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.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Grilled Corn and Edamame Salad

A Great Summer Salad!

Grilled Fresh Sweet Corn Is The Star Here...
Straight From Confreda Greenhouses and Farm in Cranston... Picked That Same Day!

Accompanied By Some Other Colorful and Healthy Ingredients
Perfect for a light and satisfying lunch.
Packed with nutrition and most importantly, flavor!

Topped Off With Some Tri-Color Torellini~ Makes A Great Hearty Dinner!

This recipe was inspired by my local Stop & Shop market. I often see an Edamame Salad in the prepared food case in the deli section. It caught my eye because it is so colorful. It was pretty easy to deconstruct and make my own with some special touches.

I love making salads like this in the summer. And this one is refreshing and light, yet really is packed with nutritious ingredients. Plus, who can resist fresh sweet corn in the summer? Well there's no need to resist, since it is a good choice in any healthy diet. According to the World's Healthiest Foods Website, corn is a good source of vitamin B1, vitamin B5, folate, dietary fiber, vitamin C, phosphorus and manganese. It is especially good for cardiovascular health due to the great source of folate it supplies. The edamame (soy beans) are also super healthy to eat. They are a great source of protein and contain loads of healthy fats. The red bell pepper contains a huge amount of vitamin C and the black beans add more protein and of course, fiber.
This salad can be served as a light lunch, a side dish with grilled chicken or fish, or served with pasta as a main course entree.

Grilled Corn and Edamame Salad
by Mixed Salad Annie~ Serves 4-6

2 corn ears, silks and outer husks removed (leave a thin layer of husks on)
8 ounces (1/2 of one pound bag) frozen shelled edamame, cooked according to instructions on bag and cooled
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small shallot, minced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup green olives, pitted and chopped (optional)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
Dash freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint (parsley or basil can be substituted)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Heat a gas grill to medium-high, light a charcoal fire or place indoor stovetop grill over medium high heat.

Place corn directly on grill and cook for around 15 minutes, rolling corn occasionally so all sides get grill marks. Set aside until cool enough to handle, about 10 minutes.

Pull off charred husks and discard. Stand each ear on its wide end, and using a serrated knife, remove grilled corn kernels from cobs. Add kernels to a large bowl.

Add all remaining ingredients to bowl and mix well. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to let flavors meld together. Serve at room temperature.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Getting His Rhode Island Fix...

My brother is visiting this week from Washington State. He has been out of Rhode Island for many years but usually visits every year. One of the things that he misses most about the Ocean State (besides me :P) is the abundant seafood available and all the local faire.
So of course we had to get him his fix...
We ending up at Haborside Restaurant in East Greenwich which is right on the waterfront. They are known for there delicious baked stuffed lobsters, aka lobstermania. The stuffing was delicious! He and my mom both had the twin baked lobster special.

We started the dinner with a few appetizers. My brother was like a kid in a candy store. He couldn't decide what to get so he ordered everything. LOL. First the fried calamari, which were absolutely delicious. The crust was light and crunchy, not oily at all. They were cooked to perfection. Then a Rhode Island specialty- Stuffies! For all you out of staters, a stuffie is a Quahog (large clam) that is stuffed with a bread and seafood stuffing. You really can't find these anywhere out of New England.
These actually made my brother giddy...

The quahog is also used to make Rhode Islands famous Clear Broth Chowder (or as most Rhode Islanders would say..."chowda"). You can get red or white chowder in most places but the clear broth chowder is a true Rhode Island tradition. It was very tasty. I could especially taste the fresh herbs in it, mostly thyme I think.

I couldn't decide what to order, so I ended up with a combination plate- the Baked Seafood Platter. It had one baked stuffed sole, which was heavenly, 3 sea scallops, and one lovely baked stuffed shrimp. I really enjoyed it, but enjoyed watching my mom and brother the most.

I'll end by showing you the magnificent view from the restaurant. It was such a beautiful day and the water was so inviting. Well, got to go, my boat ride is waiting...

Saturday, July 04, 2009

A Day of Favorites!

It's summertime in New England and you know what that means. Or maybe you don't... But to me it means eating the regions specialties. Since Rhode Island is known as the Ocean State, that means seafood! You cannot live in this area and not get clam cakes and chowder (aka, chowda) at least once in the summer on the beach. It's obligatory! So my mom and I ended up at Iggy's Doughboys and Chowder House in Warwick. It is located right in Oakland Beach where you can enjoy the beautiful ocean without traveling all the way to South County. We had clam cakes and chowder and fish & chips. It was really good, but since my mom is my spokesperson I'll let her do the talking...

One day during my vacation I brought my mom out for some of her favorite things to eat. So of course that would include lobster. We went to Chelo's on the Waterfront in East Greenwich. They just happened to have a special going on that day; twin lobsters for $29.99. Not bad! And you can see her favorite drink to the left, a dry martini, no ice with a green olive. She usually adds a little water to it to dilute it a bit. There was a live band which were pretty good and we had a great time.

Of course the other summer must have in Rhode Island is homemade ice cream. We all have our favorites, but this time we ended up at an old favorite from years ago. In fact, it had been so long since I'd been that I wasn't even sure if they were still open. But to my delight, the Ice Cream Machine in Cumberland is still churning out some of the areas best ice cream!

It is located on Diamond Hill Rd. right across from Diamond Hill Park.

My mom had her favorite; pistachio.

Isn't she cute?

Hurry Mom get it before it melts!

There's just something about ice cream that brings the kid out in all of us!

It was a warm day and we had to eat pretty quickly because the ice cream was melting all over us! By the way, I had Butter Pecan with chocolate chip topping. They were sold out of my favorite; raspberry chocolate chip frozen yogurt :( But don't worry I enjoyed mine just as much and could have gone for seconds...

I hope you enjoyed this cook free/recipe free post! And I hope you are all enjoying your favorite things this summer!!

Berry Berry Cool Pie ~ Indeed!

For a quick refreshing treat you have to try this pie!!

I have to admit that when ever I see these recipes for no-bake pies, usually using cool whip and ready crust, I just shake my head and think, why bother? I figured those recipes were for the people who don't know how to cook/bake and they are not that great anyway so why waste my time. If I'm going to make a pie, I'm going to "really" make a pie. Well, I have to say, I finally get it...
I have been so busy lately, that I haven't had time to cook much, let alone bake a pie from scratch. So when I saw this recipe and knew I had all the ingredients on hand (which is another reason why I suppose so many people make these recipes), I figured what the heck.
And to my surprise, it was delicious!!!Another confession is that I even misread the instructions where it says to "freeze" it for 5 hours. I thought it said refrigerate and that's what I did and it was still delicious! I can imagine how great it would have been frozen too...

I did change a few things in the recipe. I already had a open can of sweetened condensed milk in the fridge. I used 1/3 cup in another recipe, so I used the remainder in this pie and believe me it was sweet enough so I'm glad that I used a lesser amount and I would do it again. Even my cool whip was partially used, so don't worry if you don't have a full container, it will still work with some missing!

The lemon zest and almond extract were my additions and I think they added a homemade taste to the pie, so don't leave them out if you can help it.

I hope you give this recipe a try and don't snub your nose at it like I would have done so many times. It really is, as Keebler says, "Berry Easy. Berry Cool. Berry Delicious!"

Berry Berry Cool Pie

recipe adapted from,

1 (14-ounce) can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, minus 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
Juice from one lemon
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 1/2 to 2 cups assorted fresh berries (I used blueberries and strawberries)
1 (8 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 (6 oz.) Keebler® Ready Crust ® Graham Pie Crust

1. Mix together sweetened condensed milk, almond extract, lemon zest and lemon juice in large bowl until blended. Stir in berries. Fold in whipped topping. Spoon into crust.
2. Freeze (or Refrigerate) 5 hours or until set. If frozen, let stand 30 to 40 minutes before serving. Garnish with additional berries and mint leaves if desired.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Berry Citrus Shortcake

Lately I've been feeling a little blue with this horrible weather and needed something to remind me that it really is Summer... So what better than a plate full of sweet juicy summer berries over a homemade citrus shortcake.
I went a little "Semi-Homemade" with this one. I had some left over bisquick mix and doctored it up with a tablespoon fresh orange peel, sweetened condensed milk, water and pure vanilla extract.

Instead of maserating the berries in sugar, I opted for a sugar free alternative this time. I just added a 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract to the berries and let them soak it in...

The rest is all assembly. Cut the shortcakes in half, add a layer of berries, a layer of whipped topping, add the top of the shortcake and more topping and berries.

Summer on a plate... I guess it will do for now!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Spinach and Olive Turkey Burgers

Beef Up Your Turkey Burgers...
Sometimes you just feel like eating a nice juicy burger, right? Well, I know I do. Although I very rarely do. I stopped eating beef regularly many years ago, so when I crave a burger, I go TURKEY. The only problem is that it lacks the flavor that beef has, so it needs to be "beefed up" a little. :)

I usually just add some grill seasoning, garlic, salt and pepper and it good to go, but I was feeling a little gourmet the other day and decided to go all out and add some other healthy goodies.
How can you go wrong with fresh baby spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, garlic, and cheese?
Judging by these burgers... YOU CAN'T!

Spinach and Olive Turkey Burgers
by Mixed Salad Annie

1 1/3 pounds ground turkey
3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped black olives
3 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
1/4 cup low-fat cheddar cheese, cut in small dice
3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
6 multi-grain english muffins, lightly toasted

Cover a baking sheet with non-stick foil or spray foil lined sheet with cooking spray. Heat broiler on low and adjust oven rack to top.

Blend together turkey, spinach, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, Italian seasoning, cheese and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Do not over mix. Form mixture into 6 equal size patties, free form or with a burger form.

Broil burgers about 5 minutes on first side and about 4 minutes on second. (An instant-read thermometer inserted in the center should register at 170º F.) Transfer burgers to muffins and top with extra spinach leaves if desired. Top with ketchup or mayonnaise.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Chicken, Olives and Artichokes - Hunter Style

When I decided to make this dish, I was thinking of a chicken cacciatore that I used to get from a local supermarket. They would make it with big chunks of white breast meat, all the colors of bell peppers and lots of whole garlic cloves. It was delicious. Since I was making this for my mom, I decided to leave out the peppers because they don't agree with her.

Because we both love artichokes and olives, I decided to sub them for the peppers. As a matter of fact, my mom makes a chicken and artichoke dish very similar to this, only without the sauce. Since I had a jar of sauce that needed to be used, I whipped this up. It is really good over pasta or you could eat it as is, with a big piece of Italian bread for mopping up the sauce.

Chicken, Olives and Artichokes - Hunter Style
by Mixed Salad Annie Serves 4

3 skinless boneless chicken breast halves, cut into about 1 1/2" chunks
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup of flour
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 jar of black olives, drained and rinsed
1 jar of artichoke hearts, drained, rinsed and halved
12 cloves of garlic, (very large ones halved)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 jar marinara sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 sprigs rosemary

Add the flour, garlic powder and paprika to a large ziplock bag. Season the chicken pieces with the salt and pepper and add them to the flour in the bag. Shake the chicken to coat all the pieces. Remove from bag and shake off excess flour and set aside.

Heat one tablespoon of oil and rosemary sprigs on low heat in large dutch oven or large deep skillet for about 5 minutes. Add the olives and artichokes cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the mixture from the pan with a slotted spoon to a bowl and add the remaining olive oil to the pan. Turn the heat up to medium/high and add chicken pieces.

Brown the chicken on all sides and de-glaze the pan with the wine. When the wine evaporates, add the chicken broth and sauce. Add the artichoke mixture back to the pan and stir to combine. Lower the heat, and simmer slowly for about 20-25 minutes. Remove and disgard the rosemary sprigs. Serve over pasta or with Italian bread.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Simple and Satisfying!

Sometimes the simplest things are the best. Like this salad for example. Very basic.

What did it consist of??
Bagged salad mix; romaine, frisse, radicchio and shredded carrots
Petite baby carrots
Grape tomatoes
Rolled and sliced roasted turkey
Sliced American cheese
Chic peas
Dressing; extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, dried dill weed

THAT'S IT. Toss it all together in a bowl and call it lunch or dinner.
Simple, easy, healthy and so delicious!

Whip one up of your own. You'll be glad you did ;)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Drunken Chicken with Olives over Polenta Squares

Things have been kind of crazy lately in my little world. Between working and moving my mom into her new apartment, I haven't had much time to cook lately. I've been eating out more often lately and taking home leftovers (which I love by the way), so I don't have many recipes to post or talk about.

Of course, I'm not complaining about eating out, I love it. My sister and I took my mom out for dinner on Mother's Day and I had a really great dinner. It was a chicken and pasta entree with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini and snipped green onions, in a garlic and wine sauce. Ooh la la. It was delicious.

Speaking of chicken in a wine sauce... I did make this drunken chicken with olives over polenta squares a few months back and never posted it. The recipe was inspired by Mary Ann Esposito of Ciao Italia. It was very tasty and I really have to make this again (someday when I can think straight again!). Happy Cooking to all of you!!

Drunken Chicken with Olives over Polenta Squares

1/2 cup pitted green olives, quartered
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary needles
1 teaspoon salt
Coarse black pepper to taste
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Zest and juice of 2 large lemons
3 bone-in chicken breasts, cut in half
1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth

Coarsely chop together the garlic, thyme and rosemary and place in a large zip lock bag.

Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, zest and lemon juice. Add the chicken pieces, zip up bag and shake the bag making sure the marinade covers all of the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Remove chicken from marinade. Set marinade aside and pat chicken dry with thick layer of paper towels. Add the flour to a medium sized paper or plasic bag. Add the chicken and shake until it is evenly coated. Shake off excess flour.

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or sauté pan large enough to hold the chicken in a single layer. Brown the pieces well on both sides, about 3-5 minutes per side. Add the wine and raise the heat to high. Cook for a minute or two. Add the olives and reserved marinade. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and cook for about 15 minutes. Check for doneness with an instant read thermometor until it reaches at least 165 degrees. Serve the chicken over polenta, potatoes or pasta and top with the olives and pan juices.

Polenta Squares

2 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
1/2 cup quick-cooking polenta

Bring the water, 1 tablespoon butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan. Gradually whisk in the polenta. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly until the polenta thickens, about 5 minutes. Pour the polenta into a greased 9 by 9-inch baking pan, spreading so that it is 1/3-inch thick. Cover and let stand at room temperature until set, about 15 minutes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fig & Pecan Stuffed Baked Apples

It's not really the time of year you would think to make baked apples, but that's me, always going against the grain :) Actually the reason I decided to make them is because my mom gave me a bunch of granny smith apples because she knows I eat a lot of fruit.

I tried eating them raw just as a snack, but they were a bit too acidic, which is weird because they usually don't bother me. So I figured I would make a quick snack by stuffing and baking them.

My inspiration for the recipe comes from Mary Ann Esposito of Ciao Italia. Her recipe uses some different ingredients, such as walnuts and apricots, but the technique is basically the same. I watch her every week and she always cooks up something worth trying. And her recipes are usually so simple and quick to prepare.

This recipe is no exception. I whipped these up at 9:00pm one night when I had the hankering for something sweet. The prep is so easy it took just minutes, so I got them ready, popped them in the oven, continued watching a movie and I was already eating them before ten. Plus, the house smelled so delicious before bedtime, perfect for "sweet dreams".

The best part about these apples was the stuffing... All those warm and chewy bits of fig and the delicious cranberries that give a bit of a punch! And my favorite... the toasted pecans! I think I would try anything if there were pecans in it.
Fig & Pecan Stuffed Baked Apples

2 large Granny Smith apples, washed and cored
2 dried figs
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter, cut in small pieces
1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 cup water (you could also use orange juice or
apple juice)
Add the figs and cranberries to a small saucepan of boiling water and cook for about 5 minutes until softened. Drain, cut the stems off the figs and discard. Chop up the figs into small pieces and place them and the cranberries in a bowl with the peacans. Add the honey and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Divide the mixture in half and stuff it in the cored apples.
Place the apples in a baking dish; add the water and orange zest to the bottom of the dish.
Dot the apples with the butter.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until the apples are just soft but not collapsed. Serve warm with some of the pan juices.

Note: This recipe can be doubled very easily... go for it!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lentils & Turkey Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed peppers were a staple in my house growing up. We would have them at least twice a month. I always liked them. Although as a kid you don't realize how much you like something until you don't have it anymore. I miss eating them because I really don't make them that often myself, mostly due to the fact that they take a while to prepare. Also, I don't really eat much ground beef anymore either.

So I got to thinking... Why not come up with a quicker version and lighten it up a bit. I decided to use my usual substitute for ground beef - ground turkey of course. Plus I cut the amount in half and added some healthy fiber filled lentils in its place. And instead of using white rice which is not all that healthy, I used brown rice which has more nutrients and fiber.

With all these healthy changes, I had to consider flavor. So I added lots of garlic... But don't worry because I could barely even taste it. Remember, the brown rice is really bland and the turkey is also so lean that it really needs a flavor boost. I think I would even add more next time. :)

Ok now, let me tell the best part of all. The time savers and my two new best friends... Joe and Ben.
That's Trader Joe's lentils and Uncle Ben's ready rice. By using these pre-cooked ingredients, I saved so much time. And they are just as healthy as if I cooked them myself.

So I hope you give these healthier stuffed peppers a try, they won't take all day and you will be happy that you ate such a nutrient rich and satisfying meal.

Also, just a note on pepper shape and size. When I bought the red bell peppers, I wasn't thinking about making stuffed peppers because I would have bought short, wide ones if I had thought about it. Because they were so tall and thin, I had a problem standing them up in my usual baking dish. So I improvised and put them in a oven safe pyrex bowl and placed it on a pizza sheet pan just in case anything dripped or oozed over and out of the peppers. It worked out just fine and it looked kind of cool too!
Turkey and Lentil Stuffed Peppers
by Mixed Salad Annie

4 large green or red bell peppers (about 1 pound)
1/2 pound 93% lean ground turkey
1 bag Uncle Ben's Ready Brown Rice
1/2 bag Trader Joe's fully cooked Black Beluga Lentils, heated according to package instructions
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large chopped shallots or 1 small chopped onion
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for top and passing
1/4 cup chopped green olives
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning or chicken seasoning (such as McCormick Grill Mates Salt-Free Chicken)
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 (8-ounce) cans no-salt-added tomato sauce, divided use
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 350°.

Cut tops off bell peppers; discard tops, seeds, and membranes. Steam peppers in a steam basket in a large pot of boiling water for about 7 minutes (until crisp tender) or cook in boiling water 5 minutes; drain and set aside.

Add olive oil, shallot and garlic to a dutch oven or large skillet, sprinkle with a little salt and cook over low heat until softened. Raise heat to medium high and add turkey, stirring to crumble. Cook until liquid evaporates and turkey begins to brown and the bottom of the pan has developed a brown film. Stir in brown rice, lentils, olives, chicken seasoning, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, worcestershire and 1 can tomato sauce. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan and cook around 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn off heat and add Romano cheese; stir to combine.

Divide turkey mixture evenly between peppers, and place them in an 8-inch square baking dish or oven safe round bowl; top with remaining can of sauce. Sprinkle each pepper with a little extra grated Romano cheese. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Serve with extra Romano cheese.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Ricotta Pie

Making Traditions Come Alive!

In Rhode Island, and other heavily Italian populated areas, it is tradition on Easter to make and eat rice pies, rice and ricotta pies, also known as pastiera and ricotta pies. Although I am Italian, on my mom's side, she nor I have ever made or even eaten one. Can you believe that? I don't know what took so long but I finally did it. I made a ricotta pie. I have wanted to make one for such a long time and somehow never got to it.

It was so exciting, getting all the ingredients together, trying to figure out which way to go with it. Should I add pineapple, chocolate chips, candied fruit, etc.? I looked at many recipes and and got some ideas from Susan's blog Food Blogga, and also from Emeril. I sort of created my own based on everything I looked at.

Also, it was my first time using a real vanilla bean. YUM!!! So much fun... I will definately be using these again!

I couldn't wait for my mom to try the pie, so I decided to film her first bite...
Here it is.

She's so cute!!! I love her to pieces.

Italian Ricotta Pie
For the dough:

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter; cut into pieces
1 large egg
2 1/2 - 3 1/2 tablespoons ice water

For the filling:

1 1/2 pounds reduced-fat ricotta cheese, drained well
3/4 cup sugar
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 vanilla bean, inside scraped out
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup lightly toasted pine nuts

Add the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse several times to combine. Add the butter and pulse 12-15 times or until the flour mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add the egg and 2 1/2 tablespoons of water and pulse repeatedly until the mixture forms a ball; adding more water if necessary. Remove the dough from the processor, form a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or place in the freezer while making filling.

Roll the dough out between two sheets of waxed paper to 1/8-inch thick. Fit the dough into a greased spring form pan or a greased 9 1/2-inch deep dish pie pan. If using a spring form pan, pat the dough into the bottom of the pan and up 3/4 of the sides. If using pie plate, trim the edges so that an inch hangs over the sides and refrigerate.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the ricotta cheese, orange zest and vanilla bean scrapings and sugar until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add chocolate and pine nuts and stir to combine.

Pour the filling into the pastry-lined pie pan. If using a pie plate crimp the edges decoratively using either your fingers or a fork.

Bake the pie for 15 minutes at 425º; lower temp to 350º and bake for 40 minutes, or until the pastry is light golden brown and the filling is just set (and does not jiggle when moved). If the edges of the pie start to brown, cover them with a piece of aluminum foil wrapped around the pie.

Remove the oven and cool on a wire rack. The pie can be served slightly warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Note: Don't worry too much if you see cracks form on the top of the pie. As it cools, the filling will sink a bit and the crack become less apparent.