Sunday, March 28, 2010

Peanut Swirl Brownies

These are pretty intense. I had one and thought I was going to have a buzz for the rest of the night. And I kinda did. So if you're the mood for a sugar rush, I'm your dealer.

Oh, and this recipe makes a ton. There's also a good reason she suggests you use a 12x18 pan... I made a full batch using a 9x13 pan, and that made very tall brownies. I think I'll half the recipe next time to have more normal-sized brownies. It'll also make not overbaking a lot easier. Because I had to do a little guesswork regarding the baking time, the outsides of the ones I made were a bit on the well-done side.

I have yet to make a pretty brownie, so I'm waiting to add a picture until I can figure out how to do so.

Peanut Swirl Brownies
A variation on this recipe by Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 large eggs
3 tablespoons instant coffee granules
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 12x18x1 1/2-inch sheet pan.

Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water. Allow to cool slightly. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt. Add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Toss the remaining 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cup of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter. Pour into the prepared sheet pan. Spoon the peanut butter over the top of the chocolate mixture and using a knife, swirl it through the chocolate mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes more or until a toothpick comes out clean. Do not overbake! Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into large squares.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Vicki's Favorite Chicken with Grapes, Couscous, and Roasted Asparagus

Vicki is apparently someone Rachael Ray knows, and I'm happy to use this chicken recipe of hers. I made it years ago for my in-laws when they came to visit us in California for Easter, and I enjoy making it again every Spring. And you just can't go wrong when you roast vegetables.

Vicki's Favorite Chicken with Grapes, Couscous, and Roasted Asparagus
Courtesy of Rachael Ray


1 1/2 pound asparagus
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, stripped from 6 to 7 sprigs
Coarse salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, eyeball it
2 pounds chicken tenders
1/2 cup white wine, eyeball it
2 1/2 cups chicken stock (available on soup aisle in paper boxes), divided
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup grainy, stone-ground mustard
1 1/2 cups, about 1/2 pound, seedless red grapes, halved
2 cups couscous

Heat oven to 400°F.

Trim tough ends of asparagus and save for soup. Place asparagus in a large bowl and toss with about 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons of chopped thyme leaves and salt and pepper. Spread the asparagus out on a cookie sheet and roast 10 to 12 minutes until the asparagus is tender and crispy at the tips.

Heat a large skillet over medium to medium high heat; add 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan, and 2 tablespoons butter to the pan. Place flour in a shallow dish. Season chicken with salt and pepper then dredge the tenders in flour and add it to the pan. Cook chicken 7 to 8 minutes until browned. Add wine and scrape up browned bits as wine cooks down and bubbles, 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup stock to skillet. Combine cream and mustard and add to stock. Add grapes to the pan and turn chicken and grapes to coat and combine with the sauce. Simmer 5 minutes over low heat.

Bring remaining 2 cups chicken stock and remaining tablespoon of fresh thyme to a boil in a small pot. Add couscous. Put a tight fitting lid on pot and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Serve tenders and grapes on couscous alongside asparagus.

Lo Mein with Tofu

This is a great vegetarian option. And Benjamin loved it. Which is a feat unto itself.

Lo Mein with Tofu
Courtesy of Cooking Light


1 (14-ounce) package firm water-packed tofu, drained and cut crosswise into 4 (1-inch-thick) pieces
8 ounces whole-wheat linguine
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons mirin (sweet rice wine)
1 1/2 tablespoons less-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
3/4 cup vertically sliced onion
2 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups peeled, thinly diagonally sliced carrot
2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups fresh bean sprouts
1/4 cup chopped green onions

Place tofu in a single layer on several layers of paper towels. Cover tofu with several more layers of paper towels, and top with a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan. Let stand for 30 minutes. Discard paper towels.

Cook pasta in boiling water until al dente; drain. Combine pasta, sesame oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; toss. Set aside.

Sprinkle remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/8 teaspoon pepper evenly over tofu. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add tofu to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until golden. Remove from pan; cut into bite-sized pieces. Combine oyster sauce and next 3 ingredients (through vinegar) in a small bowl, stirring well.

Heat a wok or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion; stir-fry 2 minutes or until lightly browned. Add cabbage, carrot, and garlic; stir-fry 2 minutes or until cabbage wilts. Reduce heat to medium; stir in tofu and vinegar mixture, tossing to coat. Add pasta and bean sprouts; toss. Cook 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Sprinkle with green onions.

Mushroom-Caraway Soup

If you like mushrooms, this is a great soup. And it goes really well with toasted and buttered pumpernickel bread. It doesn't make a whole lot though, so don't expect leftovers if you're feeding more than 2 people.

Mushroom-Caraway Soup
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds
10 ounces cremini or white mushrooms, thinly sliced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 medium carrots, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Slices of pumpernickel bread
1/3 cup sour cream or creme fraiche

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the caraway seeds and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they begin to wilt, about 5 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add the carrots and broth, cover and bring to a simmer. Uncover and cook until the carrots are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, combine the onion, vinegar and a pinch of salt in a bowl and let marinate while the soup simmers. Toast the bread.

Divide the soup among bowls and top with sour cream and the marinated onion. Serve with the toast.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Indian-Style Tofu and Cauliflower with Chutney

This was very tasty. I especially liked the addition of the cool yogurt on top. The only thing I did differently was that I used yellow mustard seeds because I couldn't find brown ones. I'm not sure there was much of a difference.

Edited to add: I decided to sauté the tofu first to give it a little more texture, and even though it softened a bit during the simmering process, it held on to enough texture to make a difference. I liked it.

Indian-Style Tofu and Cauliflower with Chutney
A variation on this recipe from Cooking Light


Basmati rice
1 package firm tofu, drained
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons curry powder
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
4 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
Plain yogurt
Chopped fresh cilantro

Cook rice according to package instructions.

Place tofu on several layers of paper towels. Cover tofu with several more layers of paper towels; top with a cast-iron or other heavy skillet. Let stand 30 minutes. Discard paper towels. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add tofu and sauté until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside.

Lower heat to medium and add mustard seeds and cumin; cook until mustard seeds begin to pop. Add onion and curry powder; cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Increase heat to medium-high; cook 2 minutes or until onion is golden, stirring constantly.

Stir garlic and ginger into onion mixture; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in tofu, cauliflower, water, salt, and tomatoes; bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 15 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium, and simmer 10 minutes or until cauliflower is tender.

Spoon rice onto plates; stop each serving with tofu mixture. Spoon yogurt over each serving; sprinkle with cilantro.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Greens

I wasn't a fan of this, but Jonathan and his brother liked it. Besides butternut squash in soup form, I'm not a giant fan of squash, so I'm sure that contributed to my dislike. It's definitely not a bad recipe, so if you like squash and want a healthy alternative to pasta, here you go!

I did change up the squash preparation a bit since I liked the roasting technique better than the microwave one. It just felt like I could add more flavor earlier on. So I'm kind of mashing a couple of recipes together.

I did notice that the squash was pretty wet once I had shredded it, so I strained it through a sieve and drained off some of the liquid. It made the dish a little drier, but I think it was better that way.

Spaghetti Squash with Sausage and Greens
A variation on these recipes by Rachael Ray and Emeril Lagasse


1 spaghetti squash (about 3 1/2 pounds), halved lengthwise
Olive oil
Salt and black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 ounces sweet Italian sausage
1 bunch spinach, stems discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Slice spaghetti squash in half, lengthwise. Drizzle cut side with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Place squash, cut side down on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until squash is tender when pierced with a fork.

Remove squash from oven and cool slightly, to handle. Set a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl and shred the inside of the squash with fork to resemble spaghetti. Cover in aluminum foil and set aside to drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Add the spinach and crushed red pepper and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes; season with salt and black pepper.

Toss squash with Parmesan and serve sausage mixture on top. Garnish with a little more Parmesan.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Uptown Tuna Casserole

A Rachael Ray recipe with flavor! It's been a long time since I've found one... But this one is tasty. The tarragon and Gruyere cheese give this tried-and-true recipe a really lovely tasty twist.

The only thing I did differently was omit the white wine, but that was only because I didn't have any and didn't have time to go out and get any. I think it would have made the dish even tastier though, so definitely use it.

Uptown Tuna Casserole
Courtesy of Rachael Ray


1/2 pound extra-wide egg noodles (I used 12 ounces, and it worked out well)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 pound button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 leeks, thinly sliced, washed and dried
3 to 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 to 2 cups whole milk or half n half or cream
1 rounded tablespoon Dijon mustard
Black pepper
1/2 cup frozen baby peas
1/4 cup fresh tarragon leaves, loosely packed, chopped
3 cans good quality tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked (I used the kind packed in water, and it worked out well)
6 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded, about 1 1/2 cups
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives or parsley

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for noodles. Salt boiling water and cook noodles to al dente.

While water comes to a boil, place oven rack in center of oven and turn on broiler. Heat a large skillet over medium heat with oil, a turn of the pan, and butter. When butter melts into oil, add mushrooms and sauté 5 minutes. Then add leeks and garlic and allow leeks to wilt, 5-6 minutes. Sprinkle flour over leeks and mushrooms and stir 1 minute. Then whisk in wine for half a minute, then whisk in milk and half and half or cream and simmer a couple of minute to thicken and reduce sauce. Then stir in Dijon mustard and season sauce with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir in peas, tarragon and tuna, then return sauce to bubble and turn off heat. Add cooked noodles to sauce, transfer to a casserole and top with Gruyere cheese. Pop casserole in oven and broil until bubbly and brown, 3-4 minutes. Garnish with chives or parsley and serve immediately.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Swirled Cheesecake Brownies

I'm going to a girls' night tomorrow night at my friends' new house, and when I asked what they all wanted me to bring for dessert, I gave them the options of cookies, brownies, cheesecake, ice cream, or all of the above. Of course, when you're given an all-of-the-above dessert option, that's what you choose. But I did all of us a favor and only chose 2 of the 4 options. Hopefully they won't kick me out when I get there.

I made some modifications. The original recipe called for whole-wheat pastry flour, but I wasn't very interested in searching around for such a thing in order to make these treats only a smidge healthier (I used cake flour instead). I also didn't use super strong coffee since I only had normal-strength coffee on hand. The only other thing was that I used an 8x8 pan, which increased the baking time a bit. I've included all these modifications below.

I've yet to try these brownies, but I'm imagining they're super tasty. They certainly smell and look good. I'm planning on letting them cool completely and then sticking them in the fridge overnight and waiting to cut them until right before I head over to my friend's house. A reviewer on the Food Network site said that these were goopy, so I figure getting them as solid as possible will help cutting them without making too much of a mess. I'll be back with my review...

Edited to add: I'm very glad I refrigerated these before I attempted to cut them. They were indeed very goopy and were a little hard to cut without a bit of a mess. But they were definitely worth the mess. Yummy and will please any fans of cheesecake.

Swirled Cheesecake Brownies
A variation on this recipe from


Cheesecake topping:
4 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon nonfat plain yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Brownie layer:
2/3 cup cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
2 large egg whites
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat am 8-by-8-inch brownie pan or baking pan with cooking spray.

To prepare topping: Place cream cheese in a small mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Add sugar and beat until smooth. Add egg, flour, yogurt and vanilla; beat until well blended. Set aside.

To prepare brownie layer: Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl. Place egg, egg whites and brown sugar in a separate bowl and beat with the electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add oil, coffee and vanilla; beat until well blended. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low speed just until well blended, stopping once to scrape down the sides.

Scrape about half of the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Slowly pour the topping evenly on top. Drop the remaining brownie batter in large dollops over the topping. Draw the tip of a sharp knife or skewer through the two batters to create a swirled effect.

Bake the brownies until the top is just firm to the touch and toothpick inserted about an inch in from the side comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack. Coat a knife with cooking spray and cut into bars.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Peanut Butter Smooch Cups

So I had a whole bunch of Hershey Kisses leftover from when I made that lovely cheesecake. And I noticed that I had some peanut butter in my pantry that is getting close to its expiration date. So I thought I'd try my hand at some peanut blossom cookies.

I made up the dough, but it came out quite crumbly. I had heated up the butter to soften it up quickly, so I don't know if maybe that created the crumbliness, but it was to a point where I couldn't roll it into balls without them falling apart. So I remembered that there was a similar recipe I had seen that used Reese's Peanut Butter Cups instead and was baked in a mini muffin tin. So I thought I'd try making those kinds of cookies but still with the kisses.

Getting the crumbly dough into the muffin cups was, umm, interesting (read: messy), but I think it was worth the trouble. The end result was tasty and chewy.

Peanut Butter Smooch Cups


1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly-packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
24 Hershey® Kisses®, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line mini muffin tin with mini muffin cups.

In a large bowl, cream butter and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Gradually add granulated sugar and brown sugar; beating until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk, and vanilla extract; beat well. Add flour, baking soda, and salt; stir into creamed mixture until well mixed.

Fill each mini muffin cup with dough, almost to the top. Press down to make an even surface.

Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven; press a chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie. Return to oven and bake another 2 minutes or until cups are light brown. Remove from oven and let cool in muffin tin until they're stiff and cool enough to remove without breaking, about 10 minutes. Let cups cool completely on wire cooling racks.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tomato Alphabet Soup with Parmesan Crisps

This was a bit like Spaghettios for grown-ups. Except that Benjamin loved it. Seriously couldn't stop eating it. He's never asked for seconds on any of my dishes before, so this was a proud moment for me.

Rachael Ray's recipes have felt a bit bland lately, so I pumped up the flavors a bit. And I will definitely have to be a bit more careful in my preparation next time... My stove top looks like someone was murdered in close proximity. Also, once the pasta has been put in the pot, you should make sure to stir occasionally. A bit of my pasta was, er, well-done, though, thankfully, I didn't taste it in the final product.

Tomato Alphabet Soup with Parmesan Crisps
A variation on this recipe by Rachael Ray


2 cups shredded parmesan cheese (4 ounces)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
4 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 pound alphabet pasta
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking liner. Sprinkle four 1/4-cup mounds of Parmesan about 2 inches apart onto each prepared baking sheet; slightly flatten with a spoon. Bake until golden-brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Let cool for 30 seconds. Using a thin metal spatula, drape the crisps over a rolling pin until hardened into shape, about 3 minutes.

In a soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and cook, stirring, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the vegetable broth and tomatoes, cover, and bring to a boil.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup with the butter. In the soup pot, stir the pasta into the soup,and cook until al dente. Stir in 1 to 2 cups water, if desired. Season with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and top each with Parmesan crisps. The Parmesan crisps can be kept in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Maple-Oatmeal Scones

This is one of Jonathan's favorite scones. It's hearty. It has subtle sweetness. It also doesn't make me feel as nervous when my children feel the need to shovel them in as quickly as they can manage it.

Maple-Oatmeal Scones
Courtesy of Ina Garten (The Barefoot Contessa)


3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats, plus additional for sprinkling
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound cold unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup cold buttermilk
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk or water, for egg wash

1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the flours, oats, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Blend the cold butter in at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is in pea-sized pieces. Combine the buttermilk, maple syrup, and eggs and add quickly to the flour-and-butter mixture. Mix until just blended. The dough may be sticky.

Dump the dough out onto a well-floured surface and be sure it is combined. Flour your hands and a rolling pin and roll the dough 3/4 to 1-inch thick. You should see lumps of butter in the dough. Cut into 3-inch rounds with a plain or fluted cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Brush the tops with egg wash. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the tops are crisp and the insides are done.

To make the glaze, combine the confectioners' sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla (stir in a splash of water if the glaze needs to be loosened up enough to drizzle). When the scones are done, cool for 5 minutes, and drizzle each scone with 1 tablespoon of glaze. I like to sprinkle some uncooked oats on the top, for garnish. The warmer the scones are when you glaze them, the thinner the glaze will be.