Monday, December 27, 2010

Red Velvet Cake

My friend gave me a Cook's Illustrated holiday baking issue and this graced the cover.  It had "Christmas Day" written all over it for me, so I brought the recipe with me to my in-laws where I traditionally try out a new dessert that can more easily be accomplished while the kids are being entertained.  The outcome was good.  The cake itself was surprisingly not that sweet, but very moist and the cream cheese frosting made it plenty sweet to be a dessert.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp natural cocoa powder
2 Tbsp red food coloring (one 1-ounce bottle)
12 Tbsp unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups sugar

16 Tbsp unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
4 cups confectioners' sugar
16 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces, softened
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 pinch salt

To make the cake:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350.  Grease and flour two 9-inch pans.

Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.

Whisk buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and eggs in large measuring cup.

Mix cocoa with food coloring in small bowl until smooth paste forms.

With stand mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as necessary.  Add one-third of flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Add half of buttermilk mixture and beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds.  Scrape down bowl as necessary and repeat with half of remaining flour mixture, remaining buttermilk mixture, and finally remaining flour mixture.

Scrape down bowl, add cocoa mixture and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated about 30 seconds.  Using rubber spatula give batter final stir.

Scrape into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes, then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

To make the frosting:
With stand mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add cream cheese, 1 piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds.  Beat in vanilla and salt.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

When cakes are cooled, spread about 2 cups frosting on 1 cake layer.  Top with second cake layer and spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 3 days.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes

Might I suggest pancakes for your Christmas breakfast?!  No?  Ok, that's fine.  But these were really good!  We've been into pancakes lately.  It just seems to fit the holiday season - including my daughter's first birthday this week!  These have been my husband's favorite so far and I agree they were delicious, but I'll post my favorites later.

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cup yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/3 cups milk
3/4 cups canned pumpkin
3 large eggs, separated
3 Tbsp melted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, allspice, and salt.  In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, pumpkin, egg yolks, melted butter, and vanilla.  Add pumpkin mixture to dry ingredients and whisk until smooth.  In a medium bowl with an electric mixer, beat egg whites until peaks form.  Fold into batter.

Preheat nonstick griddle or skillet over medium-high heat.  Lightly spray or brush with vegetable oil (or butter!).  Pour 3/4 cup batter onto griddle for each pancake.  Cook until bubbles form on the surface, about 2 minutes.  Turn and cook until golden on the other side, 1 minute longer.  Serve with topping of your choice.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Soup Swap

You've GOT to try this!  Plan now to host a Soup Swap in the new year!  I first read about the idea on Leslie's blog and went for it.  This was way better than a cookie exchange, if you ask me.

Invite some friends over, whip up a few tasty snacks (like these, or this, or these), prepare a variety of warm drinks (since this would probably be enjoyed more in cooler weather) and have everyone bring four batches of their favorite soup in four separate ziploc bags.  You could do more, but I thought four was plenty of cooking for everyone to prepare.  Everyone puts their labeled bags-o-soup on a table and then you draw numbers to determine the order of picking.  Number 1 starts and can take one bag of whatever soup they want (except their own!).  Number 2 goes and so on until you get through round one.  Number 1 starts the second round of selecting, but has to take a different kind of soup.  You can't pick the same soup twice.  You do four rounds of everyone picking a bag of soup and then it's over.  Everyone leaves happy with four different bags of soup to freeze and eat during the winter season.  Brilliant! 

I gave bags of homemade croutons as a party favor and was lucky enough to keep Mulligatawny, Sherried Tomato Soup, Potato Kale, and a Chicken Sausage Bean stew for my family.  Yummy!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Shredded Chicken with Apricots and Dates

I saw this on Alana's blog and went with some of her suggested changes from the original recipe to make two batches for our community group.  It was DELICIOUS!  The flavors were subtle, but fantastic and the chickpeas made it a full-meal-deal in a bowl.  This one convinced me to make a "crowd pleaser" tab.  I doubled the recipe and used two crock pots to feed about 15 very satisfied friends!

1 1/2 pounds chicken meat
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup dried pitted dates, coarsely chopped or 3/4 cups raisins
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup orange juice

Put the chicken into the bottom of a 4 to 6-quart slow cooker.

Add diced onion, and spices. Sprinkle on the apricots and dates. Dump in the chickpeas.  Pour the broth and orange juice evenly over the top. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or on high for 3-5. The chicken should be quite tender and shred easily with a fork.

Serve with quinoa or brown rice with the juices----the broth is delicious!

image found here

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Black Beans and Sausage

The whole family loved this!  My husband said (in between bites) this one needs to be a long-time family keeper.  I don't think it needs the yogurt, but a pan of cornbread is a perfect side.  I pulled the picture from the Everyday Food website.  My camera broke this weekend, so you get a break from my amateur food photography until we figure out something else.

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound Kielbasa or other smoked sausage cut into one inch pieces
4 medium carrots, diced small
1 medium onion, chopped small
coarse salt, ground pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups chicken broth
3 TB chopped fresh parsley, plus more for serving
1/4 cup plain yogurt, for serving - optional

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium high. Add sausage and cook until browned on all sides.  About 8 minutes.Transfer to a plate.
Add carrots and shallots to the skillet, and cook until beginning to soften.  About 4 minutes.
season with salt and pepper.
Add garlic and cook until fragrant - about one minute.
Add black beans and broth and bring mixture to a boil.  Add sausage, reduce heat to a rapid simmer, and cook until carrots are tender - about 12 minutes.
Remove  from heat, stir in parsley, serve with more parsley and a dollop of yogurt.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Fruit and Nut Crisps

I took this picture from the same site where I found the recipe - love it!  These were fun to make, and delicious when spread with cream cheese!  I enjoyed them plain as well, but for serving purposes I think it'd be best to pair with spreadable cheese, butter, or a light jam. 

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey

1/2 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup flax seed, ground

1/2 cup apricots
1/2 cup dried figs, chopped
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries
1/2 cup figs
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
Zest of one orange

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Step 1: Bake the Loaves

In a large bowl, stir together the flours, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk, brown sugar and honey and stir a few strokes.

Add the seeds, (pumpkin, sesame, and flax) apricots, dried figs, hazelnuts, and rosemary and stir just until blended.

Pour the batter into 1 8”x4” loaf pan and 2 mini-loaf pans that have been sprayed with nonstick spray.  I used five mini loaf pans so the crisps would all be the same size.

Bake for about 22 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack.

Wrap tightly and freeze slightly before slicing. OR freeze for up to two months, then partially thaw, slice and bake for fresh crackers.

Step 2: Slice & Bake the Crisps

The cooler the bread, the easier it is to slice thin.  I put mine directly from the freezer onto the cutting board.  Slice the loaves as thinly as you can and place the slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Preheat the oven to 300°F and bake them for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes, until crisp and deep golden.

Cool and store in an airtight container.
Makes about 8 dozen crackers.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

White Turkey Chili

Odds are you don't have any turkey left over to make this, but be sure to bookmark and use for Christmas or next year.  This was fantastic!

1/2 lb white beans, soaked overnight in water, drained 
3 cups turkey stock 
1 cloves garlic, minced 
1 medium onions, chopped (divided) 
1 Tbsp olive oil 
1 jalapeƱo or serrano pepper, stem and most seeds removed, chopped (optional) 
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1 teaspoon dried oregano 
Pinch of ground cloves 
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper 
2 4-ounce cans chopped green chilies 
2 cups diced cooked turkey 

    Salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon)
    1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese 
    1/3 cup (loose) chopped cilantro 
    1/4 cup chopped green onions 
    1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and chopped (or guacamole) 
    Chopped tomatoes or salsa 
    Corn tortilla chips and/or fresh warmed flour tortillas

    Combine beans, turkey stock, garlic and half the onions in a large soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until beans are very soft, 1 to 3 hours or more. (Depending on the type of white beans you are using. Cannelli beans are tender and tend to cook rather quickly. Navy beans take longer.) Add additional water (or watered-down stock), if necessary.
      Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat, cook chopped jalapeno (if using) and remaining onions in oil until tender. Add green chilies and seasonings and mix thoroughly. Add to bean mixture. Add turkey and salt to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes or more (up to an hour) until the beans are thoroughly soft and the stew has thickened.

      Serve topped with grated cheese. Garnish with cilantro, chopped fresh tomato, salsa, chopped green onions, and/or avocados. Serve with fresh warmed flour tortillas or tortilla chips.
      Serves 4 to 5.

      Saturday, December 4, 2010

      Tex-Mex Pot Roast

      I promise the meat is under all that cheese!  I need to start a new label: crock pot crowd pleasers.  This would most certainly go on the list!  Talk about easy and delicious - and perfect for a Saturday full of great college football games.  Go Ducks and Sooners!

      2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast
      1 tsp chipotle chile powder (I just used regular old chili powder and a few sprinkles of cayenne pepper)
      1 15oz. can chili beans, undrained
      1 15oz. can corn, drained
      1 10oz can original Rotel (tomatoes and chilies), undrained 

      Starting with your meat, dump everything in the crock pot.  My meat was half frozen and it didn't make a difference.  Cover and cook on low for 8 to 10 hours or on high for 4 to 6 hours.  Serve over baked potatoes with cheese (and sour cream if you're really going all out!).  You could also serve over tortilla chips or warmed tortillas.
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