Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Butternut Squash & Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese

Wow . . . the holidays.  We had so much fun with our girls, spending time with family, and many Christmas events.   It's too hard to pick favorite moments, or even photos but here are a couple:
New pjs and a giraffe hat for the baby

This photo may be blurry but it totally captures her immediate excitement when she opened the hobby horse.
The littlest member of our family has started eating something other than breastmilk!

But, I have to say, I've had way too much sugar lately and don't really want to see another cookie for awhile.  At least for a week.  The other night, I made this for dinner.  It was a good departure from the heavy food we've consumed lately, an interesting balance of textures and flavors, and contains lots of nutrients.

Originally from Bon Appetit 10/09, I came across the recipe on Smitten Kitchen awhile ago.  Do you know my obsession with goat cheese?  I'm surprised I haven't made this sooner.  I didn't have the hot smoky paprika so I used Penzey's Spanish Paprika and a little cayenne.  The spice coating on the butternut squash burnt a bit while the squash was roasting.  I also used plain, brown lentils instead of French lentils.  Don't skip the mint leaves or the goat cheese . . . they made the salad!

Butternut Squash & Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese 
3 main course servings or 6 first course servings

3/4 cup lentils (original recipe says French green lentils)
  • 6 cups 1-inch pieces peeled seeded butternut squash (appx one 2lb squash)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Soak lentils in cold water for 10 minutes.  Drain.  Cook in a pot of boiling salted water until tender but firm, about 30 minutes.  Rinse under cold water, drain and set aside.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss the squash with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the cumin, paprika and sea salt.  Roast on a rimmed baking sheet for 15 minutes.  Flip with a spatula and roast for another 10-15 minutes or until squash is tender but not mushy.  Cool.

Mix lentils, roasted squash, 1 tablespoon of oil, arugula, mint, vinegar, and half of the goat cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  After plating the salad, sprinkle the rest of the goat cheese on top.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Molasses Spice Cookies

This is my best, favorite, tried and true Christmas cookie recipe.  It's originally from America's Test Kitchen but was passed on to me by my friend Eileen.  If you want a great cookie for the holiday season, make these!

Some Tips:
-       I often make the dough a few hours or the night before and refrigerate it so it doesn’t stick to my hands when forming the balls.  An alternative would be to moisten your hands occasionally with cold tap water when shaping the balls to prevent sticking.
-       For stronger flavor, use dark molasses.
-       If you want, you can skip the orange zest part but I like the flavor of it.  My friend Amber uses colored decorating sugar (red & green) to make these look more Christmasy.
-      A double batch will fit in the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer.

Molasses Spice Cookies  (2 dozen)
from America's Test Kitchen                                                                     

1/3 c. granulated sugar, plus ½ cup for dipping
1-2 tsp. orange zest
2 ¼ cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
¼ tsp salt
12 T. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup light or dark molasses

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine ½ cup sugar and orange zest in a food processor.  Place sugar/orange mixture in a pie pan for dipping.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in medium bowl until thoroughly combined; set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter with brown sugar and remaining 1/3 cup sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to medium-low nad add yolk and vanilla.  Increase speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds.  Reduce speed to medium-low and add molasses; beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bottom and sides of bowl once with rubber spatula.  Reduce speed to lowest setting; add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl down once.  Give dough a final stir by hand to ensure that no pockets of flour remain at bottom.  Dough will be soft.
  4. Using a tablespoon measure, scoop heaping tablespoon of dough and roll it between your palms into a ball.  Drop ball into pie pan with sugar and repeat to form about 4 balls.  Toss balls in sugar to coat and set on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are browned, still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between the cracks and seem underdone), about 11 minutes.  Do NOT overbake. 
  5. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack.  Cool cookies to room temperature.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

I love the holidays!  Before we get to the cake I just made, let me say that our December has been so much fun so far and we have many more fun activities to come.  My nephew being born has been one of the highlights of December so far but I don't have any photos of that to share.  Here are some photos of decorating the tree, watching the Christmas Parade at Disneyland (and seeing the fake snow), and big sister's first Christmas program at preschool.

I have 4 girlfriends that I get together with about once a week (I know - that's amazing, right?).  Tonight I'm hosting the annual Christmas party that we have  We're just having dessert, drinks, a gift exchange (something used or made - not new), and for the first time this year, we're all supposed to wear "ugly Christmas sweaters."  If you know me very well, you know I don't like to dress up as something for parties so this obviously wasn't my idea!  But, it'll be fun and I'm excited to have a grown-up Christmas party with my friends.  Here's what I'm making:

Champagne Cosmopolitans

Put a little bit of Triple Sec, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and about 2 tablespoons of cranberry juice in a champange glass.  Top with champagne and serve with a slice of lime.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake (serves 8)

1 1/2 c. whole cranberries
6 T butter
6 T brown sugar

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour the sides of a springform pan.  Wrap the bottom of the pan in foil and set the pan on a baking sheet. In a small saucepan, melt the 6 T butter.  Whisk in the brown sugar and stir for a few minutes until well combined.  Pour on the bottom of the springform pan.  Spread the cranberries over the butter sugar mixture making sure they're in a single layer.  Set aside.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Cream the 1/2 c. / 1 stick butter with the sugar.  Add the yolks, one at a time, until well combined.  Add the extracts.  Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk.  Make sure it's all combined but don't overmix.  In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Add one-fourth of the egg whites to the cake batter and stir it in to lighten the batter.  Then, very gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter until no streaks remain.  Spoon batter over the cranberry topping.  

Bake for 45-55 minutes until the top of the cake is lightly browned and a tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes.  Invert onto a serving platter.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crockpot Lasagna

I've been wanting to try lasagna in my crockpot for awhile and finally made it.  The recipe I used was from one of those email recipe exchanges and I made it just like it was written.  I've never substituted cottage cheese for ricotta in a lasagna before and it wasn't bad but I love ricotta and will probably change the recipe a little next time.  I like the method but it would be good with ricotta instead of cottage cheese, some additional spices, and maybe sausage instead of the ground beef.

The day I made it, I was really distracted because my sister in law was having a baby (my new little nephew is just perfect!) so I forgot about dinner until late afternoon.  I did one hour on high and then 2 hours on low and the noodles were soft.  I think the 4 hours on low would work perfectly.  My husband and big sister both really liked it and the leftovers were good too.

Crock Pot Lasagna
1 pound lean group beef
jar spaghetti sauce
2 cups cottage cheese
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
6 whole Lasagna noodles, uncooked
1/4 cup water

Brown ground beef in frying pan and drain fat.  Line the bottom of the crock pot with a small amount of spaghetti sauce.  Add the rest of the jar of sauce to the ground beef in the frying pan along with the water.  Stir until well blended.  In the crock pot, place 2-3 uncooked lasagna noodles that are broken to fit the shape (some overlap is fine).  

Cover the noodles with half of the cottage cheese, Mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese, then top cheeses with half of the meat sauce mixture.  Repeat the layers with the other half of the ingredients.  Cook on low for 4 hours.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Persimmon Cake

Remember how much I love persimmons?  This year I wasn't given a ton like last year, but I found them at a little produce store by my house for $.69/pound (Ralphs was charging $1.99 each!!!) and my sister in law gave me a bag full.  So, I'm having fun baking with them.

First up, a persimmon cake.  A few weeks ago, I made half of the recipe below (but no nuts) and baked it in three mini loaf pans for about 20 minutes.  The next time I made it, I used the recipe below and a bundt pan.  The original recipe has a little more sugar, instructs you to bake it longer (mine was done in 45 minutes and I probably should have checked it a little sooner) and has the addition of 3/4 c. raisins.  I also inadvertently used a whole teaspoon of nutmeg.   Moist spice cake with the lingering taste of clove and perfect complement to the persimmons.

Fuyu Bundt Cake 
adapted from Sunset magazine

2 tsp. baking soda
3 c. chopped firm Fuyus
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. chopped walnuts

Grease and flour a bundt cake pan. Preheat oven to 350.  Blend the baking soda into the chopped firm Fuyus. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar. Add eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Stir in Fuyu mix.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, ground cloves,  cinnamon, and  nutmeg. Stir flour into Fuyu mixture just until blended. Add chopped walnuts and raisins.

Pour into prepared bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 45 - 55 minutes or until toothpick tests clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Turn onto rack.  Serve warm or room temperature.  I served it with whipped cream but you could make a simple icing and drizzle it on the top.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tortellini Soup

We had tortellini soup at a friend's house a few weeks ago and I've been wanting to make it ever since.  Last night after church, I realized that I had most of the ingredients I thought I needed and I made up this recipe.  It was pretty good - my husband said that fresh tortellini (the kind you buy refrigerated as opposed to the dry stuff I used) would have made it better.  And, of course, he doused his portion with red chili flakes.  The tortellini absorbed more liquid than I thought so I added some hot water at the end.  You can up the amount of broth in the recipe or use the whole can of diced tomatoes to avoid that problem.

Tortellini Soup (serves 2)

2 links spicy Italian sausage
1/4 c. chopped onion
1/2 tsp. oregano
2 cans chicken broth
1/2 can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
1 1/2 c. dried cheese tortellini
Fresh parmesan cheese

Take the sausage out of the casings, crumble and brown in a large pot with the onion. Drain the grease.   Add the oregano, tomatoes, and broth and bring to a boil.  Add the tortellini and cook until it's soft (at least the length of time that the package says).  After putting the soup in bowls, grate the parmesan cheese over the top of it (or use a vegetable peeler to make thin strips) and serve!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Another holiday dessert

I distinctly remember being a kid and not understanding why anyone would choose the brown pie with the nuts when they could be eating pumpkin pie or apple pie.  Then, one Thanksgiving I tried it and I fell in love. Even with the loss of my childish innocence as to what makes that sugary gooey goodness (corn syrup, butter and sugar), pecan pie is my favorite holiday pie.  I've done variations (added cranberries, chocolate chips, made it into bars) but the plain 'ol original is still the best.

I brought a pecan pie to Thanksgiving at my mom's this year.  In other Thanksgiving news, my 3 year old daughter ran a WHOLE MILE at a kid's run in La Canada.  I didn't think she'd be able to run the whole distance but her little legs just kept going!

I'm toying with the idea of posting only desserts until Christmas because face it, what are the holidays without an extra 10 pounds and way too much sugar?  We'll see if any protein or main dishes make it onto the blog in the next 23 days.  Wait . . . nuts are a good source of protein.  So maybe pecan pie is good for you after all!

Pecan Pie (8 servings)
recipe from my mom

1 uncooked pie crust
3 eggs
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 c. dark Karo syrup
1 c. pecans (halves, not chopped)

Make or buy a pie crust and put it into a pie pan.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Beat eggs until foamy (I use a whisk, but you could also use a mixer).  Add butter, vanilla, sugar and salt.  Beat well.  Add Karo syrup.  Beat until foamy.  Pour into pie pan.  Pour pecans on top "and sink them with a fork or something."  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the center is only a little jiggly and starting to crack.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Bundt Cake

This recipe from Dorie Greenspan has been floating around the internet for awhile and I was pretty skeptical.  It seemed like it would be too chunky or fruitcakey for my taste.  But, a couple of weeks ago we were invited somewhere for dinner and I wanted to make a dessert and not go to the grocery store again.  I happened to have all these ingredients on hand and I gave it a try. 

It was awesome.  Easy to make, rave reviews, not much left, and looks great - your new holiday go to cake.  The next time I make it, I might substitute Fuyu persimmons for the apples but other than that, it's really a great recipe.

Make a bundt, trim the tree and have a fun beginning of the holiday season!

All in One Holiday Bundt (12 servings)
by Dorie Greenspan

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
1 1/4 sticks (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup cranberries, halved or coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting or maple syrup icing (see note)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9- to 10- inch (12 cup) Bundt pan. Don’t place the pan on a baking sheet-you want the oven’s heat to circulate freely through the Bundt’s inner tube.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and ground ginger, if you’re using it (not the grated ginger).
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and both sugars together at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the pumpkin, chopped apple and grated ginger, if you’re using it-don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. With a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and pecans. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula.
Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding, then cool to room temperature on the rack.

Maple Icing:
Sift 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Add more maple syrup little by little, until you have an icing that runs nicely off the tip of the spoon — you might need another 1/2 tablespoon syrup to get the right consistency. Let the icing set for a few minutes before serving.