Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Almond Pillows

food 007

What is a girl to do when she’s at home alone on a Saturday, too lazy to go to the store, and needing sugar like a cat needs it catnip (this is a profound need, if the cat is near enough to the nip to know it's there)? She scrounges through the cupboards, freezer, and cookbooks to see if there’s anything she can throw together. With sugar.

In the freezer? Frozen pie dough left over from Thanksgiving 2006 (basic Martha Stewart dough recipe). Also, some almond paste left over from Christmas Morning Bear Claws. What could a freezer and 6 or 7 months do to ruin these things? I decided not to answer the question, and to forge ahead.

I rolled the dough out to about 1/4 inch thickness, and cut it into circles with a cookie cutter. Then I put a small amount (about 1/2 Tab.) of the almond paste in the center, then folded the circles in half. I brushed the edges with egg whites, and used a fork to seal the deal. As a final touch, I brushed the tops with egg whites, and sprinkled with sugar, then baked them for about 25 minutes at 350 (or until golden brown).

While these DID taste a little like freezer (I ate them too fast to judge), I must say they were a wonderful invention. I have decided these are a staple, and perhaps a signature dish. I will make Pizza Pillows, Mexi-Pillows, Blueberry Pillows, Cinnamon Apple Pillows, Pumpkin Pillows, Pecan Pillows...need I go on?

Portuguese Prize!

food 003

This recipe and post is simply a vehicle for me to show off a picture of one of my birthday gifts. In the background, that lovely blue and white ensemble you see is an oil, vinegar, salt and pepper set direct from Portugal.
I spent 4 months traveling through Europe about 10 years ago (ack! Where did the time go!?), and everywhere I went (mostly in Spain, Italy and Portugal) I saw beautiful hand made pottery. Pitchers, plates, bowls...and decanter sets like these. And because I was back-packing, it seemed unwise to purchase something this precious and breakable at the time. I have since kicked myself every single day. I returned to Italy a year later, and didn’t see anything like it again. I thought my chances of owning one of these sets were gone for good.
When Tennille (http://nilla.typepad.com/) started planning one of her adventures, she was dismayed by the costs of going to Europe. I suggested she look into Portugal, as it is a little off the beaten-track of the Continent goers. She followed my advice, took some amazing pictures, and brought me home this GORGEOUS decanter set that I covet. I think it officially is the “one thing I would grab” in case of fire. After the husband.
On the food side of things, I have taken to oven-roasting my vegetables. It’s SO easy, they’re so tasty, and it’s easy to have a colorful assortment of earthly delights to go with any main dish.

Oven-Roasted Vegetables

Assortment of peppers (red, green, yellow, orange)

Heat oven to 425.

Chop assorted vegetables into large chunks, and arrange on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt, pepper, and pepper flakes. Bake for about 25 minutes. Drizzle balsamic oil over the top, or sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and serve as a side or main dish!

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cherry Blackbottom Cupcakes

After all my griping about the weather, I decided to celebrate the sunshine by taking my cupcakes outdoors for their class picture. It still isn't exactly summer here, but I have at least been able to go on a couple of long bike rides. This should somewhat compensate for the fact that I will be eating these cupcakes for dinner every night until they are gone (three per night, 12 in a batch means I'll be back to real food by Monday.)

These cupcakes land somewhere near World Peace Cookies on my top ten list. I love the combination of chocolate with the cherry and the cheesecake, and the texture is exactly what I want out of a cupcake, too. They are incredibly easy to make, and they keep well. Basically I have nothing bad to say about them. I used David Lebovitz's recipe for Black-Bottom Cupcakes from the Great Book of Chocolate, and made two tiny modifications (cherry jam and almond extract).

*I am in love with this jam, and am constantly seeking out new delivery methods (toast, sandwiched between graham crackers or cookies, by the spoonful when nothing else is available). That is how I ended up with cherry jam in my cupcakes.

Cherry Blackbottom Cupcakes

- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- 5 Tbsp natural cocoa powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 cup water
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 Tbsp white or cider vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract


- 8 ounces room temp cream cheese
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 room temp egg
- 1/8 tsp almond extract
- 2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
- cherry jam*

Oven to 350 degrees, line one standard muffin tin with cupcake papers.
Beat cream cheese, sugar, egg, and almond extract together. Mix in chocolate chips.
In large bowl, mix together dry cupcake ingredients. Make well in center and pour in wet ingredients. Stir together with wooden spoon. Distribute amongst cupcake papers. Next, distribute cream cheese mixture, about 1-2 Tbsp per cupcake. Finally, drop about a tsp of jam onto each cupcake.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until cupcakes are springy and tops are slightly golden.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Brownies with Peanut Butter Caramel

I am about to lose my mind - it is the middle of June and I can't remember the last day the sun was REALLY out. As I write this, it is 3:45 in the afternoon and 55 degrees out. And cloudy. And rainy. Two nights ago I finally broke down and brought my winter blanket back to bed. Meanwhile I am supposed to be training for various bike rides I signed up for this summer. Instead, I am staying inside, where it is warm-ish, and baking (and eating). Like these brownies, for example.

I'm discovering that I may be a bit of a chocolate wuss. With all of my brownie-experimentation lately, I am finding that my favorites have been a little bit light on chocolate. This time around I used David Lebovitz's recipe for his Dulce de Leche Brownies, then modified the dulce de leche with some peanut butter. The brownies were of the fudgy variety, and were so chocolately they were almost black. They were truly amazing, but I think that next time I will go back to these or these.

I followed DL's brownie recipe to the letter, so I won't re-copy it here. For the peanut butter caramel variety, just replace the dulce to leche in the recipe with the following:

Peanut Butter Caramel

- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup peanut butter (natural-style works fine, if not better - not quite as sweet)

Mix together in pan over medium heat until well combined. Continue to warm, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and use as directed in brownie recipe. This recipe makes much more than is needed for the 8x8 pan of brownies. I plan on using my left-overs on ice cream, but there would certainly be enough for a 9x13 batch instead.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

WCC #17 - Lemon Cornmeal Cookies

I have been wanting to try this recipe for awhile now. Then yesterday, after one of my most favorite co-workers worked her last day with me after quitting her job (I still can't believe it is true!), I decided to go home and drown my sorrows in these cookies. The recipe came out of a Martha Stewart Food Christmas cookie magazine. The recipe seemed a little odd to me, but I wanted to try it anyways because the photo looked so promising. Of course my cookies looked nothing like the ones in her picture. It turns out that these cookies are heavenly when they are warm out of the oven - lemony and buttery, but dense like shortbread, with a cornmealy crunch. The next day, however, they are just flavorful hockey pucks. That is when I discovered how lovely they are when softened by a little bit of melting blueberry frozen yogurt, or dipped into a hot cup of tea. So there is no need to worry that my lemony hockey pucks will end up in the garbage. These cookies are good enough (and easy enough) that I can imagine trying them again. But I may add a tiny bit of leavening, and also try a finer ground cornmeal or corn flour. Into half of my cookies I squashed a dried tart cherry. Next time I would definitely do that to all of them.

Lemon Cornmeal Cookies (adapted from Everyday Food, Holiday 2006)

- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1 cup cornmeal (I reccommend finer rather than coarse, or maybe a mix of the two?)
- 1 Tbsp lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 12 Tbsp butter, at room temp
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 1 egg
- 24-36 dried tart cherries (optional)

Oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients together in small bowl. Beat together butter, sugar, lemon zest, and egg. Mix in dry ingredients. Roll dough into balls, using a heaping tablespoon of dough. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheet lined with parchment. Flatten dough to 3/4" thickness. Squish a cherry into the center of each cookie. Bake until browned around the edges, about 20-25 minutes.

I am submitting these to the Weekend Cookbook Challenge. This is the 17th one, and the theme is cornmeal. I imagine the round up with be up soon, so check it out!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt...

...good enough for a cold and rainy Seattle day. This stuff is way better than the sum of its parts. When I had my first taste, I honestly did a quick mental scan, trying to recall if I had accidentally dumped in a pint of heavy cream without realizing it. The texture is wonderful (requires a ten or fifteen minute thaw at room temperature before serving), but the flavor! I went back and tasted the plain yogurt left-overs, and that didn't explain this stuff either. Whatever. It is just good. Creamy and fruity and just sweet enough.

Of course this came from David Lebovitz's fabulous and amazing new book, The Perfect Scoop, which I finally have in my possession. Anyone with an ice cream maker that does not yet have this book needs to go out and buy it immediately! I think I have already read it cover to cover twice, and my lilliputian freezer is the only thing keeping me from making every recipe.

I used Greek-style yogurt, and frozen wild blueberries. (The recipe calls for straining out the blueberry seeds. All I will say is that I have a strange compulsion that prevented me from doing that - therefore my yogurt was unstrained.)

Blueberry Frozen Yogurt, from The Perfect Scoop

- 1 1/2 cups plain Greek-style yogurt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 cups blueberries
- 1 tsp kirsch
- 2 tsp lemon juice

Place yogurt, sugar, and blueberries in food processor and mix well. (Strain.) Stir in kirsch and lemon juice and chill for 1 hour. Place in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.