marsala honey mixture and let it bubble up vociferously around the pears. Then transfer them, all bronzed and syrupy, to a plate. Add the walnuts to the dark juices left in the pan and stir-fry them for about a minute until they are themselves darkened in part and sticky all over. Remove them to the plate with the pears and add ingredient X, your Gorgonzola.

Notes/Results: Unlike the lunch box treats, this recipe was very inspiring! It was a wonderful pairing of salty and sweet, as well as crunchy and smooth and it dissappeared quickly! Both the Marsala and the Gorgonzola have a salty flavor that pairs so well with the honey and the pears. I chose Gorgonzola Picante, which has a sharper flavor and is absolutely creamy and delicious. I ended up using sliced almonds and they added the perfect crunch to the pears and cheese. I also put the Gorgonzola on the stovetop to warm and melt while I baked some fresh bread. This allowed the Gorgonzola to come to room temperature and get all melty. A great dish to make for either an appetizer or a dessert. Definitely a make again recipe!!

Don't forget to head on over to I Heart Cooking Clubs to check out all the other "potluck" dishes that were shared this week!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies Week #8: Tyler's Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies and Cake Slice Bakers: Burnt Sugar Cake

Welcome to the Sugar Fest! I baked all day yesterday. First, I made my very absolute favorite chocolate chip cookie: Tyler's Big Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies. I first discovered these cookies through Tyler Florence Fridays and made them for the first time in March of this year. Since then I have easily made them a dozen times. I love them, my family loves them, and everyone always asks for the recipe.

There are two important rules to this cookie. First and foremost, YOU HAVE TO MAKE THEM BIG! The recipe was written to make cookies measuring 1/4 cup. I am all about making smaller cookies to save calories, but you just can't do that to this cookie. When they come out of the oven they are big, but they have slightly crispy edges and extremely chewy centers with big chunks of chocolate. The second rule is that you have to buy good quality chocolate in bar form and cut chunks. Tyler's recipe is written to use dark chocolate, but I buy two 4 oz. bars of Ghiradelli semisweet chocolate. I cut them up into big chunks and fold them into the dough. The chunks of chocolate are huge and so yummy to bite into. The recipe can be found here. I have now made 69 Tyler Florence recipes and this is my favorite Tyler recipe! If I only made one cookie, this would be the cookie I would make.

This is also my second post as part of the Cake Slice Bakers. We are baking from Nancie McDermott's book, Southern Cakes, and this month's cake is the Burnt Sugar Cake, pictured above. This cake begins by making a burnt sugar syrup consisting of equal parts sugar and water. One half of the syrup is added to the cake batter and the other half is reserved for the frosting. I had thought this cake would be reminiscent of a caramel cake, but it had a completely different flavor profile. The cake was dense and sweet and the frosting had a sugary kick to it. I enjoyed both the cake and the frosting separately, but together they were a little too sugary for me. I agree with some of the other members in that the frosting was a little gritty or granular due to the fact that there was just so much sugar.

Burnt Sugar Syrup

1 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
  1. Heat the sugar in a cast iron skillet or another heavy bottomed pan with high sides. Heat over a medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts into a clear brown caramel syrup. It should be the color of tea.
  2. Gradually add the boiling water, pouring it down the sides of the pan so that if the syrup foams and bubbles up, you should be protected.
  3. Continue cooking, stirring often, until the water combines with the syrup and turns a handsome brown syrup.
  4. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Store the cooled syrup in a sealed jar if not using right away.
Burnt Sugar Cake (from Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott)

3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1¾ cups sugar
4 eggs
½ cup Burnt Sugar Syrup (recipe above)
  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two 9 inch round cake pans (or bundt pan)
  2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and stir with a fork to mix well. Stir the vanilla into the milk.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and the sugar with an electric mixer at high speed for 2 – 3 minutes, until they are well combined. Stop now and then to scrape the bowl down. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well each time. Pour in half a cup of the burnt sugar syrup and beat well.
  4. Add a third of the flour mixture and about half of the milk, beating at a low speed, until just incorporated. Mix in another third of the flour and the rest of the milk. Finally, add the remaining flour.
  5. Divide the batter between the cake pans (I baked mine in a bundt pan)and bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes until the cakes are golden brown, spring back when touched gently in the center and begin to pull away from the sides of the pan
  6. Let the cakes cool in the pans on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Turn out the cakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Burnt Sugar Frosting

3¾ cups confectioners sugar
½ cup Burnt Sugar Syrup (above)
¼ cup (½ stick) butter
½ tsp vanilla extract
2 – 3 tbsp evaporated milk or normal milk
  1. In a large bowl, combine the confectioners sugar, the burnt sugar syrup, butter and vanilla. Beat with a mixer at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down the bowl now and then to bring the ingredients together.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the milk and continue beating until the frosting is thick, soft, smooth and easy to spread. Add a little more sugar if it is thin, and a little more milk if it is too thick.
Notes/Results: I made my cake in a bundt pan, instead of two 9" cake pans. I loaded all the icing on the top of the bundt cake. If you made two 9" cakes, you frost it just like an old fashioned cake. The cake was pretty just with the frosting, but I was afraid it wouldn't photograph well on it's own. I had some salted pecans left over from Tyler's salad recipe so I crushed them up and scattered them over the top. This was my way of creating a sweet and salty combination. It was a nice addition, but in the end the cake was a little too sweet for me.

Have a Great Weekend!!

Check out what all the other cookie monsters made this week by clicking on the links below:

Megan of My Baking Adventures
Barbara of Barbara Bakes
April of Abby Sweets
Megan of Megan's Cookin
Denise of Keeper Worthy Recipes

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Frisee with Pears, Goat Cheese, and Salted Pecans -Recipe #49 - Stirring the Pot

My friend and I had a long conversation yesterday about what we were serving for Thanksgiving. The two major dilemmas are not having enough oven space and too many things needing your attention at once. After at least one hour on the phone, we both decided that a great Thanksgiving salad was going to be part of our Thanksgiving table this year. Why not?

Maybe a green salad isn't a traditional side dish, but it is an easy and beautiful addition to any Thanksgiving table. A salad can be made the night before and doesn't require any oven or stovetop space the next day. Better yet, a salad requires no attention while you're busy cooking other things. Salads are beautiful and light and are a welcome dish at any party I've thrown. For all of these reasons, my friend and I both decided that we were definitely making a salad for Thanksgiving!!

Can you see where I'm going with this? This recipe from Stirring the Pot would be a perfect salad for any Holiday table. It is beautiful, easy, colorful, healthy and absolutely delicious!!

Frisee with Pears, Goat Cheese, and Salted Pecans -adapted from Stirring the Pot by T Flo
1 cup creme fraiche ** I used Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 lemon, juice only
1 tablespoon sugar
1 shallot, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 medium ripe Bosc pears **I used red Bartlet pears for the red color
8 cups frisee lettuce **I couldn't find any at Whole Foods so I used mixed baby greens
3/4 cup salted pecan halves, toasted
3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese

In a small bowl combine creme fraiche (or greek yogurt), mustard, lemon juice, and sugar. Fold in shallot and season with salt and pepper. Cover and set aside in the refrigerator to let the flavors come together. Note: I let my dressing set for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, for the salad, halve, core, and cut the pears into thin slices. Toss pear slices together with frisee leaves and toasted pecans in a large salad bowl. Drizzle with dressing and fold in the crumbled goat cheese. Serve immediately.

Notes/Results: I have been wanting to make this salad since I received the book. It is creamy, sweet, salty, and crunchy. I absolutely loved it and think it would be great for any Holiday table, especially with the red bartlet pears. The pears do need to be somewhat firm or they will fall apart in the salad. I couldn't find salted pecan halves, so I coated them in a little butter, sprinkled them with a little salt and roasted them in the oven at 350F for about 8 minutes. I think dried cranberries would be a great addition to this salad and they would add a wonderful dimension with their tart and chewy flavor. This salad was extremely healthy, especially with the creme fraiche subbed out with the Greek yogurt. I looked at the nutritional information for the goat cheese and saw that the package was 4 ozs. Each 1 oz. serving of goat cheese is only 70 calories. This would be a great main dish or side dish to any table. Add a whole grain roll or slice of bread and all food groups are represented!! A definite make again recipe!

What are you serving for Thanksgiving? How do you get around the issue of limited oven space and too many things requiring your attention? I'd love to hear your secrets!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Red Beans and Rice, Grandma Walter's Biscuits and Basic Creole Spices

A couple weeks ago, I won the most beautiful cookbook ever, My New Orleans: The Cookbook from my friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen. I had spent lots of time at the bookstore looking through this fabulous book and wanted it passionately. This is easily the most beautiful cookbook in my collection, thanks Deb!! The book is huge, a real coffee table book, and full of pictures, traditions, and stories. John Besh shares his love for New Orleans and emphasizes using local ingredients and supporting his community.

For years I have wanted to go to New Orleans. It has been at the very top of my list of cities to visit forever. New Orleans is appealing to me for many reasons: culture, beauty, music, food, and also because my Mom lived there as a teenager. I was in New Orleans as a toddler and the only thing I remember is going up and down the stairs to my Grandfather's house while my Mom told me "watch out for the alligators". Having a toddler now, I can understand why both the stairs and alligators stuck with me. Don't all kids have a natural obsession with stairs and alligators?

Four years ago, the city was hit by Katrina. I remember it well because it happened the night before my 30th birthday. Prior to the tragedy, I had been busy having a colossal fit over turning 30. A few hours later I considered myself lucky to be turning 30. What a horrible tragedy and I couldn't believe the horror that unfolded on the TV. I prayed that the city would rebuild itself and this book gives me hope that it is. I can't wait to go there one day and gorge on food, music, and scenery.

The first dish I made was Red Beans and Rice. It looked so delicious on Deb's site and I knew it would be the first thing I made from the book. John Besh uses bacon fat, a one pound bag of kidney beans, the holy trinity(bell pepper, celery, and onion), and two ham hocks. I had trouble finding regular ham hocks, so I had to use country ham hocks which ended up being a delicious substitution. The end result was smoky, slightly spicy, and very meaty. A delicious and filling bean dish that most everyone would approve of. It was great served over the Basic Louisiana White Rice and satisfied my craving for comfort food.
I thought of making John's cornbread recipe, but couldn't stop thinking about the recipe for his Grandmother Walters's Biscuits. John says he believes the secret to his Grandmother's biscuits was the fact that she talked to them, willing them to rise. John himself likes to use european-style high-fat butter which has less water and therefore looks and tastes better. I used plain old butter and I think they turned out fabulous! I think the secret is in turning the biscuits and folding them over, creating those flaky layers. Also, when the biscuits were allowed to rest for 30 minutes, they rose on the countertop and become fluffy. They were the best biscuits and I will be making them a lot! They are so good that I have to share the recipe with you.

Grandmother Walters's Biscuits - adapted from My New Orleans The Cookbook by John Besh
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons cold butter, preferable European style, diced (Definitely use salted butter**)
1 cup whole milk

Preheat the oven to 425F. Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt into a mixing bowl. Using a fork or pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour until it resembles cornmeal. Add the milk, stirring until the dough just comes together to form a ball.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Gently pat the dough down with your hands and fold it over on itself. Pat the dough down and fold it over once or twice more. Loosely cover the dough with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for a half hour or so.

Being careful not to overwork the dough, roll it out until it is 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Cut dough into biscuits using whatever cutter you like. Grandmother used an inverted juice glass, which was really an old preserves jar. For more biscuits, use a smaller glass.

Place the biscuits on a cookie sheet and bake until uniformly golden brown, 10-14 minutes.
My husband had been been gone all week working in North Carolina, so I decided a homecoming dinner was in order. I made the Basic Creole Spices to use on a steak. The spices consisted of celery salt, sweet paprika, coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and allspice. It was a unique blend, very different from Cajun spices used to "blacken" foods. I rubbed the spice into the steak and seared them well. The spice resulted in a very zesty steak with a hint of heat from the cayenne.
My husband's eyes lit up when he came in and saw this meal on the table. It was a real delight!!
Thanks to Deb over at Kahakai Kitchen for having such a wonderful contest and sending me such a beautiful cookbook to add to my collection. I'm looking forward to cooking and sharing many more recipes from this terrific cookbook.

If you are curious and want to know more about this cookbook, click here to view Deb's review of this book.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Throwdown: Pecans - Nigella vs Paula

Last month I got the chance to see Bobby Flay in person at the Incredible Food Show here in Lexington, KY. Bobby was so charming and full of jokes and laughter. I noticed very quickly that he enjoyed teasing the audience. You can tell that he enjoys good fun and laughter and I think this is why his Food Network show Throwdown suits him so well.

For those of you who do not know, Throwdown is a great show where Bobby is on a "secret mission" to challenge absolute masters in different kinds of cooking. In each show, the cook thinks the Food Network is shooting their dish for a special show. What they don't know is that Bobby is going to show up and surprise them with a cook-off. Surprisingly, Bobby doesn't always win. A lot of times the decision comes down to whether or not the judges prefer the "traditional dish", usually made by the cook OR "Bobby's spiced up version". You never really know in whose favor the judges will decide.

I love the idea of having a throwdown in my own kitchen and deciding which dish we like better. In preparation for the holidays, I have decided to start with pecans first. Candied or spiced pecans make a quick and easy holiday appetizer and everyone usually loves them. In the spirit of the Food Network show, I have picked a traditional recipe and a non-traditional recipe. Both recipes were easy and took the same amount of time and effort.


Paula's version is the more traditional version, made with sugar, cinnamon, evaporated milk, and vanilla. These are your traditional version of holiday pecans that you might get at the mall, in a holiday package, or from a friend. They taste almost like a praline.
Nigella's version is the more non-traditional recipe, made with butter, maple syrup, salt, and cayenne pepper. I loved the idea of using maple syrup and adding cayenne pepper. My husband and I love spicy foods and were really looking forward to trying these. My picture of Nigella's pecans didn't turn out to well, but you could see little specks of cayenne pepper running over the pecans - YUM!

Notes/Results: I was actually surprised by the vote for Paula's pecans. Dare I say that I prefer Nigella's recipes to Paula's any day of the week. Nigella's recipe also had two ingredients that I love: maple syrup and cayenne. Prior to making both pecans, I was convinced I would like Nigella's better. Nigella's pecans were a little more savory with just a hint of heat. I ate a couple and then set them aside. Paula's pecans were sweet and cinnamony and tasted just like those yummy pecans you get during the holidays in the mall. They were delicious and I couldn't stop eating them. I was addicted! I took them to a bunco game and they went over very well.

GEORGIA SPICED PECANS - adapted from The Lady and Sons, Too by Paula Deen
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup evaporated milk
2 cups pecan halves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the sugar, cinnamon, and milk in a medium-size saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook to the soft-ball stage (234-238 degrees on a candy thermometer). Add the pecans and vanilla and stir well. Using a slotted spoon, drop single pecans on a sheet of waxed paper; allow to cool.

Nigella's recipe can be found here, on the food network.

I think there will be more throwdowns in my future!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Healthy Bread in Five: Pumpkin Pie Brioche

I recently joined up with a new and exciting baking group hosted by Michelle of Big Black Dog. We are going to be baking our way through the new Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day! I am really excited about this method of bread making. The concept is genius! You make one huge batch of dough, cover it up, place in the refrigerator, and break off a piece when you are ready to have fresh bread. The dough lasts for about two weeks, depending on the recipe. I was worried that there would be a trick to it, but there isn't. It really is simple and also easy enough for a beginning bread enthusiast! I highly recommend both Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and the newest book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Our first bread is this festive Pumpkin Pie Brioche. Canned or freshly pureed pumpkin are mixed with traditional pumpkin pie spices and white whole wheat to form a lovely autumn scented brioche. I made one loaf of Pumpkin Pie Brioche earlier this week that we served toasted with butter and really enjoyed all on its' own. Some of the other members made delicious Pumpkin Pie Brioche French Toast, which sounds delicious!

With the other half of my dough, I made these Pumpkin Pie Brioche Cinnamon Rolls.
I have to admit that this was the first time I've made homemade cinnamon rolls. Prior to today, I was real good at opening a can of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls :D These received a thumbs up from all and were a very fun and festive autumn breakfast.

Are you looking for the recipe? You'll have to head over to Michelle's site! Everyone participating in the Healthy Bread group will be linking to Michelle's blog over at the Big Black Dog. Be sure to click on the link to Michelle's site to see both her entry and all the other entries.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies Week #7: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Bars

Last week Donna of My Tasty Treasures posted these sinful chocolate peanut butter cream cheese bars. Peanut butter and chocolate is a marriage made in heaven, so I had to try these.
I ran to the store and gathered up all the ingredients and got to work. You can find the recipe here on Donna's site.

The recipe starts with peanut butter cookie dough baked in a 9x13 inch baking pan to form the crust. You will also need to bake about 6 peanut butter cookies at the same time. These are reserved for crushing and sprinkling on top of the finished product. The recipe calls for the peanut butter cookie dough mix, but I used the frozen cookie dough. The second layer is a mixture of melted chocolate and butter that is spread over the peanut butter cookie dough. It hardens when it cools and ends up with a texture almost like a Hershey's chocolate bar. The third layer is the stuff that dreams are made of! It consists of peanut butter, confectioner's sugar, and cream cheese. It is sinful and addictive. These bars are decadent, creamy and delicious. You will not be able to stop at one! Thanks Donna!

I am thankful to receive two awards this week. An honest scrap award from Michelle at Ms. Enplace and a Kreativ Blogger award from Tina at Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Head Manor. Thank you to both of you! I always look forward to reading both of your blogs.

The rules of each awards are somewhat the same. The honest scrap award asks you to share 10 honest things about yourself and the Kreativ blogger award asks that you share 7 interesting things. I'm going to attempt and combine the two and share seven honest and hopefully interesting things.

1) I have a celebrity crush on Jimmy Fallon. He has such a boyish charm. I've always been a sucker for guys who make me laugh. His late night talk show is one of my favorites.

2) I'm feeling kind of sad that my little boy is turning three on Saturday. I wish he could be sweet and little forever.

3) One of my guilty pleasures is watching the new 90210. The scary thing is that I like it, but worry about all the young kids who are easily influenced by it.

4) My husband likes simple and easy food. The other day he asked me when we were going to eat normal again. Evidently cheeseburger soup is exotic to him :D

5) Ever since I was eight years old, Elton John's "That's Why They Call it The Blues" has been my most favorite song ever.

6) My daughter is like my new best friend. Who knew you could have such profound conversations with an eight year old? She's one smart cookie.

7) I wish we could all meet over lunch or dinner and bring our favorite dishes and recipes. Wouldn't that be fun? I feel thankful to finally meet people who share a love of cooking and baking.

Thanks again to Tina and Michelle for the awards!! I know I should pass these awards on, but it's so hard to pick and narrow it down.

Don't forget to head on over and see what the other ladies made for 12 Weeks of Christmas Cookies!!

Megan of My Baking Adventures
Barbara of Barbara Bakes
April of Abby Sweets
Megan of Megan's Cookin
Denise of Keeper Worthy Recipes

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Potato Gnocchi with Braised Swiss Chard and Pomegranate Brown Butter - Recipe #47 - Stirring the Pot

This recipe has a lot going on. In fact, you could almost say that this recipe is evil! Making the gnocchi was the easy part. The hardest part was making the pomegranate reduction, braising the swiss chard, making the brown butter, and sauteing the gnocchi in brown butter ALL AT THE SAME TIME! It's been forever since I've actively had every burner on my stovetop going all at once. And, every burner needed my attention. In addition to all these pots and pans, I was trying to open up a pomegranate and those little pesky seeds were flying all over my kitchen. I hardly ever cry, but I wanted to!! The dishes were piled up over the sink, there was flour and potato on the counter and on the floor, and there were little red-rubied pomegranate seeds everywhere. My kitchen looked like a war zone.

I quickly snapped some pictures and sat down to eat. I was still reeling with anger as I looked around my kitchen and surveyed the giant mess.

Do you think Tyler Florence does the dishes?

Potato Gnocchi with Braised Swiss Chard and Pomegranate Brown Butter-adapted from Stirring the Pot by Tyler Florence
2 pounds russet potatoes
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
12 ounces fresh ricotta, drained
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stick unsalted butter
Pomegranate Brown Butter Sauce
2 sticks unsalted butter
4 cups pomegranate juice, rendered
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Braised Swiss Chard
extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 small onions, diced
2 bunches swiss chard, roughly chopped
2 quarts vegetable broth
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
For garnish:
1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings

For the gnocchi, preheat oven to 350F. Arrange potatoes on a roasting tray and prick all over with a fork to make holes. Roast potatoes for 45 to 50 minutes, until the flesh is tender enough to scoop out with a spoon. When cool enough to handle, scoop the warm flesh into a food processor and puree with the grated Parmigiano-Regianno. Refrigerate until completely cool.

In a large bowl fold together the potato puree, drained ricotta, and nutmeg. Fold in the flour, 1 cup at a time. Season with salt and pepper and mix until a soft dough forms. (Do not overwork dough or it will be tough). Flour a surface and roll dough into a rope 1 inch in diameter. Cut into small pillow shapes.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook until they float. Drain well and transfer gnocchi to a sheet tray. Refrigerate until cool. When gnocchi are cool, melt the 1 stick butter in a large nonstick saute pan over high heat. Add gnocchi and saute until brown, set aside.

For the pomegranate brown butter sauce, brown the 2 sticks butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat until it turns a hazelnut color (the butter solids should be brown and aromatic). Meanwhile, in a large saucepan reduce pomegranate juice over medium-high heat until syrupy. Add pomegranate reduction to brown butter. Swirl pan to combine ingredients; season lightly with salt and pepper.

For the braised swiss chard, in a small stockpot heat a 2-count of olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) over medium heat. Add garlic and onions; saute for 2 to 3 minutes or until fragrant. Add swiss chard and toss a few times. Add vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper; simmer for 5-6 minutes, until Swiss chard is wilted and tender. Stir in vinegar and the 2 tablespoons butter. Toss well to combine.

Serve braised swiss chard with gnocchi and top with pomegranate brown butter sauce. If you like, garnish with pomegranate seeds and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings.

Notes/Results: Absolutely delicious!! Amazing combination of textures and flavors. A must make, especially if you are a vegetarian or happen to be hungry for a wonderful meat-free meal. The little gnocchi are so fluffy, the swiss chard is almost meaty and has a wonderful bite, the brown butter sauce is nutty and sweet, the shaved Parmigiano adds a salty bite, and those little pomegranate seeds are like big bursts of tart flavor. This is one lip-smacking dish!

I think you could do several things to make this recipe easier. First and foremost, just buy the gnocchi. Believe me, there is so much flavor going on in this dish that you won't miss the homemade gnocchi. I've made this recipe twice now and I bought a great whole wheat gnocchi for the second time around. Secondly, deal with your pomegranate ahead of time. And, maybe you can make either the swiss chard or the pomegranate brown butter sauce ahead of time. This is definitely a dish worth making and is beautiful with all the pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top! If you don't want to try the whole dish, at least try the preparation for the swiss chard and top it with the pomegranate brown butter sauce and pomegranate seeds. I'm thinking of serving the swiss chard as a side dish for Christmas because it is so pretty and reminds me of the holidays with those red rubied pomegranate seeds.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Man Food for I Heart Cooking Clubs: Chicken Schnitzel with Bacon and White Wine

This week's theme for I Heart Cooking Clubs is "Man Food". Nigella's recipe for Chicken Schnitzel with Bacon and White Wine might not sound manly, but it definitely is. The recipe begins by sauteeing up four slices of bacon until crisp. The bacon is removed and thin slices of chicken are cooked in the bacon fat. Once the chicken is cooked through, the bacon is crumbled and added back to the pan, and 1/3 cup of white wine is added to make a sauce. The bacony white wine sauce is poured over the chicken. The finished result is meat, cooked in meat juices, served with meat on the side. Does it get more manly than that?

My husband had to travel to North Carolina this week and wasn't home for the big "man feast". I went ahead and made the chicken schnitzel anyway, worried that I would end up eating it and that the kids wouldn't like it at all. You know how kids can be with eating. Mine seem to like things individually, but mix them together and you can bet they won't touch it.
My daughter wouldn't touch it, but my son loved it!! He kept asking for more and more. It ticked me that he was devouring this chicken. I guess even little two-year old boys love "man food" even if they eat it out of a little Winnie the Pooh bowl.

Chicken Schnitzel with Bacon and White Wine -Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

Nigella says:

"A Chicken Schnitzel, or escalope, grilled plain is certainly fast fare, but it wouldn't make you skip to the dinner table. Bacon comes to the rescue here; nothing fancy, just sweet, salty ribbons courtesy of Oscar Mayer, which I always keep in the fridge for just such an eventuality."

1 teaspoon garlic-infused oil
4 strips bacon
4 (40z) chicken escalopes or boned and skinned breast halves
1/3 cup white wine (I used Marsala)

Put the garlic oil in a skillet and add the bacon. Fry till the bacon's crisp and the pan is full of bacony juices, remove the bacon to a piece of foil, wrap it, and set it aside for a moment. Fry the chicken for about 2 minutes a side, until there is no pinkness when you cut into a piece. Make sure the pan's hot so that the escalopes catch a little, turning beautifully bronze. Remove the chicken to a serving plate and quickly crumble in the bacon you've set aside, then pour the win in and let everything bubble up, and pour over the chicken pieces.

Notes/Results: Although this is not something that you can indulge in all the time, it is a quick and tasty dinner. I was worried that the chicken would be very greasy, but it wasn't. The white wine made a wonderful and glossy sauce for the chicken and the bacon. It sure was tasty to have a piece of chicken and a piece of bacon on the fork and dip it into the sauce. Nigella says that she likes to take the chicken leftovers, chop them up with a little cream and Parmesan to make a quick pasta sauce. I love the idea of using the leftovers in a creamy pasta dish, but my hips and thighs are telling me not to! This was a good solid dish, that I thought was tasty but that my son absolutely loved. I will be making it again.

Don't forget to head over to I Heart Cooking Clubs throughout the week to check out all the other "Man Food".

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cheeseburger Soup and Copycat Cheddar Bay Biscuits

I was all set to post my Tyler recipe today, Potato Gnocchi with Braised Swiss Chard and Pomegranate Brown Butter, but there was a problem with the pictures and I need to replate it and take some more pictures. It was a delicious dish and it deserves a great picture. Instead, I am bringing you Cheeseburger Soup and Copycat Cheddar Bay Biscuits (you know, Red Lobster style).

Awhile back, I saw Teresa at A Blog about Food make a cheeseburger pasta, which I thought sounded delicious! Then a couple of days later Beth at The Seventh Level of Boredom made a cheeseburger soup. I had these recipes on my mind for days and couldn't shake them. I just knew both of them were people pleasers. I was debating which one to make when my mom called and said she was making these delicious Cheddar Bay Biscuits. I knew instantly that the soup would go perfect with the biscuits and headed over to mom's with all the soup ingredients.
I was not about to miss out on the copycat version of the Red Lobster biscuit. Let's just say this recipe for the copycat biscuits was right on. The recipe made 14 biscuits. Mom and I ate 10 of them! Yes, 10!!! The soup was delicious, but the biscuits were addictive. You can find the recipe for the biscuits here, on the food network. This recipe was also in their food network magazine under the "Copy That" section. On a personal note, this is my favorite page of the magazine and I have made each of the recipes. There have been some great finds such as, copy cat Auntie Anne's soft pretzels, Pinkberry frozen yogurt, Olive Garden's salad and breadsticks, and now these delicious, fluffy, cheesy, garlicky, scrumptious and lusciously addictive Cheddar Bay Biscuits. Can you tell I'm a carb queen? Make them as a treat one day, you will not be disappointed.

I am submitting the cheeseburger soup to my friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen for Souper Sundays. This was an easy and delicious soup. It was even more delicious the next day and was happily gobbled up by all. This has become one of my favorite soups and will be made on a regular basis now. I loved that each person could customize their soup with their favorite burger topping. Ideas for toppings are: bacon(of course), tomato, chopped dill pickle or relish, red onion, and many more. I went ahead and put about a teaspoon of relish on my soup, which seemed to really brighten up the flavor of the soup. A delicious and comforting family favorite. I followed this recipe from the Recipezaar website. The recipe is packed with cheese, meat and potatoes, a total man pleaser, and anyone else for that matter! Head on over to Deb's site tomorrow to check out all the delicious soups, sammies, and salads!!

We are having our last couple days of great weather here in Kentucky. This weekend the temperatures will almost reach 70 degrees outside and then the weather is going to start turning for the winter. I raked up a huge pile of leaves the other day thinking that my toddler son would love jumping in the leaves. He had more interest in the rake than the leaves. Turns out that my daughter, Olivia, was the one who really enjoyed herself!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Twelve Weeks of Christmas Cookies Week #6: No-Bake Cookies

No-Bake Cookies have been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl. They are also something that I have never made. While looking through cookie recipes, I found this one and I was so excited to give it a try. Who knew that they were so easy? In fact, they are so easy that they are actually dangerous! Just knowing that I can whip a cookie up in less than 10 minutes is certainly a dangerous thing for me. These are addictive and will definitely be on my cookie tray this year. I got the recipe from Recipezaar where it was rated five stars and had 167 reviews.

No-Bake Cookies - courtesy of Recipezaar (I halved the recipe and it worked great)
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (or chunky)
3-31/2 cups dry quick-cooking oats *I used old-fashioned oats with great results*
2 teaspoons vanilla

Add the first four ingredients into a 4-quart sauce pan. Bring to a rolling boil and hold for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in the next 3 ingredients and drop by tablespoons onto wax paper. Let cool until set.

Also, I wondered if anyone has ever tried Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey? For some reason, I did a search on Alton Brown's top ten recipes last night. I couldn't believe how many five star recipes he has listed on the food network. But, this recipe for his roast turkey really caught my attention. Are you ready for this??? Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey has received a five star review and has been reviewed 2234 times!! I have never seen so many reviews on a recipe before. I started reading the reviews and people were raving about it. So, I was curious if any of you have tried this recipe before? If you have, please share. If you haven't, maybe you should. I think this is the recipe I'm going to try this Thanksgiving. How can you go wrong with so many wonderful reviews?

Check the link out here:
Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey, rated five-stars by 2234 people

Head on over to see what these fellow cookie monsters baked up this week!
Megan of My Baking Adventures
Barbara of Barbara Bakes
April of Abby Sweets
Megan of Megan's Cookin
Denise of Keeper Worthy Recipes

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Buffalo Chicken Jalapeno Poppers

I usually record the Rachel Ray show every day during the week. One day, she mentioned these buffalo chicken jalapeno poppers and she really got my attention! My husband and I both love spicy foods and we LOVE the flavor of buffalo sauce on anything. Not to mention, we always have rotisserie chicken on hand for my little guy and my mom keeps giving me jalapeno peppers from her garden. I knew I was going to be making these immediately.

I started thinking about Rachel's ingredients and decided that I could really lighten up this recipe. I cut out some of Rachel's ingredients and made these with about four ingredients: jalapeno, chicken, Monterey jack cheese and a little buffalo sauce.

Buffalo Chicken Jalapeno Poppers - adapted from the Rachel Ray website, found here.
  • 16-20 jalapeño peppers
  • 1/3 cup hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot brand
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups rotisserie chicken, skin and bones removed, shredded
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles, divided

Pre-heat the oven to 425ºF.

Working lengthwise, slice off the top quarter of each jalapeño. Using a small spoon or paring knife, scrape the seeds and ribs out of each jalapeño.

Place a small saucepot over low heat. Add the hot sauce and whisk in the butter until melted. In a medium size bowl, combine the pulled chicken, celery, Monterey Jack cheese and half of the blue cheese.

Scoop some of the chicken mixture into each of the peppers, filling them all up. Lightly mound the chicken into each pepper. Place the peppers in a baking dish and top with the remaining blue cheese.

Bake the peppers until tender and heated through, about 15 minutes. Serve warm.

Notes/Results: I had homegrown jalapeno peppers and they were much smaller (and hotter) than what was available in stores. Since they were so small, I had to scale down the filling. You pretty much have to eyeball the amount of filling you will need. I sliced the top half of the pepper off so I could create a cavity for the filling. I saved the top halves of the peppers, diced them up and added them back to the filling. I adapted this recipe to use less ingredients and tossed my shredded chicken with some bottled buffalo sauce. I used a light hand with the sauce, mainly because buffalo sauce is comprised of hot sauce and butter. I wanted these to be light appetizers that I could eat and not feel guilty about. I topped them with some monterey jack cheese, and didn't really have to use too much cheese. I baked them in the oven at 425 for about 15 minutes. They were really hot and spicy little bites, but they were delicious! I ate them until my mouth was on fire :D

On a personal note, my little guy will be turning three years old in about a week. Lately he has gotten himself into quite a bit of trouble just by being a "little boy". Last night, he clobbered me in the face with a toy and naturally I got mad. A couple of minutes later he told me "mommy, you're eyebrows are not angry anymore". After that he asked me if my eyebrows were happy. I thought it was so funny and cute that I had to share. It's funny to me that he notices all the expressions people make and how their eyebrows show their emotions. If only he could stay this cute and little forever!!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

No-Churn Pomegranate Ice Cream

This week's theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs is Autumn Harvest. It seems absolutely crazy to post an ice cream recipe for an autumn harvest theme, but pomegranates are in season! I debated about whether or not to choose this recipe, but in the end I decided just to roll with it. The pomegranates have just started popping up in the markets and I haven't had one in a really long time.

In fact, the last time I had a pomegranate I was thirteen years old! I was in seventh grade and our home economics teacher was showing us "unique and exotic fruits". None of us had ever seen a pomegranate before. We didn't even know what it was. She cracked open that pomegranate and we all looked at each other like it was an experiment or something. Nobody wanted to eat it, especially when she told us that we were suppose to eat the seeds. I can still remember biting into one of the seeds with skepticism. I remember thinking that it tasted okay, but I was totally wierded out.

Fast forward twenty years and pomegranates are no longer "unique and exotic". In fact, this time of year, they are everywhere. For years I thought about buying them, but never really knew what to do with them. Not to mention, every time I saw them it reminded me of seventh grade, and let's face it.....who wants to be reminded of seventh grade?

However, I had to bite the bullet and buy a pomegranate for a recipe in Stirring the Pot and I'm glad I did. I made two recipes with that one pomegranate and I really liked both of them. The pomegranate seeds look like little red ruby jewels, they are so pretty.
No-Churn Pomegranate Ice Cream - adapted from Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson
2 pomegranates
1 lime
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups heavy cream
Note: You only need 3/4 cup of pomegranate juice. I used Pom juice in place of juicing my own fresh pomegranates. I used my pomegranate for a garnish only.

Juice the pomegranates and the lime, straining the juices into a bowl. You will have approximately 3/4 cup of pomegranate juice. Reserve the pomegranate seeds for garnish. (Or take the easy way out and just pour in 3/4 cup juice, like I did)

Add the powdered sugar and whisk to dissolve.

Whisk in the cream and keep whisking until soft peaks form in the pale pink cream.

Spoon and smooth the ice cream into a rigid plastic container with a tight-fitting lid and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight. Scatter with pomegranate seeds when you eat it.

Serves 8

Notes/Results: What a fun and easy recipe to make. I love the color of this ice cream, such a pretty pale pink. The ice cream was sweet and the pomegranate seeds added that certain tart and juicy pop in your mouth. It is stunning with the ruby red pomegranate seeds on top for a garnish and would make a very festive and stunning part of your holiday dessert table. I did notice that it took a little longer than four hours to set up, so I would definitely let it set up either overnight or at least 6-8 hours. I couldn't help but be reminded of my thirteen year old self when I was eating this. I felt like I was really eating a "unique and exotic" treat!!

Head on over to I Heart Cooking Clubs to see what everyone else is cooking up. Better yet, cook along with us. I really love Nigella's recipes. I haven't met one that I didn't like!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

Picture a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and then divide it into fourths. Can you imagine eating such a large portion? I was surprised to find out that the serving size for these green chile chicken enchiladas was so big. You can literally eat one-fourth of a 9 x 13 inch pan for only 456 calories!!

I would actually refer to this recipe as an enchilada bake instead of individual enchiladas. I used some rotisserie chicken for the filling. The green chile sauce is made with two roasted and peeled poblano peppers, cilantro, chicken broth and lime.

Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas - Cook Yourself Thin
Serves 4 huge servings at 456 calories each
2 roasted poblano peppers, peeled
1 bunch of cilantro leaves, washed, stems discarded
1 lime, zested and juiced
2 cloves garlic
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
12 corn tortillas
1 cup canned nonfat refried beans
3 cups of leftover roast chicken
3/4 cup reduced-fat shredded cheese, such as Mexican-style, Monterey Jack, or Cheddar
2 scallions, thinly sliced

For the garnish: chopped fresh cilantro and 1 lime - cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly oil a 9x13 inch baking dish with cooking spray or teaspoon olive oil. (I think I forgot this step and mine turned out fine). In a food processor or blender, puree the roasted and peeled peppers, cilantro, garlic, lime zest and juice, chicken stock, salt and pepper until smooth.

Spread 1/3 cup of the sauce in the prepared baking dish. Top with an overlapping layer of 6 tortillas. Spread refried beans evenly over the tortillas. Top the beans with the shredded chicken mixture, and add 1/3 of the sauce, followed by the remaining 6 tortillas. Pour the remaining sauce over the tortillas. Cover with foil.

Bake the enchiladas until they begin to bubble on the sides, about 20 minutes. Remove the foil; sprinkle cheese and scallions on top. Continue baking until heated through and the cheese is melted, about 5 minutes more. Top with cilantro and serve with lime wedges.
Notes/Results: I didn't look at the serving sizes until we were ready to eat and couldn't believe how generous the serving size was. This is a great recipe if you are really hungry!! We really liked this dish and would make it again, especially considering the calorie count and the heartiness of the recipe. The book says that you can add a jalapeno to the green chile sauce for more heat. I wished I would've done that because the poblano peppers weren't very hot. In the case where you do not like spicy food, you can also use two roasted green peppers for the sauce. I loved the taste of this enchilada bake. You could really taste the flavor the the corn tortillas, and it was packed with all kinds of flavor. Definitely a must make for anyone who wants to eat healthier.

Happy Monday!!