Epicurious Events!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Hey folks.  I apologize for another week of nary a post.  I thought that I was feeling better, but turns out, not so much.  So I haven't really done a ton of cooking.  I did put together a few items for the graduation party this weekend, and I will share those recipes with you, hopefully tomorrow.  And also share the copy-cat Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwich recipe that I mentioned.

I did, however, want to give you all a head's up that Epicurious is going to hold the 3rd Annual Epicurious Farmers' Market Tour from July 30-August 21st in different cities around the country.  It doesn't look like there are any close enough for me to make it, but I would love to hear about your experiences if any of you get to go (especially if you go to the one in Boston; one of my favorite cities)!

Here is the lineup:
San Francisco - Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market - July 20th & 24th
Chicago - Daley Plaza Farmers' Market - July 29th
Minneapolis - Farmers' Market Annex - July 31st & August 1st
Boston - Copley Square Farmers' Market - August 6th
Boston - City Hall Farmers' Market - August 9th
New York City - Union Square Greenmarket - August 16th, 20th & 21st

Patriotic Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

Monday, July 5, 2010

I haven't been feeling 100% for the past few days which has kept me from doing much cooking (hence an entire week without a recipe and nary a post, for which I apologize).  We did make the copycat recipe of Chick-Fil-A chicken sandwiches for dinner Friday night, and I will be sharing the recipe and results hopefully tomorrow.  I had plans for a few different Fourth of July-inspired foods to make over the weekend, and due to whatever bug I picked up, I just couldn't talk myself into it.  I did want to do something, however.  I ran across this idea for Red, White & Blue Strawberries over at Oopsey Daisy.  They're really easy and very cute!

I poured some "4th of July Blue" colored sugar (picked up in the Dollar Spot at Target) in a small bowl, and then inserted toothpicks into the cap-end of about 1 pint of fresh, clean strawberries.  Then I melted half a bag of Ghirardelli white chocolate chips and 1/2 T. of shortening in the microwave, stirring at 30 second intervals.  I dipped the strawberries 2/3-3/4 of the way in the melted chocolate, and then set them on waxed paper to set.  Once set, I used the back of a small spoon to smooth a very thin coat of chocolate on the bottom 1/4-1/3 of the strawberries, and then dipped that in the colored sugar.  Originally, I dipped straight from the chocolate to the sugar, but it was causing a little "bubble" or roll around the middle where the sugar stopped.  This worked out a lot better asthetically.  Taste-wise - run wild however you want!

Aloha Friday!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Aloha Friday everyone! And a long-weekend Friday, at that!  I have a fun question for you to kick off the Fourth of July weekend.  If you'd like to join in the fun, as well, post a question on your own blog and then leave the link over on the Aloha Friday page at An Island Life.  It's a great way to find some new favorite blogs!

My question for you:
What is your favorite meal or dessert to cook or bake for the 4th of July?
My answers: 
Grilled pizza; a Red, White and Blue Trifle; and Taco Salad!

Leave your answer in the comment section below and have a great weekend! :)

Parmesan-Crusted Pork Chops & Crash Hot Potatoes

Friday, June 25, 2010

"MMmm, pig" is a phrase that gets uttered around here quite often (other related phrase: Everything's better with bacon!). I hadn't catered to the pork craving in awhile, so last night I made Parmesan-Crusted pork chops and served crash hot potatoes on the side.

I've had the pork chop recipe for years, and don't remember where it came from, though I think it might have been featured on a Food Network show at some point. The crash hot potatoes come from The Pioneer Woman Cooks (Ree Drummond); you will find lots of lovely, tasty, hearty recipes over there - take some time to browse around.

I started the potatoes first, since they take a little longer than the chops.  I boiled some baby red potatoes; while they were doing their thing, I prepared the baking sheet by liberally drizzling it with some olive oil (you will want to be very liberal; it keeps them from sticking)

Once the potatoes were ready, I set them on the baking sheet

From there, I used a metal potato masher to squish the potatoes down a little bit (not all the way), and then turned the masher 90 degrees and pressed down again.  You don't want to mash them, but make them look a little bit like a potato cookie

Then I brushed the tops with some more olive oil, sprinkled them with some kosher salt, black pepper, and fresh herbs (I had chives and rosemary growing in my container garden, so those are the ones I used; feel free to use whatever you have on hand)

Those get put on the top rack of a 450 degree oven.

After the potatoes were in the oven, I turned my attention to the pork chops.  First, they get pressed into grated Parmesan cheese

Then they get a dip in an egg bath

Then they finally get pressed into some Italian bread crumbs

Swirl some EVOO into a skillet and brown on each side for about 6 minutes per side, or until a golden brown (mine are a teeny bit past golden.  Oops.)

Transfer them to a pan and finish them in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or so. At this point, there were only about 15 minutes left on the potatoes, so I turned the oven down from 450 to 400 and put the chops in the stove with the potatoes.  When done, I pulled out the pork chops and put the potatoes under the broiler for just a minute or so to compensate for the turn-down in temp.  You don't necessarily have to do that if you find yourself in the same situation; we just happen to like crunchy.

They turned out great (I will be honest; looking at the picture above is making my stomach rumble a little growl ravenously) - crunchy on the outside (I'm a firm believer in the crunchy texture and using it liberally in your food) and soft inside.  So did the chops.  A really nice pairing, to be honest.  The pork chops have been in my mix for a few years, and will continue to be so; the potatoes have now joined the list and will be made at least once or twice a month.

Recipes are below:

Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons

Thursday, June 24, 2010

I was looking for something just a little different to make as an after-dinner bite/evening snack.  Since any time I ask "What would you like for a sweet?" the invariable response is "peanut butter cookies!" or "brownies!".  And I love both of them - I really do - but I also like the chance to try something a little new once in awhile.  Especially since I've collected an entire box and binder full of recipes I want to try, and the pile is only getting bigger, not smaller.  So PBCs and brownies got vetoed last night, and I decided to make some of the Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons that I had stumbled across over at Brown Eyed Baker.

Not only are these fairly easy to make, the vote handed down was that they are tasted something like a grilled Almond Joy candy bar, which basically is saying "two thumbs up" (anything hailing from or reminiscent of the Hershey family scores highly around here).

The ones I made are tasty, but not overly beautiful, I will admit.  I'm chalking it up to the fact that they were my initial attempt at homemade macaroons.  The next time around, I will probably make them a little smaller; I think that will help with the over-all shape, as well as how they look after they've been dipped.

All you need to do is mix the sweetened condensed milk, salt, egg white, and vanilla together in a bowl.  Once blended, stir in the coconut until well-combined.

Next, you will want to line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a tablespoon or small scoop, drop the batter in small mounds about 2" apart on the baking sheet.  Wet your fingers, and use your fingertips to loosely form the mounds into haystacks or volcanoes.  Wet your fingers as necessary if they start to get sticky or hard to shape.

After they come out of the oven, they need to briefly cool on the pan, then finish cooling on a wire rack.  Once cooled, they can be dipped in chocolate.  Of course, waiting for them to cool before the dipping was proving to be a long wait, so one may have been sampled naked.  And may have been really, really good.

After they were cooled, they got the dip.  And they were really good, too.  You can never go wrong adding chocolate.  I bet they would also be good dipped in dark chocolate (or even tinted white chocolate, but I will have to try that out to see if it would also be visually appealing).

Here's the recipe, again from originally found on Brown Eyed Baker:

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 lg. egg white
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
10 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped

1) Preheat oven to 325; line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2) In large bowl, stir together the sweetened condensed milk, egg white, vanilla and salt.  Stir in the coconut until well-combined.
3) Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto the parchment-lined baking sheets.  Space the macaroons about 2" apart.  With wet fingers, shape the dough into haystacks.  Continue to wet fingers as necessary if they start to get sticky or hard to shape.
4) Bake one sheet at a time for 15-20 minutes, until they turn a light golden brown.
5) Cool on cookie sheet for about 2 minutes, until starting to set.  Use a metal spatula to move the macaroons to a wire cooling rack.  Cool for an additional 30 minutes, until they reach room temperature.
6) Melt 8 ounces of the chopped semi-sweet chocolate.  I did mine in the microwave in 30 second bursts, stirring in between.  You can also melt it in a heat-proof bowl set over a bowl of barely-simmering water.  Once melted and smooth, add in the remaining 2 ounces of chopped chocolate, and stir until smooth.
7) Holding the tips of the macaroons, dip the bottoms and 1/2" up the sides of the macaroons.  Scrape off excess chocolate, and set back on the parchment-lined baking sheets to set.
Makes 24-36, depending on how big you make them.

Banana Nut Crunch Muffins

Sunday, June 20, 2010

First let me say Happy Father's Day to my Dad and my Grandfather!  And Happy Father's Day to all the other Dads out there!

Muffins are such a great food.  They're a portable breakfast-in-your-hand that require no utensils, and sometimes double as a late-night snack.  What I didn't realize until I baked these particular muffins, is that muffins can also fill your kitchen full of a scent so wonderful that you temporarily forget that other foods exist and declare that you want to smell this coming from the kitchen every morning for the rest of your life.

I first made these muffins a couple of weeks ago, and they quickly jumped to the list of "you must make these every week.  Every day is also acceptable".  But I didn't actually get a chance to make another batch until Friday night (I get the urge to bake at what some may consider to be very random times of night).  I had a few bananas left over from the frozen chocolate-covered bananas (a nod to snacking at Walt Disney World) I'd thrown together a couple of nights previous, and I couldn't just let them go to waste.

In a large bowl, whisk together your flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt

In a second bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, brown sugar, egg, canola oil, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla

Add the banana mixture to the flour mixture and stir until combined

In a third, smaller bowl, make the crumb topping by combining brown sugar, flour and cinnamon and whisk together.  Add in butter with your fingers until mix resembles cornmeal

Grease jumbo-cup muffin pan(s) and fill about 1/3 of the way full of batter.  Sprinkle some of the crumb topping over the batter, then sprinkle with a few chopped walnuts

Top with batter until cups are about 2/3rds full.  Finish by generously sprinkling (there will be plenty) with more of the crumb topping and additional chopped walnuts

Bake at 375 for 18-20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out cleanly.  Let cool briefly in pan(s) before removing to a rack to cool

Here's the recipe (adapted from one for Banana Crumb Muffins on Allrecipes.com)
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2T flour
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1T butter
 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1) Preheat oven to 375.  Grease jumbo-cup muffin tin(s).
2) In large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  In a second bowl, beat together the bananas, sugar, brown sugar, oil, egg, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon.  Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture until just combined.
3) Prepare the crumb topping: whisk together the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon.  With your fingers, work in the butter until mix resembles cornmeal.
4) Fill muffin cups 1/3 full of batter (I used a cookie scoop to obtain a relatively consistent size); sprinkle with the crumb topping mix, then sprinkle with chopped walnuts.
5) Finish filling muffin cups to about 2/3rds full.  Generously sprinkle the tops with more crumb topping mixture and then more chopped walnuts.
6) Bake for 18-20 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean (you may see a little bit of banana, just use your judgment).  Cool briefly in pan(s), then remove to wire rack to cool.

Makes 8-12 muffins, depending on how full you fill your cups and how big your muffin tins are.

Interested in more bananas recipes?  Click the button below!
Bananas on FoodistaBananas

It's a Blog Party

Peanut Butter Cookies Two Ways

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Are you in the mood to bake?" was the question posed to me last night after dinner.  Well, duh.  The reason for the question?  A request for peanut butter cookies, a staple around here.

Peanut butter cookies are especially great in the fact that they bake up fast, so the wait time for something sweet is fairly minimal.  They also fairly fast to pull together, and the ingredients are always on hand.

So I started mixing up the cookies (I got the recipe awhile back from my Mom - I'm starting to see a trend this week), first putting the sugar, brown sugar, flour, salt and baking soda in a bowl

then whisked them together

from there, I beat in the eggs, peanut butter, milk and shortening

I rolled the dough out into balls and used a fork to press them down slightly (some of them got a crisscross pattern, some didn't) and put them on my extremely well-loved, well-seasoned Pampered Chef stone.  Then I sprinkled them with some sugar

I baked them for 12 minutes, let them cool slightly, the moved them to a rack to finish cooling.

By the time I got to the end of the dough, I didn't have a "full" batch left to put in the oven.  I also was thinking "hmm, what goes well with peanut butter".  Well, pretty much everything.  But chocolate especially.  So for the last few cookies, I chopped up a Heath bar, and added them to the cookies.  I did this two ways.  For half of them, I pressed the chopped toffee onto the top of the cookie.  For the other half, I mixed the candy bar pieces into the dough, then proceeded as with the first batches of cookies.  They turned out like this

Not quite as strong of flavor as I would have hoped for, but they were tasty!

Peanut Butter Cookie recipe:
1 cup shortening
1 cup peanut butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs, well beaten
1 T milk
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda

1) Preheat oven to 350.
2) Whisk together the flour, both sugars, salt and baking soda.
3) Beat in the eggs, milk, peanut butter and shortening until dough pulls together.
4) Roll into small balls and place on baking sheet.  Press down slightly with tines of a fork.  Sprinkle with sugar if desired (you can also roll the balls in sugar prior to placing them on the baking sheet).
5) Bake for 12-14 minutes until cookies start to brown.  Be careful not to over-bake; cookies will continue to cook a little while cooking.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Tomato Tortellini Soup

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I've been wanting to try this particular soup recipe for awhile.  I found it in the Taste of Home magazine, and since the day I tore it out, I've said "Oh, I'll have to make that this week".  Well, last night finally became "this week", and I decided to try it as something different for dinner.  It's very easy to put together, so if you need to make dinner at the last minute, or you're just a little worn out from a long day, this is a good one to turn to.

Start by cooking your cheese tortellini (I used wheat; we love wheat pasta and that also happened to be all they had at the store) 

according to the package directions (or if you are the Super Woman that I dream to be someday, cook your freshly-made cheese tortellini until ready)

and then drain the pasta

While the pasta is cooking, you can start on the rest of the soup.  In a dutch oven or soup pot, mix together low-sodium tomato soup, 2% milk, half and half, vegetable broth, chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, onion powder, garlic powder, dried basil, and kosher salt

and heat over medium-low.  Once the pasta has cooked and drained, add it to the soup mixture, along with some shredded Parmesan cheese.  Once it's heated through, serve!

I garnished with a little fresh black pepper, some fresh basil from my container garden, and some grated (since I was out of shredded) Parmesan.

Here's the recipe:

1 (9oz) pkg. refrigerated cheese tortellini
2 cans low-sodium tomato soup
2 cups vegetable broth
2 cups 2% milk
2 cups half and half
1/2 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan, plus more for garnish

1) Cook tortellini according to package directions.  Drain.
2) In soup pot, combine everything but the shredded Parmesan cheese and tortellini.  Heat through.
3) Add cooked tortellini.  Stir in the cheese.  Sprinkle each serving with additional Parmesan cheese.  Garnish with fresh basil leaves, if desired.

My suggestion for you - double the tortellini.  It was good the way it was, but would be even better with more of the pasta.  Also, next time I might try replacing some of the 2% milk with whole milk, or some of the half and half with some cream, to make it even creamier.

Makin' Whoopie... Whoopie Pies, that is!

Monday, June 14, 2010

I have been craving whoopie pies for a few weeks now.  And every time I would mention them, I'd get a few strange looks and the inevitable question - "What's a whoopie pie?".  When you grow up with something, it's easy to forget that there are parts of the country that don't have the same things you do.  And whoopie pies is one of those things.  They're traditional to New England and I grew up in Maine.

So I decided to make some.  And while there are plenty of recipes floating around out there, I wanted my Mom's.  I'm nostalgic like that.  So I called her and asked her to have my dad email me the recipe, which he did.  I thought.  Now, I love my Mom; I truly do.  But sometimes, she makes me want to pull my hair out.  Just a little.  I had mixed up and started baking the "cake" part of the whoopie pies.  While the 2nd batch were in the oven, I started mixing up the filling.  But it didn't look right; not even close.  Actually, it didn't look close to anything other than gross.  I had been a little skeptical when I didn't see confectioners sugar anywhere on the list.  So, I called my Mom to find out if perhaps Dad had skipped a line when typing it up for me.  Nope, that was the full list.  I said, Okay, so what did I do wrong?  She didn't know.  You know why?  Because she'd never made that filling before.  I put my head down on the counter.  Mom, I asked for your Whoopie Pie recipe, why would you send me a filling you hadn't used?  Well, she thought because it called for egg whites, I wouldn't want to make it since "people are scared about that kind of thing these days".  First, I'm not scared of egg whites (maybe I should be, but hey, I'm not).  Second, though, I have meringue powder that I could substitute.  Sigh.  So she gave me her own filling recipe, which sounded much more like what I remembered (confectioners sugar - check!).  Then she asked how "that" whoopie recipe turned out since "it sounded like a lot".  Again, head on the counter.  Mom, was this not your whoopie pie recipe?  Turns out - no.  Why?  Because it "went with the filling"; apparently, her recipe called for 2 egg yolks, and the 2 whites went into the filling.  Double sigh.

So you can see how while my mother is wonderful, she also causes me some consternation on occasion.  I still love her, though.

The main question - after all those tribulations, how did they turn out?  Answer - not bad.  Not exactly how I remembered them, which wasn't surprising, considering I'd probably never eaten those before.  But they did taste like Whoopie Pies, which is what I wanted.  And there definitely are dozens of recipes and variations out there, so it wasn't like they were going to be a disaster, just because they weren't hers.  (Still.  The next time I ask for one of your recipes, how about sending me yours.  Pretty please?)

I started by adding the dry ingredients (cocoa powder, sugar, flour, salt and baking soda) to one bowl

and then whisked them to combine

I then whisked in the vanilla, milk and eggs

then beat in the shortening until combined

I lined baking sheets with parchment paper and started dolloping out the batter to make the cakes.  Because they will become "sandwiches", it's nice to have them uniform, so I was using a scoop.  The first batch, I used heaping scoops because if you're going to have Whoopie Pies, they might as wellbe big ones.

They turned out a little flat, though, when I baked them.  I guess they were a little too big and spread some.  (This is also where I started to question the recipe even before I had called my mother, since hers were always puffier)

So the next batch, I made a little smaller by scrapping the scoop up the side of the bowl to make a level scoop-full

These did round up better, so I finished out the batter using this method.  Then I made the filling.  Which I threw out.  And then re-made using the new (correct) recipe.  I don't have pictures of this part, and I apologize.  Between the call and the head on the counter and the sighs, I forgot about the camera.  But after mixing up the new filling, I laid out the cookie/cakes, flat side-up

and spread one side with the filling

and then topped it with one of the other cookie/cakes to make a sandwich

For the second one, I tried just putting a big scoop of the filling on one half, topping with another half, and smooshing it around a little until the filling spread to the edges.  Worked just as well and was much faster.

Here are the recipes I ended up using:

Whoopie Pies

For the cakes:
2 cups sugar
4 cups flour
1 cup cocoa
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2 cups milk
2/3 cup shortening
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla

For the filling:
2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 tsp. vanilla (more or less to taste)

1) Preheat oven to 350.  Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk to combine.
2) Whisk in the milk and vanilla, then whisk in the eggs, one at a time.  Beat in the shortening until combined.
3) Line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a scoop, portion out by even scoop-fulls.
4) Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Let cool for a couple of minutes on the sheets before transferring to a cooling rack.
5) Make the filling: Beat the shortening and vanilla into the confectioners sugar until smooth.  Depending on the amount of filling you like, you may want to double this; I ended up doing so.
6) Spoon some filling between two cakes and squeeze gently until the filling spreads to the edges.

Recipe makes about 24 whoopie pies.

One of these days, I will make another batch with both halves of my Mom's recipe and see what the results are.  And a red velvet whoopie pie is on my list, too.  But these are okay until then :)

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