Thursday, June 26, 2008

lemon bars

Sometimes you just need a little something sweet...AND sour! These are SO SO SO yummy! The perfect summer treat!

For the crust:
1/2 pound unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
For the filling:
6 extra-large eggs at room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest (4 to 6 lemons)
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup flour
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into a 9 by 13 by 2-inch baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill.

Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
For the filling, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.
Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners' sugar

Saturday, March 22, 2008

apricot glazed easter ham

Serves 15 to 20

1 bone-in smoked ham (10 pounds)
1/4 cup whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup apricot preserves

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Wrap ham completely with parchment paper-lined aluminum foil and place on a rimmed baking sheet or roasting pan. Transfer ham to oven and bake for 1 hour. Place apricot preserves in a 1-quart saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Transfer preserves to a blender and puree until smooth, about 2 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve set over a small bowl; discard solids. You should have slightly less than 1/2 cup remaining. Add mustard and vinegar to bowl of preserves; stir to combine.

Unwrap ham; discard parchment and foil. Transfer ham to a cutting board. Using a large sharp knife, score fat in a diamond pattern, making the lines about 3/4 inch apart. Return ham to roasting pan.

Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees. Brush ham evenly with 3/4 of the preserve mixture and return to oven. Bake ham for 30 minutes. Brush ham with remaining glaze and continue cooking 10 minutes more. Transfer to a cutting board until ready to carve.

easter egg bread

This traditional bread comes from Greece and Italy. It is by far my most favorite Easter Recipe. It's a great way to use up some of those died eggs, it looks great and of course tastes delicious!

Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus rising
Baking Time: 35-40 minutes
Makes 10-12 servings

4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 envelope (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
3/4 cup hot milk (120F-130F)
1/4 cup hot water (120F-130F)
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
2 large eggs
5 hard-cooked eggs, colored
Vegetable oil

Place 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl; mix well. Add milk, water and butter. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute. Add the 2 uncooked eggs; beat until well combined. Stir in enough remaining flour until a soft dough forms.

Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, 6-8 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in a warm place until almost double in size, about 45 minutes.

Grease a baking sheet. Punch down dough. Place dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Roll each piece into a 30-inch rope. Loosely twist ropes together.

Shape twisted ropes into a ring, about 12 inches in diameter, on prepared baking sheet; press ends to seal. Rub colored eggs lightly with oil. Place eggs in spaces between twists. Cover; let rise until almost double in size, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Uncover dough; bake bread ring until golden, 35-40 minutes. Remove from baking sheet; cool completely on a wire rack.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter icing

Chocolate Cupcakes

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Kathleen's Peanut Butter Icing, recipe follows
Chopped salted peanuts, to decorate, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it's completely blended.

Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (1 rounded standard ice cream scoop per cup is the right amount). Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Peanut Butter Icing

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
Place the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

fortune cookies

I have had more fun with this recipe than any other. I used to teach children's cooking classes and the kids absolutely loved these. They are simple, delicious and you get to write your own fortunes. I like making them for birthdays with sprinkles and putting birthday fortunes in them. The same can be done with Valentines Day or for just about any occasion. They are fun to dip in chocolate (white, milk, or dark) and sprinkle.

3 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter -- melted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Combine ingredients in order, mixing well after each addition. Chill 20 minutes. Make cookies 2 at a time. On greased cookie sheet, drop a spoonful of dough for each cookie. It is very important to spread dough very thin with back of spoon to about 3 inch diameter. Bake about 5 minutes or until edges are lightly brown. Working quickly, place a fortune** in the center of each cookie. Fold cookie in half enclosing fortune, to form a semi-circle. Grasp rounded edges of semi-circle between thumb and forefinger on one hand. Place forefinger of other hand at center of folded edge, and push in, making certain solid sides of cookie puff out. Place each cookie in small size muffin tin, open edges up, until cookie is set. Store in airtight container. Beforehand: Cut some paper into 2 inch x 1/2 inch strips. Type or write fortunes on them, to insert in cookies.

pan fried onion dip

There are not words to describe how good this is. It's out of control addicting and WAY better than the mix or pre-made onion dip. Men love it, woman really can't go wrong. Serve with crinkle potato chips or fresh veggies for an irresistable appetizer!

2 large yellow onions
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
Cut the onions in half, and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions) Heat the butter and oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt and pepper and sauté for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes, until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.
Place the cream cheese, sour cream, and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well.
Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

garden vegetable soup

I am in a weight loss challenge with my friends here in Connecticut. After day two I was starving and this recipe saved my life. It is filling, healthy, and only has 42 calories. You can't beat that for a hot meal.

2/3 cup sliced carrot
1/2 cup diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups fat free broth (beef, chicken or vegetable)
1 1/2 cups diced green cabbage
1/2 cup green beans
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup diced zucchini

1. In a large sauce pan sprayed with non stick spray, saute the carrot, onion and garlic over low heat until softened about 5 mins.
2. add broth, cabbage, beans,tomato paste, basil, oregano, and salt. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, covered, about 15 mins or until beans are tender.
3. stir in zucchini and heat 3-4 mins.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

perfect roasted chicken

I make this recipe about once per week for the children I nanny. The chicken comes out tender and juicy every time and I love it because it doesn't take long to prepare and I can just pop it in the oven and go on to doing something else for an hour. It fills the house with the most wonderful aroma! You do not have to use all of the vegetables if you don't have them lying around. If all you have is an onion and a lemon to stuff it with, it will still come out great!

1 (5 to 6 pound) or 2kg roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme plus 20 sprigs
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic cut in half crosswise
(1/4 stick) butter melted
1 large yellow onion
thickly sliced
4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F or 220degrees celcius. Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top. Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

bean salsa

This recipe got me through many college study nights. I made it over and over because it's SO easy and very tasty. It is full of protein and fiber as well. Can't do much better than that!

1 can black beans
1 can navy beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can corn
1 large avocado, chopped into small pieces
1 large tomato, chopped into small pieces
1 bottle Italian dressing

Add beans and corn to strainer and rinse with water. Drain excess liquid. In a medium size bowl add bean and corn mixture, avocado and tomato. Stir in whole bottle of Italian dressing. Serve with Tortilla chips


tip: how to get children to eat a balanced meal

I have been a nanny for over eight years now and have spent my share of time trying to get babies, toddlers and school age children to eat healthy balanced meals. You can buy these trays at Pottery Barn and they are real lifesafers. They are dishwasher safe and come in bright and pastel colors to match your kitchen. The best part is that because I find that children often want thier food seperated, this does it for them. It also helps them to make healthy choices. The children I nanny know that when they eat dinner each section will contain a fruit, vegetable, protein and starch. They can choose either water or milk.

It is always a debate in child development as to how much you should feed your child. I have spoken with several pediatricians and what I most commonly hear is that children will eat when they are hungry and stop when they are fool. Arguing over meal times isn't fun for the child or parent and really isn't healthy. It can cause issues with food in the future. Make your child a part of meal planning and they are likely to be more excited about it. I may suggest taking them on an outing to a produce market, butchery or bakery so they can pick out some of the food items. In any case, teaching your child to eat well comes from introducing them a variety of foods and spices. One twelve month old I looked after, her favorite meal was salmon with curried cous cous and broccoli. I don't believe in "Kid" food. I like to offer them what the adults are eating.

For infants, I suggest not feeding them fruits or juice at first so that thier palate develops a taste for vegetables and rice first. If you are offering them bananas or beans, which do you think they are going to prefer? Obviously bananas. Developing a sweet tooth before the age of one isn't necessary. After a couple of months of eating the vegetables and rice, then start offering fruits. I don't usually give infants juice. They will get enough nutrients with milk and it isn't so good for thier teeth. With toddlers I dilute the juice with water but even then it is very limited.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

roast beef with mushrooms

This recipe has a fond memory for me. I was sitting in sunny South Africa with a wonderful family and this is what was served for a Sunday meal. It's so savory that I was craving it for weeks after. I highly suggest adding the sour cream to it.

2-2.5lb. or 1 kg fillet
2 cloves garlic, slivered
1 teaspoon or 5ml dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon or 2ml paprika
2 Tablepoons or 25ml vegetable oil
Salt and milled black pepper
1 onion, chopped
8 ounces or 200g mushrooms, wiped and sliced
6 sprigs thyme, chopped
1/2 cup or 125ml red cooking wine
1/2 teaspoon or 2 ml each salt and sugar
Sour cream (optional)

Spike meat all over with garlic. Rub with mustard and paprika and brown gently on all sides in hot oil.Transfer to small roasting pan that is a little larger than the meat, and season lightly.In the same pan, fry onion, mushrooms and thyme. When beginning to brown, remove from stove and add wine,Salt and sugar. Pour over fillet and roast at 325 degrees farenhiet or 160 C for about 1 hour 10 minutes for rare. Remove meat to serving platter and stand in warm place for 5 minutes. Serve the gravy thickened, reduced, or with the addition of a little sour cream.

Serves 6-8.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

food focus: yeast

What is yeast? We know that bakers use it to make the dough 'rise'; without it, our bread would be like flat, hard cakes. In the days when people made their own bread, they would go to a brewer and get a jug of brewer's yeast. It was fluid and yellow. Nowadays, yeast is made commercially on a large scale. The yeast you buy at your market, the yellow lumps done up in paper, has been compressed for convenient handling.

Commercial yeast is a by-product of the whisky distillers. If you are a yeast producer your by-product will be methylated spirits.

Yeast is a plant, according to the biologists, and is capable of reproducing itself. A piece of yeast consists of minute cells, with walls composed of cellulose, and an interior of living matter called protoplasm. You can feed it with a solution of sugar to make it grow, or it can be 'killed' by 'starvation' or heat. The ancients did not use yeast as we know it today; they prepared a leaven or 'barm' (which has the same action) from ground millet kneaded with 'must' out of wine-tubs. Wheat bran was also used, kneaded with a three-days-old must, dried in the sun, then made into little cakes. When required for making bread, the cakes were soaked in water, then boiled with the finest flour, after which the whole was mixed in with the meal. Another old method for making barm was to prepare cakes of barley meal and water; these were baked on a hot hearth, or else in an earthen dish upon hot ashes and left until they turned reddish-brown. Afterwards, the cakes were kept shut up in a vessel until they turned quite sour. When wanted for leaven, they were first steeped in water. Eight ounces of this was enough to make a quantity of bread of about 14 lb. or 6.3kg to rise.

The primary function of yeast is to supply carbon dioxide gas which inflates the dough during proof and the early stages of baking (oven spring).

Carbon dioxide cannot form a gas bubble on its own it requires a 'nucleating site' (i.e. somewhere it can gather to form a bubble). In fizzy drinks microscopic projections on the side of the bottle provide those sites which is why when you release the pressure as you open the bottle you see 'streams' of gas running from the sides. In bread dough the nucleating sites are provided by the nitrogen gas bubbles trapped in the dough during mixing. The oxygen from the air having been used up by the yeast.

During proof stages the carbon dioxide goes into solution until the solution is saturated and then any more which is generated makes its way into the nitrogen gas bubbles which grow in size and the dough expands. The more yeast and the warmer the temperature the faster the expansion - we get oven spring because the maximum gassing rate occurs at 40-45C.

In bulk fermentation stages we also get dough expansion from carbon dioxide generation but most of that is lost when the dough is knocked back and divided, so the yeast has to start over again.

Yeast also contributes to dough maturity/development. Though its role is minor compared to in improvers no-time doughs, it is more significant in bulk fermentation where the enzymes, especially the proteolytic ones (they modify the gluten proteins), play a significant role.

To sum up, then, the dough is aerated by the action of the yeast. The little cells we mentioned ferment the dough, and produce tiny bubbles of gas inside it. As a result, the dough gets fatter and bigger, and rises, of course. Thus when the dough is baked, you have a 'bold' loaf, light and airy; when you cut it you can see all the tiny holes formed by the gas, so that it looks like a sponge.

swee roll (or use for anything you want) dough

I've made a lot of different rolls in my life, but this recipe never fails me and is sweet, fluffy, and easy to work with. Use it for dinner rolls, pizza dough, lunch loaves or cinnamon buns.

2 cups or 480mL warm water
2/3 cup or 80g nonfat dry milk (instant or non instant)
2 tablespoons or 15g dry yeast
1/4 cup or 50g sugar
2 teaspoons or 2 pinch's of salt
1/3 cup or 80g butter
1 egg
5-6 cups or 500-600mg flour, or bread flour

In a large bowl of electric mixer, combine water and milk powder. Stir until milk dissolves. Add yeast, then sugar, salt, butter, egg and 2 cups or 200g flour. Mix at low speed of mixer until ingredients are wet, then for 2 minutes at medium speed. Add 2 cups or 200g flour, mix on low speed until ingredients are wet and then for two minutes at medium speed. (Dough will vbe getting stiff and remaining flour may need to be mixed by hand.) Add about 1/2 cup or 55g flour and mix again, by hand or mixer. Dough should be soft, not overly sticky, and not stiff. (It is not necessary to use the entire amount of flour)

Scrape dough off sides of bowl and pour about one tablespoon of vegetable oil around sides of bowl. Turn dough over in vegetable oil all around sides of bowl so it is covered with oil. (This helps prevent dough from drying out.) Cover with plastic and allow to rise in warm place until double in size. Sprinkle cutting board or counter with flour and place dough on floured board. Roll out and cut rolls into desired shape and size. Place on greased (or parchement lined) baking pans. Let rise in warm place until rolls are double in size (about 1-11/2 hours).

Bake at 375 degrees fareinhiet or 190 degrees celcius for 15-20 minutes or until browned. Brush with melted butter while hot. Makes 1 to 1 1/2 dozen Rolls.