Archive for the ‘what tara’s cookin now’ Category

Italian Rainbow Cookies

December 29, 2013

cookies1

There are many beautiful colors in the rainbow, but my favorite are red, white and green – the color of the Italian flag. I have been wanting to make this recipe for some time but did not have the specific ingredient (marzipan) or the time, as it takes a lot of steps. I went to the base commissary recently and saw they had marzipan on clearance and took it as a sign. Marzipan is an almond paste that is used in many dolce Italian treats. In Sicily they used it to make these gorgeous replicas of fruit that were hand painted and delicious. I knew of Marzipan before I lived in Sicily because my mom always sought out the marzipan chocolate in her belgian chocolate assortments, so I grew to love the flavor at a young age. My mom can be frugal at times but won’t blink when it comes to spending more on some great chocolate. But I digress…

Since I had the marzipan in my pantry I decided to go for it. This year I was also making my mom’s black and white cookies for Santa, they are such a yummy confection. The recipe I was using was by an Italian chef I really admire, Lidia Bastianich. She has some amazing recipes on her site and a popular PBS show called Lidia’s Italy. I would have to say it was not a hard recipe to complete but it did take a lot of steps and over a couple of days to complete. I would not have been able to do it without the help of my fabulous Italian sous chef, Gianna. The end result was a Italian rainbow bar of decadence and scrumptiousness. Even my husband who is not a huge fan of marzipan or almond extracts, loved the cookies. The only thing we modified was to use strawberry jam instead of apricot to appease the little people in my house. I think this was a good marriage – think chocolate covered strawberries – so that flavor married well with the chocolate and almond. Also I used three 9×12 rimmed cookie sheets and barely had enough batter to fill those, so you might not need the bigger pans in the recipe. If you want to make some special treats for a holiday or event, let yourself be inspired by the Italian flag in this recipe.

Lidia’s Italian Rainbow Cookies:

Ingredients:

8 ounces almond paste
1 cup sugar
2½ sticks unsalted butter, softened, cut into pieces, plus more for the pans
4 large eggs, separated
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for the pans
1 teaspoon red food coloring, gel or paste preferred
1 teaspoon green food coloring, gel or paste preferred
Two 15-ounce jars smooth (not chunky) apricot jam
1½ pounds bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour three 15-by-10-inch rimmed sheet pans (I used 9×12 ones) , and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper.

Combine the almond paste and all but 2 tablespoons of the sugar in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until you have fine crumbles. Add the butter, a few pieces at a time, and pulse until well mixed. Plop in the egg yolks, one at a time, and mix until the batter is smooth. Sprinkle in salt, and mix. Sift in flour, and mix until just combined.

Whisk egg whites in a bowl until foamy. While whisking, slowly add the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar, and whisk until firm peaks form. Fold about a third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then gently fold in remaining egg whites.

Divide batter evenly into three bowls. Leave one bowl plain, without any coloring. Add red food coloring to one bowl, stirring to make a deep-salmon color. Add green food coloring to last bowl, stirring to make a medium-green color. Spread batter into each of the prepared pans with a spatula. Bake, rotating pans to opposite racks, until cakes are cooked through and just beginning to brown around the edges, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven, let cakes cool completely on wire racks, then remove from pans.

cookies2

Trim each of the layers to even out the thickness of the cakes. Put the green cake layer back, cut side up, into one of the lined pans. Spread one jar of jam over the cake, almost all of the way to the edges. Place the plain layer of cake on top of the jam. Spread the remaining jar of jam almost all the way to the edges of the plain layer. Place the red layer on top of the ham, cut side up. Wrap the entire cake in plastic, and top with another pan, weighted with cans. Chill in refrigerator 4 hours or overnight.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Unwrap the cake, and place on a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Pour and spread the chocolate over the top the cake, using a spatula to guide the chocolate over the top and down the sides of the cake. If the kitchen is cool, let the chocolate harden that way; if it is warm, clear a space in the refrigerator to place the cake and let the chocolate harden. When the chocolate is about halfway set, gently rake the topping with the tines of a fork or a dough scraper with dentals, starting from the end of the chocolate covering all the way to the other end, slightly undulating the lines as you move along. Repeat until all of the chocolate has indented stripes. Let the chocolate set completely.

Using a serrated knife, cut the set and decorated layers into three dozen rectangles, using the outer sides to form perfectly cut rectangles.

The way to a man’s heart is with Streusel

October 27, 2013

coffeecake

As usual my husband hinted at a potential coffeecake this weekend. I hadn’t made one in a while and he said what if there was a recipe for cinnamon swirl coffeecake with caramel frosting he would love that. My google search did not pan out with the frosting part but I am sure I could invent a frosting to add to a future recipe. What I did come upon was cinnamon streusel coffeecake from my reliable recipe buddy – King Arthur Flour. I had all the ingredients in the house, a rare occurrence, so I set to work. There were a lot of steps, it was not complicated, just a lot of work. But it was well worth it for this ridiculously delish cake. The cake had so many layers of flavor and yumminess. The crumb topping, the streusel filling, the moist cake – all combined to make a definite recipe box entry. If you are having a well deserved lazy weekend like we did and you are craving a sweet treat, skip the store bought crumb cake and whip this up for a real treat!

Cinnamon Streusel Coffeecake

Streusel topping

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt (if you use unsalted butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted  (note, my topping was a bit dry, I’ll add more butter next time or mix it together better, my pint sized assistant was in charge of this step)

Filling

  • 1 cup brown sugar, light or dark
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Cake

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt (1 ¼ teaspoons if you use unsalted butter)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (anything from skim to whole)
  • 3 3/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

Directions

1) Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ x 13″ pan, or two 9″ round cake pans.
2) Make the topping by whisking together the sugar, salt, flour, and cinnamon. Add the melted butter, stirring till well combined. Set the topping aside.
3) Make the filling by mixing together the brown sugar, cinnamon, and cocoa powder. Note that the cocoa powder is used strictly for color, not flavor; leave it out if you like. Set it aside.
4) To make the cake: In a large bowl, beat together the butter, salt, sugars, baking powder, and vanilla until well combined and smooth.
5) Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
6) In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream or yogurt and milk till well combined. You don’t need to whisk out all the lumps.
7) Add the flour to the butter mixture alternately with the milk/sour cream mixture, beating gently to combine.
8) Pour/spread half the batter (a scant 3 cups) into the prepared pan(s), spreading all the way to the edges. If you’re using two 9″ round pans, spread 1 1/3 cups batter in each pan.
9) Sprinkle the filling evenly atop the batter.
10) Spread the remaining batter atop the filling. Use a table knife to gently swirl the filling into the batter, as though you were making a marble cake. Don’t combine filling and batter thoroughly; just swirl the filling through the batter.
11) Sprinkle the topping over the batter in the pan.
12) Bake the cake until it’s a dark golden brown around the edges; medium-golden with no light patches showing on top, and a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes for the 9″ x 13″ pan, 50 to 55 minutes for the 9″ round pans. When pressed gently in the middle, the cake should spring back.
13) Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool for 20 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve cake right from the pan.

Cupcake Sandwiches

October 7, 2013

cake

I love trying out new recipes. Especially ones I collected eons ago and I rediscover. This one was from one of my favorite hunky Chefs, Michael Chiarello. I had printed it several years ago and stuck it in my must try someday binder, which often goes forgotten. I was looking for something tasty and sweet to make for Sofia’s birthday party last weekend and I happened upon this magical recipe for cupcake sandwiches. Think decadent moist chocolate cupcakes split in half and filled with homemade chocolate mousse, whipped cream, sprinkles and mini candies – that is not your typical “sandwich”. We used mini rolos, mini kit kats and reese’s pieces for the candies and some rainbow sprinkles.

This was my first foray into making homemade mousse, something my readers know I love – a challenge. The mousse was simple to make but did not come together as creamy as I would have liked so I definitely need more practice. It tasted delicious so that is what mattered. Also the recipe said to bake the cakes for 30 minutes but I always test my cupcakes about 8 minutes early (my secret to not dry cake) and they were done at 22 mins, so be sure to check yours.  This cake recipe would be delicious to use without the candy and mousse if you wanted to frost and use a new chocolate cupcake recipe. The superfine sugar, cake flour and mayo really made for a scrumptious cake.

Sad to report most of the kids threw theirs away, probably too gourmet for a kids birthday party in retrospect, but the grownups liked them. Also Sofia ate every last crumb, love that little foodie! If I made them again I would probably make them a bit more fancy and for a grownup event. So if you want a new take on cupcakes with a beautiful presentation or want to do something cool for an upcoming holiday party you need to check this recipe out!

Chocolate Cupcake Sandwiches with Easy Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 cup warm water
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup superfine sugar
2 cups cake flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
Easy Chocolate Mousse, recipe follows or chocolate frosting,
Whipped cream
Assorted candy pieces like chopped candy bars, chocolate chips, sprinkles
Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Fill a muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners and set aside.

Combine cocoa powder and water and mix until smooth. Fold in mayonnaise. (Make sure cocoa mixture is not to hot to prevent breaking of mayonnaise). Add vanilla and whisk until smooth.

In mixer, combine sugar, cake flour, baking soda and salt and mix slowly until well incorporated. Add wet cocoa mixture, mix on medium-high until well blended. Scrape down the sides and blend for 30 seconds.

Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 way full of batter. Bake for 30 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (Mine were done in 22, even with oven at 350). Remove from oven and allow to cool on rack.

Slice each cupcake in half, horizontally, and serve the halves with chocolate mousse, whipped cream, and assorted candy toppings. Kids build the sandwiches by spreading one half of a cupcake with mousse or whipped cream, sprinkling on candy toppings and placing other half of cupcake on top.

Easy Chocolate Mousse:
13 ounces bitter or semisweet chocolate

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large egg yolks

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

2 tablespoons superfine sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a microwave safe bowl, combine the chopped chocolate and the butter. Heat in the microwave until melted, about 35 seconds depending on your microwave, and stir to melt completely. Whisk in the egg yolks and set aside to cool.

Pour the cream into a chilled bowl of a mixer and beat on medium speed until it starts to thicken. Add the sugar and vanilla and whisk until the cream starts to form stiff peaks. Carefully fold the whipped cream into the cooled chocolate mixture. Serve immediately or cover and chill until ready to serve.

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/michael-chiarello/chocolate-cupcake-sandwiches-with-easy-chocolate-mousse-recipe/index.html?oc=linkback

Coffeecake Conundrum

June 15, 2013

cake

The main issue I have with coffeecake is how delicious it is. It is pretty hard not to eat seconds or thirds. Lately we have been on a crumb coffeecake bender. I usually make my mom’s delicious sour cream coffee cake but this time I decided to venture out and try a new recipe she passed along. It is called a New York crumb cake and it is more crumbs than cake, my husband’s perfect ratio. Upon tasting it I was pretty stoked because it tastes just like Entenmann’s famous crumb cake, but instead of $6.99 it costs free ninety nine to make at home. Crumb cakes are easy to make and so incredibly tasty. So if you like to make stuff from scratch that tastes like a knockoff of the real thing or even better, then make this recipe!

New York Crumb Cake

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons canola  or vegetable oil, plus more for pan
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

DIRECTIONS

  1. STEP 1

    Place rack in center of oven, and heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly brush a 9-by-12 1/2-inch baking pan with canola oil, dust with flour, and tap to remove excess. Set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In a second bowl, whisk together egg, milk, canola oil, and vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, fold dry ingredients into egg mixture.

  2. STEP 2

    Spread batter evenly into prepared pan, and set aside. In a medium bowl, combine remaining 2 1/2 cups flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Pour melted butter over flour mixture, and toss with a rubber spatula until large crumbs form. Sprinkle crumbs over batter.

  3. STEP 3

    Transfer pan to oven, and bake, rotating pan after 10 minutes. Continue baking until a cake tester comes out clean, about 10 minutes more. – Check this, mine was way underdone even with the cake tester clean at the second 10 minute mark. I think it needed an additional 5 or 10 minutes, or 25-30 mins total

  4. STEP 4

    Transfer baking pan to a wire rack to cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar. Using a serrated knife or bench scraper, cut into 3-inch squares. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Pizza Pie, that’s Amore!

May 18, 2013

pizza

My readers all know I have a go to recipe for pizza dough. But I was feeling like trying something new and I have been inspired lately by my new favorite show from the cooking channel, Extra Virgin. This dough was amazing! The Pizzas came out so nice and thin and crisp. The texture and flavor reminded me of when I was in Italy. My hubby says I should only use this recipe from now on.

Gabriele said: “In Italy, pizza dough can be found at almost every grocery store. If you have a favorite bakery where you go to buy your bread, they might also give you some, if you know them. The recipe that I have is one I have been using since I started making pizzas with my father. One of his dear friends who was a famous pizza maker in Florence passed the recipe on to us, and now I share it with you. It’s simple and works great, but don’t forget to check your local stores because you don’t really need to go the extra length to make your own dough. If you do want to make your own dough, you can always freeze it for later.” Here is Gabriele’s recipe:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 (.25-ounce) package dry active yeast (2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water (about 105 to 115 degrees F)
  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl

DIRECTIONS

In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast, lukewarm water, and 1/2 cup bread flour. Mix well and let sit until bubbly, about 30 minutes.

Whisk together the remaining 3 1/2 cups bread flour and salt in another bowl so it will be evenly distributed.

Once the yeast mixture is nice and bubbly and looks like foamy beer, add 3/4 cup cold water and olive oil. Using a dough hook, turn the mixer on and add the flour in increments.

Mix the dough for about 5 minutes, until the dough starts creeping up the dough hook and comes away from the sides of the bowl.

Place the dough in a large bowl lightly greased with olive oil. Turn to coat all sides of the dough with oil. Cover the bowl loosely with a clean tea towel. Let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Punchdough down, and let rise another hour.

Divide the dough into 4 equal disks. Lightly flour a work surface. Using your fingers or heels of your hands (and a rolling pin, if you prefer) stretch the disks out to a 10-inch round.

Repeat with the remaining 3 pizza dough disks. Cook the pizzas at 500 degrees (he said 550 on the site but I did not want to go that hot) for about 10-12 mins, or in a brick oven, if you have one, maybe in my dreams!

Pici pasta challenge

April 20, 2013

pici

I love to challenge myself to make new recipes. My BFF got me hooked on my new favorite cooking show on the cooking channel called Extra Virgin. If you haven’t seen this show yet I highly recommend it. Not only are the recipes amazing and authentic Italian family recipes, but the couple, Gabriele and Debi are so fun to watch. They inspire me to cook more with my hubby in the kitchen.

I recently saw an episode telling the story of pici pasta, hand rolled noodles that are a tradition in the Florence region. I googled and found a great rustic recipe that looked authentic like the Extra Virgin episode version. Last night we made the pici and I have to say they came out delicious. It was so fun making the noodles all together as a family, as I usually micromanage and kick everyone out of the kitchen. It was a bit of a time consuming process rolling each noodle by hand, but well worth it for the taste and the experience, if you like to challenge yourself as a cook, like I do. The tip in the recipe about rolling the pasta dough into grape sized balls really did help to make process go smoother.

pici2

Pici Pasta with Spare Rib Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, chopped into 1/4 inch dice
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 4 ounces pancetta (thinly sliced), finely diced
  • 1 bunch basil, leaves only, finely chopped
  • 2 lbs pork spare ribs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces by butcher
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 1/2 cups basic tomato sauce
  • 1 recipe pici pasta – posted below
  • Semolina or cornmeal, for dusting
  • Parmigiano Reggiano, for grating

Cooking Directions

In a 10 to 12 inch deep sauté pan, heat the olive oil over high heat until almost smoking. Add the onion, carrot, pancetta and basil, reduce the heat to medium high and cook until the pancetta has rendered its fat.

Season the ribs with salt and pepper and add it to the pan, cooking until they are browned on all sides.

Add the wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil. Then lower the heat to a simmer and with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer gently until the meat is tender, about 1 hour.

After you make the pici pasta dough as instructed below, shape small bits of the pasta dough into grape sized balls. One at a time, on a surface very lightly dusted with flour, roll each one into a rope 1/8 inch thick and 6-8 inches long and set aside on a baking sheet dusted with semolina. This is a time consuming process so plan ahead. If you don’t have extra time, this dish would be great served over orzo, fresh fettuicine or any of your favorite pasta.

Bring 6 quarts of water to boil in a large pot and add 2 tablespoons salt.

Drop the pasta into the water and cook until tender, yet al dente, about 7-8 minutes.

Do not pour the pasta in a strainer, strain in small batches with a small strainer over the pot of water and toss right into the pan with the sauce and stir gently over medium high heat for 1 minute. By adding the pasta right from the water to the sauce you marry the two together.

Divide evenly among four warmed pasta bowls to serve. Top with freshly grated parmigiano (or Romano, you know I prefer that) and serve.

Pici Pasta

Ingredients

  • 2 cups semolina flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups tepid water

Place both types of flour in a large mixing bowl and stir to mix well. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the water a little at a time, stirring with your hands until a dough is formed. You may need more or less water, depending on the humidity in your kitchen.

Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead it like bread until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover the dough and let it stand for 10 minutes at room temperature.

Shape small bits of the pasta dough into grape sized balls. One at a time, on a surface very lightly dusted with flour, roll each one into a rope 1/8 inch thick and 6-8 inches long. Place the pici on a sheet tray that has been dusted with semolina flour, cover the pasta with a clean dish towel, and set aside until ready to use. At this point, the pasta can be frozen for several months.

Gnocchi di’ Melanzane – Eggplant Gnocchi

April 8, 2013

gnocchi

I love my usual go to gnocchi recipe I posted before but tonight I decided to branch out and challenge myself and make some eggplant gnocchi aka Gnocchi di’ Melanzane.  The secret is you puree roasted eggplant and put it in your gnocchi dough. The best part was that my kids ate it and I got eggplant into their tummies! I topped it with my favorite sauce, my leftover cacciatore sauce. After you make a big pot of cacciatore there is always leftover sauce.

According to my research, gnocchi are little dumplings that can be varied by adding cheese, vegetables, herbs, or even fruit to the basic dough. Just look for whatever is in season and blend it into the dough for a special treat.

This gnocchi was relatively easy to make. I loved the technique of piping the gnocchi out of a pastry bag and cutting them with pastry scissors, this was much easier than hand rolling them.  I would say if I made them again I would probably add a bit more flour to make the dough a little thicker, as it did not hold together as well as usual gnocchi dough does, but it still came out good. So if you want to add an extra Italian flavor to your gnocchi, try this eggplant version

Gnocchi di’ Melanzane – Eggplant Gnocchi

2 pounds of firm eggplant

coarse salt

olive oil

1 pound of Idaho potatoes

1/3 cup of freshly grated parmesan or romano (I prefer)

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/4 teaspoons of salt

1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper

12 leaves of fresh basil, minced

2 cups of flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, halve eggplant lengthwise and brush olive oil on, then put cut side down on foil lined baking sheet and bake about 40 mins, till tender (or less if you are using several small eggplants). While eggplant is cooking boil potatoes in salted water for about 30 mins till tender. When it is cool enough to handle peel eggplant and puree in food processor. Allow puree to cool completely. When cool enough to handle, peel potatoes and use potato ricer to squeeze them into a large bowl. Add the eggplant puree and the cheese and mix well. Add the eggs, salt, pepper, and basil and mix to blend. Add flour and mix to incorporate, but do not overmix.


pot

Bring large pot of salted water, about 6-8qts, to boil. Fill pastry bag with eggplant mixture and when the water boils, pipe 1/2 inch long pieces, cutting using pastry scissors, dropping them into the boiling water. Work rapidly until all the dough is used up. Allow gnocchi to cook until they float to top and then drain on a slotted spoon and place in a bowl. Butter lightly and keep warm. Top with your favorite pesto, alfredo (my pistachio alfredo would be great), red sauce and freshly grated cheese and manga!

A great fresh tomato sauce from scratch is featured here, by one of my cooking idols, Lidia Bastianich

Baking Bonanza

April 4, 2013

banana

I got home from work today and decided I was in the mood, to bake that is. Sometimes I think that might be even more exciting to my husband, as he loves my baking, haha! I didn’t try out anything new, just stuck to some trusty go to recipes I love to make. I love making my homemade easy pizza dough and so does the family. Best part was I had leftover  of my mom’s famous roasted sausage, peppers and onions, so I had a great topping to add.

Also, any time I have ripe bananas sitting around I can never just toss them, I always have to whip up my favorite banana bread. I don’t mean to be redundant but I recently noticed that I have had my blog for 3 years and I had not posted my banana bread recipe since 2010, so here it goes:

Flour’s Famous Banana Bread

Ingredients
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped or Chocolate chips
Directions
Set oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Beat sugar and eggs with a whisk until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Drizzle in oil. Add mashed bananas, creme fraiche, and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients and nuts. Pour into a lined loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Cook Tara’s note: this recipe is super easy and moist and delicious, I used sour cream this time as I did not have creme fraiche and I always substitute chocolate chips instead of nuts, I am not a banana nut bread fan… oh and this was a top secret recipe from a bakery in Boston that was revealed on FN on Giada’s Weekend Getaways. A little schmear of Nutella makes anything hot out of the oven taste even better, BTW

The Bunny made me do it!

March 31, 2013

cake

Today the girls have me making this Easter Bunny cake we saw on food network. I decided to make my bunny chocolate so I had to find the perfect chocolate cake recipe (posted below). I have caught a few episodes of the Pioneer Woman and I thought I’d give her cake a go since her recipes look simple and delicious. I will post a pic of the bunny later, but for now, here is the chocolate cake. I halved the recipe since I only need 2 round cakes and it came out perfect!

Ingredients
Cake:
4 sticks butter, plus more for greasing
8 heaping tablespoons cocoa, plus more for dusting
4 cups all-purpose flour
4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups boiling water
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 whole eggs, beaten

Directions
For the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Heavily grease and dust with cocoa four 9-inch round cake pans.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt.

In a saucepan, melt the butter. Add the cocoa. Stir together. Add the boiling water, allow the mixture to boil for 30 seconds and then turn off the heat. Pour over the flour mixture and stir lightly to cool.

Combine the buttermilk, baking soda, vanilla and beaten eggs. Stir the buttermilk mixture into the butter/chocolate mixture.

Divide the batter among the prepared cake pans and bake for 20 minutes.

Cool completely before icing. Refrigerate the layers after cooling for best results.

Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie

March 27, 2013

chicken

I have never been a fan of chicken pot pie, something about the soupiness of it and the pie crust just didn’t equal delicious to me. But both my dad and hubby love pot pie. After a recent trip out to eat where Campy had a KW version of pot pie that was actually pretty scrumptious I was inspired to overcome my aversion.

Well whose recipes usually convert me over to a believer? That would be my lovah, Alton Brown. Hold up, Alton Brown you say? Ok so he may not been oozing with dancing with the stars sexiness but his recipes are technical and my perfect go to for any accurate version of your favorite dish. I found his chicken pot pie and of course he one upped it by not making a pie crust, but using biscuits! Think what it would be like if chicken and dumplings and chicken pot pie had a baby.

To me this was the perfect compromise, as I love biscuits and even though I am not a casserole fan, the biscuits distracted me enough to indlulge. Even my picky kiddos dug right in. Some tips: the cheese in the biscuits made them even more tasty and the shredded rotisserie chicken was nice and tender, instead of the usual dry chicken pot pie meat. My mom wasn’t a fan of the chicken sausage, next time I would probably use just regular sausage. Are you wondering why I put sausage in a “pot pie” – well, think biscuits and gravy, mmmm! So if you want to make a relatively simple version of chicken pot pie even more delicious you should check this recipe out – click the link or see below

Chicken Biscuit Pot Pie – Courtesy of Alton Brown & FN

Ingredients
Filling:
1 pound bulk-style chicken sausage
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces all-purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/4 pounds shredded, cooked chicken, about 5 cups
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly chopped sage
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Biscuit Topping:
12 ounces all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme
1 teaspoon freshly chopped sage
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 ounces extra-sharp white Cheddar
4 ounces unsalted butter, frozen
7 ounces low-fat buttermilk
Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
For the filling: Set a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Crumble the chicken sausage in the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Add the butter and melt, stirring to coat the sausage. Sprinkle the flour onto the sausage and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the milk and chicken broth and scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Add the shredded chicken, salt, sage, and pepper. Stir to combine and set aside while preparing the biscuits.

For the biscuits: Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, thyme, sage, and cayenne pepper in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. Grate the cheese and butter using the large shredding disk of a food processor or the large side of a box grater. Immediately add the cheese and butter to the flour mixture. Stir to combine. Pour in the buttermilk and stir just to combine. Dump the dough onto a floured work surface and start folding the dough over on itself, gently kneading for 30 seconds, or until the dough is soft and smooth. Press the dough into a 1/2-inch thick round. Use a 3-inch round cutter to cut out the biscuits, being sure to push the cutter straight down through the dough to the work surface. Make your cuts as close together as possible to limit waste. Gather together any remaining dough, pat out again, and cut out as many biscuits as you can in order to get 9 total.

To build the pie: Set the biscuits on top of the filling, placing 8 around the edge of the pan and 1 in the middle. Bake until the biscuits are tall and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before serving.

Note: I did not have a large enough skillet so I used a 9×13 pan and I just used scraps of biscuit dough to fill in spaces between round biscuits