Friday, December 31, 2010

Chocolate peppermint candies

Is it worthwhile to spend 3 hours or even more (if you count the time that you spend tempering the chocolate) on making candy?  Taste these and then answer that question.

Oh yeah.

Chocolate Peppermint Candies

12 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2-3/4 c powdered sugar
1-1/2 T corn syrup
1-1/2 T water
1 t peppermint extract
Pinch of salt
1 T sour cream

Chop up the chocolate and set aside.  You'll be melting 1/2 of it at low temperature in the microwave later and using the other half to seed it.

Prepare the filling.  Beat the sugar with the other ingredients until smooth.  Spread it out on waxed paper, wrap and place into the freezer until firm, at least 15 minutes.

Temper the chocolate.  Spread out about 40 mini baking cups on cookie sheets.  Use the small end of a melon baller (about 1/2 t) to fill each cup, spreading the chocolate to the edges.  Freeze to set quickly.  Using a 1/4 t measure, create small balls of filling and place one in each cup, pressing down to flatten.  Freeze again while you heat the chocolate back up if needed.  Top each cup with another 1/2 t chocolate.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Perfect chewy chocolate cookies

I like my chocolate cookies chewy: not too soft, not too hard, just moist and chewy, with some resistance when I bite into them.  To get them the consistency I crave plus maintain the crackled top, I had to mess around with the fat content and the leavening.  I think these are just about perfect, since I started with the recipe for the vanilla cookies that I shared the other day and tinkered from there:

Chewy Chocolate Cookies

2 c +2 T flour
3/4 c cocoa
1 t baking soda
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
10 T butter
6 T sour cream
2 c sugar
4 T oil
2 eggs
2 t vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 with the rack in the middle.  In a medium bowl, stir together the flour through the salt.  In a glass measuring cup, melt the butter.  In a large bowl, mix the sour cream and sugar well.  Pour the melted butter over and beat well.  Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla, incorporating each slowly.  Stir in the flour mixture by hand and refrigerate the dough for at least an hour.

Line sheets with parchment and plan on 8 cookies on each tray.  Dip out 2T size portions of dough and roll them in sugar.  Place on sheets and pat them out to about 3".  Sprinkle tops with additional sugar.  Bake one tray at a time for 12 to 13 minutes, turning tray after 6 minutes.  After removing from the oven, allow cookies to sit on baking sheet for 5 more minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack.   

Monday, December 27, 2010

The world's most perfect vanilla sugar cookie

If you like your sugar cookies to chewy but moist, spread and crackled, here's the perfect recipe.  The combination of fats and leavening ingredients result in the perfect cookie.

Perfect Vanilla Sugar Cookies
(Makes 2 dozen)

2-1/4 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1-1/2 c sugar plus addition for rolling
1/4 c sour cream
6 T butter
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 egg
1 T milk
2 t vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 with the rack in the middle.  In a medium bowl, stir the flour through the salt together well.  Melt the butter in a glass cup.  In a large bowl, combine the sugar and the sour cream, and pour the warm butter over them.  Beat to combine, adding the oil, egg, milk, and vanilla.  Add the flour mixture, stirring it in thoroughly with a spoon or spatula.  Place dough in the fridge while preparing the baking sheets.

Line sheets with parchment and plan on 8 cookies on each of three trays.  Dip out 2T size portions of dough and roll them in sugar.  Place on sheets and pat them out to about 3".  Sprinkle tops with additional sugar.  Bake one tray at a time for 12 to 13 minutes, turning tray after 6 minutes.  After removing from the oven, allow cookies to sit on baking sheet for 5 more minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Spiced kumquats

I look forward to kumquat season each year!  They are only in our local market for a very short while, so I was thrilled when I found this very old recipe that was reprinted in Hannaford's Fresh magazine.  I made them exactly as shown, but I packaged and stored them in the freezer instead of in jars.

Just so you know, the online recipe calls for 2 "bags" of kumquats...the printed magazine says 2 pounds.  These are great with poultry, fish, or pork...pretty much anything that calls for a sweet-spicy sauce on the side.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Extra moist coffee cake

This coffee cake is dense and moist, thanks to the mix of fats and leavening ingredients.  Perfect for Christmas morning, and you've still got time to make it!

Extra Moist Coffee Cake

2 c flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 c butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 c sour cream

Crumb filling and topping:
1 c chopped pecans
1/4 c brown sugar
2 t cinnamon

In a small bowl, mix the crumb ingredients and set aside.  In a medium bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until it is light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition.  Blend the flour mixture into the butter mixture, alternating with the sour cream a bit at a time.

Spread half of the batter into a prepared 9 inch square baking pan (greased and floured).  Sprinkle half of the crumb mixture over the batter.  Spread on the remaining batter and top with the remaining crumb mixture.  Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Traditional stuffing

Stuffing (or more accurately, dressing) is something that I could happily eat every day, not just when there's a turkey involved.  Over the years, I've messed around with my dressing recipe.  Below you'll find a list of almost everything that I might throw into a batch.  But not all these ingredients are actually in every single batch...there's a lot of room for experimentation.  Like maybe adding more bacon and leaving out the carrots? :-)

Traditional Stuffing

Cooking spray
8 slices of whole wheat bread
3-4 slices of bacon
Bacon grease or 2 T olive oil
3 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
1 c carrots, shredded
Black pepper, freshly ground
1 1/2 t poultry seasoning
1/2 c fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 c dried cranberries
1 c sliced almonds
1 1/4 c chicken broth
1/2 c skim milk
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350. To bake the stuffing outside the bird, prepare a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Toast the bread until dry and lightly toasted. Cut slices into 1/2" cubes without removing the crusts. Place bread cubes in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Fry up a few slices of bacon until crisp.  Set aside and remove most of the bacon grease from the pan. 
Reheat grease or olive oil in over medium heat. Add celery, onions, and carrots and cook until tender, about 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add to the bread cubes. Add pepper and poultry seasoning and toss to combine. Stir in crumbled bacon, parsley, cranberries, and almonds.

In a liquid measuring cup, stir together broth, milk, and egg with a fork until combined. Pour over bread mixture and stir to distribute evenly. Transfer stuffing mixture to the prepared casserole dish and cover with a lid or foil. Bake 50 to 55 minutes, until set. Remove lid or foil and bake an additional 5 minutes to toast the top of the stuffing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Fruit and walnut-stuffed pork loin

How many people can you feed with one rolled pork loin?  Quite a few as long as you've got lots of good sides to go with it!  This is a great way to stretch your meat, giving everyone a small but extra-tasty portion.  And pork is lean too, so the moist fruit cooked inside it keeps it juicy and healthy.

I used the recipe from Cooking Light, and was delighted with how delicious this was.  The only change I made to their recipe was to serve mustard on the side rather than smearing the meat with it.  Next time?  I'm smearing the meat!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Advanced penicillin soup

We really love this Hawaiian Chicken Soup on a cold night!  It's fabulous in its original form, as shown above, but I recently made it when I was suffering from a nasty cold and found that it can easily be doctored up (so to speak) into an even more symptom-reducing form.  I used the original recipe, found at the link above, but added cubes of butternut squash, orzo pasta, and additional sweet red chili sauce.  I was breathing again quickly :-)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Peanut butter plops

We're still searching for a good name for these.  "Peanut Butter Plops" was DH's idea...he thought it was funny!

Peanut Butter Plops

3/4 c peanut butter
1/4 c sour cream
2 T heavy cream
1/4 c plus 2 T powdered sugar
1/4 t vanilla extract

1 1/4 lb bittersweet or semisweet chocolate squares

Dry-roasted peanuts, chopped coarsely for tops

Mix the peanut butter through the vanilla very well and refrigerate until stiff.  Place 36 foil muffin cups on 2 cookie sheets. Melt 1/2 lb chocolate (for the bottoms) in a glass measuring cup in the microwave, 2-1/2 minutes stirring ever 30 seconds.  Drop 1/2 t of chocolate into each mini muffin cup, using the small end of a melon baller. Spread the chocolate evenly across the bottoms. Freeze for just a few minutes until chocolate is set.

Drop 1 t peanut butter mixture into each cup, using the large end of the melon baller.  Flatten, using a silicone muffin cup.  Return to freezer while you melt the rest of the chocolate (3/4 lb for the tops).  Spoon enough chocolate (about 1 teaspoon, the large end of the melon baller) into each cup to cover filling completely. Sprinkle each peanut butter cup with a small amount of chopped peanuts before it hardens. Return to freezer for a few minutes to set.

Note about chocolate: If you start with chocolate that is already tempered, heating it gently will probably not cause it to lose temper.  If it does, and the chocolate is looking dull, here's the method I use to bring it back to temper: Temper 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lavender-honey ice cream

Almost everyone who has seen the movie It's Complicated remembers the scenes with the food.  Especially the discussion and the subsequent gorging on Lavender-Honey Ice Cream.  I spent the next day pouring over different suggestions for how to best make that delicacy, finally deciding upon one that I found in Epicurious

This recipe makes a lovely soft-bodied ice cream that doesn't get too hard even when frozen overnight.  It won't be as soft the next day, but you won't have any trouble scooping it either...if there's any left over!  When you mix up the custard, the lavender scent may seem overwhelming, but remember that flavors are dulled by cold, and do try it according to their recipe the first time, adjusting it if you feel it needs to be during subsequent batches.   I rarely keep a recipe exactly the way it is, but this time I didn't change a thing :-)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Beet greens with prosciutto

Usually I fix Beet Greens with Canadian bacon, but I decided to try substituting prosciutto instead.  Just as good!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Catfish with tomatoes and olives

This dish was amazing! It would probably also be good if the olives, capers, and shallots were minced a bit finer and made into a tapenade...but really, we liked it just the way it was.

Catfish with Tomatoes and Olives

1 lb catfish
Olive oil
Black pepper
1 shallot, minced
1 c cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 c brine-cured olives, chopped
1 T capers
1 T fresh oregano, chopped
Balsamic vinegar
Oil a baking dish and oil the fish.  Pepper the fish and place it in the dish.  Roast in the oven at 450 for about 20 minutes until done.

Just before the fish is ready, heat some oil in a skillet and cook the shallot until soft.  Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, cooking for a few minutes until heated through.  Stir in the oregano and vinegar, and spoon over the fish to serve. 


Thursday, December 9, 2010


I don't care how messy these things are...I just love them!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Malaysian lamb

I have done Malaysian Lamb in a crock pot before, and it comes out beautifully tender and mouth-searingly spicy!  This time I decided to do with larger leg cuts, and it was still amazing. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Braised chicken tikka

We have a favorite method of preparing Chicken Tikka for the grill or the oven, and now I've found a delicious way to braise it!  The results are almost like a stew.  If you wanted to thin it a bit more, it would be excellent served over rice, but we decided to just spoon it into a bowl and enjoy it with Naan

Braised Chicken Tikka

Garam masalah
A dash of tumeric
1 lb chicken breasts, cut into tenders
Canola oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large vidalia onion, chopped
1 T fresh ginger, minced
28 oz can of plum tomatoes, with liquid
1/2 c half and half

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with a mixture of garam masalah, salt, and tumeric, and roll in the flour.  In a dutch oven, brown the chicken in oil for a few minutes and remove to a plate.  Add more oil and cook the garlic, onion, and ginger until they begin to brown.  Add a few teaspoons of garam masalah and a dash of tumeric, and stir for about 1 minute.  Sprinkle with about a tablespoon of flour and stir to coat.  Add the tomatoes and liquid, breaking up the tomatoes as they simmer.  Cook while stirring for about 5 minutes.  Stir in the half and half and add the chicken.  Cook while stirring for another 4 to 5 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  Serve in a bowl over rice or with naan.       


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Books for Christmas

It seems that many people on my list are getting cookbooks this year...I'm shocked, shocked I say...and I thought I'd share with you the top contenders on my lists.  I'm not telling you who's getting what just in case any of you are reading this ;-)

The Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home by the Moosewood Collective

Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics by Ina Garten

The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger

5 Ingredient Fix by Claire Robinson

Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food by Jeff Potter

The New Best Recipe by Cook's Illustrated Magazine

The Best of the Best from New England by Gwen McKee

The Best of the Best from Pennsylvania by Gwen McKee

The Best of the Best from the Mid-Atlantic by Gwen McKee

Amazon Gift Certificates...for those whom I'm not quite sure about!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Hungarian goulash soup

My DH feels that goulash should always contain mushrooms and be served with noodles.  If you don't agree, please feel free to make whatever substitutions are traditional for your family :-)

That said, this is hardly traditional goulash, but rather a soup version. Love the flavors, and I hope you will too!

Hungarian Goulash Soup

Vegetable oil
2 onions, chopped
1 lb stew beef, cubed
1/4 c tomato paste
3 T paprika
1 T caraway seeds
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 t marjoram
1 t lemon peel, fresh grated
Hot pepper sauce
Pinch of sugar
Beef stock
2 - 3 c mushrooms, sliced
Egg noodles
Sour cream (optional)

Saute the onions in oil in a stockpot or dutch oven. Remove them when soft and set aside. Brown the meat on all sides, sprinkling with flour. Add a bit of water and scrape up the browned bits. Add the onions back in along with the tomato paste through the sugar. Add the stock slowly, stirring. Bring to a boil and lower heat to simmer. Cover and simmer 1-1/2 hours. Add mushrooms and noodles before serving and simmer until soft. Serve topped with sour cream.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Good Hanukkah at sundown!

Feta cheese sandwiches

These oven "grilled" cheese sandwiches were perfect for a night that no one was too hungry.  Add soup for a more hearty dinner...tomato soup of course!

Feta Cheese Sandwiches

Flat breads
Basil pesto mixed with a bit of pub cheese
Slice of tomato
Slice of feta cheese