27 December, 2012

Spinach, Feta, and Fresh Mint Pastries

Filo dough it one of the greatest things, if you ask me.

So flaky, so shapeable to savory or sweet recipes.

I was looking for a most delicious appetizer to serve for a holiday meal, and this was a winner.  
This is pretty much a recipe for Spanakopita, a classic Greek pastry.  I do love Greek food, and these little flaky triangles can be made 3 (yes 3!) days in advance.  (Cover, refrigerate, and bake as directed when ready)
If you've never worked with filo dough before, I must say it requires a bit of patience, understanding, and finesse.  These thinner-than-paper sheets can get the best of you if you're in a rush, so set aside some time and read through the instructions carefully first.

I don't want to scare you off, I actually find filo dough very easy to work with, but some unfamiliar with it and pressed for time... well.. they wind up of that TV show Snapped. 
The secret is lots of butter and keeping the filo dough moist.  When not using the pile of filo dough, you must place a damp rag on top to keep the moisture in.  If you don't the sheets crack and are flaky and IMPOSSIBLE to handle. 

Follow those steps and it'll be a breeze.  


Spinach, Feta, and Fresh Mint Pastries


Makes 30 triangles

1 1/2 lbs spinach, tough stems removed
1 1/2 cups crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 lb filo dough (20 sheets), thawed if frozen
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

In a large stockpot, heat a few drizzles of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the spinach, and saute until wilted.  Pour into a colander and let cool.  Squeeze out as much liquid as you can and place on cutting board.  Chop spinach and place in a large bowl.  Add all cheese, eggs, mint, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well. 

Preheat oven to 375.

Lightly butter a baking sheet.  Have the melted and cooled butter in a bowl or pot, and the spinach mixture in a bowl nearby. Cut the filo dough lengthwise into thirds, so you have 3 long strips.  Get a rag moist and cover the filo until ready to use.  Place a large piece of parchment paper on your countertop.  Using a pastry brush, coat the parchment paper with a layer of butter.  Remove one of the 3 stacks of filo dough from underneath the rag.  Place one piece of the paper thin filo dough on your buttered parchment paper.  Use the pastry brush to cover that piece with butter, paying special attention to the edges and corners. Place another sheet of filo directly on top, and coat with butter. In the top corner of the filo sheet, place a teaspoon of the spinach mixture.  Fold one corner over the the filling on the diagonal to form a triangle.  Fold down again, keeping the triangle shape.  Continue folding until you've reached the bottom and you have a triangle shaped pastry.  Place on baking sheet and repeat.  Don't worry if a sheet rips, the butter will reattach it.  

Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.  Can be served hot, warm, or at room temp.


26 December, 2012

Scalloped Potatoes

Winter Comfort Food

These scalloped potatoes are so quick and easy to prepare.  Perfect accompaniment to hearty meat entrees like pot roast, ham, turkey, and roast chicken.
The perfect accompaniment to a cold winters night, if you ask me.
If you feel daring, add some diced prosciutto, pancetta, or bacon and throw in some chives.

Scalloped Potato Gratin 

2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/8 inch slices
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 sprigs thyme
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, divided in half
1/4 cup freshly grated swiss cheese
salt and pepper
butter

In a saucepan combine the cream, thyme, and garlic.  Heat until just warm, but do not boil.  Remove thyme stems.

In a bowl, combine half of Parmesan cheese with all of swiss cheese.

Preheat oven to 375.

Butter a casserole dish and layer one third of the potato slices in 4 rows so slices are overlapping.  Pour a couple spoonfuls of the warmed cream over top and sprinkle with one third of the cheese mixture.  Arrange another layer of potato slices on top, pour a bit more cream over top, and sprinkle another third of the cheese mixture over top.  Repeat with final layer, using the rest of the cream and cheese mixture. 

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes. Pour the rest of the Parmesan over top of the potatoes, and bake another 10 minutes, until top is golden brown.  Let cool a few minutes before serving.

Gougeres (Cheese Puffs)

Gougeres are a baked savory choux pastry.  In English- basically a French cheese puff.   They are traditionally served cold during wine tastings, or served warm as an appetizer.

I made them as a side for Sunday dinner- Pot Roast with Roasted Grape Tomatoes and Cremini Mushrooms, Scalloped Potatoes, Sauteed Asparagus, and of course, the Gougeres.
They'd be a nice addition to a cheese plate perhaps (yes more cheese!!).  I'd serve them in place of dinner rolls, with soup, with brunch, with breakfast.  I could go on.. 

They are crispy on the outside, with an almost hollow, fluffy interior with an undeniably cheesy taste. 
In fact they taste like Cheez-Its.

EXACTLY like cheez-its.  

I haven't decided if that's a good or bad thing yet. 

This is your basic gougere recipe, but there's endless amounts of variations you can make.  You could use different cheeses, add ingredients like chives, shallots, maybe even prosciutto?!  Maybe a sweet version could be made with the right cheese, a bit of sugar, and diced apples..
In any case, make sure your ingredients are measured and ready-to-go.  This recipe doesn't mess around, when it says add something immediately, do it immediately.  No turning your back to grate cheese here- have it ready, you'll thank me later. 

This recipe makes about 3 dozen.  Make enough that everyone can have at least 3.  You'll want extra though, as every time they walk by the platter of gougeres they'll be popping another in their mouth.
Make extra- these freeze well.  Simply let them cool completely, set them out on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Place in freezer and once frozen, pop the gougeres into a ziploc bag.  

Gougeres

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup water
5 large eggs
3/4 cup freshly shredded Gruyere cheese
3/4 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
6 tbsp unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
1 tsp milk
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp sweet paprika

Preheat oven to 425. Lightly butter 2 baking sheets.

In a saucepan, combine the water, butter, salt, cayenne, and paprika. Bring to a boil, allowing the butter to melt completely over medium, medium high heat.

Remove pan from heat, and immediately add the entire one cup of flour at once, beating ferociously until completely incorporated. Continue beating until mixture forms a mass in the center of pan, about 1 to 2 minutes longer.

Make a well in the dough and add one egg.  Beat ferociously again until COMPLETELY combined.  Add the next egg, again combine completely, and do the same with the 3rd and 4th eggs, making sure egg is completely combined before adding another.  The 5th egg will be used later.

Beat in the gruyere and one-third of the cheese. until melted and thoroughly blended.  

Using a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip, or using a Ziploc bag with a small corner cut off, pipe the dough onto the baking sheets about 1 inch in diameter and 1/2 inch high.  Leave 2 inches between each, as they will double in size.

In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with the milk.  Brush the egg mixture over the top of the gougeres gently, and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan.   Bake 20 minutes, or until gougeres are golden.  Remove from oven (leave oven on) and use a paring knife or other small sharp knife to cut a small slit into the side of each gougere.  Return to oven for 5 minutes to dry out the inside.  Remove from oven and cool on wire racks.  Gougers may be served warm or at room temperature.

Tuscan Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp

These little shrimps have a big flavor.
Marinated in lemon, garlic, thyme, rosemary and sage, these are herb-a-licious.

The Boyfriend says the shrimps would be equally good without the prosciutto due to the super herb-y flavor from the marinade.

'I'd pay money for these,' he says. 
One shrimp I ate tasted like the pine-y rosemary, while the next had that sweet, almost citrusy thyme flavor.

Wrap them up in prosciutto and see how fast they get gobbled up.  

 Fast, easy, and prepared ahead, this is a great party appetizer, or an appetizer for an intimate dinner.  Shrimp are an aphrodisiac ;)
If it was warmer out, I would have slapped these on soaked bamboo skewers and threw them on the grill.

Tuscan Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp
Serves 2

1/2 lb peeled and deveined shrimp
5 or 6 slices thin sliced prosciutto (about 5 ounces)
4 sprigs thyme, leaves removed and stem discarded
6 or 7 rosemary leaves (NOT whole sprigs!) minced
1 large sage leaf, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra for cooking

In a Tupperware or ziploc bag, combine the shrimp, olive oil, and herbs.  Let marinate for 2 hours.  
Add the lemon juice, and let marinate another 20 minutes.

Slice the prosciutto in half width-wise, and then into about 3/4 inch slices.  Wrap each shrimp with a slice or prosciutto.  

When all shrimp are wrapped heat a few drizzles of olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the shrimp and let cook until shrimp is opaque and prosciutto is crispy, about 3 minutes per side. 

Serve immediately. 


16 December, 2012

Butternut Squash Gnocchi in Saffron Cream Sauce, Crispy Pancetta & Crumbled Pecans

I've been on quite the butternut squash kick lately.  

I've used it in lasagna, quinoa, and now gnocchi. 
(and to be honest- several other recipes I haven't listed here, I can't list everything! :)

I wanted the gnocchi to be light and fluffy.  Nothing is worse than a dense, heavy plump of gnocchi.  So I added a good amount of parmigiana cheese, and as little flour as possible. 
**Note that this is a two-step recipe, requiring time to freeze the gnocchi. (This is due to them being light and fluffy, they would fall apart in a pot of boiling water without being frozen first.)

I notice everything butternut squash-related is served in a brown butter sage sauce, which sounds absolutely delicious.  But I wanted to do something different.  I came up with a decadent saffron cream sauce that gets soaked into the little gnocchis, and garnished it with pancetta for a little complementary fat, and crumbled pecans for added crunch.
It's just to die for.  

Be careful on cooking times- do NOT make the mistake I did and walk away from the boiling gnocchi.  I overcooked mine by just a minute or so.  The trick is to have the saffron cream sauce, pancetta, and pecans ready when the gnocchi is cooking.  

Butternut Squash Gnocchi in 
Saffron Cream Sauce with Crispy Pancetta 
and Crumbled Pecans

Step one- make the gnocchi

1 butternut squash, halved, seeds removed 
2 eggs
1 cup freshly grated parmigiana cheese
1 cup all purpose flour
1 generous tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. Roast squash for 40 minutes, or until soft and tender. Let cool completely.

2. Peel skin from squash.  Place squash into a large mixing bowl, and mix until very soft.  You can use a food processor too.

3. Add the eggs and salt, mix thoroughly.  Add in the flour and blend.  The dough will be soft and pretty sticky.  Cover and refrigerate dough for at least a half hour, it will be easier to handle.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Take dough out of fridge.  It will still be very sticky and hard to manage.  Form nickel sized balls (or dollops I should say, it is impossible to form the dough into a ball right now).  Place on baking sheet.  You can keep them very close together, they will not be actually baking on these sheets.  Once all are formed into little dollops, place in freezer.  Freeze for about a half hour.

5. Remove from freezer.  NOW you can shape them much easier!  Form into ovals. You can press a fork into the batter at this point to give them some nice ridges. Return to freezer.

These will keep in the freezer for up to a month.  Just remove the gnocchis from baking sheet and store in ziploc bags.  

Step two- prepare the meal.

Frozen gnocchi
6 thin slices pancetta 
1/2 cup toasted pecans
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Saffron Cream Sauce:
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 shallots, minced
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 tsp saffron threads 

Cook pancetta.  In a large skillet, heat a small drizzle of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the pancetta, and cook until it starts to crisp.  Flip, and cook until pancetta rounds are nice and crispy. Remove to a paper towel lined plate and set aside.

Make saffron cream sauce. In another large skillet, heat a few drizzles of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots, and saute until starting to soften.  Deglaze the pan with white wine, and let cook another 2-3 minutes.  Add the heavy cream and saffron threads. Bring to a light simmer.  Turn heat down to med low while you boil the gnocchi.

Boil the gnocchi.  Have a slotted spoon and a colander ready. Fill a saucepot with water.  Bring to a boil, and once boiling add the gnocchi.  They will only take a minute or two to cook.  They are done the very second they float to the top of the pan.  With the slotted spoon, carefully remove the done gnocchi to a colander. 

Assemble and eat!  Portion the gnocchi on plates, drizzle with saffron cream sauce, crumble toasted pecans over top, and garnish with crispy pancetta rounds.  Serve with fresh grated parmigiana. Enjoy!



13 December, 2012

Double Mint Chocoholic Cookies

Cookies, cookies, cookies.

This is my first year without family and friends nearby for the holidays.

I don't have any cookie exchanges.

I won't be bringing cookies to work.

You think that'll stop me from baking way too many cookies?!  Heck no it won't.  
The Boyfriend says these taste like thin mints, and he's right.  A thin mint taste with a moist cookie interior.  

Yum.
I baked these as cookies and in a bar form, and I'll be honest, I prefer the cookies.  The cookies turned out absolutely perfect, and while the bars were so good in taste, they are not fun to try to cut into squares.  It just kind of crumbles.  I managed to get a few nice cuts, but mostly we just ate 'brownie crumble.'

To make the cookies more festive I rolled them in red sprinkles. 

Double Mint Chocoholic Cookies

Modified from Cathy Lowe's recipe

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp mint extract
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 10 oz package dark chocolate and mint morsels
5 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
Red sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix together the butter, both sugars, vanilla, mint extract, and cocoa.  Add the flour mixture gradually and once combined, add the mint and chocolate chips.  

Roll the dough into 1 inch (or larger if you prefer) balls.  If you are using the red sprinkles, pour a bunch of sprinkles in a bowl and roll each ball of dough in the sprinkles. Place cookie balls on greased baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes and let cool on a wire rack.

Caprese Pasta with Italian Sausage, Rapini, and Roasted Red Pepper

Here's a quick weeknight meal for you.  

It may be quick, but it's not short on flavor.  

I don't do pasta very often.  I try to eat pretty healthy and to me, pasta is a food that serves no purpose but added carbs.  I feel the same way about potatoes.  Just two heavy foods. 

And on top of that, pasta dishes are often loaded with cheese.  
Don't get me wrong- I love cheese. 
But I don't like feeling like I just gained 10 pounds eating one meal.  
And I DO like feeling like I gained some nutrients when eating dinner.  

Fret not, this is not a dish that will make you feel like you just swallowed an anvil. 
This is a light garlicky pasta dish loaded with rapini (also known as broccoli rabe), roasted red pepper, and tomatoes.  

The caprese flavors- tomato, basil, mozzarella have a nice cooling complement when served with flavorful prosciutto and Italian sausage.  It gives this dish a fresh flavor- with the garlic adding some savory notes.  
I had whole-wheat gemelli pasta on hand, but you can certainly use whatever noodle you'd prefer.

The roasted red pepper I roasted myself, but it you are short on time a jar of roasted red peppers will do.  

Caprese Pasta with Italian Sausage, 
Rapini, and Roasted Red Pepper

1 10 ox box gemelli pasta (or pasta of your choice)
2 ounces diced prosciutto
1 lb ground sweet italian sausage
1 red pepper, roasted, skin removed, and sliced thinly (or about 6 oz jarred)
2 pounds rapini (broccoli rabe), tough stems removed and cut lengthwise into manageable pieces
1 head garlic, peeled and minced (use a food processor with a drizzle of olive oil to complete quickly)
1 cup (about 1/2 pint) grape tomatoes
8-10 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2 inch cubes/balls
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil plus some for sauteing

Prepare the rapini.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the rapini, and boil until crisp-tender, 4 minutes or so.  Remove rapini with slotted spoon, and place in a bowl of ice water.  Let rest there a couple minutes, and then remove from water, pat dry, and set aside.

Prepare the pasta. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook until al dente according to package instructions. 
Reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water, drain the pasta and return to pot off the heat. Drizzle it with a bit of olive oil while cooking sausage.

Prepare the meat.  In a large skillet, heat a few drizzles of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the prosciutto and saute until it starts to brown slightly, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.  In same skillet, add the italian sausage and cook until no longer pink, about 7 to 8 minutes.  Add the garlic, tomatoes, broccoli rabe, red pepper, and reserved pasta water and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Assemble.  Add the meat and vegetables to the pot of pasta and combine.  Add the basil and mozzarella, and serve.

Enjoy!

10 December, 2012

Sauteed Radish with Carrot, Scallions, and Shallots

I'm kind of new to the radish game.

In fact, this is the first time I've ever cooked radishes, and I was pleasantly surprised.
They taste almost potato-like, pretty mild in flavor.  The scallions and shallots seasoned them nicely, and the carrots added a bit of color.  
All-in-all, a pretty, unexpected side dish perfect served with Braised Beef in Cranberry Reduction or Bourbon Maple Glazed Ham.

Sauteed Radish with 
Carrot, Scallions, and Shallots

2 bunches radishes, stems removed, washed and quartered
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 shallot, minced
2 scallions, sliced
2 tbsp unsalted butter (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

In a large saute pan, heat a few drizzles of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the radishes and saute about 8 minutes.  Add the shallot and season generously with salt and pepper. Saute a few minutes longer, and add the carrot, scallions, and butter if desired.  Saute a couple more minutes, until radishes are tender.

Bourbon Maple Glazed Ham with Cinnamon and Nutmeg


Yes, Bourbon has found it's way into another main course dish.  

I hadn't really planned on using it- I had a recipe out for glazed ham that I'm sure would have been suitable.

But it was just sitting there on the counter beckoning me. So I caved.

This was a sweet-and-sticky glaze that is just perfect on ham. 
The bourbon gave it just a hint of a vanilla, caramel flavor.  

This recipe was so easy (I see now glazed ham recipes are pretty much always easy)
This was my first ham, and I pictured a much more elaborate preparation, like roasting a turkey.

But alas, it was quick, easy, no mess involved, and 
no one ever would have known it was my first time making ham!

Bourbon Maple Glazed Ham 
with Cinnamon and Nutmeg


1 9 pound store bought bone-in spiral ham
3/4 cup water

3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup bourbon
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp mustard powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place ham in large roasting pan and pour water in the bottom of the pan.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake about 1 and a half hours, or until meat is heated through and tender and juicy.

Make the glaze- Whisk all the ingredients together in a small saucepot over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer, and simmer for about 5 minutes, until glaze starts to thicken just a bit.  Remove from heat.

When ham is ready, remove from oven and increase oven temp to 400 degrees.  Remove foil from ham, and brush glaze on liberally.  Return to oven and bake uncovered for about 20 more minutes.  The glaze will be nice and bubbly. Let rest 10 minutes before carving.  



01 December, 2012

Red Wine Braised Beef with Cranberry Reduction

I had leftover cranberry sauce.
(is it still considered leftover if you forget to serve it?!)

Why not turn that frown upside down, and make a beautifully impressive dinner?

This beef is seared in a cast iron skillet (or any hot skillet you may have), braised in red wine, and  finished in the oven for hours until ever-so-tender. 
Leftover cranberry sauce is added to the pan juices and reduced, making a sweet and savory sauce.  
Serve with mashed potatoes, Tomato Braised Kale, and Sage Popovers, and you've got a special meal.  

Red Wine Braised Beef with Cranberry Reduction

3 bone-in short ribs (~2 1/2 lbs)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
3 onions, chopped and cut in 1/2 inch pieces
2 stalks celery, chopped in 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups red wine (chianti works well, I had barbera on hand)
2 cups water, preferably boiling (or room temp will work)
3 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup cranberry sauce
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Optional step if time: generously coat the short ribs in salt and pepper and refrigerate for 4 hours and up to 1 day.  This step makes a moister meat, but can be skipped. 

1. Remove short ribs from fridge a half hour before cooking to bring to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

2. Heat a few drizzles of olive oil in large oven-safe skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat.  Get the pan pretty hot (a drop of water should sizzle when hot enough).  Add the short ribs, in batches if necessary, and sear all sides until a nice brown crust forms.  Remove to a plate.

3. In same hot pan add the onion, carrot, and celery.  Cook for a few minutes without stirring.  Stir once, and cook another 5 minutes or so without disturbing, until vegetables will begin sticking to pan a bit.  Stir and cook another 5 minutes, until vegetables stick to bottom again.  

4.  Carefully pour in the red wine and stir, scraping up the brown buts from the beef and veggies.  Let cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the water, thyme, rosemary, a couple shakes of salt and pepper, and bay leaf. If the meat is not covered with liquid, add more water until it is.  Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and transfer to the hot oven.  Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  

5. Remove from oven, and carefully remove the short ribs to a plate, draping the aluminum foil over them.  Place a colander in a large bowl, and drain the contents of the skillet into the bowl.  Reserve the beef stock and discard the carrot/onion/celery mirepoix.  Pour a spoonful of the beef stock over each short rib to keep it moist while you make the Cranberry Reduction.

6. Return the skillet to the stovetop, add 2 cups of the beef stock and the cranberry sauce, and heat over medium- medium high heat.  Bring to a simmer.  Once at a simmer, stir often, and cook about 10 minutes, until the sauce begins to reduce.  Taste and if too sweet add more broth.  Continue cooking until sauce reduces by half and slightly thickens. Season with salt and pepper.

7. Portion short ribs on serving plates and spoon the cranberry reduction over top. Enjoy!

Cranberry Swirl Muffins

This isn't a recipe you make just because you have leftover cranberry sauce.  
I mean, if you have some leftover, sure, make this recipe, it's freakin delish.

What I'm trying to say is this:  this recipe is so good that you may find yourself making cranberry sauce just to make this recipe. 

These are the perfect little rays of sunshine to the gloomy beginnings of winter.  They're perfect for breakfast or as a coffee-break snack.  They're just a bit tart from the cranberry, and just a bit sweet.  

A word of warning: This recipe is made based on the use of cranberry sauce, not just whole cranberries.  If you just add cranberries (or blueberries, or other fruit you may want to sub), these muffins will be a bit dry.  The added moisture from the cranberry sauce being swirled into the batter is what keeps these so moist.  

In fact, when experimenting, I made these muffins two ways: 

One- The Cranberry Stuffed Muffin.  I placed just a bit of cranberry sauce in the middle of the batter and covered it up for a cranberry surprise.  

Two- The Cranberry Swirl Muffin.  I placed a little bit more of cranberry sauce in the middle of the muffin, covered it, and used a toothpick to gently swirl it together.
The results?  The cranberry stuffed muffin was a bit dry, but the cranberry swirl was perfectly moist.  

So without further ado:

Cranberry Swirl Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
4 oz (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 tbsp orange zest
1 tbsp orange juice
1/2 cup cranberry sauce

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 

1. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

2. In a separate large bowl, whisk the egg.  Whisk in the sugar, and when combined, add the milk, vanilla extract, orange juice, and zest.  Add the butter (it should be melted completely but NOT hot or it will cook the egg!)

3.  Add the flour mixture gradually to the egg mixture, a bit at a time.  Stir only to combine the dry ingredients to the wet, do not overmix. 

4. Pour into paper-lined muffin pan (I made mini muffins).  Bake mini muffins for 10-12 minutes, and regular muffins for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out dry.  Cool on wire rack. 





Homemade Cranberry Sauce


Ohhh cranberry sauce, how I've dishonored you.  
I made you with love, then froze you, it's true!
And even worse, then I forgot about you!
But it's not too late to be made anew.  

Yes, Thanksgiving was a holiday you missed.
But take it easy, don't be pissed!  
You made these muffins so delish!
And also this braised beef you kissed.

Apparently I've lost my wits,
writing a poem to a condiment, 
but I do what I must and what I must do is cook,
thanks for stopping by and taking a look. 
At what I cook.  

:)

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Adapted from Food Network

12 oz bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup granulated sugar
1 strip orange peel 
2 tbsp orange juice

1. In a saucepan over low heat, add the half of the cranberries, the water, sugar, and orange peel.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and cranberries are soft. Increase heat to medium and cook until cranberries burst (about 12 minutes).

2. Reduce heat back to low and add the rest of the cranberries.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until new cranberries slightly soften.  Remove from heat and cool before serving. 



30 November, 2012

Tomato Braised Kale


I love kale.

But some people don't.  

I had a feeling the Boyfriend was one of those haters, since he doesn't really like spinach if I don't somehow disguise it.  Spinach quiche? He's into it.  Spinach lasagna? Sure.  Spinach by itself on a plate?  No good.  

So I disguised this kale with some deliciousness.  I've had tomato braised kale in a restaurant before,  loved it, and tried to duplicate it here.  I really wanted a tomato flavor, the kale cooking in the tomato juices, so I used larger tomatoes (versus using grape tomatoes).  I had Campari tomatoes on hand, and I used all 2 lbs of them, as well as homemade chicken stock, of course.  

It turned out fabulous, with just a little kick from the red pepper flakes, and the tomato cooked down nicely and disguised the bitterness of the greens a bit.  

This is hands down, my new favorite kale recipe.  

Tomato Braised Kale

2 lbs kale, ribs removed and coarsely chopped
2 lbs Campari tomatoes (or 2 pints grape tomatoes), large diced
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
5 or 6 shakes red pepper flakes
Extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, heat a few drizzles of olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, and saute about a minute.  Add the kale, in two batches if needed, letting it cook down and wilt a minute.  Add the tomatoes, stir to combine.  Add 1/2 cup chicken stock, red pepper flakes, and a generous amount of salt and pepper to taste.  Continue cooking, stirring occasionally.  If the kale looks dry, or is sticking to the bottom of the pan, add the rest of the chicken stock. Continue cooking about 10 to 15 minutes, until kale is wilted and tender.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  

A couple other favorite recipes:
Sage Rubbed Pork Chops with Fennel Orange Puree
Gorgonzola Sage Popovers

28 November, 2012

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Italian Sausage, Spinach, and Sage

 I asked The Boyfriend to describe this dish for me, and he said it was good.  I pressed him for more details, and he said 'I dunno.. it was cheesy?'

In his defense I'm asking him while he's half asleep on the couch.

I pressed him a bit further... he said it didn't feel like he 'rubbed it all over his face.' 

Yes, that's a direct quote.  
'It wasn't greasy and overly heavy, it was lighter and healthier than traditional lasagna. Therefore I did not feel like I rubbed it all over my face.' 

I get what he's saying.  It wasn't so loaded with cheese that I felt like I gained 110 lbs just by eating it.  The butternut squash and sage combination gave it a really delicate flavor, and sausage pairs beautifully with the squash, complementing it's sweetness.  
The white sauce made with mascarpone, parmigiana, mozzarella, and ricotta was not heavy or overbearing.  It really lets the flavors shine through. 

This recipe is a winner, and a really nice option for a make-ahead meal.  I made this for an upcoming ski weekend and froze it.  
Then I just took it out of the freezer, let it thaw all day while skiing, and popped it in the oven at night.  
Also a nice vegetarian option- simply skip the sausage and replace chicken stock with vegetable stock.  Don't skip the stock though, it thins out the cheese a bit so you don't feel like you 'rubbed it on your face.'

18 November, 2012

Wensleydale Apple Cranberry Tartlets with Thyme Shortbread Crust and Bourbon Glaze

Be the star of a holiday party- bring these delectable little tartlets.  
They're like little mini-apple pies, made with Wensleydale cheese with cranberries. 
Wensleydale is an English crumbly cheese that is supple and moist with a flavor of wild honey.

Wild Honey!

This Wensleydale has cranberries mixed in- adding just a bit of... tartness... to these tarts! 
An unexpected, but incredible herb-y thyme shortbread crust that balances out the sweetness of the apples. 

I found this Wensleydale with Cranberries at Whole Foods.  
It would be AMAZING on a leftover turkey sandwich after Thanksgiving.  
So as I'm baking these, The Boyfriend keeps asking me when he can have one.
Finally I give him one.  I turn around, turn back around, and it's gone.  GONE.  

He looks at me wide-eyed, like he doesn't know what happened. 
And takes another.   

Wensleydale Apple Cranberry Tartlets with Thyme Shortbread Crust and Bourbon Glaze

The Crust:
1 1/4 cup bread flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup thyme, leaves only, chopped
1/2 cup butter
2 tbsp ice water

The Tart:
4 Granny Smith Apples, peeled and sliced
2 McIntosh Apples, peeled and sliced
1/4 lb Wensleydale Cheese with Cranberries
3 cups sugar
1 cup plus 1 tbsp water
1 stick cinnamon
2 whole cloves
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp bourbon

*You'll also need some kind of little tart baking pans. I found mine at either Kitchen Kapers or ACMoore, I can't recall..

Make the Crust:
1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, vanilla, and thyme. Cut in the old butter using a pastry blender or a knife until dough is crumbly.
2. Sprinkle 1 tbsp cold water over dough.  Quickly form into a ball, adding a few more drops of water if you need more moisture to hold it together. Do as quickly as possible, you don't want to handle the dough to long or the warmth from your hands will melt the butter, resulting in a less flaky crust.
3. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour, or a day or two.
4. Remove from fridge and roll out to about 1/4' thickness.
5. Cut out approximate shape of your tart pan, and lay dough over top.  Press into pan gently.  Use a rolling pin to roll over the TOP of the tart pan, giving you a nice even crust.
6. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Make the Tart:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, water, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Bring contents to just a boil.
2. Reduce heat immediately and add all apples.  Cook until tender but not falling apart.  If it looks like the liquid is evaporating to quickly, add a bit of water to keep it moist.
3. Remove the apples, and lay out on parchment paper in one layer to cool off.  Reserve the poaching liquid.
4. Slice the Wensleydale cheese thinly.  Don't worry if it crumbles. 

Assemble:
1. Remove the crust from fridge.  Add a few of the apple slices that did not keep their perfect shape (the unsightly ones).  Top with a few slices (or crumbles) or cheese.  Pour 1 tsp of heavy cream over, letting it sink down (this is how much I used for tarts that were 3 inches across.  If you are making larger tarts, you may need to add a tbsp or two of heavy cream.  The cream shouldn't reach the top of the tart, rather just cover the bottom layers of apples and beginning to seep into the cheese layer).
2. Add the pretty, intact sliced apples on top, fanning them out decoratively.  At the base of the 'fan' add a crumble of cheese with cranberry for contrast in color.
3. Repeat with remaining tarts.
4. Bake in the preheated oven about 10 minutes, until edges of apples begin to darken and shortbread crust begins to turn golden.
5. Cool on a wire rack.

Glaze:
1. When tarts are cool, remove the cinnamon stick and cloves from the reserved poaching liquid. Add the bourbon.  Head the liquid medium high heat, reducing by half.  Liquid will get a bit sticky.
2. Brush the glaze over the tarts immediately. Let dry, and brush another layer over.