Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sun-Dried Tomato Crusted Chicken


I was browsing my cookbook shelf the other day and came across this funny little magazine, Cuisine at Home, that I must have gotten in the mail at some point in the past. I must have kept it thinking I would make the cover recipe and then completely forgot about it. I am so glad I found that magazine and made that recipe! It really wasn't hard at all; just the typical flour/egg/bread crumb chicken recipe, but this one has garlic and sun-dried tomatoes mixed in with the bread crumbs and a tangy sun-dried tomato/butter/wine reduction sauce that I practically licked off the plate! And the chicken isn't really fried! You saute it in a tiny amount of oil on one side for 3 minutes, then pop it in the oven to finish it off! If you need a mid-week break from the casserole monotony (don't we all!), make this dish!!!

Sun-Dried Tomato Crusted Chicken with Sunny Butter Sauce
from Cuisine at Home magazine

4 4-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used 1 lb of chicken tenders)
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups bread crumbs (I made mine from 2-day-old french bread)
1/2 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs
2 Tablespoons water
2 Tablespoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and set aside. Combine bread crumbs, tomatoes, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until combined. Transfer to a shallow dish. Place flour in another shallow dish, and combine eggs and water in a third shallow dish. Dredge both sides of each chicken breast in flour, then egg, then bread crumbs. Heat oil in an ovenproof nonstick skillet (I used my new grill pan for the first time!) over medium-high heat. Saute chicken for 3 minutes. Flip chicken, then place pan in oven and continue cooking for 8-10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Rest 5 minutes before serving.

Sunny Butter Sauce
My husband thought this was too tangy, but I LOVED it!

1 cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons capers, crushed (didn't have, didn't use)
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup cold, unsalted butter, thinly sliced
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and sliced
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped (also didn't have; I just sprinkled dried parsley in until it looked present but not overwhelming!)

Boil wine in a skillet until reduced by half. Add capers and lemon juice and boil 1 minute more. I looked away for maybe 10 seconds at this point and when I turned around, I had almost no liquid left! Be careful!!! Reduce heat to low. Whisk in butter one piece at a time, stirring constantly. Stir in tomatoes and parsley and heat through. Serve over chicken.
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Monday, April 27, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays AND Daring Bakers!!


Daring Bakers first: The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge.

I was really excited by this month's challenge. We were given a basic cheesecake recipe and allowed to do whatever we wanted to it. I decided to make my cheesecake for dessert on Easter, so I wanted something Springy. And what's more Springy than lemon?! I added a baked lemon curd layer to the top, added lots of lemon zest and juice to the cheesecake batter, and substituted shortbread cookie crumbs for the graham cracker crumbs in the crust. It was a huge hit! My cheesecake was very silky instead of being dry and crumbly like some cheesecakes. I will make this again and again!


Triple Lemon Cheesecake

adapted from Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake


crust:
2 cups Keebler Sandies Simply Shortbread crumbs
1 stick butter, melted (I would probably cut down the butter next time, although the crust was delicious; the cookies are so buttery already that I don't think you need all the extra butter)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix together and press into the bottom of a 9" springform pan. Make sure the outside of the pan is well-sealed with foil. Set crust aside.

cheesecake:
3 sticks cream cheese, 8 oz each, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1 vanilla bean
1 recipe lemon curd (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Begin to boil a large pot of water for the water bath. Combine cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating each before adding the next. Make sure to scrape down teh bowl between each egg. Add cream, lemon juice and zest, and the insides of the vanilla bean and blend until smooth. Pour batter into prepared crust and tap pan gently on counter to remove any air bubbles. Place pan inside another larger pan and place in oven. Carefully pour water into the larger pan (don't get any in your cheesecake!) until water comes up the sides of the springform pan about halfway. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, until almost done. I baked mine for the full 55. Pour lemon curd over the top, spreading to edges. Close the oven door, turn the heat off, and let cheesecake rest in cooling oven for one hour. Remove cheesecake from oven carefully, let cool completely on counter, then refrigerate overnight.

lemon curd (from Sky High by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne):
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
grated zest of three lemons
4 Tablespoon unsalted butter, at room temperature

Whisk together all ingredients except butter in a nonreactive saucepan. Gently heat mixture, whisking until it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a heatproof bowl. Stir in the butter and cover the curd with plastic, making sure the plastic touches the surface of the curd. Refrigerate until cold or use immediately.



Now for Sweet Melissa Sundays: Sorry this post is a day late. We had quite the adventure this weekend, which you'll see in the photos below! This week's recipe was Granola Breakfast Cookies chosen by Jessica of A Singleton in the Kitchen, and it was pretty tasty. The recipe calls for homemade Cherry Almond Granola, but I just couldn't find the ingredients, so I used Cascadian Farm Organic Fruit and Nut Granola with cherries, almonds, pumpkin seeds, etc. The cookies are pretty healthy, with honey, molasses, whole wheat flour, and very little butter (6 Tablespoons is a little) and no extra sugar. When I bit into the first one, my first impression was, "Hmm. These must be healthy." But the more I ate them, the better they tasted. My husband and kids loved them, and best of all, I didn't feel at all guilty about eating any or giving any to the kids because they aren't chock full of sugar. And they travel well; just see for yourself.

Cookies' Big Day

Cookie fell asleep in a gallon-sized ziplock and woke up in a comfy bed in a nice hotel in the Big City. Dreams do come true Cookie!


Cookie paused for a photo-op with some big trees, lush ferns, and giant clover in the state park. She took lots of pictures here, but someone cruelly pointed out that she looked a little like a piece of poop in most of them. I thought she just looked coy.


Cookie loved stopping for lunch at "The Lumberyard." She laughed and had a great time, but got suddenly nervous and uncomfortable when they brought out the food.


Cookie's favorite stop of the day was the beach at low tide. She lounged on some driftwood...


tried (unsuccessfully) to build a sandcastle...


posed with the rocks and waves...


and looked for critters in tidepool (there weren't any).


All-in-all, Cookie had a great trip to the beach!
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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cake Slice Bakers #7: Chai Cake with Honey-Ginger Cream


I'm not a tea drinker, so I was curious as to how this month's cake would turn out. I even considered skipping it! But then people started to say it was their favorite cake so far, and who can argue with that?! It basically turned out like a really good spice cake, but spicier, if that makes any sense. You steep some chai tea bags in milk, add that liquid to the cake batter, and then add cinnamon and cardamom as well. I liked that you didn't have to whip any egg whites. That was a nice change of pace. My cake was a little dry, but other bakers said theirs were nice and moist, so maybe it was just me. :) My only beef with this cake was the frosting. It is a cream cheese frosting with fresh ginger and honey added. It tasted amazing, but was too thin for my liking. According to the directions, you drizzle the frosting over the cake and let it drip down like icicles, but that produced a VERY ugly cake!

If I make the cake again, I'll just make the frosting thicker and spread it on like regular old frosting.

Chai Cake with Honey-Ginger Cream
from Sky High: Irresistible Triple Layer Cakes by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne


1 1/3 cups milk
6 chai tea bags
4 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 3/4 cups cake flour
2 cups sugar
4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 oz unsalted butter at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom and sides of three 8" round cake pans, put parchment paper in the bottom, and grease the parchment paper. [I was sick of cutting out parchment circles, so I skipped that part.] In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer of medium-low heat. Add tea bags and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags and squeeze out the milk. Let chai milk cool completely. In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, vanilla, and 1/3 cup chai milk. Combine all dry ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer using low speed for 30 seconds. Add the butter and reserved chai milk; beat on medium until light and fluffy. Add egg mixture in three additions, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Divide batter evenly among three prepared pans. Bake for 26-28 minutes until a toothpick stuck in the center of one of the cakes comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes, then turn upside down and remove parchment paper. Let cool completely before frosting.

Honey-Ginger Cream:
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
6 oz cream cheese at room temperature
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup liquid honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth. To assemble cake, place one cake flat-side down on a plate. Spread 2/3 cup icing on top a smooth to edges. Repeat with another layer. Place the last layer on top and pour remaining icing over it, letting it drizzle down the sides like icicles. [I would make thicker frosting and just spread it on.]
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Sweet Melissa Sundays: Caramel Apple Turnovers with Sweet Ricotta Filling


This week's recipe for SMS was such a winner!! I don't even like ricotta cheese, but I ate 4 of these babies! The recipe makes (I'm guessing) 4 enormous turnovers, but I wanted to take mine to bookclub, so I doubled the recipe and cut two pastry sheets into 9 squares each. However, I hit a little problem. According to the recipe, you need a 12" square of puff pastry dough. When I took mine out of the box, I wasn't sure how big it was, but it looked like 12", so I forged ahead. As I was filling and folding the turnovers, however, all the delicious filling started bursting out the sides, and I began to wonder if I was mistaken with the whole size thing. I got my measuring tape out of the drawer 6 inches away from where I was working, and sure enough, the puff pastry was only 9" to begin with, so my turnovers were a full inch too short a piece! It actually turned out okay, but only after I scraped the filling off the pastry, heavily floured each square, and rolled them to the correct size. I was beginning to grumble, but then I tasted a finished turnover and they were HEAVEN! Get the cookbook and make these!!

My tips:
  • Make the ricotta cream filling and the apples ahead of time. They can both be stored for up to three days in the refrigerator, and it will make putting these together a snap!
  • Don't brush the egg wash on all 4 sides of each pastry. Just brush it on 2. Otherwise, things get very slippery and nothing will stay shut.
  • After you've pinched each pastry shut, pick it up gently and pinch the edges shut AGAIN. Most of mine didn't actually stay shut the first time, but when I picked them up and tried again, presto! Pinched edges!
  • Don't bake them for 45 minutes! Watch them carefully, and when they look good to you, take them out of that oven. Neither of my batches baked for 45 minutes, but the ones that went for 40 minutes were a little darker than I would have liked.
The recipe was chosen by Tracey of Tracey's Culinary Adventures. Check out her blog for the recipe, and click here to see how the other Sweet Melissa bakers fared.
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Friday, April 17, 2009

Strawberry Scones


I like to read cooking blogs. Like, really like to read cooking blogs. But only if the pictures are good. Because you can't taste someones food by reading their blog. The only thing you have to go on is the photos. And if the food looks bad, no matter how amazing it is in real life, it just doesn't look appetizing. One blog I like to browse that has amazing food photos is The Food Librarian. She had a post up for a few days about Lemon Cornmeal Cake, and I was totally going to make it because I had a bunch of strawberries and lemons that needed using, and because it looked so lovely. And then I made the mistake (sweet, heavenly mistake) of scrolling down and seeing pictures of Strawberry Scones. And she got the recipe from another blog with mouthwatering photos, Confessions of a Tart. I took one look at her beautiful photos and HAD to make the scones. They were as beautiful in person as they looked in the pictures. And tasty too!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Critter Cupcakes


Our sweet little "hedgehog" just turned 1! To celebrate, we had a hedgehog party, complete with a life-size hedgehog cake for the birthday girl and hedgehog cupcakes for the party guests. Since I made them, I knew exactly what they were supposed to look like, but they could very easily be made into any number of other critters. They were easy and delicious! Here's how I did it:

Materials:
  • 1 recipe of your favorite cake baked as cupcakes (I used a Butter Recipe Chocolate Fudge cake mix.)
  • 2 recipes of your favorite frosting (I doubled the recipe for chocolate frosting from the Hershey's Cocoa can, but added less cocoa powder than it called for.)
  • 48 chocolate chips
  • 24 red hot candies
  • a very small amount of white frosting (I just used canned frosting, since it was hardly any. White gel frosting would probably work too.)
  • Chocolate sprinkles
  • toothpick
  • pastry bag and plain circle tip
Instructions:
  • Frost all of the cupcakes as you normally would.
  • Immediately sprinkle the tops generously with chocolate sprinkles.
  • Using a pastry bag fitted with a plain circle tip, pipe a big blob of frosting onto the center of each cupcake. Leave about 1/2" of chocolate sprinkle-covered cupcake showing all the way around.
  • Gently press a red hot candy in the center of each cupcake, making the nose.
  • Gently press 2 chocolate chips into the frosting just above the nose to make the eyes. Make sure the chocolate chips are upside down so that that flat bottom of the chocolate chips are facing up.
  • Using a toothpick, put a small dot of white frosting on each chocolate chip.


Voila!
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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Brooklynn Brownout Cake


This week's recipe for SMS was chosen by my only faithful reader, Elyse, of Confectionary Creations. In a week filled with baking, I was tempted to skip this cake. I'm really glad I decided to go ahead and make it! Due to a few missing steps at the end of the recipe, it didn't look too pretty (yeah, yeah, that's the ticket: blame the author!), but it tasted GOOOOOOOOD. Imagine a chocolate cake stuffed with chocolate brownie pieces stuck together with chocolate ganache! It was very chocolatey, but surprisingly not so chocolatey that only a die-hard chocolate-lover would eat it. The actual cake was really easy and really delicious; I might make it my standard from-scratch devil's food recipe. I chose not to make the brownies in the recipe, but only because, to my horror, I was out of unsweetened chocolate, cocoa powder, chocolate syrup, bittersweet chocolate...in short, just about anything you could make a brownie out of. I found a recipe online for double semisweet brownies that called for melted and nonmelted chocolate chips, which I did have, but it wasn't anything to rave about. Anyway, back to the cake. My husband said it tasted like it came from a bakery, which I consider a very high compliment. I think I'll dog-ear this one a make it again sometime. If you'd like to check out other SMS bakers and their cakes, click here.

And PS--I cut the recipe in half, baked 3 layers in 4.5" pans, used 2 of them, and ate the other one right out of the pan! I really enjoyed it!
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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Pink Moon Pies


**Disclaimer: This recipe still needs tweaking. A lot of it! But, tonight is the pink moon, so I thought I'd post it anyway. Plus, they are really good even without any fixing. My husband practically blew a gasket when I told him he couldn't eat all the cookies last night!

Every Christmas for as long as I can remember, we have gotten a calendar for the upcoming year. This year, my husband and I got the Old Farmers' Almanac calendar, which is chock-full of all sorts of interesting information. For example, like many calendars, this one posts the phases of the moon each month (ie, full moons, new moons, etc.), but, unlike other calendars, it tells you the name of each full moon. Maybe I'm a stoop, but I never knew that each full moon has its own name. I was excited to see that this month's full moon is the "Pink Moon." I have no clue why that's its name, but I immediately thought of the great Nick Drake song and decided to make an event of it. In honor of the Pink Moon, we will be having homemade Pink Moon Pies for dessert tonight!

Pink Moon Pies

cookie:
2 sticks butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup quick oats
1 1/2 cups finely ground graham cracker crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. In a separate bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet and stir until combined. Roll dough into golf ball-sized balls and place 2" apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool on baking sheet until stable, them remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 3 dozen.

filling:
Combine 1 small jar marshmallow cream with 2 ounces softened, plain cream cheese. Beat until smooth.

frosting:
4 oz white chocolate, chopped
2 Tablespoons heavy cream
red food coloring
Place chopped white chocolate and cream in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds; stir until smooth. If you can't get all of the white chocolate melted, microwave for another 15 seconds and stir again. Add 2 drops liquid red food coloring and stir to combine. Allow to cool to room temperature. If you want regular moon pies, just use semisweet chocolate instead of white chocolate and omit the food coloring.

assembly:
Place half of the cooled cookies bottoms-up on a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet. Divide the marshmallow frosting among these cookies, spreading all the way to the edges. Place the remaining cookies on top of the filling to make cookie sandwiches. Gently pour the pink frosting over the cookie sandwiches one at a time, pouring just in the middle (it'll spread on its own), and pouring just enough frosting to cover the top of the cookies, but not so much that it starts to run down the sides. Allow the frosting to set up. This can be expedited by placing the cookies on a baking sheet and setting them in the fridge until the frosting is set.
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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sweet Melissa Sundays: Honey Beescotti



So, I joined another internet baking group. At least I had my husband make me promise I wouldn't sign up for any swaps this year, right?! So, this new group, Sweet Melissa Sundays, is baking a new recipe from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book each week. I got the book for Christmas, so I basically HAD to sign up, right??!!

This week's recipe, Honey Beescotti, was chosen by Lorelei of Mermaid Sweets. You can check out her blog for the full recipe. The highlight of these biscotti was the candied orange peel. It is apparently available at candy shops, but I signed up for this challenge exactly one day before going on vacation, so I didn't have time to hunt it down. Luckily, it is a cinch to make at home. Some recipes said it takes hours, but I followed Giada's recipe from the Food Network, and made them while doing the dishes. Literally, doing the dishes and making candied orange peel at the same time. And we couldn't stop eating them! I am lucky I had enough for the cookies.



On to the cookies. I liked them, but I didn't love them, mainly because of the caraway seeds. I have nothing against caraway seeds; I just used half a jar in Irish Soda Bread for St. Patty's Day and loved it. But in this recipe, I found the flavor off-putting. I would bite into the cookie and think, "Wow, this is delicious." And then I would hit a caraway seed and go, "Huh?" So, I want to try the recipe again without the caraway seeds. Also, I really can't stand almond extract. There are a few things I'll allow it in, but not many. I didn't want to leave it out altogether, though, so instead of 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract, I added 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and only 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. And they were plenty almond extract-y, so I really can't imagine how they tasted with the full amount! And I don't know about anybody else, but I didn't have any chestnut honey lying around! So I used organic wildflower honey (very fancy)...from Albertson's. :)



Candied Orange Peel


1 orange
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Peel the orange. Giada says to use a vegetable peeler, but I used a sharp paring knife and cut thin slices. Try to get as little of the white peel as possible. Bring a small saucepan of water up to a boil and add the orange peels. Allow them to boil for 1 minute, then remove and rinse with cold water. Repeat the boiling and rinsing steps. Meanwhile, mix the sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add orange peels, reduce heat, and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Remove orange peels from sugar and place on parchment paper to dry. When peels are cool and only slightly sticky, roll them in granulated sugar.

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