Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My New St. Patty's Day go-to Bread

  I was at my local supermarket the other day when I spied some 5-oz. cartons of organic spinach on clearance for just $1 each! Of course I had no idea what I planned to do with them, but for $1 I knew I'd figure something out. Yesterday I got online and started looking for new spinach recipes when I came across this recipe for Rustic Spinach-Feta Bread. I just so happened to have some feta in my fridge left-over from something else, so I got to work making bread.
Photo Credit-Saveur
  A note about the recipe. It is intended to be a starter dough for making one loaf at a time over a period of several days. Since I had only a small amount of feta, I did a quarter of the recipe and made one loaf from start to finish. The results were phenomenal. The bread is incredibly moist with a chewy crust that's heavenly. The cheese in the dough creates sort of a very faint sourdough flavor (our guests had no idea it had feta in it until I told them). Also, I made some fresh ricotta for the Baked Spinach Lasagne (I made my own meat sauce and added 1 cup ricotta to the bechamel. Yes, I made my own spinach noodles, and yes, they were fantastic!) I served alongside the bread, so I used ricotta whey in place of the water in the bread dough.
  All-in-all the bread was a huge hit! Because it comes out a pleasant, faint green color I will be using this recipe on St. Patrick's day in place of the ever-ready green food color.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Speaking of Pumpkin...

  Pumpkin Cheesecake to be exact! I made this incredible dessert a couple weeks ago for a girl's night. Pumpkin cheesecake is my all-time favorite pumpkin dessert, and a dessert I've been trying to perfect for some time. I think I've finally done it. The results I had this time were phenomenal (if I do say so myself!) Here's my recipe:

Pumpkin Cheesecake Topped with Pralines and Chocolate Chips

1 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 c. brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. ginger
dash allspice
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. whipping cream, whipped to soft peaks
softened butter for pan

  Place chunks of prepared pie crust in portions throughout a 9" spring-form pan. Press the crust into an even layer, on the bottom and halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake at 350 degrees about 12 minutes; remove from oven and allow to cool (after removing the crust from the oven, fill an oven-proof dish halfway with water and place it on the lower rack of the oven off to one corner). Once cooled, use a pastry brush to brush butter from the top of the crust to the rim of the pan (this will prevent the cheesecake from sticking to the pan).
  In a large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat cream cheese and sugar just until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, mixing between each addition. Beat in vanilla and salt until creamy. Add pumpkin and spices, beat 30 seconds; fold in whipped cream. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 20 minutes. Remove cheesecake from oven and allow to rest 3 minutes (do NOT skip this step). Return to oven; bake 10 minutes longer. Turn oven off, leaving cheesecake inside for 1 hour. Remove cheesecake from oven and allow to sit on the counter until cooled; refrigerate over-night. 
  Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen cake from sides. Remove cheesecake from pan and top with pralines and mini chocolate chips.
Make a half batch of Pecan Pralines by using this recipe from Paula Deen. Make sure to use chopped pecans in place of the pecan halves and spread the mixture on a silpat-lined baking sheet to bake.
Because I took this to an event, I did not get a photo of an individual slice.

Pumpkin Custard Profiteroles

  I am admitting to the world today that I have a small love-affair with pumpkin. Have for quite some time. I love anything with pumpkin; pumpkin pie, pumpkin roll, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin cheesecake and now, most recently, Pumpkin Custard Profiteroles!
  I came across this recipe on Bon Appetit and just had to try it. I love profiteroles (better known as cream puffs), and knew in an instant I'd love them filled with pumpkin custard (I mean really, what's not to love?) Boy was I right! These are fantastic! I will admit, I did not have maple sugar nor am I a drinker, so I did not make the "Maple Caramel" called for in the recipe. I did, however, top the profiteroles with a caramel of my own. I also folded half a cup of lightly sweetened whipped cream into the custard just to lighten it up a bit, and then did not top them with whipped cream.
  However you decide to make this delicious treat, all I ask is that you make them!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Applesauce Cake

  I spent the good majority of my day yesterday making applesauce. Smelling the fantastic fragrance filling my home got me in the mood for something sweet, so I decided to use some of my freshly-made applesauce to make Applesauce Cake. I used a fraction of the nutmeg and cloves called for in the recipe. I also baked the cake in a bundt pan rather in 3 round pans, because of my intention to serve it with ice cream. I think the recipe would be fantastic layered with whipped cream as the recipe instructs.
  I served the cake with vanilla ice cream, which I topped with a homemade plum sauce (I boiled, strained and thickened fresh plums)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wedding Cake

  The wedding is done and over with! It was a beautiful wedding, and I wish my dear friend and her new husband all the best. This was my first completely solo cake, and as promised, here are some pictures.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Carrot Cake Cupcakes

  The marathon wedding cake decorating has begun. My friend's wedding is Saturday, and I have already begun the process of baking cakes, making fondant etc. They chose carrot cake as the flavor for their cake top. Because we are doing just a 4" top, there is a lot of batter left over. What better way to use up that batter than to make cupcakes!
  I must say, there has never been a recipe in my life, that I have not shared with someone (or everyone). The recipe for specialty cakes however, I will be keeping to myself. The recipe dubbed "Special Cake" by my grandmother, was created over 30 years ago. She began using it when she and her siblings started a wedding catering business. Her "Special Cakes" rival any bakery cake I have ever tasted in my entire life (and I've had my fair share of cake), and most often is better! My great-aunt's un-buttercream recipe that tops those cakes is the "icing on the cake" (figuratively and metaphorically speaking.)
  So, I will allow you the opportunity to drool over these fantastic Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Whipped Cream-Cream Cheese Frosting, and dream of a day when you might have the pleasure of trying one yourself (insert evil cackle here)!
  In the mean time, I will at least share the cupcake frosting recipe:

Whipped Cream-Cream Cheese Frosting

4 oz. cream cheese
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. heavy whipping cream

Beat cream cheese until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. While beating, slowly drizzle in whipping cream (stopping often to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl) until light and fluffy (2-4 minutes).

As a side note; because of the wedding, I will not be posting for the next few days. Don't worry though, as soon as I'm able, I will have pics of the wedding cake posted.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Indian Food

  I'm a huge fan of Indian food. Over the years, as I have introduced my husband, and then children to it, the ethnic flavors have become a good part of our family's diet. Chicken Makhani is a particular favorite in this household, and quite an easy dish to prepare. Please don't let the ingredient list detour you from making this dish. There are a lot of spices, but the end result is a very mild, well-balanced flavor that is, to put it simply, addicting. All of the spices in this dish can be found in the spice section of your local supermarket and even Walmart. If you're a little intimidated by making this dish for the first time, stretch it over a two day period. Cook and shred the chicken one day, and make the sauce and serve it the next (although I must warn, the smell of the chicken while it bakes may lead to a lack of it the next day-you may find yourself picking at it throughout the day.)

Chicken Makhani

1 c. plain whole milk yogurt                                   1 clove garlic-minced
½ t. salt                                                               1 t. ginger-minced
¼ t. chili powder                                                  ½ t. Garam Masala
½ t. turmeric                                                        ½ t. paprika

2 Tbsp. butter, melted, plus more for basting
8 chicken thighs, skinned, washed, and patted dry

  Combine ingredients in a Ziploc bag and marinate overnight.
  Bake chicken at 350 degrees 35 minutes, in a baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
Pour off any liquid, baste chicken with melted butter and Bake at 500 degrees 15-20 minutes, till lightly browned. Let chicken rest at least 10 minutes; peel off the bone.

4 Tbsp. butter                                                 ½ t. turmeric
½ small onion, diced fine                                 ½ t. paprika
2 cloves garlic, minced                                    salt, to taste
1 Tbsp. ginger, minced                                    1 can tomato paste
1 ½ Tbsp. Garam Masala                                   1 t. sugar
¼ t. chili powder (more if you like it hot)         2 turns of the pan of honey (about 4 Tbsp.)
¼ t. ground cumin                                           1 ¼ c. plain whole milk yogurt
1 bay leaf                                                        ½-1 c. heavy cream
¼ t. cinnamon                                                 1 c. cashews
1/8 t. cloves                                                   3-4 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

  Melt butter in a very large sauté pan (I use my cast-iron skillet). Saute onions until tender (about 2 minutes). Add garlic and ginger and sauté 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook about 1-2 minutes to bring out a sweet smell in the paste. Add sugar, honey, and all spices; combine well. Add yogurt, ½ cup cream, and previously cooked chicken. Simmer 1 1/2-2 hours (add additional cream to thin to desired consistency). Before serving, stir in cashews and cilantro. Serve over basmati rice.

Basmati rice

3 c. water
2 Tbsp. butter, plus more for cooked rice
½ tsp. salt
2 c. Basmati rice (Can be found in the rice section of most supermarkets)
2-3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro

  Rinse rice very, very well and drain (skipping this step will result in mushy, sticky rice).
  Bring water, butter and salt to boil. Add rice, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 15-20 minutes, till water is just absorbed (do not overcook). Remove lid, toss rice with cilantro and a little more butter.

  I apologize for not having a final picture, we finished the meal and were cleaning up when I realized I had neglected to take one. That just goes to show how delicious it is-we wasted no time digging in!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Trying Something New

  So, fried catfish is something I have never made. Since my husband has never been a big fan of fish, I have cooked very little of it. Recently, as our kids have gotten a little older, I've decided to try introducing more seafood into our diet (since seafood is something I really enjoy). Tonight's experiment taught me two things; half my family is not particularly fond of catfish, and I'm not particularly fond of cornmeal-battered fish. I have to say that as far as recipes go, this one is a sure hit for someone who likes cornmeal batter and catfish. The flavor is there, it has a nice crunch and the batter sticks to the fish.
  I combined two recipes to create one I thought might go over well.

Fried Catfish
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1⁄4 cup flour
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1/8 tsp. garlic salt
1⁄8 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
Freshly ground black pepper
4 catfish fillets
1/2 cup milk
1 egg

  Pour oil into a large, deep cast-iron skillet to 3" deep and heat over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking (350 degrees) on a candy thermometer.
  Combine cornmeal, flour, seasoned salt, garlic salt, cayenne, and black pepper to taste in a large shallow dish. In a separate dish, whisk together milk and egg. Thoroughly dredge catfish fillets in milk mixture, then flour mixture. Gently shake off excess.
  Fry catfish in the hot oil, without turning, until golden and crisp (5–6 minutes). Transfer fillets with a slotted spatula to paper towels to drain.