Monthly Archives: August 2011

Creamy Thyme Sauce

 

This is a really simple béchamel sauce that I added only a few ingredients to, this evening.  It’s easy and it’s fast and it goes wonderfully over vegetables, pasta and chicken.  If you don’t have garlic powder and thyme, I promise they’re worth buying, since they’re very versatile.  The recipe’s composition is merely simple ingredients that you most likely already have and, in fact, you’ve probably made something similar before, but the family insisted that I must write this one up.  So, here are a few tips:

1.  Use slightly more butter than flour.

2.  Use heated milk, not cold milk.

3.  A dash of grated nutmeg  and black pepper go far.  Not a lot, just a smidgen.

4.  Parmesan and thyme can be substituted for something that suits your tastes, though this garlic, parmesan and thyme flavor really hits the spot for us.

5.  This sauce cooks up in about 10 minutes, so stay close.

 


Creamy Thyme Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups whole milk, heated
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt to taste
  • dash fresh grated nutmeg (optional)
  • dash fresh ground pepper (to taste)

Place saucepan over medium-low heat, add butter to melt.  Once melted, add flour stirring constantly until smooth.  Cook flour and butter until it reaches a pale golden color (5 minutes), then whisk in milk.  Bring to boil and stir.  Reduce temperature to low add parmesan and stir until melted.   Season with garlic powder and thyme.  Add salt to taste. Add nutmeg and pepper if desired.  Stir and simmer one minute more.  Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Note:  If sauce gets too tight and thick, whisk in some additional heated milk, or a little hot pasta water.

 

Posted in All, Dinner, For Kids, Lunch, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Deep Dish

It all started innocently enough, when I started thinking about pizza.  I know I know.  It happens to me a lot lately.  This is probably one of the last pizza-like posts I will be doing for a while.

Anyway, I started thinking about pizza as a tart.  Isn’t that sort of what it is?  Then I thought about deep dish.  It’s a very American version of pizza and it’s really delicious.  The bread and cheese factor gets amped up with a super thick crust, almost like focaccia, but not really.  Almost like a bread and cheese explosion with butter and garlic and a tender, flaky almost pastry-like crust topped with anything you can imagine, but usually tomatoes or tomato sauce of some sort . The first one I made came out like this.

It was really good, but it wasn’t perfect.  It was my first try.  The dough wasn’t light enough for me and there was far too much processed cheese.  Sure the crust was tender and delicious but there weren’t enough bursts of flavor or air pockets to satiate my thirst for deep dish knowledge.  The classic style was good, don’t get me wrong.  But then I did something…

I made a quick garlic compound butter and used some rosemary infused olive oil that I had just hanging out on my countertop.  It was begging to be used, but of course you can use whatever flavored or plain oil you prefer.  To solve the issue of heaviness in the crust, I decided to add cultured buttermilk to the mix to sort of soften and condition the dough and the baking soda neutralizes the lactic acid in the buttermilk.  All in all, it’s a hybrid between yeast and quick bread, also the combination of the acidic buttermilk and the baking soda act as a slight leavening agent, which never hurts bread in my opinion.  The flavor of the buttermilk adds a curious but gentle tang, which intrigues the tongue in a way that compliments the savory butter and garlic.  The sugar balances the whole thing out a bit as well as activates the yeast, obviously.   The dough rises fairly quickly, as opposed to days of fermenting in the refrigerator.  This took about 4 or 5 hours of rise time.  Time savers are good for me these days, though for standard or thin crust pizza, I recommend the long cold fermentation process with very little fat in the dough.   This crust is light and airy and crumbly and tender and flaky and yes….delicious.

Then I used fresh mozzarella and fresh tomatoes instead of the traditional and more wintery version with crushed tomatoes and regular old processed mozzarella.

 

It was the perfect thing to celebrate the end of summer.  Beautifully light and buttery savory bread with fresh and delicious quality cheese, two of my favorite things, obviously. Then topped with a little classical summer.

Deep Dish

Makes one nine and a half inch deep dish caprese style pizza as well as two additional pizza dough balls for future use.

  • 1 7g (1/4 ounce) package of quick-rise yeast
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil plus more for coating.
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 +1 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • rosemary, garlic or basil infused high quality olive oil
  • 4- 1/2 inch thick slices of fresh mozzarella
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • fine sea salt
  • black pepper
  1. In large bowl stir together  yeast, sugar and water.  Let it sit for ten minutes to activate yeast.  Stir in buttermilk and oil then sift in the six cups of flour, the baking soda and the salt.
  2. Stir until shaggy, then cover with plastic and let it rise on the counter at room temperature for one hour.
  3. Next knead dough on floured surface for ten minutes.  Place in well oiled bowl, cover again and put it in refrigerator for one hour.  Remove dough from refrigerator and divide in thirds.
  4. Roll two thirds into balls and place in oiled freezer bags for future use.  Note: can be frozen for up to 2 months or refrigerated for up to 2 days.
  5. Knead other third of dough and form into a ball.  Let the dough sit, covered, on oiled surface to come to room temperature.
  6. Once dough is at room temperature, preheat oven to 450 degrees and liberally butter a nine and a half inch spring form cake pan.  Place dough in the cake pan and spread using your hands until it covers the bottom.  Work the dough up the edges of the cake pan to desired height, trying to get the dough thinner in the corners, between bottom and side of the cake pan.
  7. Stir together butter and garlic and spread onto the dough.  Drizzle flavored olive oil over the butter. Set aside.
  8. Slice fresh tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet and place into preheated oven for 5-6 minutes. Remove and set aside on cooling rack with paper towels underneath, to cool.  The excess water from the tomatoes will drip onto the towels.
  9. Place cake pan with pizza dough into oven and bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven, top with fresh mozzarella, season with salt and pepper and another drizzle of flavored oil, and place back into oven until golden and brown which should take about 10 additional minutes.  Remove from oven and top with cooled roasted tomatoes, fresh basil leaves, sprinkle with fine sea salt and black pepper.  Finish with a drizzle of high quality flavored olive oil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in All, For Kids, Lunch, Vegetarian | 27 Comments

Vegetarian Vegetable Soup

It’s raining today, so I decided I needed something comforting and warm but not too heavy, considering that it is summer, despite the fact that I can nearly smell the apple orchard down the road.  I guess I still have just a few more weeks of summer posts, before the real fall happenings roll into town.

I love rainy days.  It’s weird, kind of, I guess…some people love summer and sun and I love clouds and rain and pretty much all things cozy.  Perhaps I just love the excuse to wear a sweatshirt regardless of the time of year… who knows, really.  One thing I do know is that I am a huge fan of comfort food, which this soup is.

It’s also light enough to be called “diet food” though I don’t consider this at all “diet food”  since I ate a big ol’ roll with butter on it, but that’s beside the point, really. I probably could have skipped that detail, but I didn’t.  I love adding roasted butternut squash to the mix in the late fall and winter, but I suppose that’s for a different post.

Now, on with the soup!

 

Vegetarian Vegetable Soup

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon safflower oil
  • 2 carrots peeled and diced
  • 1 yellow onion peeled and diced
  • 1 shallot grated or minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated or minced garlic
  • 2 celery stalks, cleaned and diced
  • 1 large baking potato, cleaned and diced
  • 1 15.5 ounce can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 32 fluid ounces vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
  • more salt and pepper to taste

Drop oil into four quart saucepan on medium-high heat.  When oil starts to ripple, add onions, shallot, celery, carrots and garlic.  Add one teaspoon salt.  Stand close and stir frequently until grated shallot and garlic starts to turn golden and the onions become translucent.  Add wine and crushed tomatoes, the other teaspoon of salt and cook and stir until  liquid reduces by half.  Add potatoes, beans, vinegar, pepper and sugar. Stir and add stock.  Bring to boil until potatoes and carrots are tender.  Add thyme, coriander seed and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Posted in Dinner, For Kids, Lunch, Vegetarian | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

5 Years Ago and Some Chocolate Cake

Five Years Ago Today…

I met you and my heart nearly burst when I finally got to hold you in my arms.

You taught me about ninjas, cowboys, space aliens, superheroes and dragon fighting.

You had a lot of hair, which was adorably hilarious, by the way.

I had never seen so much hair on something so tiny and cute, which definitely lightened the mood at 4am feedings.

You make me giggle and smile every day, my little comedian.  I love you.

Now, I will make you cupcakes, since that’s what you asked for.  Specifically, “chocolate birthday cake with chocolate cupcakes on top and cookies and candy and an alien on top of that!”

Took me a minute to wrap my brain around such a request, but I think I’ve figured it out and I hope you like it.  My big five-year old boy, I’m so proud of you.

 One Bowl Chocolate Cake and Cupcakes

  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons safflower oil
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9 muffin tins and one 9-inch cake pan with floured baking spray; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add the eggs, the warm water, the buttermilk, as well as the oil and vanilla.   Mix until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.
  2. Pour half of batter into cake pan.  Divide remaining batter evenly among prepared muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full.  Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Chocolate Frosting

  1. Melt butter and chocolate in top of double boiler over hot simmering water.  Remove top bowl from double boiler, set aside and turn off heat – allow to cool for 5 or 10 minutes.
  2. With an electric mixer add the confectioner’s sugar slowly to the chocolate mixture.  Beat until mixture resembles chalky beads. Add the vanilla and the milk 1 tablespoon at a time until a spreadable consistency is reached.
  3. Beat until fluffy — adding more milk if necessary.

 Candy Topping

  • 3 “fun-size” snickers bars
  • 1 Reese’s peanut butter cup
  • 2 ounces “bite-size” Oreos
  1. Roughly chop all ingredients and add to bowl.  Mix with fingers and sprinkle on top of frosted cakes.
Adapted from Cake Source and Frosting Source
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Garlic Rosemary Parmesan Flatbread

We spent the day outside today.   The pool and the gentle breeze were pleasant and the passing clouds were timed perfectly to cool the deck slightly.  I didn’t burn my toes as I removed them from the crisp clean water of the baby pool and onto the steamy boards of the deck.  I heard a rustling of the trees, so I turned slightly with the boys right behind me, I peered past my sunglasses only to see a very slow and very well-fed papa bear.  He slowly stepped forward.  We slowly stepped back, boys behind my arms. Fortunately we were about 20 yards back, but still that sort of thing is quite alarming.  I mean this bear’s head was the size of a dinosaur.

It was.

Anyway, we went inside after that, slightly skin-crisped from the sun anyway, despite layers of sunblock on the kids —Oh, right I’m supposed to put it on myself too.  Forgot.

Anyway, what was I saying?  Oh right!

 

I made this flatbread for a simple panini late lunch/early supper this mid-afternoon.  Garlic, rosemary and a bit of parmesan grated all over it make it less than boring.  Gosh I love olive oil salt and pepper, don’t you?  Seems like every recipe I write these days has those three things in it.  I wonder what the world would be like without olive oil, salt and pepper.  I bet that dinosaur-headed-bear would like it.  Not me, though.

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove minced or grated
  • 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1 pound frozen pizza dough, thawed
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Parmigiano-reggiano

 

Place olive oil garlic and rosemary in a small saucepan over low heat with olive oil.   

Put oven rack in upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 400°F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.  Divide dough in half, keeping one half covered with a clean lightly floured kitchen towel. Roll out other half to 1/8 inch thick.  Place on parchment lined baking sheet.  Using pastry brush, brush the infused olive oil onto the dough.  Sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper and half the parmesan.  Place in preheated oven until golden brown. Remove first sheet tray and top with remaining parmigiano-reggiano.  Repeat with remaining dough.   

 

 

 

 

Posted in All, Breakfast, Dinner, For Kids, Lunch, Vegetarian | 33 Comments

A Sweet Indulgence: Cream Puffs

This has been lightened and simplified from the typical frenchy-french type of recipe. It’s easy, and it’s so delicious.  If you have anyone within five yards of you while you’re making these, they grab a spoon and dive right in  - that’s instant portion control….just roll with it.

I made the pastry shells and hollowed them out with a paring knife, since the best part is the crusty exterior, I figured this was an excellent way to get the best of both worlds.  Next I filled the hollowed pastry shell with low-fat  ice cream.  The original recipe was adapted since I didn’t have any cream or half and half on hand, I just melted a bit of dark chocolate and used it as a shell topping and not a syrup topping.  I was very happy with the way it came out – it was really good, dark, rich chocolate so there was very little to argue with considering how easy and rich and satisfying it was – plus I avoided the use of heavy cream inadvertently and only needed a bit less than a tablespoon of butter to keep it from getting lumpy and yucky in the microwave.  I froze the chocolate and the butter so they were easy to grate.  I find it melts better in the microwave this way, but if you want to use a double boiler and all that, feel free.  So, let’s just say that I meant to do that (remove the heavy cream) since it reduces the fat and calories and what not. It’s kind of like ordering a diet coke with your plate of french fries, you know.  Yes it’s silly, but hey at least it’s not an extra hour at the gym.  I then put the  bottom shell with the ice cream and the hot dripped chocolate in the freezer to set it.  Meanwhile I popped the top of the shell  into the warmed oven. That sat for five minutes before serving.  The hardened frozen chocolate and warm crispy hollowed pastry shell was magnificent.

..It was so magnificent that I believe I only had one bite before the dish was gobbled up by my two little adorable chocolate and ice cream loving monsters.  One cream puff, three spoons yields lovely little grins and giggles.  The rest we save for dessert tonight.

 

  • 1 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup water (for dipping spoons and smoothing dough)
  • 4 ounces frozen bittersweet chocolate, grated
  • 1 tablespoon frozen butter, grated
  • 1 quart light vanilla ice cream

 

  1. Line baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. In 3-quart saucepan over medium heat bring water, butter and salt to a boil.  Stir and remove from heat.  Add flour and stir until it pulls away from edges of pan and your ball of dough forms.  Stir to incorporate any bits in the pan that may remain.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Next crack eggs in a bowl and whisk while the dough ball and pan reduce in temperature just a bit.  With electric mixer or cautiously and thoroughly by hand – to prevent scrambled eggs in your pastry- super gross, pour eggs into the pan with dough ball in three additions mixing for about 5 seconds after each addition.  The dough should become silky and sticky.
  4. Add water to the empty egg bowl and grab two spoons.  Dip both spoons in water and pick up approximately a scant 1/4 cup worth of dough on one spoon remove with the other spoon to form a ball of dough on the prepared, parchment-lined baking sheet.  Dip and repeat with remaining dough making ten balls two inches apart on prepared baking sheet.
  5. Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven for about 40 minutes, or until puffs are deep, golden and brown.
  6. Remove from oven and turn temperature to warm (170 degrees Fahrenheit). Slice the pastries across their equator to let steam escape then place them back into the oven to dry out and cool for ten minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and place on rack to let cool completely.
  8. Slice puffs completely along their equator into halves now and hollow out the inside of both halves, delicately using a paring knife. Place bottoms on sheet tray (for freezer) and tops on separate sheet tray (for warm oven). Place tops in oven.   Add a scoop of ice cream to each of the bottoms and place in freezer.
  9. Add grated chocolate and a scant tablespoon of grated butter to a small bowl.  Microwave on high for 15 seconds.  stir.  Continue to do this until evenly melted.
  10. Drizzle melted chocolate over the ice cream filled pastry shell bottoms.  Remove warmed pastry shell tops from oven and place on top of filled chocolate drizzled bottoms.  Serve immediately.

 

 

Adapted From : Source

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Pasta Peperonata

Why is it that I find it annoying for people to lecture about eating right and healthy unless they’re Jamie Oliver?  Is it the British accent? hmmm….well, anyway…  I love his recipes, I love that it’s always minimalistic but delicious, I love that it’s easy for home-cooks to grasp.  I especially love that his dishes are never over the top in expense or technique or preparation.  His style is earth and waistline friendly and I really love that he’s one of those chefs that somehow organically creates vegetarian dishes.  It’s almost as if some of his dishes are completely, accidentally, vegetarian, and I mean that as a good thing.

It’s difficult to find a non-vegetarian chef that doesn’t consider us veggies a big ‘ol pain in the …neck.  I like it, makes me feel like I’m part of the “in crowd” or something.  Many of his dishes just happen to be vegetable based rather than meat based and his food is never trying too hard to be vegetarian.  It just happens to be meatless.  As if he was just cooking along and then, “oops…forgot the meat. Still delicious, though, so.. let’s just leave it that way.”

That’s my style.  I totally dig it.

This is delicious.  It’s easy and it’s meatless.  And, yes, I’m a sucker for British accents.

Pasta Peperonata

 

  • 2 red bell peppers deseeded and sliced
  • 2 green bell peppers deseeded and sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 red onion peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 beefsteak tomatoes diced
  • 3 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
  • pecorino romano cheese
  • fresh basil leaves
  • 1 pound / 455g rigatoni, penne or spaghetti

 

Preheat large frying pan over medium heat and toss all peppers with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper then add to pan.  Cover and let the peppers soften slowly to maximize flavor for about 15 minutes.  Add sliced onion and cook for 10 minutes more.  Add garlic, tomatoes, vinegar and a sprinkle of pecorino romano to pan, toss and reduce heat to low.  Meanwhile, bring salted water to boil for pasta. Boil pasta as directed by the package instructions and drain, reserving just enough cooking water to keep the pasta from drying out – not a lot.

In warmed bowl toss the pasta and the peperonata together with the cooking water.  Top with fresh basil leaves and additional pecorino romano cheese.  Serve immediately.

 

Adapted from: Source

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