Saturday, May 28, 2011

Watermelon Sorbet

You know it's summer when you start seeing buckets full of whole watermelons at your local grocery chains. Watermelons right now run about $2.99-$4.99 depending on which stores have them on sale. I bought a watermelon from Trader Joe's last weekend for $3.99. The best way to pick out a watermelon is to knock on the melon with your fist, and if it sounds hollow then you know you got a good melon. The other day I was perusing tastespotting's site and came across this watermelon sorbet recipe. Since, I knew I was going to buy an ice cream maker this weekend I went ahead and printed it. Plus, I already had the ingredients. Sur La Table gave me the incentive to buy an ice cream maker this weekend because they are giving away a $15 gift card with the purchase of one of their cusinarts. Fortunately, we have a Sur La Table at Stony Point Mall, so I didn't have to buy it online. After making my purchse yesterday, I put my ice cream thingy in the freezer so it would be ready today. It is so easy to make ice cream or sorbet. And, if you love watermelon you will love this sorbet. It reminded me of my watermelon daquiri I posted last year. Give this one a try if you have an ice cream maker. You won't regret it. Enjoy!

3 cups seedless watermelon (diced)
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice ( I just used one lemon)

I cut this recipe down some, because I had way more left over than I needed. The original recipe calls for 4 cups watermelon and 3 cups water.

Take your water and sugar and pour into a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil and set aside to cool. Add your watermelon, cooled simple syrup, and lemon juice into a blender and puree. I then placed this into a bowl and put into an ice bath to cool the mixture quicker. Once it was cool, I put into my ice cream maker and let it mix for about 20 minutes until it thickened. I then put my sorbet into an airtight container, and chilled for a couple hours. It was very yummy!

(Click here for printable recipe)

Cinnamon Bread

There are certain things in life that put a smile on my face. Sunsets, hanging with good friends and family, mojitos, a nice warm day with a gentle breeze, my dogs, and the smell of cinnamon bread baking in the oven. Since it was a rainy and gloomy day I decided to make some bread. This particular bread will be ready the same day you make it. I’ve made this once before, and it was very delicious. I remember the first time I had cinnamon bread. I think I was about 17 years old, and it was when I baby-sat some kid in the near west-end. I thought it was sooo yummy. The cinnamon swirled throughout the bread made it heavenly. I’m pretty certain it was from the Montana Gold Bread bakery in Carytown. The only difference between their bread and mine is their’s might be more cinnamonny. I think I just made that word up. But, anyway, it’s a really easy bread to make. And, it’s quite good. Plus, if you want to put it away for awhile it will last up to 3 months in your freezer. I think you will really enjoy this bread, and it should definitely put a smile on your face!! I got the recipe out of New Best Recipe…my go-to cookbook. Enjoy!

1/2 c whole milk (I just used 1%)
4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 envelope instant yeast
1/2 c warm water (110 degrees)
1/3 c sugar
2 lg eggs
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 1/4- 3 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface

1/4 c sugar
5 tsp ground cinnamon
Milk for brushing

1 lg egg
2 tsp milk

First, you need to heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan until the butter melts. Cool until warm (110 degrees). While the milk mixture cools, sprinkle yeast over warm water in a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle. Beat in the sugar and eggs and mix at low speed to blend. Then, add the salt, the lukewarm milk mixture, and 2 cups of flour. Mix at medium speed until thoroughly blended...about a minute. Switch to your dough hook, and add 1 1/4 cups of flour. Knead at medium-low speed, adding more flour a little at a time if the dough sticks to the sides of the bowl, until the dough is smooth and comes away from the sides of the bowl. About 10 minutes.
Then, turn the dough onto your work surface. Squeeze the dough with a clean and dry hand. If the dough is still sticky, then add some more flour. Transfer the dough to a very lightly oiled large bowl. I used spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm air-free area (I use my oven) for several hours. The dough should double in size. I set my oven to around 75 degrees.
After the dough has risen, remove from oven and punch down the dough. Turn the dough onto your unfloured work surface. Let the dough rest for an additional 10 minutes.

Now, for the filling mix the sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Grease the sides and bottom of a 9x5 loaf pan.

Press the dough neatly into an evenly shaped 8x6 rectangle. With the short side facing you, roll the dough with a rolling pin into an evenly shaped 18x8 rectangle. Flour the work surface if the dough sticks. Brush the dough liberally with milk. Then, sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough leaving a 1/2-inch border on the far side. Now, starting at the side closest to you , roll up the dough, pinching the dough gently with your fingertips to make sure it is sealed. To keep the loaf from stretching beyond 9 inches, push the ends in occasionally with your hands as your roll the dough. When you finishing rolling, pinch the seams tightly to secure it. With the seam-side facing up, push in the center of both ends. Firmly pinch the dough at either end together to seal the sides of the loaf.

Place the loaf seam-side down in the prepared pan; press lightly to flatten. Then cover the top of the pan loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise. I put mine back into the oven. Let rise until the dough is 1 inch above the top of the pan, which is about 1 1/2 hours.

Prep your glaze. Remove the loaf from the oven, and gently brush the bread with the egg mixture. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and an instant-read thermometer reads at an angle from the short end of teh pan into the center 185 to 190 degrees. Remove the bread from the pan and cool to room temperature on its side on a wire rack at least 45 minutes. If tightly wrapped the bread will last at room temperature for 4 days or frozen for 3 months.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chicken Lettuce Wraps

In Richmond, Spring barely exists. It often feels like we just skip right from cold weather to hot, hot, hot. We should just retire the name Spring and call it Sprummer. But even if the weather isn’t as transitional as we would like, what we eat can be. This is a great, light meal for Sprummer. It’s filling without being heavy, and it’s healthy so we can fit into all our Sprummer clothes.

I found this recipe on Pass the Sushi, and unfortunately I had thought we had hoisin sauce, but we didn’t. So instead, we added some spicy Szechuan sauce and sesame oil, and just kind of adjusted the recipe to taste. It actually turned out great—a happy accident. So, I’ll share the recipe as it was originally, but feel free to play with it and taste along the way. You could use any ground meat you want—but chicken and turkey are healthy options.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 lb ground chicken (or any other ground meat)
1 medium shallot, diced small
1 garlic clove, minced
3 scallions
2 large stalks lemongrass-tender pale inner core only, minced
1/2 cup chopped cashews
1 teaspoonful seasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoonful garlic chili sauce
small handful of cilantro, chopped
lettuce leaves

Pull out your Wok if you have one, or a deep skillet pan if you don’t, and heat the oil over medium heat. We used olive oil because we didn’t have canola oil and I’m not sure it made a difference. Toss in the shallot and garlic and cook quickly for 15 seconds before adding the chicken. Stir and break up the meat until it’s cooked through, and drain any grease that comes up.

Add the cashews, scallions, rice vinegar, hoisin, soy sauce and chili sauce. Also the lemongrass if you have it. We couldn’t find it at Kroger. You could also throw in water chestnuts if you’re feeling crazy. This is where we added sesame oil, which I really like and think added a lot, but it’s something that needs to be used sparingly. Toss it all around and cook for another 2-3 minutes until everything is coated. Then take it off the heat and sprinkle the cilantro. Serve in clean lettuce leafs. We used just green leaf lettuce because that’s the best that Kroger had, but butter lettuce or bibb lettuce is probably the best if you have it. Iceberg can also work in a pinch.

Anyway, this was a great meal, healthy and surprisingly husband approved. Next hot Sprummer night when you’re looking for a light meal, try it! 

(Click here for printable recipe)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Tartine Brownies w/ Nuts

I started my diet back in March, and haven't done much baking at all. 12 pounds lighter I thought why not try baking something that sounds delicious. And, I can just bring in the majority of it into work. My co-workers would either love me or hate me, but at least I wouldn't be eating them. ;0)

One of my favorite baking food blogs is diving baking. Amira's pictures are just beautiful. Plus, I've already tried one of her recipes, and it was heaven. I've seen her post this brownie recipe before, and just recently she updated it. It looked super good from her pictures. I know. Sometimes pictures can be deceiving, but she was right. This is really a delicious and fudgy brownie. It's a whopping 6 points per WW Points+. So, I'm really glad I only ate one of them. But, man was it chocolaty and fudgy and yummy. It was really simple to make, and I highly recommend it if you are in need of a chocolate fix. Enjoy!

3/4 cup butter
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 large eggs (the original recipe calls for five eggs, but Amira doesn't like tall brownies)
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups nuts, optional for topping

I didn't have bittersweet chocolate on hand. So, I just used the chocolate squares from the grocery store that I had in my cabinet. I used about 8 semi-sweet squares and 8 unsweetened squares.First thing I did was get my butter and chocolate, put it in a small sauce pan and simmer it over low heat until chocolate is melted. I then took my flour and sifted it into a bowl. Set this aside. Next, take your remaining ingredients put into your mixing bowl. Mix on high speed for about 5 minutes. Take your cooled chocolate mixture and pour into the egg mixture. Stir until combined. Then, take your sifted flour and gently fold into the chocolate batter. Pour this into a 9X13 greased pan and spread evenly. Amira suggested pouring your nuts over the brownies at this stage. However, I think the next time I make them I will just incorporate them into my chocolate batter.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Strawberry Mojito

It's getting closer to those warm summer months, and my mint is growing gloriously. So, what's the best way to use mint by making mojitos that is. About a year ago my sister sent me a blog for a strawberry mojito recipe. It's taken me a year, but I finally got around to making this recipe. My only complaint was that the mint overpowered the strawberries. So, next time I'll be sure to add more strawberries and less mint. Enjoy!

1/2 cup chopped strawberries
1/4 cup mint
1-2 shots of white rum
2 tbsp to 1/4 cup simple syrup
Splash of Club soda or Soda Water
Splash of fresh lime

Take a glass and add your strawberries, mint, and simple syrup. Use your muddling tool and crush the strawberries and mint. Add rum. Add ice close to the top of your glass. Add soda water or club soda. Add a splash of fresh lime. Garnish with strawberry and lime.

(Click here for printable recipe)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mushroom Risotto

My husband and I watch a lot of food television. Top Chef, Iron Chef, Chopped, and Next Food Network Star, to name a few. One show we used to watch was Hell’s Kitchen. Eventually we stopped because it seemed like the talent of the competing chefs was pretty low. But one thing stuck with us: the sound of Gordon Ramsay yelling “BLOODY RISOTTO” in his Scottish accent. It was always a harrowing moment, with his face turning red and veins popping out of places I didn’t know veins existed, while the chef who had ruined the risotto cowered in fear of life and limb. Maybe that is why, although risotto has always been a favorite for me in restaurants, we had never attempted it at home. But hey, I’m not afraid of a challenge. And it’s not like Gordon Ramsay is going to find me and call me a plank (which is actually an insult he used on that show).

Making a risotto wasn’t as hard or scary as I expected, although it is somewhat time consuming. You have to constantly stir for about 20 minutes once things get started, so plan ahead. But the results were pretty good. I would say the only downside is that risotto is good as a side dish, not so much a whole meal on its own. But with so much time and energy invested in it, it’s hard to make an entrée to go with it. That said, it was very good. Probably could cut the amount of mushrooms in half, but it was definitely tasty. I found this recipe on How To: Simplify, and probably liked it because the author is just as afraid of Ramsay.

6 cups chicken broth
Extra virgin olive oil
1 pound sliced Portobello Mushrooms
1 pound sliced white mushrooms
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

I had a little trouble finding the Arborio rice, but finally found it on the top shelf at Kroger. It’s somewhat more expensive than regular rice, but it’ll probably last for four or five risottos. Start by chopping up your mushrooms. We kept them relatively large, but do as you will. Also put the chicken broth in a saucepan and heat. In a large deep skillet or pan over medium high heat, heat some olive oil and sauté the mushrooms 3-4 minutes until they are soft and then set them aside. Chop your shallots and add them with a little more oil to the pan. Cook for about a minute and then add the rice (uncooked). Stir the rice constantly until it starts to turn a pale golden color and then add in the wine. Keep stirring (this is a theme here) until the wine is absorbed. It won’t take very long.

Next, add a half cup of broth and stir until it’s fully absorbed. Repeat this step a half cup at a time, until the rice is al dente which should be around 20 minutes. You’ll notice that the rice takes the broth pretty quickly at first, and it slows down more and more as you go. Once the rice is at the point you want, remove it from the heat and add the butter and cheese. We added more cheese because…well, it’s cheese. Then stir back in the mushrooms and their juices. Season with salt and pepper, and serve! I think this recipe could be a good base for a lot of different kinds of risotto, so don’t be afraid to have a little fun with ingredients. This would be a nice side to serve to company. Just as long as it’s not Chef Ramsay. 

(Click here for printable recipe)