Lentil Soup

January 19, 2008

Sorry for being so terribly MIA.  Being pregnant with twins has fairly squashed any desire I’ve had to cook.  But, as the twins crowd out my stomach I’ve been trying to make each calorie count, and that means cooking more.  It feels good to get back in the kitchen!

Lentils are an ingredient I tagged a while ago as wanting to explore more.  I love meat, but it’s not always the healthiest, most cost effective ingredient.  I also dearly love the 101 Cookbooks site.  It’s so pleasing to the eye and the recipes always sound so good, it was an easy choice to get me back in the kitchen. The recipe was easy and quick to make, making it an excellent choice for a weeknight dinner.

 As Heidi talks about, this recipe is full of nutrition.  Even eating a small bowl, I felt like I was getting a nutritious, well balanced meal.  Since I didn’t have any saffron at home, I skipped the yogurt and instead topped the soup with a swirl of olive oil and chopped avocados.  The avocado added just the right touch of butteriness.  Because I knew I would be reheating the soup, I added in some chicken stock so that it wasn’t so thick. The best part? There was enough to freeze!

Lively Up Yourself Lentil Soup
adapted from 101 Cookbooks

2 cups green lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 tablespoon + extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 28-ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
2 cups water
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 cups kale, rinsed well, deveined, finely chopped
1 avocado, chopped

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan, add the lentils and cook for 20 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat, then add the onion and salt and saute until tender. Stir in the tomatoes, lentils, water, and chicken stock and continue cooking for a few more minutes, letting the soup come back up to a simmer. Stir in the chopped greens, and wait another minute. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be. Ladle into bowls, and serve with a swirl of olive oil and chopped avocado.


Daring Bakers – Tender Potato Bread

November 26, 2007

It’s that time again!  The Daring Bakers are over 400 members now!  We each bake the same recipe each month and then post the results.   This month we made Tender Potato Bread.  Each person made the same bread, but then could shape it whichever way they wanted.  With Thanksgiving in the mix, I chose to do dinner rolls, but believe me, I will definitely make this again and do a loaf and focaccia. 

 For the full recipe, please visit Tanna.

Yeast and I don’t have the best relationship.  I used to kill it, until I learned to always use a thermometer to temp my water.  We work together much better now, but in the winter my house can be pretty drafty so rising can also be an issue.  To combat this issue this time, I preheated my oven to 200 degrees, turned it off, then put the dough inside with the oven door open.  It worked perfectly!  Next time I’ll buy an oven that has a ‘proofing’ setting.

Tender Potato Bread
I bought two baking potatoes thinking they would weigh one-half pound together. Wrong! They weighed over a pound, so I cooked just one peeled potato in 4 cups of water until it was fork tender. Mashed potatoes aren’t a real staple in my house, so the only instrument I had to mash them with was a pastry blender. It worked well, but next time I’d maybe run them through a sieve as well to get a finer mash.

It took a while for the potatoes and potato water to cool down. Once they did, I added the yeast and two cups of flour and let it sit for five minutes.

Next I added salt, butter, and more flour, mixing everything together.

As I kneaded, I probably added in another 2+ cups of flour. I’ve never made bread like this, where you add so much of the flour while you knead. It was interesting. The dough was wet, yet easy to work with. Once it seemed not so wet and with good elasticity, I put it in the oven to rise for two hours. I was nervous, but it rose beautifully!

Again, I turned it out on a floured surface to knead a bit.

The instructions were for a big loaf, and then some dinner rolls so I wasn’t sure how many dinner rolls I would get. We were having 12 people for Thanksgiving, so I made all of the dough into rolls. I used my dough scraper to cut the dough into pieces. I did a decent job, but a few ended up a little bigger than the others.

Back in the oven for another rise. Based on comments and other posts, I decided to parbake the rolls, freeze them, and then bake again the day of. This worked very well. I thought my rolls might have been a little smaller than the suggested rolls, so I baked them for 10 minutes at 400 degrees the day I made them, and then another 10 minutes the day of. Again, this worked beautifully! Oh, I also brushed them with melted butter. They didn’t get super brown, but I was okay with that. The parbaked rolls –

The finished product!

Everyone loved them! When everyone was packing up the leftovers, my cousins took two rolls each. Success!

Savory Tomato Bread Pudding

November 2, 2007

My friend Amy and I have done more than a few dinner parties together.  Sometimes they’re casual, sometimes they’re more formal.  For the Breast Cancer 3-Day walk, we auctioned off a formal dinner party for 8.  We would cook, they would eat.  Fortunately, some friends of ours won the auction, so it was a very fun event.

We’ve amassed a stable of recipes that are always a hit so we assumed we could pull from that.  But, a few of the dinner guests had some dietary restrictions and we really needed a vegetarian appetizer.  I had no idea how much proscuitto figures into my favorite recipes until I couldn’t use it!  Our other appetizer was a fried meatball on pesto crostini (recipe to be posted soon) so we didn’t want to do bruschetta or a goat cheese crostini.  Amy remembered the Savory Bread Pudding from Top Chef and I was in.   These were so good!  The vegetarian in the group loved them, as did everyone else.  Plus, I think they are very versatile.  You could definitely serve them as a main dish as well, topped with a scallop, prosciutto, anything like that. 

Savory Bread Pudding
Makes 18
1/2 large red onion, diced finely
3 cloves garlic, diced
1 pint heavy whipping cream
1/2 quart whole milk
3/4 can tomato paste
Seasonings – dried parsley, dried basil, dried oregano
5 whole eggs
1 1/2 loaves baguette, diced small, with crust
1/2 bunch basil, chopped
1/4 bunch thyme, chopped
4 oz cream cheese

In a saute pan, saute onion and garlic until translucent. Mix in whipping cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a large bowl, whisk together milk and tomato paste. Add the onion-garlic cream to the tomato mixture. Season liberally with dried parsley, basil, oregano and more salt and pepper. I should say here that we needed to season things heavily. Lots of salt and pepper. Be sure to taste! Add eggs and diced baguette. Combine well and let stand for 45 minutes.

In a food processor, mix basil, thyme and cream cheese. Blend until finely processed.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake bread pudding in muffin pan for 20-30 minutes.  Liberally top with basil cream when ready to serve.

Daring Bakers October – Bostini Cream Pie

October 29, 2007

It’s Daring Bakers time again!  We all make the same recipe and post on the same day.  This month our selected item was the Bostini Cream Pie.  I described it as a deconstructed Boston Cream Pie.  I liked it because it was fancy and fun, slightly decadent but not too rich.  And, you can make the majority ahead of time which can be key.

I brought this dessert to a gathering at my brother’s house.  I wasn’t sure everyone would enjoy it, but I knew there would be enough people there that I wouldn’t come home with extras.  Turns out, most everyone loved it!  Including my 3-year-old niece! 

For the full recipe, visit Mary at Alpineberry.

Bostini Cream Pie

First, I had to decide how I was going to plate this dessert. Everyone had ideas and I liked a few of them, but my main concern was cost. I didn’t want to buy 12 dishes to bake the cakes in, and then another 12 dishes to serve the Bostini’s in. I finally settled on custard cups that I could first bake the cakes in, then serve the Bostini’s in so that they would make a kind of tower. I have some gorgeous heart shaped dishes that would have worked had this been Valentine’s Day. I checked Williams-Sonoma. $10 for a custard cup! No thank you. Martha Stewart came through for me at Macy’s with 6 oz. ramekins – $4 per cup, $48 spent.

My plan was to make everything on Friday night, and then assemble the Bostini’s at my brother’s house. Next up, bake the cakes. I’ve never made a chiffon cake before, but I will definitely make one again. I think the key to folding in the egg whites is to do them in stages. I usually do it in thirds. That way nothing is overwhelmed. The chiffon cakes were perfect. They came together easily, were super moist, and the orange flavor was perfect.

The custard also came together easily. I wasn’t sure how thick I wanted the custard. I wanted it creamy and with some consistency, but not too set. I was planning on spooning it into the cups, so I didn’t need it too thick.

The chocolate glaze is where I fell down. I was planning on making it at my brother’s and thought I had grabbed the stack of Daring Baker print outs. Instead, I grabbed a stack that included the first page of the Daring Baker printout, and then a bunch of other recipes. I combined the butter and the chocolate and I’m pretty sure the sauce broke. Oh well, no one noticed but me. But, the sauce isn’t very pretty.

The assembly!
Custard in the cup –

Cake on top of the custard –

The finished Bostini Cream Pie!

Daring Bakers – Cinnamon and Sticky Buns

September 30, 2007

Before we get into this months Daring Baker post, a quick word to explain the radio silence as of late.  I’m pregnant with twins.  Food and I don’t have the best relationship anymore.  I don’t cook much since I go from not hungry to needing to eat NOW!  But, I have faith that I will get my appetite and my energy back in October.  So things should go back to normal soon. 

It’s Daring Baker time again!  This month, we all made cinnamon buns and sticky buns.  I was very excited because while most breads and sweets don’t appeal to me at all right now, breakfast type sweet breads totally do.  I made a pan of cinnamon buns and a pan of sticky buns.  Normally, I’m all about the cinnamon, but these sticky buns were so beyond fabulous that I’m now a believer. 

I served these to a group of friends and the general consensus was that the cinnamon buns were lacking.  We weren’t sure if they needed more salt or more filling, but they needed something.  As I said above, the sticky buns were sooooo good, but I think the incredible topping was what really made them fabulous.  It was creamy and gooey, without being too sweet or sticky.

For the full recipe, please visit Marce at Pip in the City. To see all of the Daring Baker posts, visit the Blogroll.

Cinnamon and/or Sticky Buns
My relationship with yeast is iffy. I’ve finally learned my lesson and always temp my water, but my house is drafty and so unless it’s summertime, it can be difficult to get a good rise. Since it was mid-September, I was pretty confident I would get a warm day, which I did. This recipe made the dough in a KitchenAid mixer. I’ve always done my dough by hand, mostly because that was the only way I knew how. Never again! The KitchenAid kneaded the dough so efficiently, I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner.

In two hours, my dough had doubled and I was ready to roll it out. I was a bit nervous since rolling dough is not my strong suit. This dough was beautiful! I have never had a dough roll out so perfectly and hold its shape so beautifully before.

For my filling, I did cinnamon, sugar, and ginger. I liked the combination, it just didn’t seem like enough for the cinnamon rolls. I would definitely tweak this next time. Again, the dough rolled up perfectly. For once, I didn’t have a roll that was skinny at the ends and fat in the middle.

At this point, I cut them into slices and wrapped them up and stuck them in the fridge, to transport later in the day to my girlfriend’s house.

Because I’m a crazy pregnant woman, I got up at 4:00am to pull them to proof for a second time. We had some draft issues and I was worried they wouldn’t raise, but they did! And were fabulous. I will definitely make these again.

Daring Bakers – Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

August 29, 2007

I had a dream one night about a tart with a chocolate layer on top of a caramel layer.  I don’t normally dream about desserts, but I knew I had to search out a recipe for this one.  I looked, but didn’t find anything that matched what I saw in my head.  And then, the August Daring Bakers challenge was announced and it was the tart from my dream! 

The only thing I needed to buy for this recipe was a tart pan. I went to Williams Sonoma because I wanted a nice pan. Cost – $18.00

I was making this for a family gathering. I made the crust Wednesday evening, then baked the tart Thursday evening. I was rushed and it showed in the final product. It tasted good, but I knew it could be better. Because the crust recipe makes enough for three crusts, I jumped at the chance to make it again for a barbecue. This time I took my time, corrected my mistakes and voila! It turned out so much better.

For the full recipe, visit Veronica or Patricia.

Milk Chocolate and Caramel Tart

The crust is a chocolate shortbread pastry that was made the day before, then refrigerated. First step, grind the hazelnuts.

This wasn’t a traditional crust recipe, it had more of a cookie dough like consistency until the cake flour was added.

The next day, I rolled the crust out and pressed it into the pan. Off to the oven!

I caramelized the sugar using the dry method first. It would have been fine except the pan I used wasn’t wide enough. I think. Either way, the sugar didn’t fully crystallize and I rushed it and added the cream which wasn’t room temp so it seized.

Try #2 with the alternate caramel method worked perfectly and my cream was room temp this time. But, I didn’t let the caramel cool before adding in the egg/flour mixture. Consequently, it went into the oven a little too hot and never really set.

The chocolate mousse didn’t turn out so well either. I cooled the chocolate too much. When I folded it into the whip cream it froze into little chocolate chips. Bah. It tasted good though!

On Saturday I made the tart again, this time cooling the caramel before adding the egg/flour mixture, and not cooling the chocolate so much. Perfection! I also made sure to roll my crust a little thinner so my layers could be more even.

My Favorite Peanut Butter Cookies

August 15, 2007

When most people reference a recipe from the Magnolia Cookbook, they’re usually talking about the vanilla cupcake recipe.  I have a different favorite recipe from that cookbook, their peanut butter cookies. Now I love peanut butter, and therefore peanut butter cookies. If I had to pick an absolute favorite cookie it would be a toss up between these and the Reese’s chocolate cookies with peanut butter chips. What makes the Magnolia peanut butter cookies different from others? Peanut butter chips. Clearly, they make everything better.

I made these tonight, it was warm in the kitchen and thought ahead enough to really let the butter soften. I think that made all the difference because when I creamed the butter and the peanut butter, it was creamy bliss. Also, I used a scoop! The consistency in size made me very happy.

Perfect drops!

Peanut Butter Cookies
from the Magnolia Bakery

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (for sprinkling) sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter chips. Place sprinkling sugar on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crissscross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Peanut butter cookies

Raspberry Tart

August 14, 2007

My parents live on a lake and so, end up entertaining quite a bit during the summer.  Everyone loves to come out to the lake, go on a boat ride and enjoy the beautiful scenery.  For this gathering, she needed a dessert.  I recommended a raspberry tart.  I do love my chocolate, but I love lighter, fruity desserts for summer and since they have a raspberry patch, what better?  It ended up that someone else brought dessert to the gathering, so I made the tart this past weekend.  This tart turned out perfectly!  The crust was easy to work with, it was not labor intensive, it looks gorgeous and tasted even better.  We had the neighbors over and the guys, after declaring the tart perfect, had seconds.

Raspberry Tart
Recipe courtesy of Gourmet Magazine

For crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 to 3 tablespoons cold water

For filling:
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 tablespon water
2 – 3 cups raspberries, picked over

Make crust: In a food processor*, blend together flour, sguar, and butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add 2 tablespoons water and toss utnil incorporated. Add enough remaining water if necessary until mixture begins to come together, but is still crumbly. Refrigerate dough, wrapped in plastic for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll out crust until large enough for an 11-inch tart pan. Press crust evenly onto bottom and sides, patching as needed. Prick the crust with a fork, then place in the freezer for five minutes. Line the dough with aluminum foil and weigh it down with pie weights or beans (or rice if you’re in a pinch like we were). Bake in middleof oven until golden, about 30 minutes.

To make the filling, in a bowl with an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and egg until smooth. Add flour and blend mixture well.

Pour the filling into the warm crust, spreading evenly, and bake in middle of oven until set, about 15-20 minutes. Cool the tart in its pan on a rack.

In a small saucepan, heat jam with water over moderate heat, stirring until melted and smooth. Remove pan from heat and cool jam slightly. Arrange raspberries decoratively on top of tart and brush gently with jam.**

* If you are lazy like me and hate washing food processors, you can easily do this with a pastry cutter or by hand.

** Try to keep the jam only on the tops of the raspberries. Anywhere it touched the cheesecake it stained. While not a big deal, it definitely marred the perfection.

Lemon Fusilli with Arugula

August 8, 2007

I’ve not been feeling the best.  I’m taking some antibiotics that make my stomach a little queasy, so when Amy agreed to come over and cook, my only menu request was that it veer to the carb side of things.  Maybe some people crave protein when they aren’t feeling well, but not me!  We were going to page through Giada’s cookbooks, but Amy ended up in Barefoot Contessa at Home and found the perfect recipe.  It’s creamy, lemony, and fresh – very summery.  We added chicken to make it more of a stand alone dish, but for lunch you could easily do without. Since we had tons of leftovers, I reheated this multiple times and it was perfect for lunch.

Lemon Fusilli with Arugula and Chicken
by Ina Garten
Makes 6 servings

1 T. good olive oil
1 T. minced garlic
2 cups heavy cream
2 lemons
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound dried fusilli pasta
1/2 pound arugula (stems removed and leaves cut into thirds)
1/2 cup freshly greated Parmesan cheese
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 lb chicken breasts

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic, and cook for 60 seconds, then add the cream, the zest and juice of the lemons, 2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until it starts to thicken.

Grill the chicken over medium high heat until no longer pink inside. Cut on the diagonal into 1/2 inch strips.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add 1 tablespoon salt and the pasta, and cook al dente according to the directions on the package, about 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the pasta and return it to the pot. (We actually used a large enough saucepan above, so that we were able to add the pasta to the sauce instead of the other way around.) Immediately add the cream mixture and cook over medium-low heat for 3 minutes, until the pasta has absorbed most of the sauce. Pour the hot pasta into a large bowl and add the arugula, Parmesan,chicken and tomatoes. Toss well, season to taste, and serve hot.

Daring Bakers – Strawberry Mirror Cake

July 30, 2007

The Daring Bakers challenge for July was a Strawberry Mirror Cake.  It looked beautiful and didn’t look terribly complicated, but the directions were long!  Since my July has been crazy, there was really only one Saturday where I could take the time to make the cake.  So, I read through the directions several times and then tried to estimate how long each component would take.  Overkill?  Possibly, but at least I was prepared!

 There were a few pieces of equipment I needed to buy to make the cake.  I had a jelly roll pan, but it was too small so I bought a new one.  I also bought an offset spatula, stainless steel bowl and a cardboard circle.  Total cost – $28.00.

 Normally when I buy groceries for a recipe there is meat and cheese and herbs and what not involved.  I was pleasantly surprised at my short grocery list!  Total cost – $18.56.

For the full recipe, visit Peabody here.

A Strawberry Mirror Cake consists of two layers of cake, with two layers of strawberry bavarian cream, topped with a strawberry mirror. I used to assist cooking classes at a small cooking school and for a long time, I assisted mostly baking classes. Because of that, I’ve been exposed to most baking techniques. I’ve made both pastry cream and bavarian cream before, but the mirror part was new. I had faith though!

The bavarian cream before the red food coloring. I’m not sure if I added the hot milk into the eggs too fast, but my bavarian cream definitely has lumps. I ran it through a sieve which helped, but it wasn’t as smooth as I would have liked. Luckily, I made bavarian cream relatively recently and knew that everything has to be smooth before you try to fold the whip cream in. If not, it’s never going to be smooth.

My cakes! I baked them in an 11 x 17 jelly roll pan, then cut out the 8″ circles. I used a serrated knife to cut them out, but thank goodness they were going to be covered in frosting since they weren’t pretty. Very tasty though. My dog and I munched on the extras all afternoon.

Step one in assembly. Aluminum covered cardboard in the springform pan, with the first layer of cake.

Step two. Cover it all in bavarian cream!

Steps three and four. Add another layer of cake, cover with bavarian cream again!

I love my new offset spatula. It’s so fabulous to frost with.

After this, I poured the mirror on and then chilled for several hours. Turns out, the mirror is basically strawberry jello! I laughed when I realized that. It’s a really cool effect though.

I brought this cake to a dinner party and didn’t bust it out of the springform pan until I was there, so no fancy decorating. Luckily, the mirror didn’t break and it came out almost perfectly! Everyone loved it, and a few went back for seconds. This was the perfect dessert for a barbecue – light, creamy, and tastes like summer!