March 26, 2009

Bell Pepper and Goat Cheese Tarts

It's Barefoot Thursday again and I'll spare you another love letter to Ina, although it's certainly in order. Needless to say, these were a hit. I made a few changes- using chicken stock instead of wine, bell peppers instead of tomatoes, and making the tarts smaller to get a few more per sheet. I actually used the cover to a stack of CD's to cut the tarts- like a big cookie cutter. It worked great. You can bet I'll make these again soon. What can I say, I love goat cheese and I LOVE Ina's recipes! I hope everyone liked this one too.

Bell Pepper and Goat Cheese Tarts

Adapted from Ina Garten

  • 1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
  • Good olive oil
  • 4 cups thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons dry white wine (I used chicken stock)
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan, plus 2 ounces shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • 4 ounces garlic-and-herb goat cheese
  • 1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices (I used two bell peppers)
  • 3 tablespoons julienned basil leaves


Unfold a sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11 by 11-inch square. Using a 6-inch wide saucer or other round object as a guide, cut 2 circles from the sheet of puff pastry, discarding the scraps. Repeat with the second pastry sheet to make 4 circles in all. Place the pastry circles on 2 sheet pans lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium to low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.

Using a sharp paring knife, score a 1/4-inch-wide border around each pastry circle. Prick the pastry inside the score lines with the tines of a fork and sprinkle a tablespoon of grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.

Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edge. Crumble 1 ounce of goat cheese on top of the onions. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. The bottom sheet pan may need an extra few minutes in the oven. Serve hot or warm.

March 24, 2009

TWD- Berry Crumb Cake

I spent the morning at the train park with my son and his little cousins. We rode the carosel, rode the train, played on the play ground, and even had a picnic. We went back to my mom's for naps and he fell right asleep. That's a miracle these days. I ran to the store to find blueberries during the bliss and much to my chagrin, they were trying to ruin my nice day by charging five bucks a pint! I opted for frugality and used some mixed berries from the back of the freezer. The great thing about this recipe is that it turned out just fine and would with just about whatever you had. I love that.

I didn't have enough brown sugar to make the topping, so I took a hint from Alton Brown and used white sugar for the difference, adding in a little molasses and pulsing a few times. It came out perfectly. I'll also reduce the butter next time since my topping was a little too moist (but crazy delicious!)

Next time I will also chop the walnuts in the food processor, put into the bowl reserved for the topping, and then make the topping in the FP. That will save me from washing the knife and the cutting board (since there are plenty of dishes to dirty in this recipe, let me tell you!)

With a few adaptations (maybe sneaking in some whole wheat flour?) and maybe even the use of a muffin pan, next time, this recipe is just about the perfect finish to a great day- and comes together with no problem. Thanks Dorie (and Sihan for the great choice). Don't forget to see everyone's variations here.

Thanks everyone for your kind wishes last week. Here are the winners for the Yoplait giveaway. If I don't get addresses by Friday, I'll draw any more I need. Thanks everyone!

Steph (ms0812@z....)

Berry Crumb Cake
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

This recipe is flexible with fruit and flavorings. I'd like to try a mango version with a macademia topping, or maybe raspberries with lime zest. Use whatever you have and let me know if you try some fun flavor combinations!


For the crumbs:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)

For the cake:
1 pint (2 cups) berries (preferably fresh, or frozen, not thawed- I used a mix of frozen raspberries and frozen mixed berries)
2 cups plus 2 tsp all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup sugar
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon AND 1/4 orange
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk (or 1/2 teaspoon vinegar plus milk to make 1/2 cup)

Preheat oven to 350. Line an 8 x 8 pan with foil, butter or spray the pan with foil, and set on a baking sheet.

To make the crumbs: Put all the ingredients except the nuts in a food processor and pulse just until the mixture forms clumps and curds and holds together when pressed. Scrape the topping into a bowl, stir in the nuts and press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface. Refrigerate until needed. (Covered well the crumb mix can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)

To make the cake: Using your fingertips, toss the berries and 2 tsp of the flour together in a small bowl just to coat the berries; set aside. Whisk together the remaining 2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Working in the bowl of a stand mixer or in another large bowl, rub the sugar and zest together with your fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the butter and, with the paddle attachment, beat the sugar with the butter at medium speed until light, 2-3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for about 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla extract. Don’t be concerned if the batter looks curdled — it will soon smooth out. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately, the flour in 3 parts and the buttermilk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients.) You will have a thick, creamy batter. With a rubber spatula, gently stir in the berries.

Scrape the batter into the buttered pan and smooth the top gently with the spatula. Pull the crumb mix from the fridge and, with your fingertips, break it into pieces. Scatter the crumbs over the batter, pressing them down ever so slightly.

Bake for 55 to 65 minutes, or until the crumbs are golden and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool just until it is warm or until it reaches room temperature.

March 19, 2009

Ina's Brownie Pudding... my new favorite dessert

Dear Ina,

I've been a fan for a long time. I watch your show faithfully, love your house, envy your kitchen, laugh at your jokes, and think you and Jeffrey are adorable. I've made probably 30 or 40 of your recipes in the past year alone and can't think of one I haven't liked.

However, this brownie pudding rocks. I expect awesome things from you but this was beyond delicious. Even reducing the butter by a quarter, I fell right in love with this dessert. It was so good I couldn't be bothered taking great pictures but had to dig in. The Butterfinger ice cream melting on top was too much to resist.

Thanks for everything. Please come to Phoenix for a book signing someday. I feel like we're old friends, but now we're best friends.


Anne Strawberry

What are you waiting for? Go make it now! And wish me luck- I really shouldn't eat this for breakfast today, but it's going to be hard to resist. (Don't forget to enter the giveaway below if you haven't already!)

Freaking Delicious Brownie Pudding
adapted from Ina Garten, my best friend I've never met

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus extra for buttering the dish (that is the reduced amount- the original calls for 1 stick for the half recipe)
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/8 cup good cocoa powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Vanilla ice cream, for serving

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Lightly butter 6 ramekins or mini pie tins. Melt the butter and set aside to cool.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until very thick and light yellow. Meanwhile, sift the cocoa powder and flour together and set aside.

When the egg and sugar mixture is ready, reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla and the cocoa powder and flour mixture. Mix only until combined. With mixer still on low, slowly pour in the cooled butter and mix again just until combined.

Pour the brownie mixture into the prepared dish and place it in a larger baking pan. Place pan in oven. Add enough of the hottest tap water to the pan to come halfway up the side of the dish and bake for about 30 minutes- until the edges look done but the center is still a little soft. A cake tester inserted 2 inches from the side will come out 3/4 clean. The center will appear very under-baked; this dessert is between a brownie and a pudding.

Allow to cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.

March 17, 2009

French Yogurt Cake with Lemon Curd and Strawberries (and a surprise... and a giveaway!)

This is an exciting week! Not only was the Tuesdays with Dorie choice from Liliana fabulous, it was also delicious. I changed mine up a little my reducing the oil to 1/3 a cup.

I made mine with ground almonds as Dorie suggested and topped it with some homemade lemon curd and strawberries. I've never made lemon curd before and surely will again- it's simple, delicious, and a good way to use up some of the lemons that are over flowing in AZ right now!

Now for the kiddos I have a yogurt giveaway. You know how kids love Dora. However, I'm sure they would even appreciate this dessert with a little more sophisticated yogurt flavor than Dora Yoplait. My son loves this stuff (and the grown up versions too). However they enjoy their yogurt, I think everyone is glad to get a little calcium into picky eaters. I know my mom always was. Make sure to leave your email or that it's on your profile if you want to be entered in the giveaway (and US residents only for that, sorry kids!) I'll say the deadline for this contest is Saturday night (March 21) at Midnight, AZ time. I'll announce three winners next Tuesday (one entry per person please).

And now for my favorite picture of the week... meet my new little leprauchan (coming hopefully in time for my birthday in September!) and please accept my humble apologies for skipping out on the kitchen so often and for neglecting my blog. I'm happy to report I'm interested in food again (and feeding my poor husband) and we are all happy and healthy. And Happy St. Patty's day- you can bet we're eating Corned Beef and Cabbage tonight!

(Cake Recipe Here)

Lemon Curd
from Epicurious

*note: Next time I'll pulverize the zest and the sugar in the food processor before starting the cooking so the final product is a little smoother but still flavorful

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh lemon zest
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into bits

Whisk together juice, zest, sugar, and eggs in a 2-quart heavy saucepan. Stir in butter and cook over moderately low heat, whisking frequently, until curd is thick enough to hold marks of whisk and first bubble appears on surface, about 6 minutes.

Transfer lemon curd to a bowl and chill, its surface covered with plastic wrap, until cold, at least 1 hour.

March 12, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers- Chicken Piccata

I love watching Barefoot Contessa and laugh when every time Ina makes chicken for Jeffrey and they show him at the end saying, "This is even better than my favorite roast chicken, and you know how I love chicken!" She laughs and says she loves him and they pan out showing their beautiful home and I smile. Well, my man loves steak like Jeffrey loves chicken, but for the budget and cholesterol levels we try to stick with chicken for the most part. This recipe is as good as Jeffrey makes it out to be and while there are a lot of dishes from the breading, the end product is delicious. It doesn't even usually require a trip to the grocery store for me, which makes this recipe a winner. Thanks, Lindsey, for the fun choice and don't forget to see all the other Barefoot Bloggers delicious dinners!

Chicken Piccata
from Ina Garten

2 split (1 whole) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 extra-large egg
1/2 tablespoon water
3/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs (whole wheat)
Good olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used white grape juice)
Sliced lemon, for serving
Chopped fresh parsley leaves, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound out to 1/4-inch thick. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.

Mix the flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper in a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the egg and 1/2 tablespoon of water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread crumb mixtures.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Place them on the sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 to 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

For the sauce, wipe out the saute pan with a dry paper towel. Over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced in half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves and serve 1 chicken breast on each plate. Spoon on the sauce and serve with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of fresh parsley.

March 10, 2009

TWD- Lemon Cup Custard

For such a simple little dessert, this week's Tuesdays with Dorie selection sure brought out a lot of opinions! I made it during beloved "nap time" Sunday afternoon and liked how quickly it came together. We have an enormous lemon tree so a quick trip into the beautiful "winter" AZ weather and I had two enormous lemons ready to zest. I used a veggie peeler to cut wide pieces off the lemons to steep in the milk. I thought the final product had a nice lemon taste and it complimented the vanilla- I used about 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract but let's be honest, I just dump that stuff in (my bottle even has a flip top) like the vanilla junky that I am.

I attempted to unmold these little buddies and while they were less than cute, I like that this photo shows the texture of the final product. I baked them just about as long as Dorie recommended and they were still a little jiggly but totally done. I had two faithful taste testers and they both agreed that this was fine, but not enough. My husband thought there should be some sort of crust (like a tart? he suggested) and my mom thought there should be a lot of drippy caramel or lemon sauce (like flan!)

I thought that while this dessert was simple, didn't require any weird or expensive ingredients, and was even pretty fast, it's just not worth the calories to me. Not when I could be making pastry cream with the same ingredients. I'd love to hear your flavor ideas, though, for some inspiration. I think there's something to be said for such a simple and quick dessert. I'm glad I made it, but if you'll excuse me, now I'm really feeling the need to make some pastry cream. Now that's a treat that doesn't even need a tart shell or caramel sauce!

(Recipe available at Bridget's beautiful blog)

March 3, 2009

Girl Scout Cookie Thin Mint Mini-Cheesecakes

We're totally cake-less this week, although I'm sure my Tuesdays with Dorie friends have baked up some amazing treats this week. For excuses I'll just say strep throat and 103 fever kept me away from the oven. However, these little Girl Scout Cookie treats are quick and delicious. I've been saving these photos to post for a while and with those little girls outside the supermarket testing the most devout among the new years resolutioners, it's time.

I literally had to fight my brother in laws off with a spatula to keep them from devouring these before the girls had a chance. You'll love them. And forgive me for skipping this week's cake- I'll be back soon, I promise! With good news too!

PS I didn't hear back on my last address so I have a new third winner for the giveaway... email me your address asap and I'll get all of those sent out! :)

1freshstart said...
Ha! We make protein shakes every morning... frozen strawberries,1% milk and soy protein, couldn't do it without our blender!
Oatmeal can be pretty scary- just don't buy the microwave packets... TOTALLY different texture. If you get the traditional cook stuff - it's kinda nutty and good.
February 17, 2009 9:05 AM

Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie Cheesecake Cups
adapted from Picky Palate
1 sleeve Thin Mint Cookies, ground in food processor or blender (or Mint Oreos)
3 Tablespoons melted butter
8 oz softened cream cheese (Neufchatel reduced fat works great)
1/2 Cup sugar
1 egg
2 Tablespoons Sour Cream or Butter Milk
5 Thin mint cookies coarsely crumbled

1/4 Cup Chocolate, chopped
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
6 Thin mint cookies, crumbled (for top of cups)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Combine ground cookies and butter in a medium bowl. Drop about 1 Tablespoon of cookie mixture into 24 mini cupcake tins prepared with liners. Press crust into cups with back of a spoon.

In an electric or stand mixer cream the cream cheese and sugar until well combined. Add egg and sour cream until well combined as well. Stir in crumbled cookies. Pour cheesecake mixture into cupcake tins filled almost to the very top. Bake for 25-28 minutes or until cooked through. Remove and cool for 15 minutes. Melt chocolate in microwave on very low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Stir in heavy cream until smooth and shiny. Spoon over each cheesecake cup and sprinkle with additional crumbled cookies.