Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Thai Beef & Broccoli Noodle Bowl

Because they are convenient and "healthy," I used to eat a lot of Lean Cuisine and South Beach Diet frozen meals. Eventually, I found a few that didn't taste too bad . . . but the meat in those meals was always pretty scary. This recipe reminds me of one of the better frozen dinners - but the difference in this recipe is that the meat is the best part of the dish, not the worst. It's also very quick to prepare - not quite as quick as microwaving a frozen dinner, but considering the results, the few extra minutes and dishes are well worth it!

Thai Beef & Broccoli Noodle Bowl

1 pound beef sirloin steak
1/4 cup Tamari (soy sauce)
1 jumbo clove garlic, minced (or two regular garlic cloves)
2 tsp. grapeseed oil, divided use
1 lb. frozen stir-fry vegetables
2 cups cooked rice noodles
1/2 cup peanut sauce


  1. Cut steak in half (lengthwise), then slice into 1/4-inch thick strips. Combine soy sauce and garlic in a meduim bowl; add beef and toss to coat.

  2. Heat 1 tsp. oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Add half the beef; cook 1-2 minutes or until outside surface is no longer pink. Remove from skillet to a clean plate. Repeat with remaining beef.

  3. In same skillet, heat remaining oil over medium heat. Add frozen vegetables; cook 5 to 7 minutes or until just tender, stirring occasionally. Add beef, noodles, and peanut sauce; cook until all ingredients are coated with sauce and heated through. (Adapted from The Healthy Beef Cookbook)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Pecan Blondies

Last night I made dinner for my friend Amy, who is a few days away from the start of the annual convention she plans. From my own experience, I know that meals are sometimes low on the priority list in the days leading up to an annual convention. I made lasagna and got salad and bread to take with it - but I also wanted to include a dessert. I chose blondies for several reasons: 1) I had all the ingredients; 2) they were easy to prepare and quick to bake; and 3) I don't *love* blondies, so I knew I wouldn't eat too many!

For a non-blondie person, I was pretty pleased with the way this recipe turned out - I just wish I had added a bit more white chocolate (I adjusted the recipe below to reflect how much white chocolate I should have used). I also can't help but think about the blondie that used to be on the Applebee's menu - remember the one served with ice cream and that little cup of sweet, hot, buttery sauce? Mmmm . . . I should have tried to recreate that sauce. Or not!

Pecan Blondies
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 tbsp.) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  1. Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line with foil (leave overhang to lift bars out of pan) and spray again with nonstick spray.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. Mix the melted butter and brown sugar together in a medium bowl until combined. Add eggs and vanilla and mix well. Fold in dry ingredients until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in chocolate and nuts; turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing with a rubber spatula.
  4. Bake until the top is shiny, cracked, and feels firm to the touch - about 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Using foil as handles, remove bars from the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 2x2-inch bars.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Chocolate Chocolate Cake

My husband's birthday was this week . . . great reason to bake a cake! There are several cake recipes in my "to try" file, but I needed something that would come together quickly (we've been at a basketball tournament every night this week), so I chose this recipe, which starts with a cake mix.

I found the recipe a few weeks ago at The Sisters' Cafe and shared it with Tressa and Sierra. Sierra entered a variation of this recipe into a "strangest ingredient" contest - she substituted grated spam for the oil (and used a strawberry cake mix, cheesecake pudding mix, and omitted the chocolate). She won the contest - and guess what? The cake was actually really good! Of course, I baked my cake without spam, but I'm still surprised at how good Sierra's spam cake tasted!

Chocolate Bundt Cake

1 devils food cake mix
1 pkg. instant pudding mix (the recipe calls for chocolate; I used vanilla)
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
½ cup warm water
½ cup oil (I used canola)
Optional: 1 ½ cups semi sweet chocolate chips

Place all ingredients except chocolate chips in a large mixing bowl. Blend with electric mixer 1 minute. Stir down sides. Continue to mix on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Stir in chocolate chips (if using). Pour batter into prepared bundt pan. Bake 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool 20 minutes. Invert onto serving platter.

1 stick (8 tbsp.) unsalted butter (not margarine!)
4 tbsp. cocoa powder
1/3 cup milk
3 to 4 cups sifted powdered sugar

Melt butter in medium saucepan over low heat. Whisk in cocoa and milk. Bring mixture just to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Beat in powdered sugar with electric mixer until thickened and smooth. Pour warm frosting over warm cake. Allow frosting to cool before serving or covering for storage.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

BB: Easy Sticky Buns

Sometimes it's really uncool to keep hungry people from a hot meal for the sake of just a few more photos (trust me!), so I apologize for the less than wonderful picture.

It was Melissa's turn to choose this week's Barefoot Bloggers recipe: Easy Sticky Buns. Indeed, this recipe is very easy - and the sticky buns are tasty - just make sure not to overbake them or you'll have Crispy Sticky Buns (trust me on this one too!).

The Barefoot Contessa's Easy Sticky Buns

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted

for the filling:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.

Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with half of the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down.

Trim the ends of the roll about 1/2 inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.

Bake for 30 25 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only max, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon), and cool completely a few minutes prior to serving.
- Recipe from the Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Healthy Fast Food

My friend Kelly the Kitchen Kop is hosting a Real Food Wednesday carnival to share recipes and ideas for healthy fast food (not fast food like you get from a drive-thru window . . . healthy food you can make - fast). I am so glad Kelly is hosting this carnival, because who couldn't use some ideas to help get healthy food on the table in a short amount of time?

The following "recipe" is one of my favorite quick-fix meals:Meat & Mashed Potato Wraps
  1. Warm tortillas (Ezekiel brand or homemade) until soft and pliable.
  2. Meanwhile, heat leftover mashed potatoes and shredded bbq beef (pieces of leftover steak, brisket, or roast also work well) on the stove in separate saucepans.
  3. Spread a thin layer of mashed potatoes on each tortilla (spread to within 1 inch of edge).
  4. Make a strip of shredded beef down the middle of the potatoes, then sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese over top of beef.
  5. Optional: season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Wrap like a burrito, securing with a toothpick if necessary. Serve immediately.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cowboy Butter - A Great Gift

For Christmas, my friend Ashley gave me the most delicious gift - 3 types of cowboy butter: red chili; green chili with cilantro; and sun-dried tomato/garlic/herb. I'm pretty sure she got the inspiration, if not the recipes, from a Grady Spears cookbook.
My absolute favorite is the sun-dried tomato variety (bottom right on the plate). I've been eating it on bread, but think I'll try it on chicken this week.

Although I don't have Ashley's recipes, I have done a little research (just getting prepared for when I run out of the sun-dried tomato butter) and found the following tips on making compound (flavored) butters, from Bon Appetit:

"Compound butter, also known as seasoned butter, is butter with other ingredients added. It's easy to make, freezes well, and is a quick and easy way to top off fish, chicken, steaks, or chops. Stir seasoned butter into rice or pasta, or smear some under the skin of a chicken before roasting.

To make seasoned butter, mix softened butter with ingredients like minced capers, shallots, fresh herbs, olives, grated lemon zest, or a combination of such ingredients. Transfer the butter to a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape the butter into a log that's an inch or so in diameter, using the plastic to help mold. Wrap the log tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil, and store in the freezer for up to 1 year.

When you're ready to use the compound butter, just pull the frozen log out and cut off slices as needed."

You could use almost any herb, spice, or seasoning you can think of to make compound butter, and not just for savory ingredients, either. I bet cranberry-orange butter would be good, and maybe strawberry-cherry-lime butter for summer . . . and of course you could add cinnamon, vanilla, honey, maple syrup, nuts, etc. Do you have any great inspirations for flavored butter?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Lemon Buttermilk Cookies

It was cold outside . . .
I've had buttermilk and lemons in my refrigerator for quite a while . . .
& I thought my co-workers could use a little afternoon treat . . .
which is how I ended up with a batch of lemon buttermilk cookies.

I adapted this recipe from Molly, who adapted it from Gourmet magazine. Strange substitutions (such as mine) or not, these cookies are very light and tender. I added quite a bit more lemon to my version than Molly's or Gourmet's version suggests . . . I imagine the original recipe results in a very mild tasting cookie. Molly suggested serving them with lemonade, but I think they would also be nice with a cup of hot tea, especially during the sub-zero winter days here in the midwest.

Lemon Buttermilk Cookies
1 ½ cups plus 2 tbsp. white spelt flour (or 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour)
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
5 tbsp. ghee (or unsalted butter), at room temperature
¾ cup sugar (or substitute of your choice)
1 large egg
1 tsp. limoncello (lemon flavored liquor)
1/3 cup buttermilk

Lemon Glaze
¾ cup confectioners sugar, sifted
1 ½ Tbsp. well-shaken buttermilk
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. limoncello
1 tsp. grated lemon zest
  1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, zest, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large mixing bowl, if you’re using a handheld mixer), beat the ghee (or butter) briefly, until creamy. Add the sugar, and beat until pale and fluffy. Add the egg, and beat well to mix. Add the limoncello, and beat briefly again. Mix in the flour mixture and the buttermilk in batches at low speed, beginning and ending with the flour, until just combined.
  4. Drop the dough (with a small scoop) onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 ½ inches between each cookie. Bake, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are puffed and their edges are golden, about 10 to 12 minutes per batch. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 1 minute; then transfer them to a wire rack.
  5. For the glaze, whisk together the sifted confectioners sugar, buttermilk, limoncello, vanilla and lemon zest. The mixture should be very smooth, with no lumps of sugar visible. Brush or spoon the glaze onto the warm cookies. Allow cookies to sit on the rack until they are fully cooled and the glaze is set.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

One out of control foodie

It's not me . . .

It's our dog . . . Piper.

This was last Wednesday night:
I'm pretty sure we fed her. Feeding her is as much of a routine as feeding ourselves, so I know there was sfood in her bowl. Yet, for some reason she was apparently very hungry . . .

After dinner, I went into my office to blog about the Quail in White Wine . . . Piper normally hangs out on the couch while I'm blogging . . . she was quiet, so I thought she was on the couch. Until I heard a little crash in the kitchen . . . she had been stealing the leftover roasted asparagus off the counter. I chased her into my office, but it's hard to take away asparagus and take a picture at the same time:
I was not too pleased with her - she has a history of stealing things off the counter, but she had been doing much better lately.

Piper went back to hang out on the couch and I baked a batch of banana muffins (with spelt flour and honey) while I watched Top Chef. Ken returned from a meeting not too long after I took the muffins out of the oven and we spent a few moments working on plans for a scholarship fundraiser we're involved with. Once again, in my office (you know where this is going, don't you?). Normally when Ken and I are both in the same room, so is Piper. Not thinking about the recent asparagus incident, I was oblivious to the fact that she wasn't in my office and I couldn't see or hear her. Then it hit me, but only kind of. Our conversation was something like this:

Me: "Where is Piper?"

Ken: "Oh, I don't know, I think she's eating muffins." (he is dead serious, yet somehow also oblivious to the implications of this)

"Ha ha, funny. Really, is she on the couch or did she go get on the bed?"

"Umm . . . no, I don't know where she's been," (moving toward the kitchen) "Yep, I think she's been eating muffins."

(Now we're both in the kitchen)
Me: "Where are the wrappers?" (as if she could peel the wrappers off!)

Ken: "I guess she ate the wrappers."

"Oh my gosh, PIPERRRRRRR!"

"Well, she probably didn't get too many."

"Too many??? Look how many are gone!"

"Ohhh . . . was that pan full?"

Yes, yes it was. (at least they were only mini-muffins . . .)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Aromatic Braised Chicken

Sunday evening I had the opportunity to use two great Christmas gifts - a Dutch oven (from my mom) and Cooking at Home with The Culinary Institute of America (from my dad). The result? Aromatic Braised Chicken. Actually the name of the dish in the cookbook is Aromatic Chicken Braise - but that sounds weird to me, like the words are out of order. So now it is Aromatic Braised Chicken. Either way . . . it is good! Maybe not quite as aromatic as I had imagined, but very tasty, savory and a little sweet at the same time. I thought the green onions and orange peel might be a little much for Mr. Meat & Potatoes, but he actually really liked this recipe. It's something a little out of the ordinary, definitely worth trying!

Aromatic Braised Chicken

4 chicken drumsticks
4 chicken thighs (2 chicken breasts)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp. peanut oil (I used grapeseed oil)
1 tbsp. minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced green onion (white and green parts) (divided use)
1 one-inch-square piece orange zest
1 tsp. julienned orange zest
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. peppercorns
1 1/2 cups chicken broth (or stock) (divided use)
3 tbsp. dark soy sauce (Tamari)
3 tbsp. Chinese rice wine or dry sherry wine
2 tsp. sugar (I omitted)
4 cups steamed rice
  1. Trim chicken pieces of excess fat and skin, and season with salt and pepper; set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok (or Dutch oven) over (medium) high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, 2 tbsp. of the green onion, the square of orange zest, the cinnamon stick, red pepper flakes, and peppercorns. Cook until aromatic, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken pieces to the mixture and cook until light golden brown on all sides, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add 1/2 cup of the chicken broth and the soy sauce, wine, and sugar and stir to combine. Bring to simmer and reduce the heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cover and cook gently until the chicken is opaque in the center but still tender, 25-30 minutes.
  5. Transfer the chicken to a platter with a slotted spoon, cover to keep warm, and return the pan to high heat. Add the remaining chicken broth. Bring the liquid to a boil and cook until reduced and slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Return the chicken to the sauce along with any juices on the platter. Heat thoroughly in the sauce and turn to coat evenly, about 2 minutes.
  7. Remove the cinnamon stick and the zest square. Serve the chicken and sauce immediately over rice; garnish with remaining onions and orange zest.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Turkey Black-Eyed Pea Chili

Cooking one dish that results in multiple meals can be very convenient, but it can also get boring. At least, that was my experience with this turkey chili. I made it last Sunday night (I should have posted the recipe then) and by Friday I was tired of eating it. It actually wasn't terribly exciting to begin with - it might have been because I used turkey instead of beef, or maybe the flavor just needed to be "kicked up" a little. Overall, I think this is a good base recipe, but next time I will use beef and some additional seasoning. The recipe below is adapted from Clean Eating magazine and represents the changes I made this time, not what I would change in the future:

Turkey Chili with Black-Eyed Peas

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 large onion, diced
2 sticks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 red pepper, seeded and diced
1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced
optional: 2 jalapenos, seeded and diced (I omitted)
3 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cups black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained (either dry/soaked or canned)
1 14-oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 tbsp. tomato puree
2 1/2 to 3 cups water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
optional: hot sauce (I omitted)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large ovenproof pot, heat half the olive oil over medium heat. Add turkey and brown for 5 minutes. Remove turkey from pot, set aside. Add remaining oil and saute carrot, onion, celery, garlic, peppers, chili powder, and cumin for 10-15 minutes, or until vegetables are soft. Return meat to pan and stir in black-eyed peas, tomatoes, tomato puree, and water. Bring to a simmer.
  2. Remove pan from burner and place in preheated oven for 2 hours. Season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce (if using) to taste.
Here are my thoughts for future adaptations:
  • Use lean ground beef instead of turkey
  • Use shredded chicken instead of turkey
  • Add additional cumin
  • Use the jalapenos as directed or add cayenne pepper
  • Increase garlic
  • Increase the amount of tomato puree
  • Use chicken or beef stock in place of some of the water
  • Garnish with cheese, sour cream, and/or baked tortilla chips (especially when eating as leftover)
Anyone have suggestions on (healthfully) improving this chili or changing it up when eating it the second or third time?

Friday, January 09, 2009

Nourishing Resolutions

I hope you're not tired of hearing about New Year's Resolutions already, because I have a few to share today. I'm actually posting this to keep myself accountable, not because I think anyone really wants to read it! Kimi, aka the Nourishing Gourmet, is hosting a Nourishing Resolutions Carnival today. I'm always checking out her blog for ideas, so I decided to participate in the carnival and share the link. She has some great tips for implementing goals/resolutions as well as great resources for people looking for healthful, nourishing recipes.

Overall, my main cooking goal is to include more whole, nutrient dense food in our diets - and less processed food. Here are my specific goals:

1. Convert 4 of our favorite recipes to more healthful, nutritious versions.
  • Pick 4 easy-enough-for-everyday recipes we enjoy.
  • Make ingredient substitutions (such as better fats, more wholesome sweetners, etc.) and alter preparation methods if necessary until we reach the balance of good tasting and good for us.

2. Freeze three days worth of healthy food to help reduce the temptation to go out to eat or cook a frozen pizza when I'm too busy to cook a real meal.

  • Choose 3 breakfast recipes, 3 lunch recipes, and 3 dinner recipes that freeze well.
  • Devote one Saturday to preparing/cooking and freezing these items.
  • Keep an "inventory" list of items on the side of the refrigerator so I will remember they are there to use when I need them.

3. Become more responsible regarding the purchase and utilization of food. Specifically:

  • Waste less food. As in eat it, freeze it, preserve it, something . . . so that it will not go bad and have to be thrown away. Keeping an "inventory" list on the fridge and freezer should help. I would also like to begin composting this spring so that even some of my food waste will not truly go to waste.
  • Purchase local products when possible.
  • Make better use of the produce from my garden. Base our summer meals around what I harvest. Learn to can vegetables and sauces (thank you for the pressure cooker/canner, mother-in-law) so we can utilize produce year-round. Donate or share all the produce that we do not eat (and enlist friends/family/neighbors to pick ripe produce if we're gone for a few days).

4. Work toward some of my random, more far-fetched goals (I have no real plan for accomplishing these, which is why they are "far-fetched"):

  • Keep a sourdough starter alive and learn to make sourdough bread.
  • Learn to make cultured coolers (like those from Three Stone Hearth we tried while in CA). What is a cultured cooler? According to Three Stone Hearth: [Cultured coolers are] made from filtered water, agave nectar, yogurt whey, a small amount of sea salt, and tasty herbs and flavors such as hibiscus, ginger, antique rose, lemon-lime, or others. These refreshing, tasty drinks are cultured for a period of days and so contain active enzymes and suspended mineral ions and electrolytes. And they are sooo good, especially the lemon flavor!
  • Force myself to Eat seafood once a month.
  • Make homemade chicken stock and beef stock on a somewhat regular basis. Yes, the Swanson's stock people will miss me . . .
  • Braise something once a month (in the beautiful new Dutch -actually French - oven my mom got me!).
  • Prepare my lunch (main dish and fruits/veggies) for work the night before, instead of the morning of . . .
  • Take better pictures of food for my blog, so the food actually looks appetizing.
  • Make a bigger effort to invite friends over for dinner instead of meeting at a restaurant.
  • And . . . make homemade mozzarella!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

BB: Banana Sour Cream Pancakes

The first Barefoot Bloggers recipe of the year is Banana Sour Cream Pancakes, which was chosen by Karen of Something Sweet by Karen. Let me tell you, I was excited to have an "excuse" to make pancakes, and this recipe yielded some of the best pancakes I've ever had. The bananas in the batter make it good, but I think the lemon peel is what makes it great. You can barely detect the lemony flavor, but it really helps balance the flavors in the recipe.

I froze a couple leftover pancakes and used them for a quick workweek breakfast three days later. It worked out well, so I think I'll make a big batch this weekend and freeze them for a future quick breakfast fix. See what other bloggers thought of the recipe here.

Banana Sour Cream Pancakes

1 1/2 cups flour (I used spelt)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (sea salt)
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk (possibly more if batter is too thick)
2 extra-large eggs (large eggs)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Unsalted butter (I used ghee)
2 ripe bananas, diced, plus extra for serving
Pure maple syrup

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones, mixing only until combined.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until it bubbles. Ladle the pancake batter into the pan to make 3 or 4 pancakes. Distribute a rounded tablespoon of bananas on each pancake. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until bubbles appear on top and the underside is nicely browned. Flip the pancakes and then cook for another minute until browned. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add more butter to the pan, and continue cooking pancakes until all the batter is used. Serve with sliced bananas, butter and maple syrup.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Quail in White Wine

Why is it so hard to get a decent picture of wild game? I'm sorry - I know this doesn't look especially appetizing. You'll have to just believe me when I say it tasted much better than it looks! I found this recipe last winter in The Silver Spoon . . . this recipe alone is worth the price of the book because it allows both of us to enjoy the quail Ken hunts. The recipe is very easy and the white wine, rosemary, and sage make the house smell fabulous! I served it with roasted asparagus and freezer biscuits. Here is the quail recipe:

Quail in White Wine

4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
8 tsp. fresh rosemary needles
8 fresh sage leaves
8 quail
2 tbsp. olive oil
3/4 cup white wine
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Put half a garlic clove, 1 tsp. rosemary and a sage leaf in the cavity of each bird; season with salt and pepper. Put the quail in a pan with olive oil and cook, turning frequently, until browned all over. Season with salt, pour in wine, cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes. Serves 4.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Panna Cotta

Panna cotta was one of my contributions to our "local feast" on New Year's Eve. Despite a few bad decisions on my part, I was pleased with how this recipe turned out and will definitely make it again.

So what did I do wrong? [At least] 3 things: a) I took a new recipe to a party without trying it first; b) I waited until the last minute to make it; and c) I underestimated how difficult it would be to disassemble the cold water bath by myself (there wasn't enough size difference between the two bowls I used).

This is actually a pretty simple recipe (just make sure you don't make the mistakes I did!) which would be perfect with fresh berries in the summer.

Panna Cotta

1 cup whole milk
2 1/2 tsp. unflavored gelatin
1 vanilla bean, slit lengthwise
3 cups heavy cream
6 tbsp. sugar
pinch salt

  1. Pour the milk into a medium saucepan, sprinkle gelatin over milk. Let stand 10-15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, scrape seeds from vanilla bean. Combine cream, vanilla bean, and seeds in a large measuring cup and set aside.
  3. Place eight 4-oz. ramekins on a baking sheet and set aside. Make a large bowl of ice water (about 4 cups water and 2 trays ice cubes).
  4. Heat milk and gelatin over high heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved and the mixture registers 135 degrees (1-2 minutes). Remove from heat. Add sugar and salt, stir until dissolved (1 minute). Slowly add cream and vanilla mixture, stirring constantly.
  5. Transfer mixture to a medium bowl; gently place this bowl into the bowl of ice water. Allow mixture to cool, stirring frequently, until it has thickened to the consistency of eggnog and reaches 50 degrees (10-20 minutes). Strain the mixture into a pitcher, then pour into ramekins.
  6. Refrigerate until panna cotta is set - at least four hours but up to 5 days in advance of serving (make sure to cover well with plastic wrap).
  7. Serve with lightly sweetened berries or berry coulis.
  8. Note: I used milk and cream from Heartland Creamery.
    - Adapted from The Best Make-Ahead Recipe, from Cook's Illustrated

Chocolate Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Last spring, on a morning television show (Today Show or Good Morning America), I caught a glimpse of what they were calling "the best chocolate cake EVER," but didn't hear the source of the recipe. After a quick Google search, I found it on the Epicurious website. I printed it, filed it and forgot about it . . . until recently, when I needed a chocolate cupcake recipe!

I'm sure the original recipe does make a fabulous cake, because the cupcakes were awesome! My only minor complaint is this: they were a bit too light and fluffy for cupcakes (translation: eat with a fork, not with your hands). However, this cake recipe does live up to the hype, so give it a try!

Chocolate cake (or cupcakes)

3 ounces fine-quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups hot brewed coffee
3 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 300°F. and grease pans. Line bottoms with rounds of wax paper and grease paper (or line muffin pans with paper liners).

Finely chop chocolate and in a bowl combine with hot coffee. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

Into a large bowl sift together sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until thickened slightly and lemon colored (about 3 minutes with a standing mixer or 5 minutes with a hand-held mixer). Slowly add oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and melted chocolate mixture to eggs, beating until combined well. Add sugar mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined well. Divide batter between pans and bake in middle of oven until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes - or - divide batter between muffin cups and bake until tester comes out clean (begin testing at 25 minutes).

Cool layers (or cupcakes) completely in pans on racks. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert layers onto racks. Carefully remove wax paper and cool layers completely. Cake layers may be made 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature (I froze the cupcakes for 2 weeks). - from (see the original recipe here)

Cream Cheese Icing

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 (8 oz pkg) cream cheese, room temperature
3-3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes on medium speed until very smooth. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

2. Add the vanilla extract and mix. Slowly add the powdered sugar. Keep adding until you reach the consistency and sweetness you desire.

3. Spread or pipe on to cupcakes.

- Adapted from Simply Recipes

Sunday, January 04, 2009

What's For Dinner?

Our menu for the week of Jan. 5-10


Lunch: Turkey and Black-Eyed Pea Chili (from Clean Eating)
Dinner: Quail in White Wine (The Silver Spoon), roasted asparagus, salad

Lunch: hot dog, salad
Dinner: Turkey and Black-Eyed Pea Chili, celery

Lunch: hamburger, salad
Dinner: Roasted Chicken with Preserved Lemon (from The Splendid Table's How to Eat Supper), sweet potatoes

Lunch: leftover chicken, celery
Dinner: beef stir-fry, rice

Lunch: more leftovers
Dinner: Baked Ziti, salad

Dinner: Aromatic Chicken Braise (Culinary Institute of America's Cooking at Home)

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Chicken Scampi

When we go home for the holidays, my parents always ask if there is anything special we would like to eat while we're there. My dad's fresh pasta is always a special treat, so that was my top request for Christmas this year. Dad and I made a deal - he would make the pasta if I would make the sauce/topping. I decided on chicken scampi and found an Olive Garden recipe knockoff online. It doesn't look very colorful, but it tasted great! I will definitely make this again.

Here is the original recipe I found, with a few adaptations. I quadrupled the portions when I made this (and it made a huge amount of pasta), but I decided to post the 2-3 serving recipe:

Chicken Scampi
(2-3 servings)

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup milk; hot

3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
optional: 1 tablespoon dried cilantro
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
black pepper to taste
3/4 cup white wine
1 cup chicken broth
1/4 cup white sauce

2 servings (fresh or dried) angel hair pasta, cooked and drained
1 red bell pepper - or - 1/2 jar roasted red peppers, drained; thinly sliced
red onions; thinly sliced, to taste
10 cloves of garlic; roasted
2 chicken breasts; sliced
olive oil

For white sauce: Heat 1 Tbsp. butter in sauce pan, add 2 Tbsp. flour and cook for 2 minutes on med. heat. heat stirring constantly. slowly add 3/4 cup hot milk (hot so it won't get lumpy). Set aside. (Make sure that the white sauce is hot when adding to the scampi sauce)

For scampi sauce: Heat butter over low heat. Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper and black pepper. Cook for about 2 minutes on low heat. Add the wine and chicken broth, stir until combined. Add white sauce and cook until slightly thickened (about 30 minutes). Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute chicken in olive until chicken is almost completely cooked. Add peppers and onions, saute until chicken is done. Add the sauce; saute until everything is warmed. Add roasted garlic cloves. Serve over pasta.

For roasted garlic: Separate head of garlic into individual cloves still in 'paper'. Toss in olive oil and wrap tightly in aluminum foil or a small pint sized dish with a lid. Bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes. When the garlic has cooled to the touch you should be able to squeeze it out of the 'paper' shell of the individual cloves.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Rustic Sweet Potato Fries

Nothing says Happy New Year like sweet potato fries! This recipe, which comes from the Barefoot Contessa's new cookbook - Back to Basics - was featured at our locally-produced New Year's Eve feast. I had two sweet potatoes and one pound of ground beef leftover from the big feast, so last night I made mini-meatloaves and, for the second night in a row, sweet potato fries.

As you may remember from the spring and summer, in 2008 I planted a garden for the first time. Although the garden was part success and part disaster, my sweet potato crop turned out okay. One of my resolutions for 2009 is to manage my garden better - and plant my sweet potatoes earlier - so hopefully this year I'll have an even better sweet potato crop. When you make sweet potato fries two nights in a row, they go fast!

Rustic Sweet Potato Fries

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon light brown sugar OR maple sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Halve the sweet potatoes lengthwise and cut each half into strips. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with the olive oil. Spread the potatoes in one layer. Combine the brown sugar, salt, and pepper and sprinkle on the potatoes. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn with a spatula. Bake for another 5 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Sprinkle lightly with salt and serve hot.
- Adapted from the Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics