Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Biscoff Fudge

There's a new love in my life, and it's called Biscoff Spread. I stumbled upon it in a nearby gourmet grocery store, and I grabbed it, regardless of the fact that I had promised myself I wouldn't impulse buy that day. Oh well; I had to have this stuff! What is it, you ask?

The best way I can think of to describe it is peanut butter meets a cookie, then they have a baby. This Biscoff Spread tastes just like Biscoff cookies and looks exactly like peanut butter, with pretty much the same consistency and texture. One taste (okay, I didn't stop at just one taste!) and I knew I'd be doing great things with this stuff. But where to begin?

Making fudge seemed like a great start to me. I found a very simple peanut butter fudge recipe, then adapted it slightly to substitute Biscoff Spread for the peanut butter. It worked absolutely beautifully, and this stuff turned out nothing short of addictive. It's evil and it must be stopped!

The recipe is extremely easy; there's only three ingredients, and it can pretty much be whipped up, start to finish, in about 15 minutes. The longest part is waiting until the fudge is cool to cut it into squares. Or you could just eat it straight from the pan. I wouldn't blame you.

Biscoff Fudge
adapted from Sugarbaby
makes about 30 squares

1 2/3 cup granulated sugar
5 ounces (10 Tbsp.) evaporated milk
5 Tbsp. Biscoff Spread (or smooth peanut butter)

1. Grease or line with foil an 8x8-inch square dish and set aside. Combine the sugar and milk in a large saucepan and place on low heat. Stir until the sugar melts, then turn the heat to high.

2. Stirring constantly, allow the mixture to come to a full boil. Reduce the heat to medium-high, still stirring, and cook until the mixture reaches 235 degrees on a candy thermometer (this takes about 5 minutes if you do not have a candy thermometer). Remove from the heat and add the Biscoff Spread to the saucepan in dollops. Leave the mixture alone (no more stirring) for 5 minutes.

3. Stir the Biscoff Spread vigorously into the milk mixture, working quickly to incorporate the ingredients before the fudge becomes too hard. Immediately pour the mixture into the prepared dish and spread to the edges.

4. Allow the fudge to cool completely (this can be done on the counter or in the fridge/freezer). Cut the fudge into squares and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Cornmeal-Crusted Roasted Ratatouille Tart

This must be my 1008th post this summer about zucchini and summer squash, but I like to think that this one is the most dazzling of them all! Ellie Krieger's first cookbook features this vegetarian Ratatouille Tart with a cornmeal crust, and it seemed like the stars had finally aligned for me to whip it up. I had everything I needed (minus the eggplant), and I had the time to put it together.

Although the tart is easy to make, it does require a bit of time because there are a few steps. I roasted all my veggies the day before and stored them in the refrigerator until I was ready for them. I baked up the cornmeal crust early in the afternoon of the day we ate this for dinner. I let it hang out and cool on the counter after par-baking it, then I let it hang out in the fridge too.

When assembly time rolled around, it went quickly and smoothly because I had everything ready to go. The veggies went into the crust, along with a good sprinkling of cheese, and then I baked it up. It filled the house with the most amazing smells, and it turned out looking completely gorgeous!

It ended up tasting delicious, except for the crust. I'm not sure where I went wrong, but the crust turned out wet and soggy and mushy. I know that the veggies were giving off a lot of liquid; I squeezed them out over the sink before assembling the tart so they would release the excess. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. You could still eat the tart, and of course the veggie part of the thing was pretty much to die for. But maybe next time I should just roast the veggies immediately before assembling the tart? I don't know exactly, but it is definitely worth a second try because I know this tart has wonderful potential!

Cornmeal-Crusted Roasted Ratatouille Tart
adapted from
makes 8 servings

For the crust:
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
1/3 cup whole-grain pastry flour
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. canola oil
3 Tbsp. water

For the filling:
2 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. olive oil
2 shallots, thinly sliced (1/3 cup)
Cooking spray
1/2 lb. thinly sliced yellow summer squash rounds (I used this in place of eggplant)
1/2 lb. thinly sliced zucchini rounds
1/2 lb. small tomatoes, thinly sliced (Ellie uses 3 medium tomatoes)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese (about 3 ounces)
1/4 cup shredded fresh basil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Make the crust: 1. Combine the cornmeal, flour, and salt in a food processor and pulse to incorporate. Add the butter and oil and pulse about 20 times, until the mixture resembles small pebbles. Add the water and pulse until the mixture forms a loose dough.

2. Remove the dough from the processor and press into the bottom and about 1/8 inch up the sides of a 9-inch tart pan with a detachable rim. Press aluminum foil into the bottom and up the sides of the pan on top of the dough. Weight it down with uncooked rice or pie weights.

3. Place the tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the rice and foil and bake for another 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees F.

Prepare the filling: 1. Heat 1 tsp. of the oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat; cook the shallots, stirring, until softened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Meanwhile, coat two baking sheets with cooking spray. Arrange the squash, zucchini, and tomatoes on the sheets in a single layer and brush with the remaining 2 Tbsp. oil. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper, and roast the vegetables until soft but not browned, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Assemble the tart: 1. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Lay the squash slices on the bottom of the tart, overlapping them if necessary; cover with one-third of the mozzarella and some of the shredded basil. Add the zucchini and shallots, top with another third of the mozzarella and the remaining basil, then the tomatoes. Top with the rest of the mozzarella and all of the Parmesan.

2. Bake until the cheese is melted and the vegetables have further wilted, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool for 5 minutes, and cut into 8 slices. Serve warm.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Mom's Olive Oil Orange Bundt (Better Late than Never)

After mixing up my dates for two of Baked Sunday Mornings' selections, I am now finally posting about the Olive Oil Orange Bundt that the rest of the group made nearly a month ago. I am so glad I decided not to just skip it; it was so worth the wait!

It is a pretty straightforward bundt cake recipe. The only major difference between this cake and bundt cakes I have made before is the incorporation of olive oil. It takes the place of butter or any other oil in the cake, so its presence is definitely noticed in the finished product. Fresh orange zest is added to the batter, and it gives the cake such a fresh, bright flavor. Finally, the method of separating the egg whites from the yolks and whipping them before adding them to the batter makes it a bit lighter in texture than other, denser bundt cakes.

I was kinda grateful that others had made this before me, because I could learn something from their tips. The most important lesson I learned from the other bloggers was that I should cut down on the baking time, just slightly. I believe I checked the cake around 37 minutes, and it was just right. The recipe, as written, indicates more like 40-50 minutes. I don't know how much of a difference it made for my cake, but mine was perfect as is.

I hope the other members of Baked Sunday Mornings enjoyed making the Coffee Ice Cream that I made by mistake last month! You can see their results on the main blog, here. To see how everybody liked this Olive Oil Bundt, you can click on the blog post about it over on the main blog, here.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

CEIMB: Saffron Chicken, Lemon, and Green Bean Salad

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe is Saffron Chicken, Lemon, and Green Bean Salad, chosen by Sarah of Sarah's Kitchen Adventures. I'm so glad I was tasked with making this salad; I've read over the recipe in Ellie's book so many times, but never mustered up enough courage to go for it.

You may ask me why I would need courage for this particular salad; it sounds perfectly normal and innocent by the title, right? But don't be fooled; the lemon in the salad is actual chunks of boiled, cooled, diced lemon rind! As you can see in the photo below, the lemon becomes an essential ingredient in the salad itself, rather than simply being a part of the salad dressing (which it is, too, of course).

Now, I felt slightly silly taking a whole lemon, scrubbing its waxy outer coating, stabbing it with a fork several times, and sticking it in a pot of boiling water for close to an hour. But that's exactly what I did. I mean, if I can't trust Ellie by now, something's wrong. She's barely ever steered me wrong; I wasn't (too) worried.

Well, she was right. Again. This salad is nothing short of spectacular! Along with the crisp, snappy fresh green beans, fresh thyme, saffron-laced chicken, and the tart/sweet dressing, the lemon rind was totally tender, intoxicatingly fragrant, and actually, amazingly, tasty! So even though this may sound like quite an unconventional ingredient preparation, I promise you that it is worth a try. Don't be afraid; the results are fresh, exciting, and very delicious!

Thanks to Sarah for the awesome selection! If you would like to see this crazy-good recipe for yourself, click here. For the CEIMB blogroll, click here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hummus and Roasted Vegetable Wrap

Okay, I've recently discovered my new favorite lunch wrap. It's been hiding out in one of my Ellie Krieger's cookbooks, and I just happened to stumble upon it almost by accident. I was looking for a particular recipe, but my eyes wandered to this Hummus and Roasted Vegetable Wrap before I got there. A few hours later, this lovely meal was perched on my table for lunch.

First of all, can I point out how beautifully colorful and vibrant this wrap is? Look at that red, that green, that yellow! It's so fresh and delicious, not to mention super easy to assemble. All you need to do is grill or roast some fresh zucchini and squash (Ellie just used zucchini, but I had the yellow squash so I did half and half), then allow the veggies to cool a bit. Next, you put together the wrap by spreading hummus on the bottom, then sprinkling spinach leaves, pine nuts (toasted or untoasted, your choice), the zucchini and squash, and some roasted red pepper. Roll and wrap, and there's your lunch! Try it with some cheese or olives, too. The possibilities are vast!

Hummus and Roasted Vegetable Wrap
adapted from The Food You Crave
makes 4 wraps

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 medium squash, cut into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
2 tsp. olive oil
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
1 cup hummus (store-bought or homemade; I used my Roasted Red Pepper Spread)
4 pieces whole-wheat wrap bread or whole-wheat tortillas
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 jarred roasted red peppers, drained, rinsed, and quartered
2 ounces baby spinach leaves (2 cups, lightly packed)
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced into half-moons (I didn't use any)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the zucchini and squash with the oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Roast the veggies on a nonstick baking sheet for about 15 minutes, until tender. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Spread 1/4 cup of the hummus over each piece of wrap bread. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp. pine nuts on top. Top with 1/4 of the zucchini and squash, 2 pieces of red pepper, 1/2 cup of the spinach, a few sliced onions, and 1 Tbsp. of the mint. Roll each of them up and cut in half on a diagonal.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Quinoa Sliders with Spicy Roasted Corn Salad

I keep reading and seeing blog posts about quinoa being used as the primary ingredient in burger patties, and I finally decided it was time to stop reading and start doing! I love making vegetarian burgers, and this seemed like a great twist on an old favorite. Plus, it could not be any simpler.

Let me back up a second, though, and tell you about the side dish I made to go along with the Quinoa Sliders: Spicy Roasted Corn Salad. This is a fun way to use up your fresh corn on the cob; it's tangy and spicy, with some great contrasting textures in the form of black beans, scallions, and sweet corn. It can be made in advance and served cold, and it keeps well for days. As you can see above, the ingredients are combined with a delicious chipotle vinaigrette, then tossed well and chilled before eating. I like my food spicy, but of course this recipe could be modified and made with less (or no) chipotle peppers.

The slider recipe I used came from another blog, and the author fried her slider patties on the stovetop. Then, she served the burgers with a quail egg on top. I didn't go quite so fancy; below I included a link to her original recipe. Because I was trying to make these a bit healthier, I chose to bake my patties in the oven and I skipped the egg. Because I baked them, they did turn out just a tad rubbery, which I think is due to the fact that there are several eggs in the slider patties (there to bind the ingredients).

I love these because they are a blank canvas for virtually any flavors you like. If you wanted a Tex Mex burger, you could add some chili powder to the slider base. If you were to go Asian next time, they would taste great with some soy sauce, fresh lime juice, ginger, etc. For this go-round, I did a slightly Middle Eastern thing. I sprinkled plenty of ground sumac (our new favorite spice) into the slider ingredients, which lends foods a slightly sour, acidic flavor. No matter how you dress them up, I suggest you give them a go if you like quinoa, or even if you need an introduction to them. Simple and lovely!

Quinoa Sliders
adapted from food+words
makes 12 sliders

2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
2 eggs (lightly beaten)
2 egg whites (lightly beaten with whole eggs)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 slices whole wheat bread, processed into crumbs
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely minced
1/2 a small onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground sumac (found in international supermarkets and spice shops)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Slider buns (we used pretzel buns, yum!)
Sriracha sauce, for drizzling
Spinach leaves

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Combine the cooked quinoa with the beaten eggs and egg whites, the salt, bread crumbs, jalapeno, onion, garlic, sumac, and black pepper. Using your hands or a large cookie scoop, form slider patties and place on a nonstick baking sheet (or a sheet lined with parchment or silpat). Flatten slightly to form your burgers.

2. Bake the sliders for 20-25 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cooking time. (If desired, you can also fry them in some olive oil on the stovetop, about 2 minutes per side.)

3. Serve the quinoa sliders on slider buns with spinach leaves and a drizzle of sriracha sauce.

Spicy Roasted Corn Salad with Black Beans and Feta
adapted from Fine Cooking
makes 6-8 servings

3 ears fresh corn
1 small red onion, diced
1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 oz. (1/2-3/4 cup) reduced-fat feta cheese, crumbled
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 scallions, sliced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 small canned chipotle pepper, seeded and minced, plus 1 Tbsp. adobo sauce (from the can)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the ears of corn, still in their husks, directly on the center rack in the oven. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool; remove husks and silk. Slice the corn kernels from the cob and place in a large bowl.

2. To the bowl, add the red onion, black beans, feta cheese, scallions, and oregano. In a separate bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, chipotle pepper and sauce, and salt and pepper. Alternatively, you can blend the ingredients together with an immersion blender, or inside a standard blender.

3. Pour the dressing over the corn mixture and stir well to combine. Refrigerate the salad for several hours before serving. This will keep in the fridge for several days.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cauliflower Campanelle

This dish is so simple, you might dismiss it right away as "boring" or "blah." But I am here to tell you, you'd really be missing out on something great if you didn't give it a shot! Even my self-proclaimed cauliflower-disliking husband decided that this recipe was a keeper, which is really saying something!

This Cauliflower Campanelle (renamed by myself because campanelle is the particular cut of pasta I used for this) comes together in less than thirty minutes, requires mostly ingredients that you usually have on hand anyway, and turns out deliciously addictive. Not bad, right?

For ease of preparation, you cook the cauliflower in a huge pot of boiling water, then drain it and throw your uncooked pasta into the same pot to be cooked. Alongside, you heat up another skillet and saute the cauliflower until it starts to brown. Some aromatic ingredients are added to the mix (garlic, basil, crushed red pepper and freshly ground black pepper, Parmesan cheese) and everything is tossed with some extra pasta water to loosen the sauce. As a result of your minimal efforts, you are rewarded with the kind of dish you just want to keep eating long after you've technically had enough. The seasonings are just right, and the cauliflower is so nutty and tender and yummy. Next time cauliflower goes on sale, I know what I'm going to be doing with it!

Cauliflower Campanelle with Red Pepper, Basil, and Parmesan
adapted from Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist
makes 8-10 servings

1 head cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
1 pound campanelle pasta (or any other small shape)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. minced garlic (about 6 medium cloves)
1/2-1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1-1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Fill a large pot 3/4-full with water and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, cut the cauliflower florets away from the core and add them to the boiling water. Cook until fork-tender, about 5-7 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the cauliflower and drain in a colander.

2. Bring the water back up to a boil, then add the pasta and cook until it is al dente, 10-12 minutes. While the pasta cooks, heat the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat until it begins to shimmer but is not smoking. Add the cauliflower and, with a spatula or wooden spoon, break the florets into bite-size pieces, roughly the same size as the pasta. Cook, stirring, just until the florets begin to brown, 3-4 minutes.

3. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook until it is fragrant and beginning to brown, 1-2 minutes. When the pasta is done, drain, reserving 1 cup pasta water. Add the pasta, cauliflower, and garlic to the pasta pot and toss, using tongs or two large spoons. Add the crushed red pepper flakes, the basil, the salt, and the pepper and toss. Add the cheese and toss again. If the pasta doesn't look saucy enough, spoon in a little of the reserved pasta water, toss one last time, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

One Post, Two Cookies!

I didn't know which of these two types of cookie I wanted to talk about more today, so I just decided to do a two for one today and talk about both! Each cookie is delicious in its own way; your preference would probably be dictated by what kind of mood you're in, or if you prefer chocolate and nutty to smooth and full of cinnamon.

The first cookie, the Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie, is actually adapted from a Cat Cora cookie recipe. Hers is called the Peanutter Cookie, and is made with crunchy peanut butter and salted cocktail peanuts. That sounds amazing, naturally, but I thought I'd try an almond butter variation. I swapped smooth almond butter for the peanut butter, and threw in raw almonds in place of the peanuts. These were super delish! I wouldn't go so far as to say they are healthy cookies, but they certainly did taste a little less guilty than the peanut butter counterpart would. The almond butter is a much more subtle flavor than peanut butter, so the chocolate and chopped nuts really have a chance to shine through. I also added a bit of ground cinnamon, as I think this enhanced the overall taste.

The Snickerdoodle cookies I made are oldies but goodies. I make these at Christmas time each year, and since they are among my son's favorite treats I thought it would be nice to make them for his birthday party. I learned something about cream of tartar that I never knew before. I was confused by the lack of it in this version of the Snickerdoodle recipe (from Martha Stewart). I always associated cream of tartar with this cookie, but it turns out that you only need it if you are using baking soda as the leavener. If you use baking powder, on the other hand, the cream of tartar becomes unnecessary. It has something to do with the chemical reactions, etc. needed to make the cookie rise enough. So, I learned something new while baking these cookies!

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist
makes 36 cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. kosher salt
12 Tbsp. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup almond butter, crunchy or smooth (or crunchy/smooth peanut butter)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, preferably 3/4 cup each milk chocolate and semisweet
1 cup coarsely chopped raw almonds (or salted cocktail peanuts)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position the oven racks in the middle and upper third. Spray two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl and set aside. Beat the butter, almond butter, both sugars, and vanilla extract in a large bowl until creamy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. On low speed, add the flour mixture in two batches, beating after each addition. When all the dry ingredients have been beaten in, stir in the chocolate chips and chopped almonds with a wooden spoon.

3. Drop the dough by rounded teaspoons onto the baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 11 to 12 minutes, switching the baking sheets halfway through the baking time and rotating them 180 degrees, until the cookies are light golden. Let them sit on the baking sheets for a minute, then transfer to a rack to cool. Cookies will keep for 3 to 4 days in an airtight container.

adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies
makes 18-20 large cookies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl. Put butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in eggs. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture.

2. Stir together cinnamon and remaining 2 Tbsp. sugar in a small bowl. Shape dough into large balls, using a large cookie scoop. Roll in cinnamon sugar. Space 3 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

3. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until edges are golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks for about 5 minutes before transferring to the racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Grasshopper Bars

This week's Baked Sunday Mornings selection is a blast from my past. I actually made these Grasshopper Bars all the way back in December, and have resisted blogging about them until now. That's why, in the above picture, you can just sorta kinda make out Rudolph's little hooves in the background. He was presiding over the kitchen that day!

I love all things minty, so I was absolutely sure I would go crazy for these. The bars are basically the Baked brownie, with a cool mint layer of frosting on them, covered with a dark chocolate layer on top. I mean, yum, right? So why didn't I totally adore these?

Maybe it's me. Other people tried them, and enjoyed them very much. This was probably the first Baked recipe I've made that didn't totally blow me away. Maybe I expected the mint layer to be more minty than it was, or perhaps it was the creme de menthe in particular that I didn't really dig. I couldn't put my finger on it. It's still a good brownie, just not one I would make again.

So, Merry Christmas in August, and head on over to the Baked Sunday Mornings blogroll for a second (and third, and fourth, and....) opinion! I hope everybody else liked them a whole lot more than I did!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Spread (Plus a Birthday Cake!)

This weekend is my oldest son's sixth birthday. I can't, for the life of me, believe that I have a child going into first grade! It seems like only moments ago, he was born and I was holding a little baby (okay, maybe not so little. He was nearly 9 pounds when he came into the world!). But enough of me strolling down memory lane. We have a cake to discuss here!

I blogged about this Butterscotch Krimpet cake a couple months ago, and I mentioned how much my son loved it. Turns out, he loved it enough to request it as his birthday cake this year! It actually works out great, because orange is his favorite color, and the butterscotch frosting is naturally orange. I did add a couple drops of orange gel food coloring to make it pop a bit more, and I think it turned out nice and vibrant. I baked the cake in two round 9-inch cake pans, slathered a generous helping of frosting in between the layers, and piped a teal border around the top and bottom of the cake. Since his favorite TV show is Scooby Doo, he wanted there to be some sort of Scooby theme. So, orange and teal represent Scooby, and just before serving the cake we pressed a few of his Scooby Doo action figures onto the top. Voila!

Now, I promised you a Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Spread recipe, and I did not forget about it. This is my own, made-up version of a white bean hummus with a nice chunk of feta and a roasted red pepper thrown in for good measure. I decided to make it to go along with my CEIMB recipe this past week, since I was too chicken-y to try the assigned feta spread. I really loved it; give it a try and see if you agree!

Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Spread
recipe by Bri
makes about 2 cups

1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, preferably low-sodium, drained and rinsed
1 roasted red pepper, drained and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (1 ounce) feta cheese, crumbled
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cannellini beans, roasted red pepper, and feta cheese. Pulse a few times to break up the ingredients. Add the remaining ingredients, turn on the food processor, and blend until very smooth. Transfer to an airtight container; store in the refrigerator.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

CEIMB Greek Salad Pitas with Feta Spread and Turkey

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe was a good one! We made Greek Salad Pitas with Feta Spread and Turkey, selected by Jennifer of The Rookie Baker.

Because I am the first one to admit that yogurt really repulses me, obviously I did not put any of the feta spread on my own pita sandwich. However, I did make it for my husband, and he really loved it! It's a simple spread; you mash up some feta cheese with plain yogurt, then add in some fresh lemon zest and juice, dried oregano, and freshly ground black pepper. I made myself a roasted red pepper and feta spread, which turned out really yummy. I'll be blogging about that one soon.

This was such an easy little recipe to put together. It's just some deli-style turkey breast (I chose a lower-sodium variety), romaine lettuce leaves, sliced cucumber, and the spread wrapped up in a pita half. As you can see from our pictures, hubby added sliced kalamata olives to his, and he left his pita bread whole. Instead of stuffing the pita pocket, he just combined all his sandwich fixings and placed them on top of the pita, then folded it up like a tortilla.

I was grateful to have such a simple weeknight meal to make this week! Thanks to Jennifer for the great pick. If you'd like to see if the other CEIMBistas enjoyed this one, be sure to head over to the blogroll. For the full recipe, click here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Baked Rigatoni with Roasted Vegetables

I'm excited to tell you about this week's Meatless Mondays dish, because it was such cheesy, comforting goodness. After finding myself with a healthy supply of zucchini, summer squash, and various cheeses, it seemed only natural that this recipe would pop into my head. After searching briefly through one of my Giada De Laurentiis cookbooks, I found it: Baked Pasta with Roasted Vegetables.

There's really nothing I can hate about this dish. It's pasta, so right there I'm in love. Next, throw in a nice assortment of roasted veggies. Awesome. Then, you mix it all together with some marinara sauce, thawed frozen peas, and, best of all, four different types of cheese. Uh, yum! You pour it all into a big baking dish, then top it with yet another type of cheese, and bake it until the whole thing turns brown and bubbly and melty. Ahhh.

This was wonderful. What else can I really say? If you like baked pasta dishes, I highly recommend throwing in some roasted veggies for a delightfully healthy twist on the old fave. The five types of cheese just make it more interesting and even more delicious. I liked the peas in there, too. It was a nice pop of texture every time you bit down on one. I made it a bit differently than Giada did; it's got less oil in the veggie-roasting part, and I thought it was totally unnecessary to add chunks of butter to the top of the casserole before baking it, like she did. I wrote the recipe as I made it down below.

Baked Rigatoni with Roasted Vegetables
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Pasta
makes 8-10 servings

2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch strips
2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
1-2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. dried Italian herb blend or herbes de Provence
1 lb. rigatoni pasta
3 cups marinara sauce, homemade or store bought
1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup gouda cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Muenster cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup Camembert cheese, crumbled or chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. On a baking sheet (I lined mine with nonstick aluminum foil), toss the bell peppers, zucchini, squash, and onion with the olive oil, 1/2 tsp. of the salt, 1/4 tsp. of the pepper, and the herbs. Bake until tender, about 15 minutes.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 8 minutes; you don't want to cook it fully since it will be cooked later in the oven. Drain.

3. In a large bowl, combine the pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, all the cheeses except the Parmesan, the peas, and the remaining salt and pepper. Gently mix using a wooden spoon until all the pasta is coated with sauce and the ingredients are combined.

4. Pour the pasta into a greased 9x13-inch baking pan. Top with the Parmesan cheese. Bake until the top is golden and the cheese melts, about 25 minutes. Allow the pasta to rest for 5 or so minutes before serving.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pork and Mango Coconut Curry

Sure, we all know it's a good idea to go into the grocery story with a list and a plan. It pays to be prepared. But have you ever just impulsively bought something without knowing what you were going to do with it? I have that problem. I do that a lot.

The last time this happened to me, it was a mango that I bought on the spur of the moment. Sure, they were on sale for a good price, and yes, the mangoes were looking really great. But I can't say for sure what drew me to them. I shrugged, plopped a mango into my cart, and decided to figure it out later.

Fast forward to dinner a couple nights ago. How's this for an idea: Pork and Mango Coconut Curry. I got it in my head that I wanted the mango to be featured in a savory main course dish, rather than used for dessert or even ice cream, as I have done before. I had some pork to use, as well as half an open container of coconut milk. It was fated. I was going to do a curry!

I've never made a curry exactly like this before. The mango, along with sauteed onion, bell pepper, garlic, and spices, comprise the curried sauce of the dish. After these ingredients have had time to simmer and meld together, you puree the whole mixture. Once it is a nice, yellow sauce, you add the meat pieces directly into the pot and allow the hot liquid to poach the pork. It cooks completely through in about 10 minutes, and then you add the coconut milk and just continue heating the whole thing long enough to make it hot again (since the coconut milk cools it down).

I served the fragrant curry on a bed of cooked brown rice, after garnishing it with some chopped scallions. I was hopeful that this preparation method would pay off, and I was not disappointed. The curry was so delicious! It had such a deep, complex flavor. There was sweetness from the mango, spiciness from the curry powder, and a bit of tartness from the cider vinegar. The coconut milk made everything slightly creamy, but it didn't feel heavy or too rich. The pork was cooked right, and wasn't too tough or chewy as I feared it might be. I savored every bite of this, and I am happy to report that even Mr. Picky Pants (a.k.a my oldest son) ate his whole bowl! Sure, he'll eat curry, but I still have to practically tie him down to get him to eat a plain old potato or even a boring chunk of corn on the cob! Sigh, baby steps.

Pork and Mango Coconut Curry
adapted from Eats Well With Others
makes 4-6 servings

1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 Tbsp. yellow curry powder (I used 1 Tbsp. hot curry powder and 1 Tbsp. of mild)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 mango, peeled and diced
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 lb. boneless pork loin, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup light unsweetened coconut milk
3 scallions, sliced, for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 cups cooked brown rice

1. In a Dutch oven or soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the ground ginger, curry powder, and cumin and cook for another minutes, stirring the whole time to incorporate the spices fully.

2. Add the vinegar, water, and mango to the pot, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat. Use an immersion blender or a standing blender to puree the mixture; you can leave it slightly chunky if you prefer.

3. Add the pork cubes to the pan. Allow the pork to cook by poaching in the curry liquid, about 8-10 minutes on a medium-low heat. Remove a piece of pork and cut it in half to make sure the meat is cooked through.

4. Stir in the coconut milk, turn the heat down to low, and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes, until the coconut milk is warmed through. Try not to let it boil so that the coconut milk will remain smooth. Once the curry is hot, turn off the heat and add the scallions, plus salt and pepper to taste.

5. To serve, spoon 1/2 cup of the brown rice into a shallow bowl, then cover with a couple scoops of the coconut curry.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake

So I got this new cookbook called Cake Keeper Cakes. It's basically exactly the kind of cookbook I've always wanted, but for some reason never had up until now. It's full to the brim with simple, no-frills, casual cakes. There's a section on bundt cakes, a section on loaf cakes, and a section on angel food cakes and chiffon cakes. All the recipes appear easy to follow, and none of them require weird, exotic ingredients.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love my fancy cookbooks, filled with complicated baking techniques and precise instructions that, should you fail to follow them to the letter, could end in a kitchen disaster and lead to dashed hopes and dreams (at least as far as eating something delicious is concerned). Those higher-level cookbooks have taught me a lot, and I continue to get an education every time I bake from them. But, you know, sometimes you just want to bake something quick and easy, with predictable results. And I'm happy to say that so far, this cookbook allows me the opportunity to do just that.

I made a chocolate birthday cake for a coworker of Andy's first from this book, and it went over really well at the office. I didn't happen to get any, since it was devoured before Andy brought the empty cake pan home, but I took that as a huge compliment! Encouraged by this huge reception, I decided to make a second cake for home. This time, I wanted to make something I knew my kids would eat. That meant angel food cake.

I think I've mentioned this on the blog before, but my oldest son hates frosting. Well, he hates most frostings. He likes his sweets on the plain, unadorned side. He's that kid that throws a fit when you take him to a birthday party and one of the activities is to decorate your own cookie/cupcake. He just wants to take the naked cupcake and eat it that way, darnit! So I've come to realize that angel food cake is a great cake for both of us. For him, it's nice and plain and spongy and he really loves the taste. For me, I get to eat a fat-free cake for dessert! Not bad. I chose a Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake, just because it sounded like a fun spin on the original. It's pretty much exactly like a standard angel food cake (whipped egg whites, a bit of cake flour, some vanilla, etc.) but with light brown sugar in place of the granulated sugar. There was a simple cinnamon glaze recipe along with the cake in the book, but of course I omitted that on my son's behalf.

I was a bit nervous about how this would turn out, but my fears were quickly calmed when I took this beautiful, pillowy tower of cake out of the oven. The last time I tried making an angel food cake, the thing looked flat and deflated and it didn't go over too well. This one, on the other hand, was a home run! It was unbelievably soft; it almost dissolved on the tongue. It had fantastic height, and it kept very well for days on my counter in an airtight cake dome. It was wonderful with the Coffee Ice Cream I made the other day, too! This cake is now in the running to become my son's birthday cake, so I'd say he loved it!

Brown Sugar Angel Food Cake
from Cake Keeper Cakes
makes 1 10-inch cake

1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar, divided
1/4 tsp. salt
14 large egg whites, room temperature
1 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Have ready a 10-inch ungreased angel food tube pan with a removable bottom.

2. Combine the flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly to break up any lumps. Set aside.

2. Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl or electric mixer bowl fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until the whites are frothy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat on medium speed until the egg whites begin to turn white. With the mixer still on medium speed, pour in the remaining 3/4 cup brown sugar in a slow, steady stream and whip until the egg whites just hold soft, floppy peaks when the whisk is lifted from the mixture. Stir in the vanilla until it is just combined.

3. Place a small fine-mesh strainer over the bowl of egg whites and strain about 1/4 cup of the flour mixture into the egg white mixture. Gently fold in the flour mixture with a rubber spatula. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture in 1/4-cup increments until all of it has been folded in. Pour the batter into the tube pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula.

4. Bake the cake until it is golden brown and the top springs back when you touch it, about 45 minutes (Note: mine only took about 38 minutes).

5. Remove the pan from the oven. If your pan has feet, invert the pan onto a heatproof surface and allow it to cool. If your pan doesn't have feet, invert 4 heatproof drinking glasses on the counter and rest the inverted pan on top of the glasses to allow air to circulate around the cake while it cools. (Alternatively, you can do what I did, which is to place a heavy juice bottle underneath the hole in the center of the tube pan and allow the center hole piece of the pan to rest on the top of the bottle, inverted.) Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 1 hour or for up to 6 hours.