Feb 28, 2011

Sun-dried tomato & parmesan dinner rolls

tomato parm rolls 3

My sister, niece and nephew were coming over for dinner one Saturday.  So I wanted to make something that my niece could help me with – since she loves to help Aunt Christine in the kitchen.  I decided on these glorified version of dinner rolls – that have the addition of sun-dried tomatoes and topped with parmesan cheese would be a great side to the lasagna I made.  When it got to the time to roll the dough into balls – it was the perfect job for a 3 year old to help with.  She loved getting her hands in the dough and she did a great job rolling them in her hands.

tomato parm rolls 2

While these were cooling on the counter she managed to sneak one to try – just like the did with the halfway bars she helped with before!  

When we sat down to eat dinner she said aloud “I made all of this myself and it is so good”.  Smile I just love her so much!

tomato parm rolls 1


  • 1 1/2 cups warm whole milk (110 degrees)
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. instant yeast
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • vegetable oil spray
  • 3/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large egg, whisked together with 1 Tbsp. water
  • 1/2 grated parmesan cheese


1. Whisk the milk, butter, honey, and egg together in a liquid measuring cup.

2. Combine the whole wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook.

3. With the mixture on low speed, gradually add the milk mixture and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.

4. Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until dough is smooth and elastic – about 8 minutes.  If more flour is needed so that the dough clears the sides of the bowl – add in remaining 1/2 cup flour, 2 Tbsp. at at time.

5. Add sun-dried tomatoes and knead by hand to incorporate into dough.  Form into a smooth round ball. 

6. Place into a lightly greased bowl and cover with greased plastic wrap.  Let rise in a warm place, until doubled in size – about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

7. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.   Turn the dough onto a lightly floured counter and press into a 10-inch square.  Cut the square into 16 pieces.   Working with one piece of dough at a time – round the dough into smooth round rolls and lay them staggered on the baking sheet.

8.  Spray the rolls lightly with vegetable oil spray and cover loosely with plastic wrap, let rise until doubled in size – 45 to 75 minutes.

9. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Brush the rolls with the egg-water mixture and sprinkle evenly with parmesan cheese.

10. Bake until the rolls are golden – 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through baking.   Let cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

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Feb 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Chocolate Panna Cotta and Florentine Cookies

panna cotta 1

The February 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mallory from A Sofa in the Kitchen. She chose to challenge everyone to make Panna Cotta from a Giada De Laurentiis recipe and Nestle Florentine Cookies.

panna cotta 4

I’ve missed the past few Daring bakers challenges for one reason or another.  But I am so glad to be back.  I was extra excited when I saw that this months challenge was something that I’ve never made or even tried before.  I decided to try the chocolate version of panna cotta that was given, and wanted to pair it with my favorite compliment to chocolate – strawberries!   I also thought the chocolate panna cotta would go better with the florentine cookies.   The panna cotta reminded me of a mix between ice cream and pudding.  The ingredients were very similar to an ice cream base and the final result was more like a pudding.  Overall, the end result was smooth and creamy deliciousness – which was the intention of this challenge. 

It was slightly more difficult to make the layered version of panna cotta, since you had to harden the layers in the fridge before you could add on the next layer.  And the hard part is that you need to try to portion out the mixture to ensure that you still have enough to top these off.  It ended up taking a few hours to harden the bottom layer (and I left the extra panna cotta and strawberry gelee on counter).  So when I was ready to add the next layer those were still liquid.  But with a little planning ahead – you have a beautiful and delicious dessert.

panna cotta 2

The florentine cookies were about as easy to make as they get.  And even though they spread out really thin in the oven – they were still soft and chewy in the centers.  They were a really great snack throughout the week.  

Be sure to check out the Daring Bakers Blogroll to see the other fun varieties of panna cotta they came up with this month!  And thanks to Mallory for hosting this month!

panna cotta 3


Chocolate panna cotta

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 Tbsp. unflavored powdered gelatin
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Strawberry gelee

  • 1 cup (8 oz.) strawberries (or other fruits - raspberries, mango, blackberry, etc. DO NOT use pineapple or kiwi)
  • 3 Tbsp. water
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. unflavored powdered gelatin

Florentine cookies

  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups dark or milk chocolate


Chocolate panna cotta

1. Pour milk into a small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over the top, set aside for 2-5 minutes.

2. Place a medium saucepan over medium heat, stir in cream, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a low boil.

3. Add chocolate and whisk until melted. 

4. Whisk the milk and gelatin mixture into chocolate cream mixture. Whisk until gelatin has completely dissolved.

5. Transfer to ramekins, or nice glasses for serving.  Cover and chill at least 8 hours, or overnight.   [Note: If layering with gelee – only chill bottom portion and keep remaining at room temperature until layers are set]

Strawberry gelee

1. Sprinkle gelatin over water.

2. Place fruit and sugar in a small saucepan and simmer until sugar has dissolved.

3. Mix the gelatin into the strawberry mixture and stir until gelatin has dissolved.

4.Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature until use for layering panna cotta.

Florentine cookies

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.

2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan or microwave.

3. To the melted butter add oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla, and salt. Mix well.

4. Drop a tablespoon full, three inches apart, onto your prepared baking sheet.  Flatten slightly with the back of your tablespoon, or use a spatula.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 6-8 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Cool completely on the baking sheets.

6. While the cookies are cooling melt your chocolate until smooth either in the microwave, or stovetop in a double boiler.  Peel the cookies from the silpat or parchment and spread a tablespoon of chocolate on the bottom/flat side of your cookie, sandwiching another (flat end) cookie atop the chocolate.

Source: chocolate panna cotta from Bon Appetit, gelee from A Soft in the Kitchen and Florentine Cookies from Nestle

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Feb 24, 2011

Sausage, white bean and escarole Soup

escrole soup 1

Although it is the time of year that I wish that winter was over with already – there is no denying that it is still here to stay for a while, at least.  So in order to warm up a bit, a hearty soup is definitely the answer.  I’ve never cooked anything with escarole before – so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was skeptical when I added it to the pot of soup – since it first looked like romaine lettuce and I thought it would be gross all wilted.  But it cooked down really nicely and reminded me more of cooked spinach than romaine lettuce.   The soup was really hearty and I thoroughly enjoyed the balance of flavors – the spiciness of the sausage, sweetness of the tomatoes, and bitterness of the escarole.   Enjoy – and let’s hope winter is ending soon (oh wait – another winter storm arriving tomorrow – just great (*sarcasm*)!)

escrole soup 2


  • 1/2 lb. hot Italian sausage links, casings removed
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 Head escarole, cleaned and chopped
  • 36 to 48 oz. low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, packed in oil, chopped
  • parmigiano-reggiano cheese, for serving


1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy bottomed dutch oven over medium high heat.

2. Add sausage and cook, stirring and breaking up clumps, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a bowl.

3. Add additional tablespoon of oil, then add the onion and the rosemary to the same pot; cook over medium heat stirring until onion is softened about 3 to 5 minutes.

4. Add sausage, beans, escarole, broth, and tomatoes.  Simmer, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

5. Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese and serve.

Source: adapted from My Tasty Treasures

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Feb 23, 2011

Salted Double Chocolate Cookies

salted chocolate cookies

I am without a doubt a fan of the sweet and salty combination – such as these salted caramel cupcakes, world peace cookies or chocolate toffee cookies.  Now I have another chocolate/fleur de sel combination to add to my baking repertoire – these salted double chocolate cookies.   When baked they form a nice crisp outer coating – with a soft and gooey interior.  The salt provides the perfect accompaniment to the bittersweet chocolate, and leaves that lingering saltiness in your mouth – begging for another cookie!  They were a huge hit with my co-workers who enjoyed them too.

salted chocolate cookies 2


  • 8 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. fleur de sel (sea salt), plus more for sprinkling
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 12 oz. semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips


1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

2. Combine the 8 ounces chopped chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and microwave on medium power for 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until completely melted.

3. In another mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.

4. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, brown sugar and vanilla.  Beat on medium-high speed until the sugar has completely dissolved, about 4-5 minutes. 

5. Reduce the speed to low and add the melted chocolate mixture, blending until incorporated.  Add in the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. 

6. Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.  Drop heaping tablespoons of dough onto the prepared baking sheets, about 2-3 inches apart.

7. Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the cookies are just slightly soft in the center and crackly on top, about 10-12 minutes. 

8. Sprinkle lightly with additional salt and let cool on the baking sheets 10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

Source: Annie’s Eats, originally from Martha Stewart Living

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Feb 22, 2011

Deep dish Pizza

deep dish pizza 2

I’ve only been to Chicago once – last year for work (and I’m going again this summer – yeah!) – but while there my co-workers and I did manage to have Chicago style deep dish pizza twice.  I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.  (I also feel in love with that Garrett’s popcorn – O.M.G. – I died and went to heaven) 

I know I just raved about how much I like thin-crust pizza.  But deep dish is entirely a different experience – it’s not that one is better than the other – they are just different.  

And how does this one compare to the ones I had in Chicago – it was just as good as I remember.  The butter in the crust really makes this flaky and tender.  We kept this simple – with just sauce and cheese – but you can definitely add whatever toppings you desire.  Enjoy!

deep dish pizza 1

Ingredients (makes 2 pizzas)


  • 3 1/4 cups (16 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (2 3/4 ounces) yellow cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 tsp. table salt
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2 1/4 tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups water, room temperature
  • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus 4 tablespoons, softened
  • 1 tsp. plus 4 Tbsp. olive oil


  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup grated onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • table salt
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • ground black pepper


  • 1 pound mozzarella cheese , shredded (about 4 cups)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese


1. For the Dough:  Mix flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, and yeast in bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook on low speed until incorporated, about 1 minute.

2. Add water and melted butter and mix on low speed until fully combined, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping sides and bottom of bowl occasionally. Increase speed to medium and knead until dough is glossy and smooth and pulls away from sides of bowl, 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Coat large bowl with 1 teaspoon olive oil, rubbing excess oil from fingers onto blade of rubber spatula. Using oiled spatula, transfer dough to bowl, turning once to oil top; cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in volume, 45 to 60 minutes.

4. For the Sauce: While dough rises, heat butter in medium saucepan over medium heat until melted. Add onion, oregano, and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and onion is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes and sugar, increase heat to high, and bring to simmer. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, 25 to 30 minutes. Off heat, stir in basil and oil, then season with salt and pepper.

5. To laminate the dough: Using rubber spatula, turn dough out onto dry work surface and roll into 15- by 12-inch rectangle.  Using offset spatula, spread softened butter over surface of dough, leaving 1/2-inch border along edges. Starting at short end, roll dough into tight cylinder. With seam side down, flatten cylinder into 18- by 4-inch rectangle. Cut rectangle in half crosswise. Working with 1 half, fold into thirds like business letter; pinch seams together to form ball. Repeat with remaining half. Return balls to oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise in refrigerator until nearly doubled in volume, 40 to 50 minutes.

6. Adjust oven rack to lower position and heat oven to 425 degrees.  Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with 2 tablespoons olive oil each. Transfer 1 dough ball to dry work surface and roll out into 13-inch disk about 1/4 inch thick. Transfer dough to pan and lightly press dough into pan, working into corners and 1 inch up sides. If dough resists stretching, let it relax 5 minutes before trying again. Repeat with remaining dough ball.

7. For each pizza, sprinkle 2 cups mozzarella evenly over surface of dough. Spread 1 1/4 cups tomato sauce over cheese and sprinkle 2 tablespoons Parmesan over sauce.

8.  Bake until crust is golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove pizza from oven and let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated

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Feb 21, 2011

Baked Southwestern Egg Rolls

southwest egg rolls

It’s been over a year since the last time I made something with egg roll wrappers.  I walk by them every single time I grocery shop – and always think to myself that I need to find something else to make with them (I think next I’m going to make pizza logs).

These southwestern egg rolls – are sort of a trick to the senses.  You are expecting to eat something Asian inspired since they are wrapped like an egg roll.  But one bite in and you know they are Mexican flavored.  I love that these are vegetarian and make for a great party appetizer or a light meal.  You definitely need a big bowl of salsa to dip these in.   Enjoy!


  • 2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 (10 oz.) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • 1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles, drained
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1-2 packages egg roll wrappers (about 24 total)
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water


1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the egg roll wrappers and egg white.  Mix well to blend. 

2. Lay an egg roll wrapper out on a work surface so that one of the corners is pointing toward you and place 1/4 cup of the filling in the center.  Fold the tip closest to you up over the filling, roll a bit, then take the points pointing outward and fold them in toward the center.  Continue rolling into an egg roll shape until a small part of the remaining point is still free. 

3. Lightly brush beaten egg white on the edges of the free corner.  Finish rolling and press to seal closed.  Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.

4. Preheat the oven to 425˚ F.  Lightly oil a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Place the sealed egg rolls on the baking sheet seam side down and spray the tops of the egg rolls with cooking spray. 

5. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly brown, turning halfway through baking.  Serve warm with salsa.

Source: Annie’s Eats

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Feb 17, 2011

Vegetable fried rice

veg fried rice 1

I made this as the side to go with the crispy baked teriyaki chicken – it was much simpler than I expected.  I was hesitant since I don’t like to make an involved side dish when I am making an involved main dish.  And with coating the chicken and making the teriyaki sauce – I wanted a side that was simple.  

So I planned ahead and made the rice in advance – which actually works out better for fried rice anyway.  Then the use of frozen veggies added to the mix – makes this even simpler.  It was a perfect simple side. 

veg fried rice 2


  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 stalks green onions, minced
  • 3 cups leftover cooked rice
  • 3/4 cup frozen vegetable mix (peas, carrots, beans, etc.), defrosted
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • Few drops sesame oil


1. Preheat a nonstick wok over medium heat.  Add the eggs to the pan and stir quickly, to break up and scramble the eggs.  When the eggs are almost cooked through but still slightly runny in the middle, remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Turn the heat to medium-high and add the 1 tablespoon of oil, swirling to coat.  Once the oil is very hot, add the green onions to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.  Add the rice to the pan and mix well to combine with the green onions.  Spread the rice out evenly over the pan and let cook without stirring, until you hear the rice grains sizzle, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Toss the rice a bit with your spatula, and again spread it out over the cooking surface.

3. Drizzle the soy sauce all over the rice, and toss again.  Add the vegetables and eggs, and the sesame oil to the pan. 

4. Toss to combine all the ingredients well with the rice.  Let everything heat back up again until the rice grains are sizzling again.  Add additional soy sauce to taste, if needed.  Serve.

Source: adapted from Annie’s Eats

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Feb 16, 2011

Almond Butter Cookies

almond butter cookies 1

These may look like peanut butter cookies – but don’t be deceived – they are almond butter cookies.  Essentially the same idea as a peanut butter cookie – but with almond butter and chopped almonds. 

We are big fans of almond butter in this house – if I don’t happen to have leftovers for lunch – my absolute favorite thing to eat is an almond butter and Concord grape jam sandwich.   I think these would also be a great substitute if you have someone in your family with a peanut allergy. 

almond butter cookies 2

I was craving a bit of chocolate – so I drizzled some melted chocolate chips on top of these – but you don’t have to.  What you do need is a nice big glass of cold milk to chase these down.   Enjoy!

almond butter cookies 3


  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. almond butter
  • 1/4 cup almonds, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and adjust oven rack to middle position.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liner. 

2. Whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together in a bowl.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, egg and vanilla.  Stir in the sugar and almond butter until smooth. 

4. Stir in the flour mixture and almonds until combined. 

5. Working with 1 heaping tablespoon at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart.  Using a fork, flatten the cookies into a crosshatch design, keeping the cookie an even 3/4 inch thickness.

6. Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are set and brown about 9 to 12 minutes. 

7. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for ten minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

8. If desired, melt 3 Tbsp. chocolate chips in a plastic bag in the microwave.  Snip off corner of bag and drizzle over cookies.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook

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Feb 15, 2011

Crispy baked Teriyaki Chicken

tery chick 1

When I decide what to make for dinner each week – I try to pick out a mix of new recipes that appeal to me as well as some old favorite staples.  I added this recipe to my list – expecting that we would like it – but I was not expecting to be so overwhelmed by how much I enjoyed it.  I mean – its really just baked chicken with a teriyaki sauce on the side.  But that sauce was so much better than I ever expected.  And when you keep the sauce on the side you are able to keep the chicken crispy and only add as much sauce as you like.  It was perfect.  Enjoy!   

tery chick 2


For the sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar or sake
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. mirin

For the chicken:

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2-3)
  • Nonstick cooking spray


1. To make the sauce, combine the soy sauce, orange juice, rice vinegar, sugar and mirin in a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 6 minutes, until slightly thickened.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 475˚ F. 

3. In a nonstick frying pan, toast the panko breadcrumbs until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Set aside in a shallow dish. 

3. In another shallow dish, whisk together the flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  In a separate bowl, lightly beat the eggs together.  Place a wire rack over a baking sheet and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

4. Butterfly the chicken breasts into halves so that you have 4-6 pieces total.  Lightly season both sides of the chicken pieces with salt and pepper.  Using tongs and working with one piece of chicken at a time, dredge the chicken in the flour mixture to coat both sides.  Shake lightly to remove any excess.  Then dip into the eggs and shake gently to remove any excess.  Finally place in the panko, turning to coat well.  Transfer to the prepared wire rack.  Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces. 

5. Once all the chicken pieces are in place, spray lightly with cooking spray.

6. Bake for 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the bread crumbs are golden.  Let rest a few minutes before slicing and serving.  Serve with the teriyaki dipping sauce.

Source: seen on Annie’s Eats who slightly adapted from The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook by Jaden Hair

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Feb 14, 2011

Chocolate Macarons

chocolate macarons 7

Macarons are all the rage right now – even being touted as the new ‘in’ dessert replacing cupcakes.  I was always in awe of them – especially since I’ve never even tried them.  So I knew that had to change.  They are also often described as finicky or difficult to make.   That doesn’t scare me though – since I am good at following directions and have no problem weighing my ingredients for accuracy.  In the end – I found them no harder to make than any other semi-complicated dessert that I’ve tried before. 

chocolate macarons 2

You know the macaron is successful if they grow ‘feet’ – so I was really excited when I peered in the oven and they had raised up.   You also have to ‘age’ your egg whites – and I did this by keeping them in my refrigerator for about a week after I made the Caramel Espresso Ice cream.   It worked perfectly – and for some reason I felt better doing it this way than leaving them out on the counter to age.

chocolate macarons 3

The filling is a chocolate espresso ganache – it was so smooth and creamy and so delicious. 

chocolate macarons 4

I cannot wait to try more macaron recipes – they were so much fun to make and very impressive.   Many of the desserts that I make are actually for either clients of my husbands, work or family events – but these were just for us.  (My mom did get lucky and was able to try a few when she stopped over). 

chocolate macarons 5

Oh and have a Happy Valentines Day Red heart I think my husband fell in love with me all over again after I made these. 

chocolate macarons 6


For the macarons:

  • 110 grams blanched slivered almonds
  • 200 grams minus 2 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 100 grams egg whites (from about 3 eggs), aged (in the refrigerator for 3-7 days or at room temperature for 12-24 hours)
  • 50 grams granulated sugar

For the espresso ganache:

  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. bittersweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 tsp. espresso powder


1. Pulse the almonds in the bowl of a food processor until finely ground.  Add the confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder to the bowl and process until blended. 

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy.  Gradually add the granulated sugar and continue beating until a smooth, shiny meringue with stiff peaks forms. 

3. Add the ground almond mixture to the bowl with the meringue and quickly but gently fold together using a wide rubber spatula until no streaks remain.  You want to achieve a thick batter that ribbons or flows from the spatula when lifted. 

4. Line two baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.  Transfer the batter to a piping bag fitted with a plain wide round tip.  Pipe into small rounds (about 1 1/2 inches in diameter) on the prepared baking sheets, spaced about 1 inch apart.

5. Let sit at room temperature for about an hour to develop a hard shell. 

6. Preheat the oven to 300˚F.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on size.  Transfer the pans to a wire cooling rack and let cool completely before moving the cookies. 

7. While the cookies are cooling, make the ganache.  Combine the cream, butter and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat.  Place the chopped chocolate in a small heatproof bowl.  Bring the cream mixture to a simmer, remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.  Let stand 2 minutes, then whisk gently in small circular motions until the ganache forms.  Stir in the espresso powder.  Let the mixture cool until it is thick enough to pipe.  (To speed chilling, transfer the bowl to the freezer or refrigerator and let cool, stirring every 10 minutes, until thickened.)

8. Once the cookies are totally cooled, pipe a layer of ganache onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair.  Sandwich together with the remaining cookie, pushing the filling to the edges.  Store in an airtight container.

Source: Annie’s Eats, originally from Tartlette

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Feb 10, 2011

Thin Crust Pizza

thin crust pizza 1

Even though I live in New York State – I am about as far away from New York City as you can get and still be in the same state.  So the type of pizza that we have here is essentially Buffalo-style pizza and not New York-style (i.e. thin crust) pizza.  Here is a great wikipedia entry on different types of pizza in the United States – and Buffalo-style is even on the list!   You can find a few places locally that make authentic thin crust pizza.  And there is just something about the thin crust with the gooey cheese and crisp topping that I really enjoy.

thin crust pizza 2

So when the latest Cook’s Illustrated promised perfect thin-crust pizza, I added it to my menu plan.   My absolute favorite part of this pizza was the crust.  It was so easy to make (entirely in the food processor!) and was super simple to work with.  It was a breeze to shape – and I almost tossed it in the air when I was shaping it – it was that perfect consistency.  Maybe next time I’ll be brave and try it!  

thin crust pizza 3

I made two pizzas – one with just pepperoni and one with pepperoni and mushrooms.  It was unbelievably delicious and can’t wait to make this again. 

thin crust pizza 4



  • 3 cups (16 1/2 ounces) bread flour, plus extra for work surface
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/3 cups ice water
  • 1 Tbsp.vegetable oil , plus more for work surface
  • 1 1/2 tsp. table salt


  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and excess liquid discarded
  • 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced 
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper


  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • other toppings (pepperoni, mushrooms, sausage, veggies, etc. – no more than 4-6 ounces per pie)



1. In food processor fitted with metal blade, process flour, sugar, and yeast until combined, about 2 seconds.  With machine running, slowly add water through feed tube; process until dough is just combined and no dry flour remains, about 10 seconds.  Let dough stand 10 minutes in the machine.

2. Add oil and salt to dough and process until dough forms satiny, sticky ball that clears sides of workbowl, 30 to 60 seconds.

3. Remove dough from bowl and knead briefly on lightly oiled countertop until smooth, about 1 minute.  Shape dough into tight ball and place in large, lightly oiled bowl.  Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours and up to 3 days.


1. Process all sauce ingredients in food processor until smooth, about 30 seconds. Transfer to medium bowl or container and refrigerate until ready to use.

To assemble pizza

1. One hour before baking pizza, adjust oven rack to second highest position, set pizza stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees.

2. Remove dough from refrigerator and divide in half. Shape each half into smooth, tight ball.  Place on lightly oiled baking sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart; cover loosely with plastic wrap coated with nonstick cooking spray; let stand for 1 hour.

3. Coat 1 ball of dough generously with flour and place on well-floured countertop. Using fingertips, gently flatten into 8-inch disk, leaving 1 inch of outer edge slightly thicker than center. Using hands, gently stretch disk into 12-inch round, working along edges and giving disk quarter turns as you stretch.  Place on pizza peel or parchment paper.

4. Using back of spoon or ladle, spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce in thin layer over surface of dough, leaving 1/4-inch border around edge.

5. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Parmesan evenly over sauce, followed by 1 cup mozzarella.  Add additional toppings as desired.  Repeat with remaining pizza.

6.  Slide pizza carefully onto stone and bake until crust is well browned and cheese is bubbly and beginning to brown, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating pizza halfway through. Remove pizza and place on wire rack for 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated, Jan 2010

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Feb 9, 2011

Caramel Espresso Ice Cream

caramel espresso ice cream 2

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies – it is so relaxing to just curl up on the couch or bed with a good book and escape into the story.   I love ‘foodie’ books as well – and the best part of those is that they usually contain a few recipes.  So it’s almost a dual purpose – a great story and some great recipes. 

Well David Lebovitz (ice cream maker extraordinaire) does not disappoint in The Sweet Life in Paris.  The book was a lovely depiction of his life in Paris and the intricacies of living abroad.  I looked forward to each new chapter and was constantly dog-earing recipes at the end of the chapters.  I’ll have to say – it really makes me want to go to Paris – even more so than I already wanted. 

caramel espresso ice cream 1

After I finished the book – this was one recipe I could not get out of my mind.  I mean – caramel and espresso ice cream – do I really need to describe this deliciousness any further.  You cannot go wrong with this combo and I’m not really even a coffee drinker. 

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I have to admit that I don’t have an espresso maker – so I did just use some of my instant espresso that I have in my cupboard.  The coffee flavor is really balanced well with the caramel and not too overpowering.  But if you like a strong coffee flavor you can always add more.

Now I’m going to sit back with a bowl of this, relax and enjoy my latest book and dream about going to Paris.

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  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup strong brewed espresso


1. Spread sugar in an even layer in the bottom of a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan.  Heat slowly until the edges begin to melt and liquefy.  Cook stirring with a heatproof spatula, until the sugar turns deep brown and begins to smoke.

2. Continue to cook and then pour in the cream while stirring continuously.  The sugar will seize and harden, so stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves. 

3. Add the milk and salt and heat until warm and the hardened dissolves.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks.   Slowly pour in the warm caramel mixture into the yolks, whisking constantly; then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

5. Stir the custard constantly over medium heat, scraping the bottom of the pan as you stir, until it thickens and coats the back of the spoon (and reaches 170 degrees F).

6. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl set over an ice bath.  Cool the custard by stirring frequently. 

7. Once cool, stir in the espresso.  Then chill at least 4 hours or overnight.

8. Churn according to your ice cream maker manufacturers instructions. 

Source: The Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

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Feb 8, 2011

Coffeecake Muffins

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I am a sucker for a good crumb topping – put it on anything and I’ll enjoy it (well, maybe not everything).  These ingenious muffins – not only have the perfect crumb topping – it is also mixed throughout the batter.  Why did I not think of this myself?   Making these also reminded me that I haven’t made my favorite coffee cake recipe in forever – so I really need to get on that stat! 
The other thing that I loved about these is that they are entirely made in the food processor.  You first make the crumb topping and then the rest of the batter – no dirtying both the food processor and mixer.  And less dirty dishes is definitely a win-win in my book. 
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So grab your morning (afternoon or evening) cup of coffee and enjoy these muffins.  I know I sure did.  
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  • 1/2 cup pecans
  • 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 8 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces and softened
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners and set aside.
2. Process nuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon in food processor until nuts are the size of sesame seeds, about ten 1-second pulses. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and set aside.
3. Return bowl and metal blade to food processor, add flour, granulated sugar, and salt and process until combined, about five 1-second pulses.
4. Sprinkle butter evenly over flour mixture and process until butter is oat-sized, about eight 1-second pulses.  Remove 1 cup of the flour-butter mixture and stir with fork into reserved brown sugar mixture until combined to make streusel.
5. Set aside 3/4 cup of streusel for muffin batter and remaining portion for topping muffins.
6. Add baking powder and baking soda to remaining flour mixture in food processor bowl and process until combined, about five 1-second pulses.
7. Whisk together sour cream, egg, and vanilla; add to flour mixture. Process until batter is just moistened, about five 1-second pulses.
8. Add 3/4 cup reserved streusel to flour mixture and process until just distributed throughout batter, about five 1-second pulses.
9. Divide batter among 12 muffin cups and sprinkle with streusel, pressing lightly so that streusel sinks slightly into batter.
10. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of muffin comes out with several crumbs clinging to it, about 18 minutes, rotating pan from front to back halfway through baking time. Cool muffin tin on wire rack for 2 minutes, then remove and cool on wire rack until ready to serve.
Source: Cook’s Illustrated as seen on Amber’s Delectable Delights
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Feb 7, 2011

Red Quinoa and Avocado Salad

red quinoa salad 1

One of the things I love most about food blogging is learning and finding out about new food items that I’ve never tried before.  And I’ve been seeing quinoa pop up in many different instances.  Without knowing how I was going to use it, I bought a box of red quinoa at Wegmans on one shopping trip.  Just a few days later I got their Menu magazine in the mail (which I think I get because I spend so much money there!) that is full of recipes.  And this red quinoa and avocado salad really stood out to me.  I served it with some chili-rubbed salmon for a really healthy, weeknight dinner.  I think it would also be great over the summer with fresh corn at a picnic (yes – I am definitely tired of winter already!)

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  • 3.5 oz Red Quinoa, cooked per package directions and cooled
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn, (thawed if frozen)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup green onions, thinly sliced on the bias
  • 1 plum tomato, 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 avocados, peeled, pitted, cubed small
  • 1/4 cup Lemon Vinaigrette (store bought or homemade)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. pepper


1. Add cooked quinoa, corn, cilantro, green onions, and tomatoes to mixing bowl.

2. Fold in avocados and vinaigrette, mix until well-combined. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Source: Wegmans

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Feb 4, 2011

Super Bowl Ideas

The Super Bowl is this weekend!  Although I could care less about the football – we always watch for the commercials and other entertainment.  It’s also a great excuse to make appetizers for dinner – and that should be reason enough to celebrate the Super Bowl.

So if you are in a bind and are looking for some last minute ideas for recipes – here are a few from my archives that you may enjoy.

Chicken Wing Dip – although the Buffalo Bills haven’t been to a Super Bowl since 1994 – you can have a taste of Buffalo with the big game anyway.  And if your team loses you can comfort yourself by eating this dip and knowing that it isn’t the 4th straight year in a row that your team lost the big game like the Bills did from 1991-1994.  It is always a hit with a crowd (or by yourself sitting on the couch – hey, the celery makes it healthy, right?)


Cilantro Hummus – Another great dip that is super easy to make in advance and just a bit healthier than the one above.  Serve it with some chips, red pepper, pita bread or crackers – and don’t even feel guilty about it. 


Guacamole – Who needs a reason to eat guacamole – not me!  I love this stuff so much – it is definitely one of my very favorite things.  You can easily adjust the heat by adding some hot sauce to kick it up a notch.


Soft Pretzels – My husbands favorite snack – he likes to dip them in pizza sauce.  I like them plain – but they are also great with some melted cheese or mustard.   I’m think I’m making these again this weekend too!


Chocolate Toffee Cookies – It’s not a party without dessert.  These chocolate toffee cookies were really easy and can be made in advance and baked at the last minute – so they are warm for your guests (or yourself!).  It might be fun to try and shape these like footballs too! 


Oreo Cheesecake Cookies – Do these really need further explanation?  Oreo – check, Cheesecake –check, yummy-ness in my tummy – check!  Smile


Slush cake – If you’ve got a crowd coming over – this is the dessert to make – pudding, whipped cream, walnuts and a buttery crust.  This (completely from scratch) version is simply the best. 


Hope you enjoy the Super Bowl – and good luck if you are rooting for the Steelers or Packers!  If these ideas don’t suffice – be sure to check out my recipe index for all of my favorites!   

Now I’m off to my kitchen…..