Thursday, December 16, 2010


For a little gift, I love giving Christmas cookies. I believe it is the best gift to give, as I am making them with love and care. So this holiday season, I made my bookers at Next a batch of Martha Stewart’s soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies and some soft, airy cut-out sugar cookies with a simple tinted glaze. I had previously gotten hints that chewy chocolate chip cookies were a major request, and this recipe was just perfect. They were a hit! It was amazing to see such hardworking people relaxing for a moment to enjoy a simple cookie! I followed Martha's recipe exactly:  Chocolate Chip Cookies
For the sugar cookies, I wanted them to be like the really fake, factory kind. Fluffy, tender, melt-in-your-mouth, buttery, sugary goodness! I think I discovered just the recipe! The only slight disappointment was that, as these had to be packed for gift giving, I could not frost them with a rich butter cream. Instead I did various colors of glazes and festive sprinkles. I have to say they did look pretty cute. The day before I went to the most amazing kitchen goods shop on 8th street and Mercer. There I bought a candy cane, man, star, and Christmas tree cookie cutter and some gel food coloring. I could spend hours in that store! The walls are just lined floor-to-ceiling with everything a cook could ever want. 

Super Soft Sugar Cookies with Glaze
Mix:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
Add:
3 beaten eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla
Sift and mix with sugar mixture:
3 cups flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Chill the dough in some plastic wrap for an hour. Roll dough on lightly floured surface and cut with a simple cookie cutter. I cut these cookies thick, about 1/2 inch. Bake @ 
425 for about 10 minutes or until lightly golden.
For the glaze:
1 c powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-4 tbsp. milk
paste food coloring
In a medium bowl, dump in the powdered sugar and add, a tablespoon at a time, the milk until the glaze forms. It should coat the back of the spoon. Stir in the vanilla and color as desired in smaller separate bowls. Dunk the cooled cookies face down in the glaze and immediately add the sprinkles. They will be ready to pack/eat in at least 30 minutes!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Happy Sinterklaas!

Last week I celebrated the Dutch version of St. Nick’s Day. For the event, I volunteered to be “Santa’s little helper” in the kitchen. My friend Nimue and I made traditional pepernoten, borstplaat, Taai-taai, and some little sugar wafers like a crunchy meringue. Pepernoten are the Dutch answer to gingerbread in my opinion. They make them very small, light, crisp, and highly spiced. They whole apartment smelled like the holidays after making them. Borstplaat is sort of like a fudge or fondant. It is a creamy and very sweet confection. Taai-taai in Dutch means tough-tough. That is exactly what they are! Similar to gingerbread cookies, these are very hard biscuits that are traditionally dunked in coffee or tea (similar to Italian biscotti). 
Here is a few recipes I found online that were similar to what we made.


Pepernoten

borstplaat 
Taai-Taai

Dad's Black Forest Birthday Cake


Such a joker family I have :) Witness food coma on the right and slight insanity due to anticipation of all the sugar in the cake on the left!!!


So for my dad’s birthday I wanted to make him his favorite Black Forest Cake recipe. I followed the recipe exactly, but when my cakes came out of the oven then had spilled through my spring-form pans! They were ruined. You see, I did not out of the hundreds of pans in my basement, have a standard 8in round. So I attempted and failed with the 8in spring-form pans. I did not give up though! I remade a chocolate cake using a trio of smaller pans, one a square, one a round, and one a heart. I soaked each one according to directions and once stacked, slathered on the chocolate buttercream frosting and whipped cream to create the illusion that the cake was a round dome! Then I poured over the leftover cherry syrup on top. If I do say so myself, it did not look half bad! Plus, my dad loves whipped cream so the extra on the cake was a welcome bonus. Emeril's Black Forest Cake

Thanksgiving Part Deux!

So I realize that Thanksgiving was almost a month ago! Ahh time flies when you're having fun :)
Anyways I just wanted to share with you a bit about my time at home. I made this cookies Wednesday night for my brother and his fellow college buddies. They had come over for a serious night of Mario Party 4 and reminiscing about their high school years. As always, they requested snacks. I had just finished baking my pumpkin pie bars and they all came upstairs hoping to dig in. In order to stave off the early consumption of my Thanksgiving dessert, I decided to research a recipe for a sweet and spicy pumpkin cookie. When I was searching, I noticed many recipes that called for a bit of molasses or maple syrup. Unfortunately, I had neither. Finally I found a recipe actually from here: pumpkin cookies

On another note, my brother's friends also gave me the opportunity to make classic Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chip cookies straight from the bag of chocolate chips! I honestly could not remember the last time I'd made them without adapting the recipe. They were a big hit with everyone! Not a morsel left when I went downstairs to clean up in the morning. This classic recipe produces a crunchy outside and a chewy inside. I always be sure to make some a little more baked than others for my dad. He LOVES crunchy cookies. Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip


For the big feast I made my mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts, cranberry relish, and three new additions. First, I roasted some broccoli, cauliflower, and parsnips together with some cumin, salt, pepper, parsley, and sage. Second, I roasted some sliced bell peppers, button mushrooms, red onion, garlic, and eggplant with lots of balsamic, soy sauce, worsheshire sauce, fresh thyme, pepper, paprika, and cumin. The third was just a simple salad of sliced apples, pears, mixed baby greens, toasted almonds, walnuts, and pecans, and some feta cheese with a honey, lemon, dijon vinaigrette. All were crowd favorites and I loved the small amount of leftovers after! For dessert I made some pumpkin bars that I’ve made for the past two years. I adapted the recipe from www.fatfreevegan.com. No one in my family is vegan by any means, or tries to eat fat free, but these pumpkin bars are a favorite of everyone- especially since I use stevia to sweeten them for my grandparents! Fat Free Vegan Pumpkin Pie Bites. I actually attended two feasts within 3 hours. At the first, we had grilled turkey and a roasted turkey, various pastas, two kinds of sweet potatoes, apple, blueberry, pumpkin, chocolate, banana, and lemon pies. At the second we had a turkey my dad fried, an oven-roasted turkey, two different cranberry chutneys, and both a pumpkin praline and a pecan pie. I have a pic of the latter pies and my grandma pretending she's at Six Flags with the giant turkey leg. :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A New York Thanksgiving!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! 
So this year to commemorate my moving to NYC I really wanted to try and cook a Thanksgiving meal. As I am going back to St. Louis for the actual day, I had my Thanksgiving dinner last night. I tried to keep my menu short and sweet, the highlights of the normal massive meal I have at home. It was JUST the right amount of food for the 8 people I had over. If you can, I highly suggest going to a green market for the produce. I got everything I could from the market in Union Square, even my Turkey (from Dipaola Turkeys). It made for a fresh, clean-tasting dinner. I made roasted brussels sprouts, turkey breast, cornbread stuffing (no pic unfortunately we dug in too quickly!), loaded mashed potatoes, cranberry chutney, and pumpkin pie for dessert. My good friends brought in Thanksgiving tradition something with them: a baby spinach salad.

Cornbread Stuffing:
Corn bread:
  • 1  cup  whole wheat 
  • 3/4  cup  yellow cornmeal
  • 1  teaspoon  baking powder
  • 1/2  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  cup  fat-free milk
  • 2  tablespoons  canola oil
  • 2  large egg whites
  • PAM
  • Stuffing:
  • PAM
  • 6  ounces  garlic and herb bulk turkey sausage (I got mine from Whole Foods and it's DELICIOUS!) 
  • 2  cups  finely chopped onion (2 medium/small onions)
  • 1  bay leaf
  • 1 1/2  cups  diced Granny Smith apple (about 1 large)
  • 1 cup  diced celery
  • 2/3  cup  diced fennel bulb
  • 1  tablespoon  minced garlic
  • 10  fresh sage leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 6 sprigs of thyme (take the leaves off and discard the stems)
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • a few dashes of hot sauce
  • 1/8  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4  cups chicken broth
  • 3 egg whites

Preparation

Preheat oven to 425°.To prepare corn bread, lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine milk, canola oil, and 2 egg whites in a small bowl. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Spoon batter into an 8-inch square baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 16 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Remove from pan; cool completely. Reduce oven temperature to 375°. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Spray with PAM and add sausage; cook 5 minutes or until browned, stirring occasionally. Add onion and bay leaf; cook 8 minutes or until onion starts to brown, stirring occasionally. Add apple, celery, and fennel; cook 5 minutes. Add garlic and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper); cook 1 minute. Remove from heat; discard bay leaf. Cool to room temperature. Crumble corn bread into a large bowl. Add sausage mixture to bowl; toss to combine. Add broth and 3 egg whites; toss to combine. Spoon into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375° for 50 minutes or until top is crisp and golden brown. This was a delicious side dish to my turkey but I also had it for breakfast this morning! YUM!!!! It's important to note that the cornbread can be made 2 days in advance and the whole stuffing mix can be made hours before you need to bake it. Simply assemble and refrigerate until it's TURKEY TIME!



My friends' contribution: Salad with baby spinach, slivered almonds, sliced red pepper, strawberries, and goat cheese with a dijon vinaigrette.

Cranberry relish and roasted brussels sprouts

Cranberry Relish:
You can really make this as sweet as you want and as chunky as you want. I used part stevia because I make this for my grandparents and they are diabetics. I tested the recipe on my friends and no one could tell! I love this and am going to eat the leftovers with some vanilla yogurt swirled into it. 
Ingredients
-1 navel orange (cut into wedges and scrubbed because you are using the whole thing)
-I lb fresh cranberries (I got mine from the Farmer's Market in Union Square!)
-2 sweet apples. I used two big Janagolds. Cored and peeled please :)
-3 teaspoons sugar. 
-3 teaspoons Stevia Extract
-1 teaspoon honey
-1/4 toasted chopped pecans
-1/4 dried cranberries
-1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 
Preparation:
- Simply put everything but the dried cranberries and pecans into a food processor. Puree until your desired consistency and stir in the dried cranberries and pecans. This is best when made a day in advance. It gives the flavors time to join together and makes for the perfect tangy, tart, sweet chutney. 


Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Shallots, Cranberries, Lemon, and Pecans
  • 24 small shallots
  • PAM
  • 2 pounds Brussels sprouts, preferably small
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 c chopped roasted pecans
  • 1/4 c dried cranberries
  • zest of 1 lemon and juice of half
    1. Preheat oven to 375° F.
    2. Peel shallots, leaving the root ends intact so they'll hold together. Place on a large sheet of foil; Spray with PAM and season with salt and pepper. Seal the packet and bake until the shallots are tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from foil and set aside to cool.
    3. Meanwhile, remove the outer leaves from Brussels sprouts and trim the stems. Cut the sprouts in half. Cut the ends off the shallots and cut them in half. Place the shallots and Brussels sprouts in a roasting pan. Toss with the salt and pepper. Spray with PAM.
    4. Increase oven temperature to 400° F. Roast, tossing twice during cooking, until the Brussels sprouts are tender and lightly browned, 25 to 35 minutes. 
    5. Toss with lemon, pecans, and cranberries.
    I serve this room temperature and I swear it will convert any non-brussels sprouts lovers. Last night 3 of the 8 people said they hated brussels sprouts before trying this. Unfortunately that makes for no leftovers :(

loaded mashed potatoes

Pancetta, Parmesan, and Mozzarella Mashed Potatoes
Most of my other recipes were a mix of things I found on the web with my own spin. These are pretty much a more budget  friendly version of Giada's mashed potatoes. I halved the recipe and it was just enough. Here's the original: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/baked-mashed-potatoes-with-pancetta-parmesan-cheese-and-breadcrumbs-recipe/index.html

Ingredients:
  • 2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4 stick butter at room temp
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan, divided use
  • 4 oz pancetta, diced, cooked and drained of excess oil (I added two cloves of sliced garlic to the pancetta while rendering out the fat. Just add the garlic when the pancetta is almost crisp to ensure it doesn't burn and go bitter).
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley (for breadcrumbs)
  • 2 tablespoons plain dry bread crumbs (I made my own by toasting some whole wheat bread and grinding it in my Magic Bullet.) I added the parsley to the blender and made Italian bread crumbs with salt and pepper)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Coat a 8 by 8 baking dish with PAM and set aside.
Cook the potatoes in a large pot of boiling salted water until they are very tender, about 15 minutes. Drain; return the potatoes to the same pot and mash well with a potato masher (I used a fork and some love). Mix in the room temp butter and milk. Mix in the mozzarella, 1/2 cup of the Parmesan and pancetta. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Transfer the potatoes to the prepared baking dish. Stir the bread crumbs and remaining 1/4 cup of Parmesan in a small bowl to blend. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the mashed potatoes. Recipe can be prepared up to this point 6 hours ahead of time; cover and chill.
Bake, uncovered, until the topping is golden brown, about 20 minutes.


Turkey Carving Time!
You can see me taking off the breast of my 4.5 lb bone in skinned turkey breast. I took the skin off myself and let me tell you, it felt like I was a little kid again playing with that slime stuff that stick to the walls. Gross, but necessary for the flavor to penetrate the meat itself and not just the skin. It also makes for a much healthier bird to feast on.
I got the main inspiration for this turkey from this recipe on Cooking Light: Honey Brined Turkey
However, I added a few more seasonings here and there and I think it paid off! By the way, if you weren't a fan of brining before you should be! This was my first time, but it definitely will not be my last! The turkey was the most flavorful, juiciest piece of meat I've had in a while. And it's not just because I made it! Not ONE slice was left. I was almost sad at the thought of no leftovers. :)

Turkey platter 
 Honey-Herb Brined Turkey

Ingredients

  • 7  cups  water, divided
  • 3  tablespoons  freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 6  thyme sprigs
  • 1/2  cup  kosher salt (such as Diamond Crystal)
  • 1/2  cup  honey
  • 1/4  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 2  cups  ice cubes
  • 1  (4.5-pound) whole bone-in turkey breast, skinned
  • handful of sage leaves
  • 2 roughly chopped garlic cloves and 1 onion
  • 1 teaspoon each coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and dried chopped bay leaves 
  • 1  tablespoon  chopped fresh thyme
  • Cooking spray
  • Fresh thyme sprigs (optional)

Preparation

Combine 1 cup of water, 2 tablespoons pepper, salt, sage, garlic, onion, mustard seeds, honey, and brown sugar, and thyme sprigs in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and remove from heat. Pour into a large bowl; cool to room temperature. Add remaining 6 cups water, stirring until all dissolves. Pour salt mixture into a 2-gallon zip-top plastic bag. Add ice and turkey; seal. Refrigerate 24 hours, turning the bag occasionally. Remove turkey from bag, and discard brine. Pat turkey dry with paper towels.
Spray turkey with PAM Combine 1 tablespoon pepper and chopped thyme; rub over turkey.
Preheat oven to 400°.
Place the turkey on a roasting pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400° for 1 hour or until thermometer inserted into thickest portion of the breast registers 180°. Place turkey on a platter. Cover with foil; let stand 15 minutes. Garnish with thyme sprigs, if desired.

pumpkin pie :)
Like I said before, I am always trying to test recipes that normally are very high in sugar with sugar alternatives. That is exactly what I did with this pie and it was DELICIOUS! I am not a crust person, so I resisted every urge I had to just dig in to the filling with a spoon. I made a simply whipped cream and chose to pipe it on with a pastry bag, but feel free to put it on the side or slather it on top with a spatula. No one will care what it looks like once they are eating it!
Healthier Pumpkin Pie
Ingredients:
Filling-
1/4  cup  packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons Stevia Extract
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (plus more cinnamon because I like it!)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  (12-ounce) can evaporated fat free milk
  • 4  large egg whites
  • 1  (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin
  • Crust- (adapted from Eating Well)
    • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
    • 1 teaspoon honey
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon butter
    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 1 egg white
    • 2-6 tablespoons ice water
    • Topping-
    • I small container of heavy whipping cream 
    • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      1. To prepare crust: Stir whole-wheat flour, stevia and salt in a medium bowl. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, swirling the pan, until the butter turns a nutty brown, 30 seconds to 4 minutes, depending on your stove. Pour into a small bowl and let cool. Stir in oil and egg white. Slowly stir the butter-oil-egg mixture into the flour mixture with a fork until the mixture is crumbly. Gradually stir in enough ice water so the dough holds together. Press the dough into a flattened disk.
      2. Place two overlapping lengths of plastic wrap on a work surface. Set the dough in the center and cover with two more sheets of plastic wrap. Roll the dough into a 13-inch circle. Remove the top sheets and invert the dough into a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. Remove the remaining wrap. Fold the edges under at the rim and crimp. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.
      3. Position oven rack to lowest position.
        Preheat oven to 425°.To prepare filling, combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pumpkin, and stir with a whisk until smooth.
        To prepare crust, roll dough into an 11-inch circle; fit into a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray. Fold edges under and flute.
        Pour pumpkin mixture into the crust. Place pie plate on a baking sheet. Place baking sheet on lowest oven rack. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° (do not remove pie from oven); bake an additional 50 minutes or until almost set. Cool completely on wire rack.
        To prepare topping, beat cream with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until blended. Serve with pie or on top.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Apples!

Fuji

Granny Smith

Honeycrisp 

Pink Lady


Apples are by and far my favorite part of fall. Although I hate to see the end of tomato and watermelon season, the apple stands that take their places are well worth it! My favorite apple is Honeycrisp. Tart, sweet, and crisp, this juicy apple is perfect for everything- eating, salads, pies, juice, sauce, and baking. Another one of my favorites is the Pink Lady apple. While not as juicy as the Honeycrisp, it has an immaculate balance of tart and sweet. My go-to apple for baking is the Granny Smith because of its firm flesh and tart flavor. Baking an apple makes it even sweeter, so using a tart apple balances out the sweetness. However, I find that when making crisps and pies, mixing Granny Smiths and a very sweet apple like a Fuji is the way to go. A while back, I made my diabetic grandparents an apple crisp. They loved the healthy alternative to pies! Whatever you choose, apples are a delicious nutritious part of fall. Happy eating!

Healthy Apple Crisp
Filling:
-6 apples (I used 4 Granny Smith and 2 Fuji) peeled and sliced thin
-1 tbsp Cinnamon (or pumpkin pie spice if you want it spicier)
-1 tsp Vanilla Extract
-2 tbsp honey
-1/4 c Splenda or other sweetener
-1 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp orange or lemon juice
- 1/4 raisins (opt)
-pinch of salt
Topping:
- 1c Old Fashioned oats
-1/4 c brown sugar substitute or regular
-1/2 whole wheat flour
-3 tbsp applesauce or apple butter
-1 egg white
- 2 tbsp melted butter
-1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp cinnamon

- Preheat oven to 350. Grease a baking dish (8x8 or a casserole dish)
- Mix the apples with all the filling ingredients. Pour into baking dish.
- Mix the dry ingredients together for the topping (oats, flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon)
-Mix the melted (cooled) butter, egg white, and applesauce. Pour the dry into the wet and mix well. It should be a little crumbly.
- Put the topping on the apples and bake for 30-40 minutes until the apples are soft and the topping is crunchy a little.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Acorn squash

One of my favorite parts of fall is the squash. Anyway you have it, I'll love it. Soup, salad, roasted, or pureed, I love squash. So when for lunch today all I had left in my pantry was an acorn squash, I was not at all disappointed. I was, however, a little perplexed as to how to cook it seeing how my oven mysteriously stopped functioning. Thank God for my heavy duty shallow fry pan I bought at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Here's my recipe for a smoky, sweet variation of roasted acorn squash.

Pan Roasted Acorn Squash
-you can do this in the oven on 400 degrees if your oven actually works!
-if not, make sure to used your thickest bottom pan with a tight-fitting lid.
-1 acorn squash
-1 tsp of dried herbs (I used thyme and oregano)
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp each of paprika, cumin, and salt and pepper.
- honey to taste (I used prob. a tsp.)
- Roasted pumpkin seeds (opt.)

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and squash poop. Heat your pan to medium-high and spray with PAM. Put the squash in the pan cut-side up and put the lid on. Ten minutes later, flip the squash. Mix the herbs and spices together (all but the honey) and turn the squash up again. Sprinkle the mix evenly on the halves and drizzle with honey. Put the lid back on for another 15-20 minutes. Check occasionally with a fork for doneness (the honey should caramelize a little and the fork should slide through). Once done, let them cool a little and scrape out the orange flesh with a fork. Mash the flesh to mix the spices and eat like mashed sweet potatoes (add the seeds as a crunchy garnish if you wish)! Delicious and easy :)