Dec 31, 2009

Chili-rubbed Salmon

This is one of my go-to easy weeknight meals - especially if I don't have something else already planned.  I try to keep individual salmon portions stocked in the freezer.  Just make some rice an a veggie and you've got a complete meal.  This is quick, easy and so delicious.  I hardly consider it even a recipe, but it is something that I make almost weekly so I thought I would share it on my blog. 

  • 2 boneless skinless Salmon fillets
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1 tsp. olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven broiler on low. 
2.  Line a baking sheet with foil.   Coat salmon fillets with olive oil. 
3.  Sprinkle each fillet with chili powder, salt and pepper.
4.  Place in broiler until the thickest part of the fish reaches 130 degrees, usually about 8 minutes.   (This is very important, since once salmon gets over-cooked it really gets chewy.  I use a Thermapen - it was revolutionized my cooking - I highly recommend it)

Dec 30, 2009

Cilantro Hummus

Hummus is such a great food item - not only does it taste good - it's filling and good for you too!  I grew up thinking I didn't like garbanzo beans - until I finally tried them as an adult - I didn't know what I was missing.  This recipe combines that with one of my other favorite flavors - cilantro.   This is recipe is so yummy - my 2 year old niece was actually licking it off her plate!   As a side note - I love my food processor - until I got it this year (thanks Nicole!) I wasn't able to make this at home - but now it's just too easy not to. 

  • handful of fresh cilantro leaves (approx. 1/2 cup), plus 2 tbsp. chopped for garnish
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, ribbed and seeded
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
  • 4 tbsp. water
  • 6 tbsp. tahini
  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 (14 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed (reserve 2 tbsp. for garnish)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin
  • dash of cayenne pepper
1. Combine the cilantro, jalapenos, garlic, garbanzo beans, salt, cumin and cayenne in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until the ingredients have been finely minced.  Scrape down sides of bowl. 
2. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and water.
3. In another bowl, whisk together the tahini and olive oil.
4. With the machine running add the lemon juice-water mixture in a steady stream through the feed tube.  Scrape down the bowl and continue to process for one minute.
5. With the machine running, add the oil-tahini mixture in a steady stream through the feed tube, and continue to process until smooth and creamy, about 15 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed.
6. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl, garnish with reserved garbanzo beans, chopped cilantro and a drizzle of olive oil, cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to meld.  Serve with tortilla chips, pita bread, carrots, celery, etc. 

Source:  Cook's Illustrated, inspired by Annie's Eats

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Dec 29, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is my fool-proof soft and chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe.  I get requests at work often to bring in these cookies - they are that good.  I never had any luck with the toll-house recipe on the bag mine always came out flat and crispy.   I found this version few years ago - and with the addition of a secret ingredient that makes these fool-proof- they quickly became my favorite chocolate chip cookie.  So much so -that I've never tried another version since!  

  • 2 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 (1.5 oz) package instant vanilla pudding (this is the secret ingredient!)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 (12 oz) package of chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional - but I always opt to use them!)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, sugars and pudding mix over medium speed, until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
3.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition and add vanilla. 
4.  Add baking soda and salt and continue to mix on low speed. 

5.  Gradually add in flour and mix on low until all of the flour is moistened. 
6.  Fold in chips and nuts by hand. 
7.  Using a cookie scoop - place on parchment lined baking sheets. 
8.  Bake for 12 - 13 minutes.  Let cool on pan for 2 minutes.  Cool completely on wire rack. 

makes approximately 46-50 cookies.  

adapted from Recipezaar

Dec 28, 2009

Chicken Wing Dip

This is the famous chicken wing dip, as a native Buffalonain, I am all too familiar with Chicken wings.  (Side note: they are called chicken wings here - not Buffalo wings!).  I've seen many different versions of this recipe - but I think there are a few key ingredients that make this taste as authentic as possible - you have to use real blue cheese (not ranch!) and you have to use Frank's Hot Sauce (nothing else will work!).   I am also the type that will not used canned chicken - I'm actually afraid to buy it and see what's actually inside - so I just cook up some chicken and shred it.   This recipe is the prefect party food and is super easy to put together.  Enjoy - it's addictive!  
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese dressing, such as Maries
  • 1/2 cup Frank's Hot Sauce
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 2 cups of shredded cooked chicken
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
1.  Combine all of the ingredients in a microwave safe bowl, reserving some blue cheese crumbles for the topping. 
2.  Microwave on High for 5 minutes on High.  Stir.  Sprinkle with reserved blue cheese crumbles. 
3.  Serve with tortilla chips, celery sticks and baby carrots. 

Source:  adapted from Frank's

Dec 24, 2009

Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing

Merry Christmas!  

This was my first attempt at Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing, I've always just used powdered sugar and milk to frost my cutouts, along with colored sugar.   The discovery of Royal Icing  has brought my cookie decorating to an entirely new level.  It was definitely tedious to complete - but the result is totally worth the effort.   I am already thinking about what cut-outs I can make next - since the only other shape I own is a heart (there will be more at valentines day!).   :)

for the sugar cookies
  • 3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup sugar (I used vanilla sugar)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract (I make my own)
for the royal icing
  • 3 tbsp. meringue powder
  • 4 cups (1 lb.) confectioners sugar
  • 6 tbsp. warm water (plus more to reach desired consistency)

for the cookies

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Combine the flour and baking powder, set aside. 
3. Cream the sugar and butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. 
4. Add the egg and vanilla and mix. 
5. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat just until combined, scraping down the bowl, especially the bottom.
6.  Place in a ball and wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.  
7.  Roll onto a floured surface and cut into shapes. 
8.  Place on parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let sit a few minutes on the sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack.

for the royal icing
1. Sift the confectioners sugar and beat all of the ingredients on the bowl of a stand mixer on low speed until stiff peaks form (7-10 minutes).  
2.  Continue to add water until you reach the desired consistency.  
3.  Use gel food colorings to dye the icing without adding too much extra moisture.  

Have fun decorating!!!  Here is a great post that describes the how-to of decorating with royal icing. 

Cookie recipe slightly adapted from Bake at 350  A great blog to check out for cookie inspiration! 
Royal icing recipe from Wilton

Dec 23, 2009

Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

This was another treat that I made for my mint-loving husband to bring to a party.  They were a huge hit and really tasted fantastic.    The fluffy swiss-meringue buttercream with the mint extract was divine, and the coffee flavored cupcake was light and fluffy.  It is a really wonderful flavor combination - I will definitely be making these again (and aren't they a really pretty dessert?). 

for the cupcakes (makes 24 regular sized cupcakes):
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tsp. espresso powder
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup strong brewed coffee
  • 1 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
for the frosting:
  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1¾ plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

to make the cupcakes

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line two cupcake pans (24 cupcakes) with paper liners.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; stir together.  Combine the milk, coffee and peppermint extract in a liquid measuring cup.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and sugars.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
4. Beat in the eggs one at a time.   Alternately mix in the dry and liquid ingredients, and mixing just until incorporated.
5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake liners.  Bake 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.   Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
to make the frosting
1. Combine the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 160° F and the sugar has dissolved.
2. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.
3. Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more.
4. Stir in the peppermint and vanilla extracts and mix just until incorporated.

Dec 22, 2009

Ribley Soup

This soup is a family favorite that my mom has made since I was a child and her mother also used to make.  It is basically chicken soup with 'short-cut' homemade noodles.  I have no idea where the name came from - but we've always called it ribley soup (it is NOT chicken and dumplings!).  The recipe below is my adaptation of this recipe - since my mom and all of my Aunts each make this slightly differently.  It is a very comforting food for me - and I love making it, especially during the cold winter months.  Enjoy!

  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
  • 6 stalks of celery, split in half and sliced
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 - 10 cups of chicken broth (homemade or low-sodium canned broth)
  • 2 bone-in chicken breasts - cooked and shredded/diced in cubes
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. white pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt

1. Heat oil in a dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.  Saute onions until softened - about 5 minutes.  Add in carrots and celery - continue to saute for about 5 minutes until they begin to soften.  
2.  Add chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

3.  Add cooked chicken and stir.  Reduce heat to a simmer.  
4.  Meanwhile, using a whisk mix eggs and water until frothy.  Add in flour, pepper and salt and stir.  The mixture will be lumpy.  
5.  Using a teaspoon, drop heaping teaspoons of the egg/flour mixture into the boiling soup.   
6.  Once all of the noodles have been added - continue to cook for about 5 - 10 minutes.  The ribley noodles will expand and float to the top.   They should be cooked through and somewhat firm when they are done.


Christine's Cuisine

Dec 21, 2009

Peppermint Ice Cream

I'm so excited to finally share one of my favorite things to make - homemade ice cream.  The stuff you buy at the store does not even compare to this.   I use the Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Attachment - and I absolutely love it - it could not be easier to use.    Just in time for the holidays - I decided to make peppermint ice cream (for that mint loving husband of mine).   It is cool, refreshing and an all-around great treat. 

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • A pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract

1. Heat the milk, 1 cup of cream, salt, and sugar in a saucepan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the milk with a paring knife, then add the bean pod to the milk. Cover, remove from heat, and infuse for thirty minutes.
2. To make the ice cream, set up an ice bath by placing a 2-quart bowl in a larger bowl partially filled with ice and water. Set a strainer over the top of the smaller bowl and pour the cream into the bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks. Rewarm the milk then gradually pour some of the milk into the yolks, whisking constantly as you pour. Scrape the warmed yolks and milk back into the saucepan.
4. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom with a heat-resistant spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula (and reaches 170 degrees on an instant read thermometer)
5. Strain the custard into the heavy cream. Stir over the ice until cool, add the peppermint extract, then refrigerate to chill thoroughly. Preferably overnight.
6. Remove the vanilla bean and freeze the custard in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Source: adapted from David Lebovitz  The Perfect Scoop 

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Dec 20, 2009

Chicken Pesto Spinach/Artichoke Stuffed Shells

I love stuffed shells - but I don't like just the simple ricotta cheese filling.   I tried this recipe a while back, and I loved the addition of the spinach and meat - but I didn't enjoy the texture of the sausage.  So instead I invented this version with all of the flavors that we love - a combo of spinach/artichoke and chicken/pesto.  It truly is a winning flavor combination.  Stuffed shells are not that difficult to make either - you just boil the noodles and fill them with a spoon.   This recipe makes a lot of shells - so it's also a great freezer meal.  Perfect for a busy weeknight - you just pull out of the freezer, cover with sauce and bake!  

  • 2 cooked chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tbsp. bread crumbs
  • 13 oz. can of artichoke hearts, diced
  • 1/2 cup of pesto (store-bought or homemade)
  • 10 oz. box of frozen, chopped spinach (defrosted and moisture removed by squeezing in a paper towel)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 30 oz. of part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 tsp. salt and pepper
  • 2 boxes of large shell noodles, cooked according to package directions (recipe makes ~50 shells - keep in mind some of them break during cooking)
  • 1 jar of your favorite pasta sauce or homemade

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
2. Combine chicken, parmesan, garlic, bread crumbs, artichokes, spinach, eggs, ricotta, salt and pepper in a large bowl.  
3. Once the shells are cooked - lay them out on a cookie sheet sprayed with oil.
4.  Fill the shells with a spoon.  At this point, if you're freezing them - line a cookie sheet with parchment and place single layer of shells in freezer for 1-2 hours, then package in bags or small containers.   

5.  Cover the shells with sauce and cover the pan with foil.  
6.  Bake for approximately 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and shells are cooked through.  

Christine's Cuisine

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Dec 18, 2009

Cappuccino Fudge

If you want an easy holiday treat - this fudge is for you!  It has a subtle coffee flavor - which really balances well with the flavor of the chocolateI think it would go great on a tray of holiday cookie treatsAnd it is a little bit of a pick-me-up any time of the day!

  • 1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow cream (Marshmallow Fluff)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream 
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • ¼ tsp. cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 (12 oz.) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used a mix of Ghirardelli bittersweet and semi-sweet)

1. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with aluminum foil (or parchment paper); set aside.
2. In a 2 qt. saucepan, combine marshmallow cream, sugar, cream, butter, espresso powder, cinnamon and salt.
3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue to boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
4. Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate chips until smooth. Pour into prepared pan.
5. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
6. Place on cutting board and cut into small squares.

Dec 17, 2009

Light Wheat Rolls

These rolls were something I served with my roasted chicken and potatoes.  I wanted to find a recipe for a light wheat roll that I could easily freeze and pull out of the freezer when needed.  I love the addition of a fresh baked roll with dinner and I wanted to find a better option than Rhodes.  Well - this is it!  These were so good - light fluffy, moist and a great mix of white/wheat flavor.  I am going to be making this recipe all of the time.  

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
3/4 cups plus 2 tbsp. warm water (110 degrees F)
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 egg, beaten

1 cup plus 2 tbsp. whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment - mix sugar, salt, melted butter, egg, and whole wheat flour into yeast mixture. Stir in all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. 
3. Switch to the dough hook and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. 
4. Lightly oil a large bowl, place dough in bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
5. Punch down dough, cover, and let rise in warm place until doubled again, about 30 minutes.
6. Divide dough into equal 2 ounce portions (At this point I take any portions I'm not using and freeze on a cookie sheet until firm - then store in freezer bags - when ready to use - let rise 1 - 2 hours in muffin tins until completely defrosted).
7. Place in lightly oiled muffin cups.  Let rise uncovered in a warm place 40 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.
8. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown. 

Dec 16, 2009

Roast Chicken with Potatoes

This is a really fun way to cook a whole chicken.   It is a cool technique where you cook the potatoes under the butterflied chicken - so they catch the juices off the chicken and impart the yummy flavor.  Also, I find it easier to thoroughly brown all of the chicken pieces this way.   The first photo shows you just the chicken after it came out of the oven.   The potatoes were crisp and delicious too! 
I served it with sauteed green beans with shallots and a light wheat roll (recipe coming next!).

for the brine
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 quarts of cold water
  • 1 whole chicken - butterflied (backbone removed)  
 flavored butter

  • 3 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, minced

  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced 1/4 inch thick on a mandolin
  • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt and pepper

1.  Dissolve the salt and sugar in the cold water.  Immerse the chicken in the brine and refrigerate for 1 hour. 
2.  Remove chicken from brine and rinse under cold water.  Dry with paper towels.  
3.  Combine butter, garlic and thyme.   Rub under chicken skin. 
4.  Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place chicken on top portion of a broiler rack.   Season with tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
5.  Line the lower portion of a broiler pan with foil (or parchment paper) and place sliced potatoes on pan.  Coat potatoes with tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper.  And spread to an even layer
6.  Place chicken rack over potatoes.   And place in lower rack in oven.  Roast for 20 minutes and rotate pan.  Roast for another 20-25 minutes until thickest part of breast registers 160 degrees.  
7.  Remove from oven and soak up excess grease on potatoes with paper towels.  Serve and Enjoy!  

Dec 15, 2009

Mint Capped Brownie Cookie Cups

I saw these Dark Chocolate Hershey's Kisses with Mint Truffle filling at Target and I knew this was something my husband would love.  So when he asked me to make a dessert - I didn't have to look any further than the back of the bag!  This recipe couldn't be easier.   This is an easy treat to share with co-workers, family or friends over the holidays.  You could easily make this with any type of Hershey's kisses for a completely different flavor.  

  • Hershey's Kisses Mint Truffles with Dark Chocolate (I used 38 total)
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened 
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • powdered sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line mini muffin cups with paper liners.  
2. Beat butter, sugar, water and vanilla in a stand mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy.  
3.  Add eggs, one at a time - beating between each addition.
4. Stir together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda.   Gradually add to sugar mixture on low speed - just until blended.
5.  Using a small cookie scoop - place one scoop of batter in each muffin tin.  
6.  Bake for 11 minutes.  While the brownies are baking - unwrap the kisses.  (This recipe made 38 for me - Hersheys says it makes 48)
7. Cool for five minutes on a wire rack.  Place one kiss in each brownie. 
8. Let cool completely (at least several hours) until the kisses have set completely - dust each brownie with powdered sugar.   Enjoy! 

Dec 14, 2009

Turkey Meatballs

This recipe is from my favorite go-to cookbook.  My sister pointed it out to me after she made it and I've never made another meatball recipe since.  I sometimes double this recipe and have a lot left in the freezer for later.  But even if you just make this recipe - you will have at least enough for one or two more meals, depending on how many people you're serving.  

  • 2 slices of white sandwich bread
  • 3 tbsp. buttermilk 
  • 1.5 pounds of 93% lean ground turkey
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley (or approx. 1 tbsp. dried parsley)
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. each salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • tomato sauce

1. Remove and discard the crusts from the bread and chop/tear into cubes.  
2. Mash and bread and buttermilk into a smooth paste using a fork.
3. Add the turkey, parmesan, parsley, yolk, garlic, salt and pepper to the mashed bread.  
4. Mix until uniform, and form into meatballs.   Place in refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour.  (I've skipped the refrigerator part and it still works - just the meatballs fall apart easier and you have to be careful while cooking.)

5. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium-high heat.   Add meatballs in single layer and cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 10 minutes.  
6.  Remove the meatballs from the skillet and heat up your tomato sauce.  Bring to a simmer.  
7.  Return the meatballs to the skillet until cooked through, about 10 minutes.  Stirring occasionally.   

Dec 11, 2009


Fresh salsa is something that tastes so good and really makes simple tacos something extra special - but I hate chopping everything - that is why this recipe is perfect.  You just throw everything in your food processor and its done - with minimal effort and maximum taste.  


  • 2 fresh jalapeno peppers, ribs and seeds removed - chopped in half
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, chopped in quarters
  • 2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped in quarters
  • 1 (28 oz.) can diced tomatoes (drained)
  • 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • juice of one lime
1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the jalapenos, garlic and onion.  Process until finely chopped.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
2. Add all other ingredients to the food processor.  Pulse in very brief pulses until the vegetables have reached the size you desire.
3. Transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to blend.

Dec 10, 2009

Salted Caramel filled Chocolate Cupcakes

WOW!  These cupcakes are incredible!   Another winner from Martha Stewart Cupcakes.  Luckily, I gave most of them away or I'm not sure I would be able to stop myself from eating them.  The only thing I would change is to add the fleur de sel just before serving - since it seemed to dissolve as the cupcakes sat overnight.    These will surely be a hit - and would be a great addition to a holiday party. 

Chocolate mini cupcakes (makes 48)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup warm water 
Salted Caramel Filling

  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, preferably fleur de sel 

Dark Chocolate Frosting
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
for the cupcakes
1.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line mini muffin tin with paper liners.
2. Whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
3. With mixer on low speed, add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract, and the water; beat until smooth and combined.
4. Spoon the batter into liners about two-thirds full.
5. Bake approximately 15 minutes, or until tester comes out clean.
6. Transfer tins to wire racks and allow to cool for 10 minutes; turn cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 1 month in air tight containers.
7. When ready to assemble -  use a paring knife to cut a cone-shaped piece (about 1/2 inch deep) from the center of each cupcake.

for the caramel
1. Heat sugar with the water and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan over high, stirring occasionally, until syrup is clear; clip a candy thermometer to side of pan and stop stirring.
2. Cook until syrup comes to a boil, washing down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush as needed.
3. Boil, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is caramelized and just reaches 360°F.
4. Remove from heat and slowly pour in cream (carefully); stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Stir in sea salt.
5. Use immediately; if caramel begins to harden reheat gently until pourable.
6. Spoon 1 to 2 teaspoons warm Salted Caramel Filling into each hollowed-out cupcake. You will notice the caramel will sink into the cupcake a little, just fill it up a bit more.
7. Sprinkle a pinch of sea salt over filling.

for the chocolate frosting
1. Combine cocoa and boiling water, stirring until cocoa has dissolved.
2. With electric mixer on medium-high, beat butter, confectioners' sugar, and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low.
3. Add melted and cooled chocolate, beating until combined and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in the cocoa mixture.
4. Use a pastry bag with a medium open-star tip and pipe Dark Chocolate Frosting onto each cupcake, swirling tip and releasing as you pull up to form a peak.
5. Garnish each cupcake with a pinch of sea salt.  (wait until just before serving)

Cupcakes are best eaten the day they are filled and frosted (but they were still good the next day). Store at room temperature in airtight containers - do not refrigerate. Enjoy - they are amazing! 

Dec 9, 2009

Pizza dough

Homemade pizza - how I love thee!   I love the convenience of ordering a pizza - but nothing compares to making it yourself.  I like mine with pepperoni, mushrooms, olives, onions and red peppers.  And that many toppings would cost a small fortune at a pizza shop.
I pre-cook most of the toppings to rid them of excess water and soften them to reduce cooking time in the oven.  I also microwave the pepperoni between paper towels for 1 minute to get rid of lots of grease. 
I decided to try a new recipe for the dough after seeing this post on The Way the Cookie Crumbles.  I was intrigued by the addition of the wine to the crust and I wanted to try out an overnight rise after getting the Bread Baker's Apprentice.   I also wanted to add some whole wheat dough - since I had just bought a new bag of whole wheat flour.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 15 ounces bread flour and 7 ounces whole wheat flour
  • 1¾ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • ¼ cups white wine (I used vermouth)
  • 1½ cups water
  • cornmeal for dusting (I never ended up using this)
1. Heat the oil and oregano in a small saucepan until fragrant. Mix in the water and wine/vermouth.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. With the mixer on low speed, pour in the liquid mixture. Continue mixing on medium-low speed until the dough comes together, and then knead on medium-low speed for 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
3. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Form the dough into a ball and coat with oil. Place the ball of dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
4. Refrigerate the dough overnight. The next day it will take about 5 hours at room temperature to warm and finish rising.
5. Place a pizza stone on the bottom rack of the oven and preheat the oven to 500ÂșC.
6. Divide the dough and shape each portion into a ball.  Form the dough into three equal balls (weigh on your food scale).  If you are not using some of the dough at this point you can wrap with plastic wrap and freeze for later.  Let the balls of dough relax for 10-30 minutes.

7. Work with one ball of dough at a time on a lightly floured surface.  Flatten the dough, and gently stretch it into a 12 inch circle.   Place the dough on a piece of parchment placed on the back of a sheet pan.  (Or use a pizza peel if you have one)
8.  Add your sauce and toppings.  Gently slide pizza onto pre-heated pizza stone.   Bake for 12 minutes. Let the pizza cool on the stone for about 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Dec 8, 2009

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

This is a delicious way to use up some cranberries you might have stored in your freezer and don't know what to do with.   The orange-cranberry combo is delicious.  And this bread was super moist and delicious!

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 2/3 cup of buttermilk
  • 6 tbsp. unsalted butter - melted and cooled
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp. grated orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cups of thawed frozen cranberries (or fresh), chopped
  • 1/2 cup of chopped toasted walnuts or pecans

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8.5 by 4.5 inch loaf pan.
2. Whisk flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together in a large bowl.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk buttermilk, melted butter, orange juice, egg and orange zest.
4. Gently fold in the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture with the rubber spatula.  Add in cranberries and nuts.
5.  Bake until golden brown and toothpick in the center comes out with just a few crumbs - about 1 hour.
6. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes and then remove from pan onto cooling rack for 1 hour before serving.

Dec 7, 2009

Lemon Meringue Pie

I love lemons and lemon meringue pie.  This was another pie that I made for Thanksgiving.  You will never use a box of lemon pie filling after trying this lemon custard.  It is very easy to make and I made it the day before and stored it in the fridge until I was ready to bake the pie.
for the pie filling
  • 1 1/2 cold water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice (from 3 lemons)
  • 1 tbsp. grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

for the meringue
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 3 large egg whites (room temp)
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Roll out a pie crust in crushed graham crackers.   Bake crust lined with foil and pie weights for 25 to 30 minutes.  Remove the weights and foil and bake for another 10 minutes.  See aside to cool.  
2. for the filling: Bring the water, sugar, cornstarch and salt to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly.  
3.  When the mixture turns translucent, whisk in the egg yolks, two at a time.  Whisk in the lemon zest, lemon juice and then the butter.  Return to a brief simmer and then remove from heat.
4.  Either pour into the cooled pie shell or place in a bowl with plastic wrap pressed on the top and refrigerate until ready to use.   If placing directly in the shell - chill for 2 hours in the fridge.
5.  for the meringue:  Adjust the oven to 400 degrees.  Bring the sugar and water to a boil over medium high heat and cook until slightly thickened and syrupy (235 degrees), 3 - 4 minutes.  
6. In a large bowl, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt with a mixer on medium-low until foamy (1 minute).  Increase the mixter to medium-high and whip until the whites are shiny and soft peaks form (1 to 3 minutes)
7.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the hot syrup.  Add the vanilla, increase the speed to medium-high, and continue to whip until the mixture has cooled (6 minutes).
8.  Dallop the meringue evenly over the top of the lemon filling - creating swirls and peaks.  Bake until the meringue turns golden brown - (6 minutes).  Cool on a wire rack. 

Concord Grape Pie

I love Concord Grapes when they are in season in the fall.   This is something I've been making for the last two years, and since I don't just want my husband and myself to eat the entire pie - I freeze the filling and save it for Thanksgiving.  I couldn't find the recipe that I used last year - so I just tried to use my memory when making the filling.  And it worked out great - luckily I wrote it down (and started this blog) so I'll know what I did for next fall.   For some people this may seem like its too labor intensive - but it really is not that hard and the results are worth it.    At last Thanksgiving we did a taste test with my pie and one from Monica's and everyone enjoyed mine more.
I'll also include my favorite pie crust recipe that I've been making for the last few years - and I got a food processor this year - so it was even easier to make! 

for the pie filling
  • 2 quarts of Concord Grapes
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 3 tbsp. of instant tapioca
for the topping
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • dash of cinnamon
  • dash of vanilla
for the pie crust
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. table salt
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 12 tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1/4 cup cold vodka
  • 1/4 cup cold water
for the pie filling:
1. Wash the Concord grapes.  Get three bowls ready (I do this while watching TV) - one for the skins, one for the seeds/pulp and one for the waste.   Squeeze the grapes into one bowl and place the empty skins in another.  (I use a third to put the stems or any grapes that have shriveled).
2. Once you have separated all of the skins from the seeds/pulp.  You place them in a saucepan over medium heat and cook for about 10 minutes - until the pulp and seeds start to separate. 
3.  Place this mixture in a strainer and push all of the pulp/juices into another bowl and discard the seeds.
4.  Place the pulp/juices back in the saucepan and add the skins.  Then add the sugar, lemon juice and tapioca.    Boil this mixture until thick - about 10 - 15 minutes.  Either use immediately or freeze for later use (I freeze for a month with no issues at all to the final product)

To make the pie crust:
1. Process 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and sugar in food processor until combined, about 2 one-second pulses.
2. Add butter and shortening and process until homogeneous dough just starts to collect in uneven clumps, about 15 seconds (dough will resemble cottage cheese curds and there should be no uncoated flour).
3. Scrape bowl with rubber spatula and redistribute dough evenly around processor blade.
4. Add remaining cup flour and pulse until mixture is evenly distributed around bowl and mass of dough has been broken up, 4 to 6 quick pulses. Empty mixture into medium bowl.
5. Sprinkle vodka and water over mixture. With rubber spatula, use folding motion to mix, pressing down on dough until dough is slightly tacky and sticks together.
6. Divide dough into two even balls and flatten each into 4-inch disk. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 45 minutes or up to 2 days.

to make the crumb topping and bake the pie:
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Roll out and refrigerate pie crust.  
3. Combine all of the topping ingredients in a small bowl
4.  Pour grape filling (defrosted) into an unbaked pie crust and sprinkle crumb topping on top.
5.  Cover the pie crust with foil or pie shield. 
6.  Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the topping is crisp and the filling has set.

Pie crust from Cooks Illustrated (Foolproof pie dough)