Friday, October 31, 2008

Chipotle Rice and Beans

This is a perfect simple and hearty meal.  The combination of rice and beans offers a complete protein, and who doesn't love chipotle peppers?

(adapted from Veganomicon)
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 yellow onions, peeled
1 tbsp olive oil
2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, plus about 2 tbsp of sauce
2 cups cooked rice (any variety)

Put the beans in a large saucepan with 3 cups of water and one of the onions, halved.
Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the other onion, and heat the oil over medium in a large skillet.
Saute the onion until very soft, about 10 minutes.  
Chop the chopotle peppers, and add them to the onions with the sauce.
Cook for an additional minute or two, then turn off the heat.
Just before the beans are done, taste and season with about 1/2 - 1 tsp salt.
Stir in the onion mixture, and heat through.
Serve ladled over rice.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Mushroom-Miso Soba Bowls

For me, comfort food takes many forms.  I will happily dig into a huge bowl of macaroni and cheese, or I could just as easily be delighted with a bowl of miso soup.  This dinner is a nice compromise, with the hearty soba noodles, earthy flavor of miso and shiitake mushrooms, and freshness of green onions and bok choy.  It's simple, vegetarian, and perfect for a crisp Fall evening.

(adapted from The Healthy Headonist by Myra Kornfeld)
a handful of dried shiitake mushrooms (use more if you want a stronger mushroom flavor)
3 cups boiling water
2 tbsp dark miso
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 pound brown button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tbsp soy sauce
6 ounces soba noodles
3 bunches baby bok choy, thinly sliced
1/2 cup cooked, shelled edamame
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 sheet nori, toasted and cut into thin strips

Pour boiling water over mushrooms and let sit for at least half an hour.
Drain mushrooms and reserve all the soaking liquid.  Chop the mushrooms.
Mix 1/2 cup mushroom liquid with the miso in a small bowl and set aside.
Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil, and cook the soba noodles.  Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or wok and add the ginger and garlic.
Stir-fry one minute, then add the bok choy and both fresh and soaked mushrooms.  Pour in the soy sauce and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes.
Add the bok choy, edamame, and mushroom liquid to the skillet.  Cook for about 4 minutes.
Add the soba and miso mixture and cook for another 3 minutes.
Put noodles into bowls, ladle some broth over them, and garnish with green onions and nori.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Banana Nut Muffins

Three bananas sat on the kitchen counter for far too long.  Actually I bought an extra large bunch on purpose so I would be "forced" to make banana bread.  But as I started to peel them, I realized I didn't want to make banana bread again (I mean there's nothing wrong with it, but sometimes you have to mix things up), I wanted to make muffins.  Banana-walnut muffins, to be precise.
Thanks to Joy of Cooking (where would I be without this tome?), I had these muffins in and out of the oven in about 30 minutes.  I dusted them with powdered sugar because they were looking a little plain, and they are quite tasty.  The addition of whole wheat flour makes them a little heartier than your average muffin.  I can't wait to warm one up for breakfast in the morning!

(from Joy of Cooking)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 large egg
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/3 cup mashed bananas (2 or 3)
1/3 cup vegetable oil (or applesauce, if you prefer)
1 tsp vanilla
powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 and line a 12-muffin pan with paper liners.
Whisk together flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg, and set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, brown sugar, bananas, oil, and vanilla.
Gently stir in the dry ingredients and walnuts, mixing just until combined.
Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack, and dust with powdered sugar.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

I did not feel great after work today, so when there was a knock on my door not long after coming home, I didn't really want to deal with it. However, when I saw that it was my baking buddy from down the hall, I had to answer the door.
"Hi! So, my friend is kind of being a jerk right now. Can we bake something?"
I hestitated for a moment; my head was pounding and my unfolded laundry was screaming at me from the couch.
"Of COURSE! I have to warn you though, I'm out of chocolate chips," I told him.
"That's ok! Remember those REALLY good peanut butter cookies you made that one time? I was thinking we could make those." That was like 4 months ago...steel trap memory, that one has. And actually, I'm thinking he might be telepathic, because I had some leftover peanut butter frosting in the fridge I wasn't totally sure what to do with...these cookies would be perfect.
So, we baked. And he is quite the baker. Ever so carefully measuring out all the ingredients, he spilled a little baking soda and apologized profusely. 
In addition to having impeccable manners, the kid is quite the story-teller. I heard all about Halloweens past, his spoiled friend with the half-pipe in the backyard, and rockets he made out of soda bottles.
The cookies turned out great, and he even got to master a new skill: piping frosting out of a bag.  As the cookies came out of the oven, my headache was gone and I was in much better spirits.  Thanks, baking buddy!

(adapted from Mrs. Fields Best Cookie Book Ever)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup quick oats
1 cup light brown sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and oats in a medium bowl.
In a separate bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.
Beat in vanilla and egg, then stir in dry ingredients until just combined.
Roll about 2 tsp of dough into a ball, then flatten and press onto a Silpat-lined baking sheet.
Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake at 350 for 8-12 minutes (closer to 8 for softer cookies, closer to 12 for crisper cookies).
Cool on a wire rack.

You could use any peanut butter frosting...or this (but you will likely have some left over)
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 tbsp half and half
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Beat all ingredients together in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth.

When cookies are cool, pipe or spread frosting on one and press another on top to make a sandwich.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Blondies

My friend Jessica turned 30 this weekend, and we drove up to Santa Cruz for the day to hang out on the beach and celebrate.  I wanted to bring some sort of dessert that would travel well, and unfortunately I don't have any boxes to put cakes in (a serious problem that needs to be remedied!)  I was browsing some blogs when I came across these at Smitten Kitchen. I immediately knew they were the perfect option, #1 because who doesn't like chocolate and peanut butter? and #2 I could decorate them and not worry about frosting sliding around or melting off or somehow getting ruined over the course of the 2 1/2 hour drive.

So I made them, unfortunately slightly over-baked them, and people still loved them.  That thick layer of chocolate ganache really made up for my inability to set a timer.  I used a little peanut butter frosting to decorate. 

(Adapted from Gourmet, October 2007, seen at Smitten Kitchen)

Makes 32 small blondies
For blondies
2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (9 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon salt, see note

For ganache
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (9 ounces)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Make blondies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with rack in middle. Butter a 13- by 9- by 2-inch baking pan.
Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until mixture is light and fluffy, then add peanut butter and beat until incorporated. Beat in whole eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla. Reduce mixer sped to low, then mix in flour until just combined.
Mix in chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) then spread batter in baking pan, smoothing top. (It will be thick, almost like cookie batter.)
Bake until blondies are deep golden, puffed on top and a wooden pick inserted in center come out with some crumbs adhering, 40 to 45 minutes.
Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 1 1/2 hours.

Make ganache: Put chocolate chips (1 1/2 cups) in a heatproof bowl.
Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour over chocolate chips and let mixture stand for one minute.
Gently whisk in butter until it is incorporated, chocolate is melted, and a smooth mixture forms.
Spread ganache on cooled brownies and let stand until set, about 15 minutes.

Hot Artichoke Dip

If you consider yourself a health-conscious eater, you may as well stop reading now.  While this dip might be a heart attack waiting to happen, it is so addictive and so good that it's totally worth it!  As long as you don't eat it every day, that is.
The jalapenos make it just spicy enough, and on a chilly fall afternoon, this is a perfect snack!  I got the recipe from my friend Jessica, who got it from a co-worker, and it is definitely staying in my personal collection!

2 15-oz cans artichoke hearts
1 small can diced jalapenos
1 cup mayonaise (yep, this is why it might be best not to eat this on a daily basis)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, divided

Drain and chop the artichoke hearts.
In a bowl, combine them with the jalapenos, mayonaise, and 1/4 cup of parmesan.
Mix well, and spread in an 8" square pan.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, or until bubbly.
Serve with crackers, chips, or small pieces of French bread.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Apple Hand Pies

We were having dinner with friends and I offered to make dessert...without thinking about what I was going to make.  Since we are right in the middle of apple season, apple pie seemed like a natural choice.  But I wanted something a little different...something I've never made before.  As I usually do when I need inspiration, I turned to Good Things Catered, and came across the hand pie recipe. Switching the strawberries out for apple pie filling, I had a perfect dessert!

(adapted from Good Things Catered)
makes 6 hand pies

1 1/4 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp lemon zest
1 sticks (1/2 c.) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 in pieces
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 Tbsp cold buttermilk (whole milk with a dash of fresh lemon juice can be subbed)
powdered sugar for dusting
1 egg, lightly beaten

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and lemon zest in a food processor, and pulse until combined.
Add the butter, and pulse until the butter is in pea-sized pieces.
Add 3 tbsp of buttermilk, and pulse until the dough comes together (about 30 seconds), adding the last tablespoon if needed.
Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape into a disk, and wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and diced (2 cups cubes)
3 tbsp sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 1/2 tsp minute tapioca
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Toss all ingredients together.

To prepare:  
Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Lightly dust a work surface with powdered sugar.  
Work with half the dough at a time.
Roll out to 1/8" thickness, and cut into a 5-6" circle.
Put 2-3 tbsp filling in the middle, fold the dough over and pinch closed.
Repeat with remaining dough.
Place hand pies on a Silpat- lined baking sheet, and brush with some of the beaten egg. 
Cut a slit in the top so the steam can escape.
Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown. 
Transfer to a wire rack to cool for a few minutes before eating.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Recipe Exchange: Black Bean Pumpkin Chili

I have to be completely honest.  I was reluctant to try this recipe. I wasn't sure about the combination of pumpkin and black beans, and I really didn't want to be disappointed.  But, following the rules of the recipe exchange, I made it, and it was delicious!  My one complaint is that it was a little too liquid for my taste, but my husband easily remedied that by mixing his with rice.  
I cheated a tiny bit - I left out the chicken broth and turkey in the original recipe  because we are not eating meat this week (big overdose last weekend in San Francisco - totally delicious, but we need some recovery time).  
I really couldn't taste the pumpkin, but the spicing was good and it was quite an enjoyable bowl of chili, topped with a nice dollop of sour cream.

(from Taste of Home)
1 med onion, chopped
1 med yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cans (15oz each) black beans, rinsed and drained 
1 can (15-oz)solid pack pumpkin
1 can (14.5 oz)diced tomatoes undrained
2 tbsp chopped parsley
2 tsp chili powder
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
(I added about 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper for a little spiciness)

In large skillet saute onion, pepper, and garlic in the olive oil until tender. Transfer to 5 qt slow cooker, stir in remaining ingredients.
Cover cook on low for 4-5 hrs or until heated through. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cappuccino Cheesecake Brownies

Cappuccino cheesecake swirled with an incredibly rich brownie studded with chocolate chips? How could you say no?  These are phenomenally good brownies.  I will be making them again and again.  My husband and I ate a LOT of them in an embarassingly short period of time...and I'm not even going to feel guilty about it!

(adapted from Bakingblonde's Weblog )
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2/3 cup unsifted flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350.
Line 8×8 pan with foil and spray with nonstick spray.
In bowl, stir together the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Add butter.
Sift Cocoa powder, flour, baking powder and salt. Stir into egg mixture.
Stir in chips.
Spread 2/3 of the brownie batter into the pan, then top with cheesecake layer:

Cheesecake layer:
7 oz cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp instant espresso powder
1 tsp pure Vanilla
1 egg

In bowl combine cream cheese, sugar, flour and vanilla beat until smooth. Add egg and beat just until combined.
Pour over the brownie batter, then put the remaining batter on top of the cheesecake layer and swirl together.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Bean Thread Salad

I found a huge package of bean threads for ridiculously cheap at a market in San Francisco, and knew there would be many of these salads in my future.  Tonight I found everything I needed to create this recipe already in my refrigerator, so this was easy to throw together.  It's a beautiful mix of colors and has the quintessential Thai flavors I love so much: fish sauce, lime, mint, cilantro, and peanuts.  YUM!

4 oz bean threads
1 small carrot
1 red bell pepper
a few handfuls of lettuce, cut into thin strips
1 tbsp thinly sliced green onions
1 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tsp chopped fresh mint
2 tbsp chopped peanuts
4 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp sugar

Drop the bean threads into boiling water for about 40 seconds, then drain and rinse with cold water.
Cut the bell pepper into thin strips and put into a serving bowl with the lettuce.
Using a vegetable peeler, create 2" long curls of carrot, and put these in the serving bowl as well.
Stir together the lime juice, fish sauce, and sugar.  
Put the bean threads in their own bowl and add about half the lime juice mixture.  Toss well.
Put the noodles on top of the vegetables and sprinkle the green onions, mint, cilantro, and peanuts over them.  Add a little more dressing and toss well.  Taste, and add the rest of the dressing if desired.  

NOTE: Bean threads look like thin white noodles.  Here is an example of what they look like:
photo from

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Halloween Sugar Cookies

Yes, Mike is doing situps with a pumpkin. He has decided this is how he is going to counteract all the Halloween baking I've been doing (that, and running 4 miles a day).  I think it's a pretty brilliant plan. most recent Halloween Baking?  Sugar Cookies! Decorated with Royal Icing!  My neighbor Brigitte and I had a lot of fun decorating these bats, pumpkins, and ghosts.  She's WAY more creative than I am...I absolutely love her pumpkin with the spider on it!

I didn't use my typical sugar cookie recipe for these.  I wanted to try the version in How to Be a Domestic Goddess instead.  I liked them, but they overbake really easily, so make sure you take them out of the oven before they have any brown on them at all!  Royal icing is great for decorating, because it hardens completely.  I like to pipe an outline around the shape, then thin it out and spread the thinned icing inside the outline so it looks smooth.

Sugar Cookies
(from How to Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson)
3/4 cup softened butter
3/4 cup suar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 2/3 cup flour, plus more if needed
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350
Cream the butter and sugar together until pale, then beat in eggs and vanilla.
In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter and eggs and mix gently.
If the dough seems too sticky to be rolled out, add a little more flour.
Divide the dough in half, flatten each half into a disk, and refrigerate for one hour.
Sprinkle you work surface with flour, then roll out dough to about 1/4" thick.
Cut with cookie cutters and place the cookies on lined baking sheets.
Bake for 8-12 minutes, then cool on a wire rack.

Royal icing
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tbsp meringue powder
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4-1/2 cup warm water
gel food coloring

Stir together the meringue powder and powdered sugar.
Add the water and vanilla extract and beat on medium to high speed until very glossy and stiff peaks form (5 to 7 minutes). 
If necessary, to get the right consistency, add more powdered sugar or water. 
Mix in gel coloring as desired
The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chicken Peanut Stew and Injera

I have wanted to make this recipe for awhile, and it definitely did not disappoint!  While the cookbook says to serve it over rice, I really wanted to make injera.  For those not familiar with Ethiopian food, Injera is a large, spongy flatbread used to scoop up stew.  

This injera recipe is quick and good, but the product is not identical to what you find in Ethiopian restaurants.  It uses buckwheat flour instead of teff, and isn't as sour.  However, it still works really well and is a nice stand-in for the real thing

Chicken Peanut Stew
(adapted from Discovery of a Continent by Marcus Samuelsson)
1 medium white onion, sliced
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 jalapenos
1 2" piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1 by leaf
a few pinches white pepper
2 cups water
6 boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup unsalted peanuts
1 tbsp olive oil
1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp salt
10 oz spinach, washed well and stems removed

Combine the onion, carrot, jalapenos, ginger, bay leaf, white pepper, and water in a medium pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the chicken thighs, and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes.  
Add the chicken and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
While the chicken is simmering, toast the peanuts in a small frying pan over medium heat until golden brown.  Let cool, then grind 1/2 cup of them in a blender to make a smooth paste.  Set aside.
Using tongs, remove the chicken from the cooking liquid and set aside.  
Transfer the vegetables into a food processor (remove the bay leaf) and puree until smooth.  Set the broth aside.
Heat the oil in a medium frying pan.  Add the potatoes and saute until they are golden brown (about 15 minutes).  Add the chicken pieces and brown them on all sides.  
Stir the vegetable puree into the broth and bring it to a boil.  Add the peanut paste and the remaining whole peanuts and stir to combine well.  Add the tomatoes, chicken, potatoes, and salt,  and simmer about 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings, then stir in the spinach until it is wilted.
Serve over rice or with Injera 


1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2-2 cups club soda

Combine flours and baking soda in a medium bowl.
Add club soda, and stir to form a thin batter.
Heat a large well-seasoned skillet until hot, then brush lightly with oil.
Using a ladle, pour a circle around the edge of the pan and tilt to cover the middle.
Cook for about 2 minutes, until the surface is covered with bubbles and no longer looks wet.  Do not flip - just slide off onto a plate and repeat with remaining batter.

And...just because this is an African dish... here are two of my favorite pictures from when I was in Uganda in 2007:

Crispy Yogurt Chicken

The rumors are true! Pioneer Woman's Crispy Yogurt Chicken is awesome.  Beyond awesome.  Someone, please help me find a new adjective.  My sixth graders so gently reminded me today that you have to vary the adjectives you use, and I overuse that one.
Anyway, about this chicken.  I loved it.  Mike loved it.  It was simple, it was really delicious, and it photographs surprisingly well, which is always a bonus.

I used plain bread crumbs instead of panko because I had them on hand.  I also skipped the butter on top (forgive me!) because it honestly seemed like overkill... and fortunately it was still plenty crispy without it.  Served with roasted broccoli and cheesy grits (you know, because I left the butter off the chicken), this was a nice hearty dinner.

(adapted from Pioneer Woman)
about 8 drumsticks
2 cups plain yogurt
3 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
juice of one lemon
about 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Spray a glass baking dish with nonstick spray.
Mix together the yogurt, garlic, and parsley.
Sprinkle the salt and pepper liberally over the drumsticks.
Dip each drumstick in the yogurt, then breadcrumbs, coating well.  
Place in the baking dish, cover with foil, and put in the oven.
After 45 minutes, remove the foil and continue baking for 15 to 20 minutes, until nice and golden brown.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tipsy Apricot Chocolate Cake

My husband is pretty much obsessed with Ireland and all things Irish. He has a collection of Irish cookbooks, and one of them is from an Irish pub in Florida. We've made some recipes from it before, and they all turned out well. The other night we were having some friends over for dinner and I wanted to make the Tipsy Apricot Chocolate Cake.  The premise of the recipe sounded great - chocolate cake with some whiskey, apricot jam, whipped cream, and whiskey-spiked chocolate frosting.  

However, here is the recipe for the chocolate cake:
2 eggs
2/3 cup self-rising flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
Sift dry ingredients together.  Beat eggs until thick, fold flour mixture into eggs, then stir in 2 tbsp water.  Pour into pan and bake.
Does anything look wrong with that? Oh I don't know, like the fact that there is NO sugar? NO butter or oil?  Yeah...My husband swore his sister made it and it worked, but...NO.
So I slightly modified a brilliant Nigella Lawson worked VERY nicely. 
Oh and I HATE whiskey in real life, but in this cake, I didn't even notice it (but my husband could taste it...he loves whiskey).  So don't be deterred if you aren't a whiskey-lover.

Chocolate Cake:
(adapted from this recipe)

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup best-quality cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup chilled water

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and line the bottom of an 8-inch cake pan.
In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, sugars, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In another bowl or wide-necked measuring cup whisk together the eggs, sour cream and vanilla until blended.
Using a standing or handheld electric mixer, beat together the oil and water.
Add the dry ingredients all at once and mix together on a slow speed.
Add the egg mixture, and mix again until everything is blended and then pour into the prepared pan.
Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes, or until a cake-tester comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, and then turn out on the rack to cool completely.

Finishing the Cake:
(adapted from the McGuire's Irish Pub Cookbook)
3 tbsp whiskey, divided
1/2 cup apricot jam
3/4 cup heavy cream (plus 1 tbsp)
2 tbsp powdered sugar
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 egg

When the cake is completely cool, use a serrated knife to cut it in half horizontally.
Place the bottom layer on a plate and sprinkle with 1 tbsp whiskey.
Spread the jam over the whiskey.
Whip 3/4 cup cream and sugar until soft peaks form.  Spread over the jam.
Place the other layer on top of the whipped cream.
Chill while you prepare the frosting.
Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler.  
Remove from heat and stir in 2 tbsp whiskey.
Transfer to a stand mixer and beat in the egg, 1 tbsp cream, and the butter.
Spread evenly over the top and sides of cake (I just put a thick layer on the top because I like the rustic look. And I was in a hurry.)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Soft Pretzels

These have been on my to-make list for awhile, but it wasn't until I was standing in my kitchen, thinking about making some bread, that I realized I had all the ingredients and plenty of time to make pretzels.  I'm so happy I did, because these were HIGHLY addictive.  Like, so addictive I probably won't make them again for a few months because they were gone way too fast.

They are best right out of the oven (with plenty of mustard, of course), but as my husband discovered, cold ones are easy to reheat in the toaster.

(adapted from Home Baking by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid)
1 cup milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm
1 envelope active dry yeast
1 tbsp honey
1 cup bread flour
1 1/4 to 2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup baking soda
1 egg yolk
2 tsp milk
kosher salt

Place the scalded milk in the bowl of a stand mixer, and stir the yeast in until dissolved.
Add the honey and one bread flour, and stir until smooth.
Sprinkle on the salt, add the butter, and stir well to incorporate.  
Add 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour, and mix with the dough hook for about 5 minutes, until dough is smooth.  Add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky.
Transfer to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1/5 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450 F.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and cut into 8 equal pieces.
Roll each piece out into a long skinny rope, 24-30" long.  Pick up the ends, twist, and press into a typical pretzel shape.  

Let the pretzels rise for about 10 minutes under a clean kitchen towel while you boil 1 cup of water with the baking soda in a small saucepan (make sure one pretzel at a time will fit in the pan!)
Mix together the egg yolk and milk.
Carefully lift a pretzel with a spatula and place in the boiling water.  After 20 seconds, remove and shake off the water.  Place on a Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining pretzels.
Brush the egg yolk-milk mixture over the pretzels, then sprinkle with kosher salt.
Bake for about 12 minutes, or until deeply golden brown, then cool on a wire rack.

Simple Marinara

With a half marathon in the morning, I needed my usual pre-race dinner: spaghetti. I've been eating spaghetti the night before a race (from 5K to Half-Ironman) for over 10 years, and I see no reason to change it up now. I know it won't upset my stomach, I know it will give me some carbs to fuel my muscles during the race, and just having that routine gets me into race mode easily. I'm not a front-of the pack runner or anything, but I always try and get a PR, so the more I can do to set myself up for that, the better.

My usual protocol for making pasta sauce includes dumping a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes and random odds and ends into a sauce pan, heating it for about 10 minutes, then pouring it over pasta. It always turned out good enough - why bother with a recipe? However, when I saw That Girl's recipe I decided to give it a go. I just made a few changes - using fresh basil because I happened to have some on hand, adding about 1/2 tsp of sugar to balance the acidity of the tomatoes, and tripling the garlic because we can't get enough around here. It was really good, and definitely got me in the mood to go out and run 13.1 miles!

(adapted from Paved With Good Intentions)
1 small onion, chopped
3 clove garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
1/4 cup white wine
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp salt

Heat oil in saucepan over medium high heat. Add garlic and onion and cook until onion is lightly browned.
Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook 30-45 minutes.
Remove cover and cook 15 more minutes.
Serve over spaghetti with a dusting of Parmesan cheese

Cumin-roasted Pumpkin Seeds

The absolute best part about carving pumpkins is saving all the seeds and roasting them! I got the basics of how to do this on Simply Recipes, and added some cumin to spice them up a little.
They are salty, crunchy, and extremely addictive! I loved the flavor the cumin added, but you could always try a different spice or just go with salt alone!

2 cups pumpkin seeds
4 cups water
2 tsp salt, plus extra for roasting
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp ground cumin

Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Remove all the stringy pulp from the seeds.
Place the water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.
Turn the heat down to medium-low, add the pumpkin seeds, and simmer 10 minutes.
Pour the olive oil into a metal sheet pan.
Drain the pumpkin seeds, and add to the oil. Using a spatula or just by shaking the pan, mix the seeds so they are evenly coated.
Sprinkle with salt and cumin, mix once again, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until seeds are golden brown.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

We had some friends over to carve pumpkins, and of course I just had to make some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies for the occasion.  The problem was, I didn't have a recipe.  I checked out Annie's blog, because she always has such fantastic recipes. I found this one, took out the raisins and nuts and replaced them with chocolate chips, opted not to do the glaze (because I didn't have the time and it just seemed like overkill with chocolate), and changed up some of the spices. 

The verdict:
"So soft and fluffy!" says Meghan. "This cookie makes me wish pumpkin could be used year-round." (I think it should be!)
"Mmmmmmmm" says Brigitte.
Simon says "this is delicious."
Ian declares "I love these cookies!"
"They're damn good!" says Dana. "They taste like pumpkin!"
And my husband is speechless.

So there you go... pumpkin carvers agree - you gotta have these cookies!
And for the record I will make the original recipe from Annie's blog soon because it looks amazing!
(adapted from Annie's Eats, originally from Williams Sonoma)

2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 sticks butter (3/4 cup), softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Stir together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg with a fork. Set aside.
In a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium-high speed for about 1 minute.
Add the sugars and mix on medium until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the egg, vanilla, and pumpkin and mix until incorporated.
Stir in the flour mixture, and mix on low until the flour disappears.
Add the chocolate chips, mixing on low until they are evenly distributed.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a Silpat lined baking sheet, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until set.
Cool on a wire rack.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Risotto with Lemon and Scallions

I think I have found my new favorite risotto recipe!  The flavors are so bright and fresh and it is deliciously creamy, like any good risotto should be.  When the days are short and the weather is cold I'm definitely coming back to this recipe.  I think it would be DIVINE served aside some grilled salmon, but I just served it with a green salad.  Either way, it's quite tasty.

(adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison)

4 bunches scallions (yes, 4 - just the white part and an inch or two of green)
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
5-6 cups broth or stock (I used chicken, the original recipe called for vegetable)
1/3 cup finely diced shallot
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup chopped parsley
8 basil leaves
zest of one lemon
1/3 cup grated Parmesan

Slice the scallions thinly. Cook them in 1 tsp of olive oil until soft, about 3 or 4 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Put the stock in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Keep it simmering as you use it.
Chiffonade the basil leaves and set aside.
Put the remaining tablespoon of oil in a wide pan.  Add the shallot and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add the rice, stir to coat the grains, and cook for 1 minute.
Add the wine and simmer until it's absorbed.
Add 2 cups stock, cover, and cook until absorbed.
Remove the cover, and add the stock 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, and waiting until the liquid is absorbed before the next addition.
When the rice is almost finished cooking, add salt and pepper to taste, stir in the scallions, and cook for one more minute.
Remove from the heat, stir in the basil, parsley, and lemon zest, and sprinkle with parmesan before serving.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Thai Red Curry with Shrimp and Kabocha Squash

Squash is such a perfect Fall food.  I LOVE butternut and acorn squash, and figured if I like those, I should branch out and explore other squash varieties.  I've been seeing some recipes with kabocha squash floating around various blogs for awhile, but decided to turn to a great cookbook for my first experience with it.  

Kabocha pairs amazingly well with Thai red curry, and the shrimp complements the two really nicely.  In all honesty, I thought the peas were kind of a weird inclusion in the recipe.  If you like them, use them, but I think I'm going to leave them out next time.

(adapted from Asian Vegetables by Sara Deseran)

1 small kabocha squash (about 2 pounds)
1 14 oz can light coconut milk
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste 
2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 cup chicken broth
2 lemongrass stalks, bottom 8" only, cut into 2" lengths
8 oz flat rice noodles 
1/2 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 cup frozen peas (or not...)
4 roma tomatoes, quartered lengthwise

Cut the squash in quarters using a sturdy knife or cleaver.  Scoop out the seeds and cut off the peel.  Cut into 1" cubes

Heat the coconut milk and curry paste in a large saucepan over medium-high, stirring well for about 3 minutes.

Turn the heat to low.  Add the sugar, fish sauce, chicken broth, lemongrass, and squash. Stir well, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork.

While that is cooking, prepare the noodles according to package directions.

When the squash is tender, stir in the noodles, shrimp, peas, and tomatoes and cook for a few minutes, until heated through.

Monday, October 6, 2008

White Bean-Chicken Chili with Tomatillos

Our pantry is FULL.  We went on a few too many shopping trips to ethnic grocery stores so I am now fully stocked on a TON of spices, all kinds of dried grains and legumes, and noodles from several different international cuisines.  My challenge for this week is to use up as much of that stuff as possible to make room for fun new finds.  One of the ingredients I had to choose from was a partially-full bag of dried white beans.  With those in mind, I perused the rest of the kitchen to see what I could come up with.

I also happened to have a produce drawer full of tomatillos and and jalapenos, and two chicken breasts in the freezer.  I had seen a few recipes for white bean chili over the past couple days, and decided to try coming up with my own version.  I defrosted the chicken, and cooked up some white beans (but canned would work fine too).  It's a pretty healthy recipe, as long as you stay away from excessive amounts of cheese or sour cream as garnish!

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 medium tomatillos, husks removed, rinsed, and chopped
3 jalapenos, stems removed and chopped
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
3 cups cooked white beans, drained
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup frozen corn

In a dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. 
Add the onion and garlic, and cook for several minutes, until the onions are soft.
Stir in the jalapenos and tomatillos and cook, stirring, for a minute or two.
Add the cubed chicken, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, and cumin and stir well.
Stir in the broth and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. (The chicken should no longer be pink on the outside).
Stir in the beans and tomato paste, turn the heat down slightly, and simmer partially covered for about 20 minutes.  
Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
Just before serving, stir in the frozen corn and let it heat through.
Serve with sour cream or a sprinkling of grated cheese.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Sweet 100!

A few weeks ago, I posted the omnivore's 100. Well, today when browsing, I found the Sweet 100! Just like the other 100 list, you just bold what you've eaten.

What's your score?
  1. Red Velvet Cake
  2. Princess Torte
  3. Whoopie Pie
  4. Apple Pie either topped or baked with sharp cheddar
  5. Beignet
  6. Baklava
  7. Black and white cookie
  8. Seven Layer Bar (also known as the Magic Bar or Hello Dolly bars)
  9. Fried Fruit pie (sometimes called hand pies)
  10. Kringle
  11. Just-fried (still hot) doughnut
  12. Scone with clotted cream
  13. Betty, Grunt, Slump, Buckle or Pandowdy
  14. Halvah
  15. Macarons
  16. Banana pudding with nilla wafers
  17. Bubble tea (with tapioca "pearls")
  18. Dixie Cup
  19. Rice Krispie treats
  20. Alfajores
  21. Blondies
  22. Croquembouche
  23. Girl Scout cookies
  24. Moon cake
  25. Candy Apple
  26. Baked Alaska
  27. Brooklyn Egg Cream
  28. Nanaimo bar
  29. Baba au rhum
  30. King Cake
  31. Sachertorte
  32. Pavlova
  33. Tres Leches Cake 
  34. Trifle
  35. Shoofly Pie
  36. Key Lime Pie (made with real key lime)
  37. Panna Cotta
  38. New York Cheesecake
  39. Napoleon / mille-fueille
  40. Russian Tea Cake / Mexican Wedding Cake
  41. Anzac biscuits
  42. Pizzelle
  43. Kolache
  44. Buckeyes
  45. Malasadas
  46. Moon Pie
  47. Dutch baby
  48. Boston Cream Pie
  49. Homemade chocolate chip cookies
  50. Pralines
  51. Gooey butter cake
  52. Rusks
  53. Daifuku
  54. Green tea cake or cookies
  55. Cupcakes from a cupcake shop
  56. Crème brûlée
  57. Some sort of deep fried fair food (twinkie, candy bar, cupcake)
  58. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting
  59. Jelly Roll
  60. Pop Tarts
  61. Charlotte Russe
  62. An "upside down" dessert (Pineapple upside down cake or Tarte Tatin)
  63. Hummingbird Cake
  64. Jell-O from a mold
  65. Black forest cake
  66. Mock Apple Pie (Ritz Cracker Pie)
  67. Kulfi
  68. Linzer torte
  69. Churro
  70. Stollen
  71. Angel Food Cake
  72. Mincemeat pie
  73. Concha
  74. Opera Cake
  75. Sfogliatelle / Lobster tail
  76. Pain au chocolat
  77. A piece of Gingerbread House
  78. Cassata
  79. Cannoli
  80. Rainbow cookies
  81. Religieuse
  82. Petits fours
  83. Chocolate Souffle
  84. Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)
  85. Rugelach
  86. Hamenstashen
  87. Homemade marshmallows
  88. Rigo Janci
  89. Pie or cake made with candy bar flavors (Snickers pie, Reeses pie, etc)
  90. Divinity
  91. Coke or Cola cake
  92. Gateau Basque
  93. S'mores
  94. Figgy Pudding
  95. Bananas foster or other flaming dessert
  96. Joe Froggers
  97. Sables
  98. Millionaire's Shortbread
  99. Animal crackers
  100. Basbousa
64/100 - I need to get going on eating some dessert!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Apple Spice Bars with Caramel Glaze

I just discovered tonight there is an apple tree in the yard.  It was a very fortunate discovery, because about halfway through the recipe, I realized it called for an apple, which I didn't have.  But the tree, it turns out, has REALLY good apples.  They are small, but perfectly sweet, tart, and crisp all at the same time.

I only meant to eat one of these for dessert but I ended up eating...a lot more than that.  If you are looking for a great Fall recipe, but want a break from pumpkin, this is the recipe for you!

(from Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan)
Bars - 
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp dark rum
1 baking apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1/2 cup raisins

Glaze - 
2 1/2 tbsp heavy cream
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 tbsp butter
1 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Place parchment paper in the bottom of a 13 x 9 pan, then butter the parchment and pan.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low.
Add the brown sugar and whisk until well blended.
Remove from heat and whisk in the eggs, one at a time.
Then, whisk in the applesauce, vanilla, and rum, mixing until smooth.
Fold in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula, then gently stir in the apple and raisins.
Pour into the pan, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Put the pan on a wire rack and make the glaze.
In a small saucepan, whisk togeter the cream, sugar, butter, and corn syrup.
Put over medium heat and boil for about five minutes, whisking constantly.
Remove from heat, add vanilla, and stir well.
Turn the bars out onto a rack, remove the paper, and invert onto another rack so they are right side up.
Put the parchment under the rack to catch drips, and spread the glaze evenly over the bars.

Penne with Bell Peppers, Capers, and Anchovies

I had no idea how many farms around here grew bell peppers until I noticed them EVERYWHERE on my long bike ride last Saturday.  Seeing all those red peppers at their peak (and still on the plant!) gave me a strong urge to cook with them.  This recipe is great for this time of year - comforting but not too rich, and since I adore capers, I loved it!  Don't let the inclusion of anchovies deter you - they just add another layer of flavor but you don't really taste them.

(adapted from The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy by Domenica Marchetti)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small red onion, finely chopped
3 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin (1/4-inch) slices
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin (1/4-inch) slices
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste
4 imported Italian anchovy fillets in olive oil, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
13.25 oz whole wheat penne
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)


In a large skillet on medium heat, add the oil and garlic. 
Stir in the onion and cook for 5 minutes, until the onion is shiny and softened. 
Add the sliced peppers and cook, stirring frequently, over medium to medium-high heat for 10 minutes. 
Add the paprika and salt. 
Cover the pan and reduce heat to medium-low, simmering gently for about 15 minutes or until the peppers are tender but not mushy. 
Uncover and stir occasionally to prevent the peppers from sticking to the pan. 
Add the anchovies and capers, stirring to combine well. 
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the vinegar. 
Cook for another minute or two, then remove from the heat and add the parsley. 
Reheat on low when the pasta is almost cooked.

Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium-high heat, bring salted water to a boil. 
Add the penne and cook according to package directions, taking care not to overcook it. 
Drain the pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water, and return the pasta to the pot.

Spoon about three-quarters of the sauce into the pasta and toss well to combine. 
Add a tablespoon or two of cooking water, if necessary, to loosen the sauce. 
Divide the pasta among four shallow bowls and spoon a little of the remaining sauce over each portion. 
Sprinkle with cheese, if desired. 
Serve hot.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Indian-Spiced Roasted Potatoes

I bought some mustard oil a few months ago when I started doing lots of Indian cooking, but somehow I never got around to using it.  My husband found this recipe and we both LOVED it.
This is a great side dish to serve with Indian food, when you want a change from rice.  I made them really spicy with lots of cayenne but you could definitely leave it out entirely if you wish.

(adapted from Vegetarian Resource Center)

1 lb small red potatoes, quartered
2 tbsp mustard oil (or vegetable oil)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoons ground asafoetida
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons amchur (ground dried mango)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Lime wedges and fresh mint to garnish

Preheat oven to 400 F
Heat mustard oil in a skillet over high heat then add cumin seeds and ground asafoetida (there will be splatters!)
Add potatoes and cook stirring for about 2 minutes, or until they change color and begin to look opaque but not translucent.
Lower heat and add the rest of the spices stirring well until blended together.
Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until potatoes are brown and tender.
Great served with cucumber-mint raita!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Roasted Broccoli

  Roasting must be the best thing that ever happened to vegetables.  It transforms even frequently despised vegetables into tender morsels replete with flavor far beyond what they ever had when they were raw.
  I didn't know broccoli could be so good (and I even enjoy raw broccoli).  I just tossed it with some grapeseed oil (olive oil would be great too), salt, and pepper, and sprinkled it with lemon juice as soon as it came out of the oven.  And, as you can see in the picture, it makes a nice accompaniment to macaroni and cheese.

(adapted from Eating Well)

4 cups broccoli florets
2 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Juice of half a lemon

Preheat oven to 450°F.
Toss broccoli with oil, salt and pepper.
Place on a large baking sheet (not air-insulated) and roast until the broccoli is tender and blackened on the bottom, 10 to 12 minutes.
Sprinkle with lemon juice and serve immediately