September 23, 2012

Pin It Roasted Red Bell Pepper Pesto

Taken From A Cozy Kitchen

Week 39

I wanted to carbo load for my 20 mile run this weekend and also wanted to try my hand at making a pesto.  I ended up making this roasted red pepper pesto, and it turned out pretty good. It was also super easy, which is always a plus.  The only thing that took some time was roasting the peppers, but I bet you could substitute in the jarred kind if you are short on time. I thought the pesto was a little bland but adding more salt helped with that. I also left out the crushed red pepper so I'm sure that kicks things up a notch.

Here is what the recipe calls for:


2 large red bell peppers (or 1 pound of red bell peppers)
Olive Oil
2 whole garlic cloves
2 tablespoon walnuts
1/2 cup fresh basil
1/4 cup Parmesan-Reggiano, grated
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper 
Sea salt

Directions (modified from A Cozy Kitchen)
1. Preheat your oven to 400F. Place the red peppers on a baking sheet and sprinkle both of them with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Transfer the peppers to a hot oven and roast for ~40 min, turning them over at the halfway point. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool to room temperature, about 15 minutes. When the peppers are cool, peel off outer skin and set aside.

2. In a food processor, add the garlic cloves and walnuts; pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Next, throw in the roasted red peppers, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, fresh basil, Parmesan-Reggiano, crushed red pepper and pulse until mixture is smooth-ish, about 1 minute. Salt to taste, about 1/2 teaspoon.

As I still don't have a food processor (not for long though according to the birthday fairy) I used the Magic Bullet to make the pesto.  It turned out smoother than it would have in a food processor, but it all tasted the same. This was a very easy alternative to a marinara sauce and pretty healthy too. A good way to dress up my heaping bowl of pasta and get me energized for my uber run.

September 20, 2012

Pin It Cinnamon Roll Biscuits

Inspired by Brown Eyed Baker and Whisked

Week 38
Kristen and Bonnie's birthdays were both this week which obviously meant they needed a rainbow-y celebratory treat! I'm not sure if anything can compare to last year's feat, but this was a delicious alternative.

I found this recipe for Cosmic Birthday Cinnamon Rolls and had planned to make that for Bonnie and Kristen, but I was intimidated by the process, especially the yeast. Knowing that I was not going to have a ton of time to put these together I looked for something a little less involved. I found Joy's biscuit cinnamon roll recipe that sounded good, but to be honest, Brown Eyed Baker's recipe looked better, so I went with that.

I still wanted to capture the festivities from the Whisked recipe, so I included a 1/4 cup white chocolate chips and 1/3 cup rainbow sprinkles into the dough recipe. Now, what I should have done was added the sprinkles and white chocolate chips to the dry ingredients before adding the heavy cream...but I forgot.  Instead, I folded the sprinkles and white chocolate chips into the dough, which proved to be a bit of a challenge.  Since I was using the round sprinkles (because they are more colorful) and they have a tendency to roll everywhere, I was cleaning up rogue sprinkles all over my house. On the counter, on the floor, under the fridge, everywhere. My only concern with adding the sprinkles to the dough before the cream is that some of the sprinkle color may be washed off, but I would still recommend that route, since managing those tiny rolly balls was almost impossible.

After incorporating all the "fun" into the dough, I attempted to roll it out into a 9 x 12 inch rectangle. The thing I love most about this recipe is that it used cream instead of butter.  I'm sure it's a toss up calorie/health wise, but stirring in cream is so much easier than incorporating small cubes of butter.
After I rolled the dough out, I brushed it with melted butter and sprinkled on the brown sugar/cinnamon mixture. 
Then I rolled it onto a festive rainbow tube.
I cut it with a sharp knife into 8 "equal" pieces and arranged them in a pie plate.
The recipe did not say to butter the pan but I would next time, just to make them a little easier to get out.
I baked them at 425 for ~23 minutes.
The smelled delicious.
I skipped the glaze (due to a lack of time) and used canned cream cheese frosting instead. I then topped them with more sprinkles and was out the door! I frosted them a little too early (they were still pretty warm) so they were not the prettiest birthday biscuits, but they made up for it by being delicious!
Finished product (photo courtesy of Kristen)
Happy birthday ladies! (photo courtesy of Kristen)

September 18, 2012

Pin It Chocolate Baklava

Taken From La Receta De La Felicidad

Week 38
Trying a new recipe is always exciting and little nerve racking. If it turns out great then you are a culinary genius! If it's a flop then you are a defeated sad-sack. Luckily this recipe was a success.

I really like baklava but very rarely have it. It seems to be one of those things like French macaroons, when it's good it's really good and when it's bad you wish you hadn't wasted the calories. 

When I found this recipe for chocolate baklava and knew I was having my family over for dinner Sunday night (AKA I would not be responsible for eating this whole pan myself) I decided to give it a shot. To my surprise it was actually pretty easy, but a little tedious.

I started out by making the honey sugar sauce (AKA sugar and more sugar sauce) and let that sit in the fridge to cool.

I then mixed my chopped pecans with dark chocolate chips and cinnamon. I melted a stick of butter and cut my filo dough to fit the size of my pan.  I used a 9x9 (because I don't have a rectangular brownie size pan) but I think anything about that size will work.  It just makes cutting reasonable size pieces a little harder (although triangles would be a good solution).

I started layering and buttering my dough sheets one at a time.  
After 8 layers were down, I added half of the chocolate nut mixture.
After distributing that evenly, I buttered one sheet of dough of both sides then added 2 more sheets of buttered dough on top of that.
I added the rest of the chocolate nut mixture and buttered one sheet of dough of both sides then added 6 more sheets (the rest of the package) of buttered dough on top of that.
Then I cut it into even squares.  Here is there I should have cut each square into two triangles. Oh well.
I baked it as directed: at 350° for 45 minutes, covered with aluminum foil for the first 20 minutes then baked the rest of the time uncovered. I took the pan out of the oven and immediately poured the honey sauce all over the baklava and let it seep into all the cracks.
I let this sit at room temperature all day (~12 hours) until I was ready to serve.
And it was good.

Everyone opted for a half a piece since this is such a sweet and rich dessert, but I had to cut a full size piece for the photo...and then I ate the whole thing. The. Whole. Thing. It was too much! My sister Sharon ended up with a full size piece too since she was not there when I was polling for piece size preference.  She ate it all too :) My brother-in-law suggested ice cream to cut some of the sweetness, which would have been a good call. Another good call: cutting these into fourths :)
Despite the super sweet and decadent taste, I was pretty pleased with how it turned out and as was not induced into a sad-sack state.  A sugar overloaded-sack, but not a sad-sack.

September 11, 2012

Pin It Sweet Potato Burgers with Roasted Garlic Cream and Avocado

Taken From How Sweet It Is

Week 36
Veggie burgers weird me out a little. They are always trying a little too hard to be a meat substitute, and they don't even come close.  These on the other hand are totally owning up to the fact that are not meat and never will be...but they were still really good!

If you are looking for something a little different, I'd recommend these burgers.  They were really good, healthy and easy. I ended up using kidney beans instead of cannellini beans (because I accidentally grabbed garbanzo beans by mistake at the store, which is what I get for grocery shopping while on the phone).  The substitution seemed to be fine and gave it a little more flare visually.

I used non-fat Greek yogurt for the garlic cream sauce so we get more healthy points there. I actually thought the sauce tasted a little weird and may try sour cream next time. If you're not a big garlic person you can really put whatever you want on here. Lots of room to play with flavors. I was also tempted to add cheese but didn't have any on hand that wasn't of the crumbly variety.
Sweet potato patties...see it's funny because they are on my "meat" cutting board. 
Grillin' in the cast iron.
Topped with garlic sauce and avocado.
I thought these were really good and filling and a good way to mix it up on the burger front.

September 9, 2012

Pin It Peanut Butter Birthday Cake with Chocolate Ganache Frosting

Taken From Joy the Baker and All Recipes

Week 37

I did some things this weekend.  I ran 18 miles, I ate chocolate dipped soft serve and I made my sister a birthday cake.  A peanut butter birthday cake...with chocolate ganache frosting...mmmm.

I've been eyeing this peanut butter cake recipe since I bought Joy the Baker's cookbook in March, but I was waiting for the perfect occasion.  My sister Sharon loves a good chocolate peanut butter combo, as does any sane, sugar loving person. Instead of using the peanut butter cream cheese frosting that the recipe calls for, I decided to try a chocolate ganache instead.

So here is the cake.  I followed Joy's directions except I only baked my cake for ~19 minutes.
Adding buttermilk to batter.
Cake in the oven!
Ah, perfect.  
This was cake take #2 because I baked the first version for the recommended 30-45 minutes that the recipe called for. Way too long. I ended up with a dry, hard, crusty cake. It was very sad.  The second version was much better!  I recommend checking it after about 15 minutes in case your oven runs hot like mine. 

For the chocolate ganache I used:
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 oz. good semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee grounds

Cook the heavy cream, chocolate chips, and instant coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. You'll want to let the ganache cool so it thickens up, otherwise you will have a glaze. A version of this recipe can be found here (minus the rum). I also found some helpful hints about ganache and different ways to use it (glazed, whipped, piped) here

The recipe I used didn't quite make enough to frost the whole cake.  I would recommend doubling it if you are going to using it on a 2 layer cake and want to frost between the layers.  I ended up using come canned Duncan Hines vanilla frosting for the sides and decorating. 
I also whipped the ganache to thicken it a bit and make it a little fluffier.  I was supposed to whip it for 2- 3 minutes but ended up over-whipping it a bit.  There was no warning, but make sure not to over-whip the ganache or it will get hard and crumbly.
Ganache in between and topping the peanut butter cake.
Vanilla on the sides.
I learned many things making this cake, mostly by trial and error, which just means I'll have it perfected for the next time :)
Happy Birthday Sharon!

September 6, 2012

Pin It Tomato Cobler with Blue Cheese Biscuits

Taken From Joy the Baker

Week 36
Week 36? Are you kidding?!  Where has this year gone? I can't believe it's already September. Ugh.

Anyway, we came home Monday night with some amazing looking tomatoes handpicked from Tom's parent's garden. They were so cute and colorful...and I knew exactly what to do with them.
Pretty garden tomatoes, picture does not do them justice.
I'd seen this recipe on Joy's site a month plus back and Kristen and I both drooled over it. Once I had these amazing tomatoes in hand, I felt obligated to dedicate a dish to them.

Just a brief side note:
My pictures definitely do not do this dish justice.  It was really good and looked better than it does in the photos.  This is partially due to the fact that I take these pictures with my phone and also due to the fact that I'm not a very artsy I don't have pretty dishes.  Everything in my cupboards is a hodge podge mess that mostly originated from Target. I saw this on Shutterbean's site last week. It seems really cool; basically a tutorial on how to style and photograph your food and it's taught by Joy (of Joy the Baker) and Tracy of (Shutterbean)! They are food blogger celebrities! Tracy lives in SF but Joy is in LA so it's a special treat to have them in Berkeley together. I'm toying with the idea of signing up but it's a pretty good chuck of change.

Ok, back to the recipe. I followed all of Joy's directions except I left out the red pepper flakes and I cut the biscuit dough recipe in half.  I wasn't sure what I was going to do with leftover dough and halving the recipe made exactly 6 biscuits. I had to get a little creative to use every last scrap of dough, so some of my biscuits are not the prettiest.
Caramelizing onions.
I'm not sure how many pounds of tomatoes I used but I had 4½ cups.
Tomatoes, onions, garlic, basil, balsamic, flour, salt and pepper.
Blue cheese buttermilk biscuit dough.
Joy says to use a 1½-2 inch round biscuit cutter, but that seems really small.  I use my 2½ and made them a little thinner (probably ½ inch thick).
Partially baked (25 min) filling topped with blue cheese biscuits.
After adding the biscuits, I baked it for another 20 minutes, which seemed pretty good (probably because my biscuits weren't as thick).  I remember in the past when I made the caramelized mushrooms and dumplings, it took much longer to bake the biscuits through than what the recipe indicated. 
Like I said, my pictures don't really do this justice, but it was delicious and just as good reheated for lunch the next day.  I highly recommend this one if you've got enough time to make the biscuits. This probably took me 2 hours to make (from returning from the store to shoving this in my mouth) but that also included no kitchen helpers and cleaning up throughout.  I only had myself to feed but for some reason I felt motivated to actually cook (I usually just eat cereal when Tom is out of town).  I also knew I could get Kristen to come up for a taste J

September 2, 2012

Pin It Baked Mac and Cheese

Taken From Smitten Kitchen

Week 35

Saturday night dinner. So easy and so good! Tom had the idea of making mac and cheese...and putting it on top of a burger (and I thought some of my recipes were over the top?!).  My brother told me he had a great mac and cheese recipe after I had shared my avocado mac and cheese with him, so I called him for the recipe. He was a little busy (his wife was 41 weeks pregnant) so I called my little sister instead, who has actually met (randomly recognized her in a bagel shop in NYC) and emailed with Deb of Smitten Kitchen!

My sister/her BF swear by this recipe and it really was so good, and super easy. Best part, you don't even have to cook the pasta first! Instead you bake the uncooked pasta in a milk/cheese sauce for ~60 minutes and the result is amazing.

We used shells and sharp cheddar, but you can mix it up with the kind of cheese you want to use (trying to avoid super salty cheeses). I also topped ours with panko bread crumbs for some extra crunch on top.

My own fail here was that I didn't take any pictures.  I didn't really have the blog in mind while cooking (we were just trying to make dinner) and Tom was super stoked that he didn't have to wait to eat while I took pictures of his food.

I'll borrow a photo from Smitten Kitchen to show you what you're getting into:
Photo courtesy of Smitten Kitchen
I think why this mac and cheese is so over the top delicious, is because the cheese is evenly distributed throughout the dish and every piece of pasta is coasted with gooey cheesy goodness.

We will definitely be making this again, and also trying my brother's mac and cheese recommendation in the future uses a whole brick of cream cheese!