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Monday, January 31, 2011

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette

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You can't go wrong with pizza. Ever. Or anything that resembles pizza, for that matter. If it has a crust, and it has toppings, it's close enough to pizza and therefore good in my book. Roasted Vegetable Tart with Chickpea Crust? Practically pizza! Turkey, Mushroom, and Broccoli Pie? Maybe more of a stretch, but it has a crust and toppings, so I'm still going to throw it in the pizza category. Galettes, in my opinion, now fall into this category. Buttery, flaky crust topped with roasted squash and caramelized onions? Pizza!

Whether or not you agree with my outlandish pizza definitions, I'm quite certain you will agree with me that this recipe is nothing short of brilliant. It requires several steps, but they flew by with the help of my wonderful sous chef, Erin (my brother-in-law's girlfriend...I'm a big big fan Justin!). My biggest regret with this recipe was that I didn't double it. The four of us had no problem finishing off the galette and I'm certain we would've eaten more, had it been available.

The dough was a little finicky when I tried to roll it out, but I stuck it in the freezer for a few minutes to re-chill and it rolled much better then. I liked the galette dough, but I'm curious to try other crust recipes and see how they compare. The filling, on the other hand, I won't be touching! The caramelized onions had a sweet/spicy thing going on thanks to the cayenne and they were a good complement to the roasted squash, sage, and fontina.

Next time I'm craving pizza, I just might find myself making another galette!

One Year Ago: Zucchini Banana Bread

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette
from Smitten Kitchen

for the pastry-
-1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces
-1/4 cup sour cream
-2 tsp fresh lemon juice
-1/4 cup ice water

for the filling-
-1 small butternut squash (approximately 1 lb)
-2 tbsp olive oil
-1-2 tbsp butter
-1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced in half-moons
-1 tsp salt
-pinch of sugar
-1/4 tsp cayenne
-3/4 cup fontina cheese, grated (I subbed in some parmesan because I didn't quite have enough fontina)
-1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh sage leaves

1. To make the pastry, set the flour and salt in one bowl. Set the butter (cut into pieces) in another bowl. Place both bowls in the freezer for one hour. Remove from freezer and make a well in the center of the flour. Add the butter to the well and, with a pastry cutter, cut butter in until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Make an additional well in the center. In a small, separate, bowl, whisk together sour cream, lemon juice, and ice water. Add half of the mixture to the well, blending with your fingertips until large lumps form. Break through the large lumps and add the remaining liquid, continuing to blend with your fingers. Pat the dough into a ball (do not overwork dough!), wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
2. Preheat oven to 375F. Peel, halve, and remove seeds from butternut squash. Chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss with olive oil and a 1/2 tsp salt. Lay on a greased or foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, until pieces are tender.
3. While squash is cooking, melt butter in a heavy skillet. Add onion and a 1/2 tsp of salt plus a large pinch of sugar. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and lightly golden brown (approximately 20 minutes). Stir in cayenne.
4. Raise oven temperature to 400F. In a large bowl mix squash, caramelized onions, cheese, and sage.
5. Remove dough from fridge and roll out on a floured surface until it is approximately a 12-inch round. Lay dough out on an ungreased baking sheet. Spread squash mixture atop dough, leaving a 1 1/2 inch border. Fold the border over the mixture, pleating to make it fit.
6. Bake galette until golden brown (30-40 minutes). Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve hot or at room temperature.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cranberry, Pistachio, and Ginger Blondie Cake

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Growing up, I have very vivid memories of Saturdays spent cleaning the house. This wasn't every Saturday, as our busy schedules took over and we found ourselves running to and from the various sporting events and activities that can fill up four children's lives. But there were days when my parents would announce that we were all cleaning, whether we liked it or not. My sister Julia was the most stubborn of us, and she'd do anything possible to get out of cleaning. In fact, there were many occasions when chores were announced and Julia would suddenly go missing. I'm still not sure where she used to disappear to, but it used to make me so mad!

Other times, she wasn't lucky enough to vanish in time and she'd be given a task. It was then that she brought other strategies into play. Her most popular was to bribe our other sister, Renatta, to do Julia's chores. Renatta, being 6 years younger than Julia, didn't know any better than to fall for the ploy. To Renatta, it made sense to clean Julia's entire room (which was always the messiest!) in exchange for three stale gummy worms. I'm fairly certain Julia used these tactics for years. The stakes may have raised slightly over the years (FIVE gummy worms, woo!), but the end result was always the same. Julia once again escaped cleaning.

A random story, perhaps, but these were the memories that came to mind as I prepared this blondie cake. I was midway through preparing the cake when I realized that my pistachios were still shelled and that shelling enough to equal 3/4 cup was going to be a rather tedious effort. Immediately, I wished Renatta was there so I could attempt Julia's strategy and bribe her to shell some pistachios. (Maybe this time in exchange for those oreo truffles she loves?!) Thankfully, Ryan came to the rescue and shelled most of them for me. I didn't even have to bribe him!...though he did get to enjoy this lovely blondie cake.

Despite cooking this cake in a too-hot oven (MUST read more carefully!), we still loved this. Half of it was gone in twelve hours, if that's any indication. Pistachio, cranberry, and candied ginger are a combination I had never tried before, but I've decided it's quite brilliant. This is a good dessert (or breakfast, if you're us!) for someone who prefers a more subtle sweetness. I think it would pair nicely with some coffee or tea.

One Year Ago: Ten Minute Tomato Soup

Cranberry, Pistachio, and Ginger Blondie Cake
from Blue-Eyed Bakers (one of my favorite baking blogs!!)

9 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
-1 2/3 cups flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-3/4 tsp salt
-1 cup light brown sugar, packed
-2 large eggs
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-3/4 cup dried cranberries
-3/4 cup shelled pistachios
-1/4 cup candied ginger, coarsely chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Generously spray or butter a 9-inch springform pan.
2. In a small bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium until light and fluffy (approximately 3 minutes). Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until combined.
4. With speed on low, add in flour mixture, just until incorporated. Stir in cranberries, pistachios, and candied ginger.
5. Pour batter into springform pan, spreading evenly with a spatula. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 15 minutes before removing from springform.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Oregano and Prosciutto Pinwheels

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There are two extremes when it comes to appetizers. Those that are so ridiculously easy you feel embarrassed calling it a prepared appetizer (case in point: Harry & David's pepper and onion relish mixed with cream cheese and eaten with crackers...SO good!) and then there are those that take a little extra preparation. These oregano and prosciutto pinwheels definitely fall in the latter category.

Maggie was actually the one who put these together. It was a rather involved process, but she endured it after these pinwheels were highly requested from our husbands. Was the effort worth it? To me, yes, but I didn't have to make them...I just ate them :) These colorful little bites of pepper score major points for presentation, and they taste as good as they look. So next time you're willing to take an extra thirty minutes to prepare an extra-special looking appetizer, I suggest these!

One Year Ago: Butternut Squash Lasagna

Oregano and Prosciutto Pinwheels from The Essential Fingerfood Cookbook

-1 red pepper
-1 green pepper
-1 yellow pepper
-4 oz cream cheese, softened
-3/4 oz parmesan, grated
-2 green onions, finely chopped
-1/4 cup chopped fresh oregano
-1 tbsp capers, drained and chopped
-1 tbsp pine nuts, chopped
-12 thin slices prosciutto

1. Cut the peppers into quarters and remove the seeds and membrane. Cook, skin-side-up, under a hot grill until the skin blackens and blisters. Place in a plastic bag until cool, then peel.
2. Mix together the cream cheese, Parmesan, green onions, oregano, capers, and pine nuts.
3. Place the pepper pieces on the prosciutto slices and trim the prosciutto to same size. Remove the pepper and spread some cheese mixture on the prosciutto. Top with the pepper and spread with a little more cheese mixture. Roll up tightly from the short end. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour, or until firm. Slice into 1/2 inch rounds and serve on toothpicks.

Friday, January 28, 2011

M&M Dream Bars

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Am I the only person who over-buys holiday-colored m&ms? Walgreens always sucks me in with their m&m sales and I end up with 5 or 6 different bags of m&ms. We usually work our way through a few each season, but this Christmas we had such an abundance of cookies, truffles, and fudge that we found ourselves with a few lingering bags of m&ms after the holidays. I've had this m&m dream bar recipe saved for awhile and though I felt a little funny using red and green m&ms well into January, I decided to go for it. 

My friends didn't mind that these looked like they belonged on a Christmas cookie tray...we were too busy oohing and ahhing over the taste and texture of these. I've already spoken about my love for oatmeal crusts, so it's no surprise I loved these as well. The peanut buttery layer in here makes these extra decadent! I added regular and peanut m&ms, but I think peanut butter, dark chocolate, or even the pretzel variety would also work well. Next time you find yourself with a few too many bags of holiday m&ms...whip up a batch of these!

One Year Ago: Carrot Cake Pancakes

M&M Dream Bars
adapted from Sara's Sweets

-2 cups oats
-1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup coconut
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 cup melted butter
-1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
-1/2 cup peanut butter
-1 cup peanut m&ms
-1 cup milk chocolate m&ms

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Mix oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, coconut, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Stir in melted butter, mixing until crumbly mixture forms. Set aside 1 1/2 cups of the crumbs. Press remaining mixture into a foil-lined and greased 9 x 13 pan. Bake for 12 minutes.
2. With a mixer, combine sweetened condensed milk and peanut butter until smooth. Carefully spread dollops of mixture over baked crust. Sprinkle with m&ms. Top with remaining crust mixture, lightly pressing down. Bake for an additional 20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Baked Vegetable Egg Rolls

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Since making the Southwestern Egg Rolls, I've been anxious to break out the egg roll wrappers again and stuff them with something else. Let me say, I'm pretty sure my wrapping skills worsened over time. These were tough to wrap, mostly because I try to do it differently every time. I think I need to find a method and stick with it until I reach perfection...or at least satisfactory success!

Despite my lackluster wrapping and rolling, these were still approved by everyone who ate them. Me? I preferred the Southwestern variation, but I'm not a big fan of Chinese Egg Rolls in the first place. Let me be clear, these are much healthier than the kind from your local takeout place...they're baked, not fried, and stuffed with vegetables. I thought the flavor could use a bit more punch--maybe some extra soy sauce or ginger? Then again, dipped in some Trader Joe's Sweet Chili Sauce, these had plenty of kick. That sauce has an emphasis on the chili, not the sweet!

Make a batch of these for an appetizer, or an accompaniment to your at-home Chinese dinner (maybe some healthy slow cooker orange chicken?!).

One Year Ago: Puppy Chow (one of my favorite treats EVER! I can only make it occasionally because I have zero self control around it!)

Baked Vegetable Egg Rolls
from For the Love of Cooking

-1 tsp olive oil
-2 cups savoy cabbage, chopped or shredded (I used my food processor)
-2 cups shredded carrots (also used my food processor)
-2 cups bean sprouts
-1 can of water chestnuts, chopped
-2 tbsp green onions, sliced
-1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
-2 tbsp soy sauce
-1 tbsp corn starch
-1/4 cup water
-1 package egg roll wrappers
-sweet chili dipping sauce or sweet and sour sauce (to dip)

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add cabbage, carrots, sprouts, water chestnuts, and ginger, cooking for 4-5 minutes. Stir frequently, until vegetables start to wilt but are still firm.
2. In a small bowl, mix corn starch with water. Add this mixture to the skillet with the soy sauce and green onions. Continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and allow to cool.
3. Place 2 tbsp of the vegetable mixture on the center of the egg roll wrap. Fold the corner closest to you up over the filling. Continue to roll away from you, pulling in the corners on the two sides and folding them in toward the center. Keep rolling into a cylindrical shape until a small part of the remaining corner (farthest away from you) remains. Press the corner into the egg roll and, with your finger dipped in water, press the corner to seal the egg roll.
4. Continue with remaining wrappers and filling. Place egg rolls on a greased baking sheet and spray with cooking spray. Bake at 400F for 8-10 minutes. Flip them over and bake an additional 5-7 minutes, until crispy and golden brown. Serve hot with dipping sauce!
*These reheat well in the toaster oven or oven!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Best of 2011: Scotch Oatmeal Soup

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Oats are awesome. They're one of those foods that I never get sick of and I begin every morning at work with a steaming bowl of them. I wasn't surprised to find them as one of the featured ingredients in The 12 Best Foods Cookbook, but I assumed it would have a lot of recipes similar to baked oatmeal or oatmeal muffins. The cookbook did indeed have a lot of breakfast recipes, but I was most intrigued by an oatmeal soup recipe.

Paired with beer bread, this soup was a warming lunch on a snowy January day. The soup is rather light, primarily made of vegetables, so I suggest a hearty bread or salad alongside of it. This isn't a heavy meal that'll leave you sluggish and in need of a nap. Clean eating at its finest!

Any other oatmeal soup recipes to share with me? I loved the addition of the grain in this! So far we're 2/2 when it comes to recipes for the Best Of 2011 Challenge!

From The Best 12 Foods Cookbook, a few health benefits of oats...
  • Contains selenium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, fiber, and protein
  • Reduces insulin resistance and stabilizes blood sugar (when eaten regularly)
  • Lower blood cholesterol levels, thus reducing heart disease risk
One Year Ago: Mexican Pot Pie

Scotch Oatmeal Soup
from The 12 Best Foods Cookbook

-1 tbsp canola oil
-1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
-1 leek, white part only, chopped
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1/2 small cabbage, halved, cored, and sliced crosswise into 1/2" strips
-1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes, with their liquid
-4 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken)
-1/2 cup steel-cut oats
-1 tsp dried thyme
-1/2 tsp sugar
-1 bay leaf
-1/2 tsp salt
-freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the oil in a large stockpot over medium-high. Add the carrot, leek, and onion, stirring to coat with oil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook until veggies release their juices (approximately 10 minutes). Stir in the cabbage, cover the pot, and cook an additional 8-10 minutes, until cabbage is wilted.
2. Add tomatoes, broth, oats, thyme, sugar, bay leaf, and salt. Season to taste with pepper.
3. Simmer, uncovered, until the oats are cooked and the cabbage it tender (approximately 30 minutes). Remove the bay leaf and serve soup warm.
*Soup keeps 3-4 days in the fridge!

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Best of 2011: Kaleslaw with Red Pepper

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I kicked off January's Best of 2011 Challenge (click the link for details on how I'm challenging myself in 2011!) with two recipes from The Best 12 Foods Cookbook. As I mentioned in my introduction to the challenge, each month that I'm cooking out of the cookbook (as opposed to trying and reviewing a "Best of St. Louis" restaurant) I will select two recipes, so that by the end of the year I've made a recipe including each of the twelve foods. As a reminder, those twelve foods are: broccoli, black beans, tomatoes, salmon, soy, sweet potatoes, oats, blueberries, onions, walnuts, spinach, and strawberries. Today, I'm bringing you a recipe that involves ONION. Below, I've listed a few health benefits of onions that were mentioned in the cookbook:

  • Good for the heart (thin the blead and help raise "good" HDL levels)
  • Contain quercitin and other antioxidant flavonoids not found in garlic (protect the lungs against cancer and asthma)
  • Source of potassium, calcium, and fiber
Although this kaleslaw contains onions, the main star of the dish is definitely the kale. I was immediately drawn to this recipe because I absolutely love kale (and think kale is probably missing from the list of 12 Best Foods--it has stellar nutritionals!). I've used kale in soups, enchiladas, and as chips, but I've never eaten it raw.

Raw kale is typically pretty bitter and tough. However, when mixed with olive oil or a dressing base and given time to soften, it takes on a more edible taste and texture, as was the case with this dish. I loved how vibrant this dish looked with the contrasting colors! It is definitely not your typical salad; kale haters might have a hard time swallowing this one. The kale has more of a "crunch" than what you might expect in a normal salad. Still, I really liked the curry flavor of the dressing and you can't deny how chock full of nutrients this is! While I still prefer kale cooked, this is a good variation on how to eat it. It's also nice because it can be made ahead of time and keeps for a few days in the fridge (softening more and increasing in flavor over time!).

I'd call recipe #1 from The 12 Best Foods a success. I really like the cookbook so far--beautiful pictures and creative recipes, none of which seem too complicated or difficult. I'm excited to try recipes for the remaining 10 foods (come back tomorrow for recipe #2...the ingredient of choice is OATS and it's not a breakfast food!).

One Year Ago: Three Bean Salad

Kaleslaw with Red Pepper
adapted from The 12 Best Foods Cookbook

-1/2 bunch kale, stemmed
-1/2 small head green cabbage, finely shredded (approximately 4 cups)
-2 medium bell peppers (original called for red, I used red and yellow), cut into 1/4" strips
-1 medium red onion, halved and cut vertically in 1/4" crescents
-1/2 cup buttermilk
-2 tbsp plain yogurt (original called for low-fat mayo)
-1/2 tsp curry powder
-juice of 1/2 small lemon
-1/2 tsp salt
-freshly ground pepper

1. Stack kale leaves 3 or 4 high. Cut the stacked leaves horzontally into 1/4" strips, making about 3 cups. (I sort of stacked them and just roughly chopped them into small pieces). Place kale in large bowl. Mix in cabbage and red pepper.
2. Run the sliced onion under cold running water for 30 seconds. Drain and pat try with paper towels before adding to the bowl.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, yogurt, curry powder, lemon juice, and salt. Season to taste with pepper. Pour the dressing over the vegetables, tossing to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
*will keep covered in the fridge for 3-4 days!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Whole Wheat Quick Bread with Pumpkin Seeds

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I knew this bread was going to be good from the moment I opened the hot oven to remove it. Standing tall with a lightly browned exterior, it smelled even better than it looked. I was dying to immediately dig right in, but forced myself to wait overnight so I could photograph it in the daylight. Oh, the life of a food blogger.

The wait was well worth it. After snapping a few pictures of this bread, I then proceeded to spoil my dinner when I immediately toasted a slice and spread a thick slab of strawberry preserves over the top. Heaven. In. My. Mouth. This bread is chewy with a subtle crunch from the pumpkin seeds. It has a sweet undertone, tasting faintly like honey (though honey is not in the ingredients!). Eaten dry and at room temperature it's good, but a little time in the toaster oven elevates this bread to new levels. It's good with jelly, peanut butter, or butter. Too dense and hearty for a sandwich bread, this is best eaten for breakfast or alongside of a warming soup. We ate ours with sweet potato and kale soup, which I recently remade, re-photographed, and loved just as much the second time around!

This will be made again. The first loaf barely lasted beyond twenty-four hours in our house!

One Year Ago: Greek Salad Pita Sandwiches

Whole Wheat Quick Bread with Pumpkin Seeds
as seen on Itzy's Kitchen, adapted from Amanda's Cookin'

-2 cups whole wheat flour
-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1/2 cup wheat germ
-1/4 cup granulated sugar
-1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
-1 tsp salt
-4 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), plus a handful for topping the bread
-1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk
-2 large eggs
-4 tbsp butter, melted
-coarse salt, for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a 9 x 5 loaf pan and set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mix flours, wheat germ, sugars, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir in 1 cup of the pepitas.
3. In a separate bowl, mix buttermilk with eggs and melted butter, whisking to combine. Pour wet mixture into dry ingredients and stir, just until combined. Batter will be thick and sticky.
4. Spoon batter into loaf pan and spread out evenly with a spatula. Top with additional pepitas and coarse salt. Bake for 50-60 minutes (mine was good at 50 minutes!), until loaf is browned on top and sounds hollow when tapped.
5. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing and allowing to cool completely.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mini Berry Swirl Cheesecakes

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...and finally, Day Three of our Mini Cheesecake Extravaganza! Are you sick of mini cheesecakes yet? No worries, all of the mini cakes will last a few days in the fridge so you can make a batch and enjoy a little at a time without having to worry about finishing them up right away. These mini berry swirl cheesecakes were the third variation we made for New Year's Eve/Robert's birthday and they were just as popular as the turtle and double chocolate ones.

Maggie actually had some leftover mixed berry puree on hand that we used for our berry swirl. However, we adapted the recipe from Annie's Raspberry Swirl Mini Cheesecakes, so I've posted her recipe below. We also halved her recipe since it yielded 32 cheesecakes and we already had two other kinds. I've posted the full recipe below so if you don't want a boatload of mini cheesecakes, be sure to cut in half as we did!

One Year Ago: White Chocolate Toffee Coconut Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Mini Berry Swirl Cheesecakes
from Annie's Eats
*yields 32 cheesecakes

for the crust-
-1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
-4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
-3 tbsp sugar

for the topping-
-6 oz. fresh raspberries
-2 tbsp sugar

for the filling-
-2 lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
-1 1/2 cups sugar
-pinch of salt
-1 tsp vanilla extract
-4 large eggs, at room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Line cupcake pans with liners. In a small bowl, mix graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar. Stir until well blended and crumbs are moistened. Spoon a tablespoon of crumb mixture into each liner, pressing down. Bake for 5 minutes and remove from oven.
2. In a blender or food processor, blend the raspberries and sugar until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh sieve to remove the seeds. Set aside.
3. Beat cream cheese in a large mixing bowl until smooth and creamy. Beat in sugar until smooth. Add salt and vanilla. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
4. Spoon approximately 3 tbsp of cheesecake batter over the crust in each cup, approximately 2/3 full. Dot a 1/2 tsp of raspberry puree over the cheesecake filling, using a toothpick to marble the berries in with the cheesecake.
5. Bake for 22 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking. Cheesecakes may be puffed up initially, but will fall when cooling. Cool to room temperature before refrigerating at least 4 hours (preferably overnight) until serving.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mini Double Chocolate Cheesecakes

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Today is day two of the mini cheesecake extravaganza. Although there was a little bit of chocolate in the crust and topping of yesterday's turtle cheesecakes, we knew we needed something with even more of a chocolate punch for the true chocolate lovers. These mini double chocolate cheesecakes fit the bill. We chose to top ours, but these could also be left plain or drizzled with more chocolate. Some of ours were topped with leftover (homemade) whipped cream. Others were topped with cool whip. Both variations were delicious; you can't beat a creamy dollop on top of a rich chocolate cheesecake!
Birthday Boy Robert blowing out the candle on a Chocolate Cheesecake!

One Year Ago: Pineapple Orange Pork Chops

Mini Double Chocolate Cheesecakes
adapted from Betty Crocker

-1 3/4 cups chocolate cookie (Oreo) crumbs
-1/2 cup melted butter
-16 oz cream cheese, softened
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
-2 tsp vanilla
-3 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line 18 muffin cups with cupcake liners (you may need more. Ours got closer to 22 cheesecakes!). In a small bowl, mix cookie crumbs with melted butter until crumbs are moistened. Place a little bit of crust mixture in the bottom of each liner, pressing down. Bake at 350F for 5 minutes. Remove from oven.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Beat in sugar and cocoa until fluffy. Add vanilla, beating until combined. Beat in eggs one at a time until well blended. Divide cheesecake mixture evenly among liners, filling almost to the top.
3. Bake cheesecakes 20-25 minutes, until centers are firm. Cool to room temperature before refrigerating at least one hour but preferable overnight.
4. Before serving, if desired, top with whipped cream or cool whip. Refrigerate until serving.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mini Turtle Cheesecakes

Today is day one of a mini cheesecake extravaganza! Our New Year's Eve celebration also happened to be a birthday party for our awesome Irishman friend Robert. If there were ever a day I wish this blog had audio features, today would be that day. I wish I could share his wonderful Irish accent with you, especially when praising these mini cheesecakes!

When Maggie and I asked Robert what kind of cheesecake he preferred for his birthday, he couldn't decide. To be honest, he was just impressed that we were making a cheesecake, rather than just picking one up at the store. Of course, Maggie and I are always up for a challenge and ultimately decided to make 3 kinds of cheesecake in honor of Robert. We opted for mini cheesecakes so that people had the chance to try multiple kinds...and believe me, we did!

First up are mini turtle cheesecakes. Of the three I'll post, I really can't give you a favorite. In fact, no one was really able to select their favorite variation. I will say that if you love chocolate and caramel, I highly recommend these. The cheesecake is rich and creamy. Topped with chocolate, caramel, and a pecan, these are downright outrageous!

Stay tuned for the two other types of mini cheesecakes we made, coming Saturday and Sunday!

One Year Ago: Popovers

Mini Turtle Cheesecakes
adapted from Fake Ginger

for the crust-
-1 1/4 cups ground chocolate cookie (Oreo) crumbs
-1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

for the filling-
-1 1/2 (12 oz.) packages cream cheese, room temperature
-1/2 cup sugar
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 tsp vanilla
-2 eggs
-1/2 cup plain yogurt

for the topping-
-jarred caramel sauce (or be ambitious and make your own!)
-1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
-2 tbsp butter
-12 whole pecans

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a 12-muffin pan with cupcake liners. Mix the cookie crumbs with the melted butter in a large bowl until crumbs are moist. Spoon a tbsp of crust mixture into each liner and press down. Bake crusts for 5 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until creamy. Add sugar, salt, and vanilla gradually, beating well. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, just until blended. Stir in yogurt.
3. Spoon filling equally into each liner (almost to the top) and bake for 15 minutes, until cheesecakes are slightly puffed in the center. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate at least a few hours, preferable overnight.
4. Prior to serving, add topping. Place chocolate chips and butter in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave 30 seconds at a time, until chocolate is melted. Drizzle chocolate on top of cheesecakes (I placed in a ziploc bag and cut the tip off, then piped the chocolate on). Heat caramel sauce in the microwave before drizzling atop cheesecakes. Place a whole pecan in the center of each cheesecake. Keep cheesecakes refrigerated until serving.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew with Couscous

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Five days a week, I drag myself out of bed at 4:45 am to hit the gym or my living room floor for a workout. I am by nature a pretty early riser, and I always prefer to get my workout out of the way first thing. There are days, however, where getting out of bed at that hour just isn't happening. These days are few and far between, mostly because the idea of working out in the afternoon repulses me. Props to those of you that can muster the energy to exercise after work or school. By the time 4:30 pm hits, I want nothing more than my pajamas and the kitchen!

The day I had this stew planned for dinner, I did not get up early. It was our first day back to work after the Christmas break and I hadn't been up that early in almost two weeks. I decided to "break myself in" to waking up early again and opted for sleep over exercise. Thankfully my fabulous husband offered (or at least accepted my request!) to make dinner so that I could squeeze a workout in before dinner. So, while I jumped around with Tony on one of the P90X videos, Ryan went to work on this dish.

Ryan pulled this meal off without a hitch...that is, until we realized he'd forgotten to cook the couscous! At that point, we were too hungry to care, and we enjoyed it as is. The couscous would've been a nice addition to sop up the juices, and I've included the original recipe below. I've said it before, but I just love raisins in savory dishes, such as in the Moroccan Stew. This was no exception. This meal was lightly flavorful--no one spice or flavor outdoing the others--and full of healthy ingredients. It was exactly what I craved after two weeks of major indulgence!

One Year Ago: Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew with Couscous
from Real Simple December 2010
*serves 4

-2 tbsp olive oil
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
-1/2 tsp ground ginger
-kosher salt and black pepper
-1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes
-1 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
-1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
-1/2 cup raisins (we used golden)
-1 5 oz package baby spinach, chopped (we used a bigger package for extra greens!)
-1 cup couscous

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, 4-5 minutes until onion begins to soften. Add cumin, ginger, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Continue to cook, stirring, until fragrant (approximately 1 more minute).

2. Add tomatoes and their liquid (crush tomatoes with your hands as you add), chickpeas, cauliflower, raisins, and 1/2 cup water. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender and the liquid is slightly thickened (15-20 minutes). Fold in the spinach, cooking until wilted (1-2 minutes).

3. Place the couscous in a large bowl. Add 1 cup of hot tap water, cover, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork before serving with the stew.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Southwestern Potato Nachos

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These bite-sized potatoes have all the flavor of a loaded baked potato but less than half of the time required for execution. Even better, you get a dose of cheese, bbq sauce, and bacon with each bite...no more having to deal with a plain, topping-less potato bottom.  In less than thirty minutes, most of which is baking time, you can have enough to serve a group. We made these on New Year's Eve and again on New Year's Day because we just hadn't had enough of them yet!

Add these to your Super Bowl party menu and watch them disappear from the plate!

One Year Ago: Chocolate Chip Bailey's Torte

Southwestern Potato Nachos
from Good Eats & Sweet Treats
*I recommend doubling the below recipe to serve as an appetizer!

-4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
-2 unpeeled large potatoes, scrubbed
-3 tbsp olive oil
-1 tsp garlic salt
-1 tsp black pepper
-1/4 cup barbecue sauce
-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
-1/2 cup sour cream, for dipping or topping (optional)
-3 green onions, chopped, for topping (optional)

1. Line 2 large baking sheets with foil. Preheat oven to 450F.
2. Slice potatoes into 1/4-inch thick slices (I used my food processor slicing disc!). In a large ziploc bag, toss potatoes with olive oil, garlic salt, and pepper, until potatoes are coated.
3. Arrange potatoes in a single layer on prepared baking sheets. Bake 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned.
4. Brush potato slices with barbecue sauce, then top with shredded cheese and bacon. Return to oven for 3-5 minutes, until cheese is melted. Top with sour cream & green onions before serving, if desired.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Cheese Bites

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 This ring of fire, so to speak, of buffalo chicken balls might just be one of my new favorite appetizers. Buffalo chicken was never one of those flavor combinations I was crazy about (though I do love these inside out buffalo hot wings!) However, people tend to go crazy for buffalo chicken dip at parties so I decided to take this variation of the dip and make it for New Year's Eve.

My sister Julia actually did all the work behind these. They are a little time intensive with the mixing, rolling, dipping, and baking, but bite into one and you'll be glad you put the effort in (easy for me to say when I just handed over the recipe, right? ;))! My favorite part of these was the texture. You begin to bite in and the outside crunches, but gives way to a cheesy, gooey center of buffalo chicken. Paired with ranch or blue cheese dip, these are a definite party favorite!

One Year Ago: Thai Turkey Burgers

Buffalo Chicken Cheese Bites
from Macaroni and Cheesecake

-1 store bought rotisserie chicken (or 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded)
-1/4 cup hot sauce
-3 1/2 oz. cream cheese, softened
-1 3/4 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
-1/4 cup freshly sliced green onions
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-3 eggs, lightly beaten
-2 cups bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
2. If using a rotisserie chicken, remove breast meat and shred into pieces, discarding the skin. Add shredded chicken to a medium-sized bowl. Mix in hot sauce, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and green onions, until all is thoroughly combined.
3. With a small cookie scoop, scoop mixture out and roll into balls.
4. Place flour, egg, and bread crumbs in three separate bowls, arranged on the counter for dipping. (Start with 1/3 cup flour, 1/2 cup bread crumbs, and 1 egg. add more as needed) Dip each buffalo chicken ball first in the flour (roll it), then the egg, and then the bread crumbs, until coated liberally. Place each on prepared baking sheet.
5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Serve hot with dipping sauce (blue cheese or ranch dressing).

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Feta and Sun-dried Tomato Torta

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"I am convinced that this food will be found in heaven!"

With a statement like that, what more can I tell you? Shame on me for waiting 17 days after New Year's Eve to post this. This was by far the biggest hit of our appetizer spread and the exclamation above was one of many made about the torta.

After needing only a tiny bit of pesto for the vegetable tian at our Christmas dinner, I was left with quite a bit of pesto. My mom came through, emailing me this recipe. Little did I know the impact this appetizer would have! I'm with Robert, this appetizer is heaven-worthy!

One Year Ago: Spinach and Black Bean Pasta

Feta and Sun-dried Tomato Torta

-2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces (*see note below)
-3/4 lb feta cheese, crumbled
-8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 shallot, minced
-2-4 tbsp dry vermouth
-tobasco sauce, to taste
-1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
-8 oz. sun-dried tomatoes, softened and minced
-1 cup prepared pesto

1. Combine butter, cheese, garlic, shallot, and vermouth in a food processor, pulsing until smooth. Season with tobasco, as needed (only a few drops).
2. Oil a 4-5 cup bowl and line with plastic wrap.
3. Layer in each of the ingredients, beginning with the pine nuts, then the tomatoes, pesto, and cheese mixture. Repeat until the mold is full.
4. Fold the plastic wrap that is inside the bowl over the top of the torta and press gently to compact the layers.
5. Refrigerate at least one hour, until firm. Unwrap top of plastic wrap and invert onto platter. Remove remaining plastic. Serve with pita chips, bagel chips, or crackers.
Note: can be made up to 5 days in advance!
*My butter had a hard time pureeing completely in the food processor and I ended up having to remove several butter chunks before layering the torte. I'm tempted to try this again without the butter (or maybe less butter?) to see if it's a necessary ingredient. It definitely adds some richness to the cheese layer, but I imagine it could also be omitted and you'd still have a delicious, decadent appetizer!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini

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While I used to primarily receive clothes and shoes for Christmas and birthday gifts, people have now started buying gifts that appeal to the "foodie" in me. Don't get me wrong, I'll never turn down new clothing or shoes, but I get just as excited about gifts that can be used in my kitchen. This Christmas I received a number of exciting food and kitchen related gifts. Among them was a jar of tahini from my in-laws. I've actually never used tahini in my cooking before. I always shied away from picking up some of the somewhat pricey sesame seed paste, though I was often tempted to just splurge and buy a jar. Needless to say, I was very excited to find this under the Christmas tree!

This salad was my first use of the tahini and I can't wait to incorporate it into more meals. When I first licked a bit of tahini off my finger, I wasn't crazy about the flavor. I actually uttered an audible "yuck". However, when mixed in with the other dressing ingredients, it took on a much more pleasant flavor that nicely coated the chickpeas and squash. We ate this over mixed greens, but it can also just be eaten plain.  This was a quick, healthy lunch to help get us on track after all of our gluttonous holiday eating!

One Year Ago: Orange French Toast with Challah

Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad with Tahini
as seen on Veggies by Season

-3 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2" pieces
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-pinch ground nutmeg
-1 (15oz.) can chickpeas, drained
-1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
-1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
-juice from 1 lemon
-2 tbsp tahini
-1 tbsp olive oil
-salt and pepper

1. Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with foil or spray with cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss garlic, squash, and onions with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and nutmeg. Lay out on 2 baking sheets.
2. Bake for 20 minutes.
3. Whisk together lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Mix dressing with chickpeas and cilantro. Fold in slightly cooled squash, garlic, and onions. Serve plain or atop mixed greens.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Garlic and Sun-dried Tomato Hummus

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  This was the hummus that was intended to be eaten with vegetables, which I spoke of in yesterday's post. There have been a few times that I've made hummus only to be disappointed with the results and wishing I'd just picked up a container of it at the store. That wasn't the case with this hummus, which tasted like it had come from the grocery store or, better yet, your local Greek restaurant. The sun-dried tomato flavor was present, but light. Texture-wise, this hummus was creamy, ideal for pairing with vegetables or spread on a sandwich. I think I've found my new go-to hummus recipe!
One Year Ago: Whole Grain Challah with Cranberries

Garlic and Sun-dried Tomato Hummus
adapted from Cooking Light
*makes approximately 1 1/2 cups hummus

-1/4 cup olive oil
-2-3 tbsp chopped sun-dried tomato halves
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
-2 garlic cloves
-1 can chickpeas, drained

1. Combine all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth.
2. Refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour. Serve with pita wedges, pita chips, or crudites.
*Note: this keeps for several days, but I did notice that the garlic flavor got stronger as time passed. Just something to keep in mind if you're sensitive to garlic breath!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Creamy Peanut Butter Dip

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Creamy peanut butter dip, perfect for vegetables? Mmm no, not so much, but we had a funny mix-up with this dip on New Year's Eve. Maggie, Julia, and I prepared a huge spread of appetizers, including this dip and some sun-dried tomato hummus, which I'll post tomorrow. Similar in color, Maggie accidentally grabbed this dip from the fridge and set it on a platter of chopped vegetables.

Mike, Maggie's husband, dipped a veggie into this dip and did his best to be polite. "This hummus is very...sweet." Sweet? I thought it was an odd adjective choice, but I was busy laying out other appetizers. "Hmmm." I heard Mike say. "Are there peanuts in this?" I yelled into the kitchen that there were in fact no peanuts in the hummus. At this point I was a little confused. I walked into the kitchen to see this creamy peanut butter dip proudly sitting amongst carrots, broccoli, and celery.


Much to Mike's relief, we quickly swapped hummus for this dip, and instead placed this dip with sliced apples, a much better choice!

One Year Ago: Whole Wheat Beer Bread

Creamy Peanut Butter Dip
from Let's Dish

-1 cup vanilla yogurt
-1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
-1/8 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 cup frozen whipped topping, thawed
-green apples, for serving

1. Mix together yogurt and peanut butter in a medium bowl until well blended.
2. Add in cinnamon and whipped topping. Chill until serving. Serve with sliced apples.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Chicken Curry Soup

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Let me introduce you to two of my new favorites: chicken curry soup and the bowl the soup is sitting in. The soup is courtesy of Maggie, who created it, then made it again for us one Sunday evening AND was nice enough to send me the recipe after I couldn't stop raving about it. Maggie actually made it with leftover Thanksgiving turkey; I had some shredded chicken in my freezer so I used that instead. Both versions were delicious.

The bowl was a Christmas gift from my sister, who knows me so well and selected this pretty Anthropologie bowl and matching plate as part of my Christmas gift. Eating this soup out of the new bowl made it that much better!

This soup is warm, filling, and healthy, the perfect January dish. The curry powder gives this soup a complex punch of flavor, making it much more exciting than your standard chicken and veggie soup. I hope you enjoy yours in a pretty bowl too!

One Year Ago: Crockpot Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Curry & Honey

Chicken Curry Soup
from Maggie

-1 small onion, chopped
-2-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tbsp olive oil
-3 stalks celery, chopped
-3-4 large carrots, chopped
-1-2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
-salt & pepper
-1-2 lbs cooked shredded chicken (or turkey)
-3 cups chicken broth
-3 tsp curry powder
-2 cups milk
-2 tsp cornstarch
-2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed

1. In a large stockpot, saute onion and garlic in olive oil until soft.
2. Add celery, carrots, and potato chunks and cook until soft (5-8 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add broth, chicken, and curry powder. Bring to a boil. In a small bowl, mix together cornstarch and milk. Once boiling, stir in milk and reduce heat to low.
4. Once soup is simmering, stir in black beans. Allow soup to simmer for at least 20 minutes, longer is better. (I simmered for a few hours on low!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Life Cereal Snack Mix

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Forget Chex mix. Forget potato chips. This will be your new favorite salty snack. I'm warning you now, this is one of those snacks that you might find yourself munching on handful after handful until suddenly you have a stomachache and you're no longer hungry for dinner. I may or may not be speaking from firsthand experience...

The plus is that this recipe makes a HUGE amount. Make a giant batch and share with all of your friends, who will beg you for the addictive recipe. This stuff can be made well in advance, just store in airtight ziploc bags.

When you want a salty snack mix, make this. When you're craving sweet, try this praline mix. Better yet, make both and alternate handfuls! :)

One Year Ago: Red Curry Shrimp

Life Cereal Snack Mix
from Aunt Tammy

-1 (16 oz.) box Life cereal
-1 package thin pretzel sticks
-2 cans cashews
-1 small can (6 oz.) French friend onions
-1 can (3 oz.) chow mein noodles
-3/4 cup melted butter
-1 tbsp garlic salt
-1 tsp onion powder

1. Mix all ingredients in 2 large bowls. Spread out on baking sheets (I had to spread it out on 4) and bake at 250F for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.