July 30, 2009

Potatoes and Greens

The project: Potato and Greens Torta from the April Cooking Light

The verdict: Heeding the warnings of commenters online, I added lots of cheese to the recipe, so it was tasty. But I didn't see the point of adding eggs to my mashed potatoes and baking it in a pie dish other than for pretty presentation.

The take away: Hiding greens in your mashed potatoes and cheese is a brilliant way to pack in more rich vitamins and minerals from seasonal leafy vegetables (or bagged spinach) without punishing your taste buds. 

In the future, I plan to just make a version of mashed potatoes something like this: Saute spinach/kale/spinach/arugula/ romaine/whatever's in season with olive oil and minced garlic; cool and chop. Add greens to potatoes mashed with milk and a sharp cheese like parmesan or cheddar. Serve as a side dish. 

July 27, 2009

Recipe: Zucchini Bread

I love that quick breads make multiple loaves that you can freeze and so easily pull out later to to bring to an event or eat yourself.  I usually prefer pumpkin bread to zucchini, but it is summertime (or zucchini-not-pumpkin time). This lightened recipe still created a moist spice bread that makes a great snack or polish to a meal. 
Zucchini Bread

2  cups  coarsely shredded zucchini
3  cups  all-purpose flour ( I  used 1 1/2 cups white flour and 1 1/2 cups wheat)
1 3/4  cups  sugar
1  teaspoon  baking soda
1  teaspoon  salt
1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
1/4  teaspoon  baking powder
3/4  cup  applesauce
2 eggs (original recipe called for 1/2 cup egg substitute)
1/3  cup  vegetable oil
1  tablespoon  vanilla extract
Vegetable cooking spray
Place zucchini on several layers of paper towels, and cover with additional paper towel. Let stand 5 minutes, pressing down occasionally. Set aside.
Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through baking powder) in a large bowl, and stir well; make a well in center of mixture. Combine zucchini, applesauce, egg substitute, oil, and vanilla; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. (Or Madoline's lazy way: combine wet ingredients then add dry ingredients without mixing before.)
Divide batter evenly between 2 loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pans.

July 20, 2009

Three Things: My Stove

Maple Macaroni blog phrase 2: vary content beyond just recipes with photos.
Step 1: three things posts providing commentary on, you guessed it, three things about the chosen topic.

Exhibit A: My Stove.
1. It's really old.  I guesstimate that it's a 1950s-ish model, but my limited research on old Vesta ovens was not very fruitful. It matches the apartment's claw-foot bathtub and well-worn wood floors. You literally have to light the oven with a lighter. And the lack of markers on the burners' dials forces you to learn to judge the amount of heat by the size of the flame.

2. It gets really hot. This comes is handy to quickly get something in the oven. I also capitalize on its heat when the radiators controlled in the building's basement are slow to warm up my space in cold weather. One time I was really cold and used a burner as a camp fire to warm my hands for a minute; that probably wasn't a good idea. However, the heat thing is a bit of a nuisance when baking without central air conditioning in the summer. 

3. It has made me love gas. It's on when it's on-- what a beautiful thing. I have learned that when it starts to smell like gas that I accidentally blew out the pilot light and must relight it. And most importantly, it bakes cookies just fine. I've even started to be okay that my jelly roll pan is too big to fit in its belly.

July 17, 2009

Recipe: Key Lime Bars

These bars from Martha Stewart Living are really rich, but the lime taste give your mouth the sensation of vacationing in the (Florida) Keys-- the namesake for the fruit. And I'm a sucker for graham-cracker crusts; yum.Distinctly flavored key limes are about the size of a golf ball. They may look pretty...
but they are a royal pain to squeeze. I recommend watching a movie while you tackle the task.
Recipe: Key Lime Bars

1 cup + 2 tablespoons finely ground graham cracker crumbs

   (I used low-fat ones. Probably a pointless idea with the other decadent ingredients.)

1/3 cup sugar

5 tablespoons butter, melted

3 large egg yolks

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest

2/3 cup fresh Key lime juice , about 23 Key limes total 

        (25 key limes gave me just over 1/3 cup, but it worked fine.)

1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

Stir together graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a small bowl. Press evenly onto bottom of an 8-inch square glass baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees until dry and golden brown, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely.

(Warning: there's lots of mixing required.) To make filling, put egg yolks and lime zest in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Mix on high speed until very thick, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add condensed milk in a slow, steady stream, mixing constantly. Raise speed to high; mix until thick, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add lime juice; mix until just combined.

Spread filling evenly over crust using a spatula. Bake, rotating dish halfway through, until filling is just set, about 10 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate at least 4 hours (or overnight).

July 15, 2009

Recipe: Buttercream Frosting

This simple recipe makes box cake extraordinary, so extraordinary that I've probably gotten more rave reviews from people who ate it (and called friends to come over and eat them) than any other dessert I make. And so extraordinary that my old roommate, who I don't think baked once in the 9 months we lived together, recently called me to get the recipe  to share the sensational taste with her boyfriend. Growing up, my mom always made the frosting from recipe on the back of the Domino powdered sugar box

I like to use the frosting to top chocolate cupcakes made from a box then add a fancy touch. For Easter I add food coloring and make green, yellow and pink icing topped with speckled chocolate eggs. And for other special occasions such as I-feel-like-making-cupcakes or, in this case, Colleen-is-going-to-ace-her-CPA-exam, I sprinkle them with chocolate shavings. (In the photo, my friend Colleen displays the beloved with her number-crunching hand.)

Buttercream Frosting
1 lb. (3 3/4 cups) powdered sugar
1 stick butter, softened
3-4 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine all ingredients with an electric mixer for one to two minutes or until creamy. Add milk if you want a thinner consistency. Spread on cake (or cupcakes).

July 12, 2009

Recipe: Baked Shrimp with Feta

For my Saturday night cooking adventure I bought me a large bag of frozen peeled shrimp and tweaked a recipe from the April Cooking Light for a something light, summery and healthy. I added more of my farmer's market tomatoes and onion as well as cheese because feta is just that good. The orzo with herbs the magazine recommended probably would have been tasty, but I  opted to eat it with the lazier, higher fiber brown rice.

Baked Shrimp with Feta 
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and devined
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon oregano
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Add oil to large skillet warmed to medium-high heat. Saute onion for one minute. Add garlic and saute one minute. Add wine, oregano and tomatoes; bring to boil (mine didn't have that much liquid, so it didn't really boil.) Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in shrimp. Place in 8x8 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle cheese evenly over mixture. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 minutes or until cheese melts. 

July 10, 2009

Recipe: Pecan Gooey Bars

"Gooey bars" have become a much-loved staple in my post as unofficial pastry chef at my family's annual 4th of July bash at the lake. This year's batch was extra wonderful because the gooey, buttery, cream cheese delights had come out of the oven just a few hours before we began munching on them after lunch, and they were gone in a little more than 24 hours. I found the recipe several years ago in my mom's collection of Southern Living Annual Recipes cookbooks, but I'm not sure which year it was.
Pecan Gooey Bars

1 box yellow cake mix

3 eggs

1 cup butter, melted and divided

8 oz. cream cheese

16 oz. powdered sugar

1 ½ cups chopped pecans

Mix cake mix, 1 egg, and ½ cup butter and press in bottom of greased 9x13 pan. Set aside. Combine 2 eggs, cream cheese, powdered sugar, and remaining ½ cup butter; beat at medium speed with a mixer until smooth. Stir in pecans and pour over cake mix layer. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until set, covering loosely with foil after 45 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

July 8, 2009

Recipe: Black Bean Hummus

For lovers of hummus and black beans like myself, this Cooking Light recipe makes a simple yet tasty and healthy dip. I served mine with tortilla chips I made by baking tortilla strips sprayed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt at 425 degrees.
  • 1  garlic clove, peeled
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh lemon juice
  • 1  tablespoon  tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cumin
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1  (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
  • 2  teaspoons  extra-virgin olive oil

  • Place garlic in a food processor; process until finely chopped. Add lemon juice, tahini, cumin, salt, pepper, and black beans; process until smooth. Spoon bean mixture into a bowl and drizzle with olive oil.

July 6, 2009

Recipe: Oatmeal 4th of July Cookies

I decided to break from my Tollhouse cookie obsession and try a more festive oatmeal cookie that met my requirement for sufficient amounts of chocolate by tweaking this Cook's Illustrated recipe on Who Wants Seconds?. These turned out more crispy than chewy, and even though I personally prefer chewy, they were still quite buttery-chocolatey tasty. 

One word of caution: take these off the cookie sheet immediately. Otherwise you might have to hack at them with a spatula with great force like I did after waiting a little more than 5 minutes. Then again, there's always the possibility that I screwed up something to create this special glue-like bond with the cookie sheet. 

Also, Mars really should consider more widely distributing red, white and blue m&m's in late June. I was dedicated enough to this baking cause to sort one cup of red and blue candies from a large bag of regular ones, but this could end in an unpatriotic disaster if put in the hands of a less anal-retentive baker.

Crispy Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip and M&M Cookies

1 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 tsp. baking powder

2 sticks butter, softened

1 cup light brown sugar, packed

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

3 cups oats

1 cup m&ms

1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preaheat oven to 350 degrees, and line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. Whisk flour, salt and baking powder together in a medium bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, by hand or by mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugars and beat the mixture until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time.

4. Stir dry ingredients into butter-sugar mixture with a wooden spoon or a large rubber spatula. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.

5. Place dough cookie sheets by large spoonfuls (about 2 tablespoons each), leaving at least 2 inches between.

6. Bake until cookie edges turn golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Slide cookies onto cooling rack. Let cool, and store in airtight container.

(Madoline's lazy version: Skip step 2. Stir in flour, salt and baking powder in step 3 without mixing together beforehand.)