Thursday, May 28, 2009

BB: Outrageous Brownies

As strange as it may sound, given my love for chocolate, I did not love these brownies. Maybe I did something wrong . . . I have made brownies from The Barefoot Contessa's boxed brownie mix a couple of times, and I think the boxed mix turns out better than making the recipe from scratch. Specifically, I didn't enjoy biting into a piece of kosher salt in the middle of a fudgy brownie. Normally I think salty and sweet is about the best combination possible (and I love using kosher salt in some sweets, like oatmeal cookies), but to encounter crunchy salt in a fudgy brownie . . . just wasn't for me. Making this recipe was not a good use of my time - or the ingredients. Live and learn . . .

Outrageous Brownies
1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups diced walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan two disposable 11 x 9 x 1 1/2 pans.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not over-bake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.
- Recipe from The Barefoot Contessa, via

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Old-Time Doughnuts

Want to be a hero? Just get an OLD Betty Crocker cookbook and try a recipe - like doughnuts.

I made these Old-Time Doughnuts on Memorial Day. We usually don't get to travel/go to the lake/visit friends and family/etc. over Memorial Day weekend thanks to corn and/or soybean planting . . . so I decide to make up for it by frying something. I know, it's weird - and BAD for us - but it's only once a year!

Last year I fried homemade onion rings, this year I chose doughnuts. My husband went crazy over these, claiming they were a perfect replica of the doughnuts his great-aunt used to make. She must have had the Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook too!

Old-Time Doughnuts
(These seem like a cross between a cake dougnut and a glazed (yeast) doughnut)

Beat well: 2 eggs

Beat in: 1 cup sugar
2 tbsp. butter

Stir in: 3/4 cup buttermilk

Sift together and stir in: 3 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Chill dough 2 hours. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 1/3-inch thick (this dough rolls out beautifully). Cut with a floured doughnut cutter (or cookie cutters if you don't have a doughnut cutter - and honestly, who does have one?). Heat fat/oil while rolling and cutting doughnuts . . . When oil reaches 390 degrees, use a wide metal spatula to transfer dough into oil. Fry as many at one time as you can easily turn. Turn doughnuts as they rise to the surface and begin to turn brown. Fry about 3 minutes total, or until each side is golden brown. Carefully remove doughnuts from the oil and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Allow to cool for a moment. To coat with sugar, place one doughnut at a time in a paper bag with sugar - shake well. Serve immediately.
Yield: 2 dozen 3-inch doughnuts
- Recipe from Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook (1950)

Sunday, May 24, 2009

My Kitchen Garden

This is why I have been neglecting my blog: the garden.
My dad built these defined beds for me (I wanted to do this last year, but I guess I had to struggle through my first year of vegetable gardening without defined beds to prove that I was serious about it - probably a good idea, because this project was a lot of work!). I love this layout because it allows me to access each bed from both sides. It should be better for the plants, since I'm not compacting the soil by walking in the beds. Plus, I can easily keep certain groups of plants together (companion planting) or away from each other - and I can make adjustments to the soil for specific plants (which will be especially good for blueberries).
As you can see, I still have lots of work to do - more planting, more mulching, and (unfortunately) some weeding. I was pretty exhausted when I took these pictures, so they aren't the best, but hopefully will give you some idea of how the garden is set up. I'm probably forgetting a couple of things, but here is what I have planted so far:

Tomatoes (more than 30 plants [yes, I am crazy] - all heirloom):

Abe Lincoln
Big Rainbow Stripe
Cherokee Purple
Mr. Stripey
Old German
Radiator Charlie (Mortgage Lifter)
Red Cherry
San Marzano

8-Ball Zucchini
Acorn Squash
Brussels Sprouts
Butternut Squash
Mesclun Mix
Ruby Swiss Chard
Sugar Loaf Delicata Squash
Sweet Bell Peppers (red, yellow, green, orange)
Sweet Potatoes

Basil (Sweet and Thai varieties)
Lime Mint
Pineapple Sage
Texas Tarragon
Thyme (regular and lemon varieties)

Plants in the permanent bed:

Flowers (mostly for companion planting purposes, except the zinnias):

If you can believe it, I still have more things to plant - and some I wanted to plant but missed the opportunity because it got too late in the spring. If all goes well (and if I get enough tomato cages), I hope to have a "tomato festival" party in the late summer. Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

BB: Lemon Cake

This month, I got to pick the Barefoot Bloggers "bonus" recipe. It didn't take long to decide on lemon cake - spring is the perfect time for lemon . . . and it was also a co-worker's birthday, so it was a great opportunity for me to bake a cake.

To be honest, I liked this cake - but it wasn't the best cake I've ever baked. I think it was a little too tart (there I go again, criticizing something for having too much lemon - and I'm normally a lemon fan). I'm not opposed to making this cake again - next time, I'll cut down the amount of lemon zest in the batter.


1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup grated lemon zest (6 to 8 large lemons)
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may also line the bottom with parchment paper, if desired.

Cream the butter and 2 cups granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. When the cakes are done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar and the lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides. I grated a bit more lemon zest on top of the glaze.
- Recipe from The Barefoot Contessa, via

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

BB: Cheese Danish FAIL

For the first Barefoot Bloggers recipe of May, I decided to do a little Barefoot Backtracking and made Easy Cheese Danishes instead of Tuna Salad. I thought this would be a great decision - I mean, who wouldn't choose a cheese danish over tuna salad? However, if I had to do it over again (and if I could get fresh tuna), I might just skip the danish. I'm not sure what I did wrong, but it did not turn out well at all. The filling was too lemony for me (which is unusual because I love lemon), dry and almost gritty . . . and the puff pastry was chewy (I think it may have been thawed and frozen again . . . not good). It looked pretty, but looks can be deceiving . . .

Sunday, May 17, 2009

History Worth Repeating

a.k.a. Oatmeal Muffins

I recently acquired the 1950 edition of Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book from my Grandma Margaret. I have to admit, I wasn't convinced I needed this book at first . . . but after I took time to look through it, I'm so glad I have it! First, it is interesting to see how recipes were written and the types of things that were popular to cook in 1950. Second, she has certain recipes flagged and even notes written on some pages. For example, the recipe for Spritz cookies (one of my grandma's signatures) is boldly crossed out with the note "no good" written next to it - obviously that wasn't the recipe she always used! Ha!

As I looked through the recipes, I was surprised not only by how much has changed - but by how much has remained the same over the past 59 years. I added several of the recipes to my list of things to try, but these oatmeal muffins really jumped out at me. Maybe because the description says "They're marvelous. So moist at rich!" People just don't use 'marvelous' much any more . . .

I'm a big fan of almost anything oatmeal, so perhaps I'm biased - I think these muffins are marvelous! However, I can also think of several adaptations I would like to try (not all at the same time, of course):
  • Add more sweetner (maybe maple syrup) (these muffins are only subtly sweet)
  • Add cinnamon
  • Add chopped apples
  • Add cranberries and orange zest (and maybe white chocolate drizzle)
  • Top with maple syrup/powdered sugar glaze
  • Use coarse sea salt or kosher salt
  • Soak the oatmeal longer
  • Substitute spelt flour
Okay, enough ideas - here is the recipe:

Oatmeal Muffins

Soak together for one hour . . .
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup buttermilk

Mix together thoroughly . . .
1/3 cup butter (it actually calls for shortening - no thanks)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg

Sift together . . .
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt

and stir in alternately with rolled oats and buttermilk.

Fill lined muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Yield: about 12 muffins

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Strawberry Sherbet

My favorite thing about late Spring is buying locally grown, super fresh strawberries. However, I'm not always patient enough to wait for that time to come, so when our grocery store had strawberries on sale for 99 cents/lb., I stocked up. Fortunately, this month's issue of Eating Well had several strawberry recipes, including the one below. This recipe came together very easily and the sherbet was delicious. However, once it is frozen solid, it takes quite a while for it to soften enough to scoop, so plan accordingly.

Strawberry Sherbet

2 cups chopped fresh strawberries (about 10 ounces), divided
1/2 cup sugar (or your choice of honey, agave, rapadura, etc.)
2 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

1. Combine 1 cup berries and sugar in a small bowl and let sit, stirring occasionally until the sugar has begun to dissolve, about 10 minutes. Transfer the berry mixture to a food processor or blender and process until smooth (my Magic Bullet worked beautifully and was just the right size for this amount of berries).

2. Meanwhile, combine buttermilk, half-and-half, lemon juice, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl. Press the strawberry mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl. Stir, cover and chill for at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.

3. Whisk the sherbet mixture and pour into the canister of an ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. During the last 5 minutes of freezing, add the remaining 1 cup chopped berries. If necessary, place the sherbet in the freezer to firm up before serving. (If the sherbet becomes very hard in the freezer, soften it in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before scooping.)

NUTRITION INFORMATION: Per serving: 112 calories; 2 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 7 mg cholesterol; 21 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 1 g fiber; 94 mg sodium; 86 mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Vitamin C (40% daily value). 1 1/2 Carbohydrate Servings
Exchanges: 1/2 fruit, 1 carbohydrate (other), 1/2 low-fat milk
Recipe and nutrition information from Eating Well magazine

Arugula, Prosciutto & Gruyere-Stuffed Chicken with Caramelized Shallot Sauce

Alternate post title: Why I am not a recipe writer!

This recipe has been on my "list" for quite a while, and now that I have fresh arugula from the garden, I thought it was time to try it. However, I didn't exactly follow the recipe and therefore am sharing two takes on this dish - my version and the original Cooking Light recipe. The biggest difference is that I left out a few sauce ingredients - I didn't want to use cornstarch and I didn't think tomato paste would really be a good addition. If anyone tries the original version with tomato, let me know how you like it (and sorry for the imprecision of my version of the recipe)!

Arugula, Prosciutto & Gruyere-Stuffed Chicken with Caramelized Shallot Sauce - my way:

Pound out 2 chicken breasts to 1/4-inch thickness (I accomplish this by wrapping them in wax paper and beating with a rolling pin). Top half of each piece of chicken with a couple slices Gruyere cheese, a few arugula leaves, and a piece of prosciutto. Fold the other half of the piece of chicken over the "toppings" and attempt to press together the edges. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground black pepper over both sides of chicken. Dredge chicken in flour; shake off excess.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken to skillet. Brown approximately 5 minutes on each side. Transfer chicken to a baking dish and place in preheated oven. Bake approximately 10 minutes, or until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

Meanwhile, saute thinly sliced shallots in original skillet (add extra olive oil if necessary). When shallots have browned, pour in a little dry white wine (use something you'd actually drink, not the cheapest bottle you can find - I used Pinot Grigio), then add a little chicken stock. Boil until reduced by half. Pour onions/sauce over chicken breasts to serve.

The original recipe from Cooking Light:

6 (4-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
6 (1/2-ounce) slices prosciutto
6 (1/2-ounce) slices Gruyère cheese
1 1/2 cups trimmed arugula
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 teaspoons tomato paste
2 cups dry white wine
2 1/4 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 teaspoons water
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Preheat oven to 350°.

To prepare the chicken, place each chicken breast half between 2 sheets of heavy-duty plastic wrap; pound to 1/4-inch thickness using a meat mallet or rolling pin. Discard plastic wrap. Top each chicken breast half with 1 slice prosciutto, 1 slice cheese, and 1/4 cup arugula, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Fold in half, pinching edges together to seal; sprinkle with salt and pepper. (The chicken can be prepared up to a day ahead and refrigerated at this point.)

Dredge chicken in flour, shaking off excess. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; cook 5 minutes on each side. Place chicken in a shallow baking pan; bake at 350° for 5 minutes or until done. Keep warm.

To prepare sauce, add shallots to skillet; sauté 4 minutes over medium-high heat or until browned. Add tomato paste; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; bring to a boil over high heat. Cook until reduced to 1 cup (about 6 minutes). Add broth; bring to a boil. Cook until reduced by half (about 8 minutes).

Combine water and cornstarch in a small bowl, stirring with a fork until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture to sauce; bring to a boil. Cook 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Calories: 300; Fat: 9.8g (sat 4g,mono 4g,poly 0.9g); Protein: 29.7g; Carbohydrate: 9.7g; Fiber: