Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Long Overdue Birthday Ice Cream Cupcakes

I decided to make ice cream cupcakes after watching a few too many episodes of Unwrapped on the Food Network. The recipe basically follows their description of Maggie Moo's Ice Cream Cupcakes.
What you need:
Chocolate cake
Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (or any kind will do)
Chocolate Ganache

Step One--Make the cake
Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup low-fat milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted
1. Combine dry ingredients in mixer bowl. Add shortening, milk, and vanilla. Mix about a minute on low speed.


2. Add eggs and chocolate, mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Then beat at medium-high speed, about 1 minute.




3. Pour batter into two greased and floured 9 inch round baking pans. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes



4. Cool cake for about 10 minutes, remove from pans, then continue to cool on wire rack.

Step Two--Assemble cupcakes

1. While cake is cooling, fill cupcake sheets with paper cupcake wrappers.
2. Use cookie cutter or biscuit cutter to cut round sections of cake, about the size of a cupcake.
3. Put one cake round in each cupcake holder and push cake down with your fingers.
4. Add scoop of ice cream to each cupcake, pushing ice cream down so that it's flat on top.5. Freeze for at least an hour.
Step Three--Make ganache
Ingredients:

1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tsp. vanilla

1. Heat heavy cream over low heat in small sauce pan. Bring cream to bare simmer.
2. Put chopped chocolate in medium bowl, add heated cream.
3. Let sit for 3 minutes.

4. Add vanilla and whisk until chocolate melts and thickens



Pour ganache on cupcakes, completely covering the top. Freeze overnight.

Yield: 20-24 cupcakes


Cook's Notes:

I didn't like the chocolate cake much. When I was making it, I let the chocolate sit too long after I melted it, and it didn't completely blend in with the batter. If I make these again, I'll probably use a box cake mix. I think they turned out well. I'm sure I'll make them again, probably with different ice cream or toppings to mix it up.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lasagana Redux

Since I'm training for the Boston Marathon (9 weeks!) I'm eating a lot of carbs, especially pasta. My all time favorite (as you know) is lasagna. Whole Foods had some recipes out the other day, so I swiped this one for Spinach and Cheese Lasagna and made my own modifcations.

Here is what I used:

1 cup whipped cottage cheese (same texture as ricotta cheese, less fat. I used the Friendship brand)
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 10 ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed, chopped, and drained
sea salt and pepper
1 tablespoon fresh oregano


half a jar of pasta sauce (I used Ragu)
6 no boil lasagana noodles, uncooked
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons parmesean cheese

I should note that this is not a full recipe. I had these noodles left over from the crockpot lasagana and wanted to use them up. The same goes for most of the ingredients. I was trying to clean out the fridge and pantry.

I used two small baking dishes for my mini-lasagnas.

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl mix cottage cheese, half the mozzarella, the parmesean cheese, spinach, salt, pepper, and oregano.




3. In a baking pan or dish, layer sauce, then a layer of noodles, then a layer to spinach/ cheese mix and repeat. Top with sauce and sprinkle top with remaining cheese.



4. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes or until it smells done. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.



Cook's notes:

This was so good I'm sorry to say I ate both pans in one night. I had no willpower. In my defense I needed to carbo-load before the next morning's long run. I will seriously make this again it was so yummy (and easy!). Next time I'll make an extra large batch and freeze half.

Real Simple's Chickpea and Sausage Stew

You'd think a recipe from the magazine "Real Simple" would be, well simple. Not so much. For the purposes of this post, I'll rename the stew "Not So Simple Chickpea and Sauage Stew."

Note: this comes from the February issue of Real Simple Magazine

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
12 ounces Italian sausage, thawed and casings removed
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped


1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
2 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 10-ounce package frozen leaf spinach
Kosher salt and pepper
8 slices bread, toasted (optional)

Directions:
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 5 to 7 minutes.

2. Add the sausage and cook, crumbling it with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.



3. Stir in the parsley and cilantro and cook for 1 minute more. Add the broth and chickpeas and bring to a boil.




4. Add the frozen spinach and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally with a fork to separate the leaves. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

5. Divide the toasted bread, if using, among individual bowls and spoon the stew on top.

Yield: Makes 4 servings

NUTRITION PER SERVING
CALORIES 485(49% from fat); FAT 24g (sat 6g); SUGAR 5g; PROTEIN 29g; CHOLESTEROL 60mg; SODIUM 1679mg; FIBER 11g; CARBOHYDRATE 40g

Cook's Notes:

1. So I rarely make sausage, but I thought the meal looked good and since it's winter and all I'm all about stews and soups. The recipe did not specify what kind of Italian Sausage to buy, so I went with chicken sausage.
2. This is kind of gross, but when I went to throw the sausage in the hot pan I didn't think it was in a casing. The minute it hit the pan and started to cook I realized my mistake, so I had to fish the now hot sausages out of the pan and cut off the casings. It was nasty and I probably contaminated my entire kitchen with salmanela.
3. Where is the garlic? I added a ton of minced garlic to the onions in step 1.
4. Upon tasting it immediately after cooking I wasn't impressed. I was actually kind of mad because I thought I might have wasted time and money on this dish. So I divided it up into four containers and popped them in my fridge and freezer and ate lasagna instead. I had the soup the next night and it was quite good. I think the flavors really needed to sit overnight. You might want to take this into consideration and make ahead and freeze.

Would I make it again? Maybe. I feel like this is a meal Mr. Snowgoose would enjoy more than me. Maybe I'll make it for him sometime (or he can make it himself).

Note: Make sure to take some beano before eating the stew. The beans pack a punch. I'm just saying.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Simple Sweet Scones by guest blogger Library Lady

I love scones. I have loved them ever since my first trip to England after college. Ever since then, I have checked out every scone cookbook I could get from the library in search of wonderful scone recipes. But the best book I've found for scones is one that I didn't get from the library-- I was shown it by my best friend, Christine, who got it from her mom. It's called "Biscuits and Scones" by Elizabeth Alston. Unfortunately, the book is out of print, but I did manage to find it used on Amazon.com .

The following recipe is the best basic scone recipe I've ever come across. I've used this as the basis for my Blueberry Scones-- recipe addition at the bottom of this post--, but it works wonderfully for lemon scones, simple cranberry scones, or whatever you desire. I recommend playing around with additions-- I'm sure you'll find something tasty!

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut up
1/4 cup granulated sugar (use 1/3 cup for slightly sweet scones)
2/3 cup milk

Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Put flour, baking powder, and sugar into a large bowl; stir to mix well.
3. Add butter and cut in with a pastry blender-- or two knives held scissor style cut into the mixture-- until the mixture looks like fine granules or slightly sticky large crumbs.
4. Add milk and stir until a soft dough forms.
5. Sprinkle some flour onto the counter and cut the dough in half. Lightly knead the half about 6-8 times, turning it over while doing so.
6. Pat out the dough into a roughly 6-inch circle that's about 1/2 an inch high. Cut the circle into wedges and put the wedges on an ungreased cookie sheet.
7. Bake 12-15 minutes or until medium brown on top. Put on a linen or cotton dish towel on a wire rack; cover loosely with the cloth and cool completely before serving.
8. Repeat steps 5-7 with the second half of the dough.

Serve with jam, butter, clotted cream, or whipped cream if desired. Perfect with tea!

Cook's Thoughts:

1. You can use a round, 2-inch biscuit cutter instead of cutting scones into wedges. Roll up the scraps and keep cutting out scones until the dough is gone. This actually makes them the perfect size for afternoon tea.
2. Make sure the butter is all mixed in as this will affect the texture and moistness of the scones.
3. This is how you know the dough has the right amount of liquid: it will not stick to the spoon. If it sticks to the spoon, add a little more flour. If it won't stick together at all, keep adding a little more milk until it sticks together. This is very important as it will give you wonderful, moist scones. Trust me, I've made scones enough times that I know what the dough should look like.
4. The recipe does call for 1/2 teaspoon of salt, but since I don't use salt in my baking, I didn't include that, but you can if you wish.
5. To make blueberry scones: add 2 teaspoons cinnamon with the flour mixture; then add 1/2 pint of blueberries, rinsed and drained, after adding milk. Stir to mix and bake as directed above.
6. To make lemon scones: add 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon peel, or 1 tablespoon lemon extract to flour mixture. In a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice with 2 tablespoons sugar; top each scone with 1/4 teaspoon before baking.

Easy Enchiladas by guest blogger Library Lady

I like Mexican food. Really, I do. But you would never know it by how rarely I eat at Mexican restaurants. And the reason for that is that I often find the food way too heavy. I always need to have veggies or something healthy with my meals, and most Mexican restaurants don't offer much more than a little bit of iceberg lettuce on a taco. (And iceberg lettuce is basically water...) So therefore, when I don't feel like going to a Mexican restaurant, and I want to please my Mexican food loving husband, I make it at home!

I generally like to use fresh, "from scratch" ingredients when I can, but when I have the opportunity to use something that's packaged and it tastes good, then I will. I highly recommend Trader Joe's various sauces, by the way. They are often fantastic and not as full of nasty, bad for you junk that so many other prepared sauces contain. And now the recipe:


Ingredients

1 lb chicken, cut up into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1/4-1/2 teaspoon EACH of cumin, chili powder, and minced garlic (You can use 1 clove of fresh chopped garlic if you wish-- I had some minced garlic to get rid of.)
1/8 teaspoon (or just a few shakes) of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup salsa
1 jar of Trader Joe's Enchilada Sauce
4-6 flour tortillas, fajita size
1-2 cups shredded cheese, depending on how cheesy you like it (Cheddar or a Mexican cheese blend)
1 tablespoon oil-- vegetable or light olive oil

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pull out a 9X13 baking pan, glass is probably best
2. Coat a large skillet with the oil
3. Saute the chicken, spices, and onion until chicken is cooked thoroughly
4. Heat up the tortillas in the microwave for about 15-20 seconds until they are soft and pliable
5. Fill each tortilla up with the chicken mixture, top with a few spoonfuls of salsa and some cheese and roll them up, placing them an equi-distance apart in the baking dish so that they all fit
6. Pour the enchilada sauce over the top and then sprinkle remaining cheese
Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly. Serve with veggies or any condiments you desire.


Cook's Thoughts:

1. I only had four tortillas, so that made the sauce a little runny as there wasn't as much food to soak it up. I would definitely use 6 tortillas and make them a little smaller so as to soak up the sauce.
2. Sauteing the chicken with the spices was a spur-of-the-moment invention of mine and I love it! It really adds flavor to the meat.
3. My husband and I like spicy food, and this was just the right amount of spicy. I used Paul Newman's Medium Chunky Salsa and that added another nice little kick.
4. I imagine you could use chopped green chiles in the filling as well. I may try that next time...

Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Pancakes!

Last night after work I had a craving for pancakes. I've maybe made them twice before, and both times I've set off my smoke detector. I'm proud to say that even though there was smoke, there was no alarm. And the pancakes weren't blackened!

Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 beaten egg
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons cooking oil

Directions:

1. In a medium mixing bowl stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center of the dry mixture, set aside.
2. In another medium mixing bowl combine egg, milk, and cooking oil. Add egg mixture all at once to the dry mixture. Stir just till moistened (batter should be lumpy).
3. For standard sized pancakes, pour about 1/4 cup batter onto a hot, lightly greased griddle or heavy skillet.


Cook over medium heat about 2 minutes on each sideor till pancakes are golden brown, turning to second sides when pancakes have bubbly surfaces and edges are slightly dry. Makes 8 to 10 standard size pancakes.