Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Oven Baked Polenta with Sausage and Mushrooms

I found this while browsing www.tastespotting.com, but it's on www.weekofmenus.blogspot.com.  SOooooo fantastic!!!  Wow, I highly recommend this.  I used fresh white corn off the cob and breakfast pork sausage from Nugget Market.  Yum-O.


Oven Baked Polenta with Sausages and Mushroom
5 to 6 servings
adapted from Lazy Gourmet by Robin Donovan & Juliana Gallin

1 cup cornmeal (quick cooking polenta is fine as well)
3 ½ cups water
1 cup sweet corn kernels, fresh off the cob
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup mascarpone
2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons olive oil (more if needed)
4 shallots, finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic minced
8 oz sausages, diced or chopped into small, bite-sized pieces
10 oz of Crimini mushrooms, sliced or roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste
5 leaves basil, chiffonade (or more to taste)

Preheat oven to 350. Oil a 2 quart baking dish. Combine cornmeal, water, corn, salt and pepper, stirring to mix. Bake in a preheated 350 oven, uncovered, for 40 to 50 minutes. Stir in Parmesan, mascarpone, butter and return to oven, baking another 5 minutes.

While polenta is baking, cook sausage mushroom topping. Heave a heavy saute pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil, shallots, garlic and sausages, and cook until all the shallots are transparent and the sausage is caramelized, about 6 minutes. Add mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and cook for an additional 4 minutes, or until mushrooms are tender.

When polenta has finished baking, pour topping mixture over polenta. Return to oven for another 7 minutes to allow the flavors to come together. Sprinkle basil over the top and enjoy.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Apple Cider Frosting

This was a great find on www.ahintofhoney.com.  Just in time for fall!  Recipe is for a layer cake, but I love me some cuppies.  Turned out moist and tangy.

Caramel Apple Cupcakes with Apple Cider Frosting

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1½ cups light brown sugar
¾ cup canola oil
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
¾ cup caramel sauce (homemade or jarred)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
1½ cups buttermilk

Apple Cider Frosting:
7 1/2-8 cups confectioners’ sugar (to desired consistency)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup apple cider or apple juice
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour two (8 or 9 inch) round cake pans and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together whole wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. In a second large bowl, beat sugar and oil together with an electric mixer until well combined, about 30 seconds. Add applesauce, caramel and vanilla, beat for 30 seconds, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, and continuing to beat until well combined.

3. Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of each cake comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Set aside to let cool for 10 minutes, then gently loosen cakes and turn out onto a cooking rack; set aside to let cool completely.

4. For the frosting, put sugar, butter, cider, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Arrange one cake on a large plate and spread about 1 cup of the frosting evenly over the top. Arrange second cake on top then frost top and sides of entire cake with remaining frosting. Set aside at room temperature or in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to allow frosting to set before serving.

Makes a tall 2-layer, 8-9 inch round cake or about 30 cupcakes.

Aloo Chole

This yummy Indian dish is meatless, but you don't miss it!  Chickpeas and potatoes give this dish some substance and fragrances will heat up your kitchen.  Found this recipe on www.clookbook.com.  I had the hardest time finding the chana masala powder...ok, so i never did find it.  But somewhere I found a recipe of how to make your own...equally difficult to find ingredients.  SO!  I added about a tablespoon of Tamarind paste / concentrate which I found at Nugget Market to give it the tang.  Then I added a sprinkle of this and a sprinkle of that (cinnamon, allspice, cumin powder, ginger powder, coriander seeds).  I know you can order a box of the powder online, but I wanted to make it NOW!  Also, I didn't want to wait for the chickpeas to soak overnight so I used 2 cans rinsed.  Since the soak called for a tea bag, I made a cup of tea and diluted it to about half (adding water to make 1 cup) and then added it to the mix when called for.  Turned out super tasty.  Make sure to serve with Jasmine rice.

Aloo Chole

  • 1 cup dried chick peas (about half of a bag)
  • 1 teabag
  • 3 tablespoons oil (I use canola)
  • 2 large red onions, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 chili peppers (sub with jalapeños)
  • 1-2 medium red potatoes
  • 1/4 cup frozen green peas
  • pieces of garam masala (1 bay leaf, 1 cinnamon stick, 5 cloves, 3 green cardamom pods)
  • 1 tablespoon, cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon, turmeric powder
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger (or paste)
  • 1 tablespoon grated garlic (or paste)
  • 3 tablespoons, chana masala powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cayenne red pepper
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons, chopped cilantro; more for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • the night before: place dry chickpeas into a large bowl and presoak in water overnight (at least 4 hours). make sure the beans are submerged by a few inches of water as they will double in size
  1. the next day: once chick peas have hydrated (overnight), it’s time to cook them. i prefer to cook them in a pressure cooker, which takes about 10 minutes. you can also boil them in a pot for about 60-90 minutes
  2. pressure cooking: add enough water to submerge hydrated chic peas by 2 inches of water in the pressure cooker.  add 1 tablespoon oil (prevent foaming) and the teabag (darken the color of the beans). make sure not to fill pot more than 1/2 full. lock lid, heat on high-heat until pressure is on. lower heat to low and heat for 12 mins. remove from heat and release pressure
  3. boiling: 1 cup dry beans, 3 cups water, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 teabag. bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer (partially covered). cook until beans are soft and can be smushed easily by hand (or utensil)
  4. once chick peas are cooked, drain them making sure to reserve 1 cup of the liquid they were cooked in
  5. while chickpeas cook, cut potatoes into quarters (if using a larger sized potato) and boil for 10-15 minutes or until a knife goes through potatoes with little resistance. when done, cut potatoes into bite sized pieces and set aside
Cooking the Dish
  1. heat oil on medium-high heat and add garam masala and cumin seeds
  2. add onion once cumin seeds begin to react with oil and season with a sprinkle of salt (about 1/2 teaspoon)
  3. after 5 minutes cooking, add ginger, garlic and turmeric to the mixture (aka masala) and stir
  4. cook until the onions are softened (~10 minutes) and then lower heat to medium
  5. add tomatoes and chopped chilis, stirring occasionally until tomatoes are fully cooked (wilted and softened). this will take about 15 minutes
  6. once tomatoes are cooked, add chana masala powder and stir until combined. cook for another 2 minutes
  7. add 1 cup of water reserved from cooked chickpeas along with cooked chickpeas, potatoes, frozen peas and cayenne pepper and stir together
  8. bring to a boil and then reduce to low-medium heat.  simmer uncovered for 20 minutes to allow the liquid to reduce and thicken
  9. add salt, lemon juice and cilantro and cook for another 2 minutes
  10. transfer to a serving bowl. garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with (naan) bread or basmati rice
  • shortcut: use 2 cans of chickpeas instead of the dry ones. substitute the chickpea water with regular water. make sure to rinse the goo off the chickpeas before placing into the masala (step 7 above)
  • Indian ingredients: cinnamon sticks, cumin seeds, bay leafs, cardamom pods, cloves are non-perishable spices and can be purchased online at sites like www.kalustyans.com. buy them, store them in your pantry
  • chana masala powder is a prepared combination of spices and can be purchased as well.

Mom's Chili Mac

I've been eating this stuff and loving it since I can remember.  It was one of the top three recipes I had to take to college just so I could have a taste of home, some comfort food.  Being the first day of fall, I thought it was the perfect dish to kick off the season.  Only hitch, I've gotta use Brook's Mild Chili Beans in Chili Sauce and ya can't find the stuff in California!  So, every time I go back home to the midwest, I pack my suitcase up with 6-8 cans.  They do sell chili beans in chili sauce out here of course, and I think I tried it once--good substitute.  Honestly, it's probably in my head.

Mom's Chili Mac

1 lb. or a little more ground beef
1 sweet onion, chopped
large serving spoon of flour
4 T chili powder (or to taste)
beef broth (about 3 cups)
1 (16oz.) can tomato sauce
1 can tomato soup
1 can tomato paste
1 can chili beans in chili sauce

Brown ground beef, onion, and garlic.  Add flour and saute until well mixed.  Add chili powder.  Add soup, sauce, and paste; simmer.  Slowly add broth about a 1/2 cup at a time.  Usually takes about a half hour of simmering.  You can add more or less broth according to your taste in consistency of chili.  I like mine thick.  Last, add can of chili beans in chili sauce and heat a few more minutes.  Serve over spaghetti!

Fresh Fig Upside Down Cake

I've made this cake numerous times and I don't even like fig newtons.  Coworkers ask for it each year and it's always consumed quickly!   Keep refrigerated!  The cake itself is great, but the figs on top are a tasty addition.  Original recipe from www.emerils.com.  I added some honey to the figs while they sauteed and people unknowingly said, "It was even better this time."

Fresh Fig Upside Down Cake
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh figs, stemmed and quartered
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
  • 3 T honey
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup milk
Preheat oven 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, toss the figs with the sugar. In a hot cast iron skillet, melt 1/2 stick of the butter.  Add honey.  Sauté the figs for 2 minutes.

For the batter: In a mixing bowl, cream the remaining stick of butter and brown sugar. Stir in the eggs 1 at a time. Sift the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Combine vanilla and milk. Add the flour mixture and milk to the egg mixture. Mix well.

Butter a 9"x13" glass pan, lay parchment paper on the bottom, and re-butter paper.  Transfer sauteed figs to the glass pan, leaving the majority of the liquid behind.

Pour the cake batter evenly over the figs. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and pulls away slightly from the edges of the pan. Cool for about 30 minutes, then invert over a large platter. Cut into individual servings and serve with a scoop of hazelnut ice cream.

Yield: 12 servings

Fresh Fig Torte

After getting an abundance of figs from a coworker, I decided to make a couple different desserts.  This one only required a handful of figs, and worked out perfectly.  The almond powder was a nice twist on the traditional all purpose flour.  Found the recipe on www.beyondtheplate.net.  Make sure you are equipped with a small scale!  This dessert was well received by people who like a less sweet dessert.  Maybe serve with tea after dinner. 

Fresh Fig Torte
  • 2½ ounces/ 71 grams blanched almond meal
  • 2½ ounces/ 71 grams all-purpose flour
  • Dash of salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 stick/ 113 grams unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 ounces/ 100 grams sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light rum
  • 2 large eggs
  • About 4 to 5 ripe figs, sliced or quartered depending on your preference (see headnote)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375F/ 200C. Line the base of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper, then tighten the springform ring to keep the parchment in place, trimming the excess.
  2. Stir together the almond meal, flour, salt and baking powder. Set aside while you prepare the wet ingredients.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until pale yellow and fluffy. Switch to the lowest speed setting then add the rum, the dry ingredients and the eggs. Return the speed to medium and beat for another 5 minutes until all the ingredients are incorporated.
  4. Scrape the batter into the prepared springform pan, using your spatula to spread the mixture so that it evenly covers the base of the pan. Arrange the fig pieces atop the batter and bake for 45 minutes or until the top of the cake turns golden brown. A toothpick test should also come out clean.
  5. Run a knife around the perimeter of the cake before unlocking the pan, then leave to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream Frosting

I've had exquisite champagne cake before at a local bakery and wanted to try my hand at a cupcake version.  I think next time I would just use plain champagne instead of a rose.  These still turned out quite good.  Recipe off thecurvycarrot.com.

Champagne Cupcakes with Champagne Buttercream

Servings: About 20-22 cupcakes
For the cupcakes
2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 and 1/2 cups white sugar
3/4 cup champagne**I used a light pink rosé.
6 egg whites
For the buttercream frosting
3 and 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons champagne, at room temperature

1. For the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until very light and fluffy.
4. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together, and then blend into creamed mixture alternately with champagne.
5. In another large clean bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.
6. Fold 1/3 of the whites into batter to lighten it, then fold in remaining egg whites.
7. Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
9. For the frosting: With an electric mixer, beat together sugar and butter.
10. Mix on low until well blended, and then on medium for another two minutes.
11. Add vanilla and champagne, beating on medium for another minute.
12.  Pipe onto cooled cupcakes. 

Drop Biscuits and Gravy

I've never made, much less tasted biscuits and gravy before although I've always been curious.  I added in a bit of chorizo to the gravy to give it a little kick, as well as subbed in half heavy cream for the milk.  Also to start out I made bacon first in the pan and friend the sausages in the grease.  Not the most heart healthy dish, but it was yummy.  Recipe base off allrecipes.com.

Drop Biscuits and Gravy

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon butter or margarine, melted
  • GRAVY:
  • bacon grease
  • little under 1/2 pound bulk pork sausage
  • about 1/8 lb chorizo
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3/4 cups milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
 In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Combine milk and butter; stir into dry ingredients just until blended. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, cook the sausage and chorizo over medium heat in the bacon grease until no longer pink. Stir in butter until melted. Sprinkle with flour. Gradually stir in cream, milk, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Serve over biscuits.

Kefta Kabobs (Moroccan Meatballs)

I found these linked in to tastespotting.com, off the blog shecookshecleans.net.  They're called Kefta Kabobs, but I ended up skipping the sticks.  I rolled the meatballs out right by the grill and plopped them down, turning to brown all sides.  These turned out so incredibly delicious!!!  Only problem is the cost of ground lamb.  Geez it's expensive; 11 bucks a pound for ground meat?  What the chuck?

I also opted to make my own ras el hanout spice mix.  Long list of ingredients (off food.com), but I had them all on hand so no need to order it.  I also cut the measurements down to a fourth because this would've made a LOT of ras el hanout and the meatballs only call for 1 teaspoon of the mix.  Served with grilled zucchini and corn on the cob.

Kefta Kabobs (Moroccan Meatballs)

Ras el Hanout spice mix:


  • 2 pounds ground beef or lamb (use meat with a higher fat ratio, as lean meat will tend to dry out)
  • 1 onion, grated onto paper towels to adsorb excess moisture
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Ras-el-Hanout (you can order from The Spice House, but you can also blend your own-see above recipe)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • several grindings black pepper
  • a small bunch of cilantro, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
  • a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
Mix the ground meat with all the other ingredients; knead vigorously, until very smooth and pasty.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours.
Wet your hands and divide the meat into golf-ball sized balls.  This will make 24-30 balls. 
Press the meat balls firmly around square-bladed skewers, and mold into a sausage-link shape.  (If your meat balls are too large, they will just fall off.)
Prepare a grill for direct cooking at around 400F.  When the coals are ready, grill the kabobs for 4-5 minutes each side, turning once or twice, until browned.  Be careful not to overcook or the meat may dry out.
Serve immediately.  These kabobs were perfect with grilled peppers and eggplant, but would also be great with couscous or rice.

Sticky Honey Lemon Chicken

I found this recipe while browsing tastespotting.com; blog it's off of is urbanstrawberries.wordpress.com.  Definitely will be making this again.  It was really simple and packed full of flavor.  Served it with a baked potato and voila!  a perfect meal.  I also tripled the sauce ingredients to make for some extra juice.

Sticky Honey Lemon Chicken

8 chicken drumsticks (or 4-6 breasts)
3 tbsp. olive oil
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup honey
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 lemon, sliced
splash of red wine vinegar
2-3 sprigs lemon-thyme
salt & pepper to taste

In a large skillet, heat olive oil on medium-high, to that add the garlic and heat till fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Then add the honey and soy sauce and bring to a slight boil; add lemon slices and vinegar. Turn down heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes. Put entire lemon-thyme sprigs into sauce and continue simmering 5-10 more minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, hand the chicken to your husband so he can begin grilling it on med-high heat, turning every few minutes to cook through.

Now back to the sauce, turn off the heat and let sauce cool a bit. Taste test for salt and pepper additions. If sauce is too thick once it’s cooled, add a little hot water to thin it out. It should be a thick consistency to baste onto chicken & stay, but not so thick that it only sticks to your brush. Remove the lemon slices and lemon-thyme sprigs remnants.

Once your chicken is cooked through, turn down the heat and begin basting the honey-lemon sauce onto the chicken, turning the chicken as necessary to get all sides. Let the heat help adhere the sauce to the chicken for a few minutes. Transfer chicken to a platter, continue basting with leftover sauce and garnish with lemon-thyme.

Butterscotch Meringue Bars

I'm not sure why these are termed "butterscotch"...maybe the sweet flavor?  No butterscotch in them!  I'd rather call them chocolate chip bars with meringue on top.  These turned out super rich and sweet.  Big hit with the coworkers.  And such an interesting combination!  Recipe off tastykitchen.com

Butterscotch Meringue Bars

  • 2 cups All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • ½ teaspoons Baking Soda
  • ½ teaspoons Salt
  • 2 sticks Softened, Unsalted Butter
  • 2 cups Light Brown Sugar, Divided
  • ½ cups Granulated Sugar
  • 2 whole Eggs (separated)
  • 1 Tablespoon Water
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 2 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 13 by 9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing excess foil to hang over the pan edges (this will help you to remove the bars from the pan later). Spray foil with cooking spray. 

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl, set it aside.
With a hand mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, 1 cup of brown sugar, and granulated sugar until well blended. Add egg yolks, water, and vanilla and mix until well incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined. Spread batter evenly into the prepared pan. Press the chocolate chips gently into the dough.

In a clean bowl, whip egg whites to stiff peaks, then reduce speed to medium and add the remaining 1 cup of brown sugar. Mix until uniform in color and shiny. Spread meringue over chocolate chip layer and bake until golden brown, about 35-40 minutes. Cool completely (2-3 hours) before lifting out of the pan using the aluminum foil overhang. Cut into squares.

Chicken Adobo

Since working at my current employer, I've encountered numerous Filipino cooks who've exposed me to this yummy dish!  It seems to always be different depending on the chef, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.  This recipe called for 3 whole bay leaf, but I think next time I'd go with just one, maybe even a half.  I also added a little sugar to the original recipe since I've heard that's what some people do.  Recipe off Foodnetwork.com.

Filipino Chicken Adobo

Combine all ingredients in a large pot. Cover and marinate chicken for 1-3 hours. Bring to boil, then lower heat. Cover and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and simmer until sauce is reduced and thickened, and chicken is tender, about 20 more minutes. Serve with steamed rice.

Brazilian-style Kabobs

Although I've never had the famed Brazilian sticks of meat at a restaurant, I decided to try my hand at them.  Pretty simple--marinate your meat and put it on a stick with bacon.  Unfortunately my grill was down that night so I used a cast iron pan.  Next time I want to get that nice brown outside from the grill.  Recipe off cookbrazil.com

Brazilian-style Kabobs

1 lb of beef tenderloin
2 tbs of olive oil
2 tbs of lemon juice
2 tbs of chopped onion
½ lb bacon
16 wood skewers
Salt and ground pepper

Cut beef tenderloin into ¾ inch cubes.
Marinate in olive oil, lemon juice, onion, salt and pepper for 2 hours.
Soak wood skewers in water for 2 hours.
Cut bacon in squares and assemble alternating bacon and beef squares on skewers.
Grill as usual.
Traditionally, Brazilians roll kabobs over manioc flour (farofa) after cooked and serve.