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  • Have a Spooky Halloween!

    Cheddar Witches Fingers - Cheese straws in the shape of fingers, complete with a black almond "finger nail." Delicious and totally spooky.

    Candy Apples - You don't need to go to the fair to get my favorite treat because you can make these at home. Black food coloring gives them a festive touch.

    Pumpkin Caramel Sauce - Having a not-so-scary Halloween party? Serve ice cream with this pumpkin infused caramel sauce on top.

Monthly Archives: January 2012

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (Salsa Verde)

Salsa Verde
I love all kinds of salsa, but tomatillo salsa has stolen my heart. It’s so fresh tasting, and I just love the tangy flavor of the tomatillos. I’ve already posted another tomatillo salsa, but this one is a little different. The other one uses chipotles, making it smokier and spicier than this one. This salsa is light with subtle heat, but it still has some of that smoky flavor thanks to roasting the tomatillos, garlic and jalapeno. It’s incredibly quick to make, even with the extra step of roasting. Once everything is roasted, you simply toss it in the food processor and you’re set. This would be a great addition to your Super Bowl menu, but I’ll warn you – it’s so good that you may want to make a double batch!

Eric and I like to serve this with homemade tortilla chips, which are a breeze to make. Simply brush each side of six or so corn tortillas with olive oil, cut into eighths, lay in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with seasoning salt. Bake at 350º for about 15 or so minutes.

Salsa Verde

Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Makes about 2 cups

4-5 medium tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and halved (about 8 ounces)
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 jalapeno
1/3 cup loosely packed, roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup water
1/2 small white onion, chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime

Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place the tomatillos cut side down into the pan, and lay the garlic cloves and jalapeno around them. Cook until the tomatillos are well browned, about 4 minutes. Flip everything over and continue cooking until the tomatillos are very soft. Place the garlic and tomatillos in the bowl of a food processor, and place the jalapeno in a zip top bag to steam. When the jalapeno is cool enough to handle, peel off the blackened skin. Remove ribs and seeds, roughly chop and add to the food processor.

Add the water, onion and cilantro to the food processor, then pulse until combined. Add more water as needed to reach the desired consistency. Add lime juice and salt to taste.

Source: As seen on Pink Parsley, originally from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

The Baked Brownie

The Baked Brownie

Since moving into our house in December, Eric and I have had a few visits from neighbors. Seeing as how this is our first house, this is not something we’re used to. One neighbor brought us a plate of amazing snickerdoodles and another invited us to dinner. To say we lucked out with our neighborhood would be an understatement. Sadly, we’ve been so busy that we haven’t had much time to introduce ourselves, and we had to turn down that dinner invitation because we were painting Baby C’s nursery that day. I thought it would be nice to bake something as a way to say thanks to the people we’ve met and as a way to introduce ourselves to the people we haven’t. I wasn’t sure what to bake, but decided on this recipe immediately upon seeing it.

Baked Brooklyn
Here I am visiting Baked in Brooklyn almost exactly two years ago.

Brownies are one of those desserts that people have pretty strong opinions about. Cakey or fudgy? With nuts or without? Before trying these, I was firmly in the cakey with nuts crowd. However, you can now consider me a convert. Hands down, these are the best brownies I’ve ever had in my life. I finally understand why people like those fudgy brownies. I guess I just had to find the right brownie to convince me. These brownies are intensely chocolatey, so it’s important that you use the best quality chocolate you can. I used two different chocolates that I had been holding onto since November because no recipe seemed worthy of them, but this recipe certainly was. The brownies are rich, dense and so insanely delicious. The espresso helps intensify the flavor of the chocolate, but you can actually get a slight hint of it while eating the brownie. I could continue talking about how amazing these are, but I’ll try to show some self-restraint and simply tell you to make these brownies soon.

The Baked Brownie

The Baked Brownie
Makes 24 brownies

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
11 ounces dark chocolate (60 to 72%), coarsely chopped
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350º and butter the sides and bottom of a 9-by-13-inch glass baking pan. Whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

Place the chocolate, butter and espresso powder in a large bowl and set over a pot of simmering water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is completely melted and smooth. Turn off heat, but keep the bowl over the water. Whisk in the sugars until completely combined, then remove bowl from the pot. If the mixture isn’t room temperature at this point, allow it to cool slightly until it reaches room temperature.

Whisk 3 eggs into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to overbeat them. Whisk in the remaining 2 eggs, then stir in the vanilla. Using a rubber spatula, gradually fold in the flour until just incorporated. Pour batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached. Allow to cool, then cut into squares and serve. Brownies can be kept, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to 3 days (like they’ll last that long).

Source: Baked: New Frontiers in Baking

Tortellini Minestrone

When Eric and I were in the process of moving, we had to eat out more than I care to admit. The biggest reason for this was the fact that we had to special order a refrigerator that would fit in the space we had. For two people that love to cook, eating out so frequently got old fast. We were ecstatic once our new refrigerator arrived and we were finally able to buy ingredients to cook a decent meal. Sadly, we weren’t anywhere close to having the kitchen unpacked when the refrigerator arrived. Since neither one of us could stomach eating out yet again, we unpacked a few things and decided to cook this simple soup instead.

Let me start off by saying that, while this soup is supposed to have tortellini, we could only find ravioli when we made this. So you’ll notice that the pasta in my picture looks pretty big, and that’s because it is. However, this didn’t bother either of us because we were just happy to have a home cooked meal. This soup is incredibly easy – we made it without a fully functioning kitchen, if that tells you anything. The only change I made was to increase the liquid by half a cup, and this is just a personal preference because I like my soups to be a little brothier. The combination of vegetables, cannellini beans and pasta in this soup make it filling without making it heavy. It also makes excellent leftovers. All that, and it can be made in under half an hour.

Tortellini Minestrone

Tortellini Minestrone
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 stalks of celery, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, minced
5 ounces mushrooms, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano, or 1 teaspoon dried
3 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
2 3/4 cups V8 vegetable juice
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (9-ounce) package fresh cheese tortellini (preferably whole wheat)
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup pesto (homemade, or if store-bought, use the refrigerated variety)
Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the carrots, celery, onion, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until just softened. Add the mushrooms and continue cooking until all the vegetables have softened, 5-6 additional minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and cook about 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Pour in the broth, making sure to scrape up any browned bits. Stir in the vegetable juice and beans and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the tortellini and zucchini and continue simmering until tender, another 5-7 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Divide among serving bowls and top each portion with a spoonful of pesto and a sprinkling of Parmesan before serving.

Source: As seen on Pink Parsley, originally from Cook’s Illustrated Soups, Stews & Chilis

Chocolate Chunk Coconut Macadamia Nut Cookies

Chocolate Chunk Coconut Macadamia Nut Cookies

For someone that loves cookies as much as I do, I don’t make them nearly enough. Cookies are so easy to make and are nice to have on hand whenever a sweet craving strikes. And let’s be serious, I’ve had a lot of sweet cravings lately. That’s why I decided to save some of this cookie dough and freeze it for after our little girl arrives the first week of March. I know the first few weeks of having a newborn are going to be a blur, and I’m sure Eric and I will appreciate fresh-from-the-oven cookies more than ever.

This cookie recipe is highly adaptable. It originally called for cinnamon chips, but I omitted them in favor of more chocolate chunks. Additionally, I reduced the amount of nuts to one cup because any more than that just seemed like too much. As it is, these cookies are still full of mix-ins, so if that’s not your thing then you may want to decrease the amount even more. I loved the combination of chocolate, coconut and macadamia nuts. It’s just different enough from a regular chocolate chip cookie without being outrageous. For the coconut, I used coconut flakes and liked it much better than typical, shredded sweetened coconut. The toasted coconut adds just a hint of coconut flavor to these, but you could certainly add coconut extract if you were looking for a more prominent flavor.

Chocolate Chunk Coconut Macadamia Nut Cookies

Chocolate Chunk Coconut Macadamia Nut Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen small cookies

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) unsalted butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups chocolate chunks
1 cup coarsely chopped roasted macadamia nuts
1/2 cup toasted coconut

Preheat oven to 375º and line baking sheets with parchment silicone baking mats. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the baking soda, vanilla, salt and egg and continue beating on medium speed until combined. Decrease mixer speed to low and gradually mix in flour until just incorporated. Use a rubber spatula to stir in chocolate chunks, macadamia nuts and coconut.

Use a small cookie scoop to drop rounds of dough, about 2 inches apart, onto the prepared baking sheets. Flatten slightly. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until just golden. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes on the pan before moving to a wire rack to cool completely. If you want larger cookies, simply use a larger scoop and space cookies about 3 inches apart. You can even press extra chocolate chunks into the tops of the dough before baking to get that bakery style look.

*To freeze the dough, line a baking sheet with parchment and scoop dough like normal. Once frozen through, transfer the dough balls to a freezer bag or other container. You can bake right from the freezer by adding a couple minutes to the baking time.

Source: Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Lentil and Black Bean Soup with Andouille Sausage

Lentil and Black Bean Soup

This winter has been incredibly mild compared to our first two in Virginia. So far, there hasn’t even been any snow. It’s been wavering between spring-like and bitter cold outside, which has me craving comfort food more than ever. When it’s cold, I have a tendency to turn to cream based soups. I’m so glad I decided to make this one instead because it turned out to be exactly what I wanted. It’s rich and hearty without being heavy. Served with a piece of crusty baguette, this simple and unassuming meal was one of the best I’ve had in a while.

This recipe was written as a vegetarian one, but I couldn’t resist adding some andouille sausage to it. We’ve actually had mostly meatless meals lately, and I thought it would be nice to add something a little spicy to this soup. (Spicy foods are one of my few pregnancy cravings and meat has been my only aversion.) However, you can easily omit it without sacrificing any flavor for a vegetarian option. The smoked paprika in this adds a lot of flavor, and that smokiness is enhanced by the sausage. I had originally planned to make this with chorizo, but the andouille worked nicely. I hadn’t yet used lentils in soup and wasn’t sure how well they’d hold up, but their texture was perfect – just tender and not mushy at all. We really enjoyed the different textures from the beans, lentils and tomatoes. Because I was concerned about over blending, I think I may have under blended just a little. Either way, this soup was a big hit and has made for awesome leftovers this week.

Lentil and Black Bean Soup

Lentil and Black Bean with Andouille Sausage
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces (2 links) Andouille sausage, halved lengthwise then cut crosswise into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 large stalks celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 bay leaves
1 can (14 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 cup dried brown lentils
4 3/4 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth, divided
3 cups water
1 can (14 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook for about 8 minutes, until well browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Add more oil to the pot if needed and then add the onion and celery. Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, 6-7 minutes. Add garlic, paprika and bay leaves and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add tomatoes and their juices, lentils, 3 cups of chicken broth and 3 cups of water. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender, 25-35 minutes.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Discard the bay leaves. Transfer half the mixture to a blender or food processor, along with half the black beans and 3/4 cup chicken broth. Pulse until combined but not pureed. Add mixture back to pot, along with remaining black beans and 1 cup chicken broth. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Stir in sausage and cook soup over medium heat until warmed through. Stir in parsley and serve.

Source: Adapted from Cookin’ Canuck