Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My blog has moved!

I decided to move my blog to a new domain so that I can customize it more. So please update any links to my blog that you may have and please continue to visit!


Tuesdays with Dorie Week 7: Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake

This week at Tuesdays with Dorie, Jaime of Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats chose the Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake. I am not a big cheesecake eater, but I know several people who love it, so I am happy to make one when it is requested. This cheesecake was one of the tastiest cheesecakes I've tried. I love the hidden layer of apples and the cinnamon flavor of the filling. For the graham cracker crust, I used crushed graham crackers with a sprinkling of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. The flavors came together nicely. My cheesecake browned a bit too much on the top because I forgot to cover it with aluminum, but it didn't affect the flavor. The cheesecake set up well with no problems after an hour and a half of baking. I will definitely make this again if asked to make a cheesecake. Be sure to check out our Tuesdays with Dorie Blog to see how the other members did the the cheesecake! Stay tuned next week for Almost-Fudge Gateau, chosen by Nikki of Crazy Delicious.

Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake

For the Crust
30 gingersnaps (or a scant 2 cups graham cracker crumbs) (I used graham cracker crumbs with ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon sprinkled in)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted

For the Apples
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3 large Golden Delicious or Fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into eighths (I used Golden Delicious)
2 tablespoons (packed) light brown sugar

For the Filling
1 1/2 pounds (three 8-ounce packages) cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons
apple cider
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy cream

Apple jelly, for glazing, or confectioner's sugar, for dusting (optional)

To Make the Crust: Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch springform pan.

Put the gingersnaps in a food processor and whir until you have crumbs; you should have a scant 2 cups. (If you are using graham cracker crumbs, just put them in the food processor.) Pulse in the sugar and cinnamon, if you're using it, then pour over the melted butter and pulse until the crumbs are moistened. Turn the crumbs into the springform pan and, using your fingertips, firmly press them evenly over the bottom and up the sides of the pan as far as they'll go. Put the pan in the freezer while you preheat the oven. (The crust can be covered and frozen for up to 2 months).

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the pan from the freezer and wrap the bottom tightly in aluminum foil, going up the sides. Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is set and lightly browned. Transfer to a rack to cool while you make the apples and the filling. Leave the oven at 350 degrees F.

To Make the Apples: Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When the foam subsides, toss in half of the apple slices and cook, turning once, until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the apples with 1 tablespoon of the sugar and cook them, turning, just until coated, another minute or so. Scrape the apples onto a plate, wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining apples. Let the apples cool while you make the filling.

Getting Ready to Bake: Have a roasting pan large enough to hold the springform pan at hand. Put a kettle of water on to boil.

To Make the Filling: Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium speed, scraping down the bowl often, for about 4 minutes, or until it is velvety smooth. Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes. Beat in the cider, vanilla, and cinnamon. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in. Finally, beat in the sour cream and heavy cream, beating just until the batter is smooth.

Pour about one third of the batter into the baked crust. Drain the apples by lifting them off the plate with a slotted spoon or spatula, and spoon them into the pan. Cover with the remaining batter and, if needed, jiggle the pan to even the top. Place the springform pan in the roasting pan and pour in enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 hour and 30 to 45 minutes, covering the cake loosely with a foil tent at the 45-minute mark. Th
e cake will rise evenly and crack around the edges, and it should be fully set except, possibly, in the very center--if the center shimmies, that's just fine. Gently transfer the cake, still in the pan, to a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate it for at least 6 hours; overnight would be better.

Run a blunt knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the crust, open the pan's latch and release and remove the sides.

Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Dorie Greenspan: Quintuple Chocolate Brownies

Since I joined the Tuesdays with Dorie group a few weeks after it started, I wanted to catch up on making the recipes I missed. I thought I'd start with the Quintuple Chocolate Brownies, which was the recipe for week two. Chelle from Sugar and Spice chose this recipe.
I love brownies. I think that a good brownie is the ultimate simple, yet decadent dessert. I have made many brownie recipes in my baking life in search of the perfect recipe. I thought I found it in Ina Garten's Outrageous Brownies, and although those are wonderful, I think these are even better. With five types of chocolate, though, how can you go wrong?
The five types of chocolate in this brownie (unsweetened cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, bittersweet chocolate, milk chocolate, and white chocolate for the topping), this is a very rich treat. The coffee adds more depth to the rich mix of chocolate. This is an extremely thick batter. These brownies are perfectly soft and gooey, but still hold together well. I am in love. This is the ultimate brownie, and I think I have now found the perfect recipe. Needless to say, I will definitely make these again!

Quintuple Chocolate Brownies
SOURCE: Dorie Greenspan: Baking: From My Home to Yours

For the Brownies:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 Tablespoons strong coffee
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla
6 ounces premium-quality milk chocolate, chopped into chips, or 1 cup store-bought milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

For the Glaze:
6 ounces premium-quality white chocolate, finely chopped, or 1 cup store-bought white chocolate chips
1/3 cup heavy cream

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with foil, butter the foil and place the pan on a baking sheet.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, and salt.

To Make the Brownies:
Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add, in the following order, the butter, the two chocolates and the coffee. Keeping the pan over low heat, warm just until the butter and chocolates are melted - you don’t want the ingredients to get so hot they separate, so keep an eye on the bowl. Stir gently, and when the mixture is smooth, set it aside for 5 minutes.

Using a whisk or a rubber spatula, beat the sugar into the chocolate mixture. Don’t beat too vigorously - you don’t want to add air to the batter - and don’t be concerned about any graininess. Next, stir in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla. You should have a smooth, glossy batter. If you’re not already using a rubber spatula, switch to one now and gently stir in the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. Finally, stir in the milk chocolate chips and the nuts. Scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake for about 35 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out streaked but not thickly coated. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the brownies rest undisturbed for at least 30 minutes. (You can wait longer, if you’d like.)

Turn the brownies out onto a rack, peel away the foil and place it under another rack - it will be the drip catcher for the glaze. Invert the brownies onto the rack and let cool completely.

To Make the Glaze:
Put the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the heavy cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate. Wait 30 seconds, then, using a rubber spatula, gently stir until the chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth.

Hold a long metal icing spatula in one hand and the bowl of glaze in the other. Pour the glaze onto the center of the brownies and use the spatula to nudge it evenly over the surface. Don’t worry if it dribbles over the edges, you can trim the sides later (or not). Refrigerate the brownies for about 20 minutes to dry the glaze.

Cut into 16 squares, each roughly 2-1/4 inches on a side.

Note: These brownies can be frozen (even with the glaze) for up to two months. They can be stored at room temperature, but I like to enjoy them cold from the refrigerator.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

I've been tagged!

This is my first time being tagged- yay! I have been tagged by April of Abby Sweets, one of my fellow Tuesdays with Dorie bakers. She has some yummy desserts in her blog and you should definitely take a look! So here's what you do:

1. Link to your tagger and post these rules.
Abby Sweets

2. Share 5 facts about yourself (at the end of this post)

3. Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).

4. Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

5 things about me:

1. I am getting married on May 24 to my high school sweetheart- we will have been together for 6 years then!

2. I was born in Frankfurt, Germany (dad was in the Core of Engineers), but have lived in South Carolina since I was 9 months old.

3. I love running and I run every day.

4. I am a grad student in middle grades education and will finish school in May.

5. I am OCD about cleaning and organizing.

Ok...you've been tagged!

Chelle of Sugar and Spice

Laurie of quirky cupcake

Steph of a whisk and a spoon

Ally of Culinary Infatuation

Annie of Annie's Eats

All of these ladies have great blogs and I love to read them!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie Week 6: Black and White Chocolate Cake

I had been following a group of a few ladies who were baking from the wonderful cookbook Baking: From my Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. Laurie of Quirky Cupcake decided to challenge herself to make one recipe each week from this book. In her first post, she asked if anyone would like to join. Chelle of Sugar and Spice and April of Abby Sweets quickly joined in, and they decided to commit to making one recipe each week and post on Tuesdays, bringing about the name "Tuesdays with Dorie." Soon, a few more ladies joined in. After last week's post, I left a comment on Chelle's blog about how their posts inspired me to buy the cookbook and that everything they were making looked so good. Chelle made my day when she e-mailed me and welcomed me to join. I am very excited about my first week and am going to catch up on the five recipes that I missed! This week's recipe is the Black and White Chocolate Cake, chosen by April of Abby Sweets.

This is a vanilla buttermilk cake with alternating layers of dark chocolate cream and white chocolate whipped cream. I've made layer cakes before, but never where I had to split the layers myself. I was a bit nervous about it, but it went off without a hitch! The creams can be tricky to make, but I was patient with them and was fortunate to get them both right on my first try. You have to be careful when beating the white chocolate cream to firm peaks. If you beat it further, it may separate. The only trouble I had was that I did not have enough white chocolate cream to frost the entire cake, so I had to go back and make more. Other than that, making this cake was a fairly smooth process. I would definitely make it again. Unfortunately, mine is not as pretty as Dorie's, but it sure tastes good! Check out our Tuesdays with Dorie blog to see how everyone else did with the cake. And be sure to come back next Tuesday when we make our next recipe!

Next week's recipe: Jaime of Good Eats 'n Sweet Treats has chosen Brown Sugar-Apple Cheesecake

Black and White Chocolate Cake

For the cake:
2 cups cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk

For the dark chocolate cream:
2 cups whole milk
4 large egg yolks
6 Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp corstarch, sifted
1/4 tsp salt
7 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted
2 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 5 pieces, at room temp

for the White chocolate whipped cream:
6 oz. premium quality white chocolate
1 1/2 cups heavy cream

Getting ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 9X2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

To make the cake: Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and sal t.

Working with a stand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minutes after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then unmmold, remove the paper and invert to cool to room temperature right side up on the rack.

To make the dark chocolate cream: Bring the milk to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolk with the sugar, cornstarch and salt until thick and well blended. Whisking without stopping, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle-then, still whisking, add the remainder of the milk in a steady stream. Put the pan over meduim heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (make sure to get into the edges of the pan), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the melted chocolate, and let stand for 5 minutes. Then whisk in the pieces of butter, stirring until they are fully incorporated and the chocolate cream is smooth and silky. Press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create and airtight seal and refrigerate the cream until chilled, or for up to 3 days. Or, if you want to coool the cream quickly, put the bowl with a cream into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water and stir the cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

To make the white chocolate whipped cream: Put the white chocolate in a heat proof bowl and put the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Stir frequently to melt the chocolate evenly. Meanwhile, bring 1/2 cup of the heavy cream to a boil.

When the white chocolate is melted, remove the bowl from the pan. Pour the hot cream into the melted chocolate and let it sit for a minute. Using a small spatula, stir the chocolate gently until it is smooth. Let it sit on the counter until it reaches room temperature-it can't be the least warm when you add it to the whipped cream.

Working with the stand mixer with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream only unti l it holds the softest peaks. Turn the machine to high, add the cooled white chocolate all at once and continue to beat until the whipped cream holds firm peaks. Turn the whipped cream into a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap gently against the surface to create an airtight seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 6 hours.

To assemble the cake: If the tops of the cake layers have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. Slice each layer horizontally in half. Place on layer cut side down on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment.

Remove the dark and white chocolate creams from the refrigerator and whisk each of them vigorously to loosen and smooth them. With a long metal icing spatula, spread enough dark chocolate cream (about 1 cup) over the cake layer to cover it completely. Top the cream with another cake layer, cut side up, and cover this layer with white chocolate whipped cr eam, making the white layer about the same thickness as the dark layer. Cover with a third layer, cut side up, and cover with another cup or so of the dark chocolate cream. (You'll have some dark chocolate cream left over) Top with the final layer of cake, cut side down, and frost the sides and top with the remaining white chocolate whipped cream. Decorate with chocolate shaving or curls, if you wish.

Refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
Source: Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

Chicken Fingers with Ranch Dip and Seasoned Fries

The cooking board that I frequent had a recipe exchange for January and February. We all submitted recipes to one of the members and she was in charge of assigning everyone a recipe to make. The theme of this exchange was healthy meals. The recipe I was assigned to make was Chicken Fingers with Ranch Dip and Seasoned Fries, which is a recipe from Weight Watchers. It was a pretty tasty dish, and definitely different from the usual chicken fingers. I really liked the flavor of the fries. Here's the recipe adapted from Weight Watchers:

Chicken Fingers with Ranch Dip and Seasoned Fries:
3 sprays cooking spray
1 pound uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into strips
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 cup oatmeal
2 teaspoons garlic herb seasoning, preferably salt-free (I used garlic powder)
1/2 teaspoon table salt (I used kosher salt)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into strips
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning (I did not have this so I used a mixture of oregano, paprika, and
1/2 cup fat-free Ranch dressing

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
Coat chicken strips with mustard. Combine oats, garlic herb seasoning, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Dip chicken strips in oat mixture and turn to coat; place chicken strips on prepared pan.
Arrange potatoes around chicken on pan; lightly coat both with cooking spray. Sprinkle potatoes with Creole seasoning.
Bake, flipping once, until chicken is cooked through and both chicken and potatoes are tender and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Serve chicken and potatoes with dressing on the side.

Yields about 3 ounces of chicken, 1/2 a potato and 2 tablespoons of dressing per serving (6 WW points)

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Mini Italian Meatloaves

I have had an interesting relationship with meat loaf during my life. When I was younger, I hated when my mom would make it for dinner. When I was about nine or ten, she finally stopped making it and I was content to completely deny meat loaf's existence forever. I figured I would never have to be faced with having to eat it again.
I was wrong. A little over a year ago, David and I were talking about foods we hated as a child. I of course mentioned how much I hated meat loaf. He told me that he hated lima beans but actually liked meat loaf and would like to have it for dinner sometime. I ignored this for a while hoping that it would never be brought up again. But, after hearing him mention it a few more times, I agreed, but said that he would most likely be alone in eating it for dinner and that I would eat something else. I made a meat loaf for dinner that night and agreed to taste it. I was shocked when I ate a bite. I actually like meat loaf! The next time I made it, I came up with my own recipe that I now use. I am so glad that David convinced me to make it.
This past week I wanted meat loaf again, but instead of my usual recipe (hopefully that will be in a post in the near future), I decided to make a version of the Mini Italian Meatloaves that I saw in Chelley's blog and in Amber's blog. It was a nice change of pace from the typical meat loaf, and I really liked it and would make it again. I like the way the spices tasted together and the combination of the sauce and cheese on top. I like to bake meat loaf on a roasting pan to let the grease drain to the bottom. Good sides to make with this are field peas (David's favorite), salad, rice, green beans, and mashed potatoes.

Here is the recipe (Source: Sugar & Spice and Amber's Delectable Delights)
1 pound ground beef
1 egg, beaten
1 cup marinara sauce, divided (I used my own homemade version)
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup onion, chopped
salt and pepper to taste (I used kosher salt)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon parsley
3/4 teaspoon basil
1/4 teaspoon oregano

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Gently mix 3/4 cup marinara sauce and remaining ingredients together. Divide into 4 or 5 equal size pieces and form into desired shape. Place on greased roasting pan. Pour remaining marinara sauce over top of each loaf and top with desired amount of extra cheese.
Bake for 40-50 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. (It took 40 minutes for me).

Friday, February 1, 2008

Fettuccine Alfredo

I love Fettuccine Alfredo but had never really found a good recipe. Unfortunately, this is a very rich meal and is often loaded with calories and fat so I don't have it that often, but I was excited when I saw this recipe in Cooking Light. This way I could enjoy one of my favorite pasta dishes and eat a relatively healthy meal at the same time. One great tip that I can pass along from my experiences making this recipe is to save some of the pasta water from cooking the fettuccine and add it to your plate after you serve it. This makes the sauce creamier and smoother. I also added a little bit of extra Parmesan cheese on top as well as some parsley and pepper. I will definitely make this many more times! Here's the recipe from Cooking Light:

1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups 1% low-flat milk
1 ¼ cups (5 ounces) grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
2 tablespoons 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
½ teaspoon salt
4 cups hot cooked fettuccine (8 ounces uncooked pasta)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Cracked black pepper

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, stirring frequently. Stir in flour. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk. Cook 6 minutes or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, cream cheese, and salt, stirring with a whisk until cheeses melt. Toss sauce with hot pasta. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and chopped parsley. Garnish with black pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings (serving size: 1 cup)
399 calories and 13.5 grams fat per serving

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Palmiers (also known as Elephant Ears)

This is the baking feat I am most proud of. I made these using puff pastry dough that I made from scratch. This recipe came from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook Essentials of Baking that David gave me for Christmas one year. It contains an entire section on pastries. What I really like about this cookbook is that it has step-by-step pictures that help you visualize what to do, especially for a complicated recipe such as this one. There is a section on puff pastry where it includes a master recipe for puff pastry and different recipes that can be made with it. It is a lot of work, but I was so happy with how they came out. Palmiers are sweet but not too sweet and crunchy without being too hard. Definitely delicious! This recipe makes 2 pounds of dough, and you can freeze it for later use. Here's the recipe from Essentials of Baking by Williams-Sonoma:

Master Recipe: Classic Puff Pastry

For the puff dough:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup ice water, or as needed

For the butter package:
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

By hand: In a large bowl, stir together the flours and the salt. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour and work in with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly. Make a well in the center and pour the ice water into the well. Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in the flour from the sides of the bowl until fully incorporated and a rough mass that holds together forms. If the dough does not hold together easily, slowly add additional ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

By stand mixer: In the large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 2 cups of the all-purpose flour adn the salt. Pour in the ice water and mix on low speed until a smooth batter forms. Scatter the butter pieces over the surface. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the remaining all-purpose flour and cake flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl about 5 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 15-20 seconds to make sure it is smooth and not sticky. Flatten the dough, shape into a rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap, place in a plastic bag and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to overnight.

To make the butter package, using a rolling pan or the heel of your hand, beat or knead the butter on a work surface to flatten and warm it until it is cool and pliable about 60 degrees. Sprinkle the butter with the flour and gently beat with the rolling pin to press the flour into the butter. Shape the butter into a 6-inch square about 3/4-inch thick. if the butter has become too warm, wrap and refrigerate just until firm but still pliable.

To laminate the dough, on a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 12-inch square. Place the butter at a diagonal in the center of the dough. Fold over the corners of the dough to meet in the center, covering the butter completely. Pat with your hands to form an 8-inch square, then turn the square over so the seams are underneath. Roll out into a rectangle 24 inches long by about 8 inches wide, with a short side facing you. Fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down, as if folding a letter. This is the first turn. Rotate the dough a quarter turn clockwise so that a fold is on your left. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes. Repeat to make 5 more turns, rolling, folding, and chilling the dough each time, for a total of 6 turns. Each time you start, make sure you have a fold on your left. After the final turn, wrap the dough in plastic wrap, place in a plastic bag, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to overnight before shaping.

1 pound Classic Puff Pastry (half of the recipe above)
1 cup sugar for dusting
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Prepare the Puff Pastry and refrigerate to chill as directed.

On a lightly sugared work surface, roll out the pasty dough into a rectangle 1/2 inch thick. Move the pastry to the side and sprinkle the work surface with more sugar.

Return the pastry to the work surface and roll it our into a rectangle 18 inches long, 9 inches wide, and 1/4 inch thick, turning it once or twice as you roll and dusting with more of the sugar.

Position the pastry so that the long side is in front of you. Fold one long end over onto itself halfway across the pastry. Fold the opposite end onto itself halfway across the pastry so that the two ends meet in the center of the rectangle. Sprinkle the pastry with more sugar. roll the pin across the pastry lightly and sprinkle again iwth more sugar. Fold each long side lengthwise again onto itself so they meet in the center of the rectangle, and roll the pin across the pastry lightly.

Using a pastry brush, brush the egg mixture lightly over half of the folded pastry rectangle. You will not use all of the egg mixture. Fold the egg-brushed half over onto the other half of the pastry to form a long, thick rectangle. Roll the pin across the pastry lightly to seal. Place the rectangle on a half-sheet pan, cover with parchment (baking) paper, and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 45 minutes.

Position 2 racks evenly in the oven, and preheat to 400 degrees. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment (baking) paper.

Place the pastry ona cutting board and cut crosswise into slices 1/4-inch thick. Dust the work surface with sugar. Lay a cut side of a slice on the sugared surface and then flip it over to coat the other cut side. Place the slices cut side down on the prepared pan, spacing them 2 inches apart.

Bake the cookies until they are caramelized and brown, 13 to 17 minutes, turning once halfway through baking to ensure even caramelization. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely in the pans. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Baked Louisiana Dirty Rice and Beans

This is another new recipe from Cooking Light that David and I decided to try. The traditional New Orleans version contains chicken livers and gizzards, but this version substitutes chicken thighs. We both loved this dinner. It had just the right amount of spice and the flavors were so good together. I will definitely be making this again. Here's the recipe from the October 2007 issue of Cooking Light:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
3/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 pound skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup uncooked long-grain brown rice
2 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bell pepper, red onion, and celery to pan; cook 4 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Stir in rice; cook 30 seconds. Add broth and remaining ingredients; bring to a simmer. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender.

YIELD: 6 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)
250 calories and 6.2 grams fat per serving

Chicken Enchiladas

This is one of our favorite dishes. It's a bit involved for enchiladas, but definitely worth it. David found one night while making this dish that boiling the chicken in the sauce makes it more flavorful, so I make some more sauce just for this purpose. To do this, I usually make another recipe of sauce in another pot and add the chicken to it. Here's the original recipe adapted from Emeril on the Food Network:

3 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon flour

¼ cup chili powder
16 ounces chicken stock

10 ounces tomato puree

1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon ground cumin

3 cups grated cheddar cheese

2 cups cooked and shredded chicken

10 corn tortillas

Preheat oven to 350.

Make sauce: In a saucepan, heat 3 tablespoons oil; add flour and cook, whisking, 1 minute. Add chili powder and cook 30 seconds. Stir in stock, tomato puree, oregano and cumin and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes until flavors are well-blended. Season to taste with salt.

Combine cheese and chicken for filling. Dip each tortilla in sauce. On a plate fill with a generous spoonful of filling and roll up, place enchilada seam-side down in a baking dish and repeat until all ingredients are used up. Top with remaining sauce. Bake 30 minutes.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

I came to the conclusion that David and I were in a food rut. We always have good dinners, but we were too restricted to the same foods in our rotation. We couldn't think of what we wanted or didn't look for new ideas. I decided that it was time to get out of our rut, so I went through my Cooking Light magazines from the past year and tore out pages of recipes for us to try. We both decided that it was time to try something new. We are going to make it a goal to try as many new recipes as possible. The first new recipe I decided to make was Shrimp Fra Diavolo. According to Cooking Light, "fra diavolo" is Italian for "brother devil." It is a sauce that is usually tomato-based and always spicy. It does not traditionally have mushrooms, but the mushrooms really add to the flavor and texture of the dish. I liked the spiciness of the dish, but if you like really spicy food, you can definitely add more red pepper. David loved this meal and declared it his new favorite shrimp dish. We are big shrimp lovers, so this comment meant a lot to me. I will most definitely make this again. I'm glad our first new dish was a success. Here's the recipe from the October 2007 issue of Cooking Light:

8 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups cremini mushrooms (about 10 ounces)- *I used portabello mushrooms
2 1/2 cups marinara sauce (I used my own homemade version)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (I used kosher salt)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound peeled and deveined medium shrimp
Parsley sprigs, optional (I added dry parsley to the sauce)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain; keep warm.
Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms to pan; saute 6 minutes. Add marinara, red pepper, salt, and black pepper (and parsley if you add it here like I did); bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes. Add shrimp; cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are done. Serve over pasta. Garnish with parsley sprigs, if desired.

YIELD: 4 servings (serving size is 1 1/4 cups shrimp mixture and 1 cup pasta)
439 calories and 8.5 grams fat per serving

Sunday, January 20, 2008

German Chocolate Cake

I actually made this a while ago (in October) and took a picture of it thinking I might use it in some way. Now that I've created this blog, I can put it to use! German Chocolate Cake is a favorite in my family. My grandfather on my dad's side loved this cake and my mom always brought it to family events. My grandmother on my mom's side made this cake a lot as well. She always used the recipe on the back of the Baker's German Chocolate box, and this is the one my mom used. This cake is very moist and the frosting is wonderfully rich. You can't go wrong!

My parents' birthdays are close together and they came for a visit between their birthdays. Before they came, I told them that they could request any dessert and I would make it so we could celebrate. They both decided that they wanted a German Chocolate Cake, so that's exactly what I decided to make. Traditional German Chocolate Cake does not have frosting on the sides, so I didn't forget to frost it! Here's the recipe for German Chocolate Cake:

4 ounces Baker’s German’s Sweet Chocolate
1/3 cup boiling water
2 cups sifted cake flour
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter or margarine
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 eggs, separated
¾ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup buttermilk
Coconut-Pecan Filling and Frosting

Preheat oven to 350. Line bottoms of 3 (9-inch) round cake pans with wax paper. Mix chocolate and boiling water; stir until chocolate is completely melted. Cool.

Mix flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in chocolate and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition.

Beat egg whites in small bowl with electric mixer on high speed until stiff peaks form. Gently stir into batter. Pour evenly into prepared pans.

Bake 35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Immediately run a spatula around side between cakes and side of pans. Cool 15 minutes; remove from pans. Remove wax paper. Cool completely on wire racks. Spread Coconut-Pecan Filling and Frosting between layers and over top of cake.

Coconut-Pecan Filling and Frosting

4 egg yolks
1 (12-ounce) can evaporated milk
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
1 ½ cups sugar
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter or margarine
1 (7-ounce) package coconut (about 2 2/3 cups)
1 ½ cups chopped pecans

Beat egg yolks, milk, and vanilla in large saucepan with wire whisk until well blended. Add sugar and butter; cool on medium heat 12 minutes or until thickened and golden brown, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Add coconut and pecans; mix well. Cool to room temperature and of desired spreading consistency.

YIELD: 1 (3-layer) cake

SOURCE: Baker’s Chocolate

Friday, January 11, 2008


Fudge has become my new addiction. I have made so many batches in the past month or so. The first time I made it, I used a recipe from allrecipes (look several posts below), but this time I tried the recipe for "Fantasy Fudge." This is the one you get right from the jar of marshmallow creme. This is the fudge my mom always made, which is also the one my grandmother always made. Of the two recipes, I like this one best. The fudge was so smooth and creamy. It's hard to stop eating it! I will definitely be making this again, and likely soon, because I know I will eat it fast! Here's the recipe:

3 cups sugar

¾ cup butter or margarine

1 small can (5 ounces) evaporated milk (2/3 cup)

1 ½ package (12 squares) semisweet baking chocolate, chopped

1 (7-ounce) jar marshmallow crème

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat sugar, butter, and evaporated milk to full rolling boil in 3-quart heavy saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil on medium heat until candy thermometer reaches 234, stirring constantly to prevent scorching, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

**I also used the cold water test. To do this, have a cup of ice-cold water ready, and drop a small amount of the mixture into the cup. If the mixture forms a soft ball, then it is ready. Using both the cold water test and the candy thermometer ensures that the fudge is cooked properly.

Stir in chocolate and marshmallow crème until melted; stir in vanilla and walnuts.

Spread immediately in foil-lined 9-inch square pan. Cool at room temperature at least 4 hours; cut into 1-inch squares. Store in airtight container.

My Birthday Cupcakes!

When I was in elementary school, my mom would always make cupcakes for me to take to school and share with my class at lunch. This year, my 23rd birthday was on a Wednesday, which is when we have dinner with our church group. I decided to make cupcakes to bring just like I used to when I was a kid. I decided to make the cupcake version of Hershey's "Perfectly Chocolate" Chocolate Cake. I had heard good things about this recipe, and it did not let me down. The cupcakes were nice and moist and the frosting was rich and creamy. The frosting, as usual, was the best part for me! I also decided to decorate them with sprinkles and add a Hersheys Kiss on top. Here's the recipe from Hershey:

2 cups sugar
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup boiling water
“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting

Heat oven to 350. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans. Sift together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed of electric mixer for 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Cupcakes: Line muffin cups (2 ½ inches in diameter) with paper liners. Heat oven to 350. Fill cups 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22 to 25 minutes. Cool completely. Frost. Makes about 30 cupcakes. **I got 22 cupcakes from the batter**

“Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
2/3 cup cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add small amount of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.

Makes about 2 cups frosting.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Banana Bread

I've been making this banana bread recipe from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook for many years now. This is the recipes my mom always used. I made a loaf as a Christmas gift this year. A nice thing about this bread is that you can freeze it. I also like to add a bit more bananas than the recipe calls for. I usually add 3 bananas. This makes for an especially moist bread. I also love how this bread cracks at the top while baking. Here's the recipe:

1/3 cup shortening
½ cup sugar
2 eggs
1 ¾ cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe banana
½ cup chopped walnuts

Cream together shortening and sugar; add eggs and beat well. Sift together dry ingredients; add to creamed mixture alternately with banana, blending well after each addition. Stir in nuts.
Pour into well-greased 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until done. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack.

Butter and Jam Thumbprints

These cookies are so much fun to make! I love how you can make them different by adding different types of jam. For this batch of cookies, I made about half with strawberry jam and half with peach jam. I've made these cookies before, but I've never found a recipe to stick with. I will definitely be sticking with this recipe though. It's called Butter and Jam Thumbprints, which came from the Food Network. I made these as a Christmas gift and they were a big hit. Next time I make these cookies, I would love to try them with raspberry jam. Here's the recipe:

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon fine salt
¾ cup unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks), softened
2/3 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
1 large egg
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped from pod, or 1/8 teaspoon vanilla bean paste, or 1
teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup raspberry, cherry, or strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.
In another bowl, whip the butter and the sugar with a hand-held mixer until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until just combined. Slowly beat in the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing just until incorporated.
Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls with a cookie or ice cream scoop and roll in sugar. Place about 2 inches apart onto the prepared baking sheets. Press a thumbprint into the center of each ball, about ½-inch deep. Fill each indentation with about ¾ teaspoon jam.
Bake cookies until the edges are golden, about 15 minutes. (For even color, rotate the pans from top to bottom about halfway through baking). Cool cookies on the baking sheets. Serve.
Store cookies in a tightly sealed container for up to 5 days.

*I got about 3 dozen cookies from this recipe.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

My grandmother used to make these cookies and so did my mom. I found a similar recipe from Paula Deen's collection and made them this year as a gift. These cookies are so easy to make and look really pretty too. The recipe says to make them into crescents, but I've also rolled them into balls and they turn out the same. Everyone loved these and they were eaten very quickly! I will definitely be making these again. Here's the recipe from Paula Deen:

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup confectioners’ sugar, plus more for coating baked cookies
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting hands
1 cup pecans, chopped into very small pieces

Preheat the oven to 275. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar at low speed until smooth. Beat in the vanilla. At low speed, gradually add the flour. Mix in the pecans with a spatula. With floured hands, take out about 1 tablespoon of dough and shape into a crescent. Continue to dust hands with flour as you make more cookies. Place onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 40 minutes. When cool enough to handle but still warm, roll in additional confectioners’ sugar. Cool on wire racks.

*I got about 3 dozen cookies from this recipe.

Christmas Dessert: Carrot Cake

Carrot cake is a very popular dessert with my family. My mom got this recipe from a friend many years ago and we've been using it ever since. We've never had it at Christmas- it's usually an Easter dessert or made for a birthday or other special event, but my dad requested it for Christmas this year, so I made one. I love this cake because it's so moist. I also love the cream cheese frosting. I don't even bother trying out new carrot cake recipes because I love this one so much! This is also David's favorite cake and he generally requests it for his birthday or anytime we go somewhere where I need to bring something. Here's the recipe:

1 ¼ cups canola oil
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup black walnuts (optional)
3 cups grated carrots

Mix oil and sugar; add eggs and blend. Sift together dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Stir in nuts. Add carrots slowly, blending well. Pour batter evenly into 3 greased and floured pans. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes.

Frosting and Filling:

1 stick margarine
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
1 box confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts

Mix all ingredients; blend until smooth and creamy. Add a small amount of half-and-half or milk if it is too stiff. Spread between layers and top and sides of cake.