Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake with Chocolate Kahlua Sauce

It's November 30th!  Which means it's the last day of NaBloPoMo.  Thanks so much for sticking with me this month.  I'm glad and proud that I managed to write (what I would consider) a quality blog post each day.  Most of the time I didn't feel pressure and wasn't pressed for time to get a blog post in, because I pretty much wrote them all a few days in advance and scheduled them to publish.  However, sometimes life got in the way and I didn't have the time or energy, which is why some of my posts weren't published until 10:30 pm.  :-)  However, I got to the chance to feature some seasonal menus and party ideas, which was fun.  Maybe I'll keep this feature alive intermittently and post a menu or round-up when the mood strikes. And hopefully I also shared some recipes and stories that you enjoyed as well.  To celebrate the end of the month, I'm sharing with you a family favorite.

This cheesecake is kind of legen (wait for it) dary.  It's been one of my mom's signature desserts for as long as I can remember, and now it's one of mine as well. It is also intense.  You have a chocolate cookie crust, chocolate cheesecake base, mix in some chocolate chips, then drizzle the whole thing with chocolate kalhua sauce.  Like I said, it's intense.  She cut this recipe out of the Atlanta Journal Constitution years ago, and has been making it ever since.

I have made this a couple of times in the past - all for functions when my mom wouldn't be present of course, since it's "her" dessert.  I went on a spree a few weeks back and purged my gmail inbox (I think I had over 60,000 email strings...) so unfortunately I lost the recipe, but luckily my mom has it filed away and resent it.  She reminded me that it makes more than a full springform pan, and I should bake the extra alongside it in a small dish.  Instead, I opted to just scale down the recipe.  So if the quantities seem a little weird, that's why.

I took this cheesecake to Thanksgiving this year, and while I know it may seem like a nontraditional dessert, I say that a chocolate dessert is always welcome - no matter the holiday.  And trust me, no one cared one bit.  I think this would be a wonderful addition to a Christmas buffet, it would make a great dessert for a dinner party, or a great dessert for a Tuesday night.  Chocolate cheesecake is always welcome.

Triple Chocolate Cheesecake
a Phillips Family Favorite

  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 4 (8-ounce) packages of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 2 1/2 Tbs all-purpose flour
  • scant 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 7 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped and melted
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 heaping cup semisweet chocoalte chips
Preheat oven to 475 degrees. For the crust: Combine crumbs and butter. Press on the
bottom of 9-inch springform pan.

For the cheesecake: Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add flour and salt. Gradually 
beat in sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Add melted chocolate. 
Stir in milk and chocolate chips.

Pour mixture into prepared crumb crust. Bake at 475 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. 
Reduce heat to 300 degrees and bake 40-50 minutes longer, or until filling is barely 
set in middle. Remove from oven and let stand at room temperature 1 hour. 
Refrigerate several hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, sprinkle top with chocolate chips (if desired) and serve with 
Kahlua Chocolate Sauce.

Kahlua Chocolate Sauce
  • 1/3 cup Kahlua
  • 1/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan set over medium heat.  Cook until chocolate has melted, and mixture is smooth.  Cool to room temperature. 

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chipotle Shrimp

I think it was last summer that I "discovered" chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, but I seriously cannot imagine my life before them.  I realize this sounds dramatic, but I really do use them all.the.time.  I usually only use one or two at a time, so I keep the rest in a ziploc bag (with the canning liquid) in the refrigerator.  They keep pretty well there, but I usually use them pretty quickly anyway :-)

This meal was really quick and easy, and is open to endless variations.  Saute some veggies in the skillet before building the sauce, serve them as soft tacos with all the fixings, substitute scallops, chicken, tofu, pork, or beef, serve over pasta, sprinked with queso fresco or cojita... the list goes on and on.  I consider a meal to be quick if it comes together in under an hour, but this one is on the table in 15 minutes.  Another hit from Rick Bayless - quick, easy, healthy, delicious.  What else could you ask for?

One Year Ago:  Spinach, Mushroom, and Pesto Lasagna

Chipotle Shrimp
adapted from Rick Bayless, Mexican Everyday
serves 4
  • One (15-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes in juice, drained
  • 2-3 canned chipotles en adobo
  • 1 Tbs chipotle canning sauce
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt
  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • about 1/4 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
  • chicken broth (optional)
Pour the drained tomatoes into a blender or food processor.  Add the chipotle chiles and the canning liquid, and process until smooth.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and stir until fragrant and golden, about 1 minute.  Add the tomato mixture,  and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Taste and season with salt (about 1 teaspoon).  If desired, thin out the sauce a bit with chicken broth or water.

Add the shrimp to the pan, and coo, stirring constantly, until the shrimp are pink and curled up, about 4 minutes, or until they are cooked through.  Stir in a little broth or water if the sauce has thickened too much.

Transfer to dinner plates and sprinkle with cilantro.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

PPQ: Orange Muffins

As with every family, mine has a history of choosing a member to be the brunt of most jokes and teasing.  Unfortunately for my baby sister, she was the victim growing up.  One of our favorite stories is of an elementary school boyfriend writing her a "love letter."  In the letter, he proclaimed Hope to be his "little sweaty pie."  Of course we had a field day with that one, and it penned several new nicknames for her.  Moisture Muffin was my personal favorite, and I still can't see a muffin recipe without giggling about that story.

One of the things I like about participating in Project Pastry Queen is that I get the chance to make recipes that I maybe wouldn't otherwise have noticed.  I've never been a huge fan of muffins for breakfast.  They don't fill me up, and I'm hungry again in like an hour.  However, I'm really glad I got a chance to make these.  They are really delicious.  Soft and sweet, with just a hint of orange flavor.  And the glaze makes them.  I considered skipping it, to make them a bit healthier, but I'm glad I decided to go for it. 

I'm definitely going to make these again, possibly for a holiday brunch.  And I'd love to try them with blueberries and lemon next summer.  Thanks, Shawnda, for a great choice this week!  Head over to her blog for the full recipe, and check back next week for my pick - Black & White Cranberry Tarts!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Top 10 Weeknight Favorites

I know at this time of year it becomes harder and harder to get a home-cooked meal on the table every night.  Between holiday shopping, evening engagements, wrapping up year-end projects at work, kids' activities, etc, etc, take-out looks more and more enticing.  However, with a little planning and a handful of quick and easy recipes in your arsenal, you can feed your family well throughout the holiday season.  I've compiled a list of 10 of my favorite weeknight dinners.  These are all dinners that I've made multiple times, and I've received positive feedback from readers who have made these recipes as well.  Most are reasonably healthy, but some are a little more on the indulgent side.  However, rest-assured that they are all delicious, easy, and will be on your table in under an hour.  Happy Holidays!

Grilled Rosemary Chicken Thighs (also works well with chicken breasts)

Friday, November 26, 2010

BB: Onion & Fennel Soup Gratin

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving!  Honestly, it is days like this that make me regret signing up for NaBoPoMo.  I have spent the day shopping and hanging out with family, and here it is 10:30 PM, and I've yet to write a blog post.  I would love to go sit on the couch and watch tv with Joey, but I am committed, darn it! 

So anyway, one of this month's Barefoot Bloggers recipes is an updated version of an old classic - French Onion Soup.  It is one of my favorite things to order in a restaurant.  I love the gooey, melty cheese, the bread, sweet onions, and flavorful broth.  But let's be honest:  the bread and the cheese are the best part.

This is a pretty standard recipe, it just replaces some of the onions with fennel.  I am actually not a huge fan of fennel, but I've decided that I like it if its cooked, but don't care for it raw.  In this soup, it just adds a bit of extra sweetness and a nice depth of flavor to add to the caramelized onions.  A perfect soup for the cold weather, and a great recipe to have in your repertoire. 

Onion and French Onion Soup Gratin
The Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That?
serves 4 to 6
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 lbs Spanish onions, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 lbs fennel, tops and cores removed, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  •  1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 7-8 cups beef broth
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbs kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small sourdough or white French boule, crusts removed and sliced 1/2 in thick, toasted
  • 4 to 6 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated
Heat butter and olive oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and fennel, and cook  over medium heat 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions turn golden-brown.

Add the sherry and brandy, scraping up the browned bits in the pan, and simmer uncovered about 5 minutes.  Add the broth, bay leaves, salt, and pepper,and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.  Remove the bay leaves and taste for seasoning.

Preheat the broiler and ladle the soup into heat-proof serving bowls.  Top with the toasted bread, sprinkle generously with grated cheese, and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Serve hot.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  I hope everyone is celebrating the holiday with friends and family today.  And since it's now Thanksgiving, it means we're moving into the holiday season - my favorite time of year!  So its time to start baking cookies, candies, and other festive treats.  I love doing holiday baskets every year, and while I try to include several different treats, classic cookies like chocolate chip and peanut butter are always well-received.

I normally really really hate shortening, but Annie was pretty adamant about it being necessary for these cookies.  So I tried it out, and while I wouldn't call myself a "shortening convert," it does work in these cookies.  And its such a small amount that I'm willing to use it without a fight.

I made these cookies for the Bedtime Stories Bridal Shower a few weeks back, and they were a big hit.  Soft and chewy, with a sweet, crackly crust and lots of peanut butter and honey flavor.  These have the best texture of any peanut butter cookie I've ever made, and even though this recipe made a ton, and we had plenty of leftovers, they didn't last long. 

One Year Ago:  Applesauce Snack Cake

Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies
Taste of Home, as seen on Annie's Eats
makes about 4 dozen
  • 3 cups all-purpose four
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • sugar, for rolling the cookies.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together the shortening, butter, peanut butter, and honey.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated.

Roll the dough into 1 1/2-inch balls, and roll each ball in the sugar.  Space each cookie a few inches apart on the cookie sheets.  Bake 10-12 minutes, until the cookies are slightly puffed and golden.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheets 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining dough. 

Cookies will keep for several days in an airtight container.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Warm Pear-Ginger Upside Down Cake

I'm sure that by now you've already planned your Thanksgiving desserts, bought all the ingredients, and have started prepping (no?), but just in case you're still looking for a fabulous dessert, here it is.  When I bought The Pastry Queen Christmas last year, this was one of the first recipes that I marked to save.  I actually never got around to making it last Christmas, but this year I was determined to do it.  The original recipe calls for you to serve it with Amaretto Whipped Cream, which I think would be really good, but one of our dinner guests is pregnant, and rather than make a seperate batch of whipped cream, I just made plain whipped cream.  Which was still super delicious.  However, when I warmed up the last piece yesterday for Joey and I to split, I spiked the whipped cream with a little bourbon - and yeah, that was good too ;-).

I prepped this cake before our friends arrived, then as we sat down to dinner, I popped it in the oven.  It cooks for close to an hour, so its perfect timing to sit down to eat, have a few minutes for your food to settle, then start in on dessert.  I realize this may not be ideal for traveling, since its best served warm, but I think you could just pop it in the oven for a few minutes to heat it up before serving.  I also reheated individual slices in the microwave for 20 seconds and it was perfect.

The best part of this cake is most definitely the edges - I loved the caramelized sugar and ginger, and the sweet pears were such a great addition.  When I asked Joey what his favorite part of our Spainsgiving meal was, he chose this dessert.  Which says a lot, because he's not really a fruit person or a dessert person. 

Other holiday dessert ideas:
Apple Spice Layer Cake with Caramel-Swirl Icing
Pralined Pumpkin Cheesecake
Caramel Apple Cheesecake Pie
Cinnamon Cupcakes with Pumpkin Icing
Pear Maple Cobblers
I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!!

Warm Pear Ginger Upside-Down Cake
The Pastry Queen Christmas by Rebecca Rather

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2-3 ripe but firm pears, such as Bartlett or Anjou
  • 2 Tbs finely chopped candied ginger
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbs finely chopped candied ginger
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the butter and brown sugar in a 9 inch cake pan and cook in the oven about 10 minutes, or until it is melted and bubbly.  Meanwhile, core the pears and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Remove the pan from the oven and arrange the pears on top of the mixture in a circular pattern.  Don't worry if you end up with a second layer of pears. Sprinkle the candied ginger evenly over the pears.

To make the cake:  Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition.  Beat in the vanilla extract.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the flour mixture in 3 increments, alternating with the milk, starting and ending with the flour.  Beat on low speed between each addition. 

Stir in the ginger and pour the batter evenly over the pears, using a spatula to smooth the top.  Bake 40-55 minutes, until the cake is cooked through and light golden-brown.  Insert a toothpick into the center to test for doneness. 

Remove from the oven and immediately invert onto a large cake plate.  Allow to cool about 15 minutes.  Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Gobbly-Good Round Up!

I've had so much fun this month preparing turkey-alternatives for the big day, so I thought I would recap in case you missed any.  I'm also including some links from other blogs for turkey and leftover ideas. 

I started the month out with Turkey and Dressing Burgers.  Its really uncanny how much this tastes like turkey and dressing.  Served with some sweet potato fries, you have an awesome and casual turkey dinner.

Another casual turkey dinner idea is these Herbed Turkey Meatballs.  We really felt like we were eating Thanksgiving dinner, and the whole meal came together in under an hour.

Yesterday I featured this Roasted Turkey Roulade.  It is ideal for a smaller gathering, and is such a pretty and elegant presentation.  I might be making this again for Christmas dinner...

And if you are already planning on a big turkey dinner, pretty please will you make these Turkey Cranchiladas with the inevitable leftovers?  You will thank me, I promise!  I love these so much that I make them year round with a rotisserie chicken.

I couldn't post a Turkey Round-up without featuring at least one recipe for a whole bird, and no turkey I've ever seen has been as gorgeous as this one from Annie's Eats.  She used Alton Brown's brining and roasting method to produce this beautiful bird, and if/when I ever host Thanksgiving, I'll definitely be using this recipe as well.

While I'm on the topic of Annie's Eats, I seriously can not wait to make this Thanksgiving Leftover Panini she posted last year.  I'll be confiscating leftover turkey from my dad's house for this, and I've got pumpkin yeast bread rising as we speak. 

I also really like the idea of this Butterflied Turkey with Cranberry-Molasses Glaze.  Its a little non traditional, which I love, plus its from Cook's Illustrated, so you know it will come out perfect.  The guys from The Bitten Word loved it, so I know it must be good!

As far as leftovers go, I think this Turkey & Stuffing Dumplings from Food Network sounds really delicious.  Use the turkey carcass to make a flavorful turkey stock, then add leftover meat, and lots of veggies, and use leftover  dressing for dumplings.  It sounds so comforting and delcious!

I just can't resist Mexican food, so these Turkey Tacos with Cranberry Salsa from Simply Recipes look incredibly tempting to me!  They also look super easy and fast, which is always a plus when you've been cooking all week.

We won't be able to attend Thanksgiving on my mom's side of the family this year, but I will certainly miss the turkey there.  Every year we do a deep-fried turkey.  Certainly not the most healthy way to prepare it, but my gosh, it is delicious!  Here is a recipe from Southern Living, but we usually inject it with Cajun seasoning as well.  Mmmm so good!

I think this Turkey Hash from Tennessee Home and Farm would be a great breakfast for the day after Thanksgiving, especially with a runny egg on top. 

And finally, if you are looking for a meatless option for Thanksgiving, check out these Mushroom and Lentil Pot Pies I posted over the weekend.  They are packed with vegetables, and topped with a gouda biscuit.  How can you beat that?

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Roasted Turkey Roulade

As most food bloggers and passionate home cooks do, I long to host Thanksgiving.  It is the ultimate foodie holiday, plus its such a fun time to gather together with friends, family, and loved ones.  I'm lucky enough to have 3 different Thanksgiving dinners to choose from each year, but part of of me definitely wishes I could be the one hosting.  I think it would be a lot of fun to flex my culinary muscles and try out new and challenging recipes.  I was discussing this with Joey the other night, and we decided to just have our own mini Thanksgiving over the weekend.  I could make the recipes I want, versus what is traditional and expected in my family - and in the process we formed our own traditions.  I wanted the dinner to have traditional elements but with upscale twists.  I really am pleased with how everything came together.

I didn't feel the need or desire to roast an entire turkey, plus I've been wanting to make this roulade for quite some time.  I absolutely LOVE dressing, and while I've never eaten it from the cavity of a bird, I do like the idea of making a roulade with it. 

I had a heck of a time finding someone to debone and butterfly the turkey breast for me.  Yes, I realize I could do it myself, but I have a tiny kitchen, a busy weekend, and really no desire to hack a turkey breast to pieces. We are actually about 5 miles from 2 seperate butchers, but neither one offered "that service."  Go figure - a butcher that doesn't butcher.  Luckily, I also live close to a Whole Foods, and they were more than happy to do it for me. 

Once you have your turkey boned and butterflied, this is pretty easy to prepare.  The stuffing is a pretty standard mix with some dried fruit thrown in for extra flavor, and then its just a matter of rolling it up and tying the roast.  I was kind of nervous to do this, but it wasn't a big deal at all.  I did end up losing quite a bit of stuffing as I rolled up the roulade, but it was no big deal. 

The turkey breast cooks in under 2 hours, and you're left with a juicy roast with yummy stuffing inside.  And as a bonus, there is plenty of stuffing left to bake up and serve on the side. 

Check back tomorrow, I'm going to do a turkey round-up just in time for the big day!

Roasted Turkey Roulade
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics
serves 6-8
  • 3/4 cup chopped dried figs, stems removed
  • 3/4cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup Brandy
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups diced onions
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 3/4 pound pork sausage, casings removed (sweet and hot mixed)
  • 1 1/2 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3 cups herb-seasoned cornbread stuffing mix
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 whole (2 halves) turkey breast, boned and butterflied
  • 3 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
Place the dried figs and cranberries in a small saucepan and cover with the Brandy and 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onions and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the sausage, and break up large chunks with the back of a wooden spoon.  Cook, stirring often for 10 minutes, until it is cooked through and browned.  Add the figs and cranberries with their liquid and the rosemary, and cook 2 more minutes, scraping up the browned bits with a spoon.

Place the stuffing in a large bowl.  Add the sausage mixture, chicken stock, egg, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper.  Stir well to combine.  At this point the stuffing can be refrigerated overnight, or used immediately.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Place a baking rack on a sheet pan, or prepare a roasted pan with its rack.

Lay the butterflied turkey breast skin-side down on a clean cutting board.  Sprinkle the meat with 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  Spread the stuffing in a 1/2 inch thick layer over the meat, leaving a half-inch border on all sides.  Don't mound the stuffing or the turkey will be difficult to roll.  Set the leftover stuffing aside.

Starting at the short end, roll the turkey like a jelly roll and tuck any escape stuffing back in the sides.  Lay the turkey seam-side down, and tie firmly with kitchen twine at 2 inch intervals to make a compact cylinder.

Transfer the roulade to the baking pan, and brush with melted butter.  Sprnkle with additional salt and pepper, and roast 1 1/2-2 hours, until a thermometer reads 150 degrees in the center (test in a few places to be sure).

Meanwhile, pour the leftover stuffing in a buttered dish and bake alongside the turkey for the last 45 minutes of roasting.

Remove from oven and cover with foil to rest for 15 minutes.  Carve 1/2-inch thick slices and serve warm with the extra stuffing (and gravy, if desired).

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mushroom & Lentil Pot Pies with Gouda Biscuit Topping

I know its a long title, but I couldn't leave anything out and still convey the spirit of the dish.  During the cold months of the year, I'm a sucker for any sort of pot pie.  Though I typically prefer a pie crust topping, I couldn't resist making this one - I mean, there's gouda in the topping!  And not only that, but the filling is hearty, filling, healthy, and delcious.  Mushrooms, lentils, potatoes, carrots and onions make up the bulk of it, and its flavored with plenty of garlic, thyme, soy sauce, and sage.  I actually was a little hesitant about the soy sauce - I thought it seemed a little out of place given the rest of the flavor profile, plus it calls for 4 teaspoons - that's 1 teaspoon per serving!  So I decreased it quite a bit, but when I tasted the filling before baking, it definitely needed the extra seasoning.

The pies are homey and comforting, but packed with great nutrients, while still being relatively low in fat.  I think these would be a great vegetarian option for Thanksgiving.  Your vegetarian guests will feel special that they get their own personal pot pie - and the omnivores will be jealous when they're stuck with boring ole' turkey!

One Year Ago:  Chicken Tortilla Soup

Mushroom and Lentil Pot Pies with Gouda Biscuit Topping
adapted from Bon Appetit, November 2010
serves 4

  • 1/2 cup french green lentils
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 2 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 6 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground sage
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 2 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 4 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbs all-purpose flour
  • 6 Tbs yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbs chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup shredded Gouda Cheese
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Combine 3 cups cold water, lentils, and 1/4 tsp salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, 25-30 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Pour 3 cups of boiling water over the dried mushrooms in a medium bowl.  Soak 25 minutes.  Remove the mushrooms from the soaking liquid, and squeeze dry. Chop coarsely and reserve soaking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the fresh mushrooms and saute 3-4 minutes.  Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, the onion, carrot, sage, and thyme.  Cook 4minutes, then add the garlic.  Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Reduce heat to medium-low and mix the flour into the vegetables.  Cook 1 minute, then add the porcini soaking liquid.  Mix in the chopped porcinis, potatoes, soy sauce, and tomato paste.  Cover; simmer until the potatoes are tender, 13 to 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.  Add the lentils and season the filling with salt and pepper.  Divide among 4 ovenproof bowls and transfer to a baking sheet.

To make the topping, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor.  Blend 5 seconds.  Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add the buttermilk and pulse until the dough forms moist clumps.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly to form a cohesive ball.  Divide into 4 portions and shape each one into a 2/3-inch thick disk.  Set rounds atop filling, sprinkle with cheese, and sprinkle with coarse salt.

Bake until a tester inserted into the biscuit comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Cocktail Party

I consider myself very very lucky to have both family and lifelong friends in the Atlanta area.  Both Joey and I were born and raised in Atlanta, went to college here, then settled in the area to start our family.  Therefore, we ALWAYS have more than one family function to attend on every single holiday.  I see a lot of shows and movies where people who don't live near family all gather together with friends for holidays, and while I'm not jealous per se, it would be nice to celebrate with friends, who I do consider to be like family to us. 

So why not have the best of both worlds and throw a pre or post-Thanksgiving cocktail party for your friends?  I for one am very thankful for friends, so I'd love to be able to show them how much they mean to me.  Serve fun hors d'oeuvres and festive cocktails, and celebrate friendship!

On the buffet:

Assortment of Cheese, Crackers, Fruit, and Nuts

For Dessert:

To Drink:
assortment of craft beer
assortment of wine
champagne (we're celebrating, right?)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Mini Moon Pies

Out of all the food I made for the Bedtime Stories Baby Shower, I was perhaps the most excited to make the "Goodnight Moon" Pies.  I have always been a big fan of Moon Pies - especially when they are zapped in the microwave for about 10 seconds... melted chocolate, gooey marshmallow.. mmmm. 

I consider Gale Gand to be a reputable source for recipes, so even though I didn't do a test-run of these like I normally would a complicated cookie, I felt confident.  And I figured that if they didn't turn out, well, I could just go by some moon pies :-)

To me, these didn't really taste like moon pies.  Though admittedly it has been a while since I've had one (probably the last time I went to Mardi Gras in Mobile, which was 4 years ago).  I don't remember the cookie being chocolate, and it is more cake-like.  However, these are seriously delicious.  You start by making chocolate shortbread cookies, make homemade marshmallow filling, form sandwiches, and dip in semisweet chocolate.  These are really really rich, but they are also pretty small, so its a perfect size.  I really like if these were made to be the same size as a moon pie they would be too rich (and you guys know I don't use that term lightly).

I know that it's not even Thanksgiving yet, but I also know that some of you (myself included) are already planning out holiday baking.  These would be a a really fun addition to a cookie swap or gift baskets, and I think I'll make them again to take to family gatherings.

Mini Moon Pies
Gale Gand, via Food Network
makes 4 to 5 dozen

  • 12 Tbs butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbs cornstarch
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 Tbs gelatin
  • 2 Tbs cold water
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Chocolate Coating:
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
To make the dough:  In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter until smooth.  Add the sugar and continue mixing until well-blended.  Add the vanilla, and mix until light and fluffy.

In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder, cornstarch, and flour.  With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Shape the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and allow to warm up just enough to roll and shape without cracking.  On a floured surface (it doesn't matter if you get specks of white on the chocolate cookies - they'll be covered in chocolate and no one will see), use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to 1/8-inch thick, or as thin as you can get it.  Use a flour-dipped 1 1/2 inch round cookie cutter to cut the cookies, and place them on the prepared baking sheets, leaving 1 inch between each cookie.  Bake 12 to 14 minutes, or until the cookies are crisp.  Cool completely on the pans.  Repeat with remaining dough.

To make the marshmallows, combine 1/4 cup water, the corn syrup, and the sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Cook to the soft-ball stage (about 235 degrees). 

Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites to form soft peaks.  In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 2 tablespoons of cold water, and let dissolve.  Once the syrup has reached 235 degrees, remove from heat and stir in the gelatin.  Mix well.  Pour the syrup into the whipped egg whites.  Add the vanilla and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.

Transfer the marshmallow mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a round tip.  Pipe a swirl of marshmallow onto half of the cookies, then form sandwiches with the remaining cookies.  Allow to sit at room temperature for 2 hours.

To make the chocolate coating, melt the chocolate and corn syrup together in the bowl of a double boiler or by microwaving in 10 second increments, stirring after each heating.  Use a fork to drop each cookie sandwich into the chocolate, then gently shake to remove excess chocolate.  Arrange the cookies in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and let set at room temperature until chocolate is set, 12 hours.  Or refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Roasted Shrimp with Feta

It has been 6 days since I've posted a recipe from How Easy is That... are you going through withdrawals?  Its kind of funny because I actually made this dish the day I bought the cookbook, but I'm just now getting around to posting it.  I couldn't bear the thought of owning this cookbook for 24 hours and NOT making something out of it, and I actually had pretty much everything I needed for this dinner.  I had Joey pick up a baguette on his way home, and I was set.

This is kind of a cross between Ina's Baked Shrimp Scampi and Ellie Krieger's Baked Shrimp with Tomatoes and Feta.  Healthier and heartier than the shrimp scampi, but a little more interesting than the baked shrimp with tomatoes.  Its the best of both worlds, really.  The premise is simple.  Saute some aromatics, deglaze with wine, simmer with tomatoes and herbs, and top with shrimp, breadcrumbs, and feta and bake.  There were a few substitutions that I made both out of convenience and personal taste, but I absolutely loved this dinner.  The breadcrumb topping was crunchy and flavorful, and the tomato sauce was slightly sweet, but tasted nice and rich.  Joey thought the lemon was a little overpowering, but I say bring on the acid!  As far as what to serve with this, I think crusty bread is a must, as the tomato sauce is just begging to be sopped up, and I also served a simple salad on the side.  A light, yet filling dinner that was on the table in under 45 minutes - how bad can that be?

One Year Ago:  Herb-Baked Eggs

Roasted Shrimp with Feta
adapted from The Barefoot Contessa, How Easy is That?
serves 4
  • 4 Tbs olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp. tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/4 pounds (16-20 per pound) peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 5 ounces feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
  • 1 cup fresh bread crumbs
  • 3 Tbs minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 lemons
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a 10 to 12-inch oven-proof skillet over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and saute 5-8 minutes, until tender.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the wine and bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits.  Cook 2-3 minutes, until the liquid has reduced by half.

Add the tomatoes with their liquid, tomato paste, oregano, salt, and pepper to the skillet.  Stir to combine and simmer over medium low heat, stirring occasionally, 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the breadcrumbs, parsley, lemon zest, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl.  Stir well to moisten the breadcrumbs.

Remove the pan from heat and arrange the shrimp, tails up, in one layer over the tomato mixture.  Scatter the feta evenly over the shimp, and sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked and the bread crumbs are golden brown.  You may want to turn on the broiler for the last few minutes.  Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the shrimp, and serve hot with the remaining lemon cut into wedges.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Potato Gratin with Mushrooms and Gruyere

All summer long, I dread the fall.  No more tomatoes or corn, no more daylight until 9pm, cold weather is around the corner, and the produce is much more scarce.  However, when I make things like this potato gratin, I am reminded why I love cooking seasonally:  all the seasons have their own special veggies that are open to so many dishes and variations.  I love mushrooms and potatoes in the fall and winter, and let's face it:  melted cheese is good any time of the year. 

I have always loved potato gratin, and I'm pretty sure my mouth started watering as soon as I read the title of this recipe.  Potatoes = good.  Mushrooms = good.  Gruyere = good.  Its hard to mess up.  Especially when heavy cream is involved (though to be honest, I subbed at least half of the cream for half and half, and the dish was still incredible).  I made a fall harvest meal the night I served these potatoes:  grilled maple-cider glazed pork tenderloin and sauteed Brussels spouts accompanied the gratin, and it was truly a delicious dinner.

I personally think potatoes should be in mashed potato form for Thanksgiving, but if you are looking for something a little different, that is elegant and upscale, this would be a lovely addition.

Potato Gratin with Mushrooms & Gruyere
adapted from Cook's Illustarted, The Best Make Ahead Recipes
serves 8 to 10
  • 4 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 2 medium onions, minced
  • 1 pound cremini or shiitake mushrooms, sliced 
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbs minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream or half and half
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 pounds russet potatoes (about 9 medium), peeled and sliced 1/8-inch thick
  • 10 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 2 1/2 cups)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and mushrooms, and cook, stirring often, until the onions are softened and lightly browned, and the mushrooms have released moisture and it has evaporated, about 15 minutes.  Add the garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the wine, and scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.  Cook until most of the wine has evaporated, 3-5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth, cream, and bay leaves.  Stir in the potatoes, one handful at a time, stirring after each addition.  Cover, reduce heat, and bring to a simmer.  Stir often, and cook until the potatoes are mostly tender, about 15-20 minutes.  To test, pierce a potato with a paring knife.  It should be able to slip in and out of the potato with little resistance.  Stir in half of the Guyere cheese.

Discard the bay leaves, and pour the potato mixture into a 9x13 inch baking dish.  Press gently into an even layer.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the potatoes, and cover with aluminum foil.  Bake until the mixture is just warm, 30-40 minutes.  Remove the foil and cook until the cheese is golden brown, and the sauce is bubbling, 10-15 minutes longer.  Remove from oven and allow to cool 10 minutes before serving.