28 November 2007

Face Off: Ham Tea Sandwich

Time again for the Face Off! In which we choose the type of tea sandwich Nemmie makes for the bridal shower she's hosting soon! This time, we're doing a ham sandwich. On ciabatta. Because that's the bread I like, and that's what attendees are going to get, darn it.

First up: the only cold sandwich. Supposedly the "classic" ham tea sandwich according to whatever-site-it-was where it originated, this sucker has ham, shaved parmesan, and a butter-and-green-onion spread on top. And a nice grind of black pepper. It was actually really good, but not quite good enough. The other two were definitely better. Off we go to #2!

This guy is a baked sandwich, recipe compliments of a coworker. And, I would think, very very nice for a large group. Ham, swiss, and a poppy/onion/mustard/butter mixture that you spread on the bottom. Then wrap up in foil and bake for about 20 minutes until hot and bubbly. I heard that you can make these suckers by the dozen, wrap in foil, and freeze. Then just thaw the day before baking. And they are quite scrumptious. However: how many ladies at a bridal shower want poppy seeds stuck in their teeth? Yeah, exactly. So on to the third...

This was the yummiest by far. A nice toasted ham sandwich with brie, mango chutney, and a touch of mustard. I loved how the chutney brought out the sweetness of the ham, and the brie? Well. Everyone loves a nice creamy brie. All on a crusty, toasted sandwich. Perfection. The only worry with this guy: toasting involves a bit more "standing over the stovetop" action, which is tricky when I'm making dozens of handwiches...

So, for once, the Stand Off does not have a clear winner. I will sleep on this one, figure out which is best for the bridal shower I'm throwing for Miss Northstrom. Until then, enjoy the 3rd recipe, compliments of allrecipes.com.

Ham and Brie Sandwich

6 slices black forest ham
1/2 (8 oz) wedge Brie cheese, sliced
4 Tbsp. mango chutney

1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 "personal-sized" ciabatta rolls
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Cut the ciabatta rolls in half length-wise. Assemble the sandwiches by layering the ham, brie cheese, chutney, and mustard on the bottoms of each roll, topping with the top of each roll. Brush the top of each sandwich with olive oil.

Heat a grill pan over medium heat. Once the pan is hot, lie the sandwiches, oiled side down, in the pan. Brush the top of each sandwich with oil. Cook each side until the bread is golden brown, about 3 minutes per side.

27 November 2007

Bridal Shower Wild Rice Salad

My sister Aimbot got married in the summer of 2006, in gorgeous southern California. Her friend Cat threw her a bridal shower a few days before (so everyone flying in could attend). Just the sweetest little shower I've ever attended: much giggling and chatting and glasses of champagne, no games or other such things. Good conversation and good food, what could be better?

The lunch included yummy little sandwiches and sides and an awesome strawberry tiramisu, but it was the wild rice salad that really did me in. I didn't want to be a total pig, so I took a very ladylike portion, but seriously I could've eaten an entire vat of the stuff. It was fruity and nutty and yet savory. Quite good. And Cat was gracious enough to share the recipe, that lovely woman. I'm forever indebted.

I have dubbed this Bridal Shower Wild Rice Salad because that's my fond memory of it, plus it is something that's perfect for just such an occasion: dainty and healthy, with a charming mix of ingredients. Blueberries and nuts with onion and celery to round out the flavors. Probably more of a summery salad, but I love to make this one year-round.

Bridal Shower Wild Rice Salad

2 c. water
1 tsp. salt
1 c. wild rice (about 6 oz)
1/2 c. dried blueberries
1/3 c. chopped toasted pecans (About 1 ½ oz)
1/3 c. chopped unsalted cashews (About 1 ½ oz)
1/4 c. chopped green onion tops
2 Tbsp. finely chopped celery
2 Tbsp. finely chopped red onion
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. sugar
1/3 c. oil (I use a vegetable and olive oil mix)

Combine water and salt and bring to boil. Add rice, reduce heat to medium low and cover and simmer until rice is tender, about 45 minutes. Drain well and cool.

Transfer rice to large bowl. Add next 6 ingredients. Can be prepared one day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.

Mix next 5 ingredients in blender. With blender running gradually add oils. Pour dressing over rice and toss. Season with salt and pepper.

26 November 2007

Cherry Almond Chip Cookies

And... the cherry craving struck again. Curses. I had a girlie get-together to attend one evening, and a little over an hour to whip up a treat. I found several cherry-chocolate recipes online, but that would not do. Oh no, I wanted almond-y cherry white chocolate cookies. No regular chocolate allowed! So I improvised a bit, and came up with what you see below.

This recipe is a good go-to when a girl is in need of a quick cookie fix. They come out chewy and soft, yet hold their shape well. And of course, that classic cherry-almond taste is sooo good. Add white chocolate, and voila - total decadence!

Cherry, Almond, and White Chocolate Cookies

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. dried cherries, coarsely chopped
1 c. whole almonds, toasted and chopped
6 oz. white chocolate chips (I bet a white chocolate baking bar would be fantastic too!)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Add eggs and extracts; beat on low speed for about 10 seconds.

Using lowest speed of mixer or by hand, stir in flour mixture. When flour is incorporated, stir in cherries, almonds and white chocolate.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Place on center rack of preheated 350F oven, and bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until light golden brown. Cool slightly before removing from cookie sheet.

Makes about 36 cookies.

25 November 2007

Racine Kringle

Peabody of food blogging fame has recently purchased a home. She and her husband have quite the lovely new digs, and I must admit I am more than a little jealous of that amazing new kitchen of hers. In a show of her usual generous and charming spirit, Peabody has invited fellow food bloggers to attend a virtual housewarming of sorts. Now, how could anyone resist such an invitation? I decided to attend.

I thought and thought, wanting to bring something personal to the potluck. Something that represented me and my background. Also it would need to travel well (potluck is potluck, after all, even if it is a virtual one). What I decided on was the uniquely Wisconsin treat known as kringle.

In Danish, the word kringle refers to cookies and tea cakes made with butter. In the Wisconsin town of Racine, a large concentration of Danish settlers instead used this term to refer to a pastry made of layers of dough and butter glazed with brown sugar and cinnamon, a filling of pecans or fruits, and sugar icing. It was an oval ring in shape when baked, and was best consumed warm with a healthy slathering of butter. The results were quite popular. Today the Racine kringle is legendary and, to be authentic, should be only from this town in Wisconsin.

Racine kringle bakeries use a drawn-out method of layering the dough 3 dozen times (!) with butter, and also letting the dough sit for 3 days. I don't have the time or skills to do that, so I found this simpler method online. The result is similar and if you ask me, very close to the traditional kringle. I decided to change things up a bit, added 1/2 c. of dried blueberries to my filling (1 c. pecans) and some lemon zest, to bring out the fruit. It ended up being a very good combination.

So here's my dish, ready for the potluck. A favorite from a proudly born-and-bred Wisconsinite. And also, a self-admitted early bird (heh, only about 2 weeks ahead of deadline...). Congratulations on the new home, Peabody! Enjoy the kringle! One out of probably 100 desserts that will pop up at the party, knowing your crowd :)

Racine Kringle

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 c.warm water (110 to 115 F)
1/2 c. cold butter
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. warm milk (110 to 115 F)
1 egg, beaten
Nut filling (recipe follows)
Glaze (recipe follows)
2 Tbsp. chopped pecans or walnuts

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water.

Using a pastry blender or two knives, in a large bowl, cut butter into flour and salt until particles are the size of small peas. Add yeast mixture, sugar, warm milk, and egg; beat until smooth (dough will be very soft). Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours but not more than 24 hours.

When ready to use, remove from refrigerator. Punch dough down and divide in half; return other half to refrigerator. On a well-floured board, working quickly before dough softens, roll into a 15 x 10-inch rectangle, approximately 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick (if dough gets too warm from handling, return to refrigerator).

Spread half of the prepared Nut Filling down the center of the rolled-out dough rectangle in a 2-inch strip. fold sides of dough over filling, overlapping 1 1/2 inches; pinch edges to seal. Shape into an oval; pinch ends together. Place seam side down on a large greased baking sheet. Repeat same process with remaining dough and filling. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes or until double in size.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. remove from oven and let cool for 15 minutes.

Spread prepared Glaze over kringles. Sprinkle with chopped pecans or walnuts. Serve kringles warm or at room temperature.

To re-warm, preheat oven to 300 F. Slide a whole, uncut kringle onto a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Cover loosely with a large piece of aluminum foil and heat for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and remove aluminum foil before slicing.

Nut Filling:
1 1/2 c. finely chopped pecans or walnuts
1 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c. butter, room temperature

In a large bowl, combine pecans or walnuts, brown sugar, and butter.

1 c. powdered sugar
5 tsp. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, combine powdered sugar, water, and vanilla.

22 November 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all of you lovely readers out there, have a safe trip if you're traveling and enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday!

As usual, my trusty sous chef Miss Mahni will be manning the blog while I'm off for a long weekend of eating and shopping and eating some more. She would also like to remind you to root for *the best football team ever* this Thanksgiving:

That is all. See you soon.

21 November 2007

Cin-Full Pumpkin Pie (get it??)

I must apologize for that God-awful title, it's not my fault. Blame it all on the Chicago Tribune, where this recipe originated. That's their little creation. Witty, huh? And of course I had to make this pie, if only because of the gratuitous use of cinnamon: cinnamon in the crust, copious amounts in the pie, as well as in the whipped topping and pecan decoration. Awesome.

One change I did make: the recipe calls for this wimpy "toss warmed pecans with brown sugar and cinnamon" stuff for decoration. Whatever. I was craving some nice warm spiced pecans. So I boiled together a base of brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and a splash of water. Brought it to soft-ball stage, then stirred in some vanilla and my pecans. Instead of delicate cinnamon-sugar "scented" pecans, my pie is graced with some heady, crunchy, candied pecans.

This is my contribution to our Thanksgiving feast tomorrow at Hub's aunt and uncle's (Arnita and Busey's) house. That is why you get no photo right now of the innards, although if I remember (and don't feel like a complete moron doing so in front of his entire family), I might take one when we cut the pies, to add later.

Have a great holiday everyone!

Cin-Full Pumpkin Pie

8-9 whole cinnamon graham crackers, crushed (about 1 c. crumbs)
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 stick (1/4 c.) butter, melted

2 eggs
1 can (15-oz.) pureed pumpkin
1 can (12-oz.) evaporated milk
1 tsp. brandy
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. each: ginger, nutmeg
1/2 c. sweetened toasted pecans, optional, see note

Cinnamon-scented whipped cream:
2 tsp. confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon or to taste
1 container (1/2 pt.) whipping cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Heat oven to 325 degrees. For crust, combine the graham-cracker crumbs and brown sugar in a large bowl; stir in the melted butter until thoroughly combined. Press crust into bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie pan; bake until set, about 6 minutes. Remove pan from oven; cool on wire rack.

Raise heat to 425 degrees. For filling, combine the eggs, pumpkin, evaporated milk and brandy in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until warm, about 7 minutes. Set aside.

Combine the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in a large bowl; stir in the pumpkin-egg mixture. Pour into the crust; bake 10 minutes. Lower heat to 350 degrees; bake until set, 35-45 minutes. Remove pie from oven; arrange pecans around rim. Let stand until cooled, about 1 hour. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the whipped cream, combine the confectioners' sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside. Combine the whipping cream and vanilla in a large bowl; beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar mixture to the whipped cream; beat until medium peaks form, about 2 minutes; set aside. Serve pie with whipped cream.

Note: For sweetened pecans, toast pecans in a dry skillet over medium heat 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl; add 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Toss to coat.

*They also included the nutitional information, but none of us really want to see that. So I didn't re-print it.

20 November 2007

Cranberry Lime Tart

Tip from Nemmie #87: If left too long in the microwave, white chocolate will catch on fire.

Just one of a few technical problems I had with this tart. Yes, I was too lazy to do the double-boiler thing over the stovetop, and nuked my white chocolate. And made my house smell very, very bad. I also bought a ganky bag of cranberries (shame on you, Oceanspray), so I didn't have enough for my tart. They don't completely cover the top in their ruby-jeweled glory as they are supposed to. And also, I think I baked my crust a wee bit too long, although I will blame this one on the new heating element in my oven not being calibrated correctly. So yeah, definitely not the most beautiful tart ever made.

Ahem. I got this recipe from epicurious.com, it was gorgeous looking and sounded really interesting. It is actually very easy, just has several steps. And the taste is definitely different: tart cranberries that pop in your mouth when you take a bite, surrounded by their sticky-sweet and spicy glaze, and perched on a deliciously sour lime curd and more sweet in the white chocolate layer. Plus a lovely almondy crust. Very interesting flavor combinations! And I think (if made with the correct number of cranberries) something that would look quite lovely on the Thanksgiving table. A nice change from the usual old pumpkin pie.

Cranberry Lime Tart

Lime curd
1/2 c. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
3/4 c. sugar
6 large egg yolks
1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 1/2 tsp. grated lime peel

1 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. whole almonds, toasted, cooled
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Cranberry Topping
1/4 c. water
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
2/3 c. sugar
3 Tbsp. honey
1 1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder (optional; I used a mixture of ground cloves and cinnamon) 1 12-oz. bag (3 cups) fresh cranberries or frozen, partially thawed

White Chocolate Cream
5 oz. white chocolate, chopped
1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp. sour cream
1/2 tsp.vanilla extract

For lime curd: Whisk lime juice and cornstarch in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk in sugar and yolks, then add butter. Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture simmers and thickens, about 8 minutes. Strain into small bowl. Mix in lime peel. Cover; chill overnight.

For crust: Finely grind flour, sugar, almonds, and salt in processor. Add butter and vanilla; cut in, using on/off turns, until mixture just forms soft moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap in plastic. Refrigerate 1 hour. Press dough onto bottom and up sides of 11-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Using thumb, press dough up sides to extend 1/8 inch above rim of pan.

Freeze crust 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake crust until golden brown, pressing with back of spoon if crust bubbles, about 25 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool completely.

For cranberry topping: Whisk 1/4 cup water and cornstarch in heavy large saucepan to blend. Add sugar, honey, and five-spice powder, if desired. Stir over medium-high heat until mixture comes to boil. Add cranberries; cook until mixture boils and berries just begin to pop but still maintain shape, occasionally stirring gently, about 5 minutes. Cool completely (mixture will thicken).

For white chocolate cream: Stir chocolate in top of double boiler over simmering water until melted and smooth. Remove from over water; whisk in sour cream and vanilla. Cool completely. Spread white chocolate cream into crust; freeze 15 minutes.

Spoon curd over; spread evenly. Spoon cranberry topping by tablespoonfuls over, then spread carefully to cover completely. Cover and chill overnight. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.) Remove pan sides; transfer tart to platter.

19 November 2007

Roasted Balsamic Chicken

There are few things in life I love as much as balsamic vinegar. I drizzle it over salads. I reduce it down and slather it on top of steak. I dip bread in it (no oil please, I'll just have the vinegar). It's good on cooked veggies and in rice dishes and, especially, with roasted meats.

This recipe is compliments of Giada De Laurentiis' cookbook Everyday Italian, and it's a staple at our house. I love the tart vinegar with tangy mustard and spicy garlic, what a combination. The thick sauce you make is to-die-for on the meat, and I usually roast potato slices so they can get a healthy drizzle of the sauce as well. And a big plus: you can make the marinade the night before, just throw it in a Ziploc bag with the chicken pieces. Makes for a quick hot meal the following day.

Roasted Balsamic Chicken

1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. Dijon mustard
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 to 1/3 c. olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (4-pound) whole chicken, cut into pieces (guts stuff reserved for another use)
1/2 c. low-salt chicken broth
1 Tbsp. lemon zest (optional garnish)
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley leaves (optional garnish)

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend. Combine the vinaigrette and chicken pieces in a large resealable plastic bag; seal the bag and toss to coat. Refrigerate, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove chicken from the bag and arrange the chicken pieces on a large greased baking dish. Roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 1 hour. If your chicken browns too quickly, cover it with foil for the remaining cooking time.

Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. Place the baking dish on a burner over medium-low heat. Whisk the chicken broth into the pan drippings, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the baking sheet with a wooden spoon and mixing them into the broth and pan drippings. Reduce to desired thickness (I usually let it go about 10 minutes, to get very very thick).

Drizzle the pan drippings over the chicken. Sprinkle the lemon zest and parsley over the chicken, and serve.

18 November 2007

Savory Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Thought this would be an appropriate post, given the upcoming Thanksgiving feast. I don't know about anyone else, but I am not a huge fan of the marshmallow-topped, sickeningly-sweet yams most serve on this holiday. Aside from the fact that it's weird to me to sweeten up a starch, the overly sugary taste pretty much masks any sweet potato flavor (meaning all you really get is the texture of the mashed sweet potato). Why do that, though? Don't we get enough sweet stuff with all the gorgeous pies and cakes and other goodies around on Thanksgiving?

My objective was to find a mashed sweet potato recipe, but one that lacked any sugar. It was quite the exhausting search, trust me. What I finally found was this beauty at Cooking Debauchery. A very simple way to make a delicious side, without a speck of sugar in sight. Think about giving the marshmallows a rest this year and placing this side dish on your holiday table. You won't be disappointed.

Savory Mashed Sweet Potatoes

3-5 sweet potatoes
1/2 to 1 c. of heavy cream
Spice of choice (try sage, thyme, or just plain pepper; I also added a healthy pinch of nutmeg)

Peel the sweet potatoes and slice thinly. No more than a quarter inch thickness. This is best done by halving each potato then placing the cut side down, halving again and then slicing thinly.
Place the thinly slices potatoes into a pan large enough to hold them. Shake the pan to evenly distribute the potatoes. Add enough cream to come just under half way up the potatoes. They will not be covered. Do not use regular milk because it will curdle.
Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are very tender. Remove from heat, season with salt and spice of choice and mash until smooth.
For a smoother creamier puree, put into the food processor and pulse just until smooth.


17 November 2007

Blackberry Chocolate Tartlets

I bought mini tartlet tins a million years ago (or so it seems), and I had yet to use them. Then I happened upon this chocolate tartlet recipe on the Ghirardelli site, and they were just so darling. I just had to make them. Chocolate and more chocolate and fruit cannot be bad.

These tarts are gorgeous and very tasty, and I'm glad I used my mini tartlets instead of the larger ones - the shortbread-like chocolate crust and chocolate-y ganache make for a very filling dessert. Mini tartlets are just a few bites, perfect for this recipe. The original recipe called for raspberries, but blackberries were cheaper - not to mention fresher looking - at the grocery store. Plus, I just adore their rich midnight-blue color.
Chocolate Blackberry Tartlets

14 oz. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
6 Tbsp. Unsweetened Cocoa
12 Tbsp. unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 c. cake flour
1 c. heavy cream
3 c. fresh blackberries
1 pinch of salt

In a food processor, process butter, sugar and salt until creamy. Add cocoa; process until smooth. Add flour; pulse until crumbly. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces, flatten each piece into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Remove 1 piece of dough at a time from refrigerator; roll out into 6-inch circle between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. If dough gets too soft, refrigerate until firm before continuing. Remove top sheet of plastic wrap; invert dough circle over a 4 1/2-inch nonstick tartlet pan with removable bottom. Keeping plastic wrap on top side, press dough into bottom and sides of pan. Trim excess dough; carefully peel off plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough to make 6 tartlet shells. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Heat oven to 375ºF. Prick bottom of tartlet shells all over with fork. Bake about 15 minutes or until dough looks dry. Cool completely in pans.

In saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to simmer. Remove from heat; add chocolate. Let sit until chocolate melts; whisk gently to combine. Cool to room temperature; pour 1/3 cup chocolate mixture into each tartlet shell. Refrigerate tartlets at least 1 hour or until filling is firm. Carefully remove tartlets from pans. Arrange blackberries decoratively on top of filling.

Tips: (1) Recipe also makes 1 large tart; use an 8-inch nonstick tart pan with removable bottom. (2) To make smaller tartlets, press dough into muffin tin compartments lined with paper or foil muffin cups. Remove muffin cups after filling and chilling tartlets. (3) Instead of rolling, press dough into tartlet shells with fingertips; chill and bake as above.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

This is my favorite soup. For reals. It's not like that stuff from the can though, I swear. That canned soup is almost tasteless, with teeny bits of mushroom. And its weird clumpy texture is simply unnerving. That stuff should only be used in casseroles and the like, not for actual soup-like consumption.

Homemade cream of mushroom soup, though? That is a very different story altogether. Like macaroni and cheese, everyone should try to make this for themselves at least once. The mushroom flavor in the soup is to die for, and what I like about this particular recipe is that the turkey makes it a bit more filling. It's thick and chunky and the broth so creamy, just all-around wonderful. The perfect autumn comfort food.

I will warn you: I got this recipe as a hand-me-down from an old friend. The recipe included no measurements, just a list of ingredients and instructions for cooking. The intent was that you could make it however you preferred - add all the mushrooms you want, make it as thick or thin as you desire. Very organic. I've given measurements below, but feel free to experiment to your own liking. Have fun! Enjoy! And you must try this one, I mean it. One of the absolute favorites in my worn rusty recipe box.

Cream of Mushroom Soup

3 Tbsp. butter
1/2 of a yellow onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. ground turkey
1 c. flour
Lots of portabella mushrooms, cut into chunks*
Lots of button mushrooms, cut into chunks*
Lots of other mushrooms you love, cut into chunks*
* Okay, to be fair: you'll need about a pound or so of mushroom chunks total
About 4-6 c. milk, stock, or half-n-half (depending on the flavor/healthiness/thickness you want)
Salt and ground pepper

Add the butter to a large heavy pot on the stovetop over medium heat. Add onion and garlic to the melted butter, and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add ground turkey and brown. Add flour and make the mixture thick, get that flour mixed into the turkey really well (you'll have a thick, sticky, lumpy mass on your hands. That is fine, it's what you want).

Add mushrooms and cook for awhile, until juices and flavor are released (about 15 minutes). Slowly add your liquid of choice (milk/broth/half-n-half). Cook until thickened as desired while on medium heat, stirring frequently. Add salt and pepper to taste.

This soup is perfect with ciabatta or a thick slice of crusty bread!

15 November 2007

Spanish Rice

I'm back and armed with a quick recipe! Actually, it's the only one left in my archives (forgot to take pics of my hominy soup, sorry guys) so that's what you get. I am making some lovely things the rest of the week, read lots of newspaper Food sections and cooking mags while traveling, so I'm well armed with posts. You just wait.

So, Spanish rice. This is something I always used to just make from the Rice-A-Roni package in the past, loved it and it was easy and I figured too hard to make on my own. My parents would make it from scratch when I was young, but I remembered it as taking forever to make. No thanks. I used my beloved Rice-A-Roni for years. So color me surprised when, about a year ago, I was craving my Spanish rice (with no packages of Rice-A-Roni in the cabinet, gasp!) and realized that Fanny Farmer had a surprisingly easy recipe of their own. Go figure!

This tastes like the boxed stuff, but oh so much fresher. And you get to add all the chiles you want, plus no standing over the stove! I love it. Very versatile too: You can make it as a side, of course, but it also makes a lovely meal if you add some sausage or chicken chunks. Or use brown rice to make it a bit healthier. I like to add cilantro (yeah, big surprise) so you can see that in my pics...

Spanish Rice

1/4 c. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery, diced
3 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped (I will also use a 14-oz. can of diced tomatoes)
4 Tbsp. diced canned chiles
1 c. long-grain rice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
2 c. chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly oil a 2-quart casserole dish. Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the onion, green pepper, garlic, and celery.Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, for 5 minutes.

Transfer to the casserole dish and add the tomatoes, chiles, rice, salt, and pepper. Pour in the broth, stir, and cover dish with foil. Bake 30 minutes.

Stir again, and bake for another 30 minutes. If you want to add meat, saute diced chicken or sausage and add to the casserole with the onion mixture.

09 November 2007

See You Next Week

I'm off for awhile, thought about being a good girl and making one last post before I leave, but ack - long day, stressed, and I have a ton to do before flying out on a business trip. So no recipe post for today. Sorry.

Will not be back until Thursday. So here's a few pics of my best girl Mahni, future baker extraordinaire and sous chef, to tide you over until my return. Have a great week!

Putting the finishing touches on her birthday cake. What did I tell you! Totally following in Aunt Nemmie's footsteps!

And enjoying the end result:

08 November 2007

Chicken Spezzatino

Basil. Yum. That is the greatest part of this recipe, I'm telling you. A half cup of that good stuff really flavors the dish well. What I also like about this recipe is that the broth really thickens up well, and all on its own. I've made this dozens of times (another goodie from Giada's Everyday Italian cookbook), and it always turns out perfectly. It is also a one-pot dish, and cooks up in about 30-40 minutes. Lovely! Perfect for the fall.

Tomorrow I have a Mexican soup for you, and then I promise I will ease up on all the autumn soups/stews. For a little while anyway.

Chicken Spezzatino (Chicken Stew)

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 celery stalks, cut into bite-size pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1 (14.5-oz.) can chopped tomatoes with their juices
1 (14-oz.) can reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 chicken breasts with ribs (about 1.5 pounds)
1 (15-oz.) can organic kidney beans, drained (I also like to use garbanzo beans)

In a heavy 5-quart saucepan, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the celery, carrot, and onion, and saute until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the salt and pepper. Stir in the tomatoes, broth, basil, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme. Add the chicken and press to submerge. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, turning the breasts over and stirring occasionally, until the chicken is almost cooked through, about 20 minutes.

Add the beans and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid has reduced to a stew consistency, about 10 minutes.Discard the bay leaf. Let the chicken cool about 5 minutes.

Discard the skin and bones and cut the meat into bite size pieces. Return it to the stew and bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

07 November 2007

Chocolate Cherry Cakes with Almond Buttercream (and a bonus recipe!)

I rarely get cravings, but lately I've been craving chocolate-covered cherries. Which is not a huge surprise, as cherry and chocolate are two of my very favorite things. My parents usually get me a big ole box of them for Christmas every year, those things are so rich I can eat maybe one a week. And yet, when those cravings come on, they come on strong.

I bought a new mini-cake pan this weekend, and so of course the first thing that comes to mind to break it in is something with lots of cherry and chocolate. I went trolling around the Internet, found a good recipe at allrecipes.com, and forged ahead with a few modifications. Then I took my basic buttercream recipe and flavored it with almond, which I'm sure you agree always goes so very well with both cherries and chocolate.

This cake is very moist (thanks to the cherry pie filling), and all the flavors come together quite nicely. The almond buttercream brings out the subtle almond flavor in the cake. Best of all, these little cakes certainly tamed those cravings!

Chocolate Cherry Cakes with Almond Buttercream

1/2 c. butter
1 1/2 c. bakers sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 c. good unsweetened cocoa powder
1 3/4 c. cake flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 (21-oz.) can cherry pie filling
For the buttercream:
1 1/4 c. confectioner’s sugar
1/3 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease and flour one 9x13 inch baking pan.

Cream the butter with sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the eggs and almond extract and beat well. Add the cocoa powder and mix until well combined.

By hand, stir the cake flour, baking soda and salt together. Add flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until just combined. Stir in the cherry pie filling. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake at 350 F for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean. Cool.

For the buttercream: Add the butter, confectioner’s sugar, salt, and almond extract to the stand mixer and mix on low using the paddle attachment until combined. Turn the speed to med-high until the buttercream is fluffy. Spread or pipe onto the cooled cake.

And a bonus recipe...

Since we're on a chocolate-cherry kick, here's a lovely little drinkie that the Hubs made for me a few weeks ago: one-half Lindenman’s cherry lambic, and one-half Young's double-chocolate stout. Layer the stout over the lambic in a pint. Cherry chocolate goodness in a glass! A must try, believe me.

06 November 2007

Pork Pies

My sis Beah gave me this recipe, it's from Cookie Magazine. I thought these pork pies were rather good, although I do recommend you double the sage recommended, and add a wee bit more salt. I was shocked because they really did pop right out of the muffin tin, without much coaxing. Yay!

The pie dough I had in the freezer was stale so I just made my own, not posting that portion though because I'm sure pre-made pie dough will work just fine. The magazine article recommended you serve these with applesauce, mustard, or roasted apples. Yum! Sounds like a great way to enjoy these savory pies; we went the oh-so-gourmet route and had ours with plain old ketchup.

Pork Pies

3/4 lb. ground pork
1 medium onion, peeled and grated (I just chopped mine)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage
1/2 c. bread crumbs
2 (9-in.) discs prerolled, refrigerated pie dough
2 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 375 F. Grease two 6-cup muffin tins with butter.
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients but the dough and 1 tablespoon of the eggs; refrigerate.
Unroll the dough and cut out twelve 4-inch circles with a biscuit cutter or the rim of a drinking glass. Reroll the scraps, then cut out 12 more 2-inch circles.
Line the bottoms and sides of the tins with the 4-inch rounds. Divide the filling evenly among the cups. Press the 2-inch rounds on top, pinching the edges together to seal. Poke a hole in the center of each pie.

Brush with the reserved egg and bake until the tops are browned and puffed slightly, 30 to 35 minutes.

Let cool for 15 minutes before removing the pies from the tins. Serve warm.

05 November 2007


This is my first try with mussels at home (instead of enjoying them in the safety of my favorite little restaurant). Before I was always intimidated by them, but the lovely Sarah helped me get over my fear. Thanks much my dear! Also I used catfish instead of the other fish available at our local grocery. All they had was fish from China (save for the catfish), and all I can say to that is: I most certainly don't eat fish from China. Word to the wise, ladies and gents. Don't buy fish from China. Take it from the lady that works for an environmental toxicology journal. You don't want me to elaborate, trust me.

Anyhoo, let's get back to the stew, shall we? I got this recipe from epicurious.com. Cioppino is a fish soup/stew of sorts, of Italian origin and from what I read, a great favorite in the US Northwest. I thought this recipe came together beautifully, incredibly fast, and I loved the flavors: fennel gave a wonderful licorice-like background that spiced up this tomato-based dish.


1 fennel bulb, stalks discarded and bulb cut lengthwise into 6 wedges
1 medium onion, quartered
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. dried hot red-pepper flakes
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 c. water
1 c. full-bodied red wine such as Zinfandel or Syrah
1 (8-oz.) bottle clam juice
1 lb. skinless fillets of thick white-fleshed fish such as halibut, hake, or pollack, cut into 2-inch chunks (I used catfish and it worked just fine)
1 lb. cultivated mussels

Pulse fennel, onion, and garlic in a food processor until coarsely chopped.

Heat oil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then stir in chopped vegetables, bay leaves, thyme, red-pepper flakes, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp. black pepper.

Cook, covered, over medium heat, stirring once or twice, until vegetables begin to soften, about 4 minutes.

Add tomatoes with their juice, water, wine, and clam juice and boil, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in seafood and cook, uncovered, until fish is just cooked through and mussels open wide, 4 to 6 minutes (discard any that remain unopened after 6 minutes). Discard bay leaves.

04 November 2007

Gingerbread Pumpkin Bars

I would love to say that I came up with this recipe myself, but in actuality I swiped this one from Peabody. She has such wonderful recipes and great pictures, it puts me to shame. These bars are no exception from her usual recipes: very good, very fun to make, and lovely to behold. Thanks Peabody!

Gingerbread Pumpkin Bars


For the bars:
2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
16 tsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. molasses
1/3 c. rolled quick oats

For the filling:
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 3/4 c. mashed pumpkin
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
2 large eggs

For the drizzle:
1 c. confectioners’ sugar
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 to 2 Tbsp. milk

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To make the bars:
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves.
In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, sugar and molasses until creamy. Add dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Reserve 3/4 cup of this mixture and place in a small bowl. Scoop the remaining mixture into a 10″ x 15″ baking pan lightly coated with nonstick spray.

Add the oats to the reserved mixture and mix until combined - set aside.

To make the filling:
In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves - mix until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing just until combined. Scoop the mixture over the uncooked base and use an off-set spatula to evenly spread the mixture over the top. Crumble reserved oat mixture over filling.

Bake until the topping is a golden brown, about 25-30 minutes. Remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the drizzle:
In a small bowl, mix together confectioners’ sugar, butter and vanilla. Mix in just enough milk until the mixture will easily flow from a spoon - drizzle over cooled bars.

03 November 2007

Herb-Roasted Root Vegetables

This is a great basic recipe for this time of year: it's good for you, tasty, and oh so easy to make. Unfortunately, Hubs hates brussels sprouts (and I adore them, especially roasted, so boo). So instead of brussels sprouts this time we bought patty pan squash to roast along with the other veggies, just added them for the last 10 minutes of roasting.

This recipe is very versatile: I change it up regularly depending on what looks good at the market or what I'm hungry for, using baking potatoes or fennel or butternut squash or beets. Possibilities are almost endless!

Herb-Roasted Root Vegetables

4 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
8 oz. brussels sprouts, whole or halved if they are large
1/3 c. olive oil
1 Tbsp. dried oregano
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. dried thyme
1 Tbsp. dried rosemary
Salt and ground black pepper

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 F.

In a large bowl, toss the parsnips, carrots, sweet potato, brussels sprouts, oil, and herbs with 2 tsp. each salt and ground black pepper to coat. Arrange the vegetables evenly on a large, heavy baking sheet.

Roast the vegetables until tender and golden, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper to taste. The veggies can be made up to 4 hours ahead; rewarm in the oven before serving.

02 November 2007

Chicken Piccata

Chicken piccata gets made quite a bit at our place, it's easy and quick and pretty darn healthy. We'll have it with a side of veggies and maybe some brown rice. This recipe is from Giada DeLaurentiis' cookbook Everyday Italian, and it's a good one. If you don't want to pound out the chicken breasts, the tenderloins they sell at the grocery store work well and also cook up in a jiffy.


Chicken Piccata

2 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, butterflied and then cut in half
Salt and ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 c. fresh lemon juice
1/2 c. chicken stock
1/4 c. brined capers, rinsed
1/3 c. fresh parsley, chopped

Season chicken with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess. In a large skillet over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with 3 tablespoons olive oil. When butter and oil start to sizzle, add chicken and cook for 3-4 minutes. When chicken is browned, flip and cook other side for 3-4 minutes. Remove and transfer to plate.

Into the pan add the lemon juice, stock and capers. Bring to boil, scraping up brown bits from the pan for extra flavor. Check for seasoning.

Return the chicken to the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove chicken to platter. Add remaining 1 tablespoon butter to sauce and whisk vigorously. Pour sauce over chicken and garnish with parsley.