Friday, November 28, 2008

Cookie Test Kitchen

I wanted to send some "thank you" packages to some friends this holiday season, and was on the search for some different recipes to accompany old favorites. Before taking the plunge, I made small batches of two new recipes to see how they were...

First up, Blueberry & White Chocolate Chunk Ginger Cookies (what a mouthful!). A twist on the oatmeal raisin cookie it seems, I liked the goodness from blueberries and ginger.

The other recipe I tried out were Apricot Butter Cookies, which had the unique addition of dried thyme. To make these a real test, I tried using the Smart Balance 50/50 Unsalted Butter that I've seen in the store. I'd been intrigued and wanted to see if my testers could tell that real butter wasn't used. This was a winning flavor combination, and best of all my grandfather enjoyed the butter :) hehe, he's a stickler!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy thanksgiving everyone!! Hope everyone enjoyed time with loved ones!

I didn't quite think it woud happen, but I actually managed to cook most of thanksgiving dinner! Mom and grandma took care of the turkey, but I made them relax the rest of the day while I had fun in the kitchen. The menu included some awesome Spirited Cranberry Sauce, Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Orange Essence, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and succotash. The succotash was pretty simple, sauteed onion, red peppers, and garlic were tossed with some cooked corn and lima beans, then finished with a tad of butter, salt and pepper. I meant to add fresh thyme or parsley, but forgot as everything was getting carried out.

The sweet stuff? Well, let's just say I need to work on my pie crusts... they tasted ok, they just weren't great. I made an Autumn Galette (apples, pears, dried cranberries) that was nice and light, but not worth posting what I actually did :)

The star of the show is always the pumpkin chiffon pie. It started with my great grandmother (whom we always called Babci), got picked up by mom, and now I guess by me! It's doubtful I liked it as a kid, but I think this one is heads and shoulders above the traditional pumpkin :) Much lighter due to some whipped egg whites that get folded into the pumpkin mixture, and a delicious blend of spices. Without further ado...

Pumpkin Chiffon
Babci's recipe

1 envelope knox gelatin (anyone know about substituting agar-agar or arrowroot for this?)
1 cup of sugar, divided
1/2t salt
1/2t cinnamon
1/2t nutmeg
1 1/2t ground ginger (that's not a typo!)
3 eggs, separated
3/4c milk
1 1/4c canned pumpkin puree (not pie mix)
1 baked pie shell
chopped walnuts for garnish, if desired

Mix gelatin, 1/2c sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger thoroughly in top of double boiler (over simmering water).

Beat egg yolks with milk and add to gelatin mix. Add pumpkin, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened. The notes say 10-12min... it seems like longer as you stand there stirring, but I forgot to time it until halfway through. You'll feel the mixture become harder to stir, and it will no longer fall off the spoon.

Once thickened, remove from heat and let cool. To speed this up, I transferred to a metal bowl and popped it into the fridge. It doesn't have to be cold, you just don't want it hot.

Beat egg whites until stiff. Then slowly add in 1/2c sugar (while beating). Fold this mixture into cooled pumpkin mix, then pour into baked pie shell. Top with a sprinkling of chopped walnuts and enjoy!

I prepared this last night and just stored it in the fridge until we were ready to dig in (who am I kidding, allowed to dig in!). It might not be the quickest, but being able to take care of it ahead of time really helps!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

POM Bark

I got a lot of comments about those Pumpkin Truffles, and they definately got a yummmm from me! Especially after hanging out a bit in the fridge. I also brought some to a friend of mine, who sent me an email once she tried one to tell me they were outstanding, so you don't have to take my word for it :) And since I didn't just want to create a whole post dedicated to that short answer, I leave you with another treat I created to [hopefully] bring home!

Pomegranates are so gorgeous, I love the fact that they are all over right now. How can you turn down these jewels??

Ok, well maybe if you didn't know what was inside... Anyways I had picked up a few of these, and had some arils in my fridge awaiting consumption when I saw this on sale.

I've had a love/hate relationship with white chocolate throughout my life, but this stuff is pretty darn incredible. They're not kidding when they say it's made with vanilla--you can see the specks!!! Last year I had made these, so my idea this time was to make POM bark! The little bursts make for quite the interesting treat :) And very festive!

POM Bark
"Recipe" by Shannon

1 bar of really good chocolate (white or dark, i'm sold on green & blacks right now!)
1/2c arils

Chop/break apart chocolate into smaller pieces and melt in a double boiler. While this is melting, line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Once fully melted, spread chocolate on cookie sheet, sprinkle around arils, and lightly press the arils into the chocolate. Pop the sheet into the fridge to harden (mine took a few hours). Once hardened, carefully break into smaller pieces and enjoy! Keep it in the fridge until ready to serve, or to store leftover pieces.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cleaning the Fridge

With the upcoming holiday I'll be spending at the parents, this weekend was for cleaning out the fridge! Not sure when I'll be posting again, so I hope everyone has a fabulous time with their families!!!!

Carrot Pumpkin Soup - I followed the recipe, using 2c chopped carrots and 1c pumpkin

Pumpkin Truffles - Made with Amaretto as I didn't have any Grand Marnier

And last but not least, the REALLY ripe banana on my counter found their way into a very small (4) batch of Banana Wheat Germ Muffins. I was a little short on wheat germ, so I did about half and half with ground flax seeds.

Ok, I lied... I made something else with ingredients I didn't have on hand. But I happened upon two Hiyacha persimmons at the store that seemed to be ripe (the acorn-shaped ones, which are supposed to be quite soft when ripe and better for baking), and I couldn't turn them down! When peeling one of my persimmons, you could definately tell there was a section still unripe (much harder) so I didn't use that for fear of astringency and inedible baked goods. This led to a smaller amount of puree than called for in this Persimmon Date Bread and the making of muffins instead! After popping one, ok, two, in my mouth, I packaged the rest up for the freezer so I can come home to some fresh-baked goodness after a long weekend home :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Savory Pumpkin Souffle

For this week's BSI, Lindsay chose pumpkin and I went to the dark-errr, savory side for this challenge! My idea was a Savory Pumpkin Souffle, complete with goat cheese and sage. The flavors were pretty good, but I was a bit disappointed with my egg whites. The problem? I only made 2 souffles, using 1 egg white, so I couldn't do it in my mixer. I don't think they were stiff enough so the souffle didn't really rise... at least it tasted good :)

Savory Pumpkin Souffle
Recipe by Shannon
Yield: 2 side servings

1 1/3T whole wheat pastry flour
5 1/3T skim milk, divided (you need 2 2/3T twice)
2oz goat cheese
5oz pumpkin puree (1/3 can)
salt, pepper, fresh sage to taste
1 large egg white

Preheat oven to 375º. Lightly spray 2 ramekins with cooking spray and set aside.

Whisk together flour and 2 2/3T milk in small bowl. Set aside.

Combine 2 2/3T milk and 2oz goat cheese in small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until cheese melts. Stir in flour mix, cook until thick, stirring often. Transfer to large bowl, then add in pumpkin and seasonings. Mix really well (could also beat this), until mixture is smooth.

Using clean beaters, beat egg white with a mixer at high speed until stiff peaks form. Stir one-third of egg whites into the pumpkin mixture. Gently fold in remaining egg whites. Divide pumpkin mixture evenly among prepared ramekins. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet. Bake at 375º for 25 minutes or until soufflés are puffy and set. Serve immediately.

ps- true to shannon form, i had one of these for lunch the next day, and it didn't lose it's flavor ;-) just a little of it's lift!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Not Just Another Frittata

This frittata had two ingredients that screamed "MAKE ME," so I listened :) Head over to Dani Spies to check out this recipe for a Butternut Quinoa Frittata. I think I cooked the squash a bit longer, so it didn't hold it's shape as nicely as in Dani's photograph. Regardless of how it looked, it was much enjoyed-- great combo of flavors in this dish! Oh, I used gorgonzola as I much prefer that to blue cheese. Sorry for the lackluster slice i'm serving up

And one more treat for today... Heather gave me the Superior Scribbler Award!! I don't know that I'm quite worthy, but here's the deal...

1. Post the award on your blog
2. Link to me for giving it to you
3. Link the originating post here
4. Pass it on to five deserving people
5. Post these rules for your recipients.

I have such a hard time picking just a few! What I think that really means is that I read too many blogs :) Based on the award, I am passing this award on to...

A couple roses :)
--Rose @ On A Lobster Placemat: her oatmeal is so creative I wouldn't be able to eat it! I love the stories that accompany every bowl :)
--Rosiecat @ Life, Love, and Food: her kitchen conversations and beautifully written posts almost outshine the recipes she so lovingly shares! (i said almost!!)

--Shauna @ Gluten-Free Girl: the tagline food-stories-recipes-love says it all! I highly doubt she knows my blog exists, but the way she writes always brings a smile and some inspiration!

and two fitness-inspirations
--Carla (Miz) @ Mizfit: along with the bumbling band, she makes me think way too hard that early in the morning!! but i love every minute of it.
-- Angela @ OhSheGlows: I stumbled upon her blog all of 5 days ago and quickly realized it's chock-full of inspiration :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It's not just for oatmeal anymore!

I knew as soon as I saw this I'd have to try it. I'll admit, I thought "why didn't I think of this," but then I came to my senses :) Whenever I try a dish that I haven't had before, I stick to the recipe... such was the case when I first made risotto a little over a year ago. As I got the hang of this dish, I stuck with arborio and mingled the add-ins.

Enter Mel over at bitchin camero, she always gets me with her lovely photos and recipes! Using steel cut oats in this Risotto with Shrimp & Asparagus made for a nice change in texture--still creamy but with a nice chewiness. Don't forget the freshly ground pepper! I've also been meaning to try risotto with barley, or maybe even with some fruit or sweetness... the possibilities are endless :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

A Sunday of Thanks

I've been blessed by some great goodies lately, and wanted to express my gratitude of the thoughtfulness and excitement that has come from blogland! You ALL are so incredible!!!!

First up, from the BSI challenges, a thank you to Sabrina, for the halloween-themed goodies she sent along for the Chocolate Polenta Cake I made (sorry I don't know what I was thinking, but I forgot to take a picture!) Also to Gina, who liked my Pumpkin Surprise Cupcakes enough to send me some homemade macaroons that were just incredible--girl i want the recipe if you don't mind sharing!!!

Next up were some freebies thanks to Megan's Munchies :)

And finally, a huge shoutout goes to Kalyn over in her Kitchen, who has been running the fabulous Weekend Herb Blogging for 3 years. To commemorate the event there were several giveaways, and I was the lucky recipient of some new cookbooks! So excited for the new readings I can hardly contain myself!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The ever-expanding world

I have really loved my exploration into new and exciting grains, passing along my knowledge to my parents who have tried them with gusto (ok, well maybe sometimes a little tentatively... but they've liked them all!!) :) Alot of what I learned came from perusing both the internet and food blogs and the book Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way.

The first third or so of the book is chock full of information about whole grains (some of which I hadn't heard of before!). I had a ball reading this part :) Recipes utilizing each of the grains for different courses account for the rest of the book. Another useful tool is the index of mail-order sources if you cannot find some of the grains mentioned.

So the food? I've tried two recipes so far-- the oat pudding was just ok, but I really enjoyed the quinoa chowder with spinach and feta. Tonight I tried the Chili-Scented Pork Chops with Quinoa (with a much longer name in the book). For this dish, quinoa is tossed with corn and a roasted red pepper vinaigrette, then topped with a pork chop and served alongside lightly dressed cherry tomatoes. A really nice combo of flavors!! I'd recommend this book for its information alone, but it seems the recipes are winners, too :)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Goat Cheese Panna Cotta

I think panna cotta is quickly becoming one of my favorite desserts. So easy, elegant, and you do it ahead of time, so it's especially good for entertaining! (hmmm, maybe i should try entertaining someone besides myself!) I cut the recipe in half and mixed about some of the ingredients to take advantage of what I had in my fridge. With another success in the books/blog, I shall have to try experimenting a bit more with it!!

Goat Cheese Panna Cotta
adapted from Enlightened Cooking
Serves 4

1 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
2T water
1/2c and 2T skim milk
1T vanilla caramel coffee mate (I added this to get some fat, as my dairy products were fat-free and wasn't sure how it would turn out)
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 ounces goat cheese
1/2c plus 2T Trader Joe's European Nonfat Yogurt
optional, for garnish: fresh berries, arils, and jam

Sprinkle gelatin over water in a small bowl; let stand 10 minutes. Bring milk, coffee mate, vanilla bean, and powdered sugar to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove pan from heat; remove vanilla bean and, with tip of knife, scrape seeds into milk mixture (discarding the bean, or use it to make vanilla sugar if you so desire!).

Whisk in gelatin mixture and goat cheese until smooth. Whisk in yogurt until well combined. Divide mixture evenly among 4 (6-ounce) ramekins. Cover and refrigerate for 5 hours or overnight.

Loosen edges with a knife. Place a plate, upside down, on top of each cup; invert onto plates. I topped mine off with some warmed up fruit spread and fresh berries and arils just to make it look pretty :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beef & Butternut Stew

A nice hearty bowl of Beef & Butternut Stew would be wonderful on a chilly winter day! Luckily we're not there quite yet, so it's good that I have some in the freezer waiting for me :) This recipe comes from Giada De Laurentis, and you can also find step-by-step pictures here. The only thing I did slightly differently is to cut the beef and squash in smaller bites than called for in the recipe and cut down a little bit on the oil. Here they are... one for now and some for later!!

(I made half the recipe, and decided to split it into thirds so I could add half a sandwich or muffin or whatever the heck I felt like...  if you're wondering about serving size)  This was delish, and due to simmering for longer than Giada called for (I forgot to check the clock or set the timer) the meat was especially tender!  While I was making this, I was thinking "hmm, I'm just not a huge fan of beef stew."  Luckily I really enjoyed it and would definately make this again :)  I didn't so much pick out the sundried tomato flavor, but I just eye-balled those and might've been a little shy.  It also couldn't be hurt by adding more squash, but that's probably true for alot of things!!  Melissa  and I must've been on the same wavelength sunday, as we both made this--check out her raves here.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Roasted Acorns w/Chile-Lime Vinaigrette

When I made this recipe for the first time at the end of squash season, I was beyond excited about. I remember telling my lab-mate about it, and couldn't wait to see them again this fall. Hailing from Gourmet, this is a different take on the sweet squash-- Roasted Acorn Squash with Chile Vinaigrette (why do I always want to spell it 'ia'?? maybe it's the i before e rule...). I think I built it up too much in my head, b/c this time it was good, just didn't knock my socks off. I did like the sweet-spicy thang it's got goin on ;-) Definately a good way to mix things up a bit!

ps- please excuse the tupperware, this batch went in to work for lunch!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Sunday Fun

I had so much fun on my run today, running through the leaves :) Left me feeling like a kid and got me excited for a game of tag! Megan (Megan's Munchies) wanted to learn a little more about me, so here it is.

what to do...

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them.
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Ok, here we go...

1. Well, you all may have guessed (given my screen name of ttfn300), but I have a thing for tigger. It all started in high school on a sports team... I have more tigger parafanalia and movies than I should without kids!

2. I used to be a bowler. I can't remember when I started, but I competed through high school (yes, we had a varsity team!). Never got that perfect game (I had the first 10, then choked), but made it to states and made many many great friends along the way.

3. Here's one for Erin: I didn't start cooking until grad school. I don't know if it was all the new cuisines I was exposed to, or what, but I love it!

4. Other things I used to do and wish I still did: art (mostly drawing and painting) and playing the piano (especially after hearing mi--but i couldn't hold a candle to her beautiful playing! my mom will find this especially funny as I HATED practicing as a kid).

5. My favorite color is purple, but only the deep shades :) I also like red... and orange...

6. I CANNOT wait to get a dog. I'd get two though, so they could keep each other company! So keep those pet pictures coming people!!!

Now you're it!
Erica (Itzy's Kitchen)
Bridget (Yogurt & Berries)
Gena (Gena Cooks)
Maggie (Say Yes to Salad)
Zesty (Zesty Cooks)
Jess (See Jess Run)

And since Megan is the pumpkin queen, I leave you with some yummy pumpkin walnut muffins!!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Eggplant Gnocchi

Whew! With being out of town last weekend and copious amounts of free food at work, I was so excited to spend the better part of this afternoon in my kitchen!! This weeks BSI, chosen by Meghann, was eggplant! I've already featured an eggplant recipe on here, and wanted to come up with something a bit different. Perusing through Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, it hit me--eggplant gnocchi! Instead of pairing eggplant with pasta, make it into the pasta!

I'm a novice when it comes to dough making, so I followed the instructions pretty closely... all i can say is I tried my best and made a mess of my kitchen counter :) Since it came from the book, i'm not going to infringe on any copyright... let's just say it did contain equal amounts of potato and eggplant! Here's some of the steps I managed to take in between hand washings :)

mashing, mixing...

hmm, can you call what i did "rolling"??

Could've sworn I had pasta sauce, but when I went to find it, I could not :( Oh well, guess I'll have to get on that! These actually came out pretty good, you could taste both the eggplant and potato, and I don't think they were too heavy at all. ~phew~ Have a great rest of the weekend everyone!!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Easier than Pie

Got any utility Mac's that you have to use up? Probably not, but I did :) Recipes abound on the internet for homemade applesauce, but I'll let you in on a little secret... you don't need to add any sugar! Crazy, I know! Save it for those pumpkin cupcakes or cookies :)

This is my mom's way of doing things, and I love it so much I couldn't mess with it. Nice and easy, too. She always used to cook up a BIG batch and freeze some to enjoy the rest of the year. We'd get excited there was some defrosting for dinner :)

Homemade Applesauce
Mom's tried and true recipe


See, I told you it was simple! You can do this with as little or as many apples as you have and your cooking vessels permit. Peel and slice the apples (you could even keep the skins if they look better than mine did!). Here's where the options come in... microwave, crockpot, stove, heck, you could even do this in the oven.

Mom always went for the microwave: Add apple slices to a glass baking dish, then sprinkle with cinnamon (adjust it to your tastes, folks). Cook 5 min on high, stir, then 5min intervals on medium, stirring in between, to avoid boilovers. If you have a smaller amount of apples, you could probably do 2 min intervals. Stop when it looks like applesauce, I like mine chunky, but if you want, cook it longer!

What I did this time was to use the good ol' crockpot: Add apple slices to the crock, sprinkle with cinnamon (I guess you could use other spices and fruit, but for this, I wanted it just like mom made!!). Turn on the crockpot, and cook until desired consistency! I turned it on high while I was doing other things and it went pretty quickly.

How easy is that? No sugar added, and so freakin good you'll have to hold yourself back from finishing it all in one go. No? Just me? Good for you! It'll last longer :)
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