Archive | June, 2007

Easy and Fresh: Roasted Acorn Squash

22 Jun

This is a perfect side for a poultry dish, or afternoon snack. I make acorn squash a lot in the fall and winter, as the warm flavors of carmelized sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg complement the winter chill ever so well. Now I know it’s summer but I made the squash anyway. We ate it alongside these fabulous turkey breast filets from Omaha Steaks. The turkey was rick and tender, yo could cut it with a fork and all it needed was some salt and pepper for seasoning. The acorn squash was a simple side that went great.

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The acorn squash has considerably more starch than its cousins the yellow squash or zucchini. When roasted, it has more the consistency of a sweet potato, but is not as heavy in your stomach. Perfect, huh?

Roasted Acorn Squash

serves 2.

1 medium Acorn Squash (about 1-1 1/2 pounds)

1 T. butter

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. nutmeg

1/4 t. salt

Preheat oven to 450.

Cut Acorn Squash in half, from top to botton (cut through the pointed end down to the knob at the bottom)

Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds from the center of each half (like you would a cantaloupe)

Fill a 9×13 pan with 3/4 inch water

Place Squash cut-side down in water, and roast for 15 minutes.

Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl.

Remove Acorn Squash from oven, place skin side down on plate

Place 1/2 T. butter in each half of the Squash, swirl it around to melt the butter on the hot squash.

Sptkinle half of brown sugar mixture on each half of the squash

To eat, scoop out bites with a spoon–the skin of the squash is already your bowl!

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Snickerdoodle Muffins

20 Jun

It has been an interesting week, I think our cat (pictured below) has decided she doesn’t like her food…the same food she has been eating for quite some time now. I thought maybe she was just trying to watch her girlish figure, until she dove for a piece of turkey that fell in the kitchen–she definitely still likes eating, she is just protesting her food via starvation. Fantastic.

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Anyway, if you are willing to eat–here is a great recipe for Snickerdoodle Muffins.

My mom and J both like Snickerdoodles, so these should be a big hit. The muffins are soft and airy and then the tops are crispy–not sry crispy, but buttery crispy and they would be great for breakfast or for a snack later on.

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Snickerdoodle Muffins

makes 12-14 muffins.

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp cream of tarter

2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1 and ¼ cup sour cream

2 and ¼ cups all purpose flour

1 cup sugar and 3 TBSP cinnamon mixed together for rolling

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Cream butter and sugar until soft about 3 to 5 minutes.

Add vanilla.

Add eggs one at a time and mix until each is incorporated.
In a separate, mix together the flour, baking soda, and baking powder and cream of tarter.

Add the flour mixture and the sour cream alternately to the egg-butter mixture in the additions. Start with the flour and end with the flour. Scrape the bowl occasionally.

Using a spoon, scoop out muffin batter one at a time and drop into a shallow bowl filled with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Roll the muffin around in the mixture until it is covered completely in cinnamon sugar.

Place muffin in to muffin tin.

Bake for approx. 20-22 minutes in a 350F oven or until golden brown.

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Triple Chocolate Toffee Cookies

17 Jun

These are very good. I am going to credit their level of mouth-watering, rich, chocolately tastiness to the large amounts of real chocolate (rather than cocoa powder) in the cookies as well as the (almost) absence of flour.

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Triple Chocolate Toffee Cookies

makes 32 cookies.

adapted from The Pastry Queen, Rebecca Rather.

2 cups heath toffee bits (found near chocolate chips)

6 TBSP unsalted butter

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped

3 large eggs

1 cup sugar

1 TBSP vanilla extract

1/3 cup all purpose flour

¼ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

1 ½ cups white chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Grease baking pan generously with butter or cooking spray.

Melt butter, bittersweet chocolate, and unsweetened chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir occasionally, watching carefully to make sure chocolate does not burn. Remove the pan from the heat to cool.
Using a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or an electric hand mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until fluffy.

Add vanilla and melted chocolate. Beat on medium speed about 2 minutes, until dough is thick and glossy.

Add flour, baking powder, and salt to chocolate mixture, stirring just until incorporated. Stir in toffee pieces and white chocolate chips.

Let dough rest for 20 minutes (this will make it easier to scoop).

Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough on prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 1 ½ inches apart.

Bake 10-12 minutes, until the tops begin to crack and look glossy. Cool cookies 10 minutes before removing them from the baking sheets.

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Kid food…really?

15 Jun

I wanted to make breakfast pastries and I knew we had a bag of apples at home, so I began a quick search for some sort of apple pastry. I went through epicurious.com and then headed over to Williams-Sonoma’s recipe section. I found a recipe for Apple-Pear Turnovers. Perfect.

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I scanned the recipe and it looked long (that is my usual first-pass at a recipe, just looking at its length), almost too long, until I saw a line at the beginning of the recipe instruction that read “Before you start: make sure an adult is present to help.” Ok, so now I had to make this recipe. It was from a kids’ cookbook, and I couldn’t pass it up because it seemed too lengthy because that would put me…with less patience with a nine-year-old who is old enough to read a recipe but not old enough to use an oven unsupervised? I think not. Williams-Sonoma children: I’ll show you.

With some vengeance and spite, constantly thinking “I bet my fork-score marks are better than those little kids'” and “I added cardamom, bet they didn’t think of that!” I made the following recipe. Yes, I can say I feel proud to be as accomplished as a Williams-Sonoma kid. I have left the original recipe somewhat intact so that you can feel good about yourself too.

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Apple-Pear Turnovers

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Kids Baking, by Abigail Johnson Dodge.

For the filling:

2 apples, about 3/4 pound total

1 firm but ripe pear, about 1/2 pound

1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1 pinch cardamom

For the pastry:

All-purpose flour for rolling

2 frozen puff pastry sheets, each 9 1/2 inches
square, thawed

1 egg

2 tablespoons sugar

Before you start: Be sure an adult is nearby to help.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease 2 baking sheets with butter.

Make the filling:
Peel (I did not peel), cut into quarters, and core the apples and the pear. Using a small, sharp knife, cut the apple and pear quarters into small chunks.

Put the chunks into a bowl. Add the brown sugar, flour, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and raisins and stir together with a wooden spoon.

Roll out the pastry:
Sprinkle a work surface with some flour. Unfold 1 of the thawed puff pastry sheets on top of the flour. Keep the other sheet wrapped in the refrigerator.

Sprinkle some flour on the pastry. Using a rolling pin, and beginning at the center of the pastry, roll out to the far side. Then roll from the center toward you. After every few rolls, give the pastry a quarter turn and sprinkle the top and bottom of the pastry with more of the flour so the pastry does not stick. Keep rolling and sprinkling until the pastry is a 12 1/2-inch square.

Cut out the squares
Using a ruler and a pizza wheel or table knife (I think you can handle this…just eyeball it.), trim the edges to make a 12-inch square. Pull away the scraps of dough and discard. Cut the 12-inch square into 4 equal 6-inch squares.

Add the filling
Spoon 1/3 cup of the filling into the center of each square. Spread the filling across the middle toward 2 opposite points.

In a small bowl, beat the egg with a fork. Set aside.

Assemble the turnovers
Brush the beaten egg along 2 edges of each square with the pastry brush. Fold one-half of each square over the filling, enclosing it fully and forming a triangle. Press the edges together with the fork to seal them.

Place the 4 turnovers on a prepared baking sheet, spacing them 2 inches apart. Repeat with the remaining puff pastry sheet and filling.

Brush and bake the turnovers
Using a pastry brush, brush the tops of the turnovers with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the turnovers with the sugar.

Put 1 baking sheet on the upper rack in the oven and the other sheet on the lower rack in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Then, using oven mitts, remove the baking sheets and put each one on the opposite rack. Bake until the turnovers are puffed and brown, about 15 minutes more.

Using oven mitts (really?), remove the baking sheets from the oven and set each on a cooling rack to cool for 10 minutes.



Summertime Melons

14 Jun

I couldn’t sleep a few nights ago and stayed up watching the Summer Grill Fest on Food Network. I usually have a hard time watching the Food Network–you know how it goes: they’re making something very tasty, which makes me hungry, then I make something to eat, and then I miss whatever show I was watching. I found the remedy to this though, laying in bed in the state where you’re too awake to fall asleep but too tired to get up and fix a snack–with these criteria the Grill Fest had my undivided attention. I watched Paula, Giada, Bobby, Alton, and Tyler make all sorts of dished from appetizers to fish, to drinks to desserts, went to sleep, woke up, and proceeded to make most all of the Grill Fest recipes in the next week.

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This is how we end up at the Cantaloupe and Watermelon Salad with Mint and Basil Vinaigrette. My dad is allergic to watermelon, so I never really ate it growing up (which is irrelevant, because I didn’t appreciate fruits anyway) and I was never a big cantaloupe fan. Well. a $.99/ea cantaloupe sale lured me to that melon, and i figured while I was at it to get the watermelon too.

This recipe is great because it adds a sweet flavour, plus the summery taste of mint, the spice of basil, tart lemon, and aromatic almond. Serve as a sweet snack, side dish, or a light dessert.

Cantaloupe and Watermelon Salad with Mint and Basil Vinaigrette

adapted from Giade DeLaurentis.

1/2 watermelon

cantaloupe, cut in half, seeded

2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint leaves plus whole sprigs, for garnish

2 tablespoons freshly chopped basil leaves plus whole sprigs, for garnish

1 lemon juiced (1/4 cup)

1/4 cup simple syrup (equal amounts sugar and water heated until sugar dissolves, cool)

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Scoop melon balls from half of the watermelon and the entire cantaloupe using a melon baller. Reserve the watermelon shell.Add to a blender or food processor the chopped mint, chopped basil, lemon juice, simple syrup and almond extract. Blend until smooth.

Add the watermelon and cantaloupe balls to the carved out watermelon half.

Add the vinaigrette to the balls and toss to combine.

Garnish with the mint and basil sprigs and taste.

Back in Action: Coconut Crust Key Lime Pie

12 Jun

My favorite Key Lime Pie is actually a Key Lime Cheesecake. They make it at Mozart’s Coffee Shop down on the lake and something about sitting on the deck by the water, with a huge piece of this rich, creamy, tart key lime cheesecake that is held together by a thick, sweet graham cracker crust is just pure bliss–add a cup of french roast coffee and I am good for the night.

This particular Key Lime Pie that I share today is different in it’s crust. Here, I have left behind what I thought was my favorite part of the pie–that super-sweet crust that melts in your mouth due to obscene amounts of butter and sugar. Now, we have a coconut crust: something lighter, the natural oil from the coconut leaving your pallate satiate and not yearning for the butter of the aforementioned graham cracker crust.

Try it out.

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Coconut Crust Key Lime Pie

serves 8.

Crust ingredients:

7 oz. flake coconut

2 egg whites

1/4 cup sugar

For filling:

1/2 cup key lime juice, fresh or bottled

4 teaspoons grated lime zest

4 egg yolks

1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk

For crust:

Place coconut in thin layer on 2 (10X13″) cookie sheets.

Toast coconut in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Stir frequently, and watch carefully. Remove from oven and let cool.

Meanwhile, reduce oven temp to 250.

In small mixing bowl, beat egg whites to stiff peaks, then slowly beat in sugar until completely dissolved.

Fold in cooled coconut.

Press this mixture into a greased 9″ pie plate and bake 7 minutes until lightly golden and set.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Heat oven to 325 to bake the filling.

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For Key Lime Filling:

Whisk the egg yolks and lime zest together in a bowl until tinted light green. This takes about 2 minutes.

Beat in milk, then juice and set aside at room temperature till it thickens.

Pour the lime filling into crust, spread evenly, and then bake for 15 minutes until the center sets, but still wiggles when shaken.

Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.

Refrigerate until ready to serve.