Archive for December, 2010

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Curried Lentil-Apple Soup in a Jar

December 20, 2010

Ever wanted to make-your-own holiday gift? This one is quick to put together and stores well. In a pinch, your friends could just add water to the mixture and have soup on hand. Suggest they add in some fresh garlic and onion as noted below for even more homemade flavor!

You will need:

  • 1 c yellow lentils
  • 1 c red lentils
  • 6 sun-dried tomatoes (not in oil)
  • 1/3 c dried apple (~1 oz)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 ½ t curry powder
  • 2 t turmeric
  • ½ t crushed red pepper
  • 3 t minced dried onion
  • 1 glass jar (1 liter volume)
  • 1 snack size Ziplock bag

 

To fill the jar…

  1. Make a layer out of 1/2 c yellow lentils.
  2. Top with a layer of 1/2 c red lentils.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2.
  4. Make a layer of sun-dried tomatoes.
  5. Combine the curry powder, turmeric, crushed red pepper and minced dried onion in a small bowl. Seal in a snack-sized Ziplock bag. Roll to release excess air; tape into small packet if desired.
  6. Place the spice sack on top of the sun-dried tomatoes.
  7. Add the bay leaves.
  8. Top with the dried apple.
  9. Cover with a small round of wax or parchment paper. Add a recipe card on top with the jar mixture and the steps below.

To make the soup…

  1. Heat 3 T margarine in a large stockpot over medium-high heat.
  2. Add 3 cloves of garlic, minced, and 1 small onion, diced. Sauté 5 minutes.
  3. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes and dried apple.
  4. Add the contents of the spice sack and the bay leaves to the pot. Stir in and cook another 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the tomatoes, apples and lentils.  Add 8 c water or stock.
  6. Simmer until the lentils are soft, approx. 1 hour.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
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Candy Cane Whoopie Pies

December 18, 2010

 

Mmm candy canes and chocolate.  Mmm whoopie pies with buttercream filling.  I made this as a test before a work holiday party. They didn’t even last through the weekend. Numerous taste testers agreed that these rock! They are not full of knock-your-socks-off peppermint kick, but they are a nice twist on the holiday treat. These will keep for about 3 days in an airtight container on your counter, your fridge for about a week, or freeze them for up to 2 weeks. The recipe below makes about a dozen sandwiches, and if you bake them on parchment paper, your life will be much easier.

You will need:

  • 1 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1 1/2 c (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 c plus 2 T powdered sugar
  • 3/4 t peppermint extract
  • 6 drops red food coloring (optional)
  • 1/2 c crushed candy canes (about 4 oz.)

Then you…

  1. Combine the flour, cocoa and salt in a medium bowl.
  2. Cream together the 1 c regular sugar with 1 1/2 sticks softened butter until well blended.
  3. Beat in the egg.
  4. Add the flour mixture and beat until blended.
  5. Make a ball out of the dough; wrap in plastic. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper (it will really save time and prevent messes!).
  7. Scoop out dough by the tablespoonful; roll into a ball.
  8. Flatten each ball using the bottom of a measuring cup or cocktail glass, until it is about 2-inches round.
  9. Place cookie discs about an inch apart to bake. Bake for 11 minutes or until the dough does not look wet and a small indentation appears when you lightly press the top with your finger. They will continue to set as they cool, so do not overbake!
  10. Cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  11. Cream together the powdered sugar and the remained 1 1/2 sticks of butter. Blend in the peppermint extract. Blend in the food coloring (if using).
  12. Stir in several handfuls of the crushed candy cane.
  13. Generously spread the filling on the flat side of one cookie; top with another cookie and press together gently.
  14. Roll the edges of the filled whoopie pie on the crushed candy cane.
  15. Repeat!

 

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Cinnamon Sugar Straws

December 15, 2010

Now I am sure you are wondering, “so what do I do with the other sheet of puff pastry after making some chicken puffs??” Problem solved!  You may have seen puffy pastry straws in your cookie aisle at the market. These are 1000% better and very easy to make.

You will need:

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed (typically half of a 17.3 oz. frozen box)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T water
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg

Then you…

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Lightly flour your counter top. Roll out the pastry into a 12-in square.
  3. Whisk together the egg and water to make a wash. Lightly coat the pastry with the egg wash.
  4. On one half of the rolled out dough, sprinkle the sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.
  5. Fold the other half of the dough over the sugared side.
  6. Gently roll the dough back into a 12-in square. (If it seems too sticky, refrigerate for 15-20 minutes first).
  7. Using a pizza cutter or a very sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/2-inch wide strips.
  8. Twist one of the strips and place on the cookie sheet, pressing the ends down. Repeat with remaining strips.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the straws turn golden brown.
  10. Cool on a rack for at least 5 minutes, as the sugar will make the filling extra hot!
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Herb Chicken Puffs

December 12, 2010

I really enjoy a good pot pie. Although this isn’t one, it has many of the same qualities that I like about pot pies: a doughy outside that is both crispy and tender; creamy goodness on the inside; and a comfort factor.  It takes a little time to put together, but it is worth the effort. I stuffed mine with balsamic-glazed mushrooms; try spinach or broccoli or your favorite vegetable for an easy variation!

You will need:

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed (most pastry comes in a 17.3 oz box with two sheets)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T water
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 oz baby bella mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 t ground mustard
  • 1/2 t ground garlic
  • 1/2 t dried basil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste
  • 4 T balsamic vinegar
  • 4 chicken breasts (~1 lb)
  • 1 container (4 oz) Boursin garlic herb cheese (I used light)

Then you…

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Make an egg wash by whisking together the egg and water in a small bowl.
  3. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and allow most of the liquid to cook off. When they start to caramelize, add the mustard, garlic, basil, salt and pepper.
  4. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and allow the mixture to cook until most of the liquid is gone.
  5. Transfer the mushrooms to another bowl.
  6. Spray the skillet with non-stick cooking spray.
  7. Pat the chicken dry and season on one side with salt and pepper.
  8. Add to the skillet, seasoned side down. Season the top side. Allow the chicken to cook until golden on each side, roughly 5-7 minutes per side.
  9. Remove the chicken from the heat. Place on a plate and cover. Cool in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
  10. Meanwhile, lightly flour some counter top. Roll out the puff pastry until it becomes a 14-inch square.
  11. Cut into 4 square pieces.
  12. Spread the cheese in the middle of each piece.
  13. Retrieve the cooling chicken. Cut into the side and slice into the middle (do not cut all the way through). Stuff the middle with the mushroom mixture.
  14. Place one filled chicken breast on each square.
  15. Brush the sides of the pastry dough with the egg wash. Fold the dough over the chicken, and press the seams to seal.
  16. Place the chicken puff, seam-side down, on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining 3 pieces of chicken.
  17. Brush the top of each puff with the egg wash. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt and cracked pepper.
  18. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the pastries are golden and crispy on the outside.
  19. Allow them to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Note: Cut the breasts in half and the dough into 8 squares if you want an easy appetizer for a party!

 

 

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Greek Spinach Pie

December 8, 2010

I’ve decided to seriously consider a trip to Greece in the near future. It’s going to be awesome. In honor of Greece, I made a spinach pie the other night. You may know it by the name “spanakopita.” In my family, there’s a great recipe to make appetizer-type triangles of spanakopita, but I wanted to try my hand at a more entree-friendly approach.  Here’s what I came up with!  It’s best fresh out of the oven, but it did handle well for lunches too.

You will need:

  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped
  • 3 boxes (10 oz each) frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of excess water
  • 1 T oregano
  • 1 T basil
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3/4 t pepper
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 c part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • 6 T butter or margarine
  • 16 sheets of filo dough (you can find this in the freezer section, just follow the box directions to get it ready for use)

Then you…

  1. Finely chop 3 of the garlic cloves.
  2. In a large skillet, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add in the chopped garlic cloves, the onion and the scallions. Saute about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are just starting to soften.
  3. Mix in the spinach and continue to cook, another 3 or so minutes, to allow any extra water to cook out.
  4. Remove from the heat. Stir in the oregano, basil, salt, pepper, lemon zest and lemon juice. Allow the mixture to cool.
  5. In a small mixing bowl, combine the beaten egg with the ricotta. Stir this mixture into the cooled spinach. Mix in the feta cheese.
  6. Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small sauce pan. Cut the remaining 3 garlic cloves in half and toss into the melting butter. Allow to cook on the lowest heat for about 5-10 minutes or enough to infuse the garlic flavor without making any brown butter.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350. lightly spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
  8. Start with the filo dough. It will dry out very quickly, so place it on wax paper and cover with a damp towel.
  9. Remove one sheet and place in the baking dish. Brush with the garlic butter. Repeat with 7 more sheets.
  10. Spread the spinach-feta mixture across the dough.
  11. Top with the remaining 8 sheets of dough, one at a time as before.
  12. Bake 50-60 minutes or until the dough is cooked through and turning golden.
  13. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving!

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Lemon-Herb Roasted Chicken

December 6, 2010

This is a light, delicious Sunday-dinner type recipe.  Serve it with your favorite vegetables and some potatoes or stuffing. It also makes delicious stock.

You will need:

  • 4 T butter softened
  • 1 T rosemary, finely minced
  • 2 T parsley, finely minced
  • 1 T thyme, finely minced
  • 1 T sage, finely minced
  • 2 shallots, finely minced
  • Lemon zest from 2 lemons (see below)
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3/4 t pepper
  • 1 boiler chicken, washed with giblets removed, excess fat trimmed, and patted dry
  • 2 lemons, 1 halved and 1 quartered
  • 1 bouquet garni – full stems of rosemary, thyme and sage bound together in a bundle the size of a small fist

Then you…

  1. In a small bowl, blend together the softened butter with the minced rosemary, parsley, thyme, sage, shallot, salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Place in the freezer for 5-10 minutes to slightly harden.
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. Rub the compound butter mixture under and over the skin to season the bird on all sides.
  4. Place the bird breast side up in a roaster pan. Squeeze 2 lemon halves over the top of the chicken.
  5. Stuff the quartered lemon in the body cavity. Add in the bouquet garni.
  6. Roast for about 90 minutes or until a thermometer reaches 165 degrees at the thickest part of the bird (not touching bone or fat).
  7. Baste periodically to keep the chicken moist.

 

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Oatmeal Chocolate Bars

December 2, 2010

These cookie bars are like a cross between fudge and oatmeal cookies…which basically means they did not last for a long time in my apartment, as friends popped in to sneak a piece or two.  They are great warm or for a quick snack.

You will need:

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 1/2 t almond extract
  • 3/4 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 1/4 c old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/4 c (1 small can) fat-free sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 1/2 T butter or margarine
  • 3/4 t vanilla extract
  • 1 c chopped nuts (I used walnuts)

Then you…

  1. Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9×13 baking pan with foil and lightly spray with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar.
  3. Beat in the egg, egg yolk, vanilla extract and almond extract.
  4. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, salt and oats.
  5. Mix the flour mixture into the butter-egg mixture.
  6. In a heavy saucepan, combine the chocolate chips with the condensed milk and butter. Over low heat, melt until smooth while stirring.
  7. Mix in the nuts and vanilla extract. Remove filling from heat.
  8. Press about 2/3 of the dough mixture into the baking pan. Spread evenly to cover the bottom of the pan. (I made sure there was a little “lip” around the edge to hold the chocolate filling in).
  9. Pour the chocolate filling on top of the dough in the pan. Spread evenly over the dough.
  10. Crumble the remaining dough on top of the chocolate in the baking pan.
  11. Bake until golden and cooked through, about 25 minutes.
  12. Cool on a rack.
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