Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Cookies Galore!

Once again I am blogging about Christmas cookies! That is because Christmas is the time that my family will make lots and lots and lots of cookies. My grandma and I made a total of five different kinds in one day! (And that is not even counting the four different kinds that she brought with her.) So yes, I am going to have to admit that my family and I are obsessed with Christmas cookies and baking, and when I say obsessed, I mean OBSESSED! I may make the cookies in bland Houston, Texas, but these cookies have expanded my horizon to some of the greatest measures. These cookies come from all over, such as Switzerland, Germany, my grandmother's good and trusted cook book, and even from her best friend as a little girl.

A whole entire day was set aside simply for baking cookies with my grandmother. Yes, I could have easily done them on my own, however this is Christmas time and baking is always more fun when done with your partner in crime. (Yes, that is you grandma, for I am not the only one who makes flat moons or crooked fingers!) Also, she has been baking these holiday traditions way longer than I have, and she does know best.

Our Christmas cookies are stored away in many adorable little tin boxes to give them the whole antique and traditional look. However, they are not stuck hiding in a box for long since by the third or so day our cookie collection dwindles drastically as they soon move from boxes to stomachs. Every year we create some of the same cookies, however each year they all tend to turn out a little different than the year before. However they turn out, I know one thing, it is always a joy to learn and bake with my lovely grandmother. (Or am I just saying this because I know she reads my blog? Ha! I am kidding grandma, and you know I love you!)

So from my family to yours: may your Christmas be as lovely and yummy as ours! Merry Christmas

Vanille Kipferl ("The Moons")

These cookies have been in my family longer than I can even remember. But what I do remember is oh how sugary and lovely these cookies are! I used to refer to them as "The Moons", because they are shaped like little moons. However, the correct pronunciation for the cookies are Vanille Kipferl originating all the way from a small, peaceful country known as Switzerland. These are definitely a crowd pleaser, for they are my dad's favorite, my sister's favorite, my neighbor's favorite, as well as my favorite! I mean what is not to resist?! This cookie is not only made with sugar, but coated with loads and loads of little white crystals known as calories, oh wait I meant sugar.
The little moons are absolutely scrumptious! They are soft and loaded with SUGAR. The textures are so magnified from tasting the pure crystals of the sugar, and the lightly packed cookie that breaks so gently and softly in ones mouth as the butter and sugar melt off the tongue. This is a great holiday cookie, because somehow it tends to bring friends and family happily together. These will be the talk of the town, because they are so different considering most people would never dare to add pure sugar right on top of an already sugared dessert. This is one recipe your stomach will have to splurge on, for it is far worth it.
2.5 sticks of butter (cold)
3/4 cups sugar
1 cup almonds peeled and ground
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
With electric mixer beat butter until little pieces. With wooden spoon, stir in sugar almonds, flour, and vanilla. Work with the dough with your hands and try to blend all the butter into the dough. Form a ball of dough and chill for a few hours. On lightly floured surface, roll out dough and then take section of dough and form moon shapes with hands. Place on cookie sheet and bake at about 375 or a little less in fahrenheit for about 10 min, or until light color and look ready. (This is a cookie you need to use your gut instinct. Also, sometimes these can be a total flop and you just have to get "lucky", therefore only bake a few at a time until u know you have your oven just right and the time just right before baking the rest of the batch.) When they are still warm, roll them and coat them entirely with pure sugar!!!!
*Special thanks to Marianne Messmer*

Nuss Stengel (Nut Finger Cookies)

The direct translation of these cookies are literally "Nut Fingers", and when I say fingers, yes, I am referring to fingers as in human fingers on a hand. Now I am assuming these cookies were named simply after their look, because they are rectangular and somehow if you squint your eyes and cock your head, look like fingers. My grandmother makes her "fingers" to be tall and slender as if creating a cookie for a supermodel. And I however, made my "fingers" short and fat as if creating a cookie for a stubby little person. Either way, they all resemble someones fingers, therefore being called Nuss Stengel (Nut Fingers). And we add the "nuss" in the beginning simply because these are a nut cookie and nuts are the main ingredient.

This is a simple nut cookie, and is simply delicious! The brushed egg yolk on top gives it a nice smooth glaze and pairs wonderfully with the creaminess of the butter and the nutty crunch from the ground walnuts. They are small and dainty, and nearly irresistible! It does not have an extravagant and over-the-top taste, which makes it a wonderful Christmas cookie that can go great with the many other cookies. Because honestly, when baking for Christmas, who would ever dare to only make ONE type of cookie? This is simple, easy to make, and flat out yummy!
125 grams ground walnuts
125 grams butter softened
150 grams sugar
2 egg yolk
pinch of salt
180 grams flour
with an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar, and yolks. Then add salt. With a wooden spoon stir in flour until the mixture is "crumby". Then take your hands and form a ball of dough. Refrigerate and let cool and harden for easier handling when rolling out dough. Roll out on lightly floured surface to about a cm or so think(want cookies somewhat thin). With a knife, cut lines down the down as if you are creating rows. Then, at a diagonal cut across the dough (opposite way that you made the rows). Depending on how thick your rows are and how long your columns are will all depend if you prefer fat or skinny fingers. Ha! Place onto cookie sheet and brush the top with an egg yolk mixture. (Consists of one egg yolk and just a splash of water, but may need more for more cookies.) Bake at 350 degrees fahrenheit for about 15 to 20 min, or until golden on top. (you want your fingers to be made for someone tan and not so pale and sickly looking!)

Spekulatius (No Translation Cookies)

Christmas is a time for traditions where dinners are always the same as years before, "Santa's" cookies are always made with the same ingredients, and presents are always opened in the evening of the day. But this year my grandma and I decided to put a little twist on Christmas and Santa's cookies. My grandmother brought a new recipe with her that has now become a new family tradition. In fact, these cookies have even taken place of our "older" cookie cutter cookies that would be made every Christmas which was enjoyed while drinking a cup of coffee and opening presents under the tree. Looks like these cookies have truly won over my family's heart. . .
I have never made a spice cookie until these. I don't know about y'all, but something about mixing all different spices doesn't quite sound for an even decent cookie. When I hear of any recipe calling for multiple spices, the first thing I picture is either all my kitchen windows open trying to air out the "spicy" and extremely strong smell, or me gulping glasses of water down my throat for I tend to be very sensitive towards "spicy" foods. But this cookie is not like that at all, for these spices make for a great aroma during the holiday times where it is even necessary to blow out all artificial candles. These cookies are far from "spicy" and taste wonderful for the holidays. (A new fave. of mine!)
130 grams butter (softened)
120 grams brown sugar
1 egg
250 grams flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
pinch of salt
40 grams ground almonds
Cream with an electric mixer the butter and then the sugar and then the egg. With wooden spoons, then add in all other ingredients. (might even need to use your hands to form a ball of dough) Refrigerate and let cool to harden just enough to be able to roll out on lightly floured surface. Roll out thinly, only about 2 mm thick. Take your cookie cutters and have fun! (I used hearts and stars) Bake at 375 degrees fahrenheit until a light yellow. (I didnt even use a timer for these cookies, instead I sat by the oven and checked them every few minutes.)

Making a Recipe as we go...("Chocolate" Macaroons)

As my grandma puts it, we made these cookies at "the seat of our pants". I think she was trying to say we didn't really have a recipe and just went with it. Somehow what came out of the 320 degree (or was it 200 degree? I don't even know we changed it up so much!) oven were these "chocolate" Macaroons. Now I say "chocolate" because we had intended to make them taste very chocolatey since we had not yet made a Christmas cookie with chocolate in it. But, when we tried them, they didn't fully taste chocolatey. They had more of a nutty taste and a hint of chocolate. Actually, the more I think about it, I can't quite put a distinctive taste to these cookies, all I know is they are GOOD! and worth making again! (That is if I can figure out the exact recipe...or I will just have to make them again "on the seat of my pants".)

So here is the part where I usually describe how great and how wonderful the food taste. But this is a special cookie, because all I know is that it taste very good. Yet I can not quite explain this unique taste because it is simply that; unique. It does taste like a classic macaroon and looks like one. It has a bit of crunch while soft and almost chewy in the middle. The center of this cookie will quickly melt in ones mouth as the outside shell with sit for a while letting one enjoy this "unique" and scrumptious dessert.

300g or so, or about half a bag or maybe 1/4? of ground nuts (ground by food processor is best) *we used pecans... i think? Ha!
3 egg whites or 4
200 to 250 grams or about 2 or less cups sugar
about 1/4 or less bag of semisweet chocolate chips ground as much as nuts are (depending on how "chocolaty" you would like)
2 or was it 3 or more? tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
LETS COOK! (or attempt and pray it turns out as good as mine!)
whip together egg whites and add sugar. Beat together for about 10 min or maybe more or less. Slowly add ground nuts and chocolate and stir together until all mixed in as a dough. Using two spoons make an oval and put onto sprayed parchment paper on a cookie sheet. bake on around 270 to 325 (depending on your oven and your ingredients and all) for about 20 min and until cookie its hardish on outside yet soft on inside

Monday, December 21, 2009

(Shh!!) Family Recipe: Spaghetti Carbonara

So this recipe has been in my family longer than I have, and it must be one hundred percent credited to the most wonderful grandfather out there. This is his specialty, in which has now been passed down to become mine as well. I have always been so fascinated as a little girl that he could easily throw such a lovely pasta together with out a recipe to look at and having it all in his head. It amazed me so much, that I wanted to be just like him. I grew up standing behind the kitchen counter watching his every move as he would vigorously chop up the onions and add alcohol to a family dinner! As I grew older, I too learned how to make this pasta by memory thanks to my grandpa. It has become my favorite dinner as well as my family's as well. We keep Spaghetti Carbonara a special dinner item by serving it only on special occasions such as birthdays, dinner parties, celebrations, and welcoming home events.

No side dish is necessarily needed for Spaghetti Carbonara for the main course is rich and filling enough from the creamy egg sauce that is cooked by the spaghetti pasta itself, and sweet bacon caramelized by the finely chopped onion. Each bite is thick and tasty and filled with such extravagant flavors. Not only is it one of the most wonderful and best tasting dishes any one has ever had, but it is just lovely to serve to others for it creates quiet a show when presenting the dish to friends and neighbors. This makes a lot of pasta, and one may assume there will be left overs, but by the end of the night it is guaranteed that plates will be licked clean and there will be one giant empty bowl left on the kitchen table.
one box of regular spaghetti
one package of thick, uncooked bacon
half (or a little less) of regular sized white onion
few sprigs of fresh parsley (give or take about 4 or so)
five eggs
about 3/4 cup or more fresh ground parmesan cheese
one cup white wine
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
In a large bowl crack all eggs and then add cheese and roughly chopped up parsley. With fork, beat eggs and mix together to create sauce. slice up all the bacon into bite size pieces and add to frying pan over medium-high heat with the oil. Then, do a rough to small chop of the onion.(make this a coarse chop, but you also want the onion to be in very small pieces) When bacon is about 1/3 way cooked add onions to the pan. Fill large pot with 3/4 way of water and add a handful or so of salt and let pot come to a boil. When onion and bacon is almost but not all the way cooked, add the wine and bring heat back down to a low. Let simmer and have wine reduce most of the way. (by the time the wine has almost completely reduced its size, the bacon should be crispy, and thoroughly cooked through). Add spaghetti and cook about 13 minutes or until Al dente. When bacon mixture is complete, add to the giant bowl of the egg sauce. Drain pasta and add to the giant bowl as well. Mix until all elements are completely and thoroughly combined.  Garnish with fresh parsley on top and sprinkled parmesan cheese. Serve warm, and enjoy! (Also, this is even better as left overs and heated up in microwave!)

Mocha Chocolate Truffles

Tis the season to. . . indulge in lots and lots and lots of chocolate! Yes, the season has finally come and the excuses are finally rolling in for reasons to make anything and everything with chocolate of all kinds, from semisweet to bittersweet and dark to white, and at that just piling every form of chocolate together to make what I call a dessert master piece. As it is probably apparent, I can tend to be a bit of a chocoholic, and I know I am not alone, so for those other chocoholics that I do know are out there, this is one of the many chocolaty and sweet recipes that should not be skipped over.

These Mocha Chocolate Truffles are definitely on my top chocolate and dessert recipe list. The coffee flavor not only gives you that warm, and coffee extracting flavor, but it also enriches and deepens the flavors of the pure, thick chocolate. Friends, family, and even neighbors will be swooning over this recipe for it is rich, decedent, and filled with lots and lots of chocolate as well as a pure coffee flavor. It pairs great with a warm cup of tea, or even more coffee, and is such a modern dessert that will make one look so fab while biting into this beautiful chocolate truffle while sipping a cup of hot cocoa (for those chocolate lovers) while bundled in a family-made patch worked blanket sitting closely by the fire and enjoying the winter weather with friends and family. Yes, this is definitely one recipe that is a favorite and one to save for years to come.
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee (or if it is hard to find and are in the mood for a unique taste used regular coffee grinds, I usually just use that and it taste great!)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips(GERRADELLI IS THE BEST)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
bittersweet or semisweet chocolate squares grated to garnish on top
In a small saucepan, combine whipping cream, sugar, butter, and instant coffee; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, just until mixture boils. Remove from heat; immediately add chocolate chips. Stir until chips are melted and mixture is smooth when stirred. Add vanilla extract. Pour into small bowl; chill, stirring occasionally, until mixture begins to set. Cover, chill several hours or overnight to allow mixture to ripen and harden. Now yes, your hands will get VERY VERY messy and be prepared to constantly be cleaning your hands off; form small round balls by rolling chocolate in palm of hand, working quickly to prevent melting. Then roll in grated chocolate and add a chocolate chip on top for garnish. Store in refrigeration and serve cold while enjoying!

Simple Garlic Bread

Every great Italian meal is always paired best with a warm, toasty slice of bread made fresh daily from a local market. The best bread is simple, with few ingredients for it is used best to soak up the richly decedent sauces on one's plate full of pasta and more pasta. I made this bread with Spaghetti Carbonara for my mother's Christmas dinner party, and it was a huge hit.

I used a french bread, because it is not only beautiful to look at but it can also vary with endless ideas on topping the bread. For this time that I used french bread, I paired it with a hint of garlic, some extra virgin olive oil, and just a tab of salty butter. I brushed the top of the bread which created a moist and smooth inside, yet thanks to the lovely creation of an oven; i was able to lightly toast the French bread giving the outside and crust more of a crunch and textured taste.
one loaf of fresh french bread
one clove of garlic
about half a cup to one cup extra virgin olive oil
2 to 3 tablespoons softened salted butter
Finley chop up the garlic and then add it into a small bowl. Pour in oil and add butter. With back of spoon kind of "smush" the butter around mixing it into mixture. Then, mix mixture together and with pastry brush lightly brush tops of one inch thick sliced french bread. With oven preheated to 300 degrees fahrenheit, put bread with mixture side up on cookie sheet and set inside oven. Cook for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until crust is browned and bread is warm and baked to desired consistency. Serve and enjoy this extremely easy side dish!!

Baked Crab Rangoon

Once again party time is here for Christmas is near. And this specific party consisted of a few tennis ladies, a few bottles of wine, a few tasty appetizers, and lots of laughter to fill the entire neighborhood. It was an honor and great joy to be asked to cook for the lovely guests my mom had over for her eloquent Christmas dinner party. But no party is successful without an appetizer to match the occasion. And for this splendid, warm, and simple party my Baked Crab Rangoon fit in perfectly with its simple taste and effortless look with the won top strips curved so gently around the dainty crab meat.

My mother had requested for me to make this as an appetizer, and it was definitely a success. For how does one know when a recipe is a success? well simple: when there is nothing but a crumb left of the platter. But, for those out there who decide to make this for their Christmas Party (or any other festive occasion at that) this appetizer is a WARM appetizer and does not taste quiet as good when served at room temperature, let alone cold! Its creamy center explodes with the crunch from the won tons and is the perfect mix for any evening and holiday appetizer. P.S. I have a feeling I will be making this for my family on Christmas Day...
2 cans (12 ounces) white crab meat, drained, flaked
8 ounces Neufchatel Cheese
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/2 cup Light Mayonnaise
24 won ton wrappers (found in refrigerated produce section)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Mix crab meat, neufchatel cheese, onions and mayo. Spray 24 regular sized muffin tin cups with cooking spray. place one won ton wrapper in each cup, allowing edges of wrappers to extend above sides of cups. Fill evenly with crab meat mixture. Back 15 minutes, then rotate pan and bake for about 2 to 3 more minutes, and edges should be golden brown and filling should be heated all the way through. Serve WARM. Garnish with chopped green onions, and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Start of This Blog [Italian Truffles]

First, I would like to start off saying I used [ ] in my blog tittle instead of ( ), because according to Sky [and I quote] "It's prettier on the eyes". So what do y'all think? Yes, or no? because personally, I don't see the difference. (Sorry Sky!) But now to my absolute all time favorite blog post: And why you may ask? Well, these are exclusive Italian Truffles, made with love in each and every one. Also, these truffles are the original basis of my love for baking as well as the inspiration to my blog. (Hence my main photo on the top of of this page.)

I have made these same Italian Truffles multiple times, and each time they come out even better than the time before. This past summer my mother bought a dessert recipe book from a local book retailing store where I soon fell in love with this recipe. My mother as well as my entire family had many doubts that I would be able to conquer a truffle, but to their surprise (as well as mine) I not only was able to create such a beautiful and richly decedent dessert, but I conquered it quite well where it has now become my signature dessert in which I make them for many occasions; from my neighbor's summer pool bash and my best friend's birthday to a school project for English class and holiday gifts for neighbors.
Italian Truffles are made with such a simple recipe that it gives you room for your mind to be filled with endless possibilities of creative ideas to "spruce" up the truffle. To this batch, I have topped the truffles with coconut, chopped almonds, and grated chocolate. In the past I have added a cream filling, orange filling, hazelnuts, and even toasted almonds to the truffles. This recipe mixes well with almost any exotic flavoring, giving each individual truffle its very own unique taste.

12 oz bittersweet chocolate (Ghirardelli is the best!)
4 tablespoons orange liqueur
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
8 tablespoons confectioner's sugar
1 cup ground almonds
For a topping:
grated coconut
grated chocolate
chopped almonds
melt the semisweet chocolate with the amaretto in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of hot water, stirring until well combined. Add the butter and stir until it has melted. Stir in the confectioner' sugar and the ground almonds. Let the mixture stand in a cool place until it is firm enough to roll into about 40 or so balls. Place the grated chocolate, coconut, and almonds on separate plates and roll the truffles in the chocolate to coat them. Place the truffles in candy paper liners and let chill. Then once hardened let come to room temperature before serving and enjoying!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

White Elephant Party Time (Classic Sugar Cookies)

I first made this simple sugar cookie with Blake around midnight on the Thursday before our annual Tennis Christmas Party for school. We originally had planned to make a decadent chocolate cookies and cream cake, but sadly the cake rose none but an inch (and that is with two cakes stacked!) tear. We went over the recipe multiple times and could not seem to find what went wrong. Now I was not in charge of the "dry" ingredients (hint the flour). . . and I'm not pointing fingers at anyone. . .hah! But we had to think of something to make fast, something that was simple, and something where I already had all of the ingredients at home. So we came up with Christmas sugar cookies! I then saved half the dough and saved it for the following Saturday where I attended a White Elephant Christmas Party with my girl friends.

I just went all out and had fun with the rolled out sugar cookies! Since the recipe is so simple, easy, and quick to put together, I spent most of my time perfecting my little sugar men and Christmas trees. I also experimented with the colors by dying part of the dough red and green. From there I went a step further and dared to "tie die" a few of the men and stars. Now one may ask how can you cut out little men from sugar cookie dough, and I would respond saying who says gingerbread men cant be made with sugar? This is the perfect time of year to just go with it and have all the fun you want when baking in the Christmas spirit!

one cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
3 cups flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
.5 teaspoon salt
In large bowl, combine sugar, butter, milk, vanilla and egg with electric blender and blend well. Then, stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. If needed blend until all combined well. Chill dough for at least 30 min before use. Heat oven to 400 degrees f. Roll out dough on lightly floured surface with a lightly floured roller and roll to desired thickness. Now get creative and take out cookie cutters, sprinkles, and anything else to decorate and have fun with the cookies! If dying the cookie; separate part of the dough and add just a hint of food dye. lightly pound and roll dye into dough COMPLETLY before rolling colored dough out. When mixing two colors; put streaks of dye in separate parts of dough and roll in ball formation in palm before rolling out on the lightly floured surface. Put onto uncreased cookie sheet and bake for about 4 to 5 minutes. Immediately remove from rack. Serve and enjoy!

A Break From Cooking (Painting with Blake)

It has been expressed that I enjoy many hobbies besides baking and cooking. Painting has begun to spark an interest as I have been inspired by my grandfather, many deceased artists, and some one special known as Blake. He paints for a small hole-in-the-wall store, Phoenix Rising, and is brilliant at what he does. On one particular day we had decided to put our imaginative and right sided brains together to create what we call our very own master piece out of mostly acrylic paints and a whole bunch of random techniques founded by Blake (or was it Hue's grand idea of adding shiny foil to dull paintings? Hah!)

Our painting started off as any other standard painting Blake does with deep orange and red strokes. It is a very neat technique that is used, however I saw it as a little blah and ordinary. As bold as I may be I just couldn't bring my self to telling him this, so I did what I knew I could. I took a dark blue and attacked the canvas. From that moment on, he painted his way and I painted mine. Somehow we managed to collaborate and blend together and this is what we came up with; mixing the warm with the cool, the geometric with the organic, and all in all, going with our gut instincts.

This is the start of the many paintings we will do together, as well as a new way of expressing our personalities (how they are so similar yet contrast greatly!) through a few worn out and stiff paint brushes and near to empty paint bottles. :) P.S. I spy a shiny butterfly. . .

Grilled Cheese Gone Sophisticated (3 cheese and tomato sandwich)

Okay, so after being stuck inside an old and cramped motel room for five hours taking the S.A.T. all I could think of half way through was that I wanted to go home and make something yummy, delicious, and nutritious. Hah! I'm totally kidding, but I did want to just stand up in the middle of the test and walk right out of that door, go down the three cases of suspiciously dark stairs, and cover my head with my many weighty books as the rain poured off my rain boots while running to my car. I was almost thinking to sacrifice my test in order to do what I love best; be in my kitchen. But I had to think logically, and in just two hours I would find myself whipping together one of the best lunch sandwiches I have made in a long, long time.

This is by far my favorite grilled cheese, for it is simple, yet a delectable lunch dish for one. (Or more, you choose!) The crunch in the bread gives it a great texture when paired with a variety of cheeses melted together to make one very unique taste. The oven-baked tomato warms the tummy up as well as the taste buds and will for sure make you smile on a depressingly cold, and dreary day.
one slice of whole-wheat and grainy bread
one medium tomato
3 sprigs of parsley
one slice Swiss cheese
one slice pepper jack cheese
one slice parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons red wine vinaigrette
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
mix together in a small bowl the salt, pepper, vinaigrette, extra virgin olive oil, and 2 sprigs of parsley. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Slice the tomato into thirds, and using a pastry brush gently brush the ends of the tomato. (we will not be using the middle slice of the tomato). And make sure both sides of both tomatoes are brushed. Put into oven for about ten minutes. With a grilling pan, pour about one tablespoon of olive oil over the pan that is on medium-high heat. Now, with the rest of the mixture cover one side of the bread and then cut bread in half. place half of the bread onto pan with mixture side down. add Swiss cheese, parmesan cheese, and pepper jack cheese. (with pepperjack; tear into small chunks and disperse through sandwich.) When tomatoes come out of oven, peal of the skin and place on top of sandwich. put other half of bread on top and let sit on stove until cheese is half way melted. Flip sandwich and cook until cheese is completely melted, and bread is browned and crispy. serve, and enjoy!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Linguine with Shrimp and Orange Shrimp sauce

So I am going to have to admit I stole this recipe from the good and trust Houston Chronicle. Many of my recipes do indeed come from the Houston Chronicle, for whoever is documenting these recipes in the newspaper must be amazing chefs as well as geniuses. I first made this dinner on an ordinary night for my parents, in which we enjoyed eating by the fire while watching Wheel-Of-Fortune. My mother and I agreed that I should make it again for my grandparents when they came in town, because it was that good. (For me to re-make a recipe, and to even re-make it for my grandparents, means it MUST be an A+ recipe.) When I was first telling my grandma of this recipe, she turned to me saying she made it the past week from her newspaper in San Antonio! What are the odds? with there being dozens and dozens of recipes in two separate newspapers. Therefore, I am here to tell you, (and yes, I do have witnesses) that this is one pasta you do not want to skip over.

My camera was not completely cooperating with me, so the photo did turn out a bit blurry. However, as it may not appear, this pasta is rich, creamy, warm, and perfect for any night and any occasion. The odd orange sauce is what caught my attention and is what made this pasta an outcast compared to the typical fettuccine alfredo or spaghetti and meatballs. (Recipe has been modified by me and my grandma to create an even better pasta experience.)
3/4 pound large shrimp
2 medium cloves garlic
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1 pound linguine
6-7 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 cup whipping cream
2-3 tablespoons flour
Fill a pot for the pasta with about 6 quarts of water, place over high heat, and bring to a boil. Add a few handfuls of salt and olive oil to the pot. Peel and devein the shrimp. Cut one-third of the shrimp into 1/2-inch pieces and leave the rest whole. Peel and lightly crush the garlic cloves. Put the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet, add the garlic, and place over medium-high heat. Saute until garlic cloves are lightly browned on all sides, then remove them and discard as much as possible while still leaving the olive oil in the pan. While the garlic is sauteing, dissolve the tomato paste in the white wine. After removing the garlic closes, add the wine with dissolved tomato paste to the pan and cook until the liquid has reduced by about half. Add the whole shrimp and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the shrimp have turned pink, 2 to 3 min. then remove the pan from the heat. When the water for the pasta is boiling, add about 2 tablespoons of more salt, add the linguine, and stir until all the strands are submerged, Cook until al dente. Finely chop enough parsley to measure 2 tablespoons. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked shrimp to a cutting board. Chop Finley into a "mush", then return them to the pan. Place the pan back over medium-high heat and add the cream. Cook until the cream has reduced by about half, and add flour if sauce appears more liquidy than creamy. Add the raw shrimp and the parsley. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook until the shrimp pieces turn pink, 1 to 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. When the pasta is done, drain well, toss with the sauce, serve, and enjoy!

Baby Mixed Greens Salad

Okay, this may sound strange, unbelievable, and even unfathomable, but I have never liked a salad until this past summer. You are probably thinking how have I lived and gone a whole seventeen plus years with out eating a single green leaf! Well, some how I managed to live, and I did survive. I first found my love of salad when I went with my mother and sister to La Madeline's for lunch one Sunday afternoon. They had both ordered a caesar salad, and it was just unbelievably beautiful! I couldn't resist and I had to order one my self to give this "salad" thing a try. From that day on I fell in love and now I eat salad every chance I get with every meal possible. (If I could, I would probably be eating it with my breakfast!)

My all time favorite salads, hands down, are caesar salads with the perfectly delightful creamy textured and thick dressing, as well as any salad with baby spinach leaves and a thin, light vinaigrette. I decided to mix all my favorite ingredients into one big salad, and have a variety of textures as well as a variety of different green leaves. This salad borders between a warm side dish and a crunchy full on entree. The warm, hard boiled egg wilts the spinach just enough to melt them around the chopped almonds and crumbled feta cheese. It is absolutely delicious if you are a salad lover, and your taste buds will be begging for that next bite. . .
Ingredients: (all will depend on the size of salad being made)
baby green leaf lettuce
baby spinach (make sure to have more of this than the other two)
baby Romain lettuce
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 hard boiled eggs
1/4 cup almonds
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 red onion
2 tablespoons orange juice with pulp
1 cup balsamic vinaigrette
boil eggs and peel shell off once boiled. clean all lettuce and leaves with water and pick off every stem from the baby spinach. (may take a while, but worth it in the end!) In a small bowl mix orange juice and vinaigrette together and set aside. In serving bowl, place lettuces inside. Roast almonds for a few minutes over medium-high heat in frying pan with olive oil until golden brown. Remove from heat and cut into halves, placing them on top of lettuce. Add the sliced hard boiled egg and crumbled feta cheese. Chop small pieces of the red onion, then add to salad. When ready to serve, pour vinaigrette over salad, toss, and enjoy! (simple as one, two, three!)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy B-Day Big Sis (double chocolate-raspberry cake)

So this blog post goes out to my big sister, LB, for her big double digit 2-0 birthday. (Happy birthday big sis!) Somehow she manages to still get I.D'd when entering theaters, and still receives adorable little plush bears wearing Ralph Lauren bow ties. However, the time has arrived where it has become harder to squeeze so many birthday candles onto such a delicate and dainty chocolate cake without worry of wax and fire colliding together to melt the cake away.

As long hours and patience went into the cake, all was worth it when LB's face lit up from the final product. (Or was it more lit up from the many candles that had bombarded the chocolate?) Friends and family were delighted over this classic birthday cake, for it was simple yet elegant with the pleasurable Ghirardelli chocolate and rich raspberries which added a sweetly tart taste to top the cake off. I originally had made a raspberry filling, (which might i add took at least a good 25 minutes to "simply" squeeze all the juices out of the fresh raspberries) but I was not satisfied with the taste and did not want to ruin the cake so I forced myself to throw the filling away. (Tear.)With or without a filling, this classic chocolate cake will beat any body's chocolate cake any day! It is simple, yet oh so delicious with decadent flavors in every bite!

1 package fresh raspberries
2 oz. semisweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli.. as always!)
3/4 hot coffee (you will not taste the coffee in the cake, it just brings out the richness from the chocolate)
1.25 cups of sugar
1.25 cups of flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1.5 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 regular sized eggs
3/8 cup vegetable oil (I know this is an odd measurement, but trust me when I say it works the best)
.75 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons pure and all natural vanilla
8 ounces semisweet chocolate
1/2 heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of syrup
1/5 cup unsalted butter
preheat the oven to about 280 to 300 degrees F. Grease two round pans (normal round cake pans) and line the bottoms with parchment paper. The re-grease, and make sure to grease the sides as well! Make the coffee so it will be hot enough to melt chocolate. As coffee is brewing, chop up chocolate into chunks and then combine with the coffee. Stir well until melted, then set aside. In medium sized bowl, sift cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, and baking powder. Once all sifted, add salt to the mixture and set aside. In a VERY LARGE bowl with an electric mixer beat eggs until frothy and thickened. While still mixing on a medium speed add in (slowly) the oil, buttermilk, and vanilla. Finally add the coffee and melted chocolate and beat until all combined. Separate the batter among both pans and cook for 30 to 45 min. While cake is in oven start on frosting. Over a double boiler add the cream, sugar, and corn syrup over medium-low heat. Whisk together and let sit over heat for good five minutes while chopping up chocolate. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate until smooth and melted. The add the butter in chunks and stir until melted. Set frosting in refrigerator until cake comes out and is cooled completely. Add frosting on top of one cake and then stack the other on top. Cover the entire cake in frosting, and garnish with raspberries, and enjoy!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Turkey Day Fave (Cranberry-Almond Spinach Salad)

Webster's definition of Thanksgiving: the act of giving thanks and expressing gratitude through prayer. My definition of Thanksgiving: a day to indulge in lots and lots of good American food. Thanksgiving is a day that one can eat as much as they please without being judged, so why not enjoy the food we eat? That is why this year I decided to prepare a salad that was sure to make a second round around the table.

Thanksgiving is the start of fall cooking, therefore cranberries are all the rage in many of the side dishes; including spinach salads. It was a must to add cranberries for it's a popular favorite among many traditional Americans, as well are warm and toasty slivered almonds. This salad pairs between sweet-tang which comes from fresh, squeezed orange juices spritzed within the dressing and dried up cranberries sprinkled through out the baby spinach.

Ingredients:  (makes for large families)
2 packages fresh baby spinach
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup roasted or toasted almonds
1 cup balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
4 tablespoons orange juice
pick off every single stem from each leaf of the baby spinach (yes, this is very tedious). Place spinach in a serving bowl and add the cheese, onion, and cranberries. Thinly slice almonds and add to bowl as well.
In separate bowl combine balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing and orange juice. mix well together and pour over salad mixture when ready to serve.
Toss entire mixture together, and try to leave most of the cheeses, onion slices, almonds, and cranberries on top of spinach.
Serve and enjoy. (very simple, yet very good!)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Classic Cranberry Apple Crisp

The classic cranberry apple crisp has been a whopping success twice; once at Ol' Dave's famous Montgomery fish fry (or shall we call it more of a "nursing home gathering"?) and once at the past Thanksgiving dinner with the many aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Blake and I first found the recipe in the good and trusted Houston Chronicle and flung the casual dessert together in no more than thirty minutes, which brought us great praise from our oh so flattering family and friends living Montgomery. We knew the recipe had been a keeper when the pan was licked clean and about twenty other desserts on the dessert table had gone untouched. If the dessert had passed the "this-beats-my-grandmother's-apple-pie-any-day test"  then for sure it would be good enough for the fam. Therefore, my grandma and I made it for Thanksgiving dinner, which turned out to be an even bigger hit when paired with home-made whipped cream.

My dad is a down-to-earth and true southern man loving anything "Betty Crocker" style home-made desserts. From pineapple upside down cake and pumpkin pie, to coconut cream pie and banana pudding. But he now has a new favorite that has climbed its way to his top 10 list of best desserts thanks to my new cranberry-apple crisp recipe. This recipe is great to make as a true southern dessert. It may not appear as decadent and chic as the tiramisu cake or english scones, but heck this is one that taste triumphs over appearance any day! However, my personal chef slash grandma gave me the grand idea of adding a pop of color and flavor by adding a dollop of fresh, home-made whipped cream on top. (Which really "topped" this crisp off!...hah!)

3 cups chopped unpeeled apples
2 cups fresh cranberries
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups uncooked quick-cooking oats (preferably maple sugar flavored) 
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup each: all-purpose flour and chopped pecans
1/2 cup melted margarine
whipped cream:
one small carton of whipping cream or heavy whipping cream
two to three tablespoons of granulated sugar 
for the crisp: 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine apples, cranberries and sugar in 2-quart rectangular pan. In a separate bowl, combine oats, brown sugar, flour, pecans and margarine. Top fruit mixture with oat mixture. Bake 45 min. or until bubbly and light brown. Serve with whipped topping
for the whipped cream:
pour all of the whipping cream into a medium sized bowl. Blend with an electric mixer for a LONG time! mix together until light and fluffy and no longer appears "liquidy". *but be very careful that it is not over mixed or it might start to form butter* once whipped, gently fold in sugar and stir well before serving. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Beautiful Semi-Disaster (Chocolate-Raspberry Scone)

So where do i start? From sitting in seventh period tennis scrolling aimlessly through my phone thinking of ways to procrastinate my time from having to study for an unrealistic pre-calculus test the next day, or from going out to the Train concert the night before with Mr. Handsome as my mind floated from him, to the concert, to what my next blog post should be. Either way, I had decided it was time for me to kick it up a notch in my culinary skills. And what better way to do this than creating classic English scones? Yes, that is right an English scone made right here in my "Texanized" kitchen.

Before yesterday I had never tried, let alone encountered, such as a scone. But oh the stories i have heard about them! And the articles and pictures i have seen of them! There is such elegance about such a beautiful pastry-like bread. The unique shape with the glossy finish on top would make anyone look so fab and chic while eating this up-scale and high-end scone. If there was one food i would idolize over, this would be it. When I hear of a scone, I imagine a classic bakery on a small corner selling all varieties as the scents and aromas intertwine and mingle upon each other as they swirl their way through the bustling streets of fashionistas. So yes, as it shows I have great appreciation  for a little scone. Little did I know (tis tis.. I didn't do my research before I began to bake!) that scones do have a rather bland taste to them. However, I believe their appearance sure does make up for it.

The scone I have made has a basis of creamy dark chocolate and fresh raspberries. (Such a wonderful mix between the richness of the chocolate and the refreshing raspberries.) As i began making the scone dough while having a conversation with a close friend from Finland, I realized that anything is possible in the scone baking world! As I have added raspberries and chocolate to my scone, assorted nuts, berries, and heck! anything else could be added. My "Finish" friend even suggested putting a meat inside the scone, or adding cheese to the mixture! Scones are a time to express your personality and just to go and have fun with it! I decided to leave mine simpler, for this was my first experience at scone baking. Now I must warn thy fellow bakers; the recipe below for this raspberry and chocolate scone came out to be a bit bland and did not portray the thick flavors I had intended on. However, I did try part of my scone with some fresh raspberry jam and butter... and thought that topped the scone off making it splendid! Also coffee and tea will really bring out the hidden flavors of the scone giving it more taste than eating them alone. So this scone varies in taste with its endless possibilities on how to present and eat it.

You will need:
4cups all purpose flour
2/3 granulated  sugar
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons butter, cold and cut into pieces
4.25 ounces dark chocolate chunks
2 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup whole milk plain yogurt (suprisingly this is hard to find!!!)
3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large egg, lightly beaten
Egg mixture for brushing tops of scones:
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives. The mixture should appear crumb like. Stir in the chocolate chunks and whole raspberries. In a smaller bowl whisk together the yogurt, vanilla extract, and eggs. Add this mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until the dough comes together. *Do not over mix.!!*
Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead the dough gently untill the dough better comes together and then pat, or roll, the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches (18 cm) round and about 11/2 inches (3.75 cm) thick. (For these processes you will most likely need to use lots more flour, for the dough can become very sticky) Cut the dough into four squares, and then cut each squart into 2 triangles. Place the scones on the baking sheet. Make an egg wash of one well-beaten egg mixed milk and brush the tops of the scones with this mixture.
Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and then turn your broiler on. Sprinkle confectioners sugar over the tops of the scones and place them under the broiler. Broil for about a min. or less, until the sugar has melted and turns golden brown. Keep an eye out while scones are in the broiler, because they can burn! Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Makes about 16 scones.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Happy Birthday to me. . . (Tiramisu Cake)

Yes, I am known for arriving late for most occasions, and my birthday was no exception. As I walked through Russo's Italian Pizza Restaurant, I easily spotted my close friends and to no surprise saw that my requested margarita pizza had be eaten and none was left for the late birthday girl. Luckily, I had my lovely tiramisu cake to make up for the lost pizza thanks to a very trusted website of My birthday would not have been complete with out my birthday cake that I agonized over for weeks and searched multiple recipes and websites for at least a month until I came upon the absolute, perfect birthday cake that describes me almost a little too well.

Hands down, with nothing to think about, this was by far (or should I say by oceans far?) the best birthday cake that I have ever tasted and made before in my seventeen years of life. Smitten Kitchen gave me the basis for the cake, but I however, redesigned the cake from the inside out to add a little bit of me to the lovely masterpiece I like to call Tiramisu Birthday Cake. I might add that every one of my friends and family who were lucky enough to have a bite of the cake loved it as well, and eagerly dug in for seconds. (That is other than my good friend Jo-Jo who unfortunately is not a cake lover.) Lets just say I had none but the plate and seventeen candles left by the end of the night. . .

I made this a two layer cake, but hey! the more the layers the better the cake I say! Because this was my birthday, and I wanted top of the line ingredients for a top of the line cake. I used the trusted and delicious Ghirardelli chocolate bars. As the recipe originally called for a whipped icing, i had to spruce it up by adding chocolate ganache to the icing. (I have been known to be a bit of a chocolateholic.) I also added chocolate chips around the top of my cake for garnish along with grated chocolate to add a bit more bolder colors. (Yes, cheese graters work well for chocolate too!)

For the cake layers:
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup buttermilk
For the espresso extract:
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 tablespoons boiling water
*if it is hard to find instant espresso powder, just make some instant black coffee and use a little bit more
For the espresso syrup:
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Kahlua
For the filling and frosting:
1 8-ounce container mascarpone
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Kahlua
1 cup cold heavy cream
2 1/2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped, or about 1/2 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips
For the Frosting (if you would like to add more chocolate):
about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of whipping cream
a few blocks of chocolate (about 4 ounces or so)
Butter two 9×2 inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess, and line the bottoms of the pans with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.
Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Working with  a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugar and beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, and then the yolk, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.
*REMEMBER: the more beating, the better*
Bake for 28 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be golden and springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Transfer the cakes to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them, and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right-side up.
*REMEMBER: always bake for less; it is much harder to fix a burnt cake than a not fully baked cake!*
To make the extract:
Stir the espresso powder and boiling water together in a small cup until blended. Set aside.
To make the syrup:
Stir the water and sugar together in a small saucepan and bring just to a boil. Pour the syrup into a small heatproof bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of the espresso extract and the liqueur or brandy; set aside.
To make the filling and frosting:
Put the mascarpone, sugar, vanilla, and liqueur in a large bowl and whisk just until blended and smooth.
*for the frosting*: swirl in the chocolate ganache (but not until the VERY end)
Working with a hand mixer, whip the heavy cream until it holds firm peaks. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir about one quarter of the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream with a light touch.
To assemble the cake:
Place one layer right-side up on a cardboard round or a cake plate protected with strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a pastry brush or a small spoon, soak the layer with about one third of the espresso syrup. Smooth some of the mascarpone cream over the layer – user about 1 1/4 cups – and gently press the chopped chocolate into the filling. Put the second cake layer on the counter and soak the top of it with half the remaining espresso syrup, then turn the layer over and position it, soaked side down, over the filling. Soak the top of the cake with the remaining syrup.

For the frosting, whisk 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of the remaining espresso extract into the remaining mascarpone filling. Taste the frosting as you go to decide how much extract you want to add. If the frosting looks as if it might be a little too soft to spread over the cake, press a piece of plastic wrap against its surface and refrigerate it for 15 minutes or so. Refrigerate the cake too.
With a long metal icing spatula, smooth the frosting around the sides of the cake and over the top. Garnish the top with chocolate chips and grated chocolate for bolder colors
Refrigerate the cake for at least 3 hours (or for up to 1 day) before serving – the elements need time to meld
. . . and this is my very first recipe on my very first blog. . .