Friday, November 27, 2009

Two-Bite Pure Chocolate Bliss

If you love chocolate then I predict you will love these Double-Shot Mocha Chunk cookies.  They are little bites of pure chocolate bliss.  I receive email updates from the Baker's Banter blog at the King Arthur Flour website. This recipe appeared not too long ago and I knew as soon as I saw it that I would have to try it soon.  These cookies are like little baked truffles.  I did not have the chocolate chunks so I used semi-sweet chips and cappuccino chips.



  


Double-Shot Mocha Chunks

Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup Dutch-process cocoa
1 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
1 cup chocolate chunks: semisweet, white, or espresso


 Preparation
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease or line with parchment two cookie sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, baking powder, espresso powder, and salt.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla, beating until smooth.
  4. Stir in the cocoa powder and flour; the dough will be stiff.
  5. Mix in the chocolate chips and chunks.
  6. Drop the cookies by tablespoonfuls (about 1 1/2" balls) onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 1/2" between them. A tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.
  7. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and allow them to cool on the pan.

Yield: 3 dozen cookies






Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year.  I love both the food and the idea of it.  It does not involve trying to find the perfect present, religion, celebrating a famous dead person's birthday, or anything remotely similar.  According to Wikipedia Thanksgiving Day "is a harvest festival celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Traditionally, it is a time to give thanks for the harvest and express gratitude in general".  For me it is a day to be grateful for a wonderful family, friends, and good food.

A lot of preparation goes into getting ready for the day but I love the end result (and the leftovers for the next few days).  I decided to stick with a lot of tried and trues this year.  Everyone in my family seems to have their favorites so I try to accommodate them.  Some of the recipes have been making an appearance at the table for years now, and there is no way I would want to change them, as it just would not be Thanksgiving without them.

The November food magazines are usually a source of inspiration for something new to try.  However, this year I really didn't see anything that caught my attention.  It wasn't until I watched Alex Guarneschelli's new show Alex's Day Off that I saw something new to try.  I love butternut squash and she made a recipe for Roasted Squash with Brown Butter and Orange that looked and sounded amazing.  I guess something was left out of the recipe when they transferred it to the Food Network's website because the orange disappeared from the recipe.  Not that it mattered much, as we did not care for this dish at all.  I tasted it when I pulled it out of the oven and decided not to even bother serving it.  I think it is either one of those love it or hate it kind of recipes because it got very mixed reviews on the Food Network's website.

My youngest daughter was my sous chef for the day and chief table decorator and, as you can see, she did a wonderful job.

















And now for the recipes........


Cranberry Cumberland Sauce

Ingredients
2 cups cranberries
3/4 cup Tawny Port
1/4 cup Grand Marnier
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
3/4 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
pinch ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Preparation
  1. Combine berries and port in heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook until berries burst, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. 
  2. Add both sugars and salt, stir 1 minute. 
  3. Combine orange juice, cornstarch, dry mustard, lemon juice and spices in small bowl, whisk to combine. Stir into berry mixture. 
  4. Add raisins, Grand Marnier, orange peel, lemon peel, simmer until thickened stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Pour into serving dish and let cool.  May be made three days in advance.

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Apple Pecan Corn Bread Stuffing

Ingredients
(8x8 inch) pan corn bread, cooled and crumbled
1 (8 ounce) container herb-seasoned dry bread stuffing mix
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 cup butter
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups apple cider
2 cups chopped apples
3 eggs
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup dried cranberries

Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Butter one 3 quart casserole dish. 
  2. In a large bowl combine the corn bread, stuffing mix, parsley, salt and ginger.  
  3. In a heavy saucepan melt the butter and sauté the celery and onion for 8 to 10 minutes or until tender. Add this to the cornbread mixture and mix well. Stir in the chopped apple, chopped pecans, apple juice, dried cranberries, and beaten eggs. Toss lightly. Spoon dressing into the prepared casserole dish.  
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 to 35 minutes.
Adapted from Allrecipes

Potatoes Dauphinoise

Ingredients
4 large potatoes
approx 3 cups cheese (I use a mix of pre-shredded cheese from Costco), separated
approx. 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg, separated
salt
pepper
2 eggs
2 cups cream
cooking spray

Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Peel and cut potatoes into thin slices.
  3. Coat a casserole dish with cooking spray.
  4. Place 1 layer of potatoes in casserole dish, top with a sprinkle of cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
  5. Repeat layering another three times.
  6. Beat eggs and cream together and pour over potatoes.
  7. Top with a sprinkle of cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and place in oven for about 1 1/2 hours.  Test with a knife to check that potatoes are fully cooked. May be made in advance and reheated.
This recipe was adapted many years ago from a recipe I found in an Australian Woman's Day magazine.

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients
8 medium potatoes
8 tablespoons cream cheese
8 tablespoons butter
1/2 - 1 cup cream or 1/2 and 1/2
salt
pepper

Preparation
  1. Peel potatoes and cook till tender.
  2. Mash potatoes (I use a ricer) and add cream cheese and butter, allow these to melt.
  3. Add salt and pepper.
  4. Add cream (or 1/2 and 1/2) and mix until well combined.
  5. Can be made ahead and reheated.










    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    The Joy of Honey Joys

    I have not made honey joys in probably five years or more.  I don't know why it has been such a dry spell in the honey joy department in our house.  It is probably because there are so many recipes out there to try and so little time to try them all.  It is good, though, to go back to a tried and true favorite.  Especially one this easy.

    Honey Joys are one of those things that we always had at a kids birthday party in Australia.  They were just a given that had a spot on the table along with the chocolate crackles, fairy bread, butterfly cakes, sausage rolls, and little boys. 

    Not only are they yummy but they are so easy to make as there are only four ingredients.  It can be made in a large saucepan and spooned into the foil baking cases, so it is an easy cleanup too.  Honey Joys are also a great recipe for those times when you have a young sous chef wanting to help.  This recipe is from the Kellogg's (Australia) website.






    Honey Joys

    90g butter or margarine
    1/3 cup sugar
    1 tablespoon honey
    4 cups of cornflakes

    Melt butter, sugar, and honey together in a saucepan until frothy. Add cornflakes and mix well. Spoon into baking cases. Bake in a slow oven 300°F for 10 minutes.

    Makes about 15







    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Chai Spiced Pumpkin Bread

    I was in Williams-Sonoma a couple of days ago to see what is new for the holiday season.  I love this store, especially at this time of the year.  It just smells so good the moment you walk in the door.  They were handing out samples of their Pumpkin Spice Quick Bread and Five Apple Cider Concentrate.  The bread was extremely moist and flavorful and the cider had just the right amount of sweetness and spice.  I knew that I would be making some pumpkin bread this weekend.  Even though I live in a tropical climate I like to pretend that it is fall and make the appropriate recipes.

    After doing a quick search I came across a recipe for Chai Spiced Pumpkin Bread that was posted by 28 Cooks back in December of 2006.  I love Chai and I love pumpkin bread so this seemed to be a match made in heaven, and I already had all of the ingredients in my cupboard.  In fact, I was so eager to make this bread that I ended up making two loaves - one for us and one to share. 

    With my trusty little sous chef helping to measure and mix, everything came together very quickly and before I knew it, they were in the oven.  The kitchen was soon smelling of warm and wonderful spices.  It was hard to wait the twenty minutes required cooling time before we cut into it.  I suspect that it won't be around for long and I might have to make a few more loaves to enjoy during the week. 

    I only made two changes to this recipe.  One was to drop the salt from 1 1/2 teaspoons to 1 teaspoon.  After tasting the loaves I think that I will drop it even more next time to 1/2 a teaspoon.  It did taste a little salty and I don't know if this was because the salt was boosted by all of the other spices or not. The other was to sprinkle some demarera sugar on the top of the loaves before they baked because I like a crunch topping. All in all I really like the chai taste with the pumpkin and think I might try it in another few recipes as well.





    Chai Pumpkin Bread

    1/2 c sugar
    1/2 c butter, at room temperature
    1 c canned pumpkin
    2 large eggs
    2 chai tea bags, steeped in 1/2 c boiling water
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 1/3 c all-purpose flour
    2/3 c whole-wheet flour
    2 tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp baking soda
    1 1/2 tsp salt
    2 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp each cardamom, ginger, and black pepper
    1/4 tsp each cloves, nutmeg, and allspice

    Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, use a mixer to beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add pumpkin, eggs, chai tea liquid, and vanilla and stir until well combined. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices and stir just until evenly moistened. Pour into prepared 8" loaf pan. Bake 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool at least 20 minutes before serving. 



     


    Monday, November 9, 2009

    Comfort Food - Braised Short Ribs

    I always seem to have more food in my freezer than I need.  Even with a large family it is getting a little ridiculous and, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I am trying to clean it out just a bit.  It is a battle and at the moment the freezer is winning.  In my valiant effort I did find a packet of short ribs that I had purchased a couple of months ago when a yummy-sounding recipe caught my attention.  Of course I have no idea where this rib recipe is now.

    I went online and saw that there are thousands of similar-sounding recipes but I found one on the Food Network by Anne Burrell for Braised Short Ribs that sounded amazing and had received excellent reviews. I have seen her show Secrets of a Restaurant Chef a few times but had not gotten hooked on watching it on a regular basis. I can tell you right now that if this recipe tastes half as good as it smells cooking I am going to have to re-visit this show.  Not only does it smell heavenly but it came together so easily.  The only change I made to the recipe was to use boneless short ribs and add about 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to the pot.  I did this because I love the Cinnamon-Braised Short Ribs at Chef Kevin Hanney’s 12th Avenue Grill, which is one of my favorite restaurants in Honolulu.  Unfortunately it is not available at the moment but I hope that it will return to the menu soon.  So until then I am trying to replicate it at home and if this fails I will have to turn to begging them for the recipe.  Fingers crossed it will not come to that.  I served it with Creamy Mashed Potatoes and some butter-garlic sauteed spinach.




    Braised Short Ribs 


  1. Prep Time: 25 min
  2. Cook Time: 3 hr 30 min
  3. Level: Easy
  4. Serves: 8 servings
  5. Ingredients

    • 6 bone-in short ribs (about 5 3/4 pounds)
    • Kosher salt
    • Extra-virgin olive oil
    • 1 large Spanish onion, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 2 ribs celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 2 carrots, peeled, cut in 1/2 lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
    • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
    • 1 1/2 cups tomato paste
    • 2 to 3 cups hearty red wine
    • 2 cups water
    • 1 bunch fresh thyme, tied with kitchen string
    • 2 bay leaves

    Directions

    1. Season each short rib generously with salt. Coat a pot large enough to accommodate all the meat and vegetables with olive oil and bring to a high heat. Add the short ribs to the pan and brown very well, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Do not overcrowd pan. Cook in batches, if necessary.
    2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
    3. While the short ribs are browning, puree all the vegetables and garlic in the food processor until it forms a coarse paste.
    4. When the short ribs are very brown on all sides, remove them from the pan. 5. Drain the fat, coat the bottom of same pan with fresh oil and add the pureed vegetables. Season the vegetables generously with salt and brown until they are very dark and a crud has formed on the bottom of the pan, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the crud and let it reform. Scrape the crud again and add the tomato paste. Brown the tomato paste for 4 to 5 minutes.
    6. Add the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan. Lower the heat if things start to burn. Reduce the mixture by half.
    7. Return the short ribs to the pan and add 2 cups water or until the water has just about covered the meat.
    8. Add the thyme bundle and bay leaves. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven for 3 hours. Check periodically during the cooking process and add more water, if needed. Turn the ribs over halfway through the cooking time. 9. Remove the lid during the last 20 minutes of cooking to let things get nice and brown and to let the sauce reduce. When done the meat should be very tender but not falling apart. Serve with the braising liquid.

    Wednesday, November 4, 2009

    Creamy Thai Pumpkin Soup

    We are finally experiencing some rain here after a couple of months of hot, humid weather. The months of September and October are always this way as we lose our trade winds and the humidity sets in.  There were some days that I thought I would melt in a puddle on the floor.  This is the only time when I wish that we had air conditioning rather than island air-conditioning, which involves opening a window or a door.  I don't know about you but when it is so hot it is hard for me to summon any enthusiasm to turn on the oven, so we usually BBQ.

    Tonight it is just that little bit cooler and the first thing I wanted to cook was soup. I looked in the fridge and I decided on pumpkin soup.  I have made pumpkin soup before but this time I wanted a twist.  I remembered seeing a recipe for a Thai-inspired pumpkin soup and knew that I wanted to try something like this and experiment with the ingredients a little. The original recipe can be found here and was posted by Kuvy on the Cooking Light Community Bulletin Board way back in 2003.

    The original recipe called for cilantro, which I love, but it is not a favorite in my family, so I knew straight away that it had to go.  To boost the flavor that was lost from omitting this ingredient I decided to add some lemongrass and, for a little heat, I added red curry paste. After tasting the soup I felt it was missing a sweet note so I included some brown sugar.  I thought all of the changes were successful and added a different dimension to the soup. The finishing touch was a dollop of sour cream on the top.  As I was adding the sour cream I had the idea that next time I would do a cilantro-sour cream topping for those who do want a taste of cilantro in the soup.





    Felice's Creamy Thai Pumpkin Soup

    1/2 medium onion, chopped
    5 cups butternut squash pumpkin, chopped
    1 13.5 fl oz can coconut milk
    2 cups vegetable broth
    1 tablespoon brown sugar
    1 tablespoon fish sauce
    2 teaspoons lemongrass
    1/2 teaspoon red curry paste (or more if you like more fire)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon pepper
    sour cream for topping

    1. In a large pot saute onion until it is translucent.
    2. Add broth, coconut milk, pumpkin, lemongrass, and brown sugar and bring to a boil.  Add salt and pepper and simmer over medium heat until pumpkin is tender.
    3. Stir in fish sauce and red curry paste and cook for another few minutes. Taste soup and adjust seasonings accordingly.
    4. Let cool for approximately 10 minutes and then puree batches in a blender or use an immersion blender directly in the pot being extremely careful of the hot soup.  Garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream.