Wednesday, June 20, 2007

One Week!!!

I'll be more than halfway to Vancouver in just seven days. YIPPEE!!!

They say "a change will do you good" (or at least Sheryl Crow sings those words of wisdom), so not only am I moving to a new city in a new country, but I also have a brand new haircut. I cut six inches of hair off yesterday (and I'm not quite sure I like it now, but too little too late at this point).

Since I still have lots of things left to do (learn the metric system, learn the words to "O Canada" and pack), I am going to say farewell to this blog for a while. However, check out my Vancouver blog here. I will start it as soon as I get settled out there. I will update it a few times a week so check back often. As usual, keep the emails coming, but make sure you send them to either of my AOL addresses instead of the current (and soon to be disconnected) Bellsouth addresses.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Tyler and Austin

The two (adorable) reasons my friend Luisa is looking forward to spending six days (solo) in Vancouver with me in September:

 
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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day, Poppies!!!

I've already talked to my dad on the phone today, but I just wanted to wish him a Happy Father's Day on my blog. He is hands-down the hardest person to buy gifts for, but I managed to think of a few things to get for him. I bought him a Home Depot gift card as well as a ticket to Alcatraz and a pending belated Father's Day crab dinner that he'll have to wait for until next month when I see him (for a whole day and a half) in San Francisco.

I love you, Poppies!!! I hope you have had a nice day. Your Indians won for you, too.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

I FINALLY have a condo in Vancouver!!!

At long last, I have a place to live for the next five months. My new digs are five minutes to Robson Street and 10 minutes to both Coal Harbour and Stanley Park. I've had quite a time over the past few weeks dealing with realtors in Vancouver. I finally found one that I liked who actually responded to my emails and phone calls. Gee, what a concept to actually do your job. (In all fairness, one other realtor responded with an available crackhouse-like condo on Smithe Street.)

I didn't get a water view like I was hoping for (and I wasn't willing to pay an additional $1,000/month to get it), but I can walk to the water in less than 10 minutes. I did, however, get two outside balconies, a solarium and insuite laundry (yes, that's a big deal in a lot of these buildings).

So, I'm thrilled yet a little edgy about this whole Vancouver move. It'll be nice to finally get out there so I can just settle down and start enjoying all Vancouver has to offer (instead of worrying about what to put in storage, what to pack and how to get everything else done in the next week).

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Black and White Cookies

When you think of black and white cookies, you usually think of the cookies you see in almost every bakery window while storming the busy streets of New York City. You know the cookies I'm talking about...the big and thick, chewy and cakey cookies that are painted with chocolate frosting on one side and painted with white frosting on the other side. However, Sunset magazine has a different take on the traditional black and white cookie (or perhaps this is the west coast version...or the distant cousin...of the NYC classic).

After this failure from Sunset, I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about trying another Sunset cookie recipe. Then again, my philosophy on baking is "nothing ventured, nothing gained", so I risked the Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate bars and Lindt Excellence White Coconut White Chocolate bars in my pantry and ran with the recipe.

At first glance, I was pretty sure that this was going to be yet another Sunset flop after seeing the way the cookie dough resembled brownie batter, but I continued on my way, added the chopped white chocolate and chilled the dough.

Here's a picture of the cookie dough before adding the white chocolate and chilling:

 















The recipe instructs that you chill the dough until firm, at least 1 hour. (At least are the key words here.) Let me just tell you right now that your dough will be nowhere near a firm dough at 1 hour. I let my dough sit in the fridge for four hours before continuing on with the recipe, and it still wasn't anything near what a firm cookie dough batter usually is. I just pulled out the cookie scoop, crossed my fingers and hoped that somehow (and magically) the oven would bake up two decent batches of cookies.

VoilĂ ...

These are really good cookies. These have a crunchy/flaky exterior and a chewy brownie-like interior. The white coconut white chocolate added a great flavor. I love the tiny pieces of coconut in the Lindt bars. You get the taste of coconut without the stringyness (is that a word?) of shredded coconut. The big, irregular chunks of white chocolate look great in contrast to the dark bittersweet chocolate in these cookies, too.

And who did I make these for? Kristen, of course. She's stopping by tonight, and a big plate of cookies always puts a smile on her face. I figured these cookies were perfect to make for her since she loved these so much. And in keeping with the chocolate/white chocolate theme, I know she'll love these cookies, too.

Black and White Cookies

Adapted from Sunset

12 ounces Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate bars, chopped
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
7 ounces (two 3.5-ounce bars) coarsely chopped Lindt white coconut white chocolate

Preheat oven to 325°. In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (but not touching it), stir chocolate and butter until smooth, 5 minutes. Remove bowl from over water; whisk in sugar, eggs, and vanilla.

In another bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to chocolate mixture and stir until well blended. Stir in white chocolate. Cover and chill dough until firm, at least 1 hour.

Shape dough into 2-inch balls and place about 3 inches apart on buttered or cooking parchment-lined 12- by 15-inch baking sheets.

Bake until set at the edges but still soft in the center, 12 to 15 minutes; if baking more than one pan at a time, switch pan positions halfway through baking.

Let cool for 5 minutes on sheets; transfer to racks to cool completely.

Yield: Makes about 28 cookies

Notes: Use quality chocolate bars...you can use either bittersweet or semisweet chocolate depending on your tastes and/or what you have on hand. Do NOT overbake these...mine were done at 12 minutes. You can use regular chopped white chocolate if you cannot find the Lindt white coconut white chocolate. I got 24 cookies.

 
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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Ewww...

This is Day 2 of having all of the water in my apartment shut off from 9:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. from nearby sewer and water pipe construction (that has gone on for well over a year now...Go, State of Georgia workers, Go!!!) This is what the full-of-orange-Georgia-clay-and-dirt water has looked like at the end of both days (even after running it for seven minutes in the bathroom sink).

I promise not to show you what the toilet water looks like. You're welcome!!!

 
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Saturday, June 9, 2007

Pumpkin Muffins with Milk Chocolate Chips and Sliced Almonds

Nope, Halloween is not right around the corner, but I had a can of pumpkin to use up. (I never got around to making that Pumpkin Tiramisu last Thanksgiving. And it looks like that same Pumpkin Tiramisu won't get made this Thanksgiving either.) Since my baking is going to come to a screeching halt next week and since I need to stock my freezer with breakfast goodies for the next few weeks until I move, I decided to make some muffins this afternoon. Along with the can of pumpkin, I had a partial bag of both milk chocolate chips and sliced almonds that needed to be used up, so I just pulled all of the usual baking ingredients (flour, sugar, etc.) out of the pantry and whipped up these muffins. You can adjust the spices to your liking, but I like anything with pumpkin to have an obvious "spiced" taste, so I just dumped in a teaspoon of this and a half teaspoon of that until I got the taste I wanted. These baked into very dense, very moist muffins. I liked the creaminess and the more-subtle-than-semisweet-or-bittersweet flavor that the milk chocolate chips gave to these muffins, and the toasted almonds added a subtle crunch and nutty flavor. These are delicious and very filling.

Pumpkin Muffins with Milk Chocolate Chips and Sliced Almonds

1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used Penzey’s Vietnamese Cinnamon)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin generously with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

In large mixing bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour through nutmeg); set aside. In another large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla extract, pumpkin and butter. Fold dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until combined. Fold in chips and almonds.

Divide batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let stand in muffin tin for 2-3 minutes before removing to wire rack. Eat warm or let cool completely before serving or storing in an airtight container.

Makes 12 muffins.

Mindy's notes: Adjust the spices to your preferences. If you prefer, you can use canola oil in place of the butter. You can probably leave out the milk, too, but I just happened to have a very small amount in the fridge that I wanted to use up.

 
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Friday, June 8, 2007

Inspiration from a Parisian mouse

When my mother and I were in Paris in April, we we lucky enough (and gleefully delighted) to be surrounded by numerous boulangeries full of delicious breads, cookies and pastries. We stopped and sampled goodies at way-too-many places to mention, but my favorite boulangerie was Boulangerie Malineau in the Marais section of Paris.

 
 
















When I saw the below "rodent roll" there, I just knew that I had to buy it and try it. I really wasn't concerned about whether it tasted good or not (partly because I just knew it would be good and partly because I know that I would have noshed the whole thing anyway). Honestly, I just thought it was cute (and photo-worthy). Well, the joke was on me when it turned out to be one of the best pastries I ate in Paris. It only ranked second to my all-time favorite...a flaky, buttery pain du chocolat topped with toasted sliced almonds and sprinkled with confectioners' sugar. (Oh, I'm drooling just thinking about both of these right now.)

Anyway, the rodent roll had a pronounced pistachio taste with a texture that was dense and moist on the inside and crunchy on the outside. If you look closely at the picture, you can see that the tail is filled with pistachio paste. The miniature chocolate chip eyes and the egg-wash shine added visual appeal, too.

 














When I got home from France, one of the first things I did was to start cleaning out my pantry by either using ingredients up, donating canned goods and boxed stuff to the Salvation Army or throwing things out. Well, I came across a can of almond paste that, for some reason or another, I decided to hold on to. (It was really close to being trashed.) Well, I forgot all about it until last night when I was making these from the recent issue of Gourmet. For some reason, as I mixed the brownie batter, I remembered that another recent issue of Gourmet (March 2007 to be exact) had a recipe for Almond Cakes that used almond paste. Well, since I had good luck with the brownies last night, I figured I would follow one successful Gourmet recipe with another (hopefully successful) Gourmet recipe. This recipe gave me one last chance to use my miniature muffin pan again, and I have to admit that I was hoping that maybe these would have a similar enough nutty taste to the rodent roll I ate in Paris.

Anyway...

These were really tasty. They're very moist in the middle and the tops have a slight crunch. They have a nice almond flavor to them, but I think that after they sit overnight the almond presence will develop and become even more pronounced. (Or at least I'm hoping so.) I tripled the ingredients which made enough batter for 24 individual cakes. These are super-easy to make, too. These are perfect to serve for brunch or to accompany afternoon tea. I really want to experiment more with nut pastes in baking in the future. Pistachio and almond pastes have a similar fragrance and taste; however, the texture of the Parisian pastry was more toothsome and complex whereas the almond cakes are lighter and more muffin-like.

Almond Cakes

Source: Gourmet, March 2007

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus 1/2 tablespoon, melted
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting molds
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons almond paste (not marzipan; 1 oz)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
Confectioners sugar for dusting

Special equipment: 12 (1/8-cup) barquette molds or a mini-muffin pan with 12 (1/8-cup) muffin cups

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Brush molds with melted butter and lightly dust with flour, knocking out excess flour.

Stir together flour (3 tablespoons) and salt in a small bowl.

Beat together softened butter and granulated sugar in a bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in almond paste and vanilla until combined well, then beat in egg until combined. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

Divide batter among molds or muffin cups, spreading evenly, then transfer to a baking sheet (not necessary if using muffin pan).

Bake cakes until just firm and edges are golden, about 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely, about 5 minutes. Turn cakes right side up and dust tops with confectioners sugar just before serving.

Cooks' note: Cakes can be made 1 day ahead and cooled completely, uncovered, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

Makes 12 individual cakes.

Mindy's notes: The recipe yield says 12, but I got 8. Grease the muffin tin(s) generously or line with paper baking cups. I filled each of the mini muffin cups to the top with the batter, so my mini muffins had "mushroom" tops. If you want more refined, professional-looking mini cakes, you will only want to fill your muffin cups about one-half to two-thirds full.

 
 
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Thursday, June 7, 2007

Cheesecake-Marbled Brownies

This was the one and only recipe I ripped from the June 2007 issue of Gourmet magazine. (The June issue was actually a pretty good one, but since I don't have much time to cook these days and since I don't have a grill, that limited a lot of the issue's recipes.) As much as I've tried not to bake (and cook) too much so I can focus on packing and other Vancouver-related things, I just knew I had to make these (and since I had all of the ingredients on hand, there was no reason not to whip up a batch). I made the recipe as written with the exception of using 1/3-less-fat cream cheese instead of full-fat cream cheese. I also baked them for 40 minutes instead of 35 since I am not a fan of fudgey brownies. These are excellent. They are slightly fudgey in the middle but overall they are more of a very dense, chewy brownie. At first, I thought that the recipe may have called for too much cream cheese batter to swirl into an 8-inch pan full of brownie batter, but I quickly realized that the brownie/cheesecake ratio is perfectly proportioned. I like a slightly larger brownie, so I cut these into 12 brownies. Next time, I will cut them into 16 brownies, though, because they are quite rich (and filling).

If you've never made cheesecake brownies before, put some (or all) of these in the freezer and eat them straight from the freezer whenever your sweet tooth needs a "fix". This is hands-down my favorite way to eat brownies. (Note to self: Give remaining 10 brownies away tomorrow so you don't eat them all.)

Enjoy!!!

Cheesecake-Marbled Brownies

Source: Gourmet - Quick Kitchen - June 2007

Two adored classics come together in this dessert lover's superbrownie.

For brownie batter
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup all-purpose flour

For cheesecake batter
8 ounces cream cheese, well softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Make brownie batter:
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan.

Heat butter and chocolate in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, whisking occasionally, just until melted. Remove from heat and whisk in sugar, eggs, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until well combined. Whisk in flour until just combined and spread in baking pan.

Make cheesecake batter and bake brownies:
Whisk together cheesecake batter ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Dollop over brownie batter, then swirl in with a knife or spatula.

Bake until edges are slightly puffed and center is just set, about 35 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes 16 brownies.

 
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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

I Heart Teemu

Congratulations, Anaheim!!!

2006-2007
Stanley Cup Champions


(All of you...please go shave now!!!)





















(Photos from Yahoo! Sports)

Monday, June 4, 2007

Apparently...

I've had Vancouver on my mind for at least 10 years now. While cleaning out a few of my cabinets today, I came across these newspapers and various other magazine articles about Vancouver stuffed in a folder.

I'm sooo busy right now yet sooo excited about moving out there. I should even have a place to live by the end of this week. (Keep your fingers crossed for me.) You won't see much blogging from me over the next few weeks, but I'll try my best to keep you all updated on my move. If you don't see any posts, just email me at my AOL account.

 
 
 
















I WISH this was the current exchange rate. (And look at Britain. O...M...G!!!) This is pre-Euro, too.

 
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Friday, June 1, 2007

Pan-Seared Chicken with Balsamic Sweet Onions and Potatoes

My santoku knife really wanted me to make this recipe. He was desperate to boastfully show off his newly-sharpened edge. Since I cannot say no to him, well, I gave in to his wish.

Actually...

After a busy day of moving things into storage today, I wanted to make a hearty (and well-deserved) meal to end the day. I've had my eye on this recipe for a while now, and I decided it was long overdue to finally make it.

This is easy to prepare, and chopping the onion and potatoes was easy and fast thanks to my awesome knife. (Boast away, Sir Santoku.)

The pungent balsamic vinegar is muted slightly by the stock and along with the savory sweetness of the rosemary makes a delicious, flavorful sauce. Word to the wise, though: Stand Back As You Add The Balsamic Vinegar To The Pan!!! Whoa!!! I didn't prepare myself (or my poor nose) for that smell. I should have known better. Live and learn (and I learned I won't EVER do that again). The original recipe called for four chicken breasts, but I only used two chicken cutlets instead. Usually there is not enough sauce for my tastes in written recipes, so I always double the sauce, but this time I kept the amount of vegetables and sauce the same as the original recipe and reduced the pieces of chicken from 4 to 2 instead. However, I do think that there would be enough to make four servings of chicken with the sauce amounts below. Serve this in pasta bowls to keep the chicken and vegetables swimming in the sauce. Serve with steamed green beans. The green beans taste just as good swimming in the sauce as the main course does.

Enjoy (and please don't forget the balsamic vinegar advice)!!!

Pan-Seared Chicken with Balsamic Sweet Onions and Potatoes

Adapted from Food & Drink, Holiday 2004

Choose round waxy-type potatoes to make sure they hold their shape while cooking. Make sure the potatoes are almost tender before adding the vinegar because the acid can prevent potatoes from softening.

2 boneless, skinless chicken cutlets
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter
4 small potatoes (about 1 lb.), cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large sweet onion, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary (or ¼ teaspoon dried)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup turkey stock

Sprinkle one side of chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add half of butter and swirl to coat pan. Add chicken breasts, seasoned-side down, and season remaining side. Brown, turning once, until well-browned on both sides. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

Melt remaining butter in skillet. Cook potatoes, onions and rosemary, stirring, for 2 minutes or until some liquid is released. Cover, reduce heat to medium and cook, shaking pan often, for about 15 minutes or until potatoes and onions are almost tender and starting to brown. Increase heat to medium-high and add vinegar. Boil, scraping up any bits stuck to pan, until reduced and syrupy. Pour in stock and bring to a boil. Return chicken to pan with any accumulated juices, spooning some of the sauce over chicken. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, turning chicken halfway, or until potatoes are tender and chicken is no longer pink inside.

Transfer chicken to serving plates. Season sauce and vegetables with salt and pepper to taste and spoon over chicken.

Notes: I used Yukon Gold potatoes (which kept their shape nicely), a Vidalia onion and dried rosemary. Original recipe used chicken stock, but I used turkey stock since that's what I had on hand.

Add chicken to these ingredients...

 
















...to get this:

 
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Schrute Buck

A contribution from my brother for my Vancouver condo.

Thanks, Mike. Let me know if you come across any Stanley nickels, too. ;P

Oatmeal Muffins - Part 2

 









Same recipe as Oatmeal Muffins - Part 1 except: 1.) I used vanilla extract instead of maple extract, and 2.) I used miniature semisweet chocolate chips instead of currants. (I think these are even better than the batch with currants. They're both delicious, but obviously my personal palate ranks chocolate above currants.)

Oatmeal Muffins

Adapted from Epicurious (Gourmet – February 1995)

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup plus 2 tsp. all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine oats and buttermilk and let stand 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400° F and butter twelve 1/2-cup muffin tins.

Add egg, vanilla extract, sugar, and butter to oat mixture, stirring until just combined.

Into another large bowl, sift together 1 cup flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and add to oat mixture, stirring until just combined. Put chocolate chips and remaining 2 tsp. flour in a ziptop bag; seal bag and shake to evenly coat chips with flour. Fold chips into muffin batter.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin tins. Bake muffins in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

 
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Oatmeal Muffins - Part 1

Looking in my pantry yesterday, I gazed at a way-too-big canister of old-fashioned oats (that I have been trying to use up forever) and an unopened box of currants (that I haven't even attempted to use) and wondered what I could do with them before I finally gave up and tossed them both in the trash. So, after a little time online, I came across the below recipe for Oatmeal Muffins on Epicurious. I changed only two things from the original recipe: 1.) I used low-fat buttermilk instead of regular buttermilk, and 2.) I added 1 teaspoon of maple extract. (Yet another thing in my pantry I can't seem to use up.) Currants and maple extract give these the taste of your favorite oatmeal raisin cookie or oatmeal raisin pancake recipe in muffin form. (You decide which description you like better.) These muffins are so moist, rich and delicious that there's no need to put anything on them. No butter, cream cheese or jam is necessary. They are simply perfect as is. (How can they not be good with 1 cup of buttermilk and 1 stick of butter?) The recipe for these came from a Gourmet reader's mother's home economics class in Louisiana back in the 1940's. They were delicious then, and they're still delicious now. So delicious that I adapted the same recipe and made another batch. (See the next post.)

Oatmeal Muffins

Adapted from Epicurious (Gourmet – February 1995)

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 large egg, beaten lightly
1 teaspoon maple extract
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup dried currants

In a large bowl, combine oats and buttermilk and let stand 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400° F and butter twelve 1/2-cup muffin tins.

Add egg, maple extract, sugar, and butter to oat mixture, stirring until just combined.

Into another large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda and add to oat mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in currants.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin tins. Bake muffins in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes.

Makes 12 muffins.

 
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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Miniature Brownie Cups

 


















My miniature muffin pan doesn’t get the love it deserves from me. (Then again, neither does my 15 x 10 x 1-inch pan or my 9-inch springform pan, but those are two other posts altogether.) In an affectionate effort to show him some much-craved love before he gets bubble-wrapped and put into storage next week, I wanted to bake some two-bite treats, and Miniature Brownie Cups seemed to be the perfect recipe to make.

My friend Amy and I finally got together for lunch today at Brio after two previous failed attempts, so I figured that was a good enough reason to bake something. (Isn't there always a good enough reason to bake, though?) After sampling one of these from the first batch, I decided to bake two more batches. One batch for Amy to take back to her office to share with her co-workers, another batch for her to take home to her hubby and son and, well, a batch for me. Boy-oh-boy is Mr. Miniature Muffin Pan finally feeling the love!!! Three times in one day is more action than he's gotten in the six or so years I've owned him.

These brownie cups are really delicious. The texture is somewhere between that of chocolate cake and a crunchy top/chewy middle brownie. The pecans, which toast on top of the brownie cups as they bake, add a nice crunch, too. I think these would be really good using miniature baking M&M's, too.

Yummy and easy to make... my kind of recipe!!!

Miniature Brownie Cups

Source: Old-Fashioned Bake Sale, p. 79

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup natural or Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
Dash salt
¼ cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line small muffin cups (1 ¾ inches in diameter) with paper baking cups. Whisk together butter, sugar and vanilla extract in medium bowl. Add eggs, one at a time; beat well.

Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, whisking until well blended. Using a spoon, fill muffin cups ½ full with batter; sprinkle nuts over top.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean. Cool slightly; remove brownies from pan to wire rack. Cool completely.

Makes about 24 brownies.

 
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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Key Lime Pie with Coconut Graham Cracker Crust

One of my "a few times a week" blog reads is Coconut and Lime. Upon reading last week, I saw that Rachel is celebrating her three year blogiversary so I figured, "What better way to honor Rachel and her blog than to make a Key Lime Pie with Coconut Graham Cracker Crust?" This recipe is my standard key lime pie recipe in which I substituted 1/2 cup of the crushed graham crackers in the crust with 1/2 cup sweetened coconut instead. Also, I sprinkled the top of the pie with toasted coconut and added a slice of lime for some much-needed visual pizazz.

Happy 3rd Blogiversary, Rachel and Coconut and Lime!!!

Since Rachel isn't here in person to enjoy this cool, refreshing pie with me, I enjoyed a big, yummy piece of it along with my friend Kurt. I know that key lime pie just happens to be one of his favorite desserts, and since his birthday is coming up, it was an early treat for him (and also a nice change from a traditional birthday cake). The tart, creamy filling is delicious, and the coconut in the crust and on top really adds a nice texture and flavor, too. Who knew coconut and lime were so good together? (Obviously, Rachel did.)

Key Lime Pie with Coconut Graham Cracker Crust

Crust
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons crushed graham crackers
1/2 cup sweetened coconut
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

Filling
1 (8 ounce) package 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
1 (14 ounce) can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
½ cup key lime juice

Topping
3 tablespoons sweetened coconut, toasted and cooled

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In medium bowl, mix crushed graham crackers and coconut together. Add melted butter and mix until well blended. Using the tines of a dinner fork or your fingers, press crust mixture into bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Bake crust until set, about 5-6 minutes. Cool completely on wire rack before filling.

In medium bowl, beat cream cheese and sweetened condensed milk using an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add in key lime juice; stir to combine. Pour filling into crust. Sprinkle top of pie with toasted coconut. Cover pie with plastic wrap and chill at least 12 hours (or until set) before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

 
















A celebratory slice for Rachel:

 
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Monday, May 28, 2007

Chicken, Rice, and Black Bean Salad

My friend Kurt is coming over tonight to eat dinner and watch the hockey game with me (our last dinner and hockey game together before he moves to Scottsdale on Wednesday...Boo Hoo!!!), and since it's warm outside and I was looking for something easy to make, I decided to make Chicken, Rice, and Black Bean Salad from an old issue of Everyday Food magazine. It looked like a tastebud-friendly meal that both of us would enjoy, and since I had all of the ingredients on hand, it was a no-brainer to make it.

Since I actually (sort of) planned ahead for dinner tonight, last night I made Key Lime Pie with Coconut Graham Cracker Crust to have afterwards for dessert. (There are two reasons I chose to make a key lime pie. You'll have to wait for the next post.) I'll post a review of both recipes later tonight or tomorrow morning, but I just wanted to get a head start now and post the recipe for our main course (if that's what you want to call it).

Update (as promised): This salad is fantastic and very filling. Kurt's first words after his first bite was, "Damn, this is good." I guess that could sum up my reaction to it, too. I followed the recipe exactly as written. I did leave in the seeds from the jalapeno, and it added a nice kick. I also used a generous 1/2 teaspoon of cumin. I used a few pinches of sea salt and generously grinded fresh black pepper over the salad before tossing it one last time and serving. This recipe makes a LOT of food. (Kurt left tonight with a big plastic container of it, and I cannot wait to eat it again for lunch...and probably dinner...tomorrow.) This would be great to take along to a picnic or BBQ as a different kind of cold salad...you know, not the typical (boring) pasta salad and potato salad you see all the time.

Chicken, Rice, and Black Bean Salad

Source: Everyday Food magazine - June 2005, p. 105

1 cup brown (or white) rice
1 cooked chicken (about 2 ½ pounds), shredded (about 4 cups)
1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
6 plum tomatoes, sliced*
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno chile, minced (seeds and ribs removed for less heat, if desired)
¼ cup white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Cook rice according to package instructions. Spread on a baking sheet; refrigerate until cool.

Place cooled rice in a large bowl; add chicken, beans, tomatoes, scallions, jalapeno, vinegar, oil, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper; toss to combine. Serve immediately, or refrigerate, covered, up to 1 day.

*How to slice plum tomatoes:
Quarter tomatoes lengthwise. Lay quarters skin side down, and slice out seeds. Slice flesh crosswise about ¼ inch thick.

In serving bowl (without flash):

 
















Scooped out into individual bowl (with flash):

 
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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Nutella Frosted Cupcakes

When I saw this recipe on Baking Bites, I knew I just had to make it. Actually, I saw this recipe many, many months ago and never got around to making it, but in keeping with the promise I made to my lonesome jar of Nutella to use him up this weekend, I was sold on both the ease of this recipe and the picture. I mean, look at that picture!!! Who wouldn't want to make these???

Nicole's description of "tender, rich and very, very tasty" sums these cupcakes up perfectly. These would be really easy to transport to any kind of get-together like a picnic or BBQ because the frosting is baked in.

These are fantastic. Stop reading this post and go make them. Pronto!!!

Nutella Frosted Cupcakes

Seen on Baking Bites
Adapted from Donna Hay


10 T. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
Nutella, approximately 1/3 cup

Preheat oven to 325 F. Line 12 muffin tins with paper liners. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add in eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Don't worry if the batter doesn't look smooth. Add vanilla. Stir in flour, salt and baking powder until batter is uniform and no flour remains. Using an ice cream scoop, fill each muffin liner with batter. They should be 3/4 full, if you're not using a scoop. Top each cake with 1 1/2 tsp. Nutella. Swirl Nutella in with a toothpick, making sure to fold a bit of batter up over the Nutella. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

 

 
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Nutella

I am dedicating all day today to Nutella, so in appreciation of the delicious chocolate hazelnut spread, I am posting two recent pictures of the beloved.

Small jar of Nutella from my dark, American pantry:

 
















HUGE gallon-sized "jugs" of Nutella at a crĂȘperie in Nice, France:

 
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