Saturday, December 22, 2007

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan Crisps

Sounds Strange, But It's Really Good!

This was the first time I have ever even tried cauliflower soup. And I am pleased to say I like it. I chose two recipes to work from, one from Rachel Ray and the other from Dave Liberman.
I liked certain things from each recipe, so I decided to combine the two.

I used the recipe for the Parmesan Crisps from Dave Liberman and was disappointed. He suggested using foil, but the crisps just stuck to the foil. When I tried to release them from the foil they turned into toasted Parmesan crispies instead. It was still tasty, but I really wanted a crisp that I could place into the bowl for a better presentation. I fixed this problem in the recipe below by recommending the use of parchment paper. Let me know how it works out if you try it.

Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan Crisps

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon margarine or butter
1 large head cauliflower
1 rib celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium shallots or 1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons wondra flour, or all-purpose flour
1 quart low-sodium chicken stock
1 cup fat-free evaporated milk, or half-and-half or whole milk
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
Coarse sea salt and coarse black pepper

Parmesan Crisps:
1 cup shredded Parmesan

Remove and discard the leaves and thick core from the cauliflower, coarsely chop cauliflower, and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or soup pot over medium heat and add the shallot, celery and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the cauliflower florets and thyme and stir. Season again with salt.

Push the vegetables to the side of the pot. Melt the tablespoon of margarine or butter on empty side of pot and add flour to it. Cook for 1 minute, stirring the flour in the margarine/butter. Mix in chicken broth and milk. Bring up to a simmer and cook
until the cauliflower is very soft and falling apart, about 15-20 minutes.

Remove from heat and puree soup using an emersion blender, food processor or blender and return to pot.
Add the Parmesan and stir until smooth. Check seasoning and add salt and black pepper if needed. Keep warm until ready to serve.

Meanwhile, make the Parmesan crisps:
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Spread the shredded cheese over the parchment in 1 even thin layer. Bake about 10 minutes until golden brown and crisps. Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes. Break sheet of crisp cheese into large pieces and garnish each soup bowl with a couple of pieces.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Italian Prune Cookie Recipe

One Of My Favorite Cookies

I have made these cookies many times but have never posted the actual recipe. Well here it is in all it's glory.

Don't put your nose up because it's made with prunes. Prunes have a bad rap, but remember they are just dried plums. They sort of taste like raisins only better. If you have never had an Italian Prune Cookie, I think it's about time you did. Give them a try, besides prunes are really good for you with lots of anti-oxidants and yes of course, fiber!

Italian Prune (Dried Plum) Cookies

4 cups pitted prunes

3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon molasses
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/3 cup sugar
teaspoons orange rind
teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Dough: 4 1/4 cups flour, plus more for dusting board
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup milk (regular or soy)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons orange rind (about 1/2 large orange)
teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla

To Make Filling: Add prunes and water to a medium sauscepan and boil prunes until plump. Remove from heat and add sugar, molasses, corn syrup, salt, orange rind, vanilla and cinnamon. Puree mixture with an immersion blender or in a food processor until smooth. Set fruit mix aside overnight.

To Make the dough: In large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Make a well in the center. Add the eggs, milk, grated orange rind, vanilla and oil and mix to form dough. Knead the dough for a minute or 2, until it gets to the consistency for rolling.

Divide the dough into 3 parts.
Dust a rolling pin and a piece of waxed paper (measured the length of your cookie sheet) with a little flour. Roll each part of dough into a rectangle of 1/8 inch thickness. Put 1/3 of the fruit mix onto the dough rectangle and spread evenly. Lift one side of the waxed paper with the dough lengthwise into the center. Peel away from the waxed paper.
Fold the other side in slightly past center, and press seam lightly. Pinch ends to close. Lift the loaf on the waxed paper and flip onto a parchment lined cookie sheet with seam under.

Bake in 400 degree F (205 degrees C) oven for 15-16 minutes (top should be lightly brown). Allow to cool then cut crosswise slices about 1 inch thick.

To Make Glaze: Use juice of 1 lemon and enough confectioners' sugar to obtain consistency for glazing top of cookie. Drop sprinkles onto glaze and allow glaze to set.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Triple Chocolate Cookies

A "So Called Healthier" Die For!!

When I first saw this recipe on the food network it was touted as a healthier chocolate cookie.
Ellie Krieger, who is a nutritionist, came up with the recipe and made them on her show Healthy Appetite.

At first I believed that they were healthier because she only uses 1/2 stick of butter and replaces the other half with a more heart healthy fat, canola oil. She also replaces half of the all purpose white flour with whole wheat flour, which has more fiber and nutrients. The sugar is reduced slightly as well.

O.k. sounds healthier right? Well it does until you look at the amount of dough and number of cookies it makes. There is only one cup total of flour in the recipe. Most cookie recipes call for at least 2 cups of flour and use one stick of butter. So the ratio of flour to butter is the same, and then she adds more fat with the oil. Hey don't get me wrong, these cookies were absolutely delicious, but healthy, I'm not so sure about that!

I did alter the recipe a bit. First off by doubling it. Who would bother make cookies with one cup of flour? Really. Also, because I didn't have unprocessed cocoa. I'm glad that I noticed that in the original it says to use unsweetened cocoa (not processed dutch). I only had Droste cocoa which is dutch processed and you cannot interchange these two cocoas in recipes.

In researching this on the web I found out that Dutch-Processed cocoa is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids. Therefore it must be used in recipes calling for baking powder because it is neutral and does not react with baking soda. That is unless there are other acidic ingredients in sufficient quantities used.

I also substituted chocolate chips for the chopped chocolate. I would highly recommend Giardelli bittersweet (60% cocoa) chocolate chips. They are slightly larger than traditional chocolate chips and the flavor is unbelievable. The chocolaty flavor lingers in your mouth long after you've eaten a cookie! I think it made this recipe even better!

Triple Chocolate Cookies
adapted from
Ellie Krieger

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch processed)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips (recommended Giardelli
bittersweet~60% cocoa)
2/3 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add the oil and egg and beat until creamy. Mix in the vanilla.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Stir in the dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and the pecans and mix well. Using a tablespoon, scoop the batter onto an ungreased (parchment lined) cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Roasted Broccoli and Garlic

My New Favorite Way to Cook Broccoli

I love broccoli and have been eating for years. I usually just steam it and dress it with a little olive oil and sometimes vinegar. On occasion I have roasted it, but with mixed results. I finally found the perfect way to get tender broccoli with a great caramelized flavor.

In the past, when roasting broccoli, I would just put it on a baking sheet with oil and roast away. I would get tough stalks and burned florets. The trick is to cover the broccoli with foil for the first 10 minutes or so of cooking in order to ensure a tender stalk. You still get the caramelization without burning the florets. It is so good, you can't help but eat your vegetables.

Roasted Broccoli and Garlic

1 large bunch broccoli 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt Ground black pepper
8 cloves garlic, unpeeled

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 475 degrees. Cut broccoli florets away from stems. Peel stalk and cut into 1/2-inch-thick pieces on the bias. Cut crowns into 8 wedges.

Place broccoli and garlic on foil- or parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper and sugar if using; gently toss to evenly distribute oil and seasonings. Spread into even layer, placing flat sides down.

Cover baking sheet tightly with foil and cook for 10-15 minutes or until bottoms of broccoli pieces are golden and stems are fork tender. Remove sheet from oven, remove foil, and using spatula, carefully flip wedges. Return sheet to oven and continue to roast until broccoli is golden all over, 5-7 minutes longer. Transfer to serving dish, remove skins from garlic and serve immediately.

Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina

Quick and Satisfying

This is another Giada De Laurentiis recipe. It is really easy and quick to prepare. I think it is one of the most unpretentious recipes I've seen her make. Probably because it was on an episode where she was cooking with kids. The hardest part is waiting for it to come out of the oven.

Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina
adapted by Giada De Laurentiis

1 cup pastina pasta (or any small pasta)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup thin sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup cubed chicken breast (1-inch cubes)
1/2 cup diced leek, or onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes with juice
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon butter, plus more for buttering the baking dish

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until just tender, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain pasta into a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Saute until soft and liquid starts to evaporate, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms to the pasta.

Add the chicken to the saute pan and cook for 3 minutes. Add the leeks and garlic, stirring to combine, and cook until the onions are soft and the chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes more. Put the chicken mixture into the bowl with the cooked pasta. Add the canned tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Stir to combine. Place the mixture in a buttered 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking dish. In a small bowl mix together the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle over the top of the pasta mixture. Dot the top with small bits of butter. Bake until the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Roasted Green Beans with Leeks and Walnuts

My New Candy Fix!!!

I am hooked on these green beans. My inspiration for this recipe came from Cooks Illustrated. They have a recipe for Roasted Green Beans with Red Onion and Walnuts and it sounded really good. So I tried it with leeks (my onion of choice), changed the cooking method slightly(to get softer beans) and now I can't stop making it.

One night I actually ate the whole recipe myself. It is like candy to me. Which is good I guess. It is healthier to eat an entire tray of green beans than a tray of chocolate! Try it, and let me know if you are hooked as well.

Roasted Green Beans with Leeks and Walnuts

Serves 4 (unless you're like me~serves one)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 medium cloves garlic, thin sliced
1 pound green beans, stem ends snapped off
1 large leek, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil

Coarse sea salt and ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (toasted)

1. Combine vinegar, honey, thyme, and garlic in small bowl; set aside.

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 450 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; spread beans and leeks on baking sheet. Drizzle with oil; using hands, toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, toss to coat, and distribute in even layer. Cover with another sheet of aluminum foil and roast 15 minutes or until soft.

3. Remove baking sheet from oven. Using tongs, coat beans and onion evenly with vinegar/honey mixture; redistribute in even layer. Continue roasting until onions and beans are dark golden brown in spots and beans have started to shrivel, 8 to 10 minutes longer.

4. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and toss well to combine. Transfer to serving dish, sprinkle with walnuts, and serve. (Or you can eat them right from the pan, I won't tell if you don't).

Monday, December 03, 2007

Tuna and Artichoke Panini

This was a Yummy Sammy!

I have been thinking about making this sandwich for the longest time. I think I printed the recipe out almost a year ago from the food network (by Giada De Laurentiis, of course). I finally had the opportunity to make it because I actually ran out of chicken or any other meat in the house. It forced me to look into the pantry closet and cabinets to find an alternative. I had a large can of tuna and marinated artichokes so I knew it was the perfect time to make this recipe.

The mayonnaise spread was really tangy and delicious. I only used one clove of garlic as opposed to two as the original recipe stated and I'm glad I did because it was strong enough. I also tried to keep it on the light side and only used 1/8 cup of mayo verses 1/4 cup in Giada's version. The one thing I suggest not changing is using tuna packed in oil. I had a 12 ounce can of water packed tuna which I drained and added one teaspoon of olive oil to. It was good but I know the Italian tuna packed in oil is much tastier. So try it if you have the chance.

Tuna and Artichoke Panini

Recipe adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/8 cup mayonnaise
2 (6-oz.) cans tuna in olive oil, drained or one 12 oz. can in water, drained (add one tsp. olive oil)

1 (8 ounce) jar marinated artichokes, drained and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 Portuguese rolls, toasted lightly in the oven for crispiness

1 tomato, diced (optional)

Puree the olives, oil, garlic, and zest in a small bowl with an immersion blender or in a food processor until smooth and spreadable. Blend in the mayonnaise. Toss the tuna, artichokes, lemon juice, and pepper in a medium bowl, keeping the tuna in small chunks. Add one tablespoon of the mayonnaise mixture and mix to combine.

Slice rolls in half horizontally and hollow out the bottom and top halves of the bread. Spread the remaining olive puree over both cut sides of the bread. Spoon the tuna and artichoke mixture onto the bottom half of the bread. Sprinkle the tomatoes over. Cover with the bread top. Cut the sandwich crosswise and serve.