Saturday, October 29, 2011
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Let's get something straight right off the bat…this has not become, nor shall it ever be, a diet blog. However, if I find a really good recipe that takes some of the guilt out of dessert, I feel it's my responsibility to share it. This, my friends, is one of those times. The only reason I actually tried the recipe in the first place is because I found it in an issue of Cook's Country. (I've told you - I swear by Cook's Illustrated & Cook's Country! I haven't gotten a bad recipe from them yet!) Obviously, to trim down the cake, some concessions had to be made – the nuts and raisins, for instance. And by replacing the butter in the frosting with marshmallow creme, you wind up with a thick, rich frosting, without adding extra fat. Their frosting recipe called for vanilla, but since I know from experience (from my glazed carrots recipe) that Southern Comfort goes quite nicely with carrots, I decided to use that instead of vanilla. So, here we go…a healthier version of carrot cake (about half the calories and one-third of the fat of a traditional one!!!) that still tastes just as naughty….
Cook's Country Slimmed-Down Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 (4-ounce) jar carrot baby food (yes, I said baby food. Make sure it's just carrots & water for ingredients)
- 1 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 pound carrots, peeled & shredded (use the large holes of a box grater or food processor)
- 8 ounces Neufchâtel cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup marshmallow creme (Fluff or Kraft Jet-Puffed)
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract (or Southern Comfort!!)
- ¼ cup powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 350° and adjust rack to the middle position. Lightly grease a 13" X 9" baking pan with cooking spray and line the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment.
Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves & salt together in a large bowl. With electric mixer on medium speed, beat eggs, baby food & sugar until smooth and creamy, 1 to 2 minutes. With mixer still running, slowly add oil. Mix until thoroughly incorporated, about 1 minute. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients in 2 additions, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Mix until batter is nearly smooth. Fold in carrots.
Spread batter in prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 24-28 minutes. Rotate pan halfway through cooking time. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and remove parchment paper. Re-invert cake and cool on rack right-side up until completely cool, about 2 hours.
With mixer on medium-high, beat together cream cheese, marshmallow creme and vanilla. Sift powdered sugar over the mixture and beat on low about 1 minute, until mixture is smooth. Frost cake when it's completely cool.
Just so you can see the numbers for yourself…
Traditional Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (per serving) Calories 530; Fat 33g; Saturated Fat 8 g
Cook's Country Slimmed-Down Version (per serving) Calories 280; Fat 11g; Saturated Fat 3 g
Saturday, October 22, 2011
My apologies for the extra-long hiatus. I'll blame baseball season and just leave it at that. Besides, I don't usually go out of control with cooking in the summer. I'm not fond of the heat and quite frankly, I don't want to be chained to my stove when it's that hot out. (I suspect this would be quite different if my kitchen was air-conditioned …) Anyway, with that in mind, I decided we'd start Season 2 with an ice cream recipe I discovered this summer in a complimentary issue of Cook's Country. And it's not just any ice cream recipe…it's a 10 minute ice cream recipe!! Seriously!!! Ten minutes worth of work and the end result is a rich, creamy, velvety ice cream!
Now, I *do* have an ice cream maker. A lot of people do, I suppose. And sure, it's fun to use sometimes (made egg nog ice cream for Christmas a number of years ago…that was beyond yummy!) But there are problems with using ice cream makers, at least in my book. First of all, they use rock salt and the season when rock salt is around the house & the season when I want ice cream are several calendar pages apart. Secondly, most of ice cream recipes I've seen contain raw eggs or a cooked egg custard that you need to strain and cool then chill before using. (Side note: I've since learned that if you use pasteurized eggs in a recipe, it's ok to not cook them.) And the insert takes up waaaaay too much room in my freezer. None of this really matters, I suppose. I mean, it's delicious and takes 10 minutes of your time (not counting freeze time, of course.) That's excuse enough to try it, as far as I'm concerned
I did it their way the first time, then did my own thing after that. I'll give you both versions and you can decide which you want to do. Mine is pretty much theirs doubled, except I just use 1 full can of sweetened condensed milk. It's a little less than 1 cup but seriously, what am I supposed to do with just under ½ can of the stuff?? I also tried it with milk chocolate chips instead of chopped bittersweet chocolate…and one time with white chocolate chips (leave out the coffee/water for the white chocolate). I think any kind of chip would work fine…I want to try butterscotch and peanut butter eventually…just adjust the flavorings to go with whatever you decide to use. Just remember that you need that little bit of salt to balance all the sweet that's going on. And since coffee brings out the flavor of chocolate, make sure you use the coffee mixture regardless of whether you're using dark or milk chocolate. Vanilla is always good, but mint extract (and maybe some broken up candy canes!!), or some Grand Marnier or other liqueur would work really well too, I'm sure.
Magic Ice Cream – their way
- 1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder
- 1 tablespoon hot water
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
- ½ cup sweetened condensed milk
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch of salt
- 1 ¼ cups heavy cream
Combine coffee (or espresso) powder in a small bowl. Let stand until coffee dissolves, about 5 minutes. Microwave sweetened condensed milk, chocolate & coffee mixture in a large bowl, stirring every 10-15 seconds, until chocolate is melted, about 1 minute. Stir in vanilla and salt. Let cool.
With electric mixer, on medium speed, whip cream to soft peaks (that's when the peaks hold their shape but the tips bow over when you lift the beaters.) Whisk one-third of whipped cream into the chocolate mixture, to loosen it up a little. Gently fold in remaining whipped cream, in 2 or 3 batches, until incorporated. Make sure you do it gently, so you don't lose all the air you've whipped into the cream. Freeze in an air tight container until firm, at least 6 hours.
Keeps up to 2 weeks. Makes 1 quart.
Make sure you holla back if you try it! Let me know what you think!
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I'm a true crime junkie. I don't mind admitting it. It started when I was a little kid watching old gangster movies with my Dad and eventually led to a bookcase that holds dozens of true crime books. I slip quotes from The Godfather movies into everyday conversations. And yes…one of the cookbooks in my collection is "The Mafia Cookbook" by Joseph "Joe Dogs" Iannuzzi. Sure, he's technically a rat but I'll tell ya – rat or not, the dude's rockin' his kitchen, for sure.
I did a little reading on Joe Dogs - who apparently got his nickname because he was (is?) a big fan of going to the dog races – and from what I've found, this is the basic story…Joe was born in New York in 1931. His dad was a bookie and took him along on his weekly collections. Tom Mix, the cowboy star, was apparently one of his more prominent clients. He would give little Joey a silver dollar every visit. Mama Iannuzzi divorced Big Joe in 1945. Right around that time, little Joey got arrested for the first time. He eventually enlisted and served in the Korean War ("Korean Conflict" my eye…it was a war) as a decorated Marine. Got stabbed in the thigh by a bayonet and was honorably discharged. He became good friends with Tommy "T.A." Agro, a soldier for the Gambino crime family. By the early 70s, he was part of T.A's crew, eventually becoming his top enforcer. By the mid-70s, Joe Dogs was running South Florida for the Gambinos. Activities included extortion, robbery, rigging horse races, drug trafficking, labor racketeering & loan sharking. Through whatever course of events that transpired, Joe Dogs ended up owing T.A. a bunch of money and T.A., not appreciating that, nearly beat him to death with a baseball bat. And thus, a rat is born. Joe Dogs teamed up with a deep-cover FBI agent and by the time "Operation Home Run" was brought to a close, Joe Dogs had helped the Feds get more than a dozen mobsters, including Tommy Agro. He also appeared as a star witness at 5 major mob trials and entered Witness Protection. Like I said…he's technically a rat, but the dude has some great recipes. I used 2 of them for Sunday dinner and to keep with the Italian theme, I turned to Giada DeLaurentiis for dessert.
Couple of notes on this: The red pepper flakes & cayenne are my addition; Joe Dogs doesn't use them in these. And I gotta tell ya, I'm tired of trying to measure things that I don't normally measure…so from here on out, the rule is this…a "pinch" is my thumb & index finger. A "two-fingered pinch" is my thumb & two fingers, etc.
Joe Dogs' Shrimp Scampi – Gourmet Style
- 2 pounds shrimp – rinsed, shelled & deveined
- 1 stick butter
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed & minced
- 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper (to taste)
- Two-fingered pinch red pepper flakes
- Two-fingered pinch cayenne
In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat until bubbling. Don't let it brown. Add garlic, shallots & red pepper flakes and sauté until limber, about 3 minutes. Add shrimp & cook on both sides until pink all over, about 4 minutes. When shrimp are done, remove from the pan and set aside. Add cayenne, pepper & cream to pan and stir vigorously. Return shrimp to pan & toss to coat. Pour onto warm serving platter & sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately with rice or noodles. Serves 6.
Joe Dogs' Spaghetti with Garlic & Olive Oil
- 4 quarts cold water
- 4 tablespoons salt (sounds like a lot, I know…but this is your ONLY shot to actually add flavor to the pasta)
- 1 pound spaghetti or linguine
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed & finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- Two-fingered pinch red pepper flakes
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Freshly grated romano or parmesan, to taste
Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente. Drain & let stand in pot, adding ¼ cup olive oil & tossing to prevent pasta from sticking. In a large pan, add the rest of the olive oil, garlic & red pepper flakes and sauté until garlic is golden. Add cream & whisk well. Add pasta & black pepper to pan & toss until it's well coated with sauce. Place on warm platter, sprinkle with grated cheese & serve immediately. Serves 4-6.
Giada's Fig & Almond Tart
- 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled & cut into ½-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons ice water
- 3 ½ ounces almond paste, at room temperature, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 6 large or 12 small fresh figs, sliced, stems removed or 20 dried figs, reconstituted (simmer them in water for 5 minutes)
- ¼ cup apricot jam
Combine the flour, 2 tablespoons of the sugar, lemon zest & salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until blended. Add the butter & pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. With the machine running, gradually add the water until moist clumps form. Turn the dough onto a work surface & form into a ball. Flatten into a disk & wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 1 hour.
In a clean food processor bowl, combine the remaining sugar, almond paste, mascarpone, vanilla & honey. Blend until smooth.
Position oven rack in center of oven & preheat oven to 400°F.
On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll out the dough into an 11-inch circle. Transfer to a large, heavy baking sheet. Spread the almond filling over the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Arrange the figs on top of the almond filling. Spoon jam over figs. Fold the dough border over the filling to form an 8-inch round, pleating the crust loosely & pinching to seal any cracks in the dough.
Bake the tart until the crust is golden, about 40 minutes. Place the baking sheet on a rack to cool for 10 minutes, and then slide a metal spatula under the crust to free the tart from the parchment. Transfer to a platter & serve. Serves 6-8.
I'd never made a soufflé before. Quite frankly, I had always been a little intimidated by the idea. What if it fell? I could never serve a flat soufflé! But when the February issue of Bon Appétit arrived and it was filled with a bunch of chocolate recipes for Valentine's Day, including soufflés, I knew the time had come.
The idea behind soufflés is that stiffly beaten egg whites are folded into the base mixture. The soufflé rises when the air that's been whisked into the egg whites expands. For this reason, they're served right when they come out of the oven. If you wait, they'll deflate.
Your egg whites will whip better if you let them come up to room temperature first. It also isn't a bad idea to rub the inside of your bowl with a little bit of lemon juice or vinegar (just a little on a paper towel!) to make sure there isn't even the slightest smidge of grease on your bowl.
I don't have ramekins so I just used the coffee cups that came with my plate set. I think they're too small for a real cup of caffeine, anyway. The point is that you want something round so it rises evenly.
Bittersweet Cocoa Soufflés
- 1/3 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar (plus extra for ramekins)
- 2 tablespoons flour
- Pinch of salt
- 2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
- ½ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 large egg whites
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3 ounces bitter sweet chocolate, finely chopped (do not exceed 61% cacao)
Position oven rack in lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 375°F.
Butter eight ¾-cup ramekins or custard cups; dust with sugar, completely coating to top edge.
Mix cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons milk, egg yolks & vanilla. Mix until smooth. Set aside.
Whisk ½ cup sugar, flour and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. Pour remaining 2/3 cup milk into measuring cup and whisk just enough of it into the saucepan to form a thick paste, and then gradually whisk the remaining milk in until smooth. Stir over medium-low heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges of the pan. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened. While whisking the cocoa mixture non-stop, slowly add the milk mixture a little at a time. (This will slowly bring the egg yolks up to temperature. If you just add it too fast or without whisking, you'll scramble the eggs.)
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites & cream of tartar in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks form.
Stir ¼ of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Don't worry about being gentle yet. You're just out to lighten the chocolate mixture up enough so the rest of the egg whites can be folded in more gently. Add remaining egg whites & chopped chocolate and fold until whites are just blended into batter.
Divide batter among the ramekins and place on rimmed baking sheet. (If you want to make them a day ahead of time, cover & refrigerate them at this point.) Bake soufflés until puffed above the rim of ramekin, about 12 minutes (about 15 if chilled). A toothpick inserted in the center should come out with thick batter attached. Using spoon, form a small indentation in top of each soufflé; spoon dollop of whipped cream into indentations. Serve immediately.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Again. And someone else must be scratching theirs too, cuz it turns out salsa has surpassed ketchup as America's favorite condiment. Probably a good thing, considering all the sugar in ketchup. Anyway, I was reading a bit about salsa…
Chiles were first domesticated in Latin America between 5200 BC & 3400 BC. In 1494, a guy by the name of Dr. Diego Álvarez Chanca brought the first chiles to Spain. Not a whole lot is known about the good doctor…but we know this: Isabella & Ferdinand appointed him to tag along with a certain land-stealing slave trader on his second voyage to the New World in 1493. By 1807, the first bottled hot sauces, made with cayenne peppers, appeared in Massachusetts. In 1868, our good friend Mr. McIlhenny bottled his first 350 bottles of Tabasco sauce down in Louisiana. In 1947, David & Margaret Pace began manufacturing their Picante Sauce in Texas. By the 1980s, different salsas were popping up all over the country, from California to New England. In 1994, Pace (by now the number one salsa manufacturer) sells out to Campbell's Soup Company for an unbelievable $1.1 billion. And topping them, Pillsbury announced it was buying Pet Foods (those are the people that make Old El Paso brand) for $2.6 billion. Together, the two companies control just about half the market for Mexican sauces. And by 2000, more households buy salsa than ketchup.
Not doing a traditional salsa, really. (And in my head, I can hear my friend Javier grumbling – with love, of course - about gringos messing with the food of his heritage LOL) It's a corn salsa recipe I found awhile ago in a grocery store ad. It was great with some pork & Monterey Jack on tacos. It would be yummy with chicken or fish too.
- 1 ½ cups corn, lightly cooked (I used frozen corn, but grilled corn would be amazing to use in the summer!)
- 1 cup each: chopped tomatoes, orange bell pepper & red onion
- 2 tablespoons lime juice, plus the lime zest
- 1 – 1 ½ teaspoons honey (to taste)
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley **
- 12 drops green Tabasco (to taste, or 1 jalapeño, finely chopped)
- ½ teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder & red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon each: ground cumin & cayenne
- Salt, to taste
Mix all ingredients in a medium bowl & stir well. Serves 4-6.
** The original recipe called for a tablespoon of fresh cilantro. Not a big fan of cilantro…tastes like what I imagine dirty dish water would taste like…so I used the parsley I had in my spice rack.