Saturday, February 28, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers-My Pick! Meringues Chantilly

It was finally my turn to pick a recipe for the Barefoot Bloggers group. I sifted through all of Ina's cookbooks and had a really hard time choosing. Their were so many recipes I wanted to try. I finally narrowed it down to the Meringues Chantilly from the Barefoot in Paris book. I chose this recipe for a few reasons: 1. I wanted a recipe that would be a challenge for me and that I could learn a new skill and 2. I thought it would be a perfect recipe for Valentines since it was a February pick and 3. I thought this would be a fun dinner party dessert sometime and I never seem to preview desserts before serving them at a party. This recipe was as exquisite tasting as I had imagined. The meringues came out perfectly, crunchy with a slight bit of chewiness in the middle. I decided to lighten mine up a bit and served it with a scoop of mango sorbet instead of the whipped cream. I really liked the combination and am also sure the whipped cream would have been divine. I hope everyone had as much fun with this pick as I did. This is sure to appear on one of my dinner party menus soon. Its too good to save it just for Valentines! Please make sure to check out the other Barefoot Bloggers and see their beautiful creations. Note the recipe that appears below is one on the internet, it differs from the original in Barefoot in Paris in that the book calls for Ina's raspberry sauce instead of the stewed berries. I prepared mine according to the cookbook version.

Past Barefoot in Paris Favorites:

Coeur a la Creme
Lentil Sausage Soup
Lemon Chicken with Croutons
Herb Baked Eggs

Meringues Chantilly

  • 6 extra - large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Whipped Cream with Orange Liqueur, recipe follows
  • Stewed berries, recipe follows

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a small glass and a pencil, draw 6 (3 1/2-inch) circles on each piece of paper. Turn the paper face-down on the baking sheets.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and a large pinch of salt on medium speed until frothy. Add 1 cup of the sugar and raise the speed to high until the egg whites form very stiff peaks. Whisk in the vanilla. Carefully fold the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar into the meringue. With a large star - shaped pastry tip, pipe a disc of meringue inside each circle. Pipe another layer around the edge to form the sides of the shells.

Bake for 2 hours, or until the meringues are dry and crisp but not browned. Turn off the heat and allow the meringues to sit in the oven for 4 hours or overnight.

Spread some of the sauce from the stewed berries on each plate. Place a meringue on top and fill with whipped cream. Top with berries and serve.

  • 2 cups (1 pint) cold heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur

Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. When it starts to thicken, add the sugar, vanilla and orange liqueur and continue to whip until the cream forms stiff peaks. Don't overbeat, or you'll end up with butter!

Yield: 4 cups

  • 1 half-pint fresh blueberries
  • 3 half-pints fresh raspberries, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons framboise (raspberry brandy)

Combine the blueberries, one-half pint of raspberries, 1/3 cup water, the sugar and zest in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook uncovered over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes. The juice will become a syrup and the berries will be slightly cooked. Off the heat, stir in the remaining raspberries and the framboise. Set aside.

Yield: 8 servings

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

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mardi Gras-Part II Red Beans and Rice

I remember very fondly my one and only trip to New Orleans. My husband took me on a surprise trip there for my 30th birthday. Our trip was Pre-Katrina. We loved exploring the city, listening to the live jazz music and tasting the magnificent food. I hope we will be taking a return trip soon! To go along with the King cake I made for Mardi Gras, I wanted to make a big pot of red beans and rice. I searched through a lot of recipes and weeded out the ones that called for hard to find ingredients like ham hocks and pickled ham. I am particular about where I buy my meat and didn't have time for a Whole Foods run for the ham. This recipe was really easy to make and my husband loved it! The Andouille I purchased had quite a kick which he really liked. For my preference I would have liked a little less spice. I would definitely make this again for a quick week night meal. I still want to make the more classic version of the dish, starting with dry beans and achieving a more gravy-like texture. If anyone has a good one, please let me know.

Note: I promise my Barefoot Blogger's pick of Meringues Chantilly will be up by tomorrow. I'm running a bit behind this week. We are having beautiful weather and I opted for a trip to the zoo instead of baking in the kitchen!

Other Cajun Favorites:

Brown Rice with Andouille, Corn and Red Peppers
Slow Cooker Red Beans with Andouille Sausage

Chicken Andouille Gumbo

Red Beans and Rice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices(I used a natural nitrate free beef andouille)
  • 1 tablespoon Neelys Dry Rub (I added a mix of paprika, garlic powder and onion powder)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 (12-ounce) cans red beans, drained and rinsed(I used organic)
  • 3 cups chicken stock (I used homemade)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Pinch salt

In a large skillet heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, celery, green bell pepper, and garlic until tender. Add the smoked sausage, Neelys Dry Rub, thyme, salt and pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes then add the red beans, chicken stock and bay leaves. Let simmer uncovered on low for 1 1/2 hours. Stirring occasionally and adding water, if necessary.

While the beans are cooking add all the ingredients for the rice to a small saucepan over medium heat. Cover and let cook for 15 minutes. Once the rice is cooked, let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with the red beans.

Source: Down Home with the Neely's/

Let the Good Times Roll!

I have several blog updates I'm trying to catch up on! February is racing by me at warp speed! Yesterday in honor of Fat Tuesday, I made a king cake and red beans and rice. I was originally going to buy a king cake at Whole Foods. They make a really good and surprisingly authentic one. However, I was inspired by Jessica at My Baking Heart to try this recipe from scratch. This was much easier to make than I anticipated. My toddler helped me with this project and I think this will probably become an annual tradition for us. I highly recommend this recipe. I made a couple of changes from Jessica's recipe. I used bread flour instead of white flour. Per the note on Southern Living's site, the bread flour produces a lighter and airy cake.,whereas the white flour produces a great cake but it will be a little denser. I used the original creamy glaze that accompanies the Southern Living recipe. Jessica has a recipe for a fantastic looking bourbon glaze on her site, but I didn't think it was toddler friendly! Mom friendly-definitely! I'm posting the half recipe here. The original recipe makes two cakes.

King Cake

2 tbsp butter
1/2 of a 16 oz. container sour cream
2 tbsp + 2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 envelope Active Dry Yeast
1-1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 c warm water
1 egg
3-1/4 c all purpose flour, divided (I used bread flour)
1/4 c sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp + 2 tsp butter, softened
Creamy Glaze (recipe follows)

Cook first 4 ingredients in a saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts. Cool mixture to 100° to 110°. Dissolve yeast and 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar in 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add butter mixture, egg, and 2 cups flour; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until smooth. Gradually stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Stir together 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon; set aside.

Punch dough down; divide in half. Turn 1 portion out onto a lightly floured surface; roll to a 28- x 10-inch rectangle. Spread half of softened butter on dough, then sprinkle half of cinnamon mixture on dough. Roll dough, jellyroll fashion, starting at long side. Repeat all steps with second piece of dough, then twist with first piece. Place dough twist, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring ends together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 20 minutes or until doubled in bulk. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until golden. Decorate with bands of Creamy Glaze, and sprinkle with Colored Sugars.

Creamy Glaze (I used the whole recipe for one cake)

Makes 1 1/2 cups

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons milk

Stir together first 4 ingredients. Stir in 2 tablespoons milk, adding additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until spreading consistency.

Adapted from Southern Living Feb. 2006 as featured on My Baking Heart

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cherry Cake with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting

As the finishing touch for my Valentine's Day Party I made this cake from the latest issue of Paula Deen's Magazine. When I saw this cake in the February issue, I knew I wanted to make it. The presentation in the magazine was just adorable and I have always had success with Paula's desserts. This cake was incredibly moist and the cherry flavor was not overwhelming but added a nice hint to the cake. I think the technique of folding in the stiff egg whites contributed to the moist cake. It is a technique I had not used before. It was unanimous at the party that this cake recipe was a keeper! I would love to try this as cupcakes as well. I'm glad I was able to host the Valentine's Day party and got to bake a few Valentine's treats since I won't be cooking for Valentines this year. My husband is taking me for dinner and live jazz music at one of our favorite restaurants and then we are staying at one of the fabulous hotels downtown. I'm very much looking forward to our date!

A few notes, I recently learned Whole Foods sells jarred maraschino cherries with no artificial color. I will definitely be using those in the future. I was o.k with using the regular cherries because it was only a slight amount of artificial color for this recipe, but I prefer not to use any when possible. Also, next time I will make sure to get the cherries with the stems on for a more elegant presentation.

Past Favorite Paula Deen Desserts:
Blueberry Cream Cheese Tarts
French Coconut Pie
Blueberry Raspberry Pecan Crisp
Better Than Sex Cake
Lady and Son's Peach Cobbler

Cherry Cake with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting

1 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugr
2 tablespoons maraschino cherry juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole buttermilk
5 egg whites, beaten and stiff
1 cup finely chopped maraschino cherries
Cream Cheese-Cherry Frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350. Spray 3 (9 inch) baking pans with nonstick baking spray with flour.

In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add cherry juice and vanilla, beating until combined.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt; sift. Gradually add to butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture, beating until combined after each addition. Gently fold in beaten egg whites until mixture is smooth. Gently stir in maraschino cherries.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until wooden spoon inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks. Spread Cream Cheese-Cherry Frosting evenly in between layers and on top and sides of cake. Garnish with maraschino cherries if desired.

Cream Cheese-Cherry Frosting

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup maraschino cherry juice
6 cups confectioner's sugar

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Slowly beat in cherry juice until mixture is smooth. Gradually add confectioner's sugar, beating until smooth.

Source: Cooking with Paula Deen, January/February 2009.

Barefoot Bloggers-Real Spaghetti and Meatballs

I made this dish for a Sunday dinner and as usual with Ina's recipes, I thought it was really good. However, this one did not reach the spectacular standard of many of Ina's dishes but it was a nice flavorful dish. I liked the simplicity of the sauce and the intensity of flavor it had. I could definitely see using this sauce with other recipes. The meatballs were also good, but I'm not ready to trade in my regular recipe for these. My husband said he preferred my recipe to these. He wasn't blown away by this recipe, although he did say he liked it better the second day. I think these meatballs and the sauce had stiff competition from my all day slow cooked Sunday Gravy with meatballs. I told my husband I didn't think comparing the two were fair because they weren't in the same league! Also, I like to bake my meatballs as opposed to pan frying. Less mess and a bit healthier too! I did use all three meats, ground pork, ground veal and ground beef but I didn't see an amazing taste difference from my regular all beef meatballs. My meatballs were a little dense, but that may be because I forgot to add the warm water. It was listed in the recipe text and I used the ingredient guide when checking off the ingredients. Thanks to Rebecca of Ezra Poundcake for picking this one. It was a fun one to try. As always, be sure to check out the Barefoot Blogger's website to see how this one turned out for the rest of the bloggers. Also, be sure to check back on February 26th to see the second February pick. It was finally my turn to pick a recipe. I chose the Meringues Chantilly and I'm really excited about trying them!

Past Italian Favorites:
Lasagna Rolls
Italian Baked Chicken and Pastina
Penne with Turkey Meatballs
Gnocchi with Spinach and Sausage

Real Spaghetti and Meatballs

For the meatballs:

  • 1/2 pound ground veal
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 cup fresh white bread crumbs (4 slices, crusts removed)
  • 1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 extra-large egg, beaten
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil

For the sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup good red wine, such as Chianti
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes, or plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For serving:

  • 1 1/2 pounds spaghetti, cooked according to package directions
  • Freshly grated Parmesan


Place the ground meats, both bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, nutmeg, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. You will have 14 to 16 meatballs.

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large (12-inch) skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully, in batches, place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-low heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch. Don't crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don't clean the pan.

For the sauce, heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Return the meatballs to the sauce, cover, and simmer on the lowest heat for 25 to 30 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through. Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

Serve hot on cooked spaghetti and pass the grated Parmesan.

Source: Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa Family Style, Clarkson Potter, 2002.

Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispy Treats

I originally saw these on Joy the Baker and was immediately inspired to make them for my Valentine's Day party. These are simple yet adorable. The combination of chocolate and rice krispy is as perfect a match as cupid could make! Look for my next update: Cherry Cake with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting!

Past Favorites/Perfect for Valentines:
Raspberry Creme Brulee
Vanilla Bean Creme Brulee
Coeur a la Creme
Chocolate Tiramisu
Black Bottom Cupcakes
Bittersweet Brownies
Beatty's Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Sour Cream Frosting

Chocolate Dipped Rice Krispy Treats

3 Tbsp butter
10 oz marshmallows
6 cups Rice Krispy cereal
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate

1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

2. Add Rice Krispies. Stir until well coated.

3. Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool for 5-10 minutes. Use heart shaped cutter and cut into hearts. Best if served the same day.

4. Meanwhile melt chocolate over a double boiler. Set up a baking sheet with a rack and dip Rice Krispy treats. Allow to sit on rack to set.

Notes: Do not allow Rice Krispy treats to set to firm or you will be unable to cut them out with the shape cutter. Also, I dipped the treats but did not get a good coating as the treats are porous. I found the best method was to dip for a base coat and outline and then spoon chocolate over the treats and spread with spoon to outline the heart shape.

Source: Inspired by Joy the Baker. Original Recipe as Adapted from Kelloggs.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Chicken Cacciatore

As would be expected, one of my favorite stores is Williams Sonoma. I love not only their fabulous cooking supplies but their food products too. I previously used their Beef Burgundy simmer sauce with really great results. As much as its fun to prepare a whole meal, there are some days you want something that you can throw together quickly but that will still make a good meal. I like that these sauces have a great depth of flavor but are made of all natural ingredients. For this recipe, I tried the Cacciatore simmer sauce. I'm not sure if this one is still available everywhere, but I think the cooking technique would be easily replicated with your favorite store bought tomato sauce. The one downfall to these sauces is they tend to be seasonal and they are constantly changing the availability. For this recipe, the chicken was cooked entirely on the stove top and produced a very moist and savory dish.

1 Whole Chicken (cut up)
1 Jar Simmer Sauce or your favorite tomato sauce
3 tbsp Olive oil plus more as needed

Heat 3 tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Sear chicken in batches about 3-5 minutes per side to brown. Add more oil to pan if needed. Remove chicken from pan and drain oil.

Add chicken back to pan. Pour sauce over and cook covered for 20 minutes. Remove lid and cook uncovered another 25 minutes. Serve over pasta or rice.

Lentil Sausage Soup

This is one of those soups that cooks a long time on the stove and makes your house smell really inviting. This was my first time cooking or eating lentils and I have to say I'm a fan. This soup has lots of flavor and is a very hearty meal. I made a few substitutions as noted below. We thought this soup was delicious. This makes a huge batch, so you will definitely have leftovers to freeze. It does need to be thinned out with water or broth the next day as the lentils tend to soak up the remaining liquid.

Lentil Sausage Soup
  • 1 pound French green lentils (recommended: du Puy)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for serving
  • 4 cups diced yellow onions (3 large)
  • 4 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (2 leeks)-I omitted
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (2 large cloves)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 cups medium diced celery (8 stalks)
  • 3 cups medium diced carrots (4 to 6 carrots)
  • 3 quarts Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned broth-I used 2 quarts Organic Beef Broth and 3 cups red wine plus 1 cup of water)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 pound kielbasa, cut in 1/2 lengthwise and sliced 1/3-inch thick
  • 2 tablespoons dry red wine or red wine vinegar
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

In a large bowl, cover the lentils with boiling water and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drain.

In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat the olive oil and saute the onions, leeks, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, and cumin for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are translucent and tender. Add the celery and carrots and saute for another 10 minutes. Add the chicken stock, tomato paste, and drained lentils, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 1 hour, or until the lentils are cooked through and tender. Check the seasonings. Add the kielbasa and red wine and simmer until the kielbasa is hot. Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

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