Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Quad-Chocolate Brownies

Sometimes you just need a lot of chocolate, and sometimes you just need a lot of brownies. Whether it's bakesale time, or birthday party, or you just owe a bunch of people big time, sometimes one pan of brownies doesn't cut it. This covers both, it's a lot of brownies and a lot of chocolate. It makes 32 giant brownies (like the size shown) or up too 100 small brownies depending how you cut them, or some of both (which is what I did). This recipe also has a lot of chocolate, 4 different kinds in fact, making them ridiculously chocolatey a delicious. I also usd a touch of the Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil, which gave it just a hint of coconutty goodness, you can easily sub it out though. So prepare to be on chocolate overload and whip up a delicious batch!

Quad-Chocolate Brownies:
2/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 tbsp of instant coffee powder/grounds
1 1/4 cups boiling water
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, in pieces
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 cup of canola oil
1/4 of unrefined virgin coconut oil (or sub an additional 1/4 cup of canola)
4 large eggs
4 large egg yolks
2 tbsp of vanilla extract
3 cups of white sugar
1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
3 1/2 cupsof all-purpose flour
2 of tsp salt
6 oz of semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
4 oz of white chocolate, chopped

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees and put rack in the middle of the oven. Line two 9x13 baking dishes with foil, leaving an overhang, and grease or spray with Pam. In a very large bowl, stir together cocoa, coffee, and boiling water until smooth and it looks like hot chocolate. Add in unsweetened chocolate and stir until the chocolate melts and is smooth, if you need to re-heat it a little to get the chocolate all the way melted, just pop it in the microwave (assuming your bowl is safe). Add butter and oil (if using coconut oil, scoop that solid into the melted butter when the butter is hot and it will liquify down). Mix on low, don't worry that it won't come together and that it looks curdled, it's not, it just needs an emulsifier. With the mixer running, add eggs, yolks and vanila and mix until smooth. Add sugars mix until smooth. Add flour and salt and stir until just combined. Stir in white and semi sweet chocolate. Divide batter between the two pans and bake until a fork comes out clean, about 30-35 minutes. Let sit a few minutes then use foil overhang to lift brownies out of the pan. Let them cool out of the pan before serving. (adapted from Brown Eyed Baker)

Happy Eating.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Orecchiette with Tomato Butter Sauce

I have a new favorite kind of pasta, orecchiette. They are thick, chewy, little "ears" and they are wonderful. I like that they taste more like fresh pasta, even though they are dried and their heartiness can stand up too and compliments any sauce. This particular sauce was invented by a game I usually reserve for stir frys, namely, getting rid of all the odds and ends in the fridge. I really just started throwing the things I had together in a pan, and the results were so rich and delicious, I just had to make it again. So next time you find your self with a variety of bits and left over supplies, don't despair or grab that trash bag quite yet. A little imagination, and the safety of having a good take out place around the corner goes along way. Who knows you may invent something delicious.

Orecchiette with Tomato Butter Sauce:
1/2 lb of orcheitte
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 shallot
1 sausage link
2 heaping tbsp of tomato paste
1 cup of canned tomato sauce
1 tbsp of cream cheese
2 tbsp of butter
1 cup of part skim ricotta cheese
1 tsp of dried basil
Salt and Pepper
Parmesan for serving

Make the orecchiette according to package directions, al dente. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Dice the onion and add to the pan. Cook until softens slightly, about 4 minutes. Squeeze the sausage from it's casing into the pan. Dice the shallot and add as well. Stir all together and add tomato paste, cook until sausage is browned and onions are soft, about 3 minutes. Add tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Stir in cream cheese and butter until melted and incorporated. Add basil and salt and pepper to taste (taste first, I barely needed any salt). When pasta is cooked and drained, remove sauce from heat and stir in ricotta cheese. Add pasta to the pan and stir to coat with sauce. Serve with parmesan cheese.

Happy Eating.


Friday, March 25, 2011

Coconut Chicken Stir Fry

I love coconut. The delicious smell immedietely sends my mind to the beach, so I was delighted when Tropical Traditions sent me a bottle of their Gold Label Virgin Coconut oil to try. I had never used or even seen the stuff
before, so I did a little online sluething and found out that this deliciousand healthy oil is great for high heat cooking. So I decided to test it in a stir fry. The coconut oil comes solid, like room temperature butter but pure white, I touched a little with my hands by accident and it felt like it would make the best lotion ever, so slilky smooth, but I decided to save it for cooking anyway. As soon as you put the oil in the hot pan it melts perfectly and except for that delicious tropical aroma, it seems like any other high heat oil. It cooks beautifully, making a delicious stir-fry with just a hint of coconut flavor, perfect for adding a little something special to savory dishes. I can't wait to try baking with it and really amping up the coconutty goodness! So stay tuned!

Check out Tropical Traditions wide variety of coconut products and you can read up more on the virgin oil I used here. If you want to buy a bottle of your very own (or any of their wonderful coconut products), you can get a free copy of a Virgin Coconut Oil Book by saying refered by a friend on the order form, and using my User ID: 7364803

Coconut Chicken Stir-Fry:
1 tbsp of extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil
1 large boneless skinless chicken breast
1 large yello onion
1 red bell pepper
1/2 tsp of chili powder
1/4 tsp of curry powder
1 tsp of pepper
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbps of fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp of rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp of tereyaki sauce
Rice or bulgur wheat for serving

In a large wok or skillet, melt and heat the coconut oil over medium high heat. Cut the chicken into bite size pieces and season with chili, curry, and pepper. Add to the hot oil and brown. In the meantime chop the onion and add to the pan and stir, cook until onions soften slightly, about 3 minutes. Lower heat to medium and chop and add the red pepper. Stir and continue cooking until chicken is cooked through and onions have softened, about 4 minutes (will vary based on chicken piece sizes). Mince the garlic and ginger and add to the pan. Add in vinegar and tereyaki and stir, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom. Serve over rice or bulgur wheat.

Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product. I was under no obligation to review it, nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review in return for the free product.

Happy Eating.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Eating Las Vegas

Oh, Las Vegas, how much did I love you? You are food heaven. Where you can find any kind of food, and stuff your face, and it's all delicious, and probably made by a chef you've seen on TV. Then on top of that there are insane pools, spas, gambling and the best people watching ever. I cannot wait to go back and eat my way up and down the strip again. Here are some meal highlights.

The first morning, we went to Hash-House-A-Go-Go for some epically large and legendary breakfasts. I had the biggest and most delicious pancake ever, it had this amazing and irresistible brown sugar crust, and was bigger than my head. The boyfriend had the as seen on Man vs Food fried chicken Benedict (and yes, you read that correctly). So delicious and we were full for a very long time after. However, that night we had a light dinner and some drinks at Todd English's Pub in the City Center. It is a pub, grill, and carvery, the carvery is the coolest part. You order a 1/2 lb or a lb of meat and it comes with thick slices of bread and two dipping sauces of your choice, I got brisket and it was amazing.

The next night we started our day with some delicious but very over priced pastries and coffee at Jean Phillipe shop in the ARIA (where we stayed), enjoyed the one super warm day poolside, and then headed to Jose Andres's China Poblano in the Cosmopolitan for some Chinese/Mexican tapas, sounds like a crazy combo but it was pretty delicious. Lots of creative tacos, Chinese noodle dishes, fresh (and amazing) guacamole, and some tres lychees (tres leches cake with lychees) for dessert.

Saturday, we had a delicious French themed breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi, at the Paris, you can sit outside, right on the strip and watch everyone walk by, fantastic people watching. Later we hit up Pink's for some famous hot dogs. We finished the day at Fleur, by Hubert Keller in the Mandalay Bay. This was by far my favorite restaurant of the trip. The food was insanely good, creative, and beautiful. I loved the Steak tar tar, and of course the "In the shower" mac and cheese (which won 10k on Top Chef Masters), and the trio of creme brulees for dessert (that was my favorite). The restaurant was fantastic, but it was also very dark, so I didn't get good pictures. But here are the cheesecake lollipops (half eaten), our other delicious dessert.

Sunday, we hit the Cosmopolitan's Wicked Spoon Buffet for brunch. Wow, is all I can say. Buffets by nature are insane, but this was totally over the top. It's not your typical Vegas style, mountain of crab legs buffet. It's tapas style (my favorite type of food), they have a ton of different things portioned out into little servings, of which you can eat as much and as many as you want. The real treat/draw though, is the dessert "station" (using that loosely as it's about 1/3 of the buffet). It has beautiful and creative concoctions of every kind, some of my favorites were the gelato with mini cones, the french macaroons (I ate like 7 of them), chocolate covered kit kats, and I'm not sure what it was called but it was a chocolate cookie crust, filled with coffee filling and topped with a meringue cookie.

As you can probably tell by the dessert plates, we were full all day. But we had a late night snack/dinner of pallea and oysters at Julian Serrano Tapas. Next time, I will definitely be heading back there a bit more hungry.

Our last day, we went back to Mon Ami Gabi for lunch and people watching, then headed over to the Venetian to see Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery so I could get a TKO (Thomas Keller Oreo), definitely worth the walk, and possible the $3.25 it cost. We also got a cupcake, but that was not nearly as delicious.

We ended our trip with some insane hamburgers at Holstein's Buns and Shakes at the Cosmopolitan. Don't miss the fried pickles appetizer, it was ridiculously good, just like the burgers.

Overall, it was a foodie Paradise vacation and had a blast and can't wait to go back and eat some more. But to recap:

My favorite meal: Fleur
My favorite hotel/shopping area: The Cosmopolitan
My favorite Casino: ARIA (this is totally biased, bc it's the only place I won, but it is beautiful)
Where I'm staying next time: Mandalay Bay, it's pool is beyond epic (wave pool with a fake beach), it has an aquarium, and a ton of restaurants.
Don't Miss: Hash House, it's too insane not to eat!

Happy Eating


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Chinese Beef Buns

I LOVE Chinese food. And not just your typical dumplings and lo mein. I love to try new things and try and find rarer and more authentic dishes. One of my favorites is dim sum, it speaks to my love of all things tapas, and you get to try so many different things. Not living in a city, there are not a lot of places to find these exciting and delicious dishes. So when I was there Beef Buns over at Anncoo Journal, I knew I had to try and make them. I am so glad I did, the pleating is a little difficult, and this is definitely more time consuming than whipping up a stir fry or fried rice, but they are so delicious and immpressive it is totally worth it. The dough is so versatile too, I can't wait to come up with new filling ideas and try it again. The recipe makes 16 buns, I made half and froze the other half (before cooking), that way I can just thaw them and have them again, maybe I will steam the next batch. They look like little presents when you serve them, and the outside is like a tender roll, hiding a delicious meatly punch on the inside! So whip up a batch, and try something new, it's easier than it seems!

2/3 cup water, 110-120 degrees
1 /4 tsp dry active yeast
1 cup Bread flour
1 cup All purpose flour
1 tsp Icing sugar
1 tsp Salt
Canola oil for frying

2 chard leaves and stems
1 handful of cilantro
1 small onion
1 garlic clove
6 oz Ground beef
1 tbsp Corn meal
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1 tbps of soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Pepper

Mix the yeast and the water until yeast is dissolved, and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Sift both flours, the sugar, and the salt into a large bowl. Add the yeast-water mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms. Form the dough into a ball and knead, adding in more water or flour as necessary to form a smooth but tacky dough (I needed 2 extra tablespoons of water). Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. To test the dough for readiness, poke it with your finger, if the dent remains and does not spring back, the dough is ready.

While the dough is rising, make the filling. In a food processor, chop onion, garlic, chard and cilantro until minced finely. In a medium bowl stir together beef, chard mixture, egg, corn meal, soy sauce, vinegar, salt, pepper, and sugar. Cover and refridgerate until ready to use.

Cut the dough into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a circle and place a spoonful of filling in the center of each pancake. Place a filled circle in your non-dominent hand and use your other hand to fold pleats in the dough to seal the buns, see this video for further instructions and a handy demonstration. I found that I got better with each bun. The hardest part is keeping the filling from touching the edges of the dough, if it does the dough does not stick as well and they are harder to seal. To cook the sealed buns coat the bottom of a pan with a thin layer of canola (or similar) oil and turn heat to medium. When the oil is hot and the buns, seam side down and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side. (adapted from Anncoo Journal)

Happy Eating.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Daring Cooks Ceviche

Blog-checking lines: Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.

I am so excited to be participating in my first Daring Cooks Challenge! And what I great first challenge for a fish lover! I have eaten fish cooked every way (or not cooked at all), but I have always been nervous to play around with alternate cooking methods for fish, for fear of not fresh enough seafood. This was just the kick I needed. Ceviche is fish that has been "cooked" in citrus juice. It was so easy to make and so amazingly delicious. It was also really cool to watch the fish cook, and change color from the citrus juice. I choose Corvina, because it's South American, and it looked incredibly fresh and delicious in the store, but any firm white and mild flavored fish, or scallops can be used. This was a fantastic challenge and here is my adaption of the recipe and the rest of my Peruvian inspired meal below.

1 lb of Corvina or other mild flavor, firm texture white fish
1/2 jalapeno pepper
1 garlic clove
2 limes
2 lemons
1 handful of fresh cliantro
1/2 small red onion
1/2 an avocado

Mince the garlic, cilantro, 1/2 of the onion and and jalapeno. Cut the fish into small bite size pieces. Mix the fish with the garlic, onion, cilantro, and jalapeno in a bowl. Squeeze the lemon and lime juice in and let sit for 10 minutes, stirring occasionly. Then chill before serving. Serve with sliced red onion and diced avocado. (adapted from Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes)

I also tried to make the papas rellanas, but forgot to crust the meatballs in potatoes (oops). What I ended up with was a giant (but still delicious) Scotch Egg and a side of mashed potatoes, making this a very unusual but extremely tasty meal.

Scotch egg:
8 oz of ground beef
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp of cumin
1/2 tsp of chili powder
1/4 tsp of salt
1/4 cup of water
3 hardboiled eggs
1 egg
1/2 cup of flour
1/2 cup of panko
salt, pepper
2 tbsp of canola oil

In a large skillet heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add ground beef. Mince onion and garlic (no need to be exact you are going to food prosessor it later). Add the onion and garlic to the beef along with the spices. Cook for 3 minutes, then deglaze with water and scrape up the browned bits. Allow mixture to cool, then transfer to the food processor. Pulse until the meat is very fine and sticks together easily. Arrange a breading station. Beat egg in one bowl, have one bowl of flour seasoned lightly with salt and pepper and one bowl of bread panko. Take a peeled hardboiled egg and run it under water, then pack a handfull of meat around the egg to shape it into a ball. Roll that in flour, then in the egg white, and then in the panko. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Heat the canola oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Fry the meat encrusted eggs on all side until golden. Serve with mustard (or mashed potatoes and ceviche, if your me).

Happy Eating.


Friday, March 11, 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lacies

I have been on an oats kick. Now, I have always been an oatmeal kind of girl, but lately it's turned into somewhat of an obsession. I have 3 different cuts of oats at home (steel, rolled, and quick). I eat them just about everyday. Of course I love the classic oatmeal, but I have been making my ownn museli lately (just toast/bake at 350 oats (quick or rolled), nuts, and flax all together for about 8 minutes and then eat with yogurt) and cold "cooking" oatmeal lately (leave quick oats, in cold milk/almond milk, with some blueberries (and flax) for 10-15 minutes drizzle with a little maple syrup and enjoy a cold, mushy deliciousness). Let's not forget my favorite way to enjoy oats, mixed with a ton of butter and chocolate chips and baked into some magical cookies. I like all textures of cookies, soft, crisp, chewy, thick, thin, crumbly, literally all cookies are good in my book, but I think crispy with a slight hint of chewy is my favorite, and that's what these are. I have taken to calling them lacies, because that's the cookie they remind me most of, plus the texture really does make them look like lace. They may look like frilly, lace but they pack a powerful and delicious flavor punch (and sea salt). Warning, these cookies are highly addictive, the recipe may make about 100, but they will be gone faster than you can make them!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Lacies:
2 sticks of butter, softened
1 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp of vanilla
1 tsp of baking soda
1 tsp of baking powder
1/2 tsp of salt
1 1/4 cups of flour
2 cups of rolled oats
1 tsp of sea salt, coarse
1 12 oz bag of mini chocolate chips

Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and pre-heat to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with partchment paper or tinfoil and grease or pan heavily. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until the mixture lightens, and is slightly fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the baking soda, baking powder, regular salt and 1 1/4 cup of flour. Mix until just incorporated. Add the remaining cup of flour and mix until just incorporated. Add the oats and sea salt and stir (by hand, with a for or a spatula) until mixed in. Stir in the mini chocolate chips. Drop the cookies by teaspoon onto the well greased baking sheet. Make sure the cookies have a lot of space to spread out, because they do. Bake for 10 minutes, or until they are golden and very thin. I like to start them on the bottom rack and then move them to the upper rack halfway through. (Yeilds: about 100 very thin cookies).

Happy Eating.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Spaghetti with Tomato Cream Sauce

Ah pasta, how much do I love you? A lot. I eat some kind of pasta dish at least once a week, and while I could never truly get tired of a classic red sauce, sometimes I like a little something special. And really, what is more special than Mascarpone cheese? I can't think of anything. This delicious cheese is what would happen if whipped cream and butter had a baby, a very tasty baby. It isntantly adds a thick richness to anything, and if that wasn't enough, I used pancetta. Bacon makes it better, especially when it's thick cut and in something that is already insanely good. Enjoy!

Tomato Cream Sauce:
1/2 box of spaghetti
3 oz of pancetta
1 29 oz can of italian plum tomatoes, drained
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp of salt
1 tsp of pepper
1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup of mascarpone cheese
4 oz of fresh mozzarella
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Make spaghetti according to package directions. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Chop the pancetta and add to the pan, cook until browned slightly and very fragrant. Remove from the pan and set asside, do not drain the pan of any fat. Add the tomatoes whole to the pan, cook them until they are sizzling. Using a fork or a knife, break the tomatoes apart and let their juices coat the bottom of the pan. Add the salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to the plan (you can use more or less to taste, but go easy on the salt, because the pancetta and cheeses are very salty). Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.Mince the garlic and add to the pan. Cook for another few minutes, or until the pasta is done. Stir in the mascarpone, about 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring until incorporated until the sauce is a lovely blush color and all the mascarpone is incorporated. Chop the mozzerella into small pieces. Remove from heat and add the reserved pancetta and mozzarella. Add the cooked and drained spaghetti and toss the pasta with the sauce in the pan. Serve topped with parmesan and additional mozzarella if desired.

Happy Eating.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Mardi Gras Rice

I love spicy and cajun and the delicious flavors of New Orleans and Mardi Gras. I also love not weighing 300 lbs, and with my baking habbits that means eating some lightened up dishes during the week. That does not mean I am willing to sacrafice flavor at all, however. Or miss celebrating a random holiday! Food should taste good, better than good, amazing. This rice tastes AMAZING, you would never guess that it's healthy (assuming you don't eat the whole pot yourself, all things in moderation). So feel free to be festive with this New Orleans inspired rice dish, and lighten up your Fat Tuesday.

Mardi Gras Rice:
1 tsp canola oil
1 bell pepper
2 small onions
1 jalapeno
3 celery stacks
8 oz of chicken or lean turkey sausage
1/2 29 oz can of plum tomatoes, drained
3 garlic cloves
1 can of black beans, drained rinse
1 1/2 cups of chicken broth
3/4 cup of uncooked rice
Salt, pepper

In a medium-large pot heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. Chop the bell pepper (any color will do, I actually used half a yellow and half an orange because, amazingly that's what I had), into small squarish pieces. Add to the pot. Chop the onions the same way and add to the pan. Stir the pot occasionally and adjust heat as necessary so nothing burns. Dice the jalapeno and add to the pan (I used the ribs and seeds, but feel free to remove them to reduce heat, but this wasn't really spicy with it, just had a little kick). Chop the celery and add to the pan. Cadditional. Remove sausage from the casing and squeeze into the pan, stir in. Cook the mixture until everything has softened slightly, about 5-7 minutes. Chop the tomatoes and add to the pot, mince the garlic and add as well. Add the rinsed and drained beans and the broth. Stir in the rice and cover. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook until the rice has absorbed the liquid and is fluffy, about 25-30 minutes. Remove lid and stir, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serves 4 as a main dish.

Happy Eating.


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Homemade Pizza Night

I LOVE pizza! And really who doesn't. My absolute favorite in Jersey Shore Pizza, the Brooklyn style giant slices that are thin but with super thick crusts. Specifically, the Jersey shore because you can walk into any place and have the most amazing slice. Ahhhh summer, hopefully it gets here eventually, but until those blissful beach days, my close second is thin crust pizza. The crispy the better. Because, I am having so much trouble finding a decent pizza within delivery distance, I decided to try some DIY therapy, and because I was already trying, I decided to "health" it up. I have been on a flax kick lately, I love the nutty flavor and the added Omega-3s, so I tossed some into a whole wheat crust, and rolled it super thin, then topped it with quickie sauce, fresh mozzarella, and some chicken sausage. The dough was easy to work with and easy to make, I will definitely be making this again. The best part is new toppings equals a whole new dinner. So grab you favorite toppings, and lets get baking!

Wheat and Flax Crust:
2/3 cups of warm water, 105-115 degrees
1/2 packet of yeast, 1 1/8 tsp
3/4 cup of wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
2 tbsp of flax
2 tsp of olive oil
2 tsp of honey
1 tsp of salt

Dissolve yeast into warm water and let stand until foamy, about 5 minnutes. In a large bowl or a food processor mix flours and flax. Add in olive oil, honey, salt, and water-yeast mixture. If using a food processor: Blend everything with the dough blade attachment until everything is in a ball about 5 minutes, adding additional water or flour if necessary dough should be smooth and slightly tacky. If mixing by hand, stir with a wooden spoon until a wet dough forms, turn out onto a floured surface and knead, incorporating more water or flour if neccesary, until smooth and slightly tacky, 5-7 minutes. Put in an oiled bowl and cover until doubles in size, about 1 hr. Punch dough down and then remove from bowl, knead a few times and return to the bowl and recover, refridgerate overnight, for up to 2 days. Remove from the fridge about 30 minutes before desired baking time. Pre-heat the broiler to 500 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil and place in the broiler. Let the cookie sheet broil for about 15 minutes after the oven is pre-heated. On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough as thin as possible, into a large rectangular shape (to fit the sheet). Remove pre-heated sheet from oven and brush lightly with olive oil or spray with non-stick spray. Place rolled out dough onto cookie sheet and stretch it into every corner, so that it is as close to the size of the sheet as possible. Top with your favortie sauces and toppings and bake until crust is browned and all cheeses have melted, 7 minutes. Let cool slightly before serving.

I topped mine with a quickie pizza sauce (recipe below), 8 oz of garlic and herb chicken sausage (chopped), 1 small yellow onion (sliced), fresh mozzarella (about 4 oz, sliced into thin and small slices), and fresh grated parmesan. After cooking I shaved some additional parmesan on top and drizzled with a little truffle oil.

Quickie Pizza Sauce:
1 15 oz can of tomato sauce (plain)
1/2 8 oz can of tomato paste
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp of dried oregano
1 tsp of dried basil
1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes
salt, pepper

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, and add the tomato sauce and paste. Bring to a boil. Mince the garlic and add to sauce, and dried herbs and spices to taste. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the oven is ready for the pizza.

Happy Eating.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Raspberries and Cream Cake

My mom is a very special and wonderful woman. She is one of the kindest and most genuine people in the whole world and today is her birthday. And her very special day, deserves a very special cake. So for her birthday, I decided to pull out all the stops and make an insanely delicious 4 layer cake. And in between each layer would be not 1, but 2 fillings, ensuring insane richness, deliciousness, and specialness. So happy birthday mom and enjoy your cake! (again)

Vanilla Cake (adapted from Williams Sonoma)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tbsp of vanilla extract
2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tbsp of baking powder
1 tsp of salt
1 cup of buttermilk
5 egg whites, at room temperature

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and pre-heat to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar in a large bowl until well combined and light. Add in vanilla extract and mix in. Add in 1/2 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until just incorporated. Add in 1/3 of the buttermilk and stir in. Add in an additional cup of flour and mix until just combined. Add in half the remaining buttermilk and mix until combined. Add in the last 1/2 cup of flour and mix until just combined. Add in the remaining buttermilk and mix until just combined. In a medium bowl using clean beaters/whisk, whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form, 5-7 minutes. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter, do not over mix. Grease two 8 inch cake pans, and divide the batter between them. Bake until lightly golden and well set in the middle, a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. About 30-35 minutes. Let cool completely then remove from cake pan and slice each cake in half, so you have 4 even layers to fill and frost.

Rasberry Filling:
4 cups of frozen rasberries
1/4 cup of sugar
1 blood orange (or regular), juiced
1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
2 tsp of corn startch

In a medium pot bring raspberries and sugar to a boil, stiring occasionally until raspberrries are cooked down and mixture is smooth. Cook covered for an additional 10 minutes. In a small bowl whisk together the orange juice, lemon juice, and corn startch. Add juice and zest to the raspberries and cook, whisking constantly until the mixture thickens. Transfer to a bowl and chill completely before using.

Cream Filling (adapted from Brown Eyed Baker):
2 cups half-and-half
4 tbsp of honey, divided
4 tbsp of sugar, divided
1/2 tsp of salt
5 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 stick of cold butter, cut into pieces
1 tsp of vanilla extract

Bring a pot of water to a boil and place a non-reactive bowl on top of it. Add the half and half, 3 tbsp of honey, and 3 tbsp of sugar to the bowl. Simmer until sugar is dissolved. Meanwhile whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl until combined, add the remaining 1 tbsp of sugar and honey to the yolks and whisk until creamy, about 30 seconds. Add the cornstartch and whisk until thickened about 30 seconds (using an electric mixer). When the half and half has reached a full simmer, remove from heat and whisk in the egg yolks, return the mixture to over the pot and simmer, whisking together. Take temperature and make sure it is at least 160 degrees (to make sure eggs are safe), continue whisking until thick and glossy, about 2 minutes total. Remove from heat and whisk in the butter and vanilla. Pass mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a medium bowl, to ensure their are no lumpsLet cool completely, and chill for at least an hour, up to overnight before using. (I had leftovers of this, after filling the cake, but it is like the most delicious pudding you ever had, so I didn't mind, it tasted great with a little fruit).

Mascarpone Frosting:
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 oz of cream cheese, at room temperature
8 oz. cold mascarpone
2 tbsp of honey
1 tsp vanilla
1 1⁄4 cups confectioners sugar

In a large bowl mix the butter, cream cheese, and mascarpone until smooth and well combined. Add in the vanilla and honey and beat until combined. Add in the sugar, while the mixer is running and mix until smooth and glossy.

Select the two "nicest" layers (most even, no holes, etc) to be the top and bottom layer. Place the bottom layer on the cake plate and spread 1/4 the raspberry filling over the cake, top that with 1/2 cup of pastry cream, and then a middle layer of cake. Again, top that with 1/4 the raspberry filling and then 1/2 cup of pastry cream. Then place the other middle layer of the cake on top, and 1/4 the raspberry filling and 1/2 cup of pastry cream. Add the final layer of cake and spread the remaining raspberry filling over the top. Frost with the Mascarpone frosting allowing the raspberry filling to swirl in a a bit. Decorate with fresh rasberries if desired. Enjoy!

Happy Eating.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chicken Paprikash Pasta

More cold, rain, and wind means I am in need of more hot comfort food. But, the intermittent beautiful days remind me that Spring is right around the corner, along with flirty dresses, shorts, etc that I would like to wear. So, I simply have to lighten some of these dishes up. I'm not Hungarian, so I can't speak at all to the authenticity of this, but I can speak to the deliciousness of this quick and healthy dinner. I decided to give mine a little southwest spicy kick with the addition of chili powder and a Poblano pepper. If you are not a fan of yogurt (or don't have any) you could use the more traditional sour cream, I opted for yogurt because it's a bit more nutritious and less caloric. The yogurt makes the sauce thick and creamy and gives the dish a richness that definitely does not scream light. So grab your skillet and you will have a healthy, hearty dinner ready in under 30 minutes!

Chicken Paprikash Pasta:
8 oz of penne pasta
1 1/2 cups of low sodium chicken broth, divided
2 tsp of corn starch
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 tsp of pepper
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp of paprika
1 tbsp of olive oil
1 red bell pepper
1 Poblano pepper
1 yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic
1/3 cup of non-free Greek yogurt

Make pasta according to package directions. In a small bowl whisk together 1 cup of broth and corn starch and set aside. In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Slice chicken into medium-thick strips (but small enough so you could still heat the whole piece in one bite). Season the chicken with salt, pepper, chili powder, and paprika. Add to the pan and brown about 1 minute on each side. In the mean time, slice the peppers and onion, and add to the pan. Add 1/2 a cup of stock (the remaining stock without the cornstarch), and reduce heat to medium low. Cover and cook until the stock has evaporated, chicken has cooked through, and peppers and onions have softened, about 5 minutes. Mince garlic, and add to the skillet, cook for about another minute, uncovered. Whisk the broth and corn starch mixture and add to the pan, turn heat to high, and cook until the sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt. Sere chicken, veggies and sauce over penne pasta.

Happy Eating.