Thursday, November 30, 2006

Cranberry White Chocolate Quick Bead

I bought a big bag of cranberries right before Thanksgiving. I thought that I was going to make something with it for the holiday, but I just never got around to it. I'm glad I didn't, because it afforded me the opportunity to make this awesome sweet and tart bread. I adapted this recipe from a Joy of Baking recipe.

I became interested in cooking with cranberries this summer when I spent a weekend at my aunt's house in Pidgeon Bay. If you are wondering where pidgeon bay is, it is far, far, far, up in bumbfuck Maine. However, the 6 hour ride is worth it because it is just so beautiful up there. When we went it happened to be the height of wild Maine blueberry season, and when walking in my aunt's front yard, which consists of a rocky spread of land leading directly to the water, her whole front yard was covered in blueberry and cranberry vines. I went out in the morning and picked blueberries and cranberries and put them in my cereal. How cool is that.

Many people think that cranberries are grown in water, or in bogs, which is a common misconception. The American Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is a low-growing, vining, woody perennial plant with small, alternate, oval leaves. The plant produces horizontal stems or runners up to 6 feet (2 m) long. Short vertical branches 2 to 8 inches (5 to 20 cm) in height, called uprights, grow from buds on the runners and produce both vegetative and fruit buds. Each fruit bud may contain as many as seven flowers. (The Cranberry Institute (

This particular bread is great - the matching of the tart from the cranberry with the smooth sweet of the white chocolate is a great mixture. Also, it just looks so festive, with it's white and red.

4 cups (460 grams) sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup (200 grams) white granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Zest of one orange or lemon (optional)
1 large
egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) (56 grams) unsalted
butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon pure
vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) milk
1 cup (120 grams) fresh
cranberries, coarsely chopped
1 cup white chocolate chips

Butter, or spray with a nonstick vegetable, a 9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). (Note: if you are using a dark colored pan reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C).)

In a large bowl whisk together the sifted flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and orange zest. In a separate bowl whisk together the beaten egg, melted butter, vanilla extract and milk. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix in the fruit and nuts. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack. Wrap in aluminum foil and store for a few days before serving. It can be frozen.

Makes one - 9x5 inch loaf

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Chicken Cacciatore

Another Giada recipe. I've actually started watching her more and more since my trip to Rome. I just loved the food so much when I was there, and I want to have those flavors all the time now. This recipe is a bit of a job to make, but it is all worth it. I know that the recipe calls for bone-in chicken, but the next time I make it, I will definitely use boneless chicken, just because it's so much easier to work with and eat chicken when it's boneless.


  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 2 chicken breasts with skin and backbone, halved crosswise
  • 2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ( 28-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with 1 teaspoon of each salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken pieces in the flour to coat lightly.

In a large heavy saute pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, saute it in 2 batches. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the bell pepper, onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces, and 20 minutes for the thighs.

Using tongs, transfer the chicken to a platter. If necessary, boil the sauce until it thickens slightly, about 3 minutes. Spoon off any excess fat from atop the sauce. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle with the basil and serve.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Caramelized Onion & Mozzarella Crostini

Last night I made chicken cacciatore, it tasted great, I even took a picture of it, and planned on posting about it today, but I forgot my camera at home today, so no camera, no flash card, no images, no chicken cacciatore post. I started looking through the images I had on my computer to see if there were any pictures that I had not blogged about, low and behold (where do you think that term came from?) I had one image that I never blogged about. Mmm Mmmm Mmm I love caramelized onions. So what better way to shove it in my cake hole than to put it on a crostini and cover it with cheese? So I made the caramelized onions by cutting up an onion into long strips and then sautéing the onion in a little butter and olive oil over low heat until the onion releases its sugar and begins to caramelize, usually about 25 minutes. I put the hot onion on a toasted baguette and covered with mozzarella cheese and put in the toaster oven just long enough to melt the cheese. Yum.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Mamma Speck's Pumpkin Bread

As God is my witness I will never make pumpkin puree from scratch again. I don't even know why I decided to tackle this task. Maybe it was the sad pumpkin just sitting in my foyer waiting to be tossed out on the street curb on trash day like a figment of Halloween past, or maybe I just had too much extra time on my hands, or maybe, just maybe I'm masochistic and needed some form of torture to put upon myself. Whatever it was, it will never happen again. It sucked. I first took the pumpkin and cut off the top, then cut down the sides of the pumpkin and created manageable pieces for me to scrape clean, peel and cut up. I did this for the whole pumpkin, then placed the pumpkin in a big pot and covered with enough cold water to cover the pumpkin; I then boiled the pumpkin for what seemed like three days, and then drained the pumpkin, cooled it, and then put it in the food processor. From this state I needed to strain it because it was so wet, the straining took forever, and halfway through I decided I had enough pumpkin puree and put the rest of the pumpkin in the garbage disposal. However, I did make this pumpkin bread with the homemade pumpkin puree, which sadly I thought tasted more like zucchini bread than pumpkin bread. Maybe I had the wrong kind of pumpkin, or it was too big, or it just wasn't meant to be, but from now on, it's canned pumpkin for me.

This recipe is from my friend (and former roommate) HL's mother who to this day I don't know her first name, because for the past 6 years I have been calling her Mamma Speck. She would make the best pumpkin bread, and send HL home with a loaf, which I'm sure was meant for HL, but I usually ended eating it and exclaiming with a mouth full of bread..."this is so damn good." HL and I lived together for a few fun filled years, but time passes and things change and our landlord doubled our rent and we couldn't afford to live in our apartment anymore. So we both took that chance and moved in with our boyfriends at the same time, boyfriends, which I am more than happy to say are now our husbands and we are both happily married.

The first year after we moved away from each other I received my very own pumpkin bread in the mail from Mamma Speck with her famous recipe in the package. This is Mamma Specks Pumpkin Bread.

1 1/2 C sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 2/3 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each clove, nutmeg, cinnamon
1/2 C oil
1/2 C water
1 C canned pumpkin
2 eggs

Mix together oil, water, pumpkin and eggs. Combine dry ingredients together then add to wet mixture. Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sweet Potato Chips with Parmesan Sprinkles

I had one lonely little sweet potato in the refrigerator on Saturday, and since I was in an experimental mood I decided to see if I could make sweet potato chips out of the potato. I don't have a mandolin, so they didn't come out as good as they would have had they been thinner, but they were still pretty good. I asked for a mandolin for Christmas, so hopefully I'll get it and this recipe will be better next time I make it.

I peeled the potato and cut it into the thinnest pieces I could with just a plane knife, then salt and peppered them and fried them in a shallow pan with olive oil. As soon as I took them out of the oil and placed them on a paper towel I shaved a little parmesan cheese over them so that it melted onto the chips. This was very good.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Pumpkin Seed Brittle

A lot of the food blogs that I read on a regular basis featured pumpkin seed brittle last month. I thought this was such a great creation. I took this recipe from Tartelette from her post where she featured it with Burnt Sugar Ice Cream. Her pumpkin seed brittle recipe was from Martha Stewart.

I don't have a candy thermometer, so the creation of this brittle was the result of two trials. The first of which resulted in one extremely scorched pan and enough swearing that CB ran clean across the house into the kitchen thinking that I had caused bodily harm. In the second trial I was determined to not burn the mixture, which led to me not cooking it enough, laying it on the cookie sheet, and waiting for it to cool, only to realize that I had made caramel with pumpkin seeds in it because the mixture would not harden. I called my mom who told me that I needed to get the mixture to "ball state" after some snickering and juvenile remarks about creating a sweet ball state I rolled the caramel like seed mixture into a ball and put it back on the stove top over high heat. I had no expectations at this point considering I was taking the mixture from liquid to solid to liquid state again, but after I got the mixture bubbling hot and dropped a few pieces into a bowl of water, and indeed they did reach the "ball state" I poured the mixture back onto the cookie sheet and within 30 minutes I was breaking the pieces apart and my pumpkin seed brittle was a success. Yes! Note to self, get a damn candy thermometer.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle, from Martha Stewart and Tartelette
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for baking sheet
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 cup fresh pumpkin seeds, rinsed well, dried, and toasted

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter an 11-by-17- inch rimmed baking sheet; set aside.
Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir in sugar and honey. Bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is medium amber and a candy thermometer registers 280°, about 6 minutes. Stir in pumpkin seeds. Cook until mixture reaches 300°, about 2 minutes. Pour onto prepared baking sheet. Let cool completely. Break into pieces.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Spinach and Proscuitto Lasagna Rolls with Bechamel Sauce

First, let me first apologize for not writing all week. I was away the first part of the week at a conference, and then the second part of the week I was forced to play catch up at work for being out of the office. I'm sorry, but the good news is that I don't have to go anywhere this weekend so I can cook all day and night if I want.

Second, let me apologize for not having one single picture of this completed dish. I took some pictures as I was assembling the dish, but once it came out of the oven it was literally devoured and before I knew it there was none left and I hadn't taken a picture. Sorry. But the above picture does a really good job of showing how the lasagna rolls are lined up in the dish over the béchamel sauce, before they are covered with marinara sauce and cheese. I really enjoy this dish, because it is so easy to serve, you simply take one roll or two and put it on the plate, no cutting or trying to maneuver the first piece out.

This is a recipe from Giada's Family Dinners cookbook. I still have no idea how that woman is so skinny.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg

1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed dry
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, chopped
1 large egg, beaten to blend
3/4 teaspoon salt, plus more for salting water
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
12 uncooked lasagna noodles
2 cups marinara sauce
1 cup shredded mozzarella (about 4 ounces)

To make the sauce: Melt the butter in a heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk for 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk. Increase the heat to medium-high. Whisk the sauce until it comes to a simmer and is thick and smooth, about 3 minutes. Whisk the salt, pepper, and nutmeg into the bechamel sauce.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Whisk the ricotta, spinach, 1 cup Parmesan, prosciutto, egg, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl to blend.
Add a tablespoon or 2 of oil to a large pot of boiling salted water. Boil the noodles until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Arrange the noodles in a single layer on a baking sheet to prevent them from sticking.

Butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch glass baking dish. Pour the bechamel sauce over the bottom of the prepared dish. Lay out 4 lasagna noodles on a work surface, then spread about 3 tablespoons of ricotta mixture evenly over each noodle. Starting at 1 end, roll each noodle like a jelly roll. Lay the lasagna rolls seam side down, without touching, atop the bechamelsauce in the dish. Repeat with the remaining noodles and ricotta mixture. Spoon 1 cup of marinara sauce over the lasagna rolls. Sprinkle the mozzarella and remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan over the lasagna rolls. Cover tightly with foil. Bake until heated through and the sauce bubbles, about 20 minutes. Uncover and bake until the cheese on top becomes golden, about 15 minutes longer.

Let stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the remaining marinara sauce in a heavy small saucepan over medium heat until hot, and serve alongside.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Creamy Pumpkin Soup

When I was first planning my wedding I would spend a lot of time on a wedding planning website called The Knot. The website was great for information sharing among people in your geographic region, you could post questions about florists, photographers, tailors, pretty much anything wedding related, and get feedback and advice from local brides and brides to be. I knew that I would get a lot of information about wedding planning from this website, what I didn't know was that three years later I would still be talking to some of these women on a weekly basis. We don't communicate on The Knot anymore, we have our own little MSN group now and we lovingly refer to ourselves as The Beanies, because we were all Beantown brides. I'm not sure how many Beanies are currently in our MSN group, but I'm particularly close with a handful of the girls. With the crazy schedules all of us keep it's hard to get everyone together, but last night some of the girls came to my house, to eat, drink, share stories, and laugh. It was great.

I made my pumpkin soup last night; I've made this soup every year for the past three years, but I made a mistake with it last night. I used 100% pumpkin when I usually use pumpkin pie mix, so it wasn't as sweet and aromatic as it usually is. Had I realized this I would have just added some cinnamon, nutmeg, and all spice into the soup, but I forgot. So, I wasn't as happy as I usually am with this soup, but when made correctly it's a real crowd pleaser.

And when you're two bottles or so deep in red wine, do you really taste the difference anyway, Huh?

Creamy Pumpkin Soup
16 oz can pumpkin (100% pumpkin or pie mix depending on if you want it sweet or not)
14 oz can chicken broth
1 large onion diced
2 carrots shredded
2c half and half or evaporated milk
1/8 tsp pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/3 tsp salt

In pot combine broth, onions, carrot, baking soda, salt and pepper. Simmer 10-15 minutes. Add pumpkin and milk/half and half, simmer until hot. Serve.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Caramel Apples That I Totally Didn't Make

I didn't make these. I just feel bad about not posting. I've not been cooking this week, for various reasons. I have a lot of stuff to do, at work, at home, at the gym, etc., this bettering yourself shit can really tire you out. I'm sorry for the melancholy post I just feel like a hamster on a wheel, I'm running my ass off and the scenery isn't changing.

It started on Sunday, which was a beautiful fall day, I stayed at my Nana's house the night before, and woke up early and ran in the crisp cold air, it was great I ran down the main street to the center of town, then took a left and ran back with the river on my right, it was great. It really was an amazing morning, I showered, changed, ate breakfast drank coffee, and then headed outside to rake my Nana's yard. I felt like I was 12 years old again, when I used to rake my Nana's lawn and she would give me $10 so I could go downtown and buy myself something. It was when I was in the middle of raking that I got the call from CB.

He was on his way to come and get me when he was hit by a car that ran a red light. The car hit him in the driver’s side and sent him into a spin in the middle of the intersection. He is ok, thank Christ, he is ok.

But it's at moments like this that your perspective changes, that for split seconds you wonder what your life would be like without the one you love, without the face you wake up to every morning and go to bed to every night. It is also at this point that you become so God damn mad that people can be so oblivious, inconsiderate and self centered. That people get behind a wheel in a car and drive it without considering the consequences of their actions, or inactions. It's very simple, you learn it in grade school Green Means Go; Red Means Stop, Motherfucker.

So now, we are faced with buying a new car, not exactly what we were hoping to do six weeks before Christmas, but here we are. I'm so grateful that CB wasn't hurt, that the only thing that we are dealing with right now is the impending insurance claims, trade-ins, and price haggling, it's ok, because CB was not hurt. It's ok.

This is a picture of the caramel apples at the farm stand when Chris and I went pumpkin and gourd picking at the beginning of the month. I always think that caramel apples are a good idea, until you try to eat them. Then you end up with caramel all over your nose and chin, and usually all over your hands. And if you have fillings, you'll most likely have them ripped from your teeth.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Fettuccine with Butternut and Gorgonzola Sauce

I don't know why it is that no matter how kick ass a pasta recipe is, I can't make it look remotely as appealing in a photograph. This picture does this pasta no justice. I personally thought it was awesome. The combination of butternut squash with gorgonzola was such an interesting pairing that I never tired of the flavor combination. This recipe was featured in this month's issue of Cooking Light however, I would not consider this a "light" dish, it was rather heavy and with a whole container of cheese included in the sauce, I think the editors over at Cooking Light were stretching just a leeetle when they dubbed this "light."

In anycase, it still kicked ass.
Eat up!
1 tablespoon butter
3 cups vertically sliced onion
3 cups (1-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 pound)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced object
3 cups 1% low-fat milk, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, divided
8 cups hot cooked fettuccine (about 1 pound uncooked pasta)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, squash, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper; sauté 6 minutes or until the squash is almost tender. Add minced garlic; sauté 1 minute. Cover and set aside.
Bring 2 cups milk to a boil in a saucepan. Combine the remaining 1 cup milk and flour, stirring well with a whisk; gradually add to boiling milk, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes or until slightly thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup cheese, and stir until smooth.

Combine squash mixture, pasta, and cheese mixture in a large bowl. Sprinkle with remaining 1 teaspoon salt; toss well to combine. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup parsley, chopped walnuts, lemon rind, and the remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Serve immediately.
Yield: 8 servings (serving size: 1 1/4 cups)

CALORIES 429(25% from fat); FAT 11.9g (sat 6.6g,mono 2.2g,poly 2g); PROTEIN 17.6g; CHOLESTEROL 26mg; CALCIUM 299mg; SODIUM 723mg; FIBER 5.4g; IRON 3mg; CARBOHYDRATE 65.5g

Friday, November 03, 2006

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Fresh Mint Leaves

I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm like hot butter on your breakfast toast. That's right I kicked complete and total ass in the cookie contest at work. I had four entries, and out of 25 entries my four came in #1, #3, #4, #6. If it wasn't for that stupid bitch with the oatmeal cookies I would have had the trifecta. I'll get her next year. So this is the recipe that scored all the kudos at work. Like I said it is just plain old chocolate chip cookies but with one additional ingredient added to the mix. The special additional ingredient for this cookie was fresh mint leaves. I honestly thought that there was only going to be a hint of mint in each cookie, boy was I wrong, each bite tasted like an Andes candies, it was awesome, it was almost like a girl scout Thin Mint cookie. Seriously, try it. So, like in the post below, just take your regular Nestle Tollhouse CC cookie recipe and then add a big handful of roughly chopped mint leaves and fold in with the chocolate chips. Yummmmm.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Work is having a chocolate chip cookie contest today. The rules of the contest is that you need to use regular chocolate chip cookie batter and then one other added ingredient. No more than one other ingredient is allowed, so you can't add nutmeg and cinnamon becuase that would be two ingredients. I am probably the most competitive person you will ever meet, so unlike most people who made one batch of cookies, I made four, with four different additional ingredients. Be prepared for a lot of chocolate chip cookie posts this week. I actually ended up freezing two of the batters after I had made enough for the competition, because 10 dozen cookies is a little overboard.

So, for this particular cookie I used the Nestle Tollhouse cookie recipe and then added bananas that I had cut up and frozen previously. Freezing the bananas made it possible to keep chunks of banana in the cookies, and not just have the banana melt into the batter.