Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chocolate Mousse

Photo by Lisa

My college roommate and I are still the best of friends.  We see each other about once a week and she's been a huge support for me these past months since baby girl was born.  Today is her birthday!  On Friday night we celebrated with some girl friends, champagne cosmopolitans, and chocolate mousse.  

Some food memories that I have associated with this friend are our college days of eating lemon pepper chicken and quesadillas for dinner, lobsters in Costa Rica, baking Christmas cookies and food gifts (truffles & mini-loaves of pumpkin bread), and, of course, her epic corned beef on St. Patrick's day.  A, here's wishing you a very happy birthday and a wonderful new year of being you!

Decadent Chocolate Mousse (8-10 servings)
  • from Sunset 12/10

  • 18  ounces  bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2  cup  strong coffee
  • 1/3  cup  sugar
  • 6  large eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2  cups  heavy cream
  • 1/4  cup  orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
Put chocolate, coffee, and sugar in a large metal mixing bowl. Set bowl over a large pot filled with 1 in. simmering water. Melt chocolate, stirring often, until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.
Whisk egg whites in a medium bowl with a mixer until they hold stiff peaks. Whisk cream in another bowl until soft ribbons form.  Stir yolks into warm chocolate mixture. Mix in liqueur. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in whites until almost blended, then gently fold in whipped cream until no streaks remain.
Pour chocolate mixture into a large (8-cup) glass serving bowl. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.  We topped it with candy cane Joe Joe's and Heath bars as well :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stuffing for Thanksgiving

I know if you're making stuffing, you've probably already chosen a recipe and bought the ingredients (Whole Foods was absolutely crazy on Monday morning), but in case you're still undecided, here's what I'm making.  I've made it twice before with good results and figured I wouldn't venture out and experiment this year.  One note - to get the 10 cups of bread cubes, you might need two loaves of bread (only 1 is called for ingredient list).

While I'm on the topic of Thanksgiving, here are just a few of the blessings I'm thankful for this year:

Healthy, happy girls who sleep at night
A loving husband to share my life with
Time with my family (and a new niece or nephew!) this holiday season
Life Christian Fellowship
Understanding friends who have supported me in life's changes this year
A new house we'll move into in 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Country Bread Stuffing with Goat Cheese and Cranberries 
(serves 8-10)
adapted from Bon Appetit 11/06

1 (1 pound) loaf crusty white bread (like ciabatta)
1/4 c. olive oil
4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 large garlic clove, minced
6 T butter
1 1/2 c. finely chopped onion
1 1/2 c. finely sliced celery
1 c. finely chopped green bell pepper
1/3 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 3/4 c. low sodium chicken broth, heated
4 oz. chilled goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 9x13 glass pan.  Cut bottom crust and short ends off bread.  Cut remaining bread into 1 inch cubes (should yield about 10 cups loosely packed).  Place in a large bowl and add olive oil, thyme and garlic and toss together.  Spread out on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring often, about 20 minutes.  Return to same large bowl.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, celery and bell pepper.  Saute until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.  Mix in parsley and cranberries.

Stir the vegetables into the bread crumbs.  Add hot broth, tossing to coat.  Mix in cheese.  Transfer to the glass pan.  Cover with buttered foil (butter side down!).  Bake about 25 minutes, until heated through.  Uncover and bake until the top is brown, about 25 minutes more and serve!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gingerbread time!

Last week I had my first gingerbread latte at Starbucks and a piece of their gingerbread loaf.  In general, I don't really care for Starbucks baked goods but the pumpkin loaf and gingerbread loaf are pretty good.  Ever since I had that slice of their gingerbread, I wanted to make some of my own and I bought a jar of molasses on my next trip to the grocery store.

So, even though we haven't hit Thanksgiving yet, I give you permission to enjoy all things gingerbread this holiday season.

Sour Cream Gingerbread (8-10 servings)
adapted from Fannie Farmer Cookbook via this blog

2 eggs
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. molasses
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a cake pan (or 8x8 square).  Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and spices and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs for a minute or two.  Add the sour cream, brown sugar, and molasses and beat until smooth.  Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined.  Pour in the butter and beat the mixture until smooth.  Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fall days

How is it already November 18??  We're going to big sister's preschool for "Thanksgiving Feast" tomorrow (vegetable soup made by toddlers . . . yum?) and real Thanksgiving is only a week away.  Even though it's fall and not spring, some things have been growing around our house:

Big sister's plants

Piles of laundry & diapers

The baby (15 weeks old!)

The fall craft projects hanging on the kitchen wall

Here's a fall side dish for you to try.  It'll easily round out a fall supper menu and tastes great.  We polished this off (3 adults and 1 kid) last night.  I started it in the afternoon and let the cooked wild rice sit until dinner time when I added the rest of the stuff to it.  It can be served warm or at room temperature and will be fine in the refrigerator for a few days.  And, it looks pretty!

Wild Rice Pilaf (serves 6)
from Martha Stewart

1 T olive oil
1 small shallot, diced
1 c. wild rice
2 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 c. toasted pecans
1/4 c. dried cranberries
2 T chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper

Saute the shallot in the olive oil until soft.  Add the rice and saute for 1 minute.  Stir in the stock and let it come to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 40-50 minutes or until the rice is soft.  Stir in the pecans, cranberries, parsley, salt and pepper and serve!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chili & Cornbread

I bought sweet potatoes to make homemade sweet potato fries the other night and was looking for something to make with the leftover sweet potatoes when I remembered a recipe for Black bean and Sweet Potato Chili.  It's a hearty vegetarian chili with a good balance of sweet and spicy.  I overdid it a little this time on the spice so add the red pepper flakes and chiles to suit your palate.

You could serve the chili over steamed rice for a little heartier meal.  My friend Will (happy birthday!) brought us some homemade dark pumpkin beer (stout?) which was really good.  I substituted his beer for some of the broth in the chili and it was a nice flavor - you could do that with any dark beer.

We ate the chile with homemade cornbread.  I've been on a quest to make good cornbread without using a mix.  My previous try resulted in bad reviews from my husband and daughter (and I'll admit, I wasn't crazy about it) because I made it with no white flour or sugar.

This time around I really got what I was looking for.  It's Mark Bittman's recipe and I have had great luck trying his stuff.  I think the technique of melting the butter first helped a lot - the crispy edges were fantastic.  I added half a can of green chiles and about 3/4 cup of finely shredded cheddar cheese to it.  You can bake it plain like the recipe below or add stuff to jazz it up.

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili (about 2 quarts)

2 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 large sweet potato, diced
2 T - 1/4 c. diced green chiles (or fresh diced jalapeno)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T chili powder
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1-2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1 bay leaf
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
3-4 cups vegetable broth
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed & drained
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 T)
Chopped cilantro (for garnish)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium, and cook about 10 minutes or until the onion is soft.  Add the bell peppers, green chile, and sweet potato.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir and cook for 1 minute.  Add the chili powder and the rest of the spices and cook another minute.

Add the tomatoes and broth.  Simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender but not total mush.  Stir in the beans and cook another 10 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf and add the lime juice.  Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Here's the recipe for Mark Bittman's Cornbread

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baked Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli

Quick rant:  I have had a love/hate relationship with Trader Joe's for awhile.  Love certain products, low prices, and good expiration dates on dairy products.  Hate how they discontinue my favorite things, are often out of what I need, and have bad expiration dates on bread products.

Lately, the scale is tipping towards strongly dislike.  Today, I had a short list and ran into Trader Joe's while big sister was at her gym class.  They had everything except cilantro.  Cilantro.  I really need it for dinner tonight and now I have to make a whole trip to another store with two little girls for one ingredient.  This time I'm holding a grudge.  So irritating!

Anyways, now that's off my chest and we can move on to baked pasta.  This is really glorified mac & cheese with some protein and green vegetable thrown in for good measure.  I was dreaming up ways to use the vegetable I had on hand and the extra baked chicken breasts from the night before, and this was the result.

I made it in less than a half hour last night.  If you have longer, you could bake it at 400 for an extra 15-20 minutes (before turning on the broiler to really melt the cheese on top) and I bet it would be even better.  It would be more nutritious if you used whole grain / whole wheat pasta.  The kid loved it.

Baked Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli (serves 4)

1/2 - 3/4 pound pasta (medium size - I used rotini but I bet shells or macaroni would be good)
1 chicken breast, cooked, cut into small pieces
1 cup broccoli cut into small florets
1 T butter
2 T flour
2 c. milk
2 c. grated cheese (I used Gruyere, cheddar would work fine)
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Boil the pasta according to your package directions.  Throw the broccoli in for the last 2 minutes and drain everything together.  While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Add the flour and stir for about a minute.  Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until it's slightly thickened (about 4-5 minutes).  Add 1 1/2 c. of the cheese and stir until melted  then add the nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Toss the cheese sauce with the pasta/broccoli mixture, and the chicken.  Pour into a greased baking dish (I used 8 inch square but any 1 1/2 or 2 qt dish will work).  Sprinkle the rest of the cheese (grated cheese and the parmesan) on top and put it under the broiler in your oven until melty and golden - about 3-4 minutes.  Keep a close eye on it so it doesn't burn!

Instead of broiling, you could also pop it into a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lamb Chops with Apricot Pumpkin Glaze

It felt like fall today!  The weather had a crispness to it and the sunshine seemed more like fall light to me.  There was enough wind to fly big sister's kite!  Very exciting.  And them, tonight we had friends over for a pumpkin themed dinner.  This was the menu (and it was pretty spectacular!):

First course:  Roast Pumpkin Fondue with crackers and apples
Second course:  Mixed green salad with pears and roasted pumpkin seeds
Third course:  Baked penne pasta with pumpkin sauce
Fourth course:  Lamb chops with apricot pumpkin glaze, brussel sprouts with crispy leeks
Dessert:  Pumpkin cupcakes muffins with cream cheese frosting

It was delicious!  I was so busy cooking and enjoying that I didn't shoot a single picture.  So, without a photo, here is the recipe for the lamb chops.  My sister-in -law made these for us a few weeks ago and we loved them.  To go with the pumpkin theme, I added the pumpkin and brown sugar to the recipe but you could omit those two ingredients and keep the rest the same.

Lamb Chops with Apricot Pumpkin Glaze (4 servings)
adapted from Cooking Light 6/05

1/2 c. apricot preserves
2 T. canned pumpkin
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
8 lamb chops

Combine the apricot preserves, pumpkin, brown sugar, mustard, soy sauce, garlic, and worcestershire sauce in a bowl and set aside.  Mix the salt, cinnamon, and pepper and sprinkle on both sides of the lamb chops.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Cook the lamb chops about 3 minutes each side or a little longer if you want them more well-done (time will depend on how thick your chops are and how well done you want the chops but don't flip them too much).

Add the sauce to the pan for the last minute or so.  When you plate the lamb chops, put a little of the sauce on top of each one.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My 200th Post

For this, my #200 post on my blog, I offer this picture tutorial on making a pumpkin cake.  I'm pretty proud of myself for making something that has to be decorated after my previous decorating disasters.  Happy belated birthday to Stephanie, my foodie friend and partner in crime!

A few notes:
I made spice cakes and vanilla frosting.  The stem is a green ice cream cone (Ralphs carries colored cones for 99 cents a box).  I used green fruit roll ups (green apple flavor) for the decorations and cut them out with a sharp knife.  The food coloring was a bit of a challenge and it looked pink, not orange, for a long time!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Must. Stop. Eating. The. Candy.

What we gave out for Halloween (so I wouldn't sit around eating leftover candy):
*The fruit snacks are gluten-free

What big sister brought home from trick-or-treating:

What I'm doing . . . while she naps so she doesn't catch me: