December 13, 2010

... Sugared Cranberries

'Tis the season for munching and snacking, fa la la la la la la la la.

It seems that everywhere you turn there's a cookie, a brownie, a truffle... amiright?  And, if you're anything like me, they don't last for long.  Well, here's another little tasty treat that's perfect for the holiday season.

Fresh, juicy and tart cranberries soaked in simple syrup and rolled in superfine sugar...

They're sweet and tart and the perfect size to pop in your mouth put in a pretty dish to have for guests...

... or package up and take to friends.

And who doesn't like a little sweet and tart in between their chocolate?!?

Serves 9 (about 1/3 cup each)

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups water
2 - 3 cups fresh cranberries (1 12-oz bag)
3/4 cup superfine sugar (also called Baker's Sugar)

Combine granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring mixture until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a simmer; remove from heat (do not boil or the cranberries may pop when added).  Wash cranberries and pick them over, discarding any with soft spots.  Stir cranberries into the sugar mixture; pour mixture into a bowl.  Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl.  Discard syrup.  Place superfine sugar in a shallow dish.  Add the cranberries, rolling to coat with sugar.  Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet; let stand at room temperature for one hour or until dry.

Taylor's Notes:
These truly are as easy as they seem, however if you make 12 times as many (like I may or may not have), it'll take you a bit of time.  

When adding the cranberries to the superfine sugar, add only a few big spoon fulls of cranberries at a time so that they aren't too crowded and are sure to get covered completely.  

These should last at least a week at room temperature... if you can keep yourself from snacking on them, that is.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

November 23, 2010

... Parmesan-Scallion Pastry Pinwheels

'Tis the season for quick and easy appetizer recipes.  These little guys are really tasty and, although a little time consuming, very easy.

Amidst all of the sweets that tend to grace us by the tinsel-covered table fulls, these savory pinwheels will be just what you're looking for.  You know, after one sweet and before the next.

serves 8

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 large egg, beaten
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (1 1/2 ounces)
kosher salt and black pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

Unfold the pastry and brush with the egg.  Sprinkle with the scallions, 1/4 cup of the Parmesan, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Roll tightly into a log.  Freeze until firm but still sliceable, about 20 minutes.

Slice the log into 1/4-inch thick rounds and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: The pinwheels can be baked up to 6 hours in advance; store covered at room temperature.  Alternatively, make and freeze the log, tightly wrapped, up to 1 week in advance.  Let thaw slightly before slicing and baking.

Taylor's Notes:

The toughest part about this recipe was realizing that I hadn't allowed much time to let the puff pastry thaw.  After a little bit of patience, a lot of pacing, and about 20 minutes, the pastry was finally ready to use.  

I only used the green parts of the scallions and felt like I probably could have used one more.  I'm sure if I actually used the entire thing, three scallions would have been plenty.  

If you actually plan ahead (unlike I did), I would recommend leaving the prepared log in the freezer for about 30 minutes.  It'll make slicing much easier and the rolls will stay tighter while they bake.  

These were best when eaten warm and only 'ok' at room temperature.  I'd definitely plan to serve them hot out of the oven if at all possible.


... Goat Cheese with Pistachios and Cranberries

The title of this recipe couldn't be more true... goat cheese, pistachios, cranberries.  That's it, folks.  That's it and you have one great - and super easy - appetizer for the holidays.

And its colors couldn't be more perfect for the upcoming season.  So grab three quick ingredients, about five spare minutes and you'll have a great little appetizer to take to your next holiday party.

I tried it out on crackers and it was pretty decent.  Well, let me clairfy.  The cheese mixture was terrific.  The cracker and cheese combo was fine.  I think I'll toast some crostini next time and it'll hit the spot.  

Enjoy your holiday season!

serves 8

2 tablespoons roasted pistachios, chopped
2 tablespoons dried cranberries, chopped
1 8- to 10-ounce log fresh goat cheese

On a large plate, combine the pistachios and cranberries.

Roll the goat cheese in the fruit and nut mixture to coat.  Serve with crackers or bread.

Note: The cheese can be coated up to 2 days in advance; refrigerate covered.

Taylor's Notes:
I didn't find that rolling the cheese in the mixture really picked up the fruit and nuts quite like I'd hoped, so I ended up just pressing them onto the log.  Worked like a dream - I told you this recipe was easy.  


October 29, 2010

... Pepita Granola

Have I mentioned my love for granola?  I've bought it more often than I've made it, but when I made it here and it was really tasty... and easy... and probably so much better for me than the store-bought stuff. 

When I came across this recipe on one of my go-to blogs, I couldn't wait to make it.  It seemed so Fall-ish with its pumpkin seeds, nuts and spices... it was just what I was looking for.

And when it's paired with pumpkin butter and plain yogurt, it's perfection on a crisp Fall morning.

Pepita Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup green (hulled) pumpkin seeds, sometimes called pepitas (not roasted)
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup mild honey
pinch cinnamon
pinch salt

1 cup tart dried cherries
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup dried pears (1/4 inch dice)
1/2 cup diced dried apricots (1/4 inch dice)
1/3 cup golden raisins


2 3/4 cup mixed dried fruit of your choice

Accompaniment: plain yogurt flavored with vanilla extract, pumpkin butter, or apple butter.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Stir together all ingredients except the fruit in a large bowl until combined.  Spread mixture evenly on a large (17x12) shallow baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes, but checking every five minutes after the 15-minute mark because it burns quickly.  Transfer granola, in pan, to rack to cool stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes.

Stir in dried fruit.

Granola keeps frozen (the fruit's moisture softens granola if not kept frozen) in an airtight container, for a few months.

Taylor's Notes:

Ok, she's really not kidding about how quickly granola can burn.  I baked mine just like she said, for 15 minutes, stir, and then check every 5 minutes.  I took it out after 20 minutes... total.  And when I do it over again, I'll probably take it out at 17 1/2 minutes.  It burns quickest at the edges, so be sure to pay close attention to those areas when stirring.

As far as fruit, I used 1 cup of dried figs, halved, 1 cup of dried sweetened blueberries, and 3/4 cup of dried tart cherries.  I'm still on the hunt for dried pears... yum.


October 24, 2010

... Pumpkin Butter

Who else is glad the 'Great Pumpkin Shortage of 2009' is a thing of the past?  This girl is, that's who.  And when I found this recipe I knew it for sure.

I don't know what flavor screams "fall!" more than pumpkin.  Add to that brown sugar, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and you have the makings for one sweet treat.

And why not share the love?  Pack that pumpkin in some cute little jars to give to friends and you'll soon realize you just might need to make another batch... for yourself!

Pumpkin Butter

1 (29 ounce) can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup apple juice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/3 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Juice of half a lemon (or 3 tablespoons lemon juice)

Combine pumpkin, apple juice, spices, and sugar in a large saucepan; stir well.  Bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes or until thickened.  Stir frequently.  Adjust spices to taste.  Stir in lemon juice, or more to taste.

Once cool, pumpkin butter can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

To preserve: Spoon hot pumpkin mixture into hot jars, filling to within 1/4 inch from top.  Remove air bubbles; wipe jar rims.  Cover at once with metal lids, and screw on bands.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Taylor's Notes:
After I realized just how quickly I was going through that 'cute little jar' I decided to make another batch.  I'm not quite sure how, but the two batches were totally different.  The first was runny and took forever to thicken up (splattering and making a huge mess in the process) and the second was perfectly thick from the get go.  What I know to be true is that I definitely forgot the lemon juice in the second batch and I may or may not have only added a teaspoon of cinnamon to the first batch.  Don't ask me how... I must have been overcome with the amazing aroma that I wasn't concentrating on the recipe.  But, what I also know to be true is that both the batches taste really great.

I wasn't quite sure how preserving would work, so I called Grandma and got some great advice, as usual.  Follow the recipe to preserve as written above, but instead of processing the jars in a water bath, flip the jars over and let them sit until the metal lid has popped.  If you push down on the lid and it pops back, flip those jars back over and let them sit a while longer.  Just to be safe, I'd recommend keeping the pumpkin butter in the refrigerator, but to be honest it probably won't be around long enough for it to go bad. 

I was able to fill four 8-ounce jars with one batch of the mixture... which made for six lucky friends and just enough left for me.


October 4, 2010

...Shrimp and Corn Chowder

It's Fall and you know what that means... soup, chowder, and chili... oh my!  Fall is absolutely my favorite season and I'm pretty sure part of that has to do with the comfort food.  So warm and cozy, how could you not love it?

This chowder was really easy to make and had great flavor with all the veggies and, ahem, bacon drippings (see below).

Serve it up with hot crusty roasted garlic bread and Fall will quickly become your favorite season, too.

Especially if you follow it up with Apple Crisp for dessert... thanks Mom!

serves 4 (in reality, more like 6)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 leeks (white and light green parts), chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 8-ounce bottle clam juice
3 cups whole milk
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3/4 pound cooked peeled and deveined medium shrimp
1 10-ounce package frozen corn
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the leeks and fennel, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 minutes, stir in the flour.

Add the clam juice, milk, and potatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes.  Stir in the shrimp and corn and cook until the potatoes are tender and the shrimp and corn are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes.  Stir in the parsley and lemon juice.  

Tip: Top it with crumbled bacon.  Cook 6 slices in a large saucepan until crisp.  Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate and use the pan drippings instead of the butter to cook the leeks and fennel.

Taylor's Notes:
This is the first time I've ever cooked with leeks or fennel.  Leeks... easy!  Fennel... what the heck do I do with this thing?!  I treated it like an onion and just chopped it up.  Not sure if that's exactly right, but it worked, and look at me trying something new!

I took the tip of sauteing the veggies in the bacon drippings and, although I haven't had the recipe the other way, I'd definitely recommend the bacon.  Everything is better with bacon, amiright?

It was a really easy and tasty recipe and perfect for a cool, fall evening.  


October 3, 2010

...Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

A fall barbeque on a gorgeous day calls for a fall treat and these Pumpkin Cupcakes were just the thing!

Made in a mini cupcake version, they're the perfect bite-size treat... whether you have one or three!

The cardinal rule of baking things for other people is that you must taste them first... always.  Even if that means you have to have it for dinner... always.  I tell you what, it's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it.

Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 24 cupcakes

1 18.5-ounce box yellow cake mix (plus ingredients called for in the package directions)
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree
2 8-ounce bars cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
24 pieces candy corn

Heat over to 350 degrees.  Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners.  Prepare the cake mix as directed but with the following change: Add the pumpkin pie spice and substitute the can of pumpkin puree for the water called for in the package directions.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin tins and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 22 minutes.  Let cool.

Meanwhile, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until creamy.  Spread on the cupcakes and top each with a piece of candy corn.

Taylor's Notes:
I used Duncan Hines yellow cake mix and followed the directions on the box for the lower fat version, but added the pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice as directed above.  I also added a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the batter. 

I set out to make mini cupcakes and baked them for 18 minutes.  I had a bit of leftover batter so made regular size cupcakes as well and ended up baking them for a minute or so longer.  It'll likely vary per your oven, but use the toothpick and you'll have success every time!

For the cream cheese frosting, I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese with the 2 cups of powdered sugar.  I added 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract to the frosting, too, and about the same of nutmeg.  I think I'll add a little more next time... it adds to the autumn spicy-ness of the cupcake.

I didn't add the candy corn on top this time, but I did last year as a Halloween treat and they were really cute!


September 19, 2010

...Chicken Stuffed with Spinach, Feta, and Pine Nuts

Family Dinner... September 2010.  Nearly a year after I start the blog and I have a full house for dinner.  So much fun... tight quarters, but fun!  I decided to try a new recipe, which is usually a risk for company, but what better guinea pigs than family, right? 

A bit of a Mediterranean spin on standard baked chicken: spinach, pine nuts, feta and garlic... all stuffed into a pocket (this time on the side of the chicken rather than the top...lesson learned).

And while the chicken bakes: wine... we never forget wine...

Great flavors, but it was missing just a little something... a sauce... more seasoning... not sure.  I'll have to work on this one a bit.  The currant couscous was a great side, though!  All in all, a good choice for a fun, family dinner.

Chicken Stuffed with Spinach, Feta, and Pine Nuts
serves 4

5 ounces fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 (6 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat a large nonstick oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add spinach to pan; cook 1 minute or until spinach wilts, tossing constantly.  Place spinach in colander; press until barley moist.  Wipe pan clean.

Combine spinach, cheese, nuts, thyme, juice, and garlic.  Cut a horizontal slit through the thickest portion of each chicken breast half to form a pocket.  Stuff 3 tablespoons filling into each pocket.  Seal with wooden picks.  Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.

Heat oil in pan over medium-high heat.  Add chicken; cook 3 minutes on each side or until brown.  Add broth, and cover pan.  Place pan in oven.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until done.  

Taylor's Notes:

This was a really easy one, especially since I was sure to prep everything before I started cooking.  I knew I'd be distracted with all the company and was sure I'd forget something (which I still did) and wanted to be sure to be able to enjoy my family while I cooked (which I still did).  I missed adding the lemon juice to the spinach / cheese / nut / garlic mixture.  Maybe that's what the end result was missing... I'm sure it would have brightened it a bit, not sure if it would have made all the difference.  

Since there were several of us, I baked the chicken in a 9x13 pan rather than in the skillet that I browned it in.  Other than being one more pan to clean (which Mom did... thanks Mom!), it worked out perfectly.  

I would definitely recommend this recipe... let me know what you think and if you decide to add a little something extra.


September 12, 2010

...Blueberry Crumb Bars

I seem to be making quite a liar out of myself with this "I never make bars" talk.  Delicious recipes seem to be popping up everywhere I turn and I can't help but want to make them for myself.  When I saw these posted on one of my favorite blogs and realized that she had gotten the recipe from another one of my favorite blogs, I decided it was kismet and I must make them, too.  It starts out similar to these with a basic crumbly dough recipe.

Then you add plump, juicy, fresh blueberries... pop it in the oven and Voila!

It just so happened that I was planning to go to the K-State football game and that I'd promised to bring a dessert... and the fact that this dessert is purple and so are the Wildcats... well, again, kismet.

Blueberry Crumb Bars
makes 24 bars

1 1/2 cups white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries
4 teaspoons cornstarch

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a 9x13-inch pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder.  Mix in salt and lemon zest.  Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg.  Dough will be crumbly.  Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, cornstarch, and lemon juice.  Gently mix in the blueberries.  Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust.  Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes or until top is slightly brown.  Cool completely before cutting into squares.

Taylor's Notes:
Another easy recipe... and fun, too, because you can get your hands dirty by using your fingertips to blend the butter and egg into the flour mixture.  I used a fork to get it all started and then used my fingers to really get it all blended together.

I bet you could use frozen-then-thawed blueberries for this recipe when fresh aren't in season, but, as I'm sure you know, fresh always tastes better.  Deb from Smitten Kitchen says that she substitutes other fruit during the year - like cranberries in the fall - and uses orange zest and juice in place of the lemon.  Sounds delicious to me!

These didn't keep as well as I'd hoped.  The crumb topping got a little soft after a day or so, but they're still quite tasty and will be wonderful warmed up for breakfast!


September 9, 2010

...Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

Ok, whoever came up with the idea of breakfast for dinner is brilliant.  I mean, the kind of brilliant that deserves a medal.  Or a hug, a big, big hug.

Today was a dreary, drizzly, kind of cool, almost Fall kind of day... the perfect kind of day for comfort food.  And so it became clear, on my drive home, that I should make pancakes.  And I should make them with a wonderfully decadent blueberry sauce.  And so I did.

And it was the best decision I'd made all day.  Even the dogs agree!

Now, there's really not much to making pancakes and I would assume that most people have their favorite recipe.  So, I'm not going to tell you how I used Aunt Jemima mix, added and egg, some milk, and a little oil and had the best pancakes I've ever made.  But what I can do is give you a few tips and tricks to help you get great pancakes on your plate every time.  
  1. If you can get my dad to make them for you, do it.  He's the best pancake maker ever.  Seriously.
  2. If you can't, follow these simple rules...
    1. Make sure your pan is hot enough.  Heat it over medium to medium-high heat.  Not too hot or your pancakes will be crisp on the outside and gooey in the middle.  Yuck.  A good trick is to sprinkle water on the pan.  When the water bubbles up and sizzles away, your pan is hot enough.
    2. Don't crowd your pancakes.  Depending on the size of your pan, only pour the batter for two or three at a time.  
    3. Let them be!  Your batter will bubble up and you'll be able to see the edges start to form.  Only then should you flip them.  And when you do, they'll be a beautiful golden brown.

Now don't get me wrong, I love a good pancake with butter and syrup just like the next girl, but sometimes you just want a little something extra.  Take a look at this and tell me if that's not a little something extra...

1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups berries or other ripe fruit - apples, pears, bananas, peaches, etc...

Combine 1/2 cup water with the sugar and butter in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, shaking and stirring, until the mixture is thick and syrupy but not browned.

Toss in the fruit and cook over low heat until the fruit begins to break up and release its juices, about 2 minutes for berries, longer for other fruit.  Press fruit through a fine-mesh strainer or run it through a food mill to puree and remove any skins or seeds.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  This sauce keeps well, refrigerated, for up to a week.

Taylor's Notes:

I had no doubt that I'd find the recipe I needed in my How to Cook Everything cookbook.  That book should seriously be in everyone's cookbook collection.

I followed the recipe exactly (with the exception of halving it) and it came out perfectly.  Oh, I also didn't press the fruit through a strainer or puree it as I wanted some whole fruit on my pancakes.  But other than that, I followed the other steps to a tee.  

Getting the butter / sugar / water mixture to thicken took about 5 minutes after the butter melted.  As you can see in the pictures above, it'll all melt, then foam, and then thicken.  I added the blueberries and tossed them around for about two minutes and then took the pan off the heat and let it set until my pancakes were done.  

It was easy and then end result had me wishing I hadn't fed the rest of the pancakes to the dogs. 


September 7, 2010

...Pepper Jack, Chicken, and Peach Quesadillas

Oh, wow.  This is a new favorite recipe.  If you know me very well, you know that I'm not a girl who enjoys leftovers.  I made this for dinner last night and again for dinner tonight.  Enough said.

The minute this recipe appeared in my inbox I knew I had to try it.  This is the perfect time of year, too, when the peaches are ripe, juicy and fragrant.  The blending of the spicy pepper jack cheese and the sweet peaches is, well, perfect.

I literally just finished dinner (yes, I had this for the second time this week and, yes, it's only Tuesday) and now these pictures are making me hungry for another.  No... I'm not having another tonight... but there's always tomorrow.   

Pepper Jack, Chicken, and Peach Quesadillas
serves 4

1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeno peppers
1 cup chopped, skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
1 cup thinly sliced peeled firm ripe peaches
4 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro

Combine honey and lime juice in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Stir sour cream into honey mixture; cover and chill until ready to serve.

Place tortillas flat on a work surface.  Sprinkle 3 tablespoons cheese over half of each tortilla; top each tortilla with 1/4 cup chicken, 1/4 cup peaches, and 1 teaspoon cilantro.  Fold tortillas in half.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Coat pan with cooking spray.  Place 2 quesadillas in the pan, and top quesadillas with a cast-iron or other heavy skillet.  Cook 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until tortillas are crisp and lightly browned.  Remove quesadillas from pan; set aside, and keep warm.  Repeat procedure with the remaining quesadillas.  Cut each quesadilla into wedges.  Serve with sauce.

Taylor's Notes:

These were so good and easy.  The pepper jack cheese and the sweet peaches... rotisserie chicken, (hello! time saver), and the honey-lime sour cream... definitely don't skip that part!  

A tasty, quick, and simple meal that's easy to make for one or more - just reduce (or eyeball as I do) the ingredients based on how many you're serving.  Or, be sure you have plenty of ingredients on hand so you can have it again and again... and perhaps, again!


... Peach Shortbread

Bars are never something that I think about too much when I'm in the mood to bake.  I'm not sure why... there are so many varieties and they're usually pretty easy to make (and the fact that I just posted on Lemon Bars kind of makes this whole paragraph a lie... but we won't go there).  Regardless, when I came across this recipe I knew it was definitely one I wanted to try.

Peaches, shortbread, brown butter... love, yum, ok!  I've never had anything bad from her site so I had no doubt this time would be any different.

And I was right.  These were easy as... well, I would say pie... but these are way easier than pie.

Peach Shortbread

1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced (between 1/8- and 1/4-inch thick)

Brown your butter:  Melt butter in a small/medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty.  Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do.  Keep your eyes on it; it burns very quickly after it browns and will the very second that you turn around to do something else.  Set it in the freezer until solid (about 30 minutes).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 9x13 inch pan, or spray it with a nonstick spray.  In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, baking powder, flour, salt, and spices with a whisk.  Using a pastry blender, fork, or your fingertips, blend the solidified brown butter and egg into the flour mixture.  It will be crumbly.  Pat 3/4 of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing firmly.  Tile peach slices over crumb base in a single layer. Scatter remaining crumbs evenly over peaches and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until top is slightly brown and you can see a little color around the edges.  Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.

Taylor's Notes:
I'm still getting the hang of browning butter, so I keep trying knowing what an incredible difference it makes.  It's certainly something that takes some practice and patience to get it brown, but not burn it.  You can make this recipe with softened butter instead and it will be good, but man, what a difference brown butter can make.

I definitely think the best way to blend the flour mixture with the butter and egg is to start with a fork and then use your fingertips.  It's messy, yes, but isn't that the fun of baking??  


September 6, 2010

...Renee's Lemon Bars

One of my all-time favorite desserts has always been lemon bars.  Gooey and tart, buttery and sweet, what more could you want?  I've decided that I'm going on a mission to find the best lemon bar recipe.  Come with me, won't you?  This is number one of, well, I don't know how many, but I bet it'll be fun to find out!

I found this recipe in a Nordstrom Friends and Family cookbook that I've had for years.  And, for years, have been wanting to try it.  Don't ask why it's taken me so long.  Based on the outcome, that was a silly move.

Renee's Lemon Bars
makes about 18 bars

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for preparing baking pan
1 cup powdered sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour

4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

more powdered sugar for dusting

To make the crust, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.  Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium-low speed, cream together the 1 cup butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl once.  Add the flour and mix until well blended.  Spread the mixture in an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the prepared pan.

Bake the crust until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool completely.  Raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

To make the filling, in a bowl, using an electric mixer set on medium-high speed, beat the eggs until well blended, about 2 minutes.  Add the granulated sugar and beat until thick.  Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, flour, and baking powder and beat until well blended and pale yellow.  Pour the filling over the baked crust, and use a rubber spatula to spread it evenly.

Bake until the filling is set - firm on the edges, but still a little soft in the middle - 15 to 20 minutes.  Remove from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool slightly.  Using a fine-mesh sieve or a sifter, dust the top with powdered sugar while still warm.  Cut into bars about 3 by 2 inches and serve warm.  Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Taylor's Notes:

These were very easy to make and I think they were a perfect choice to start the lemon bar mission.  I baked them for 15 minutes and would probably leave them in for another minute or two if/when I make them again.  The edges were set up perfectly but, although they were only a little soft in the middle, they were somewhat runny when I cut them.

I didn't try them warm, as I took them to work the following day, but they were delicious at room temperature and even better chilled.  They kept well for a couple of days in the refrigerator, even uncovered.  


August 12, 2010

...Cappuccino Parfaits

No Sisters Night is ever complete without dessert, so after this and this, we indulged in a not-so-sinful, but definitely tasty concoction.  

With only four simple ingredients and about 10 minutes of work, you, too, can have a delicious dessert that won't leave you feeling guilty for days.

The cool, creaminess of the parfait matched with the crunchy bite of the cookie was a perfect balance for a sweet after-dinner treat.

Cappuccino Parfaits
serves 4

1 container (15 ounces) part-skim ricotta
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
4 crisp amaretti cookies

In a food processor, puree the ricotta, sugar, and espresso powder until very smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, 1 to 2 minutes.

Dividing evenly, spoon the mixture into 4 glasses or serving dishes.  Refrigerate, covered, until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.

Just before serving, crumble the cookies over the parfaits.

Taylor's Notes:
I had ground espresso on hand and used that.  I think it worked just fine, the end result was just more granulated than the image in the cookbook.

I only got 3 servings out of the recipe, about 1/2 cup each, so I would double it if you plan on serving more.  But actually, the servings I made were a bit on the heavy side, so I would say go for smaller servings... four out of this recipe is probably just about right.

I added a little more sugar while I was blending the ingredients just to make it a bit sweeter.  Maybe a tablespoon or two more - do whatever tastes right to you.

I couldn't find amaretti cookies, so bought Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux cookies instead for their claim of "carmelized sweetness."  Because, really, who doesn't love espresso and caramel?