Saturday, March 29, 2008

My favorite frosting

I have never really liked cake but I love making cakes and I LOVE frosting. This frosting is so good that I usually snack too much of it while making it to be able to stomach any of the finished product. My husband doesn't like cream cheese very much, but even he likes this frosting because the flavor isn't too strong, but it doesn't taste plain or shockingly sweet like some frostings made with just powdered sugar and liquid. This large batch will make enough to frost 2 9" cake rounds and fill in between the layers, or generously frost a batch of cupcakes. Use the big star tip and swirl for cupcakes as beautiful as they are tasty.

Cream Cheese Frosting


1 package of cream cheese, softened (I like to use Neufchatel, less fat and I don't notice much difference)
1/2 C. butter, softened (one stick)
2 T. milk
2 t. pure vanilla extract
dash of salt
6 cups of powdered sugar (more or less to achieve desired consistency, this is a baseline)
1 T. meringue powder

In a mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the cream cheese and butter until they are light and fluffy. Then add in the milk, vanilla, and salt, and blend.

Next, add the powdered sugar and meringue powder, cover the bowl of the mixer with a dish towel, and turn it on low until everything is combined. Then increase the speed for a minute or so until the frosting is light, fluffy, and delicious. The meringue powder will help set the frosting after it dries so it holds its shape.

Variation:
Add 1 T. Lemon or orange zest and substitute juice for the milk to make a tangy citrus frosting

Friday, March 28, 2008

Food Fights review


I just finished reading Food Fights by Laura Jana and Jennifer Shu and loved it! It's not exactly a recipe, I know, but I really recommend this quick and enjoyable read to anyone with kids. It covers a lot of common questions like "how much should my baby eat", "what if they won't eat any vegetables", and "what about the ten second rule?" The biggest question it answered for me is, "What is the difference between a bottle and a sippy cup and do I really need to wean my baby?" Their answer made a lot more sense than other things I'd read or what my pediatrician even said. And baby is happily off his bottle now, yay!

This book also talks about food allergies which is a big concern of mine since my husband can't eat watermelon, bananas, and a few other things I want my kids to be able to enjoy. I learned that only 2% of adults actually have food allergies (compared to the 25% who think they do), but a child of a parent with allergies has a 35% chance of developing them (it jumps to 75% if both parents do, yikes!).

I also thought the authors were pretty realistic in their approach and expectations without dumbing down their message and just telling you it will be fine if your kid never eats a vegetable again like some baby magazines do. Overall, I think this book helped me get a better understanding of what I can do now to help my son develop healthy food habits and get him off to the best start possible, while still letting him enjoy the occasional cookie . :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

TWD- Brioche Snails Redo

We had Easter at our house this weekend and the kitchen smelled so delish with all the good food cooking. I decided to make Brioche again because it turned out great last time and I figured doing it again right away would help me get the recipe down. I'm also not a flan fan so I opted to repeat last weeks challenge instead. :)

This week I made one whole batch of brioche and batches of pudding to make two flavors- Chocolate and Orange. For the chocolate rolls, I made the traditional pastry cream with vanilla and sprinkled mini chocolate chips over the pudding before rolling it up. I topped them with regular powdered sugar glaze. For the orange rolls, I made the citrus cream by steeping the milk with lemon and orange zest strips and adding some lemon extract. I also sprinkled orange zest on the dough before rolling it up. Then I made the glaze with orange juice instead of water and added orange zest to that. This time I used nearly a full recipe of the pastry cream per set of rolls so they were nice and creamy. They were so good, and so pretty!

Here is the pastry cream recipe again if you are looking for a tasty pudding or filling. I bet it would taste amazing in cream puffs and will post a recipe for those soon.

Pastry Cream
(From Baking by Dorie Greenspan)
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly--as I always do--put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

Monday, March 24, 2008

French Country Salad

Before my baby (and I) became slave to his morning nap, we used to go to Pottery Barn Kids Storytime every Tuesday with my Mom. After the story and some browsing at the mall, we would get the French Country Salad and Adam's Peanut Butter Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory. It is so delicious with the chevre and the candied nuts, I seriously never get sick of it. After ordering the same salad for months I decided that I should try making it myself. Here is the result. Add chicken breast to make it a meal. C'est incroyable!

French Country Salad

Combine in large bowl:
1 bag spring mix salad
1/2 C. candied walnuts
1/2 C. sliced beets
2 ounces goat cheese
Roasted asparagus (optional- great if you have it, but I don't usually buy it if it's not in season or on sale)

Top with fresh cracked pepper and Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing and toss. Enjoy!

Dressing (adapted from Emeril's Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 T. brown sugar (I like it a little sweeter for this salad)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
3/4 C. extra virgin olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Toss salad and serve immediately. This makes a lot of dressing so I usually half it and store my extra dressing in the fridge for a week or two. Bon appetit!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Chicken Tortilla Soup

A few weeks ago I was craving some spicy chicken tortilla soup and decided to check for recipes online. I tried to find an Applebee's copycat or something that looked tasty and ended up making this after reading for a while and trying this once or twice. My hubby doesn't do so well with spicy food so I tried to make a "mild" version and it was too bland and not tasty enough. Next time I'll keep it hot and have him add some sour cream and take an antacid! :)

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Cook three chicken breasts and cool, then shred into bite size pieces and set aside (use a grill pan, poach, or buy a rotisserie chicken).

Saute in large deep skillet until soft:
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 diced onion
1 green bell pepper
3 cloves minced garlic (add last so it doesn't burn)

After the vegetables are barely soft, add to the pan:
4 cups of chicken stock
1 can petite diced tomatoes (with liquid)
1 T. tomato paste
1 t. Chili powder
1 T. Hot sauce (I like Sriracha Chili sauce, you can get it most anywhere, or Tabasco works too)
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. sugar
1 can diced green chiles
Fresh ground pepper

Simmer until heated through then add:
Shredded Chicken
1 C. frozen corn

Serve up and garnish individual servings with:
Chopped cilantro
Diced green onions
Sour cream
Cheddar cheese
Diced jalepeno (if you like the heat)
Tortilla strips (I didn't have any when I took this picture so just pretend they are included!)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tuesdays with Dorie- Brioche Raisin Snails

Well this week was my first Tuesdays with Dorie challenge and I have to admit I wasn't very excited about it until I read the recipe and realized it was basically going to be a pudding filled cinnamon roll (but I have to say, the buttery light brioche was tastier than your average bread recipe!) I didn't have any raisins and I don't use alcohol so I just omitted them all together, though I think next time I will try the suggestion of using Craisins or dried blueberries. I did make a few rolls with mini chocolate chips inside and they were the closest thing to pain au chocolat I've had since Paris.

Based on what I read so far in the cookbook, I don't think Dorie is too keen on substitutions but they were delicious anyways and I'll try to be a little more faithful next time. The recipe is pretty in depth but the bread was so yummy and the end result was totally worth it. I made half of the dough into rolls and the other half into a Brioche loaf and both are totally gone already. :) The pastry filling/pudding was also great and I'll admit, baby and I just ate the leftover half after making the rolls! I used my handmixer on low to do the whisking since my wrists can't take all that continual whisking and it turned out just fine. Dorie recommends boiling it for a minute or two at the end but just like the last time a made a similar recipe, my pudding didn't quite follow the rules and thickened suddenly then was good to go. I would be sure to whisk diligently because the pudding has it's own timetable!

Brioche Raisin Snails
1 cup moist, plump raisins
3 tablespoons dark rum
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 recipe for Golden Brioche Loaves (see below), chilled and ready to shape (make the full recipe and cut the dough in half after refrigerating overnight)

1/2 recipe Pastry Cream (see below)

For The Optional Glaze (I didn't use this but they would have been prettier if I had!)
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
About 1 teaspoon water
Drop of pure vanilla extract

Line one large or two smaller baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Put the raisins in a small saucepan, cover them with hot water and let them steep for about 4 minutes, until they are plumped. Drain the raisins, return them to the saucepan and, stirring constantly, warm them over low heat. When the raisins are very hot, pull the pan from the heat and pour over the rum. Standing back, ignite the rum. Stair until the flames go out, then cover and set aside. (The raisins and rum an be kept in a covered jar for up to 1 day.)

Mix the sugar and cinnamon together.

On a flour dusted surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long, with a short end toward you. Spread the pastry cream across the dough, leaving 1-inch strip bare on the side farthest from you. Scatter the raisins over the pastry cream and sprinkle the raisins and cream with the cinnamon sugar. Starting wit the side nearest you, roll the dough into a cylinder, keeping the roll as tight as you can. (At this point, you can wrap the dough airtight and freeze it up to 2 months; see Storing for further instructions. Or, if you do not want to make the full recipe, use as much of the dough as you'd like and freeze the remainder.)

With a chef's knife, using a gentle sawing motion, trim just a tiny bit from the ends if they're ragged or not well filled, then cut the log into rounds a scant 1 inch thick. Put the snails on the lined baking sheet(s), leaving some puff space between them. (I used dental floss and it was easy and clean)

Lightly cover the snails with wax paper and set the baking sheet(s) in a warm place until the snails have doubles in volume--they'll be puffy and soft--about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Getting Ready To Bake: When the snails have almost fully risen, preheat the oven: depending on the number of baking sheets you have, either center a rack in the oven or position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Remove the wax paper, and bake the snails for about 25 minutes (rotate the sheets if you're using two, from top to bottom and front to back after 15 minutes), or until they are puffed and richly browned. Using a metal spatula, transfer the snails onto a cooling rack.

If You Want To Glaze The Snails: Put a piece of wax paper under the rack of warm rolls to act as a drip catcher. Put the confectioners' sugar into a small bowl, and stir in a teaspoon of water. Keep adding water drop by drop until you have an icing that falls from the tip of a spoon. Add the vanilla extract, then drizzle the icing over the hot snails.


Golden Brioche Loaves

2 packets active dry yeast
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch water
1/3 cup just-warm-to-the-touch whole milk
3 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature but still slightly firm

For The Glaze
1 large egg
1 tablespoon water

To Make The Brioche: Put the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer and, using a wooden spoon, stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add the flour and salt, and fit into the mixer with the dough hook, if you have one. Toss a kitchen towel over the mixer, covering the bowl as completely as you can-- this will help keep you, the counter and your kitchen floor from being showered in flour. Turn the mixer on and off a few short pulses, just to dampen the flour (yes, you can peek to see how you're doing), then remove the towel, increase the mixer speed to medium-low and mix for a minute or two, just until the flour is moistened. At this point, you'll have a fairly dry, shaggy mess.

Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula, set the mixer to low and add the eggs, followed by the sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes, until the dough forms a ball. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter in 2-tablespoon-size chunks, beating until each piece is almost incorporated before adding the next. You'll have a dough that is very soft, almost like batter. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to beat until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a clean bowl (or wash out the mixer bowl and use it), cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 40 to 60 minutes, depending upon the warmth of your room.

Deflate the dough by lifting it up around the edges and letting it fall with a slap to the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Slap the dough down in the bowl every 30 minutes until it stops rising, about 2 hours, then leave the uncovered dough in the refrigerator to chill overnight.

The next day, butter and flour two 8 1/2-x-4 1/2-inch pans. Pull the dough from the fridge and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cut each piece of the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a log about 3 1/2 inches long. Arrange 4 logs crosswise in the bottom of each pan. Put the pans on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat, cover the pans lightly with wax paper and leave the loaves at room temperature until the dough almost fills the pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Again, rising time with depend on how warm the room is.) Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

To Make the Glaze: Beat the egg with the water. Using a pastry brush, gently brush the tops of the loaves with the glaze.

Bake the loaves until they are well risen and deeply golden, 30 to 35 minutes (mine took just over 20 minutes). Transfer the pans to racks to cool for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pans and turn the loaves out onto the racks. Invert again and cool for at least 1 hour.

Pastry Cream
2 cups whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits at room temperature

Bring the milk to a boil in a small saucepan.

Meanwhile, in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the egg yolks together with the sugar and cornstarch until thick and well blended. Still whisking, drizzle in about 1/4 cup of the hot milk-- this will temper, or warm, the yolks so they won't curdle. Whisking all the while, slowly pour in the remainder of the milk. Put the pan over medium heat and, whisking vigorously, constantly and thoroughly (making sure to get the edges of the pot), bring the mixture to a boil. Keep at a boil, still whisking, for 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.

Whisk in the vanilla extract. Let sit for 5 minutes, then whisk in the bits of butter, stirring until they are full incorporated and the pastry cream is smooth and silky. Scrape the cream into a bowl. You can press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to create an airtight seal and refrigerate the pastry cream until cold or, if you want to cool it quickly--as I always do--put the bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice cubes and cold water, and stir the pastry cream occasionally until it is thoroughly chilled, about 20 minutes.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I love this holiday and thought I would make a treat to celebrate. This is a pretty generic Chocolate chip recipe but they are delicious and you can make a lot of variations with different flavors of chips. Since my husband can't eat chocolate I buy pretty much every kind of non-chocolate chip and they all taste good in here. Guittard mint, peanut butter, Reese's Pieces, and Andes Mint chips are all great in here. I usually mix up all the dough and then portion out about a 1/4 of the dough at a time and make lots of different flavors (make sure you don't store the mint cookies with the others though, or your peanut butter will get a little mint flavor bonus!)

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 C. Sugar
3/4 C. Brown Sugar (I like dark brown)
3/4 C. Butter, softened
Cream butter and sugar until very light and fluffy (you want the sugar to start to dissolve while it's creaming so it doesn't melt in the oven)

Mix into creamed mixture:
2 t. Pure Vanilla Extract
2 Eggs

Add dry ingredients and mix until just blending:
2 1/2 or 3 C. Flour (it's okay if the dough is a little moist, you don't want too much flour and cakey cookies)
1 t. Baking Soda
1/2 t. Salt

Add whatever chips you like, scoop out the dough (use a cookie scoop for pretty and easy cookies!), and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes (325 convect, 9 minutes). I like to kind of squish my cookies with a spatula before baking so they come out a little thinner but that's a personal preference.

If you have more dough than you need try scooping the extra out and freezing the balls of dough- then you can just toss them on the pan and bake later.

Good flavor combos:
Chocolate chip and white chocolate chips mixed together
White chocolate chips with Craisins and nuts
Mint chips with melted chocolate or cocoa powder to make a dark chocolate cookie dough
Chocolate chip and peanut butter chips mixed together

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cafe Rio Pork

Today has been a good day. My car was commandeered for a trip so I "had" to drive my Dad's BMW (it's going to be a long weekend! Yay!) Then I was weighed for my life insurance and I've lost 18 pounds since last summer. I swear you can't tell but I'm working on it. So I guess my Food Network diet is working anyways! Then when I went to the grocery store pork loin was on sale, which prompted this post and my soon to be dinner. I've been meaning to post this recipe for a while. It's so easy and seriously delicious. I originally found it on Pimp My Dinner and like everything I've tried there. I've made a few modifications and get rave reviews every time so here goes. Not only is it cheaper than the real deal, you don't have to wait in line forever in the snow like we used to do in the Provo Cafe Rio. Here's to a good day and a great dinner! (and to my brother in law for the perfect photos... thanks Jared!)

Cafe Rio Pork

1 pork loin (about four pounds, whatever you find)
1 can Dr. Pepper (I prefer Coke normally but Dr. Pepper is better in this I think)
1 cup sugar
2 T. dry mustard powder
1 T. dry cumin powder
2 cloves minced garlic
1 can Chipotle chiles in Adobo Sauce

First, open the can of chiles and drain the sauce into the Crockpot. Then discard the chiles. Chipotles are just roasted jalepenos and are plenty hot- so omit them unless you want lots of heat! I can find this stuff in the Mexican food aisle at Fry's but not Safeway, so look around. Don't use the plain Adobo sauce (mine came in a tall little jar with a yellow lid) because the flavor is all wrong and I had to throw my last batch of pork out!

Then add sugar, mustard, cumin, garlic, and Dr. Pepper. Stir everything and toss in the trimmed, whole pork loin. Try piercing it a few times so the flavor steeps in during cooking. Rotate throughout the day and after about 5 hours on high the meat should be shred-able. Reduce heat to low, pull apart the meat with two forks and leave the lid off the Crockpot for a bit to let some of the extra liquid evaporate and soak into the meat (the longer it cooks shredded the tastier it will be, just watch and make sure there is enough liquid).

Meanwhile, make the dressing in a blender. Serve pork with tortillas, black beans, shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, shredded cheese, and cilantro dressing. Dish it up and enjoy! I also like topping it with a squeeze of fresh lime juice. Try serving as a burrito or as a salad- both are delish!

Cilantro Tomatillo Dressing

4 Tomatillos (throw away the outer peel and quarter)
1/2 Cup Mayo, not Miracle whip
1/2 Cup Milk
1 Packet Ranch Dressing mix
1 bunch of cilantro, washed and stems discarded
1 Lime

Blend all ingredients (except lime) in a blender and let thicken in the fridge. For more spice, add a Serrano pepper. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lime and enjoy.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu

A few weeks ago I made Ina's Chicken Parmesan and it turned out great so I thought I would take it a step further and try Chicken Cordon Bleu. I used to work at a wedding reception hall and we served this all the time. I think this was just as tasty! I read several recipes and then went for it, so here is my version (so I can make it again, and hopefully someone else will enjoy it too!) This make pretty big portions so I might try butterflying the breasts and making half portions next time, or just serve up a half for those with smaller appetites (the men at my place both finished up a whole piece no problem, though!)

Baked Chicken Cordon Bleu
4 Chicken breasts
1 egg, beaten
4 slices of ham
4 slices of provolone cheese
4 slices of muenster cheese
2 T. milk
1 Cup breadcrumbs
1/4 Cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 T. Parsley
Salt and pepper
1/3 Cup flour

First, pound the chicken with a rolling pin or mallet in a gallon baggie. Get it as thin as you can, around 3/8 of an inch, without it falling apart.

Set up three shallow dishes for the breading. In the first put the flour. Put the egg and milk in the second and beat to combine. In the last, add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, and a little salt and pepper. This is the order for the breading (always always) FLOUR, EGG, CRUMB.

Cover the chicken in the flour first and tap off excess. Lay the chicken flat and put a piece of cheese in the middle, top that with a piece of ham, and that with a piece of the other cheese. I used Provolone and Muenster because that's what I had on hand, but swiss would work well too. Next, roll up the chicken tightly and use a toothpick to hold it together.

After all four chicken breasts are bundled up, bread them in the egg mixture followed by the breadcrumbs. Try to seal up the ends and give the chicken a nice shape. Lay them in a baking dish (I used a 9 x 13 pan) and put a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top.

Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes (for convect- 350 about 35 minutes) or until the internal temperature reads 165.

To make the sauce, make a roux to form a white sauce (2 T. flour and 2 T. butter). Whisk in 1 cup chicken stock, 1 cup milk, and cook until thick and bubbly. Add 2 T. fresh chopped flat leaf parsley and pepper to taste. I also added a pinch of chili powder.

Top chicken with sauce and serve with mashed potatoes or rice pilaf and salad. Don't forget to remove the toothpicks before serving! :)