Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers-Croque Monsieur

I was really excited about this month's Barefoot Blogger pick by Kathy at All Food Considered. About a year or so ago I had my first Croque Monsieur sandwich and was immediately taken. Surprisingly so, because I am not much of a ham sandwich or gooey cheese sandwich girl. Every now and then when the mood hits I pick up one at a nearby French cafe or even La Madeline's. This was a really easy recipe to make and as agreed by my husband, an outstanding meal! This would be perfect to make for a lunch or brunch as you can make a batch of them quite easily. I'm eager to try Monsieur's counterpart the Croque Madame. Basically the same sandwich with an egg over top. I halved the recipe and it was just the perfect amount to make 2 sandwiches. I served mine with arugula tossed with lemon juice and olive oil and a side of fresh strawberries. I did use turkey bacon instead of ham. We are avoiding pork products with the current swine flu outbreak. Turkey bacon tastes remarkably like ham and is very similar in texture. I pan sauteed it until cooked through but not crispy. I know I will be making this recipe again and again.

Croque Monsieur
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 12 ounces Gruyere, grated (5 cups)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 16 slices white sandwich bread, crusts removed (I used 4 slices whole wheat bread)
  • Dijon mustard
  • 8 ounces baked Virginia ham, sliced but not paper thin (I used Turkey Bacon-see above)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Melt the butter over low heat in a small saucepan and add the flour all at once, stirring with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Slowly pour the hot milk into the butter–flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened. Off the heat add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup grated Gruyere, and the Parmesan and set aside.

To toast the bread, place the slices on 2 baking sheets and bake for 5 minutes. Turn each slice and bake for another 2 minutes, until toasted.

Lightly brush half the toasted breads with mustard, add a slice of ham to each, and sprinkle with half the remaining Gruyere. Top with another piece of toasted bread. Slather the tops with the cheese sauce, sprinkle with the remaining Gruyere, and bake the sandwiches for 5 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the topping is bubbly and lightly browned. Serve hot.

Source: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa in Paris, Clarkson Potter 2004.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cow Girl Cookies with Spelt Flour and Oats

These popped up on Taste Spotting a few days ago just when I happened to be in a baking mood. This recipe was perfect because I had recently purchased some spelt flour and I have a surplus of organic chocolate chips in my freezer. This recipe also gave me a chance to try out the coconut oil I just purchased. I'm constantly working to make my recipes more nutritionally complete and avoid ingredients that are not pure. This recipe hit the mark allowing me to meet that requirement. Spelt flour is an ancient grain with a lower gluten content than regular flour. Spelt has high water solubility, so nutrients are easily absorbed by the body making it easy to digest. It is high in protein (significantly higher than wheat), higher in B complex vitamins, and spelt is high in both simple and complex carbohydrates. These complex carbohydrates are an important factor in blood clotting and stimulating the body's immune system. These are definitely a healthy cookie, in addition to the spelt flour, these cookies have no butter or eggs in them. Despite, the missing fat, these cookies definitely did not taste like healthy cookies. They had ever bit of flavor that a regular chocolate chip cookie would have. I think Rikki from Diet Desserts and Dogs perfectly described these cookies as ". . . crisp on the edges, chewy in the middle, with lots of texture from the chips, raisins, and nuts." I can definitely say this is one of the best chocolate chip cookie recipes I have made in awhile.

Cow Girl Cookies with Spelt Flour and Oats

2 cups (280 g) light spelt flour

2 cups (200 g) old-fashioned rolled oats (not instant) (I used Bob's Red Mill Whole Grain Oats)

1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) baking powder

1 tsp (5 ml) baking soda

1/2 tsp (1 ml) sea salt

1-1/4 cups (225 g) non-dairy chocolate chips (I used organic)

1/2 cup (70 g) organic raisins

1/2 cup (55 g) coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans (I omitted)

1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) cinnamon

3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp (210 ml) softened organic coconut oil or sunflower oil, preferably organic (I used coconut oil)

1 cup (180 g) Sucanat ( I substituted brown sugar)

1/3 cup (80 ml) room-temperature applesauce

1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with nonstick spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, baking powder, soda and salt in a large bowl. Add the chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the oil and Sucanat until well combined. Add the applesauce and vanilla and mix again.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix just until all the flour is absorbed. Use a small ice cream scoop or heaping tablespoon (20 ml) to place mounds of dough on the cookie sheets about 2 inches (5 cm) apart. Flatten slightly.

Bake for 13 minutes, or until golden. Makes about 3 dozen.

Source: Adapted from Diet Desserts and Dogs.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Homemade Hamburger Buns

One of my favorite new food blogs of this year is Branny Boils Over. Branny's posts are creative, witty and fun to read and I'm inspired by her unique creations and the healthy meals she prepares. I saw these hamburger buns on Branny's site and was inspired to make them. I've never made my own hamburger buns before so I was excited to give this recipe a try. I cut my dough into 12 pieces instead of 9 so mine were a little smaller. These were easy to make and both my husband and I really enjoyed them. I need to work on getting mine rounder next time and to brown them a little more, but overall a great start.

Hamburger Buns Branny Style

1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 packet or 1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
1 cup warm milk (105°F to 115°F)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoons salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
1.5 cups bread flour
1 cups AP flour
2 tsp vital wheat gluten

egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
sesame, poppy or caraway seeds or coarse salt (optional)

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar and then the yeast in the warm water. Add the milk, oil, salt and 3 cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes.

Gradually add flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.

Knead until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Because this dough is so slack, you may find that a bowl scraper or bench knife can be helpful in scooping up the dough and folding it over on itself.

Put the dough into an oiled bowl. Turn once to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly-woven dampened towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Divide into 9 equal pieces. This is done most easily by dividing the dough first into thirds, then those thirds into halves, then the halves into thirds.

For soft-sided buns, place them on a well-seasoned baking sheet a half inch apart so they’ll grow together when they rise. For crisper buns, place them three inches apart.

Cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

Fifteen minutes before you want to bake your buns, preheat your oven to 400°F. Just before baking, lightly brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash and sprinkle with whatever seeds strike your fancy.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 190°F.

Cool on a wire rack.

Source: Branny Boils Over

Thai Turkey Burgers wtih Homemade Hamburger Buns

I haven't cooked much in the last few weeks, mainly due to a busy schedule. I did manage to make some tacos and cheesy baked tortellini but nothing exciting enough to blog. Yesterday, I was ready and inspired to get back in the kitchen. I star lots of items from other blogs to try but often forget about them when getting ready to cook. This week, I decided to try a few things. I started by making some Cowgirl Cookies with Spelt Flour and Oats that I saw on Taste Spotting which lead me to decide to bake my own homemade hamburger buns as seen on Branny Boils Over. Once I had the buns in progress I decided it was the perfect time to try these Thai turkey burgers I had starred last week. My husband and I love Thai food. This recipe from Cara's Cravings has tons of flavor and is healthy too. We really enjoyed these burgers and the way they incorporated a nice punch of our favorite Thai flavors. These are easy for a weeknight and would be great for outdoor grilling. I grilled mine on my stove top grill. I liked the chili mayonnaise, however, I can't help thinking that a peanut sauce would also be a great topper. Cara recommends serving these with butternut squash fries which I think would be a great match however my husband hates most squash. So, I served mine with a green salad with mango and cucumber with papaya poppy seed dressing and a side of steamed Asian vegetables.

Thai Peanut Turkey Burgers

8oz ground turkey
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 large scallion, minced
1/4 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chili garlic sauce
2 tbsp natural peanut butter
freshly ground salt & pepper
1/2 tsp ground ginger

2 tbsp light mayonnaise
handful of cilantro, finely minced
1-2 tsp chili garlic sauce

hamburger buns of your choice
mixed greens

Combine burger ingredients a mixing bowl and combine thoroughly. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Form the turkey mixture into two patties. Cook for about 7-10 minutes per side, until cooked through. Serve on buns with cilantro-chili mayo and greens.

Source: Cara's Cravings My Life in the Kitchen

Monday, April 13, 2009

Carrot Cheesecake with Marzipan Carrots

I made this cute dessert to take to Easter dinner this year. It was a fun spin on a cross between a carrot cake and a cheesecake. The inclusion of the carrots in the batter adds a nice texture and color to the cheesecake. The mini marzipan carrots were a lot of fun to make as well. I can see adding these to my regular carrot cake for a little decoration. This was a good classic dessert, doesn't top my favorite cheesecake recipe though. I think if I were to do this one again I would use my cheesecake recipe and add the other ingredients. I think a little more spice and some nuts would also jazz it up a little. Still a simple, classic and tasty dessert.

Carrot Cheesecake with Marzipan Carrots

Serves 8 to 10

  • 2 ounces (1/2 cup) toasted pecans
  • 8 graham crackers, finely ground (1 cup)
  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled, finely grated
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Make the crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse pecans in a food processor until finely ground. Place in a medium bowl with graham crackers, and stir in butter, sugar, and salt.
  2. Wrap outside and bottom of a 9-inch springform pan in 2 layers of foil. Press crumb mixture firmly into bottom of pan. Bake until golden brown around edges and firm, about 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.
  3. Make the cheesecake: Melt butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add carrots and 1/2 cup sugar, and cook, stirring often, until carrots are soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer with pan juices to a bowl, and let cool.
  4. Beat cream cheese and remaining cup sugar with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add carrots and pan juices, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, salt, and vanilla, and beat until incorporated. Pour into crust.
  5. Set springform pan in a large roasting pan. Fill roasting pan with enough boiling water to reach halfway up the sides of springform pan. Bake cheesecake until set but slightly wobbly in center, 80 to 90 minutes.
  6. Transfer springform pan to a rack, and remove foil. Let cool. Refrigerate, uncovered, at least 6 hours (or overnight; cheesecake will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days). Run a hot knife around edges of cheesecake to loosen, then remove sides of pan. Decorate with marzipan carrots just before serving.
Petite Marzipan Carrots

Makes 12

  • 1 ounce marzipan
  • Orange and red gel-paste food coloring
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder, for decorating
  • Small fresh carrot fronds, rinsed and dried well
  1. Tint marzipan with orange and red food coloring, a drop at a time, to reach desired color. Divide into 12 pieces. (Cover with plastic wrap when not using.) Shape each piece into a ball, then roll into logs, tapering 1 end, to resemble carrots (pictured, above).
  2. Dip a paring knife into cocoa powder. Make tiny indentations in each carrot with cocoa-dusted knife to evoke the vegetable's texture. Carrots will keep, covered, for up to 1 week. Push fronds into top of each carrot before serving.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Beer Can Chicken

Ever since our beautiful spring weather hit, I've had the urge to use our grill. I thought this year I would try some new recipes and spice things up a little. I know there are numerous variations of Beer Can chicken out there, I happened to see this one on an episode of Grill It with Bobby Flay. I really liked the idea of using a smoker box to smoke meat on the grill. I had no idea you could smoke meat on a gas grill. I did a quick search and found that Sur La Table carries these smoker boxes. I picked one up last week along with some hickory chips and set to work making this recipe. The chicken came out perfectly cooked and really moist. Very much like a rotisserie chicken. I have read the beer can method is supposed to imitate spit cooking. We didn't get as much smoke flavor as we anticipated, however, we think maybe we should have started the smoker box on the grill before the chicken. After we took the chicken off the grill, the smoker box was really smoking. The recipe was good, although a little spicier than I anticipated. I loved cooking the chicken this way and think I'm going to invest in a vertical roaster. I'm looking forward to trying more new fun recipes on our grill this spring and summer.

Robin Koury's Spice of Life Beer Can Chicken
  • 4 pound chicken
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 heaping teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 can beer (recommended Sam Adams White Ale)
  • 3 cups apple wood smoking chips
  • 1 disposable aluminum pie plate (or drip pan)
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Soak the wood chips in water for at least 2 hours.

When ready to grill, preheat 1 of the burners to 350 degrees F.

Make sure the chicken is clean and innards are removed; pat dry with a paper towel and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, add paprika, brown sugar, kosher salt, cayenne pepper, onion powder, garlic salt, chili powder and mix well. Take the chicken and separate the skin from the breast taking care not to tear or remove skin. Apply the spice rub directly to the chicken breast, under the skin. Apply rub to the entire chicken, inside and out, reserving at least 2 tablespoons. Punch 2 holes at the top of the can, with a manual hand-held can opener. In a new bowl, mix butter and remaining spice rub. Add this mixture to the half-full can of beer. Place chicken over beer can and insert into the cavity of the chicken, keeping beer can standing up.

Place the wood chips in a foil smoker pouch over the active burner on the grill and set the chicken, on a pie plate, over the in-active burner. Close the lid. Rotate the chicken every 20 minutes. 5 minutes before cooking is complete, drizzle the honey over the chicken. The chicken should take about 1 hour and 20 minutes to cook, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 155 degrees F. Slice and serve.

Source: Grill It with Bobby Flay/

Sunday, April 5, 2009


This is another fantastic recipe from the April issue of Everyday Food. My husband specifically asked me to save this recipe and then wanted to know if he could have the extra one to take for lunch the next day! Definitely a hit! This is another versatile recipe where the ingredient possibilities are endless. As I was making these I wondered what the difference was between a stromboli and a calzone. Thanks to a little Internet research, I found out the two main differences are shape. Stromboli are rectangular and calzones are triangular. Secondly, Stromboli are heavy on the use of mozzarella where as calzones use ricotta and mozzarella. So there you have it! I had a few issues with the frozen dough I used. The one from my natural grocer was flecked with wonderful herbs and had great taste, I just could not get it to defrost or rise well. I followed the package directions, yet my dough was not very pliable. I had to work it with a rolling pin to get it to roll out at all. Next time I use this frozen pizza dough, I think I will defrost it completely overnight and then proof it. Otherwise, I will probably just buy fresh dough from Whole Foods.

Broccoli, Tomato and Mozzarella Stromboli

Serves 4

  • 1 pound pizza dough, thawed if frozen
  • All-purpose flour, for work surface
  • 1 package (1 pound) frozen chopped broccoli, thawed (I used Cascadian Farms Organic)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 cup marinara sauce (I used Newman's Own Organic Marinara Sauce)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella (6 ounces)
  • 2 ounces thinly sliced Genoa salami, chopped (I used a natural nitrate free salami)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil. Divide dough into 4 pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, stretch out each piece, first to a 3-by-4 inch oval, then to a 6-by-8-inch oval (let dough rest briefly if too elastic to work with).
  2. Place broccoli in a strainer, and press to remove excess liquid. Transfer to a double layer of paper towels, and pat dry.
  3. Dividing evenly, scatter broccoli over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle with garlic, and season with salt and pepper. Dividing evenly, top with mozzarella, salami, and 1/2 cup marinara.
  4. Starting at a shorter end, roll up each stromboli, and place, seam side down, on baking sheet. Using the tip of a paring knife, cut two slits in the top of each. Brush with oil. Bake until golden, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve stromboli with 1/2 cup marinara for dipping.

Friday, April 3, 2009

A Big Thank You to Cora at Cora Cooks!

Last week I entered a blog contest at Cora Cooks for a chance to win Frank Stitt's Southern Table Cookbook. I was elated when I found out I had won. Having grown up in North Carolina, I am a southern girl at heart and love learning how to cook southern favorites. Yesterday, the book arrived. It is really stunning. I have to say it has some of the most beautiful food photography I have seen. Top that with some fabulous recipes for updated southern specialities and you have quite a combination. I think this will definitely be a favorite in my collection. The recipes are of the caliber of meal I would expect to find in an upscale southern dining establishment. Some of the recipes I am eager to make are: Fried Green Tomato and Arugula Salad, Low Country Red Rice, Creamed Corn, Ravioli with Sweet Potatoes, Mustard Greens and Country Ham, Tomato Salad with Cornbread, Bacon and Buttermilk Vinaigrette, Flounder with Lady Pea Succotash, and Seven Layer Coconut Cake, just to name a few. I also can't leave out the homemade pimento cheese recipe that was recommended by Cora. I think that may be the first I try. I only recently discovered Cora's blog and am so glad I did. I love her style of writing, the fabulous menus she posts and her love for southern cooking. You should definitely check out Cora Cooks.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

One Chicken Three Ways

I love when I can simplify things, make efficient use of ingredients and best of all have three tasty meals while only cooking once! This menu plan was courtesy of the April issue of Everyday Food. I used one whole chicken to make chicken soup, chicken Caesar salad, and a tortilla pie. All were simple and delicious. Better yet, I have several containers of the soup left in my freezer. The magazine had a recipe for an Asian chicken salad but I was in the mood for Caesar so I made my own. I served that Caesar with my goat cheese and tomato tarts. The tortilla pie only took me about ten minutes to prepare and it was delicious. I did have an issue with it falling apart when I first served it hot out of the oven, however, the next day as leftovers, it was firm as shown in the magazine picture. I'm not sure if I should have let it sit before cutting in or made it ahead and allowed it to chill in the refrigerator before reheating. That aside, these recipes will definitely be regulars in our house.

Simple Chicken Noodle Soup

Serves 8

  • 1 whole chicken (3 to 4 pounds), giblets and liver discarded
  • 1 pound carrots, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 pound parsnips, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 medium onions, cut into thin wedges
  • 4 teaspoons coarse salt
  • Cooked wide egg noodles, for serving
  1. In a large pot, combine chicken, carrots, parsnips, and onions. Add water to just cover. Stir in salt. Bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, until chicken is cooked through, about 35 minutes (skim off foam). Transfer chicken to a plate to cool; refrigerate (see note, below). To serve soup, add noodles to broth, and season with salt, if desired.

To store, pull meat from bones, keeping chicken breasts whole and tearing dark meat into bite-size pieces (discard skin and bones). Refrigerate in separate airtight containers for up to 2 days.

Tortilla Pie

Serves 4

  • 12 corn tortillas (6-inch), toasted
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded dark-meat chicken
  • 1 can (4 ounces) chopped green chiles
  • 1 1/2 cup Green or Red Salsa (I used green)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (6 ounces)
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In an 8-inch square baking dish, layer 4 tortillas, 1 cup chicken, cup chiles, 1/2 cup salsa, 1/3 cup sour cream, and 1/2 cup cheese; repeat once. Top with remaining tortillas, salsa, sour cream, and cheese. Bake until top is browned and bubbling, 30 to 40 minutes.

Source: Everyday Food, April 2009.