Sunday, January 24, 2010
A few weeks ago I made pumpkin butter, a lot of it. Who know how much two little baking pumpkins would produce! Now I'm looking for ways to use up this pumpkin butter - not that we aren't enjoying it just as it is on simple toast and biscuits, but there is something to be said for diversity. Plus, I haven't been making any treats for Dave lately so this was the perfect opportunity to transform pumpkin love.
There are thousands of biscotti recipes out there and everyone has their own preference whether it's hard and crunchy or softer and chewier - my preference is for the way biscotti was originally created. It should be a hard substance meant to withstand long travels and for dunkin'. So what makes mine better than the others? I like it. You make yours' your way and I'll make mine my way. One big difference can be the use of actual butter; the butter will make a softer biscotti as well as less cooking time and the cookie will not last as long.
I'm not saying this is the end-all-be all biscotti recipe. I think each flavor requires tweaking; what works for this pumpkin butter biscotti may not work for an anise biscotti. I also think you could substitute apple butter for the pumpkin, or use a pumpkin puree. Taste the dough though, to see if it needs extra spices- I made my pumpkin butter quite heavy on the ginger for that extra kick! Oh, and I used pearl sugar on top (a strange ingredient sent to be by loyal readers!) as a tasty and decorative topping.
One of the other reasons I made up this recipe is for Dave to have an optional quick breakfast bar in the morning. To keep it on the healthy side, I used oats, whole wheat flour and pecans. Since there is no butter in this recipe- it's not a bad option. Sure there is sugar, but call it a trade off! How often can you use one food item as a breakfast item, a bread or side dish, an appetizer or a dessert? It's a rare fat and happy transformer treat!
Tips and Techniques: Store in the freezer for a fast snack, side or dessert anytime! The biscotti are easier to handle if you make two small loafs out of the dough rather than one.
1 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup oats (use the old fashioned version, not the quick cooking)
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup pumpkin butter (or pumpkin puree)
1 Tbls Soy Cream (or regular cream)
1 tsp ground ginger
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of salt
crushed or chopped pecans (roughly 1/2 cup)
chopped chocolate (I prefer bittersweet, but you could use basic semi-sweet chocolate chips), roughly 1/4 cup
Pearl sugar (for topping decoration)
Sift all the dry ingredients into a big bowl. Mix together the egg, vanilla, pumpkin butter and soy cream, stir into the dry ingredients to combine. Add the pecans and chocolate. The dough will be really sticky. Sprinkle 1/4 cup flour on the counter. Lightly roll/knead the dough into the flour. Let me repeat, the dough is super, super sticky- do the best you can, just to incorporate the flour.
Cover a baking sheet pan with parchment paper. Divide the dough in half and form 2 logs on the pan. Sprinkle with pearl or raw sugar, more nuts or even more chocolate. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until the biscotti is firm in the middle. Remove from oven, let rest for 15 minutes. Turn the oven down to 225. Slice the biscotti, lay each piece back on the parchment lined pan. Return to the oven for about 1 hour. Test the cookies, you might want to take them out early for slightly chewy cookies or leave them in longer for the extra crunchy cookies.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
I had no interest in leaving the house to venture through this freezing fog for a grocery store run. That means working with whatever is in the fridge or pantry. I found a bag of kale, 1/2 of a butternut squash and a small acorn squash. Clearly this was a soup waiting to happen.
Not wanting just a typical squash soup, I decided to add a hint of curry to the flavors- just enough without overpowering. Sautee the kale first, then set aside while the squash cooks, adding the kale back in after you have pureed the soup. Dave even liked it, and based on the name- he was none too interested at first. I'm excited for this soup for another reason other than the great simple flavor, I have a friend with a quite a few dietary limitations. This soup should enable her a healthy and satisfying meal - Kiran, let me know if this is suitable (it should be the first of many recipes to come for you!)
Enjoy the simplicity of this dish with a big hunk of bread and a glass of sparkling water. It totally beats hanging out in freezing fog!
Tips and tricks: if you feel the need for meat, add a crumbled sausage while sauteeing the kale. The sausage will hold up really nicely to these flavors. If you want a little hint of decadence, crumble a little bit of goat cheese on the top
Curried carrot, Squash and Kale Soup
Sautee the Kale first:
Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan, add:
4 cups of chopped Kale, rinsed (do not dry the kale, leave some water on it to help it cook)
Fresh ground pepper
1 tbls dried thyme
Sautee about 10 minutes, less if you like crunchier kale. If the pan is too dry, add a few tablespoons of water
remove from pan and set aside
In the same pan, add another tablespoon of olive oil. Add:
1/2 cup diced red onion
Sautee for a few minutes
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tbls ground thyme
1 tsp yellow curry
Continue to sautee until the onions are softened, stir often. The seasonings may begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, that's okay. Again, if the pan is too dry here, add in another drizzle of olive oil.
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and chopped
1 small acorn squash (or use all butternut), peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 chicken or vegetable bouillon cube (optional)
Sautee for a few minutes and add enough water to just cover the veggies, roughly 1 or 2 cups. The water will deglaze the pan and get all the spices off the bottom (you could also use a coconut milk here too.). Simmer until the squash and carrots are softened. Use an immersion blender to blend smooth (or place in your blender, carefully blend). Add more liquid if the soup is too stiff.
Add the kale into the soup and heat through. Serve.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
And yet another ice cream recipe- I can't help it, homemade ice cream is soooo delicious and easy to make. This is not a crazy flavor, but I think if you look around, the ingredients will set it apart from any other Baileys recipe. The use of the brown sugar and the Grand Marnier combine to create a tremendously intense flavor.
Do note that with all the liquor in this recipe, the ice cream will not get as hard as others. The key is that you can use it directly from the freezer, you won't need to let it soften at all. Or, go ahead and let it soften and use it as a shake!
It's a superb ice cream that will give you a boost, Don't hesitate, make this today, it's a super fat and happy treat.
Bailey's Ice Cream
2 1/2 cups cream
1/4 heaping cup of white sugar
1/4 cup (heaping) brown sugar
vanilla bean, sliced and scrapped
pinch of salt
1/4 cup coffee beans
1/2 cup Baileys
2 Tbls Grand Marnier
Heat the cream, the scraped vanilla and bean, the coffee beans and the brown sugar over medium heat. Do not boil, stir occasionally.
While the cream is warming, whisk the eggs yolks and the white sugar until they turn pale a fluffy.
Temper the yolks with the warm cream by adding a little bit of the cream to the yolks, about 1/2 cup at a time, until the yolks are warmed. Pour into the cream, add the salt and continue to cook over medium heat, stirring until the custard becomes thick and coats the back of the spoon . Add the Baileys and the Grand Marnier, remove from heat. Cool in an ice bath.
If you have the time, let the custard mixture sit in the refrigerator over night to help set up the custard and to let the flavors meld. Leave the vanilla and coffee beans in the custard, remove before freezing. Follow your ice cream machine manufacturers directions.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
Now, a lot of people would scoff at the use of the canned beans, but they are great in a pinch! I keep them on hand at all times for their ease. But if you have the time for the overnight soaking of dried beans, do it! It will yield a slightly better bean.
The cherry vinaigrette really makes the difference here. By blending the cherries, you will have a pink dressing with little pieces of cherry that permeate the salad, imparting wonderful bites of sweetness. I do suggest soaking them first to plump them up a bit. Next time you're in a crunch for dinner, look to your pantry and see if you can't come up with a fat and happy meal!
Tips and Techniques: Substitute barley or rice if you don't have Farro. This salad comes together super easy. It can be the main dish, or a side to supplement meat or fish. Store it in the fridge for up to 4 days, but serve it at room temperature for the best flavor.
Cherry Farro Salad
2 cups cooked farro
1/2 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 can corn, drained
1 shredded or diced carrot, medium sized
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup diced water chestnuts
3 - 4 tbls toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 - 1/2 cup crumbled aged cheddar
1/4 cup dried cherries or craisins
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
2 tbls red wine vinegar
1 tbls dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Begin by soaking the cherries in the grapeseed oil for at least 15 minutes, set aside. Cook the farro according to package directions. In the meantime, place the black beans, corn, carrot, red onion and water chestnuts in a bowl. Add the farro, sunflower seeds and the crumbled cheddar and lightly toss.
Mix the vinaigrette- place the cherries and oil in the blender, add the red wine vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper. Blend on high for one minute. Pour half of the vinaigrette over the salad ingredients and toss; adding more vinaigrette only as needed. Add salt and pepper as needed for taste. The cherries will be chopped into tiny pieces and will offer little sweet bites to the salad- simply delicious.
Sunday, January 10, 2010
Our great friends Alina and Aaron are expecting a baby boy any day. There is nothing I can offer them in terms of comforting words or knowledge. What I can do is bake and cook for them! So for the baby shower, we sent a Chicago Cubs onesie (nothing like laying the seed when they are young!) and a big batch of cookies. Seems pretty straight forward; but the story has a funny ending, which I'll get to in moment.
Baby showers are usually elegant events held in the afternoon with lite fare, so I was striving for something graceful, refined and tasty- but not overpowering. This cookie is exactly perfect for the occasion! Honestly, you really can't go wrong with shortbread, ever. Add in the delicate flavors of cardamom and orange with the hint of chocolate and espresso...it's a total winner. I know it sounds like a lot of flavors in one cookie, but each ingredient is used in sight moderation.
This is super simple to put together and you can make the dough ahead of let it sit in the fridge for a few days even. Or you can bake them, then freeze the cookies and take them out a few hours ahead of time to defrost. Which brings me to the funny part of the story. So I sent the cookies and the onesie, they received the onesie but not the cookies. Hmm. The box arrived at a friends house where the festivities were to take place the morning before the party. The friend claims the cookies froze in the cold weather while sitting in the box on her porch for the day ... and were unusable. Now, there are two theory's here- she ate them all herself, or the dog ate them. Shortbread cookies CAN be unbelievably addicting, but 'the friend' is so tiny- I don't think she could eat them all. And if she did- then I think she is in the wrong business and should be entering the next hot dog eating contest!
We may never know exactly what happened to the cookies that day, but I will make another batch and send them again. You should make a batch too, just don't send them anywhere to ensure fat and happy eating of the cookies.
Chocolate, Orange, Cardamom, Espresso Shortbread Cookies
2 cups flour
2 sticks of butter (1 cup), cut into pieces; slightly softened - but not to room temperature
3/4 cup powder sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbls Cocoa powder
2 cardamom pods, crushed/zested (or ground cardamom)
orange zest (from 1/2 orange)
1 tsp finely ground espresso or coffee beans
Combine all ingredients in your stand mixer bowl, sifting in the flour and cocoa powder, mix on medium to combine. The dough will be dry at first, but will finally come together, have patience. It will seem crumbly, but you can help it together with a quick kneading, if needed. The dough can be mixed by hand as well if needed.
Roll out to desired thickness, I went for about 1/4- 1/2". If the dough is to warm, you may need to place the dough in the fridge for about an hour before rolling out. Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Sparsely sprinkle cookies with turbinado or raw sugar and cocoa (optional). Cook at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the edges just begin to lightly brown. Cool on cookie racks.