Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Out with the Old & In with the New


I should say up front that the title is really quite misleading!  First of all, I’m not really big on New Year Resolutions because I don’t like the idea of setting yourself up for failure.  New Year’s resolutions usually seem to go something like this: I resolve to quit smoking or I resolve to eat right or I resolve to lose weight and then one little slip-up and you feel like you’ve failed.  I’m just not an all or nothing kind of person and I work hard at choosing the positive over the negative.
 I believe in trying; at giving it your best and remembering to acknowledge that effort.  With all of the holiday sweets and delectable treats on offer over the past month I have over indulged to the max. My pants are too tight, my cheeks are actually getting chubby and no I haven’t exercised one little bit!  So, even before the New Year arrives I’m returning, at least part of the time, to my normal healthy dining routine. 
Does that mean I will not have a drink or treat at my neighbor’s open house tomorrow? No it does not. But yesterday’s dinner was a delightfully light and healthy meal that was ultimately as satisfying as any holiday extravaganza.   That is the start, the initial successful effort to regain control and return to normal.
Ah normal; and what is normal? Trying ones best to make the right choices as often as possible; that’s my normal.  We are, after all, human and prone to being less than perfect.  And isn’t that a good thing?  I believe it is!  Just think of all the wonderful things in our lives that came about from mistakes.  Champagne for one!
Back to making choices; for me that’s eating fresh, seasonal foods grown locally whenever possible.  If it’s in season we eat it, if not usually we don’t.  So last night’s dinner was a large portion of fresh spinach lightly sautéed with sweet onions, topped with two poached eggs and served with a lovely chunk of toasted baguette.  Loads of flavor, tons of vitamins, iron, protein and a nice serving of carbs for long lasting energy were not only satisfying but a visual treat as well.
Two courses of veggies and then fruit for dessert are the menu for tonight’s dinner; roasted cauliflower sprinkled with black lava salt to start, broccoli rabe crostini topped with  fresh goat cheese  will come second and yogurt with bananas to finish.  Three courses; all abundantly flavorful, offering a variety of colors and textures, nutritionally well balanced and yet light in calories, who could ask for more?
Since I have everything organized for tonight I’ll have time for a short power walk before dinner. This double treat of cold fresh evening air to stimulate the senses and a bit of exercise to get the heart pumping are also absolutely free for the taking!
We’ll see what choices tomorrow brings; in the mean time, today is a great day!


Ingredients for 2 people:
One full package fresh baby spinach
1 small sweet onion or ½ large sweet onion
4 slices bacon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt & pepper
4 large pasteurized eggs
2 tablespoons vinegar
Method:
Thinly slice the onion and sauté over medium in the olive oil.
While onions are sautéing remove the fat from the bacon and chop into pieces; discard the fat or reserve for another use.
Add bacon to onions and sauté for about 10 minutes or until the onions are translucent and the bacon is almost cooked.
While bacon and onions are cooking bring about 3 inches of water to a boil and add the vinegar. Once boiling reduce heat to just barely simmer.
Add the spinach and turn with tongs until completely wilted and mixed with the bacon and onions.  Saute for 2  minutes; just until spinach is cooked.  Do not overcook!
Give the water a gentle stir and just after you add the spinach to the onions and bacon,  drop the eggs in one at a time to poach. (first break the eggs into a cup) 3 minutes will give you medium firm egg; runny yolk and solid whites.
Divide the spinach evenly between two dinner plates and top with two poached eggs.  Sprinkle black lava salt (if you have another kind of salt like truffle salt, that is great too!) and fresh ground black pepper.  Serve with a large chunk of toasted baguette.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Swedish Cardamom Bread Two Ways


Swedish Cardamom Bread has been a Christmas tradition in my family for generations.  My grandmother always had plenty for us to have with a cup of coffee; yes coffee!  Looking back, the coffee was mostly milk but at the time I felt so grown up to be having coffee and cardamom bread for Christmas morning!
I’ve given you two ways to do cardamom bread; one is quite simple and my daughter’s favorite.  It is actually the way my grandmother usually served it; the bread is braided and when baked it is drizzles with a powdered sugar glaze. The other method is to fill rolled dough with cardamom, cinnamon and brown sugar; form it in a circle then snip and twist to form a wreath.  This is my favorite way.  It’s so beautiful and I love the filling!

Ingredients

For the Cardamom Bread:

· 1 cup whole milk

· 1/2 cup white sugar

· 1/2 cup butter

· 2-pkg quick rising yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water with a pinch of sugar (My Grandmother used the regular yeast but I prefer the rapid rise to save a bit of time)

· About 4 cups bread flour

· 1 large egg

· 1/2 teaspoon salt

· 2 teaspoons ground cardamom

For the Filling:

· 2 Tbsp melted butter

· 1/4 cup brown sugar, packed

· 2 Tbsp white sugar

· 2 teaspoons cinnamon

· 1 teaspoon cardamom

· 1 cup golden raisins (optional)

· 2/3 cup chopped pecans (optional)

For the Egg glaze:

· 1 egg yolk

· 2 Tbsp cream

For the Glaze:

· 1 cup powdered sugar

· 1 Tbsp water

Method

1 Heat milk on medium heat to scalding. (Do not boil) Stir in the butter and sugar until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved. Remove from heat. Pour into a mixing bowl and cool to luke warm. Mix in egg and then yeast mixture.

2 Blend in salt and cardamom. Add 2 cups of the flour. Then gradually add more flour until a soft dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.

3 Turn out onto a floured surface and knead dough for 7 to 10 minutes until smooth. I do this step in food processor with dough hook for 10 minutes. The dough should remain soft, so do not add too much flour.

4 Place the dough in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap. Let rise for about 45 minutes to an hour; the dough should have doubled in size.

At this point you can make simple braided bread. Punch down the dough, divide in half, and then divide each half into 3 equal parts. Roll the dough pieces into ropes, braid them, and tuck the ends under. This is the way my daughter Marina likes it best!







5 Divide the dough into 2 equal parts. Take one part (saving the other for wreath number 2) and roll it into an 8-inch by 16-inch rectangle. Brush the dough with melted butter, leave an inch border on the edges so the dough will stick together when rolled. Mix the filling and spread the dough with half of the mixture ( the other half is for the second half of the dough).

6 Roll the dough up lengthwise, with the seam on the bottom. Transfer the bread to a baking sheet line with parchment paper. Form a circle with the dough and connect the ends together.

7 Cut on a slant most of the way through the dough, creating segments. Pull out each dough segment either to the right or to the left, alternating as you go around the circle. The dough should look like a wreath when you are done.

Repeat steps 5, 7, and 8 with the rest of the dough, to form a second wreath.

8 Cover lightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm area for about 40 minutes to an hour so the dough can have a second rising.

9 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Whisk together the egg yolks and cream and brush over the dough. Bake for 25-30 minutes. After the first 15 minutes of baking, if the top is browned, tent with aluminum foil.

10 Remove from oven and let cool completely. Whisk together powdered sugar and water for the glaze Drizzle the glaze over the pastry.







Makes 2 wreaths.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Last Minute Holiday Ideas: Article by Kim Hendrickson, author of Tastefully Small Savory Bites,


Show-Stopping Holiday Hosting: Rose Beef Canapés
By Kim Hendrickson,
Author of Savory Bites: Easy, Sophisticated Hors d'Oeuvres for Every Occasion
You decided weeks ago (when you thought you had endless time) to have friends join you to celebrate the holiday season but now that the event is almost here you are beginning to panic. 
Stop! Relax! 
Give yourself the gift of preparing an easy and show-stopping small bite that will please everyone, in your crowd.
We all know we eat with our eyes first, this recipe will give your guests a small bite that they will be delighted to look at and just as eager to devour! Once you get the hang of making beef roses, these canapés couldn't be simpler.  
The toasted canapés bottoms can be prepared and frozen in advance. The herb cream cheese can be made and refrigerated a week in advance or, in a pinch, can be easily substituted with store-bought Boursin Cheese. The beef roses can be assembled and frozen on a tray, waiting in anticipation to being used for your next gathering. The arugula is the only ingredient that needs to be chopped in advance but even assembling these elements can be done a full day in advance.   

These original and tasty bites are substantial and will keep your guests satisfied while you enjoy your own holiday party.  
Recipe:
Rose Beef Canapés
Yield: 24 canapés
8-12 large slices whole grain bread
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
6 ounces whipped cream cheese
¼ cup milk
1 small clove garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (chives, marjoram, tarragon, and/or basil)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large bunch arugula
12 thin slices rare roast beef
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
2-inch round cutter
Preheat oven to 350°F. Cut two or three 2-inch rounds from each slice of bread for a total of 24 rounds. Brush both sides of each slice with melted butter. Place on a baking sheet and toast until brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.
 
Blend cream cheese with milk, garlic, and herbs in a small bowl until smooth and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spread an even layer of the now herbed cheese on top of each toast piece.
 
Stack several arugula leaves and roll tightly. Thinly slice the roll to create fine ribbons of arugula. Repeat with remaining arugula; you should have about 3 cups. Top each toast with a small mound of arugula.
 
Place one slice of beef on a cutting board and cut a strip down each side, 1 inch from the browned edge. Put aside the center part for another use. Take one strip and roll it up, tightly at first, then less and less so. Pinch the inside, non-dark edge of the roll. Fold down the outside edges to create "petals." Finally, cut a thin slice off the bottom where you have been holding it together to create a flat base.
 
Nestle the rose atop the arugula and into the spread. Sprinkle a few pieces of red onion in the center of the rose. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
© 2010 Kim Hendrickson, author of Savory Bites: Easy, Sophisticated Hors d'Oeuvres for Every Occasion

Author Bio

Kim Hendrickson, is the author of the Tastefully Small™cookbook series, and the winner of two Florida Publishers Association gold medals. She has catered for the New York Metropolitan Opera, and the Penguin Rep Theatre, the Bizarre Food show and Slangman's World. She is a regular presenter at the World Tea Expo, the John C. Campbell Folk School, and at culinary events throughout the New York are. Kim teaches that good food is more than good taste; it's the fun and joy of creating something beautiful and sharing it with others.
For more information please visit 
www.salviapress.com


Friday, December 10, 2010

Chocolate Chili Pecan Cookies


I love being able to mix up a batch of cookies and then have them in the fridge so I can bake them when I have time.  I was looking at Martha Stewart Living Magazine and saw a recipe for chocolate cookies with nuts and fruit that got me thinking……about how much I like combining chocolate and chili.
So I increased the chocolate amount called for in Martha’s recipe, added chili powder, used self rising flour, chose pecans as my nut variety and omitted the dried fruit…my family doesn’t really like dried fruit in their cookies and this batch I was making just for my family’s pleasure…I was hoping!
Well, all I can say is they were gone in one day so I guess I could call them a big hit!
Ingredients:
2  1/2 Cups Self rising Flour
½ Cup Cocoa Powder
1 Cup Sugar
½ Teaspoon Chili Powder
1/2 Teaspoon salt
2 Sticks Unsalted Butter
1 Egg
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Cup Chopped Pecans
 Method:
Beat butter and lavender sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add the egg and continue beating until well mixed.
Add the vanilla and mix well.
Mix together the flour, chili and salt in a separate bowl.
Add the flour mixture and blend well.
Mix in the chopped pecans.
Form into two logs, cover with plastic wrap and chill well; at least two hours.
Slice about 1/8 inch thick and bake in pre heated 350 degree oven 12 to 14 minutes.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Holiday Give-Away for the Little Ones

Who doesn't remember Green Eggs and Ham?
Can you even believe this is the 50th anniversary of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham?
Well, just in time for the anniversary and the holidays I have a SWEET give away that you can enjoy with the little members of your family.
GREEN EGGS AND HAM PARTY PACK!
Two Chef hats, two aprons all with with green Eggs and Ham theme, the hardbound edition of Green Eggs and Ham, a sweet long handled fork and a $25 gift certificate to In Ham I am Products complete the party pack!
The Other White Meat is the web site responsible for this super give away!  There are lots of recipes, even an entire section on Green Eggs and Ham so pop on over and check them out!  http://www.theotherwhitemeat.com/


Details on how to win the wonderful Green Eggs and Ham Party Pack:
Follow KCintheKitchen on Facebook and leave me a comment here.

We will pick a winner on December 15th!  Good Luck!

Dining in New York

Dining in New York is always a treat but my latest trip there proved to be absolutely the best foodie experience I have had in a long time!  We went to Mario Batali’s market/eatery, Eataly and what a treat that was!
The market is filled with produce so fresh it literally gave me shivers.  There is a cheese area that rivals anything I know from France and Italy with whole rounds of parmesan piled high along with a hundred other cheeses to tempt any palate!  I can’t forget to mention the meats and fish; you’ll want to buy one of everything and then top it all off with a fresh pasty before you leave!
The eatery is divided into separate areas; we chose to dine in the vegetarian restaurant and boy am I happy we did!  We opted to try two specials; mushroom brochette and broccoli rabe brochette which had us ooooing and awwwwing with flavor delight!
Naturally as soon as I got home I wanted to try and incorporate these wonderful dishes into our normal dining habits and treat my family to at least a hint of the amazing dishes I had just enjoyed.  I’m not going to say I was able to recreate the dishes exactly; because I wasn’t.  But I would like to share with you the two brochettes that came out of Mario Batali’s  Eataly; my family declared them fantastic and I think you will too!
Mushroom Bruschetta

Ingredients:
1 Cup Oyster Mushrooms
1 Cup Baby Portabella Mushrooms
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh Garlic
6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Sal & Pepper
½ Loaf Country Italian Bread thickly sliced
Method:
Brush both sides of the bread slices with 2 tablespoons olive oil and grill until golden brown.
Cut mushrooms into chunks and sauté with 4 tablespoons olive oil and garlic over medium/high heat until golden brown.
Pile mushrooms on toasted bread slices and serve immediately.
That’s it, that’s all you have to do!
I served this with a mixed green salad with crumbled aged ricotta cheese, halved blackberries and a vignette made with fig balsamic vinegar.  The combination of the sweetness in the salad with the mushroom garlic of the brochette was absolute tops!

Broccoli Rabe Bruschetta

I have intentionally left off the salt because the aged ricotta is rather salty and I am always trying to keep out salt intake to a minimum.  From start to finish this recipe will take you about 15 minutes or less making it a super quick and easy appetizer.
Ingredients:
1 Bunch Broccoli Rabe
2/3 Cup Aged Ricotta (which is dry and rather salty)
½ Loaf Country Bread sliced thick
1 Cup Jerusalem Artichokes thinly sliced
4 T. Olive oil
Pepper
Method:
Brush both sides of the bread slices with 2 tablespoons olive oil and grill until golden brown.
Sauté the artichoke slices in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium/high heat until golden brown then add the Broccoli Rabe  and continue sautéing until broccoli is wilted.
Pile the broccoli rabe and artichokes on each slice of bread then top with crumbled cheese.
Serve and enjoy!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Level 4 Cake


A while ago I was asked to recreate a lemon cake recipe that had been lost for about 40 years.  All I had to go on was the description of a cake my friend’s grandmother used to make when she was very young!  After researching old recipes and more experimenting than I care to admit; in other words my family didn’t want to see a lemon cake for many months, the final result is a moist simply yummy lemon cake.  BUT, with all that we have to do during the holiday season, feel free to use a box lemon cake.  Add the juice of ½ lemon per box (reduce the water amount by how much lemon juice you have) and ¼ cup Philadelphia Pineapple Cream Cheese (reduce the oil by ½ cup) per box.
I always make this a large four layer cake, so I double the cake recipe or use 2 box cake mixes. You certainly can make a two layer cake if you don’t have too many to feed!
Yellow Lemon Cake Ingredients:
·         2 cups sifted cake flour
·         3/4 teaspoon baking soda
·         1/2 teaspoon salt
·         1/3 cup shortening
·         1/3 cup butter
·         1 cup sugar
·         3 eggs, separated
·         1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
·         1/2 teaspoon lemon extract
·         ½ teaspoon lemon rind finely grated
·         1/2 cup buttermilk
·         2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
Method:
1.      Sift flour, baking soda and salt together.
2.      In mixing bowl, cream butter and shortening; add sugar gradually, creaming until light and fluffy. Add egg yolks; beat until very light. Add vanilla and lemon extract; blend well.
3.      Combine buttermilk and vinegar. Add dry ingredients to creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture. Beat until batter is smooth. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites.
4.      Pour buttermilk cake batter into greased 7 x 10 x 2-inch baking pan or 2 8-inch layer cake pans.
5.      Bake single at 350°. 35 to 45 minutes; layers at 375°. 25 to 30 minutes.
Cranberry Filling Ingredients:
1.      1 (8 ounce) package Philadelphia cream Cheese
2.      ¾ cup powdered sugar
3.      ¾ cup cranberry sauce (Naturally I make my own, see earlier post)
Method:
1.      Mix all ingredients well
2.      Spread 1/3 of mixture on top of layer one
3.      Repeat for layers 2 and 3
4.      Top with layer four
5.      Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours or up to 24 before frosting
6.      Frost cake with simple whipped white frosting
7.      Pipe frosting around the top of the cake to create a place for cranberry sauce
8.      Spread about ¾ cup cranberry sauce on top of cake
Frosting Ingredients:
1.      1 (8 ounce) package Philadelphia Cream Cheese softened
2.      ½ cup butter softened
3.      About 10-12 ounces marshmallow fluff
4.      About 6 cups powdered sugar
Method:
1.      Cream the butter and cream cheese until smooth and fluffy
2.      Add the marshmallow fluff and mix well
3.      Add about 4 cups powdered sugar and mix well; keep adding additional sugar until you get the desired consistency.