Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Plum Pudding with Bourbon Hard Sauce

We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
And a happy new year!

Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin.
Good tidings for Christmas,
And a happy new year!

Oh, bring us a figgy pudding,
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding,
Oh, bring us a figgy pudding,
And a cup of good cheer!

We won't go until we get some,
We won't go until we get some,
We won't go until we get some,
So bring some out here!

We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas,
And a happy new year!

What better treat to end the year with than a classic Plum pudding!  This is not an old world recipe, requiring twenty plus hours of prep or that hard or track ingredient, suet.  Rather, this steamed bread and fruit dessert is a little less involved, but just as pleasant.  And the bourbon hard sauce may be just enough to coax the  carolers to move along...or perhaps enticing enough to encourage them to stay. 

adapted from the BHG Cookbook

serves 8-10

The Ingredients:
for the pudding
5 slices of wheat bread, tron into small pieces
2/3 cup evaporated milk
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cooking oil
1/4 orange juice
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
12 oz pitted prunes, diced
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp apple pie spice (cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and cardamom)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
for the hard sauce:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 Tbsp bourbon
"In half a minute Mrs Cratchit
entered--flushed, but smiling proudly--with the pudding,
like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half
of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with
Christmas holly stuck into the top."  
--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol  
The Process:
In a large bowl, soak the bread in the evaporated milk for about three minutes or until the bread is softened.  Using a fork, stir the bread gently to break up the pieces.  Whisk in the egg whites, brown sugar, oil, orange juice, and vanilla.  Carefully fold in the prunes and walnuts.

In a medium mixing bowl stir together the whole wheat flour, spice, baking soda and salt.  stir into the bread and prune mixture until just combined.  

Lightly oil or grease a 6 1/2 cup tower mold or bundt pan.  Pour the batter into the mold.  Cover with foil; press foil tightly against the mold's rim.

Place the mold on a rack in a deep kettle.  Add boiling water to a depth of about 1-inch.  Cover the kettle.  Bring water to a gentle boil and steam for 1 1/2 to 2 hours for the bundt pan, or 2 1/2 to 3 hours for the tower mold.  Add more boiling water as necessary.  The pudding is finished when a wooden pick or skewer inserted in the center of the pudding comes out clean.

For the hard sauce, in a small bowl beat together butter and powdered sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed for 3 to 5 minutes or until the mixture is well combined.  Beat in the bourbon.  Spoon into a serving bowl and set aside.

Remove the pudding mold from the kettle.  Cool the pudding for 10 minutes and remove from mold.  Serve warm with bourbon hard sauce.

The Review:
Pudding is a deceptive term...this is more of a spice cake.  But the pudding tradition is one of streaming bread based treats instead of baking. This particular pudding was dense, moist and full or spice and bits of fruit.

While it wasn't presented in all of the glistening glory of Mrs. Crachit's masterpiece, for the newbie pudding maker, and those tasting a steamed bread pudding for the first time, this version is a safe introduction.  Next year's maybe the more ambitious Christmas pudding...

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Turnip Puff

The entree for Chirstmas dinner was decided months in advance.   The sides needed a bit more time to percolate.  I love the classic spreads of stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserol and rolls.  However even the traditions get a little to familiar.  A little stale and uninspiring. 

Turnips have many fans in this household, so we turned to this often over looked root as one of our featured side dishes.  The Better Homes and Gardens cookbook provided us with the puff recipe.  We had found a creamy root vegetable dish to replace the tried and true mashed potatoes.  Don't be fooled by the "puff" moniker, though.  It's less of a puff and more of a baked puree with a slight custard like consistency,

adapted from the BHG Cookbook

serves 4-6

The Ingredients:
1 lb trunips, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes
1 large carrot, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/3 cup soft bread crumbs
2 eggs, slightly beaten

The Process
Preheat the oven to 375

Lightly grease a 1 qt casserole dish and set aside.  Layer the turnips, carrots and onions in a large saucepan and add water until just covered.  Cover the saucepanand boil the vegetable over medium high heat until very tender, about 12-15 minutes.  Drain. 

Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl.  Add the butter, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Mash witha potato masher or beat with an electric mixer on low speed.  Add bread crumbs and eggs and mash or beat until smooth.

Pour the mashed vegetables into the prepared casserole.  Bake the preheated oven, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

The Review:
As I mentioned before, this household is a huge fan of this under utilized root.  While the flavors are incredibly mild, those who do not like turnips will probably not be won over by this preparation.  The puff itself has a mild cruciferous-like flavor, similar to boiled cabbage or steamed cauliflower; and is slightly sweetened and enhanced by the carrots.  The nutmeg and pepper nose through to lend a nice depth.  The texture is creamy and almost custard like.  One of our friends compared it in color and flavor to scrambled eggs, but smoother.  Alongside richer meats and sides, this puff compliments with its lighter body and mellower flavor.

In baking, because I needed to make this while the roast was still in the oven, I left the oven temperature at 325 for the roast.  The puff can cook at the lower temperature, but may need an additional 10 minutes or so.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pork Crown Roast with Cherry Apple Stuffing

Christmas dinner, more so than Thanksgiving, calls out for grand presentation.   Growing up, no centerpiece on our family table seemed more grand than the crown roast.  A glistening ring of pork, each bone tipped with a quaint paper or foil cap...stuffing mounded and golden brown on top.  It seems so elegant.  So much time and care to craft something so magnicifent...

Despite not having many people over--no family up to visit, and friends off celebrating with their own-- I was bound and determined to make a glorious end to this first year of food blogging.  I went to a local butcher and ordered the roast.  Cooking the beast would be challenge enough; I wasn't prepared to trim, bind and french the loin myself.  The smallest cut I could procure was a 16 rib roast...weighing in at nearly 11 lbs.  Ross and I were going to eat like kings for days!

adapted from the BHG Cookbook

serves 12-16

The Ingredients: 
1 pork rib crown roast (12 to 16 ribs)
3/4 cups water
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 tsp instant chicken bouillon granules
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 Tbsp butter
4 cups dry bread cubes (6 to 7 slices)
1 medium apple, chopped
1/4 tsp ground sage
salt and pepper to taste

The Process:
Preheat oven to 325

Trim the fat from the roast, or ask your butcher to do that for you.  Place the roast, bone tips up, on a rack in a shallow roasting pan.  Sprinkle the cavity and outer edges with a generous pinch of salt. Make a ball of foil and press it into the cavity to hold it open as it cooks.  Wrap the bone tips with foil.  Roast in preheated oven for 1-1/2 hours.

Meanwhile prepare the stuffing.  In a small bowl stir together hot water, cherries and chicken bouillion.   Let stand for 5 mintues.  Do not drain.

In a small skillet sautee the celery and onion in butter until tender and translucent, but not browned.

In a large mixing bowl, toss together bread cubes, apple and sage.  And the cherry mixture and sauteed onions.  Toss gently until bread cubes are moistened.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add additional 1/4 cup of water or stock for a moister stuffing.

After 1 1/2 , remove roast from oven.  Remove the foil from the roast cavity.  Loosely pack stuffing into the center of the roast.   Cover stuffing loosely with foil.  Place any remaining stuffing in a lightly greased casserole.  Bake the stuffed roast an additional 45 to 60 minutes for a 6 lb roast or for 75 to 90 minutes for a 8-10 lb roast, or until a meat thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the roast registers 160. 

Add the casserole of stuffing to the oven for the last 45 minutes to heat through.

Remove roast from oven, cover with foil and let stand for 15 minutes.  This allows the juices to settle and redistribute throughout the roast.

To serve, spoon the stuffing out of the roast's cavity.  Slice the roast between each rib, and remove any cording used to bind the roast.

The Review:
Because our roast weighed in much heavier than the BHG's 5-6 roast, I needed to alter the cook time accordingly.  The lower heat and longer cook time did not dry out the meat in the slightest, though the stuffing may have suffered a bit from over doneness. 

The meat was tender, juicy and rich in its own pork flavors.  A thick band of beautiful white loin meat was attached to each rib, dripping with juices.  Just enough meaty goodness clung to the base of each rib to justify us gnawing on the bones like rabid dogs.  For as elegant as the roast looks, in the end, its' hard to eat while maintaining such refinement!  The sweet and tart stuffing complimented the roast well, but could have used a bit more salt and seasoning.  I do think the stuffing cooked in the casserole suffered of dryness.   I'd opt for a different bread than our multi-grain next time.  Perhaps a mixture of white, wheat, sourdough and rye.

The roast itself looks intimidating when first un-boxed.  In all honesty, this lovely (and pricey) piece of pork was no more of a challenge than a Thanksgiving turkey. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Cranberry Crumble Bars

Need a brief reprieve from all that sugar.  Icing laden sugar cookies, candy studded gignerbread and sugar dusted snikcerdoodles seem to dominate many a holiday table.  Very the smell of the confections is enough to send you into a sugar coma! 

These bars offer a slight break from the holiday hyperglycemia.  They are rich and buttery, slightly sweet and topped with a wonderfully tart cranberry layer. 

adapted from Smitten Kitchen via The Baker Chick.

Yields 24 bars

The Ingredients:
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
1 egg
1/4 tsp salt
Zest of one orange
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice
4 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2/3 cup white sugar
4 tsp cornstarch

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 375. Generously grease a 9×13 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar,  flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and orange zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg.  The  dough will be very crumbly. Press half of dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, stir together the 2/3 cup sugar, cornstarch and orange juice and cinnamon. Gently fold in the cranberries. Sprinkle the cranberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the cranberries.

Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

The Review:
I brought these along with me to a friend's family gathering on Christmas Eve.  Everyone who tried the bars absolutely loved them!  The bars come together very quickly and were consumed almost as fast.  The crust and topping is  very basic and almost short bread like.  The crumbliness of it frustrated me at first, but these were far less stressful to make than the endless rolling and cutting of sugar cookies.

I imagine the simple buttery flavor of the dough would lend itself well to other fruit combinations.  Smitten Kitchen recipe original recipe used blueberries.  I imagine a raspberry,  bourbon peach, cardamom plum or lingonberry apple would be equally divine!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


The holiday season begs for cookies to be made.  Tins packed to over flowing and exchanged between friends.  Colored frosting spattering counters and faces of happy kids.  Recipes swapped between co-workers.  I have one cookie tradition: ginger snaps.  It is time to add a new cookie to the repertoire.  Enter the hermit.

Given the Grinch-like spirit that seems to have descended upon me this holiday spirit, a cookie named hermit seemed appropriate.

Adapted from the recipe in my battle worn BHG Cookbook

yields 36 cookies

The Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup currants
1/2 cup walnuts

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 375. 

Grease a cookie sheet and set it aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat butter until smooth.  Add brown sugar, baking soda and spices.  Beat until combined, occasionally scraping down sides of the bowl with a spatula.  Beat in the egg, milk and vanilla.  Add the flour, a little at a time, beating after each addition until well combined.  Stir in currants and walnuts.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto the prepared cookie sheet, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart.  Bake in preheated oven for ten minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.  Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool.

The review:
The combination of spice fruit and chewiness makes these mounded cookies very reimenscent of traditional oatmeal raisin.  Yet they leave something to be desired.  They aren't overly sweet.  The spice sings of warm Christmas kitchen, yet these cookies failed to inspire much Christmas spirit.  Perhaps hermit is a more fitting name than I originally realized.  Or perhaps these poor spice cookies were over shadowed by the gingersnaps served alongside.

Overall...they are sort of "meh"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chili-Mango Chicken

All of us have those stressful, rushed days when the last thing you want to do is spent a lot of time standing in the kitchen slaving over dinner.  But even on my most stressful days I'm more inclined to root through my cabinets than order take out.  Enter this recipe.  It has all the comforts of Chinese take-out, but is cooked up quicker than delivery would take, with the added satisfaction of having made a meal from scratch.

I first perused the recipe in one of Ross' Men's Health magazines and made a mental note of it should I want a quick, but impressive dinner.  The article boasts fridge to plate in 19 minutes.  Including time to cook the rice and a secret trick that makes the chicken silken and ridiculously tender, my dinner was on the table in less than thirty minutes.

adapted from Short Order Cook in Men's Health, October 2011

serves 4

The Ingredients:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2" pieces
2 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 Tbsp peanut or canola oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 green pepper, chopped
1 mango, peeled, pitted, and chopped
1/2 to 2 Tbsp chili garlic sauce (I used Huy Fong)
Black pepper to taste

The Process:
Prepare rice as per your preference.

To tenderize the chicken combine the meat with baking soda in a medium bowl.  Allow to marinate for 10 minutes.  Thoroughly rinse the chicken and pat dry.

Combine the chicken, cornstarch, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a mixing bowl and let sit for additional 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the peanut or canola oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the onion and ginger and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the green pepper and stir-fry for 1 minute more, stirring constantly. Add the chicken, along with its marinade, and stir-fry for about 2 minutes, until the meat begins to brown. Add the mango, 1/2 T chili garlic sauce, and black pepper.   stir-fry until the chicken is cooked through and the mango has softened into a near sauce-like consistency. Add additional chili garlic sauce until the desired heat is achieved.

Serve with rice.

The Review:
I may have been a little zealous with the chili garlic sauce on my first pass with this recipe.  Be sure to know your audience before dosing your dish with too much heat!  That being said, I loved the simplicity of the process and the ingredients.  The recipe is ridiculously quick and lends itself to many variations of meats and vegetables.  A spicy beef-broccoli, a  gingery shrimp with a kick, maybe a few cashew for extra crunch.  The marinade is simple enough to not over power the other flavors (unless of course you really pour on the chili garlic sauce) and will certainly compliment a wide range of ingredients.  The dish is filling while still being light.  And did I mention how simple it is?

And trust me on the baking soda marinade.  The step only takes another 10 to 12 minutes but it is the only method I have come across that creates that incredibly silken texture found in Chinese take out.

Added bonus for a dish truly from scratch...try making your own chili garlic paste

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Molasses Caramels

After my first few batches of honey caramels, I was on a role and looking for yet another variation.  Using the same cooking process and sugar/syrup/dairy ratio I tried my hand at maple caramels.  Something went horribly awry and I end up with a buttery granulated mess (which was salvaged to make many a cup of hot buttered rum over the next few days..)  I'm still not sure what went wrong. 

Back to square one.  So I tried molasses instead. 

The recipe is my own.

Yields approximately 60 one-inch caramels
The Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp salted butter
Salt to taste


The Process:
Prepare an 8 x 8 pan by lining with aluminum foil or parchment paper and greasing generously with butter.  Do NOT use wax paper...the heat from the caramel will melt the wax paper to the candy.

Set a  large non-reactive pot set over medium-high heat.  Add the sugar and molasses to the pot and allow to dissolve, stirring or shaking the pot just enough to melt all of the sugar granules.  Continue to cook without stirring until the sugar and molasses dissolve into a bubbling liquid and the liquid just begins to smoke, but is not burning.

While the sugar caramelizes, heat the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Once the sugar and molasses reaches the level of caramelization you desire, cut in the butter, one piece at a time and stir gently until each piece has melted.  Carefully whisk in the warmed cream.  This stops the sugars from caramelizing.

At this point add additional salt to sample the molten liquid dip a spoon into the caramel and very quickly dip it into cold water to cool. 

Clip the candy thermometer to the edge of the pot.  Cook the mixture slowly until the temperature reaches 246 for soft caramels or 250 for firmer caramels. 

Pour the hot caramel into the prepared baking pan and allow to cool to room temperature.  Once cool, remove the caramel block from the pan, peel off the parchment or foil and cut into one inch squares.  Wrap in wax paper or cellophane. 

The Review:
These make a very rich, deeply-flavored, wonderfully colored caramel.  I am very partial to the flavor of molasses--there is something very nostagic about it--so I had a hard time boxing them up to ship away.  The slight bitterness of the molasses cuts the sweetness of the sugar so the end result isn't as cloyingly and tooth-achingly sweet as some caramels can be. 

Caramelizing the sugar can be a bit of a pain given how dark the molasses is.  If you aren't certain how far to heat your sugar and molasses in the first stage, try caramelizing the sugar with just a bit of water, cooking it to your desired amber hue and then stirring in the molasses.  An even richer layer of flavor rewards this extra step.

Honey Caramels

Candy making scares the bejesus out of me.  And corn syrup is often shunned in my kitchen.  Taken together it appeared homemade caramels were not to be in my near future.  However, after hearing about success after success from several friends who took the dive into candy making, I thought it was time.  This recipe is a lot simpler than I anticipated and uses not one ounce of the dreaded corn syrup.  Someday, when I am much more ambitious, I want to try several batches of these side by side using different varieties of blossom, clover, buckwheat,  wildflower...

adapted from recipes at Brooklyn Farmhouse and Food on the food, with some extra help from Chez Pim

Yields approximately 60 one-inch caramels

The Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup honey  (I used orange blossom)
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp salted butter
Salt to taste


The Process:
Prepare an 8 x 8 pan by lining with aluminum foil or parchment paper and greasing generously with butter.  Do NOT use wax paper...the heat from the caramel will melt the wax paper to the candy.

Pour the sugar and honey into a large non-reactive pot set over medium-high heat.  Allow the sugar and honey to dissolve, stirring or shaking the pot just enough to melt all of the sugar granules.  Continue to cook without stirring until the liquid caramelizes into a deep rich brown color.

While the sugar and honey caramelizes, heat the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Once the sugar and honey reaches the color you want, cut in the butter, one piece at a time and stir gently until each piece has melted.  Carefully whisk in the warmed cream.  This stops the sugars from caramelizing.

At this point add additional salt to sample the molten liquid dip a spoon into the caramel and very quickly dip it into cold water to cool. 

Clip the candy thermometer to the edge of the pot.  Cook the mixture slowly until the temperature reaches 246 for soft caramels or 250 for firmer caramels. 

Pour the hot caramel into the prepared baking pan and allow to cool to room temperature.  Once cool, remove the caramel block from the pan, peel off the parchment or foil and cut into one inch squares.  Wrap in wax paper or cellophane. 

The Review:
I'm in love.  The honey flavor certainly shines through. Though from subsequent batches I noticed that the less time you allow the sugars to caramelize, the more prominent the honey flavor.  Sugars not richly caramelized will have the crisp, clean and almost astringent honey flavor.  Sugar allowed to darken more mellows out and blends into the deeper caramel flavor with just a hint of honey flavor.  It is incredibly fun to play around with.

And while the caramels may be quick to make and eating the a bit of heaven...wrapping them is like a little bit of purgatory.  I'd recommend pre-cutting all of your wrappers while waiting for the caramels to cool and enlisting the help of a friend.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Semolina Pancakes (rava uthapam)

I adore cooking Indian food.  So when a friend asked me to make chicken tikka masala I happily obliged.   I had everything on hand to make the entree.  Unfortunately, I had no jasmine or basmati rice to serve on the side, nor did I have the patience for naan.  Thumbing through my Indian cookbook I found this quick starchy side.  It sounded absolutely perfect for sopping up the creamy sauce, AND I had the semolina on hand.

The original recipe can be made with farina (cream of wheat) instead of semolina, which may be more readily available for some.  Monica sprinkles the tops of her rava uthapam with tomatoes in addition to the red pepper and onion.  She also uses carom seeds on top for extra flavor and texture.  Carom is one spice I in its stead I sprinkled my pancakes with sesame seeds.  Cumin seeds also make a far substitute.

Adapted for The Everything Indian Cookbook by Monica Bhide

Makes 8 to 10 pancakes

The Ingredients:
1 cup course semolina flour
1cup plain yogurt
1/4 tsp baking powder
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp carom seeds
1/4 small red onion, finely diced
1 small red pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

The Process:
In a medium bowl, combine the semolina and yogurt. Season with salt to taste.  Whisk in 1/4 to 1/2 cup water until the batter reaches the consistency of pancake batter.  Add the baking powder and mix thoroughly.  Allow to rest for 2o minutes.

In a seperate, small bowl, combine the red pepper and onion.

Heat a griddle or large skillet to medium high heat.  Grease lightly with oil.

Ladle about 1/4 cup of the batter onto the hot griddle.  As bubbles begin to form on the surface, sprinkle a small amount of onion/pepper topping and sesame seeds in the center of the pancake and flip (abut 2 minutes).  Cook the other side until golden brown, about 2 minutes.  Remove from griddle and cover to keep warm.  Repeat with remaining batter.

The Review:
These lovely little cakes came together with very little effort.  They have little flavor on their own, making them an excellent accompaniment to spicier entrees.  They are denser than western pancakes and heartier than naan.  They certainly held their own against our tikka masala!

I would love to make these again, but with different variations of toppings and spice.  If it weren't for the 20 minute rest period, I'd likely use them as a breakfast staple!  Such is the glory of a seemingly bland food...endless adaptability.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

I am bound and determined to like quinoa.  The grain itself has done absolutely nothing to offend me.  However its partners in crime when paired in recipes always seem to leave something to be desired.  This recipe did NOT include the lemon/dill combination.  A huge plus.  And it is served up in its own little bowl of acorn squash.  Also a plus.  AND the heat of a habanerno...just what you need as the temperature dips below freezing.

Adapted from the recipe at We are not Martha.

Serves 2 with a whole lot of left over filling

The Ingredients:
1 acorn squash
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock 
1 Tbsp virgin olive oil 
1 small yellow onion, chopped finely 
4 garlic cloves, minced 
2 habanero peppers, seeds, removed and finely chopped finely  
1 cup mushrooms, chopped 
2 cups fresh leaf spinach 
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped 
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 375.

Using a sharp knife, slice the acorn squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.  Sprinkle the cut half with salt and pepper and place a 1/2 Tbsp pad of butter into each half.  Place squash cut side up in a baking dish and roast for about 45 minutes or until tender.

Rinse the quinoa.  In a medium saucepan bring 1 1/2 cups vegetable stock to a boil and whisk in the quinoa.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.   

While the quinoa cooks, heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Add the onions, garlic, mushrooms and habanero.  Saute until slightly brown, 7-10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Stir in lemon juice.

Reduce heat to low and stir in the quinoa.  Add the spinach and cook, stirring occasionally until spinach is just wilted.  Add the feta and parsley and stir to combine.   Keep warm until the acorn squash is done.

Spoon the quinoa mixture into the roasted acorn halves, mounding slightly.  Serve with a sprinkle of feta and parsley on top.

The Review:
This is a version of quinoa I adore and look forward to playing with in the future.  The two habaneros packed quite a punch leaving my noise running and tongue tingling, which I loved.  Others couldn't quite take the heat.  I may use serranos instead next time, and start with one. My mushroom averse husband was cranky about the rich fungus flavor, again an aspect I loved.  But yes, these is not a dish that hides the mushroom flavor well if you are trying to be sneaky.  Each flavor had it's moment from the earthy shrooms to the tang of the lemon, the kick of the pepper and the saltiness of the feta.  The squash offered a touch of sweetness while the quinoa blend everything together.  

I'm thinking leeks, red pepper spinach and pecan the next time around....

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Black Bean Turtle Brownies

My intern is leaving!  For several months he has shared same workshop and helped to keep me sane.  In honor of his last day, and as a thank you to all of the hard work done during the last three months, I crafted this spin on a recipe he first introduced me bean brownies.

This gluten free, protein laden sweet is topped with toasted pecans, slathered in homemade caramel and drizzled with high quality chocolate.  If you couldn't sell others on the original black bean brownie, this version may be the key to winning them over.

adapted from my intern's recipe.

yeilds one pan (12 to 16 brownies)

The Ingredients:
for the brownie
1 - 15 oz can of black beans (preferably low or no sodium)
1/3 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup sugar substitute (truvia or splenda)
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 tsp instant coffee
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
3 eggs

for caramel:
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup granulatewd sugar
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt

for the topping:
1 cup toasted pecan, coarsely chopped
8 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate

The Process:
Preheat the oven to 350.

Drain the black beans and rinse thoroughly. Add beans to a food processor and blend on high until a smooth puree is formed. Transfer to a large bowl. Whisk in agave, sugar substitute, oil, cocoa powder, instant coffee, baking powder vanilla extract and salt, and blend until just combined. Gently beat in the eggs, one at a time. The batter will be runnier compared to other brownie batters. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour the batter into a lightly greased, 8 x 8 inch baking pan.

Bake in preheated oven 30-35 minutes until the brownies begin to pull away from the side of the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool.

While the brownies bake, prepare the caramel.  Warm the heavy cream in a saucepan to a gentle simmer ans set aside.  Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the honey and sugar. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has mostly dissolved.Turn the heat to medium low. Using a candy thermometer cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches the firm ball stage about 246.  Remove from heat and slowly stir in the cream and vanilla.  Allow to cool slightly.

While the brownies and caramel cool, toast the pecans in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.  Stir frequently...these can burn quickly if left unattended.  Sprinklr toasted pecans evenly over the brownies.   Pour the still warm caramel over the top of the pecan and gently spread into an even layer using a spatula.  Melt the chocolate in the micorwave or with a double boiler.  Spread over top of caramel.  Allow the brownies to completely cool, allowing the chocolate to set.

The Review:
Those who weren't easily fooled by health food parading as brownie couldn't get enough of these!  The pecans, homemade caramel, and chocolate gave the brownies just enough naughtiness to be indulgent and forgave the fact they were full of fiber and protein.  My gluten-free co-workers loved that they could share in this treat.  The pastry chef among them claimed he would friend me on facebook for the sole purpose of getting this recipe.  And the intern for whom the brownies were made claimed they were better than his...a true honor seeing as he was the one to provide the original recipe.  

Seriously.  Try these brownies already!