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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hazelnut Baby Loaves

This is a recipe straight from Julia Childs "Baking with Julia" cook book. These are delicious, even the boys loved them enough to take some home, that is a sure sign off success!
The cream topping is a Grappa-Mascarpone Cream and is simply delicious, however with these cakes good old cool whip will work too.  Grappa is an Italian grape based brandy made from the left over grape skins after wine making.  Italians typically drink grappa after a heavy meal to help with digestion and they will even add it to their espresso.  Grappa like wine is only as good as the grapes it is made from and I will say it does not smell very appetizing in the bottle.  However, in the cream it give it just the right edge it is good.  See you learn something new everyday and for those of you wondering no I didn't do shots of this straight from the bottle, I swear!).  So lets start with the Grappa Cream and again you can skip this and use your own favorite whipped cream topping.
Here are the players:

  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 c Mascarpone 
  • 1 teaspoon grappa
This is super simple so I only really got to take one picture of the cream in progress.
First whip that cream with the sugar until it forms soft peaks.  Next in another bowl gently
with a rubber spatula mix the mascarpone just to loosen it up and be gentle this stuff is rich and mixes very easily. Add in the grappa to the mascarpone and then fold in the whipped cream and sugar mixture.  Mmmm doesn't it look delicious!

Thats it ! Your done.  Try to keep your fingers out of it and put it in a covered container to chill until you are ready to serve. I like easy:)

So now onto the star of the show the Hazelnut Baby Loaves
Here are the players

Now I must say  here in this picture you see the "de-skinned hazelnuts" If you can find hazelnuts already de-skinned, buy umm.  I unfortunately could only find the ones with the skin on, but fortunately Julia tells us just how to remedy that.  If you are lucky enough to have de-skinned hazelnuts then skip this next step.

  • 1/3 cup hazelnuts peeled
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 2/3 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 cup creme fraiche (you can substitute heavy cream here)
  • 1 stick butter (no substitute use the real thing, this is the good fat in your diet my friends) make sure it is at room temp
  • 2 large eggs also at room temp
  • A smal amount of melted butter for greasing the pans and you will need 8 mini loaf pans which you can get the foil ones right at the grocery store at 5 to a pack.
Heat the oven to 350.
So lets get to skinning those nuts!  That didn't come out right but you know what I mean.
Bring about 2 cups of water to boil on the stove.  Once boiling add 3 tablespoons baking soda (not powder) and this is an interesting effect if fizzes all over the place including my clean stovetop:(
Throw in the nuts and boil for about 3 to 5 minutes until you see the water turn blackish

See that spatter on the side of the pan, I probably should have used a bigger pan because that stuff was all over my cooktop too:(

So do a little test when you think they are ready, take one out and plop (don't you love that official culinary term) it in a bowl of cold water, like so.

Rub gently and that skin should just slide right off. It is the baking soda bath that makes them ready to jump right out of their skin!

See how pretty they are bare naked;)

So next go ahead and melt about 2 tablespoons of butter and take a pastry brush and brush it all over the mini loaf pans.  Then dust each pan with a little flour, just tap out the excess, they are ready to be filled.

Look at umm all lined up so pretty:)
So next grab them naked hazelnuts and put them in a food processor (I have a very little one) with 1 tablespoon of sugar.  Now if you do not have a food processor you can use a chopper (like my  handy dandy pampered chef chopper) of any kind. You need them finely ground but you need to be careful not to overdo it or you will have hazelnut butter.

See finely ground in my little Cuisinart Mini Prep (now that don't make this little guy anymore but they have similar ones)
So take your finely ground naked hazelnuts (I just like saying naked hazelnuts I'll try to resist I promise)
mix them in a bowl with the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In another bowl mix together the creme fraiche (or heavy cream) and the almond extract together until blended.  Now in yet another bowl (ok I never said you wouldn't have dishes to do right) with your mixer beat on medium high the butter and the remaining sugar until light fluffy and pale about 3-5 minutes with a standing mixer or 6-8 with a handheld mixer.

See creamy, pale and ready!
Next fold in the dry ingredients alternating with the cream (split it into 3 dry additions and two cream additions) The batter will be thick!

Now hold yourself back try not to eat it straight out of the bowl cause trust me you will want to:)
Divide the wonderful smelling and tasting batter among the prepared pans filling them about half way to two thirds of the way full.  Tap the pans against the counter to settle the batter.  Place the pans on a cookie sheet and back for about 30 minutes. Insert toothpick in center of cake to test for doneness..
As soon as they are done baking turn them immediately out onto a rack flip them right side up and let them cool.

Aren't they beautiful!

Serve these babies sliced and plop some of that awesome cream on top it is wonderful.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lemon Squares Part 1 - the good the bad and the just plain yuck!

Ok so I made Lemon Squares last week and just the word Lemon Squares sends my taste buds tingling for that creamy lemon filling over a shortbread crust.  I mean seriously hmmmm if you like lemons it doesn't get much better.  So I had such high hopes when I found a recipe (that shall remain nameless) that used honey instead of sugar.  I thought what a great combination.  As you can see from the picture above it is a beautiful square just perfect.  So at first bite I thought hmmm the texture is a little off, then as I chewed (and yes chew is the operative word here folks) I thought hmmm the taste is a little well, hmm different.  So the crust was fantastic but the lemon filling, well it was like a chunk of lemon honey tea is all I can think of to describe it.  So for those coworkers looking forward to Lemon Squares please don't be frightened off by my first try (I spared you the taste test didn't I?).  But alas not all were spared...
So just to make sure my tastes were on the money.  Lets face it we have all done it smelled something or tasted something and then asked some unsuspecting friend or loved one "oh here taste this does this taste bad"?  Most of the time like sheep being herded they dutifully do as they are asked before they even think to say "uh nope not gonna do it".  My kids however were on to this trick years ago and just look at me with that "oh Mom please don't make me look" that I can't resist so they are usually spared.  So the first was of course LML (love of my life) having just arrived fresh off a plane presumably missing me full of hope and willing to please I took advantage of the situation.  In my most cheerful and loving voice I said "Here Honey look what I made, try one".  He eyed it at first a little wary and I knew he was thinking "are lemon squares supposed to look like that" but he took a bite anyway.  Then he really inspected the square poking at it with his finger right before he ejected the not fit for consumption object out of his mouth.  Then he turned and looked at me like why why would you do that to me?  I, in the mean time, was doubled over laughing which needless to say didn't make matters any better.  So after much reassurance that what he had in his mouth for a few short moments wouldn't harm him or totally ruin his taste buds for life he forgave me.  Next I told my best friend "oh come try my lemon squares I think they may be missing something",  I neglected to inform her that it was good taste that was missing but oh well.  Now this was an interesting reaction she ate the whole square, hmm ok and promptly said that she was starving and that is why she consumed the whole thing but no it is not good.  Interesting huh?  I think she must has yet to build up an immunity to the "oh here try this" syndrome.  Not to worry with two recipes a week I will have here running for cover in no time.  Now to be fair she also said it was not bad just not a lemon square more like a honey lemon tea square with a very unique texture like something that had congealed.  Nice huh.
So needless to say the Lemon Squares Part One was one for the disposal and in they went. Stayed tuned because the glutton for punishment that I am I am trying them again today.  Be warned I need a fresh set of taste testers for these babies.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Penne Pasta with Vodka Sauce

So last week the LML was home for the entire week, sheesh, just kidding it was nice having him home all week.  So every night he looks at me and says "Whatcha making me tonight?"  So the other night I thought hmm what can I make him and satisfy my resolution at the same time?  I thought hmmm vodka sauce yezz I will make zee vodka sauce and you will love zee vodka sauce (that was me doing my Russian accent:) So I said a quick prayer to the pantry god (betcha didn't even know there was such a thing) please let me find all the right stuff!  And voila I did (ok I made a couple substitutes but no biggie).  And get this, this recipe only took me about 20 minutes pictures and all!!
Here are the players

  • 1 pound Penne Pasta
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1/2 medium size Onion, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • ¾ cups Vodka
  • 1 can Tomato Sauce (recipe called for Puree)
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 small pinch Red Pepper Flakes (more if you like a little kick)
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • Pepper, To Taste
  • 1 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • I also added a few chopped mushrooms as well

Cook the Penne Pasta according to the package be careful not to over cook.

Chop up the onion and garlic.  Small tip take the can of sauce and smash (not too hard) the garlic and the skin will slip right off.  So you know I hate chopping onion, cause I hate to cry, but I actually did chop the onion rather than using my Pampered Chef chopper which I love.

this is me chopping:( and crying but just a little

Next In a large skillet over medium heat, warm up the olive oil and butter. 

When the butter is melted, add in the chopped onion and garlic. Stir and cook for roughly two minutes. 

Look how pretty (I used a red onion cause it was so pretty..naw it was what I had:)

Pour in zee vodka. Stir and cook for three minutes.  Don't worry when you first add the vodka it will be a little watery looking but the vodka cooks off pretty quickly.

Add in the tomato sauce and stir until completely mixed, isn't so beautiful and it smells delicious. Reduce heat to LOW.  

Now it is time to add the cream and it is important to use heavy cream, no half and half here.

mmmmmmm so good.
Stir gently to mix and add the red pepper flakes (if you like a little kick otherwise skip it) and salt and pepper

See now get real close to the screen and inhale deeply, you can almost smell it!
So while we were making the sauce our pasta was cooking and has been drained right?? 

Now add the sauce to the penne and mix in cheese and stir, remove from heat.

It is fantastic.  Now don't eat it right out of the pan mind your manners and get a bowl :)


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Chicken Saltimbocca

Ok I know I know you were wondering hey did she forget about us we are here waiting for that Chicken Saltimbocca recipe, ok maybe not so much.  Anyway here it is and just let me say it was delicious! So lets hit it! Here are the players.

1 10 ounce box frozen chopped spinach thawed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
6 Chicken cutlets (you can use boneless breast and flatten them yourselves if you can't find cutlets
6 paper thin (and I mean paper thin here folks) slices of prosciutto
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 14 ounce can chicken broth
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

Ok lets get to it folks, let me say that this recipe only takes about 25 minutes total prep and cook time, so it is a quick meal.  So first take the spinach and squeeze out all of the excess water (and yes I used my hands and squeezed like playdough) Next season the spinach with 1 tablespoon to of the olive oil and a little salt and pepper (1/4 teaspoon each).
Next place the cutlet on a flat surface, sprinkle a little salt and pepper then lay a piece of the prosciutto on the chicken.  Now let me stop here for a brief commentary.  I know you might be tempted to substitute regular ham for the Prosciutto, aka italian ham,  but don't the prosciutto is just the right balance of salt to taste, so go for it splurge a little.
Next layer in a little parmesan cheese.

There isn't that pretty.
Next beginning at the small end roll up each cutlet and secure with the toothpick like sooooo

Look at em all lined up like little soldiers ready to hop in the pan.....ok maybe not so much but in the pan they will go!

Next in a large skillet heat up the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over high heat, when the oil is hot add the chicken rolls and cook just until golden brown, roughly two minutes per side.

The look so cute in the pan!
Once they are lightly browned add the chicken broth and lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer until the chicken is cooked about 4 minutes.

 Remove the chicken from the pan and plate it, then increase the heat to high and cook the sauce until it reduces to about 2/3 of a cup (about 5 to 7 minutes) Then drizzle the sauce over the chicken and voila!

Until next time folks.  My goal for tomorrow is to make the Hazelnut Baby Loaves (this is a double whammy a bread recipe and a Julia recipe be afraid be very afraid!)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wild Mushroom Risotto and Chicken Saltimbocca

Hey everyone here are the first two of too many (not really too many, never too many) recipes. Anyway I had a good time preparing this while photographing it as I went. It is an interesting process, you have to think about the picture each step of the way and this time at least it took me a little longer to make dinner (sorry LML). So lets hit it!

First let's meet players.... on team Risotto we have... (look at that pretty little pug standing guard)

 5 3/4 cups Chicken Broth  
10 ounces white mushrooms finely chopped
1/2 ounce dried mushrooms (recipe called for porcini, I used chanterelle so use what you got)
1/4 cup butter (I added a extra tablespoon because did I mention I love butter)
2 cups finely chopped onion ( I didn't want the onion to overpower so I just used 1 onion about 1 1/2 cups)
2 clove garlic minced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
2/3 cup dry white wine (I am not I white wine drinker, preferring a nice hearty red so I use what I had a chardonnay
1/2 cup frozen peas thawed
2/3 cup Parmesan Cheese
(so much thanks Giada De Laurentiis check out her many books they are worth every penny)

So first things first we need to warm up the broth and plump up those dried mushrooms.  Bring the broth to a simmer in a medium pan over med-low heat.  Toss in the mushrooms cover, remove from heat and set aside for about 5 to 10 minutes until they begin to plump back up, then remove them from the broth and chop them up! Keep the broth warm over very low heat.

So plop that butter in a large pan over medium heat.

Now we have to get to chopping!!!
First chop up that Onion, now I could fudge it here and let you believe I used my handy dandy chefs knife and like a master zip bam boom diced onion.  But lets get real here I hate crying and well onions make me cry alot I mean like more than a tear jerker like ET!  So what to do what to do, I use my chopper my Pampered Chef chopper (I love Pampered Chef). Very quick and done!

Toss those onions in with that melted butter and simmer the onions until they are tender, about 10 minutes.  While those are simmering away and filling the house with an awesome smell, chop up those white mushrooms.  Now my little trick here is that I hold the mushroom stem side up and slice, then holding it together turn the mushroom, slice again and then once more and waaalaa diced mushrooms.

Chop up the garlic and then add the mushrooms and garlic to the onions and simmer until tender and the juices evaporate about 6 to 8 minutes.

Next stir in the rice and the wine and stir until the wine is absorbed, just a minute or two.

Ok so at this point I must say it isn't pretty and you may be asking yourself really it is it supposed to look like that but yes it is and just keep going it will be beautiful in the end I promise.

Now go ahead and add 1 cup of the hot broth and stir frequently (this is not constantly but frequently like every 2 minutes or so give it a good stirring) once the liquid is somewhat absorbed about 3 to 4 minutes, continue adding the broth cup by cup, stirring until absorbed, the add, stir, absorb wash rinse repeat oops I digress.   Once you have added all the broth about 25 minutes then remove from heat add the thawed peas and the cheese and yes you got it stir and try not to completely devour the entire pot!

mmmm delicious...... Tomorrow it is Chicken Saltimbocca this is so easy to make I made it while I was cooking the Risotto, it was terrific

Sunday, January 3, 2010

January 3, 2010 Week 1

Ok folks the results are in......drum roll please.... The finalist for Week 1 are:
Hazelnut Baby Loaves
Wild Mushroom Risotto
Chicken Saltimbocca
Petit Fours (ok TB I know you voted for Snow Globes but wow very complicated for my first attempt, so did I mention my veto powers they are unsurpassed you should really be impressed)

And the winners are............
Wild Mushroom Risotto
Chicken Saltimbocca

Ok so my family (who I swear had their sweet tooth removed at birth) picked these. But I might (no promises) just try all four. What the heck I am the only one here all week (my sons are all grown and only come by to eat me out of house and home on Sundays) and LML (love of my life) travels all week for work. What they don't know won't hurt them and I am sure I can find some neighborhood volunteers to consume all evidence;)

So a shopping I will go a shopping I will go.....
Talk to you soon and feel free to stop by and share your inner foodie thoughts once in a while.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ok day 2 of week 1 and I came back.... pats on the back for me:). Seriously so I pulled out a few of my favorite cookbooks and well some I have just cause I like the pictures. So those of you who have ever bought a cookbook tell me truthfully, scouts honor, it was cause of the pictures. Anyway, I have cooked from two of the books shown here, and did I mention I have alot of cook books, did I mention I like to eat??? Ok so back to it, I am going to pick a few recipes to try from these books and then narrow it down to the top two winners for this week. I gotta have options people.

I have the classic Baking with Julia, I know I know I can here you all mumbling to yourselves yea everybody watched the movie and thinks they can cook like Julia and blog like Julie. Uh not me but I will say Julia was a master and why not try some of that masterful food! Also I need to mention here that I have bread issues, there I said it. I have issues baking bread I have no issues consuming bread and as a matter of fact consider it a welcome addition to my diet on a regular basis in its many glorious forms. But alas I burn the crap out of it on a regular basis and have never ever attempted it from scratch (sorry Mom) I also have gravy issues but that is whole other post. So Baking with Julia tickles my fancy (don't look, ok we are done:)
The contenders are:
Croissants (mmm little pieces of heaven)
Pinwheel Danish (you spin me right round baby right round)
Twice Baked Brioche (the pictures got me again)
Hazelnut Baby Loaf (just cause I like the sound of it)

New to the arena is The Pioneer Woman Cooks and seriously I mean seriously if you have not heard of her then check it out at www.thepioneerwoman.com she is fabulous, funny and wow the food is fantastic. Her Whiskey Glazed Carrots are a keeper for us I have made them three times in the last month. Have I mentioned how much I love butter lately? So her name is Ree Drummond and she cooks for all Foodies at heart, just good old fashioned butter filled deliciousness.
The contenders are:
Chocolate Sheet Cake (cause I love chocolate and hmmm I see a sugar trend)
Burgundy Mushrooms (delicious looking and if I put in another dessert right now, I feel and intervention would have ensued)
Penne alla Betsy (not to be confused with my Mom Betsy, but shrimp, wine and pasta Lord help me)
French Breakfast Puffs (so sue me I love the sweets)

Next in the ring is Giada De Laurentiis Everyday Italian and I really want to know how someone who cooks this good can also look that good she is sinfully thin for an Italian cook. Anyway I love her book and will have to look hard for new recipes in this one but if it can be done I am just the girl for the job.
The contenders are:
Chicken Saltimbocca (scrumptious and I think my family will kill me if I don't make this)
Wild Mushroom Risotto with Peas (did I mention that I love Risotto along with butter and cheese and chocolate and wine oh Lord someone stop me!)
Tomato Vegetable Casserole (this is just to balance it out and give the appearance of being fair)
Vodka Sauce (just cause I have always wanted to and I like the sound of "oh yea try my homemade Vodka sauce"

Last but most certainly not least is Hello Cupcake buy Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. This was a totally visual choice. It is what it says it is a book on only cupcakes. While I have a few cupcake pans I have never really mastered the art (and it is truly an art folks) of cupcakes, so this is a way to maybe force the issue.
The contenders are:
Crazy Horses (yes folks these cupcakes look like horses, I will leave you with that visual)
Snow Globes (it is the season, let it snow, let is snow, let is snow)
Petit Fours (another one I like the sound of I made Petit Fours and let me just say what a sugar high you can't eat just one of these definitely going to need some help)
Black and White Party (just to pretty to pass up)

So there we have it, decisions decisions. Well I would say oh you guys choose but I really don't think there are any you guys out there. Anyone listening........? Didn't think so. Therefore I will choose its a tough job but you know the drill.
Ok ok you can choose next time.

Tune it tomorrow for the results (ok I need time to decide what I have on hand and what I must shop for)

Friday, January 1, 2010

January 1, 2010 Week 1

Welcome to my blog!! So this is the deal, one of my many New Years Resolutions this year (and yes I have many, not afraid to admit it just embrace it folks) is to try two new (well new to me) recipes a week (average 104 for the year in case I have over estimated my culinary abilities). My hope is this resolution is not a direct contradiction to some of my other resolutions (lets keep those a secret for now shall we). This is how I am hoping this will work, I am going to try to pick some interesting, delicious and somewhat challenging recipes of which I will attempt to prepare. I will show the terrifically good, the not so good and ok even the we should throw this in the disposal and order take out via pics and commentary. I will give you the recipes and credit where credit is due. Be prepared I love chocolate, butter, bacon, sugar so if your looking for low fat this probably isn't the place for you. I hope you enjoy and am always open to your comments and suggestions just remember don't hate appreciate! Bon Appetit!