Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Top Chef - My Take

If you watch Top Chef and have not yet seen last week's episode - stop reading now! Spoilers ahead!

Are you gone?

OK. Last week on Top Chef Ryan and I completely disagreed with which team lost. In this challenge, the contestants were in teams of two and had to create a dish using three random words from an improv club. The words were a color, a food, and a feeling. There were two teams at the bottom: one teams words were Orange, Turned-On, and Asparagus and their fatal flaw was that there was too much on the plate and the food just was not that good. The other team's words were Fuschia Drunken Polish Sausage. They decided that they were too good for the Polish Sausage and refused to serve it at all. Instead they served fish (????). Their dish tasted good... but was missing the food they were assigned. They also behaved in a very klassy way by taking a shot of tequila as they served the food - in front of their guests - and did not serve them anything! Yikes!

Needless to say, the Polish Sausage team stayed and a chef on the asparagus team went home. I am sure that if the asparagus team completely ignored the rules too, their dish could have been yummier. The Sausage team basically said "we arent going to cook a sausage in some beer and serve it. No"

WELL. Ryan and I were able to immediately come up with an awesome idea for those three words. He came up with Hangover Food - breakfast and I expanded on it.

So - my take on Drunken Fuschia Polish Sausage (and if lil ol me can come up with something good I know they could too!) This was really really good - I would even make it again. I am sure the Top CHef's could have prettied it up, I am not a "pretty" cook, but I think this proves that the sausage team could have turned on their creativity and made something good AND within the rules!

Drunken Fuschia Polish Sausage

(or, Sausage Sweet Potato Hash Fritatta with Raspberry Pancakes and Raspberry Mimosas)

Fritatta Hash:

1 sweet potato, cubed

1 small onion, diced

1/2 large ring of polish sausage, cubed

1 yellow pepped, diced

(I only used about 1/2 or 1/3 of the hash for the two of us, the rest I put inhte fridge and made the next day)

5 eggs

~4 oz sharp cheddar, shredded

splash of milk

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high. Add the sweet potato, onions, and sausage and saute until soft and just browning. Add the peppers and let soften just. put extra aside and fill an omelet-sized pan with the hash, over medium heat - so it looks to be about omelet sized. Add the eggs (beaten with milk) and cook until almost set. Flip the egg (I had my husband flip, or just wait until egg is set through if you arent a flipper). Add cheddar and cook until melted. Serve in slices.


I used America's Test Kitchen recipe for the pancakes base (which was great - nice and fluffy!):

1 cup flour

2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup milk

1 large egg, separated

2 T butter, melted

Mix dry ingredients together. Combine the milk and buttermilk in a 2 cup (or larger) measuring cup (or bowl). Whisk in egg white. Mix in the yolk and butter and add to dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.

I added 1 pint of fresh raspberries (minus a few for serving)

Drop 1/4 cupfuls onto oiled skillet (med high - if the pancakes are browning too quickly lower the heat) - give enough space to breathe. 2-3 minutes on side 1, 1-2 minutes on side 2. I like to keep them warm in a 200 degree oven on a plate covered in foil while you cook the rest.


Amounts are approximate...

1/2 bag of frozen raspberries (probably 1-2 cups) plus about 1/3 cup of Orange juice and 2-3 tablespoons of sugar in a small saucepan heated over high until berries start to break down. Add about 1/2 cup of maple syrup and heat to boiling until syrup thickens. Serve over pancakes (if I was a top chef and had time/wasnt starving by this point I would have strained it, but, well, Im not and I didnt!)


I didnt make these alcoholic because a) neither of us had a need for the hair of the dog and b) i would prefer it with champagne, but Ryan is allergic and I didnt want to open a bottle at 10am just for me, and vodka wasnt appealing to me.

These would be great as mimosas though, and I might just make them sometime!

Put aside some of the raspberry mixture before adding the syrup. Spoon into wine glasses and top with orange juice. Add a fresh berry for garnish. Add champage or vodka as needed ;)

Strawberries and Mint

I have always loved the flavor combination of strawberries and mint. Is this a normal combo? I feel like it is weird but I love it. I got soem berries from the store that were so-so so I didnt want to just serve them plain.... so I minced about 15 mint leaves (chiffonade then cut those crosswise so the pieces are teeny - big pieces of mint leaves are just way too overwhelming) and tossed them with a pint of sliced strawberries and about 2 spoonfuls of sugar (to help draw our the juices). Then let the macerate for an hour or two in the fridge.

Served over really good vanilla ice cream... heavenly.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Daring Cheesecake!

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge is a recipe for mini cheesecake pops! THese looked and sounded so fun; I was really excited to try them with a few recipes. I made this recipe so it was ready to serve alongside birthday cake on my mom's birthday. I changed the recipe slightly, substituting the flour for cornstarch since my sister is allergic to wheat. There is a 2:1 flour:cornstarch ratio for that substitution, and it was not really an obvious change. The flour is really just there to provide some structure.

I doubled the recipe because I wanted to try a variety of flavors: I made half of my popsicles following the recipe exactly (other than the flour) and added some vanilla beans for an extra pop of vanilla. I dipped them in dark chocolate, which was melted with a little shortening, and I added some cinnamon and cayenne to make it a bit of a mexican chocolate - I really liked that layer in the flavor. These were decorated in colored stars.

With the other half, I made half coconut using a tsp of coconut extract, and dipping the chocolate in toasted coconut flakes. The remaining part was flavored with a tsp of lemon extract. These were dipped in multicolored sugar.

The pops were really good but I think I liked them better in theory than in practice. They were a bit too rich for me, and for ryan. I think I prefer cheekacake, straight up. Too much going on with these. But, dont take my word for it: my family enjoyed them, and the leftovers did not last long at Ryan's work!
Overall the recipe was a success. It took a bit longer to set in the oven, about 55 minutes. I just pulled them when they were set in the center. They were somewhat of a pain to roll - the cheesecake softened very quicklywhen I was rolling them and my hands got gooey quickly, I found them hard to get into uniform balls. The biggest difficulty I encountered was freezer space. After rolling the balls and sticking in the sticks the pops need to freeze in the freezer for a few hours. They defintely took longer for me for them to get really hard, and it was very hard to find the space in a standard side by side fridge/freezer, especially when the freezer is packed ;) I had to do small batches in the freezer which made the process longer than it should have been.
Had I had a second freezer or just less junk in mine, it would have been much easier.
Check out the recipe here at Taste and Tell, one of our esteemed hosts for this round!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Clear-out-the-pantry Coconut Curry Soup

A while back I made this soup to use up a variety of things in the fridge before going bad... SO yummy!

First, I sauteed 4 green onions, chopped, in olive oil in a pot. I added 1/4 a white onion, diced that was in hte fridge too. Minced a little leftover fresh ginger, and added about 1 can worth of cocnut milk - combining the two open cans in hte fridge (one regular and one light) plus 1 cup of stock. I added a splash of fish sauce. I soaked and chopped some dried lemongrass. I added 2 tsp of red curry powder and about 1-2 tablespoons of fish sauce, and a splace of rice vinegar... and let the whole thing simmer for a bit.

In a separate pot, I cooked about 1/2 cup of jasmine rice according to pkg directions.

Then add 1 pound of shrimp - thawed, peeled, deveined - to the soup and simmer until shrimp is done through. Sreve with a scoop of rice and topped with chopped cilantro.

This was so good! Nice kick from the curry but the coconut helped cool it a bit.

Chilean Sea Bass

I went to Whole Foods for my annual trip this weekend and brough home some fabulous fish - including gorgeous Chilean Sea Bass. It was pricey to half is in the freezer and we each had about a quarter pound. It was to DIE for. SO GOOD. And how fancy is that photo?!

I cooked the fish simply - pan fried with a little EVOO over medium high. It didnt take long - maybe 10 minuts or less total. Nice and crispy crust. Fab.

I served it over a wilted spinach saute:

I heated 1 cube of garlic (the frozen kind) with oil and 1/4 a yellow onion, diced. Once soft, I added 1 small yellow tomato, diced and a handful or chanterelle mushrooms, chopped. Once those were also soft I added some pine nuts and turned the heat to low. Fold in baby spinach (about 1/2 a bag) and toss with feta. Yummm.

Mini Cheddar Mustard Meatloaves

This is another Everyday Food Recipe and as usual, it was a success! THese were very good - I loved the small size and the cheddar was fab. That said, they really were more reminiscent of burgers, especially with the mustard and ketchup. Not that that is a bad thing - I love burgers and dont love classic meatloaf. Overall - very yummy!

Serves 4

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey mustard
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 pound ground beef chuck
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 cup shredded white cheddar (about 4 ounces) use a good quality sharp cheddar - trust me its worth it!!
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees, with racks in upper and lower thirds. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with oil. In a small bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons mustard and ketchup.
In a medium bowl, combine beef, egg, panko, 1/2 cup cheddar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and teaspoon pepper. Form into four 2-by-4-inch loaves; place on baking sheet. Brush with mustard mixture; top with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar.

Transfer meatloaves to upper rack of oven. Bake until loaves are cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating sheets after 10 minutes. Remove loaves from oven.


This round of Homegrown Gourmet is hosted by The Tempered Woman. She chose the theme of POTATOS. Hmm. I was unsure what I would make for the potato to represent our hometowns... I asked if sweet potatos, my fav, were allowed. Check. Finally it hit me. Potatos - fries - salad. Yes. Thats right. FRIES - SALAD. You see, in Pittsburgh, the standard salad is usually lettuce (iceberg) topped with fries and ranch. Yet people still say "Im on a diet, Im getting a salad" :)

I was introduced to this strange phenomenon when I moved to da Burgh for college, and it is the norm to ryan since he is from the area. I always felt this was a sign of the problem in America - even salads have greasy fries atop them.

So I submit to the honorable Chairwoman, a healthied-up Pittsburgh Salad.

The salad consists of: Fresh torn romaine and red leaf lettuce tossed with a little (about half the norm) Good Seasons Italian made with Raspberry Vinegar. I topped them with diced mango, avocado, sliced almonds.

Then I cooked 1 pound of shelled and deveined thawed shrimp, tossed in 1/4 cup of honey and 1/2 cup of orange juice plus a tablespoon of oil in a hot pan until just done.

As for the star - the POTATO:

I took a large sweet potato and peeled it, and chopped into fries. We both love sweet potatos: they are a super food and much healthier than regula potatos and the sweet flavor is just fab.

I cooked them in some olive oil in a hot pan until brown and crispy and done through. I let them sit on a paper towel to soak up some oil and then tossed with kosher salt.

They were the crowning glory to our dinner salads. Ryan was quite thrilled to see an homage to the Pittsburgh salad, reminiscent of his home. And I must say - I never cared for Pittsburgh Salads in their traditional format, but this was great! The color was beautiful and the potatos went really well with the other ingredients. I may do this next time I make this salad!

Baked Mustard Chicken

This is a recipe I got from my mom. I know she got it from somewhere else but I have no clue where...

This was very yummy and so easy - I like finding recipes that are baked since they are "fix and forget" allowing me time to make sides while the main dish bakes.

This was really good but next time I will remember not to take baking time advice from the woman who's oven doesnt really work ;) I ended up cooking it for 45 minutes and it was definitely done 5-10 minutes earlier... so it was a bit dry. The flavor was great though!!

1 - 4 pound chicken in pieces OR I just did 4 breasts - with skin and bone but remove the skin prior to dredging. The bone gives it some extra flavor it seems. I cut the breasts in half as well and scored the meat to allow more of the sauce to seep in.

Preheat oven to 400.

Mix 3 TBL whole grain mustard, 2 TBL soy sauce, 1/4 tsp pepper in big bowl.

Add chicken & stir to coat.

Combine (my version) 1 lb baby carrots and 2 chunked onions in a roasting pan. Drizzle w/2 TBL olive oil, 1/2 salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, 8 sprigs thyme. (recipe also calls for fennel bulb but I dont like it)

Nestle chicken among the veggies. Cook until tender and done, "45-50" min - takes my mom more like an hour and it was overdone at 45 for me... Good over rice.

Birthday Cake!

For my mom's birthday, we had the whole family over for dinner to celebrate. She looooves a good rich chocolate frosting and wanted a moist cake, maybe with caramel, maybe with brown sugar. I think I achieved success!

Brown Sugar Butter Cake

This recipe makes 1 - 9 inch round so I doubled it. My other changes in italics

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar (I subbed 1/2 of sugar for dark brown sugar)

1 whole large egg plus 1 large egg yolk

1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange zest (Omitted)

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup whole milk

Garnish: Confectioners sugar (omitted)


Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan, then line bottom with a round of parchment paper and butter parchment. Lightly dust with flour.
Whisk together flour (1 3/4 cups), baking powder, and salt.
Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add whole egg, yolk, zest, and vanilla and beat 1 minute. At low speed, mix in flour mixture and milk alternately in batches.
Spread batter in cake pan and bake until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack.

The cake was great - so buttery and moist!

Caramel Sauce for Layers

I cut each cake layer in half and in between I layered some homemade caramel sauce. I used this recipe:

1 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (I used Dark)

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Equipment: a candy thermometer

Bring cream, brown sugar, corn syrup, and a pinch of salt to a boil in a 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Boil until glaze registers 210 to 212°F on thermometer, 12 to 14 minutes, then stir in vanilla.
Put rack with cake in a shallow baking pan and pour hot glaze over top of cake, allowing it to run down sides. Cool until glaze is set, about 30 minutes.

I let the sauce set in the fridge and it separated into a thick layer on top which it what I used between the layers. I drizzled the remainder over the frosted cake.

Chocolate Frosting

(From Cooks Illustrated)

This recipe was so so easy, quick and is fabulously rich. I also made it here.

Foolproof Chocolate Frosting

Makes 3 cups

20 T unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
pinch salt
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
8 ounces chocolate (I used unsweetened), melted and cooled slightly

In food processor (NOT your KASM), process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth, about 30 sec. Scrape sides as needed. Add corn syrup and vanilla and process to just combined, 5-10 sec. Scrape sides, and add chocolate and pulse to smooth and creamy, 10-15 sec. Frosting can by used immediately or held (longer than 3 hrs, chill covered and let stand at room temp for an hour prior to use). Yummmmm

Paprika Fries

I whipped up from french fries for dinner last week when we had burgers and they came out so so well. I used one large idaho potato, scrubbed with the skin on. Chop into fry shapes. Heat a large pan over medium high and add enough oil to have about 1 cm deep. When hot, add the potatos (make sure to use an oil shield thing!!!) and cook, stirring often until they are all brown and crispy. Add to a bowl with paper towel to soak up some of the oil. Shak in a covered bowl with kosher salt and smoked paprika - SO GOOD. The smoked paprika gave them a fabulous flavor, I loved the smokiness in hte background.

Blogging with a Purpose

My buddy Elizabeth at Elizabeth's Cooking Experiment's gave me this prize recently! I am so touched - thank you! :) Her blog is awesome with some fabulously decadent looking entrees - check her out!

Next I need to nominate a few others:

1) My dear friend Michelle at Musings of Michelle. She is somewhat new to food blogging but her cooking sounds so good and she is one strong and awesome woman!

OK I cant find anyone else I am thinking of honoring who HASNT already been picked for this!! So... sorry :(

Now, here's what you five have to do:- Nominate 5 blogs that haven't had this award before- Each of the blogs must have a purpose- The nominated blogs must have a link back to this blog- The logo from this award must be displayed in your blog

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Asian Shrimp Stew with Steamed Rice

OK first things first. Star this post, print it, commit it to memory, whatever. It is FABULOUS. Make it like tomorrow. Love. IT.

This is from Everyday Food Magazine. My sister also subscribes and she made this a while ago and has been bugging me about how good it was, so finally I made it too. Wow. I should listen to her more often (Moira - just testing to see if you are reading this ;) )

Serves 4

Prep Time: 30 Min

Total Time: 30 Min

Avoid overcooking vegetables.

1 Cup long-grain white rice

2 T cornstarch

1/2 cup coconut milk

1 T sugar

1 T vegetable oil

2 yellow bell peppers, in one inch pieces

1 onion, cut in one inch pieces (I used red since I was out of yellow)

4 garlic cloves, sliced

2 T minced peeled fresh ginger from a 2 inch piece

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (I misread and used 1/2 tsp - it was definitely spicy, especially for this spice-averse girl, but I could eat it and it was still really good. So if you like a kick, go with 1/2 tsp)

4 scallions, thinly sliced (separate whites and greens - I skipped since I didnt realize teh white were to be cooked)


1 pound shrimp (raw, peeled, thawed, deveined, tails removed)
1-2 tsp rice vinegar


1) Cook rice according to pkg, set aside covered. Meanwhile, place cornstarch in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in coconut milk, sugar, and 1 cup water. Set aside.

2) In a large skillet, heat oil over medium. Add peppers, onion, garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, and scallion whites. Season with salt. Cook, tossing frequently, until vegetables are crisp tender, 6-8 min.

3) add coconut milk mixture to skillet. Raise heat to med high. Boil, stirring occassionally, until thickened, 1-2 min. Add shrimp, and cook just until opaque, 3-4 min. If necessary, adjust consistency with a little water. Season with vinegar and salt to taste.

4) Fluff rice with fork. Serve shrimp stew over rice, garnish with scallion greens.


Balsamic Beets

We both like beets pretty well, Ryan more than I though. The same old same old veggies get... well... old after a while though so they are something I make occasionally to mix things up. I adore balsamic so I figured it would up my enjoyment, and it did! The sweetness and acidity of the vingegar really balanced the earthy beets nicely!
This was easy, though I ran out of time and had to peel tehm when they were still piping hot and definitely burned my fingers.

I used this recipe from William Sonoma. (I halved it, and could only find the regular red beets):

Most beet varieties are available in markets in late spring. Although the most common type sold is deep garnet-red, you’ll also find golden beets and even ones with concentric red and white stripes reminiscent of a candy cane. To insure freshness and tenderness, choose small or medium beets with their greens still attached. Remove the greens as soon as you get home, as they will leach moisture from the roots if stored intact over long periods. Garnish the dish with fresh parsley sprigs, if you like.

1 1/2 lb. red beets, with greens attached
1 1/2 lb. yellow beets, with greens attached
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar
3 Tbs. firmly packed brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste


Preheat an oven to 400°F.
Trim off the beet greens and reserve for another use. Wash the beets well but do not peel, and place in a shallow baking dish. In a small bowl, stir together the olive oil and water. Pour the mixture over the beets and toss to coat them completely. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake until the beets are tender when pierced with a skewer, 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven, uncover and let cool for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, stir together the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil until reduced by one-third, about 10 seconds. Remove from the heat.
Peel the beets by slipping off the skins, then cut them crosswise into thin slices. Place in a warmed serving bowl and drizzle with the balsamic glaze. Season with salt and pepper, toss to coat and serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Spring, by Joanne Weir (Time-Life Books, 1997).

Faux Key Lime "Souffle"

This is a recipe (if you can even call it that!!) that I picked up from the free william sonoma demo class on Souffles a few weeks back. They share a more complicated recipe that involved homemade curd but as a simple, quick option, store bought curd was just as good (we even did a taste test in the class :) )

I used the Key Lime curd, 1 jar. Take 1 cup of heavy cream and whip it. Whip it good. :-p When the cream has formed stiff peaks, stir in 1/2 of the curd until combined. Then, fold in 1/3, and then fold in the final third.

Add to dish (one large souffle dish, I just did individual servings in little pyrex dishes) and chill in the fridge until ready to serve (a few hours minimum). Top with addl whipped cream, fresh fruit, etc. Very refreshing, easy!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Balsamic-Rosemary Marinated Chicken

I sometimes like to go to the cooking demo's at William Sonoma - they are free and are nice for explaining or introducing to new cooking techniques or ingredients. Now, balsamic isnt new for me, but I adore it so wanted to see some new ways to use it. The lady there made (among other things) this marinade for chicken and it was so good, that I made it at home the next day. FAB! Ryan loved it too. I think it would be great on a pork tenderloin too.

2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbs. soy sauce
4 1/2 tsp. firmly packed golden brown sugar
3/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary
5 garlic cloves, chopped


In a food processor, combine the vinegar, olive oil, soy sauce, brown sugar and pepper and pulse until blended. With the motor running, drop the rosemary and garlic through the feed tube and continue to process until fairly smooth.

I marinated it in a large bag with 2 chicken breasts, chopped into bite sized pieces, for about 1 hour. Then, I cooked them on a hot pan until done through and slightly caramelized. Yummm

Pork Tenderloin with Garlic-Orange Vinaigrette

Yep. Thats right. Everyday Food Magazine. (I should rename my blog lol)...

Serves 4
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 pork tenderloins (about 1 pound each), trimmed and patted dry
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (Didnt have any dijon so I used brown... still good but the mustard was a bit strong. Next time Ill use Dijon)
1 tablespoon honey
1 garlic clove
4 bunches flat-leaf spinach (about 2 pounds total), thick stems removed, washed well (I did roasted asparagus instead with the dressing over it, so good!)
In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium; season pork with salt and pepper. Add pork to skillet, and cook, turning occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 145 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes (reduce heat if pork browns too quickly). Transfer pork to a plate, and cover loosely with aluminum foil; let rest 5 to 10 minutes (reserve skillet).

Meanwhile, in a blender, combine orange juice, mustard, honey, garlic, and 2 tablespoons oil. Season with salt and pepper, and blend until smooth; set vinaigrette aside.

In reserved skillet (if bottom of skillet is blackened, use a new one), heat remaining tablespoon oil over high. Add as much spinach as will fit; toss until wilted, adding more spinach as there is room, 3 to 5 minutes total. Drain off excess liquid, and season spinach with salt and pepper. Slice pork and drizzle with vinaigrette; serve with spinach. (or roast asparagus at 450 for 15 min, tossed with oil and salt, turning halfway and serve topped with vinaigrette - was excellent!)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sweet Potato Soup with Chipotle Cream

A few months ago, my mother-in-law mailed a clipping from Ladies Home Journal with this recipe, saying that it sounded like something we would like. She was right! I filed it away fully intending to make it... but then it got lost in the shuffle. When trying to decide what to make for our bi-weekly sunday dinners with my sis and bro, I looked through my soups and saw it again. Sweet Potatos go well (I think) with Pork (which I was serving as well) and soups are good weekend projects since sometimes they take some extra time and cleanup.

This was SO good! I really liked it! The Chipotle cream is key so don't skip it. Without it, the soup was too sweet, almost baby-food like? But the smokiness in the cream was the right balance. I couldnt find unsalted pepitas ANYWHERE (not at Trader Joes, not at Kanes, not at Fitzgeralds, and not at Stop and Shop...) so salted it was. I dont think it was an issue though, still was yummy. I recommend this soup and would definitely make it again!

Makes 15 Cups

2 T olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 pounds sweet potatos, peeled and diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

1 T tomato paste
4 (14 ounce) cans low sodium chicken broth (note: I read this as 4 cups and then later felt like more broth was needed... guess I was right!)
3 T maple syrup
1 T lime juice

1 1/4 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp cumin

3/4 tsp dried sage

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1 bay leaf

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 chipotle chile (from a can of chipotles in adobo), seeds removed and finely chopped (1/2 tsp or to taste - I did more like a full tsp)

2 tsp adobo sauce (from can) or to taste (I did a bit more)

1/2 cup unsalted pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds)
In a large pot, heat oil over low. Add onion and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Increase heat to medium; stir in potato, carrots, and tomato paste. Cook until vegetables begin to caramelize, about 4 min. Add broth, syrup, juice, salt, cumin, sage, pepper, bay leaf, and nutmeg. Cover and cook until vegetables are fork-tender, about 30 min. Discard Bay leaf. Puree using an immersion blender or in batches in a blender.
For Chipotle Cream: in a small mixer bowl, beat cream on medium to firm peaks. Fold in chile and adobo sauce.
Ladel soup into bowls, top with a dollop of cream, and sprinkle with pepitas.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Chocolate 'Covered' Banana Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes to bring to a party. There was going to be a 20 month old there who cant yet have peanuts or coconuts (or booze probably!) so I wanted to make some cupcakes with something else to kick them up. I had saved this recipe ages ago from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody that I used to make cupcakes (the explosion of overripe bananas in my freezer helped too!)
Banana Cake


2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup shortening
8 ounce Mascarpone cheese
2 eggs
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 cup mashed bananas (I used 2 overripe frozen then thawed bananas)

Cream together the sugar, shortening and Mascarpone cheese. Add eggs one at a time, scraping down after each addition. Add vanilla extract and mix for another 30 seconds. Add banana and buttermilk. Mix together all dry ingredients, then combine sugar mixture with dry ingredients. Pour into 9 x 13 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. (This made 22 cupcakes, on the full side, and took about 15ish minutes to be done).
I picked up the April issue of Cooks Illustrated and decided to test out their "Foolproof Chocolate Frosting' claim. After all, my mom's birthday is coming up and she loves a good chocolate frosting. This recipe lived up to its claims: easy decadently deeply chocolatey...
Foolproof Chocolate Frosting
Makes 3 cups
20 T unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
3/4 cup cocoa
pinch salt
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla
8 ounces chocolate (I used unsweetened), melted and cooled slightly
In food processor (NOT your KASM), process butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth, about 30 sec. Scrape sides as needed. Add corn syrup and vanilla and process to just combined, 5-10 sec. Scrape sides, and add chocolate and pulse to smooth and creamy, 10-15 sec. Frosting can by used immediately or held (longer than 3 hrs, chill covered and let stand at room temp for an hour prior to use). Yummmmm

Strawberry Crepes

Ryan requested that I try making crepes when I asked for breakfast suggestions last weekend. Man they are HARD! Definitely a few went in hte trash! But then I got the hang of it... yum! I used this recipe from william sonoma, with the addition of some vanilla beans mmm.

These crepes can be used with a variety of sweet or savory fillings. They're the perfect foundation for our souffl├ęd crepes
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1/2 Tbs. melted unsalted butter, plus 8 tsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt
In a blender, combine the milk, egg, flour, the 1/2 Tbs. melted butter and the salt and blend until smooth. Refrigerate for 2 to 8 hours. In a crepe pan over medium heat, melt 1 tsp. of the butter to coat the pan evenly. Lift the pan at a slight angle and pour 2 Tbs. of the batter into the center, tilting the pan to spread the batter to the edges. Return the pan to the heat and cook until the crepe is golden underneath, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a spatula, flip the crepe over and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cover. Repeat with the remaining batter. Makes 8 crepes.
Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Simply served with sliced strawberries and fresh whipped cream. Sooo good...

Balsamic Strawberries YOU FOOL!

I have been wanting to make fools for a while now but just never got around to it. Stop and Shop has had great strawberries lately, so we have an abundance, and some were getting a bit peaked looking... perfect opportunity! I wanted to try something a bit different for it, though, so I macerated the (sliced, cleaned, stemmed) berries in a few tablespoons of balsamic for about an hour first, then shot them through the cuisinart with a tablespoon of sugar. The balsamic flavor was subtle but same through and gave a nice acidity to the fruit. They would be great seved sliced over vanilla ice cream too!

Meanwhile, I whipped some cream (no sugar added). Fold in the berries and serve! These can be made ahead a little and refridgerated. SO good...

I use about 1 cup of whipping cream and a little less than a pint of berries.

This made about 4 martini glasses worth, but it is very rich so I think that it would be plenty for 6 as well.

I will definitely experiment with other fruit this summer!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Balsamic Skirt Steak with Polenta and Roasted Tomatoes

This is from my fav recipe source, Everyday Food mag (check it out - its a small reader's digest sized magazine and so so good and easy!). It was an excellent meal!
Serves 4
Total Time 35 Min
2 pints grape tomatoes
6 scallions, white and greens separated and cut into 1 inch pieces (note: next time I wouldnt bother separating but would just roast them all)
2 T olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup groupnd cornmeal
1 Tablespoon Butter
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1.5 ponuds skirt steak (cut into pieces as needed to fit in skillet)
1 cup balsamic
1) Preheat over to 400. In a large saucepan, set 4 cups of water to boil. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss tomatoes with scallion whites and 1 T oil; season with salt and pepper. Roast until tomatoes are tender and some skins have split, 12 to 15 min; toss wiht scallion greens.
2) Meanwhile, add 1 tsp salt to boiling water; gradually whisk in cornmeal. Simmer gently over low heat, whicking occassionally, until polenta is thickened and cooked through, about 10 min. Whisk in butter and parmesan and keep over low heat (add more water if needed if too thick before serving)
3) Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high. Season steak with salt and pepper and add to skillet. Cook turning once , 6-8 min total for medium rare. Transfer to a plate, cover loosely with foil and let rest 5-10 min.
4) Add vinegar to skillet and boil on high until reduced to 1/2 cup, 5-7 min. Stir in any juices from the steak. Slice steak and serve with vinegar , polenta, and tomatoes

I don't like CAPERS!!!

So this month, Kate is hosting Platinum Chef Challenge, and her five ingredients are:

I had all sorts of great ideas and felt very inspired by this grocery list. So inspired that I made my entry THAT DAY. But I have waited to post my results. Why? Well. I learned that I really. Truly. Not at all. Made me gag. Needed to eat a chocolate bunny to get the taste out of my mouth. Dont. Like. Capers!!!!!!!!!

I think that had I discovered a love of capers. Or even a like. I would have enjoyed my dishes. I was tempted to try something else for a more palatable result, but that would mean including capers. Again. NOOOOOO!!!

I made two dishes though, both incorporated all five ingredients. The first was an asparagus soup, and the second a tapenade of sorts. Ryan really liked the tapenade (he does not share my capers aversion apparently).

Roasted Asparagus-Capers Soup

1 bundle of asparagus, trimmed, washed
3 sprigs of rosemary
1 lemon
4 cups stock
1 bundle leeks, trimmed and carefully washed
4 oz craime fraiche
2-3 tablespoons capers
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Roast asparagus in an oven at 450 degrees tossed with oil, rosemary sprigs, and thinly sliced lemon for about 15 minutes or until slightly charred.

Meanwhile, in a large stock pot, heat oil over medium and add chopped leeks. Stir occasionally until slightly browned. Add stock and simmer about 10 min. In batches if needed, puree the stock/leeks and asparagus in a food processor or blender to smooth. Stir in cream to taste. Salt and pepper to taste.

In a small skillet, sautee the capers until slightly brown. Stir into soup. (Optional) Sear bacon wrapped scallops.

If desired, top with bacon-wrapped scallop.

Caper Tapenade

In a blender, combine 2 T drained capers, and the 'leaves' from 1 sprig of rosemary. Set aside.

Sautee thinly sliced whites from 1 large (or 3 small) leek with olive oil to caramelize. Combine with the caper-rosemary mixture. Squeeze juice from 1/2 of a lemon over, and stir in craime fraiche. Serve with multigrain bread.