Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Lemon Icebox Pie

This fun little dessert was based on the lemon icebox pie recipe in my latest library loaned cookbook The Magnolia Bakery. Actually, I just looked at the picture in the book and went from there. I also wanted to use my ring molds from the chocolate cakes I made last month and this seemed like a good candidate. These turned out so tasty and they really reminded me of my favorite dessert Key Lime Pie. They were extremely easy to put together and just the right size.

Lemon Icebox Pie

1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 T butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup lemon curd
3/4 cup whipped cream (cool whip works)
garnishes : blueberries, mint, raspberry or blackberry sauce, or lemons

Melt butter in a small pan. Add sugar and crumbs, mix thoroughly. Line ring molds with parchment paper and then pat 1/3 of crumb mixture into each mold. Bake at 350 degrees for 6-7 minutes. While that cools fold whipped cream into prepared lemon curd. When crusts are cooled, divide cream mixture between the three molds and smooth surface. Place in freezer for 30-60 minutes. Remove, garnish, and serve cold.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Corned Beef Hash

The sales on corned beef were too good to pass up so I grabbed one and brought it home. Last night I decided to use the majority of it to make one of my all-time favorite sandwiches the reuben. For our second delicious meal I made it into a hash with potatoes, onion, and green and red pepper. It made a great breakfast for 2 and Joseph will get to enjoy more leftovers tomorrow morning.

Corned Beef Hash

1 cup cubed corned beef
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 cup green pepper
1/4 cup red pepper
2 cups boiled cubed potatoes
2 T butter
salt and pepper

Melt butter in a large skillet. Add onions and peppers and saute for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Add corned beef and potatoes and season to taste. Continue cooking for 5-6 minutes or until potatoes are heated thru and browned on all sides. Serve with your favorite type of eggs and toast (and ketchup in my case.)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Braised Short Ribs

It took a little bit of work over the span of two days to make these short ribs, but it was worth it. Like most affordable cuts of meat, these spare ribs require a long cook time in a bit of liquid. I spread the 4 or so hours of cooking over two days. The first day I browned the outsides of the ribs and then par-braised them in the oven for about 3 hours. Then they rested overnight in the fridge and the second day I was able to skim off the excess fat that had collected and then I popped them back into the oven for an additional hour.
They were fall off the bone tender and the braising liquid made a glorious barbecue-like sauce that was so good. (I do have to say that I put a little too much on the plate pictured above making the polenta a bit soupy. Ugh. Next time I'd serve these with mashed potatoes and a little less sauce.)

Braised Short Ribs
adapted from From Emeril's Kitchen by Emeril LaGasse

2 1/2 lbs beef short ribs
1 quart water
1 large onion chopped
3 garlic cloves sliced thinly
1/2 c Worcestershire sauce
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
2 T kosher salt
2 T soy sauce
1 t red pepper flakes
salt pepper

Season the short ribs with salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sear the short ribs in a pan set on medium-high. Place the browned ribs in a large baking dish. (You may want to work in batches to insure each rib gets browned properly.) In a bowl combine remaining ingredients. Pour mixture over ribs and cover. Bake for 3 hours or until ribs are just tender. Remove from oven and cool. Place in refrigerator overnight. The next day remove the layer of congealed fat and then bake for an additional hour at 350 degrees or until ribs are falling off the bone.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Super Easy Pasta

Today I hauled out a bunch of stuff to make lunch for Gabe and myself. I was in the mood for pasta so I started the pot of water boiling and went through the cupboards for inspiration. I wasn't too inspired so I pulled out a bag of leftover veggies from last night, some chicken stock, etc. The last thing I pulled out was a container of baby mozzarella balls and the bang! I was inspired. I put back everything I had pulled out and was left with just two things - the cheese and fresh basil. Just pasta, mozzarella, cheese, and a little olive oil. Oh was terrific. Gabe loved it and I had seconds - but that's just my little secret.
Bowties with Fresh Basil and Bocconcini
1/2 lb pasta - I used bowties but I'm sure anything would work
1 cup fresh baby mozzarella balls
2 T fresh basil - chopped
3-4 T olive oil
Place cheese, 1 T fresh basil, salt, pepper, and 2 T olive oil in a container. Shake to combine and set aside. Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain pasta and drop in mozzarella mixture. Stir in additional basil. Add extra olive oil, salt, and pepper as desired. Enjoy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Easter Basket Cupcakes

These little Easter Basket cupcakes were fun and easy to make. I used a simple white cake mix and baked the cupcakes in the basket pan I received last month. They baked up in about 16 minutes and then I left them to completely cool. I colored a small batch of coconut for the grass and used little M & M for the eggs inside the easter baskets. These make such a cute little dessert for the upcoming holiday. They are also a fun project to get the kids involved with. Even my little guy can stir the food coloring and coconut together.

Entered in this round of Waiter There's Something In My...Easter Basket.

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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Lemon Curd

I have to admit I've never had lemon curd before, but as far as I can tell this turned out great. It reminded me of lemon meringue pie - which was delicious on top of our morning scones. It is such a bright and lively way to start our morning. Even Gabriel enjoyed dipping his scone - among other things - into this tart sauce.
Lemon Curd
adapted from allrecipes
1 1/2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 T butter
1 heaping teaspoon grated lemon peel
Combine the eggs and sugar in the top of a double boiler. Add in butter and whisk until melted. Add in the lemon juice and lemon peel. Cook over simmering water for 15 minutes or until thickened, whisking often. Make sure to keep the water at a simmer and not a boil. Cooking gradually will help avoid cooking the egg too quickly ending up with specks of egg throughout the sauce. If this does occur simply strain once thickened.
This made close to a cup of lemon curd. It will keep for about a week in the fridge.
Cover with a piece of plastic wrap so a skin does not form on the surface.
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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Bechamel Sauce

Sauces play a major role in contributing flavor to any dish. Every sauce from a basic vinaigrette to a thick brown gravy enhance the foods they accompany. Even a simple pan sauce can transform a chicken breast or pork chop from ordinary to spectacular.

Bechamel is a basic white sauce. It can be used for a base to macaroni and cheese, alfredos, and cheese sauces. Once the actual bechamel is made any number of cheeses can be added to tailor the taste to the type of food you are serving. I like to add cheddar cheese for a sauce to use on top of potatoes or broccoli. Parmesan cheese is a good addition if making an alfredo sauce and gorgonzola makes a delicious sauce for beef.

Today I worked on my bechamel making skills and took a few tips from various sources to come up with the best looking white sauce I have had made. It was just thick enough, smooth, and creamy. I started the sauce by steeping a slice of onion and a bay leaf in the milk. This added a nice aroma and taste to the sauce. It was just slightly noticable in the final cheese sauce for today's macaroni.

Bechamel Sauce

1 slice onion
1 large bay leaf
2 cups milk
3 T butter
3 T flour
1/2 t salt

Place a small saucepan over medium-low heat with the milk, onion, and bay leaf. Bring to a simmer and then turn off the heat. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. In a round-bottomed pan melt butter. Add the flour and whisk together, let this bubble for about 2 minutes, making sure to stop before it turns color.
Slowly add the milk and rapidly whisk to incorporate all of the liquid. Bring it up to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Let this simmer for 5 minutes to cook out the flour taste and thicken the sauce. At this point you should taste the sauce and season it. If you are adding cheese to the sauce add it first and then adjust the salt to taste. (It took about 2 cups of extra-sharp cheddar to make this a cheese sauce for macaroni.)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Strawberry Shortcake Baskets

We had weather in the fifties today which made us giddy for spring. We went to the park and played for most of the afternoon. After hours of swinging, sliding, and running we started our walk back home. As we made our way through the neighborhood the local grilling bug bit us as it flew through on the tail of a delicious smelling smoke cloud. We hurried out and picked up some steaks and veggies for the grill. Joseph fired up the grill for the first time this year and got to work. While he was grilling I decided to try out a baking pan I recently received from my aunt and my grandmother.
It bakes cakes in the shape of little baskets and makes the perfect little shortcake bottoms. This pan worked perfectly for individual-sized portions - and we already know everyone loves that. They were as fun to bake as they were to eat and they were so easy to assemble. I'll be anxious to try this out again so that I can decorate them and use them as Easter Baskets.

I used this recipe for the spongecake - which made exactly one pan of cakes - how perfect!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Caesar Salad

I have always liked a good Caesar Salad. So, I decided to enter it in this week's round of Weekend Cookbook Challenge hosted by Running with Tweezers.  I pulled out my copy of From Emeril's Kitchen and found a good basic recipe for caesar salad.

Caesar Salad
adapted from From Emeril's Kitchen
1 large egg, room temperature
2 anchovy fillets, drained
1/2 t minced garlic
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper
2 T freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 T fresh lemon juice
1 t Dijon mustard
1/4 c extra-virgin olive oil
1 t Worchestershire Sauce
Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Add the egg and cook for 30 seconds. Drain.
Combine the anchovies, garlic, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and mash to a paste with a fork. Break the egg into the mixture and whisk well to blend. Add the cheese, lemon juice, and mustard and whisk well. Add the olive oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to form a thick emulsion. Add the Worcestershire and whisk well to combine. Cover tightly and refrigerate until ready to use. (The dressing will keep refrigerated for up to 1 day.)
For the Salad
Put one 18-ounce bag of Romaine hearts in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing to taste. Top with croutons and cheese; serve.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Baby Shower Brunch - Berry Trifle and Homemade Marshmallows

The collection of sweets during January's Sugar High Friday Competition centered around chocolate was astounding. While perusing the entries I came across one from Bea of La Tartine Gourmande and was awestruck and inspired. I have found myself going back to her original post time after time to look at her beautiful creation and I had to hold back from making it until the right occasion came up. So, when it was decided that I would be hosting a baby shower this weekend I just knew that I finally had a reason to give it my best shot.
I ran out last night to collect the ring molds and gelatin and then spent the better part of the night getting all of the components together. I did alter the original recipe by substituting semi-sweet for the dark chocolate but I stayed true to the recipe besides that. I am very glad that I received a scale for Christmas though, since it made the whole process easier...not to mention more fun. I don't know why I enjoy weighing little bits of chocolate and powdered sugar so much but I do. It reminds me of when I was in school and that makes me happy.
Anyway, I was so pleased with the way they came out on my first attempt that I am anxious to try another version. This process could work with so many flavors and fruit combinations that it is exciting just to think about. I can't wait for another occasion to come my way.

Another first time recipe that I tried was this trifle that I saw on Everyday Foods. This was so simple to make and such a hit with all of the ladies. I used an all butter pound cake...pre-made for this one. I made it the night before and let the flavors meld in the fridge overnight as was suggested and I think it truly made a difference. The cake wasn't dry at all and the cream cheese in the filling was extremely luscious. I used my grandmother's silver iced tea spoons alongside and that made it even more fun to eat. I felt like it was something special since we weren't using our everyday spoons.

These marshmallows that I made to go along with the hot chocolate were the most interesting thing that I made for the shower. The thick meringue-like batter was easy to make and I was surprised at how simple they were...but the actual cutting and tossing in powdered sugar was very tedious. Also, a full recipe yields a ridiculous amount of marshmallows. I'm not exactly sure what I am going to do with the huge container that I have leftover so if anyone has an idea for them I'd love the input.
The taste and texture of these marshmallows are far superior to the little spongy store-bought variety and I can see myself making them in the future for a herd of cold sledders...but it would have to be a herd of 12 or more.

We had two fun drinks: baby bellinis and hot chocolate. The bellinis were "baby" because I used sparkling white grape juice in place of champagne since we had three expecting mothers attending. The hot chocolate was simply in place of coffee since nobody seems to be a big coffee drinker. I thought the marshmallows were quite yummy slightly melted in the hot chocolate. The only thing better would have been if the hot chocolate was whipped like Ina Garten suggested...but I could only do so much.
Overall the party was a success. We enjoyed manicures and pedicures while eating, chatting, and reminiscing about the deliveries of our own children. It was an enjoyable morning for me as well as everyone attending. Now we just have to face the big clean-up. Ugh!

Red, White, and Blue Trifles
adapted from Everyday Foods
1 8oz package cream cheese at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 pound cake
strawberries (optional)
mint for garnish (optional)

In a mixing bowl beat the cream cheese and sugar until combined and smooth. Add heavy cream and beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Layer cubed pound cake, cream cheese mixture, and fruit. Repeat to form a second layer and garnish with mint. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.

Homemade Marshmallows
adapted from Barefoot Contessa Family Style

3 packages unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 T pure vanilla extract
Confectioners' sugar for dusting

Combine the gelatin and 1/2 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and allow to sit while you make the syrup.
Meanwhile, combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and cook until the syrup reaches 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat.
With the mixzer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin. Put the mixer on low speed and whip until the mixture is very thick, about 15 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.
With a sieve, generously dust an 8 x 12-inch nonmetal baking dish with confectioners' sugar. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the pan, smooth the top, and dust with more confectioners' sugar. Allow to stand uncovered overnight until it dries out.
Turn the marshmallows onto a board and cut them in squares. Dust them with more confectioners' sugar.

In a mixing bowl beat the cream cheese and sugar until combined and smooth. Add heavy cream and beat on high speed until soft peaks form. Layer cubed pound cake, cream cheese mixture, and fruit. Repeat to form a second layer and garnish with mint. Chill at least 2 hours before serving.
Join the baby/bridal shower fun at Dispensing Happiness as she hosts the next Blog Party.

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