Monday, March 29, 2010

Safe Sweet Solution

Recently my boss celebrated his 50th Birthday. I knew I wanted to make a special treat for his reaching this milestone year, but was nowhere near settled on what I should make. He is a really "safe" eater with less than adventurous taste buds. He never tries any of the sweet confections that I bring to work and normally turns his nose up due to one ingredient inclusion or another. Knowing this about his taste preferences I was worried to make something to celebrate his birthday that he wouldn't enjoy. As I thought through the myriad of choices I remembered an account my boss had shared with me about a time he almost ate an entire box of Nilla Wafers in one sitting. I was convinced, if he enjoyed the boxed version so much - he would be in love with a homemade rendition. Needless to say, he was!

Vanilla Wafers
Adapted from William Sonoma

  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 Tbs. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

In the mixer bowl, combine the butter, sugar and salt.

Beat on medium speed until smooth. Reduce the speed to low, add the egg yolks

and vanilla and beat until blended.

Add the flour and beat until incorporated and a smooth dough forms.

Divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Roll out each portion into a log 7 inches long and about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Using a sharp knife, cut each unwrapped log crosswise into slices 1/4 inch thick. Place the cookies 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until the edges and bottoms are golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks and let cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Makes about 65 cookies.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pasta Playback

My parents eat at this local restaurant in the town they live in quite often. They are regulars in every sense of the word. The waitresses and owners know them by name, they know their orders by heart and they always sit at the same table. The funniest part about their "regulars" status is that the dish my father eats every time isn't even on the menu. I am not sure how my father ever coerced the chef (who is also the owner) into creating him a special dish, but he did and he has made it for him every time since that first creation.

I didn't know it when I was preparing this recipe, but when I was done I realized that I was looking at a dish that looked very similar to the dish my Dad eats every time at his favorite local restaurant. His pasta dish is prepared with angel hair and doesn't have any cream, but the rest of the ingredients are very similar. I can't wait to try this delicious dish out on my parents to see how it compares to "the usual".

Penne with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce
Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

  • 1 pound whole wheat penne pasta
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled, and deveined
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
  • 1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes, drained, roughly chopped (San Marzano)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1/3 cup clam juice
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 11 to 12 minutes for whole wheat. Drain the pasta and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. (Ignore the garlic in the picture below. I added it with the shrimp like the original recipe suggested and I found some of the piece burned. In my adapted recipe I added the garlic later in the recipe).

Cook, stirring frequently until the shrimp turn pink and is cooked through, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove the shrimp and set aside.

Add the tomatoes, garlic, 1/4 cup basil, 1/4 cup parsley, and the red pepper flakes.

Cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine, clam juice, and heavy cream.

Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 7 to 8 minutes until the sauce thickens. Add 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, the cooked shrimp,

the cooked pasta,

and the remaining herbs. Toss together until all ingredients are coated. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and serve immediately.

Click Here for my Adapted Printable Recipe

Monday, March 15, 2010

15 Things to Make Before You Die - Installment #5

I wasn't really fired up about making this recipe because in my opinion you don't eat coconut - you rub it on your body in lotion form when you are ready for a suntan. I can't smell or taste coconut without thinking of basking in the sun. Knowing what we know now about skin cancer, I don't really lie out in the sun for hours on end like I did when I was a kid. I was probably the only 8 year old who used to tan for several hours in her back yard jonesing for a tan. No, it wasn't that I was incredibly vain or had some secret desire to have the best tan in the 2nd grade. The reason that I spent hours lying in the sun next to the pool as a child was because I had a sister who was 9 years older than me who loved to "lay out" and a little brother 3 years younger than me who may have been half fish as a child. During the summers we would spend the entire day in the back yard around or in the pool. Jessica would lie on the beach chair and I would lie on the beach towel on the ground next to her while Kent swam in the pool all day. Jessica would dictate when to flip, when to take a dip in the pool to cool off and when it was time to go inside for a drink. I did what she said, she was my older teenage sister and she obviously knew what was cool. Back in the day I know we were using Banana Boat Suntan Oil and every time I smell coconut I am transported back to those lazy and warm summer days.

Luckily, I knew that although I wouldn't be able to eat this pretty pie I would have more than enough willing participants. If you make it, they will come! Everyone was truly please with this pie and said that the flavor was perfection. My pie crust was less than desirable on the aesthetic scale, so if I could just get some tips on how to crimp a pie crust I think I will have this recipe down pat.

View my progress on the list below:

1. Yeast Bread - Check.
2. Beef Tenderloin Steaks - Check.
3. Cream Pie - Check.
4. Creme Brulee
5. Fudge
6. Cream Puffs
7. Crown Roast
8. Fried Chicken
9. Roux - Check.
10. Pasta and Cream Sauce - Check.
11. Roasted Turkey and Gravy - Check.
12. Chocolate Pudding - Check.
13. Layer Cake - Check.
14. Souffle - Check.
15. Chicken Stock - Check.

10 down, 5 to go!

Coconut Cream Pie
Adapted from Emeril Lagasse

  • 1 blind-baked 9-inch pastry shell (pastry shell baked for 10-11 minutes)
  • 2 1/4 cups whole milk
  • 3/4 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup for the egg whites
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups toasted coconut
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In a saucepan, whisk the 2 cups of the milk and 3/4 cup sugar together.

Place the pan over medium heat and bring the liquid up to a simmer. Whisk the egg yolks together. Temper the hot milk into the egg yolks. Whisk the egg mixture into the hot milk mixture.

In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the remaining milk, making a slurry. Whisk the slurry into the hot milk mixture.

Bring the liquid up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the filling is thick, about 4 to 6 minutes. Fold in the vanilla,


and butter.

Mix well. Pour the filling into the prepared pan and cool the pie completely.

Using an electric mixer with a whip attachment, whip the egg white to soft peaks. Add the remaining sugar and whip the egg white to stiff peaks. Spread the egg whites over the top of the pie.

After the eggs whites are spread over the top of the pie, use a butter knife to pull the meringue up into peaks. Place the pie in the oven for about 3 to 4 minutes, or until the meringue is golden brown.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fast Flu Fix

My Mother in Law raved about the outcome of this very easy recipe. It seemed so simple to make that I knew I had to give it a try, but could never find the right time. Then my husband got a sick belly and I knew I had found my opportunity. I whipped this up in no time at all and he was more than pleased with his homemade sickly soup solution. It was ready in the same amount of time I could have run to the supermarket, purchased and can, opened it up and heated it - and it was soooo much better than any canned soup could ever dream of being.

Quick Chicken Noodle Soup
Adapted from Cooking Light January 2010

  • 2 cups water
  • 32-ounces homemade chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup prechopped onion
  • 1/2 cup prechopped celery
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 6 ounces no-yolk egg noodles
  • 2 1/2 cups shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley flakes

1. Combine 2 cups water and chicken broth in a microwave-safe dish, and microwave at HIGH for 5 minutes.

2. While broth mixture heats, heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion, celery, salt, pepper, and carrot; sauté 3 minutes or until almost tender, stirring frequently.

Add hot broth mixture and pasta;

bring to a boil. Cook 7 minutes or until pasta is almost al dente. Stir in chicken; cook 1 minute or until thoroughly heated.

Stir in parsley.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe

Monday, March 1, 2010

Conversation Coffee Cake

My parents were coming to town and I knew I wouldn't be cooking much since my father loves to dine out. Don't get me wrong, he loves my cooking and is always appreciative when I cook for him but he much prefer an evening out and the hoopla that surrounds the experience. I wanted to have something homemade for their visit and I knew exactly what I should make - a coffee cake. My father loves a good cup of coffee and a pastry about as much as he loves dining out and I knew that having a homemade coffee cake would be the perfect treat to have around the house for sharing over a pot of joe and good conversation. This recipe was delicous and we ate it every day they were in town, whether it was for breakfast or a midnight snack.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups sour cream
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
For the Streusel:
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts, optional
For the Glaze:
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons real maple syrup


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour a 12 cup bundt pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment for 4 to 5 minutes, until light. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and sour cream.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined.

Finish stirring with a spatula to be sure the batter is completely mixed.

For the streusel, place the brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, walnuts and butter in a bowl and pinch together

with your fingers until it forms a crumble.

Spoon half the batter into the pan and spread it out with a knife. Sprinkle with 3/4 cup streusel.

Spoon the rest of the batter in the pan, spread it out, and scatter the remaining streusel on top.

Bake for 60 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. Carefully transfer the cake, streusel side up, onto a serving plate. Whisk the confectioners' sugar and maple syrup together, adding a few drops of water if necessary, to make the glaze runny. Drizzle as much as you like over the cake with a fork or spoon. Cut and serve.

Click Here for My Adapted Printable Recipe