Wednesday, January 30, 2008

King Arthur Flour: Brown Sugar - Cinnamon Biscotti

Introducing a recipe worth trying from King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion: Brown Sugar Cinnamon Biscotti.

You'll need cinnamon baking chips. Ever heard of 'em? As you can see, Hershey's makes them. King Arthur Flour also sells them online. The only grocery store that I've seen carrying the cinnamon chips is Albertsons. If your market doesn't carry them but does carry other Hershey's chips, you might consider asking the management if they'll order them. Often times they're willing to accommodate customers. These chips are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G in baked goods. They're worth searching for.

Here's the how-to:

Beat up the butter with sugar, vanilla, salt and baking powder until smooth and creamy. Then beat in the eggs.

Mix in the flour, cinnamon and chips. The dough will be pretty darn sticky. Carefully dump it onto a parchment- lined baking sheet and shape it into a 14x2-inch log (it helps if you wet your hands a little bit.) I studded a few extra cinnamon chips in the top of the log (so that the finished biscotti would yield a few that would be visible on top). Stick that log in the oven for the 1st bake.

Here's the baked log. Don't worry about the cracks- they're supposed to be there.

Here's the strange part. King Arthur asks you to spray the baked log with a fine mist of water. The reasoning behind this is that it will make the slicing much easier (without crumbling). They were right. It sliced up easily enough with a serrated bread knife. It won't be the end of the world if you don't have the equipment available to spray the biscotti with water. Just be really, really careful when cutting the log or you might end up with a crumbly mess.

But wait... they're not finished!! You bake them again!

And here's the finished product! A nice and crispy cookie. I liked these a lot because A... they were not *hard as a rock* biscotti. If you prefer them that way, you might consider baking them an extra 5 or 10 minutes. And B... the whole family LOOOOOVED the cinnamon chips hidden inside! My husband noted that the house smelled like cinnamon toast, and my son just said the kitchen smelled "yummy." Good enough for me.

They make good coffee dunkers too :)

This recipe can be found HERE.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hoisin and Honey Glazed Pork Chops + Vegetable Stir Fry

Is there anyone else out there who is "pork chop challenged?" Every time I make pork chops, I just can't seem to get them right. I can cook tenderloin no problemo, but the chops... most often are overcooked and dry.

Here's my most recent attempt at making some good pork chops for the fam...

These are Hoisin and Honey Glazed Pork Chops- modified from Gourmet.

The recipe serves 4. I halved the recipe for my small family. Super simple. Just throw all of the marinade ingredients in a freezer ziploc with the chops and let it sit for a couple of hours in the refrigerator.
When you're ready to bake, dump the chops, marinade and all, into a shallow roasting pan. I used a pyrex.

While the pork chops are baking, go ahead and make the Vegetable Stir Fry. (If you're making rice, it's time to start the rice too).

I found the most interesting little lobster-shaped piece of ginger that I just had to take a picture of! Isn't it cute? Hmmm... too bad it's not the real stuff.

So here's the rest of what you'll need for the Vegetable Stir Fry.

The ingreds. are added in three stages, so I chopped and measured into three separate bowls.

Then you saute the first batch for a coupla minutes.

Pour in the next batch and push it around until the veggies soften a bit.
Pour in the sauce mixture and saute until thickened.

Veggies done. Rice done. Pork chops done!

Dinner's ready. How did it all turn out?

I'd love to say it was all perfect but, true to my self described "pork-chop challenged" label, I baked the chops a tad too long. I used an oven thermometer and took it out at the pork -safe temperature of 160 degrees. I should have taken it out at 150 or 155 and let it rest until it rose a little higher. The marinade was very good. Sigh. I'll try them again. You should try them too as you're likely a better pork chop chef than I am!! On a rather cheery note, the veggie stir fry was incredible. We loved the sauce and the added cashews, and it went very well with the chops.
Ah well... I'll get pork chops right one of these days.

The pork chop recipe can be found HERE.
The stir fry recipe can be found HERE.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Superbowl Party Recipes

Again! I just posted about a few Super Bowl recipe ideas last weeek but we went to a playoff game party for the Chargers- Patriots game last weekend, and there are a few recipes worth sharing from that. And I know that there are people out there who are still undecided on their Superbowl Party menu!

I made a new recipe: Best Wurst Chicken Caliente Sandwiches.

These are basically bratwurst, chicken, & peppers sauteed in a sweet sauce and topped with cheese. At some point in time I happened upon this recipe from the Heinz website. It was a winner in one of their big contests. Despite the bad recipe title, this was good stuff.

One party-goer brought two appetizers that were amazing. The first was a Mexican Cheesecake Dip. I have my own recipe for a cheesecake dip so I expected it to be the same. It wasn't. Served at room temperature, the texture of the Mexican Cheesecake Dip was lighter and completely addicting. None of us could stop eating it with those Fritos scooping dip chips.

This is the Southwestern Cheesecake Dip that I usually make (served cold). It's very good. It feeds a ton of people. This dip is more cheesecake-like in terms of texture and it's best served with thicker chips or crackers.

The other recipe that we chowed down on was Blueberry Salsa. I realize that to some people this might sound a little strange. It's not. It was a nice variation from regular salsa (especially since we had salsa on the Mexican cheesecake) and it was a refreshing, light flavor to have amidst the other heavy menu items. It's a fruity salsa with a bit of a kick from jalapenos. It works. This time of year, Costco usually has tubs of blueberries at a pretty good price. Or, save this recipe to have at a summer barbecue!

For dessert, I went with the theme of the game and made a Boston Banana Cream Pie (to represent New England, of course).

This was my first venture into a Boston Cream Pie (though it's really a cake). It was certainly pretty. It was delicious too. The recipe I followed made a homemade cake, but you could easily sub a yellow cake mix if you like that sort of thing. For the big game: New England vs. New York, it might be fun to have Boston Cream Pie and New York Cheesecake for your Superbowl Party desserts.

Have fun planning your menus!

Friday, January 25, 2008

French Lentil and Roasted Beet Salad

The task at hand: to turn these glorious, fresh golden beets into a beautiful salad...

I've always had a tough time locating golden beets. It seems as if they are nowhere to be found unless you're at a well-stocked Farmer's Market. So when I was contemplating vegetables to have with dinner at Whole Foods the other day, my eyes locked onto these impossible-to-find gems. I wasn't sure what I'd do with them, but I decided to tuck them safely into my shopping cart and bring them home with me. Thank God for Whole Foods Market.

I found what I thought would be a winner of a recipe in the Food Network Kitchen's Cookbook: French Lentil and Roasted Beet Salad. One problem. No French de Puy lentils in my pantry. Back to Whole Foods I went. No French lentils there either. What was that I said about thanking God for Whole Foods Market? In order to get this salad on the table for dinner, I had to give up on my obsession to have the de Puys and settle for the everyday variety. I hate having to settle. Regardless of having to use the lesser lentil, this salad was exceptional.

The beets were washed, most of the greens removed, drizzled with olive oil and wrapped tightly in foil to roast for an hour in the oven.

The lentils were washed and then given time to simmer with spices for 25 minutes or so.

During the simmer time, the sherry dressing was prepared. Part of the dressing was mixed with the cooked and drained lentils, and some was saved for tossing with the salad greens.

The skins slid right off of the roasted beets. I diced them up and added them to the lentils along with chopped parsley. (I saved a few to sprinkle on top of the salad for additional color.

Assembly... Tossed the greens with a little of the dressing... layered greens, then lentils, then a sprinkle of goat cheese.

Ta da! A phenomenal salad. Worth making if you've got French lentils lying around... or even if you don't.

This recipe can be found HERE.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Slow Roasted Plum Tomatoes

For one of those days when you haven't got anything better to do...

I discovered this recipe for Slow Roasted Plum Tomatoes while browsing through my Legal Seafoods Cookbook. They have great seafood recipes too, but this was the one that jumped out at me.

I love tomatoes. I usually buy the vine-ripened kind or the large beefsteak tomatoes that are delicious with just salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Almost never will I purchase the Roma variety- just not as much flavor there. This recipe uses Roma (plum) tomatoes, and my pathetic local market carried some beautiful red, unblemished ones in the middle of January!

Slice the tomatoes in half and place them in a non-reactive pan (like a pyrex).

Drizzle a little olive oil and sprinkle with dried thyme.

Scatter peeled garlic cloves.

Spoon balsamic vinegar onto the tomatoes.

Bake at a low heat... for a long time. The end result... an enjoyable side dish to fish (or meat). We had these with the calamari that I blogged about yesterday. Was the all-day cooking venture worth it? Yes. It actually was a very easy dish to prepare. You just need to be home to eyeball it, and be patient. Enjoy!

This recipe can be found HERE.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

How Do You Cook Calamari? In This Delicious Way...

Most likely you've ordered calamari (fried) with cocktail sauce for dipping at one happy hour or another... or at least a calamari sandwich (also fried) on some sort of beach vacation. But have you ever picked up a few calamari steaks and created a culinary masterpiece of your own? In the beginning of my foodie transformation phase -back in college, I used to buy calamari steaks, bread them, lightly saute, and enjoy them with a squeeze of lemon (amidst the repulsed stares of my roommates.) I've always loved calamari (thanks Dad!) Here's the adult me... trying out a calamari recipe on the family.

I've had this recipe lying around for quite a while now: Lemon Caper Calamari Steaks with Broccolini (originally from Gourmet). These are very much like a piccata minus-the-wine. (Well, the wine was- of course- on the table, but not in the dish!) I picked up the calamari steaks as well as the broccolini at my local Whole Foods. Both looked beautiful and fresh.

Here are the easy steps involved in cooking up some good calamari (at home):

Cut up the broccolini and measure out the garlic and red pepper. Saute the garlic/pepper in a little bit of oil.

Saute broccolini in the garlic-pepper oil, add water & salt, cover and cook until crisp tender.

While the broccolini is cooking away, measure out flour, Parmesan & pepper and egg into two wide shallow bowls.
Remove the broccolini to a dish covered with foil to keep warm. Dip the calamari steaks in the flour mixture first, and then in the egg. Place into the heated pan.

Saute on both sides for a total of just a couple of minutes, until golden. Remove the cooked calamari steaks to a platter. Give the pan a quick wipe with a paper towel, and heat butter with lemon juice and capers.

Pour the lemon-caper sauce over the calamari steaks; serve immediately with the broccolini. I halved this recipe, and just made two large calamari steaks. I wished I'd made the full 4 servings for leftovers!!

We absolutely devoured this dish. I feel seriously proud that my little foodie 6 year old said that he "l00000000000ved it!" Little did he know that he was eating squid!

We'll definitely be making calamari again. And it was a nice change from the deep fried yuck that you get at Happy Hour. Ok, I admit that the happy hour version is usually pretty darn good, greasy, heart-attack-on-a-plate fare, but this one was delicious and probably a little bit on the healthier side. And you don't even have to eat the *tentacles*... the steaks don't include them. Enjoy!

This recipe can be found HERE.