December 26, 2011

... Cranberry Bars

Happy Holidays!  My (beautiful) sister made these for our family to snack on during Christmas weekend and they were delicious.  Perfect for a late-night snack, breakfast on Christmas morning, or, well, breakfast the day after Christmas.

I couldn't resist making them for my (amazing) neighbors.  Hence the reason I don't have a picture of these actually cut into bars.  It's all I could do to not dive into one... especially when they were hot out of the oven.

I hope you all had the merriest of holidays and have a happy happy happy new year!

Cranberry Bars
serves 15 (at least!)

1 (12 ounce) package whole cranberries
1 cup white sugar
3/4 cup water
1 package yellow cake mix
3/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the cranberries, white sugar, and water.  Cook, stirring occasionally until all of the cranberries have popped, and the mixture is thick, about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix, melted butter, and eggs. Stir in the oats, brown sugar, ginger, and cinnamon.  Set aside about 1 1/2 cups of the mixture and spread the rest into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking dish.  Pack down to form a solid crust, getting it as even as possible.  Spread the cooled mixture over the crust.  Pinch off pieces of the remaining mixture and place evenly over the cranberry layer.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, until the top is lightly browned.  Cool in the pan for about 40 minutes before slicing into bars.

Taylor's Notes:
These are so easy, so good, and make your house smell amazing while they're baking and cooling.  Win. Win. Win.

I cooked the cranberries for 20 minutes and the bars for 35 minutes.  They're delicious cool and amazing when they're warm... say, for breakfast... with coffee.  Mmmm, now I'm wishing I had bought two bags of cranberries.


December 7, 2011

... Risotto with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Cremini Mushrooms

I think we've established how much I love risotto and what a fan I am of Mark Bittman.  Seriously, there's nothing you can't learn from the man and risotto is just, well, perfect for anything you need it to be.  Tonight I needed it to be comfort food on a cold night and a perfect partner to a good glass of red and Florence's Lungs.  

As always, it didn't disappoint.

Simple Risotto
serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil, to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
large pinch saffron threads (optional)
1 1/2 cups arborio or other short- or medium-grain rice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine or water
4 to 6 cups chicken, beef, or vegetable stock
2 to 4 tablespoons softened butter or extra virgin olive oil
freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Put the 2 tablespoons butter or oil in a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium heat.  (Allow the remaining butter to soften while you cook).  When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add the oil and saffron and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with butter or oil, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add a little salt and pepper, then the white wine.  Stir and let the liquid bubble away.

Use a ladle to begin adding the stock, 1/2 cup or so at a time, stirring after each addition.  When the stock is just about evaporated, add more.  The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry.  Keep the heat at medium to medium-high and stir frequently.

Begin tasting the rice 20 minutes after you add it; you want it to be tender but still with a tiny bit of crunch; it could take as long as 30 minutes to reach this stage.  When it does, stir in the softened butter or oil (more is better, at least from the perspective of taste!) and at least 1/2 cup of parmesan if you're using it.  Taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve immediately, passing additional parmesan at the table if you like.

Taylor's Notes:
Yes and Yes.  Follow this recipe and you'll be golden.  As I mentioned, I roasted a sweet potato and cremini mushrooms to add to the risotto.  Here's how...

Heat your oven to 400 degrees.  Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over a rimmed baking sheet.  Add cubed sweet potato (washed, skin on or off), drizzle a little more oil over the potato and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Roast in the oven for 20 minutes (time will depend on the size of your potato cubes.)  After 20 minutes, I tossed the potatoes, added the cremini mushrooms (some halved, some not, depending on size), drizzled a little more olive oil and popped it back in the oven for 10 minutes.  By this time, you should be adding your butter and parmesan to your risotto.  Toss the potatoes and mushrooms one more time and add a tablespoon or so of chopped fresh rosemary.  Roast for 5 more minutes and then pull it out of the oven and stir into the risotto.  

Top your amazing dish with a little more parmesan if you'd like (and who wouldn't?) and a sprig of rosemary if you want to be all fancy and stuff.