Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 in Review: My Personal Favorites

When I make and blog food, I don't typically post a recipe unless it is truly a success.  So really, I do like most everything I blog.  However, inevitably some recipes will be more popular than others.  Usually I can predict which will be hits.  The chicken enchiladas, tortilla casserole, and s'mores cupcakes were easy to predict.  However, some of my most favorite dishes haven't seemed to be as popular as I might have anticipated.  Here are my personal favorites that didn't land in the Top 10.

In no particular order...

Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quesadillas are such a fantastic dish.  These were seriously so tasty.  I love pretty much anything containing mushrooms or goat cheese, and the cranberry-pecan salsa is a nice sweet contrast to the salty-earthy quesadillas.  I bought The Pastry Queen Christmas just before the holidays, but I plan to use it throughout the year.

My most recent post, Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites. They are utterly addictive and quite frankly, the perfect snack food.  As I said in the original post, I'm making them for New Year's Eve, and I'm going to freeze some to eat while we watch the Orange Bowl.

Yet another hit from The Pastry Queen, Creamy Chicken Lasagna is easily one of the most decadent dishes on my blog.  I really can't say enough about it, so I'll just say you really should make this... when you have an extra 2000 calories to spare.

If I was forced to choose, I would have a hard time deciding between the seafood risotto and Risotto Marsala.  The sweet Marsala wine pairs beautifully with the earthy mushrooms and creamy risotto.  A quick, one pot meal that is a nice alternative to traditional Chicken Marsala.

When I asked Joey if he had any suggestions for this list, his first answer was "that chipotle pork with oranges."  When I made it, he said it was his favorite pork tenderloin that I've ever made.  Just so you know, the official name is Orange-Chipotle Glazed Pork Tenderloin.  The sweet-spicy combo is delicious, and the glaze is to die for.

When we had a version of this fun and whimsical dessert at a restaurant in Greenville, I immediately knew I would have to try and recreate the Arnold Palmers at home.  I used Dorie's rich, buttery, Lemon Tart, and I created a recipe for Firefly ice cream.  A raspberry coulis rounded it out, and this is one of Joey's favorite desserts.  I can't wait to make it again next summer.

Easily one of the most unexpected dishes I have made, Red Wine Spaghetti is one of those recipes where the sum is truly greater than its parts.  Simple noodles boiled in red wine, then  tossed with a simple sauce of oil, wine, walnuts, and Parmesan.  But the result is something much more complex than you'd imagine. 

I first made these Goat Cheese Bruschetta on a whim one Friday afternoon.  While Joey preferred the more traditional tomato one, I was blown away by the combination of strawberries, goat cheese, and basil.  I made them often after that, toasting a few slices of bread, and enjoying my new favorite snack.  My mouth is seriously watering just thinking about them, and I  can't wait for strawberries to be back in season so I can continue the obsession.

Oatmeal-Raisin Ice Cream is another unexpected hit.  This was the first recipe I tried from Dave Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop, but it certainly hasn't been the last.  I love the combination of the cinnamon ice cream base, whiskey-soaked raisins, and the oatmeal praline.  I finished off most of this on my own, and really, I'm not at all ashamed.

And last but not least, Chipotle and Cheddar Twice Baked Potatoes are such a fun twist on the classic.  I served these with the Orange-Chipotle Pork Tenderloin above, and Joey fell in love with me all over again, haha.  One of the reasons I'm including them in this list is that the possibilities are endless when it comes to fillings.  There are endless variations just waiting to be created. 

Well, that's it!  My personal favorites of the year.  I hope you've found something you enjoy on here, and I hope to continue sharing great recipes in 2010 and beyond!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 in Review: Most Popluar Posts

As the year comes to a close, I know there are a lot of year-end round-ups on blogs.  I only started my fledgling blog in June, so I only have to choose 6 months worth of posts.  Even so, I have had trouble narrowing down what I'd like to include.  Thus, I have decided to have 2 posts.  Today's posts are the 10 most popular posts according to my stat counter.  Tomorrow I will recount my 10 favorites that weren't in the most popular.

Although I have but a newborn blog, I hope I have begun to make a name for myself and an impact on the food blogging community.  I am still working to find my focus and blogging voice.  And of course, photography will always be a learning process.  Hopefully 2010 will bring even more deliciousness with your lives!

So without further adieu, here are the 10 most popular posts on Pink Parsley.

These chicken enchiladas are by FAR the most popular post on my blog, and for good reason.  They are absolutely the best enchiladas I've had.  Though a little time consuming, the work is well worth it.  Every week when I plan the menu, I ask Joey if he has any requests.  I think if I'd do it he would eat them every single week without complaint.

Continuing with the Mexican theme, Chicken Tortilla Casserole was also immensely popular.  It is a perennial favorite in our house; something I can throw together when I don't really feel like cooking or if I need comfort food. 

Cinnamon Roll Cupcakes were just destined to be a popular post.  I mean, seriously, who wouldn't want this?  Though I had a few issues with the dough, it was all my fault; even so, they were still a perfect tailgating treat.

Bakerella's cupake sliders were all over the internet this summer, and I made them no less than 3 times.  Anytime we went to a party or gathering, these were requested.  They are cute, whimsical, fun, and most of all, delicious!

speaking of delicious, the Tomato-Mozarella Tart with a Basil-Garlic Crust is utterly drool-worthy.  What a perfect summer meal to showcase tomatoes and basil.  Add garlic and mozzarella to anything, and I'm a happy girl.  Joey described this as "like pizza, only better."  I have to say I agree.

Speaking of summertime fare, these s'mores cupcakes were just so much fun, and so so delicious.  They start with a graham cracker crust, followed by a rich chocolate cake, topped with chocolate ganache, and finished with burnt marshmallow frosting.  Its okay, you can wipe the drool off your keyboard now ;-)

Still continuing with some summer-time treats, salmon pesto pasta just screams summer to me.  Though you could certainly make it in the winter as well, basil is so fresh and abundant in the summer, and while it is substantial and filling, it just feels light and refreshing.

Quite easily the most simple recipe in this blog, Crockpot White Bean Chicken Chili is also one of the most flavorful.  I probably make this at least once a month, and it is always a hit.  I can't say enough good things about it.  Just make it.

If I had to choose (but please don't make me), seafood risotto would have to be my favorite risotto recipe.  I just love seafood in general, and I love risotto in general, so it should come as no surprise that when the two collided, my world was forever altered.  In all seriousness, this is one of my all-time favorite meals.  Pair it with a glass of wine and some crusty bread, and you have my idea of perfection.

And rounding out the top 10, The Pastry Queen's Bacon and Cheddar Scones are definitely worthy of their spot.  Hearty and filling, yet still light and fluffy, they are my idea of a great breakfast.  They left such an impression of me; I still remember sitting on the deck, sipping coffee and munching on these with Joey on a warm summer morning.

I hope you've enjoyed reliving some of the popular posts of the year; check back tomorrow, I'll be posting my personal Top 10!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites

As soon as I saw these little snacks in the October issue of Gourmet (RIP), I knew I would be making them, and soon.  I have been dying to try my hand at homemade pretzels, and I loved the idea of having bite sized snacks - add cheese and ham, and I am a happy girl.  I just love any sort of bite-sized or single serve food.  I love grazing on appetizers and dips all night.  In fact, I will be making these again on Thursday for our mini New Year's Eve gathering.  My sister and niece are in town visiting, and I know that our girls will love munching on these.

I honestly don't know why I was so intimidated to try pretzels.  They were surprisingly easy and painless to put together.  You have to plan ahead, but nothing about the recipe is particularly challenging or tedious.  The original recipe called for country ham, but my local grocery store didn't carry it.  I just bought some smoked ham and diced it.  Also, while the jalapeno mustard was tasty, I think next time I will puree it so the jalapenos are better incorporated, and add more honey as well, to give it a sweet finish.  I made this change in my version of the recipe below.

I took these to a party to watch my beloved Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets clinch the ACC title, so they are now somewhat of a good luck charm.  I guess I will have to make them again when we play Iowa in the Orange Bowl next week.

Ham and Cheddar Pretzel Bites with Jalapeno Mustard
adapted from Gourmet, October 2009
makes about 4 dozen
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 Tablespoons plus 1 tsp packed brown sugar, divided
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F)
  • 1 cup warm milk (110-115 degrees F)
  • 2 1/2-3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped ham (3 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped sharp Cheddar
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup dijon mustard
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped jalapenos
  • 1/4 cup mild honey
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1-2 Tablespoons coarse salt
Stir together the yeast, 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and warm water in a large bowl.  Set aside until foamy, 5-8 minutes.  In another bowl, stir together the remaining 2 Tablespoons brown sugar and warm milk until dissolved.

Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour and the milk mixture to the yeast.  Stir with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.  Add the remaining flour as needed.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and gently knead a few times, forming a smooth ball.

Brush the inside of a clean bowl with olive oil.  Transfer the dough to the bowl, and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Allow to rise in a draft free, warm room for about 2 hours, until dough has doubled in size and bubbles appear on the surface.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide into 4 equal pieces.  Lightly dust your hands and rolling pin with flour.  Roll dough and stretch into a 12-inch long rope.  Flatten and arrange so the long side is facing you.  Use the rolling pin or your hands to form a 12x4 inch rectangle.  Gently press 1/4 of the ham and cheddar into the bottom third of the dough, and roll as tightly as possible to form a rope.  Cut into 12 1-inch pieces and transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.  Repeat with remaining 3 portions of dough.

Let rest, uncovered, at room temperature, for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400.

Bring 6 cups of water to a boil.  Add the baking soda and reduce heat to a gentle simmer

Cook pretzels in batches, cooking about 20 seconds each, turning once.  They should be slightly puffed.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer them back to the baking sheets.

Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes.  The cheese might ooze out, but that's okay.

Brush warm pretzel bites with melted butter, and sprinkle with salt.

To make the jalapeno mustard, pulse the jalapenos in a food processor until finely ground.  Add the honey and mustard, and process until evenly mixed.

Serve pretzels warm or at room temperature.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

I mentioned in another post that I recently bought The Pastry Queen Christmas.  I seriously cannot say enough good things about it.  It is chock full of delicious treats and indulgences.  I've made no less than 5 recipes out of it in the month that I've had it.

These red velvet cupcakes met my already exceedingly high expectations I have of her recipes.  They are moist and sweet, without being cloyingly so.  The vinegar and sour cream gave them a nice tang, and the chocolate richened the flavor.  I didn't use her suggested marscapone cream cheese icing; rather, I used a pretty standard one from Annie's Eats.  It was so smooth, and piped so beautifully.  I have already made these cupcakes several times, and its not looking to slow down anytime soon!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Rebecca Rather, The Pastry Queen Christmas
makes 24 cupcakes
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) red food coloring
  • 3 1/2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tablespoon distilled white vinegar
Preheat the oven to 350.  Line 2 cupcake pans with liners and spray with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and food coloring with a fork, mashing and mixing until it forms a paste.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  One at a time, add the eggs, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed, and allowing each one to be fully incorporated.  Reduce the speed to low, and add the cocoa paste.  Increase to medium speed and beat the batter for about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, sift together the cake flour, all-purpose flour, salt, and baking soda.  Stir the vanilla into the buttermilk (this can be done in a measuring cup).

Add the flour and buttermilk in increments, alternating between each addition.  Start and end with the dry ingredients.  Beat on medium speed until just combined.

Add the vinegar and sour cream and beat at low speed until just combined.

Divide batter evenly among the muffin tins, filling each one about 3/4 full.  Bake 17-22 minutes, only until the cupcakes feel firm to the touch  and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Be careful not to overbake, as the cupcakes will dry out easily.

Remove from oven and allow to cool in pans for 5 minutes.  Remove the cupcakes from pan and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
from Annie's Eats, originally from Confections of a Foodie Bride
  • 12 ounces cream cheese (still cold - not softened)
  • 7 1/2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 3/4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
Cream the butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until creamy and smooth, 2-3 minutes.  Add the vanilla extract.  Gradually add the confectioners sugar over low speed, and when well combined, increase to medium.  Beat until smooth. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Creamy Chicken Lasagna

I figured I'd post this lasagna recipe before the new year and people start being concerned with calories and fat.  Because this lasagna is full of both.  I could barely believe my eyes when I saw the ingredients:  2 stick of butter, a cup of heavy cream, 5 cups of cheese..... my arteries are clogging just thinking about it.... my mouth is also watering.

I toned it down a little.  I only used 1 1/2 sticks of butter, and I subbed fat free half and half for the heavy cream.  I figured there was still plenty of fat elsewhere to make up for it.

The verdict?  Oh my, so good.  Creamy, cheesy, flavorful.  I loved the mushrooms and bell peppers in it, and I think you could really play around with the vegetables and cheese.  Pepperjack would provide a nice kick, and spinach would also be yummy added in.

This isn't a fast throw-together meal, but if you are having company over, it is perfect make-ahead.  And your guests will thank you for it.

Creamy Chicken Lasagna
adapted from Rebecca Rather, The Pastry Queen Christmas

Cream Sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • 10 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, deveined, and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 3/4 cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 cup fat-free half and half
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 15 lasagna noodes (about 12 ounces)
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, skinned, deboned, and shredded into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup freshley grated Parmesan cheese
 Preheat the oven to 350, and grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.

To make the cream sauce:  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saute pan.  Cook the onion, celery, mushrooms, red pepper, and garlic until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the parsley, salt, and pepper.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan or stockpot, melt the butter over medium-low heat.  Whisk in the flour 1/2 cup at a time, whisking after each addition.  Add the chicken stock 1 cup at a time, again, whisking until smooth after each addition.  Increase the heat to medium, and cook, stirring constantly, until  the sauce thickens to the consistency of cream soup.  Stir in the cream, Parmesan, salt, pepper, Tabasco, and nutmeg.  Heat until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.  Stir in the sauteed vegetables and remove from heat.

Cook the lasagna noodles in a large pot of salted water according to the package directions.  Drain the noodles and seperate them so they don't stick together (hang them around the edges of the cooking pot).

Spread a thin layer of cream sauce over the bottom of the baking dish.  Layer 5 lasagna noodles on top, and follow with half the chicken, 1 cup of the jack cheese, and 1/3 of the remaining cream sauce.  Repeat the layers of noodles-chicken-cheese-sauce.  Top with the remaining 5 noodles, and cover with the remaining cream sauce.  Mix together the Parmesan cheese and the last cup of jack cheese, and sprinkle evenly over the lasagna. 

Bake 30-45 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the lasagna is bubbling.  Allow to sit at room temperature 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

    Monday, December 21, 2009

    Herb and Goat Cheese Biscotti

    It isn't often that I see a recipe and want to try it immediately.  Usually, I will save or star it in my google reader, then come back to it weeks (or even months) later when I'm lacking inspiration.  I saw Giada make this savory biscotti on her show, and in 2 hours I had made it myself.  Pretty much anything with goat cheese or herb de provence will always catch my eye, and in combination with my newfound love for biscotti, I just had to make it right.then.

    And it didn't disapoint.  It is crunchy, savory, and so flavorful.  The goat cheese definitely plays a supporting rather than a starrring role.  That belongs to the herbs de provence.  These made a wonderful addition to my holiday gift baskets this year; I figured it might be nice to have something savory to round out all the sweets. 

    Savory Biscotti
    from Giada de Laurentiis
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3 tablespoons herbes de Provence
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) goat cheese, at room temperature
    • 3 tablespoons sugar
    • 2 eggs, beaten, at room temperature
    Preheat the oven to 350, and position the rack in the middle position.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

    Whisk together the flour, herbs de Provence, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

    In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the goat cheese and butter until smooth.  Beat in the eggs and sugar, stopping to scrape down the sides if necessary.  In 3 batches, add the flour and herb mixer, mixing until just combined.

    Turn out dough onto the baking sheet.  Using damp hands, shape the dough into a 13 x 4 inch log.  Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes. 

    Cool on a baking sheet for 30 minutes.

    Using a serrated knife, cut the log on the diagonal into 1/2-1 inch slices.  Transfer slices to the baking sheet, cut side down. 

    Bake an additional 15 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

    Sunday, December 20, 2009

    Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders with Cranberry-Orange Sauce

    Here is yet another hit from Cook's Illustrated.  These chicken tenders originally called for a coating of almonds, but I thought pecans would be a great substitution - and they were!  This is an easy and fast meal, perfect for those busy nights I'm sure we're all having this time of year.  They cook up nice and crispy, and the cranberry-orange dipping sauce is simultaneously sweet, tart, and tangy from the combination of cranberries, orange marmalade, and Dijon mustard.

    Pecan Chicken Fingers with Cranberry-Orange Sauce
    adapted from Cook's Illustrated
    serves 4

    • 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
    • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
    • 1 1/2 Tablespoons dijon or coarse grain mustard
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3/4 cup pecan halves
    • 3/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
    • 1 1/2 pound chicken, cut into tenderloins
    • salt and pepper
    • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
    Simmer cramberries and orange marmalade in a small saucepan over medium heat about 6 minutes, until mixture has thickened and cranberries have popped.   Off heat, stir in mustard.

    Meanwhile, in 2 shallow dishes, add flour and lightly beaten eggs.  Set aside.

    Pulse pecans in a food processor until finely ground, then combine with panko and add to a 3rd dish.

    Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, and season with salt and pepper

    Working one chicken tender at a time, dredge the chicken first in flour, then egg, and finally the panko/nut mixture.  you may need to press lightly to adhere the nut mixture to the chicken.

    Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.

    Cook half the chicken until golden-brown, about 3 minutes per side.  Drain the chicken on a paper towel lined plate.  Wipe out the skillet, then repeat with the remaining oil and chicken.

    Serve with cranberry-orange dipping sauce.

    Friday, December 18, 2009

    Chocolate Peppermint Cupcakes

    A few weeks ago, I agreed to make some cupcakes for a friend's birthday party.  She wanted to do something fun and seasonal for the adults, so I suggested chocolate cake with peppermint buttercream.  I wasn't able to attend the party, but from what I've heard, they were pretty popular.  Since then, I've made them a few more times, and they are always a hit!  I used my favorite choclate cake recipe, then a standard buttercream recipe.  I just used mint extract in place of most of the vanilla, and used a little pink gel coloring to make them look minty and pretty.  Finally, I sprinkled some Andy's mints on top to complete the look.

    Peppermint Buttercream
    basic buttercream adapted from Cook's Illustrated
    • 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
    • 3-4 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 teaspoons mint extract
    • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
    Cream the  butter over medium speed in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  When pale and fluffy, gradually add the confectioner's sugar in batches, mixing well after each addition.  Add the extracts, salt, and heavy cream, and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  If using, add a small amount of pink or red gel paste food coloring and mix well to combine.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Salted Cocoa-Roasted Nuts

    If you are looking for a fun and festive addition to your holiday gift baskets, look no further!  If you are looking for something to munch on while you cook, bake, or decorate, look no further!  If you are looking for something to eat for no reason....look no further!  These are insanely addictive.  And seriously yummy.  Its no secret that I'm a big fan of the sweet/salty combo, and these nuts are exactly that.  The coating is egg whites, and it keeps the nuts feeling kind of light and fluffy.  I used a combination of hazelnuts, pecans, and walnuts, but I think next time I'll just use hazelnuts and pecans.  They were my favorite, anyway.  Next time I might add a bit of cinnamon to give them even more flavor!

    These babies are getting packaged up as part of my holiday gift baskets.  I'm also going to have several bags ready to go for all the parties we will be attending in the next few weeks.  They'd make great hostess gifts.  Or great to give to last minute visitors that stop by. 

    Salted Cocoa-Roasted Nuts
    from Joy the Baker, adapted from Essence of Chocolate
    • 3 cups mixed nuts (I suggest hazelnuts and pecans)
    • 8 Tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
    • 2 large egg whites
    • 1 cup sugar
    • 1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    Preheat oven to 325.  Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake for 10 minutes, or until slightly browned and fragrant.  Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool.

    Scatter the chunks of butter on the baking sheet, and return to oven to melt the butter.  This will only take a few minutes, so keep a close eye on it.  Remove from oven and tilt the pan to spread the butter all over.

    Meanwhile, beat the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer over medium-low/medium speed.  When the egg whites are just starting to hold their shape, add the sugar and increase the speed to medium-high for 2 minutes.  They will be shiny and sticky, and a little thinner than meringues. 

    Sift the cocoa over the egg whites, and fold in. Mix the egg white mixture into the nuts, and spread onto the baking sheet. 

    Bake for 10 minutes, then gently stir.  Return the nuts to the oven and bake another 10 minutes.  Stir again, and sprinkle the salt over the nuts.  Return for another 10 minutes, then remove.  Give the nuts one final stir, breaking up chunks as you go.  When done, the coating should be crisp, and the butter absorbed by the nuts. 

    Allow to cool completely.  They can be stored in an airtight container up to 1 week.

    Friday, December 4, 2009

    Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Cranberry-Pecan Salsa

    Whew, that is a long title!!  But I really couldn't leave anything out and still convey the awesomeness of these quesadillas.  I know it might sound like a strange combination, but these are truly delicious.  Goat Cheese and mushrooms are just made to go together (ok who am I kidding, goat cheese is made to go with just about anything), and the earthy mushrooms really play nicely off of the sweet-spicy salsa. I recently bought The Pastry Queen Christmas, and this recipe just jumped right out at me.  I'm continuing my love of her, and I'm also continuing only to make savory recipes, haha!

    While this was one of my favorite dinners that we've had in awhile, Joey was only semi-pshyched by it.  And that's okay, I knew it might be a little girly and out there for him.  I will be making this again for myself... I think it will be a great lunch.  And I know its something Caroline will eat - mushrooms are her new favorite food!

    I also think these would be a nice addition to a holiday spread of appetizers.  The salsa is so pretty and festive, and everyone loves hand-held food!

    Wild Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quesadillas with Cranberry-Pecan Salsa
    adapted from The Pastry Queen Christmas, by Rebecca Rather
    4-6 main course servings, or 24 appetizers.

    Cranberry-Pecan Salsa
    • 1/2 cup whole pecans
    • 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
    • Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
    • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 cups fresh  cranberries
    • 1 shallot, sliced
    • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
    Preheat the oven to 350.  Arrange the pecans on a baking sheet and toast 7-9 minutes, until deeper brown and aromatic.  Cool, and coarsely chop.

    Combine the vinegar, olive oil, sugar, mustard, orange zest and juice, and salt and pepper in a food processor.  Process until well combined, about 30 seconds.  Add the cranberries, shallot, and jalapeno, and pulse to coarsely chop.

    Transfer to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate.  When ready to serve, fold in pecans.

    Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quesadillas
    •  6 Tablespoons unsalted butter
    • 1 yellow onion, coarsely chopped
    • 1 1/2 pounds mixed wild and commercial mushrooms, sliced (stem the shiitakes)
    • 1 pound cremini mushrooms, sliced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
    • 2/3 cup dry white wine
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
    • 8 8-inch flour tortillas
    • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded monterey jack cheese 
    • 3 cups (15 ounces) crumbled fresh goat cheese
    Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and saute about 4 minutes, until softened.  Add the mushrooms, garlic, salt, and Worcestershire sauce, and saute an additional 5 minutes.  Add the white wine and pepper, and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, at least 5 minutes.

    While the mushrooms cook, coat a griddle or large skillet with cooking spray and heat to high heat.  Reduce heat to medium when it is preheated.

    Lay a tortilla flat on the cooking surface, and sprinkle 1/4 cup Monterey Jack cheese over the whole tortilla.  Top half with about 1/3 cup of the mushroom mixture, then sprinkle with a thin layer of goat cheese.  Use a stiff spatula and fold each tortilla in half.  Cook until light brown and crisp on the bottom, then carefully flip and cook until the other side has browned.

    Transfer to a plate and keep warm in the oven.  Repeat with remaining tortillas.  To serve, cut each into 3-4 wedges, and serve with salsa for dipping.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    BB: Company Pot Roast

    The first recipe for Barefoot Bloggers November was creme brulee.  In case you didn't notice, I didn't post it.  But I will.  So stay tuned.   However, the second recipe was chosen by Lisa of Lime in the Coconut.  She chose Company Pot Roast, which is perfect for the chilly weather we've been having recently.

    As far as pot roasts go, this was a good one.  Although admittedly, pot roast isn't my favorite food.  The sauce however, was phenomenal.  Of course, I shouldn't be surprised.  It is Ina Garten after all.  You puree half the sauce, and leave the other half with chunks of vegetables.  This gives the sauce a nice texture and consistency.  I took the leftover sauce and ate it over pasta the next night, and Joey and I really enjoyed that as well.

    I really didn't make any changes to her recipe, so I will just link to it over on Food Network.  If you are looking for a hearty, comforting recipe for pot roast, give this one a try.  Ina never disapoints!!

    Ina Garten's Company Pot Roast