Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Quinoa Salad

If you've never heard of quinoa it's probably because it doesn't sound like it's spelled. It is pronounced Keen Wa. A whole grain packed full of nutrients and tons of protein, quinoa is perfect for anyone trying to eat a little healthier. It can be substituted in place of pasta or rice in many salad recipes with ease. Quinoa is actually a seed not a pasta, and when it is cooked the outer ring separates from the rest of the grain. It is very bland on it's own, so if eating it plain, you could cook it in low-sodium chicken/vegetable broth for more flavor. One thing to note is that uncooked quinoa has a bitter coating and should be rinsed thoroughly under cold water before cooking.

Quinoa & Vegetable Salad

by Mixed Salad Annie

1 cup uncooked quinoa
½ cup lightly steamed broccoli florets
½ cup lightly steamed green beans
½ jar pickled red beets, quartered
1 medium shallot, minced
1 celery stalk, sliced thin
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
Fresh black pepper and salt, or to taste
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar, or to taste
1 Tablespoon olive oil to taste
Note: You could also use a bottled salad dressing in place of the oil and vinegar, such as Olde Cape Fat-Free Sesame Soy Ginger


Rinse quinoa under cold water for about 2 minutes. Place in 2 quart saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. Allow to cool.

Mix together all the ingredients and your salad is ready!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Baked Stuffed Shrimp

It's About Time...
Ever since I was a little girl, I always loved baked stuffed shrimp. I can remember going out with my family to eat and always ordering it, no matter what else was on the menu. Most kids would be all about the mac and cheese or the hamburgers and fries, but not I. Those juicy, rich, melt in your mouth stuffed shrimp always won! My love has not changed over the years. Yes I do order many other things on the menu now, but whenever I'm unsure of what to get, I always go right back to my favorite.

Believe it or not, this is the first time I have ever cooked them at home myself. My dad actually had a killer recipe but unfortunately never wrote it down or shared it with anyone before he passed. So I looked on-line and found a few recipes that sounded good; then I combined and tweaked them to my liking. I think the end result turned out great. I did lower the fat in the recipe a bit by halving the butter and subbing part with olive oil, but if you want the full fat effect of that buttery richness, by all means go for it!

Baked Stuffed Shrimp
serves 4-5
  • 40 Ritz crackers (one sleeve, plus 5 more), crushed
  • 1 sleeve Pepperidge Farm Golden Butter crackers, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1 1/2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 4 T extra virgin olive oil, divided use
  • 5 T butter, melted, divided use
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Zest from 1/2 lemon
  • Juice from 1 1/2 lemons
  • 3 T fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 T dry white wine
  • Approximately 2 T water
  • 20 jumbo shrimp, with tails
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Spray a large baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside. Make a cut along the length of the back of each shrimp and remove peel and vein. Cut just deep enough to open the shrimp to lay flat.
  3. Sauté celery and shallot in 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until soft and opaque. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix crushed crackers, garlic powder, parsley and pepper. In a small bowl, blend 4 tablespoons butter, remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest and Worcestershire sauce. Add lemon juice and white wine to a 1/2 cup measuring cup; add up to 2 tablespoons of water until full. Mix into the blended butter; add to the the cracker mixture. Add the celery and shallots. Stir until mixture holds together.
  5. Set shrimp backs down in the prepared baking dish. Place heaping tablespoons of the cracker mixture on top of each, pressing with fingers to secure. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of butter over the top of the shrimp.
  6. Bake shrimp 15 to 17 minutes or until they are opaque. Remove from oven and set broiler to low. Place shrimp under broiler for 2-3 minutes or until stuffing is golden brown.
  7. Transfer to a serving platter. Squeeze some lemon on top if desired. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gingerbread Biscotti

I found a great blog for baking that I love. It's the Joy of Baking. They do a wonderful job with the recipes and the photos are beautiful. There are so many recipes that I am going to try. The first one I tried was the Gingerbread Biscotti. Read more

What better cookie for the holiday, right? It just screams Christmas and being that is it a biscotti, it packs well, freezes well and will last for several weeks. Every year I send my brother biscotti for Christmas and this year he got these and Banana Pecan Biscotti.

Gingerbread Biscotti Adapted from Joy of Baking

3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (can also use pecans or hazelnuts)
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 3/4 cups all unbleached purpose flour
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/4 cup unsulphured molasses (such as Grandma's Molasses)
2 tablespoons extra light olive oil (or canola oil)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon pure orange extract
3/4 cup raisins

White Chocolate Glaze: (optional)
1/2 cup quality white chocolate chips (such as Ghiardelli)

Preheat oven to 350º F and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Bake walnuts for about 8 minutes or until brown and fragrant.

In a blender or food processor, process 1/2 cup of the rolled oats until finely ground. In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), combine the 1/2 cup of finely ground oats, the remaining 1/2 cup of rolled oats, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, molasses, oil, vanilla extract and orange extract. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients, and beat until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Mix in the chopped nuts and raisins and beat just until incorporated.

With a dough scraper or spatula divide the dough in half. Take each half of dough and divide in half again. form each half into a log, about 10 inches long and 2 inches wide. Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, spacing about 3 inches apart.

Bake for about 20-22 minutes, or until golden brown and dough springs back when touched. Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees F.

Transfer the logs to a cutting board and cut into 3/4 inch slices, on the diagonal. Place the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake for about 4-5 minutes, turn slices over, and bake for another 4-5 minutes or until dry and firm. Remove from oven and let cool.

Can be stored in an airtight container for several weeks.

White Chocolate Glaze (optional): Place white chocolate in a small bowl and microwave on 50% power for about 30 seconds. Stir and heat again for another 30 seconds until melted. Continue to stir until the bowl is no longer hot.

Spoon the melted chocolate into a small plastic zip lock bag and cut a small slit in the corner. Drizzle several thin lines of the chocolate over each biscotti. Let the biscotti sit at room temperature until the chocolate has completely dried.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Egg Biscuits

An Italian Tradition...
The egg biscuit. It is a very simple cookie which has it's roots in the Italian-American culture. It's a favorite with afternoon tea, especially among the older generation of Italian Rhode Islanders. My version is a lactose-free version using lite coconut milk. I actually prefer this recipe to the original.

Egg Biscuits
Recipe by Mixed Salad Annie
lactose free recipe

3 eggs
¾ cup corn oil
4 cups flour, plus more if needed
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup lite coconut milk
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure lemon extract
Confectioners sugar
Lite coconut milk
A few drops of pure vanilla extract
Colored sprinkles

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix sugar, oil, eggs and extracts with beater. Gradually add the dry ingredients alternately with milk. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Set on a floured board. Take about a tablespoon of dough and roll into 6 or 7 inch ropes, twisting into ball-shaped knots. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet; bake for 5 minutes and turn pan. Bake for another 4-5 minutes or until light brown on the bottom (approximately 9 to 10 minutes total).

Frost with Confectioners Sugar Icing:
Add coconut milk and a few drops of vanilla extract to confectioners sugar until it reaches a spreadable consistency. Frost each cookie with about a tablespoon of icing. Add colored sprinkles while the icing is wet.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Almond Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites

A great variation on the chocolate chip cookie. For something a little different and a bit more special, try this cookie made in a mini muffin pan. It is delicious and it will look a little more sophisticated on your holiday cookie tray.

My inspiration for this recipe came from research on using almond flour in baking. I found an awesome website called elanaspantry.com. Elana wrote a cookbook on cooking with almond flour. Elana uses ONLY blanched almond flour in all her recipes and clearly states that her recipes will not work with natural almond meal (ground almonds with skins).

I do want to try some of her recipes because they sound amazing. I just ordered some blanched almond flour online and I can't wait to get it and start baking! But in the meantime, I had recently bought a bag of Trader Joe's almond meal. I figured I would experiment with it and see if I could come up with something tasty. I think I did. The cookies were soft and chewy and had lots of chocolate flavor. And even though there is not a lot of sugar or fat in the recipe, you are not left disappointed after eating these cookies. They are definitely satisfying and best of all, they are low carb. Yay!! We can eat more :)
They are also much better for you than regular flour based chocolate chip cookies since almonds contain tons of nutrients, vitamin E and protein. They are also perfect for anyone on a gluten free diet. Just make sure you use gluten free oats!

I plan an experimenting more with almond flour. I want to try making brownies, muffins and maybe even a cake. If anyone has a great recipe using almond flour, I'd love to hear about it.

Almond Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Bites
adapted from Elana's Pantry

2 ½ cups Trader Joe's almond meal
3/4 cup old fashioned oatmeal, ground fine in blender or food processor
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup grapeseed oil
½ cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (such as Ghiardelli 60% Cocao)
  1. In a large bowl, combine almond flour, ground oatmeal, salt and baking soda
  2. In a medium bowl combine grapeseed oil, maple syrup and vanilla
  3. Stir wet ingredients into the almond/oatmeal flour mixture until thoroughly combined
  4. Fold in chocolate chips
  5. Spoon 2 tablespoons of dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet, press down to flatten
  6. Bake at 350º for 7 to 10 minutes, until lightly golden
  7. Cool cookies on the baking sheets for 20 minutes, then serve

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Banana Pecan Biscotti

This is a great recipe for the holidays. It reminds me of banana bread when it is baking in the oven, which always makes me feel like I am home with mom. I added a little maple flavoring to the recipe because whenever my mom made banana bread when I was living at home, she would always make a maple glaze to put over the top. It was the best part of the bread. In this case though, I opted for a dark chocolate drizzle for the top. Who wouldn't love that?

I adapted a cooking light recipe to create a delicious holiday biscotti perfect for gift giving. I just sent these and gingerbread biscotti to my brother who lives out of state. I will post the gingerbread recipe soon.

Banana Pecan Biscotti
adapted from Cooking Light

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup mashed very ripe banana (about 2 bananas)
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or canola)
  • 1 teaspoon molasses (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple flavor extract
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • Cooking spray
  • Dark chocolate chips, melted (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 350°.

    Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Combine banana, oil, vanilla, maple, molasses and egg in a medium bowl; stir in flour mixture and pecans (dough will be sticky).

    With a dough scraper or spatula divide dough into 4 parts. Scoop dough onto parchment lined baking sheets; shaping dough into 4 (8-inch-long) rolls with wet hands. Flatten to 1/2-inch thickness.

    Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes. Remove rolls from baking sheet; cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Cut each roll diagonally into 12 (1/2-inch) slices. Place slices, cut sides down, on baking sheet. Reduce oven temperature to 250°; bake 12 minutes. Turn cookies over; bake an additional 12 minutes (cookies will be slightly soft in center but will harden as they cool). Remove from baking sheet; cool completely on wire racks.

    Drizzle with dark chocolate if desired.

    Saturday, October 02, 2010

    Double Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

    Get Your Chocolate Fix..
    and Your Vegetables All In One Bite!

    For a final goodbye to Summer, I decided to make my favorite muffin recipe. I made a few revisions to my original recipe and I think they are even better now! I know the combination of chocolate and zucchini sounds a bit suspicious, but trust me, you do not taste the zucchini at all.
    The flavor is very chocolatey and the texture is soft and velvety. Very moist as well, due to the zucchini, of course! What more could you ask for in a muffin? Oh, and by the way, they're somewhat low-fat too!

    Chocolate Zucchini Muffins
    by Mixed Salad Annie

    1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
    1 cup whole wheat flour
    1/2 cup dutch processed cocoa
    1 tsp. baking soda
    2 tsp. baking powder
    1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
    1/4 cup
    1/3 cup extra light olive oil (or canola oil)
    1/2 cup granulated sugar
    3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
    2 eggs
    2 tsps. vanilla
    6 oz. container "SO Delicious" Cultured Coconut Milk
    2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium, unpeeled, do not squeeze)
    1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

    Preheat oven to 375º. Spray non-stick muffin tin with cooking spray or line with paper cups.

    Melt the butter in a small bowl in the microwave. Stir in cocoa and heat for another 30 seconds. Set aside to cool.
    Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt; set aside.

    Cream together cocoa butter mixture and sugars in mixing bowl until well combined,
    using electric mixer at medium speed. Beat in oil; add coconut milk, then
    blend in eggs and vanilla. Slowly add dry ingredients and blend until just combined. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips with a rubber spatula. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins. If you have extra batter

    Decrease oven temperature to 350º.
    Bake 19 - 24 minutes, turning pan halfway through. Muffins are done when toothpick inserted into center of muffins comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Chocolate Apricot Cake

    It was Mom's birthday this past weekend and of course I baked her a cake. Not just any 'ol cake, but a cake reminiscent of her birth place. Mom was born in Northern Italy, close to Austria. There is a famous cake called the "Sachertorte" that is a specialty in this region. It is a velvety rich chocolate cake with a thin apricot filling and covered in a chocolate ganache.

    The original cake was created in Vienna, Austria and the only other place in the world that offers the original cake besides Vienna and Salzberg, is in Bolzano, Italy which is located in northern Italy. The cake I made is VERY loosely based on this idea. The original sachertorte is much more dense and I used a much thicker apricot filling. I also opted for a creamy chocolate frosting that my mom has been making for years. I found a great chocolate cake recipe on Epicurious.com. It turned out very moist and delicious!

    Chocolate Apricot Cake

    Cake adapted from Bon Appetit-June 2010 by Cindy Mushet


    Nonstick vegetable oil spray
    2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
    1 3/4 cups sugar
    3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    2 teaspoons baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup water
    3/4 cup buttermilk*
    3/4 cup vegetable oil
    3 large eggs

    * If you do not have buttermilk on hand, substitute 3/4 cup minus 1 tablespoon milk and 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar. Mix together and let stand 5-10 minutes. I used lactose-free milk and it turned out great!

    Special equipment: 2 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides

    Apricot Filling
    14 oz. apricot jam
    1 envelope unflavored gelatin
    2-3 fresh apricots, peeled, pitted and sliced (optional)

    Creamy Chocolate Frosting
    1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine
    1 cup Cocoa
    3 cups powdered sugar
    1/4 cup milk
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract


    For Cake:

    Position rack to middle of oven; preheat to 350°F. Coat two 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Line bottoms with parchment paper rounds; spray rounds.

    Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt into large bowl; add sugar and whisk to blend. Form a well in the center. Whisk 1 cup water, buttermilk, oil, and eggs in medium bowl to blend. Pour wet ingredients into well in dry ingredients; beat with hand mixer just to blend. Divide cake batter between prepared pans (about 3 cups each).

    Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 30 minutes, turning pans halfway through baking. A great tip from Cindy Mushet: (If cakes form domes, place kitchen towel atop hot cakes, then press gently with palm of hand to level.) Cool completely in pans on cooling racks. Cake can be made 1 day ahead. Cover cakes in pans and let stand at room temperature.

    For Filling:

    Line a 9 inch cake pan with plastic wrap, overlapping on all sides. Add the sliced apricots if using. Set aside.

    Add the apricot jam to a microwave safe bowl and heat for about 1 minute or until the jam starts to bubble. Add the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Pour jam mixture into prepared pan and refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.

    Place 1 layer of cake, flat side down, inside the cake pan containing the filling. Carefully place a plate over the top of the cake pan; gently and quickly flip over so that the cake and the filling is centered on the plate. Remove plastic wrap. With a knife, carefully trim the edges of the filling that overhang the cake. Place the second cake layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake. Decorate as desired.

    For Frosting:

    Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, until creamy and spreadable. Adding small amounts of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.

    Saturday, July 03, 2010

    Zucchini Side Dish

    So it's summer and there is plenty of zucchini to go around. If you're growing it, you are probably sick of looking at it. And if your not, you probably have neighbors dropping by with bags full of this summer squash or courgettes. Either way, here is a great recipe that I found online and adapted from Recipe Zaar. It's a very flavorful and fresh way of using up all that zucchini!!

    Interesting Side Note: According to Wickipedia.com, in a culinary sense, zucchini is a vegetable. However, from a botanical point of reference, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower. (Wild, huh?)

    Zucchini Side Dish

    Adapted from recipezaar.com by Tom Collins

    1 tablespoons butter
    1 tablespoons olive oil
    Fine sea salt
    Ground black pepper
    1 onion (cut into slices, I used Vadalia)
    2 celery stalks (cut on the diagonal 1/8" slices)
    4 garlic cloves; chopped
    1 (4 ounce) can mushrooms; drained and rinsed
    1 cup low-sodium chicken broth or water
    6 zucchini (small, or 3 zucchini and 3 summer squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick or less)
    Zest and Juice of 1/2 lemon
    3-4 tomatoes (diced into 1/2 inch cubes)
    1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped


    1. Melt the butter and oil in a pan large enough to hold the squash
    2. Add the onions, celery, salt and pepper. Saute until translucent on medium heat, adding some of the broth or water if it gets too dry and starts to brown.
    3. Add the garlic, mushrooms, broth/water and squash
    4. Add more salt and pepper to taste
    5. Cook on high until broth boils
    6. Place a cover on the pan
    7. Reduce heat to a simmer
    8. Cook until the squash is crisp tender (only about 3-4 minutes), turning the squash over a few times during cooking (Even if it’s over-cooked, it still tastes great; it just won't look as pretty)
    9. Remove from the heat and add the tomatoes, lemon juice and zest and parsley
    10. Stir and let sit until the tomatoes are just heated -- You don’t want the tomatoes to cook

    Sunday, May 09, 2010

    Summer Ricotta Pie

    This is a lightened up version of the traditional Italian Easter Pie or Ricotta Pie. Adding berries makes it the perfect treat for any spring or summer get together. Mine was for Mother's Day.
    Happy Mother's Day Mom!!

    Summer Ricotta Pie
    adapted from "Edible: A Celebration of Local Foods"
    1 pie crust (use your favorite recipe or store bought)
    2 large eggs
    1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
    1/2 cup half and half
    1 1/2 cups reduced fat ricotta pie
    2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
    1 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 1/2 tablespoons Amaretto or Grand Marnier
    1/2 pint (1 cup) fresh berries, such as strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or a mix

    Preheat the oven to 350º. On a lightly floured surface, roll 1 disk of the pie-crust dough into a round, 12 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch diameter glass pie plate. Crimp the edge of the crust with your fingers or a fork.
    In a medium bowl, add the eggs and sugar; whisk until well blended. Whisk in the half and half and ricotta. Add the orange zest, lemon juice, vanilla, flour, salt and liquor and whisk well to combine.
    Pour the ricotta mixture into the pie crust. Scatter the berries evenly over the surface of the ricotta mixture.
    Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300º. Bake until the center of the pie is just firm to the touch and no longer jiggles when the pan is gently shaken, 50 minutes to one hour. Cool completely on rack before serving.

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Ham and Asparagus Frittata

    Asparagus is an elegant and delicious vegetable that pops up in all sorts of appetizers and entrees with the arrival of spring. It is a delightful addition in this tasty Italian omelet called a frittata. It can be served for breakfast, brunch or even dinner!

    Ham and Asparagus Frittata

    By Mixed Salad Annie - Adapted from Cooking Light
    2/3 cup chopped lower-sodium ham (about 3 ounces)
    1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    3 large egg whites
    2 large eggs
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/2 cup chopped leeks
    1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers, patted dry with paper towels
    1/2 cup slices asparagus (cut into 1-inch pieces)
    1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

    Preheat broiler.

    Scrample egg whites and eggs in a medium bowl; mix in ham, cheese, black pepper and salt.
    Heat the olive oil in a 9-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, roasted peppers, and asparagus; sauté 3-5 minutes. Add egg mixture; reduce heat to medium. Cook, covered, 3 minutes or until almost set. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Wrap handle of pan with foil; broil 3 minutes or until egg is set. Cut into 4 wedges.

    Saturday, January 02, 2010

    Crab Stuffed Mushrooms

    It's been a while since I've posted... I also miss reading all of your posts too! Things have been extremely busy with work and I have been just too exhausted to put anything up. However, I have been trying to keep all my recent recipes in order, so that I can share them with you- better late than never, right?

    Some new news is that I have been selling some of my biscotti over the holidays to a local cookie/cake bakery. Some of the flavors - pumpkin, pumpkin chocolate chip, double chocolate almond, triple chocolate, chocolate dipped vanilla, anisette, anise chocolate chip, maple walnut, and cranberry orange walnut (everyone's favorite). I love doing it, but it takes a lot of time, effort, and energy to do. The last being something I haven't had much of lately because my job requires 110% effort during the holiday season.

    Another thing I have been lapsing on is taking photos of the food I make :( I am sorry now that I didn't, because you can't see how beautiful these stuffed mushrooms looked... Well, you'll have to take my word for it. And they were delicious too.

    The inspiration for my recipe came from Gary's Stuffed Mushrooms- All Recipes.com. I served them for Christmas and everyone LOVED them. I love this recipe because it uses ingredients that most people already have in their pantries. So easy too! (The hardest part is cleaning the mushrooms - I hate it!)

    Crab Stuffed Mushrooms
    by Mixed Salad Annie

    3-4 small packages fresh white mushrooms, wiped clean, stems removed, chopped and reserved
    1 (6 ounce) package chicken flavored dry stuffing mix
    1 (8 ounce) package low-fat cream cheese, softened
    1 - 6 ounce can crab meat, rinsed and drained of excess water
    1/4 cup olive oil
    3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
    1 small shallot, minced
    1/2 red bell pepper, small diced
    salt and pepper to taste

    Arrange mushroom caps (bottoms up) on two baking sheets lined with foil and sprayed with oil. Prepare chicken flavored stuffing mix according to package directions. Preheat oven to 375º.

    Add 1 tablespoon of oil to a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add shallot and red bell pepper and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat.

    In a medium bowl, mix together reserved chopped mushroom stems, prepared stuffing, cream cheese, crab meat and shallot mixture. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Liberally stuff mushrooms with the mixture. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake uncovered in the preheated oven, 15 to 20 minutes, or until stuffing is lightly browned.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    The Easiest Tiramisu Ever

    Not Traditional, but So What!

    If you have ever made tiramisu before than you know it is a little time consuming. It involves making a
    zabalione which requires a bit of time beating the eggs over low heat in order to ensure that they are safe to eat (no salmonella!). The traditional way to prepare it also requires fresh whipped cream made from scratch- which takes time and not to mention adds more calories. So when I came across this quick, easy and light recipe from Supreme Dairy Farms (located right here in RI!), I knew I had to try it.

    The Supreme recipe uses ricotta cheese in place of the mascarpone and no eggs which is not traditional at all for a tiramisu. I would have tried the recipe just as written, but I happened to get a great deal on mascarpone cheese at Whole Foods and it was sitting in the fridge just waiting for a reason to be used! So I obliged.

    The other great thing about this recipe is that it can be made ahead and can even be frozen. I actually made this 2 weeks ago and popped it in the freezer. So I am all set to bring it over my brothers house for Thanksgiving, and he is none the wiser. He doesn't need to know that I didn't slave over it like I usually do... (Unless he reads this post, Hi Bro!)
    Happy Thanksgiving everyone ;)

    The Easiest Tiramisu Ever
    adapted from Supreme Ricotta Cheese

    24 ladyfingers
    3⁄4 cup espresso or strong coffee, cooled
    1 teaspoon granulated sugar
    1 -8 3/4 oz container mascarpone cheese
    1 cup fat-free or p
    art skim ricotta cheese, well drained
    1 -6 oz. container fat-free vanilla yogurt
    , well drained
    3 tablespoons powdered sugar
    3 tablespoons amaretto liquor or brandy or coffee liquor
    1/2 cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
    1/4 cup cocoa powder or 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange rind

    Preheat oven to 375°, arrange ladyfingers on baking sheet. Bake until toasted, about 5 mins. Mix the teaspoon of sugar with the espresso and dip ladyfingers in it quickly turning to coat each side.

    Arrange half of the ladyfingers in a 2 or 2 1⁄2 quart oval or rectangular serving dish.
    In a small bowl, mix mascarpone, ricotta, yogurt, sugar and liquor; beat thoroughly until smooth. Spread half of the mixture on the ladyfingers in the serving dish. Sprinkle with half of the chocolate. Repeat layers of ladyfingers, dipped in espresso, mascarpone mixture and chocolate. Cover with foil and refrigerate at least 1 hour. Dust with cocoa powder or fresh grated orange rind
    before serving.

    Monday, November 02, 2009

    Butternut Squash and Chicken Pasta

    Golden and Delightful!

    This is a delicious and hearty autumn entree. Butternut squash gives this pasta and chicken dish a new and unexpected twist.

    Most people think of butternut squash as a side dish served with baked chicken or turkey, but it is the star in this entree. It has a slightly nutty flavor and the smooth and silky texture make this dinner a winner!!!

    Butternut Squash and Chicken Pasta
    by Mixed Salad Annie
    Serves 4

    1/2 bag of egg noodle pasta
    1/4 cup toasted pine nuts, 1 tablespoon reserved for garnish
    6 fresh sage leaves, minced and 2 whole sage leaves for garnish
    1 shallot, finely chopped
    2 tablespoons butter, divided
    3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
    2 cooked rotisserie chicken breasts, diced*
    1 small/medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    1 tablespoon sugar
    3/4 cup chicken broth
    1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    3 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, minced 1 tablespoon reserved for garnish
    1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon reserved for garnish
    Salt and pepper to taste

    Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and keep warm.

    Heat 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons oil in a large dutch oven or large saute pan. Add the butternut squash in a single layer and cook without moving for about 5 minutes. Add sugar and stir; cook 4 additional minutes. Add salt, pepper and broth. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes longer or until tender. Remove from pan, making sure to get all the juices and squash from the bottom of the pan; set aside.

    In the same now empty pan, over medium heat, add the remaining tablespoon butter and tablespoon of oil. Add shallot, sage and nutmeg; cook 1-2 minutes. Add chicken* and the butternut squash and stir to combine.

    Remove pan from heat; add cooked pasta, 1/2 cup reserved cooking water, lemon juice, parsley, cheese, 3 tablespoons pine nuts and more salt and pepper to taste. Toss to combine, adding additional pasta water if necessary.

    Place in a large serving platter and top with reserved tablespoon parsley, reserved pine nuts, reserved parmesan cheese and 2 whole sage leaves.

    *If you would like to use raw boneless skinless chicken breast halves in place of the cooked breasts...
    After sauteing shallots and sage leaves, add 1 lb. diced boneless skinless chicken breast halves; sauté 5 minutes or until done. Continue with the rest of the recipe.

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Cinnamon Chip Biscotti

    I finally made cookies using cinnamon chips. I know it's not a new concept anymore- I feel like I am so behind on keeping up with all the cooking trends. I held off on buying the cinnamon chips because I am a freak when it comes to reading nutrition labels. When I read the label of the supermarket brand of cinnamon chips, I really didn't want to buy them anymore. It had lots of unhealthy ingredients and quite a bit of saturated fat. And I figured I could do without and just make cinnamon cookies the old fashioned way, with plain ol' cinnamon.

    But recently I was in a local coffee shop and I saw the most beautiful cinnamon chip scones. And I got the bug to buy them again. So I figured I would ask the baker what kind of chips they use and if they were a premium quality. Sure enough, they were a better quality chip and he offered to sell me a pound. Yay, I was so excited. I smelled cinnamon in my car all day long and made the cookies the next day. My house smelled so wonderful while they were baking. Just for that reason alone, I think you should make these. You won't be disappointed!

    Plus they are so easy to make. Here are the logs on the baking sheet before baking...
    And here are the biscotti sliced and ready to go back into the oven...I usually only bake my biscotti between 5-8 minutes per side so that they are crispy but slightly soft, rather than break your teeth hard. I find that most people like them better that way. (Although I like the hard biscotti too, cause they're great for dipping in coffee or tea!)
    Cinnamon Chip Biscotti
    by Mixed Salad Annie

    3 large eggs
    2 tablespoons canola oil
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    1 cup sugar
    2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
    3/4 cup cinnamon chips
    1 tablespoon cinnamon sugar

    Preheat oven to 325°.

    Combine eggs, oil, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer or wire whisk. Add sugar and cinnamon; mix well. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into the egg mixture; mix until just combined. Add cinnamon chips, stirring by hand to combine. Dough will be sticky.

    Using a rubber spatula, scoop small dollups of the dough out onto a parchment lined baking sheet; forming 2- 16" long rolls. Smooth out the sides and tops of the rolls and leave enough space between each roll for spreading. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar over dough.

    Bake at 325° for 20-30 minutes or until light golden and top springs back when touched. Let sheet cool 10 minutes on a wire rack. Carefully remove the rolls from the baking sheet onto a cutting board.

    Cut rolls diagonally into 1/2-inch slices. Place each slice- cut side down, on baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes. Turn cookies over; bake an additional 7-10 minutes (depending on how crisp you like your biscotti). Remove from baking sheet; let cool completely on a wire rack. They cookies will crisp up more as they cool.

    Sunday, October 04, 2009

    Peach Frangipane Tart

    Remember the pear tart I made a few weeks ago? Well, if you thought that looked good, you will really love this tart. This is actually exactly how I expected the pear tart to turn out. If you remember, I told you that I had searched the internet for hours to find the perfect recipe and to no avail ended up piecing together a few different recipe ideas. Well this recipe kind of fell into my lap, literally. I was looking at the Providence Journal last week and the food section fell out. I glanced through it and saw my perfect fruit almond tart recipe. I never knew it was called frangipane tart. I guess I would have found it online if I had known.

    Don't get me wrong, the pear tart was delicious, but this recipe blows the socks off that one! I love the texture of the almond center. It is moist and tastes perfect with the peaches. It is a little more work because this recipe calls for a crust, but if you buy a pre-made crust or pie shell, you will be all set. Actually, I keep wondering if it needs a crust at all. I will have to try making it again without and see if it holds up. Or you could and let me know how it turns out. :)

    Peach Frangipane Tart
    Adapted from the Providence Journal/ Los Angeles Times-Kirk McKoy

    Pie crust for a 11" tart or 9" pie pan (store bought or see recipe below)
    2 1/4 cups almond meal
    2/3 cup sugar
    3 eggs
    1 teaspoon pure almond extract
    1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
    2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
    Lemon zest from one small lemon
    2 medium peaches, peeled and sliced about 1/8" thick
    1 tablespoon honey
    1/2 teaspoon water

    Heat oven to 375º. If using a prepared pie shell, proceed to next paragraph. Otherwise, roll the pastry dough to a thickness of 1/4 inch and fit it into a 9" tart pan with a removable bottom or a pie pan, trimming away any excess. Refrigerate until firm.

    Meanwhile, in a food processor, mix the ground almonds, sugar, eggs, almond extract, salt, butter and lemon zest to make a smooth paste. Set aside.

    Pre-bake the pie shell: Prick the entire bottom and sides of the pie shell with a fork. Place a sheet of foil or parchment paper in the tart shell and fill it with dried beans or baking beads and bake until light golden brown, about 10 minutes. (Timing will vary depending on the dough. My crust baked for 35 minutes). Remove from the oven and remove the foil and beans.

    Spread the almond mixture evenly into the tart shell. Arrange the peach slices concentrically over the top of the almond mixture, pushing them in a bit.

    Place the filled shell on a baking sheet and bake until the almond mixture is puffed and golden, 40-45 minutes.

    Warm the honey and water in a small saucepan or in the microwave, until fluid. When the tart is done, lightly brush the top with a bit of the honey mixture. Serve at room temperature.
    Serves 8.

    Cream Cheese Pie Crust
    adapted from Cook's Illustrated "No-Fear Pie Crust"
    Makes one thin 11' tart shell or 9-inch Pie Shell

    The pastry can be pressed into the pie plate and refrigerated for up to 2 days or double-wrapped in plastic and frozen for up to 1 month. Once baked and cooled, the shell can be wrapped tightly in plastic and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.

    1 1/4 Flour
    1/4 teaspoon Table Salt
    6 Tablespoons Smart Balance Buttery Spread
    4 tablespoons low-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel- 1/3 less fat), softened but still cool

    Lightly coat tart pan or Pyrex pie plate with cooking spray. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt together in bowl.

    With electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat spread and cream cheese in large bowl, stopping once or twice to scrape down beater and sides of bowl, until completely homogeneous, about 2 minutes. Add flour mixture and combine on medium-low until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal, about 20 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl. Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat until dough begins to form large clumps, about 30 seconds. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface, gather into ball, and flatten into 6-inch disk. Place in between two large sheets of waxed paper and roll out to about 11-12 inches. Remove top sheet of waxed paper and transfer to greased tart pan or pie plate.

    Press dough evenly over bottom of pie plate and up to the top of the sides. Remove any excess dough and patch up any missing pieces with excess. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

    Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly prick the entire bottom and sides of the pie shell with a fork. Place a sheet of foil or parchment paper in the tart shell and fill it with dried beans or baking beads and bake until light golden brown, 25-35 minutes. Cool on wire rack.

    Sunday, September 27, 2009

    Peanut Butter Biscotti

    Who doesn't love cookies? I know I for one could live on them. I love all kinds of cookies, cake-like, soft and chewy, and for sure- crisp and crunchy. In other words, biscotti. The word biscotti means twice baked in Italian.I learned that word a long time ago when I was a kid from my Italian mama. My mom loves to bake, but doesn't usually make biscotti. She likes to make bars mostly. But she is a big fan of MY biscotti and can't wait to try any new batch that I dream up.
    She really enjoyed this last recipe. I asked her what she thought of them and she said "DELIZIOSO!"

    Peanut Butter Biscotti
    by Mixed Salad Annie

    1 1/4 cup unbleached AP flour
    1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    1/2 cup quick cooking oats
    2 tablespoons wheat germ (optional)
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
    1 cup plus 1/8 cup granulated sugar
    1/8 cup molasses
    2 teaspoons pure vanilla
    1 whole egg, plus 2 egg whites
    4 teaspoons canola oil
    1/2 cup natural peanut butter
    1/4 cup water
    1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

    Preheat oven to 350º. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or foil sprayed with cooking spray.

    In a food processor, grind the oatmeal and wheat germ if using, until fine. In a bowl sift together oatmeal mixture, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, peanut butter, molasses and water. Add flour mixture and mix just until ingredients are combined. If mixture is too dry, add an additional teaspoon or two of water. Stir in chips.

    Divide the dough in half; place half the dough on one side of the cookie sheet and form into a log about 3 inches wide. Repeat with second half of dough keeping logs about 3 inches apart; flatten slightly. Bake until light brown, about 30-35 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300°. Once cool cut log into 3/4-inch thick bars. Place bars, cut side down, back on the cookie sheet and bake for about 10-20 depending on your preference of crunchiness. minutes longer. (Cookies will crisp once cool.)

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Ultimate Peanut Butter Fingers

    This recipe is a redesign of my mother's classic Peanut Butter Fingers (Bars). I am always eating way to many of these whenever she makes them. (And she makes them a lot). You just can't resist them. They are everyone's favorite in my family. No matter what party or event they are brought to, they 're always a hit! There is just something about peanut butter and chocolate that just go together. Hmmm, it seems like I've had these flavors before. Two great tastes that taste great together. It would make a great candy. ;)

    So you must be wondering why I am redesigning them if they are perfect already. Well, you know me, I'm always trying to lower the fat and reduce the sugar in my baked treats. Mostly because, like I said before, I eat way to many of them. So I try to make them a little less fattening and a little more "healthy" if I can. Plus I just felt like experimenting with the recipe. I also added a cream cheese peanut butter filling. Of course this does add a little more decadence to the recipe but hey I never said I was perfect. ;)

    I reduced the butter from 1 stick (8 tablespoons) to 4 tablespoons. I used heart healthy canola oil in place of the other 4 tablespoons of butter. It only has 1 gram of saturated fat per tablespoon as compared with the 7 grams in the butter. For the peanut butter, I only used one tablespoon in the bars themselves but used 1/2 cup in the filling. So that's kind of a wash. I also reduced the sugar by half. And guess what, no one ever noticed. We really don't need all that sugar in our desserts. It is just not necessary. The chocolate topping is a lighter version as well. It has no butter in it compared with my mom's original recipe which has 3 tablespoons. It is very deep in flavor, so if you love dark chocolate, these are for you!

    I think they turned out great. But don't take it from me, make them and see for yourself!

    Peanut Butter Fingers

    by Mixed Salad Annie

    4 Tbsp.(1/2 stick) unsalted butter or tub margarine, softened
    3 Tbsp. canola oil
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    1/4 cup white sugar
    1 egg
    1 Tbsp. peanut butter
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1/4 tsp. salt
    2 tsp. vanilla
    1 cup of flour
    1 cup of quick oatmeal
    1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds (optional)

    Preheat oven 350 degrees.
    Grease a cookie sheet. (Mine is about 12 x 8).

    Mix the sugars and butter until light and fluffy. Mix in the oil, egg, and peanut butter.
    Add baking soda, salt and vanilla; mix well. Add flour and flax seed if using; mix until just combined. Add oatmeal and mix until just combined.

    Push dough evenly into cookie sheet with fingers. (Cut a sheet of waxed paper the same size as the cookie sheet and place over the dough. It will be a lot easier to spread the mixture into the pan. Remove waxed paper). Bake around 18 to 20 minutes depending on your oven, until they are light golden brown.

    Peanut Butter Filling:
    1/2 cup peanut butter, room temperature
    8 ounces low-fat cream cheese (Neufchatel Cheese- 1/3 less fat) or fat-free, softened
    1/3 cup sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

    In a medium bowl, beat together the peanut butter, cream cheese, vanilla and sugar. Mix until the sugar is completely incorporated. Spoon mixture in between 2 sheets of waxed paper (cut the same size as the cookie sheet). Roll out to within 1/2 of the edges. Remove top sheet of waxed paper and place on top of the cooled peanut butter fingers. Carefully remove the top sheet of waxed paper. Refrigerate to chill. Top with chocolate topping.

    Bittersweet Chocolate Topping:

    adapted from Hershey's
    2 bars (2 ounces) unsweetened baking chocolate, broken into pieces
    1/3 cup water
    2/3 cup of sugar
    3/4 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract

    Heat water and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Add sugar and continuing to stir, bring to a boil. Stir until all the sugar has dissolved and mixture is slightly thickened. Take off heat and stir in extract.

    Pour over chilled bars. Spread evenly to cover. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

    Sunday, September 06, 2009

    Big, Chewy, n' Sorta Healthy Low-Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Loving cookies as I do, I'm always on the look out for a "lighter" cookie recipe. I tend to eat so many when I bake them that I feel I should make them a little, dare I say, "healthy". Ok, I know many of you probably just clicked off my blog, but for those of you that stayed to read on. Thanks :) hahaha

    When I read this recipe from Cooks Country, I was intrigued. The idea of using pureed dates to replace some of the fat in the recipe is not a new concept, but interesting since I have used pureed prunes in the past in baking to reduce the fat, but never dates. The idea of browning the butter in order to "mask" the flavor of the dates, was brilliant. I know browned butter is not a new concept, but, I surely never thought of using it to disguise another flavor. And it really does mask the flavors of the dates, just as they claim it would.

    So ok, you're probably wondering how why I am calling them "sort of healthy". Well, besides the dates, I used some whole wheat pastry flour, ground flax seeds and walnuts. Flax seeds are a very rich source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. There are many benefits that research has shown flax seeds may provide; including, improve heart health, regulate blood pressure, improve the immune system, help rheumatoid arthritis, reduce hot flashes, and fight breast and colon cancers. Walnuts are also a good source of omega-3. Plus, I reduced the sugar in the recipe! And less refined sugar in our diets is always a good thing. Is that healthy enough for you? Hehe!

    And by the way, they passed the cookie snob test. All my tasters were totally clueless that they were low-fat and I didn't bother to tell them that there were dates and flax seeds in them. Hey, what they don 't know, won't hurt them! ;)

    Big, Chewy, n' Sorta Healthy Low-Fat Chocolate Chip Cookies
    adapted from Cook's Country

    1 cup water
    1/4 cup finely chopped dates (if using pre-chopped dates, use 1 extra tablespoon)
    3 tablespoons unsalted butter
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    1 tablespoon finely ground flax seeds
    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup packed light brown sugar
    1 large egg
    1 tablespoon vanilla extract
    1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
    1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped

    Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

    Bring the water and dates to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Simmer until the dates are tender and most of the water has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, work the dates through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Scrape the dates remaining in the strainer into the bowl (you should have about 1/4 cup puree. If you are short a little, you can add an equal amount of canola oil to replace the amount of date puree you are missing). Cook the butter in a small stainless steel saucepan over medium heat until nutty brown, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes. Watch carefully so it doesn't burn. The butter should be a golden nutty brown color with dark brown bits at the bottom of the pan. (If it turns completely dark brown it is burnt; discard and start again.) Let cool.

    Whisk the flours, baking soda, ground flax seeds and salt together in a medium bowl. In a large bowl, beat the melted butter, brown sugar, and date puree together with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined.
    Reserve 2 tablespoons of the chocolate chips, then mix in the remaining chips and walnuts.

    Working with 2 tablespoons of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls, tear the balls in half, and press back together with the torn side up. Lay the cookies jagged side up on the pre­pared baking sheets, spaced about 2 inches apart. Press the remaining 2 tablespoons of chips evenly over the cookies.

    Bake the cookies until the edges are set and beginning to brown but the centers are still soft and puffy, 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking. Do not under bake, these cookies will remain chewy when cooked to a light golden brown.

    Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet.

    Monday, August 10, 2009

    Pear Almond Tart

    Got Pears??
    My mom has a pear tree in her yard and this year they are growing like crazy. Some years she doesn't get many but this year she hit the jackpot. They are fairly small, so working with them is a little difficult, but in the end this tart was definitely worth it.

    I see a pear tart at my favorite local bakery all the time and it always looks so tempting. It is made with almond paste. I love almonds and have worked with almond paste in the past but have never made my own. But I decided to try since I had just purchased a bag of Trader Joe's almond meal and wanted to use it for something.

    I searched the internet for hours looking for a recipe using almond meal to make almond paste. Nada. Well, I think I found one, but it didn't sound right to me, so I made up my own recipe.
    For the rest of the tart, my inspiration came from Epicurious and Love n Bake. I didn't want to go through the trouble of making a crust for the tart so I ended up combining some ideas from both recipes and came up with a great easy to make and beautiful tart.

    I think it turned out excellent. Actually, I tricked my co-workers to believe it came straight from the bakery because I put it in an empty bakery box I had from some other pastries I had bought the day before. They all thought it was delicious and when I told them I had made it, they didn't believe me!!
    I have to say it did look pretty professional. In the photo of the whole tart, I took the photo before adding the apricot glaze, so it looks a little bland. But once I added the glaze, it took on a glossy glow and it perked right up!

    I will definitely will be making this again. I hope you give it a try.

    Pear Almond Tart

    For the Pears...
    4 cups water
    1/4 cup sugar
    1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1 1/2 lbs of firm pears, about 8 small home grown or 3 medium-size pears (such as Bosc), peeled

    For the Torte...
    1/3 cup, plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
    3/4 cup Almond Paste (recipe below)
    1 teaspoon almond extract
    1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
    3 eggs
    1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon sea salt
    1⁄2 teaspoon cinnamon combined with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar

    For Topping:
    2 tablespoons apricot preserves
    1 teaspoon water

    Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Generously grease a 10-inch cake or tart pan with butter and sprinkle on 1 Tablespoon of the sugar. Set aside.

    For Pears:
    Over medium-high heat, bring water, sugar, and lemon juice to boil in large saucepan, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add pears. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 20 minutes or until the pears are very tender, stirring occasionally. Cool pears in syrup. (This can be prepared up to 2 days in advance. Cover and refrigerate.)

    Almond Paste
    1 cup almond meal (I used Trader Joe's)
    1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
    1 egg white
    1 teaspoon almond extract

    Pulse almond meal in a food processor or blender. Add in confectioners sugar and process until completely combined. Beat egg white slightly, then slowly add into the almond mixture with the processor running. Add almond extract and pulse several more times.

    For the Torte:
    Beat the almond paste and 1/3 cup of the sugar in an electric stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Add the butter and beat on medium high speed until completely incorporated, about 2 to 3 minutes.
    Beat in the eggs. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly add the flour, baking powder and salt, mixing until just combined.
    Pour the batter into the pan, spreading evenly with a spatula.

    Stem pears and cut each in half lengthwise; scoop out cores. Cut each half into thin slices. Arrange the pears, in a circular pattern covering the entire surface of the batter, slightly overlapping. Place smaller slices in the center. Sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar mixture.

    Bake until the batter puffs up, the edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 30 - 35 minutes.

    In a small saucepan combine the apricot preserves and water and heat until it becomes translucent and loose. Brush the apricot glaze over the entire top of the pear tart.

    Serve slightly warm or at room temperature. If desired, add whipped cream or ice cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

    Thursday, July 30, 2009

    Annie's Peanut Butter Power Bars

    Jump-start your day with one of these delicious bars

    They are packed with protein from the peanut butter, antioxidants from the berries, B vitamins from whole wheat flour and wheat germ, and heart healthy fats from the walnuts. Although there is a fair amount of butter used in this recipe, I replaced half of the saturated fat in a typical bar with a healthier fat ~ canola oil. So you still get all that buttery flavor with a lot less fat!

    The inspriration for these bars came from one of my favorite desserts that my mom makes; her Apricot Bars. They are buttery, crunchy and fruity all in one. In one word they are heavenly.
    The only thing is that I end up eating way to many of them whenever she makes a batch. I think I devoured 3/4 of them in one sitting once. NOT GOOD -( 'Er well they were good, but not good for me.) I shutter to think of the calories and saturated fat that I inhaled on that fine day.

    So I decided to make a healthy alternative to my Mom's bars. I can't say that they are better than my Mom's recipe, but they certainly were delicious; and healthy too. I could have gone with tub margarine in place of butter, but I think one of the best things about these bars are the buttery taste. As I said above, I did reduce the butter by half and replaced it with canola oil. I am a firm believer in all good things in moderation. (Except of course when Mom puts a plate of those Apricot Bars in front of me!)

    Starting with great ingredients is the first step...

    Press half of the dough into a parchment or foiled lined bake sheet and then load on the filling!

    To make putting on the top layer of dough easier, roll it out in between 2 sheets of waxed paper.

    Lift off the top sheet, turn over, place on top of the filling and remove the 2nd sheet of waxed paper.

    When the bars are light golden brown, remove from the oven and let cool. Grab the edges of the parchment paper and lift the bars out of the pan. Cut in half and then into equal size bars.

    Annie's Peanut Butter Power Bars
    by Mixed Salad Annie

    1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
    1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
    1 tsp. baking soda
    1/2 tsp. salt
    2 tablespoons wheat germ (optional)
    1/4 cup natural cane sugar
    1/4 cup packed natural brown sugar
    1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
    1/3 cup canola oil
    1 tsp. either almond or vanilla extract
    1 egg
    1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
    3/4 cup of your favorite preserves (I used Apricot, but often use Raspberry as well)
    1 1/2 cups natural peanut butter
    1 1/2 cups mixed dried fruit (such as Sunsweet Antioxident Blend)

    Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
    In an electric mixer or large mixing bowl blend together the butter, sugars and oil until creamy.
    Add the egg and extract and blend until well combined. Add the wheat germ. Sift the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Add to the butter mixture slowly until just combined. Gently mix in the walnuts. Reserve half of the mixture (about 1 1/2 cups) and set aside.

    Press the mixture onto the bottom of a 8 1/2 x 12 inch (or 9 x 11) baking pan lined with parchment paper or foil. Spread 1/2 of the peanut butter over the mixture evenly. Dot the preserves all over, staying within 1/2 inch from edge. Sprinkle the dried fruit evenly over the top. Dot the remaining peanut butter evenly over the top.

    Place reserved mixture between two sheet of waxed paper. Roll the mixture to the size of the pan. Remove the top piece of waxed paper, carefully flip it and place on top of the prepared mixture in the pan. Remove the remaining waxed paper.

    Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool completely. Grab the edges of the parchment paper and lift the bars out of the pan. Cut in half and then into equal size bars.