Thursday, December 30, 2010

Panera Bread Fuji Apple Salad

 


Packing a lunch for work every day gets really, really boring. I can only take so many turkey sandwiches before I absolutely lose my mind from the monotony. I really like salads, but I’m really finicky when it comes to dressings. My preference always goes towards the buttermilk-laden fatty dressings that are tasty but not exactly health food. Imagine my delight when I stumbled across this Panera salad. Immediately I knew I needed to find a copycat recipe for this salad to make for lunch and low and behold, it’s awesome. Light, healthy and incredibly flavorful without being overpowering.
I made a few tweaks to the original recipe, omitting chicken most of the time and adding a few dried cranberries or dried cherries just for some extra color.

fuji apple salad bite



Fuji Apple Salad 
printable recipe

Ingredients:
for the dressing
1/3 cup Olive Oil
1 Tablespoon White Balsamic Vinegar
1 Tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
2 small shallots, finely chopped
1 1/2teaspoons Dijon Mustard
3 Tablespoons Frozen Apple juice Concentrate

for the salad

spinach
green leaf lettuce or romaine lettuce, chopped
tomatoes, chopped
pecan halves
dried apple slices
feta or blue cheese, crumbled
red onion, diced
dried cranberries

Directions:
Mix together all of the dressing ingredients in a medium bowl.
Assemble the salad and drizzle dressing over the top.

Source: Adapted from SparkRecipes

One Year Ago on Laura’s Recipe Collection Best Ever Chocolate Cake
Two Years Ago on Laura’s Recipe Collection Pepperoni Cheese Bread

Monday, December 27, 2010

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

blueberry buttermilk pancake 
Oh blueberries, how I love you. They’re fantastic in everything, aren’t they? Muffins, pancakes, chocolate (if you’ve never had chocolate covered blueberries you have not lived. Trust me.) Lucky for me, my mom’s family owns a spectacular blueberry farm with the most delicious (and ENORMOUS- for real, quarter sized if you hit that at the early season) blueberries you’ll ever taste. Heaven. Pure heaven.
Blueberry pancakes are the ultimate weekend breakfast in my opinion and these little blue beauties were no exception. Fluffy and sweet, perfect with the blueberries and a smidge of maple syrup.

More of Laura’s Breakfast Favorites
Biscuits and Gravy
Whole Grain Waffles

Two Years Ago on Laura’s Recipe Collection 
Flourless Chocolate Torte
Gingerbread Muffins


Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes 
makes about 16 pancakes
printable recipe

Ingredients:
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
3 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups buttermilk
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 Tablespoons. vegetable oil or nonstick for oiling the griddle.
1-2 cups fresh blueberries

Directions:
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs until frothy.
Heat an electric griddle to 350/medium-high heat.

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, vanilla and butter into the bowl. Beat until the batter is smooth and there are no flour lumps remaining. Be careful not to over-mix the batter or the pancakes will be tough.

Spoon about 1/3 cup of batter onto the pan, then scatter blueberries over the pancakes. Cook until the batter has large bubbles forming on top, then flip. Cook until golden brown on both sides.
Serve and enjoy!

Source: Williams-Sonoma


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcake

The first of October I went on a vacation with my mom and both of my kids while Brian went hunting. Literally one hour after getting out of the car to start our vacation I dropped our trusty point & shoot camera in the sand in the play area of an apple cider mill. Literally. One. Hour. The first day of our 5 day vacation. Thankfully my mom had a camera with her, so the trip didn’t go completely undocumented, however the last 2 months of our lives have been camera-less. It’s been rough, I tell you. Rough! (This is where tiny violins start playing sad, sad songs for me. La la laaa)

What does this have to do with Red Velvet Cupcakes? Absolutely nothing! Except as a way to show you what arrived in my house last week. My third child, as I earnestly jokingly call it:



Isn’t she pretty? (She’d be even prettier if I had any blazing idea how to work her. But we can’t have everything, can we?) So once I get over what I like to call the Camera-stupids posting will commence again! You have no idea how much I’ve missed this. Fear not, I have been cooking and baking up a storm :)

Now… on to these cupcakes? I’d only had Red Velvet Cake once before and it was good. However, it didn’t really strike the love in me that I’d expected. I’d heard so many raves for Red Velvet, so many people saying that it’s their favorite cake. I just didn’t see it. Until now, that is. Daaaang, people. I get what you’re saying! Now, I’m not sure it’ll ever take the place of cheesecake in my heart as my favorite dessert, but it was definitely towards the top of my Dang But That’s a Good Cupcake list. And that is a very, very long list. Top it with cream cheese frosting and oh be still my heart! And how pretty are they for the Christmas season!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
makes 18 cupcakes
printable recipe

Ingredients:
For the cupcakes
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tablespoon (1 oz.) red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar

For the frosting
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
12 ounces butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners' sugar

Directions:
To make the cake
Preheat the oven to 350. Line cupcake pans with 18 paper liners.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together to combine. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together the eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar until well-mixed.

With the mixer on low speed slowly beat in the flour mixture until evenly incorporated.

Scoop the batter evenly between the cupcake liners. Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla until smooth. Beat in the confectioners’ sugar until fluffy. Pipe or spread frosting onto cupcakes as desired.

Source: Apple A Day

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Spicy Thai Peanut Chicken

thai 1 

I do not know why this never occurred to me before. Need a way to get you kids to eat new foods or lots of veggies? Cover them in peanut butter!

A few weeks ago I was speaking to a co-worker while she was eating some Thai peanut sauce take-out from a nearby restaurant and Oh. My. Gosh. it looked amazing. It was almost (ok not almost) embarrassing how much I was staring at her plate of food. The next evening I got home and decided that I couldn’t go another day without figuring out a recipe for that delightful-looking meal. I figured that my kids would eat it, but necessarily with much enthusiasm so you can imagine my surprise when they cleaned their plates! Success!

Spicy Thai Peanut Chicken
printable recipe

Ingredients:
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
10 oz rice noodles
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped into very thin strips
1 mild green pepper, chopped into very thin strips
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 large carrot, peeled with a vegetable peeler into thin strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch of broccoli florets
2-3 scallions chopped, green and white parts divided
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup cashew or peanut halves

Direction:
Pour the olive oil into a large skillet, then sauté the chicken until golden and cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Adding a touch more olive oil if needed, sauté the peppers and the whites of the scallions until soft. Add the mushrooms, garlic, carrot strips and scallion greens to the pan and sauté until soft.

Pour the chicken broth into the pan and add the broccoli. Bring to a simmer until broccoli is steamed, then add the chicken back into the pan and stir in soy sauce, ginger, red pepper flakes, honey and peanut butter. Stir until smooth and combined.

Add in the cashews or peanuts and serve over rice or rice noodles.

Source: A Laura’s Recipe Collection Original

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

oatmeal chocolate chip

I have a confession to make. I’ve been sitting on the recipe for these cookies for a year now. A YEAR! I didn’t mean to keep it a secret from you, I promise. But, the thing is, I created the recipe for my husband and now every time I make these cookies he eats them before I get the chance to take a photo (unless you count a blurred photo of the cookie in his hand with a bite out of it already).

As I said, I created the recipe for Brian. It started, first, after I tried the ever-popular Alton Brown The Chewy. For Brian, no cookie is better than a chewy cookie. So we had high hopes for The Chewy. Then we tried it. And, friends, that cookie? Was not chewy. It was fluffy. It was more chewy than, say, Tollhouse. But compared to some of the other cookies we have made in the past? Chewy it wasn’t.

So I set off on a mission. I started asking “Ok, so if you were to eat the perfect cookie, what would it be? For starters, he said, it would be chocolate chip. With oatmeal. Because oatmeal is, you know, chewy. Beyond that he didn’t really have anything in mind. So I started thinking about all my favorite traditional chocolate chip cookies and decided to start throwing elements of each of them into a cookie recipe and see what happened.

I started adding ingredients in small increments and increasing and altering them by how the dough looked and felt, writing down everything I did along the way on an old scrap envelope (which to this day is hanging on my fridge in lieu of an actual recipe card). Finally, the first taste test. Raw cookie dough, in my opinion, says everything about the cookie itself. So I took a tiny spoonful of it to Brian to test. He took a bite. He closed his eyes. He opened them and fixed me with an intense stare and said “Where’s the bowl? I’m not finished here”.

In that moment, my perfect cookie was born. And with the first batch, at that!

Laura’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
printable recipe

Ingredients:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups raw rolled oats
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Directions:
Pre-heat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together the butter and sugars until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat the eggs, one at a time, mixing until incorporated. Mix in the vanilla extract.

In a medium bowl mix the flour, baking soda, salt and rolled oats.

With the mixer on low speed slowly add in the flour ingredients, mixing until just combined.  Gently fold in the nuts & chocolate chips.

Scoop the dough onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and bake until slightly golden, about 12-13 minutes. Cool on a wire cooling rack.

Source: An Original Laura’s Recipe Collection recipe

Need more of a cookie fix? Try these favorites!
Snickerdoodles
Homemade Samoas

One Year Ago on Laura’s Recipe Collection
Panera Bread French Onion Soup

Two Years Ago on Laura’s Recipe CollectionHomemade Pizza Crust

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Devil's Food Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Buttercream

148

I have a confession to make. I’m sorry to have kept it from you for so long. Ok… here goes. I really don’t like frosting. There, I said it. I think most frosting is totally vile. The bakery frostings on those massive sheet cakes for office birthdays and graduations (that are always marble cake. why is that?) is one of the nastier things ever, in my opinion. I actually scrape the frosting off my Oreos before I eat them. (Insert the collective gasp of the horrified world at large right here).

But this? This frosting? It changed my mind. It’s like fudge. Or candy. Or both, but all mashed into this soft and shiny butter cream. Turns out I really, really like butter cream. Combined with this moist and luscious chocolate cake it’s, well, devilishly good. I do, however, still hate bakery frosting. Gag.



Devil’s Food Cupcakes with Dark Chocolate Buttercreamprintable recipe

makes 36 cupcakes

Ingredients:
For the cupcakes3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup hot water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 baking powder
1 1/4  teaspoon coarse salt
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream, room temperature

For the buttercream
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
2 1/4 cups (4 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled

Directions:
For the cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350. Line 3 muffin pans with liners.

In a small bowl whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water until smooth. In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a medium sauce pan over low heat melt the butter and sugar together, stirring until combined. Pour into the bowl of an electric mixer. Turn the mixer to low speed and beat until the butter mixture has cooled.

One at a time, add in the eggs, beating to combine between each addition.  Beat in the vanilla and cocoa powder mixture until well-combined.

Add in half of the flour mixture, beating until just combined, then add the sour cream and mix until just combined, finishing with the remaining flour mixture.

Scoop the batter evenly between the lined cups, filling about 3/4 of the way. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the pans and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until the top of the cupcake easily springs back when pressed lightly.  Cool in the tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove from the pan and cool completely prior to frosting.

For the frosting
Stir together the cocoa powder and boiling water until the cocoa has completely dissolved.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the butter, confectioners sugar, and salt together until light and fluffy.  With the mixer on low speed beat in the melted and cooled chocolate, then the cocoa mixture.

Pipe or spread onto cooled cupcakes.

Source: Martha Stewart Cupcakes

More of my favorite cupcakes
Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes
Raspberry-filled Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes


One Year Ago on Laura's Recipe Collection
Soft Pretzels
Two Years Ago
Cajun Chicken Pasta

Monday, September 13, 2010

Chocolate Overdose Cake

chocolate overdose cake

Alice from Alice in Wonderland said “I give myself very good advice but I very seldom follow it.” Wise girl, that Alice. One of my first cardinal rules of cooking is to read through the recipe twice at minimum before starting. Yet sometimes (cough cough too often) I just assume I can wing it as I go along. Rarely does this work for me.

I made this cake for the first time the day before Mother’s Day. In my own stupidity I did not thoroughly read the directions prior to starting the cake. Further into my own stupidity I didn’t start the first step of this cake until 8:00 at night. Several hours later I was still up piecing together this cake. I was exhausted the next day but this was totally worth it!

The next time I made it I gave myself plenty of time, make a few of the layers ahead of time and took my sweet old time piecing it together and gently frosted it with the ganache. All that careful preparation and what did I do? I picked up the cake to place it in the fridge and in a very I Love Lucy move, slipped and planted the cake down the front of myself.

Ever the optimist, I pulled the cake off my shirt (thankfully still in one piece but very lumpy in the ganache), smoothed the ganache and placed it back in the fridge.

So, in conclusion I strongly urge you to make this addictive cake. BUT, take my advice (since apparently I won’t take it myself) and read through the directions and give yourself plenty of time.

Chocolate Overdose Cakeprintable recipe

Brownie Base
Ingredients:
5/8 cup (1/2 cup + 2Tbsp) cake flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into six pieces
1 1/8 cups (1 cup + 2 Tbsp) sugar
2 large eggs, room temp
2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
With the oven rack placed in the center setting, preheat the oven to 325. Line the sides and bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan with parchment paper cut to fit. Spray lightly with cooking spray.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter and chocolate together in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring until smooth. Remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar. Mix in the eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla.

Add in half the flour mixture and stir until combined. Fold in the remaining flour mixture and stir until smooth. Pour the batter into the spring form and spread until smooth. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the brownie comes out clean. Cool still in the spring form pan for about an hour.

Chocolate Mousse
Ingredients:
6 oz semisweet chocolate, broken into 1/2-ounce pieces
1 7/8 cups (15 oz) heavy cream
1 Tbsp granulated sugar

Directions:
Chill the bowl and whisk of an electric mixer in the freezer or refrigerator.

Place the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and heat for 8-10 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and stir until smooth. Place the melted chocolate in a stainless steel bowl and set aside.

Whisk the heavy cream and sugar together in a well-chilled bowl of an electric mixer until peaks form, about 1-2 minutes. Scoop 1/4 of the whipped cream into the bowl of melted chocolate and gently fold until combined. Add to the remaining whipped cream and fold gently until incorporated.

Chocolate cakeIngredients:
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, soft
7/8 cups (3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/8 cup (2 Tbsp) Dutch-processed cocoa
1/4 cup hot water
7/8 cups (3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp) sugar
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk

Directions:Preheat oven to 325°. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a double boiler or a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, combine the cocoa powder, chocolate and hot water. Stir until chocolate is melted. Whisk in 1/4 cup of  sugar until the chocolate is glossy and smooth. Remove the bowl from heat and set aside.

In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a small bowl stir together the buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together the eggs, egg yolk and butter until combined. With the mixer on high speed whisk in the remaining (1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons) sugar until pale and fluffy.

Pour the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg/butter/sugar mixture and beat until well-combined.

Gradually add about a third of the flour mixture to the bowl, beating until just combined. Pour in half of the buttermilk mixture, beating until just-incorportated. Continue altering the remaining flour and buttermilk. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix again until batter is evenly incorporated.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and spread evenly. Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then invert the cake to remove from the pan and let cool completely.

Chocolate GanacheIngredients:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
18 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-ounce pieces

Directions:
In a medium sauce pan bring the heavy cream and butter to a boil. Place the semi-sweet chocolate in a medium heat-proof bowl. Pour the boiling cream and butter over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Reserve 1/2 cup of ganache to use to fix the chocolate covered strawberries to the cake. Bring the remaining ganache to room temperature, about 40 minutes.

Chocolate Covered Strawberries
Ingredients & supplies
15-18 ripe strawberries
semisweet chocolate, cut into small chunks or chips
tooth picks
block of craft foam, covered with aluminum foil

Directions:
Wash and gently dry the strawberries. Melt the chocolate either in the microwave or over a double boiler, stirring frequently until smooth.

Stick the husk of the strawberry with a toothpick, then dip into the melted chocolate.  Stick the other end of the toothpick into the foam. Repeat with remaining strawberries. Let the chocolate set, about 30 minutes.

To Assemble the Cake
Remove the spring form pan from the brownie base, then spoon the chocolate mousse over the brownie base evenly, smoothing the top. Gently place the chocolate cake over the mousse and press down very lightly. Chill for 1 hour.

Cover the edges of a cake board with wax paper strips. Transfer the cake to the cake board, then spread the ganache evenly over the cake top and sides. Chill in the fridge to set.  Once set, remove the wax paper strips from the cake board.

Dab small amounts of chocolate ganache onto the bottoms of the chocolate covered strawberries to glue to the top of the cake. Serve chilled.

Source: Beantown Baker

Need more of a chocolate fix? Try some of these favorites!
Mocha Brownie Cupcakes

Chewy Chocolate Cookies
Mocha Sherbert

Monday, August 30, 2010

Italian Sausage, Red Pepper and Mushroom Risotto

216
Risotto is one of those foods that I just can’t live without. Put me on a deserted island (or better yet, a dessert-ed island) somewhere and I think I’d really need pasta & or Arborio rice, parmesan cheese and heavy cream to survive. I feel about risotto the way the clichéd woman feels about chocolate. Happy Anniversary, darling. I brought you some rice cooked in wine to show how much I care. :Swoon:
This risotto has quickly become on of my very favorites in my repertoire for a few reasons. First, of course, it’s amazing. The flavors meld so beautifully. And second, it’s a typical side dish made into a hearty comfort-food-ish main dish. And I can say from experience that it makes amazing cold leftovers- my favorite.
And because chicken sausage has quickly stormed into my heart, too, I make this with Italian chicken sausage to make it ever so slightly healthier (or as healthy as rice cooked in wine covered in cheese can be)
Italian Sausage, Red Pepper & Mushroom Risotto
printable recipe
Ingredients:
5 cups chicken broth
2 Tablespoons butter
8 ounces Italian sausage, casing removed, or ground sausage, broken up
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
4 ounces white button mushrooms, coarsely chopped (I often use baby bellas since they’re what I tend to already have on hand)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
Directions: Simmer the broth in a medium saucepan. Cover and keep warm.
Melt the butter in a large heavy saucepan. Crumble the sausage into the pan and saute until golden. Add the onion, bell pepper and mushrooms to the pan and saute until tender, scraping the bottom of the pan while stirring, about 8 minutes.
Add the rice and stir to coat, about a minute.
Pour the wine into the pan and bring to a simmer. Once the liquid has nearly absorbed, about 2 minutes, add in a half-cup of the chicken broth. Stir frequently until almost all of the liquid has absorbed. Continue adding the chicken broth, 1/2 cup at a time, letting the liquid nearly completely absorb between additions. Stir frequently.
After about 25 minutes the rice will be tender and creamy. Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 of the parmesan. Transfer to a serving bowl, sprinkle with parsley and the remaining cheese. Serve.
Source: Brown Eyed Baker

Other favorite risotto recipes:
Chicken Marsala Risotto
Garlic Parmesan Risotto
One Year Ago on Laura’s Recipe Collection: Spinach Feta Pizza

Friday, August 20, 2010

Rosemary and Garlic White Bean Dip

white bean dip
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting up with some local food bloggers. (Trust me, locals, I was as shocked as you that there was more than, oh, 2 of us around here). Our hostess with the mostest for the evening was Maggie of Dog Hill Kitchen. She selected a light summery tapas-style theme for the evening and served, among other yummy snacks, the best beef short ribs I’ve ever had in the form of sliders. (P.S. Maggie? I’m still daydreaming over those babies. I have GOT to make those!) We also had Angela of Notes From a Country Girl Living In the City who brought some really awesome strawberry balsamic jam to serve on a loaf of rustic bread and Shayne of Fruitcake or Nuts who brought potato topped with herbs & pickled herring and some red pepper dip that I desperately need the recipe for.  I brought along this Rosemary & Garlic White Bean dip along with Garlic Feta Dip (one of my favorite things EVER).
Not surprising, when you leave a party of food bloggers, you don’t leave hungry. The food was incredible. Plus it was great to get together with people who wouldn’t bat an eye or think it was weird if you were to say “Wait! Before we eat this I have to take a pretty picture”. :)

Rosemary and Garlic White Bean Dip printable recipe

Ingredients:
1/4  cup  olive oil, divided
2  cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2  cans (15 oz. each) white beans, drained and rinsed
2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
2  teaspoons  kosher salt
3  sprigs fresh rosemary, rinsed
Directions:
Sauté the garlic in 2 Tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium pan until fragrant. Be careful not to brown the garlic.
Combine the beans, lemon juice and kosher salt in a food processor. Add in the garlic & oil and wipe the pan clean. Puree until smooth.
Combine the remaining olive oil with the rosemary in the pan and stir just until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove the heat and set aside the rosemary.
Pour the rosemary oil over the bean dip. Mince 1 teaspoon of the rosemary and sprinkle over the top of the dip.
Serve at room temperature.
Source: MyRecipes

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Lighter General Tso's Chicken



After several weeks of dessert posts (minus one indulgent Mario Batali pasta recipe) I was beginning to feel like we were getting a bit unhealthy around here. So, to combat that, I bring you: Veggies! And healthy food! Novel concept, no?

But, because I’m still me, and we don’t want to get too out of hand, first I have to indulge our sweet tooths (sweet teeth?) just a bit more to announce The Perfect Scoop cookbook giveaway winner!

random winner

Congrats, Ashley! Shoot me an email at LaurasRecipeCollection@gmail.com and this fantastic cookbook will be yours in no time!

Back to the food!

So, I’ve made this recipe several times. It seems that every time I was visiting the farmers market on the weekends, the quarts of snow peas were practically jumping off the tables into my bags, begging to be made into this delicious meal. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite weeknight meals. It’s relatively quick to pull together, especially if you’re clever and prep the foods the night prior. I wish I could remember to do this more often. It would make my life so much easier.

Anyway, something about this slightly spicy, slightly sweet sauce over crunchy snow peas just does me right in. And even better still, it’s “lighter”, as in healthier. As in go ahead and eat a cupcake, Laura, you know you want to! I like that.

Lighter General Tso’s Chicken
printable recipe

Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups long-grain brown rice
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
4 garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated and peeled
3 tablespoons light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
2 large egg whites
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Directions:

Cook the rice according to the package instructions.

In a large bowl stir 1 Tablespoon of the cornstarch with 1/2 cup of water until it is smooth. Stir in the ginger, garlic, brown sugar, soy sauce and red pepper flakes. Toss in the snow peas until well combined and set the bowl aside.

In a medium bowl whisk the egg whites with the remaining cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss the chicken in the egg white mixture to evenly coat.

Pour the vegetable oil into a large skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil is heated, using a slotted spoon gently remove some of the chicken from the egg white mixture and let the excess egg white drip off. Cook the chicken until lightly golden and cooked through, about 6 minutes, cooking in batches if needed. Remove the chicken from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.

Pour the snow pea mixture into the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes or until the peas are tender and the sauce has thickened. Add the chicken back into the pan and toss with the snow peas. Serve with the rice.

Source: Proceed With Caution

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Milk Chocolate Ice Cream with Brownie Bits & A Giveaway!



brownie bit ice cream

Did you know that July is National Ice Cream month? It only makes sense, I suppose. It’s the middle of summer. It’s scorching hot pretty much everywhere right now. And, hello, it’s ice cream. Who even needs an excuse to eat some?

With this rich, indulgent, amazing ice cream recipe I bring you… drum roll, please… the very first Laura’s Recipe Collection giveaway!
In honor of summer, of National Ice Cream Month, of my upcoming birthday, of nearly 2 years of blogging and nearly 200 recipes shared I am giving away a copy of the ice cream cookbook to beat all ice cream cookbooks: David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop! But first, the ice cream!

Milk Chocolate Ice Cream with Brownie Bits
printable recipe

Milk Chocolate Ice Cream
Ingredients:
8 ounces milk chocolate with at least 30% cocoa solids, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
Big pinch of salt
4 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons Cognac
3/4 cup cocoa nibs or semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:
Combine the milk chocolate and heavy cream over a double boiler or a large heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Melt the chocolate, stirring often, then remove the bowl from the heat. Set a mesh strainer over the top of the bowl and set aside.

Combine the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan and stir until warmed. Beat the egg yolks in a medium bowl, then whisk the milk mixture into the egg yolks. Pour the egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan.

Cook the mixture over medium heat, stirring often, until it thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the mesh strainer into the bowl of chocolate. Stir in the Cognac until well-mixed. Chill the mixture over an ice bath, then refrigerate until completely cooled.

Churn the ice cream according to ice cream maker instructions. Prior to freezing completely, gently stir in any mix-ins such as brownie bits.

Chewy Chocolate Brownies
Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, cut into small pieces
11/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup hazelnuts, pecans, almonds or walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°.

Line an 8x8 inch square pan with aluminum foil so that it covers the bottoms and the sides of the pan. Using butter or nonstick spray grease the sides and bottom of the pan, then set aside.

Melt the butter in a medium sauce pan, then add in the chocolate and stir until completely melted. Remove from the heat. Stir in the sugar, eggs, then vanilla. Add the flour and salt to the pan and stir vigorously until the batter forms a ball. Blend in the chocolate chips and nuts.

Scrape the batter into the pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Let cool on a wire rack. Store at room temperature.

Crumble the brownie into small bits and gently fold into the just-churned ice cream.

Source: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

The scoop on the giveaway

** The giveaway is now closed**
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post answering the question What is your favorite ice cream flavor? by Monday July 26, 11:59pm ET . The winner will be selected by random.org and announced Tuesday morning.

The giveaway is open only to US residents.

A small disclaimer: I purchased this book myself. I have not been given any kind of compensation for this giveaway. I do this purely out of my love for you, dear readers, and my all-consuming love of ice cream :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Penne alla Papalina

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This weekend I had the awesome opportunity to do this.

Mario Batali 001

Me, Mario and my friend Kelly.

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“To Laura, Pasta is love. Mario Batali”

Pasta is love. He knows me so well already.

Kelly and I were standing in the very long line to meet Mario and I started flipping through my new copy of his newest book. I turned to the back cover and saw this delicious looking pasta dish. “What is that? Monday night’s dinner. That’s what it is” I said to Kelly. And indeed it was. This was a great weeknight dinner. Quick to come together and oh so yummy.

Pasta alla Papalina
printable recipe

Ingredients:
Kosher salt
6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 ounces prosciutto, cut into 1-inch squares
10 ounces (2 cups) frozen green peas, thawed
1 pound penne rigate
4 large eggs
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for serving
Coarsely ground black pepper

Directions:
Boil 6 quarts of water in a large pot. Add 3 Tablespoons of kosher salt.  Cook the pasta according to package directions until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water, then drain.

While the pasta cooks, cook the prosciutto in a large pan with 3 Tablespoons of olive oil, stirring occasionally, until the prosciutto is golden brown and has rendered some of it’s fat, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the peas.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs well, then beat in the remaining 3 Tablespoons of oil and 1/4 cup of the reserved pasta water.

Stir the pasta and the prosciutto and pea mixture together. Pour the egg mixture into the pasta and mix together well to cook the eggs with the heat from the cooked pasta. Gradually add a bit more of the pasta water if needed.

Stir in the Parmigiano, season with pepper to taste, and serve.

Source: Molto Gusto: Easy Italian Cooking by Mario Batali and Mark Ladner

Monday, July 12, 2010

Peanut Butter (and Jelly) Ice Cream

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Sing it with me! Peanut… peanut butter! And jelly!

I absolutely adore peanut butter. It’s so delicious. It’s great in everything. Peanut butter on toast? Good. Peanut butter & banana in oatmeal? Greatest breakfast ever. Peanut butter and chocolate? Come on, need I say more? Peanut butter ice cream? Why have I never had this before now!?

Sadly I had a bad peanut allergy through childhood so I went through my formative years without my beloved PB&J. Perhaps that’s why now, as an adult, I love it so deeply. I claim that I made this PB&J ice cream for my daughter’s birthday party, but in reality it was totally for me. The birthday party was just a great excuse to make a childhood favorite that I’ve been eyeing for a long time.

Peanut Butter (and Jelly) Ice Cream
printable recipe

Ingredients:
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 2/3 cup half-and-half
pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 small jar of jelly in your favorite flavor (optional)

Directions:
Combine the peanut butter, sugar, half-and-half, salt and vanilla in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for an hour, then freeze in an ice cream maker per the manufacturer instructions.

To make Peanut Butter and Jelly Swirl, after churning the ice cream in the ice cream maker, gently fold in the jelly, then place in the freezer until completely frozen.

Source: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

Monday, July 5, 2010

Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream

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Isn’t strawberry ice cream the quintessential summer dessert? I was so excited for strawberry season this year, since I’ve had this recipe on my mind for months. I’m so happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations. I love that it is sweet and the strawberry flavor really shines. I’ve had strawberry ice cream before that even with chunks of strawberries tastes fake and overly sweet. As for the sour cream addition, it sounds kind of strange, I’ll admit, but it really cut the sweetness of the berries, giving the ice cream just the right amount of tang.

Strawberry-Sour Cream Ice Cream
printable recipe
makes about 1 1/4 quarts

Ingredients:
1 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and rinsed
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon vodka or kirsch
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Directions:
Cut up the strawberries and mix with the vodka and sugar in a medium bowl. Stir well until the sugar dissolves. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature for an hour, stirring occasionally.

Pour the berries and sugar mixture into a blender or food processor. Pulse a few times until nearly smooth with a few remaining strawberry chunks.

Refrigerate for one hour, then freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Source: The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz, page 90-91

Friday, July 2, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes

 

These sinful little cupcakes, along with the Vanilla Cupcakes with Raspberry Filling and Raspberry Buttercream, were the cupcakes I served for Madeline’s 1st birthday party and let me tell you, they were quite the hit. The cupcakes themselves were great, but the filling… oh the filling! And the frosting! I opted (this time) to skip the mini chocolate chip cookie garnish on the top, mostly because I had 762,000 other things that I had to do to prepare for her party and, in true Laura fashion, underestimated the amount of time it would take, and underestimated the amount of time I would waste rushing around saying “so much to doooooo”.  But, no worries, everything got done, we had a great time, and even better still, there were cupcakes left over for me!

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes
makes 24 cupcakes

printable recipe

Ingredients:
For the cupcakes
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed
4 large eggs
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips (semisweet or bittersweet)

For the filling
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 Tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
7 oz. sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

For the frosting
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons milk
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For decoration
mini chocolate chips
mini chocolate chip cookies

Directions:

To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350. Prepare 24 cupcake pan cups with paper liner.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together the butter and brown sugar for about 3 minutes or until fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, combining well after each addition.

In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add half of the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl and beat together, then pour in the milk, mixing well. Finish by adding the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add the vanilla to the batter and beat until incorporated. Gently stir in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter evenly between the prepared cupcake cups then bake for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely.

To make the cookie dough filling beat the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Add the flour, sweetened condenced milk and vanilla extract to the bowl and beat until smooth and combined.  Gently stir in the chocolate chips. Cover the filling and place in the refrigerator for an hour, or until it has firmed up.

To fill the cupcakes, cup a cone out of the center of the cupcake. Slice off the very top 1/4 inch of the cone and set it aside. Spoon the filling into the center of the cupcake and top with the remaining cupcake circle.

To make the frosting beat the butter and brown sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Slowly beat in the confectioners sugar until smooth and combined. Add the flour and salt to the frosting and mix well. Pour the milk and vanilla into the bowl and beat until combined. Frost the cupcakes, then garnish with mini chocolate chips and mini cookies.

Source: Annie’s Eats

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Raspberry-filled Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Raspberry Buttercream



Last week my sweet baby Madeline turned 1 year old. While planning her birthday party, I knew I wanted to make two different kinds of cupcake- one fruity and one more decadent. After debating with myself if raspberry filling and raspberry butter cream would be “too much”, decided on these for one of the cupcake options. And let me tell you, these cupcakes were perfect! The butter cream reminded me of raspberry frozen yogurt. And the filling reminded me of heaven in raspberry form.

Raspberry-filled Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Raspberry ButtercreamPrintable Recipe

Vanilla Cupcakesmakes 12 cupcakes
Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
zest of 1 medium lemon
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350. Prepare 12 muffin cups with paper liners and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer beat together sugar and butter until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time, combining well before adding the next egg. Beat in the vanilla paste or extract and lemon zest.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium bowl.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in half the flour mixture, then the milk, then the remaining flour. Mix just until combined.

Scoop the batter evenly between each of the muffin cups. Bake for 17 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the cupcakes from the pan and let cool on a wire rack completely.

Raspberry FillingIngredients:
2 10-ounce bag frozen raspberries, thawed
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch

Directions:
Using a food processor or blender, puree the raspberries. Press the puree through a fine strainer to remove the seeds. Pour the puree into a medium saucepan and combine with the sugar and cornstarch. Bring to a boil and stir until thickened. Let cool completely.

Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, cut a small cone, about an inch in diameter and depth in the top of the cupcake. Slice off all but the top 1/4 inch of the cone. Spoon a bit of the filling into the center of the cupcake and top with the remaining cupcake disc. Repeat with the remaining cupcakes.

 Raspberry Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients:
20 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon raspberry liqueur or 1 1/2 teaspoons raspberry extract
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
red or pink gel food coloring, if desired

Directions:
Beat together the butter and confectioners sugar until smooth. Add in the salt, raspberry liqueur or extract, heavy cream and food coloring. Beat until well-combined.

Spread or pipe the frosting onto cupcakes.

Sources: Cupcake recipe found at The Novice Chef, Raspberry filling found at Smitten Kitchen, Raspberry buttercream frosting found at Apple A Day

Friday, June 18, 2010

Overnight Apple French Toast

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An oldie, but a goodie. I can remember childhood mornings, waking up and walking into the kitchen to find my mom pulling this glorious breakfast out of the oven. It was one of my favorites and yet somehow I kind of forgot about it for a few years there. Then a few weeks ago on the way home from work I had to stop at the store. Suddenly Apple French Toast thoughts filled my head and I immediately pulled out my cell phone and called my mom for the ingredients. I had gone for years without this sticky goodness and out of nowhere I couldn’t go another day. It was every bit as good as I remembered.

Overnight Apple French Toast
print this recipe

Ingredients:
For the French toast
1 loaf French bread, sliced 1-inch thick
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tablespoons corn syrup
2 large tart apples, peeled and sliced
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the syrup
1 cup applesauce
10 oz apple jelly
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves

Directions:
Combine the brown sugar, butter and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes or until thick.
Pour the mixture into a 13x9 glass pan. Top the caramel sauce evenly with the apple slices.

In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, milk and vanilla. Dip the bread slices into the milk mixture, then lay evenly in the glass pan. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The following morning remove the pan from the fridge 30 minutes prior to cooking. Preheat the oven to 350.

Bake the toast for 30-40 minutes or until golden.

Stir together the syrup ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook until hot.

To serve, place the toast on a plate, top with apples, caramel sauce and syrup.

Source: My mom, original source unknown

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Caesar Salad

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When it comes to egg, I am a total hypocrite. I could eat raw cookie dough like there is no tomorrow, but when it comes to raw egg in anything else I get a bit skeeved out. Thankfully, I got over that quickly when I came across this recipe for Caesar dressing. It was rich and creamy, yet not overpoweringly so. The anchovies give it that well-known Caesar flavor without being fishy. Trust me, don’t skip these and don’t let the anchovies deter you. And for those of you that would prefer to keep your raw egg in cookie dough, you can substitute 2 Tablespoons of mayo for the raw egg. Topped with freshly made croutons this was a great meal for a freakishly hot spring evening.
Homemade Caesar Salad Print this recipe
Ingredients:
For the croutons
6 slices crusty white bread, such as Italian or Ciabatta, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 Tablespoon minced flat leaf parsley
coarse salt
3 Tablespoons olive oil
For the dressing
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 egg yolks (or 2 Tablespoons mayo)
1 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
4-5 anchovies
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
coarse salt and pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Romaine lettuce
shredded parmesan cheese
Directions:
To make the croutons 
Preheat the oven to 350
Mix the bread pieces  with the minced garlic, parsley, salt and olive oil in a large bowl. Place on a rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 10-15 minutes or until toasted and golden brown.
To make the dressing
Mash the garlic cloves with egg yolks and mustard until it forms a paste. I used a food processor for this, but it can be done with a fork. Grind in the anchovies until well-combined. Mix in lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir in the olive oil until the mixture is creamy.
Toss the dressing with lettuce, croutons and parmesan cheese. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper if desired.
Source: Joy the Baker

Monday, June 14, 2010

Croissants

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The summer I turned 16 I was fortunate enough to spend a few weeks traveling through Europe. I went on a whirlwind visit with a choir tour to 7 countries in 16 days (and, how awesome is this?! I got to sing in Notre Dame on my 16th birthday. That definitely takes the cake as one of the highlights of my life). During the 2 or 3 days in France we would wake up every morning to a gorgeous spread of food the hotel set out for us. Every day, the shining breakfast moment were the flakey, buttery croissants.

Croissants were the very first thing I'd added to my mental to-make list when I started tackling more complicated recipes, but I've put them off for quite a while because of how complicated laminating dough sounded. As so often happens, I built up the difficulty in my head so much that when it came time to actually do it, it was NOTHING! Sure, I had to stay near to the kitchen for a few hours, but oh darn! Other than that, it was actually quite simple. These fluffy and buttery croissants lived up perfectly to the memory of 16th birthday in France  breakfast croissants. Impressive.

Croissants
print this recipe

Ingredients:
Dough
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus some for rolling
1 Tablespoon instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups whole milk, cold
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Butter Square
24 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1-Tablespoon pieces, kept cold
2 Tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Egg wash
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Directions:
To make the dough
In a medium bowl mix together 2 3/4 cups of the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Pour the milk into the bowl of an electric mixer, and add in the flour mixture. Mix on low speed until the dough forms into a ball, about 5 minutes.

Cut the butter into small pieces, then add into the mixing bowl. Continue to beat on low speed until the butter is fully blended into the dough. If the dough is still sticking to the sides of the mixing bowl, sprinkle in the additional 1/4 cup of flour one tablespoon at a time until the dough is smooth and tacky, but not sticky.

Wrap the dough ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.

To make the butter square
Mix together the butter and flour on a clean surface and blend together with a bench scraper. (I mixed the flour and butter together in an electric mixer until fully blended.) Once the flour and butter are completely combined, scrape the butter into a 7-inch square. Wrap the square in plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

To make the dough turns
Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour. Place the dough on top of the flour and roll out to an 11 inch square. Place the butter square diagonally (butter square corners pointing to the flat edges of the dough square). Fold the corners of the dough square into the center and pinch the edges together to seal.

Tap the dough with a rolling pin, starting at the center and working outward until the butter softens. Work the dough into a 14-inch square, dusting with flour if the is sticking.

Fold the dough in thirds (like a business letter). Fold in thirds again so the dough is square. This is the first 2 turns of the dough.
Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours.

Remove the dough from the fridge and repeat the above turning process to complete 2 more turns. Refrigerate for 2 hours.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and roll out the dough into a 20-inch square. Cut the dough square down the middle to make 2 long rectangles. A pizza cutter works great for this. Cut each rectangle in thirds. Cut each remaining rectangle in half diagonally to end up with 12 dough triangles.

Gently lift a dough triangle and stretch the short end of the triangle until the 2 long sides are even. Make a 1-inch cut in the middle of the short base of the dough triangle, then roll up the dough, starting at the base, leaving 1/4 inch of the triangle tip unrolled.

Place the croissant, triangle point facing down, on one of the baking sheets. Repeat with the rest of the dough triangles.

Cover the croissants with plastic wrap and let rise for 45-60 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 400.

Brush the tops of the croissants with the beaten egg using a pastry brush. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through. Let cool a bit on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Source: Baking Illustrated

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ciabatta Bread

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I absolutely love bread. I love eating it, I love baking it. And for some reason I love punching down the risen dough. It’s an excellent stress-reliever. Ciabatta has been on my list of things to make for a long, long time. Then, a couple of months ago I pulled out my flour-covered copy of Bread Baker’s Apprentice and leafed through it. I landed on this ciabatta recipe and decided I was long overdue. This might be my favorite bread recipe I’ve made thus far. The center is fluffy and light, the crust golden and chewy. I have found that it gives the bread a slightly sourdough undertone if I let the poolish sit out at room temperature overnight rather than the suggested 3 hours.

Ciabatta Bread
print this recipe

Ingredients:
For the poolish- Day One
2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 cups water, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast

For the dough- Day Two
3 1/2 poolish
3 cups unbleached bread flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
6 Tablespoons to 3/4 cup water (or milk or buttermilk- I prefer milk)
cornmeal or semolina flour for dusting

Directions:
To make the poolish
Mix the flour, water, and yeast together in a medium bowl and stir until all of the flour is hydrated. The dough will be thick and sticky, much like thick pancake batter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 3-4 hours (or over night). The sponge will be bubbly. Refrigerate until 1 hour prior to baking.

To make the dough
Remove the poolish from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to baking.

In the bowl of an electric mixer stir together the flour, salt and yeast. Add in the poolish and 6 Tablespoons of water. Beat on low speed until the dough forms a ball. Add additional water as needed to bring the ingredients together. Knead either by hand or in the mixer for 5-7 minutes or until the dough is smooth and soft yet sticky. It should clear the sides of the bowl yet will stick a bit to the bottom.

Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour, then turn the dough onto it and stretch gently to form a rectangle. Let rest for 2 minutes, then lightly stretch the dough into a long rectangle, doubling it’s original length. Fold the dough into itself in thirds (like a business letter) back into a small rectangle.

Mist the top of the dough lightly with oil and dust with flour, cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes.

Stretch and fold the dough again, mist with oil and dust with flour, re-cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 1/2-2 hours, until the dough is swollen but not necessarily double in size.

Lightly dust a countertop with flour again. Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and turn out onto the flour. Divide into 2 freestanding loaves. Lightly spray with oil and dust with flour again, recover and let rise for another 45-60 minutes, or until noticeably swollen.

Preheat the oven to 500. Place a heavy duty (not glass) sheet pan on the bottom of the oven. Dust the back of a sheet pan or a peel with the cornmeal.

If the middle of the loaf has risen high lightly press it down with a finger. Place each of the loaves on the sheet pan (I prefer to do one at a time) and place in the oven. Pour 1 cup of hot water into the pan at the bottom of the oven and close the oven door. Wait 30 seconds and spray the sides of the oven with water. Repeat twice at 30 second intervals. After the final spray turn the oven temperature to 450. Bake for 10 minutes.

Rotate the loaves 180 degrees and bake for an additional 5-10 minutes or until the bread is golden and is reading 205 degrees in the center of one of the loaves.

Transfer the loaves to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing.

Source: The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart, pages 106, 136-139

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cherry Pecan Chicken Salad

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This year for Mother's Day we decided that we would have our families over to us. When I started thinking about what to make for everyone I decided it would be the perfect time to try out a few new recipes. I knew I wanted to make croissants since they've been on my to-make list for eons.  I started to think about what would go well on a croissant and immediately thought of the recipe I've had concocted in my mind for months for cherry pecan chicken salad. I cooked the chicken the night prior so all I had to do was throw together the ingredients in the morning and put them on the croissants. As far as hostessing goes, it could not have been more simple and the chicken salad was exactly what I'd envisioned: slightly sweet, a bit crunchy and full of flavor.

Cherry Pecan Chicken Salad
print this recipe

Ingredients:
4 cups cubed cooked chicken
1/3 cup Mayo
3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup dried cherries
1 cup chopped pecans
2 Tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley

Directions:
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix until well-combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve.

Source: An original Laura’s Recipe Collection recipe

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Chicken Souvlaki

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While I love those rare moments that I can spend 4 hours in the kitchen making an elaborate meal, sometimes it's great to have a favorite dinner that can be tossed together in less than 20 minutes. This tops my new list of favorite super-fast dinners- an absolute must for a mother of 2 young children. I can also credit this delightful dish for teaching Brian that cucumbers are not all evil. Especially when they're covered in garlic and feta cheese.

Chicken Souvlaki
print this recipe

Ingredients:
For the sauce
2 oz (1/2 cup) crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely diced cucumber

For the chicken
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 cups roasted skinless, boneless chicken breast
2 cloves garlic, minced

4 (6-inch) pita, cut in half
1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
1/4 cup chopped peeled cucumber
1/2 cup chopped plum tomato
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

Directions:
In a small bowl combine feta, yogurt, dill, 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, and 1 clove of garlic. Finely chop about 1/4 cup of the cucumber and mix into the sauce.

Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Sauté the remaining 2 cloves of garlic and the oregano for about 20 seconds. Add in the chicken and cook until heated completely, about 2 minutes.

Place a bit of the chicken mixture and 2 Tablespoons of the sauce into each pita half. Add tomato, cucumber and red onion to serve.

Source: Slightly adapted from Cooking Light

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chicken Lettuce Wraps





While it may not be perfectly authentic, I absolutely love PF Chang’s. Unfortunately the closest location to us in Northern Michigan is more than 3 hours away, so we don’t get to go as often as we’d like, thus leaving me lettuce-wrap-less. Tragic, I know. Then a few weeks ago my new Food Network Magazine showed up in my mailbox. I opened it up and there was a recipe for lettuce wraps! Of course, we made them for dinner the following night. And, even less surprising, they were better than the original. No 3 hour drive required!

P.F. Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps
print this recipe

Ingredients:
For the chicken
1 1/2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
1 large egg white
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry

For the Stir-fry sauce
2 Tablespoons oyster sauce
1 Tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 Tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons cornstarch

For the noodles2 bundles cellophane noodles
peanut oil for frying

For the Stir Fry4 Tablespoons peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced peeled ginger
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
4 scallions; 2 minced, 2 cut into 1 inch pieces
Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and diced
3/4 cup diced water chestnuts

For Serving
Small lettuce leaves
Soy sauce, chili paste and/or hot mustard

Directions:To make the chickenIn a small bowl whisk together the egg white, rice whine and cornstarch together. Toss in the chicken until coated, then cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

To make the stir-fry sauceIn a small bowl, combine the hoisin sauce, oyster sauce, soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil. Add in the cornstarch and whisk together until the cornstarch has dissolved.

To make the noodles
Place a medium saucepan over high heat and fill with 3/4 inch of peanut oil. Heat the oil until it reaches 380 degrees. While the oil is heating pull apart the bundles of noodles. Place a handful of the noodles into the heated oil for 5-10 seconds or until they puff up. Remove from the oil and place them on a plate covered in paper towel, then repeat in several batches for the rest of the noodles.

To make the stir-fry
Place a large skillet over medium heat and coat in 2 Tablespoons peanut oil.  When the oil is hot add the chicken and sauté 2-3 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the remaining 2 Tablespoons of peanut oil to the skillet and heat. When the oil is nearly smoking add the garlic, ginger, jalapeño, minced scallions, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and the sugar. Stir together and sauté for 30 seconds.

Add the mushrooms, water chestnuts and scallion pieces to the pan and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

Pour the stir-fry sauce and chicken into the pan and cook for 1 minute.

To serve place the noodles on a platter and top with the chicken mixture. Place on lettuce leaves and soy sauce for dipping.

Source: Food Network Magazine

Monday, May 24, 2010

Chicken Parmesan

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As I get more and more experienced in the kitchen there is a shocking revelation that becomes clearer and clearer. I, apparently, have been quite the picky eater. There are so many foods that I’ve never had before that are a pretty simple, basic, go-to food for so many people. Chicken parmesan is one of those foods. How is it possible that I’d eaten eggplant parmesan before ever having chicken parmesan?

Thankfully, along with me not-so-new-anymore cooking skills comes the willingness, not to mention desire, to try new foods. Including this gorgeously simple and flavorful chicken parmesan, and my first Giada recipe. Now I understand why it’s such a popular meal!

I liked that this recipe, while being slathered with melted cheese, felt lighter than I’d expected. So many chicken parmesan recipes that I went though were breaded (which I will be trying soon. I’m certainly not knocking the breading!) whereas this one stood out for it’s simplicity: chicken. spices. sauce. cheese. yum.

 

Chicken Parmesan with Simple Tomato Sauce
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Chicken Parmesan
Ingredients:
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley
salt and pepper
2 lbs chicken breasts, pounded 1/2 inch thin, or 8 chicken cutlets
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce (recipe follows)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/3 cup grated parmesan
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:
Pre-heat the oven to 500.

In a small bowl combine the olive oil, spices, salt and pepper. Brush each side of the chicken with the spiced oil.

Heat a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken to the pan and heat until golden, approximately 2 minutes per side.  Remove the pan from the heat.

Sprinkle the chicken with a spoonful of sauce and a sprinkle of each of the cheeses. Add a bit of the butter to the top of the chicken pieces.

Bake for 3-5 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the cheese is melted. Serve.

Simple Tomato Sauce 
Ingredients:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 32oz cans crushed tomatoes
4-6 basil leaves
2 dried bay leaves
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic to the pot and sauté until tender, approximately 2 minutes.

Add the celery and carrot to the pot. Sprinkle in with salt and pepper. Sauté until all of the vegetables are tender, approximately 5 minutes.

Add the tomato, basil and bay leaves to the pot and simmer until sauce is thick, approximately 1 hour.

Remove the bay leaves from the pot and taste the sauce. If it is too acidic, add the butter to the pan, 1 Tablespoon at a time.

Remove half of the sauce from the pan and puree in a food processor until smooth. Puree the second half of the sauce, then mix back into the pot.

The remaining sauce can be cooled, then frozen.

Source: Giada De Laurentiis, Food Network

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lighter Beef Stroganoff



If I had to choose, if I absolutely had to, I think beef stroganoff would be my favorite meal. But please don't make me choose. That would be cruel.

Normally when I make beef stroganoff I make the same recipe that my mom always made when I was growing up. But this time, I needed something fairly quick that I could make for dinner, so obviously making it in the crockpot wasn't an option.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell you that Brian didn't care much for this version. We determined that apparently he doesn't like the taste of sherry. I liked it a lot and didn't think it tasted too sherry-ish but next time I make it I'll probably either use less of it or completely eliminate in and increase the amount of broth we use. That being said, it was nice having beef stroganoff on a whim and I'll definitely keep this in my arsenal.

Lighter Beef Stroganoff
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Ingredients:
1 lb boneless sirloin steak, trimmed
3 cups (8 oz)  sliced cremini mushrooms
½ cup chopped onion
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup low-sodium beef broth
¼ cup dry sherry
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
¾ cup low-fat sour cream
4 cups hot cooked egg noodles
3 Tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley

Directions:
Prepare egg noodles according to package directions.

Cut the beef across the grain into 2 inch slices, ½ inch thick.

Spay a large skillet with cooking spray and saute the beef strips for 2 minutes, or until slightly browned. Remove the beef from the pan and set aside.

Saute the onions and mushrooms in the pan for about 4 minutes, or until the onion is tender and slightly golden. Remove the mushrooms and onions from the pan and combine with the beef. Set aside.

Add the butter to the pan and melt, then add in flour and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute, then gradually add the beef broth to the pan, whisking to combine. Simmer until the sauce is thickened, about 1 minute.

Stir in the beef, mushrooms and onions, sherry, salt and pepper to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 30 seconds, then stir in the sour cream.

Serve the beef mixture over noodles and sprinkle with parsley.

Source: Cooking Light

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gnocchi with Spinach and Chicken Sausage



Hi there! Remember me? I used to post recipes around here? Ha :) Life's been a bit hectic in the last few weeks and our dinners have consisted of tried and true, quick favorites, so posting, as you may have noticed, has been sparse. I'm happy to say that we seem to finally have gotten back in the groove and dinnertime (and breakfast and dessert time) have been much more exciting as of late.

This dish was invented by Yours Truly during one of those aforementioned hectic evenings. I'd been wandering around our grocery store, which is in the process of being remodeled and is at times a complete mess, when I wandered by a display of chicken sausage. On a whim I picked up some spinach feta chicken sausage and put it in the cart without any idea what I was actually going to do with it. At another store a few days later I did the same thing with a box of gnocchi. Then, one evening I was staring into our refrigerator trying to concoct something tasty that did not involve peanut butter and jelly when I saw the chicken sausage. I started throwing things into the pan and - tada- Brian's new favorite meal was born. I'm happy to report that my What Can I Make in Twenty Minutes dinner ended up being a new entry in our weekly dinner rotation. Up next? Making the gnocchi from scratch!

Gnocchi with Spinach and Chicken Sausage
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Ingredients:
2 16 oz boxes potato gnocchi
4 chicken sausages, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 shallots, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 cup white wine
14 oz low sodium chicken broth
2-3 large handfuls spinach
dash of heavy cream (optional)
grated parmesan cheese

Directions:
Cook the gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots into the pan and saute until tender. Add in the garlic and saute for 1 minute or until lightly golden. Add in the chicken sausage and cook until heated through. Add the corn starch to the pan and stir to combine

Pour the wine into the pan and stir to deglaze, scraping the brown bits off the bottom as you stir. Let simmer and reduce by about half.

Pour the chicken broth into the pan and simmer until the broth is thickened and reduced to about half. Add the spinach into the pan and simmer until wilted. Remove from heat and add a splash of heavy cream, stirring well. Combine with the cooked gnocchi. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and mix together. Serve.

Source: Laura's Recipe Collection Original