Sunday, October 31, 2010

Buttermilk Pudding Cakes With Caramelized Pears

Pears taste like fall to me, so I decided to incorporate them into this dessert. The cake recipe is based on one in The Lee Bros. Simple, Fresh, Southern Cookbook and is delicious! For this dish, I used brown sugar instead of granulated because it would be a nice complement to the caramel sauce the pears are cooked in. The cakes are super-simple (no mixer required) and cook in only 9 minutes—perfect for a last-minute sweet!

Buttermilk Pudding Cakes With Caramelized Pears
2 eggs
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. apple pie spice
Caramelized Pears
Vanilla ice cream

1. Beat eggs with a whisk until creamy and yellow; whisk in buttermilk and next 3 ingredients. Combine flour and next 2 ingredients. Gradually add flour mixture to egg mixture, whisking until the batter is smooth. Divide batter into 8 lightly greased muffin cups, filling two-thirds full.
2. Bake at 425° for 9 minutes or until done. Remove from pan to plates; serve with Caramelized Pears and vanilla ice cream.

Caramelized Pears:
1/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 pears, cored and thinly sliced
1/4 cup light rum
1/4 tsp. apple pie spice
Pinch of salt

1. Combine butter and sugar in a skillet until butter is melted and sugar dissolves; add in pears and remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, until pears are tender and sauce comes together.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Roasted Tomatoes and Cipollini Onions

This recipe is from my friend Jamie. We enjoyed it as a side dish to tonight’s Tuscan Lemon Chicken. The method I made up is a little different than the original (I needed to speed it up), but it’s comes together easily. The hard part is finding cipollini onions. After checking Walmart, Publix, and Target, I finally found them at Whole Foods. This would also make a great meatless entrée. Enjoy!

Roasted Tomatoes and Cipollini Onions
1 lb. cipollini onions
1 lb. cherry tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, peeled
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 baguette, cut into 1-inch thick slices
1 (15-oz.) can white beans, rinsed and drained
Chopped fresh basil (optional)

1. Peel cipollini onions, and cut into quarters or eighths. Cut cherry tomatoes in half. Place onions, tomatoes, and garlic in a baking dish. Drizzle generously with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Bake at 425° for 20 to 25 minutes or until onions are tender.
3. Toast baguette slices in oven until lightly browned. Arrange on a serving platter (I used about 8 slices); top bread with beans. Scoop onion-and-tomato mixture over beans. Season with additional salt and pepper if needed. Serve immediately.

Tuscan Lemon Chicken

This recipe has been on my menus for the past several weeks. However I haven't gotten around to making it. My inspiration is from Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics. The original recipe calls for flattening the bone-in, skin-on chicken and then grilling it. Too much work! Andy and I don’t have a good track record for grilling chicken, so I decided to roast the chicken instead. The lemony flavor is subtle and delicious; roasting yielded succulent meat and crispy skin. Our good friends Melissa and Jeff and their sons came for dinner tonight. Melissa mounded Mashed Potatoes on the platter, topped them with the chicken breasts, and drizzled the whole thing with the sauce. (She also served as guest photographer.) Enjoy!

Tuscan Lemon Chicken
5 to 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice and zest from 3 lemons
1 Tbsp. minced fresh rosemary
2 tsp. herbs de Provence

1. Arrange chicken in a shallow dish; sprinkle with salt and pepper on both sides.
2. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice and zest, rosemary, and herbs de Provence. Pour mixture over chicken. Cover dish, and marinate chicken at least 4 hours.
3. Place chicken, skin side up, on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet; drizzle with marinade.
4. Bake at 375° for 45 minutes or until done.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween Cookies

I needed an easy dessert to serve tonight and remembered this recipe. These cookies are chock full of chocolate and peanut butter—perfect for the candy season! Definitely plan to make them; the recipe is super easy. The rest of our menu included Mexican Chicken Soup, Easy Queso, Guacamole, and Homemade Tortilla Chips—in other words, comfort food!

Halloween Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 package semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 package peanut butter chips
1 package Reese's Miniature Peanut Butter Cups, cut in half (place in freezer for about 15 minutes to make cutting easier)
1 small package Reese's Pieces

1. Beat butter, peanut butter, and sugar with an electric mixer until blended. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
2. Combine flour and next two ingredients. Gradually add to peanut butter mixture until blended. Stir in remaining ingredients.
3. Spoon dough onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. (Note: I use a tablespoon-size scoop to perfectly size cookies.)
4. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Cool on pans 10 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Blueberry Crumb Cake

This Barefoot Contessa recipe has been on my want-to-try list for a while now. I decided to serve it for dessert tonight, following a meal with friends that included Fried Chicken Tenders, Risotto, and Chopped Apple Salad. The cake has a very light texture and is delicious. It calls for a small amount of lemon zest, but that flavor gets lost. Next time I'll up the amount of zest because blueberries and lemons are perfect partners. I have an idea to use it for French toast—I'll let you know. Enjoy!

Blueberry Crumb Cake
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup sour cream
1 cup blueberries

1. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer until creamy. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add in vanilla and zest. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture, alternately with sour cream, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Stir in blueberries. Pour batter into a lightly greased 9-inch round cake pan. Sprinkle Streusel over top of batter.
2. Bake at 350° for 40 to 50 minutes or until done.

1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, melted

1. Combine sugar and next 4 ingredients. Stir in melted butter until combined.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Recipe Rewind: Apple Fritters

Tonight our friend Jason, who has just moved back to Birmingham, came for dinner to celebrate his 40th birthday. We had hamburgers, Cornmeal-Crusted Onion Rings, and yummy Apple Fritters. I first posted the fritter recipe last fall and decided to post it again because it is super-simple and delicious! (Don't be afraid of the frying!) Two changes to the original: I omitted the sugar (the apples were sweet enough) and added some cinnamon and vanilla to the batter. To make them birthday-worthy, I served the fritters with vanilla ice cream and drizzled them with Caramel Sauce. Enjoy!

Apple Fritters
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2/3 cup milk
1 egg
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Juice of 1 lemon
3 apples, cored and thinly sliced
Vegetable oil
Powdered sugar

1. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients in a bowl. Combine milk and next 4 ingredients. Gradually add milk mixture to flour mixture. Stir apples into batter.
2. Heat vegetable oil in Dutch oven. Carefully drop batter into hot oil using a medium-size scoop. Cook until golden brown and done. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle hot apple fritters with powdered sugar.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink Pasta Sauce

I had a bunch of veggies left from my market basket that needed to be used, so pasta sauce seemed the perfect solution. In addition to the vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic, carrots, bell pepper), I made meatballs out of a combination of ground beef and Italian sausage. Because the sauce was so thick, I decided to fry frozen tortellini like I did here. Andy and his dad really liked this meal! I added three (8-oz.) cans of tomato juice (leftover from another recipe) to the leftovers and am planning to serve the new mixture as Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink Soup later in the week. I'll report back on what we think. Enjoy!

Everything-But-The-Kitchen-Sink Pasta Sauce
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, thinly sliced
1 eggplant, cut into cubes
2 zucchini, cut into cubes
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 (28-oz.) can tomato puree
1 (8-oz.) can tomato juice
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
Fried tortellini
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Sauté onions and carrots in hot oil 5 minutes. Add in eggplant and next 2 ingredients, and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Add in crushed red pepper and next 4 ingredients. Cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the tomato mixture. Add in browned meatballs, and cook, stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Serve over fried tortellini. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

2 links Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 lb. ground beef
2 Tbsp. Italian breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
Olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients. Shape mixture into balls, and cook in hot oil in a skillet until browned on all sides.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes

Tonight a friend came for dinner. Andy and I had decided to serve steak, but I was undecided on the sides. The final menu: steak, Zucchini-and-Summer Squash Gratin, and Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes. My inspiration for the stuffed tomatoes, which used the last of my market basket tomatoes, came from a couple of recipes. The end result was just right! I'm sad that it will be next summer before we have this dish again, but I'm looking forward to it. We had this as a side, but it would also be a great main dish. Enjoy!

Rice-Stuffed Tomatoes
2 garlic cloves, minced and divided
Olive oil
1/2 cup arborio rice (Long-grain rice, cooked according to package directions, may be substituted.)
1 1/2 cups water
4 tomatoes
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

1. Sauté 1 garlic clove in hot oil in a saucepan for 1 minute. Add in rice, and cook, stirring constantly, 3 minutes. Add in water, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook rice, stirring often, 15 minutes or until done and moisture is absorbed.
2. Slice the stem end off each tomato. Use spoon to scoop out tomato pulp into a bowl. Place tomatoes in a baking dish; drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
3. Combine cooked rice and tomato pulp. Stir in remaining garlic clove, basil, oregano, Parmesan, and bacon; season with salt and pepper to taste.
4. Spoon rice mixture into tomatoes. Spread remaining rice mixture around tomatoes in baking dish.
5. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until tomatoes are softened.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin-and-Acorn Squash Soup

Sadly, this past Saturday was the last week of my market basket subscription. (Moment of silence, please.) I have enjoyed the variety of produce in my basket throughout the 18-week season. It's also been fun coming up with new recipes that feature the fruit and vegetables. P.E.E.R., the organization that sponsors the farmers market, has a harvest dinner fund-raiser each year that features market produce; in the past a fantastic pumpkin soup has been served and this was my attempt to re-create that. The basket had three small pumpkins and last week it had two acorn squash, so I decided to combine the two in the soup. The most difficult thing about cooking with gourds is peeling them. I decided to avoid that task by cutting the pumpkins and squash in half and then roasting them. After they cooled, I used a spoon to scoop out the interior of the pumpkin and squash, leaving the peel behind. Much easier! This soup was perfect for an early fall supper. I served it with focaccia bread croutons. Enjoy!

Roasted Pumpkin-and-Acorn Squash Soup
3 small pumpkins, cut in half and seeded
2 acorn squash, cut in half and seeded
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 (32-oz.) box chicken broth
1 cup cream or half-and-half or milk
1/2 to 1 tsp. tarragon
Fresh goat cheese

1. Place pumpkins and squash on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Bake at 400° for 45 minutes or until tender. Set aside to cool (about 30 minutes).
3. Sauté onion in hot oil 10 minutes or until tender in a Dutch oven. Use a spoon to scoop out interior of pumpkins and squash into Dutch oven. Add in chicken broth and cream; add in tarragon and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Simmer until ready to serve. Ladle into bowls, and top with a crumble of fresh goat cheese.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cappuccino Brownie Cupcakes

This recipe is very popular with my family and friends. (my sister, Mel, prefers to call it “Melanie Brownies.”) A couple of weeks ago, I decided to see if it would work well cooked in muffin pans instead of the standard 13- x 9-inch pan. The recipe itself is super-easy; however I hate cutting the brownies into bars. Inevidently they come out different sizes and it's very messy because of the frosting. Baking them in muffin pans worked great! Because I prefer slightly undercooked brownies, paper liners are a must here, although I normally eschew them. Enjoy!

Cappuccino Brownie Cupcakes
This makes 24 cupcakes.
4 oz. bittersweet, unsweetened, or semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Cappuccino-Buttercream Frosting

1. Melt chocolate squares and butter in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 minute and 30 seconds; stir until combined.
2. Stir in sugar. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, stirring until blended after each addition. Gradually stir in flour, vanilla, and chocolate chips. Pour batter into paper-lined muffin cups.
4. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until done.
5. Cool completely, and spread with Cappuccino-Buttercream Frosting.

Cappuccino-Buttercream Frosting:
1 (1.16-oz.) package instant mocha cappuccino mix or 1 heaping Tbsp. mocha cappuccino mix
1/4 cup warm milk
1 cup butter, softened
1 (16-oz.) box powdered sugar

1. Dissolve mocha mix into warm milk.
2. Beat butter and mocha mixture with an electric mixer until blended; gradually add in powdered sugar.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Creamy Mushroom Soup

First, let me say that this photo doesn’t do this delicious soup justice; chalk it up to poor photography skills. For my birthday I decided to have some friends over for a lunch of little food (translated: food Andy doesn’t care for). The menu included Tomato-Goat Cheese Tarts, Chopped Apple Salad, this soup, and Cinnamon Apple Cake. We had so much fun! The soup was inspired by a recipe I saw on Tasty Kitchen. I made a few changes: cooking the mushrooms in a combo of butter and oil, adding in some chopped onion and dried tarragon, and using my immersion blender to puree the soup a bit. I'll definitely make this again. Enjoy!

Creamy Mushroom Soup
Olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt and pepper
2 lb. white mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. butter
1 cup white wine
1 cup tomato juice
1 cup chicken broth
2 cups whipping cream
1 to 2 tsp. dried tarragon
2 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup water

1. Cook onion and next 3 ingredients in hot oil in Dutch oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables soften. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and add in mushrooms and butter. Cook until mushrooms turn brown and soften, about 10 more minutes. Stir in wine and next 2 ingredients; season with salt and pepper. Bring mixture to a boil; then reduce heat to a simmer. Use an immersion blender to puree mixture, leaving some chunks. Stir in cream and tarragon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thoroughly heated. Combine cornstarch and water; stir into soup mixture. Simmer for 15 minutes or until soup thickens. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Plum Upside-Down Cake

Growing up, my mom made a cake that used plum baby food—it was delicious! I have fond memories of that cake, but you can't buy plain plum baby food anymore, so it's been years since she's made it. When I found this recipe in a old issue of Martha Stewart Living, I had to try it. The cake has the flavor of spice cake, but what sets this recipe apart is the brown sugar and butter that caramelize on the plum halves while it bakes. It’s is also great for breakfast. Enjoy!

Plum Upside-Down Cake
3 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
5 red plums, halved and pitted
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup sour cream

1. Melt butter in a springform pan in a 375° oven. Remove pan from oven, and sprinkle brown sugar over melted butter. Place plums, cut sides down, in butter mixture.
2. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add in eggs. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients. Gradually add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream. Spoon mixture over plums in prepared pan.
3. Bake at 375° for 1 hour or until done. Cool completely, and invert onto serving plate.

Greek-Style Tilapia

Tonight Andy's parents and my mom were here for dinner. I decided to make an easy but impressive meal: Greek-Style Tilapia, Risotto, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts. These are all recipes I've posted before, but they are worth revisiting. Because fish cooks so quickly, I didn't start it until the risotto had been cooking for about 15 minutes. There is a hint of fall in the air and this menu seemed just right for the change of season. Enjoy!