Monday, March 31, 2008

Sweet & Salty Honey Peanut Cupcakes

I realized I forgot to post last week's cupcake.
Sweet & Salty Honey Peanut Cupcakes
I found this weeks recipe through her lovely pictures on Flickr which led me to the fabulous Cupcake Bakeshop by Chocklit. She does the most interesting flavors of cupcakes that I have ever seen. I'm going to send you there to get this week's cupcake recipe & just tell you my thoughts on making it.
I was really drawn to this one because I'm a big fan of sweet & salty. The recipe called for a very thick honey (the kind you have to heat to pour) & said it couldn't guarantee the texture of the cupcake & frosting wouldn't change with using a thinner honey. I found some thick honey at Lund's but after seeing the price I decided to go ahead & risk using the honey in the bear at home.
#277 - Saved by the honey bear
I'm not sure what the original textures should have been but this honey seemed to work just fine. The cupcake itself was a lot like a angel food cake with a very spongy texture. It was a little fussy to make but I think worth it. I plan on using this batter again & adding fruit to it, which I think will be wonderful.
The honey flavor was really the star of this cupcake & frosting. I liked its mellow sweetness. I do wish there had been a little more saltiness & peanut flavor. I used really salted peanuts but next time I would add more than the recipe calls for.
I loved the cream cheese & honey frosting!
I would say this is probably more of an adult cupcake & could be a fun end to a dinner party. Kids might not appreciate the saltiness or the fact its not overly sweet.

Weekly Menu 3/30 - 4/4/08

Its time again for Menu Planning Monday. Minnesota spring certainly makes it hard to plan a menu, 50 degrees one day, 6 inches of snow the next...I'm not sure whether to plan hearty soups or light spring dishes!
IMG_2507.JPG IMG_2509.JPG
(Sunday's Roast Chicken & Vegetables, Matt knows how to spoil me!)

Asparagus & Shrimp Risotto - The asparagus has been beautiful in the stores lately & I have some frozen shrimp leftover from a curry so this sounded like just the thing. - RESULT - even better than I expect & a pretty dish too.

Lasagna Rolls - Sometimes I don't feel like making a whole lasagna for the two of us. I can make as many rolls as I want & get the same great taste. - RESULT - These turned out really good & came together very quickly.

Chicken Breasts in Mustard Cream Sauce with Broccoli & Rice - Just some real basic comfort food.

Turkey Burgers - Matt makes the most fabulous turkey burgers seasoned with sea salt & fresh thyme...the best!

Sausage & Baked Beans - We'll be eating more of our homemade Asian Sausage & Matt had a craving from baked beans.

This weeks cupcake is chocolate peanut butter, a flavor just for Matt.

As usual come back during the week for the recipes & results.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Stir Fried Rice & Pork

I had a taste for some stir fried rice & pork this week. This was always my favorite thing to order from the take-out place near my work. We haven't really discovered what is the good Chinese take-out since we've moved to Minneapolis. I always find it can be a little iffy to try so if anyone knows some good places in Southwest Minneapolis send the recommendations my way! Anyway, I decided to try my own version at home. This is not Chinese restaurant Pork Fried Rice but it was pretty darn good & smelled fantastic. I really liked the crunch of the pea pods & water chestnuts in it.
Stir Fried Rice & Pork

1/8 t pepper
1/8 t salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
2 t soy sauce
1 T vegetable oil
1 cup pork roast, diced (you can use leftover cooked pork if you have it too)
1/2 c green onions, sliced
1/2 c celery, diced
1 T garlic, minced
1 c snow peas or sugar snap peas
1 1/2 c cooked rice, cold
1/2 c canned water chestnuts, sliced

Mix egg, salt, pepper, red pepper and soy sauce together in a small bowl & set aside.
Heat the oil over high heat in a wok or large skillet. Add the pork & cook until browned & almost cooked. (If using leftover cooked pork skip this step & just add the pork with the vegetables to heat it up). Add green onions, celery, garlic & peas. Cook until the vegetables are tender crisp. Add rice & water chestnuts and stir. Stir in egg mixture. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until everything is heated through & serve.

Makes 2 servings

Friday, March 28, 2008

Spinach & Chicken Calzones

As a little change up from homemade pizza we decided to make calzones this week. The technique is pretty much the same as pizza though it does take quite a bit longer to cook. These were a nice size & easy to eat just with our hands. Matt thought it might have been better with a little red sauce, either inside or to dip it in. I really liked it the way it was. You can change this recipe to include any fillings you like & it is a great use for leftovers.
Spinach & Chicken Calzone

Pizza or Calzone Dough (from Wisebread)
This is our favorite pizza crust so far, you just need to remember to make it 2 hours ahead of time so it can rise.

1/2 t rapid-rise yeast
1 t kosher salt
3/4 c warm water (no hotter than 110 F)
1 T olive oil (plus 1/2 t for the bowl)
1 1/2 c all-purpose flour (more as needed)

Put yeast in a large mixing bowl. Add water and 1 T olive oil & stir. Add the flour & salt. Once you can't stir anymore, knead the dough. If the dough is sticky, knead in more flour a little at a time until you get a smooth dough ball. Pour the 1/2 t olive oil into the bowl & turn the dough in it until coated. Cover the bowl with a dishtowel & let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours.

This make enough dough for one pizza or two calzones & can easily be doubled.

Spinach & Chicken Calzone Filling

5 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed with the liquid squeezed out
1 c cooked chopped chicken
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 c part-skim ricotta
1/2 c grated mozzarella
1/2 c cherry tomatoes, halved
pinch of dried basil
pinch of dried oregano
pinch of ground nutmeg
salt & pepper
Olive oil

Sauté the onions & garlic until fragrant & translucent (you can skip this step & put them in raw but this gave them a nice mellow flavor). Mix everything together.

Preheat oven to 400. Roll the dough out into a circle. Cut the circle in half. Place half the topping on each half circle towards one side. Fold the other side over the topping. pinch the edges shut with your fingers or a fork. If they aren't staying closed use a little water. Brush the top with olive oil & poke a few holes in it with a fork. If you want a shiner crust use an egg wash) Place the calzone on a lightly greased baking sheet & bake for 30 - 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown. Let sit for about 15 minutes before eating.

Makes 2 calzones.

To use the dough for pizza. Roll it out & place it on a lightly greased baking sheet. Add toppings & cook at 450 for about 15 minutes. Time will vary based on the thickness you like your crust & how much toppings you used. We've also cooked this on a pizza stone & it came out beautifully.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Whole-Wheat Linguine with Green Beans, Ricotta & Lemon

We often watch Everyday Italian while eating lunch (if we've seen that day's episode of Cash in the Attic that is) & Matt thought this recipe sounded really good. He was right, it was really good & healthy too. We have doubled the amount of vegetables the original recipe called for, I think it would have been a little light on them otherwise. Don't skip on the lemon zest on this one, it really makes this dish shine. This will be a great summer dish when green beans are abundant at the farmers' market.
Whole-wheat linquine with green beans, ricotta & lemon

1 lb whole-wheat linguine
1/2 c part-skim ricotta
2 T olive oil
1 lb French green beans, trimmed & halved lengthwise (we just bought regular green beans as the French were $3.00 more)
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 t salt
1/2 t freshly ground pepper
2 c halved cherry tomatoes
1 lemon, zested

Cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water. Transfer the hot pasta to a large bowl and add the ricotta, tossing to combine.
Meanwhile heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the green beans, garlic, salt & pepper and sauté for 4 minutes. Add the reserved pasta cooking liquid and cook until tender, about 4 more minutes. Add the pasta & ricotta to the pan with the beans & toss to combine. Add the tomatoes & gently toss. Top with the lemon zest.

Serves 4

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hearty Baked Potato Soup

Matt found this recipe on one of his money blogs and requested it for a dinner this week. When they say hearty they mean hearty, this is a thick, thick cream of potato soup. We added lots of extras to the original recipe; bacon, ham (we had a little leftover from Easter), green onions & croutons. The bacon added great flavor & we used the bacon fat to cook the onions as a substitution for some the butter in the original recipe. We thought about adding some shredded cheese but after tasting it realized it was so thick & rich that cheese was the last thing it needed. The croutons too were not needed in this soup at all & we'd skip them next time. I was afraid of using seasoning salt to flavor this instead of adding our own spice mix, thinking it might be a little overpowering but it really was just right. This was a perfect winter soup & we'll make it again & again.
Hearty Baked Potato Soup

3 large russet potatoes, cleaned, skins pierced 3-4 times with a fork
2 slices of good bacon, cut into 1/2 pieces
1 1/2 T unsalted butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c flour
2 c chicken broth or stock
12 oz fat-free evaporated milk
2 t seasoning salt
1/2 c cooked ham, chopped (optional)
4 green onions, chopped
1 c croutons (optional)

Microwave the potatoes until cooked through (every microwave is different, ours took about 14 minutes). Set the potatoes aside to cool. Meanwhile, in a large soup pot cook the bacon over medium heat until crispy. Remove bacon to a paper towel to drain. Add butter & onion. Cook until the onion is transparent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic & cook until just fragrant. Add the flour & stir for 1 minute, do not allow the roux to brown. Slowly add the evaporated milk & broth while stirring. Scoop the pulp from one of the potatoes & mash it a bit. Add it to the soup. Bring the soup to a gentle boil, stirring occasionally. Add the seasoning salt. Dice the remaining two potatoes, skin & all (you can also dice the empty skin from the first potato). Add the diced potatoes, ham & bacon to the soup. Heat through. Serve with onions & croutons on top if you wish.

Serves 4

Maybe I should have saved this one for tonight's winter storm.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chicken Fajitas

Fajitas are one of our quick go to meals. There is no recipe required & the only thing that gets cooked is the chicken, onions & peppers. Its a great one for summer because everything can just be thrown on the grill & you don't have to heat up the kitchen. Of course, we still have snow on the ground so our grill pan on the stove is our chosen method of cooking. We like to marinade the chicken before grilling it & think this marinade is just great. It really has just the right note of tanginess.
Fajita Marinade
I know we could make a marinade on our own but having this in the fridge makes this meal even quicker.
We grill the marinaded chicken breasts along with some sliced red onion. Its also traditional to grill up some peppers though we usually skip them. Then we just slice up the chicken & serve it on tortillas with the onion, pepper & whatever else we have on hand, chopped tomato, salsa, quacamole, sour cream, lettuce, cheese...You can really just make these to suit your taste.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Weekly Menu - 3/24 - 3/28

We'll be trying out a bunch of new recipes this week that we'll be sharing as we try them so be sure to stop back.
#114 - On the vine
Here's our Menu Plan Monday...

Chicken Fajitas - Using up the tortillas leftover from last weeks Shrimp Tacos. - RESULT - Always good especially with the Tequila Lime marinade.

Hearty Baked Potato Soup - from Get Rich Slowly, this is a request of Matt's. Sounds perfect for all these snowy days we've been having & we'll use up the Easter ham. - RESULT - A thick & rich winter soup!

Whole Wheat Linguine with Green Beans, Ricotta & Lemon
- from Giada De Laurentiis. Matt saw her making this the other day on tv & thought it sounded like something we'd like. - RESULT - So wonderfully flavored with the lemon & light too. Plus this goes together very quickly!

Spinach & Chicken Calzone - We're going to use our favorite pizza crust & make up the filling. - RESULT - These came out pretty good though took longer to cook than I thought.

Stir-fried rice with pork - I love to get this when eating out so I thought I'd try my hand at making it at home - RESULT - A pretty simple recipe that had the flavor I was looking for.

This week's cupcake is Sweet & Salty Honey Peanut from Cupcake Bakeshop. I don't have the same kind of honey as her so we'll see how much changes I have to make to the recipe. - RESULT - I liked the mellow sweetness & flavor of the honey but wanted more saltiness & peanut flavor.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

How do you like your Peeps?

Fresh from the shell?
A Peep is Born
#66 - Peep Brulee
or perhaps in sushi.
#67 - Peep Sushi

Happy Easter everyone!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Chicken & Two Bean Chili

This was meant to be Matt's White Chili that a love so much but I hadn't bought all the right ingredients. Really though Matt's chili recipes seem to change all the time. He seems to have the knack for throwing a whole bunch of stuff from the pantry together to get something great. This recipe uses pinquitos, a bean from California that we had never tried before, it is apparently very popular in a type of BBQ called Santa Maria, they were fantastic in chili. I think this might be my favorite chili he's done yet & its even better as leftovers!
Chicken & Two Bean Chili

1 lb ground chicken (we ground our own mix of light & dark meat, you could also use turkey)
2 T olive oil
1 lg onion, roughly chopped
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t cumin
1 t ground oregano
1/4 t cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 t smoked paprika
14.5 oz can diced fired roast tomatoes
14.5 oz can pinquitos (do not drain or rinse)
14.5 oz can black beans, drained
6 oz beer

In a large soup pot heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken & onions. Cook until the chicken is browned & the onion is translucent. Add spices and stir for 1 minute. Add beans, tomato & beer. Bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 30-45 minutes uncovered. Serve with grated cheddar cheese & sour cream or yogurt as a garnish.

4 large servings

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Mint Frosting

I let Matt pick this week's cupcake flavor again since he did so well last week. He wanted something green for St. Patrick's Day so he suggested this classic combination of chocolate & mint.
#77 - Dark Chocolate Cupcake with Mint Frosting

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

8 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 oz bittersweet chocolate
1/2 c Dutch-processed cocoa
3/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t baking soda
3/4 t baking powder
2 large eggs
3/4 c sugar
1 t vanilla
1/2 t salt
1/2 c yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare 12 muffin cups.
Place the butter & chocolate into a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Add cocoa & stir until everything is melted. (You may need to microwave a few seconds more.) Set aside to cool until just warm to touch.
Whisk flour, baking soda & baking powder together. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs to combine then add sugar, vanilla and salt. Whisk until everything is blended. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk again. Add in 1/3 of the flour mixture and combine. Whisk in the yogurt and then the remaining flour mixture. The batter should be thick.
Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Bake for 18 -20 minutes.

This is a much crumblier cupcake than others I have been making which have been heavier & moister. I'm not saying one is better than the other, just a different texture.

Mint Marshmallow Frosting

1/2 c white sugar
2 T & 2 t water
1/8 t cream of tartar
1 egg white
1/2 t mint extract
green food coloring

In a saucepan over medium-high heat stir the sugar, water & cream of tartar until the sugar is melted & the mixture is bubbly.

In a mixing bowl, whip the egg whites and mint extract to form soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar mixture while continuing to whip. Add green food coloring until you reach the desired color. Whip until stiff peaks form, 7 to 10 minutes.

Enough frosting to do 12 cupcakes

This frosting tastes just like a mint flavored marshmallow. It is quite stiff & worked well for the dip & twist method of frosting (dip you cupcake upside-down into the bowl of frosting & twist as pull it back out. It take a little practice but they turned out cute.) The frosting stiffens up quite a bit as it sits so be sure to cover your cupcakes.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Weekly Menu - 3/17- 3/22/08

Using a lot of things we already had in the pantry & freezer to make dinners this week. Its amazing how cheap you weekly grocery bill is on the weeks you can do this, ours was half what we normally spend. So here's this week's Menu Plan Monday.

Asparagus & Prosciutto Pizza - Using some leftover Fontina instead of the mozzatella.
Asparagus & Prosciutto Pizza

Asian Citrus Sausage with Roasted Potatoes - Using some of our homemade sausage we have in the freezer.

Grown-up Mac & Cheese - Somehow I ended up with two big piece of Gryére in the fridge so its time for our favorite mac & cheese.

Shrimp Tacos with Coconut Pico de gallo - This will be our entry for the April Royal Foodie Joust. The three ingredients this month are something from the sea, lemon or lime & coconut. (No Dad, I am not doing Lutefisk Luau!) - RESULT - So good

Corn & Bacon Chowder - A recipe I found on Taste & Tell that will use up some of the bacon & corn we have in the freezer.

Friday Night - Matt is taking me on a date to Cafe Maude which is supposed to be fantastic.

This week's cupcake - Dark chocolate with mint frosting.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Chicken, Goat Cheese & Red Pepper Roulades

Chicken Roulades
I bought a jar of roasted red peppers to make the pasta & lasagna earlier this week & wanted to think of other was to use it up. I don't know why but a chicken roulade sprang to mind & I thought the tang of goat cheese would be a perfect accompaniment. The goat cheese melts while its cooking adds a lot of flavor to the sauce as well as the chicken & the sauce is really what made this dish.

2 boneless chicken breasts
1 T goat cheese with herbs
4 slices of roasted red pepper
1 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 c white wine
salt & pepper
2/3 c cream

Preheat oven to 350.
Pound the chicken breasts until they are thin & flat. Sprinkle the goat cheese evenly over both breasts. Lay the red pepper over the cheese.
Making Chicken Roulade
Roll up the chicken with the cheese & pepper inside. Use toothpicks to secure the roll.
Making Chicken Roulades
Heat the olive oil over medium heat in an oven proof skillet. Add the chicken & turn occasionally until just browned on all sides. Add garlic, wine, salt & pepper.
Cover the skillet & bake in the oven for 25 - 30 minutes.
Remove the roulades & tent to keep them warm.
Put the pan back on the stove & bring to a boil, stirring to loosen anything stuck to the pan. Add the cream & heat through reducing slightly. Serve the sauce over the chicken & perhaps a side of rice or noodles.
Serves 2
Chicken Roulades

Friday, March 14, 2008

We're on the same page

We got the new Bon Appétit today & the cover made us laugh....
New Bon Appetit
Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes?!
Guess I was on to something with my Lemon Blackberry ones earlier this week. By the way, they using filling method #1.

Pasta with White Beans & Browned Butter

Last night I made Eating Out Loud's rigatoni, white beans and browned butter recipe. Let me tell you it was fabulous...
Penne with white beans, brown butter & sage
(I used penne instead of rigatoni because its what I had on hand)
The browned butter had a wonderfully nutty quality that goes so well with the earthiness of the sage. The amount of butter in the recipe scared me into thinking it would end up very greasy but, once the beans were added & cooked a bit a smooth, creamy sauce formed. We only used 1/2 lb of pasta (instead of 3/4 lb) & the meal was the perfect size for two.
I won't post the recipe here but instead encourage you to go check out Eating Out Loud for yourself, if you haven't already, its quickly become one of my favorite foodie blogs.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Lemon Cupcakes with Blackberry Filling

Lemon Blackberry Cupcake

When I mentioned to Matt that I wasn't sure what flavor cupcake I wanted to make this week he came up with this flavor combination. I think the inspiration came from the blackberry preserves we have in the fridge to make PB&Js for a visiting five year old. This cupcake came out fabulous! The lemon flavor really comes through in the moist cupcake and the lemon milk icing. The blackberry filling is a really nice contrast to that tartness. Now typically, I do not eat jams, jellies or preserves on things (I'm much more of a straight butter girl) but this was a great use for it.
I also used this cupcake to test different ways of adding the filling. Method 1 involved putting a scoop of the filling in before cooking & I thought worked perfectly, just a little dab of filling in the middle.
Lemon Blackberry Cupcake Lemon Blackberry Cupcakes
Method 2 required cutting a cone out of the top of the cupcake after cooking & putting the filling in the hole that is left & replacing the top of the cone. This method is good if you like a lot of filling. I don't think it was great with icing though as you could see the cut out lines, it would work well with more of a buttercream frosting I think.
Lemon Blackberry Cupcake Lemon Blackberry Cupckaes
I've yet to try method 3 which would be using my pastry bag to fill the cupcakes after cooking like a donut. I've read this gives you the least amount of filling & I'd also have to take the cupcakes out of the papers.

Lemon Cupcakes with Blackberry Filling
makes 6 cupcakes but can easily be doubled

2/3 c all-purpose flour
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
pinch of salt
3 T unsalted butter, softened
1/3 c sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
zest of one lemon
juice of one lemon (with 1 t held aside for the icing)
1/4 c plain yogurt
6 t blackberry preserves

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare muffin tins.
Stir flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.
Beat the butter until light and fluffy. On high speed, gradually beat in the sugar until light & fluffy. Lower speed and add egg, beating until just blended. Then beat in lemon zest & lemon juice. On low speed beat in flour mixture & yogurt until just blended. This will be a very light fluffy batter.

If filling before baking - Divide half the batter evenly among the 6 muffin tins. Place a scant teaspoon of blackberry preserves on top of the batter in each cup, try to keep to the center as much as possible. Top with the remaining batter.

If filling after baking - Divide the batter evenly between 6 muffin tins.

Bake for 18 minutes. The edges should just be turning golden brown.

Let cool on wire rack. If filling after baking - cut a cone out of the top of each cupcake with a sharp knife. Fill the resulting hole with a teaspoon of blackberry preserved. Cut all but the top off of each cone & place back on the top of the cupcakes.

Lemon Milk Icing

1/2 c powdered sugar, shifted
1 t lemon juice

Mix powdered sugar, lemon juice and 1/2 t milk. Add more milk as needed by 1/2 t amounts until icing consistency. After icing allow cupcakes to sit until the icing has set, about an hour.

Makes enough to ice 6 cupcakes.

Homemade Gyros

When coming up with this week's menu on Sunday Matt said he wanted to try making gyros at home. I imagined this would be a little complicated but was pleasantly surprised at how easy Alton Brown's recipe was, no harder than making meatloaf (actually easier than our favorite meatloaf). Does it taste like a gyro you get out that's cooked on a spit? Not exactly, but it was still really tasty. This recipe makes a lot of meat, enough for 6 to 8 servings. We halved it since it was just for 2 & it seemed to work just fine. The biggest difference is the loaf won't be a thick but since you are just slicing it and putting it in a pita is doesn't really matter.
Homemade Gyro

Gyro Meat

1 med onion, chopped
2 lbs ground lamb
1 T garlic, finely minced
1 T dried marjoram
1 T dried ground rosemary
2 t kosher salt
1/2 t freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 325. Process the onion in a food processor for 10 to 15 seconds. Put it into a tea towel and squeeze out as much juice as you can. Return the onion to the food processor and add the remaining ingredients. Process until a fine paste is formed. Place the mixture into a loaf pan, spreading it into all the corners. Put the pan into a water bathe & bake until the mixture reaches between 165 & 170, should be about an hour. Remove from the oven & drain off any excess fat. Place a brick covered in foil on top of the meat (we used another loaf pan filled with canned goods for weight) and let sit for 15 - 20 minutes. Slice and serve on pita with tzatziki sauce, onions & tomatoes.

You can also cook this on a rotisserie. See Alton Brown's recipe for details on that.

Tzatziki Sauce
(this is a wonderful version of this sauce)

16 oz plain yogurt
1 med cucumber, peeled, seeded & finely chopped
pinch kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 T olive oil
2 t red wine vinegar
5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced

Place the yogurt in a tea towel, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl and let drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator. (I've read you can buy Greek yogurt & skip this step.)
Place the chopped cucumber in a tea owl & squeeze to remove the liquid. In a medium bowl combine the drain yogurt, cucumber and all remaining ingredients. Can be stored up to a week in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Small Batch Baking

Small Batch Baking
I recently read about Small-Batch Baking on a blog (which one I can't remember for the life of me now) & thought what a good idea for Matt & I. So, I picked up a copy at the library to test out some of the recipes too see if it was as good an idea as it sounded. We all know how hard it can be to size a recipe down for just two people, especially baking recipes that call for eggs (seriously how do you half & egg?) so this book has done that for you. It allows you to bake up just 5 cookies
Shortbread Cookies for Two
3 brownies
Brownie with French Vanilla Ice Cream
A 4-inch cake
yellow cake with raspberry whipped cream
or 3 scones
Lavender Scones
I've also made the 6-inch focaccia bread, the mixed berry cobbler for 2 & a batch of 4 cupcakes. So far I've had very good success with all of the recipes. Some people are probably thinking why go through the work of baking for such a small amount. Well, I enjoy baking but really haven't done much of it because I don't want 36 cookies or a whole cake around the house. I like the idea that I can make a dessert or mid-afternoon treat for us & not have leftovers to tempt us into snacking for days or end up getting thrown away. I especially like the idea of small batches of breakfast treats such as muffins, popovers & scones. We tend to eat a healthy breakfast on weekdays but like a treat on the weekends, it was so nice to have 3 small scones on Sunday morning instead of 8.
I've found that some of the basic recipes in here can also be a good jumping off point to create your own small batch baked good. I used the Plain Good Cupcake recipe to test out peach cupcakes (you don't feel so bad about something not working out when its only 4). I took the recipe for Chocolate Chip Cream Scones & turned it into amazing Lavender Scones. It was so nice to have the basic ingredients worked out to the right measurements for me.
The one thing about this book that might be a little bothersome is the need for new smaller (she has exact sizes in the book) baking pans. She does bake her cakes in empty cans but calls for a couple different sizes of muffin tins, small individual tart pans, petit loaf pans, 4-inch baking rounds & small ramekins. I figured since I planned on doing a lot of baking from this book I'd invest in some of these pieces but they have been hard to find the exact sizes. I found 4.5 inch cake pans at Michael's Craft store which I use instead of the cans (it give me one two layer cake instead of two smaller ones) . The Gobel 4-by-1-Inch Quiche Pan, Set of 4 with removable bottoms was much harder to find & I ended up ordering some from Amazon. I did have petit loaf pans though mine are smaller than the ones she calls for though still seemed to work with a little adjustment of baking time.
In the end I decided this is a good baking book for me to have in my library especially when I saw its only $11.16 on Amazon.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Onion Potato Gratin for Two

Sometimes there's just nothing like meat & potatoes. Last night we grilled up a steak & some asparagus & served it with this gratin. As easy as it was to put together it felt like a special Sunday dinner. This gratin can be prepared 8 hours before cooking & kept covered in the fridge which makes dinner time even easier
potato onion gratin

1 Russet Potato (about 3/4 lbs), peeled & cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 medium onion (about 12 oz), thinly sliced
2 oz grated Gruyere
1 oz freshly grated Parmesan
1/3 c whipping cream

Combine potatoes & onions in a sauce pan & cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer for 3 minutes. Drain well.
Arrange half the potato and onion mixture on the bottom of a 4 c souffle dish. Sprinkle with 1/3 of each cheese. Season with salt & pepper.
Arrange the remaining potatoes & onions on top. Pour the cream over. Season with more salt & pepper. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
Now either cover & refrigerate or preheat oven to 400. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes, it should be bubbly & the cream should look a little thicker. Preheat broiler & broil until golden brown, about 2 minutes or use a kitchen torch to brown the top.

Serves 2 - 3

Original recipe from Bon Appétit

Weekly Menu 3/10-3/15/08

Wow, did we eat well this weekend. Dinner out Friday at a local bistro called Cave Vin (a little hidden gem), where I had an amazing beef tenderloin with blue cheese on top of brussels sprouts and Matt had a pork loin with fingerling potatoes & peaches. Saturday we had friends over for two type of lasagna, a sausage & spinach one & a spinach, roasted red pepper & wild mushroom one. Then last night we really treated ourselves with a grilled steak, asparagus & a potato onion gratin.
steak & potatoes
Now its back to real life & the weekly menu for Menu Planning Monday.

Cream Chicken Wild Rice Soup
- As far as Matt's concerned I could make this soup every week & he'd be happy.

Leftover lasagna - We have both sausage & vegetarian lasagna left. I'll share our vegetarian recipe later this week.

Gyros with Tzatziki Sauce - Using the recipe for gyro meat from Alton Brown. - RESULT - This turned out quite good with a lot less fuss than I expected. Just remember to drain the yogurt early.

Chicken, Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Roulade - Thinking of things to do with the open jar of roasted red peppers & this sounded good. I'll be making up the recipe as I go along. - RESULT - This dished turned out really quite wonderful, I loved the goat cheese flavored sauce.

Rigatoni, White Beans & Brown Butter - I saw this recipe last week on Eating Out Loud & it just sounded too good not to try this week. - RESULT - Oh so yummy!

Chicken Chili - As well as making a fabulous smoky beef chili, Matt makes a wonderful white chili with chicken. Its perfect for a lazy weekend. - RESULT - This didn't end up being the white chili I had planned on but turned into a new fabulous chicken & two bean chili.

This week's cupcake is a brainchild of Matt's - Lemon cupcakes with blackberry filling. - Best cupcake yet!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Patel Chicken Curry

The search for the perfect curry recipe continues at Chez Good Appetite. My cousin saw our other tries & brought over a recipe a co-worker of her husband had given them. We've changed the recipe a bit by adding broccoli & chicken broth (instead of water).
Patel Chicken Curry

4 T oil or butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4-inch square of ginger, chopped or grated
1 t coriander powder
a pinch of tumeric
1/2 t cumin powder
1/4 t garam masala powder
1/4 - 1 cayenne pepper to taste (we did 1/4 & it was a little too mild)
4 chicken boneless chicken thighs, cut into cubes
1 c chicken broth
1 med tomato, seeded & chopped
1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
1/2 c coconut milk

In a large soup pot heat the oil over med-high heat. Add the onion, garlic & cloves. Cook until beginning to brown. Add the spices & cook 1 minute. Add chicken thighs & cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add chicken broth & bring to a boil. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add tomatoes, broccoli & coconut milk. Let simmer for 15 more minutes. Salt to taste. Serve over jasmine rice.

Serves 2 - 3

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Focaccia Bread Pizza

Small-Batch Baking has recipe in it for Rosemary Focaccia which the author says makes a delicious pizza crust. We love homemade pizza so I thought I'd give it a go. This recipe makes one 6-inch pizza. I thought it would be too little for the two of us so I made two. Really we could have gotten by with just one because the bread is so filling. This really turned out good & I'll make it again.
Foccacia Bread Pizza

1/4 t sugar
1 1/8 t active dry yeast
1 1/4 c bread flour
1 1/2 t kosher salt
3 t minced fresh rosemary
3 T olive oil Plus extra for greasing the pan
2 t cornmeal
2 T grated Parmeasan
1 tomato, thinly sliced
3/4 c grated Italian cheese of your choice

Pour 1/2 cup of very warm water (100 degrees) into a small bowl. Add sugar & yeast & stir until dissolved. Set aside for 5 minutes. It will get foamy.
Place 1 cup of the bread flour, 1 t salt & 1 t rosemary in a medium sized mixing bowl. Pour the yeast mixture and 2 T olive oil into the bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon to make a sticky dough. Spread 1/4 cup of the flour in the center of a cutting board & turn the dough out into the center of the flour. Flour your hands and knead the dough until it is elastic & no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Add more flour by the tablespoon if needed.
Grease a bowl with a teaspoon or two of olive oil, place the dough in the bowl, and turn it to grease it with the oil. Cover the bowl with a dishcloth & let it rise in a warm area until double in bulk about 45 minutes.
Brush some olive oil over a 6-inch round area on a baking sheet & sprinkle the cornmeal on it. Place the dough on the cornmeal and gently press it to form a 6-inch round. Using your fingertip make 1/2 inch indentations into the dough about 1-inch apart.
Brush 1 T of olive oil over the dough & sprinkle it with 2 t rosemary, 1/2 t salt and the Parmesan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
focaccia bread proofing
(I forgot to put the rosemary on top)
Preheat the oven to 400. Bake the focaccia for 10 minutes.
Take it out of the oven and sprinkle with Italian cheese. Add a layer of tomato slices & sprinkle with salt. Bake for 5 more minutes or until cheese is melted & crust is golden.

This dough really puffed up with baking. I actually pressed it down a bit before adding the toppings. I think next time I will try making it into a 10-inch round which should make it about 1/3 thinner. I also though there was a little too much salt so when using this as a pizza crust I won't add the salt before the dough rests. If you want to just make this as bread leave off the tomato & grated Italian cheese & bake for about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Spicy Peanut Noodles

This recipe came from a cookbook called The After Work Cookbook which I believe is now out of print. I was looking for recipes to use some of the chicken that was leftover from Sunday's roast. Interestingly enough this is called Spicy yet there was nothing spicy in the ingredients so I added a good pinch of crushed red pepper flakes & Matt added some Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce to his. This was a good tasting quick meal but I felt the sesame oil really over-powered the peanut flavor so next time I will halve the sesame oil & add a little more peanut butter.
Spicy Peanut Noodles

1 lb Chinese noodles (this was a little vague, we used chow mein noodles)
1 T peanut oil
1 lb chicken cut into bite sized pieces (we used pre-cooked chicken)
1 T peanut butter (I'd use 2 T)
juice from 1/2 lime
2 T sesame oil (I'd cut this to 1 T)
1/4 c fish sauce
2 T soy sauce
1/2 t brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 scallions, chopped
crushed red pepper flakes to taste
1/3 c peanuts

Cook noodles according to directions on package. Drain & set aside. Meanwhile heat peanut oil in a wok over med-high heat. Add chicken & sauté until cooked (if using cooked chicken just sauté until heated). In a small bowl combine peanut butter, lime juice, sesame oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar, garlic, red pepper flakes & scallions. Add sauce & cooked noodles to the wok. Toss to coat everything & heat through. Serve with peanuts on top.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Peaches & Cream Cupcakes...sort of

I wanted to make a cupcake that tasted very peachy with a cream cheese frosting. I looked online & most of the recipes I found called for just putting slices of peaches in the cupcake but I wanted the batter to be peach flavored so I made a puree of peaches & added that to the batter (using less milk than I normally would). The cupcakes had nice flecks of peach throughout them but the peach flavor was VERY subtle. These cupcakes were yummy & moist but just not peachy enough. Next time I think I'll either add a little Peach Schnapps or make more peach puree & cook it down a little to intensify the flavor. Anyone have any other ideas? (*see below for an update)
Peaches & Cream Cupcakes

Peach Cupcakes (a recipe in process)

1/4 cup of frozen peach slices (about 3), thawed & pureed
2 T buttermilk
1/8 t baking soda
Yolk of 1 large egg, at room temperature
1/2 t vanilla
1/2 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C plus 2 t sugar
1/8 t salt
2 T unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preheat oven to 350. Put cupcake liners in 4 muffin cups. Combine the buttermilk, peach puree & baking soda in a small bowl. Stir to mix. Whisk in egg yolk & vanilla.
In a medium bowl blend the flour, sugar & salt together. Add butter & the peach/buttermilk mixture. Beat with hand mixer at low speed until moistened. Increase speed to medium & beat until well blended, about a minute. Spoon into prepared muffin cups. Bake for 2 minutes.

Makes 4 cupcakes
Adapted from Plain Good Cupcakes in Small-Batch Baking

This frosting is so delicious I was eating it right from the decorating bag. One tip, don't use light cream cheese like I did as the frosting comes out a little runny.

Cream Cheese Frosting

3 oz cold cream cheese
4 t unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 C confectioner sugar
1/8 t vanilla

With a hand mixer beat the cream cheese until it is fluffy & smooth. Add the butter & beat until combined. Mix in vanilla. Add the sugar half at a time mixing until well blended.

(* So I tried my hand at a second batch of these. This time I used 1/2 cup of peaches & about 2 T peach schnapps & reduced that on the stove until it was 1/4 cup. Then I replaced the vanilla in the recipe with Peach Schnapps. Still there was no peach flavor to the cupcakes at all! Think I'll set this idea aside for awhile.)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Chicken, Black Bean & Corn Soup

Another Rachael Ray recipe, though I refuse to call this a stoup like she does...this is a soup. It was very good with lots of flavors we like, it basically tastes like chili, so in someways I sort of feel like we might as well just make chili. The chipotle didn't add enough heat to this for Matt so he added Tabasco at the end, it was perfect for me.
chicken, black bean & corn soup
(I thought the color of this soup was a little off-putting but maybe that's just me)

2 T vegetable oil
2 lbs chicken cut into bite-sized pieces
salt & pepper
1 T ground cumin
1 1/2 T ground coriander
1 chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut from the cob (we used 4 cups frozen corn)
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded & chopped
3 T all-purpose flour
1 quart chicken stock or broth
1 15oz can black beans, drained
juice of 1 lime
1/2 c fresh cilantro
hot sauce (optional)
sour cream or yogurt

Heat a large soup pot over medium high heat with the vegetable oil. Add the chicken & season with salt & pepper, cumin, coriander and chipotle. Cook until the chicken is lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion, corn & bell pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes. Dust the chicken & veggies with the flour, stir & continue to cook for 2 minutes. Turn the heat up to high & add the chicken stock. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the lime juice & cilantro, and stir to combine. Taste & check for seasoning, adjust with salt & pepper & add hot sauce if you'd like. Serve garnished with sour cream or yogurt.

Serves 4 (or in real people servings 6)

From Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats--A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners (A 30-Minute Meal Cookbook)

Weekly Menu - 3/2 - 3/7/08

Its Menu Planning Monday

Roast Chicken & Vegetables - possibly my favorite meal, especially the way Matt roasts a chicken.
#41 - Roast chicken dinner

Potato Soup with Kale & Chorizo - Repeating this yummy soup from the March issue of Bon Appetit

Spicy Peanut Noodles - From The After Work Cookbook by Kirsten Tilgals & Nicole Grant (I believe this book is out of print) - RESULT - A quick dinner that goes together in about 15 minutes. It was good but will even better with our changes next time.

Focaccia Bread Pizza - From Small-Batch Baking by Debbie Nakos - RESULT - Really good. I love the focaccia bread crust.

Patel Chicken Curry - A recipe given to me by my cousin to try out. - RESULT - A good basic chicken curry that is mild enough for me & goes together really quickly.

Grilled Steak with Potato Gratin

This weeks cupcake will be Peaches & Cream.

I'll also be talking a bit about cooking for two & reviewing Small-Batch Baking
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Measurement Abbreviations

T = Tablespoon
t = teaspoon
c = cup
lb = pound
oz - ounce


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