Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cranberry Orange Scones

I had my doubts about this flavor combination, but when I tried them for the first time sometime last year, my doubts disappeared. They have since been made for Christmas brunch and then late last week as a birthday present for a friend of mine. They will continue to be made in this house... And disappear quickly. Hence, no picture. Benjamin told me he wanted just one more "because they're soooo deliiiiiicious." A compliment will get you far, my sweet, smart boy.

When I first made these scones, I noticed that they didn't have as intense a cranberry or orange flavor as I would have liked, so I tweaked the recipe a bit, doubling the amount of dried cranberries and orange zest. I also noticed that I needed double the icing to have a good drizzly coating.

Also, to make sure that you're able to actually roll out the dough and properly cut out the scones, I recommend not only using really cold butter and eggs, but I also found that it's easier if I make the dough, cover it in plastic wrap, and then stick it in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. I then halve the dough and stick the half I'm not working with back in the refrigerator. The more you work with the dough, the warmer it gets, the harder it is to work with.

Edited to add: I tried a variation of this recipe to make Blueberry Lemon scones, and it came out great! Here are the substitutions I used:

2 tablespoons grated orange zest
2 cups dried cranberries
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 dry pint blueberries
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Cranberry Orange Scones
A variation on this recipe by Ina Garten


4 cups plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1/4 cup sugar, plus additional for sprinkling
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
3/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 cups dried cranberries
1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water or milk, for egg wash
1 cup confectioners' sugar, plus 4 tablespoons
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice, more if it's too thick

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup sugar, the baking powder, salt and orange zest. Add the cold butter and mix at the lowest speed until the butter is the size of peas. Combine the eggs and heavy cream and, with the mixer on low speed, slowly pour into the flour and butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough will look lumpy! Combine the dried cranberries and 1/4 cup of flour, add to the dough, and mix on low speed until blended.

Dump the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead it into a ball. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4-inch thick. You should see small bits of butter in the dough. Keep moving the dough on the floured board so it doesn't stick. Flour a 3-inch round plain or fluted cutter and cut circles of dough. Place the scones on a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Collect the scraps neatly, roll them out, and cut more circles.

Brush the tops of the scones with egg wash, sprinkle with sugar, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are fully baked. The scones will be firm to the touch. Allow the scones to cool for 15 minutes and then whisk together the confectioners' sugar and orange juice, and drizzle over the scones.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

I meant to put chickpeas in a salad I was making for company the other night, and I forgot. So I decided, since I was having some other people over another night, I would make some hummus instead. I found a recipe online and used it as a loose guide. I think I used maybe a bit too much garlic, but other than that, it's super tasty. And very easy. My recipe recommendations are based on how much you like of each ingredient. Besides the chickpeas, of course.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3-4 roasted red peppers
2-3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1-2 teaspoons cumin
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Put all the ingredients into a food processor. Blend until the smoothness you prefer. Add more olive oil if the mixture is having trouble coming together. Serve with pita, pita chips, bagel chips, whatever you want.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Homemade Pizza

So I made some pizza sauce earlier this week, and I decided to use it to make some pizzas for Saturday night dinner. I know it may be easier to just order a pizza, but it is so much cheaper and just as tasty (maybe tastier?) to make your own. And it's not hard! It also is quite nostalgic for me since my mom used to make pizza. And usually for Saturday night dinners. I always thought her pizza was the best. I hope my kids will feel the same about mine.

I made my own dough using my bread maker. If you have one, look for the owner's manual, which should include recipes. I've found that my dough comes out the best if I make absolutely sure that my ingredients are room temperature. And then I refrigerate it until I'm ready to use it. That way, it's not as sticky and easier to handle. Just make sure that if you refrigerate it, you leave some room in your plastic wrap for the dough to expand. Because it will... I found that out when I opened up my refrigerator after putting my dough in the night before and found my dough escaping the plastic wrap and attacking my yogurt.

You can also find pizza dough in the refrigerated section of your grocery store. And some pizzerias will even sell you raw dough. Both are easier but not as inexpensive as making your own. Of course, you don't need a bread maker to make your own dough. I know Giada De Laurentiis has a recipe, and I can't imagine it's bad.

I made a cheese pizza for the kids and a broccoli pizza for Jonathan and me. I just used a shredded Italian cheese blend (an entire 8-ounce package covered both) and one medium head of broccoli, chopped into small florets. I stretched my dough out into rounds and put them onto ungreased baking sheets (one cookie sheet and one round pizza sheet). I pricked each round all over with a fork, leaving an edge for the crust. I added the toppings and baked them in a 400ºF oven for 20 minutes. I let them cool for 5 minutes before cutting them.

Here they are, in all their glory. They were very good, if I do say so myself.


So the difference in buying these pizzas out versus making them at home? They came out to be about the size of medium pizzas (about 14 inches, 8 slices each). What I made tonight would have cost us almost $20 at our local pizzeria. We estimated that both pizzas cost us $5 to make. Total. That's totally worth the extra effort to do this more often. And it's making me wonder if I should just make the pizzas I was planning on ordering for Benjamin's 4th birthday party coming up next month... Hmmmm...

Vegetarian Pot Pie

In a continued effort to see if I can find delicious vegetarian dishes, I found this really good one by Aida Mollenkamp. I'm actually very excited to find a tasty dish by her since we were on her show, Ask Aida, last year. Our friend, Jenni, was a producer on her show and asked if we wouldn't mind being on, so we were! It was fun. And I've felt kind of silly for not looking into her recipes more until now.

I did fiddle a bit with the recipe since I don't like using half of things, especially vegetables. So instead of 2 small heads of fennel and half of an onion, I just used one of each. And I used a little less mushrooms than was called for (I used 8 ounces instead of 12 ounces) since I can more easily find 8 ounces prepackaged. Laziness on my part, I admit it. I also used vegetable broth rather than the called-for mushroom broth. I don't think I've actually ever seen mushroom broth in a store...

I think next time I'm going to go with the more traditional pot pie structure of dough encasing the whole thing (I used just a sheet of puffed pastry on top this time). I just like the final product a lot more when it's more like an actual pie. While this was very tasty, it was also kind of messy and definitely didn't come out from the pan very easily (hence, no picture). I'll definitely be trying this again though. Yum.

Vegetarian Pot Pie
A variation on this recipe by Aida Mollenkamp

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 small head fennel, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
8 ounces white button mushrooms, sliced
1 small russet potato, peeled and diced small
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup whole milk
1 cup frozen baby green peas
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh chives
1/4 cup parsley
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 large egg yolk
1 sheet store-bought puff pastry OR 2 sheets pie dough, defrosted if frozen

Heat the oven to 400ºF and arrange a rack in the middle.

Melt butter over medium heat in a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven or heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add fennel, onions, and carrots, and cook until just soft and onions are translucent, about 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms and potato, season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and stir to coat. Cook, stirring rarely, until mushrooms have let off water and are shrunken, about 6 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables, stir to coat, and cook until raw flavor is gone, about 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully add broth and milk, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, add peas, herbs, and vinegar, and stir to coat. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Turn filling into an 8 by 8-inch baking dish or pie plate. If using pie dough to make more traditional pie, place first sheet of pie dough in pie plate before adding filling.

Whisk egg together with 2 teaspoons water and a pinch of salt until evenly mixed. Set aside.

If using 1 sheet of puff pastry, place dough over filling and tuck into the edges of the dish. If making more traditional pie, place second sheet of pie dough over filling, press edges of the top layer into the edges of the bottom, and crimp the edges. Brush dough with egg wash and cut slits in the top to vent. Place on a baking sheet and bake until crust is golden brown and mixture is bubbling, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit at least 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pizza Sauce and Baked Penne

My title says it all. It's too bad I don't have smell-sharing options on my blog. Since I don't, I'm just going to taunt you into making these dishes yourself.

I made some pizza sauce in preparation for some pizza I want to make later on this week. And I also put together an improvised pasta bake using some leftover marinara that I've had in the freezer for a while. Both came out looking and tasting great. And I'm very happy to say that both concoctions are of my own design. I'm getting better at this making-up-recipes thing.

I've decided to start adding some pictures to my blog since I know I always want to see what the final product looks like before making it. Please forgive my amateur photo skills and messy stove top.

Tomato Pizza Sauce


2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes with juice
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning

In large heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium-low. Add garlic and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add plum tomatoes and tomato paste. Start to break up plum tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Add Italian seasoning.

Increase heat to medium and bring to a boil, continuing to break up tomatoes as they heat up. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until sauce is thickened. Season with salt, to taste.


Baked Penne with Sausage and Mushrooms


1 pound penne rigate
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, bulk or links with casings removed
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
3-4 cups marinara, store-bought or homemade
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/4 cups shredded Italian cheese blend, divided

Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Heat pot of water over high heat. Salt it and cook pasta according to box directions.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in second pot or large skillet over medium heat. Add sausage and brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Remove from pot or skillet with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate covered in paper towels.

Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to sausage drippings. Add mushrooms and cook for 6-7 minutes, or until browned. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.

Add marinara, drained sausage, Parmesan and parsley to mushrooms and garlic mixture. Drain pasta and add it too. Mix well and heat through.

Put 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese in the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch pan. Put pasta mixture on top and spread evenly. Add the remaining cheese to the top and bake for 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and mixture is bubbly.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Steak Sandwich

Every time I've seen Ina Garten make this, I've wanted it. So I finally made my own. And it was quite good.

I actually cut a couple of corners though and think it would have been better if I hadn't. The original recipe calls for a New York strip steak, but I went for a cheaper skillet steak. I think I cooked the steak well (Woo! I've never done that before!), but the cut itself was a bit gristly. So definitely splurge on the better steak. And try to find focaccia bread, if at all possible. I couldn't find focaccia buns, and I have no doubt that that would have really kicked up the taste.

As always, the serving sizes that are recommended for these Food Network recipes are ridiculous. It says this recipe makes 2 sandwiches, but I easily made 4. And the mustard mayo that is a part of this recipe is not only good but makes a ton, so you'll have plenty leftover to use on any other sandwiches you may want to make this week.

I also recommend using only 1 onion (the original recipe calls for 2) since I had way too many onions leftover.

Steak Sandwich
A variation on this recipe by Ina Garten

1 12-ounce 1-inch thick New York strip boneless beef top loin steak
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1 yellow onion, sliced in rings
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 recipe Mustard Mayo, recipe follows
2 mini focaccia buns, sliced in 1/2
1/2 cup baby arugula

Season the steak liberally with salt and pepper on both sides. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sauté pan over high heat until it's almost smoking, then sear the steak on each side for 1 minute. Reduce the heat to low and cook the steak for about 7 to 10 minutes, turning once, until very rare in the middle. Remove to a plate, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Slice the steak into strips.

Using the same sauté pan, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and thyme and sauté for 10 minutes, until the onions are brown and caramelized, stirring occasionally.

To assemble the sandwiches, spread a tablespoon of Mustard Mayo on the bottom half of each bun. Place a layer the steak strips on top of the mayo, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and top with the caramelized onion rings. Place the baby arugula on top of the onion rings, and cover the sandwiches with the top half of the buns.

Mustard Mayo

3/4 cup good mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl. Serve at room temperature.

Turkey Corn Chili

This is one of those post-Thanksgiving recipes where you're supposed to use leftover turkey and crudite vegetables. I've actually never made it as a post-Thanksgiving recipe, but I have made it before and really like it. It's simple and tasty. And since it's almost Easter, and some people make turkeys for Easter, I thought it may be handy to post this recipe now.

But if you aren't going to be enjoying an entire turkey any time soon... Since it does call for cooked turkey, I've used turkey cutlets that I've sautéed, diced, and then added to the recipe. It never fails to make for some tough and dry turkey. So this time, I got what was called a "turkey London broil" from the grocery store (it was just a whole boneless turkey breast), and I roasted it. BIG difference. The meat was moist and more flavorful (well, as flavorful as unbrined turkey gets). Here's what I did with the turkey first. You won't regret taking this extra step.

Simple Roasted Turkey Breast
1 1/2 pounds boneless turkey breast (or "London broil", if your grocery store carries them)
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 325ºF. Place turkey in baking dish, rub with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until internal temperature is 170ºF. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before cutting.

Turkey Corn Chili
A variation on this recipe by Rachael Ray

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large bell pepper, red or green, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
1 1/2 pounds cooked turkey meat, diced
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons (a palm full) chili powder
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons (a palm full) ground cumin
1 teaspoon to 2 teaspoons (several drops) cayenne pepper sauce
Coarse salt
2 cups frozen corn kernels or leftover prepared corn
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups prepared chicken stock or broth
2 scallions, white and greens, chopped

Heat oil in a deep pot over medium high heat. Add bay leaf and cook vegetables for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, reducing heat if veggies start to stick. Stir in diced turkey meat and season with chili powder, cumin, and cayenne sauce. Season with a little salt, to taste. Add corn, tomatoes, and broth. Combine your chili well, adjust seasonings, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 7 to 10 minutes. Garnish chili with chopped scallions.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Chicken, Corn, and Black Bean Soup

This is a very ugly soup. But it tastes good. And it looks a little nicer if you go for the whole presentation thing by adding some sour cream and fresh cilantro when you serve it (if you don't like cilantro, flat-leaf parsley would work very well too). Plus, it just adds to the taste.

I haven't tried it this way, but I imagine this would be an easy soup to make vegetarian. Just double the black beans and take out the chicken. I may actually try it that way next time.

I'm going to go get me a bowl to help with this cold I have. And it's raining outside. Sounds like the right choice for lunch.

Chicken, Corn, and Black Bean Soup
A variation on Recipe #99 in Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 pound chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces (I used thighs because they were on sale at the grocery store)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (or more, if you like things a little spicier)
1 large onion, chopped
4 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut from the cob (or frozen corn if fresh corn is not readily available)
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1 quart (4 cups) chicken stock or broth
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, plus some for garnish
Hot sauce (optional)
Sour cream, for garnish

Heat a large soup pot over medium-high heat with the vegetable oil. Add the chicken and season with salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, and chipotle chili powder. Cook the chicken until lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the onions, corn kernels, and red bell pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes.

Dust the chicken and veggies with the flour, stir, and continue to cook for 2 minutes.

Turn the heat up to high and add the chicken stock. Bring the soup up to a simmer and then add the black beans. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes.

Add the lime juice and cilantro, and stir to combine. Taste and check for seasoning; adjust with salt and pepper and a little hot sauce if you like more heat. Serve the soup garnished with a little sour cream and a little bit of chopped cilantro.