Friday, October 30, 2009

Week 9: Spooky Cooking

My favorite kitchen helper came for a visit and some spooky cooking. We tackled two Halloween recipes.

Candy Corn Kiss Cookies
from Tasty Kitchen

1 1/2 C Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1/3 C Butter (about 5 1/2 Tbsp), Softened
1/2 C Creamy Peanut butter
3/4 C Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1/8 tsp Cardamom
Granulated Sugar, For Rolling In
10 oz bag Of Hershey's Candy Corn Kisses

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the peanut butter and then the egg and vanilla.

Add in the dry ingredients half at at a time, mixing until well-combined.

Roll the dough into balls about 1″ thick. Roll them in the granulated sugar.

Bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, and then let cool. Top each cookie with a Hershey Candy Corn Kiss! When the recipe says "then let cool," it really does mean let cool. If you put the Kisses in before the cookies are cool enough they will melt. But, be careful because if you put the Kisses in when the cookies are too cool the kisses won't stick.

Pumpkin Pie Bites
from Bakerella
Be sure to check out the recipe on Bakerella. Her little pies are much cuter than mine!

Makes 24

2 refrigerated ready-to roll pie crusts

8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 C sugar
1 C canned pumpkin
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Pumpkin-shaped cookie cutter

1/2 cup chocolate morsels
vegetable oil
re-sealable plastic bags

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Use cookie cutter to cut 12 pumpkin shapes from each pie crust. You will need to roll the dough thinner than it comes out of the box and will need to roll and re-roll and roll and re-roll the scraps to get 12 out of each crust.

Press dough shapes into a 24 cup mini muffin tray. (Make 12 at a time, alternating cups to make sure pie crusts don’t overlap each other.)

Apply egg whites from one egg to the top edges of each pie. I forgot this step.
Mix cream cheese, sugar, canned pumpkin, remaining 2 eggs, vanilla and pumpkin pie spice together until thoroughly combined.

Spoon mixture into each pumpkin-shaped pie crust.

Bake for 12-15 minutes.

Remove pies to cool and repeat with second pie crust. Place the muffin tray in the freezer to cool it quickly for re-use.

Makes 24 pies. Keep refrigerated.

To decorate, melt chocolate in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave on medium. Heat in 30 second intervals, stirring in between until melted. Add a little vegetable oil to make the chocolate more fluid. Transfer to a re-sealable plastic bag and cut the corner off. Drizzle or draw faces on pies. Natalie got really impatient, so we didn't make it to the decorating stage. We just covered the little pie with whipped cream and enjoyed.

Happy Halloween, everyone. My favorite part of Halloween is that once it's over Thanksgiving preparations can begin! I love Thanksgiving - definitely my favorite holiday.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Week 9: Butternut Squash Risotto with Shrimp

I have never cooked or eaten (at least not since I survived on baby food) squash. Hiding it in risotto - with plenty of butter and wine and cheese - seemed like the best way to eat a sort-of suspect vegetable.

And, thus my contribution to Kitchen Challenge 2: Squash It was born.

There are lots of ingredients (which I know intimidates Greta) and a vegetable that isn't corn, peas, or green benas (which makes Denise nervous) and shrimp (which makes the dish non-Em friendly), but read on because it was actually pretty great.

Butternut Squash Risotto with Shrimp

Adapted from:
Bon Appetit, November 2009, p. 62
Cook's Illustrated: Italian Favorites, 2009, p. 46-47

Serves 4 as a main course (6 as a side dish)
Prep time: 50 - 60 minutes

4 oz pancetta, chopped

1 lb large, uncooked, deveined, peeled shrimp

3 Tbsp olive oil, divided

1 medium, butternut squash (about 2 lbs), peeled, seeded (fibers and seeds reserved), and cut into 1/2" cubes (about 3 1/2 C)

3/4 tsp salt, divided

3/4 tsp ground black pepper, divided

4 C low sodium broth (chicken or vegetable)

1 C water

4 Tbsp unsalted butter

1 onion, chopped (about 1 C)

2 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 tsp)

1 1/3 C Arborio rice

1 1/3 C dry white wine, room temperature

1 1/2 oz finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 3/4 C)

1/4 C whipping cream, room temperature

1 tsp dried, ground sage

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1. Get the squash ready. (This was the scariest step for me, but it wasn't really that bad.) Peel it with a vegetable peeler. Cut off the top (about 1") and bottom (about 1"). Cut the squash at its "bulbous point" - the part where it goes from being round to being more stem-like. Cut bulb in half and remove seeds with spoon. (Reserve seeds and goop.) Cut each piece of the bulb into 1/2" halfmoons, then into 1/2" cubes. Stand on neck end and slice into 1/2" planks. Cut planks into 1/2" strips, then into 1/2" cubes.

2. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta and saute until fat renders and brown and almost crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer to medium bowl. Sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper (1/8" tsp each). Saute until browned and just opaque in center, about 3 minutes. Add to bowl with pancetta.

3. Add 2 Tbsp oil to skillet. Heat until shimmering but not smoking. Add 3 1/2 C squash in even layer and cook without stirring until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes; stir in 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender and browned, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer squash to bowl and set aside.

4. Keep skillet over medium heat; add reserved squash fibers and seeds and any leftover diced squash. Cook, stirring frequently (and, frequently means pretty much constantly) to break up fibers, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Transfer to large saucepan and add chicken broth and water; cover saucepan and bring mixture to simmer over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low to maintain bare simmer. This step really, really freaked me out. It all turned out okay, though, and the broth turned a really great orange color.

5. Melt 3 Tbsp butter in now-empty skillet over medium heat; when foaming subsides, add onions, garlic, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add rice to skillet and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, about 3 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring frequently, until fully absorbed, 4 to 5 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, strain hot broth through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Return strained broth to saucepan and discard solids in strainer; cover saucepan and set over low heat to keep broth hot.

7. When wine is fully absorbed, add 3 C hot broth and half of reserved squash to rice. Simmer, stirring every 3 to 4 minutes, until liquid is absorbed, about 12 minutes.

8. Stir in about 1/2 C hot broth and cook, stirring constantly, until absorbed, about 3 minutes; repeat with additional broth 2 or 3 more times, until rice is al dente.

9. Off heat, stir in remaining 1 Tbsp butter, Parmesan, whipping cream, sage, and nutmeg; stir in shrimp and bacon mixture. Gently fold in remaining cooked squash.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Week 8: Bourbon Pumpkin Pecan Bread

Bourbon Pumpkin Pecan Bread
Posted on Tasty Kitchen

Makes: 2 loaves
Prep: 10 minutes
Baking: 70 minutes

1 C Brown Sugar
1 C Sugar
4 Eggs
2/3 C Vegetable Oil
1 can Pumpkin Puree (15 Oz.)
1 3/4 C Flour, white "regular" flour
1 3/4 C Flour, whole-wheat
1 Cup Buttermilk
1/3 C Bourbon (Jim Beam)
2 tsp Baking Soda
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Nutmeg
1/2 tsp Allspice
1/2 tsp Cloves
1/4 tsp Ground Ginger
1 1/2 C Chopped Pecans

Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Add half of the flour, stir until just mixed. Mix in the buttermilk and bourbon. Mix in the remaining flour, soda, salt, baking powder and spices. Fold in the pecans.

Pour into two greased 9 x 5 loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 10 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. (Check at 1 hour.)

I used parchment paper instead of greasing the loaf pans. I also decided to add half a bag of mini chocolate chips I found in the cupboard while digging for the pecans. They were a nice touch. I'll definitely make this again.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Kitchen Challenge 2: Squash it

These fall lovelies caught my eye at the Farmers Market a few weekends ago and inspired the second kitchen challenge.

In honor of fall, I'd like to pose a challenge to you, our readers. (We have at least a few readers out there, right?)

Cook something with squash in it - real squash (not frozen or canned).

Sometime between now and November 22 (Sunday). . .

Option 1: Blog about it
Cook a new squash item. Take a picture of the squash creation. Create a post on your own blog that includes the recipe and the picture. Add a comment on this post linking us back to your creation.

Option 2: Email us about it
Cook something new with squash. Take a picture of it. Email the picture and the recipe to

I'll randomly draw a name from those who participate and send some kitchen-related mail love to a lucky reader.

And, we'll all learn lots of great new ways to use squash.

Week 8: Herb-Roasted Lamb

Brad has a thing for lamb. I have a thing for Brad. So, I called up the butcher, ordered a lamb, and whipped some up for dinner.

I chose this recipe because it had a great picture in the cookbook and also because it had lots of garlic and butter. You can't go wrong with garlic and butter.

Adapted from:
Herb-Roasted Lamb
in Barefoot Contessa Family Style by Ina Garten
p. 74

12 large, unpeeled garlic cloves, divided
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 6-pound boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and tied
4 to 5 pounds small unpeeled potatoes (16 to 20 potatoes)
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven so the lamb will sit in the middle of the oven.

Peel 6 of the cloves of garlic and place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the rosemary, 1 Tbsp. salt, 1 tsp. pepper, and butter. Process until the garlic and rosemary are finely minced. Thoroughly coat the top and sides of the lamb with the rosemary mixture. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.

Toss the potatoes and remaining unpeeled garlic in a bowl with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place in the bottom of a large roasting pan. Place the lamb on top of the potatoes and rost for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the internal temperature of the lamb is 135 degrees (rare) or 145 degrees (medium). Remove from the oven and put the lamb on a platter; cover tightly with aluminum foil. Allow the lamb to rest for about 20 minutes. Slice and serve with the potatoes.

I have to admit that my shiny new meat thermometer let me down. I must have put it too far into the meat or too near the center or something. The part immediately where the probe was turned out exactly medium rare at 145 degrees. The rest of the lamb was not anywhere near medium rare. It was more like well done.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Week 7: Cauliflower, Brie, and Almond Risotto

I picked this recipe because the cauliflower (sort of like the leeks) was completely irresistible during last weekend's Farmers' Market trip. I just Googled cauliflower recipes and searched around for awhile until I found this one.

Adapted from:
Caulifower Risotto with Brie and Almonds

4 C vegetable broth
2 1/2 C water
3 thyme sprigs, plus 1 tsp. leaves
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch florets (about 4 C)
1 1/2 C Arborio rice
1/3 C dry white wine
8 oz. Brie, rind discarded, cut into small pieces
1/3 C sliced almonds, toasted

Bring broth, water, and thyme sprigs to a simmer in a medium sauce pan.

Heat butter and 1 Tbsp. oil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Then saute cauliflower with 1/4 tsp. salt until crisp-tender and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add thyme leaves and saute 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl.

A special note about the thyme. 3 actual thyme sprigs go in the broth and water mixture. No chopping or plucking necessary. Just throw them in. 1 tsp. carefully chopped up thyme leaves go in the cauliflower. Just wanted to let you know.

Add remaining tablespoon oil to a pan, then add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer briskly, stirring, until wine has been absorbed, about 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup hot broth and briskly simmer, stirring, until broth has been absorbed. Continue simmering and adding hot broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and waiting until each addition has been absorbed before adding the next, until rice is just tender and looks creamy, 18 to 22 minutes. (There will be leftover broth.)

Stir in cauliflower, Brie, and salt and pepper to taste. Thin with some of remaining broth if desired. Serve topped with almonds.

I served the risotto with London broils (which Brad grilled). It was great - very warm and filling and fall-tasting.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Kitchen Challenge 1: Breakfast Bonanza (Winner and a Recipe)

Kitchen Challenge 1 (Breakfast Bonanza) is officially over.

And the winner is. . . Denise! She whipped up some French Toast Souffle.

Just for fun I thought I'd finish off the challenge with one of my favorite breakfast recipes.

From my Mother-in-Law
Overnight Sticky Buns

1/2 C pecans
16 frozen white dinner rolls (I use Rhodes)
Butterscotch pudding - Small box (NOT instant)
1/2 C melted butter
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 C brown sugar

1. Spray bottom of bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray.
2. Sprinkle pecans in bottom of pan.
3. Add frozen rolls.
4. Sprinkle pudding mixture over rolls.
5. Pour mixture of butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar over rolls.
6. Sit in oven over night.
7. Remove rolls and preheat oven to 350.
8. Bake at 25 minutes.
9. Flip pan carefully on to a large plate.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Week 6: Leek and Potato Soup

This dish was inspired by my first fall trip (with Stephanie and AJ) to the Farmers' Market. AJ really had a great time!

There were leeks at almost every stand. (Although now that I look at this picture closely it is, in fact, of just ordinary green onions and not leeks.)

(There were also brussels sprouts. They looked so cool - I had no idea how they actually grew. But, I was not tempted. I do not like brussels sprouts.)

What's a girl to do with leeks?
Make leek and potato soup.

And, where does she find her recipe?

Adapted from:
Potage Parmentier (Leek and Potato Soup)
from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, p. 37 - 38
by Julia Child

3-4 C (or 1 lb.) peeled potatoes, diced
3 C (or 1 lb.) thinly sliced leeks
2 quarts of water
1/2 Tbsp. salt
2 to 3 Tbsp. softened butter
2 to 3 Tbsp. minced chives

Simmer the vegetables, water, and salt together, partially covered for 40 to 50 minutes. While you are doing this your house will slowly begin to smell wonderful - all leek-y and potato-y and comfortable.

Use a blender to puree soup in small batches. Julia says to mash the vegetables with a fork or use a food mill. This sounded like way too much work, and I didn't want chunks. So, I opted for the blender. If I had an immersion blender I would have used that.

Off heat and just before serving, stir in the butter by spoonfuls.

We ate the soup with ham and cheese paninis, and I've been enjoying it for lunch for several days now. I will definitely make this again. YUM!

Week 6: Chinese (It seemed like a good idea)

It's taken me awhile to post this one, as this is by far the biggest failure of the cooking experiment so far. It was way too stressful - too many ingredients, too much going on at once. By the time everything was done I was exhausted.

And, it just wasn't really that good.

I think I'll stick with eating out or take out when it comes to Chinese.

Adapted from:
Pork and Chive Pot Stickers
Everyday Food
October 2009, pg. 48 - 49
Serves 4
Total time: 30 minutes

1/4 lb. ground pork
1 Tbsp. minced chives
1 1/2 tsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. dry sherry
1 tsp. minced, peeled fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
20 wonton wrappers
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce (recipe below)

Combine pork, chives, soy sauce, sherry, ginger, sesame oil, cornstarch, and 1 Tbsp. water.

Place a heaping teaspoon of pork mixture in center of each wonton wrapper. Lightly wet edge of wrapper, fold over, and press to seal. Repeat to form remaining dumplings (makes 20).

In two batches, cook dumplings in a large pot of boiling water until cooked through, 4 minutes; transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon. In a large nonstick pan, heat vegetable oil over medium-high. In two batches, cook until browned, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Serve with dipping sauce.

Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce
Stir together 1/4 C soy sauce, 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp. minced, peeled fresh ginger, 2 tsp. sugar, and 1/4 tsp. sesame oil. Makes about 1/2 C.

Everything started really good. Don't the dumplings look neat?

Here they are after boiling. Starting to look a little strange.

And, here they are after frying. The frying is definitely where things went wrong.

Overall verdict on the dumplings? Tasty but not tasty enough to justify all the ingredient and all the work.

Adapted from:
Cashew Chicken
Everyday Food
October 2009, pg. 50
Serves 4
Total time: 25 minutes + marinating

1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in to 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. dry sherry
2 tsp. minced, peeled fresh ginger
3 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
Coarse salt
1/2 C low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. plus 2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2/3 C unsalted cashews, toasted
2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
Cooked white rice, for serving

Toss chicken with sherry, ginger, and 1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch; season with salt. Refrigerate 30 minutes. In another bowl, combine broth, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, and 2 tsp. cornstarch; set sauce aside.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil over medium-high. Add half the chicken and cook until golden and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate. Add 1 tsp. oil to skillet and cook remaining chicken. Transfer to a plate.

Add 1 tsp. oil, garlic, cashews, and scallions to the same skillet. Cook, stirring constantly, until garlic begins to soften, 30 seconds. Whisk sauce and add to skillet along with chicken. Cook until sauce thickens, about 30 seconds. Serve with rice.

I didn't eat this. It was awful. I did eat all of the left-over cashews with my lunch the next day, though.