Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Apple Tarte Fine

Time for Tuesdays with Dorie! Today's selection is Tarte Fine picked for us to try by Leslie of Lethally Delicious, thank you Leslie. This was sure to be a favorite at our house, everyone, including picky husband, loves apples, and puff pastry is usually a pleaser...

I did not make my own puff pastry this time, and was kind of wishing I did -- Pepperidge Farm is fine but compared to homemade is kind of sad. Not quite as buttery, crispy, flaky, etc. but still tasty. I'm not trying to knock Pepperidge Farm or anything, it's just after making my own puff pastry and tasting how it's "supposed" to taste like, the store bought versions seem lacking.

The tart ended up being delicious topped with Michigan Golden Delicious apples and a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar, mmm. Kind of like an open faced apple turnover -- a favorite of picky husband.

What a wonderful fall recipe pick! We've already been to the apple orchard once this year, and plan on making many more trips to stock up on apples and cider and whatever other goodies we can scout out. Happy fall and happy apple season to everyone :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Pie

Time for Sweet Melissa Sundays again! This week our selection is Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Pie, picked for us to try by Melissa of Lulu the Baker, thank you Melissa! You can find the recipe here at Melissa's site. I had never made, let alone tasted a buttermilk pie, but being a fan of buttermilk and also lemon and blueberries, had to give this one a try.

I also just got a little tripod for my camera, and was excited to try it out and see if it improved my often unsharp photos that I used to attribute to shaky hands. What do you think?

Above is before baking, notice I used a tart pan instead of a pie pan, once again I have misplaced my pie plate! And I don't just have one, I should have at least two plus my new deep dish one. Oh-well. I used a new pie crust recipe I found on all recipes that uses oil instead of butter or shortening, it turned out nicely, but a bit underdone I think, probably should have prebaked the crust longer than the 10 minutes I let it prebake for.

The pie looked done at 30 minutes, I took it out and started making the blueberry topping. Which I changed up a bit...

The recipe calls for fresh blueberries but I could not find any at the store and settled for frozen, also the recipe calls for apricot preserves (that should be strained to remove the apricot chunks)and I used grape jelly to reduce the fussiness level (no straining needed). I also cooked it all on the stove for a couple of minutes, added a little sugar, and also a slurry of water and cornstarch to thicken the blueberry sauce. It turned out lovely.

I knew my kids would love this dessert and they did, I thought it was delicious as well, and guess what...even picky husband liked this one! I thought I would get lucky enough for him to try a bite but he ate a whole piece, even though he is not a blueberry fan. He said it was pretty good, and asked if I was proud of him for trying something new, yes honey, I am :)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mushrooms in Parmesan Cream Sauce over Mafaldine Pasta

I came up with this extra rich and decadent pasta dish the other night after peeking in the fridge and through the pantry to see what was available to make dinner with. We had a nice wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano, some imported Mafaldine pasta -- long and thin lasagna type noodles, complete with ruffled edges -- and mushrooms. Picky husband was working late so it was the perfect time to use some mushrooms, which he doesn't like, and make a quick pasta dinner for me and the kids.

Mushrooms in Parmesan Cream Sauce over Mafaldine

1 cup cream
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 and 1/2 cups freshly shredded Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

5 cups thinly sliced mushrooms -- I used regular white mushrooms but I'm sure this would be fantastic with a variety
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter

1 lb mafaldine pasta (any pasta would probably work)
kosher salt

Cook pasta according to package directions in salted water. I like to use 1 tablespoon of salt per pound of pasta. After draining, use a little extra butter or olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking together.

While pasta is cooking, over low heat melt the butter into the cream, whisking every minute or so. When melted together, add the freshly shredded parmesan and whisk until combined, let gently simmer over medium low heat, whisking occasionally.

Also while pasta is cooking and sauce is simmering, lightly salt (about 1/2 tsp of kosher is fine, or to taste, you may need more) and saute the mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until they have released their moisture and browned nicely. Add the butter and swirl around to coat the mushrooms.

Gently mix the mushrooms into the cream sauce, taste and adjust salt, and serve over pasta.

This was a delicious indulgent dish, my kids and my mom who was over for dinner enjoyed it very much, and of course I loved it. Use Parmigiano Reggiano if you can find it, for an even stronger parmesan flavor. Parmigiano Reggiano is the 'true' Parmesan cheese, made exclusively in the Italian provinces of Parma, Reggio-Emilia, Modena, and specific regions in the provinces of Bologna and Mantua and imported to the US. If you can't find it, regular freshly grated Parmesan is fine. This is my submission for Presto Pasta Nights #181, hosted this week by Abby of Eat The Right Stuff, thank you Abby!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cranberry Upside Downer Cake

Time for Tuesdays with Dorie, our selection today is Cranberry Upside-Downer, picked for us to try by Sabrina of Superfluous -- thank you Sabrina! This was such a perfect pick for this time of year, the days are getting shorter, the sun makes the leaves glisten, and everyone is anticipating fall and the holiday season. I adore fall. I adore cranberries. Now I adore Cranberry Upside Downer Cake.

First mix some of the sugar with some of the butter, pour your mixture in the pan and then it gets topped with walnuts and cranberries (I used frozen) -- next you spread on your cake batter...

bake in the oven on a baking sheet...mine was done right at 40 minutes...

After flipping on the cake onto a serving plate, I have to admit my end result looked a bit different than the gorgeous photo in the book.

For some reason, my cranberries floated up into the batter -- not sure how since my batter was plenty thick, but anyway, instead of all of my cranberries sitting pretty on top with the walnuts, they were dappled throughout the cake. Fine with me. Because of that I did skip the currant jelly glaze though.

I served this rustic fall masterpiece with whipped cream and although that was delicious, I couldn't help but think this cake would pair perfectly with a vanilla cream sauce, the kind usually served with bread pudding or apple dumplings, know what I mean? I'm not sure if vanilla cream sauce is the correct name, but I think I'm close.

In case you couldn't tell by all of my gushing about this dessert, I absolutely loved it. Not too sweet, featuring one of my favorite fruits, easy, and a perfect prelude to fall. Picky husband is not a cranberry fan so is hesitant to try this. The kids all loved their Upside Downer slices, and I think it is one of their new favorites too :)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bosc Pear, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Muffins

It is time for Sweet Melissa Sundays again and today is my turn to host! I picked Bosc Pear, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Muffins for us SMS bakers to try and I hope that everyone who baked along enjoyed these muffins.

Choosing a recipe was tough, but this muffin has two of my favorite elements in it, fruit and cheese, and I absolutely love savory muffins but bake them far less often than their sweeter siblings. This is pretty much the same recipe SMS bakers baked last fall when we made the
Caramelized Onion, Sage, and Cheddar Muffins, with a change up in the add-ins. My family really enjoyed these muffins last fall so I wanted to sample another one of the Savory Muffins from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book.

Bosc Pear, Blue Cheese, and Walnut Muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 tsp teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (I left this out)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature (I used sour cream)
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature (I used skim milk)

1 cup peeled, cored, and diced Bosc pears
3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup chopped, lightly toasted walnuts

Position a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin tin with muffin papers (or butter and flour the cups or spray them with nonstick vegetable cooking spray). -- I used Pam For Baking which has flour in it.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, cayenne, and sugar.

Sprinkle pears, blue cheese, and walnuts over the flour mixture and toss gently. -- In the below photo I hadn't added the walnuts yet.

In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, and eggs. Whisk in the heavy cream and milk until combined. -- I whisked the eggs and sour cream (in place of the cream) together first, then added the butter.

Make a well in the center. Pour the butter mixture into the center of the well and, using a rubber spatula, gently pull the flour mixture into the center of the well until just combined. -- This muffin batter is very thick and kind of tough to mix, just be gentle and try to get it all incorporated together without mixing it too much or you will have tough muffins.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling each cup until full. -- I had enough muffin batter (more like dough to me) for 12 standard muffins and 9 small muffins.

Bake for 30-35 minutes*, or until lightly golden and a wooden skewer inserted into the enter comes out clean. Remove to a wire rack to cool. -- *My small muffins were done at about 20 minutes and my standard muffins were done at 25 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature. The muffins are best eaten the day they are made, but they can be tightly wrapped in plastic wrap and kept for 2 days at room temperature. For longer storage, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze well wrapped in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil for up to 3 weeks. Defrost still wrapped at room temperature.


This one had a big chunk of blue cheese in it, yum!

What did everyone think of these? I thought they were great and would be a perfect accompaniment to a soup or stew. The sour cream helped them have a nice moist crumb and decreasing the baking time is a must. Before tasting them I wasn't quite sure what to serve them with, other than as an afternoon snack, but after tasting them, I know they were meant for soup. I'm thinking a cup of creamy tomato basil soup, a small salad, and these muffins would be the perfect little lunch trio.

All three of my kids were excited about these muffins because they had pears in them. My kids love pears, and I wasn't sure what their response to these would be since they are savory and a touch spicy. I think they were envisioning a sweeter pear muffin, but much to my surprise they all loved these and all wanted a second muffin and made sure to tell me to save the rest for tomorrow. Picky husband did not want to try one just yet, he doesn't get the classic pear and blue cheese combo, but I'm holding out that he'll try one tomorrow :)

Thank you to everyone who baked along with me this week. I can't wait to see how your muffins turned out, I hope you liked them!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper and Ricotta Calzones

Calzones are such a fun dinner and are easy to personalize for the kids and picky husband, I wonder why I don't make them more often? This recipe is from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian and starts with his basic pizza crust recipe...

Mark Bittman's Pizza Dough

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1 to 1¼ cups water
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil

1 Combine the yeast, flour, and 2 teaspoons salt in the container of a food processor. Turn the machine on and add 1 cup water and the 2 tablespoons of oil through the feed tube.

2 Process for about 30 seconds, adding more water, a little at a time, until the mixture forms a ball and is slightly sticky to the touch. If it is dry, add another tablespoon or two of water and process for another 10 seconds. (In the unlikely event that the mixture is too sticky, add flour, a tablespoon at a time.)

3 Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand a few seconds to form a smooth, round dough ball. Grease a bowl with the remaining olive oil, and place the dough, in it. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let rise in warm; draft-free area until the dough doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours. You can, cut this rising time short if you are in a hurry, or you can let the dough rise more slowly, in the refrigerator, for up to 6 or 8 hours.

4 Proceed with calzone recipe, or wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to a month. Defrost in a covered bowl in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

* I made this dough in my bread machine on dough cycle and it worked perfectly, just follow your manufacturers directions for the wet and dry ingredients and you should be fine.

Mark's recipe for calzones suggests spinach as a filling with the ricotta but leaves the options open, and suggests using pizza toppings to mix with the ricotta as a calzone filling. I thought roasted peppers would be a nice combo with the ricotta and just happened to have some peppers on hand.

I like to roast the peppers in the oven and use the broiler method, it's quick and easy but you do need to stay by the oven and babysit the peppers because they can get overdone quickly. You want them blackened and charred and looking deflated.

Roasted Red Pepper and Ricotta Calzone

  • 1 recipe pizza dough -- above -- or use your own favorite dough recipe
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

I found that Mark's dough recipe made 3 very large calzones, you could easily make 4.

Shape dough into 3 or 4 circles, about 8 inches each, by rolling or patting the dough down.

Combine the cheeses, peppers, and salt and mix well.

Fill calzones by making a mound of filling on one side...

and then bring up the other side over and seal shut with your fingers or using the tines of a fork.

I like to sprinkle the tops with some Italian herb blend. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes at 350 on a baking stone (remember stone should be preheated in your oven) or sheet. *I think it is very difficult to move a calzone to a stone or sheet so I would say make the calzone right on the baking sheet. I used my pizza screen sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, which has been a lifesaver when it comes to moving pizzas to bake on the pizza stone. You just bake the calzones right on the screen on top of the stone and they come out perfectly.

These were great served with some homemade pizza sauce. They had a very mild flavor but they were really good, I just think they need maybe some roasted garlic mixed into that ricotta mixture, and maybe some red pepper flakes. Spice them up to your liking.

The theme this week at I Heart Cooking Clubs is 'Damn, that's Sexy' and I know you're probably thinking, calzones? Sexy? Well, I think they are sweet sexy in a way, right? Made for sharing, but only for two, a little rustic, just the two of you in an Italian villa with a wood fired stove having fun making dinner together, having a glass of wine...hmm? I know I'd have fun with it!

I'm submitting this post to YeastSpotting which I haven't participated in for way too long, go check out all of the gorgeous baked goods there :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Creamy Asparagus Penne

I am a huge asparagus fan, but don't cook with it much since picky husband doesn't like it. Do you ever get in a rut trying to make meals for a picky person and you forget about the foods you enjoy but don't use -- simply because your dining partner doesn't like them? I think the kids are finally starting to like asparagus which really makes me smile. I know this is an iffy vegetable for lots of people and if my little ones end up adding it to their edible vegetable list I'll be a pretty happy camper.

This is a Rachael Ray dish from her Big Orange Book, which is the only Rachael Ray book I have. I think it was one of those automatic shipments in a book club and I ended up keeping it. I am not one to watch Rachael cooking shows, simply because lots of the meals just don't appeal to me, but every now and then a recipe catches my eye. I have to admit that I used to watch her old show, $40 a Day, which appealed to the travel bug I have, I really enjoyed when she visited places I had been and I got to see a new perspective on a town or city.

Like many food bloggers who have a ton of cookbooks and hope to try something from each one, I pulled out this book and gave Rachael's recipe for "Jaw Droppingly Delicious Asparagus Penne" a try. I have so many cookbooks filled with delicious recipes -- that I have cooked absolutely nothing from. Every now and then I tell myself, no more cookbooks -- but something always catches my eye and I end up with another amazon box on my front porch, oh-well.

Creamy Asparagus Penne
slightly adapted from Rachael Ray's
Jaw Droppingly Delicious Asparagus Penne

1 lb thin asparagus, trimmed of ends
1 lb penne pasta
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
5 cloves roasted garlic, mashed

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup vegetable stock
3/4 cup cream
2 tablespoons honey mustard
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1 lemon, juice of
freshly grated parmesan cheese

Steam asparagus to desired doneness, about 5 - 10 minutes depending on thickness of asparagus. Chop into 2 inch pieces and set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water. Add the pasta to the water and cook as directed on the package.

To a skillet placed over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter. When the butter melts into the oil, add the garlic, then sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook for 1 minute, constantly whisking. Whisk in the stock, half and half, mustard, and lemon zest.

Season the sauce with salt, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to thicken. Add the lemon juice, and gently toss the asparagus sauce to coat.

Turn off the heat and adjust with salt and pepper to taste, mix the asparagus sauce with the cooked pasta. then top with grated cheese and serve.

What did we think? Well, I made this for just the kids and I when picky husband was working late and everyone seemed to like it after a little coaxing to take the first bite. My oldest son just wanted to eat the asparagus and leave the pasta, and my daughter wanted to eat the pasta and skip the asparagus, but they ended up finishing their plates after they gave it a try. My youngest, who is the unpickiest kid ever, loved it all and I enjoyed it as well. Would I call it Jaw Droppingly Delicious? Hmm, not too sure on that one, but it was certainly very good and I would make it again :)


This is my 1st submission to Presto Pasta Nights which I have been a fan of for the past couple of years but have never participated in myself. This week is it hosted by Nic at Lemon and Cheese, thank you, Nic!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sweet Melissa French Pancakes

Time again for Sweet Melissa Sundays, our treat today is crepes! Called Mom's French Pancakes in The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, this recipe is from author Melissa Murphy's great grandmother and loved by all in her family. Thank you to Jaime of Good Eats and Sweet Treats, who picked this recipe for us to try. You can find this recipe here at Jaime's blog if you do not have the book.

The kids and I absolutely love crepes and I was so happy to make this recipe because I hadn't made crepes in a long time. Picky husband doesn't like crepes, can you believe that? Apparently it's a texture thing, although I'm not sure how anyone could not enjoy a delicate crepe enveloping a plethora of filling combinations.

Sweet crepes, savory crepes, doesn't matter which to me, they have always been a favorite. If there are crepes on the menu at a restaurant I will probably order them. I'm especially fond of savory crepes, ricotta or vegetable filled, with a cream or red sauce...mmm.

I used to try to make crepes on my own without much success, then about five years ago I got the VillaWare Grand Crepe Maker and have enjoyed using it since. I don't know if they still make the "Grand" crepe maker -- that makes 10 inch crepes, but I know a smaller model VillaWare Crepe Maker is available -- which makes 7 and 1/2 inch crepes.

I know I'm a bit of a kitchen gadget junkie but I have to give props to this little contraption for helping my crepes come out beautifully every time :)

This recipe is really simple and comes together in a blender, much like my favorite crepe recipe from Alton Brown does. The end result are beautiful crepes, an empty canvas for whatever sweet topping you can think up. I went traditional with these since I had some extra strawberry sauce I had made a few days earlier for strawberry shortcake sitting in the fridge. Simply filled with whipped cream, topped with strawberry sauce and a dusting of powdered sugar, these were a delicious brunch treat.

I did made one tiny change -- the recipe calls for 1 and 1/2 cups whole milk, instead I used 1 cup skim milk and 1/2 cup cream -- which in my mind pretty much equals whole milk anyway, right? ;) The kids absolutely loved these, as did I -- what a wonderful treat!

Simple Strawberry Sauce

4 cups fresh hulled and thinly sliced strawberries
about 1/2 cup white sugar (you might need more depending on how sweet your berries are, adjust to taste)

Toss strawberries in sugar and put in a covered container in the fridge. Leave them to macerate in the fridge for 12-48 hours before serving. --
If you do not have time to wait, you can microwave your sugared strawberries for about 2 minutes, while that will not release as much of the juices, you should still have a decent sauce.
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