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Thursday, February 26, 2009

BB: Meringues Chantilly

I loooove meringue cookies, despite the fact that when I first started making them, I was not so good at it. I've come a long way since then, and they are such a nice, light dessert - I love making them! This recipe combines an already great item with whipped cream and stewed berries - how can you go wrong? I loved it!

Meringues Chantilly
Chosen by BMK of Reservations Not Required
from Barefoot in Paris, page 176

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Orange Sorbet

After my success with pear sorbet, I found some ripe oranges on sale at the grocery store and decided to continue my foray into the world of sorbets. I based this recipe on one from Cook's Illustrated, but omitted the zest, increase the alcohol, and went with simple syrup rather than straight sugar. Sorbets are wonderful because they are so light, with a fresh and bright fruit flavor... this is no exception! It's such a nice break from ice cream (my all time love). Now, I'm eyeing that pineapple on the counter... maybe pineapple sorbet will be next!

Orange Sorbet
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated

2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice (I peeled 6 seedless oranges, ground them in a blender, and pressed the juice through a seive because I don't have a juicer)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tablespoons vodka or orange flavored liquor

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan, heat over meduim low heat until sugar is dissolved. Combine sugar mixture with orange juice, lemon juice, and vodka. Chill until completely cooled, preferably 4 hours. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Evelyn's Favorite Pasta

I recently had a dish by this name at the Cheesecake Factory and totally fell in love! Normally, I am all for having sauce with my pasta, but this had so much going on that I didn't miss it at all! I immediately wrote down everything that was in the dish so I could recreate it at home. Of course, I loved the combination of flavors, but the other great part was the combination of textures. Soft pasta and roasted eggplant contrasted by crunchy pine nuts and roasted broccoli. This is definitely a new favorite in our house.

Evelyn's Favorite Pasta
Based on the dish from The Cheesecake Factory
Serves 3-4

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced, pressed or grated
salt and pepper
2 chinese eggplant
1 large head broccoli
1 can artichoke hearts, halved or quartered
15 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (choose low fat to make it clean)
1/3 cup prepared pesto
8-12 ounces penne pasta (choose whole wheat or multigrain (we like Barilla Plus) to make it clean)
handful of fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade

Remove the ends from the eggplant. Slice the long way, in thirds, and lay on a cutting board. Salt cut sides of eggplant very well, cover with paper towel and then another cutting board. Place a weight on top of the board. Let stand for 30 minutes, then rinse the eggplant well and cut into 2 inch long pieces.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. When the eggplant is ready and chopped, place in a large bowl. Add chopped broccoli, artichokes, and tomatoes. Combine garlic and olive oil in a small bowl with about 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; mix well. Add olive oil mixture to the vegetables and toss to coat. Spread on a baking sheet lined with foil and sprayed with olive oil. Roast vegetables for about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, start heating water for the pasta in a large stock pot. Heat a small saute pan over medium heat, and add the pine nuts. Heat for a few minutes, tossing frequently, until nuts are lightly toasted, then set aside the nuts. When the pasta water has come to a boil, salt generously and add the pasta. Cook according the time instructed on the box.

When pasta is done, drain and add to a large bowl. Add roasted vegetables, kalamatas, cheese, pesto, and toss to combine. Serve and garnish with toasted pine nuts and basil.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Deep Dish Pizza

My husband happens to love the deep dish style pizza, and when I mentioned that I was making pizza last weekend, this was his request. I turned to my trusty Baking Illustrated and was pleasantly surprised to see they had a recipe for the dough. I was definitely intrigued when I saw how different it was from the regular pizza dough recipe. A potato? Really? Ok... if you say so!

The crust was worth the skepticism. It was SO good! Spongy, thick, and with a wonderful flavor, thanks to the potato. I didn't poke mine well enough and had a mountainous rising dough after the initial bake, but in the end it wasn't a big deal. I used some of Linda's Sauce that I had stashed in the freezer, and a combination of cheeses tailored to my husband's tastes.

Deep Dish Pizza
Dough source: Baking Illustrated, directions adapted slightly

~1 medium russet potato, about 9 ounces, peeled and quartered
~3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (17 1/2 ounces)
~1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
~1 3/4 tsp salt
~1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
~4 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for coating the bowl
~1/2 cup sauce
~1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
~1/2 cup grated mozzarella cheese
~1/3 cup grated/crumbled mexican cheese

1. Bring 1 quart water and the potato to a boil. Cook until tender. Drain and cool until it can comfortably be handled. Press through the fine disk on a potato ricer, or grate through the large holes on a box grater. Or, if it crumbles in your hand when you try to do this, as it did for me, take out a fork, smash it to bits, and call it a day. Measure 1 1/3 cups lightly packed potato and discard the rest. Reheat remaining potato for a few seconds in the microwave, and enjoy with a little butter.

2. Adjust one oven rack to the highest position and the other to the lowest. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Once it reaches 200, maintain the heat for 10 minutes and then turn off the heat.

3. Combine flour, yeast, and salt in a food processor or stand mixer. With the motor running (low for the mixer), add water and process until until dough comes together in a shaggy ball. Add the potato and process for several seconds, then add 2 T. of the oil and process several more seconds, until the dough is smooth and slightly sticky. Transfer to a lightly oiled medium bowl, turn to coat with oil, and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the warmed oven until the dough is soft and spongy and about doubled in size, about 30-35 minutes.

4. Oil the bottom of a 10-inch deep-dish pizza pan with remaining 2 Tbsp of oil. Yes, it seems like a lot of oil, but the oil is what browns the crust while it's baking in the oven. Remove the dough and gently punch down on a clean, dry work surface. Divide in two, and pat one of the halves into a 9-inch round and transfer to the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest about 10 minutes, until it no longer resists shaping. Repeat with the other half, or wrap it well with plastic wrap and freeze in a freezer bag.

5. Place a pizza stone or rimless baking sheet in the oven on the lowest rack (do not use an insulated cookie sheet) and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Uncover the dough and pull it into the edges and up the sides of the pan to form a 1-inch lip. Cover again, and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for about 30 minutes, until about doubled. Uncover and pierce generously with a fork. (Yes, do this. Then do it some more.)

6. Reduce the oven temperature to 425 degrees and place the pan on the heated stone or baking sheet until the crust is dry and lightly browned, about 5 to 10 minutes.

7. Add sauce and cheese to baked crust and return to the oven for 10-15 minutes. Move the pizza to the top rack and bake until the cheese is golden brown in spots, about 5 minutes longer. Mine was already browned and good to go after 13 minutes on the bottom rack. Using a spatula, carefully lift the crust out of the pan to check the crust for done-ness. You are looking for a few brown spots on the bottom. Let it sit about 5 minutes before cutting, unless you enjoy the pizza sauce massacre on your cutting board.

Chicken Pesto Pizza

For a few months, I've been wanting to try the pizza dough recipe from Baking Illustrated that I've heard people rave about. This weekend was finally the right time, and I am so glad I finally got to make it. My pizza stretching skills leave something to be desired, so the bottom of the crust was extra thin and the outside edge ended up quite large (good, I suppose, if you love the crust like I do!). I also had some leftover pesto in the freezer that I wanted to use up, so I searched and quickly found this recipe for Chicken Pesto Pizza on Allrecipes. We aren't ones to shy away from cheese, however, so I supplemented the fontina cheese with some mozzarella. We loved it! I found the addition of artichokes to be pure genius. :-)

I only used one third of the dough recipe, the other two thirds were wrapped well in plastic wrap and stored in a freezer bag in the freezer for another time.

Chicken Pesto Pizza
Adapted slightly from Allrecipes.com

~1/2 cup pesto basil sauce
~1 (12 inch) pizza crust (recipe follows)
~1 roasted chicken breast, chopped
~7 ounces artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
~1/2 cup shredded fontina cheese
~1/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese


1. Preheat the oven and a baking stone to 500 degrees F for 30 minutes.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a chef’s knife or dough scraper to divide the dough into three pieces. Form each piece of dough into three pieces. Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball and cover it with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes.When stone is ready, remove from the oven. Sprinkle lightly with cornmeal. Lay stretched pizza crust over cornmeal. Spread pesto sauce over the pizza crust. Arrange chicken pieces and artichoke hearts over the sauce, and sprinkle with cheese.
3. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes in the preheated oven, until cheese is melted and lightly browned at the edges.

Pizza Dough
Source: Baking Illustrated, pages 153-155; instructions slightly adapted

Makes enough for 3 medium pizzas.

We find the food processor is the best tool for making pizza dough. However, only a food processor with a capacity of at least 11 cups can handle this much dough. You can also knead this dough by hand or in a standing mixer (see the variations that follow). Unbleached all-purpose flour can be used in a pinch, but the resulting crust will be less crisp. If you want to make pizza dough in the morning and let it rise on the counter all day, decrease the yeast to 1/2 teaspoon and let the covered dough rise at cool room temperature (about 68 degrees) until doubled in size, about 8 hours. You can prolong the rising time even further by refrigerating the covered dough for up to 16 hours and then letting it rise on the counter until doubled in size, which will take 6 to 8 hours.

1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 1/4 cups water, at room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 ounces) bread flour, plus more for dusting work surface and hands
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Olive oil or nonstick cooking spray for oiling the bowl

1. Measure the warm water into a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle in the yeast and let stand until the yeast dissolves and swells, about 5 minutes. Add the room-temperature water and oil and stir to combine.

2. Process the flour and salt in a large food processor, pulsing to combine. Continue pulsing while pouring the liquid ingredients (holding back a few tablespoons) through the feed tube. If the dough does not readily form into a ball, add the remaining liquid and continue to pulse until a ball forms. Process until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds longer.

3. The dough will be a bit tacky, so use a rubber spatula to turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand for a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball. Put the dough into a deep oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Press the dough to deflate it.

4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a chef’s knife or dough scraper to divide the dough into three pieces. Form each piece of dough into three pieces. Form each piece of dough into a smooth, round ball and cover it with a damp cloth. Let the dough relax for at least 10 minutes but no more than 30 minutes. Working with one piece of dough at a time and keeping the others covered, shape the dough into a 12 inch circle. Repeat with remaining dough, or wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze in a freezer bag.

Pizza Dough Kneaded by Hand
Follow the recipe for Pizza Dough through step 1. Omit step 2 and instead combine the salt and half the flour in a deep bowl. Add the liquid ingredients and use a wooden spoon to combine. Add the remaining flour, stirring until a cohesive mass forms. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic 7 to 8 minutes, using as little dusting flour as possible while kneading. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and proceed with the recipe.

Pizza Dough Kneaded in a Standing Mixer
Follow the recipe for Pizza Dough through step 1. Omit step 2 and instead place the flour and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle. Briefly combine the dry ingredients at low speed. Slowly add the liquid ingredients and continue to mix at low speed until a cohesive mass forms. Stop the mixer and replace the paddle with the dough hook. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, put it in a deep oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and proceed with the recipe.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pear Sorbet

On a trip to Las Vegas, I enjoyed a wonderful trio of sorbets for dessert at a wonderful restaurant: concord grape, coconut, and pear. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the pear sorbet. I've been thinking about it for months, wanting to make some at home, and I finally got the chance last weekend. I should have made this sooner! It has such a wonderful bright, fresh, pear flavor! I'm not sure if it was because of the alcohol, the sugar, or living on the door of my freezer, but mine has stayed soft even days later! I chose to only strain a portion of the puree, I kinda of like having the texture of a pear in the sorbet.

Pear Sorbet
Yield: about 2.5 cups

3 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp pear brandy

Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat until sugar is dissolved. Combine sugar/water, lemon juice, brandy, and pears in a food processor or blender and puree. Strain half of the puree through a sieve, pressing to extrude all the juices. Mix well with remaining unstrained puree. Refrigerate mixture until well chilled, at least 4 hours. Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Braised Chicken with white wine, tomatoes, and peas

This is a very lightly flavored dish. The lemon adds a nice, simple flavor, and the thyme is subtle. Naturally, I think it could use a little garlic or onion. ;-) But overall, it was a nice, light dish that would probably please many palates, making it great for company. I thickened the leftover wine and drippings in the pan with some cornstarch to make a little sauce.

Braised Chicken with white wine, tomatoes, and peas
Adapted from Everyday Food
~ 4 bone-in, skin on chicken breasts
~ Coarse salt and ground pepper
~ 2 tablespoons olive oil
~ 1 cup dry white wine, such as Sauvignon Blanc
~ 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
~ 1 box (10 ounces) frozen peas
~ 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved (of course I picked this after shopping, so I used 2 plum tomatoes)
~ 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Season chicken with salt and pepper. In a 5-quart Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Working in batches, cook chicken until browned, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Add wine and thyme. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, until chicken is opaque throughout, 10 to 15 minutes. (Mine took a lot longer). Add peas and tomatoes to pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in lemon juice; season with salt and pepper. Serve chicken and vegetables over rice, garnished with thyme sprigs.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

BB: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Who doesn't love spaghetti and meatballs? It's serious comfort food. I haven't really been successful yet with making good meatballs, but I enjoyed this recipe (we used all ground chicken in place of the veal/pork/beef). The thing I didn't like was the sauce. I guess I just like a covers-everything sauce, as opposed to something more sparse and chunky as I did with this recipe. Of course, maybe it's my fault, I didn't get the crushed tomatoes because I had a can of whole ones in the pantry and just crushed them by hand. Either way, I'll stick to my favorite recipe for sauce, but continue making these meatballs!
Real Spaghetti and Meatballs
Chosen by Rebecca of Ezra Pound Cake
Real Spaghetti and Meatballs from Barefoot Contessa Family Style, page 103
See more at Barefoot Bloggers

For the meatballs:

* 1/2 pound ground veal
* 1/2 pound ground pork
* 1 pound ground beef
* 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
* 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
* 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
* 2 teaspoons kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* 1 extra-large egg, beaten
* Vegetable oil
* Olive oil

For the sauce:

* 1 tablespoon good olive oil
* 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
* 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
* 1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
* 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
* 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
* 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

* 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
* Freshly grated Parmesan


Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Samoas Ice Cream

I am SO excited that it is that time of year again. My order is in. I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of.... Girl Scout cookies! My all time favorite is thin mints, but samoas are a close second (caramel delites for you ABC bakers folk). This year, I decided to make an ice cream based on the samoas.

What are samoas? In case you live under a rock, I'll explain. Vanilla cookie, layered in luscious caramel, sprinkled with coconut, and drizzled with stripes of chocolate. YUM is what samoas are! There are probably many ways to create an ice cream based on the samoas cookie. Of course, I have to be inventive, since I don't have any cookies in hand yet and this prohibits me from making some vanilla ice cream and adding chunks of samoas. I decided to go out on a limb and start with a base of coconut ice cream, swirled with rich homemade caramel, and chock full of vanilla shortbread cookie bits dipped in chocolate. The result? Grown-up version of a favorite childhood cookie.

Samoas Ice Cream
Coconut ice cream adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini
Caramel and (adapted) shortbread from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

~ 1/2 cup egg beaters
~ 1 can (13 fl. oz.) reduced fat unsweetened evaporated milk
~ 1 can (13 fl. oz.) coconut milk
~ 1 to 2 tablespoons light rum (optional)
~ 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
~ 3/4 cup sugar or 1/3 cup agave nectar
~10 chocolate covered shortbread cookies (store bought or homemade), crushed
~1/2 cup caramel sauce (store bought or homemade)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg beaters, evaporated milk, coconut milk, rum, vanilla, and sugar until blended. Refrigerate at least four hours, or overnight. Whisk again before using, and freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions. In the last 5 minutes of churning, add the chocolate covered cookie bits. Layer 1/2 the ice cream in a freezer container, then smooth over 1/4 cup of completely cooled caramel sauce. Repeat, then freeze container to cure ice cream.

Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookies
Yield: about 10 cookies

~1/2 cup all-purpose flour
~1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
~pinch salt
~5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
~1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
~about 1 cup chocolate chips, for dipping cookies

Sift together the flour, cornstarch, salt and cloves. Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is very smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the dough. Don’t work the dough much once the flour is incorporated.

Using a rubber spatula, transfer the soft, sticky dough to a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Put the bag on a flat surface, leaving the top open, and roll the dough into a 9×10-1/2-inch rectangle that’s 1/4-inch thick. As you roll, turn the bag occasionally and lift the plastic from the dough so it doesn’t cause creases. When you get the right size and thickness, seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible, and refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours, or for up to 2 days.

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Put the plastic bag on a cutting board and slit it open. Turn the firm dough out onto the board (discard the bag) and, using a ruler as a guide and a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1-1/2 inch squares. Transfer the squares to the baking sheets and carefully prick each one twice with a fork, gently pushing the tines through the cookies until they hit the sheet. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The shortbreads will be very pale - they shouldn’t take on much color. Transfer the cookies to a rack.

When cookies are cool, melt chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave at 30 second intervals. Dip the cookies in chocolate and lay on a parchment lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until set, then break up into chunks.

Caramel Sauce
~1 cup sugar
~3 T water
~1 T light corn syrup
~3/4 cup heavy cream
~1 T unsalted butter

Put the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a medium saucepan and stir to combine. Heat over medium heat without stirring, until the caramel turns a deep amber color, 5-10 minutes. Lower the heat, stand back from the saucepan and add the cream and butter. Stir to smooth and calm down the caramel. Remove the pan from the heat. Pour the caramel into a heatproof jar and cool until it is slightly warm-for about an hour. The sauce will keep in the fridge for about a week. Just reheat in the microwave.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Recipe Organization

I find a lot of people struggling with how to organize their recipes. Some keep it all electronic, some keep it all on paper. I have a mix of the two. I would love to be 100% electronic, but my kitchen is a little short on counter space, and I'm very messy when I cook. My kitchen is no place for my laptop. ;-)

I get my recipes from a variety of sources. Online recipes that I have yet to make are stored one of two ways. All other recipes, plus online ones that I have made and like, are filed in a binder and then listed in a central excel spreadsheet for easy viewing (more on that later). Let's start with online organization:

Online Blogs: When I see a recipe I like, I subscribe to the blog in Google Reader (if I haven't already) and then star the recipe as well as add tags. I like to add tags based on ingredients (chicken, cream cheese, banana), as well as, category and subcategory of items (Dinner, Dessert, Cupcake, Burgers). This helps me both when I'm looking for dinner ideas and when I'm trying to figure out what the heck to do with extra cream cheese.

Other Online Recipe Sites: I bookmark other sites in categorized folders, and edit the title so the recipe name is readily visible when I view my bookmarks.

Now, as I mentioned, the other recipes are all listed in one central excel worksheet. I do this so I can quickly and easily search for ideas based on ingredients or categories.

Magazines: I currently subscribe to Cooks Illustrated and Everyday Food. When each issue arrives, I open up the excel spreadsheet and start flipping through the magazine. Anything that looks like something we'd like gets added to the spreadsheet, with "MAKE" listed in the column for Rating. If there is only one or two recipes of interest in a particular magazine, I'll just copy them over, being sure to include the original source, and keep them in the binder. No sense taking up all that space for just one or two ideas!

Cookbooks: I have a number of cookbooks, and each one has been numbered with a little sticker for easy referencing. When I make something that I like from one of the cookbooks, it gets entered into the excel spreadsheet and the number of the book is used to identify which book it came from.

The Binder: This houses recipes from friends and family, or tested internet recipes. I received a box full of recipes at my bridal shower from all those in attendance - which was a great idea! They were all on 3x5 index cards, so I've continued with this pattern. When I am ready to try an online recipe, I copy it down on a 3x5 card and use that in the kitchen. If we love the recipe, I add it to the excel spreadsheet and give it a home in the binder. The binder is organized by the following categories: Appetizer, Bread, Breakfast, Dessert, Fish, Pasta, Poultry, Sauces, Vegetarian, and Drinks.

I got some 4x6 photo sheet protectors and can fit 8 recipes per sheet. The one problem there that I didn't foresee is that the sheet protectors are as long as the tabs on the dividers, so you can't see them all. Not a huge deal for me. These are all loaded in 1" binder (for now!) with a flexible binding so I can fold it over and use in my cookbook holder in the kitchen. Crockpot recipes are stored similarly, in a separate binder. (very soon the label maker will make it's presence known to the binder!)

The Spreadsheet: The excel spreadsheet lists all tested recipes, plus any that are in the binder that I have yet to make. There are six columns:
~Recipe - the name of the recipe
~Location - Where it is stored. BPL26 stands for Binder, Poultry, 26th slot (yes, that's specific, but when you have 50 some odd recipes in that category, you need more help narrowing it down!). EF-59-70 stands for Everyday Food, Issue 59, page 70.
~Category - this relates to the section of the binder it is, or would be, located in. This is necessary for the recipes stored in cookbooks and magazines.
~Tags - here I indicate main dish, side, cupcake, ice cream, etc. It just gives me another angle to sort with... if I come in knowing I need a cupcake recipe, I can sort that column or search for cupcakes.
~Ingredients - Here I list many of the ingredients of the recipe, which helps in two ways. When perusing for dinner ideas, it's a quick way to see if I have what's necessary... fresh lemons for instance. It also acts as a search tool when I have a leftover ingredient and want to use it up.
~Rating - since I am only putting good recipes in the binder, it seems silly to have this, but I still like having a way to denote minor differences in preferences, or maybe recipes that could use some tweaking. I also use this column to specify which recipes have yet to me made, by entering "make" in this column.

Now, when it comes time to plan my meals for the weekend, I have three places to search. I can go to my cookbooks or Google Reader for new recipe ideas, or I can go to my excel spreadsheet and look up old favorites. Same goes for if I have a pesky cup of buttermilk left and need to use it up. I hope this provides you with some ideas on how to better organize your recipes so THEY work for YOU!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Chicken San Marco

I am always looking for new ideas for the crockpot. We have a few recipes we like, but in the winter I use it a lot during the week and hate making the same thing week to week. I cook overnight and we bring the (sometimes good, sometimes bad) results to work for lunch. Since I'm portioning it out in the morning when I am (usually) late for work, I never take pictures so I can share. However, this recipe is definitely worth sharing!

I need easy recipes that don't require lots of additional cooking when the crockpot is done (to say, thicken a sauce or add a few last minute ingredients). This definitely lends itself to that as it can be served alone if you are watching your carb intake, or with ready made rice in your freezer that is waiting for you. We love this recipe, particularly how it flavors the vegetables. The carrots are my favorite; they remind me of carrots boiled with ham or corned beef - soft and slightly salty. I changed it a bit to suit our tastes... took out the peppers and shifted around the proportions on the veggies.

Chicken San Marco

Slightly adapted from Family Crockpot Recipes

1.5 to 2 cups broccoli florets, cut small
1 large onion, diced
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
1 (8 ounces) can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice, or 3 plum tomatoes chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes or left whole*

Place broccoli, onions, carrots, and tomatoes in the bottom of crockpot. Place the chicken on top. Mix together remaining ingredients and spread over chicken. Cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or on high for 3 to 4 hours. Serve... however you like! I think it would be good with pasta or brown rice, but I eat just eat it as is... delicious chicken and vegetables!

*I always use frozen chicken because I am too lazy to thaw it. We've never had any problems.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cranberry Upside-Downer

I decided that since it is now February, it was time to use up the cranberries that I had been hoarding in my freezer since fall (and make more room for chili!). I flipped through my copy of Baking: From My Home to Yours, and saw the Cranberry Upside-Downer. It looked simple, I had all the ingredients on hand, and seemed like it would be delicious. I made some vanilla ice cream to go along with it, as Dorie suggests (and I am never one to turn down ice cream!). This turned out SO good! I will definitely be making this one again next winter!

Cranberry Upside-Downer
From Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan

~1 cup all purpose flour
~1 tsp baking powder
~1 tsp ground cinnamon
~1/4 tsp salt
~1 3/4 sticks (14 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
~1 cup minus 2 Tablespoons sugar
~1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
~2 cups cranberries-fresh or frozen(if frozen, do not thaw)
~2 large eggs
~1 tsp vanilla extract
~1/3 cup whole milk
~1/3 cup red currant jelly, for glazing the cake

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Put a 8x2 inch round cake pan on a baking sheet. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Melt 6 Tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan. Sprinkle in 6 Tablespoons of the sugar and cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Pour this evenly over the bottom of the cake pan, then scatter over the nuts and top with the cranberries, smoothing the layer and pressing it down gently with your fingertips. (If frozen berries cause the butter to congeal, don’t worry - everything will melt in the oven.) Set aside.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the remaining stick of butter on medium speed until smooth. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and continue to beat until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Pour in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half of the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the batter. Mix in the milk, then the rest of the dry ingredients. Spoon the batter over the cranberries and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until the cake is golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove it from the oven and run a blunt knife between the sides of the pan and the cake. Carefully turn the cake out onto a serving platter. If any of the berries stick to the pan-as they might-just scrape them off with a table knife and return them to the cake.

Warm the jelly in a small saucepan over low heat, or do this in a microwave oven.
Gently brush the glaze over the hot cake.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Oreo Cupcakes

I saw these cupcakes and knew they would be perfect for an upcoming holiday party. Once the guests found out what I was making, they couldn't stop talking about it! And really, what sounds better than rich, chocolatey cupcake filled and topped with a cool, creamy whipped frosting...with a surprise oreo in the bottom!

I saw them at Dinner with Danielle, and based on the reviews, wanted to go with the devil's food cake recipe she used. The filling and frosting recipe was provided by the Bumbling Baker, but I had one problem with it. I combined the two recipes since they were about the same and why make two batches of something when you can just make one? I don't know if I just skimped on the filling part, but I had a ton of frosting leftover! So below, I've listed the recipe as Danielle did. Also, a note about cutting the oreos in half for the top... I tried cutting them at an angle, with the tip of the knife on the cutting board and pressing down into the oreo - this did not work! They kept cracking and I couldn't use some of the halves since they crumbled so much. I found that they split much better when the blade is even across the top of the cookie, with one firm, swift press straight down.

Ultimately, these are my second favorite cupcakes. (The banana split cupcakes hold a special place in my heart!) The whipped cream frosting is the perfect complement to the chocolate cake, and well, oreos just make everything better. As for that extra leftover frosting...? I see some cookies and cream ice cream in my future. Free Smiley Face Courtesy of www.FreeSmileys.org

Oreo Cupcakes
Cupcake from Williams-Sonoma Cakes and frosting from Little Cakes From the Whimsical Bakehouse; directions adapted slightly.
Yield: 24 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
~ 2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
~ 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
~ 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
~ 1/2 tsp. baking soda
~ 1/2 tsp. salt
~ 12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
~ 2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
~ 2 tsp. vanilla extract
~ 4 eggs, at room temperature
~ 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature
~ 24 oreos, one side twisted off and reserved for frosting

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Place cupcake liners in cupcake pan. Place one oreo in each liner, creme side up.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Gradually add the brown sugar and continue beating until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour, beating after each addition.

Divide the batter between the prepared liners. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cake comes out clean, 19 to 24 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack and let cool for 15 minutes. Let the cupcakes cake cool completely before filling and frosting.

For the frosting/filling:

~ 1 1/4 cups whipping cream
~ 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (I just pulsed some granulated sugar in a mini food processor)
~ 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
~ 1/2 cup Oreo cookie crumbs, made from reserved oreo sides

In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff. Gently fold in the cookie crumbs. Scoop the mixture into a piping bag (or gallon sized ziplock bag), and using a 1M tip, inject filling into each cupcake by sticking the tip into the middle of the cupcake and squeezing a bit. Frost the cupcakes and top with 1/2 of an oreo.