Monday, January 18, 2010

Pear and Brie Tartlets

· brie cheese
· 2 tbsp. honey
· 1 large pear
· pie crust

· preheat oven to 400°
· roll out pie crust and using a small circular cutter, cut out 12 mini circles (small enough to fit in the mini cupcake pans)
· once all tart shells are cut and placed in the mini cupcake pan, dice up pear and brie cheese
· pear to brie ratio in each tart is 2:1
· once each tart shell is full of diced pear and brie cheese, drizzle honey over each tart
· bake for 16-18 minutes until pie crust is golden brown and brie has melted

The dicing of the brie cheese was really easy because I found brie in a long sausage like shape recently at the the grocery store. When you cut it into slices, it makes little brie disks and then you can dice those up. It is much easier than dicing up a large wheel of brie unless you have an amazing cheese cutting utensil. I still can't remember which grocery store I picked it up at, but I will be on the hunt for it.

This is a quick and easy recipe that can be served before a meal or right after. The woodsy and earthy flavor of the brie really comes through when it is melted. Mixed with the sweetness of the pear and honey, it is a combination made in culinary heaven.


Pina Colada Cupcakes

Being that it is a new year, I am trying to keep up my resolution along with the rest of America: eat healthier and exercise more. I notice around this time of year, my gym is so packed- it drives me nuts. I can never find a parking spot and the elliptical machines are hard to come by. I hope it begins to taper off in February because I take it anymore. I'm all for people getting healthy, I just wish they would do it at another gym! Not being able to control the exercise half of my resolution at all times, I can most certainly be in control of the eating healthy portion. I found this yummy recipe in my 200 Under 200 recipe book. It's great for anyone trying to cut calories.They taste like full fat, full flavor cupcakes! Trust me!

recipe: 200 Under 200
· 2 cups moist-style yellow cake mix
· 12 oz. canned crushed pineapple in juice (not drained)
· 1/2 tsp. coconut extract
· 4 oz. canned crushed pineapple (drained)
· 1 Jello-O sugar free vanilla pudding snack
· 1 1/2 tbsp. fat-free cream cheese (room temp.)
· 1/8 tsp. coconut extract
· 1 packet of no-calorie sweetener
(I added a large scoop of fat free cool whip to make the icing a bit more fluffy)

*For garnish, I also added one chunk of fresh pineapple and unsweetened all natural cocnut flakes for crunch.

· preheat oven to 350°
· in a medium mixing bowl, combine all frosting ingredients and mix until blended
· refrigerate until cupcakes are ready to be frosted
· in a large mixing bowl, combine cake mix with undrained pineapple
· add coconut extract and mix until thoroughly blended
· line a 12 cup muffin pan with baking cups and evenly distribute cake mixture among the cups
· bake in the oven for about 20 minutes (check if they are cooked fully by completing the toothpick test)
· allow cupcakes to cool completely, then evenly distribute frosting over the tops.
· refrigerate until ready to serve
makes 12 servings

The crushed pineapple makes these cupcakes so moist and delicious. You would never know that the recipe didn't include eggs and oil. The icing is sweet and creamy and the added crunch from the coconut flakes is a must. These iced pina colada goodies weigh in at about 115 calories a piece. That's pretty damn good for anyone counting calories. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Greek Turkey Burgers with Tzatziki Over Greens with Rosemary Potatoes

This whole dish was inspired by Tzatziki. I went to Costco the other day after work for a quick 3 item pick-up and saw this couple looking at tzatziki in the dip section over in the produce area. They were talking about how cheap it was for the amount in the container. If any of you are Costco lovers- this is the reason why we love Costco! I checked it out and decided I would give it a whirl. Greek probiotic yogurt with garlic and cucumber- how bad could it be-right? Just opening the container, the aromas were pretty powerful. I knew it was going to be a tasty item. I had been defrosting ground turkey meat overnight, and it wasn't until my Costco discovery that I knew how I would prepare it. I got the meat out and proceeding to add anything that was remotely Mediterranean; chopped black olives, lemon juice, feta cheese, fresh thyme. My meal concept was complete!

turkey burgers

· 1 lb. ground turkey meat
· 1/2 cup bread crumbs
· 1 egg
· 3 cloves chopped garlic
· 1 tbsp. fresh thyme
· juice of half a lemon
· 1/4 cup feta cheese
· salt and pepper
· 3 tbsp. chopped black olives
· 1 tsp. olive oil

· mix all ingredients by hand or with an electronic mixer
· form patties by hand and roll into a ball
· flatten a bit and place in olive oil coated pan over medium heat
· brown on each side and make sure they are cooked thoroughly
· repeat process until all ground meat mixture is used

These burgers would be great on mini pita pockets with a little tzatziki sauce on top with lettuce for crunch. You can make the burger patties any size you want, depening on the size of your bun or if you are making mini burgers.

pan seared rosemary potato wedges
· red potatoes
· dried rosemary
· olive oil
· salt and pepper

· slice red potatoes in small wedges (evenly sliced for even cooking)
· place potato wedges in a bowl and pour 2 tbsp. of olive oil in bowl
· add 2 tsp. of dried rosemary
· add salt and pepper
· mix well, coating each wedge
· transfer potatoes to a pan over medium heat and sear for about 20-25 minutes, flipping occasionally to prevent burning

lemon thyme salad dressing
· 1/4 cup of olive oil
· 1/8 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
· 1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
· 1 tsp. garlic powder (it blends better than minced fresh garlic)
· 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
· 1/2 tsp. black pepper


· mix together all ingredients in a bowl except the olive oil
· with a mix slowly stream in the olive oil, mixing constantly to emulsify
· pour dressing over greens and chickpeas
· mix well

Asparagus Tart

recipe: Martha Stewart Living

· flour, for work surface
· 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
· 5 1/2 oz. (2 cups) Gruyere cheese, shredded
· 1 1/2 lb. medium or thick asparagus

· 1 tbsp. olive oil
· salt and pepper

· preheat oven to 400°
· On a floured surface, roll out puff pastry into a 16 x 10 inch rectangle and trim uneven edges
· place pastry on a baking sheet
· with a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle
· using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2 inch intervals
· bake until golden (about 15 minutes)
· remove pastry shell from oven and sprinkle with Gruyere
· trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit lengthwise inside the tart shell and arrange in a single layer over the Gruyere, alternating ends and tips
· brush with oil and season with salt and pepper
· bake until spears are tender and cheese has melted, about 20 to 25 minutes

This is such an easy, yet elegant side dish to add to any homemade meal. If you haven't cooked with Gruyere, you should start. It is a creamy and nutty French cheese that melts with ease. Its distinct flavor adds complexity to any dish, without over powering it. Gruyere is often used in fondues. The mix of this lovely cheese with asparagus and the crunchy pastry dough is just too good to be true.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Williams Sonoma goodies

My dad gave me a gift card to Williams Sonoma for Christmas. He knows me too well. I am not sure what it is about gift cards, but they burn a hole in my pocket so quickly. We weren't back from our holiday trip for more than a day and I had to go check out the goods that they had to offer. My plan was to use it on something practical, like an electronic kitchen device or a nice bowl or something. I must admit, I am not the most practical shopper, but more an impulsive thrifty one. I saw the sale section and couldn't resist.

From left to right: a $25 dollar bottle of balsamic vinegar that is as sweet as candy, two tubes of Sprinkles spiced cupcake mixes, Organic corn meal mix, an orange W-S spoonula (as RR would say), a can of sugar cookie mix, a jar of Wich Craft cranberry apricot chutney, and a jar of dijon mustard aioli.

I cannot wait to begin cooking and eating these yummy items. I still have money on my gift card and next time I will get something practical!

Thanks, Dad!

Pizza Night In

sauteed cherry tomatoes with fennel and garlic, 5 cheeses, and chopped basil
(kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste)

· slice the cherry tomatoes in half and saute them with three cloves of garlic and 1 tsp. of fennel seeds in a pan over medium heat with olive oil
· layer a think layer of pizza sauce over the dough and sprinkle with Italian cheeses
· add the sauteed tomato mixture
· sprinkle basil over top and bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted

5 cheese pizza with turkey pepperoni and chopped black olives
(kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste)

white grapes, caramelized onions, rosemary, and goat cheese
(kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste)

· caramelize onions by putting one whole sliced onion in a pan with butter, 1 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. sugar under medium heat for about 30-45 minutes (onions have a high sugar content that will come out when cooked long and slow)
· slice grapes in half and place them in a bowl with 1 tbsp. of dried rosemary, 2 tbsp. of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
· mix well, set aside
· brush dough with olive oil
· sprinkle pizza with caramelized onions, grape mixture and goat cheese
· bake until crust is golden brown and cheese is melted

Making homemade pizzas was so much fun. Prepping the dough and the ingredients took a large part of the night, but it is a lot easier with some company. My favorite out of these three pizzas was by far the tomato, garlic and fennel seed pizza with basil. It was such an explosion of flavor in every bite. See recipe and directions for homemade pizza dough here.

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe #12 Martha's Mac & Cheese

recipe: Marthat Stewart Living

· 8 tbsp. unsalted butter (1 stick), plus more for dish
· 6 slices of good white bread, crusts removed, torn into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces
· 5 1/2 cups milk
· 1/2 cup all purpose flour
· 2 tsp. salt
· 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
· 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
· 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
· 4 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about 18 oz.)
· 2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (about 8 oz. or 1 1/4 cups grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 5 oz.)
· 1 lb elbow macaroni

· heat oven to 375°
· butter a 3 qt. casserole dish, set aside
· place bread in medium bowl
· in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 2 tbsp. of butter
· pour butter into bowl with bread and toss, set aside
· in medium saucepan set over medium heat, heat milk
· melt remaining 6 tbsp. of butter and a high skillet over medium heat
· when butter starts to bubble, add flour and cook, whisking for 1 minute
· while whisking, slowly pour in hot milk
· continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick
· remove pan from heat
· stir in salt, nutmeg, black pepper, cayenne pepper, 3 cups cheddar cheese, and 1 1/2 cups of Gruyere- set cheese aside
· fill large saucepan with water, bring to boil
· add macaroni and cook 2-3 minutes less than the directions on the package (al dente)
· transfer macaroni to a colander, rinse under cold running water and drain well
· stir into the reserved cheese sauce
· pour mixture into prepared dish
· sprinkle remaining 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup Gruyere and breadcrumbs over top
· bake until browned on top, about 30 minutes
· serve hot

Mac & cheese will forever be one of the best comfort foods there is. And the holidays are all about comfort. Serve this mac & cheese alongside any main coarse and your guests will not want to leave. The creamy pasta with melted cheese and the crunchy crust leaves you wanting more.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe # 11 Free Range Fruitcake

I have never understood the fascination with fruitcake around the holidays. Do people really like it and eat it- or is it just a way to share holiday kitsch with those closest to us? Fruitcakes have never had a place in any holiday celebration that I've attended, but after watching Alton Brown's Good Eats about fruitcake, I might be changing my my ways. Maybe he knows something I don't...

recipe: Alton Brown
· 1 cup golden raisins
· 1 cup currants
· 1/2 cup dried cranberries
· 1/2 cup dried blueberries
· 1/2 cup dried cherries
· 1/2 cup dried apricots
· zest of one lemon, chopped coarsely
· zest of one orange, chopped coarsely
· 1/4 cup candied ginger
· 1 cup gold rum
· 1 cup sugar
· 5 oz. unsalted butter (1 1/4 sticks)
· 1 cup unfiltered apple juice
· 4 whole cloves
· 6 allspice berries
· 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
· 1 tsp. ground ginger
· 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
· 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
· 1 tsp. baking powder
· 2 eggs
· 1/4 to 1/2 cup toasted pecans, broken
· Brandy for basting

· combine dried fruits, candied ginger and both zests
· add rum and macerate overnight, or you can microwave for 5 minutes to re-hydrate fruit to save time
· place fruit and liquid in a non-reactive pot with the sugar, butter, apple juice and spices
· bring mixture to a boil stirring often, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes
· remove from heat and cool for at least 15 minutes (batter can be completed at this point, then covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days- bring to room temp. before completing cake)
· preheat oven to 325°
· combine dry ingredients and sift into fruit mixture
· quickly bring batter together with large wooden spoon and then stir in one egg at a time until completely integrated
· fold in nuts
· spoon mixture into 10 inch non-stick loaf pan and bake for 1 hour
· check for doneness with the toothpick test
· remove cake from oven and place on cooling rack or trivet
· baste top with brandy and allow to cool completely before turning out from pan
· when the cake is completely cooled, seal in a tight food safe container
· check the cake every 2 to 3 days for dryness- baste with brandy to re-moisten

This recipe does require a lot of ingredients, but it is probably the best fruitcake recipe that you'll find. Wholesome ingredients make a better product. This may be the start of my new culinary holiday tradition.

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe # 10 Winter Sangria

recipe: Cooking Light

· 1 cup fresh satsuma orange juice (about 4 satsumas)
· 1 cup satsuma orange sections (about 2 satsumas)
· 1/3 cup Triple Sec (orange flavored liquer)
· 1/4 cup sugar
· 2 whole cloves
· 1 cinnamon stick
· 1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
· 1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
· 1 bottle of fruity red wine

* If you cannot find satsumas at your local grocer, use tangerines instead

· combine all ingredients in a pitcher, stirring until sugar dissolves
· cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight
(10 servings of 2/3 cup each)

Sangria is not just for the those scalding summer days anymore. This recipe will whisk you away to a winter wonderland! These familiar holiday tastes come alive in this Winter Sangria. Mix up your own combination with flavors you enjoy during the holidays. Cranberries could be an interesting addition to this drink.

Drink up!

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe # 9 Pumpkin Fudge

recipe: All Recipes

· 2 tbsp. butter
· 1 1/2 cups white sugar
· 2/3 cup evaporated milk
· 1 cip white chocolate chips
· 7 oz. marshmallow creme
· 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
· 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
· 1 tsp. vanilla extract

· line a 9x9 inch pan with aluminum foil, set aside
· in a 3 qt. saucepan, heat milk and sugar over medium heat
· bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon
· mix in pumpkin puree and cinnamon, bring back to a boil
· stir in marshmallow creme and butter
· bring to a rolling boil
· cook, stirring occasionally for 18 minutes
· remove from heat and add white chocolate chips and vanilla
· stir until creamy and all chips are melted
· pour into prepared pan
· cool, remove from pan and cut into squares or shapes by using mini cookie cutters
· store in a cool dry place.

This holiday confection will have you singing Christmas Carols all winter long. Its smooth and creamy texture is the best way to end any holiday meal.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe # 8 Whole-Wheat Crostini with White Beans

Recipe: Shape Mag
January 2010

· 2 tbsp. evoo
· 1/2 cup chopped onion
· 1 tsp. dried rosemary
· 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth (or veggie stock)
· 1- 15 oz. can of white beans, rinsed and drained
· salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
· 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
· zest of 1 lemon
· 8 slices (1/2 inch each) whole-wheat baguette, toasted
· 2 plum tomatoes
· 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

· combine olive oil and onion in skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes or until tender
· add rosemary, broth, and beans to the onions- simmer gently for another 5 minutes or until the broth has reduced or thickened
· remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper
· fold in parsley and lemon zest
· top each baguette slice with a tomato slice and 2 tbsp. of the bean mixture
· garnish with pine nuts and serve.

This is a healthy dish to serve as an appetizer or alongside soup for lunch. You could also add the bean mixture to any pasta or rice for an easy dinner. I have always liked the use of beans to replace meat. It's still hearty, just not heavy. Beans are also easier for your body to digest. One of my goals for 2010 is to eat less meat. I would like to find alternatives. Beans are a great replacement. Beans, Beans the're great for your heart....that's all we need to know.


Friday, January 1, 2010

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe # 7 Apple Pie Baked Ravioli

· 2 tbsp. butter
· 4 small green apples
· 3 tbsp. brown sugar
· 1 tsp. cinnamon
· 1 pkg. frozen pie crust
· 1 egg
· 1 tbsp. of granulated sugar (for sprinkling on top)
(you will need a ravioli stamp for this recipe- Mario Batali has a functional and affordable one. Check it out.)

· let pie crust thaw
· preheat oven to 425 degrees
· grease cookie sheet
· peel & dice all apples
· melt butter in a pan over medium heat
· add apples, brown sugar, and cinnamon and saute for about 10 minutes or until apple is nice and tender
· roll out first layer of pie crust, 1/8 inch thick
· using a spoon, lay out doll-ups of apple mixture spaced evenly apart from each other
· place rolled out top layer right on top of the pie crust and apple doll-ups
· you can use an egg wash to adhere the top pie crust layer to the bottom (1 egg, beaten mixed with a bit if water)
· use a brush to dip into the egg wash and around the apple doll-ups
· press top pie crust down getting the air out of each ravioli pocket.
· once the pie crusts are sealed together, use stamp to cut out each ravioli
· lay out ravioli on greased cookie sheet
· brush egg wash over each one for a nice golden brown crust, once baked
· bake for about 15- 20 minutes
· sprinkle regular sugar over the baked ravioli for texture and to indicate that it's a dessert

I made these little bites to share at this years New Year's party. There was a recent segment on E! about quick and easy party foods to whip up for New Years and this one seemed easy to remember. I just figured out the measurements on my own. They are perfect little miniature apple pies.

After using up all of the apple mixture, there was still leftover pie crust, so I recreated the same dessert a few nights later. I never usually cook the same thing twice in one week, that's how easy and enjoyable it was to make them.

Bring these to your next gathering. They'll go quick!

Homemade Pizza Dough

(recipe from the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer instruction booklet)

· 1 pkg. active dry yeast
· 1 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
· 1/2 tsp. salt
· 2 tsp. olive oil
· 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
· t tbsp. cornmeal

· dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed mixer bowl
· add salt, olive oil, and 2 1/2 cups flour
· using the dough hook on your mixer, mix at speed 2 for about 1 minute (low speed)
· continuing on speed 2, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix until dough clings to hook and cleans the sides of the bowl (about 2 minutes)
· knead on speed 2 for another 2 minutes
· place dough in greased bowl, covering the dough in olive oil
· cover, let rise in warm place, free from draft for about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk
· punch down dough
· divide dough into thirds
· stretch each portion into 10 inch round circles (or rectangles to be baked on cookie sheets for a more rustic approach)
· brush 10 inch pizza pan with oil and
sprinkle with cornmeal
· press dough across bottom of pan forming a collar around the edge to hold toppings
· add toppings as desired
· bake at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes
· repeat two more times with different toppings each time

Now, get creative!