Monthly Archives

January 2010

Dijon Beans and Greens

January 31, 2010

There are some scary vegetables out there. You know, the ones you pass by every time you’re at the grocery store because you’re just not sure what to do with them, or if you’re like me, you’ve been told they just don’t taste very good. Case in point? Brussels Sprouts. If we played a little game of word-association when I said “Brussels sprouts,” you would probably think, “stinky, green, something mom made me eat before I could have dessert.” Am I right?

I, too, was in the stinky-gross-no-thank-you camp until last week. After having passed by the sprouts for a couple weeks now, I caved and bought a bag. They were cheap, neatly packaged, and an unbelievably beautiful shade of green. If they were really as disgusting as I remembered, then it was a $2 mistake I was willing to take. Crazy, I know. Now that I’ve given Brussels sprouts a second chance, I think it’s fair to say that this is a $2 risk worth making again and again.

After cooking the beans, slice them into bit-sized pieces

Speed cooking time and vary texture by halving and slicing the sprouts

Heat the oil and add the sprouts

Cook the sprouts 5-7 minutes, until they are softened and slightly brown

Add the green beans to the skillet after cooking the sprouts

*1/2 – 3/4 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed
*6 Brussels Sprouts
*2 cloves garlic, sliced (optional)
*1 Tbsp. olive oil
*1/2 tsp. salt
*1/4 tsp. black pepper
*1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
*2 Tbsp. Whole-milk Ricotta Cheese (may substitute grated Parmesan cheese)

*Place green beans and 2 cups of water into a medium saucepan. Bring water to boiling over high heat, and cook for 5 minutes, or until green beans are tender when pierced with a fork. Drain and transfer beans to cutting board. Slice beans into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
*Halve each Brussels sprout, then slice halves into thin strips.
*In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sprouts and garlic, salt, and pepper. Cook 5 to 7 minutes, or until the sprouts are softened but still slightly crisp, stirring frequently. Add in the beans, Dijon mustard, and ricotta or Parmesan cheese. Cook 1 minute more. Remove from heat and transfer to bowls. Garnish with additional salt and pepper, as needed.

Happy Cooking!


Peanut Butter-Butterscotch Blondies with Salted Peanut Butter Cream

January 29, 2010

I wasn’t planning on posting anything until after the weekend, but this idea was nagging at me all week, begging “bake me!” And now I’m glad I didn’t wait, because it would be cruel and unusual punishment to withhold this recipe from you all. Seriously, this is without a doubt the best recipe to come out of my kitchen in an awfully long time.

One of my favorite food trends to surface in the past year has been kosher salt playing a major role in baked goods. A longtime fan of the salty/sweet combo, my taste buds have been overjoyed with every salted caramel and chocolate that comes my way. Salt works so well with everything sweet because it’s a flavor enhancer, so in the right amounts it can enhance the flavor of anything, including sweets. Don’t believe me? Add a tiny bit of kosher salt to your ice cream, chocolate cake, or banana tart. Not a lot, just a little is enough to make the flavors of any sweet amazingly better.

Better yet, instead of sprinkling salt on to ice cream or chocolate cake (because you can always do that some other time) run to the kitchen, preheat the oven, and get to making these salted blondies. But whatever you do, make sure you have someone in mind to share these with because one slice could easily turn into two, or three. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Creamed butter

After the sugar, both brown and granulated, have been added

Adding in the 1/2 cup of peanut butter

Post peanut butter and sour cream additions – light and fluffy

Baking in a 10-inch round tart pan makes serving easy and presentation impressive.
However, you can bake in a 9×13-inch pan if you don’t have a tart pan.

*1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
*1 cup packed light-brown sugar
*1/2 cup granulated sugar
*2 eggs
*1 1/2 teaspoons coarse (kosher) salt
*1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
*1/4 cup sour cream
*2 teaspoons vanilla extract
*2 cups all-purpose flour
*1 (12-oz.) package butterscotch chips
Salted Peanut Butter Cream
*1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
*4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
*1/2 tsp. coarse (kosher) salt
*1/4 cup milk
*3 cups powdered sugar

*Preheat oven to 350*F. Grease a 10-inch round tart pan (9×13-inch pan may be substituted). Set aside. With an electric mixer, beat butter at medium to high speed until creamy, about 1 minute. Add in granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy and well-combined, about 2 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once.
*Add in eggs, one at a time, beating until just combined. Add in salt, creamy peanut butter, and sour cream. Beat until well-combined and fluffy. The batter will be light and airy. Add in extract.
*Mix in flour in two additions, beating just until combined. Stir in butterscotch chips by hand.
*Transfer mixture to pan and spread evenly to edges. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the edges are crisp and brown, and center is golden.
*Allow blondie to cool on a wire rack until completely cool.
*Meanwhile, cream together peanut butter and butter. Add in salt, milk, and powdered sugar, beating until creamy and well combined. Spread atop blondie, sprinkle with additional kosher salt, if desired.

Happy baking!


Basic Bread Dough

January 27, 2010

In the last two months, I’ve had a revelation. 

It started with a loaf of cranberry walnut bread from Great Harvest, and after one bite I was immediately filled with regret. I, like almost everyone else, had been buying generic, mass-produced, whole-wheat bread from the grocery store and was eating my way through life, ignorant of how deliciously different freshly-baked bread tastes. This revelation was followed by another, equally important one. Baking bread yourself can be every bit as easy.  

It’s not that bread baking has become a regular part of my life or that I’ve sworn off regular, store-bought bread (I actually have a loaf in my pantry right now). But I do find a simple dough both rewarding and convenient in many circumstances, and kneading the dough serves as a great 5 minute stress reliever. If you’ve been afraid to try bread-baking, like I was for many years, start off with this recipe to get your feet wet. 

Since homemade pizza is one of my favorite foods from my childhood, I used my dough as pizza crust. However, after the dough doubles in size, you could easily put the dough onto a baking sheet and bake at 350*F until the loaf is golden, or use the dough as you would for cinnamon rolls. 

*1 cup warm water (around 110*F)
*1 packet active dry yeast
*1 Tbsp. olive oil
*1 tsp. salt
*2 1/2 cups bread or all-purpose flour

For Pizza
*2 cups pizza or marinara sauce
*2 cups mozzarella cheese (more if you like your pizza very cheesy)
*Toppings of choice (I used spinach on my pizza) 

*Preheat oven to 350*F. 
*In bowl, combine water and yeast. Stir until yeast is dissolved and bubbles form on the surface. Add in the olive oil and salt. Stir until salt is dissolved. 
*Add in 2 cups of the flour and stir until well-combined. Dough will be sticky. Turn onto a floured surface and slowly add in the remaining 1/2 cup flour. 
*Knead the dough for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in a clean, greased bowl. Cover with a towel and allow to rise in a place free from cold drafts. I put my oven heat on low, open the door, and let the dough rise on the stove so there is plenty of warm air. Allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes, or until doubled in size. 
*Punch dough down and spread onto a greased baking sheet. 
*Top with sauce, cheese, and whatever toppings you choose. Bake at 350*F for 25 to 30 minutes, until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly. 

Happy Cooking!


Craft Project: Cookies

January 21, 2010

Anyone who knows me would be able to tell you that Hobby Lobby is the bain of my existence. I have a very passionate love/hate relationship with the place. Sure, I find myself spending hours browsing through aisles upon isles of paper, fabric, stickers, and ribbon. In my mind I am Martha Stewart. I will buy those craft supplies, hurry home, and any number of beautiful hand-made cards, floral arrangements, and customized lamp-shades, after which I will step back, admire my work, and say, “It’s a good thing.” Yes, Saint Martha would be pround of the self I invision while in Hobby Lobby.

In reality, I lug home more than I even know what to do with, spending too much, and getting frustrated when I realize that not only have I wasted money, but valuable time as well. But despite all of this, I still get that craft bug time and time again, so I’ve developed coping mechanisms: easy craft projects that take little skill to accomplish, just a bit of time, but not too much.

Over in my neck of the woods, we’ve been bombarded with heavy fog for two straight days, followed by an ice storm, neither of which really inspire much of anything other than that ‘blah it’s winter’ feeling. So today I will be bringing a smile-inducing treat to work with an extra bit of presentation added in.

You can buy these plastic treat bags pretty much anywhere. I picked mine up at Super-Target, which had a large variety to choose from. Inside, I’ve placed one over-sized oatmeal-golden raisin cookie, just make sure they are completely cool. I used this recipe with a healthy twist. I added in two tablespoons of ground flax seed, and made the cookies with whole wheat flour, figuring they could serve as a breakfast cookie if people ate them in the morning.

I folded the top of the bag down, and secured it with a piece of tape. On the front side I cut a piece of ribbon, about six inches in length, and made a simple loop shape, secured with a piece of tape. Then, I used my circle-punch (yes, one of those impulse Hobby Lobby buys) and punched out a couple dozen circles from craft paper. Because of lack of creativity, I hand-wrote “Happy Thursday,” I’m sure you have something better to say. :) And that’s it! Easy to transport, practically fool-proof, and 100% delicious. Something I think even Martha would say is a good thing.

Happy Baking!


Spinach and Shrimp Crostini with Mozzarella

January 19, 2010

As a food editor at Better Homes and Gardens, it’s my job to think about food all day – planning, photographing, tasting, testing, and writing. So despite my love for all things food, when I get home at the end of the day, actually making myself dinner takes more than a little effort. Throughout the day thoughts of what I could do for dinner with the items at home float through my mind, but when I kick off my shoes and actually think about cooking it seems daunting.

Moms, working adults, college students – everyone has something in common; we’re tired! Weekends and special events may prompt more elaborate recipes and meals, while dishes like Spinach and Shrimp Crostini with Mozzarella are perfect for weeknights. It took me less than 30 minutes to whip this up, and about 5 minutes to eat it! :)

*4 slices french bread or other type of bread, toasted
*1 1/2 cups frozen spinach
*1 tsp. olive oil
*1/2 tsp. salt
*1/4 tsp. black pepper
*1 tsp. Dijon mustard
*2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
*8-12 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
*1 clove garlic, minced
*1 tsp. butter
*4 slices mozzarella cheese, about 2 oz.

*Preheat oven broiler.
*In skillet over medium-high heat, cook spinach and olive oil until leaves are softened, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and place in a food processor. Add in salt, black pepper, Dijon mustard, and vinegar. Process 1 minute or until smooth. Set aside.
*Remove the tails of shrimp and discard tails. Chop shrimp into pieces. Cook in a skillet (I used the same one the spinach was in to save on dishes) over medium heat with the garlic and butter, about 5 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Remove from heat.
*Evenly divide the spinach mixture over the four pieces of toast, followed by the shrimp. Top each slice with a piece of mozzarella. Place on a baking sheet, under the broiler, until cheese is melted. Remove from oven and enjoy!

Happy Cooking!


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