March 29, 2012

... Garlic Toasts with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, & Goat Cheese

I don't know about you, but I am loving this early Spring / Summer we're having.  I know it'll most likely be like an inferno this summer, but right now I'm soaking up the gorgeous, sunny 80 degree temps we have in Kansas City.  And getting to use fresh produce like this certainly doesn't hurt...

I made this for wine club last night and it was a huge hit.  Really easy to prepare and the perfect size to bite on with a crisp glass of Sauvignon Blanc while sitting outside with some of your most fun girlfriends... heaven.

Garlic Toasts with Cherry Tomatoes, Basil, & Goat Cheese
serves 6-8

2 cups cherry tomatoes, preferably a mix of red and yellow, stemmed and halved
2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 baguette, cut into 16 slices about 1/4-inch thick
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup olive oil
3 ounces mild goat cheese, at room temperature

In a bowl, combine the tomatoes, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil and toss to mix well.  Let the mixture stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Arrange the bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Rub the garlic halves over one side of the bread and brush lightly with the olive oil.  Bake until golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes.

Spread each toast with the goat cheese, top with a spoonful of the tomato mixture, and serve at once.

Taylor's Notes:
This was really easy to make and is the perfect appetizer or snack for Spring and Summer.  I followed the recipe except that I minced and mashed the garlic cloves with a little kosher salt and added it to the goat cheese rather than rubbing the cloves on the toasts.  Either way would be delicious, but I was with a group of garlic-lovers so we opted for the choice that would give us more flavor.  Good thing we didn't have dates that night!


March 15, 2012

... Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Cream Cheese Frosting

When a recipe calls for these two things as main ingredients, you should be quick to find a reason to make said recipe.  Lucky for me, St. Patty's Day is right around the corner.  

Those little bottles above, accompanied by a little cream cheese and powdered sugar, make the most incredible frosting.  I actually wondered aloud to myself... to my dog... to myself (which is worse?) why you wouldn't make this frosting for anything and everything you'd want to frost?  Trust me.  I don't lie.

Those scrumptious little guys below may not be as cute as Gina's, but I can only believe that they're every bit as delicious.  Oh, did I mention that Gina is the brilliant mind behind the blog Skinny Taste?  Yep, you read that right... these cupcakes won't even make you feel guilty!  Now who's the lucky one?

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Bailey's Irish Cream Cheese Frosting
serves 12

For the Bailey's Frosting:
5.5 ounces 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons Bailey's Irish Cream

For the cupcakes:
3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup flour
7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg
1/2 cup stout
4 ounces unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
cooking spray

Combine all the frosting ingredients in a medium bowl and mix until smooth with an electric mixer.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cupcake tin with 12 liners and lightly spray liners with oil (to prevent sticking).

In a large bowl, sift together all the dry ingredients : sugar, flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.

In a medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients (egg through canola oil) and beat until smooth.

With a mixer, slowly add the sifted flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.  Pour into cupcake liners and bake 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Taylor's Notes:
The only switch up I made to this recipe was using vegetable oil instead of canola oil.  I'm sure it makes a difference in the nutritional value (although at only 1 1/2 tablespoons I can't imagine it's huge), but I couldn't tell that it made a bit of difference in the taste.  

I found the Double Chocolate Stout at my fave liquor store, but Gina mentioned she found her's at Trader Joes.  If you can't find it anywhere, I would bet that any dark stout would do.  I even saw a Mocha Stout at my store... mmm, coffee and Bailey's.  It just makes sense.  


March 12, 2012

... Brownie Cookies

Brownie Cookies?  What could be better than that?!  Oh, I don't know, perhaps say, light brownie cookies?  Yes, you heard me right.  My new favorite cookbook wins again.  Yea new cookbook!

Sisters, brothers-in-law, and super adorable two-year-old nephews alike all love this amazing, chocolate, cookie.  You will, too, I promise.

Brownie Cookies
makes 34

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of simmering water.  Stir until melted, then remove bowl from heat and let cool.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars on medium-high speed until fluffy.  Add eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.  With mixer on low speed, add chocolate and flour mixture in alternating batches; mix just until combined after each (do not overmix; the consistency will be more like brownie batter than stiffer cookie dough).

Drop dough by heaping tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, onto two parchment-lined baking sheets.  Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in center of a cookie comes out clean, 14 to 16 minutes.  Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.  (Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 4 days.)

Taylor's Notes:
In one word... delicious.  I may have made a slight misjudgement on the size of the cookie as my batch only made 17... oops!  Still, I'm guessing a double-size cookie is less than one brownie of this deliciousness.  


... Lighter Chicken Enchiladas

I love new cookbooks.  Shocker, I'm sure.  I especially love new cookbooks that are kind of sequels to a favorite cookbook that I already have and are dubbed "light".  Win win.  If you're in the market for a new one, I'd highly recommend Everyday Food : Light... the sister of Everyday Food : Great Food Fast.  Really, you should own both, because they're both excellent... yes, do that, buy both.

Look at that sauce!  That light (!) sauce!  Don't you just want to dip your finger in it?

I honestly think that you could use this chicken mixture as the topping for nachos or put it in tacos, but it's really good rolled in corn tortillas and doused in sauce and topped with cheese... with a little dollop of light sour cream.

Lighter Chicken Enchiladas
serves 4

3 boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves (6 to 8 ounces each)
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 to 2 tablespoons minced canned chipotles in adobo
1 can (14.5 ounces) low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup water
8 corn tortillas (6-inch), warmed
1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese (2 ounces)

In a large skillet, bring 1 inch water to a boil.  Add chicken and season with salt; cover and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer 5 minutes; remove skillet from heat.  Let chicken steam, covered, until cooked through, 12 to 14 minutes.  Transfer chicken to a medium bowl; when cool enough to handle, shred with two forks.

While chicken is cooking, in a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.  Add garlic, cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add flour, cumin, and chipotles to taste; cook, whisking, 1 minute.  Whisk in broth and the water; bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, and cook, whisking occasionally, until sauce has thickened slightly, 5 to 8 minutes; season with salt and pepper.  Transfer 1 cup sauce to bowl with chicken; toss to combine.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spread 1/4 cup of remaining sauce evenly in an 8-inch square baking dish.  Fill each tortilla with chicken mixture, dividing evenly; roll up tightly, and arrange, seam side down, in baking dish.  Cover with remaining sauce, and top with cheese.  Bake until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling, 15 to 20 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

Taylor's Notes:
To warm the tortillas, stack them and wrap them in damp paper towels and microwave for 30 to 60 seconds until soft.  This really helps them to not crack and tear when you're filling and rolling them up.  

I get that this is a light recipe and I probably shouldn't add more sauce, but I think I'll make just a tad bit more on the next go around.  More sauce, less cheese... if I must make a sacrifice.  And, speaking of cheese, I used pepper jack for a little more spice.  And, for the same reason, I added 3 or 4 chipotle chilies.  

I had this for leftovers a couple times and even froze one serving.  It heats up really well and anyone who knows me knows how I feel about leftovers, so eating this four different times really says a lot!


... Mini Mocha Cheesecakes

Martha Stewart (or, more likely, her awesome team) strikes again with another great recipe from her terrific light cookbook.  Call me crazy, but Mini Mocha Cheesecakes seemed like the perfect addition to our wine club.  Chocolate, wine, great girlfriends... 

... and pureed cottage cheese?  I know, it's weird, but when it comes out looking like this, you'll want to give it a try, too.

Mini Mocha Cheesecakes
makes 9

2 cups nonfat cottage cheese
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder (not instant coffee)
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
9 chocolate wafer cookies, such as Famous
whipped cream, for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Line 9 cups of a standard muffing tin with paper liners.  In a food processor, combine cottage cheese, eggs, confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, flour, espresso powder, and vanilla.  Puree until smooth, about 4 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.

Divide mixture among prepared cups, filling each one just below rim, and place 1 cookie on top of each.  Bake until fillings are set and cookies soften, 25 to 30 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely in pan, then refrigerate (in pan) at least 1 1/2 hours (or up to 3 days, covered).

To serve, invert cheesecakes onto plates and peel off liners.  Top each with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.

Taylor's Notes:
I was a little leery of this one - pureed cottage cheese? - but after seeing the picture in the cookbook, I had to try it.  I knew my Cellar Dweller girls would be totally honest and, unless I'm wrong about them, they all agreed that it was a keeper of a recipe... especially at 196 calories.  Did you hear that?  196 calories for chocolate cheesecake!

I pureed my cottage cheese in my food processor and it worked great.  I must remember, however, to add a large processor to my wish list.  My mini guy does the trick, but takes a few may rounds to blend all the ingredients.  

As you can probably tell by the picture, I wasn't able to find chocolate wafer cookies, but did find wafer sugar cookies and those worked just as well - the slight crunch was a great change of texture.


... Salmon in Parchment with Green Beans and Lemon Zest

It was 79 degrees in Kansas City today.  Today is March 12.  79 degrees... on March 12.  In what universe does that happen!?!  My favorite universe, that's what.  Also a universe that makes a girl realize just how close we are to swimsuit season.  

So, what better way to prepare than fresh fish and veggies steamed in parchment in the oven?  This is arguably the quickest recipe I've come across in my new favorite cookbook.

If you're like me and this is your first time cooking in parchment, you can find three different ways to use it.  This is the 'twist', but all seem super easy and make this method of cooking a no-brainer.

Now if this doesn't look like a superb Spring dinner, I'm not sure what would.

Salmon in Parchment with Green Beans and Lemon Zest
serves 4

4 skinless salmon fillets (about 6 ounces each)
3/4 pound green beans, trimmed
12 wide strips (1 to 2 inches) lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon capers, rinsed and drained
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place salmon fillets in center of four 16-inch-long pieces of parchment.  Top with green beans, lemon zest, and capers.  Season with salt and pepper and drizzle each with 1 tablespoon oil. Fold parchment into a "twist" or "envelope" shape.  *"Twist" is folding the parchment over the food like a letter and then twisting each end tightly to hold; "Envelope" is bringing the wide ends of the parchment together then folding down three times on top of food.  Fold the ends under the food packet to hold.

Place packets on a rimmed baking sheet and transfer to oven.  Cook until packets are puffed up (salmon will be opaque throughout), 12 to 15 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Taylor's Notes:
This recipe is as easy as it sounds.  It's inexpensive, too... and delicious... and healthy... and quick... and what more could you want?!  I bought salmon fillets with the skin on and put them in the packet like that.  It's much easier to peel off once the salmon is cooked and, to my knowledge, it's not a bad thing to cook with the skin on.  Right?  C'mon, they do it in restaurants all the time... 


March 4, 2012

... Mini Mac n' Cheese Bites

There must be some tie between mac n' cheese and sporting events... or is that just me?  Mom made this recipe for the Cotton Bowl party she and Dad hosted.  These guys went over so well that it was a no brainer that I make them for the Super Bowl party I went to.  

How can you go wrong with three cheeses and macaroni in bite-size form?  Let me tell you, you can't.

What you can go wrong with is having to take a last minute picture for the ol' blog with your iPhone.  You'll just have to trust me when I tell you how good these are.  Look at that creamy cheese sauce above or check out the original recipe for validation.  You won't be sorry.

Mini Mac n' Cheese Bites
makes 48

1/2 pound elbow macaroni
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
4 ounces aged white cheddar cheese, grated
4 ounces Gruyere, grated
2 extra large egg yolks
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup Panko crumbs
pinch of kosher salt

Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add the macaroni and cook according to the manufacturer's directions.  Drain the macaroni and set aside.

Spray two 24-cup mini muffin tins with non-stick cooking spray.  In a small bowl, combine the Parmigiano-Reggiano and Panko.  Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Whisk in the flour and cook the mixture for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.  Add the milk and continue whisking until the mixture is thick, about 5 minutes. Add the cheddar and Gruyere and whisk until the cheeses are completely melted.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks.  Fold in the macaroni and season with salt.

Evenly fill the prepared muffin tins with the macaroni and cheese, about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle the Panko and cheese mixture evenly over the tops.  Bake the mini macs until they are sizzling and golden on top, about 10-12 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking.  Remove from the oven and let the mini macs cool for 5 minutes.  Using the edge of a small offset spatula, carefully remove the mini macs and transfer to a platter to serve.

Taylor's Notes:
Unlike the last Pinterest recipe I posted, these are really quick to make.  You can even make them ahead, stick them in the refrigerator, and bake them right before game time if you like.  They're best when warm, as you can imagine, so baking one pan at a time is a good idea if you don't have too many hungry fans hanging around.

Enjoy and Go Team!

... Salted Caramel Pudding Parfaits

Hello stranger!  It's been way too long since I've seen you... so sorry!  I have some good ones coming your way, though, so hopefully you'll forgive me.

Have you been introduced to Pinterest?  It's only the greatest way to waste time since the beginning of Facebook.  Only with Pinterest, you can actually be productive with recipes, crafts, and dreaming of a closet filled with fabulous clothes and shoes.  

Case in point : Salted Caramel Pudding Parfaits.  It didn't take long for me to find a reason to make these after I saw them pinned on a friend's board.  Happy Birthday to Dad! 

*Warning : this is one very long recipe with many steps.  Easy steps, but don't go thinking you're going to whip these babies up in an hour.  Absolutely worth it, though.  Most definitely.

Salted Caramel Pudding Parfaits
makes 8 servings (large) or 12-14 small

Cookie Crust
1 cup finely ground chocolate cookie crumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Salted Caramel Pudding
3 cups whole milk, divided
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup dark brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup water
5 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons dark rum (or brandy)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Salted Caramel Sauce (1/2 of the recipe)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds removed
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whipped Cream
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons granulated sugar

For the cookie crust :

  • Mix cookie crumbs, salt, and butter in a small bowl until well combined.  Set aside about 2 tablespoons of the cookie mixture for garnish.  Press 2 tablespoons (for large or half for a small cup) of the cookie crumbs into the bottom of mason jars or cups.  Set aside.

For the pudding :

  • In a small bowl, whisk 1/2 cup milk and cornstarch until combined.  Set aside.  
  • In a small saucepan, heat the remaining 2 1/2 cups of milk until simmering.  Remove from heat and set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk egg yolks on medium speed for about 3 minutes.
  • To make the caramel, stir the brown sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Increase the heat and cook without stirring until an instant thermometer reads 210-220 degrees.  Remove from heat.
  • With stand mixer at low speed, gradually whisk in the hot milk, then the cornstarch mixture into the eggs.  Slowly whisk in the caramel.  Return the mixture to the saucepan and whisk constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and a thermometer registers 175 degrees, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat; whisk in the butter, rum, and salt.  Pour through a sieve if necessary.
  • Pour 1/2 cup pudding over crust in each cup.  Cover and chill for 4-5 hours.  

For the salted caramel :

  • Using a medium saucepan, spread the sugar in an even layer over the bottom.
  • Measure the heavy cream and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean pod and put into the heavy cream.  Set aside.
  • Heat the sugar over medium-low heat.  When the sugar begins to bubble and liquify around the edges, use a heatproof spatula to push the sugar towards the center of the pot.  Continue to stir gently until all the sugar has melted.  Once the caramel reaches a deep amber color, immediately remove the pot from the heat.
  • Carefully pour in half of the heavy cream while whisking (the mixture will bubble vigorously).  Stir until incorporated, and then stir in the remaining cream.  Whisk in the vanilla extract and the salt.  
  • If any hard sugar has formed, stir the caramel over very low heat until the hardened pieces have melted and you have a smooth sauce.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Sauce can be reheated if necessary in the microwave or on the stovetop.
For the whipped cream:
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk heavy whipping cream and sugar on high until soft peaks form.
  • Spoon 2 tablespoons slightly cooled salted caramel sauce over pudding and top with lightly whipped cream.  Sprinkle with reserved cookie crumbs.
Taylor's Notes:
Ok, don't say I didn't warn you.  It's really a lot easier than it seems.  Promise.  And it's soooo worth it.  If nothing else, please make the caramel sauce.  You'll never understand why you ever purchased store-bought before and you'll never do it again.  Yes, it's that good.  

I honestly made this so long ago that I can't actually remember if I made a full or a half recipe.  I'm thinking half because I only got five parfaits out of what I made.  The servings weren't huge, but they were definitely enough... until I didn't have an extra the next night for dessert.  Sad face.  You know what I did have, though?  I had extra caramel sauce and that, my friends, is a most excellent thing.