30 January 2008

MB Vanilla Cupcakes

MB vanilla cupcakes. That would be Magnolia Bakery (of New York fame) vanilla cupcakes, and yes ma'am: it's the very same recipe that has been doing the rounds on several blogs.

I hosted Miss Northstrom's Bridal Shower this past weekend, you see, and wanted to make a vanilla cupcake for the occasion. I already had a good "pink (lemonade)" one and a lovely dark chocolate, so vanilla was the obvious choice for the third flavor. I decided to give the Magnolia Bakery recipe a shot because hey, what the heck. Plenty of others are doing it too (let's hear it for peer pressure!)

Of note: while a visit to the Magnolia Bakery seems to be a NYC Tourist's Dream, in actuality I hear that the vanilla cupcakes are a wee bit bland and dry (the Hummingbird cupcake there is well received, however, so if you visit the Bakery do go that route!). I didn't want sawdust cupcakes, so I changed the recipe up a little bit. Fats make a cake more moist, so I went with yogurt instead of plain old milk (as the original recipe called for). Seemed to do the trick, my cupcakes were moist instead of dry. The extra vanilla seemed to give it a good flavor as well. I think this is a decent basic vanilla cake recipe if you need one. Definitely worth giving a shot!

MB Vanilla Cupcakes
(makes 2 dozen cupcakes)

1 1/2 c. self-rising flour
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 c. sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 c. yogurt or sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.

In a small bowl, combine the flours. Set aside.

In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugar gradually and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients in three parts, alternating with the milk and vanilla. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated but do not overbeat. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl to make sure the ingredients are well blended.

Carefully spoon the batter into the cupcake liners, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in the tins for 15 minutes. Remove from the tins and cool completely on a wire rack before icing. Note: I did not use the Magnolia Bakery buttercream recipe, instead opting to use my regular old stand by (as can be seen in past posts). It worked just fine.

28 January 2008

Lemon Meringue Pie

Time again for the Daring Bakers Challenge! This one was more my speed - a pie. But not just any pie, oh no. This challenge was Lemon Meringue: that classic bottom crust pie with a smooth lemon filling and fluffy high-to-the-sky meringue. This challenge was hosted by Jenn over at The Canadian Baker, and I couldn't wait to give it a try. I've made a pie or two in my day, but never lemon meringue (key lime yes, chocolate pudding yes, but meringue? not exactly).

Now I must admit: I am not a fan of citrus curds. To me, there is an odd metallicy taste that I just can't palate. But with this pie? No problems at all. I think the reason is that I was measuring my vanilla over the bowl of filling, and accidently over-poured (probably more like 2 tsp. in mine). It actually brought out a much warmer flavor in the lemon filling, and cut out any of that weird slightly-metallic taste I usually detect. Yay! Just goes to prove: mistakes are sometimes in one's favor.

A lot of fellow bakers had problems with the curd not setting, and I must admit - mine spent many hours in the fridge (then freezer) to get it thickened up. I made the free-form tarts, which really needed a thicker filling, but it seemed to work okay. The filling layer was rather lacking in height but I piped on enough meringue to make up for it :) I personally rather liked this pie, I think because of my vanilla oopsie and also because the meringue (to me anyway) was rather good. And no weeping meringue, which is always nice!

And I'm apologizing now for the terrible pictures! I refused to use my flash but it was dark dark dark outside when I finished these tarts, so my pics are off-colored and a wee bit grainy. I promise to use daylight to my full advantage next time.

Lemon Meringue Pie
(from Wanda's Pie in the Sky by Wanda Beaver)

For the Crust:
3/4 c. cold butter; cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 c. ice water
For the Filling:
2 c. water
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. cornstarch
5 egg yolks, beaten
1/4 c. butter
3/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. vanilla extract
For the Meringue:
5 egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 c. granulated sugar
For the Crust: Make sure all ingredients are as cold as possible. Using a food processor or pastry cutter and a large bowl, combine the butter, flour, sugar and salt. Process or cut in until the mixture resembles coarse meal and begins to clump together. Sprinkle with water, let rest 30 seconds and then either process very briefly or cut in with about 15 strokes of the pastry cutter, just until the dough begins to stick together and come away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and press together to form a disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least 20 minutes.

Allow the dough to warm slightly to room temperature if it is too hard to roll. On a lightly floured board (or countertop) roll the disk to a thickness of ⅛ inch (.3 cm). Cut a circle about 2 inches (5 cm) larger than the pie plate and transfer the pastry into the plate by folding it in half or by rolling it onto the rolling pin. Turn the pastry under, leaving an edge that hangs over the plate about ½ inch (1.2 cm). Flute decoratively. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Line the crust with foil and fill with metal pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes, until golden. Cool completely before filling.

For the Filling: Bring the water to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Remove from the heat and let rest 5 minutes. Whisk the sugar and cornstarch together. Add the mixture gradually to the hot water, whisking until completely incorporated.

Return to the heat and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly until the mixture comes to a boil. The mixture will be very thick. Add about 1 cup (240 mL) of the hot mixture to the beaten egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Whisking vigorously, add the warmed yolks to the pot and continue cooking, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from the heat and stir in butter until incorporated. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla, stirring until combined. Pour into the prepared crust. Cover with plastic wrap to prevent a skin from forming on the surface, and cool to room temperature.

For the Meringue: Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Using an electric mixer beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, salt and vanilla extract until soft peaks form. Add the sugar gradually, beating until it forms stiff, glossy peaks. Pile onto the cooled pie, bringing the meringue all the way over to the edge of the crust to seal it completely. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. Cool on a rack. Serve within 6 hours to avoid a soggy crust.

Free-Style Lemon Tartlets
Prepare the recipe as above but complete the following steps:

To roll out tartlet dough, slice the dough into 6 pieces. On lightly floured surface, roll each circle of dough into a 5 inch disk. Stack the disks, separated by pieces of plastic wrap, on a plate, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To bake the dough, position rack in oven to the centre of oven and preheat to 350ºF (180ºC). Place the disks of dough, evenly spaced, on a baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely.

To finish tartlets, first place oven rack in the upper third of the oven and increase heat to 425ºF.
Divide the lemon filling equally among the disks, mounding it in the centre and leaving a 1-inch border all the way around.

Spoon the meringue decoratively over each tartlet, right to the edges, in dramatic swirling peaks. Return tartlets to oven and bake for about 5 minutes, until the meringue is golden brown.

24 January 2008

Torta di Pasta

I’m a frugal girl at heart, and found myself in a bit of a leftovers situation. Earlier in the week, I had braised chicken with tomatoes, green olives, and onion in white wine and stock, then served over angel hair pasta. I made way too much, in fact much more than usual. Even though Hubs had eaten leftovers for lunch a few days, there was at least half a pound of cold pasta and a few cups of chicken mixture staring me in the face every time I opened the fridge. I had to find a way to use it up, and quickly. I was not going to just throw away perfectly good (very good, in fact) leftovers.

This is adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis’s cookbook Everyday Italian. Her version uses fresh spaghetti and sun-dried tomatoes, but I think this recipe works great for leftovers on hand. The torta comes together in no time and it tastes fabulous. I love the crispy texture of the outside and gooey (thanks to the fontina) inside. Yum! I think I’ll be making several variations on this recipe when I find myself with copious leftovers in the future.

Torta di Pasta

8 oz. leftover spaghetti or angel hair pasta

1/2 to 1 c. leftovers (roasted veggies, chicken, etc.) or fresh goodies, like sun-dried tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, fresh tomatoes, olives… Whatever you like
4 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
1 c. grated fontina
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Mix together leftover pasta and leftover veggies/chicken or fresh ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, salt, and pepper, Parmesan, and fontina to blend. Add the pasta mixture and toss to coat.

Preheat the broiler. Melt the butter and oil in a 9 1/2-inch-diameter nonstick skillet over medium heat. Transfer the spaghetti mixture to the skillet, pressing to form an even layer. Cook until the bottom is golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Transfer the skillet to the broiler. Broil until the top is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Cool in the skillet to room temperature.

Invert the torta onto a platter. Cut into wedges and serve at room temperature.

22 January 2008

Chicago Dog Salad

Chicago, my most favorite city. Seriously, I would take it over NYC, San Fran, SoCal, anything. The city is known for so many things: architecture, deep dish pizza, Al Capone, the Magnificent Mile, the Cubbies... However, I like to remember it for its dogs. Chicago dogs, that is.

For the uninitiated, the Chicago dog is hotdog on a poppy-seed bun, topped with mustard, onion, relish, pickles, tomatoes, sport peppers, and a dash of celery salt. Perfection. And my absolute favorite treat when visiting the city. When I found a recipe for a Chicago Dog Salad, well, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

This recipe is compliments of Spaz (I love ya Rach, I really do, you just need to drink less coffee, seriously). I adore this recipe because it's a "healthy" version of the original: no bun, and turkey hot dogs. For me it means "no guilt" because yay I'm eating a salad!

And it tastes, amazingly, like a real Chicago dog. I am not kidding, it's just fabulous. I added a few missing ingredients to her recipe (couldn't find a way to work in that relish though). I've made this one 3 times in the past week so for real: I recommend giving this one a try.

Chicago Dog Salad

1/4 c. yellow mustard
2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 rounded tsp. granulated sugar
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
16 oz. shredded cabbage
1 heart of romaine lettuce, shredded
2 vine-ripe tomatoes, diced
Sliced jalapenos or sport peppers (optional)
3 large garlic pickles, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
8 turkey hot dogs, cut into 1-inch slices on an angle
Celery salt

In a large bowl, combine the mustard, vinegar, sugar and 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos (optional), and pickles. Toss well. Season the salad with pepper and a pinch of salt (more to come at the end, so go easy on it). Taste, adjust the seasonings and put aside.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, then arrange the sliced dogs in a single layer. Sear them for a couple of minutes on each side, turning with tongs.

Mound the salad on plates and top with the seared dogs. Sprinkle with celery salt. Serve.

20 January 2008

German Breakfast Cake

This weekend I came across a bit of a problem. It was morning-time, we usually have a nice filling breakfast. But after a quick scan of the fridge, I was frustrated to discover: no bacon, no sausage, no real breakfast meat. Plus no bread in the bread box. Not much milk left in the carton. And no Bisquick in the cabinets.

Which pretty much means no bacon and eggs, no toast, no pancakes/waffles, no cereal and milk, no french toast, no nothing. What's a lady to do in this type of situation, with a growly stomach and not much to work with?

An old friend gave me a recipe for what she called a "German Breakfast Cake", and it's perfect for this type of situation. Few ingredients (most readily on hand), and very yummy. Plus, you can dress it up however you'd like: serve with fresh fruit and a sprinkling of sugar, or with jam, or syrup. Or saute some apples with brown sugar and butter, if you're feeling fancy. We didn't have any fresh fruit on hand (which is my favorite way to serve this), so instead I heated up a mixture of cherry preserves and blueberry jam for serving. And it definitely hit the spot.

German Breakfast Cake

1 Tbsp. + 1 1/2 tsp. butter
2 eggs
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. milk
Topping of choice

Preheat oven to 425 F. Combine the eggs, salt, flour, and milk in a bowl. Melt butter in a 9-in. cake pan. Pour contents of bowl into the cake pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until poofy. Serve at once. Top with any number of things: apples sauted in butter/brown sugar, heated jam, fresh fruit, or the classic: a healthy squirt of lemon juice and sprinkle of powdered sugar.

17 January 2008

Crab Cakes on Salad Greens with a Lime Vinaigrette

Every once in awhile, a girl craves a nice juicy crab cake. You know, the type you can get in the Baltimore Inner Harbor restaurants, with the big chunks of juicy crab meat? And hardly enough binder to hold it together, therefore it's like noshing on a big fat crab without the fuss of shelling it?

Yeah, I know: dream on. I live in the Midwest. No seafood for hundreds of miles, besides the crab cakes are more like breaded hockey pucks around here. However, recently I came across a crab cake recipe that actually caught my attention. While I knew I wouldn't be able to make an authentic Baltimore crab cake, this one was interesting in that (1) it's healthy and (2) it has all sorts of yummies like corn and onion and herbs rather than just breadcrumbs for binder. Had to give it a try. Perfect with a simple green salad, I thought.

The crab cake recipe is from Cooking Light. The lime vinaigrette, I am proud to say, I made on my own from what was in the fridge (specifically, some chutney and limes I wanted to use up). And it's very very good, in fact one I've used for several salad recipes since I came up with the thing.

Anyhoo, back to the crab cakes: The mint was a surprise but really good in this recipe, and the curry was very mild (for those afraid of the stuff). I ended up using less breadcrumbs than recommended, and it made for a very moist crab cake. Good stuff! It came together surprisingly quick, too, so this is a good one for a healthy and quick dinner option. And it's sure took care of those crab cake cravings!

Crab Cakes

5 tsp. canola oil, divided
1 c. corn kernels (about 2 ears)
1/4 c. finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb. lump crabmeat, shells removed ***
1/3 c. reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 large egg whites
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 c. plain dry breadcrumbs, divided
Lime wedges

Preheat oven to 450 F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add corn, onion, curry powder and garlic; cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and let cool completely. Stir in crabmeat.

Whisk mayonnaise, egg whites, lime juice, cilantro, mint and salt in a small bowl. Fold into the crab mixture. Stir in 1/2 cup breadcrumbs. Using about 1/3 cup per patty, form the mixture into eight 3/4-inch-thick patties. Dredge the patties in the remaining breadcrumbs.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 4 crab cakes and cook until the undersides are golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Using a wide spatula, turn cakes over onto the prepared baking sheet. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the skillet and repeat with the remaining 4 crab cakes.

Bake the crab cakes until golden on the second side and heated through, 15 to 20 minutes.

Salad Greens with Lime Vinaigrette

1/3 c. fresh lime juice
Hot sauce, to taste
1 Tbsp. mango chutney
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 c. canola oil
Salad greens of choice (about 12 oz.)

Whisk together lime juice, a few dashes of hot sauce, chutney, and sugar in a bowl. Slowly add canola oil while whisking, until emulsified. Add greens to bowl and toss well.

To plate: place greens on a plate. Top with a crab cake or two, and a lime wedge for that extra citrus punch. Enjoy!
*** I used pasteurized crab meat from the grocery store (in a tub-type of dish), but I think that if you are lucky enough to find fresh, you should totally use it! And beware the canned crab - fell for that joke once, and once is enough. It's like eating straw. Ew.

15 January 2008

Lavender Fairy Cupcakes

These cute little lavender cupcakes were created with the help of a few of my new kitchen goodies. The recipe is from Cakes and Bakes, a cookbook Christmas gift from my friend Nicole. There are a bunch of yummy-looking recipes in that book :) I thought this would be a good recipe to use to break in my new mini-muffin tin and cupcake liners. And the lavender, the main reason I pulled this recipe out: it's from a lovely little European store downtown, I couldn't help but buy it when I saw it on their shelves (a local product to boot, so I know it's fresh!).

The cupcakes were really good - a nice subtle lavender essence that went well with the sugary honey. The gooey frosting was a nice complement to the cakes. A good one to try if you want a new-ish type recipe and happen upon some edible lavender!

Lavender Fairy Cakes

1/4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. finely chopped lavender flowers
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. self-rising flour, sifted
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted
Silver dragees and lavender flowers, for decorating

Preheat your oven to 375 F. PLace 12 paper cupcake liners in a muffin pan. Place the sugar, honey, and butter in a bowl and cream together until fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs. Stir in the milk, lavender, and vanilla extract. Carefully fold in the flour.

Divide the mixture between the cupcake liners and bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until well risen and golden. The sponge should bounce back when pressed. A few minutes before the cakes are ready, sift the powdered sugar into a bowl and stir in enough water or milk to make a very thick frosting.

When the cakes are baked, transfer to a wire rack and place a blob of frosting in the center of each one, allowing it to run across the cake. Decorate with lavender flowers and silver dragees. Serve cakes as soon as they are cool.

13 January 2008

Blood Orange Tart

I saw this recipe in the latest issue of Food and Wine (January 2008), and I knew I had to try it. I love the look of rustic tarts, and this one was so simple (just fruit, crust, sugar, and butter). I adore blood oranges too, much more tart and yet so sweet, with a gorgeous ruby-ish red color.

And it turned out just lovely - I ended up pulling mine from the oven a bit early, as it was starting to blacken at the edges. Charred edges withstanding - this recipe makes a very flaky, buttery crust; one of the best I've made, to be honest. The oranges are sweet and tart and juicy from the long bake in the oven. Yum! I pulled this tart together last night and planned on making it for dessert tonight, but I couldn't hold out and instead we had tart for breakfast :)

Blood Orange Tart

1 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, the stick cut into 1/2-in. pieces and chilled
3 Tbsp. ice water
8 to 10 blood oranges
1 large egg yolk mixed with 2 Tbsp. of water

In a food processor, pulse the 1 cup of flour with 2 tablespoons of the sugar and the baking powder and salt. Add the stick of cold butter and pulse several times, just until it is the size of peas. Sprinkle the dough with the ice water and pulse just until moistened crumbs form. Turn the crumbs out onto a work surface, knead once or twice and pat the pastry into a disk. Wrap the pastry in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry to an 11-inch round, about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer the pastry to a parchment paper–lined flat cookie sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes, or until chilled.

Meanwhile, peel the blood oranges, removing all of the bitter white pith. Thinly slice 2 of the oranges crosswise; remove the pits. Transfer the orange slices to a plate. Working over a sieve set over a bowl, cut in between the membranes of the remaining oranges, releasing the sections into the sieve. Remove the pits and gently shake out as much juice as possible without mashing the sections; you will need 1 cup of sections. Reserve the orange juice for another use.

Arrange the orange sections on the pastry, leaving a 2-inch border all around. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the sugar over the oranges. Using a paring knife, thinly slice the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over the oranges. Fold up the pastry over the oranges, leaving most of the oranges uncovered. Brush the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle lightly with 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Arrange the orange slices on top, leaving a 1-inch border of pastry all around. Sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar on top. Freeze the tart until solid, at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375° and position a rack in the center. Place a baking sheet on the rack below to catch any drips. Bake the tart directly from the freezer for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the pastry is deeply browned. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack and let the tart cool for 30 minutes. Carefully slide the parchment paper onto the rack and let the tart cool completely. Serve with the Salted Caramel Sauce.

MAKE AHEAD: The unbaked tart can be tightly wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 2 weeks.

11 January 2008

Trucioli with Prosciutto and Blue Cheese

Yum! I bet your mouth waters just from the title, right? My darling sister Coco sent this one to me via email to give a whirl one of these evenings. It's no secret that Hubs and I are big pasta lovers, and this dish didn't disappoint. Creamy sauce with a nice depth of flavor from the blue cheese, plus crisp salty prosciutto, and just enough onion and garlic for a hint of flavor in the sauce. We had it with Wheatfields bread and a nice light Beaujolais. A perfect, simple-yet-polished meal!

My sister suggested parsley for some color, and I must admit - without it, the dish is rather bland-looking. I used Italian parsley because that's what I had on hand, however feel free to use regular old parsley. The Italian is a wee bit stronger, and overpowered the flavors in the dish a teeny bit.

Thank you Coco-Rico, for the lovely recipe! Will get lots of use out of this one this winter.

Trucioli with Prosciutto and Blue Cheese

12 oz. trucioli or other shaped rotini pasta
4 oz. prosciutto or amount to taste (can also use premium bacon)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. chopped onion
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese (my sister used Humboldt Fog, I used a nice gorgonzola)
1 c. half and half
1 tsp. ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan

Cut prosciutto into ½ inch slices, set aside. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat, add garlic, onion, and prosciutto and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Add the creamer and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until thickened. Stir in blue cheese an simmer for an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Boil pasta according to directions. Drain well and combine with sauce. Toss with parmesan cheese and black pepper and serve with a nice crusty loaf of bread and your fave red wine.

**Ah, yes: and please say hello to my new darling camera. This was its first photo shoot for the blog :)

09 January 2008

Latin Tomato and Mushroom Soup

My, but how I love the winter: if for no other reason, it means lots of soups for dinner, at least at our house. This soup is quite brothy, a wee bit spicy, and can tame a mean Mexican Food craving. The pepper/corn/beans/cilantro are a great combination in any dish, and really does the trick here.

Found this recipe at We [heart] Food when trolling the Internet one day (by way of the ever helpful Tastespotting site). This recipe was originally supposed to contain "huitlacoche", which I decided I was better off without after researching it online (for the record: it is a Mexican corn fungus). Give this one a whirl, you won't be disappointed. And if you can find and use huitlacoche, leave a comment on the old blog here and tell me what it's like!

Latin Tomato and Mushroom Soup

6 c. chicken broth
1 (14.5 oz.) can black beans, drained
1 c. shredded chicken
1 c. corn kernels
1/2 c. tomato puree
4 green onions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1 large anaheim pepper
1 small poblano pepper
2 large portobello caps
1/4 c. chopped cremini mushrooms
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
1 Tbsp. lime juice
tortilla strips * (optional)

Combine the stock, chicken, corn, tomato puree, whites of green onion, peppers, and black beans in a large pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat and sautee the mushrooms in the olive oil until they give up their juices. Set aside.

Stir in the mushrooms, cilantro, lime juice, and green onions, and simmer for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve hot, sprinkling each bowl with tortilla strips (optional).

* To make tortilla strips, cut 2-3 corn tortillas into thin strips, spray with cooking spray and bake in a 400F oven for 10 minutes or until crisp.

07 January 2008

Back in a few, promise.

Things are quite hectic, and I haven't a square to spare right now. Not to mention: between holidays with my fam and then the in-laws, we are totally loaded down with food and treats and other such sundries to get us through the next couple of days to week (at the very least).

So, anyhoo, will be back no later than Wednesday, promise. I have grand plans for recipes - crab cakes, creamy pasta dishes, and lavender cupcakes amongst other goodies. Until my return: trusty sous chef Mahni would like to demonstrate the proper way to stylishly air-bubble-preschooly jump.

04 January 2008

Orange Shortbread Cookies

When my family first moved to Kansas, it was a bit of culture shock. The landscape was different, the weather was crazy. The regional fare was foreign to me. The accent was oh-so twangy and hard for this Northerner to understand. Worst of all, no Packers fans. Instead, I noticed a very curious obsession: college sports. And these people rooted for a team called the KU Jayhawks. Um. Okay? What in the hell is a Jayhawk? Why is everyone crazy for this college team, when the university itself is over 200 miles from here??

And yet I found streets, stores, foodstuffs, you name it - all named in honor of this Jayhawk thing. And don't even get me started on the mad-dog love for KU sports. Within a year of living in Kansas, I was so sick of the Jayhawk that I vowed never ever to be a fan.

Fast-forward a few years, and guess where I found myself attending college. Yeah. KU. However, I still planned to hold steadfastly to my vow. I turned my nose up at anything Jayhawk related. And yet, ever so slowly, the gorgeous campus and quirky town and yes, even that goofy bird wiggled its way into my cold heart. After a year, I too owned countless Jaywalk t-shirts and tchotchkes. I bought my snacks at Jayhawk FoodMart. I filled my prescriptions at Jayhawk Pharmacy. And on game days I screamed for the home team at the top of my lungs, from my favorite college pub, right in the thick of the Jayhawk-lovin' masses. The old Nemmie would be horrified (but, man, she doesn't know what she's missing).

Ever a basketball-lovin' university, imagine everyone's surprise this year when our football team (forever a joke) was actually a contender. We got invited to our first ever bowl game in over 30 years, the Orange bowl. And no one expected us to win.

But we did :)

So, in honor of my home team and their Orange Bowl win: Orange Shortbread cookies, in a somewhat Jayhawk-ish shape (hey, I do the best I can). Got the original recipe here and fiddled with it a bit, to get what you see below. That crumbly, buttery shortbread flavor with a surprisingly bright, tart-orange flavor. Thank goodness for the winter, and its abundance of blood oranges. They were perfect in these cookies.

Before I sign off for the evening: Rock Chalk Jayhawk! Go KU!

Orange Shortbread Cookies


1 c. (2 sticks) butter, unsalted, room temperature
1 c. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. orange juice (juice from the zested orange)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
Grated zest of 1 orange (about 2 teaspoons)
1/4 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted (optional for decorating)

Make the dough: In a mixer bowl, beat butter, sugar, orange juice, and salt until smooth. With mixer on low speed, add flour and orange zest; mix just until a dough forms.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour. Preheat your oven to 325 F.

Roll out on a floured surface, to about 1/4-in. thickness. Using your favorite cookie cutter, cut out shapes and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake until edges just begin to turn golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet; transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely.

When cooled, drizzle with chocolate if desired.

02 January 2008

Blackberry Jam Cake

This year for Christmas, I received a brand-new bundt pan from a dear old friend of mine. I also received gift basket full of fancy Maine jams/jellies from an editor. I'm not a big jam/jelly type of person, so I knew it would take me literally years to go through what was sent. So of course, the first thing I thought of was to find a recipe or two to use up these jams! I remembered Peabody's lovely Purple Haze jam cake post from a few months back, and thought it would be a good place to start. There was a nice big jar of blackberry-peach preserves sitting in that gift basket…

I took Peabody's recipe, but exchanged the granulated sugar for dark brown sugar. I also halved it, since (1) I had my fancy new (6-inch) bundt pan and (2) there's no way Hubs and I are eating a whole big bundt cake by ourselves. So make note, the recipe below won't fill a regular (10-inch) bundt pan.

I rather like this with the brown sugar, it gives the cake a deep flavor and almost crispy-sugar taste. I love how the spices brought out a warm, wintery flavor in the preserves. And of course, that icing is easy on the eyes :) Next time I'll be sure to heed Peabody's advice, and strain the preserves before adding it to the cake. The crunchiness from the blackberry seeds was an unexpected surprise!

Blackberry Jam Cake

1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. packed dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 c. cake flour
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. fresh nutmeg
1/4 c. sour cream
1 c. blackberry preserves

Preheat oven to 300 F. Butter and flour a 6- or 7-inch bundt pan.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time and scrape down the bowl after each egg. Add the vanilla a beat for another 30 seconds.

Sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream, beating after each addition. Fold in the blackberry preserves.

Pour into bundt pan. Bake at 300 F for 10 minutes. Increase heat to 350 F, and bake until done (20-30 minutes). Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to finish cooling.

If you want to make the glaze: simply heat up some jam. Remove the jam from the heat when it has melted and whisk in powdered sugar until you reach a consistency you are happy with.