Tuesday, November 30, 2010

chocolate-pumpkin tart

This is one of those recipes that has been in my pile for about a year and I’m glad I finally got around to trying it because it’s a keeper. It's fantastic! It comes from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Magazine. I inherited a huge stack of these magazines last year and have been leafing my way through them ever since.

Click here to see how beautiful the professional photos are (unlike mine….) You can see why I was inspired. Especially nice is the crisp chocolate layer hidden between the pumpkin and the crust. I wish the pumpkin top had smoothed out more during baking, because I was not pleased with the look of the final product, but that did not hinder the taste at all. It is not too sweet and the chocolate really enhances the pumpkin flavor.

I did have a tiny bit of trouble spreading the melted chocolate over the crumb crust, but luckily, the pumpkin hid my mess…..

And finally, I think some type of garnish would have jazzed up the look of this- it doesn't need more chocolate flavor so a chocolate drizzle would be too much.... but there’s always next time…. And there will be a next time!

Here’s what you need:
1 ½ C chocolate teddy graham cookies
2 T sugar
3 T melted butter (plus more for later)
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 ½ C canned pumpkin
1 large egg
½ C  heavy cream
¼  C pure maple syrup
¼ t cinnamon
¼ t nutmeg
¼ t salt

Here’s what you do:
Pulverize the cookies and sugar in a food processor until very fine. Add the melted butter. 

Using the bottom of a small measuring cup, carefully press the crumbs in the bottom (not the sides) of an ungreased 9-inch removable bottom tart pan. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and pre-bake in a 350 degree oven for about 10-12 minutes.

Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave. I used baking chocolate and did not have the problems some people in the reviews were having. If you see on the Everyday Food site, people who used chocolate chips had trouble with this step. Chips never melt very well.

Pour the melted chocolate over the crust and carefully spread it. I did have one messy place as you can see, but no problem.

Freeze the whole thing for about 5 minutes to set it all in place. Then, with a pastry brush, spread some melted butter around the edges and up the sides of the tart pan. This kept the pumpkin layer from sticking to the pan when you remove the sides – worked great!

Whisk the egg, pumpkin, cream, syrup, spices and salt until a beautiful consistency and pour over the chocolate. Take some time to smooth it out now, mine was not so pretty…….

Continue to bake (on the baking sheet) for about 45 minutes or until set. Cool for 1 hour and store in the refrigerator. Keeping the whole thing cold is essential if you want the crisp, hard layer of chocolate in the middle. It would not be as dramatic if that middle layer was room temperature.

This was a breeze to unmold, but I did not dare to lift the tart from the bottom of the pan. If you are looking for something a bit more sophisticated to replace your regular pumpkin pie this might just do the trick! It’s really good!

(printable recipe)

Friday, November 26, 2010

a stylish blogger award

A Stylish Blogger Award

Many thanks to Christina at Christina’s Taste Test Project for my Stylish Blog Award! What a nice surprise to receive it! I think you would like her blog and her recipes so be sure to look around her site at http://itsakeeper.wordpress.com/  I've printed her recipe for braciole and also for her Uncle Carmine’s Sicilian Cauliflower.

The rules for the award are:
  1. Thank and link back to the person who awarded you this.
  2. Share 7 things about yourself.
  3. Pay it forward to 15 recently discovered great bloggers.
  4. Contact those bloggers and tell them about their award.

Here 7 things about me:

I am addicted to my dog….. you can see why!  He’s totally spoiled…..

My favorite book is Pride and Prejudice …. I’m also addicted to Mr. Darcy, but then again, who isn’t?

I am the music director at my church. You can click on my Butterscotch Cheesecake post and see me in action there directing one of the bell choirs. I play the piano and guitar. Here I am in a little band we had for Vacation Bible School one year. How about that bandanna, eh? 

I speak Spanish, well almost- I’m pretty rusty these days! I was a Spanish major in college and taught Spanish for years. I've traveled to Mexico many times (for vacation, school and mission work), Spain, and Argentina. Now I teach middle school Language Arts, Geography and American History. 

I have the best husband who I totally love! We have been married for 25 years so I guess I can reveal that I’m 50 years old – ouch! We have three fantastic children-two in college and one in high school. My youngest son is becoming a great photographer.

      I’ve been taking photos of my cooking since the early days of cooking. I remember taking a picture of a beautiful meal of scallops with red cabbage, pasta and cream sauce very early in my cooking. Wish I could find that photo! Somewhere around here we also have a picture of a loaf of bread I made which turned out so horrible that we actually used it as a door stop. The only problem- our dog kept chewing on it and dragging it around the house. It was really heavy!  Here’s an old photo of my first sushi.

 Since it’s Thanksgiving, I will say I’m thankful for my faith, family, friends, warm home, good health and so much more. 

Now to share the award:

The Weekend Gourmet – Wendy has great recipes and really nice photos! I made her Tuscan Bean Dip for Thanksgiving and it was great.

Sweet as Sugar Cookies – Lisa is a beautiful baker – She’s baking her way to Christmas right now

Baking Serendipity – I just started following this blog. From pies to pastries, cookies to cupcakes, you’ll find it there.

An Opera Singer in the Kitchen- This is a vegan blog. I am not a vegan. I am not even a vegetarian. But I am a lover of music and of good food. I also love my fellow Michigan bloggers!

Liv Life – Just posted on this great blog: Orange Butter Cookies with Grand Marnier Glaze… I mean, come on! YUM

bottomless kitchen – I think their headline says it all: “EAT GOOD FOOD. Food is an essential ingredient to living a positive and healthy lifestyle.” I agree.

What Megan’s Making- Another Michigan blogger and wonderful baker – Megan did a fantastic series on pumpkin recently.

It started with one…. A local blogger – the first blog I followed! Sara is cooking her way through her huge stack of cookbooks…… aren’t we all?


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

eggplant rollatini

Admittedly, this recipe is a bit more involved than some others, but the final product is so lovely and so special, that I think it’s worth the effort. This would be an excellent entrée for a vegetarian dinner party – it’s that good. But don’t hesitate to make it for your family- they’ll thank you. I ate something similar to this at a restaurant in East Lansing a few years ago and since then I’ve tried to imitate what I tasted…..  I think I have finally landed on the perfect combo of flavors and textures. I must admit that I’m pretty proud of this meal!

One note: this only makes 2 portions of 3 rollatinis each. Also, if you plan to serve this with pasta, you should double the sauce.

Here’s what you need:
1 large eggplant, cut lengthwise in ¼ inch slices – do this very carefully. There’s no need to remove the skin.
3 T Olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the filling:
½ C crumbled feta cheese
¼ C ricotta cheese
1 t lemon juice
½ t lemon zest
½ t dried thyme
¼ t red pepper flakes
¼ t salt

For the sauce:
2 T olive oil
¼ C onion, minced very fine
1 T garlic, minced
1 C chopped Roma tomatoes
1 C chopped red bell pepper
2 T dry white wine
2 t tomato paste
¼ C half and half

1 C shredded mozzarella cheese
1 T pine nuts

Here’s what you do:
Step One
Mix the ingredients for the filling and incorporate all of it with a fork. Set aside.

Step Two
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put a cooling rack on a baking sheet. Arrange sliced eggplant on rack and brush liberally with olive oil. Salt and pepper each slice. Bake for about 8 minutes.
Turn the eggplant over and repeat on the other side for another 8 minutes.

When the eggplant is done, allow it to rest under foil for about 10 minutes. It will do some more cooking later, but you certainly want it nice and soft now. 

Step Three
Lower the oven to 350 degrees.  Sautee the onion, tomatoes, peppers and garlic for about 10 minutes or until very soft and smelling great. Do not allow to brown, only soften. Add the wine and tomato paste and simmer for a few minutes more. Remove from heat to cool for a few minutes.

Puree the vegetables and ¼ C half and half until reasonably smooth. 

Step Four: aka – The Fun Step
Place about ½ sauce in the bottom of a small casserole.
Carefully spread 1/6 of the cheese filling over each eggplant slice. Roll up starting from the narrow end  - rolling toward the round end. Place rolls seam side down on sauce.

Smother with the remaining sauce. Top with mozzarella and pine nuts. Bake for about 20 minutes or until melty and brown. You can give them a few minutes under the broiler for a nice finished color at the end of baking.

I’m telling you these are fantastic – you vegetarians out there know what I mean when I say that eggplant is the ‘forgotten’ vegetable. You non-vegetarians out there will be totally satisfied with this dish because it is so hearty.  You could serve this with pasta (see note above about doubling the sauce if serving with pasta), a green salad, a simple side vegetable, crusty bread, or as is…..

Friday, November 19, 2010

butterscotch cheesecake

(sitting upon my antique glass plate I picked up at an estate sale last month)

Is there anything as special as cheesecake? It’s perfect for any occasion and people are impressed because they think it’s difficult to make, which it’s not. There is actually not much butterscotch flavor in this, but the addition of the pudding creates a lovely soft texture. The cake is dense and soft all at the same time. I think more chocolate on top (maybe even a glaze or a drizzle) would be nice too. 

I made this for a lunch I hosted for the Eagle Ringers - my student hand bell choir. They came to my home, along with their families, before we performed at a Festival of Choirs at a nearby church. They looked great all dressed up and sounded even better! It never fails to amaze me what young people can do!

Here’s what you need:
1 ½ C graham cracker crumbs
½ C + 1/3  C sugar
6 T melted butter
1 3.5 oz. box of butterscotch pudding (regular, not instant)
1 ½ C milk
3 8 ounce packages of cream cheese (my picture above only shows 1 package, but you do need three!) 
3 eggs
1 t vanilla
Chocolate for shaving – the garnish

Here’s what you do:
Step One
Prepare the pudding by mixing it with ½ C sugar and 1 ½ C milk. Stir over low heat until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat and cool completely. You can see in the photo that I rested my sauce pan in an ice bath to cool quickly. Be sure to keep stirring so a skin does not form on the pudding.

Alternatively, you could put the pudding in the fridge with a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface – whatever it takes to avoid the dreaded ‘pudding skin.’

Step Two
Make the crust by mixing the crumbs with 1/3 C sugar and the melted butter. With your fingers, press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of a spring form pan. Try to get the crumbs up quite high on the sides.

Step Three
Mix the cream cheese, the eggs and vanilla very well. You want a completely smooth texture. Add the lovely pudding and continue to mix.

Pour into the prepared crust and bake for about 50 minutes at 375 degrees.
When completely cool, remove sides from the pan and with a vegetable peeler, garnish with dark chocolate. 

You can eat cheesecake for breakfast can't you? I sure can!

Here I am - directing and ringing at the same time!

Friday, November 12, 2010

chicken with 20 cloves of garlic

There’s no reason why delicious, flavorful food has to be laden with fat and calories and this recipe proves it. For many years I was afraid to try the classic dish ‘Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic’ just because of the amount of garlic. I can’t even think about 40 cloves of garlic….. Solution? Cut it down to 20. I also try to avoid frying food and keeping the skin on chicken which the classic recipes call for – that’s a lot of calories and unhealthy stuff….. Solution? Use boneless, skinless chicken. I also doubled the amount of cooking liquid to ensure a large amount of sauce. The result was absolutely fantastic! I think probably better than the classic recipes I have been studying for so many years. Do not hesitate to make this one….. This makes a lot, but you will want leftovers, trust me.

Here’s what you need:
6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in half or even thirds widthwise
20 large cloves of fresh garlic – make sure they are perfect and have no bruises or blemishes
1 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 C dry white wine
2 C chicken stock – your final product will only be as good as your ingredients, so be certain to use a low sodium stock (I prefer stock over broth…. Make the switch – you won’t be sorry….)
1 t dried thyme 
3 T flour
¼ C half and half (or heavy cream)

Here’s what you do:
Step One
Drop the garlic into recently boiled water for about 1 minute. Remove with slotted spoon and carefully peel. This took about 5 minutes, but the result was perfectly peeled garlic.

Step Two
Generously salt and pepper the chicken. Brown the chicken in butter and oil. Do this over medium heat so the oil/butter combo doesn’t get too brown.  Be sure not to crowd the pan – give them some elbow room! 
Remove to a platter and continue until the stove is splattered and all the chicken has had a turn in the pan. J

Step Three
Sautee the garlic in the oil/butter for about 5 minutes – do not allow them to burn. Add the wine and stock and gently scrape up the bits of goodness on the bottom of the pan.

Return the chicken and all the juices to the pan, sprinkle with thyme, cover, and simmer on low for about 1-1/2 hours. I actually let the pan sit on the stove for another few hours before dinner which I think made the chicken ‘falling off the bone tender.’ I suppose you could place it, covered, in a low heat oven for an hour also. 

Step Four
Once again, remove the chicken to a platter. At this point, I actually searched for the 20 cloves of garlic only to find they had cooked away….. there were a few small pieces left in the sauce, which I removed with a slotted spoon.  Take about 1 Cup of hot liquid from the pan and whisk in ¼ C flour. Add ¼ C half and half and pour this slurry mixture back into the pan. Boil and stir for about 5 minutes. Return the chicken and bring up to temperature.

You must plan to serve this with something which will sop up the juice. As you can see in the top photo, I served it with quinoa. Better might have been couscous or rice or even better still – mashed potatoes…..  The leftovers were heavenly!

Monday, November 8, 2010

spinach quiche

This was one of the very first things I learned to make as a young bride (dare I say 25 years ago…..) In fact, this was the very first thing I made for a lunch party…. I remember that friends of my husband’s came to our home and I made this along with a spinach salad…. That’s called spinach overkill. We certainly got our iron that day….. My daughter made this for a family dinner when she was very young – it’s that easy.

I still return to this recipe because it is very good. We eat it for dinner the first day and breakfast the next morning. If there is a slice left after that, it becomes lunch for someone lucky. It is simple, easy and nice enough for company. It would be great sliced very thinly and served room temperature as a hearty appetizer.

Here’s what you need:
1 unbaked pie crust – I am very loyal to Pillsbury Brand
10 oz. frozen chopped spinach. Use a good brand because it does make a difference in the quality of vegetable.
8 oz swiss cheese, grated (2 Cups total)
2 T flour
½ t salt
¼ t nutmeg
1 C milk (I used skim today)
3 eggs, beaten

Here’s what you do:
Prick the crust and bake for 6 minutes at 425 degrees. Then turn down the oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare the spinach by placing it in a sieve and running hot water from the faucet over it until all the frozen parts have thawed.  Squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Mix the flour, nutmeg, salt and cheese together.
Beat the eggs and add the milk
Add the spinach to the egg mixture.

Mix it all together; pour it in the pre-baked pie shell.
In a 350 degree oven, bake for about 40 minutes or until golden.

I use a tart pan which is more shallow than a regular pie pan, so I usually only bake it for about 30 -35 minutes.
(printable recipe)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

cinnamon rolls

I made these cinnamon rolls for my son’s breakfast on a blustery October Saturday morning. He was headed out to work and needed something warm and filling. He works as an attendant at a beautiful park near our home, and the thought of being out in the cold morning air motivated me to crank out some comfort food for him.

Here’s what you need:
2 C flour
1 T baking powder
1 t salt
¼ t baking soda
¼ C vegetable oil
¾ C buttermilk
1 stick butter – softened. (1 T for greasing the pan)
½ C sugar
1 ½ t cinnamon

One comment regarding buttermilk: I never have it fresh in the fridge when I want it, but I have found that using powdered buttermilk for baking is a great solution. The proportion is 4 T + 1C water = 1 C fresh buttermilk. Couldn’t be easier…..

Here’s what you do:
Mix dry ingredients -flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda. If using powdered buttermilk, then add the dry buttermilk now.
Add the oil. If using powdered buttermilk, here is where you add the ¾ C water.

Mix until a ball forms, turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth – about 1 minute.
Roll out to a 15x8 rectangle (I use a measuring tape)

Smear the softened butter over the dough with a small rubber spatula. Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the butter.

Roll the dough like a jellyroll starting on the long side. Slice into 1 ½ inch slices and place in buttered pan. Gather all the cinnamon that escapes and sprinkle it on the rolls. Bake for about 15-20 minutes in a 400 degree oven.

Turn out onto a plate for the prettiest presentation, but feel to eat them right from the pan – so good….. Today I drizzled the smallest bit of frosting over them, but they do not need it. (1/2 C powdered sugar and a few teaspoons of milk)

I packed 3 rolls in foil for Rob’s breakfast to go and also made a thermos of hot chocolate. He stood at the counter and ate a roll on the spot and also snuck another in the foil package for his breakfast. They are irresistible!

Now’s here the rest of the story……. Powdered buttermilk all over the floor…… I only said, “Shoot” because my kid was in the room…..Oh, there's nothing quite like washing the kitchen floor at 8:30 in the morning, is there?

(printable recipe) 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

sunshine chicken

I adapted this recipe from an old cookbook called “365 Ways to Cook Chicken-Simply the Best Chicken Recipes You’ll find Anywhere!” It’s a corny title, but every recipe I have used from this book has been very good. The original title for this chicken is ‘Honey-Garlic Chicken’ but I think ‘Sunshine Chicken’ captures the bright flavors better. Besides, it has the brightest golden orange color. The photo above reveals that we had a thoroughly ‘orange dinner’ this night. I served the chicken with buttered carrots and cheesy rice (yes, from a box…..)

I am always interested in great meals that you can whip up after working all day and this is one of them. You could always make the glaze the day before serving.

Here’s what you need:
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts – about 3 pounds. I slice mine in half horizontally.
White vinegar – enough to cover the chicken plus ¼ cup for the glaze
2 T butter
1 med onion – chopped
6 cloves garlic – minced
6 ounces frozen orange juice concentrate
2/3 C honey

Here’s what you do:
Marinate the chicken in vinegar at room temperature for about an hour.
Make the glaze by sautéing the onions and garlic in the butter until soft, about 5 minutes on low. Add the orange juice and honey and ¼ C vinegar and cook until thick and beautiful. I simmered mine for about 20 minutes.

I strained out the onions and garlic for a smoother glaze, but this step is not necessary – I have left the veggies in before and that’s equally as good. The glaze will be better if you refrigerate it and allow it to cool and thicken. You can see in the photo how beautiful the color is – Sunshine!

Remove the chicken from the vinegar and grill it on medium-high. Be very generous with the glaze – it is very nice!
The end result is sticky and tangy and very bright tasting. Leftovers are fantastic in a sandwich or salad.

(printable recipe)