Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Giving you the finger

Halloween is tomorrow, so it is only fitting that we celebrate with something creepy!

Sugar Cookie Fingers! Ewwwwww!

I saw an original recipe at http://www.epicurious.com/, but decided to use my family's "Delux Sugar Cookie" recipe, since those cookies come out perfect every time. Everyone is totally freaked out by the fingers this morning at work!


1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cream of tartar

In a large bowl, mix together butter, confectioner's sugar, egg, vanilla and almond extracts. Blend in flour, soda and cream of tartar. Form dough into a ball, cover and chill for 2-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Divide dough. Roll out tiny finger shapes on a lightly floured surface, pinching around the knuckle area to create a knarly shape. (The first batch I did was so big, that I scaled down the dough on the second batch - which worked perfectly.) Use a knife to create the lines of the knuckles. Gently place an almond slice as the fingernail. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake 7-8 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

With the other half of the dough, I decided to make a cookie piano. (What better way to highlight my gorgeous fingers?!) The piano is frosted with vanilla and chocolate store-bought icing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Beet Soup (don't be afraid!)

I just love Autumn! We've finally begun to snap out of the Indian Summer we are courting, and allowed the chill to enter the air - and finally I can start to plan menus that involve some heavier flavors and longer cooking times. Plus, having the leaves changing colors brings on some much needed inspiration into my everyday cooking.

At the market this weekend, I spotted some very nice looking beets - firm and dark red with robust looking leafy greens attached. I hurriedly plucked them from their spot on the shelf - not really thinking about what I would do with them. The last time fresh beets were in my kitchen, I transformed them into tasty little
ravioli. This time I desperately wanted to make a soup.

So, I did.

BEET SOUP (served in a roasted acorn squash "bowl")

5 medium beets, peeled* and diced
1 red-skinned tart apple, peeled and diced
1 smallish red onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken stock, because I do not like the taste of veggie stock)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

If serving in an acorn squash bowl: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the top off the squash, and hollow out the insides. (if needed, take a little off the bottom, so that the bowl is stable) Place on a cookie sheet, brush a little olive oil into the cavities and season with salt. Roast for approximately 60 minutes, or until the flesh is tender. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a large pot and cook onion and garlic until the onion becomes translucent. Add apple and beets and cook for approximately 5 minutes, stirring often. Add stock and let simmer for about an hour, or until the beets are fork tender. Remove from heat and add vinegar and brown sugar.

Blend soup with either an immersion blender or a food processor. (I used an immersion blender first and then had to clean off the wall! A food processor is a little less messy believe it or not!) Add water to achieve the consistency you like. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

*Unless you want red hands, invest in some disposable latex or fitted plastic gloves...beets will stain just about anything they come in contact with including skin and cutting boards! You were warned!!! I will be rocking the purple handed look tomorrow at work.

I was blown away at first bite! The beet soup was sweet, yet had a hint of tartness from the vinegar - and the flavor of the overall dish was subtle and delicious. The color was so vibrant and beautiful that I almost didn't want to dip my spoon into it. Using the acorn squash (my favorite of all the squashes) was awesome, because it gave the meal a little more substance as well as a bit of whimsy. The flesh of the squash went so well with the soup itself. The next time I make this, I may add a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt to richen the soup up just a bit.

Stick your vegetables in something cheesy!

There has been a recent influx of cookbooks designed to take healthy vegetables and disguise them in everyday meals. Jessica Seinfeld, wife of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, recently wrote a cookbook entitled Deceptively Delicious. From the Publisher: Deceptively Delicious has all of Jessica's winning combinations, including cauliflower in mac and cheese and spinach in brownies.

Forgive me, but WHAT THE FUCK?! If someone tries to feed me a brownie with spinach in it, I will punch them in the face! I definitely do not agree with this method of cooking because I think it could cause more harm them good - if a child isn't given the opportunity to try new tastes, that kid is going to grow up into an insufferably picky adult!

(Have you ever been to a restaurant with a person who hates everything except chicken nuggets? It makes me want to scratch my eyes out, and I am not even an adventurous eater! "Can you omit the onions?" WHOA lady!!!! No! Just stop already!)

I cook and bake regularly with my niece Kelsey and nephew Shakeer - avid readers will remember our forray into Christmas cookies. I found that if they participate in the food prep, they are more likely to eat something new...plus, they love to help out in the kitchen. Banning children from the kitchen can make things easier, but you are seriously missing out on a great experience, as well as the opportunity to teach them about good nutrition.

That being said - I totally found a recipe that hid a great deal of perfectly tasty vegetables under a melting mound of delicious cheese! I'm such a hypocrite!


12 no-boil lasagna noodles
2 (15 oz.) containers of ricotta cheese
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 (1 lb) bag of frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup fresh basil
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
4 cups mozzarella cheese
2 eggs
2 jars of marinated artichokes, drained
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Brush a 13x9x2 baking dish with oil, and set aside. In a small bowl, combine drained artichokes, 1/2 cup of cream and basil. Set aside. In a large blender or food processor, combine peas, ricotta, parmesan cheese, 1 cup of whipping cream, salt and pepper and 2 eggs. (I had to do this in 2 batches.)

Pour 1 cup of ricotta mixture in the bottom of the baking dish. Layer 4 lasanga noodles, then 1/2 of artichoke mixutre, then 1/3 of the ricotta mixture. Sprinkle 1 cup of mozzarella cheese. Repeat process with second layer.

For the last layer - 4 additional noodles, rest of ricotta mixture and 2 cups of mozzarella cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 25 minutes or until cheese has browned slightly, and is bubbly around the edges. Remove from oven and let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Yes, it's a little time consuming - but the reward is this sweet and creamy, yet tangy combination of flavors. I never even missed the tomato sauce! The bottom layer of noodles almost becomes this crust of sorts - anchoring the whole dish. Plus, just look at the color of the layers...it's quite eye catching, and everyone knows, you eat with your eyes first.

I ate the leftovers for 3 days!

Friday, October 19, 2007

When life gives you lemons...

...just save yourself the trouble, and make lemonade.

I was blown away by the produce at the market the other day, and totally succumbed to the enticing lemons that were staring me down from across the aisle. I grabbed about a dozen or so, and happily went along to the check out counter with my loot.

When I got home, I poured over my cookbooks, finally settling on an "all lemon" meal consisting of lemon spaghetti and mini lemon souffles. (And, maybe a lemon drop to wash it all down!)

The lemon souffles were especially intriguing - - a typical custard made with egg yolks, gently cooked over a water bath then mixed with fluffy meringue and baked in their own hollowed out lemon shell. Let me tell you, although they looked really pretty, they were so gross!!!!

Same result with the lemon spaghetti. Dry and disgusting.

My lemon meal made my eyes water, and that's NOT a good thing. The whole mess went straight into the garbage, and I ended up chowing on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Sometimes even the best laid plans fall through - no matter the best intentions.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mixed Berry Bundt Cake

Wow, it's been a long time since I posted last! I'm totally slapping myself on the wrist! Truth of the matter is, I have been cooking - just not anything that's picture worthy...or recipe posting worthy. I'm hoping that this weekend I will be able to get my "cooking mojo" working again.

Until then, here is a fantastic recipe for a cake I made which was mostly gobbled up by the puppies only about an hour afterwards, while I thought it was safely cooling. They allowed me some of the crumbs. Note to self...Sparky can now reach the table with his grubby little paws.

The little that I was able to taste was moist (OMG, so moist) and sweet and simply delicious. It was also incredibly easy to make! I used frozen strawberries and raspberries because the fresh ones at the market looked terrible, and I really wanted to try the recipe. It was a successful substitute!


5 eggs
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
20 Tbs. (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small pieces
2 Tbs. kirsch or other fruit liqueur
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powderPinch of salt
3 1/2 cups raspberries
1 1/2 cups blueberries or blackberries
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat an oven to 325°F. Butter and flour a bundt cake pan.

In a large bowl, blend the eggs and granulated sugar. Using an electric mixer, beat in the butter and liqueur until fluffy. Add all but 2 Tbs. of the flour and the baking powder and salt, and beat until well incorporated and no lumps remain. In another bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the raspberries and the blueberries with the remaining 2 Tbs. flour. Toss to coat the berries evenly with the flour. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the berries into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cake cool in the pan for 20 to 25 minutes. Unmold the cake onto the rack and let cool completely. Fill the center of the cake with the remaining 2 cups raspberries. Dust the cake with confectioners' sugar. Serves 10 to 12.

Yum, yum!