Thursday, February 28, 2008

Can you say brownie points?!!

I have been needing something chocolatey lately and nothing curbs that chocolate craving like a rich, fudgy brownie. I have been making this fudgy brownie recipe that I found in the Every Day Food magazine for awhile now, but today, I decided to make it even better. Make the cream cheese version and add oreos! now who can resist that?!

As a rule, I always line my brownie pans with foil. I know that some recipes call for parchment paper, but I don't always have that on hand and I have found that foil works just as good (just don't forget to grease the foil). I also, cool the brownies in the pan, then lift them out with the foil and cool in the fridge before cutting. This helps me make a cleaner cut. I have also tripled this recipe when I am serving a big crowd, like family get togethers. With the recipe tripled you can bake it in a sheet pan lined with foil. The cooking time is reduced to about 40 minutes and makes about 40+ good sized brownies.

Super Fudgy Brownies
(From the Everyday Food Magazine)

1 stick of butter
1 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, chopped (I use the 60% cocoa chocolate chips)
1 1/4 cups sugar
3 eggs

For the cream cheese swirl

4 oz softened cream cheese
2 Tbs. softened butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tbs flour

20 oreo cookies crushed

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 x9 pan with foil or parchment and grease. ( I don't have a 9 x 9 so I have baked this recipe in an 8 x 8 or an 8 x 11.5)

2. Mix the cream cheese ingredients together in the order listed, and set aside.

3. In a small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

4. Place butter and chocolate in a large heat proof bowl set over (not touching the water) a saucepan of simmering water. Heat, stirring , until smooth and both butter and chocolate have melted. Remove the bowl from the pan. Add the sugar, mix to combine. Add the eggs;mix to combine. In batches, add the flour mixture and mix until just moistened ( do not overmix). Add half the crushed oreos to the batter.

5. Alternately sppon, chocolate mixture and cream cheese mixture into prepared pan. Swirl with the tip of a paring knife. Sprinkle the top with the remaining oreo cookies.

6. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs. Cool in pan 30 minutes. Lift brownies out of pan using the foil or parchment and cut using a dampened serrated knife.

Makes 16

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Brick oven pizza at home

I have been making homemeade pizza once a week for quite awhile now. I am always trying different recipes for the dough because I have never been completely satisfied with my results. I have tried deep dish, on a pizza pan, on the oven rack, grilled and on a pizza stone. About a month ago, I found a recipe for brick oven pizza at home on the king arthur flour website. I haven't tried another recipe since. I'm afraid my pictures haven't done the pizza justice. This recipe makes a crust that is akin to ciabatta bread. It is crispy on the outside and chewy and dense with big air bubbles on the inside. It holds up well to any topping and is very hearty. The dough is easy to make but takes some planning. The "poolish" or starter takes overnight or all day to rest. I usually make my poolish first thing in the morning and then start the other steps a few hours before dinner. It does take time, but it is so worth it!

We did two different toppings last night of course. One was a basic cheese pizza with fresh mozzarella cheese. It was so ooey gooey that it was sliding off the pizza. The second was a caramelized onions and fresh basil pizza. No matter what type of toppings you choose, you've gotta try this crust, it is soooooooo good!

Brick Oven Pizza
(from the King Arthur Flour website)

The overnight starter gives this pizza an unbeatable chewy/crispy crust.

Poolish (Starter)

1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup water
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

3/4 cup water
2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon Pizza Dough Flavor (optional, but delicious)
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil

tomato sauce, meats and/or vegetables, and cheeses of your choice

Poolish: In a mixing bowl or the pan of your bread machine, stir together the flour, water and yeast. Set aside, covered, to rest overnight or all day.

Dough: Add the flour and water to the poolish, mix well, and allow to rest for 20 minutes. Add the remaining dough ingredients, mixing and kneading to form a smooth dough. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 45 minutes; gently fold the edges to the middle, turn it over, and let it rise an additional 45 minutes.

Divide the dough in half. Shape each half into a 9-inch round, place on a piece of parchment cut to fit, cover, and let rest while you heat your oven to 500°F.

After about 30 minutes, use a giant spatula or pizza peel to transfer the pizza to your hot oven stone; or place it on a pan on the lowest rack of your oven. Bake for 4 minutes, then remove from the oven, and top with your favorite toppings. Return the pizzas to the lowest rack of the oven (not to the stone), and bake for an additional 8 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and the filling bubbly. Yield: 2 pizzas.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Chicken Enchiladas

Like I said before, I love mexican food, as you can tell from all my mexican food posts. Here is one that my family loves. They are cheesey chicken enchiladas. As I may have mentioned before, I am a vegetarian and the rest of my family are meat eaters, so I usually have to make 2 meals or at least variations on the same meal. So this is my chicken version which my husband and kids love. I also have my "mommy's" version that I fill with black beans, corn and pepper jack cheese. Amazingly my kids like my version too, but only when all of the chicken ones are gone.

Chicken Enchiladas

3 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 can chicken broth
1 carrot, cut in half
1 stalk celery, cut in half
1/2 onion, cut into 2 pieces
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1 Tbs. butter
3 Tbs. flour
4 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 chipolte chile, diced
1 tsp adobo sauce (from canned chipolte chile)
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups shredded mexican cheese, divided
8-12 corn tortillas (makes 12 small or 8 large)
vegetable cooking spray

1. Place the chicken, broth, celery, carrot and onion in a saute pan that has a lid. Add enough water to cover the chicken and salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer then turn down the heat so that bubbles are just barely breaking the surface. Poach for about 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. ( you can also poach the chicken when it is frozen just add an extra 5-10 minutes depending on size).

2. When the chicken is cooked through, remove from broth and shred with two forks, or cut the chicken in chunks with a knife. Place shredded chicken in a bowl and set aside while you make the sauce.

3. In a saucepan, heat the oil and butter over medium heat until the butter is melted and heated through. Add the flour and stir to cook the pasty flavor out. Add the chipolte pepper, adobo sauce, tomato past, cumin, and chili powder. Stir to combine and cook stirring about 1 minute. Add the broth and water and whisk to stir out any lumps. Bring the mixture to a simmer to thicken slightly. Turn off heat and set aside.

4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap the tortillas in a damp towel and microwave for 1-2 minutes or until hot and pliable. Add 1/4 cup of the sauce and 1 cup of the cheese to the chicken mixture. Fill each tortilla with about 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture and roll up. Place seam side down in a 13 x 9 dish sprayed with cooking spray. Top the enchiladas with the reserved cheese and then cover with sauce.

5. Bake for 20- 25 minutes or until bubbly. Cool slightly before dishing up so that they will come out of the pan without falling apart.

Veggie Filling

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/4 cup frozen white corn, thawed
1 chipolte chili
1 can fire roasted green chilis, drained
1 cup pepper jack cheese
2 Tbs. enchilada sauce

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Coconut Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast

As promised, here is my version french toast.

After going out for Thai food awhile back I have been thinking of how to incorporate more coconut milk into my recipes. I will say that I love the stuff, too bad it's so unhealthy!! This is so good though that I am willing to endulge. The french toast is stuffed with a coconut cream cheese mixture and then dipped in a coconut milk and egg mixture. As I thought, the challah bread had the perfect texture and held up well to be filled and dipped in the eggy mixture. I will admitt that I am not a french toast fan, I usually make it for my family and then eat something else, but today I ate several pieces of the custardy bread because it was so darn delicious! If it can make me a believer, it must be good!

Coconut Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast

7-8 Pieces of challah bread (or other thick, dense bread)
4 oz softened cream cheese
2 Tbs. powdered sugar
1 Tbs. coconut milk ( I used Lite coconut milk)
1 egg
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. almond extract (optional)
2 Tbs. powdered sugar
4 Tbs. flour
Butter for pan
powdered sugar for dusting

1. Take the challah bread and make a pocket on the bottom using a sharp paring knife. It should be like pitta bread.

2. Mix together the cream cheese, the 2 tbs. powdered sugar and 1 Tbs. coconut milk. Transfer to a plastic baggie and snip of fthe corner. Fill the bread slices until they are full, using a butter knife to spread it around if necessary.

3. In a shallow dish, whisk the egg, the coconut milk, the extracts and the sugar together. When well mixed, slowly add the flour whisking to combine. The mixture should be the consistancy of a thinned out batter.

4. Heat a big skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, dip the stuffed bread slices in the egg mixture letting them soak for about 30 seconds per side. Brush the heated skillet with butter and add the soaked bread slices. Cook until nicely browned on each side. If they are browning to quickly, turn down the heat a little.

5. Brush the finished french toast with butter and dust with powdered sugar. *I then drizzled mine with some of the cream cheese mixture that I thinned out with more milk (it was delicious!)*

Friday, February 22, 2008

I was in a bread making mood today and decided to try my hand at challah (pronounced halla). For those who have never heard of challah before, it is a jewish bread that is eaten on the Sabbath and holidays. It is a sweet, rich , eggy bread and is usally braided. I made this bread for one explicit reason; You see, I have had this recipe for french toast in my head all week and knew that I needed a good bread to make it just right. I figured the sweet rich texture of challah would be the perfect compliment to my coconut french toast that I hope to make tomorrow for breakfast.

I had never made challah before but had seen it many times and in fact thought that it was a little intimidating. The golden bread was just putting on airs though because it was a breeze to make. I found a recipe on Cook's Illustrated that didn't require a starter or an overnight rise. In fact, the recipe only took a little over 4 hours from start to finish. Not bad for a bread of this magnitude.

Now, I have debated at whether or not to post this recipe to my blog or not. Here is my dilema. I am not sure of the copyright rules as this recipe comes from a website in which you have to be a paid member. I have decided at this time not to post the recipe, but here is the link (challah bread), I am not sure if it will work or not without the membership. The site does offer free trial memberships at which point you could print out the recipe.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

We're in a soup kinda mood

When my husband and I took our honeymoon to Mexico, I came across a gem of a soup. I was instantly addicted. I came home and again began inventing and lo and behold, this soup was born. Yes, it is green, but give it a chance.

This soup is a little different than I'm sure most of you have seen because I have never found another version of it around here. It is Roasted Poblano Soup, yumm. In case you haven't heard of them, poblanos are a large green chile pepper. They are in the middle of the heat scale, not too spicy but with a little kick. The ones from last night were a lot milder than usual which I guess was good because my kids aren't so into the spicy food like my husband and I. I top the soup with a mound of cripsy tortilla strips and cotija (ko-tee-huh) cheese. Cotija cheese is a part-skim milk mexican cheese that you can find in most supermarkets now. It is dry and salty and can be crumbled over almost anything. It has a little resemblance to feta in both texture and taste. Fresh cilantro really adds brightness and I would urge you not to leave it out unless you are really adverse to it. During the summer months, I love to add fresh roasted corn on top for an added crunch. I also like to serve the soup with a pile of sliced limes for those that like a little zip to the soup.

It has been a long, long time since those honeymoon days spent on the beach in Mexico. And the soup had almost slipped my memory. I hadn't made it in a few years because frankly, I had forgotten about it. But, a conversation about our honeymoon brought it back to my memory and I am so glad that I could somewhat recall the way that I made it, (I had forgotten to write the recipe down years ago when I invented it). My kids were a little skeptical about eating something green as most kids are, but when they saw the crispy tortilla stips on top, they were a little less aprehensive. My oldest dove right in, (she is a lot like me in both temperament and image). She then questioned me as to why mine had cilantro and hers did not, I chopped some more and sprinkled it over hers at which point she exclaimed, "I love cilantro!". My other daughter however, began to pick the soup apart, (she is definately more like my husband!). She can't stand to have things mixed or touching. So, after seperating the tortilla stips from the soup, she ventured a little bite and then slowly ate the rest of the soup. My youngest, who is not quite 2 just played in the soup, but by the looks of him, I think that he got some in his mouth. My husband, who does not like anything that grows in the ground let alone anything green, loves this soup also. I am a little worried though, as he discovered my secret last night that the soup contains frozen peas. (Why didn't I throw the bag away before we ate?!) I hope that you enjoy this recipe as we do. It really is delicious, even if it is green.

Roasted Poblano Soup

4-5 poblano peppers
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 (16oz) bag of frozen peas, thawed
1 potato, peeled and cubed
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
crispy tortilla strips or tortilla chips*
Cotija cheese (monterey jack can be substituted)
fresh cilantro

1. Preheat the broiler in your oven. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Place the poblano peppers on the cookie sheet and place under the broiler, close to the heat source. Broil, turing once the first side is charred and black. Make sure that the peppers are blackened all over. Remove the peppers from the sheete and place in a glass bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap, let sit for about 5 minutes to cool and allow the skins to loosen. When cool enough to handle, peel away the skins and then remove the stems. Open up and remove the seeds. Roughly chop the peppers.

2. While the peppers are in the bowl cooling, heat the oil in a dutch oven over meduim heat. Add the onion, celery and salt and pepper. Cook to softern about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and the peppers and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the peas, potato, broth and the water. Simmer for about 10 minutes or until the peas are cooked and the potato is softened.

3. Puree the soup in the pot using an immersion blender. Or puree the soup in batches in a blender. ( do not fill the blender more than half full unless you want to be wearing that hot green soup!) If the soup is too thick, add water when blending.

4. Return the soup to the pot and warm through. Slowly stir in the cream, adjusting the amount depending on the spicyness and consistency Taste and add more salt if needed. Dish into bowls and top with tortilla strips, cheese and cilantro. Enjoy!

*to make your own tortilla strips, thinly slice a few corn tortillas. Place them on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Spray the tortilla strips with cooking spray, tossing to coat. Sprinkle with salt and bake at 450 degrees until crispy, about 5-10 minutes. watch them closely as they burn easily.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Minestone soup that's mmm mmm good!

A few years ago I was craving a good vegetable soup. I looked through the recipes that I had and couldn't find one that fit my mood, so I got out some things from the fridge and the pantry and began inventing. This delicious soup was the creation that I came up with. I quickly scribbled the recipe down and tucked it away into one of my recipe books. Anytime that I am in the mood for a good comforting soup, I reach for this recipe. What amazes me most is that my kids will eat it. In fact, when I made it this evening, my daughter asked if I would make it again tomorrow. Luckily we have a few leftovers.

Minestrone Soup
3 large carrots, sliced
4 stalks of cerey, sliced
1 onion, diced
2 TBS. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp, Italian seasoning
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 zucchini, cut into half moon pieces
1 cup freash baby spinach, chopped
2 TBS. tomato paste
4 cups of water
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cans white beans, drained and rinsed ( I use S&W brand)
1 cup whole grain penne or elbow pasta ( I love the Barrilla Plus)

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery and onion. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes to soften. Add the italian seasoning, garlic, zucchini and spinach, saute for 1 more minute. Add the tomato paste, water, vegetable broth and white beans. Stir well to combine. Bring to a simmer and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Turn the heat up to a boil and add the pasta cook 10 more or until the pasta is cooked through (penne will take longer than elbows). Top with fresh parmesan cheese and enjoy!

I love to serve the soup with a good french bread. I have a recipe that I love that has a whole grain cereal in the dough which makes it moist when cooked through. Toast the bread slices with a little olive oil and rub with a garlic clove and you have a piece of garlic toast that just can't be beat.

10 Grain French Bread
(Adapted from a Bob's Red Mill recipe)

4 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
2 cups warm water
2 Tbs. brown sugar
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 Tbs Kosher salt
4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup Bob's Red Mill 10-grain cereal
1 egg, beaten
2 TBS italian seasoning
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
In the bowl of a mixer, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Leave to proof for 10 minutes. (The mixture should foam up and smell "yeasty") Add the oil, 3 cups of the flour and the salt. Mix, using the dough hook, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the whole wheat flour and the 10-grain cereal. When well mixed, slowly add the other cup of all purpose flour. Let mix/knead for 10 minutes. Empty dough onto a floured surface and knead a few times to form a smooth dough. Divide the dough in half. Roll out each half into a 13" x 9" rectangle and roll up from long end, like a jelly roll. Pinch seams to seal. Transfer to a greased cookie sheet. Brush tops and sides with beatened egg. Sprinkle the dough with a little salt, the italian seasoning and the cheese. With a sharp knife make slits across the dough. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 30-45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake 25-30 minutes or until browned.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Veggie Quesadillas

I must say that I am a sucker for mexican food. Ask me what I want to eat on any given day at any given time (including breakfast) and my answer will almost always be mexican food. After spending the summer as an exchange student in Mexico back in my college days, I fell in love with the food and the culture. I am lucky to be able to say that there are several authenitc restaurants in my area where I can get my fix, but I also love the tex-mex food. One of my favorite easy lunch or weeknight meals is to make a big batch of quesadillas and a big pot of pinto or black beans. Being a vegetarian, all things must be stuffed with vegetables and what's better than veggies smotherd in cheese and served in a crispy-soft flour tortilla?! Let me tell you, not much can beat it.
Veggie Quesadillas (for one)
cooking spray
1/2 of a small zucchini, julienned
2 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot julienned (you can also buy the pre shredded carrots at the supermarket)
Salt and pepper
1 flour tortilla
1/2 cup shredded mexican cheese blend

Heat a skillet over meduim heat. When hot, spray with cooking spray and add the zucchini, mushrooms and carrots and season with salt and pepper. Saute until the carrots are crisp tender and the zucchini and mushrooms are soft. Remove the veggies to another bowl and wipe the skillet clean.
Return to heat and add more cooking spray, add the torilla. Sprinkle cheese on one half reserving a little of it to top the veggies with. Add the veggies and then the reserved cheese and fold over. Cook over meduim-low heat until lightly browned on first side. Spray top half of tortilla with cooking spray and carefull turn over. Lightly brown the second half.
Serve quesadilla with smashed black beans, sour cream and salsa.

I love making big pots of beans, but there are many days where I am out of time or just forget to soak and prepare the beans. I always have a good stock of beans in my pantry and
love that I can throw together a quick side with them that tastes delicious and is healthy.
Smashed Black Beans
(the quick and easy way)

1 tsp oil
1/4 cup diced white onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 can black beans, drained of 1/3 of the liquid
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium heat, add the onion and saute for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and saute for one more minute. pour in the black beans with their liquid, the cumin, chili powder and the salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Using a potatoe masher mash the beans to desired consistance. Allow to come to a simmer and thicken slightlty.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Real Deal

After making those pasty store bought cookies, I felt dirty, like I needed to redeem myself with a batch of delicious made from scratch sugar cookies. My mother-in-law passed down her recipe for the sugary cookies and I haven't been able to use any other recipe since. Her's is foolproof and produces the soft cake-like sugar cookies that I love. It is so fun to pass down the recipe to my children who love to help mix, roll, cut out and especially eat the cookie dough scraps. It is only fitting that I would make them for Valentines day and let them pass them around to the neighbors and friends as a token of our friendship. I must say that the kids have a different idea on how the cookies should be decorated. The more frosting and candy coated the better.

Sugar Cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice added to cream to equal 1 cup
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
6 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Cream the butter and sugar together until it turns pale and light and fluffy. In a separate bowl or cup, mix the cream, lemon juice, vanilla and almond extract. (The lemon juice will curdle the cream and create a lumpy looking mixture.) In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients with a whisk to combine. With the mixer still running, add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time and mix until well blended. Add the flour and cream mixture alternately to the batter, starting and ending with the flour. Seperate the dough into three discs and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until well chilled, at least an hour. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to desired thickness. Bake 6-10 minute. Frost and enjoy!

Shiny Cookie Icing

1 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons milk
1/2 tsp. Vanilla (or other extract)
food coloring paste*
2 tsp. light corn syrup

Place sugar, milk, extract and food coloring in bowl. Stir until mixed thoroughly. Add corn syrup and mix well. For filling in areas, use thinned icing (add small amounts or light corn syrup until desired consistency is reached). * to use liquid food coloring substitute it for part of the milk.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ix-nay on the omemade-Hay

I am venturing out today and exploring the wonderful world of food blogdom. I am going to start out by ranting and raving and then I'll get on to the baking. This week I have been preparing for my daughters school Valentine's Day party. As the room mom, I am in charge of planning all of the games and coordinating all of the treats. Sounds like something a home baker like myself would love, right?? I mean, I could make all of these wonderfully cute delicious desserts. Well, as the schools no longer allow homemde treats, it has been party after party of over frosted cupcakes and cookies. So, as I was planning this particular party, I was going to have the kids decorate their own sugar cookie as one of the activites. I searched high and low for unfrosted, plain sugar cookies at the various supermarkets in my town. There were none to be found. So, after a few e-mails to the school, it was finally agreed upon that I could buy the premade sugar cookie dough (you know that one that I am talking about, the one that comes in tubes in the biscuit aisle) and bake it myself. No, I could not make my mother-in-law's amazing sugar cookie recipe, but I was allowed to bake that pre-made dough that tastes like flavored and baked school paste. I would love to say that despite the dough, they turned out great, but sadly they are still the same discusting cookies. I am sure that the kids will love them despite their flavor. I mean, if you cover them with enough frosting and candy, you won't even notice right?. I will have to post my mother-in-law's recipe for sugar cookies next to show the difference.