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Archive for June, 2008

What to do with the buttermilk..

I decided to make a red velvet cake for Father’s Day this year (I’ll blog about it as soon as I get the pictures from my mom). The recipe called for buttermilk and as I went shopping for the ingredients I found out that I couldn’t buy just a small container of buttermilk, I had to buy a whole liter. Now what do I do with the 3 cups of buttermilk I have left in my refrigerator?? I went to the ladies on the What’s Cooking board to see if they had any tried and true recipes that call for buttermilk. I received four or five recipes that all sounded great so I then had to figure out which to make. Since I would be making this on a weeknight after work (which means I will be exhausted) I decided to go with one that would be the least messiest and the least amount of work. I went with a pound cake. Thanks to thatgirlang I ended up with a great cake that was a crowd pleaser at work. Thanks Angie! This also gave me the opportunity to use a pretty bundt pan that I received as a bridal shower gift and completely forgot I had.

I have been trying to experiment and be more creative in the kitchen rather than always following recipes word for word, so I took her base recipe for the cake and modified it a tiny bit. Since the cake had lemon extract in it I decided to add some lemon zest as well. I also seem to find that pound/bundt cakes can be a bit bland for my taste so I chose to add a cream cheese glaze to it. I crossed my fingers that it would all turn out okay in the end and luckily it did. I was also so excited that my cake came out of the pan perfectly! I was a little worried because of the design aspects of the pan but I guess all of the greasing and flouring paid off, whew!

It was a delicious cake; very moist and tasty. It is a perfect cake to serve during breakfast or brunch because it isn’t terribly sweet. Everyone kept complimenting on how beautiful it was. I couldn’t take much credit on that though…the pan did all of that work, lol. ; )

cake1

Buttermilk Pound Cake with Cream Cheese Glaze

adapted from Angie’s recipe at Angie’s Simple Cooking
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter
3 cups white sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp. lemon extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
zest of 1 lemon
cream cheese glaze (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour one 9 or 10 inch tube pan. Mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar. Mix in the eggs, one at time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the lemon and the vanilla extracts. Gently mix in flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk. Stir in the lemon zest. Pour batter into the prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 90 minutes. Keep an eye on it though because mine was done in 75 minutes. Do not open oven door until after one hour. When cake begins to pull away from the side of the pan it is done. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Note: I ended up moving the oven rack to the notch just under the center because as the cake started to rise it got a little too close to the top of the oven and I was afraid it would burn.

cake-glaze

Cream Cheese Glaze

adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
pinch of salt
1 tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice (I added an additional 1/4 tsp.)
3 tbs. milk
1 tsp. lemon zest (about 1/2 of a lemon)

Beat together the cream cheese, sugar and salt until all is incorporated. Add the lemon juice and milk, mix well. Stir in the lemon zest. Pour over the cooled cake.

Note: If the glaze is too think, add milk 1 tsp. at a time.

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A California Treat

My husband was on a business trip in San Diego recently and fell in love with Wahoo’s fish tacos. He ate there two or three times in the 5 days he was there. Not long after that I was flipping through my Ellie Krieger cookbook (The Things You Crave) and came across a recipe for fish tacos which reminded me of his experience in California. So, we decided to bring a bit of Cali back to Florida and make our own fish tacos. It is always nice to find new ways of incorporating fish into our meals and this was definitely a winner. We agreed on grilled snapper for the tacos with the chipotle cream from Elllie Krieger’s version and a side of black bean soup. I would like to mention that Greg cooked the fish and created the black bean soup. He is a very good cook and contributes to our meals just as much as I do so this won’t be the last time I mention his dishes.

fish-tacos

Fish Tacos

(the amount of ingredients used will easily feed two people)
2 (6 oz) pieces of red snapper (or any fish of your choice)
4 soft taco sized tortillas (we used whole wheat)
salt
pepper
lime juice
chipotle cream (recipe follows)
Toppings of your choice – we used cabbage, diced tomato, diced red onion and salsa. Keep in mind that fish tacos are generally topped very simply.

Season both sides of the fish with salt and fresh ground pepper. Place in a grill pan over medium-high heat until fish is cooked through (flipping once). Remove from pan and top with fresh squeezed lime juice. Cut fish into strips and place in tortilla. Finish off with your preferred toppings.

Chipotle Cream

courtesy of Ellie Krieger, The Food You Crave
1/2 cup plain non-fat yogurt
2 tbs. mayonnaise
2 tbs. chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped

In a small bowl combine all ingredients. Her recipe is complete at this point. I decided to add salt and pepper to taste and blend in our Magic Bullet (or food processor). I felt that this gave it much better flavor and a better texture.
Note: This sauce is fairly spicy so you may adjust the amounts to your liking.

Simple Black Bean Soup

(depending on portion size this will feed 2-3 people)
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 16 oz. can of black beans
1 1/2 cups of chicken broth
1 bouillon cube
1 tsp. oregano
1 pinch crushed red pepper (or to your taste)
salt
pepper

In a saucepan saute the garlic and onion until translucent. Use a fork to slightly mush some of the beans in their can and then add to the pan. Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Add the bouillon cube, oregano, crushed red pepper and salt & pepper to taste. Let simmer 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Garnish any way you like (chopped tomato, chopped red onion, etc.).

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Is it a brownie or a cookie? Who Cares!

Recently we found out that my husband, Greg, would be getting a promotion and we would be relocating from Tampa to Miami. Well, he had their poor office coordinator scanning the calls from the moving companies he was getting estimates from. Greg told her he would make it up to her by buying her snacks from the vending machine the rest of the week. Men!! When he told me this I quickly volunteered to make her a homemade treat instead. Not really knowing what she liked, except for chocolate, I began going through my recipes. I came across Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies in my Martha Stewart Baking Handbook. I had already made one successful cookie from her book so why not try another.

I went through the whole process of following the recipe exactly. After getting all of my ingredients combined I had a nice semi-thick batter. The only problem was….the recipe said to take spoonfuls and roll them into balls. If I took what I had and did that I would have had a big blob of batter in my hand and there was no way it was going to roll into a ball. I went back and re-read the recipe to be SURE that I did everything correctly and that it didn’t say to let the batter stand or refrigerate. I did everything right and there was nothing that said to do anything more with the batter after it was all combined. Hmmmm….now what?

I decided to try and refrigerate it for a little while. It helped a bit but not much. I let it sit on the counter for a little while and it also helped a bit but there was still no way it was going to be rolled into balls. Well, what did I have to lose at this point? I decided to just plop the batter down into little mounds on the cookie sheet and see what happened.

I was very pleased to see that they turned out fine. They were delicious (very decadent) and had that nice soft consistency of a brownie, YUM! In the end I had a success and everyone at Greg’s work loved them! They wanted me to make more over the weekend for Monday, lol.

chocolate-cookies

Double Chocolate Brownie Cookies

courtesy of Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
9 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped into 1/4 inch chunks
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
6 tbs. unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup (about 3 oz.) chopped walnuts (optional) – I chose to omit these

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and then set aside. In a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water, melt 5 ounces of the semisweet chocolate, all of the unsweetened chocolate and the butter. Stir until smooth. Set mixture aside to cool for about 5 minutes.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the chocolate mixture and sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the eggs and mix until completely combined. Beat in the vanilla. Add the flour and salt, and beat until just incorporated. Stir in the remaining 4 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate and the nuts, if using.

Shape 2 tablespoons of dough at a time into 1 1/2 inch balls and place about 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are set and centers are still a bit soft, 9 to 11 minutes. Transfer parchment and cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: I used a hand mixer which may be why the consistency didn’t turn out the way it should have.

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Peanut Butter + Bananas = Tasty Muffin

I had two pitiful bananas dangling from their little banana hanger in my kitchen. Normally I would be wasteful and throw them away because as much as I would like to, I don’t bake on a regular basis due to the fact that I don’t need the indulgent food in my house. As I have mentioned before, the skinny gene is not a friend of my family. So, I am not one of those people who generally holds onto their ripe bananas. Well, I guess the What’s Cooking board that I frequent must be wearing off on me because instead of tossing them I was determined to find a recipe to use them in. I figured I would treat my coworkers to a Friday sweet. I searched for banana bread recipes (of course the first thing that came to mind) but most of the recipes I found called for more than two bananas. Just when I thought I was going to have to get really creative I logged onto the WC board and there just happened to be a blog update from angelashley titled Peanut Butter Banana Muffins. I checked out the recipe and to my delight it only called for two bananas, YAY! My two little bananas wouldn’t have to go to waste. It was obviously meant to be that I make these lovely little muffins. I was also itching to use my new silicone baking cups. :o)

If you aren’t a fan of super sweet things in the morning then this recipe is perfect. They have a very mild sweetness even with the streusel topping. My coworkers loved them.

muffins

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins

courtesy of angelashly, Ashley’s Attempts in the Kitchen
1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup quick cooking oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tbs. baking powder
1 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
1 egg, beaten
2 tbs. vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tbs. butter, melted
2 tbs. packed brown sugar

Preheat your over to 375 degrees. Grease 12 muffin cups or line with muffin liners (I used silicone cups and they were great). Combine 1 cup of flour, quick cooking oats, 1/3 cup brown sugar and baking powder. Whisk together milk, peanut butter, mashed banana, egg, oil and vanilla.

Add banana mixture to dry ingredients, mixing just until moistened. Fill the prepared muffin cups 3/4 full.
In a small bowl, stir together 1/4 cup flour, melted butter and 2 tbs. of brown sugar. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the muffins.

Bake in preheated oven for 18 minutes, until golden brown. Best served warm (but everyone enjoyed them room temperature as well).

Note: I actually got about 15 or 16 muffins out of the batter.

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A Healthy Lasagna?

I love to cook Italian food. Lucky for me my husband equally loves to eat Italian food. Unfortunately neither of us has the naturally skinny gene and Italian food isn’t usually the least fattening of things to cook. Once again I turned to Cooking Light as a resource to get my wheels spinning. I found a great recipe that I was able to tweak to fit to our tastes. You can imagine my happiness to be able to create a great tasting, low fat/cal lasagna that we don’t have to feel guilty about eating. Bring on the seconds!

lasagna

Vegetable Lasagna

adapted from Cooking Light
1 teaspoon olive oil
3/4 cup chopped spinach
1 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup sliced carrot
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper (or any color you have on hand)
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
26 ounces of your favorite (tomato) pasta sauce
2 tablespoons commercial pesto (feel free to use your own)
1 (15 oz) container part-skim ricotta cheese
cooking spray
6 hot cooked lasagna noodles, cut in half
3/4 cup (3 oz) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the spinach, zucchini, carrot and bell pepper. Cook for five minutes, stirring frequently. Add pasta sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Combine the ricotta and pesto in a small bowl. Spread 1/2 cup of the tomato mixture in the bottom of a 8 inch square baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 4 noodle halves over tomato mixture. Top noodles with half of the ricotta mixture and 1 cup tomato mixture. Repeat layers, ending with noodles. Spread remaining tomato mixture over noodles; sprinkle with mozzarella.

Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 2o minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Note: I placed baking dish on top of a cookie sheet to prevent spillage in the oven.

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Cookie with a Zing

We were having a Memorial Day potluck at work and I wanted a great dessert. After a winter season of heavy, rich desserts I really wanted something light and fruity. I also wanted something that wasn’t too time consuming or labor intensive since I would have to prepare it when I got home from work.
During this same time I had just purchased a new baking cookbook, Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook. While flipping through it I found just the recipe I was looking for, Lime-Glazed Cookies. Sweet, tart and oh so good.

Lime-Glazed Cookies

– makes about 3 dozen
Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

lime

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Bring on the Cheesecake Bars!

Raspberry and cheesecake combined…it doesn’t get much better than that! Or does it? How about adding a shortbread crust into the mix. All I can say is, YUM. This is a great dessert for Spring and Summer, or any time of the year for that matter. It’s simple, easy to transport and it tastes great. Sounds like my kind of dessert.

cheesecake

Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

adapted from Food Network
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup raspberry preserves (you can switch this out with your favorite flavor)
hot shortbread base (recipe follows)

Preheat oven 350 degrees.

In a bowl whisk cream cheese until smooth then whisk in eggs, sugar and vanilla. Evenly spread preservers over hot shortbread and pour cream cheese mixture over it. You may also choose to melt a small amount of the preserves in the microwave and drizzle over the top for a little extra visual. Bake in the center of oven until slightly puffed, about 30 minutes. Cool completely in pan and then cut into 24 bars.
*Note: I lined my pan with parchment paper to make for easy removal.

Shortbread Base

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed like brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat oven 350 degrees.

Cut butter into 1/2 inch pieces. In a food processor, process all ingredients until mixture begins to form small lumps. Sprinkle mixture into a 13 by 9 by 2 inch baking pan, press evenly onto bottom. Bake shortbread in the center of the oven until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

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My First Barefoot Contessa Recipe

I started watching the food network on a regular basis about five years ago and I have to admit that I was not a fan of Barefoot Contessa. I think it may have had to do with the fact that I was a poor college kid through most of that period and her recipes didn’t appeal to my style of cooking at the time or my pocketbook for that matter. About a month ago, on a Saturday morning, I found myself sucked into a Barefoot Contessa marathon. Before I knew it I was very much attracted to her recipes. One in particular stood out to my husband and I both…..the Scallops Provencal with Herbed Basmati Rice. It looked so fancy and decadent but yet simple at the same time. Not too long after this my husband had to go out of town for a whole week so I decided to cook him and extra special dinner upon his return. He had been subjected to sub-par restaurant food during his trip so I knew he wouldn’t object. I figured this would be the perfect time to try the recipe we had been eyeing.

After picking up the ingredients I went to work on my romantic dinner. It was surprisingly easy for as pretty as it looks when complete. The only issue I ran into was it took a while for my scallops to brown up since I was using a non-stick pan. Note to self: next investment is a good stainless steel pan for browning.

In the end it was SO good and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. Mission accomplished!

scallops

Scallops Provencal

courtesy of Barefoot Contessa/The Food Network
1 pound fresh bay or sea scallops (I used sea scallops)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour, for dredging
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped shallots
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, cut in 1/2

If you’re using bay scallops, keep them whole. If you’re using sea scallops, cut each 1 in half horizontally. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, toss with flour, and shake off the excess.

In a very large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter over high heat until sizzling and add the scallops in 1 layer. Lower the heat to medium and allow the scallops to brown lightly on 1 side without moving them, then turn and brown lightly on the other side. This should take 3 to 4 minutes, total. Melt the rest of the butter in the pan with the scallops, then add the shallots, garlic, and parsley and saute for 2 more minutes, tossing the seasonings with the scallops. Add the wine, cook for 1 minute and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice.
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Herbed Basmati Rice

courtesy of Barefoot Contessa/The Food Network
1 cup uncooked long-grain (white) basmati rice
1 3/4 cups water
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced fresh curly parsley leaves (I used flat leaf parsley)
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill leaves (I left the dill out)
1 tablespoon minced fresh scallions, white and green parts
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

Combine the rice, 1 3/4 cups water, the salt and butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to low, stir once and simmer, covered tightly, for 15 minutes. (You may need to pull the pot half off the burner to keep it from boiling over.) Turn off the heat and allow the rice to sit covered for 5 minutes. Add the parsley, dill, scallions, and pepper. Fluff with a fork, and serve warm.

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Easy and Yummy!

I am always trying to find recipes that are healthy but not boring. I mean I can only eat so much grilled chicken with a veggie and cous cous! I never knew about the Cooking Light website until I started posting on the WC board. Now it is a great resource for me to find new and exciting recipes that are still healthy. The first recipe I found and tried was Lemon Chicken and Rice with Artichokes. Lucky for me it was a hit with both my husband and I. It is so quick and easy and who can resist a one pot dish? This will definitely be a repeat on our list of weeknight meals.

chicken-art

Lemon Chicken and Rice with Artichokes

courtesy of Cooking Light
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1/2-inch strips
2 1/4 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 cups instant rice (I used brown rice)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (14-ounce) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 (14-ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
2 tablespoons grated Romano cheese (I left the cheese out)

Heat pan with cooking spray or a little olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken, chopped onion and red bell pepper; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in rice, lemon juice, salt, black pepper and broth; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes or until rice is tender. Stir in artichokes and cook 1 minute or until heated through. Sprinkle with cheese if desired.

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Let’s try this again..

Okay, so as you can see from the date of my first post, I started this blog a while ago and it hasn’t made it very far since. All of the WC ladies have such great blogs; I kind of became a bit intimidated and thought that maybe I wasn’t cut out for this whole blog thing since I had absolutely no clue how it all worked. I have decided that I am going to get over the fear and do it anyway, lol. I want to be able to share my recipes too. I feel kind of selfish always seeing everyone’s wonderful recipes and ideas without sharing my own. So, over the next couple of days I will be adding the recipes and photos I have been accumulating over the past couple of months. My poor husband has been such a trooper in helping me photograph my dishes (with my stinky camera). I think he is probably wondering how long I am going to continue taking pictures of my food without having a blog, lol.
So without further adieu…….My blog! :o)

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