Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mini Bagel Bruschetta with Peppers and Gorgonzola -- Barefoot Bloggers Budget Challenge

Our Barefoot on a Budget Challenge for May is Ina's Bruschetta with Sautéed Sweet Pepper and Creamy Gorgonzola. The Barefoot on a Budget Challenge is a new feature for Barefoot Bloggers members where we are challenged to make a Barefoot Contessa recipe and made any substitutions needed to shave a little off the grocery bill that week.

Here is the original recipe with my changes noted...

Bruschetta with Sauteed Sweet Peppers and Creamy Gorgonzola

Good olive oil
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon capers, drained -- didn't measure, just tossed some into the pan
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves -- used dried basil from the pantry $$
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper -- left this out, not a pepper fan
Baguette -- used mini bagels instead $$
3 ounces creamy Gorgonzola or other blue cheese, at room temperature -- I used a non-imported (cheaper) Gorgonzola than I usually buy $$

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat -- I just used Pam cooking spray. Add the peppers and cook until soft, about 12 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with the sugar and continue cooking for 2 more minutes.

Stir in the capers and basil, and season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Slice the baguette crosswise into 18 thin round slices. Brush the bread rounds lightly with olive oil on 1 side.

Arrange them in rows, oil side up, on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and toast in the oven until lightly browned, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Top each toast round with a teaspoonful of the pepper mixture. Place 2 small pieces of Gorgonzola on top. Return the toast to the oven for 1 to 2 minutes and warm through. Serve immediately.

Before and after baking...

Changes & Results: At first I was going to bake my own baguette as part of the budget challenge but then I remembered the mini bagels we buy for the kids who love to make mini pizzas with them, okay, I admit it, I like to make mini bagel pizzas too. I thought that some Little Lender's Mini Bagels would be the perfect substitution for a baugette and they were. The mini bagels got nice and crispy crunchy on the outside and stayed a touch soft and chewy under all of that cheesy pepper goodness.

I really enjoyed this recipe! The flavors were amazing together, I loved the hint of sugar and what it added to the peppers while sauteeing. I did not sautee them quite as long as Ina suggests, I like my peppers to have a little crunch left in them, I'd say I sauteed about 5-7 minutes. Other changes were not to measure out the capers, basil, or gorgonzola, I just added what I thought would work out. I'm pretty sure I used quite a bit extra gorgonzola, I just sprinkled on a little mountain of cheese and hoped for the best. The cheaper brand of non-imported gorgonzola was wonderful, I really couldn't tell a difference compared to the non-crumbled imported wedge I usually buy, but I didn't have them side by side or anything for a taste test.

Another favorite Barefoot Contessa recipe for me, these were amazing and a great adult alternative to mini bagel pizzas -- and made a nice light lunch with a salad while the kids had their own 'top your own' mini bagel pizza night :)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ina's Outrageous Brownies -- Barefoot Bloggers

Time for more brownies! Our second Barefoot Bloggers pick for May is Outrageous Brownies, picked by Eva of I’m Boring, thank you, Eva! I think this is my new favorite brownie recipe :)

Barefoot Contessa Outrageous Brownies

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder
2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided (1 cup for batter and 1/4 cup in the chips and nuts)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups diced walnut pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 18 by 1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound chocolate chips, and unsweetened chocolate on top of a double boiler. Cool slightly. Stir together the eggs, instant coffee, vanilla and sugar. Stir in the warm chocolate mixture and cool to room temperature.

Stir together 1 cup of the flour, baking powder and salt. Add to cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the walnuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips with 1/4 cup flour to coat. Then add to the chocolate batter. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until tester just comes out clean. Halfway through the baking, rap the pan against the oven shelf to allow air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Do not over-bake! Cool thoroughly, refrigerate well and cut into squares.

Notes: I halved this recipe and baked it in a 9 by 13 pan. I did not make any substitutions or changes except to leave out the walnuts. For my instant coffee powder I used General Foods International French Vanilla Nut, which added a great depth of flavor. I absolutely loved these, first, they were really easy, no hard to find ingredients required, perfect balance of semisweet and unsweetened chocolate, and no guessing with the baking, I set the timer for 30 minutes, pulled them out, and they were perfectly done.

These were a more delicate fudgey brownie than sturdy and chewy, so if those are your favorites you might not enjoy these as much. I love that these can be personalized with any kind of add-in in place of the walnuts, next time I make them I am going to swirl some caramel in the batter -- yum! Even though our household is on brownie overload from the TWD Chipster Topped Brownies from Tuesday, I am so glad I went ahead and made these "Outrageous" brownies too, they are amazing :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Chipster Topped Brownies -- Tuesdays with Dorie

This is going to be a short TWD post, first off, thank you to - Beth of Supplicious, who picked Dorie's Chipster Topped Brownies for us to try as our treat of the week. After a busy Memorial Day weekend, I decided to bake these brownies today -- Tuesdays morning! I am usually a Monday night baker, or Sunday morning if I have some extra time, but these were an actual Baked on Tuesday treat.

I liked the idea of this recipe, a yummy brownie bottom and cookie top, I had in my mind what I thought these would look like, but then I saw a few posted photos in the P&Q section and was surprised to see they were more brownie like than half brownie and half cookie like I expected.

Changes I made were to use semisweet chocolate in place of the bittersweet. After doing a few chocolate recipes early on with Tuesdays with Dorie that used a lot of bittersweet and not being happy with the results I decided that it was okay to not *love* bittersweet chocolate like the masses, it's okay to like semisweet or -- gasp -- the dreaded milk chocolate, can that even be called chocolate? I don't know, but I like it. Much better than I like anything bittersweet.

Not too many photos this time around, above is the brownie layer, and below is the cookie layer spread over the brownie layer.

I baked these at 350 as specified, in a foil lined pan (instead of parchment or wax paper) -- sprayed with Baker's Joy. The pan was a simple single ply Wilton 9 by 13. I have an insulated 9 by 13 but with the warnings of underdone brownies in the P&Q I thought single ply would be the way to go. I love the insulated 9 by 13 for bars where you don't want them to be too crispy on the bottom or sides -- the insulated pan worked perfectly for the Caramel Crunch Bars we made with TWD a few months ago.

My kitchen timer was set for 50 minutes, after 20 I tented the brownies to prevent the cookie part from over browning. At 50 minutes I took them out and decided they weren't done, popped the back in the oven for an extra 10 minutes, so 1 hour total. Now they are cooling. I am so nervous about having them underdone, I think I will let them cool all day and maybe leave them in the pan overnight in the fridge before attempting to remove them from the pan and slice them.

Check back next Tuesday for Cinnamon Squares, which look absolutely delicious, and the conclusion of Chipster Topped Brownies -- I hope for edible results!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Mini Sour Cherry Pies with Pistachio Crumble -- Sweet Melissa Sundays

Today's pick for Sweet Melissa Sundays comes from my blogging friend Michelle at Flourchild -- thank you, Michelle! :) This pie was one of the recipes that really caught my eye when I flipped through The Sweet Melissa Baking Book for the first time, and I was going to pick it when it was my choice, but Michelle beat me to it! That's fine though, I got to make it earlier this way, and absolutely loved this recipe!

I could not find fresh tart cherries around here but did find some frozen ones...

I bought a couple bags and these turned out perfectly in the pies! Next time I see fresh sour cherries (aka tart or montmorency cherries) I will pick up some just to make this delicious pie again. It was a last minute decision to make mini pies, I looked at my pie plates and did not have a 10 inch one, I had a 9 inch and a 9.5 inch...I was going to use the 9.5 but then thought mini pies would be easier to serve up to the kids, so I took out a standard muffin tin and got to work.

My changes were to use butter and margarine instead of butter and shortening in the pie crust --which I think turned out fine...

and to make the pistachio crumble in the food processor, since the oats and pistachios needed to be crushed up in there anyway, I figured it'd be easier just to make it all in there...perfect !

These little pies were absolutely delicious, not too sweet, not too tart, just amazing. The perfect combo of textures and flavors. I can see why this is a popular pie -- I will be making it again for sure.

Last Sunday, Katie of
Katiecakes (isn't that the cutest blog name?) picked Guinness Gingerbread for us to try... I baked along but didn't get a chance to post about it last weekend...

I used this holiday ale instead of guinness since we had some on hand, and used this Nordic Ware "fairy tale cottage" pan to bake the gingerbread in...

My only change to the gingerbread was to leave out the white pepper...I am really not a black or white pepper fan, sorry! The gingerbread was delicious, I loved all of the flavors and would make this recipe again for sure. My kids were crazy about the gingerbread, the all loved it and wanted me to make another when this one was all gone, I told them they might have to wait until next Christmas for some more gingerbread, but you never know :) I have to say I don't think this recipe is the best for a shaped pan, even though the volume was correct, it just didn't turn out as cute as I expected it to -- guess I will have to try the gingerbread recipe that came with the pan and hope for better results.

Lastly, a quick photo of the Lemon Icebox Cake...when I posted about this recipe I had not served it or tried it...

and there it is. I have to say that this recipe totally surprised me, in a good way! I didn't think we would really care for this one, and if it hadn't been picked by Jennifer of
Keep Passing the Open Windows as out Sweet Melissa Sundays recipe, I probably would have skipped it, but we all loved it, what an amazing cool and refreshing dessert, yum :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mango Pineapple Bread -- Tuesdays with Dorie

Thank you to Kelly of Baking with the Boys, who selected Fresh Mango Bread as our Tuesdays with Dorie treat of the week. I was really excited about this recipe, I love fruity quick breads and couldn't wait to give this recipe a try.

Unfortunately, the mangoes I specifically bought for this bread went bad in my produce drawer in the fridge, and I didn't notice until I was about to make this bread. We live way too far away to drive "to town" for one ingredient that might or might not be available :( I remembered reading a substitution suggestion of pineapple in the P&Q section on the TWD site, and thought that sounded like a great idea.

Since I had some mango jam in the pantry (which I order from netgrocer, don't even think about finding mango jam around here), I opened that up and added 1/4 cup mango jam to the bread batter, just to give a little mango flavor to my sad mango-less mango bread.

This bread turned out great, a little crispy on the edges, nice and moist inside. I'm excited to taste it after it has had a chance to rest overnight. Update: this bread is even better after resting for a night, the kids and I loved it and will be making it again for sure! Picky husband doesn't eat pineapple, but I bet he'll have a taste when I make it with mangoes. I have to apologize to Kelly that I didn't get to make this recipe as written, but promise to try it again with mangoes as soon as I get my hands on some.

Before and after baking...served with butter and more mango jam :)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Chocolate Banana Empanadas -- Tyler Florence Fridays

Time for Tyler Florence Fridays, this weekend eve I have a fun treat with south of the border flair...Tyler's Chocolate Banana Empanadas! I stumbled across this recipe on the foodnetwork site and knew I had to try it.

Chocolate Banana Empanadas

4 large ripe bananas
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 recipe empanada dough, recipe follows
4 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken in chunks (I used semisweet chocolate chips)
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Mash the bananas, sugar, and cinnamon together in a mixing bowl until creamy, but not completely smooth – you should still have pieces of banana chunks.

Spoon a generous tablespoon of the banana filling on the empanada pastry circles and stick a piece of chocolate on top. I actually just mixed the chocolate in with the mashed banana.

Form and bake the empanadas as directed in the recipe.

Empanada Dough

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup masa harina
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash (I skipped the egg wash)
Butter, for greasing the pans (not need on baking mat)

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, masa harina, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the melted butter. Gradually add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of water, working it in with your hands to incorporate; the dough should be easy to handle and not sticky.

Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic, and chill for 30 minutes. I did not chill my dough, I think I would have had a really tough time rolling out if I had.

Lightly flour your rolling pin and counter. Divide the dough in 1/2 so it will be easier to work with and roll it out to 1/8-inch thickness. Using a 4-inch cookie or biscuit cutter, cut out 10 circles of dough; repeat with the other 1/2.

Spoon 2 generous tablespoons of filling into the center of each pastry circle, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Brush the edges with the egg wash and then fold the dough over in 1/2 to enclose the filling and form a semi-circle. Tightly seal the edges by crimping with the tines of a fork. Chill at least 30 minutes before baking. I also skipped this chilling, I just didn't think it was necessary. I'm often skipping chilling times I deem unessential to the final result, so naughty :)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the empanadas on a buttered baking sheet and brush the tops with additional egg wash. Using a fork, prick a few holes in the top of the empanadas for steam to escape. Bake for 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.

Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve hot.

Results & Changes: My only change was to add about 1/4 sugar to the empanada dough, I had read some reviews that it was bland. These little empanadas were a really fun little treat and the kids loved them. Picky husband was not even remotely interested in trying one, I thought they were pretty good. They are not difficult and the empanada dough is really easy to work with, I would say this is a great recipe to do with kids since it's really basic, even though there are a few different steps. Thank you for visiting, head on over to Tyler Florence Fridays to see what other delicious Tyler dishes people picked to try this week :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ricotta Gnocchi with Creamy Mushroom Vodka Sauce -- Daring Cooks

Time for the first ever Daring Cooks Challenge! The Daring Cooks are a sister to the Daring Bakers, now culinary enthusiasts around the world can do TWO daring challenges a month, one 'baked' and one 'cooked'! I am so happy to be a part of this very first challenge, picked by Lis and Ivonne, our Daring leaders, the creators of The Daring Bakers and The Daring Cooks. Thank you, Lis and Ivonne!

Our first challenge is Ricotta Gnocchi from The Zuni Café Cookbook. Let's get started...

You start with 1 lb ricotta cheese, 2 eggs, a little bit of salt and a little bit of Parmigiano-Reggiano...

You can then add some seasoning, I chose to do an Italian seasoning blend, with marjoram, thyme, rosemary, savory, sage, oregano, and basil. Just about 1/2 teaspoon, didn't want to over power the delicate ricotta flavor of these little gnocchi.

Here is my super messy work station, I'm kind of embarassed, but I really don't worry about the mess when I'm 'creating' in the kitchen -- I know some people clean up as they go and put everything away, which sounds great in theory, but I usually end up leaving everything out until I'm all done -- then clean up. I ended up adding some flour to the actual ricotta mixture, even though we were just supposed to be rolling them in flour. I was a little nervous about that judgement call but have to say that in the end I'm glad that I did it.

From there you start on a complimentary sauce, this was our chance to play around and do our own thing. I love making up sauce recipes as I go, so this was really fun for me. I knew I wanted to do something mushroom, at first I was thinking mushroom roasted pepper sauce, then I couldn't help wanting to grate some more parmigiano-reggiano and do a cream sauce. I didn't want something too heavy for the gnocchi, but definitely creamy.

Creamy Mushroom Vodka Sauce
*this sauce was enough for about 1/2 batch of this gnocchi recipe

2 tablespoons butter
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons vodka (I used Belvedere)
3/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup cream
1 tablespoon flour
1/2 cup grated parmigiano-reggiano

Saute the mushrooms in butter and until most of the moisture cooks off, add the salt while sauteing.

Add in the vodka and cook for about 5 more minutes over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms are a touch browned and most of the liquid has cooked away. Turn off heat and let cool down for about 5 minutes.

Add in milk and cream, bring to a simmer, dust in the flour while whisking, you don't want it to clump up. Simmer for a few more minutes until thickened and add the cheese.

Stir until combined and the cheese has melted into a thick and creamy sauce with the mushrooms. If you sauce is too thick add a touch of milk and/or a touch of vodka. Before this final vodka edition (if desired) the vodka flavor is very slight since the alcohol cooked away, and might not even be noticeable. Add a little more if you'd like, to taste.

At that point with my dinner, I turned off the heat and set the sauce skillet to the side of the stove and started boiling my gnocchi.

Remove cooked gnocchi with slotted spoon and set into sauce skillet. Don't worry about a little extra liquid dripping off the gnocchi into the sauce (which should be pretty thick). After all of your gnocchi are cooked and in the sauce skillet, turn on the heat gently and saute the gnocchi with the sauce for a minute.

I know this finished product might look a little bland, too heavy, or too rich, but it was amazing! Probably one of my favorite meals I've had lately, really! I love how the sauce coated the gnocchi and the mushroom were a delicious match. At first I wasn't sure what to do with my second half of this gnocchi batch but I will most likely be making this exact dish again, I loved it that much! The gnocchi were a little messy to make, but relatively easy. I will be making these again for sure, and probably adding the extra flour to the gnocchi dough on purpose just because I think these turned out so perfectly :)

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