Saturday, March 29, 2008

Healthy Cookies!

Almost every night after dinner, JJ says he wants something sweet. Tonight was no different. I was ready to make some cookies, but then I realized I had no eggs. I decided to just make up a recipe and see how it went. They came out SO well! JJ said they're the best oatmeal raisin cookie (besides the really chewy, big fat ones) he's ever had!

Low-Fat/Low-Cal Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

1 6 oz. cup of yoplait light yogurt - boston creme pie flavor
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp. molasses
1/4 cup skim milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup flour
2 cups quick cooking oats

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease baking sheets.
In a mixer, combine yogurt, sugar, molasses, milk, and vanilla. Add in cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Beat for 10 seconds to combine. Add in flour, beat for 5 seconds, add in oatmeal, beat for 10 seconds to combine. Use a spatula to fold in raisins and walnuts.
Drop in tablespoons full on cookie sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes.

They may not look so good, but they're the best 'healthy' cookie I've ever had!

Country Challege Winner #6 - Portugal!


This week's country challenge winner is Portugal! It was the winner of the poll put up in March to choose April's countries. Thanks to everyone who voted!

In 1249, Portugal was established itself after conquering the Moors. During the 1400's and 1500's, Portugal was a major economic and political power in the world. Portugal faced a large downfall in the 17th centry when battling France and Spain for Brazil. Portugal had many trading posts and colonies around the world, the last of which was Macau, given to China in 1999.

84% of the population in Portugal is Roman Catholic, however only around 19% of those claiming to be Roman Catholic regularly attend church. There is no State religion though, like many European countries.

As for Portuguese cuisine, it is based largely on spices, olive oil, and sea food. Portugal is a sea-faring nation, and much of the population consume fish daily. Chourico and Linguica are also very common ingredients in Portuguese cooking. Tomatoes are a very prevalant vegetable. I also found many recipes that used peas, which I love! Many European countries don't consume as much rice as Portugal does, which is very common in one pot dishes. Many dessert recipes use Marzipan, which is made with almonds. Broa is Portuguese cornbread, not like most other cornbreads because it is a yeast bread, as you'll see later in the week.

I hope you enjoy my selections from Portugal!

Weekly Menu 3.29-4.5

This week's Country Challenge winner is: Portugal!
This week's NASCAR race is in: Martinsville, VA!

On the menu this week:
Tomato and Sausage Soup, Broa (Portugal)
Chicken and Dumplings, Baked Okra, Braised Carrots (Martinsville)
Chicken Cordon Bleu Burgers, Baked Potatoes, Pear and Walnut Spinach Salad
Hotdogs in a Blanket, Cracker Jacks, Chopped Salad (Opening Day)
Stewed Chicken with Rice and Peas (Portugal)
Tuscan Paperdelle
Cold Egg Pie with Peas and Sausage (Portugal), Balsamic Strawberry Spinach Salad

Also on the menu:
Figs filled with Almonds and Chocolate
Gooey Chocolate Cake (TWD)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Samoa #3

I've been trying to make a dessert from each country, and I saw this one and knew it would be perfect. I love pineapple, it's one of my favorite fruits. I've had pineapple cake, but never pie! It sounded simple and delicious, and it was! It calls for using canned pineapple, but I never buy canned pineapple because fresh is just so much better. If you've never bought a fresh pineapple, I suggest trying it out! Sam wrote that this recipe is something you would find from a streetvendor in Pago Pago, the capital of American Samoa.
I decided to make mini pies, for no reason really. I made them in a muffin tin, and they came out like a pie hot pocket!

Mary Jane's Killer Pineapple Pie

1 can crushed pineapple with juice (8 oz.)
1 can pineapple chunks with juice (8 oz.)
*I used 2 cups of pineapple, finely chopped with their juice*
1 cup sugar
¼ cup butter
1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
¾ cup water
¾ cup flour
2 pie crust shells (homemade or store bought)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine pineapple and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in butter until melted. Add cinnamon and nutmeg, stirring continuously until spices are completely incorporated into mixture.In a separate bowl, whisk water and flour together. Strain if mixture has lumps. Add to pineapple mixture and cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly until thick. Pour into a pie shell, cover with another and bake for 45 minutes.

Samoa #1

I found this recipe for Guava Punch, and it sounds incredible. I don't drink guava juice very much because it's expensive and hard to find, but I found some in the middle-eastern section of the market, so I knew it was fate. In Samoa, copious amounts of guava are eaten raw, as well as pineapple, but it's hard to find fresh, whole guava here, so this punch combines the best of those 2 fruits with some others.

Sparkling Guava Punch

2 cups guava juice
1 cup pineapple juice
½ cup orange juice
1 tbsp. lemon juice
½ cup sugar (omitted)
1 tsp. orange zest
3 ½ cups ginger ale (I used diet)
Lime for garnish

Combine the juices and sugar, chill. Before serving, fill pitcher withice, pour in juices, zest, and ginger ale. Stir to combine. Garnishglasses with lime slices.
*This would be amazing for cocktail time mixed with a little pineapple rum!!!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie - #5

I halved the flan recipe, but kept the caramel the same after reading the reviews by other bakers. My only mistake was filling the water bath too high, and the water boiled and splashed into one of the mini-flans. I don't really like sweet creamy, egg dishes, so I wasn't overly fond of this, but my husband loved it.

Caramel Topped Flan

For the Caramel
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp water
squirt of fresh lemon juice

For the Flan
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/4 cups whole milk
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a roasting pan or a 9-x-13-inch baking pan with a double thickness of paper towels. Fill a teakettle with water and put it on to boil; when the water boils, turn off the heat.
Put a metal 8-x-2-inch round cake pan-not a nonstick one-in the oven to heat while you prepare the caramel.

To Make the Caramel: Stir the sugar, water and lemon juice together in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put the pan over medium-high heat and cook until the sugar becomes an amber-colored caramel, about 5 minutes-remove the pan from the heat at the first whiff of smoke.
Remove the cake pan from the oven and, working with oven mitts, pour the caramel into the pan and immediately tilt the pan to spread the caramel evenly over the bottom; set the pan aside.

To Make the Flan: Bring the cream and milk just to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a 2-quart glass measuring cup or in a bowl, whisk together the eggs, yolks and sugar. Whisk vigorously for a minute or two, and then stir in the vanilla. Still whisking, drizzle in about one quarter of the hot liquid-this will temper, or warm, the eggs so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the hot cream and milk. Using a large spoon, skim off the bubbles and foam that you worked up.

Put the caramel-lined cake pan in the roasting pan. Pour the custard into the cake pan and slide the setup into the oven. Very carefully pour enough hot water from the kettle into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the cake pan. (Don't worry if this sets the cake pan afloat.) Bake the flan for about 35 minutes, or until the top puffs a bit and is golden here and there. A knife inserted into the center of the flan should come out clean.

Remove the roasting pan from the oven, transfer the cake pan to a cooking rack and run a knife between the flan and the sides of the pan to loosen it. Let the flan cool to room temperature on the rack, then loosely cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

When ready to serve, once more, run a knife between the flan and the pan. Choose a rimmed serving platter, place the platter over the cake pan, quickly flip the platter and pan over and remove the cake pan-the flan will shimmy out and the caramel sauce will coat the custard.
Yield: 6 to 8 Servings

Easter Dessert #2

This is myAlign Left final recipe from my week of Ireland. It's by no means a traditional Irish dessert, but it contains Baileys Irish Creme. It was delish!

Baileys White Chocolate Tart

8 oz. white chocolate
½ cup butter
3 tbsp. Bailey’s Irish Crème
2 eggs
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp. honey

Tart Dough:
2 cups flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1 stick of cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg yolk
2-3 tbsp. ice water
½ tsp. salt

To make pastry, combine flour, sugar and butter ina food processor. Pulse until it resembles crumbles, add yolk and water, process until a soft dough forms, wrap in a ball in plastic, chill for an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Roll out dough and press it into a tart shell. Cover dough with aluminum foil. cover with pie weights and bake for 15 minutes.
Remove from oven, reduce to 350.

In a small saucepan over medium, melt chocolate and butter. Stir in Baileys, remove from heat, and cool for 20 minutes. In a large bowl, beat eggs, yolks, and honey until light and fluffy, whisk into chocolate mixture.
Pout into the shell, bake for 30 minutes until golden on top.

Recipe taken from
The Irish Spirit, Margaret M. Johnson. Chronicle Books, San Fancisco: 2006.

Easter Dessert #1

When I was at Epcot last year, I had the most amazing Strawberry Tart in Paris. I've been dreaming about it ever since. I told my friend Katie about it, and how I wanted to make something like it for easter, and she sent me a link to this recipe. It's not exactly the same, but very close, and even better than Epcots! Everyone loved the tart at Easter dinner, and a big thanks to Katie for guiding me to another awesome Williams-Sonoma recipe!

Strawberry Tart with Orange Creme

1 rolled-out round of tart dough (below)
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
2 tsp. Cointreau or other orange-flavored liqueur
2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and halved lengthwise
1/2 cup apricot jam


Fold the dough round in half and carefully transfer to a 9 1/2-inch tart pan, preferably with a removable bottom. Unfold and ease the round into the pan, without stretching it, and pat it firmly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Trim off any excess dough by gently running a rolling pin across the top of the pan. Press the dough into the sides to extend it slightly above the rim to offset any shrinkage during baking.

Refrigerate or freeze the tart shell until firm, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 375°F.

Line the pastry shell with aluminum foil or parchment paper and fill with pie weights or raw short-grain rice. Bake for 20 minutes, then lift an edge of the foil. If the dough looks wet, continue to bake, checking every 5 minutes, until the dough is pale gold, for a total baking time of 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the weights and foil. Continue to bake until the shell is golden, 7 to 10 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium speed until smooth. Mix in the orange zest and Cointreau. Spread the cream cheese mixture evenly over the bottom of the tart shell. Arrange the strawberry halves, overlapping them, in concentric circles on top of the cream cheese, completely covering the surface.

In a small saucepan over low heat, warm the apricot jam until it liquefies. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer set over a small bowl. Using a small pastry brush, gently brush the strawberries with a thin coating of jam. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Let stand at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving. Makes one 9-inch tart.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Pie & Tart, by Carolyn Beth Weil (Simon & Schuster, 2003).

Basic Tart Dough


1 egg yolk

2 Tbs. very cold water

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into
1/4-inch cubes


In a small bowl, stir together the egg yolk, water and vanilla; set aside.

To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the egg mixture and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together.

To make the dough in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour, sugar and salt in the mixer bowl. Add the butter and beat on medium-low speed until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the egg mixture and beat just until the dough pulls together.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disk. Use the dough immediately, or wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes.

To roll out the dough, on a lightly floured board, flatten the disk with 6 to 8 gentle taps of the rolling pin. Lift the dough and give it a quarter turn. Lightly dust the top of the dough or the rolling pin with flour as needed, then roll out until the dough is about 1⁄8 inch thick. Use a small, sharp knife to cut out a round or rounds 2 inches greater in diameter than your tart or larger tartlet pans. Use a small, sharp knife or a cookie cutter to cut out rounds 1⁄2 to 1 inch greater in diameter than your miniature tartlet pans. If using a rectangular tart pan, cut out a rectangle 2 inches larger on all sides than the pan. Makes enough dough for one 9 1⁄2-inch tart, six 4-inch tartlets, twelve 2-inch miniature tartlets or one 13 3⁄4-by-4 1⁄4-inch rectangular tart.

Easter's with Dorie!

The week before I started Tuesday's With Dorie (and the recipe that really made me want to join) was this Almost Fudge Gateau. Now I never favor one dessert over another, but I am a bit partial to chocolate. I was sad I didn't have a chance to make it, but kept it in the back of my mind, knowing I would one day.
I was in charge of bringing desserts to Easter, and I knew my sister would not let me go without a rich, dark chocolate dessert. I thought this would be perfect, and it was. It's by far my favorite Dorie recipe yet. My younger sister speaks French, and I thought gateau was a fancy word, but it's just cake. So if you don't want to sound pretentious (like Kristine said my gateau was) then just call it a fudge cake, but if you want to be fancy, tell people you're bringing a Gateau!

Almost-Fudge Gâteau

5 large eggs
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup of sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
2 tablespoons coffee or water
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt

For the Glaze (optional)
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, line the bottom with parchment paper, butter the paper, dust the inside of the pan with flour and tap out the excess. Place the pan n a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a mixer bowl or other large bowl and the yolks in a small bowl.
Set a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and add the chocolate, sugar butter and coffee. Stir occasionally until the chocolate and butter are melted; the sugar may still be grainy, and that's fine. Transfer the bowl to the counter and let the mixture sit for 3 minutes.
Using a rubber spatula, stir in the yolks one by one, then fold in the flour.
Working with the whisk attachment of the mixer or a hand mixer, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until the hold firm, but glossy peaks. Using the spatula, stir about one quarter of the beaten whites into the batter, then gently fold in the rest. Scrape the butter into the pan and jiggle the pan from side to side a couple of times to even the batter.
Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the cake has risen evenly (it might rise around the edges and you'll think it's done, but give it a few minutes more, and the center will puff too) and the top has firmed (it will probably be cracked) and doesn't shimmy when tapped; a thinn knife inserted into the center should come out just slightly streaked with chocolate. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Run a blunt knife gently around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Carefully turn the cake over onto a rack and removethe pan bottom and the parchment paper. Invert the cake onto another rack and cool to room temperature ride side up. As the cake cools, it may sink.
To Make the Optional Glaze:
First, turn the cooled cake over onto another rack so you'll be glazing the flat bottom, and place the rack over a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper to catch any drips.
Put the chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.
Melt the chocolate over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave oven - the chocolate should be just melted and only warm, not hot.
Meanwhile, bring the cream to a boil in a small sauce pan. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir very gently with a rubber spatula until the mixture is smooth and shiny. Stir in the corn syrup.
Pour the glaze over the cake and smooth the top with a long metal icing spatula. Don't worry if the glaze drips unevenly down the sides of the cake - it will just add to its charms. Allow the glaze to set at room temperature or, if you're impatient, slip the cake into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

You asked for it!

For Easter, my mom volunteered to bring Baked Macaroni and Cheese for dinner. I told her that I wanted to make it with her, or make it her exact way for her. I like to change mine up from time to time with different cheeses, spices, or add-ins. A basic macaroni and cheese recipe is good to know though, so I’m posting this so people don’t need to ask for a basic mac and cheese! Mom was busy hiding the Easter eggs before dinner, so I made it this year.

Mom’s Macaroni and Cheese

1.5 lbs. elbow macaroni
4 tbsp. butter
1 onion, grated
4 tbsp. flour
4 cups milk
8 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 tbsp. prepared Dijon mustard or 1 tsp. mustard powder
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add macaroni and cook until al dente.
In another pot, melt butter, grate onion directly in and cook 2-3 minutes until softened. Sprinkle in flour and whisk to form a roux. Allow the flour to cook for a minute, then add in the milk. Bring to a soft boil, turn to low, whisk in the cheese slowly, a handful at a time. Stir in the spices, taste and adjust seasonings. Drain macaroni very well, add to cheese sauce. Mix to distribute.
Add to a baking dish, and bake at 350 for 45 minutes, until crisp on top.
(I like mine better extremely creamy, so I take a scoop out before it’s baked!)

You'll need a glass of milk, too

I can't go home for a weekend empty handed, so I made some chocolate chip cookies for the family. I have a giant bag of bittersweet chocolate chips, and there was a recipe on the back of the bag. It's also online here.

Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: 18 cookies
23 ounce(s) 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips
1 1/4 cup(s) butter, softened
3/4 cup(s) brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon(s) vanilla
3 1/2 cup(s) all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon(s) baking powder
2 cup(s) walnuts, chopped (optional)

DirectionsPreheat oven to 350°F. Place 1 1/3 cups chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside. Place another 1 1/3 cups of chocolate chips in a large bowl and microwave on HIGH power for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove and stir until chocolate is melted and smooth. If not melted, microwave for additional 30-second increments until smooth. Stir in butter with a wooden spoon until blended. Add brown sugar and stir. Add eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir flour with baking powder in a small bowl; add to chocolate mixture and mix slowly until blended. Fold in reserved chocolate chips and nuts. Place bowl in refrigerator for 5 minutes. Drop by heaping tablespoon onto an ungreased baking sheet.
Bake for 12 – 14 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet then transfer to wire rack.

Weekly Menu 3.21-3.27

This week is a bit short because of Easter, but I have 5 dinners to make, and a few random Easter dishes to blog about!
This week's Country Challenge Winner: Samoa

On this week's menu:

Buffalo Chicken Pizza, Salad
Mango-Spiced Chicken, Coconut Rice, Guava Punch
Chicken Marsala, Garlic Broccoli, Garlic Mashed Potatoes
BBQ Meatloaf, Sweet Potato Fries, Green beans
Chicken Sausage, Asparagus, Pear and Brie Risotto

Also on the menu:
Ghiradelli Chocolate Chip Cookies
Caramel Topped Flan
Mom's Macaroni and Cheese

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Here comes Peter Cottontail...

I found a bunny head shaped cookie cutter, and knew I could get creative with it. I wanted to incorporate carrots somehow because of Easter. I've never seen a rolled carrot cake cookie, so I decided to make something up and take a chance. I had no idea how these would turn out when I was adding ingredients. They came out kind of like a biscuit, not overly sweet, and pretty puffy. It was good the cookie wasn't too sweet, because the buttercream and coconut are! I tried to use as many elements of a carrot cake without making the cookies too moist and un-rollable. They came out pretty much how I wanted them to!

Rolled Carrot Cake Cookies

1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
3 eggs
2 tbsp. molasses
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 cups grated carrot
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
about 5 1/2 cups flour

Cream sugars and butter until light and fluffy. Add in eggs one at a time, add molasses. Mix until combined, add in carrot, baking powder, salt, and walnuts, mix until well combined. Add flour 1 cup at a time, mixing for 5-10 seconds after each cup is added. Do not overmix!
Place dough in the fridge for an hour, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Roll cookies on a nonstick mat with a mix of flour and powdered sugar. Cut out shapes about 1/4" thick. Place on a cookie sheet with parchment paper, bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden brown.
Ice with a basic buttercream, dip in coconut.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ireland #7, #8, and #9

I wanted to have something light for dinner tonight, I found these three recipes and I thought they'd all pair really well together, and they did!

Goat Cheese and Apple Salad with Cider Viniagrete, Pumpkin-Cider Soup, Guiness and Malt Wheaten Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup wheat bran
1 cup McCann's Irish Oatmeal
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted Kerrygold Irish butter (I used 2 tbsp)
1 1/2 tsp. barley malt extract (in health food stores)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 1/4 cups Guinness Stout

Preheat oven to 375.
Grease a loaf pan.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the butter, add balt, buttermilk, and stout. Mix with a wooden spoon for 30 seconds, until just combined.
Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, drop the temperature to 325 and bake for 30 more minutes.

Pumpkin Cider Soup

5 tbsp. unsalted kerrygold Irish butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
6 cups pumpkin or butternut squash
2 small granny smith apples, chopped
5 cups chicken stock
1 cup Irish Cider
2-3 sage leaves
1 cup cream (I usedfat free half and half)
Salt and pepper
Creme Fraiche for garnish

In a large saucepot over medium hear, melt the butter. Add onions and celery, cook for 5 minutes until soft. Add pumpkin, apples, stock, cider and sage. Bring to a boil, turn to low and summer uncovered for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 mintes, remove sage leaves.
Transfer soup to a food processor in batches and puree until smooth. Return to the pot and stir in cream. Cook until heated through, add salt and pepper to taste.

Goat Cheese and Apple Salad with Cider Vinaigrette

1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Irish cider
1/8 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. sugar
salt and freshly ground paper

5 cups salad greens
4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3 granny smith apples, sliced

Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar, shake to combine.
In a large bowl, toss all salat ingredeints with dressing.

All recipes taken from
The Irish Spirit, Margaret M. Johnson. Chronicle Books: San Francisco, 2006.

TWD #3- Brioche Raisin Snails

For this week's Tuesdays With Dorie recipe, Brioche Raisin Snails were chose. At first, I didn't think I was going to make them because the brioche contains 3 sticks of butter! I'm sticking with this though, so I decided to make them anyway, and just eat one. I liked them, but they weren't as great as I thought they would be since I worked on them for a day. The recipe is long, and seems tedious, but it really wasn't bad at all (thanks to ms. kitchenaid).

Brioche Raisin Snails

1 cup moist, plump raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves(page 48), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating overnight)
1/2 recipe Pastry Cream (page 448)

For The Optional Glaze
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
About 1 teaspoon water
Drop of pure vanilla extract

Getting Ready: Line one large or two smaller baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
Put the raisins in a small saucepan, cover them with hot water and let them steep for about 4 minutes, until they are plumped. Drain the raisins, return them to the saucepan and, stirring constantly, warm them over low heat. When the raisins are very hot, pull the pan from the heat and pour over the rum. Standing back, ignite the rum. Stair until the flames go out, then cover and set aside. (The raisins and rum an be kept in a covered jar for up to 1 day.)
Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.
On a flour dusted surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long, with a short end toward you. Spread the pastry cream across the dough, leaving 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Scatter the raisins over the pastry cream and sprinkle the raisins and cream with the cinnamon sugar. Starting wit the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it up to 2 months; see Storing for further instructions. Or, if you do not want to make the full recipe, use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder.)
With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends if they're ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into rounds a scant 1 inch thick. Put the snails on the lined baking sheet(s), leaving some puff space between them.
Lightly cover the snails with wax paper and set the baking sheet(s) in a warm place until the snails have doubles in volume--they'll be puffy and soft--about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Getting Ready To Bake: When the snails have almost fully risen, preheat the oven: depending on the number of baking sheets you have, either center a rack in the oven or position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Remove the wax paper, and bake the snails for about 25 minutes (rotate the sheets if you're using two, from top to bottom and front to back after 15 minutes), or until they are puffed and richly browned. Using a metal spatula, transfer the snails onto a cooling rack.

If You Want To Glaze The Snails: Put a piece of wax paper under the rack of warm rolls to act as a drip catcher. Put the confectioners' sugar into a small bowl, and stir in a teaspoon of water. Keep adding water drop by drop until you have an icing that falls from the tip of a spoon. Add the vanilla extract, then drizzle the icing over the hot snails.

Golden Brioche Loaves

2 packets active dry yeast
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 3/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

For The Glaze
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.
Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.
Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.
The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans.
Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.)

Getting Ready To Bake: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.
Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Pastry Cream

2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.
Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly--as I always do--put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Ireland #5

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I saw this dessert in The Irish Spirit cookbook, and I thought it would be a great use of the rest of my Brown Soda Bread, as well as a nice, healthy dessert.

Brown Bread Apple Cobbler

1/3 cup water
5 tbsp. Irish Whiskey
1/3 cup golden raisins
1 tsp. vanilla extract
4 large granny smith apples, peeled and diced
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 cups Brown Soda Bread crumbs
6 tbsp. Kerrygold Irish Butter, melted
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

In a small saucepan, bring water and whiskey to a boil. Stir in raisins and vanilla. Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 1 hour until raisins have absorbed liquid.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a baking dish.
Toss apples and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in raisins.
In another bowl, combine breadcrumbs, butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Transfer half the apple mixture to dish, top with half of breadcrumbs, then the remaining apples, then the rest of the breadcrumbs. Bake for 50 minutes, until golden and bubbly.

Recipe taken from
The Irish Spirit, Margaret M Johnson. Chronicle Books: San Francisco, 2006.

This is the McCann's Oatmeal used in the Brown Soda Bread, it was right with the regular oatmeal in my market. Doesn't seem much different than regular quick cooking oatmeal to me, but much more expensive!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ireland #3

I always bake cookies for whatever holiday it is to give to friends and family. I've become pretty awesome at the spritz cookie gun, and I noticed it had a shamrock plate. I took Wilton's basic spritz cookie recipe and changed it a bit to make these. I used Bailey's instead of milk, and I used only the egg yolk rather than the whole egg (like my mom's recipe).
After trying the baked cookies, I felt like the Bailey's flavor wasn't strong enough, so I decided to make an icing/filling for them. I used a basic buttercream recipe, again subbing Bailey's for the milk or water.

Bailey’s Shamrock Spritz Cookies

Adapted from Wilton’s Basic Spritz Cookies
1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
3 Tablespoons Baileys Irish Cream
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ tsp. salt
Food coloring, optional
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Thoroughly cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolk and Bailey’s; beat well. Stir together flour, salt and baking powder; gradually add to creamed mixture, mixing to make a smooth dough. Chill for an hour. Place dough into cookie press and press cookies onto cold, ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes; remove cookies from sheet; cool on rack.

Bailey's Buttercream
1 stick of unsalted butter at room temperature
1/4 cup Baileys
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
Cream together butter and Baileys, add salt, slowly add powdered sugar until it reaches desired consistency (I made this stiff to hold the cookies together).

Ireland #2

Lately on the weekends, JJ and I are out running errands, and stop at Panera or McAllister's for soup and a sandwich. After I found this recipe, I decided I'd make it today rather than going out to lunch. At first I didn't think about French Onion Soup in an Irish Cookbook, but then JJ said isn't this French, not Irish? No worries, the author took a French soup and used all Irish ingredients and flavors to really make this a delicous Irish Onion Soup!

I've never really looked for Irish ingredients before, so I don't know that Kroger always carries them, but since it's St. Patrick's week, I had no problem finding Kerrygold Irish Butter, Kerrygold Swiss Cheese, and Murphy's Irish Stout. However, you could easily substitute regular butter and swiss, and another dark beer. (I don't know that the butter tasted any differently, but it was $3.99/half a pound! Land 'O Lakes butter was only $2/1 lb.)

The recipe doesn't call for any bread or croutons on top, but any French Onion Soup I've had always does. I used the Brown Soda Bread to top this!

Murphy's Onion Soup

2 tbsp. Kerrygold Irish Butter

3 yellow onions, sliced

2 red onions, sliced

4 shallots, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tbsp. dark brown sugar

3 cups beef stock

1 cup Murphy's Irish Stout

Salt and Pepper

1 cup Kerrygold Swiss Cheese

In a large saucepot over medium heat, melt butter, add onions and garlic. Saute' for 12-15 minutes until softened, but not brown. Add in the seasonings and beer. Bring to a boil, reduce to low, add stock and simmer for 30 minutes.

Heat the broiler to high. Ladle soup into ramekins, top with bread then cheese. Broil for 2-3 minutes, until cheese is melted and brown. Serve immediately.

Recipe from:

The Irish Spirit, Margaret M Johnson. Chronicle Books: San Francisco, 2006.

I was in tears, but I made it through all the onoins and garlic!

Ireland #1

This is a recipe I found in The Irish Spirit that could be used in two additonal recipes, so I made up a loaf this morning while I was baking cookies. I was able to find McCann's Irish Oatmeal at Kroger, but I'm sure any quick-cooking oatmeal would work just as well!

Brown Soda Bread

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup plus 1 tbsp. McCann's Quick Cooking Irish Oatmeal
1 tsp. baking powdeer
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, stir in the whole wheat flourt and oatmeal. Make a well in the center and pour in the buttermilk and egg. With a spoon, stir until it forms a dough. With floured hands, form into 2 rounds. Transfer to a baking sheet and sprinkle with the remaining oatmeal. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

I halved this recipe, and made 1 loaf in a loaf pan.

Recipe from:
The Irish Spirit, Margaret M Johnson. Chronicle Books: San Francisco, 2006.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Country Challenge Winner #4 - Ireland!


Since St. Patrick’s Day is Monday, I had to make this week’s Country Challenge winner Ireland! I was so excited about cooking traditional Irish food, until I read what it consisted of. The middle class and poor in the country had a diet that consisted of milk, butter, cheese, oats, barley, potatoes, cabbage, bacon, and ham. Ireland has since been influenced by many cultures and their food is very worldly. In recent years, a new Irish cuisine has emerged, using traditional Irish ingredients, but adding new flavors and ingredients to update them. This was the approach I took for this week.

I found a cookbook called The Spirit of Ireland in Barnes and Noble. The author has separated the book into chapters, each dedicated to recipes containing a specific Irish alcoholic beverage. I found this to be a funny, yet effective way to organize a cookbook. This entire cookbook is written and photographed beautifully. It is very informative about the history of the country and the evolution of the spirits. It uses many traditional ingredients, mixed with ingredients that are made in Ireland. I will be solely cooking from this cookbook this week!

I did my best to hunt down imported Irish ingredients. Since it’s the week of St. Patrick’s day, it did make it easier. Of course all of these recipes can be made with American ingredients, I just wanted to cook as authentically as possible. I will divulge more information about the history and character of each ingredient and recipe as each dish is presented throughout the week.

Taking the night off...

Chipotle... yum! Sure, you could make it, but it's so much better when you go! And frankly, for the price, it's a great deal!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Armenia - #5

JJ and I absolutely love hummus, and I've been meaning to make it at home for so long, so after finding a recipe in an Armenian cookbook, I knew it was the perfect opportunity. Not only does it taste the same (or better) than store bought, it's cheaper, and can be flavored many ways. One you have the basic recipe, you can make roasted red pepper hummus, sun dried tomato hummus, cilantro hummus, roasted garlic and pine nut hummus, and many other varieties.
I also love tabbouli. It's so healthy and fresh tasting. The lemon and mint really bring out the flavors of the vegetables.
I chose to also make Baba Ghanoush because JJ didn't believe me when I told him it's not a made up name from Most Extreme Elimination Challenge and Wedding Crashers! It's actually similar to hummus, using eggplant in the place of chick peas.
I planned to make Armenian cracker bread with these dips, but I forgot to make it ahead of time (it contains yeast, needed to rise) so I picked up some pita chips from the market instead.
I found this to be the pefect dinner for today as it's 60 degrees outside!

Tabbouli, Hummus, and Baba Ghanoush

1 cup medium bulgar
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced (I added a red pepper, too)
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup chopped mint leaves
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Place the bulgar in a bowl, cover with hot water and let it sit for an hour, place in a colander and drain for half an hour.
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve. This can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Recipe from:
The Armenian Table, Victoria Fenanyan Wise. St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY. 2004.

Hummus: (on the left in photo above)
2 cans chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup warter
Juice of 2 lemons
4 tbsp. tahini
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. sugar
(I also add 1 clove of garlic, smashed)

Blend all ingredients in a food processer until smooth and creamy. Store in the fridge for up to a week.
Recipe from:
Simply Armenian, Barbara Ghazarian. Mayreni Publishing: Monterey, California, 2004.

Baba Ghanoush: (on the right in photo above)
1 eggplant
1 garlic clove
¼ cup tahini
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. cayenne
1 lemon, juiced

Roast eggplant in 450 degree oven for 15 minutes. Eggplant will become soft and deflate like a balloon. Strip off skin. Put the pulp in a food processor and process until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth.
Recipe from:
The Armenian Table, Victoria Fenanyan Wise. St. Martin’s Press, New York, NY. 2004.

This photo is of the eggplant taken out of the oven, deflated.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Armenia - #4

I wanted to make an Armenian dessert, but I didn't want another baked good as I've made so many this week. I saw this snack/dessert made from fruit and yogurt and thought it would be delicious. I derived from the recipe in the cookbook because it was much more work, but it tasted great!

Sun-Dried Apricot Halves with Sweet Cheese and Pistachio Dust

1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts
36 sun-dried apricots in almond scented syrup
1 1/2 cups sweetened yogurt cheese
1 tbsp. confectioner's sugar

I used:
1 cup plain yogurt
3 tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. almond extract
sliced almonds

Mix half of honey, almonds, and all of the yogurt. Dollop on each apricot, top with an almond sliver, and drizzle with honey. Serve cold.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie - #3

Happy 100th Post to Me!!!

Now, on with the post...

This week for Tuesday With Dorie, Russian Grandmother's Apple Pie-Cake was chosen. I'm not exactly sure why it's not just apple pie... because it tasted, and basically was, apple pie. The recipe called for a mixture of apples, which I've never cooked with a mixture before, so I really liked the end flavor of the different apples. Also, I loved how the raisins got really plump as it cooked. The crust was more like a rolled sugar cookie dough than a traditional pie crust, which made it all the more delicious.
I enjoyed this, however next time I might make it in a pie plate because making it in a rectangular pyrex made rolling the dough a little harder, and it's a pie to me!

Russian Grandmothers' Apple Pie-Cake
For The Dough
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 1/4 - 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
For The Apples
10 medium apples, all one kind or a mix (I like to use Fuji, Golden Delicious and Ida Reds; my grandmother probably used dry baking apples like Cordland and Rome)
Squirt of fresh lemon juice
1 cup moist, plump raisins (dark or golden)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
Sugar, preferably decorating (coarse) sugar, for dusting
To Make The Dough:
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3 minutes more. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add the baking powder and salt and mix just to combine. Add the lemon juice - the dough will probably curdle, but don't worry about it. Still working on low speed, slowly but steadily add 3 1/4 cups of the flour, mixing to incorporate it and scraping down the bowl as needed. The dough is meant to be soft, but if you think it looks more like a batter than a dough at this point, add the extra 1/4 cup flour. (The dough usually needs the extra flour.) When properly combined, the dough should almost clean the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather it into a ball and divide it in half. Shape each half into a rectangle. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or for up to 3 days. (The dough can be wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.)
To Make The Apples:
Peel and core the apples and cut into slices about 1/4 inch thick; cut the slices in half crosswise if you want. Toss the slices in a bowl with a little lemon juice - even with the juice, the apples may turn brown, but that's fine - and add the raisins. Mix the sugar and cinnamon together, sprinkle over the apples and stir to coat evenly. Taste an apple and add more sugar, cinnamon, and/or lemon juice if you like.
Getting Ready to Bake:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Generously butter a 9x12-inch baking pan (Pyrex is good) and place it on a baking shee tlined with parchment or a silicone mat. Remove the dough from the fridge. If it is too hard to roll and it cracks, either let it sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes or give it a few bashes with your rolling pin to get it moving. Once it's a little more malleable, you've got a few choices. You can roll it on a well-floured work surface or roll it between sheets of plastic wrap or wax paper. You can even press or roll out pieces of the dough and patch them together in the pan - because of the baking powder in the dough, it will puff and self-heal under the oven's heat. Roll the dough out until it is just a little larger all around than your pan and about 1/4 inch thick - you don't want the dough to be too thin, because you really want to taste it. Transfer the dough to the pan. If the dough comes up the sides of the pan, that's fine; if it doesn't that's fine too. Give the apples another toss in the bowl, then turn them into the pan and, using your hands, spread them evenely across the bottom. Roll out the second piece of dough and position it over the apples. Cut the dough so you've got a 1/4 to 1/2 inch overhang and tuck the excess into the sides of the pan, as though you were making a bed. (If you don't have that much overhang, just press what you've got against the sides of the pan.) Brush the top of the dough lightly with water and sprinkle sugar over the dough. Using a small sharp knife, cut 6 to 8 evenly spaced slits in the dough.
Bake for 65 to 80 minutes, or until the dough is a nice golden brown and the juices from the apples are bubbling up through the slits. Transfer the baking pan to a cooling rack and cool to just warm or to room temperature. You'll be tempted to taste it sooner, but I think the dough needs a little time to rest.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A cookie a day...

JJ's favorite cookies are oatmeal raisin. I had some raisins on hand so I decided to make him some. I wanted to make something low-fat, low-cal, and I found this recipe on the sun-maid website. Overall, they were good, but a bit dry.

Low-Fat Raisin Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup white whole wheat flour or whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup fat-free vanilla or plain yogurt
2 tablespoons canola oil or corn oil
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups uncooked old-fashioned oats or quick-cooking rolled oats
1 cup Sun-Maid Natural Raisins

HEAT oven to 350 F. Cover 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
COMBINE flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together in a small bowl.
COMBINE brown sugar, yogurt, oil, egg and vanilla in a large bowl. Add flour mixture to make a blended dough.
STIR in oats and raisins.
DROP mixture by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheets.
BAKE for 10-12 minutes until very lightly browned. Do not over bake.
SLIDE cookies from parchment paper onto countertop to cool.

Makes 40 cookies. (I made 32, they're pretty small too)

Nutrients per serving (1 cookie): Calories 63; Protein 1g; Fat 1g (Sat. Fat 0.1g); Carbohydrate 13g; Dietary Fiber 1g; Cholesterol 5mg; Sodium 63mg

Friday, March 7, 2008

Country Challenge #3 - Armenia


(Armenia is the purple country in the very center of the map)
Armenia is a transcontinental country, bordering Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Armenia is in a geographical location that has permitted it to invasion, some of these invaders include the Greeks, Arabs, Mongols, Russians, and Romans.

There is so much culture and history in Armenia, as it is in the highlands surrounding Ararat, the mountain in which Noah’s Ark came to rest. Armenia was the first country in the world to have the official religion of Christianity. Because of this, Armenia has many holiday meals and traditional feasts.

Armenian cuisine is a Mediterranean cuisine, influenced by surrounding countries and the food that is harvested. There are many basic dishes, such as Boeregs (stuffed phyllo), Spreads (Hummus, Baba Ghanoush), Khorovats (kebabs), Kuftas (fried balls), and Kibbehs (potato casseroles), that have many variations of the meats and vegetables used. As the week progresses, I will explain these dishes further.

I really have enjoyed learning about Armenia. I had no idea the culture and history was so rich, especially in Biblical times. I hope that you too will find my meal selections pleasing!

Argentina - #6

It's Friday, which is pizza night, so of course to finish the week right, I found traditional Argentinean pizza! I found this website that shows the traditional recipes and ingredients used.
It says Argentinean pizza usually is eaten with a fork and knife because there is no bare crust. It also says that the pizza has only one or two toppings. I used the sauce recipe and made mine with prosciutto and green olives, two traditional toppings in Argentina.

I hope you like all of my Argentina selections. Next week - Armenia!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Soup and Sammy night!

JJ and I are big fans of the Soup and Sammy dinner. I eat them separately, but he likes to dip, so I try to make them with complimentary flavors. One of my favorite sandwiches from back in the Vegetarian days was Panera’s Portabella and Mozzarella Panini. It is to die for! I found a recipe for Foccacia, and I knew I’d have to try it out because that’s the kind of bread the Panini is made on.
I paired this with Butternut Squash Soup, one of my absolute favorites. I did a lot of this dinner ahead of time (last night) because the squash needs to roast, the bread needs to rise, etc. However, soup can be bought, or you can use frozen butternut squash puree, and the foccacia can be bought as well.

Portabella and Mozzarella Panini’s with Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
1 packet yeast
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 springs fresh rosemary (1 sprig minced, one whole)
8 thin slices red onion

(The foccacia pre-baking. Rosemary sprigs can be removed post-baking)
Heat water in a small pot until it reaches 110 degrees. Add in sugar, table salt, and yeast. Allow the yeast to bloom for 5-10 minutes. Add flour to a mixer with the dough hook on. Stream in the yeast mixture and sprinkle in the minced Rosemary. Allow dough to process for 5 minutes or so. Turn into a greased bowl, cover in plastic wrap, and allow dough to rise until doubled, about an hour.Turn out, punch down and roll into an oval shape. Cover and allow it to rise again.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.Prick holes in the dough and place rosemary sprigs in each hole. Lay the onion slices on the dough. Drizzle olive oil over.
Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown.

3 portabella caps
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 red onion, sliced
1 ball of fresh mozzarella
10 basil leaves, chiffonaded
Salt and Pepper
In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, sauté portabellas and onions until softened. Turn off heat, add in vinegar and salt and pepper. Mix to distribute and set aside. Slice mozzarella into disks.
Preheat grill pan to medium heat.
Lay first half of foccacia on the grill pan, add mushrooms, onions, basil, and mozzarella. Top with the other half of the foccacia and put another pan on top to weight it down. Flip after 2-3 minutes.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup:
2 butternut squash, halved and seeded
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp. butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 tbsp. olive oil
28 oz. chicken stock
½ cup milk, cream, or fat free half and half
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground fennel seeds
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 tsp. thyme
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lay butternut squash on cookie sheets, cut side up. Place brown sugar and butter in the cup end. Bake for 30 minutes, or until soft when pierced with a fork.
Heat a soup pot to medium heat. Add olive oil, onion and carrots. Cook for 10 minutes, until softened. Add to a food processor or blender with the squash and half the chicken stock. Puree mixture, add back to pot. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes to develop flavors. Season until it reaches desired level of sweet/savory, add more/less cream and stock to reach desired viscosity.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Until there's a cure...

I am a Zeta Tau Alpha, and our philanthropy is Breast Cancer Awareness. I loved working at race for the cure, baking for Think Pink games, and buying the cute pink ribbon products, but I never really had a personal experience with breast cancer.
My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer a few weeks before Thanksgiving. It was awful news to hear, but she was lucky that she found it early. She had radiation for 3 weeks leading up to my wedding, and began chemotherapy right after Christmas. She has been so amazing through it all! She has her last chemo treatment on Thursday, and asked me to make some pink ribbon cookies for her to bring to the center because there are often baked goods there for the patients. I was more than happy to because I love baking, but because I’m so proud of my mom! I found the ribbon cookie cutters here, and used them for many events in college. They can be used for any ribbon though!
This recipe is a traditional rolled sugar cookie recipe I found online, and added a bit to from learning a few secrets and tips. Using powdered sugar to roll and dust tastes so much better than using flour. These cookies are sweet, buttery, and delicious. The dough also holds up well in the freezer.

Pink Ribbon Sugar Cookies
(updated 12/2012)

1 1/2 cups butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tbsp. lemon zest
5 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Powdered sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Cream butter and sugars in a mixer for 5 minutes. Add in eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly. Add in vanilla, almond, and lemon zest. Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt a little at a time. Do not over mix, this process should take about one minute.
Chill dough for up to a week in the fridge, or roll out and cut right away.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and bake cookies for 7-8 minutes.
Wait until cookies are cooled before icing.
For the outer icing:
1 stick of butter, softened
¼ cup Crisco
6 cups powdered sugar
Water or Milk to reach desired consistency
Food coloring
For the inner icing:
4 cups powdered sugar
¼ - ½ cup skim milk
Food coloring
This is a large recipe, and it will make 80 ribbons

Argentina - #5

Tonight is another Argentinean recipe. So far, I have been extremely pleased with my choices! I went back to polenta for tonight, since it was so delicious the other night. Tonight was just as amazing! Polenta is definitely going to be used more often!
"In Argentina, noquis are traditionally served on the 29th of each month. The idea is that one's pockets are almost empty at the end of the month, and potatoes and flour are about the only ingredients left in the pantry. In Argentina, neighborhood restaurants follow this tradition, serving noquis as a special on the 29th."
This recipe says the gnocci are usually served with a vegetable soup, so I combined some vegetables and made a basic tomato broth based soup spiced with Argentinean flavors. I took the gnocci approach, and emptied out the pantry of any vegetables I had!
I also grilled some chorizo for JJ since he wanted some meat with this meal.

Grilled Chorizo, Spiced Vegetable Soup and Noquis de Espinaca (Spinach Gnocci)

Noquis de Espinaca:
Spinach Gnocci
Pg. 279
Serves 3-4
2 cups water
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. dry mustard
¼ tsp. white pepper
Pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
½ cup instant polenta or cornmeal
1 large egg, beaten
½ cup plus 2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
2 cups well washed, packed spinach leaves, cooked and drained and squeezed dry
½ cup unsalted butter, melted

1. Place the water, salt, mustard, white pepper and nutmeg in a medium size saucepan and bring to a boil. Sprinkle in the polenta and whisk until well blended. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until the polenta pulls away from the side and bottom, about 5-7minutes. Remove from the heat and beat in egg, ½ cup parmesan, and spinach. Pour into a greased shallow baking pan, let cool, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a baking sheet.
3. When dough is firm, cut into 2" squares. Place on the prepared sheet, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
4. Bake 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Spiced Vegetable Soup
*Please use whatever vegetables you like and have on hand*
1 15. oz can chicken stock
1 cup crushed tomatoes
1 cup water2 carrots, peeled and sliced
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup frozen corn
½ cup frozen okra
½ bell pepper, chopped
½ yellow onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
Salt and pepper
In a soup pot over medium heat, sauté carrots, onions and garlic for a few minutes until softened. Add chicken stock. In a blender, combine tomatoes and water and puree. Add to soup pot and bring to a simmer. When carrots are tender, after about 10 minutes of simmering, add the remaining vegetables and spices. Bring to a simmer, and serve. Garnish with sour cream and cilantro.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Tuesdays With Dorie #2

This week's TWD recipe was Snickery Squares. They are supposed to bean adult/gourmet version of a Snickers bar. It was complete fate that brought this recipe and Argentina in the same week because I needed 1/2 cup of dulce de leche for my Alfajores, and 1 1/2 cups of dulce de leche for this recipe. The recipe I had made 2 cups, and I didn't know what I'd do with the other 1.5 cups after making the cookies (besides eat it with a spoon). I knew making this TWD recipe was meant to be!

These bars were good, but I have mixed feelings about them. My husbandand I both thought the chocolate seemed to overpower the rest of the layers. I think also the caramel/peanut layer could have been doubled. If I make these again, I'll definitely use 3 cups of dulce de leche.

I absolutely loved the peanuts. They tasted exactly like cracker jacks peanuts. I never knew it was as simple as making caramelized sugar. They cooled and hardened much faster than I expected, and I couldn't stop snacking on them while waiting on the crust. Overall, I'd say it's a good recipe, I would just tweak it next time and use more dulce de leche and maybe a little less chocolate.

Snickery Squares

For the Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

2 TBSP powdered sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled

1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten

For the Filling:
½ cup sugar

3 TBSP water

1 ½ cups salted peanuts

About 1 ½ cups dulce de leche (I used homemade)

For the Topping:
7 ounces bittersweet, coarsely chopped (I used 6)

½ stick unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces, at room temperature

Getting Ready:
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 8 inch square pan and put it on a baking sheet.
(I used a 5x10)

To Make the Crust:
Toss the flour, sugar, powdered sugar and salt into a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Toss in the pieces of cold butter and pulse about 12 times, until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Pour the yolk over the ingredients and pulse until the dough forms clumps and curds-stop before the dough comes together in a ball. Turn the dough into the buttered pan and gently press it evenly across the bottom of the pan. Prick the dough with a fork and slide the sheet into the oven. Bake the crust for 15-20 minutes, or until it takes on just a little color around the edges. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool to room temperature before filling.

To Make the Filling:
Have a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet at the ready, as well as a long-handled wooden spoon and a medium heavy bottomed saucepan. Put the sugar and water in the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Keeping the heat fairly high, continue to cook the sugar, without stirring, until it just starts to color. Toss the peanuts and immediately start stirring. Keep stirring, to coat the peanuts with sugar. Within a few minutes, they will be covered with sugar and turn white—keep stirring until the sugar turns back into caramel. When the peanuts are coated with a nice deep amber caramel, remove the pan from the heat and turn the nuts out onto the baking sheet., using the wooden spoon to spread them out as best you can. Cool the nuts to room temperature. When they are cool enough to handle, separate the nuts or break them into small pieces. Divide the nuts in half. Keep half of the nuts whole or in biggish pieces for the filling, and finely chop the other half for the topping. Spread the dulce de leche over the shortbread base and sprinkle over the whole candied nuts.

To Make the Topping:
Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Remove chocolate from the heat and gently stir in the butter, stirring until it is fully blended into the chocolate. Pour the chocolate over the dulce de leche, smoothing it with a long metal icing spatula, then sprinkle over the rest of the peanuts. Slide the pan into the fridge to set the topping, about 20 minutes; if you'd like to serve the squares cold, keep them refrigerated for at least 3 hours before cutting.
Cut into 16 bars.

I was a little worried my bars wouldn't come out nicely, so I took this photo of the whole thing before cutting into it. Luckily they didn't stick and came out really nicely.

Argentina - #3

I originally chose this meal because it was based on polenta, which I love, and don't make often enough. I thought it sounded good, but it tasted amazing! It's by far the best meal we've had since I started my country challenge, and definitely something I'll make many more times! My only addition was a bell pepper in the sofrito. Other than that, I made it the exact same delicious way!
"In the Rio de la Plata region of Argentina and Uruguay, one of the most important river systems in South America, cornmeal, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, onions, and garlic, are staples. This meal is described as one called 'saca de apuros, saves the day' because it is quick and feeds many, and can be easily doubled. This dish is also great when reheated in the microwave."

Polenta Rellena con Jamon y Queso
(Polenta with Ham and Cheese Filling)

2 tbsp. canola oil
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium sized ripe tomatoes, seeded, peeled and chopped
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
Pinch of sugar

1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ cups water
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. white pepper
1 cup cornmeal

6 oz. thinly sliced ham
6 oz. mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
½ cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
½ cup whipping cream (I used fat free half and half)

1. To make the sofrito, heat the oil in a medium sized skillet over low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring a few times until softened. Add the garlic, bell pepper and tomatoes, cover and cook until tomatoes have formed a sauce, about 10 minutes. Add salt, black pepper, and sugar. Setaside.
2. To make the polenta, bring the milk, water, salt and white pepper to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and add the cornmeal in a slow, thin stream, stirring constantly. When done, polenta should pull away from the side of the pan. Spread half the polenta in a shallow baking dish, top with half the sofrito and half the ham and mozzarella. Pour the remaining polenta on top, repeat layers of sofrito and ham and cheese and cream.
3. Bake for 20 mintues at 400 degrees.

Recipe taken directly from
The South American Table, Maria Baez Kijac. Harvard Common Press: Boston, Massachusettes, 2003

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Argentina - #1

Dulce de Leche is one of Argentina's most popular ingredients. It is slow carmelized milk. The process takes a while, but it is truly worth the effort. This is the most amazing caramel you will ever try. You will never want to buy it in the stores again! The cookies are wonderful with the dulce de leche because they're not strong in flavor, but they're buttery and delicious. Enjoy one of Argentina's favorites!


(Cookies with Dulce de Leche Filling)

Alfajores pg. 372
Makes 24 cookies

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
¼ cup confectioners sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tbsp. grated lemon zest
2 tbsp. brandy
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 cup dulce de leche

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Beat in egg yolks. Add the zest and brandy and mix well. Sift together flour and baking powder then mix into the butter mixture to make a dough that is soft but not runny. Form into a ball, cover in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease a large cookie sheet.
3. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough out to 1/8 inch thickness and cut into 1 ½ inch rounds. Place on cookie sheet and bake until set, about 10 minutes, the cookies should have no color.
4. Remove cookies and let cool on a wire rack. Spread one cookie with dulce de leche and press a second cookie on top.

Dulce de Leche pg. 390

Makes 3 cups
4 cups milk
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp. baking soda

In a heavy 4 quart saucepan, mix together the milk, sugar, vanilla, and baking soda. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Cook for about an hour until it is thick and caramel-colored. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator for a few weeks.

Both recipes are taken directly from:

The South American Table, Maria Baez Kijac. Harvard Common Press: Boston, Massachusettes, 2003.