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Archive for November, 2011

Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful!  And there were plenty of creative dishes made from turkey leftovers, but I didn’t think to take pictures until after we had already finished the dishes!  I’ll still share the recipes, but they’re never as much fun without the photos 😦 .  Today our family got back on track with work, house chores, and healthy eating.  So today’s recipe is ridiculously easy, but the star of it is the balsamic vinaigrette.  What a life changer it is when you finally are able to enjoy the same (or better most of the times) vinaigrettes in your own home that you find in good restaurants.  It makes eating salads so much better!  And part of the reason I always have dijon mustard in my refrigerator (and pantry-wouldn’t want to ever run out!) and balsamic and a few other vinegars on my counter, is so I can always whisk up a quick vinaigrette.  A great way to add flavor to something without adding unwanted fat.  At least it’s unsaturated fat when you’re using olive oil. 

Rotisserie Chicken Salad

Ingredients:
2 chicken breasts from your rotisserie chicken
1 cup of gourmet or heirloom tomatoes
3 tbsp of crumbled feta cheese
1 8 oz bag of butter lettuce or mixed greens
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 small clove of garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
 
Directions:

Dice up your chicken breasts and set aside.  Remove the skin if you want a leaner dish.  Chop your tomatoes into bite-sized portions.

In a large salad bowl place your mustard, salt, pepper, and balsamic vinegar.  Peel and dice your garlic clove on a cutting board, after dicing it add a little salt to it, and with the side of the blade of your knife smear the garlic to make it into a paste.  Add this to your bowl and whisk.  Next slowly drizzle in your 1/4 cup of olive oil, whisking as you add it.  You want to create air bubbles so you will emusify the vinegar with the oil; resulting in a thicker vinaigrette.  Toss your chicken, tomatoes, lettuce, and feta with the vinaigrette and serve.  This is another “fastfood” item I love to make when I’m short on time.  It takes about 5 minutes to put dinner on the table and it’s healthy and tasty 🙂

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As I sit here writing this post my entire house is filled with sweet aromas of roasting red bell peppers and cornbread that is sitting on the counter beginning to cool.  These are the kinds of smells that whet my appetite for tomorrow and one of the many things that make Thanksgiving so exciting.  And I was so excited to find this recipe a few years ago in Fernando Saralegui’s Our Latin Table.  It is the perfect combination, in my opinion, of savory and slightly spicy combined with a little sweetness.  And it really is a wonderful blend of the traditional mixed with the sassy flavor of cuban-americans.  I was a never a fan of stuffing as a kid…come on stale bits of bread that come in a prepackaged bag with undercooked onions and celery combined to make some sort of gummy mush?  No thanks.  Of course since then I’ve found recipes that shame the aforementioned- but this is the one that changed it all!  At least for me that is.  If you don’t already have a set recipe you are using, this just may be your family’s new favorite!

Cornbread & Chorizo Stuffing

Recipe:
4 8.5 oz boxes cornbread mix
1 cup toasted pine nuts
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
2 large Spanish onions, chopped
10 cloves garlic, minced (to quote Emeril Lagasse “Yeah baby”)
4 small (7 oz) chorizo sausages, diced
2 roasted red bell peppers, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
 

Directions:

Bake the cornbread according to package directions. 

 While the bread is still warm, cut it into cubes in the pan.  Let the bread sit at room temperature, uncovered, for 12 hours or overnight.  Remove the bread from the pan and crumble to make course breadcrumbs. 

 To toast the pine nuts, bake them on a sheet pan at 300°F for about 5 minutes until they turn golden brown.  Watch carefully as they will burn fast.  Immediately remove the nuts from the pan to a clean dish to stop them from cooking.

 

 

In a medium sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent but not browned, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, pine nuts, sautéed onions and garlic, sausages, red pepper, and oregano, mixing well.   Season to taste with salt and pepper.  The stuffing can be up to this point a day in advance in an airtight container.

*I wanted to post this recipe before the big day, but I haven’t assembled everything together yet.  I just wanted to post this in case anyone out there wanted to make it today.  Here are a few pics of the steps I’ve done ahead of time.  And I will post more pictures once the dish is completed.

Guide to roasting and peeling peppers.  Put peppers on a sheet pan at 450°F.  Let them roast for 10 minutes or until charred, then with tongs rotate to all sides (about 5 min per side) until they are all done.  Take out of the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle.  Skin will be wrinkled and easy to peel off.  Once peeled remove core and seeds.

 

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Jewish Apple Cake

Goodness I admire those who faithfully blog every day!  It gets hard on some days, even though I regularly cook, to actually take the time to sit down and type it all up.  But I am so excited about some recipes this week!  Thanksgiving week is always very anticipated in our household, mostly because of my husband Jeremy who loves this holiday the most.  And I agree with him that it is a great holiday where we actually set aside time as a nation to give God thanks for what He’s abundantly blessed us with. 

The food part is of course another wonderful reason we love it!  Both of our families live in town so we usually have an earlier Thanksgiving lunch with his parents and grandmother, and then venture over to my parent’s for dinner.  Needless to say, it is a lot of food.. of course Jeremy doesn’t mind.. 😉   This year his parents and grandmother are going to California to spend Thanksgiving with my sister-in-law and her family, so we will only be  having one meal- which means it has to be extra good!  There are some things my husband has grown to expect from his very-traditional-American-Thanksgivings, which can be pretty different from our more Ecuadorian-American-Thanksgiving meals.  For example last year there were no mashed potatoes, but there was an amazing black rice with raisins my grandmother makes instead.  But all Jeremy said was, “No mashed potatoes?  Where do you put your gravy?”  LOL  It was funny because it’s so different.  I think every family has their own traditions.  So this year, as strategic food coordinator,  I made sure somebody took on the task of mashed potatoes.  I am also making sure there are plenty of desserts, so this year that is my task (along with homemade cranberry sauce and stuffing). 

Instead of staying up until 2am baking pies, I decided I would plan a little better and start all the baking early.  This way Jeremy and I will be able to run a 5k on Thanksgiving morning (in order to shed a few calories before stuffing ourselves with more) instead of last minute baking.  I have decided to make three desserts, there of course has to be something with pumpkin in it, so I am making a pumpkin gooey butter cake (by request).  There also has to be apples, or at least some kind of fruit, so I am making a Jewish Apple Cake adapted slightly from SmittenKitchen’s blog.   And finally a pecan pie from Dorie Greenspan’s “Baking” book.   Today I’m blogging about the Jewish Apple Cake as it bakes in the oven… ahh, the smell 🙂

Jewish Apple Cake

Ingredients:
6 apples, Mom uses McIntosh apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
5 tablespoons sugar
2 3/4 cups flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup orange juice
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a tube pan.  Peel, core and chop apples into chunks.  Toss with cinnamon and sugar and set aside.

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.

 In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, orange juice, sugar and vanilla.

Mix wet ingredients into the dry ones, then add eggs, one at a time. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

Since I just have a regular tube pan and not the one with the false bottom, I changed the recipe a bit.  First I spread half of the apple mixture on the bottom of the pan.  Then pour half of batter into prepared pan.

Spread half of apples over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples.  Bake for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a tester comes out clean. I’ll post a picture of the finished results when it is finished baking!

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I should add that I finally tried this cake on Thanksgiving and it was wonderful…super moist, with wonderful plump and moist pieces of apple, yet the outer crust is slightly crusty and the combination is just great!  So much more interesting than apple pie!

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My son and I went for a run the other morning.. the weather in Florida was just perfect!  And afterwards to replenish our energy I decided to make a smoothie, I used only what I had around the house, and it ended up being amazing.  It is more like a fresh juice than a smoothie, but it was really nice!  If you like it to be thicker use frozen bananas instead.  It was heavy enough for after a run, yet light at the same time.  And parents- this is a great way to get your kids to drink a juice with a veggie in it-pumpkin!  It adds a nice touch to it, but seriously, if I hadn’t made this, I wouldn’t know there was pumpkin in it!

Tangelo Banana and Pumpkin Smoothie

Ingredients
Half of a Tangelo (or orange)
1 ripe banana
2 tbsp pumpkin pureé
2 cups ice
 

Place your banana, ice, squeezed tangelo and pumpkin in your blender and blend!  It is an incredibly refreshing drink, of course my son loved it!  Enjoy it outside with family!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Pear Butter

Another thing my friends and I cooked up this past weekend was pear butter.  It is incredibly good!  This recipe (adapted from Bon Appétit) has cardamom, wine, and vanilla, to give it a floral note as opposed to the exact flavorings of the traditional apple butter.  I’m adapting the recipe after doing it the harder way, but I am glad I tried it so you can have the easier way to do it.  Pear butter is perfect for spreading on anything you would normally put butter on: toast, muffins, brie.  You can even top your granola and yogurt with it (my favorite way).  It is great for you, but your friends will surely want some too! 

Pear Butter

Ingredients:
4 pounds Bartlett pears (cored and peeled) cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 orange slices
1 lemon slice
4 whole cloves
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
Pinch of salt
 

Directions:

Combine pears, wine and lemon juice in heavy large saucepan. Cover and simmer until pears are soft, pushing unsubmerged pears into liquid occasionally, about 25 minutes. *Transfer to a food processor and puree.

Pears are soft and ready to go to my food mill (remember you can save time by peeling them first!)

 

*At this point the recipe called to pass unpeeled pears through a foodmill.  I founds this to be more work than necessary.  It is easier to peel and core the pears beforehand, and then after they are poached, transfer them to a food processor. 

 

 

 

I felt like Julia Child using a food mill. Although I still think it has its place, here it lengthened the prep time. I suggest peeling the pears and processing them instead!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Return puree to heavy large sauce-pan. Add remaining ingredients.  *Helpful hint: If you have a cheesecloth or even a coffee filter would work tied with kitchen twine- put the ingredients you will need to fish out in the end, here; your cloves, cinnamon, orange slices, and lemon.  It makes it much easier in the end.  Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to medium and boil gently until mixture thickens and mounds slightly on spoon stirring often, about 50 minutes.  If it has been 50 minutes and your pear butter is still not thickened up, don’t be afriad to continue reducing it at a lower heat.  It will be about the consistency of apple sauce.  Also remember it will thicken slightly once cool.

Discard fruit slices, cloves, and cinnamon. Spoon butter into hot canning jar, filling only to 1/4 inch form top. Immediately wipe rim, using towel dipped into hot water. Place lid on jar; seal tightly. Repeat with remaining jars.

Arrange jars in large pot. Add boiling water to pot so that at least 1 inch of water covers tops of jars. Cover pot and boil rapidly 15 minutes. Remove jars from pot. Cool to room temperature.  If lid stays down, jar is sealed. (If lid pops up, store butter in refrigerator.) Store in cool dry place up to 1 year. Refrigerate after opening.

 
 

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Over the past weekend, my friends April, Whitney, and I gathered together for what I believe was our 4th annual “homemade gifts day”.  It’s become a really fun tradition to get together and enjoy our time in the kitchen; something we all have agreed seems so natural for women to do.  Of course, if this isn’t your cup of tea I do not mean to discourage you in any way!  Everyone has different strengths- but for us, cooking, baking, and canning for a whole afternoon seems to go by so quickly!  We just chat away, enjoying each other’s fellowship, and feeling very productive at the end of the day from the fruits of our labor!  And of course, Whitney (another huge foodie) made us an amazing lunch that consisted of Sweet Potatoe, Carrot, & Rosemary soup with warm Prosciutto, Pear, & Gruyere Paninis-now that is a complete afternoon! 

You can look forward to this recipe soon!

On this particular day we decided to try out my newly learned canning “techniques”.  And we decided to can Whitney’s mother-in-law’s Cranberry Chutney, pear butter, and pickled dilly veggies.  Today I’m going to share the Cranberry Chutney recipe with you.  This is a gorgeous chutney*, it looks so festive in its pretty mason jars, just ready to celebrate the holidays, and of course, it’s also delicious!  This makes a great gift paired with a home-baked bread or served along any poultry or game. 

*What is a chutney?  Pronounced CHUT-nee, the word come from the East Indian chatni, this spicy condiment usually contains fruit, vinegar, sugar, and spices.  It can range in texure from chunky to smooth, and in degrees of spicyness from mild to hot…The sweeter chutneys also make interesting bread spreads and are delicious served with cheese.  Barron’s, The New Food Lover’s Companion.

Holiday Cranberry Chutney

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. cranberries
  • 1 c. orange segments
  • 1/4 c. orange juice
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. chopped unpeeled apple
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/4 chopped walnuts (optional)
  • 1 T. cider vinegar
  • 1/2 t. ground ginger
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon

Directions:

Combine all your ingredients in a non-reactive medium-large saucepan and set over medium-high heat.  Bring to a boil and then simmer until cranberries have burst.

Aren't the colors gorgeous?!The fruit mixed with the sugar, vinegar, and spices.

Simmering cranberries starting to burst.

Spoon into sterilized jars and follow standard waterbath procedures if you want to keep these in your pantry.  Otherwise enjoy fresh and refrigerate the rest.  Should last about a week in your fridge! 

 
 

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Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Good morning everyone, I hope your weekend was great!  This post is much later than I anticipated, but the weekend was filled with a lot of (good) appointments, so I didn’t have much time to get on the computer.  The good news is that I can’t wait to share some of the things that were cooked up in my kitchen (and my friend’s kitchen as well)! 

Have you ever heard of a whoopie pie?  I personally had never even tried one until after making this recipe, but I had heard of them.  I was surprised to find out a lot of people don’t actually know what they are.  I came across the recipe on my friend Kristen’s blog, notsodomesticated.com.  Kristen is a newlywed and blogs about the adventures of perfecting her “wifely duties” and I enjoy her trials and errors, successes, and her transparency and humor along the way.  But more than that she is a great friend and I love reading her blog so I can be up-to-date with her life and feel like we’re still close (distance-wise that is).  So.. on to the whoopie pie!  I realize this is a funny name, my husband laughed every time I offered him one.  This is basically a soft cookie that sandwiches a cream filling.  It is actually very reminiscing of a snack cake, but of course much better… and mothers, better to give one of these to our children than a Hostess or Little Debbie cake filled with trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup..;)

Pumpkin Whoopie Pie

Ingredients:
 
For the cookies:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract                                                                                                                       Cream Cheese Filling:
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1  cup powdered sugar

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350°F.  Line a couple of baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine your dry ingredients (1-6 on ingredients list).  Beat butter and sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Add your eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Next add your pumpkin and vanilla and beat until smooth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stir in flour mixture until combined.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drop by heaping spoonfuls or by cookie dough scoop (as pictured) onto your baking sheets.  *I would say this is one of my most valuable tools, and sure speeds things along in the kitchen.  Bake for 10-13 minutes or until springy to the touch. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For your cream cheese filling beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla extract in small mixer bowl on medium speed until fluffy. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until light and fluffy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Spread a heaping teaspoon of filling onto flat side of one cookie; top with flat side of second cookie to make a sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies and filling.  Makes about 18 whoopie pies.  Store in covered container in refrigerator.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my opinion, these are the best when freshly baked.  The cream filling is light and airy when at room temperature, so if you don’t serve these right away, maybe take them out a half hour before eating to take off the chill a little.  These are the perfect little fall snacks, enjoy!

 

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