Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Honey Almond Bites

I love to bake.  Even if I am sunburned to a crisp, I love baking.  I had all day off yesterday and it was wonderful.  The kids and I went to the beach and splashed and played.  I put sunscreen on everyone but me… not so smart.  I know I need to put it on especially at my age.  Before the sunburn really set in, you know, the time before it starts to each and hurt and make you nauseas, that’s when I decided to bake. 

Today’s recipe comes from “Chocolate and Zucchini”, by Clotilde Dusoulier.  I have used this cookbook before, with the Gateau Au Yoaurt, my first blog post.  “Mini-Financiers Au Miel or Honey Almond Bites looked to be exactly what I had been searching for.  You see, a few days ago I stopped by one of my local Middle-Eastern delicatessens to pick up a sweet treat.  I was really hungry for a pastry that I had tried on a previous visit, but I can’t remember the name of it.  It was a rich dense cake, with almonds and honey.  The cake was made completely ground almonds.  Delicious! 

Much to my dismay, the deli didn’t have any of those yummy cakes that day. So I decided that I needed to find a recipe for it.  I have a few Mediterranean cookbooks, I looked through those.  I didn’t have any luck.  I just happened to be browsing through Clotilde’s cookbook and found these delicious looking golden morsels.  I thought maybe that this could be the recipe that I was looking for.  So I decided to give it a go!!!  The results?  Not quite the same, but absolutely fantastic! 

Mini-Financiers Au Miel

Honey Almond Bites

1 cup whole blanched almonds
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, plus extra for the pan
1/3 cup good-quality honey
2 large eggs or 4 large egg whites

  1. In a food processor, mix the almonds and sugar until finely ground.  Combine with the flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.

  1. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  When it starts to simmer, cook for 2 minutes until it becomes golden brown and starts to smell nutty.  It took longer for me to do this, because I was so afraid I was going to burn the butter.

  1. Pour the butter mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until combined.  Add the eggs one by one, whisking well after each addition.  Pour the batter into a 1-gallon food storage bag, squeeze out all the air, and close tightly.  Clotilde recommended doing it this way, because it is easier to squeeze it into the molds.  Refrigerate for 1 hour.

  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees and grease a tray of mini-muffins. 

  1. Remove the bag from the fridge and snip a small portion off one of the corners.  Pressing gently pipe batter into the molds and fill almost to the rim.

  1. Bake 12 to 16 minutes, depending on the size of your molds, until golden brown and set.  Let stand for a few minutes, unmold, and transfer to a rack to cool completely.  These honey almond bites should last 4 days on your counter top or up to a month, frozen.  I say should, because mine lasted 1 day.  The little one ate the entire plate in the picture!  

Monday, June 28, 2010

Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

Frozen Peanut Butter Pie is one of my favorite desserts of all time.  I mean just look at it!  It is a vision of beauty!  Peanut butter is in my top 5 of favorite foods and this is the perfect vessel to serve it.  It is creamy, and soft, and crunchy, and velvety, and luscious.  It is everything that I look for in my peanut butter.  It is the perfect summer’s evening dessert. This recipe is perfect to make before you have to go to work, because it needs time to chill in the freezer.  While you are having a great dinner, pull the pie out to thaw and enjoy! 

I made myself hungry for it just typing about it!  The recipe was passed down to me by my Mom.  I don’t recall where she got the recipe from, but it has been in our family for quite a long time.  This has been my birthday cake on a few occasions because it is so good.  I know everyone in my family loves it!  I always double the recipe and make two if I am taking it to a party, one to share and one to keep at home.  As we speak it is calling me from the freezer right now.  Hmmmm….. Do I eat a healthy bowl of cereal for breakfast or should I choose a piece of peanut butter pie! 

I know what you are saying, “Sara. This isn’t from a cookbook.  You are supposed to be making recipes out of pile of books.  This is the second recipe.  Get back on track!”  I know I know… This recipe is sort of from a cookbook.  I have a collection of recipes that my Mother and my Grandmother have written down for me, so I consider that a cookbook.  It really isn’t in book form.  Just on well-loved note cards that are so stained, I have a hard time reading them. 

Frozen Peanut Butter Pie

1 8oz package cream cheese
1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup milk
1 9oz container Cool Whip
¼ cup chopped peanuts
1 store-bought graham cracker crust
Chocolate syrup (optional)

Beat cream cheese and sugar on high.  Add peanut butter and beat until combined.  Gradually beat in the milk.  Fold in the Cool Whip.  Stir in the chopped peanuts.  Carefully fill the pre-made pie shell with the delicious mixture.  Freeze for 4 hours until set.  Pull out of the freezer about 15 minutes before you want to serve it, to take the chill off.  Drizzle the pie with chocolate syrup if you would like to be more decadent, but this pie stands on its own.  It does make a lovely presentation.  You can share it if you want to, or eat the pie yourself.     

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stir-fry With Family Friendly Flavors

We love stir-fry!  Ok, so it is a new found love of stir-fry. One problem….the people in my family just are not vegetable lovers.  I was always hesitant to do a stir-fry because it would just end up being meat and some sauce.  If it were up to me I would put every vegetable I could find in it and leave the meat out.  But, being in a family is about compromise and I compromised by not making it at all.  I love all the colors and the flavors and smells of the vegetables.  I just didn’t want to be disappointed when we would sit down at the table only to watch everyone pick out the vegetables that I had painstakingly chopped.
   Just a few months ago, after watching Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, I had an inspiration!  He had hundreds of people making a wonderful, healthy stir-fry and everyone liked it.  Gosh darn it!  I was going to make a stir-fry whether my family liked it or not! 

  It wasn’t the fanciest stir-fry, or the most homemade but it was delicious! I picked ingredients that were the most kid and husband friendly and chopped away!  I knew I would be the only one eating the mushrooms and the peppers, and yes, I did end up watching some of my family pick out parts of it (not the children).    The husband said he didn’t like the individual vegetables, but when they were all cooked together they tasted great!  I took a gamble and I won.  We won!  We now have stir-fry in the dinner rotation.  This isn’t an official stir-fry recipe, but my family loves it and that’s all that matters! 

Stir Fry (my way)

*The trick to a great stir-fry is to have all of the ingredients ready and to be honest the best part of this non-recipe is the prep.  I just tune out everything and chop away.

2 pounds skinless-boneless chicken breasts
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
4tbs light olive oil
4 carrots, peeled and julienned
1 yellow bell pepper, julienned
1 orange pepper, julienned
½ head Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
1 small package button mushrooms, sliced
1 small package shitake mushrooms, stems removed, sliced
2 containers of baby corn, chopped
2 packages General Taos’s stir-fry sauce
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup Frank’s Red Hot Sweet Chili sauce
½ cup Tiger Sauce (my mom gave me this, not quite sure where she got it)
3/4 lb whole wheat noodles, cooked according to package directions

  1. Slice the chicken as thin as you can.  I use frozen chicken breasts (gasp!) and I found that if I don’t thaw them all the way, they are easier to slice.  Heat a large pan (the largest you can find) on high and heat the oil.  Add the chicken and sauté.  While the chicken is cooking splash it with a little soy sauce so the flavor can start developing.
  2. When the chicken is about half-way done add the garlic and ginger.  I add it now instead of before because I have a habit of burning garlic. 
  3. Add the carrots, peppers, and sauté about five minutes.
  4. Add the mushrooms, cabbage and baby corn and cook a little bit more.
  5. Add the sauce ingredients and simmer for a few more minutes until you think it is done.   I like the carrots to be soft on the outside and have a little bit of bite in the middle.
  6. Add the noodles and stir to combine.     

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mexican Chocolate Streusel Cake

So it was a few days ago, and I seemed to make it through.   I am another year older and I spent the day with my children, just relaxing and baking.  I know it sounds pathetic to make your own birthday cake, but I did anyway.   I knew someone else was baking me to celebrate with the family, so I made this one in secret. SHHHHH. 

I found this recipe in Rick Bayless’s, “Mexico One Plate at a Time”, another book that I forgot to send the reply card back when I was apart of the book club.  This one is a complex look at authentic Mexican cooking.  So many of the dishes in this book look amazing, but they also look so complicated at the same time.  When I have a Saturday sometime in the near future I may tackle one of them. 

This recipe, “Mexican Chocolate Streusel Cake”, called out to me for a number of reasons.  1.  Chocolate….. I needed it bad. 2.  Mexican Chocolate, I have never used it before.  In fact I didn’t even know what it was or where I could find it.  I researched it and found that Mexican chocolate is made with more than just the usual ingredients in chocolate.  It contains different spices and is made in little cakes that can be used to make hot chocolate.  I ended up finding it at my local grocery store and when I opened the packages the heady smell of cinnamon hit my nose.  I sliced a small chunk off the block and found that it crumbled very easily and turned almost into a powder.  When I put it in my mouth it had a very grainy texture, not sweet at all and a little spicy.  At first I thought that I had bought the wrong thing, and I almost abandoned the cake. 

The cake uses the chocolate in to different ways.  It is mixed in to the cake batter, which is very light and fluffy.  It also uses it in the streusel topping, both parts equally delicious in their raw forms.  I know, it isn’t good to eat the raw stuff, but I had to give it a taste, it smelled so good!

The cake smelled even better baking it.  Cinnamon and chocolate mixed in the air.  The kids and I were sitting outside reading and it wafted outside and under our noses.  We couldn’t wait until it came out of the oven.  The verdict?  Delicious!  Happy Birthday to me!

Mexican Chocolate Streusel Cake

One 18 or 19-ounce package Mexican chocolate, roughly chopped

For the Streusel topping:

1 large egg yolk
3 ½ oz (7 tablespoons) butter, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the cake:

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
One 8 ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
8 ounces butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature.

  1. The Streusel Topping:  In a food processor, pulse half of the Mexican chocolate until it is the consistency of coarse crumbs.  Remove and set aside for the batter.  Add the remaining chocolate to the processor and process it to the consistency of coarse crumbs.  Mix the egg yolk and ½ tsp salt in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the salt.  Add to the processor along with the butter and the flour.  Pulse just until everything is thoroughly combined-it should look crumbly, not be processed to a paste.  Set aside.

  1. The Cake: Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 13xp-inch baking pan.  Sift together the flour and baking powder.

  1. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beating on medium speed, combine the cream cheese, butter and sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.  One at a time, add the eggs, beating until each one is thoroughly incorporated before adding the next.  Add the sifted flour mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl and beat for 1 minute, just until the flour is incorporated. 

  1. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.  Crumble streusel topping evenly over the batter, making sure there are no large lumps-they may sink during baking.  Bake in the center of the oven until springy and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. 

  1. Cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving. 

  1. Delicious with ice cream.  With or without your birthday.   

Friday, June 18, 2010

For you Mom....

I am dedicating this post to the memory of my beautiful mother-in-law.  She taught me, more than anybody that food is all about family.  No matter whom you are, a stranger off the street, you share dinner, and you are family.  There was always enough food for everybody, and there was always enough for everybody to have seconds.  She poured all her love into every glass of chocolate milk. She baked all her compassion into every birthday cake.  She would give everything to you and watch you enjoy it all, smiling while you were covered in barbeque sauce.

My children always told their Grandma that she could have her own restaurant.  They told her she didn’t have to buy a building, she could just open her kitchen door and in their imagination they would put a sign on her roof, for all to see.  Grandma’s kitchen would be famous.  Grandma was cooking, everyone would come.   I told her one time that I blamed her for my weight problem.  I thought I grew up eating good food.  I didn’t know what good food was until she came into my life.

Mom didn’t have any recipes.  She never wrote anything down.  I asked her over and over again to write things down so I could make them at home.  I am glad she didn’t.  Her dishes were legendary, mine would never compare.  We all have our favorite dishes of Mom’s.  Everyone agrees the number one dish is beef stew and dumplings.  My littlest favorite is her chocolate milk.  We all make chocolate milk, but no one could make it the way she did.  My next favorite, after the beef stew and dumplings, was her ribs.  I don’t know how she did it, but they were the absolute best.  Homemade noodles, Swedish meatballs, sauerkraut, boiled dinner, corned beef, spaghetti pie, seven layer salad, dump cake, cabbage rolls, chili, bean soup, baked beans, the list could go on forever. 

Even though she didn’t write anything down, I was able to swindle on of her few cookbooks from her.  I don’t think she ever made anything from it, but it always reminds me of her.  I made my first Thanksgiving turkey out of it; well I used 80% of the recipe.  I wasn’t brave enough to make the gravy, so she took over. 

She has been gone one year now.  Our tables aren’t filled with her wonderful dishes anymore.  We can taste her flavors in our memories and we talk about them often at the dinner table.  When we are outside and we smell something delicious in the air my youngest son always says, “Grandma must be making dinner for everyone in Heaven, because it sure smells good.”  They don’t know how lucky they are.  I miss you Mom.

Here is a recipe from the cookbook she gave me.  “The Great American Favorite Brand Name Cookbook” 

Easy Chocolate Truffles

1 ½ packages (12 ounces) semi- sweet chocolate
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 ½ tsp vanilla
Ground nuts, unsweetened cocoa powder, and toasted coconut, crush toffee bits

Melt the chocolate in a large microwavable bowl in 45 second intervals until the chocolate is melted, stirring after each interval.  Set aside.

Beat cream cheese until smooth.  Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended.  Add melted chocolate and vanilla, mix well.  Refrigerate about 1 hour.  Shape into 1-inch balls.  Roll in nuts, cocoa, or coconut.  Store in the refrigerator.

Variation: To flavor the truffles with liqueurs, omit vanilla.  Divide truffle mixture into thirds.  Add 1 tablespoon liqueur (almond, coffee or orange) to each third mixture; mix well.


Sausage and Vegetable Stew

I know what you are going to say.  Stew in June?  That is just crazy talk.  Everyone is grilling, why are you cooking stew over a hot stove?  I should be outside, featuring the flavors of the season.  Why am I cooking parsnips, potatoes and carrots?  Why because they are delicious and cheap that’s why! 

I found this recipe, Sausage and Vegetable Stew in the “Food Network Magazine”, February/March 2009 issue.  I know not technically a “cookbook” but I consider it one.  It has great recipes from the start of the magazine to the end.  It offers easy weeknight meals and great weekend cooking.  I have had a subscription since the magazine started in 2009 and I can’t wait for the magazine to come in the mail every month. 

I picked this recipe because, like I said it was cheap and I had just purchased a few pounds of the cutest baby red skin potatoes at the farmers’ market this past Saturday.  I thought this would be the perfect vessel to serve it in.  The two youngest children and I went to the store and to buy the rest of the ingredients, with a vow to spend no more than 10 dollars.  It was fun trying to keep everything in check.  We made a game of it.  The middle child was in charge of finding the parsnips in the store.  The youngest one helped pick out the kielbasa.  Conveniently the cheapest sausage was turkey!  Score!  This was going to turn into a healthy stew!  Okay to be honest when we got to the check out the bill came to $10.27.  Not bad to feed 4 people and my mom for lunch the next day.  

The stew was rich and meaty and very filling.  It was a snap to put together and only took 40 minutes to make.  The little red potatoes were sweet and all of the vegetables really picked up the flavor of the paprika.  Everybody thought the dish was delicious.  Everybody also agreed that the dish would have been better in the fall or winter.  I really recommend giving this a try.

Sausage and Vegetable Stew

3 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large red onion
4 gloves garlic, smashed
1 tbs. paprika, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt
3 tbs. all-purpose flour
1 lb kielbasa, cut into small chunks (we used turkey kielbasa)
3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into large chunks
14 oz small red-skinned or new potatoes (6 to 8) quartered
1 tbs. cider vinegar
Freshly ground pepper
½ cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
¾ cup sour cream
Crusty bread, for serving

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven of heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and glistening, about 6 minutes.  Add the paprika and 1 teaspoon salt; cook until the oil turns deep red, about 1 minute.  Add the flour and cook until just toasted, 30 seconds more.  Immediately whisk in 4 cups water.  Add the kielbasa, carrots, parsnips, potatoes and 1 ½ teaspoons salt.

Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer; cover and cook until the vegetables are tender and the broth has thickened, about 20 minutes.  Add the vinegar and season with pepper.

Combine about half of the parsley with the sour cream in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Ladle the stew into bowls; top with remaining parsley, a dollop of herbed sour cream and a sprinkle of paprika.  Serve with bread.

Serves 4 generously.   

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tangy Lime-Poppy Seed Cake

I have decided that I like to try interesting combination of things (the sweet potato pound cake with citrus glaze)  I like to contrast of flavors between sweet and tart especially when is comes to pastries and baked goods.  This recipe, Tangy Lime-Poppy Seed Cake called out “Try me”.  Everyone has had lemon poppy seed baked goods, but lime?  Now that was something different.  What also intrigued me about the cake were the different types of baking techniques that were required.  

I found this recipe in the cookbook, “The Only Bake Sale Cookbook You’ll ever need”, written by Laurie Goldrich Wolf and Pam Abrams.  It is a collection of wonderful baked goods that can be packaged and sold and school fundraisers, scouting events, and even when the garage sale season starts.  There is even an entire chapter on Rice Krispie Treats.  I definitely plan on using this cookbook again.     

I made this cake under extreme circumstances.  Husband and friend were watching the premier of True blood (I can’t seem to get into that show) and I didn’t want to disturb them.  So I really had to put some muscle into this cake.  I couldn’t’ use the electric hand mixer.  The steps of making the cake include, soaking the poppy seeds, making a meringue creaming the butter and the sugar and mixing it all on the high speed setting of a hand mixer. 

Problem… Why did I wait to make this cake until 9:00 at night and how did I get into this.  Answer…. Me.  I can make this work.  I can do this….  So I started!  I creamed the sugar and butter as hard as I possibly could!  My arm really hurt!  Making the meringue was so much harder!  I thought my arm was going to fall off!  At one point I thought the cake batter had curdled, when I mixed in the milk that had the poppy seeds soaking in it.  It did take me a lot longer to make the cake than I thought.  At 10:00 it finally made it into the oven and for an hour I sat and anxiously twiddle my thumbs while it baked. 

By the time the cake came out the oven and after I put the glaze on, it was close to 11:30pm.  Husbands show was way past being done and I was exhausted.  Normally I am super excited to take pictures of my creations, but I told this one it had to wait until morning.  The morning came and the cake was delicious, and it looked beautiful too!   

Tangy Lime-Poppy Seed Cake

1 cup milk
4 tbs poppy seeds
3 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 ¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tbs plus 2 tsp finely grated lime zest
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbs baking powder
½ tsp salt

Lime Syrup

¾ cup confectioners’ sugar
6 tbs lime juice

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Lightly grease a 10-inch spring form pan with baking spray.

Combine the milk and poppy seeds in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Heat, stirring, until very hot, but not boiling. Remove the pan from the heat. Let stand until mixture is room temperature.

Using and electric mixer (or if you have guests over, your arm) on high speed, beat the egg whites and almond extract in a medium bowl until stiff peaks form.  Seat aside.

Using an electric mixer (or your arm that all ready is sore from the step above) cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the egg yolks, lime zest, and milk mixture and mix on high speed until completely blended.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and stir into butter mixture until thoroughly blended.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the egg white mixture until no white streaks remain.  Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let stand in the pan for 10 minutes before removing the side of the pan.

Meanwhile, make the lime syrup:  Combine 2 tablespoons hot water and confectioners’ sugar in a small bowl, stir until smooth.  Stir in lime juice.  Drizzle over the hot cake allowing the syrup to soak in.  Cool.  Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and store at room temperature.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Herb Chicken Salad with Warm Whole Wheat Biscuits

So what do you do when a recipe goes terribly wrong? You eat it and write about it anyway!  Everything about this next set of recipes called out to me.  The simplicity of it….The freshness of it and the comfort of it….  Gosh, I gave it the old college try, but it didn’t come out the way I wanted it too….. I think here’s why…

I found these recipes in the “Gardeners’ Community Cookbook”, I have used this cookbook before. It was most recently seen in the post “Sweet Potato Pound Cake”.   I told you I love this cookbook.  Well, I thought I would invite my mother to lunch.  She did say she would be happy becoming one of my guinea pigs.  I had to be to work in two hours and that would be plenty of time for me to whip up this simple satisfying lunch. 

  All of the recipes were meant to go together.  In the cookbook they are all plated together and it does work.  The “Herb Chicken Salad” recipe called my name as soon as I saw it on paper.  All it entails is sautéing the chicken breasts in olive oil and while they are cooking you make the rest of the meal.  I had most of the ingredients on hand for the chicken salad and for its partner on the plate… The Whole Wheat Biscuits…..The chicken salad turned out lovely, but the making of the biscuits was when it all went down hill from there.

I measured every ingredient I was supposed to.  I even sifted the all of the dry ingredients together. (A step I usually skip).  I mixed the wet with the dry and made the dough into a small ball, on a floured counter top.  Small ball….. Really small ball…..The directions said it would make enough for 12 biscuits at 1-inch think and about 3 inches across.  The biscuit dough made enough for one biscuit.  That’s it, just one.  I wish I had gotten a picture of how small this ball was, but I was too busy stomping around in the kitchen, while I was running out of time to take any pictures. 

I think I fixed the problem, aside from there not being enough dough to make enough for two people.  I made another batch, added some extra milk and olive oil. (Not only was the dough extremely not there, but it was really dry), I was able to salvage enough to make 7 biscuits.  I baked them as directed and they turned out ok.  Not great, just ok.  They would have been better with an egg wash for more color and they seemed a bit dense on the palate, but they tasted ok.

I definitely recommend making this recipe.  I have doubled all the ingredients from the original whole wheat biscuit recipe.  Don’t be lazy and not make the green salad that goes along with this recipe, it is fantastic!  I used an apple infused balsamic vinegar for the vinaigrette and it went perfectly with the herbiness of the chicken salad.  If you don’t want to make the whole wheat biscuits, croissants would be a nice substitution.

Herbed Chicken Salad with Whole Wheat Biscuits

1 Tbs. olive oil 3
3 large or 4 small boneless skinless chicken breasts halves (about 1 ¼ lbs)
12 Whole Wheat Biscuits, warm (recipe follows)
¼ cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
2 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley
3 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
¼ tsp salt
2 cups Herb Leaf Salad (recipe follows)

Heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the chicken breasts over medium-high heat, turning once, until cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Remove and cool the breasts, then place in the refrigerator to chill slightly.

While the chicken breasts are chilling make the biscuits.

When ready to serve, tear the chicken into large pieces.  Combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, basil, parsley, green onions, and salt in a large bowl.  Whisk to mix, then stir in the chicken.

Arrange the chicken on individual plates or on a large platter.  Surround with the Herb Leaf Salad, if using, serve, accompanied by a basket of warm biscuits.  I made it sandwich style serving the chicken salad on the warm biscuits.

Whole Wheat Biscuits

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
 3 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
4 Tbs. olive oil
2/3 cup milk
Extra all-purpose flour, for kneading

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.  Stir together the oil and milk and add gradually to the dry ingredients to make a soft dough.  Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and, with floured hands, knead for 6 turns.

Roll out the dough to 1-inch thick.  Cut into approximately 3-inch circles with a biscuit cutter, wide-mouth glass, or a knife.

Transfer the circles to the baking sheet and bake until golden, about 12 minutes.  Serve right away or soon, while they are still warm. 

Herb Leaf Salad

2 cups herb leaves ( I just used a mesclun mix of greens)
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp fruity vinegar ( I used a red apple infused balsamic vinegar)
1 tsp oil

Place the herbs in a bowl.  Sprinkle on the salt, then the vinegar, and toss.  Drizzle the olive oil over the top and serve right away.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Maple Oatmeal Scones

I have decided that I absolutely love baking, especially when it all turns out delicious in the end. I also love having four great guinea pigs to try things out on.  I made these scones for my husband.  He loves maple!  Maple candy, syrup, chocolates….the list goes on.  Maple really isn’t my thing but I thought he deserved a recipe. 

I found this recipe in “The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook” I have been a huge fan of Ina Garten for years.  I started liking her style of cooking when she was writing a column for the “Martha Stewart Living” magazine.  Her recipes are simple and easy.  At least that is what I found out when I tried this one.  This one was the first one I have ever tried and I have three of her cookbooks!  The pictures are great and the recipes showcase simple elegant flavors.  The middle child and I worked together on this recipe.  She made it almost until the end.  She didn’t make it to the glaze, something else attracted her attention. 

Just a few notes about this recipe…..The dough is very soft so you need to use plenty of flour on your counter top, but you don’t want to use to much because the dough will definitely dry out.  In addition to that, I don’t have a stand mixer, (ALWAYS WANTED ONE), the directions were to use one, so, I adapted the recipe to use the best tool I could find….my hands!  I used them to cut in the butter.  My trick is; squeeze the cold butter between your fingers until you feel the cold from under the flour and then drop it.  Pick up another clump and do it again until all the butter is incorporated and the dough resembles small peas.  (If it resembles it so much that it changed to green, you may have done something wrong). 

  Also, I liked the way these turned out, but they are much better eaten warm than cold.  I glazed them right out of the oven, and started taking pictures of them.  I presented my husband with one and it was already room temperature.  He looked up at me and said “How come I always get the floor model?”  Hehehe.

Maple-Oatmeal Scones

Active Time 30 minutes, Total Time 50 minutes

For the scones

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats, plus additional for sprinkling
2 Tbs baking powder
2 Tbs granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
1 pound cold butter, diced
½ cup cold buttermilk
½ cup pure maple syrup
4 extra large eggs, slightly beaten
1 egg, beaten with 1 tbs milk for egg wash.

For the glaze

1 ¼ cups confectioners’ sugar
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, with a paddle attachment (for those of you lucky enough to have one), combine flours, oats, baking powder, sugar, and salt.  Blend in the cold butter in at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-size pieces.  Combine the buttermilk, maple syrup and eggs and add quickly to the flour and butter mixture.  Mix until just blended.  The dough may be sticky.

Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is combined.  Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough ¾ to 1 inch thick.  You should see lumps of butter in the dough.  Cut into 3-inch rounds with a plain for fluted cutter (I used a wide mouth glass) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Brush the tops with egg wash.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are crips and the insides are done.

To make the glaze, combine the confectioner’s sugar, maple syrup and vanilla.  When the scones are done, cool for 5 minutes and drizzle each scone with 1 tablespoon of the glaze.  Sprinkle some of the reserved oats for the top. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

One Happy Spoon.....and a Shrimp Boil!

So this idea has always fascinated me.  A shrimp boil... I have seen it done on the beach on television shows and in many, many pictures.  It just looked so cool.  To eat it with your hands and have the juice from the butter and the shrimp and the corn on the cob.  My family loves to eat all the good stuff in them. I enlisted the help of the middle child and told her that good things would be in store for her.  She agreed, after much prodding.  So I decided to give it a go!

I found a recipe in within my subscription to the "Food Network Magazine"  I consider this magazine a cookbook, because it is chocked full of recipes from start to finish.  The pictures are fantastic and it is a great read.  This recipe comes from the June 2010 issue.  There is a section for weeknight cooking and weekend cooking.  It took 40 minutes from start to finish (including the shrimp peeling).   The shrimp boil was in the weeknight cooking and it really was very easy!  I had the ingredients (only 9 of them) and one happy spoon!

 The kids loved it!  We were at the dinner table for 1 hour!  Usually we are done eating in 10 minutes even if I slaved over the stove for 2 hours.  They couldn’t get enough of it!  Even the little one!  We purchased a store-made baguette and I toasted it in the oven so we could dunk it in the buttery-shrimpy-spicy juice.  YUM!  We used our fingers and a ton paper towels and just got messy!  You should try it!  It is fun to treat the family to a messy meal and great dinner conversation!  

Shrimp Boil

3 lemons, 2 for the pot, 1 quartered for the plates
½ cup Old Bay Seasoning.  (Best stuff!)
8 cloves garlic, smashed
1 large red onion, quartered
6 sprigs fresh thyme (I used a tablespoon of the dry stuff)
1 lb baby red potatoes
4 ears corn, husked and snapped in half (I used 5)

1 ¼ lbs of shrimp, peeled (I peeled them before hand so I didn’t have to worry about the kids

2 tbs butter

Fill a large pot with 4 quartz of water.  Squeeze the lemon juice into the water and add the squeezed lemon halves.  Add the Old Bay, garlic and onion.  Tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen twine and add to the pot (if you are using it).  Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, and cook about 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes to the pot and cook until just tender, about 10 minutes.  Add the corn and cook about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, slice along the back of each shrimp through the shells, remove the veins and rinse the shrimp.  Add to the pot, cover and cook until the shrimp curl and are just opaque, 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer the shrimp and vegetables with a slotted spoon or skimmer to a large bowl.  Add the butter and about 1 cup broth to the bowl and toss until the butter is melted.  Transfer the shrimp and vegetables to a platter.  Serve with remaining broth and lemon wedges.    

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Citrus Glaze

Let me just tell you right now that my house smells fantastic!  I have been so excited for today.  I have the day off from work and a new cake pan and I was ready to use it!  Gabe and I went to the farmer's market today and we bought delicious things to make dinner with for tomorrow.  But that is tomorrow.  Why not have dessert first!  I didn't have a special occasion or some place to bring a dish.  It was just pure selfishness.  I baked because I love to bake and I took my time and enjoyed how the ingredients mixed together and I couldn't wait to see how my hard work paid off.

Sweet potato cake with citrus glaze intreuged me the first time I ever saw the recipe.  What a combination of flavors!  Sweet potato, coconut, pecans and citrus.  How can that not be good?  The recipe comes from Smith and Hawken " Gardeners' Community Cookbook"  complied by Victoria Wise.  When I belonged to a cookbook club this was one the monthly selections and to be honest with you, I forgot to turn in the card to not get the book in the mail.  So I ended it up buying it.  Turns out it is one of my favorites!   There are not pictures in it, just recipes on how to use fresh produce that you buy at the farmer's market.

This recipe was a bit more ambitious than I have tried before.  You have to peel and boil the sweet potato which wasn't that hard and while that is cooking you can finish doing the dishes and get together the dry ingredients.  Exactly what I did!  The cake turns out moist and delicious and light and airy.  The secret is to beat the sweet potatoes with the butter and sugar until it lightens in color a little bit.  The citrus glaze is the key to the whole cake.  It gives such a sweet tang that you feel it in the back of your cheeks.  The ones on your face, silly.

Sweet Potato Pound Cake with Citrus Glaze

Butter and flour, for the pan
2 lbs sweet potatoes (roughly 3 medium sized)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, finely chopped. see note*
1 cup Citrus Glaze  (recipe follows

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter and flour 9-to 10-inch tube or bundt pan.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1-inch chunks.  Place in a pot and add water to cover by 1 inch.  Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are soft all the way through, about 20 minutes.  Drain and puree.  Set aside.  (just whiz the potatoes in a food processor until creamy.)

Combine the flour, salt baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a bowl and stir to mix well.  Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl.  Add the sweet potatoes and beat until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Stir in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture 1 cup at a time, incorporating well after each addition, to make a stiff batter.  Stir in the pecans and coconut and spoon the batter into the pan.

Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

Prepare the glaze.

Remove cake from oven and cool for 10 minutes.  Invert the pan and gently pry the cake onto a large platter. While it is still warm, slowly drizzle the glaze over the top and around the edges.  Set aside for a few minutes and allow the cake to soak up the glaze before you glaze it again.

Slice and serve.  Will keep, loosely covered, for up to 3 days at room temperature.

*use unsweetened coconut

Citrus glaze

2 cups confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tbs finely chopped orange zest
1 tbs finely chopped lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice or a combination of lemon and orange juice.

Sift the sugar into a bowl.  Add the zests and juice and stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth enough to glaze the cake.  Use right away or set aside at room temperature fro up to 30 minutes, but not longer or the glaze will crystallize and not coat the cake evenly.