Monthly Archives: June 2009

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem…

It’s time to get honest. Brutally so. Are you feeling honest? You sure? K, good. I’m going to be honest too.

There are times when I’m not really all that open minded about food. That’s a foodie sin, isn’t it? People who love food are supposed to be up for anything. There are times where I just say, “well, that doesn’t sound good at all” and I move on to something familiar, like a cheeseburger and a chocolate chip cookie. Like the other day, I saw something on the Food Network that involved squeezing beef bone marrow out onto little crostinis. Yeah, see THAT falls into the Doesn’t Sound Good category for me.

That’s kind of extreme. There are probably a lot of people who would say the same thing. But really, how do you know unless you try it? I probably won’t be trying it anytime soon, as things like that do not make it to restaurant menus in rural Iowa, but I encourage others to try it. Sometimes I think it’s impossible for me to be a true foodie simply because of my location. That depresses me sometimes. Other times, I think it’s not so bad, as I’m not very often faced with the task of eating something unusual and embarrassing myself by not being able to eat it. LOL.

When I saw this particular cookie recipe, I originally put it in the Doesn’t Sound Good category. But for some reason I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was intrigued by the combination of a sweet cookie with a fresh herb. Fresh herbs are usually reserved for savory dishes, right? Nobody wants to eat a cookie that tastes like a pot roast or a pan sauce. Ha.

The herb in question here is rosemary. Personally, I love it. Since it’s currently sprouting like a weed in my backyard, I’m on the constant look out for ways to use it up. As I went back and fourth in my brain about whether or not to attempt these cookies, I went outside a plucked a fresh sprig off my plant. I gave it a big old whiff. Mmmmm. Fresh herbs. I decided right then and there that the aroma of rosemary wasn’t necessarily savory (like, say, chives. Or cilantro even.) It’s more floral than anything else. I immediately thought of lavender. Lavender is commonly used in desserts. That did it. I HAD to make these cookies. I set off on the task after dinner last night, which I NEVER do. NEVER. I do not bake in the evening unless I absolutely have to. It’s too much hassle, I’m prone to screw ups and the very last thing I want to be doing at 10 p.m. is cleaning a dirty kitchen. I was THAT hot for these cookies. I had to break my own rules and make these Rosemary Lemon Sandwich Cookies right away.

The results were really good! The rosemary is subtle, just a hint of something floraly in the background. It paired really well with the sweet/tanginess of the lemon. The cookies are tender and butter and the filling is super rich. The recipe was supposed to yield about 20 cookies and I only got 12. I for sure made them way too big. One will fill you up, as they are very rich. I thought they tasted better today after chilling overnight and bringing to room temp. The flavors and richness mellowed a bit. I only made one change to the original recipe. I swapped cream cheese for mascarpone in the filling as that’s what I had on hand. Worked out great!

I recommend giving these a try. Don’t be scared of the rosemary! And, let’s be honest again, how sophisticated does this sound? Serve these to your friends and watch them marvel at your culinary genius! Who would have thought a rosemary and lemon cookie could be so tasty?!

One year ago: Root Beer Pulled Pork with Carolina BBQ Sauce – this sauce was SO good. I need to make this again this summer!

ROSEMARY LEMON SANDWICH COOKIES (Recipe Source: Better Homes and Gardens)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. snipped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup lemon curd (see the recipe I used here)
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese (I subbed cream cheese)
  • 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar (I omitted)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In mixing bowl beat butter with electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar, rosemary, lemon peel, baking powder and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl. Beat in vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour as you can. Stir in remaining flour.

2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. With bottom of glass dipped in sugar flatten to 1/2-inch thickness. Bake 8 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute. Transfer to wire rack; cool.

3. Meanwhile, in small bowl combine lemon curd and mascarpone cheese. Spread on flat side of half of cookies. Top with remaining cookies, flat side to filling. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately or refrigerate, in layers separated by waxed paper, in airtight container up to 24 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes about 20 cookies.

ENJOY! 🙂

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All Natural Easiness!

I found a recipe for a lemon sandwich cookie that I was really eager to try. When I saw the filling called for lemon curd, I considered just buying a jar and calling it good.

The thing is, I’m really trying to move away from “just buying a jar/box/bag/bottle”, etc. etc. I feel so much better about eating anything (even if it’s a sweet treat) when it’s made with all-natural, real food. The reality of it is, I’m not going to give up my sweet treats. I can’t. I’m addicted and it’s a sickness and we preferred not to be judged harshly, thank you very much. 🙂 The very least I can do is stay away from processed,  hydrogenated, high-fructose corn syrup laden, store bought foods.

So off I went to make my own lemon curd. Holy Easiness, Batman! It literally took 15 minutes to put together. Really, there is no excuse to EVER buy it. Creamy, tangy and totally delicious…ready to add to cakes, cheesecakes, and cookies everywhere. Or to just eat straight out of a bowl with a spoon. YUM.

HOMEMADE LEMON CURD (Recipe Source: JoyOfBaking.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 to 3 lemons)
  • 1 tablespoon of finely shredded lemon zest
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small pieces

DIRECTIONS:

In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce) (160 degrees F or 71 degrees C). This will take approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate for up to a week.

ENJOY! 🙂

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And the Award Goes To. . .

I just love keeping up with all the great food blogs out there. It’s like one big virtual potluck where everyone shares their favorites and invites you to do the same. You can really learn a lot about someone by what they make and how they relate to food. It’s a blast!

Two absolutely FAB bloggers just nominated me for the Lovely Blog Award.

Thanks so much Karen of Lovestoeat and Stephanie of Stephanie Cooks! Both these blogs are packed with amazing recipes that are not only impressive but easy to make. Thanks again, ladies. Keep on cookin’! 🙂

And to spread the love and pay it forward, I nominate the following lovely blogs for the Lovely Blog Award!

Branny Boils Over
Cook Like a Champion
Just2Good
Food alla Putteanesca
Erin’s Food Files

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Summer is finally here!

A mere week and half, two weeks ago I was wondering where the heck summer was. It was rainy, and cloudy, and COLD. Highs in the low 60s. In June. Okay, that’s just not even right!

Well, summer FINALLY decided to show up for work. Nice to see you again, Summer…so glad you could join us. We’ve been WAITING. Two weeks ago it was way too cold. Today, I may or may not have let it slip that I thought it was too hot. There’s no pleasing me when it comes to weather, I tell you what. However, in my defense, our air conditioner was out and I spent a hot, sticky night in bed with a husband who has a tendency to flop around and crowd me. A good night sleep was not meant to be.  Thankfully, we’re back up and running here this afternoon. Good thing too, because 90 degrees outside + well over 80 degrees inside = A very crabby and mean Erin.

I knew my AC wasn’t working yesterday afternoon. I KNEW turning on the oven would just cause the heat and crabbiness in the house to rise. Did it stop me? Um, no. When you wanna bake, you wanna bake. Think a little summer heat and humidity is going to stop me?

Aw, raspberries!

Yes, raspberries! And peaches! Together in delightful mini-loaves of moist and tender quick bread. The idea came to me after seeing a recipe for peach melba – which is peaches smothered in raspberry sauce and served with vanilla ice cream. Berries are all over the sale circulars from the grocery stores these days. Gotta snatch ’em up before they go back to $4 a pint. Since I just did the brownie pudding with ice cream and raspberry sauce, I was looking for something a little different.

These cute little loaves go together in minutes and bake up delicious. I used my favorite muffin recipe as the base for the loaves but swapped out milk for low fat buttermilk and added about a teaspoon of fresh lemon zest. I didn’t do the streusel topping so the next time I make these I’ll add a little something extra to warm up the flavors a bit – a 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a 1 tsp. of vanilla. I’ve noted that in the recipe below. They are delish as is, juicy and fruity, but I think those two added ingredients will really push them over the top. I left one out for us to enjoy and wrapped up the others and put them in the freezer for later. Make these with your favorite summer fruits!

One year ago this week:

RASPBERRY PEACH MINI-LOAVES (Recipe adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)

Makes 3 mini loaves

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup diced fresh peaches (about three smallish/medium peaches)
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries (I cut the larger berries in half)
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup, plus 1 tbs. sugar, divided
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon zest
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Grease three mini loaf pans; set aside
  2. Toss peaches and raspberries with the one tablespoon of sugar. Place in a sieve over a small bowl and let juices drain.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and lemon zest. Make a well in center of flour mixture, set aside.
  4. In another bowl combine egg, milk, oil and vanilla. Add egg mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir until just moistened (batter should be lumpy). Fold in peaches and raspberries.
  5. Spoon batter into prepared pans and place pans on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in centers comes clean. Cool for 5 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool completely before slicing.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Happy Birthday, Hubby!

Can I just brag about my husband for a minute? He is just amazing! It’s like he’s my gifted toddler or something the way I go and on about how awesome he is. I must be the luckiest girl in the world because I hit the husband JACKPOT!

He’s so smart and funny. So caring and generous. And charming to boot! From 88 year old grandmothers, to 2 year old kids, to unsuspecting college girls out enjoying a night on the town with friends ;), he can make anyone feel special. His smile is infectious, his laugh is contagious. He’s got this uncanny knack of cheering me up even when I don’t feel like being cheered up.

He’s an amazingly hard worker and a rock star at his office. Must be all that solid farm work while he was growing up. No days off and no excuses. I could take a lesson from him, as I have been known to be a bit of lazy pants every now and then.

He is my hero, my best friend and the love of my life and he deserves a special treat for his 27th birthday, which he celebrated yesterday!

Once again, Eric’s birthday crept up on us exactly two weeks to the day after mine. He had a really busy day and he needed some cheering up when he got home. This dessert was just the thing. Enter BROWNIE PUDDING!

Eric gave me Ina’s Back to Basics cookbook for our anniversary. I was so excited to dive into it and this is the first recipe I’ve made. It’s so simple and completely decadent. The perfect birthday treat. Crunchy on the top, melty on the bottom, and oh so chocolatey. This would be a great dessert for a dinner party…make it ahead of time, scoop it into bowls top with ice cream and viola! Done!

The only changes I made were swapping out pure vanilla extract for the vanilla bean seeds – the only place around here that sells vanilla beans is the Target. And they are 8 bucks for two. And seeing how this is about as far as you can get from any kind of Foodie capital, and I just can’t see most people paying that kind of money for something in the spice aisle, I can imagine those vanilla beans have been sitting on that shelf for….oh, I don’t know…three or four years. :-p Um, no thanks. Vanilla extract will work just fine. I left out the framboise – didn’t have it on hand, wasn’t going to purchase it. And I topped it off with a little sumptin’ sumptin’ to cut the sweetness. Fan-freakin-tastic. I’m already thinking about eating more tomorrow!

Make this for your special birthday boy!!! He’ll be eternally grateful.

One year ago: Chicken Marsala – Another staple in our house. Perfect for those busy weeknights when you want something fast and healthy!

BROWNIE PUDDING (Recipe Source: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish
  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temp
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup good cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean (I used a generous splash of pure vanilla extract – about a teaspoon and half)
  • 1 tablespoon framboise liqueur (optional – I omitted)
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly butter a 2-quart (9 by 12 by 2-inch) oval baking dish. Melt the 1/2 pound of butter and set aside to cool.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.
  3. When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla seeds, framboise, if using, and the cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again just until combined.
  4. Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for exactly 1 hour. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under-baked; this dessert is between a brownie and a pudding.
  5. Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate and vanilla ice cream is all well and good, but I wanted more. MORE, I tell you! I sure am greedy when it comes to my food. I want it just the way I want it or I will pout and sulk. I wanted raspberry with my chocolate this time – so I whipped up a quick and delicious raspberry sauce  to top the pudding and ice cream. Bonus – raspberries were on sale this week! Woo hoo! The tart of the raspberry sauce really helped cut the sweetness of the pudding. Adding this sauce was a match made in heaven. YUM!

FRESH RASPBERRY SAUCE

  • 1 pint fresh raspberries
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Place raspberries in a medium saucepan and sprinkle with sugar. Combine water and cornstarch and add to raspberry/sugar mixture. Stir in lemon juice. Bring to a boil and simmer until berries are reduced and the mixture thickens, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

If desired, pulse the sauce in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour through a sieve to strain out the seeds. Cover and store in the refrigerator.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Mall Rats

Chocolate chip cookies remind me of trolling the mall as a young teenager. When all us girls in the neighborhood were 11 or 12, we suddenly became of age and gained all sorts of a couple new privileges. The best of all of them being we could go to the mall ourselves. Kinda. Okay, so it started out we could walk around ourselves for a little while as long as someone’s mom was in the mall somewhere. After about a year of that, I think the moms gave up and just dropped us because we girls wanted to go to the mall A LOT. It seemed like at least once or twice a week in the summertime. Us girls love to shop! (;) isn’t that right??)

What in the world could a couple of 12 year old girls do in the mall all that time? We had no money, of course. Five dollars here, maybe ten, if we were lucky. That’s about it. We only spent it on a couple things anyway: Earrings, candy, useless trinkets and junk like glow in the dark stars for our bedroom ceilings, and, of course, MRS. FIELDS COOKIES! That was a given….where else were you going to find a soft, doughy, melty chocolate chip cookie? Had to get to the mall to get our fix.

After we’d blown our pennies and gotten our cookies, we’d usually just sit in the center court area for a while and people watch until we found a boy we thought was cute. Then we’d proceed to follow him around, giggling and darting into storefronts when we thought he was on to us. What else were we supposed to do? We had no money left at that point! We quit doing that after we were totally busted by one such boy we followed into the McDonald’s one afternoon. He proceeded to leave us an angry expletive-filled message on the table– carefully spelled out with none other than….his leftover French fries. Hee. Apparently, he did not appreciate our shenanigans affections.  Oh, Shakespeare of the Spud, on behalf of myself and the other neighborhood girls, please accept our sincerest apologies for ruining your lunch with our staring and giggling. We were not making fun of you, we just thought you were, like, totally and cute and stuff.

Anyway, my trips to the mall are a lot different now, as I don’t think I’ve spent my money on glow and the dark stars and cookies for quite some time and I CERTAINLY don’t trail around after boys anymore either. I still can’t help but think about those days when I pass by the Mrs. Fields Cookies stand. Now, when I’m privileged enough to actually get this wonderful mall of my youth (the mall where we live now is useless), I wander around and drool over shoes and handbags I can’t afford and leave feeling rather depressed. LOL. So depressed, in fact, that only a bit of chocolate will make the situation better. If I can’t afford that absolutely killer BCBG dress at Nordstrom, I can certainly work toward plumping myself up enough so that I wouldn’t be able to fit into it anyway. And rather than spend my hard earned dollars on cookies that are just so-so, I’ll just make my own.

But….why make plain, old, boring chocolate chip cookies when there are so many other fun and surprising varieties to entice the taste buds? I rarely make chocolate chip cookies – not that I don’t like them but – YAWN – I’d rather spice it up a bit.

I think that’s about to change. The reason I never make chocolate chip cookies is simply I had never made THESE chocolate chip cookies! Ah, the ever popular Chewy – perfected by the King of Food Science, Mr. Alton Brown. He hit the ball out of the park with these bad boys. The best thing about them is the recipe is still simple, they don’t take any longer to put together than your normal Toll House variety (other than setting aside time for chilling the dough, which I have been doing with all drop cookies for a while now anyway) and they are absolutely phenomenal! Just be sure to follow the recipe…use the bread flour, don’t sub all-purpose. I think that’s part of the reason why the texture of these cookies are so different (in a good way) than your traditional cookie recipe. Don’t skip the chilling, it’s important. You’ll notice the recipe calls for melted butter. If you put these in the oven without chilling, you will end up with cookie pancakes. The warm butter will make them spread. And you will be sad. Sure, they will probably still be tasty but don’t you want them to be pretty too? Of course!

I presented these to Eric and he said, and I quote, “These are the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had.”

I have to agree. Even days after baking, these guys had a fresh from the oven taste and chew. I made these quite a few weeks ago with the intention of keeping dough balls in the freezer to bake off at a later date and I just couldn’t stop myself from popping a couple in the oven every few days. They are gone already – like a 12 year old girl’s mall money. Ooooops. :p  This will be my go-to CCC recipe from now on.  And what fun it will be to sub out the chocolate chips for other tasty goodies like peanut butter cups, chocolate covered raisins, M&Ms, and butterscotch chips. Mmmm….the possibilities are endless!

One Year Ago: I broke in my KA ice cream maker attachment with Oreo Cheesecake Ice Cream. YUM!

THE CHEWY (Recipe Source: Alton Brown, FoodNetwork.com)

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

EQUIPMENT:

  • Ice cream scooper (#20 disher, to be exact)
  • Parchment paper
  • Baking sheets
  • Mixer

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat. Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
  3. Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl. Add the sugar and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg, yolk, 2 tablespoons milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined. Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Chill the dough, then scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 cookies per sheet. Bake for 14 minutes or until golden brown, checking the cookies after 5 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet for even browning. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

ENJOY! 🙂

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Creamy Pasta – Hold the Cream, Please!

I like the idea of cream-based pasta sauces. What’s not to like, right? Thick, rich, cheesy. On paper, in a picture, on a plate it SEEMS great.

Well, guess what – Foodie confession #465….I’m not a big fan. In fact, if a recipe calls for heavy cream (except if it’s ice cream or used sparingly in desserts – like ganache) I will always skip over it. I don’t cook with cream. Ever.

Let’s just pretend it’s because I’m trying to avoid the calories and fat. Really, that’s just a bonus. I would like to enjoy a creamy sauce or soup every now and then – everything in moderation – but, alas, it is not meant to be. I can’t eat things like that. 😦 I get sick. What a bummer!

I’m always on the lookout for a way to get a creamy fix without actually using cream. I’ve had great luck with cheese and bechamel sauces with a low-fat milk base but I’m always up for something new and different. This recipe from Ellie Krieger totally hit the spot. I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty this was, given how simple the ingredients were. The bright orange color of the sauce, made from roasted red peppers and feta cheese, was surprisingly appealing too. The only changes I made were that I swapped out fettuccine for penne and topped with shredded parm cheese instead of additional feta. I only had about 4 ounces total, so I used all the cheese in the sauce. All in all, a very easy, delicious weeknight meal. I’ll be making this again for sure!

One year ago: “Fried” Vermicelli and Green Onions – This is one of our FAVES. So good and so easy! 🙂

PENNE WITH CREAMY RED PEPPER SAUCE (Recipe Source: The Food You Crave by Ellie Krieger)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (about 2 teaspoons)
  • One 16 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • One box whole wheat penne
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oil in a medium heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the peppers and cook until heated through. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Transfer the red pepper mixture to a food processor, add the broth and all but 2 tablespoons of the feta (I added all my feta). Process until combined and smooth, about 30 seconds.

Cook the pasta to al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the pasta water. Toss the pasta with the sauce, adding the pasta water by the tablespoon if needed. The sauce should cling nicely to the pasta. Season with salt and pepper. Divide among serving bowls. Sprinkle with parsley and reserved feta (or parm!) and serve.

ENJOY! 🙂

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