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Smile Like the Sunrise

Salted Caramel Apple Bliss

SaltedCaramelAppleBliss

Another month, another fun challenge from the amazing International Incident Party.  This month the not-so-secret ingredient was: salt.  Normally I try to cut as much salt as possible from my diet, thanks to some fun health problems.  However there is one salt combination that I LOVE, one that is worth upping my water consumption beyond my normal amount. Salt & Caramel.  A match made in heaven, or in the very least a match made in my mouth.  The first time I came across this amazing couple was while living on the Cape back in college.  There was this little bitty candy shop right off the main road in Hyannis Port and not only did they have amazing handspun milkshakes they only had a few dozen types of fudge.  Among their remarkable collection was their caramel fudge, which they topped with salt.  One bite was all it took to convince me that this combination was just right 🙂 I wanted to do something that included that pairing, but was lighter on the calories considering all the holidays right around the corner.  Enter the apple juice.  I am a huge fan of warm apple juice, and I know from numerous experiences that caramel and apple get along just right.  The result: a warm drink just right for the winter just around the corner with the right amount of sweet and salty…and some whipped cream with more caramel to make it even better.
Ingredients: 
2 cups apple juice (aim for organic/no sugar added)
2 1/2 tbsp caramel syrup (Monin if you can find it!)
1 tsp sea salt plus more for topping
whipped cream 
Directions:
1. Heat the apple juice, caramel, and salt in a tea pot until hot.  Pour into mugs and allow to cool slightly. 
2.  Top with whipped cream and at least 1/4 tsp sea salt!

Now to have real fun you can make your own caramel whipped cream.  All you need is one of these and some of these.  Pump 5tbsp caramel syrup into the carafe then fill with heavy whipping cream until the line on the inside of the bottle.  Use one of the canisters as directed and chill for around 5minutes, or as long as it takes the apple juice to heat up.  Then top it off and add the sea salt.  Yum! 

http://www.linkytools.com/thumbnail_linky_include.aspx?id=52079

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If it Does

Pasta Mornaypasta
I’ve mentioned before my undying love of Top Chef, but to be honest I rarely try the recipes on the show.  Most of them are too meat rich that I’m not sure where to even start the process of converting to vegetarian, while others feature ingredients that are well out of my price range.  However occasionally there is a challenge that gets my attention, something that sparks an idea for a recipe.  A few seasons ago such a challenge happened.  The cheftestants had to pick a knife to determine their sauce and then figure out a protein to go with it.  A number of the non-CIA trained cheftestants were upset about this, but while they were complaining I was taking notes.  While I recognized most of the sauces, a few of them threw me for a loop.  One of them was the mornay sauce, something I had never come across before.  Thanks to one of the ladies on the show I quickly learned it pairs well with seafood and that it is essentially a fancy cheese sauce.  I was sold!  After much screwing around in the kitchen I finally came up with this version which is quick and easy and delicious! 
Ingredients:1 lb pasta of your choice (I used leftover macaroni and angel hair)1 tbsp olive oil1 onion, chopped3 cloves garlic, crushed1 tbsp flour1 cup milk1/2 cup sour cream2 oz fresh grated Parm Cheese14 can salmon, RINSED 
Directions1. Cook pasta according to box until al dente.  Drain and return to pan.2. Meanwhile heat the olive over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring, for three minutes.  Add the flour and stir for another minute before slowly adding the milk and sour cream.  Bring mixture to a slow bowl and then add the cheese.  Once the cheese has melted add the salmon and season to taste.3. Pour the mixture over the pasta and mix well.  Serve!
Did I mention this was an easy recipe?  For those that desire capers also work well in this recipe, however I was unable to find any fresh at my grocery store…guess that’s what happens when one shops late at night.  So thank you Top Chef for teaching me something new!

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Made for Love

Rigatoni with Seitan102710_1

Another week, another wonderful episode of GLEE! While last night was not one of my favorite ones (thank you Terri), it was still a great episode and I really enjoyed seeing GP.  I might be one of the few people who saw Duets. and thanks to my time serving at Macy’s I still know the words to the main song from that.  However even with the knowledge of her vocal chops I was still impressed with her version of Forget You.  I also enjoyed the Tots Rebellion…even though I can’t stand those things…even if they are in the form of Tatter Tot Casserole.  To me they are a form of potato abuse, but to be fair I’ve never had fresh tots so maybe that’s the problem.  If anyone has a recipe for this please send it my way because I would love to give them a go! Tonight’s recipe does not involve potatoes, but I’m sure there is a way to incorporate them.  This is one of those dishes that can be quickly tossed together which makes it great for this crazy time of year.  The ingredients are all easy to find, and most of them are probably already in your pantry/fridge so no need to venture near the grocery store, which is also great this time of year.
Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves
8 oz seitan
1/2 lb mushrooms, sliced
1 cup peas
1/2 cup Marsala
1 lb rigatoni (I used whole wheat)
1 cup half & half
1/2 cup grated Mozz.
Directions:

1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan.  Add the onion and garlic and stir over low heat until the onion is tender. Add the seitan and mushrooms, cook 10minutes.  Stir in the wine and bring to a boil, turn heat to low and simmer an additional 10minutes.

2. Meanwhile cook the pasta until al dente. Drain and return to pan.

3. Add the half & half and mozz. to the pasta along with the mushroom seitan mixture.  Toss well, season to taste and serve!

Nothing like a quick easy meal during a time period that can be anything but easy.  Tomorrow I’ll be posting one of my favorite Thanksgiving Side Dishes, and one that I hope to serve to Joe’s family next week.
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Keep Coming Around

Triple Chocolate Chip CookieschocolateChocolateChipI promise that I am going to stop being such a lazy girl and get back on top of my posts.  I probably have close to a dozen pictures currently sitting on Joey’s camera that need to be blogged about.  Including my submission for this month’s International Incident Blog Party: Salt! In the meantime this amazing cookie recipe will have to hold you over until I can get to the rest of my pictures.  These cookies are amazingly not that bad for you.  By using whole wheat flour along with the all-purpose some nutritional value was added, leaving out the egg leaves out some cholesterol, and cutting down on the sugar cuts out some empty calories.  I find that the best cookies come from a dough that is not quite sweet, at least compared to your standard chocolate chip cookie dough.  Not only does this partially eliminate the desire to eat the dough (which is ok, no egg so no risk) but it also allows whatever is being added to the cookie to really shine.  The only exception to this being the sugar cookie but then again it is a SUGAR cookie so going crazy with the sugar is not only allowed, it’s a necessity!

Ingredients:
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalter Kosher Margarine (Earth Balance or similar brand)
1/3 cup raw brown sugar (Sugar in the Raw or similar brand)
1/3 cup no-sugar added applesauce
1 1/2 tbsp cold water
1 tbsp chocolate powder
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate/semi-sweet chips

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350
2. In a small bowl blend the flours with the baking soda.  Set Aside.
3. In a large bowl cream the margarine with the sugar.  Add the applesauce and mix well.  Slowly add about half of the flour mixture, mix, and then add the water and chocolate powder before adding the remaining flour.  Gently fold in the chips.
4. Spoon the dough onto cookie sheets with spacing.  Bake for 11-13minutes.  Recipe makes 40 2in cookies!

I promise that there are some savory recipes coming, including one for an amazing Seitan dish and another easy risotto.  The good news is that I’m not really going out of town next week for the holiday, so that shouldn’t mess me up.  Plus with the International Incident Party this week, 52week being due Thursday (yummy sweet potato dish!), and Redux next week I have TONS of motivation to stay on top of things and blog, blog, blog!

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Heart Racing

Cranberry Oatmeal CookiescranberryCookies
Wow…November has been insane so far.  I have been to a wedding, a play, and an opening ceremony at my favorite museum.  Now it’s time to get back on track, and why not do that with some deliciously amazing cookies.  Last week I ran into a food-block when it came time to pick a recipe, so I went to facebook for suggestions.  It came down to Cranberry Oatmeal or Pumpkin, and just had no desire to roast a pumpkin to do the cookies.  So Oatmeal Cranberry it was!  I didn’t have a recipe for it so I decided to just start adding things to the bowl and see what happened.  I knew I didn’t want hardcore oatmeal cookies, like a preacher cookie, but rather something more cake like.  I then realized I was running drastically low on baking flour, but still had a brand new bag of whole wheat flour.  Which resulted in some yummy “multi-grain” cookies, with cranberries added to them for good measure!
Ingredients:2/3 cup old fashioned oats1/2 cup whole wheat flour2/3 cup all-purpose flour1 tbsp baking powder1 stick unsalted margarine1/4 cup brown sugar1/4 cup white sugar1/4 cup cranberry juice (100% juice, no sugar added…the kind that makes your lips pucker)2/3 cup applesauce 1 cup dried cranberries 
Directions:1. Preheat the oven to 3752. Cream the butter with the two types of sugar.  Add the applesauce and baking powder and mix well.  Slowly add the oats and flours and gently mix before adding the cranberry juice.  Fold in the cranberries and place in fridge for 15minutes.3. Spoon the mixture onto cookie sheets with spacing in between.  Bake for 11minutes.
I know adding juice sounds a little strange but it works.  I picked the trick up from a cookie book I found in college, 1 dough 100 cookies.  The original recipe was for an orange recipe, which is not such a good idea for me.  However this works well for recipes that call for larger amounts of dry ingredients, such as oatmeal cookies.  Keeps things nice and moist and delicious and cakey…which is exactly what I was looking for!

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Eggplant with Peppers

Eggplant with Peppers

102610_1

I heard something scary the other day…there are people out there that don’t like eggplant.  I can understand not liking broccoli or brussel sprouts (both of which I love) but eggplant?  Eggplant is one of the most versatile vegetables out there, you can do pretty much everything with them.  Fry them for some eggplant parmesan, bake them for rolletinis, saute them…cream them (hello baba ganoush)…the options are limitless.  So I have to wonder if these people have been the unfortunate victims of bitter plant, which I have been guilty of doing.  In fact the first thing I ever cooked for Joe included a few bites of this not so wonderful version eggplant.  When eggplant is not properly prepped, or if it’s kept too long, it becomes a bitter cousin of its true self, and you can’t tell from looking at it.  The trick: salt and press!  Take the eggplant, cut it as desired, lightly coat in salt and then press it between two plates/cutting boards with paper towels to collect the liquid.  After pressing for about 30minutes, rinse the eggplant and dry with paper towels.  I would say this method works 98.9% of the time, because if the eggplant is old this won’t fix it.  The downside of this is that one needs to know somewhat in advance if eggplant is on the menu.  However taking out the risk of the bitter  plant is well worth the extra time!  This recipe is one that really showcases how amazing the eggplant is, taking center stage where it belongs.

Ingredients:
2 tbsp EVOO
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb eggplant, cubed
1 red pepper, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
2 cups mushrooms (shitake if available)
1 tbsp flour
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup marsala
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper to taste.

Directions:
1. In a large skillet heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic, and peppers.  Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.  
2. Add the eggplant and mushrooms, turn heat to medium high, and cook an additional 10 minutes until eggplant is tender.  Stir in flour.  
3.  Add the water, marsala, and vinegar.  Bring to boil. and then turn heat to low and simmer for 20minutes.  Season to taste and serve over brown rice.


Did I mention this is a really simple recipe?  Gotta love anything that was easy to prepare after classes.  Typically I let this simmer while I did some minor cleaning/worked on homework.  Now I let it simmer while I do some minor cleaning/take care of the furry children.  This is also a very simple vegan recipe, which gives it bonus points in my book!

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Meet me at Midnight

German Chocolate Brownies
(for RSVP Redux)

Another day, another blog party this one with a slightly different feel.  With the International Incident party it’s more of an Iron Chef type feel, everyone using the same primary ingredient but no rules on what to make.  The sky is the limit with creativity being the only limiting factor, which can result in some fun adventures.  
This month I stumbled across the RSVP Redux blog gathering courtesy of the Eatocracy section of CNN.com.  In this blog gathering everyone gets to pick a recipe from the RSVP section of Bon Appetit Magazine and then gives it a whirl, noting what worked and didn’t work along with any tweaks that had to be made.  I signed up for this and then looked at this months edition of the magazine, which resulted in a minor panic attack.  Of the recipes featured this month I had very limited options, but decided to bite the bullet and attempt to make the German Chocolate Brownies.  I have attempted brownies in the past but have failed, miserably, and normally to the sound of a smoke alarm (or yelling roommate) but I was confident that I could do this.  After all, this wasn’t just some box of brownies this was a gourmet tried and true recipe from The Bunnery Bakery and Cafe, so these people obviously know what they are doing.
So recipe in hand I set out to gather my ingredients, after confirming that Joe’s nut allergies don’t extend to pecans, and after finding some taste testers.  Once ingredients had been collected I retreated to my kitchen, warning all in the area that it would be best if I was left along for awhile to bond with my oven. I reached my first obstacle very quickly, the container of vegetable shortening in my cabinet didn’t quite have the two cups needed.  So some soy butter to the rescue!  I intentionally halved the icing portion, that way Joe could still try the amazing brownies without eating the evil nuts (not allergic, just not a fan) but that wasn’t an issue.   For those I just did a simple cream cheese icing so still a decadent topping for a decadent brownie. 
Ingredients:
Brownies:
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups vegetable shortening
1/2 cup light corn syrup
6 large eggs
Topping (this is the full recipe)
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temp.
6 large egg yolks
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
24 oz sweetened coconut flakes
2 cups chopped pecans
Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 and lightly grease an 11×17 baking pan.
2. Mix flour and cocoa together in a medium sized bowl. Using blender (or mixer) beat sugar and next four ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the eggs one by one, mixing as you go.  Slowly add the flour mixture and mix until just blended.  Pour into prepared baking sheet.
3. Bake for 25 minutes and leave to cool.  
4. Meanwhile stir the half and half, sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla extract in a medium saucepan over medium heat until thermometer reads 180.   Maintain heat and stir constantly for 15minutes.  Remove from heat and fold in the coconut and pecans.  Cool for 1 hour in fridge.
5.  Once the brownies have fully cooled spread on the Pecan/Coconut topping.  Enjoy!

The word decadent doesn’t even begin to describe these brownies.  They were a sinful combination of chocolate and coconut all in one bite.  This is not a dessert for the faint of heart, or for people with diabetes.  While it’s not the same sugar assault as a multi-layer chocolate cake with a dark chocolate ganache filling it’s not exactly a shortbread cookie either.  The richness is apparent from the first bite, so have you glass of milk ready to help cut the intensity that comes with these delicious brownies.