Thursday, February 28, 2008

Quick Chicken Corn Chowder

1. Rainy, wet day.
2. Hungry family.
3. Wanted something hot and comforting.
4. Didn't feel much like cooking.

This soup was the perfect choice: A super quick (on the table in less than 30 minutes) Cooking Light recipe for Chicken Corn Chowder. And as an added bonus... it was low fat too!

This recipe takes some liberties that might make a few "foodies" cringe... frozen corn... and even (yikes) a can of cream style corn. Are you still with me?? I don't cook with a lot of shortcuts very often, but canned and frozen corn don't frighten me, so this one sat ok with me. My local grocery store (Albertson's) even carries great fresh roasted chicken breast (not the whole chicken, but just a big hunk of white meat), and I used that for this soup. Even easier! Am I redeemed by the fact that I did use freshly chopped thyme?

The fresh thyme in the soup matched nicely with my freshly baked Salted Thyme Flatbread. Can you tell I like thyme? It grows like weeds in our backyard year-round and I'm enamored with the flavor. I chop it up and throw it in everything!

The verdict: This simple soup was actually rated as "restaurant quality" by my family. It serves 6, but it was gone with only three of us. The kiddo liked his with a sprinkle of shredded cheese in it. He picked the fresh thyme off of his bread (rolling eyes here) and dunked away.

I recommend it as a great family soup recipe, especially for a rainy day!

This recipe can be found HERE.
(nutritional information included)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Salted Thyme Flatbread

We had some chilly, rainy, snuggle-inside-and-light-a-fire weather this past weekend. Perfect for soup and homemade bread. My choice for the bread was a Salted Thyme Flatbread.

Another simple recipe... I threw all the ingredients into my KA mixer with the dough hook and let it do the kneading work for me. As with many bread recipes, the time is spent rising, but not so much in the prep. The kneaded dough rises for an hour, then it's punched down, rolled out and then it rises for another 20 minutes before baking.

I really love a good flatbread with all of its nooks and its wavy nature. This one is super basic... just a brush of olive oil, a generous sprinkle of kosher salt and topped off with fresh thyme. Sometimes basic is best. In this case, it was- and a great accompaniment to soup. I didn't care for the bread the following day because the salt seemed to seep into the bread, losing it's crunchy appeal and visual interest. So be sure to eat this one all up on the day you bake it!

I used a pizza cutter to slice it all up into neat little rectangles, but the animal in you might wish to tear it apart into more unconventional configurations. In fact... that sounds a little more fun now, doesn't it?

Next post will be the soup recipe that I chose to partner with this bread!

This recipe can be found HERE.
The recipe also includes directions for making this by hand as well as using a bread machine.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Chocolate Mascarpone Brownies

If there's such a thing as "brownie heaven," that's where I am. Heavenly.... That's what these are...

A rich, fudge-like brownie (no cakey stuff here) - the better quality chocolate that you choose to splurge on, the more amazing your brownies will be. If you're lucky enough to have a Trader Joe's in your area, they carry pretty decent chocolate bars as well as affordable mascarpone cheese. The mascarpone gives it a nice silky texture, and it's topped off with a thick layer of ganache. Heavenly, for sure.

And they're completely deserving of an ice cold glass of milk.

These Chocolate Mascarpone Brownies have risen to the top of my favorite-brownies-list. It's now up there just ahead of Cappuccino Brownies and competing for first place with Oreo Chunk Brownies.

Hope you'll take the time to enjoy them too!

This recipe can be found HERE.

Additional brownie recipes can be found HERE.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Goat Cheese Ravioli with Winter Pesto Sauce

Ahhhh, alone time as a couple. Enjoy the quiet. Watch something on TV that isn't related to superheroes. Savour the time together. Prepare a romantic dinner for two!

When my son was safely tucked away at his grandparents house earlier this week, it gave my husband and I the opportunity to spend two "kid-free" nights to ourselves. Everyone needs a break, and this was our shot at relishing this occasional experience. Of course this special time together called for a special dinner, but locating romantic recipes for two can be hard to come by. In my frantic effort to constantly organize my recipes, I remembered an old article I had come across in an 80's Bon Appetit about this very topic.

The choice: Goat Cheese Ravioli with Winter Pesto Sauce... served with the Arugula Salad that I posted about yesterday, crusty rustic bread, and a bottle or so of Pinot Noir.

I'd love to brag that I spent hours rolling out homemade pasta dough, but my KA pasta attachment still continues to collect dust in the pantry. One of these days I'll get around to testing it out. But not on a day when my time was so incredibly valuable! I went the won-ton-wrapper route. If you've never made ravioli, it's actually pretty easy to do... just a little time consuming. I made ravioli for 20 recently for a gourmet club dinner party and I literally spent hours making each little ravioli. For two, however, it was a manageable task.

1. The won ton wrappers are laid out and the ravioli filling plopped on top.
2. Rub edges of wrappers with beaten egg white (I used water in my last ravioli-making event and found that they fell apart more easily)- the egg white worked better.
3. Place second wrapper on top (or you can simply fold the wrapper in half to make a triangular ravioli.)
4. If you're using wrapper on top of wrapper, cut with a biscuit cutter (or ravioli cutter, should you have such a gadget.)
5. Rub a quick coat of egg white around the edges to assure sealing.
6. Place ravioli on a floured cookie sheet, cover tightly and refrigerate until you're ready to boil them.

Not too bad, huh? Kind of fun too. And it's all worth it when your romantic interest looks at you lovingly and says, "You made these?"

Deplete of basil, the pesto sauce instead includes fresh oregano, thyme, rosemary, onion, garlic and a splash of cream. It was a wonderful romantic dinner for two (oh, and we loved the ravioli!)
This recipe can be found HERE.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Recipes Using Arugula

"Arugula. It's a Ve- ge - ta- ble" - it's a famous quote from Steve Martin in the movie My Blue Heaven - when his Italian character is having difficulty locating the vegetable in a small town grocery store. I only know this because dear hubby is a "movie line guy" - one of those fascinating people who can quote more lines from movies than the average movie buff. In any case, every time I prepare a recipe that includes this leafy vegetable, I inevitably hear the movie line. Sigh.

From the mustard family, arugula has relations to radishes and watercress, and the flavor of the leaves is similarly hot and peppery. Larger, tougher leaves are more appropriate for sauteing and cooking into dishes, and the smaller, younger leaves have a milder taste and are great in salads.

Here's what we had last night...

A really s-i-m-p-l-e salad.... Arugula Salad with Olives, Pancetta and Parmesan Shavings. I doubted this 6 ingredient salad. The dressing was made up of only lemon juice and olive oil. Well... that's all it needed. This was FANTASTIC. My husband enthusiastically declared this salad as "Restaurant Quality!" This is his highest level of praise for my cooking.

We've successfully used arugula in other dishes...

And chicken... Gruyere, Arugula and Prosciutto Stuffed Chicken Breasts

And sandwiches.... Chicken and Arugula Sandwiches

I've heard that arugula is also fantastic in pasta dishes. Haven't tried it that way yet but I imagine I'll get around to that sooner or later.

Printable recipes can be found by clicking on the titles of the recipes above.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Dorie Greenspan's Cream Scones

Since I made that unbelievable Meyer Lemon Curd, I was in need of coming up with a baked treat in which to utilize it. Browsing my baking cookbooks, I turned to Dorie for help. She has a simple Cream Scones recipe in Baking from My Home to Yours. Oh yeah... perfect!

What Dorie doesn't know (or maybe she does now) is that there is a error in her recipe. The recipe lists currants as an ingredient, but nowhere in the directions does it say to add currants to the recipe. I modified that in my directions but by the time I realized it in my preparations, I had already formed the scone rounds. Not wanting to disturb the chemistry of the ingredients, I studded the currants on top of the rounds. That worked out just fine but I might like to have had some currants within my scones as well. Next time...

I think many people avoid making scones because they're unsure of how to shape them. You don't need a special scone pan, you simply score the dough prior to baking. The baked scone loaf pulls apart easily to reveal small triangular scones.

This recipe makes enough for 12 small scones. Some scone recipes I've made aren't good when eaten the next day. Not the case with Dorie's scones. These were quite good the next morning. Still moist and flaky and not dry at all.

And these were oh-so-yummy warmed up with spoonfuls of lemon curd!

A big dollop, maybe two... a great breakfast or afternoon tea treat!

This recipe can be found HERE.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Meyer Lemon Curd

I've learned something this week. When life gives you Meyer Lemons, you should definitely, without question, most undoubtedly make Meyer Lemon Curd.

Why I haven't discovered Meyer Lemons until a couple of days ago is beyond me. I've already made an unbelievable Lemon Loaf Cake. Left with 5 remaining lemons, I wasn't about to let those luscious pieces of fruit grow mold on my countertop. I set out to make a personal favorite that I've always purchased... lemon curd. But this wasn't going to be just any lemon curd... this was Meyer Lemon Curd. And I knew it was going to be something special.

I pulled a clipping from an old Gourmet magazine that had been filed away. Ingredients included zest, juice, sugar, eggs and butter. The recipe seemed so simple that I began to doubt my ability in putting together such an epicurean joy.

The whole lot was mixed together in a metal bowl and set over simmering water until an instant-read thermometer registered 160 degrees F. (about 5 minutes.) Then the mixture was forced through a fine sieve to rid the curd of chunky zest. That was it! Done! Couldn't have been easier.

Straight from the pan, the curd was warm and pourable. Refrigerated overnight, it thickened and became a spreadable product.

A perfect gift to place in a jar, you may choose to give it away with a basket of muffins or scones. Mine is sitting in my refrigerator waiting for me to make some scones for tomorrow's breakfast. No one's gettin' this stuff. Of course, the recipe was easy enough that I wouldn't hesitate to make more if I were to come upon another windfall of Meyer Lemons.

Go ahead, take a spoonful!

This recipe can be found HERE.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Caramelized Scallops with Smoked Chili Cream

This sounds fancy. It's not. While it presents like it took great effort to prepare, it doesn't. This was about the easiest dish I've prepared in a while, and the "effort" was worth it! This recipe of Caramelized Scallops with Smoked Chili Cream hails from a cookbook that I'm rather partial to... The Black Dog Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook (as in Martha's Vineyard). Hubby has a cousin who lives there with his lovely wife, so we've been fortunate enough to visit the Vineyard many times.

If you're looking for a new cookbook, this would be one to consider. I've loved everything I've made from this cookbook. Aside from being delicious and unique recipes, the names of some of the recipes are quirky too (read quirky and not Rachael Ray silly). Things like "Double Bypass" (an egg dish) and "Sirloin Tips Quasimodo" (hidden qualities within) are included in the collection. I've prepared a lot of seafood, but the cookbook contains recipes for chicken and other meats as well as side dishes and desserts too. The Blueberry Bread Pudding has me intrigued! So if you're interested in taking a peek at the cookbook, you can check it out through the link below. If anything, it's fascinating to read about the history of the Black Dog Tavern- as you've surely seen someone somewhere in the world wearing the infamous Black Dog t-shirt. We're quite obsessed with Black Dog memorabilia around our house with Black Dog t-shirts, coffee mugs, aprons, baseball hats, a Black Dog stuffed animal and even a Black Dog children's book!

Purchasing the cookbook through the Amazon link below throws me (literally) a few pennies referral bonus... just enough to secure an extra pump of vanilla syrup to go with my weekly Sugar Free Decaf Nonfat 5 pump vanilla latte. Seriously!

Back to the recipes... The scallops are simple to caramelize. With a sprinkle of salt, pepper and fresh parsley and fried in a little bit of oil, the scallops caramelize easily with their naturally present sugars. The chili cream is basic... sour cream mixed with chipotle powder, lime juice and salt. Not spicy. At the Black Dog restaurant, they serve these scallops on Potato-Scallion Pancakes so I decided to give those a shot.

Glad I did. These were YUUUUUUUUMY and a unique side dish as well. I set my husband on the task of shredding the unpeeled red potatoes (along with his fingers!) Those were squeezed dry (the potatoes, minus the fingers) and mixed with scallions, flour, eggs, salt and pepper. Really easy. Really good.

I chose to serve the scallops on a bed of arugula, drizzled with the chili cream and a garnish of lemon squeezes alongside the potato pancake, which was quite delicious dunked in the chili cream too! I give thanks to the folks at the Black Dog for publishing a recipe that made my 6 year old fall in love with scallops. Funny but true... he actually raved about them. And they weren't even batter-fried. Go figure. My little foodie son likes scallops. Now that's pretty cool.

All of this... and I'm not even truly that big of a fan of scallops. But I just might have to modify my seafood preferences after making this one.

The scallops recipe can be found HERE.
The potato pancakes recipe can be found HERE.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Meyer Lemon Loaf

I needed a hostess gift for a dinner that we were attending last night, and thought that something made with Meyer Lemons would be appropriate. The inspiration for my Meyer Lemon Loaf recipe came from a delightful blog called The Barmy Baker. The recipe itself originated in Desserts by Pierre Herme.

I had never purchased a Meyer Lemon before... until yesterday. Lately I've been reading all about wonderful Meyer Lemon creations on various blogs, so I decided to jump on the Meyer Lemon Bandwagon and bake something with these wonderful jewels. I bought two bags of Meyer lemons at my grocery store. So pretty. A deep orangey-yellow sort of color... soft and ripe and an unbelievably luscious scent.

The lemon flavor in this wonderful loaf cake comes primarily from the rind of three Meyer lemons.

The rind is pressed into the white sugar to create "lemon sugar," which is then mixed with eggs.

Cake flour makes this more of a cake than a quick bread. Added sour cream and melted butter are the key to its moistness. There's also a wee bit of rum in it. Typically, I despise rum cake so I was a little worried, but you really can't detect rum flavor in the finished product.

Yep, it makes two loaves! One for my lovely hostess gift, and one for us to chow down on. I love the way it puffs up in the middle and allows the lemony yummy goodness to peek through the top. Per The Barmy Baker's suggestion, I brushed lemon simple syrup on top to give it a little extra puckery oomph.

See those little flecks of yellow?... that's the big-time flavorful Meyer Lemon peel! This cake is soooooo moist. It's a bit like pound cake- only a touch lighter. A nice cup of tea or a mug 'o coffee with a slice of this, and you're good to go.

The lemons smelled so amazing that I actually peeled one open and ate it like an orange. Wow! It was surprisingly delicious- and much sweeter than the typical sour lemon.

YUM!! And I have 5 more Meyer Lemons to play with!! Hmmm... there might be some homemade Meyer Lemon Curd in my future.

Among my plans for spring planting... a Meyer Lemon tree, of course!

This recipe can be found HERE.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Orange Cream

Talk about an easy recipe...!

With the big romantic day looming ahead, I've baked myself silly. Time to move on and make things that one should like to eat even if they're not heart-shaped and covered in frosting and sprinkles. I stuck with red for Valentine's Day. Gotta keep with the holiday spirit, ya know?

If you're not bebuzzled at the thought of used jarred roasted red peppers, this recipe for Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Orange Cream might appeal to you. It's simple and fresh tasting and quite delicious. Shallots and jarred peppers are sauteed together (no one wants to be alone on Valentine's Day, do they?) Add a little sugar and a little broth and whir it all in the blender. Re-heat the pureed soup and add some OJ (I used fresh as the oranges around my parts are sooooo good right now.) The swirl on top is just a bit of whipping cream and orange zest. Done!

Originally from Bon Appetit, one big bowl of this soup has only 6 grams of fat and 2.5 Weight Watcher points (if you care about that sort of thing.) It would even have a little less if you left out the orange cream or used fat free half & half instead.

And since it's Valentine's Day and all... I couldn't resist swirling my orange cream into a little heart for my sweetie!

This recipe can be found HERE.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Martha Stewart's Sugar Cookies

I was given the task of buying sugar cookies for my son's first grade class. Buy? Would Martha have bought cookies for her daughter's class? No. So I opted to bake my own and used Martha's recipe, of course. The kids will use these sugar cookies for their Valentine's Day party... where they will pile on mounds of store-bought canned frosting and toss on as many sprinkles and candies as the cookie will hold. I took the liberty of decorating a few myself- using Royal Icing instead.

These wonderful, homemade Sugar Cookies come from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. I discovered this amazing treasury of baking only recently when I saw it on a clearance table because it was slightly water-damaged. I snatched it up, and I'm glad I did. There is a great collection of baked delights with brilliant food photography.

If you don't own one of those little cake-decorating kits with the bags and the assortment of tips, I suggest that you buy one. A good little Wilton kit is only about $10 to $15, and you'd be amazed to find that it comes in handy once in a while. If you don't have a kit, you can make Royal Icing and spoon it into a plastic sandwich baggie- cut off the corner of the bag and you have a homemade piping bag. Then you can pipe the edge of the cookie- let it dry a bit- before you flood the middle with the remaining icing and spread it to cover the cookie. Fill other bags with different colors and add additional decor. Or dip a toothpick directly into the food coloring bottle and use the toothpick to swirl the designs that you desire.

Martha Stewart's Royal Icing is the recipe that I used. It's one of those hard icing recipes that many people are looking for when they make decorator cookies. This icing dries quickly and it dries hard- the cookies easily stack without ruining the decorations.

Now I'm sure there are plenty of Mom's out there that will pick up those store bought sugar cookies for their child's class and that's perfectly fine, and I'm sure that the kids will be perfectly happy and yadda, yadda, yadda... but these buttery cookies with a hint of vanilla just taste sooooooo much better!

Happy Valentine's Day !

The cookie recipe can be found HERE.
The icing recipe can be found HERE.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Featured on the latest cover of Better Homes and Garden's Magazine, these Red Velvet Cupcakes are a pretty and delicious choice for Valentine's Day. (This is my pic, but it's similar to the cover shot.) I used the recipe for Chocolate Snaps to make the little chocolate heart accompaniments.

Better Homes also featured a Buttercream Frosting recipe. Though the cupcakes at the top look pretty, my family preferred the delicious buttercream on top. The buttercream frosting is super creamy and easy to pipe or spread. If you use this recipe, you'll need to store the cupcakes in the refrigerator. The Chocolate Hearts were a nice addition.

The Red Velvet Cupcake... undressed!

The Red Velvet Cupcakes recipe can be found HERE.
The Buttercream Frosting recipe can be found HERE.