Sunday, December 30, 2012

Nutella Buns

Sigh. I really need to stop with the whole Nutella situation. I think I have a problem, and it's probably time I seek help from Nutella Anonymous. I'm sure such a program exists. I mean; I know I'm addicted to this stuff, and I am pretty positive others are, too. Sigh. Well, here you go. Another delicious Nutella recipe. I found this particular recipe from Saveur and decided to try it the other night. OMG. Straight out of the oven it was simply divine. I inhaled one right before I was to eat my dinner. The next day was good, but definitely not as tasty as straight out of the oven. I would suggest warming them in the oven if you eat it the following day. I'm sorry. Please don't be mad at me for posting another heavenly Nutella recipe. Enjoy!

1 (¼-oz.) package active dry yeast
¼ cup, plus 1 tsp. sugar
½ cup milk
9 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
4 cups flour, plus more for dusting
¾ cup brown sugar
⅔ cup coarsely chopped pecans
1½ cups Nutella
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Take out a small bowl and add the yeast, 1 tsp sugar, and 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees). Stir and let sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast mixture is nice and foamy. Meanwhile, take out a small saucepan and pour in the milk and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and set aside for 5 minutes. In a mixing bowl, add 4 tbsp softened butter, remaining sugar, salt, yeast mixture, and 2 eggs. Stir in the milk and add the flour a little at a time. I actually ended up using all 4 cups. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead by hand for about 3 minutes. Place in a lightly-greased large bowl and then set it in a warm oven (85 degrees) so it can rise for a couple hours or until doubled in size.

Once the dough is about ready to be pulled from the warm oven, take out a small sauce pan and add the brown sugar and the remaining 4 tablespoon of butter. If you are using the pecans add them to the saucepan. Once the brown sugar and butter is melted; pour this into a 9x13 baking dish. Set aside.

Once the dough has doubled in size; remove from the oven. Now, set the oven temperature to pre-heat at 375. Then, punch down the down and let rest for a minute or two. Roll out the dough into a 15x20 rectangle. Carefully, spread the Nutella around the dough while leaving an inch border around the edges. Take your remaining egg and lightly whip. Then using a brush, dip into the egg wash and spread along the 1 inch border. Carefully, roll the dough into a log and cut using a sharp knife into 12 rounds. I think I got about 8 or 9 rolls out of the dough. Transfer rounds cut side up to the baking dish. Sprinkle with cinnamon if you are using and place in the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until the rolls are a nice golden color. Once ready, remove from the oven and let cool for a couple minutes. Serve inverted on a plate and drizzle with the syrup from the baking dish.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tilapia Meuniere

Man, I just love a delicious sauteed fish. I feel like I'm starting to get a little better at cooking fish. Maybe it's because I'm finding really yummy recipes. I used to think the only time I could eat decadent, smooth, tasty fish was at fancy restaurants,but thanks to this recipe from Barefoot Contessa I don't need to drop $30 for a decadent fish. Now, I can make it at home for about $8. This recipe is super easy and very tasty. I highly, highly recommend that you give her recipe a try. Enjoy!

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 fresh sole fillets (I used tilapia), 3 to 4 ounces each
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
6 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Take out your fish and pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle salt on one side of each fish. Take a plate and add the flour, salt, and pepper. Add the fish to the flour and shake off any excess flour. Take out your saute pan and set it to medium heat. Add 3 tablespoons butter. Once the butter starts to brown in the pan; add two of the 4 fish. Lightly brown one side; gently turn over the fish and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add some of the lemon zest on top of each fish, and then add the lemon juice to the pan. Gently remove the fish from the pan and place on a plate. Pour the juice from the pan on top. Warm in a 200 degree oven, and do the above to the remaining 2 fish. Remove the fish from the oven and serve. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Breakfast Potatoes

For Christmas 2012; I wanted to do brunch with my Dad. On tap for my menu; were these Swedish tea rings, this quiche, and breakfast potatoes. I found the recipe for breakfast potatoes from The Pioneer Woman's blog. My friend, Sara, swears by her recipes, so I figured I couldn't go wrong with it either, right? Right. It was very simple to make; and I even added cayenne and paprika pepper to kick it up a notch. I wish I had made more bacon, because I would have added crumbled bacon to it, as well. My only gripe was that I wish the potatoes were crispier, but I think it's because I used white potatoes instead of the red potatoes she suggested in her recipe. Oh well. They were still quite tasty. Overall, brunch was a success!

4 whole (to 5) Large Red Potatoes
1 whole Onion, diced
1 Tablespoon Vegetable Or Canola Oil
1 Tablespoon Bacon Fat
Salt And Pepper, to taste
Red And Green Bell Peppers, Diced (optional)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp paprika (optional)
crumbled bacon (optional)

Wash your potatoes and throw in a large pot and boil until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and then dice 'em up. Set aside. Take out your onion and dice 'em up. Take out your saute pan and in the bacon fat and oil. I just used regular ol' bacon fat, because I can. Set the temperature to medium-high and add in the diced onion. Just as the onions are beginning to brown this is the time to throw in the diced potatoes. Stir and cook the potatoes for a couple minutes. Then kinda crowd your potatoes together and pat down with your spoon. Let sit for several minutes without stirring. Feel free to sprinkle some flour at this point. You can also add in the cayenne and paprika peppers if you so desire. The pan should be hot enough to crisp the potatoes but not so hot it'll burn 'em. Cook for several minutes and then flip with a spatula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your desired seasoning. And, keep cooking to your desired crispness. Enjoy!

Alison's Quiche

So, for the past couple years I've been going to a co-worker's Ornament Exchange party. And, every year that I've been she's made this Quiche recipe as part of her brunch menu. The first year I tried it I was pretty leery since I'm not an egg person. But, I have to admit that I really liked it. So, if you are not a big egg person I bet you will love this recipe. It doesn't taste real eggy (is that a word?) but it has that fluffiness you can expect from a cooked egg. Plus, you use a pie crust, which, if I'm being honest is my favorite part. And, you also throw in your favorite veggies and/or protein such as ham. I think that if you are a big egg person then you should really love this recipe. Give it a try and I'm sure you won't regret it. Enjoy!

1/2 cup veggies of your choice, diced (Mushrooms, Green Pepper, Onions, Asaparagus)
1/2 cup cooked diced ham
3 eggs
1 cup Half and Half
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups shredded swiss cheese
2 tbsp flour
1 pre-baked pie shell

Cook your vegetables in 2 tablespoons of butter until nice and soft. I used green peppers and onions. Set aside. Since I used diced pre-cooked ham I didn't bother sauteing them.
Next, take a medium bowl and mix the eggs, half and half, salt, and pepper. Then, mix the flour with the cheese in a medium bowl. Now, take out your packaged pie crust; pour in the veggies and diced ham. Add in the cheese and then carefully pour the egg mixture over the cheese. Place the quiche on a baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Then, drop your oven temperature to 325 and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes. The quiche is ready when a knife inserted doesn't come out runny. Let stand for a few minutes before serving.

Barefoot Contessa's Ham and Cheese in Puff Pastry

I made this recipe for a friend's 40th birthday party a year ago, and I remember it being such a hit that I decided to make it again for a White Elephant Christmas party. I think Ina Garten hit the nail on the head with this appetizer. I love me a ham and cheese sandwich, but adding puff pastry to the mix just takes this rather plain sandwich to another level. Also, substituting gruyere cheese in place of swiss cheese makes it even fancier. And, using Dijon mustard instead of plain ol' yellow mustard takes it to gourmet status. Plus, it's super simple to make and tastes yummy! Really. Give this fancy version of the plain ol' ham and cheese a try and you will want to make it for your next party! Enjoy!

1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted (recommended: Pepperidge Farm)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 pound black forest ham, sliced
1/2 pound Swiss Gruyere cheese, sliced
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

First, roll out your puff pastry so that it's around 10 by 12 inches. If you have trouble rolling it like I did then just skip this part. The sandwich will still taste the same. Next, spread the dijon mustard on the puff pastry, but leave space around the edges. Then, add the ham and then the cheese. Brush the border with the egg wash. Be sure to roll out the second puff pastry to 10 by 12 inches or just leave it as is, but either way you need to place this on top of the filled pastry. Pinch the edges together to help seal the two puff pastries together. Gently, brush with the egg wash and slice small slits so that steam can escape while baking. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet, and then gently move the puff pastry to the baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is a lovely golden color. Serve hot or warm.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Martha Washington Candies

Who doesn’t love candy? And, who doesn’t love chocolate, pecans, butter, and coconut? Well, if you are like me and you love all 4 of those ingredients then you will love these Martha Washington Candies. I used to make these candies all the time at Christmas back in my college years, because they are really super simple to make. But, be warned; they make a ton. And, you will probably find yourself popping a few in your mouth; you know, just to make sure they taste okay. This is another recipe where I think my mother got it from her mother. But, either way it’s super creamy and delicious. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

4 sticks butter, melted
1 2 pound bag of powdered sugar
2 cups chopped pecans
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla
10 oz bag of coconut
1 12oz bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
¾ block of paraffin wax (find in the canning section of your grocery store)

Take a large bowl, and combine all these ingredients thru the coconut. Mix well. Set in the fridge for a couple hours to cool.
Around the 2nd hour, take out a small saucepan and combine the wax and the chocolate. Let  the mixture melt over medium heat. Once the mixture is melted; set the heat on low/warm. Now, remove the candy mixture from your fridge, and using a small ice cream scooper; scoop out the candy, roll into a ball, and dip into the chocolate mixture. I used a slotted spoon to help coat the candies in chocolate. It can get pretty messy with your hands. Then, place the candies on a wire rack with parchment paper under it so the candies can set. It should make around 60+ candies. Best to keep in the freezer as they can get really soft if left at room temperature. Enjoy!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Clusters

You know what’s good? Simple. Easy. Uncomplicated. Especially during the time of year when things are often busy, difficult and stress-inducing. And these little clusters are the epitome of simple. Just 4 ingredients, a microwave, and some wax paper and you’ve got a simple little chocolatey candy that tastes really impressive. I love to include these in my Christmas cookie gifts because I always overcommit myself to difficult cookies and these are a lifesaver to fill out the tin at the last minute. (And hey, I hear Santa is a big fan as well).

12 oz semisweet chocolate chips
10 oz peanut butter chips
3 cups (give or take) unsalted peanuts
Sea salt for garnish

Are you ready for this? Simply empty the bags of chocolate and peanut butter chips into a large microwave safe bowl. Melt them. This is really easy if you have a melt setting on your microwave, but if not, just make sure to keep the power on fairly low and check it often. Melt until you can stir it together with no lumps and make sure the chocolate and peanut butter is completely combined. Then pour in your peanuts. You might want to start with fewer nuts and stir it in, then see where you are as far as your nut to chocolate ratio. You can always add more.

Once your nuts are stirred in, set out some wax paper on your countertop. Use a big spoon to drop clusters of these chocolate nuts. This will get messy, I promise. Just go slow and don’t lick your fingers until you’re done. Once you’ve laid out your clusters, go back and sprinkle just a touch of sea salt on top before they’ve completely set. If you wait too long, the salt will not stick, so you may have to work in batches. And that’s it! I guarantee you’ll get lots of compliments and guess what, you don’t have to tell anyone how easy it is to make. I won’t tell. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mint Chocolate Cookies

I love these cookies. In fact, you guys, I’m going to make a bold statement here. These are my favorite cookies. BOOM! That’s right. Favorite. Which explains why I only make them once a year. Because if I made them as often as I think about them (all the time) and ate them as often as I’d like to (all the time) I would have to be rolled into the office. Or maybe transported on a flatbed truck. Because they are THAT good. I mean, as long as you like chocolatey, fudgy cookies topped with delicious swirled Andes mints. You know, if you enjoy that sort of fabulous thing.

Anyway, I make these once a year, every year, for Christmas. I try to give most of them away, but I find myself making bigger and bigger batches so that I have plenty to keep for myself too. In the recipe book where we found this gem, there are post it notes stuck in with the measurements for double, triple, and quadruple batches. My mom used to make them when I was a kid, but I took over as soon as I could and have been making them ever since. I highly, HIGHLY recommend that you add them to your repertoire. Or you could always become my good friend and you’ll get them from me. Once a year.

2/3 cup packed brown sugar
6 Tbsps. unsalted butter
1 Tbsp. water
6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1 egg
1 ¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
8 to 12 oz. Andes mints

In a saucepan over low heat, combine the brown sugar, butter and water. You want to stir often as the butter melts so that the brown sugar doesn’t burn on the bottom. Stir until the butter is completely melted (be patient!) and then pour in your chocolate chips and stir continuously. Again, make sure the chocolate doesn’t burn on the bottom. When the chips are completely melted and you no longer see any lumps and bumps, pour the mixture into a large bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes.

Beat in one egg, and then add the flour and soda on top. Mix the soda into the flour before stirring it all together. Make sure that the flour is completely mixed in, but don’t over mix. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to make the next step easier.

Roll the dough out into 1-inch (or so) balls and place on a cookie sheet. You’ll cook them at 350 for about 7 minutes. You may have to adjust your cooking time based on your oven, and also for the first batch it usually takes a minute more (I think because the pan is cool). They should be puffed up and fragile looking with some crackles in the cookie.

While they are baking, unwrap your Andes mints and cut them in half. Take the cookies out and place a mint half on each cookie. Just barely push it down, just enough to create a tiny dip—don’t press the mint actually down into the cookie. Put them back in the oven for just one minute, and then pull them out again. With a butter knife, swirl the melted mint on top of the cookie a bit like frosting. You don’t need to cover the whole cookie, just the top. Then let them sit and cool for a few minutes. If you try to move them right away, they are likely to fall apart, but as they cool they hold together a little more. After a few minutes, remove them to some wax paper to cool fully before storing. Or before putting them directly in your mouth. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup with Sherry

It’s starting to get downright wintery around here these days. And while cold weather makes me miserable when I’m out in it (particularly when I’m out in it at 3am with a barking dog) it makes me happy when I’m either snuggled under the comforter in bed, or when I’m able to have my favorite soups. Whew, that was a long sentence. Still with me? Ok. So, soup. Man, that stuff is good. Warms your insides up. Butternut Squash Soup is a classic and it seems like everyone has their own favorite recipe. I decided to try a new one and found this on food52. I of course modified it because that’s just how I do. Plus, to me a soup is a constant adjustment. You taste it, and adjust. Not creamy enough? Add more cream (or cream cheese, or sour cream, or Greek yogurt). Not enough flavor? Add some spices. So follow this recipe to start, but then get out a nice clean spoon and start adjusting.

2 Tbsps unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 3-to-4-pound butternut squash, peeled and cubed
¼ Tsp freshly ground nutmeg
½ Tsp freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
3 Tbsps dry sherry
2 to 3 cups chicken broth/stock
1 cup milk
4oz cream cheese (optional)
½ Tsp cayenne (optional)

Get out your nice big soup pot or Dutch oven and melt butter over medium low heat. Cook your chopped onion in the butter until softened, about 5 minutes. Add in your squash, nutmeg, pepper and a half teaspoon of salt and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring often. Add in the sherry and reduce for a few minutes, then pour in enough chicken broth or stock to cover the squash. I used about 3 cups. If you want to make it vegetarian just use veggie broth, but I personally like the taste of chicken broth a lot better. Turn up the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil, then take it back down to a simmer. Let it simmer for 20 minutes partially covered, or until the squash is fork tender.

If you have an immersion blender, this part is way easier than if you don’t. Blend together the soup with the milk. If you don’t have an immersion, you’ll have to blend it in batches in your blender. Be careful! At this point start to adjust. I like my soups to be a little bit creamier, so I added in some cream cheese. Just be careful to blend it in well or you will have little bits of cream cheese floating around. I also added cayenne pepper for some spice. If the soup is too thick, just add more chicken broth. Add salt and pepper to taste. The original recipe also said to stir in a “splash” of sherry just before serving, but I skipped it. Taste and adjust the spices and when you like what you taste, serve it up! It’s a great soup for those chilly days.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Barbecued Mahi Mahi

Someone recently told me that Mahi Mahi is actually dolphin. I was pretty sure they were wrong, but also quite horrified to think that all this time I had been eating Flipper. Turns out it’s dolphinfish, which is not the same thing as a dolphin at all. I saw a photo and it’s not even cute, so don’t worry. I can see why people prefer to call it Mahi Mahi though, to avoid the confusion. Anyway, the point is that Mahi Mahi is not dolphin but it IS very delicious. It’s a sturdier white fish, more like salmon in texture and meatiness. It holds up really well to spice and big flavor, so I knew this recipe would be a tasty one. I found it on the blog Ezra Pound Cake. I decided not to do the pesto on top, and it was really good without it. If anything, I’d maybe add a bit more of the dark brown sugar, just another half teaspoon or so. The sweetness went really well with this fish.

2 Tbsps Spanish Paprika
1 Tbsp Ancho Chile Powder
2 Tsps Cumin
2 Tsps Dark Brown Sugar
1 Tsp Chile de Arbol powder
1 Tsp Kosher Salt
1 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
4 8 oz Mahi Mahi filets
Olive Oil

First of all, I could not find the Chile de Arbol powder, so I went with a Mexican Chile powder. Not sure that it made much difference. This is super easy to make. Just mix together all the spices in a small bowl. Lightly oil the fish on both sides, then sprinkle the spice mixture over one side of the filets. Make sure the filets are covered, but shake off excess spice mixture.

Heat up the grill and grill the filets rub side down first. It should only be about 2 to 3 minutes per side before they are done and ready to eat. We grilled them alongside asparagus, which took about the same time. Really simple, flavorful, and healthy as well.