Saturday, March 28, 2009

Cinnamon Chip Danish

The yeast bug bit me again this morning and I knew that I had to bake something bread-y. I received my order from King Arthur Flour yesterday and amongst the goodies was a bag of cinnamon chips, concentrated cinnamon goodness in chocolate chip form. I hit the internet and Googled my morning away, finally settling on this recipe for cinnamon chip danish braid, found at Lady Bug's Sweet Treats. The only problem with this particular recipe was that it called for using ready-made frozen bread dough balls, and THAT wasn't going to happen, not on my watch. After all, I had a yeast itch to scratch! (OK, just ignore that)

For the dough, I ended up using the recipe below, but I did use the filling and glaze that was used in the original recipe. I also want to give credit to Jaime at Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats for posting her pictures and instructions on how to roll out and form a braided pastry. I never could have figured it out just by reading the directions; I completely needed to see it done in photo form.


The Filling

6 oz cream cheese, softened
3 tbsp butter
1 egg yolk
1 2/3 cups cinnamon chips, divided

In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, and egg yolk until well blended. Set aside three tablespoons of the cinnamon chips for garnish. Stir the remaining cinnamon chips into the cream cheese mixture. Set aside.

The Dough

2 Tbsp orange juice plus enough milk to make one cup (warm to 100-110 degrees in microwave)
2 tsp active dry yeast
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 cups King Arthur unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 cups King Arthur unbleached white whole wheat flour

Combine honey and warm milk in bowl. Sprinkle yeast over milk and let sit for 5-10 minutes until bubbly. Add in oil, salt, wheat gluten, and flours. Mix until flour is incorporated. I used my new dough whisk (which is totally awesome, by the way.)


Now is when you get to decide if you're a kneader or a beater. If you're a kneader, you'll turn your dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it by hand until it is smooth and elastic, 8-10 minutes. If you're a beater (that would be me,) you'd slap your dough hook onto your Kitchen Aid and allow it do all the work, letting it knead the dough for around 8 minutes. Turn dough into greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled (1-2 hours, depending on room conditions.) I preheated my oven to 100 degrees, then turned it off, and this is where I let my dough rise.

Punch dough down, then turn onto lightly floured working surface and pat into a ball. The original recipe uses the entire amount to make one braided danish. I chose to divide the dough into two balls and make one half the danish, and the other half I made into rolls. (practicing for Easter dinner, don't ya know.... and I do think they turned out rather nicely!)


If you're making the entire recipe into one danish, roll the dough into a 12x18 rectangle (mine was 12X9, therefore I only used half the filling as well.) Spread the cream cheese mixture lengthwise down the center third of the dough rectangle. Cut 1-inch wide strips from the edges of the dough almost to the filling. Begin the braid by folding the top row toward the filling. Alternately fold the strips at an angle from each side across the filling toward the opposite side. Fold bottom row toward the filling and finish by stretching last strip and tucking under to seal. Transfer to baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray or you can use parchment paper to cover the baking sheet.

Brush the loaf gently with a beaten egg and cover loosely with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour.



Preheat oven to 350. Bake loaf 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove from oven and cool.

The Glaze

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp softened butter
enough milk to make of the desired drizzle consistency
Stir the powdered sugar and butter together in a small bowl. Add milk until you have the needed consistency. Drizzle glaze over cooled danish and garnish with reserved cinnamon chips.
Wrap well in plastic wrap and this will still be quite soft and fresh-tasting even the next day. Yum!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pork Stir Fry with Sesame Peanut Butter Noodles

My first experiment with a variation of this recipe happened several years ago when I was a frequent visitor to the South Beach Diet Forum (LOTS of great recipes there, by the way.) The number one road block in all prior diets I'd been on was one of thinking that I needed to STAY AWAY FROM FAT! I've since learned the differences between good fats and bad fats and that by incorporating good fats into my diet, I stay fuller longer, I cheat less, I avoid the dreaded "diet boredom," and I'm doing my hair, skin, and numerous other body parts a favor by supplying the necessary nutrients that healthy fats supply. Peanut butter is your friend, people. Embrace it in moderation... and enjoy!

(and for the record, I've lost 40 pounds on the Beach)

Pork Loin Stir Fry with Sesame Peanut Butter Noodles

1/4 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky
2 packets Splenda
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 1/2 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 tsp dark sesame oil
pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken broth
8 oz. whole wheat spaghetti

Combine above ingredients (except spaghetti) in microwave-safe bowl and heat until peanut butter just starts to melt, 30 seconds or so. Stir to combine. Set aside.

Boil spaghetti according to package directions, drain and return to pan. Add above sauce and stir to combine.

1 pound pork loin, cooked and cubed (I used leftovers... boneless, skinless chicken breasts would also work here)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil, divided, for stir frying
4 cups fresh broccoli
1 bell pepper, seeded and cut into 3/4 inch pieces (I used part red and part yellow)
1/4 cup sliced green onion
8 oz. sugar snap peas
1 clove garlic, crushed

Heat one tablespoon oil in wok or large deep skillet and saute pork to heat and crisp up a bit. Remove from pan and drain on paper towel. Add other tablespoon of oil to pan and heat to medium, almost high heat. Toss in all vegetables and stir fry until tender crisp, just a few minutes. Remove from heat and add to pasta, tossing to combine vegetables and sauce. Sprinkle with more green onions and toasted sesame seeds, if desired.

Easy Roasted Pork Loin

My hubby always praises my cooking. I'm sure this is mainly because he knows which side of his bread is buttered (hee!) and he wants to make sure he flatters me enough to keep the meals coming. Last night as he was eating this pork loin, he mentioned that if he didn't have me to cook for him, he'd probably shrivel up and die. I told him he'd be fine, and that this was a recipe even HE couldn't mess up. This is one of those three ingredient, shove it in the oven, go work out on the treadmill, and eat 45 minutes later kind of recipes. Right up his alley, I assured him.

A 1 1/2 pound pork loin, olive oil, and Montreal Steak Seasoning are all that were used in this recipe. I just really happen to love Montreal Steak Seasoning, but you could use any seasonings that you like. I preheated my oven to 425 degrees (convect roast) then rubbed the loin with olive oil and seasoned well with the steak seasoning. Into a roasting pan it goes and you can roast it as is or you can surround it with your favorite root veggies (I chose red skinned potatoes and carrots last night.) Roast until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees, turning roast and stirring veggies every 15 minutes to promote even browning. Remove from oven and tent meat with aluminum foil for 10-15 minutes before carving.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Mashed Potato Cakes (in praise of leftovers)

Leftovers, a curse or a blessing? Well, I suppose that depends on a couple of things. Number one, did you even enjoy the food item the first time around? And number two, how many days in a row have you been eating this particular leftover? Even your favorite food can start to make you queasy after the fifth or six time you've eaten it that week. I've found that I have greater success in using up leftovers if I morph them into something else entirely, which is the case with today's recipe. Leftover smashed red skin and sweet potatoes turned into these crispy/creamy potato cakes.

Mashed Potato Cakes

2 cups CHILLED mashed potatoes
1 egg, whisked
1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs (season with salt and pepper)
olive oil for frying (a couple of tablespoons)

Combine potatoes, egg and flour. Season with garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.

In a shallow pan or bowl, season Panko with salt and pepper.

In frying pan, heat oil on medium to medium high heat. Form potatoes into small patties and coat them with the Panko. Drop into frying pan and fry until crispy on one side (4-5 minutes) then flip and crisp up on the other side. Be careful not to have the oil too hot or the cakes will burn before the flour is cooked on the inside.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Peanut Butter Chocolate Muffins

The marriage of peanut butter and chocolate has been celebrated for many, many years (did you know that the Reese's Cup has been around for over 80 years!!) Whenever I check out the ingredients in a recipe, if I notice that both peanut butter and chocolate are included, I'm already preheating the oven.

If you happen to follow my blog on even a semi-regular basis, you've probably figured out that I'm a huge fan of four things....muffins, soups, cheesecake and panini. Look how good that makes your odds of guessing what I'll be blogging about today! Let me know if you got lucky....lol

Peanut Butter Chocolate Muffins

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup whole grain oat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Mix dry ingredients together and set aside.

1 egg
1 egg white
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup peanut butter, softened slightly in the microwave (15-20 seconds)
1 mashed very ripe banana
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup brown sugar Splenda

1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Whisk wet ingredients and Splenda together. Combine with dry ingredients, stirring just to moisten. Stir in chocolate chips.Spray 12-cupcake baking tin with cooking spray and divide mixture amongst cups.Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 23 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool in tin for 5 minutes before removing to cooling rack.

Steel Cut Oatmeal Muffins

Fiber, it moves me. And not in a poignant way (unless I happen to be reading a really touching piece of literature while I'm on the throne.)

For my age group, the daily recommended intake of fiber is somewhere in the vicinity of 25 grams. I try to reach that amount every day, but I'll admit it takes some serious menu planning. Oatmeal is an excellent source of fiber, and steel cut oats add an additional health benefit in that they carry a lower glycemic value than regular rolled oats. The nutritional value between the two is approximate, but their insulin reaction times are different, thus my blood sugar remains more stable with the steel cut oats.

Sooo... yesterday morning I made this HUGE batch of steel cut oatmeal. I had a canister that I knew had been around for many months and I thought it time to use it up. I chopped up some apples and threw them in the mix, and rounded out the recipe with some Splenda, cinnamon and maple extract. The result was a very tasty bowl of oatmeal indeed, but when I went to do the cleanup, I was left with at least two more servings in the pan. Waste not, want not (thanks Mom,) so I came up with this recipe for muffins. They're very moist, and they taste just like those packets of Maple Brown Sugar Quaker Instant Oatmeal I used to eat as a kid.

Steel Cut Oatmeal Muffins

1/2 cup steel cut oats
3 cups water
pinch of salt
2 apples, peeled, cored, diced

Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in oats and apple pieces. Reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Spray 12 count muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray

3/4 cup nonfat yogurt
1/2 cup egg substitute (Egg Beaters)
1 tsp maple extract
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 cup Splenda
1/3 cup Splenda brown sugar
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Add the yogurt, egg, maple extract, cinnamon, and Splendas to the cooled oatmeal. Stir well to combine. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just until all is incorporated. Do not overmixSpoon mixture into muffin tin. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes before removing muffins from pan.

Friday, March 20, 2009

San Marzano Tomato Soup


Many of the chefs on television are known for recommending the use of fresh ingredients over their jarred and bottled counterparts. ReaLemon, jarlic, and the ever popular green shaker parmesan are no-nos in a real chef's kitchen, sayeth the powers that be over at the Food Network. I do try to follow their recommendations for the most part, so when I kept seeing recipes that called for San Marzano tomatoes, I began searching for them at my local grocery stores. I erroneously thought that San Marzano was a brand name however, like Campbells or Hunts, and I was unsuccessful at finding them. After researching these canned tomatoes on the internet, I discovered that San Marzano tomatoes are a specific variety of plum tomato grown in Italy. The volcanic soil surrounding Mount Vesuvius is supposedly conducive to the growing of these sweeter and less acidic tomatoes. Now that I knew what I was looking for, I started searching in earnest, and I finally located them at a Meijer store in Indianapolis. Once I got past the sticker shock (a 28 oz can cost me over $5.00!) I brought the treasured can home and started thinking about how I was going to use them. Obviously I wanted to use them in a recipe where tomatoes were the star ingredient and that's how this tomato soup recipe came to be.

San Marzano Tomato Soup

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery (with leaves) diced
1 carrot, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
salt and pepper
1 (28 oz) can of whole, peeled San Marzano tomatoes
2 (14 1/2 oz) cans of Muir Glen crushed fire roasted tomatoes
3 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup whole grain brown rice
6 oz. 2% Velveeta cheese, cubed
2 cups half and half (I used fat-free)

In soup pot saute onion, celery, carrot and garlic (seasoned with salt and pepper) in olive oil until onion is softened, approximately 5 minutes. Add in tomatoes, chicken broth and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for around 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool a bit. Remove bay leaf. Working in batches, transfer soup to a blender and puree to a smooth consistency. Return soup to pot, bring back to a boil and add rice. Reduce heat, cover and cook until rice is tender (per the directions of whatever type of rice you're using.) Remove from heat and add in cheese cubes. Stir until cheese is melted completely and soup is smooth. Stir in half and half.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

no mess omelette... eggs easy, but not over

You're stranded on a desert island. You can only pick 713 things to have with you. (what to choose, what to choose)

Number one on my list would be a chicken.... because eggs are probably my most favorite food. Now I'm a city girl and I don't know nuthin' 'bout birthin chicken eggs, so if I need a rooster to ensure my daily yolk, please add a very handsome rooster to my list too. Might as well throw a McDonald's coffee tree and an english muffin bush into the mix as well. There... now I'm happy.

Omelettes are a staple in my life. High in protein and relatively low in fat, (especially if you substitute egg whites for some or all of your egg product,) you have a breakfast that will stick with you for much longer than if your breakfast consists mainly of simple carbohydrates ... toast, cereal, etc.

The caveat? Unless you possess a pan that is specifically made for omelettes, chances are you're going to be sloshing eggs over the side of your skillet as you attempt to stir, cook, flip and set them to your desired degree of doneness. My solution to this is:

No Flip, No Mess Omelettes

Ingredients:

Assorted vegetables and/or meats to your liking, diced finely and sauteed in a small amount of olive oil. Remove from pan and set aside.
3/4 cup egg substitute or 3 eggs, lightly beaten
salt, pepper
Your favorite cheese, shredded (make sure you've added it to the list of things you'll have with you on your desert island)

Spray cooking spray in same pan used to saute veggies/meats, and then pour in 3/4 cup egg white substitute (or 3 whole eggs.) Season with salt and pepper and allow to cook over medium heat until bubbling and sides are starting to pull away from pan. Sprinkle 1-2 tsps of water over eggs and immediately cover pan with lid. Reduce heat a bit. Within 30-60 seconds the steam will finish cooking and setting the eggs. Remove lid and add reserved veggies/meats and cheese. Slide onto plate and flip over in half if you're anal retentive and demand that your omelette be served that way.

Homemade Hot Dog Buns (Is it picnic season yet?)


I've come to the conclusion that success in baking bread demands the use of quality ingredients. Those who are seasoned bakers may perhaps have acquired the skill and technique to compensate for lesser-quality flours, but I really think we amateurs need to stick to the tried-and-true. When I was turned on to King Arthur flours, I experienced immediate success. (thanks again Bob and Lynn.. I've been officially diagnosed with OCBD.. Obsessive Chronic Baking Disorder) My very first loaves were both beautiful and tasty (what else is necessary?) Since that time I've repeated my success and have now moved on to trying other recipes... as well as branching out from bread loaves into buns. The hamburger buns were a piece of cake to make, but I'll admit that these hot dog buns took me two tries to get right. It wasn't the fault of the ingredients, it was my fault for not knowing how to shape them. Once I researched that, I was good to go.

Homemade Hotdog Buns (yeah, they're gonna be killer brat buns too this summer)

1 cup warm skim milk (100-110 degrees)
2 tsp active dry yeast
3 Tbsp honey
3 Tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 Tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 cups King Arthur unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 cups King Arthur unbleached white whole wheat flour

Combine honey and warm milk in bowl of mixer with dough hook attachment. Sprinkle yeast over milk and let sit for 5-10 minutes until bubbly. Add in oil, salt, wheat gluten, and flours. Mix on low speed until flour is incorporated then increase speed just a bit and knead for 8 minutes. Turn dough into greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled (1-2 hours, depending on room conditions) Punch dough down, then turn onto lightly floured working surface and pat into a ball. Divide and shape dough into twelve small balls, cover with a clean towel and let rest for 5-10 minutes. With rolling pin, roll each ball into a flattened rectangle. Starting with one long side, fold inward toward middle. Repeat with the other long side. Then wrap and fold inward again. Tuck the ends under and place seam side down on greased baking sheet. Cover loosely with a clean towel and allow buns to rise for 1- 1 1/2 hours. Bake in 350 degree preheated oven for 15-17 minutes.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Mini White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes... topped with stabilized whipped cream

Is that whipped cream buff or what?

These cheesecakes were starting to give me fits until I found this recipe for stabilized whipped cream. Not only are they going to be standing out on a buffet for an hour (or more,) I'm going to be transporting them from my home to the party destination the day before the bridal shower. I initially thought I'd just use the spray stuff from the can. It tastes fine, and I would just spray it on about fifteen minutes or so before serving. However, when I tried that at home, the peaks had already fallen within 5-10 minutes and I quickly realized that I was going to have to go another route. Over the weekend I was going through my new King Arthur Flour cookbook (Whole Grain Baking) and I stumbled upon this recipe for stabilized whipped cream. Problem solved!

Stabilized Whipped Cream

Yield: 4 cups

2 Tbsp cold water
1 tsp unflavored gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 to 3/4 cup powdered sugar, to taste

Place the water in a small heatproof bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water, and let it sit for 5 minutes to absorb the water. Melt the gelatin over simmering water or in the microwave (this takes less than 10 seconds in the microwave, so monitor it closely) Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Whip the cream with the vanilla in a large mixing bowl until it begins to thicken and the whisk begins to leave tracks as it moves through the cream. With the mixer on medium speed, pour in the melted gelatin. Once the gelatin is incorporated, stop the mixer and add the powdered sugar. Resume beating until mediumpeaks form.

Mini White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecakes

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Lightly spray two (12 count) mini-cheesecake pans with cooking spray. This recipe will only fill 20 of the cheesecake wells.

Crust:

1 1/2 cups crushed shortbread cookies
4 Tbsp butter, melted

Combine butter and crumbs in a small bowl. Distribute evenly between cheesecake wells and tap down against bottom. I used a shot glass to do this.

Filling:

4 oz white chocolate
20 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup sour cream
Grated zest of one lemon
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
3-4 Tbsp frozen raspberries, thawed and drained (see topping note below)

In microwave safe bowl, melt white chocolate, checking and stirring after each 15-20 second interval. Watch this carefully... white chocolate melts much faster than regular chocolate. Set aside to cool slightly.

In large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, corn starch, lemon zest and sour cream. Beat on medium speed until thoroughly mixed and creamy. Add in eggs, one at a time, and combine well. Stir in vanilla, then melted white chocolate. Thoroughly combine.

Fill each cheesecake well with about a tablespoon of batter. Then top with about a half teaspoon of raspberries. Fill cheesecake well the rest of the way with batter. Smooth tops. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-23 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cheesecakes to cool in pan on cooling rack. Refrigerate for several hours before removing cheesecakes from pan.

Topping: (I got this recipe from RecipeZaar)

1 (12 ounce) package frozen raspberries, thawed and drained (save liquid)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 cup maple syrup

Drain defrosted raspberries- reserving liquid, and saving 3-4 Tbsp of raspberries for cheesecakes above. Add water to the liquid, if needed to measure 1/2 cup. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch, add berry liquid and maple syrup. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture boils and thickens, boil 1 minute. Stir in raspberries and cool to room temperature before serving. (I chilled this several hours before topping cheesecakes.)

One Potato, Two Potato (smashed red skin and sweet potatoes)

Waist watchers tend to shy away from mashed potatoes, and for good reason if said potatoes contain a boatload of added butter and cream. With a few changes, we can have our mashed spuds without fear of tipping the scales in the morning.

Keeping the skins on the red skin potatoes incorporates additional fiber into this recipe and by combining them with sweet potatoes, we're adding in other valuable nutrients as well. There's no butter in this recipe, just a little olive oil and some fat-free sour cream to add richness as well as flavor.

Smashed Red Skin and Sweet Potatoes

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 1/2" chunks
3 medium red skin potatoes, scrubbed but left with skins on, quartered
1 quart chicken broth (or enough to cover potatoes)
3 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole
salt and pepper
3 Tbsp fat-free sour cream
2 tsp olive oil

Place all potatoes and garlic in medium size pan and cover with broth. Bring to a boil, season generously with salt, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are fork tender, 15-20 minutes. Drain thoroughly and return to pan. Smash with potato masher and add in sour cream and olive oil. Whip to desired consistency and season with salt and pepper as desired.


I've decided to enter this recipe in this month's Potato Ho Down (first timer here.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Mini Peanut Butter/Chocolate Cheesecakes

I'm still working on the cheesecakes for the bridal shower this coming weekend. I've decided to have four different mini-cheesecakes to hopefully accommodate all the guests' different tastes. The first one was the chocolate cheesecake I posted a few days ago and today I made these mini peanut butter chocolate cheesecakes. I'm not sure if I'm going to top them with the cookies for the shower, but they sure did look pretty (fattening) with the added garnish!

Mini Peanut Butter Chocolate Cheesecakes

Crust:
1 1/2 cups crushed Nutter Butter cookies
2 Tbsp finely chopped peanuts
4 Tbsp butter, melted

Combine above ingredients. With cooking spray, lightly spray the wells of two, 12-serving mini cheesecake pans (this recipe makes 24 cheesecakes.) Distribute crust mixture evenly between wells and compact against bottom and a little up the sides. I used a shot glass to do this.

Filling:
20 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

In microwave safe bowl, melt peanut butter and chocolate together, checking and stirring after each 15-20 second interval. Set aside to cool slightly.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, brown sugar, corn starch and sour cream. Beat on medium speed until thoroughly mixed and creamy. Add in eggs, one at a time, and combine well. Stir in vanilla, then peanut butter/chocolate mixture. Thoroughly combine.

Distribute the batter evenly between the cheesecake pans wells and smooth tops. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-22 minutes. Remove from oven and allow cheesecakes to cool in pan on cooling rack. Refrigerate for several hours before removing cheesecakes from pan.

I topped the cheesecakes with whipped cream, then with a Keebler Fudge Shoppe Peanut Butter filled cookie, followed by more whipped cream, then chopped chocolate covered peanuts.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Eggs.... Pickled Pink!

Pink eggs. How cute! And they're actually quite tasty. The sweet vinegar brine gives these eggs a pickled taste that is not overwhelming... just perfect. And again, they're just so cute!

Most recipes for pickled beet eggs suggest pickling the beets along with the eggs. I (nor the rest of the family) do not care for pickled beets. So we eat the beets separately.

Pickled Eggs

1 dozen hard boiled eggs, peeled
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 15 oz can of red beets
2 cups water
1 tsp salt

Combine water, sugar, vinegar, liquid from the beets, and salt in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Place eggs into a container and cover with the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I love Google... and French Onion Soup!

I absolutely love Google. There is never a search too strange or too out there that someone in this world has not posted about said search object somewhere on the internet. As this relates to food and recipes, I regularly throw odd combinations together and let Google surprise me with results that confirm beyond all doubt that this world is indeed made up of all different kinds of people with unique (and sometimes odd) tastes and equally unique (and odd) ways of putting ingredients together.

If you Google "sausage, peaches, and Bisquick".... you'll find this delightful recipe. Ya know, we've all had days when canned peaches and Bisquick were all we had left in the pantry, right? There's actually a story behind this particular Google search, because way back in my early married days, I did make this dish for my new husband. But instead of canned peaches, I used canned pears (do you REALLY think that one or the other would make a difference in the outcome of this recipe?) To this day, hubby says this is the only thing I've ever cooked for him that he didn't care for.

If you Google peanut butter, Velveeta, and maraschino cherries, you'll find this recipe amongst your search results. Seriously, I mean really.... this one even shocked me. See what I mean?

Google did not shock or disappoint me when I relied on its genius to provide me with a recipe for French Onion Soup, however. Luke and Carolyn over at Cookography adapted a recipe from Cook's Illustrated and I followed their instructions up to the part where they're topping the soup with toasted baguette slices. I made my own whole wheat croutons and used them instead.



The fact that my oven did most of the work for this recipe was such a bonus in that caramelizing onions can be very time consuming. The Gruyère cheese is a must. It complements the rest of the ingredients so well and adds the gooey that makes this soup so comforting and filling.



Saturday, March 7, 2009

Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes


Any dieter worth her weight in goldfish crackers knows that one bite of anything equals zero calories. It's not a proven nor scientific fact, it's just one of those things we all know. Just like how we know that wearing black not only makes us appear to be thinner, it actually does make us thinner. And.. and.... let's not forget how putting on exercise clothes then watching Richard Simmons Gag Us With The Oldies from the comfort of our couch is the same as actually doing the exercises right along with him. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, it's a dieter's best friend!

Anyway.... back to a bite being zero calories. These mini cheesecakes are actually two bites. But if my elementary school math still holds true, 2 X 0 = 0. Ahh... Denial, thou still art my BFF (can I call you Dee?)

Mini Chocolate Cheesecakes

Crust:
1 cup chocolate graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
4 Tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Lightly spray two mini-cheesecake pans (each pan equals 12 mini-cheesecakes so we're going for a total of 24 with this recipe.) Combine above ingredients and press mixture into the wells of each pan. I used a shot glass to press the crust into the wells. Bake in oven for 5 minutes then remove to cool slightly.

Filling:
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 oz semi sweet chocolate
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
20 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp vanilla

Melt chocolate and butter in microwave-safe bowl at 15-second increments, until chocolate is melted. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Cream together cream cheese, sugar, and cocoa with mixer until smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time, and blend until incorporated into batter. Stir in sour cream and vanilla then add the melted chocolate and combine well.

Distribute batter evenly amongst mini-cheesecake wells. Bake until filling is set, 20-25 minutes. Cool on wire rack, and then refrigerate at least three hours before unmolding.

Garnish with whipped cream and dust lightly with cocoa powder.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Crap... What'll We Have For Dinner??

Hypothetical question:

You've just blown an entire day watching last season's episodes of Damages on Hulu and now it's 5:00 with nothing prepared nor even imagined for dinner. Quick.... what do you do?

Remember, this is a hypothetical question.

Well, if this ever happened to me, hypothetically speaking of course, I'd probably scrounge in my fridge for ingredients to throw together some sort of Crap, He'll Be Home In 15 Minutes Casserole.

6-8 oz. whole wheat penne pasta
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup leftover spaghetti squash
1/2 cup diced turkey pepperoni
3 cups leftover spaghetti/meat sauce
1/2 jar leftover pizza sauce
3/4 cup shredded asiago cheese
1/2 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

Turn biggest burner on HIGH. Frantically fill pasta pot with water, get it on the stove, and slap a lid on it. We're going to need to bring it to a boil faster than Rachael Ray ever has.

Meanwhile in another pan, saute red pepper in olive oil for a few minutes, then toss in spaghetti squash, sauces, and the diced pepperoni. That pot of water is boiling by now, isn't it? Get your pasta in there pronto and let it boil for about half the time the directions say to boil it. It'll finish cooking in the sauce and if you pray fervently that all the traffic lights are red between his office and home, you might even have time to wash the bonbon residue off your face.

Drain pasta, toss into sauce, and let finish cooking until pasta is al dente. Sprinkle in cheese and stir to melt.

Dab a bit of Lysol behind each ear and put a dust cloth in the dog's mouth. Get caught chasing dog just as hubby walks in the door.



Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Whole Wheat Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

Isn't it nice when you can slip vegetables into sweet bakery items and not really even notice that they're there? Many of the milder tasting vegetables lend themselves nicely toward adding moisture to baked goods and lessening the need for adding tons of oil or butter. Pumpkin, squash, zucchini and sweet potatoes are all great additions to muffins and cakes. Stay tuned to see how I come up with a recipe for spinach cheesecake and broccoli donuts (HEE!)

Whole Wheat Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
  • 1 cup frozen shredded zucchini, thawed and squeezed dry, Set aside.
  • 1 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    1 1/2 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp salt

    Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate
    1 Tbsp canola oil

    Combine chocolate and oil in a heat proof dish and microwave in increments of 15 seconds until melted. Stir to combine. Set aside to cool.
  • 1 egg
    1 egg white
    1/2 cup fat free sour cream
    1 1/2 tsp vanilla
    1 1/2 cups Splenda
    3/4 cup skim milk
    1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

    Whisk eggs, sour cream, Splenda and vanilla together in bowl. Slowly whisk in melted chocolate and combine well. Stir in milk and zucchini. Now add in the dry ingredients, stirring to combine. Add in chocolate chips.
  • Spray 12 cup muffin tin with cooking spray. Distribute batter evenly between the cups. Bake in 350 degree preheated oven for 20-23 minutes. Cool muffins in pan for 5 minutes before removing to cooling rack to cool completely.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Pretty buns all in a row...

OK, I admit it. I'm obsessed with buns, specifically these whole wheat beauties. I think mostly I'm just still so proud of myself for creating them from scratch. Like a new mom, I am. Beaming down at them as I tenderly wrap them in their saran wrap blankies, readying them for the freezer.

Ok. I'll stop now. Now I'm just sounding ready for the loony bin.

I used them for tonight's panini (which apparently is another food item I'm prone to obsessing over.) I had some leftover thinly sliced chicken breast that I needed to use and as I brainstormed this afternoon, I remembered that hubby really likes this tai peanut butter chicken I make. Hmmm... would this be able to be worked into a panini? Indeed it would. The components of the grilled sandwich also included provolone cheese, roasted red pepper slices (from a jar,) and cabbage, carrot, broccoli and green onion slaw tossed with the dressing below. YUM!

Tai Peanut Butter Slaw Dressing

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 Tbsp Splenda (3 packets) or you could use regular sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp hot water
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 tsp dark sesame oil
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Add all above items to a bowl and stir thoroughly to combine. (Sometimes I microwave for a few seconds to help melt the peanut butter a bit)