Archive for January, 2011

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A Cake for Chocoholics and Celiacs

January 29, 2011

Sitting down to write this post has got me thinking about food trends.  You know the kind of thing I’m talking about – stuff that your grandparents (and in some cases even your parents) have never heard of (and certainly didn’t find in their Betty Crocker or Better Homes and Gardens Cookbooks growing up) but are all the rage in trendy restaurants and specialty grocery stores.  Stuff like chorizo, chipotle seasoning, pomegranates, and bacon in desserts.  Sure, they’ve always been around, but were never hot items like they are now (the way jell-o molds, fondue, and various meat and seafood mousses were in the 70’s).  Of course, all this boils down to is my observation that food trends change almost as often  as clothing, music, and hair trends.  Plus it serves as an elegant segue into the topic of this post, and one of the top trending foods of our day:  the flourless chocolate cake.

This recipe in particular is one that I hadn’t even heard of until a couple years ago, and even after I had, didn’t have any particular interest in trying.  I imagined it would be a very dense (which it is), cheesecakey-tasting (which it’s not) concoction that would stick to the roof of your mouth and leave you feeling less-than-satisfied.  Think again.

Chopped butter and chocolate, ready for melting!

It’s a deliciously rich, dense, melt-in-your-mouth experience that satisfies even the most ferocious of chocolate cravings.  Plus, it’s topped with crème fraîche – a close relative of sour cream and my ultimate dairy vice – how could I resist?  I couldn’t.  So, I finally broke down and made it after it turned up in the November issue of Real Simple (and I was bored one Friday night) Original Recipe Here.  I made it 100% per the recipe the first time, but on subsequent trials altered the recipe slightly (see below).  It’s relatively simple to prep, doesn’t require too many ingredients, and only needs one piece of specialist equipment – a springform pan (generally not too pricey or difficult to come by).

Oh, and I haven’t even told you the best part about this cake!  Though, for those of you among us who know someone with Celiac Disease or have it yourself, you already know…it’s gluten-free!  This is certainly a good go-to dessert to have in your repertoire for entertaining occasions when, say, your gluten-intolerant aunt and your mom’s gluten-intolerant friend are coming to the same Tupperware party you’ve been asked to prepare food for (to give a random example, off the top of my head).

Melting the chocolate and butter.

The Recipe:

Cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey’s Special Dark), plus more for the pan
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

“Crème Fraîche”

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar

Heat oven to 350° F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and dust with cocoa powder.

In a medium saucepan, heat the butter with ¼ cup of the heavy cream over medium-low heat until the butter is melted. Add the chocolate and stir until melted and smooth; remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, granulated sugar, and cocoa powder; whisk in the chocolate mixture.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until puffed and set, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 1 hour. Run a knife around the edge of the cake before unmolding.

The eggs and sugar anxiously await the chocolate.

Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1 cup of heavy cream with the sour cream and confectioners’ sugar until soft peaks form. Serve cake with crème fraîche.  Accept graciously the compliments of your guests, you deserve them!

The Finished Product: Yes, it's in its nature to look a little deflated and pathetic. No worries!

~Josie

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A Different Approach to Lasagna

January 20, 2011

Whew, it has been a while since I last posted. I was sick. Blech. <(@_$)> But alas I have returned with a great recipe to share.

I think one of the best/easy meals to make for a group of people is lasagna. It can pretty much be made ahead and warmed as your guests arrive. You may be saying to yourself “Boooo lasagna. <(-_-)> Boring. Boring. Boring!” However, this recipe is different. I found it in a Barilla online celebrity cookbook that I downloaded a couple of months back. It is a recipe for vegetarian lasagna with asparagus and eggplant that was endorsed by Julianne Moore. (OMG it must be delicious right?) Plus, how can you not love the colors!

So the recipe called for a pesto sauce to be used alternately with the white sauce, but I really wasn’t feeling that. Plus, I am a big fan of the ricotta layer in more classic lasagnas. Therefore, I decided to go with a spinach-basil-ricotta filling in place of the pesto.

Thoughts:

-As with most cream sauces I make, I used soymilk.  Feel free to use dairy if you so desire.

-I use panko in just about every recipe that calls for a breadcrumb crunchiness factor. You can use ordinary breadcrumbs if you don’t have panko on hand.

Asparagus and Eggplant Lasagna

  • 1 box lasagna noodles
  • 1 bunch medium asparagus spears
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large Japanese eggplant, thinly sliced
  • 1 ½  cups mozzarella cheese
  • ½ c. panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • 1 15 oz. container of ricotta cheese
  • 1 small package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed of excess liquid
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 egg

For besciamella sauce (fancy Italian word for simple cream sauce a.k.a. bechamel in French):

  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 3 cup soy milk, hot
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of nutmeg (fresh if you have)

Preheat the oven to 400.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Trim the asparagus and boil for 1 minute. Remove from water and place into a bowl of ice water. Drain well and cut each spear in half lengthwise.

I felt inclined to build an asparagus cabin. My house was a lovely shade of green.

Either cook eggplant in a sauté pan over medium heat in a little bit of olive oil for about 5 minutes or drizzle with olive oil and grill up right quick.

I really like the color contrast of eggplants. Deep purple exterior with beige seeded center. Too bad my crappy phone camera can't show this effectively.

In a medium bowl mix together the spinach, ricotta, egg, and basil. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

To make besciamella sauce, in a pan melt the butter over medium high heat. Sprinkle in the flour and stir around the pan to incorporate into the butter. Let cook until light golden brown, about 6-7 minutes. Slowly add in the milk to the butter, cup by cup and whisk until smooth. Bring mixture to a boil and then remove from heat and season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Set aside for layering. Woot!

Cook the lasagna sheets in the boiling asparagus water until al dente (I think that is still a thing with lasagna noodles).

Prep a 13×9 inch baking pan by buttering or spraying.

I was very happy with the grill marks from the grill pan. It looked so pretty while assembling.

Put a little bit of sauce on the bottom of the dish. Layer 3 sheets of lasagna on bottom of the pan; top with a nice layering of the asparagus followed by a few slices of eggplant. Add a healthy drizzle of sauce. (about a cup). Layer with 3 more sheets of lasagna. Then using a spatula spread half of the ricotta mixture. Repeat these layers again. (You may have some leftover veggies depending on the size of your eggplant and bunch of asparagus). After placing the remaining noodles on top layer, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and the panko.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bubbly and the breadcrumbs have browned up.

Yah the finished product. (I was so excited to eat that I forgot to take pictures, this one is a leftover slice so not bubbly oozy).

P.S. Use a really sharp knife or sharp metal serving spatula to effectively cut through the layers and not have asparagus pieces that jump ship.

~Erik <(^_^)>

 

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C is for Chinese Five Spice and Cupcakes

January 14, 2011

I apologize for the delay in posting – I started my last semester of classes this week, and am having bittersweet mixed feelings.  On top of which, I already have a ton of homework (yuck!) but plan to get back on track now because I don’t like waiting a week between posts.  Well, I’m surprised to say we’re 3 for 3 on our ingredient/recipe alliteration (Chinese five spice/cupcakes).  Interesting coincidence.  I wonder how long that trend will continue.

So you’re all aware, I make no bones about the fact that I detest the flavor of licorice.  Whether in candy like Good n’ Plenty or black Twizzlers (which I’m pretty sure are marketed exclusively to old people), or the shots of Jagermeister I’ve rather reluctantly choked down with RedBull at parties—I just can’t stand the stuff.

So, naturally I was apprehensive when Erik turned up with Ingredient C:  Chinese Five Spice (particularly as I could smell the putrid pungency of anise trailing from his overnight bag before he was barely through the door).  The blend encompasses the five tastes (sweet, sour, bitter, pungent, and salty) usually in a combination of cinnamon, cloves, anise, star anise, and Szechuan pepper and is apparently very common in – you guessed it – Chinese cuisine.  (Some versions, including McCormick, have ginger instead of the pepper, but we used the Williams-Sonoma version which has the classic five flavors).

We decided to make Chinese Five Spice Cupcakes with a Maple Buttercream Frosting, which turned out to be surprisingly delicious despite my reluctance.  My advice to those of you who have never tried this, or are wary of its potency and complexity:  try it anyway.  It reminds me of a spice cake (such as you’d get using pumpkin or apple pie spice blends, etc.) but with more of an exotic depth of flavor from the anise and pepper.  And the maple from the frosting only enhances the experience.  I hate to admit when I’m wrong about something, but I must admit I certainly misjudged Chinese Five Spice.  So, the recipe:

Yum so pretty!

Chinese Five Spice Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream

Cupcakes:

  • 2/3 c. soy milk
  • 1 tsp rice wine vinegar (or white or apple cider vinegar)
  • 1 ¼ c all purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1½-2 tsp chinese five spice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch (or arrowroot powder)
  • ½ c maple syrup (REAL maple syrup, the Log Cabin stuff won’t work)
  • 1/3 c canola oil
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 drops Lorann maple oil (or 2 tsp maple flavoring)

In small bowl, combine soy milk and vinegar and let stand for 5 minutes, allowing the soy milk to curdle slightly.  Once curdled add oil, syrup, sugar and flavorings to milk.  In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients.  Whisk wet ingredients to dry.  Pour into cupcake liners.  Bake at 350 for 18-20 min.

Woot for single bowl recipes!

Frosting:

  • ¾ c. margarine or butter
  • ¼ c. shortening
  • 3 ½ c. powdered sugar
  • 2 drops Lorann Maple oil (or 2 tsp maple flavoring)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract

In electric stand mixer, cream margarine (or butter) and shortening with extracts.  Add sugar, beating until blended and fluffy.  Frost cooled cupcakes and sprinkle lightly with five spice if desired.  Nom.

Fun Fact:  If you use margarine instead of butter in the frosting, this recipe is 100% vegan!

~Josephine

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Swirly Sweet & Spicy Goodness

January 5, 2011

Happy New Year! It’s a few days late but had to still declare it. I can’t believe that it is 2011 already!? A new decade has arrived woot woot! Anyways, enough of that.

Today I wanted to share a fun recipe that I had the urge to make on New Year. I think I’ve mentioned before that I am not a huge fan of cinnamon. Sure I enjoy it occasionally but there are other spices and flavors I’d rather indulge in. (One of my favorite longtime and current go-to spice being ginger). For New Year’s Eve, I made a ginger butter cake from the Williams Sonoma Essentials of Baking cookbook. It had three types of ginger (crystallized, ground, and freshly grated). The batter tasted great, but the consistency seemed a little off. I let it slide due to my partiality to the star ingredient. I took a bite post midnight. I felt whelmed, maybe even a little under-so. The cake just wasn’t what I had imagined it to be. Now, I had a taste for ginger and it needed to be satiated appropriately.

So when Sunday rolled around I had a battle of the ginger round 2. A favorite recipe of mine is for cinnamon rolls. I just love them (cinnamon aside). I mean how can you not love sweet dough with a slathering of icing. I ended up tweaking my recipe and throwing in a few additions to combat the potential spicy pungency of the ginger. Overall, these were some pretty sweet rolls.

Thoughts:

-I’ve always used soymilk in this recipe but you can use whole or skim if you are so lacto-inclined.

-Next time I might try adding some chopped up macadamia nuts to give it a more tropical flair.

-If you are not a fan of the pineapple, maybe try adding some peach preserves to the ginger and cut back on some of the sugar. Mmm peachy ginger. Oh or maybe even some crushed frozen raspberries. Or BOTH! Heyyoo!

-The dough is a great launching point for any sweet roll your heart desires!

So Swirly. These are the extras I froze as "place and bakes" for a future sweet ginger craving.

Sweet Pineapple-Ginger Swirls

Dough:

  • 2 packages yeast  2 scant tablespoons
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup soymilk (warmed)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 cups flour

Dough filling:

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granular sugar
  • 1 ½ Tbsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • A dash of nutmeg (fresh is best)
  • 1 can crushed pineapple (squeeze out all liquid from pineapple and set aside)

Frosting:

  • ¼ c unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 3-4 tablespoons pineapple juice

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water and 1 tablespoon of sugar and set aside.

Melt the butter and combine with the milk. Using an electric mixer with a dough hook mix dissolved yeast and butter/milk mixture on low. Slowly add the sugar, then the egg. Add salt and 2 cups of flour on low, blend until smooth. Now slowly add 1/2 cup at a time, the rest of the flour.

Continue to work the dough with the mixer for a few more minutes until elastic-y or put dough onto floured counter top and knead until it doesn’t stick to your hands (I enjoy the zen of the latter method).

Place in a greased bowl. Cover with damp cloth and let rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until it doubles in size. (I let it rise in a cooled oven where the air and temperature is consistent).

Buttered and sprinkled with sugars. Also, I rolled out on plastic wrap to make the rolling part easier (and use less flour).

Remove from bowl and place on a floured counter. Roll out in a 12 by 24-inch (approximately) rectangle, not too thin (okay you need a number ¼ inch thickness). In a bowl mix together sugars, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Spread melted butter over dough, sprinkle with sugar mixture evenly. Then sprinkle the crushed pineapple that has been purged of excess liquid.

Sprinkled with the squeezed crushed pineapple.

Slowly roll dough into a log. Using a very sharp knife, cut into thumb-width slices or 1-inch widths. Place in round cake pan, casserole dish or foil pan. Recover with damp cloth and let rise to desired height (20 min or so).

To make frosting, using a whisk cream the butter until smooth then keep adding powdered sugar alternately with the reserved pineapple juice. The resulting frosting will look very similar to the stuff that comes in the Orange Pillsbury Cinnamon rolls, (which I love by the way) only with a hint of pineapple-ness. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake rolls for 15 minutes, then watch for desired brown-ness. Remove from oven and let cool for a minute. Using a knife frost generously (or sparingly boo!) with pineapple frosting. Enjoy with some hot tea or coffee.

Yum! <(^_^)>

~Erik <(^_^)>

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Happy New Year, and Asparagus Spiral Appetizers!

January 2, 2011

Looking for an easy, yet elegant appetizer for a cocktail party or a get together with family or friends?  Well look no further.  Seriously, whether vegetarian or not, this quick concoction is sure to impress any crowd.  And it’s so tasty I could hardly wait to share it here.  I want everyone to make it.  Really, it’s that delicious.  Plus, I got a new camera for Christmas that has a pretty good food setting, so I’m excited to share pictures!

We decided to make this appetizer for New Year’s Eve after Erik’s dad showed us a recipe he’d found online.  We tweaked it a bit, omitting the proscuitto it called for (though that does sounds awfully delicious – the meat eaters among us will have to try it that way and report their findings).  Though, we certainly didn’t miss the meat, and neither did the Bowens.

The original recipe didn’t mention a sauce, but I couldn’t really imagine it without one.  And since I have an ongoing love affair with horseradish, I thought nothing would be more fitting than a horseradishy dipping sauce.  Erik suggested horseradish hollandaise.  Bingo.  It coupled so nicely with the asparagus and puff pastry.  (Though I am ashamed to admit we used hollandaise from a packet…never again will I stoop so low, especially since hollandaise is a relatively simple sauce to make).

Also, ideally, I’d make my own puff pastry, but that is quite another adventure…

So, without further ado, the recipe…

Asparagus Spirals with Horseradish Hollandaise

  • 1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 cup whipped cream cheese, seasoned as desired
  • 30-40 asparagus spears, washed/dried/trimmed
  • 1 recipe hollandaise sauce (whether from a packet or homemade – we’re not judging)
  • 1-2 tsp. prepared horseradish

For the asparagus:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line baking sheet with foil.  Unfold thawed puff pastry sheets and spread ½ cup of cheese on each sheet.  Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut puff pastry into thin strips (cut as many strips as you have asparagus spears).  Wrap each strip around an asparagus spear, using the cheese-side to stick the puff pastry to the asparagus.  Place on baking sheet and bake 20 minutes or until puff pastry is lightly golden brown.

For the sauce:

Stir 1-2 teaspoons of prepared horseradish (depending on your taste preference) into the finished hollandaise.  That’s it.  Really.  Dip the asparagus, and enjoy!  But, a word of caution…once you start snacking on them, it’s hard to stop.

 

~ Josie