Friday, February 29, 2008

Flour + Water + Yeast + Salt =

My first Daring Bakers Challenge! This month's challenge was Julia Child's French Bread. The recipe is long, but in the length are the details. You can see the entire recipe here.

Following the instructions carefully, it came out well. I started at about 10:30 am and cut into the bread 9.5 hours later... but little of that time is active. Mostly, you just let the yeast work for you! I used my Kitchenaid Mixer to knead the dough for me - making it even easier!

I think this would be a great intro to working with yeast if you havent yet - the detail in the recipe makes it simple - Julia walks you through every step and gives reasons why you do things the way you do - for me, this is helpful in understanding the process.

I made two boules. My slashes were definitely not as deep as they should be... The bread was great though! It was a tad salty tasting the first day, but I froze the second loaf and when it was thawed it was PERFECT. I think letting the bread hang out for a little while helped.

I served the second loaf at the dinner my sisters, brother, and I made for my grandpa (Christmas gift). Bacon-wrapped Filet, Mashed Sweet Potatos, Bella-Beans, Bittersweet Mousse, and the perfect match - simple french bread. I asked my sister how she liked the bread and she said "its so good!! Where did you get it?" Homemade yeast bread always impresses ;)

I loved this challenge and cant wait to see what March will bring!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tex-Mex Corn Chip Chili

This recipe comes from the March issue of Everyday with Rachael Ray. Apparently this was the 'winner' of some chili cookoff? Anyhow. It looked good, different from my existing recipes (one a classic tomato-based and one PUMPKIN ;) ) and VERY quick and easy. I made it tonight IN ADDITION to dinner. AND going to Target. AND Stop n Shop. Go me! I will be out of town fri - wed for business so I made a double batch of this and sampled some tonight, froze some, and left the rest for him to have for dinner when I am gone.

We both really liked this one! It had enough of a kick from the green chilis and the pepperjack that Ryan could taste the heat but not so much that I could not eat it. I really liked the creamy consistency from the pinto beans and thecheese, and the different-ness from standard tomato chilis. We both really liked it though, and when it was THAT easy and quick... well... its definitely on the list to make again :)


Prep Time: 10 min (plus standing) Cook Time: 35 min

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 sweet onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
One 15-ounce can black beans
One 15-ounce can pinto beans
One 10-ounce can tomatoes with green chiles
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
12 ounces pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 3 cups) (I doubled the recipe and used about 14 oz total of montery jack and pepper jack in combination and that was PLENTY)
One bag (about 10 ounces) corn chips, such as Fritos (I served our samples with them but IMO you can omit - and keep it healthier!)

1. In a Dutch oven (I just used a big stock pot since I dont have a dutch oven), heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and cook for 7 minutes. Add the onion, garlic, chili powder and cumin and cook over mediumlow heat for 5 minutes. Add the beans, with their liquid, and the tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Stir in the cilantro, then top with the cheese, cover and let stand until the cheese melts, 5 to 10 minutes. Place a handful of corn chips in each of 4 bowls. Top with the chili and serve.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sunshine Salad!

Winter's take on my summer berry salad that I loved so much! As I said in August, I am not such a big fan of salad for dinner but this is totally the exception. YUM! I have been thinking about this dinner for a week or so and it did not disappoint!

My initial idea was because clementines are in season and then I went from there. Well, the clementines didnt really mesh with the other flavors but the rest was perfect together. Mangos are clearly NEVER in season in New England so by that logic... they are always in season right?

Very good, highly recommend especially if you need a shot of sunshine to perk up the winter doldrums!
I thawed and shelled 1 pound of raw jumbo shrimp. Then shook them up in a container with about 1/3 cup of OJ and 1/3 cup of honey and a splash of canola and then put the shrimp in a skillet heated to med high (discard extra liquid). Saute until cooked through then remove from heat.
Meanwhile, prepare lettuce (I used romaine, boston, and red leaf - fresh not bagged - it keeps MUCH longer and tastes better too I think) and toss with italian dressing (I use good seasons, made with raspberry vinegar) Use less than half the dressing you would put on a regular green salad.
Top the lettuce with blueberries, diced avocado, diced mango, sliced almonds, and Shrimp (I would have teh clems for dessert or on the side)
Great meal for weeknights too - quick!
Tip for dicing mango/avocado: score the dice when the peel is still on the slice of mango/half of avocado then use a large metal soup spoon to scoop the fruit out. Voila! WAY less messy

Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse

Image from Martha Stewart

(I made this with the help of my fab sistahs)

This recipe was in my email from Martha Stewart (everyday food, natch) for Valentine's Day. We went out to dinner BUT Saturday my sisters, brother and I were planning to make a nice dinner for my grandpa at his condo as his christmas gift (we gave him an IOU at the time!). (Dinner was: bacon-wrapped filets - cut from the butcher and I wrapped them at home... omg. So. Good. Locals - go to Kane's for your beef for real! just Pan Fried PERFECT. Also Mashed sweet potatos and bella-green beans and some good french bread)

Let me set the scene. My grandpa is the biggest chocoholic I know. Bigger than I am. Bigger than my mom. HUGE. His bday gift from his 8 grandkids (88 in 08 woot!) was a stack of (8 heehee) godiva boxes that was about 3 ft tall. He is almost done and its been less than a month.

So we knew that the dessert needed to be very. very. CHOCOLATE. And preferable wheat-free for my sis. And lo and behold - this recipe.

I would describe the flavor of this dessert as a dark chocolate truffle, melted then whipped and chilled. It is THAT intense. But oh... so so good.

I forgot my camera at home in the hustle and bustle of getting everything we needed to his house. So the photo is from the website (mine looked similar though not NEARLY as perfect!)
I served it with plain unsweetened whipped cream and that added a nice counter to the intense chocolate.
Serves 4
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate
Finely chop chocolate; reserve. In a double boiler, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt until sugar has dissolved and mixture is warm to the touch, 2 to 3 minutes. Off heat, quickly whisk in chopped chocolate until melted and cocoa until smooth (mixture will be thick).
Cool to room temperature.
In a medium bowl, whip cream until soft peaks form. Whisk half of whipped cream into room-temperature chocolate mixture. Gently fold in remaining whipped cream with a rubber spatula.
Divide mousse among four serving dishes. Chill at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
Remove mousse from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Garnish with shaved chocolate.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Cran-brie poppers

We went to a small superbowl party this yr and all the usual suspects for food were being provided so I asked my mom for appetizer ideas. I am BAD with appetizers for some reason! She gave me this recipe and it was SO GOOD. Easy too! I will make these again for sure (they would be good with other flavors of jelly too, or maybe with cream cheese?)

Basically, you just get some phyllo dough and thaw it in the fridge. Depending on hte 'shape' of the phyllo, will affect how you wrap it (just play around to get it right). each piece will have 3/4 to 1 inch square of brie and a spoonful of canned cranberry sauce (whole berry kind). Wrap it up so there are a few layers around the cheese and fruit. Put them in a mini muffin pan and I brushed the top of each with a little melted butter to help it stick and brown.

Bake at 325 for 10-15 min (watch it though!)

So good - dont be like me though, wait for them to cool a little before you try to eat them :)

I baked this ahead and just warmed them when we got there - perfect!

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

We have been on a weekend-pancake kick lately. This recipe for Blueberry ones, again from WIlliam Sonoma online. Very good! I faked the buttermilk by adding white vinegar to milk - lower cal than buttermilk and less wasteful than buying a whole container for just one cup.

To do this, just add 1 tablespoon of white vinegar (or lemon juice) to 1 cup (less 1 T) of milk and let it sit out for about 10 minutes or until it starts to thicken (it will look pretty gross - this is how it shd be!)

Anyhow, the recipe!

2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 Tbs. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tbs. vegetable oil or nonstick cooking spray
1 cup fresh blueberries
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Softened butter for serving
Warm maple syrup for serving

Preheat an oven to 200ºF. In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the eggs on medium speed until frothy. Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, melted butter and vanilla. Stir just until the batter is smooth and no lumps of flour remain; do not overmix. (I just did it all by hand in one bowl with a whisk)

Heat an electric griddle to medium-high heat until a few drops of water flicked onto the surface skitter across it. Lightly grease the griddle with oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray. Using a batter dispenser set on the large setting, dispense the batter onto the griddle. Alternatively, ladle about 1/3 cup batter onto the griddle for each pancake. Scatter 1 Tbs. blueberries evenly over each pancake.

Cook until bubbles form on top and the batter is set, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, flip the pancakes and cook until golden brown on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while cooking the remaining pancakes. Dust the pancakes with confectioners' sugar and serve warm with butter and maple syrup. Makes about 16 pancakes; serves 4.
Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Roasted Tomato Bisque

I got this recipe from William sonoma's website - they have some great recipes!

This was easy though time consuming and very yummy with a nice strong tomatoy flavor. It was great leftover and reheated too :)

2 1/2 lb. plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt, plus more, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 cup water
4 tsp. light sour cream
4 tsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (I used basil instead since Im not a huge fan of parsley and love basil in tomato bisque)

Preheat an oven to 425°F. Cover 1 large or 2 medium baking sheets with aluminum foil. Arrange the tomatoes, cut sides up, on the prepared baking sheets. Sprinkle evenly with 1 tsp. of the salt and several grinds of pepper. Roast the tomatoes in the oven until they are soft but still hold their shape, about 30 minutes.

In a Dutch oven or large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the onion releases its juices, about 8 minutes. Stir in the paprika.

Increase the heat to medium-high and add the roasted tomatoes, along with any juices collected on the pan(s), then pour in the water. Reduce the heat to medium, cover and simmer until the vegetables are very soft, about 25 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Working in batches, carefully pass the soup through a food mill fitted with the medium disk and placed over a bowl. Alternatively, pass the soup through a fine-mesh sieve placed over a bowl, pressing against the solids with the back of a wooden spoon. (this wasnt working for me so I just ran it through the food processor)

Rinse the pan and transfer the soup back into it. Stir in the remaining 1/4 tsp. salt, or more, to taste, season with pepper and reheat over medium heat. Divide the soup among warmed soup bowls and place 1 tsp. sour cream in the center of each bowl, swirling it slightly. Garnish each with 1 tsp. parsley (basil) and serve. Serves 4. Note: I added a splash of cream to the soup too

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).