Friday, November 25, 2011

Ooey Gooey Goodness

Oh Ina Garten, you've done it again. You've won me over with your delectable desserts. I may find you unbearable to watch but I can't deny that you know what you're doing in the kitchen.

 I thought this recipe was a nice variation of your typical apple crisp, with the addition of pears. I intended to add golden raisins but completely forgot about it until I had put the topping on. I was pretty bummed about that, I really think it would have given it a lot more flavor, but it was very good without them also.

Apple and Pear Crisp

You will need:

  • 2 lbs ripe Bosc pears (4) (mine were pretty firm but it made them easy to peel and keep their form during baking)
  • 2 lbs firm Macoun apples (6)
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
For the topping:
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup old fashion oatmeal (not instant)
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Peel, core and cut the pears and apples into large chunks. Place the fruit in a large bowl and add zest, juices, sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Combine until fruit is evenly covered. Pour into a 4 qt. baking dish.

For the topping, combine flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed for one minute, or until mixture is in large crumbles. Spread evenly over fruit, covering it completely.

Place the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top in brown and the fruit is bubbly. Serve warm with fresh whipped cream or ice cream.

I made it a day ahead of time and then we reheated it for about 30 minutes at 200 degrees. I think that may have caused it to get a bit liquidy but it was worth it to have warm crisp with ice cream :).

Source: Ina Garten- The Barefoot Contessa

Saturday, November 19, 2011

There's Nothing Cuter Than A Cupcake!

I love a perfectly frosted cupcake. There are beautiful cakes and delicious looking pies and tarts, but nothing beats a cupcake for me.

I had the cupcake itch earlier this week and Matt suggested lemon raspberry cupcakes (his favorite combination). I really wanted to do a black forest cupcake, but I decided on the lemon/rasp. I'm a good wife like that ;).

For the decoration I wanted to do something other then just flowers, pearls or dragees. I thought it would look nice and simple to make candied lemon peel and use that for decoration.

Candied Lemon Peel

You will need:

  • 3 lemons
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
Peel your lemons with a veggie peeler, make sure to not peel any of the pith (white sour part under the peel).

Meanwhile, bring your 2 cups of water to a boil. When it's reached a boil, add the lemon peels and boil for about 5 minutes, or until tender. Remove the peels and add in your 2 cups of sugar. Once it has returned to a boil, add the lemon peels back in and boil until translucent. Mine could have been cooked a little while longer maybe. Remove the peels and let dry completely before storing. I sprinkled them with some additional sugar to give them a little extra sparkle.

The syrup can be save and used as lemon simple syrup for recipes or cocktails. I grabbed an empty liqueur bottle, washed it out and funneled the syrup into it after it had cooled for a while. That night I made a lemon drop cocktail. Yum!


On to the cupcakes! I just made a box recipe of lemon cupcakes. After they had cooled, I took my tip #230 and filled a pastry bag with raspberry jam. I was nervous about exploding one or two of them but thankfully that didn't happen. It was pretty easy to see the cupcake rise a little as it was filling out with the jam.

Here they are, all filled and ready to be frosted!

I used the Wilton butter cream recipe. Normally I use shortening and water, but I had some softened unsalted butter so I made one batch with butter and milk and a second with shortening and milk. I think the milk gives it a better flavor than the water, but to be honest I prefer the shortening to butter. I just whipped the two batches together at the end.

Cupcakes are just so happy to me:).

I sprinkled some Wilton white sparkling sugar on the cupcakes and then topped them each with a candied lemon peel.

"Eat Me!" 
I will edit this post later today. Matt's going to eat one before we take them to the party and I'll post a picture of it cut in half to see what the filling looks like from the inside.

Here's a picture of the cupcake cut down the center. Matt gives them 2 thumbs up.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I'm Married to a Serious Carnivore

Therefore, not many of the meals I make don't contain meat. I've made this veggie chili a few times though, and it's gone over pretty well. I've made other veggie chilis and they have not been nearly as good as this one. It's sort of my vegetarian standby. I'm going to try and branch out a bit more to expand my vegetarian repertoire.

Veggie Chili

You will need:

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 cans (tomato paste) of water
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 can of kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can of black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 pkg sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium onion chopped
Heat olive oil in your pot and add onions, celery, mushrooms and garlic. Cook for 5-10 minutes, or until veggies are tender.

Add diced tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 cans water, cayenne pepper, chili pepper and brown sugar. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes.

Add both cans of beans and frozen corn. Bring back to a simmer and cook for an additional 30 minutes.

Top with cheese, sour cream or if you really like to live on the edge-both! We had them with Garden of Eatin' Blue Chips. Go to their website for a $1 off coupon!

As you can tell, it's super simple. Most chili's are I think, but it really is quite good, and very filling.

Source: I've adapted it from a recipe that Janine gave me. It was her Aunts recipe, but I have no idea of it's origin before that.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Comfort Food

I was so excited for a nice, cozy, hot soup on a chilly fall day. Then the day I made it ended up being super sunny and warm. What gives?

As you'll soon see, this recipe calls for sweet potatoes. I always knew there was a difference between yams and sweet potatoes, but I never really knew what it is. And, although I knew there was a difference, that didn't stop me from believing that they are interchangeable. So, I've done some research aaaaand I'm more confused then when I started. Sometimes the internet can seem pretty useless.

So I got out my handy dandy Mary Margaret McBride Encyclopedia of Cooking Copyright @ 1959. It was my grandmas and it makes me miss her. I really need to use this thing more often, it's a gem.

This is what it told me.

So, yea. I'm still a little confused, but it seems like it's not a huge deal if you use yams, when sweet potatoes are called for, or vise versa because you aren't going to find any "real" yams around these parts anyway. 

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped 
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 cups chopped broccoli florets
  • 1/2 lb sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 1/3 cup)
  • croutons for topping
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and celery and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, chicken broth, half and half, bay leaf, 2 cups of water, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile steam your broccoli. I used the frozen Wegmans Organic Broccoli that steams in the bag. 

When the potatoes are tender, remove the bay leaf from the soup and either transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth, leaving the filler cap slightly open to release steam (you may have to do this in batches), or puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender. Return the soup to the pot (if using the blender), and thin with water if necessary. Return to a simmer over medium low heat; stir in broccoli and season with salt and pepper.

Add the cheese and stir until melted. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with extra cheese and croutons if desired.

I feel like next time I would add more cheese and maybe two different types of cheese, to give it a more cheesy taste and creamy texture.

Source: Food Network Magazine

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It Takes, On Average, 66 Days To Form A Habit.

I usually don't make it past day 4. I've become increasingly aware of this lately.

Fennel-Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Potatoes

You will need:

  • Lemon, 1 large
  • Fennel seeds, 1 1/2 tbsp
  • Salt, 1 tsp
  • Black Peppercorn, 2 1/2 tsp coarsely crushed
  • Garlic, 3 large cloves, chopped
  • Olive oil, 1 1/2 tbsp
  • Pork tenderloin, 1 1/4 lb
  • 2 Yams
  • 2 Russet potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and chop yams and potatoes into 1 inch cubes. Coat evenly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning often.

Grate 1 1/2 tsp zest from the lemon and squeeze 1 tbsp juice into a small bowl. Add the fennel seeds, salt, pepper, garlic and oil and stir to combine. Place the pork in a roasting pan and rub all over with the spice mixture. Let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes, or cover and refrigerate up to overnight.

Turn the oven up to 450 degrees. Remove potatoes and cook pork until it is brown outside and barely pink inside and the temp reads 145-150 degrees. About 15-20 minutes. Put the potatoes back in the oven for the last 5-10 minutes.

Cut on the diagonal into slices 1/2 inch thick, and serve with potatoes.

Roasted yams are one of my new favorite things:).

Source: Williams Sonoma Weeknight Cookbook

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"This is no ordinary apple, it's a magic wishing apple...

One bite and all your dreams will come true."
Snow White should have known better, that old lady was creeeepy.

For some reason I was afraid of baked apples. I don't know why? Maybe it was just because I hadn't made them before and I chose to make them for the first time when people were coming over. I really should stick with making things I've made at least once before when other people have to eat it too:). Maybe one day I'll learn my lesson. Needless to say they came out really well! I didn't fall in love with any recipe I saw on-line so I kind of made it up as I went.

Baked Apples

You will need:

  • 4-6 medium sized Gala apples
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
You can also add walnuts or pecans. When I make these again I will probably add some oats, make it sort of apple crispy-ish:).

Wash your apples and peel the top inch or so from the stem. Core the apples, not going all the way through to the bottom. I don't have an apple corer so I used a sharp knife, cutting into the top diagonally. Then I used the blunt end of a spoon and surprisingly the core came out pretty easily, in one chunk. Make sure all the seeds are removed.

 These are the apples only cored half way.

Cut the very bottom off of your apple to give it a flat surface to sit on. Remember to make sure you're not cutting too much off so that you make a hole in the bottom, allowing the filling to leak out!

Mix together your brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and any other fillings you're using. Fill each apple with approximately 2 tbsp of filling. Pour 1/2-1 cup of apple cider into the bottom of your 3-4 quart baking dish and place your apples in. Put a pad of unsalted butter on each apple.

Cover with foil and poke a few small hold in the foil with your knife. Bake for 45min to an hour at 350 degrees.

Test your apples by sticking them with a fork, when they are tender and the fork goes in easily, they're finished.

You could pair these with so many things. We had them with Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice cream. But it would be good with a caramel ice cream, caramel drizzle, whipped cream- the list goes on (or top them off with a little rum, or bourbon or some Navan from the apple pie martini drink last week:))! One recipe I saw had you drizzle maple syrup over them before you baked them, which sounds amazing to me, but I know some don't like maple as much as others:).

Any way you make them, and anyway you serve them, I hope you enjoy!

(p.s. Props to Stephanie for getting her baked apple into my blog!)