Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Quinoa and Cucumber Salad with Zesty Garlic Dressing

This recipe came to me after reading about tons of fresh, summery salads made from cooked grains. It was the beautiful union of several ideas, yielding a simple and fresh recipe that was suited to what I had on hand. I have been trying to get in the habit of cooking extra quinoa to store in the fridge to use later. I love re-frying it in butter and salt and pepper and serving it with scrambled eggs for breakfast. It is healthy and delicious, and I feel good about what my family is eating.
There are so many perks with this one, I don't even know where to begin. It can be made hours in advance and kept in the fridge, and it only tastes better because the veggies get to marinate in the dressing. It is perfect for a picnic, potluck, or barbeque, because there is no mayo, so no risk of that spoiling. You could change up the ingredients any way you like. As is, the recipe is vegetarian, vegan, preservative-free and loaded with whole grains and fresh veggies. And there is no compromise in flavor with this tangy lemon and garlic dressing. 

Give it a try and tell me what you think.

Quinoa and Cucumber Salad with Zesty Garlic Dressing
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 English cucumber, chopped in a thick dice
1 roma tomato, diced
1 can olives, drained

for the dressing

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice
3 minced cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Allow the quinoa to cool. Combine dressing ingredients in a mason jar and shake well or whisk in a bowl. Lightly dress the quinoa, then add other ingredients. Add remaining dressing and salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Strawberry Ice Cream

A fun project on a day that is not too hot is making ice cream. It is so much richer and creamier than what comes from the store and it makes delicious use of fresh, ripe fruit. I prefer the French version, which, of course, is made with custard. The American version usually only contains milk or cream.
One of our favorite flavors is strawberry. Sweet and very berry flavored it is a fun treat for a hot summer day.
The whole thing takes a few hours, so be sure to start around noon. You will make the custard first, let it cool in the fridge, and then make the strawberry sauce. Combine the two well and place in the ice cream maker.

If you are interested in making vanilla, chocolate, or coffee, click here for the recipe.
For the custard:
Makes about 1 1/2 pints
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 vanilla beans (split lengthwise)
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs

Combine cream, milk, sugar, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Scrape seeds from vanilla beans with tip of a knife into cream mixture, then drop in pods. Heat cream mixture just to a boil.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl, then add hot cream mixture one ladle at a time. Once you have added two or three ladles, pour mixture into saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until slightly thickened and registers 170°F on thermometer (do not let boil). ( I never use a thermometer)

Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean metal bowl, then cool, stirring occasionally. Chill, covered, until cold, at least 3 hours, up to 24.

For strawberry sauce:
3 cups strawberries, washed, hulled, and sliced
1/2 cup sugar

 Combine strawberries and sugar in a pot on the stove. Cook, stirring and mashing with a potato masher until all the sugar is dissolved and mixture comes to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Bring to room temperature. Combine with the cooled custard.
Freeze custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturers directions. Transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Everybody loves chocolate chip cookies. They are basic, homey, and make you feel like a kid again. They bring back memories of mom's or grandma's spoiling us with a chewy, buttery afternoon snack, with just the right amount of chocolate sprinkled in. They are amazing with milk, ice cream, or even lemonade. They make you smile when you open your lunchbox and see someone snuck one in when you weren't looking. As iconic as they are, surprisingly there are many people who are not satisfied with their own recipe.
To be quite honest, I have not really been satisfied with mine. They aren't disgusting, or anything, they just aren't that chewy. They are sort of crisp, which I have always blamed on the butter, but I absolutely refuse to make cookies with shortening. I figured there must be some other way. Cookies kind of intimidate me. I never feel like I am bringing my A-game when I make up a batch. Mine usually end up looking like a tuile, maybe worse. A paper-thin, crunchy mess that tastes good, but has the visual appeal of  shoo-fly-pie.
I have secretly borne this shame until now.
It wasn't until a friend of mine sent her feeble cry to the endless abyss of Facebook, asking if anyone had a chewy cookie recipe, that I decided it was time to figure this one out. I sat, staring in deliberation. As the foodie, I should be the first one supplying a recipe. My 'no-fail' chewy, chocolate chip cookie that I turn to in need. Instead I sat and watched as countless friends commented, stating that they, too, were looking for that perfect recipe.
I honestly don't believe there are perfect recipes, and variables always change things, but these cookies are pretty close. My husband said they were the best he has ever had (shocker...) and he gave them a 9.5. Why? Because he wants to leave room for improvement.

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
(from Food Network)

Ingredients 2 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 1/2 sticks butter, softened
1 3/4 cups packed brown sugar (dark brown is okay)
1/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips


Sift the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together into a large bowl.
Beat the butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in a bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes (use the paddle attachment for a stand mixer). Beat in the eggs one at a time, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the dough and refrigerate at least 1 hour or preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges but still soft in the middle, about 12 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and let cool 10 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to racks to cool completely.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Chocolate Malt Ball Cake

This cake I most recently made on Easter. We always have the same things for Easter dinner, and I like to broaden things a bit and make something different for dessert. Last year we had a carrot cake, and we almost made that again, but my sister had been bugging me to make this malt ball cake I had made before. I wasn't really happy with the cake, it was a bit dry but the malt flavor was great and very fun, especially with the ring of malt balls around the edge. The frosting is termed as an 'American' buttercream, which means it isn't a French buttercream, or a Swiss meringue buttercream, with eggs, double boilers, and a whole lot of whisking, but this is simply butter, a bit of hot water, some powdered sugar and flavorings. I changed the cake recipe to one of my favorites and just added the malt flavoring to it. These would be great and so cute as cupcakes, perfect for a little get together. This is really an easy cake. The sides don't get frosted, but I don't think it needs it. My sister, on the other hand, after she had quickly devoured her slice of cake, promptly told me it needed to be frosted on the side. So, I guess that would be up to you, but you would need a bit more frosting than this recipe makes.
It is not a fancy finished cake, with these malt-balls all around the top in a hap-hazard way, but it is delicious!

For the cake:
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (spooned into cup to measure, then leveled)
2 tablespoons malted milk powder
1 cup luke warm water, divided
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups cake flour (spooned into cups to measure, then leveled)
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature, beaten to blend

For the frosting:
2 cups confectioners' (powdered) sugar
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup malted milk powder
1 stick, plus 1 tablespoon soft butter
2 tablespoons boiling water
malted milk balls (about 2 oz)

Position 1 rack in top third and 1 rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 350°F. Butter three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2-inch-high sides. Line with parchment paper rounds; butter parchment. Whisk cocoa, malted milk powder, and 1/2 cup warm water in small bowl. Whisk buttermilk and 1/2 cup water in another small bowl. Sift flour, baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat both sugars and butter in large bowl until pale yellow and fluffy (mixture will appear granular), about 5 minutes. With mixer running, gradually add beaten eggs, then beat until smooth and fluffy, about 15 seconds. Add cocoa mixture; beat to blend. Add flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 2 additions, beating to blend after each addition. Divide batter among pans (about 1 3/4 cups each).
·         Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, reversing pans halfway through baking, about 18 minutes. Cool completely in pans on racks.

For the frosting:
You can make the entire frosting in the food processor if you want, otherwise, use a hand mixer. In the food processor, combine the sugar, cocoa, and malt powder and process until the lumps are gone. Add the butter and process again. Stop, scrape down, and start the motor again, pouring the boiling water down the funnel until smooth.
Frost and top with malt balls as desired.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Spinach and Sausage Tortellini

At my house, one of the few things that wins every time is pasta. It doesn't matter what I do to it, whether I cook kale and throw it in, toss in some sausage, or perhaps some browned butter, it is always a winner. Red sauce, white sauce, garlic butter sauce, bacon cream sauce, ground sausage, ground beef, shrimp or chicken, it doesn't matter. I might toss in fresh lemon juice, tomatoes, and steamed vegetables with a protein, or make a spicy red sauce with shrimp. My kids love it, my husband loves it, my sister usually loves it (unless there are shrimp).
Besides being one of the easiest meals to throw together in about half an hour, pasta is also fun and easy to make. I know we have this preconception that it is difficult and time-consuming, but pasta is quick and easy, and can be done in a matter of minutes. The dough is simple and easy, and I find it so rewarding to make it fresh. All you need is flour and eggs and  you have a blank canvas for anything you can conceive. Add freshly ground black pepper and you have a delicious base for a strong cheese and browned butter. Make spinach pasta and top with a rich cream sauce.
One of our family favorites is spinach and sausage tortellini. Sometimes we add cheese, sometimes we leave it out, but I usually make a double batch and freeze some of it for another meal. It doesn't seem like very much, but if you have had tortellini you know a little goes a long way. They are also delicious if you drop them into a spicy vegetable tomato soup.
So the next time you have a lazy afternoon, set aside a little time to make up a batch of pasta and see how delicious and tender homemade pasta is.

(I usually double the recipe and pop some in the freezer)
For the pasta:
2 cups flour
3 eggs

For the filling:
There is an endless multitude of fillings you can use. Just be sure you season them as you normally would, and cook all meats to a safe temperature. Fresh pasta cooks in a matter of minutes and most meats do not cook that quickly, even ground.
 about 1/2 cup of filling per batch
cooked spinach with garlic and italian sausage
cheese and cooked spinach
lobster and bechamel sauce

For the pasta:
Mound the flour in the center of a large wooden cutting board. Make a well in the middle of the flour, add the eggs. Using a fork, beat together the eggs and begin to incorporate the flour starting with the inner rim of the well. As you incorporate the eggs, keep pushing the flour up to retain the well shape (do not worry if it looks messy). The dough will come together in a shaggy mass when about half of the flour is incorporated.

Start kneading the dough with both hands, primarily using the palms of your hands. Add more flour, in 1/2-cup increments, if the dough is too sticky. Once the dough is a cohesive mass, remove the dough from the board and scrape up any left over dry bits. Lightly flour the board and continue kneading for 3 more minutes. The dough should be elastic and a little sticky. Continue to knead for another 3 minutes, remembering to dust your board with flour when necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes at room temperature. Roll and form as desired.

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