Friday, January 27, 2012


I have to begin this post by saying that my mother-in-law is Danish.  This recipe for Æbelskiver (pronounced "able-skeever") is her recipe.  Æbelskiver are a traditional Danish breakfast food, usually made on special occasions.  They are essentially pancakes, but in the shape of a ball.  They have to be cooked in a special pan, which you can currently purchase at Williams-Sonoma, and which looks like this:

These are so delicious.  They are like pancakes, and yet are different somehow.  Plus, the whole fact that they are shaped like a ball makes them fun.  You can also put things inside of them while cooking.  Æbleskiver actually translates as "apple slice," because traditionally a small piece of apple would be placed in the middle during baking.  I've tried that, as well as pear, raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry.  All of them are fantastic.  Williams-Sonoma touts filling them with jam or even decadent chocolate fillings while baking.  My mother-in-law dismisses this as foolishness, and says it is very NOT Danish. We generally break them open after cooking, and put a little jam in the middle.  My kids dip them in maple syrup.  But any way you eat them, they're delicious.


2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cardamom (optional, but very good)
Zest from one lemon (again optional, but very good.  I've also used lime and orange zest.)
2 cups buttermilk (no substitutions!)
4 eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted

In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom, and lemon zest.  Add buttermilk and mix to form a thick batter, then mix in eggs and finally butter.  Transfer to a pitcher and let sit for 5 minutes while you heat up the pan.
Heat Æbelskiver pan over medium heat.  Spray the pan with cooking spray, being sure that each well is coated.  Pour batter into each well, coming within 1/4" of the top of the well, but not filling it up completely.  Let cook for 1-2 minutes, or until you can see the outside edges setting up, and the middles getting puffy.  Using a wooden skewer or a fork, grab the outside rim of each Æbelskiver and quickly pull it to the other side, turning it over.  This is how the ball is formed.  Let cook an additional 1-2 minutes, or until the Æbelskiver is browned and the inside is cooked through.  Remove from pan, respray with cooking spray, and pour in more batter.  Repeat until no batter remains.
Makes about 40 Æbelskiver, which serves about 6 people.

Spicy Honey Chicken Salad

Apparently this is one of the most popular recipes on the Our Best Bites blog.  I can see why.  The chicken itself is to-die-for.  It's the perfect combination of savory, sweet, and spicy.  The salad sets it off nicely by adding tartness, creaminess, and a little bite.  It's amazing.  Seriously.

Spicy Honey Chicken Salad with Honey-Citrus Vinaigrette
Recipe by Our Best Bites

Chicken Ingredients:
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (don't use breasts!)
Cooking spray
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp onion powder (I skipped this and didn't miss it)
1/2 tsp coriander
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chipotle chili powder (you could substitute 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper)
1/2 cup honey
1 Tbs cider vinegar

Dressing Ingredients:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp grated red onion
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
3 Tbs lime juice
2 Tbs honey
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Salad Ingredients:
1 bag baby greens salad mix
1 ripe mango, chilled
2-3 ripe avocados
1/2 small red onion, sliced

For the chicken:
Spray chicken pieces with cooking spray on both sides.  Combine garlic, chili powder, onion powder, coriander, salt, cumin, and chipotle chili powder in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture over all sides of the chicken.  In a separate small bowl, warm honey in the microwave for 15 seconds.  Stir in cider vinegar.  Reserve 2 T of honey mixture in a separate bowl; the rest will be used for glazing the chicken during the cooking process.
Over a medium-high grill or under a broiler, grill or broil rubbed chicken for 2 minutes per side, then brush honey glaze over each side and grill an additional 2-3 minutes per side, reapplying glaze between flips.  When chicken is cooked through, remove from grill and drizzle reserved glaze on top.  Let sit for 5 minutes before slicing.

For the salad:
Combine dressing ingredients with a whisk in a medium bowl.  Set aside.
Peel mango and slice into 1" cubes.  Slice avocados into 1/2" cubes.  Combine in large serving bowl with salad greens.  After chicken has rested for at least 5 minutes, slice into 1/2" cubes and add to salad.  Serve immediately with Honey-Citrus Vinaigrette.
Serves 4-6.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

This is another recipe from Our Best Bites. I tend to pick a cookbook per week when I'm doing my meal planning, and this week it's this one!
My kids are getting pretty good at trying new things, but it doesn't always go over well and then I have to do the tough-love-parenting where I make them eat enough of it that I feel like they're not going to wake up starving at 3 am, and so sometimes I get nervous before serving them things that are new.  This was one of those recipes.  It's kind of "fancy," which sometimes is equated with "kids-don't-like-it."  Luckily it was received with rave reviews, and is now one of our favorite recipes!  I (of course) make it slightly differently from how it was originally written, so I'm giving you my version of the recipe.  Enjoy!

Chicken Cordon Bleu

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
4 slices provolone cheese (or mozzarella or Swiss)
4 slices deli ham
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup panko bread crumbs
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Slice each chicken breast in half horizontally (cutting the thickness in half) so you have 4 thinner breast pieces.  Place each piece between two pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat mallet until the pieces are about 1/4" thick.
Combine seasonings and sprinkle evenly over one side of the chicken breast.  Place a slice of provolone and a slice of ham on top of each breast, then roll each piece up and secure with toothpicks.
Place flour in a shallow bowl (I use pie plates), beaten eggs in a second, and mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan in a third.  Working with one piece of chicken at a time, dredge in flour, rolling the chicken around to coat the entire piece, then in the eggs, and finally in the breadcrumb mixture.  Press the breadcrumbs evenly on all sides of chicken.
Place coated chicken on prepared baking sheet.  Spray tops of chicken with cooking spray.  Bake for 30-35 minutes in a 350-degree oven, or until chicken is cooked through.  If desired, you can place pan under the broiler for a minute to lightly brown the tops of the chicken.
Cool for 10 minutes, then remove toothpicks before serving.
Serves 4.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

I'm not going to tell you how many of these cookies I personally ate after making these, but I will tell you that it was w-a-a-a-a-a-y more than I should have!  They're just irresistible.  The chocolately flavor, the fudgey texture, the powdered sugar.  You won't regret making them, you'll only regret having to stop eating them. 

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies
Recipe by Williams-Sonoma

1 2/3 cups flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.  Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats mats, or lightly grease. 
In a medium bowl combine flour, cocoa powder and baking powder.  Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula, then add eggs and vanilla and beat until well blended.  Add flour mixture, and beat on low speed just until blended.
Place powdered sugar in a small bowl.  Take a tablespoon of dough and form into a ball.  Roll into the powdered sugar until coated, and place 2" apart on prepared baking sheets.
Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are "crinkled."  Remove to rack to cool.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fauxtisserie Chicken

This recipe comes from the brilliant ladies over at Our Best Bites. It's great because it tastes like an oven-roasted chicken, but it cooks in your slow-cooker, so it's easy-peasy.  I am changing the recipe a little to what I personally do, but you can find their original recipe in their cookbook or possibly on their blog.  I served this with homemade rolls (these, also from Our Best Bites), salad, and mixed veggies. Delicious Sunday dinner.

Fauxtisserie Chicken

1 whole roaster chicken (3-5 lbs)
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 T softened butter
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp Herbs de Provence
1 onion
3 carrots
2 stems rosemary, each about 4" long

Make 3 balls of aluminum foil about 2 inches in diameter.  Place them in a triangular pattern on the bottom of the slow cooker.  These hold the chicken off the bottom of the dish so the chicken doesn't turn into shredded chicken.
Rinse chicken inside and out in cold water, discarding any chicken parts in the cavity. Pat dry (inside and out) with paper towels.
Place chicken on a plate with the breast facing up and the legs pointing towards you.  Loosen the skin of the chicken all around, gently separating it from the bird while keeping the sides attached. 
In a small bowl, combine butter, garlic, sage, and Herbs de Provence.  Use fingers to spread mixture under all the skin, including legs.  Spread a little bit over the outside of the skin as well.
Peel the onion and cut it into quarters.  Peel carrots and cut into 2-inch pieces.  Stuff two onion pieces and as many carrots as will fit into the chicken, and place the remaining pieces in the bottom of the slow-cooker.  Place the chicken in the slow-cooker.  I would recommend placing it breast-side down, so the juices run through that part of the bird, making them juicier.
Cover with the lid, turn heat to low, and cook for 6-7 hours.
Serves 6.

Rustic Pear Tart

This is a delicious, fresh tart, which makes me so happy in the middle of cold and dreary winter.  The pears are so light and clean, the crust so deep and hearty, set against the tangy flavor of the vanilla cream, its a perfect dessert.  And it's easy to make, which makes it even better. 

Rustic Pear Tart
Recipe by Ellie Krieger

Crust Ingredients:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
2 tsp sugar

4 T cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 T buttermilk
3 T ice water

Filling Ingredients:
3 medium pears (I used Anjou)
1 T lemon juice
1 T + 1 tsp cornstarch
3 T brown sugar
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp honey
1/4 tsp boiling water

Vanilla Creme Ingredients:
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 T powdered sugar
1/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
1/2 tsp vanilla
(or you can do what I did, which is use 1/4 cup vanilla flavored yogurt and no vanilla)

To make the crust, combine flours and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles a coarse meal, about 12 times.  In a small bowl, combine the buttermilk and water.  Add to the food processor and pulse 3-5 times, or until the dough just comes together.  Shape into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 425F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat.
To make the filling, peel the pears, core them, and cut into 1/4" slices.  In a large bowl, toss the pears with the lemon juice.  Add the cornstarch, brown sugar, and cinnamon and toss until evenly combined. 
On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a 9-inch circle.  Transfer dough to the prepared baking sheet.  Arrange pears in a mound on the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border.  Fold the border over the filling.  The border should partially cover the pears, and it's okay to be uneven. 
Bake for 15 minutes at 425F, then reduce the heat to 350F and continue to cook until the pears are tender and crust in browned, about 40 minutes.
In a small bowl, stir together the honey and boiling water.  Brush the honey glaze all over the top of the fruit and crust.  Transfer the tart to a plate and allow to cool.  Cut into six wedges. 
To make the vanilla cream, whip the cream on high speed until thickened, then add the powdered sugar and continue whip until stiff peaks form.  Fold in the yogurt and vanilla.  Dollop some on each wedge of tart.
Serves 6.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Crispy French Toast Dippers

These little beauties answer the question, "What am I going to do with that whole box of cornflakes?" I only ever buy cornflakes for recipes, and after buying them for the chicken on Wednesday I needed something else to do with them (because eating them as a breakfast cereal is obviously out of the question--I mean really, who does that?).  So here is the answer.

Seriously though, these little beauties (also from the Comfort Foods Fix cookbook) are crunchy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside.  They're perfect for a relaxed morning or a holiday breakfast.  And what kid doesn't love to dip?  Serve with a little bowl of syrup or thinned-out jam, and everyone will be begging for more.

Crispy French Toast Dippers
Recipe by Ellie Krieger

1 cup sliced almonds
3 cups cornflakes
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1 T maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large slices firm whole-grain bread, each piece cut crosswise to make 4 or 5 fingers
Cooking spray

In a food processor or blender, pulse the almonds until coarsely ground.  Add the cornflakes, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and pulse until cornflakes resemble the texture of oats.  Transfer mixture to a shallow dish.
In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, milk, syrup, and vanilla until well combined.
Spray a large nonstick skillet or griddle with cooking spray and preheat over medium heat.  Dip each piece into the egg mixture, allowing the bread to become completely moistened but not soggy.  Then transfer to the cornflake mixture and coat each side completely.  Cook on the skillet over medium-low heat (not any higher or they'll burn), turning once, until the outside is golden brown and the center is warm, about 6 minutes total.
Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Honey-Crisp Oven-Fried Chicken

Fried chicken is one of those things that I love, but just can't make myself buy or make.  The fat is just too much.  This recipe, from the "Comfort Food Fix" cookbook, solves the problem.  But that's not all.  Not only is it a healthier "fried" chicken, but it has a rich complex flavor that is so much more grown up than KFC.  It was crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and sweet and hot and delicious all the way through. 

Honey-Crisp Oven-Fried Chicken
Recipe by Ellie Krieger

4 skinless bone-in chicken thighs (about 1 1/2 pounds)  (I couldn't find skinless bone-in, so I bought thighs with the skin and bone, and then removed the skin, which was very easy and took all of five minutes)
2/3 cup buttermilk
4 cups cornflakes
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (this seems like a lot, but it doesn't make it spicy because it's countered by the honey)
2 Tbs honey
Cooking spray

Place the chicken in a bowl or bag with the buttermilk and toss to coat.  Marinate in refrigerator for 1-4 hours.
Place cornflakes in a food processor and process until crumbs form.  Transfer to a shallow dish and mix in paprika, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper.
Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Remove the chicken from the buttermilk, shaking off excess.  Discard remaining buttermilk.  Brush each piece of chicken with honey on both sides (I found this was easier if I microwaved the honey for about 8 seconds, so it was thinner but not runny).  Dip the honey-coated chicken pieces into the cornflake mixture, pressing hard so the crumbs adhere well.  Place coated chicken on the prepared baking sheet.  Lightly spray the top of each chicken thigh with cooking spray.  Bake until chicken is crisped and cooked through, 45-50 minutes.
Make 4 servings.         

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

For MLK Day: Black and White Shortbread Cookies

I wanted to do a dessert to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and decided to do some black and white shortbread cookies.  If you've never made shortbread, it's practically the easiest thing in the world.  Anyone can do it.  And you can dress it up or down.  I made half vanilla-half chocolate cookies, but you could also make all vanilla cookies and then dip them in melted chocolate, or frost half of them with ganache.  You could add a little lemon, orange, or lime zest, or some cinnamon or anise or almond flavoring.  This is how I did it:

Black-and-White Shortbread Cookies

4 cups flour
2 cups butter (4 sticks), room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar (you can also use regular sugar for a slightly different texture)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted

In a mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides occasionally.  Beat in vanilla extract, then stir in the flour until just incorporated.  Divide dough in half; place one half on a sheet of plastic wrap and flatten to a disk.  Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.  Add chocolate to the second half of dough, stirring until evenly incorporated.  Flatten to a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silpat mats.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the vanilla dough into a 1/4" thick rectangle.  Using a knife or bench scraper, cut a strip of dough 1" wide.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Reflour surface and roll out the chocolate dough in the same manner.

Take a strip of chocolate dough and put it next to a strip of vanilla dough.  Push the edges together slightly with your finger, then lightly run over them with a rolling pin to seal the edges.  Using and knife or bench scraper cross-cut the strip into 1" x 2" rectangles (half black, half white).  Transfer cookies to a baking sheet (they won't rise or spread, so you don't have to leave much room between them).  Repeat with remaining strips of dough.  Refrigerate cookies for 15 minutes before baking to firm up the butter, so cookies will maintain shape when baked.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly brown.  Let set up for 5 minutes on baking sheet, then transfer carefully to wire rack to cool completely.

Shortbread will keep in an airtight container for a week, or frozen for several months.

Makes about 45 cookies.

Sesame Chicken with Broccoli

This is from the cookbook "Comfort Food Fix," by Ellie Krieger.  It's a new one that I got for Christmas.  The author basically takes her favorite comfort foods and health-ifies them.  Yes, I just made up that word. ;) 

This one is a great Chinese dish, with all the right balance of flavors.  Like most Chinese food it's easy and quick to put together, which is fantastic for a busy weeknight.  Serve over rice.

Sesame Chicken with Broccoli
Comfort Food Fix by Ellie Krieger

5 Tbs reduced-sodium soy sauce
4 tsp toasted sesame oil
5 tsp honey
1 lb skinless boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 Tbs canola oil
2 scallions (green onions), thinly sliced, reserving 2 T greens for garnish
1 Tbs fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
4 tsp cornstarch
1 Tbs rice vinegar
1 tsp chili paste (I didn't have this so I substituted 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper)
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets, and steamed until tender-crisp (about 4 minutes)
2-3 Tbs toasted sesame seeds

In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 T soy sauce, 2 tsp sesame oil, and 2 tsp honey.  Add the chicken, toss to coat, and marinate for at least 20 minutes. 
Heat 2 tsp canola oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat.  Remove chicken from marinade with slotted spoon and add to pan (discard remaining marinade).  Cook until browned and cooked through, turning as needed, about 6 minutes.  Transfer cooked chicken to a serving dish.  (Chicken can be cooked in two batches if needed).
While the chicken is cooking, in a small bowl whisk together the broth, 2 T soy sauce, 3 tsp honey, cornstarch, vinegar, and chili paste until the cornstarch and honey are dissolved.  Set aside.
Heat remaining 2 tsp canola oil in the skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the scallions, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  Add the cornstarch mixture to the pan and cook, stirring, until the mixture is thickened and darkened in color, about 2-3 minutes.  Stir in the remaining 2 tsp sesame oil and remove from heat.
Pour the sauce over the chicken.  Surround chicken with steamed broccoli.  Sprinkle the chicken with the sesame seeds and reserved 2 T scallions.  Serve over rice.

Makes 4 servings.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken

I love to use my slow-cooker.  I try to use it once a week, and pick my busiest day for it so I don't have to worry about making dinner that night.  Tonight we were able to enjoy this deliciousness.  This recipe came from a friend who got it from a blog devoted to slow-cookers.  I thought it was pretty good, but I've since been tweaking the ingredients to more closely mimic real Thai food.  I think the result is perfect!  We serve it over rice, but you could also use rice noodles or linguine.

Slow-Cooker Thai Chicken

2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup chicken broth
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cup shredded zucchini (I grate mine on a cheese grater)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin, long strips
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided
Chopped peanuts, for garnish
Shredded sweetened coconut, for garnish

Add garlic, peanut butter, broth, chicken, zucchini, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, red pepper, and red pepper flakes to slow cooker. Stir to combine. Cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high for 2-3 hours. A half hour before you are going to serve, add in lime juice and 1/4 cup of cilantro. Serve over noodles and garnish with remaining cilantro, peanuts, and shredded coconut.

Apricot Chicken

This is a great easy recipe to use when you're not sure what to do with that chicken.  It takes nearly no time at all and is delicious!  It's sticky and sweet and salty all at the same time.  Yum!  Thanks to my friend Audrey for the recipe.

Apricot Chicken

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast
1 cup apricot jam or preserves
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 t garlic, minced

Combine the jam, soy sauce, and garlic.  Add chicken and toss to coat.  If desired, leave to marinate for 10-30 minutes, or cook immediately. 

To cook in the oven:
Bake chicken in a casserole dish for 35 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165F. 

To cook on the grill/broiler:
Grill over high heat for 3 minutes per side, then an additional 3 minutes per side on medium-low heat, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165F.

Makes 4 servings.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Freezer Jam

I love jam.  I could eat it on anything.  There is nothing better in this world than warm homemade bread slathered with butter and jam.  We go through jam pretty quickly around here, so I'm constantly making freezer jam.  The benefit to freezer jam versus traditional jam is that you don't have to cook it and seal it.  It's very simple and quick.  I use whatever fruit is in season that I can buy cheaply, or in winter I buy bags of frozen berries and use those.  You can put the jam into jars, as is tradition, or you can use Tupperware-type containers (which stack nicely in the freezer).  I used to use the small 1/2 cup jars, but now I've moved to the large 2 cup jars, since we can finish off a 1/2 cup jar in one sitting. 

Once you get the basic recipe down, you can play around with it a bit.  For instance, use lime or orange juice instead of lemon.  Add cinnamon or ginger.  Combine different fruits.  Have fun, try new things, enjoy yourself.  It's jam--what could go wrong? Here are two different recipes, one using pectin, one using modified food starch.  Pectin is traditional and will produce a slightly looser jam.  The starch jam will produce a more jelly-like texture, though not as set.

Always Perfect Freezer Jam (using pectin)

4 cups fruit, such as berries, peaches, plums, etc.  Skin/pits should be removed and large fruit should be cut into 1/2" chunks.
4 cups sugar
1 T lemon juice
1 package fruit pectin, such as Sure Jell
3/4 cup water

In a large bowl, crush the fruit with a potato masher.  It shouldn't be perfect, a few lumps are desirable.  Add lemon juice and sugar and stir to combine.  Let sit so the sugar can begin to dissolve.  Meanwhile, combine pectin and water in a small saucepan.  Cook over high heat until it begins to boil.  Boil for one minute, then stir immediately into fruit mixture.  Stir for five minutes, or until sugar dissolves completely and jam begins to thicken.  Ladle into containers, top with lids, and let sit out for a couple of hours.  Freeze for up to one year, or refrigerate for up to 3 months.

Less Sugar Freezer Jam (using Modified Food Starch)

4 cups fruit, such as berries, peaches, plums, etc.  Skin/pits should be removed and large fruit should be cut into 1/2" chunks.
2 cups sugar
1 T lemon juice
1/2 cup modified food starch, such as Instant Clear Gel or Ultra Gel

In a large bowl, crush the fruit with a potato masher.  It shouldn't be perfect, a few lumps are desirable.  Add lemon juice and sugar and stir to combine. Slowly stir in the starch, then continue to stir for five whole minutes, until jam begins to thicken and sugar dissolves.  Ladle into containers, top with lids, and freeze or refrigerate until needed.  Can be frozen for up to one year, or refrigerated for up to 3 months.

Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Roasted Red Peppers, and Goat Cheese

A few years ago I discovered the joy of making my own pizza.  Since then we do it every other month or so.  My kids love the idea of putting whatever they like on their own personal pizza (even though they only ever put on cheese and pepperoni).  I love to try out more gourmet pizza toppings, and have yet to be disappointed.  This is one of my favorites.  It seems like a lot of work to put together the components, but since you can do it all ahead of time it makes the final baking process quick as a snap.  You can cook it in the oven (shown above), or if you have nice weather, it's even better cooked on the grill.  Both instructions, as well as the recipes for the peppers, onions, and dough follow.

Pizza with Caramelized Onions, Roasted Red Peppers and Goat Cheese

3 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and cut into 1/2” pieces (see recipe below), or 1 cup store-bought
1 cup caramelized onions (see recipe below)
1 T minced fresh oregano or 1 ½ tsp dried oregano
1 T chopped fresh parsley or 1 ½ tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup (about 2 ½ oz) crumbled goat cheese, aka chevre (or buy herbed chevre and skip the oregano and parsley up above)
Olive oil
Pizza crust dough (homemade works better than store bought—see recipe below)

Combine peppers and onions with oregano, parsley, and salt. Prepare the grill by brushing grate lightly with oil (or spray with cooking spray).  Roll dough into a 9-inch circle or rectangle.   

Instructions for baking in oven:
Preheat oven to 450F.  Lightly grease a baking sheet, then sprinkle a tablespoon of cornmeal on top.  Place crust in center of sheet.  Arrange crumbled goat cheese on crust.  Top with pepper/onion mixture.  Bake for 12 minutes, or until crusted is lightly browned and cheese is slightly melted.

Instructions for baking on grill:
Place (empty) dough on grill rack and grill 3 minutes over medium-high heat or until browned.  Turn crust over.  Arrange crumbled goat cheese on crust.  Top with pepper/onion mixture.  Grill an additional 3 minutes, or until cheese is slightly melted and bottom of crust is browned.  
Roasted Red Peppers
Red bell peppers (whole)

Brush peppers with oil, or spray with cooking spray.  Grill over direct high heat until skin is black and peeling, rotating to ensure even cooking.    If using broiler instead of grill, place peppers on broiler pan and cook 6 inches from heating element until skin is black and peeling, rotating to ensure even cooking. Total cooking time will be 15-20 minutes.

Take peppers from grill or broiler pan and place directly into a ziplock bag.  Seal the bag and let sit for 10-15 minutes.  Remove from bag and scrape blackened skin off peppers with the side of a knife.  Discard skin, and slice peppers.  Peppers may be made ahead of time and kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours.  

Caramelized Onions
Sweet onions (1 large or 2 small), thinly sliced
1 T butter
1 T olive oil  
1 T sugar

Combine the butter and oil in a large skillet over medium heat.   When butter is melted add onions.  Cook, stirring every few minutes, until onions begin to turn soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Sprinkle sugar over onions and stir to combine.  Continue to cook, stirring every few minutes, until onions are reduced, sticky, and lightly browned, about 20 minutes.  Onions may be used immediately or kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

Pizza Dough (for grill or oven)
From Martha Stewart

2 cups warm water
½ tsp sugar
2 T yeast
3 T oil
6-7 cups flour
1 T salt

Stir water, sugar and yeast together.  Let stand 5 minutes.  In a large mixing bowl, stir 6 cups flour and salt.  Add yeast mixture and oil and stir until a soft dough forms.  Turn onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, 2-3 minutes.  Shape into a ball, place in oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 40 minutes.  Punch down dough, fold onto itself 4-5 times, leaving smooth side up.  Cover and rise again until doubled, about 30 minutes.  Punch down dough.  Cut into 6 even pieces.  Knead each one into a ball, cover all but one.  Flatten one ball into a disk, then let rest 5 minutes.  Roll into a 9” circle or 7”x11” rectangle.  Place on lightly floured baking sheet, cover, and either use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use, up to one day.  Can also be frozen for up to 1 month.  Makes 6 crusts.  Recipe can also be halved.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Artisan Bread

About a year ago my friend told me about a cookbook called "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day."  It is full of bread recipes of amazing, delicious, perfect artisan bread.  The one I make at least several times a month is the basic boule.  It's a round loaf, smallish (about 6-8 inches in diameter), with a crusty outside and a light tender interior.  I love it.  It goes well with soups, salads, and sandwiches.  It makes fantastic french toast, and is wonderful in panzanella (a.k.a. Bread Salad).  It is heaven if you eat it when it is still warm with some homemade blackberry freezer jam.  It really is an amazing recipe, and is about as simple as bread can be.

The recipe makes enough dough for about four loaves, depending on how big you make them.  The "5 minutes a day" part comes in when you want to bake them.  It takes nearly no effort on your part.

Here's what you do:

Artisan Bread


3 cups warm water
1 1/2 T yeast
1 1/2 T salt
6 - 6 1/2 cups flour  (I frequently have one of those cups be wheat flour)

In a mixer or large bowl combine the water, yeast, and salt.  Add flour and mix just until dough comes together and is equally moistened.  Place in a large container and cover (not airtight).  Let sit for 3 hours.  Refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to 10 days (dough will develop a sourdough flavor the longer it stays in your fridge).

When ready to make a loaf, remove dough from fridge.  Sprinkle some cornmeal in a 6-inch circle on a pizza peel or a wooden cutting board.  Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, then cut a grape-fruit sized amount of dough out.  Return unused dough to the fridge.  Use your hands to turn the dough, pulling the dough to the outside edges, forming a ball.  Place the dough ball in the middle of the cornmeal circle.  Let sit for 45 minutes.

When the dough has 15 minutes left to rise, take a broiler pan or other shallow baking dish and fill it partially with water.  Place this pan on the bottom rack of the oven.  Place another rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 450-degrees F.

When dough has rested for 45 minutes, move to a greased baking sheet or baking stone by giving the cutting board a good shake.  The dough should slide right off onto your baking surface.  Sprinkle a little flour on top of the loaf (optional), then using a sharp serrated knife, slice a cross design or three vertical slits into the top of the loaf.  Place in hot steamy oven.  Bake for 30 minutes at 450F.  Remove from oven and let cool.


I've had a long hiatus from this blog, and at the encouragement of my sister-in-law I've decided to start updating it again.  I haven't stopped cooking in the last year, but I did have a baby (which is why I stopped in the first place), and after I hadn't updated in a few months, I forgot about doing it.

But now I'm back, and today I'm bringing you that wonderful sandwich called the panini.  A panini is basically a grilled sandwich, but somehow ends up being better than your average grilled sandwich.  Because you use crusty artisan bread, and because you grill it in a cast-iron griddle pan, and because it's Italian, it seems so much more. 

So I'll give you two recipes I made tonight, and then at the end I'll give you some additional options, because really, you can do with it whatever you want.  Make it your own.

Also, I prefer to make my own bread ahead of time, but of course you can buy it.  Here's the one I use: Artisan Bread.

Ham-and-Chevre Panini


4 slices of artisan or french bread (any with a crusty crust and soft interior will work)
2 T herbed chevre (goat cheese)
2 slices ham
1/2 avocado, mashed
1 tomato, sliced

Spread two slices of bread with the chevre.  Spread the remaining two slices with the mashed avocado (mashed stays on the bread way better than slices).  On top of the avocado, layer a slice of ham and some tomato.  Top each sandwich with a chevre-spread slice of bread.

Heat a cast-iron griddle pan (the one with the tall ridges in the pan) or a skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Brush each outer side of the sandwich with a little olive oil, then place in the hot pan. If your pan is big enough you can cook both sandwiches at once.

Get another heavy skillet of roughly the same size, and press down on the sandwiches to flatten them as they cook.  Grill for 1-2 minutes, then flip, press, and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.  This should just be enough to lightly toast the bread, give it those awesome lines that paninis are famous for, and barely melt the cheese.

Eat immediately.

Serves two.

Dessert Panini


4 slices of artisan or french bread (any with a crusty crust and soft interior will work)
1 Banana

Spread two of the slices of bread with nutella.  Slice the banana and spread slices on the nutella, then top with some mini-marshmallows.  Finish by topping each sandwich with the other slices of bread. 

Heat a cast-iron griddle pan (the one with the tall ridges in the pan) or a skillet over medium to medium-high heat.  Lightly butter each of the outer sides of the sandwiches, then place in the hot pan. If your pan is big enough you can cook both sandwiches at once.

Get another heavy skillet of roughly the same size, and press down on the sandwiches to flatten them as they cook.  Grill for 1-2 minutes, then flip, press, and cook an additional 1-2 minutes.

Serves two.

Try these other panini ideas:

Turkey breast, cranberry sauce, arugula
Tomato, basil leaves, fresh mozzarella
Grilled chicken, avocado, bacon
Roasted red peppers, fontina cheeze, carmelized onions
Goat cheese, thinly sliced pears, caramelized pecans, arugula
Ham, cinnamon-sugared cooked apples, sharp cheddar cheese
Nutella, raspberries, whipped cream