Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cheese Plate

Cheese Plate

I love cheese, and serving it for an appetizer is stress free and delicious. This time I used brie, gouda, swiss, and a cheddar/gorgonzola cheese; along with apples, plums, grapes, crackers, and sliced baguette. I love the contrast of using dark red fruits with the yellow and whites of the cheese; it makes for an impressive appetizer. It’s also good with a piece of smoked salmon!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Rustic Plum Cake

I just received my new Cook’s Illustrated magazine and was inspired to try this recipe. It was funny because earlier in the day I was talking a walk and noticed a plum tree in the front yard of a house that was vacant and for sale. Well, that led to midnight gardening and I took the liberty of sneaking over there with a bag and collecting plums for this recipe! The next door neighbors came out and said hello to check and see what was going on, so I decided to play dumb and just say hello, how are you guys tonight, they said fine and I kept picking the plums, it was quite hilarious as I don’t think they knew what to do.
The plums that I had were very large regular red plums, not Italian prune plums, so I cut them in 4 pieces instead of halving them. I got rave reviews when I took this to work because the plums are a bit tart and the cake is very moist and sweet. Cheers to midnight gardening!

Rustic Plum Cake

2 Tablespoons Currant or Seedless Raspberry Jam
3 Tablespoons Brandy
1 Pound (10-12) Italian Prune Plums, halved and pitted
3/4 Cup Unbleached Flour, plus extra for dusting the pan
3/4 Cup Sugar
1/3 Cup Slivered Almonds
1/2 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
6 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, cut into 6 pieces, softened but still cool
1 Large Egg, Plus 1 Large Yolk, room temperature
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
¼ Teaspoon Almond Extract
Powdered Sugar, for serving

Cook jam and brandy in 10 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until reduced to thick syrup, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and place plums cut-side down in syrup. Return skillet to medium heat and cook until plums shed their juices and thick syrup is again formed, about 5 minutes, shaking pan to prevent plums from sticking. Cool plums in pan, about 20 minutes.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 9 inch springform pan. Process sugar and almonds in food processor until nuts are finely ground, about 1 minute. Add flour baking powder, and salt; pulse to combine. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand, about ten 1 second pulses. Add eggs, vanilla, and almond extract and process until smooth, about 5 seconds, scraping bowl once if needed (batter will be very thick and heavy)

Transfer batter to prepared pan; using spatula, spread batter evenly to pan edges and smooth surface. Stir plums to coat with syrup. Arrange plum halves, skin-side down, evenly over surface of batter (pack with fruit, place over entire surface of batter and not touching pan edges). Bake until cake is golden brown and wooden skewer inserted into center comes out with few crumbs attached, 40-50 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Cool in pan on wire rack until just warm or to room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Remove cake from pan and dust with powdered sugar. Cut into wedges and serve.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes

5 Pounds Russet Potatoes, peeled, cut into quarters, and then sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
16 Ounces Sour Cream, at rom temperature
1 Stick Butter, room temperature
1 Tablespoon Garlic Salt (I know it seems like a lot, but it’s absolutely necessary)
Place potatoes in large stock pot and boil until very tender, about 20 minutes, then drain. Next add sour cream, butter and garlic salt. Using large heavy duty whisk, beat until light and fluffy (you can also use an electric mixer or potato ricer if you would like). Adjust flavor by adding additional garlic salt or pepper if needed.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Fried Chicken & Gravy

This is one of my absolute favorite meals and I always make enough so I have left-overs. I don't use my cast iron skillet very often, but for this recipe it is a must. If you don't have one, use the heaviest skillet you have, as retaining heat while frying the chicken, is of the utmost importance.

Fried Chicken & Gravy

1 ½ Cups Flour
1 Tablespoon Salt
1 Tablespoon Pepper
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
Butter Flavored Crisco
6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts, trimmed of all fat

Heat 12 inch skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat with 1/2 inch butter flavored Crisco until very hot. Mix flour, salt, pepper, and chili powder in large zip-lock bag. Put 3 chicken breasts in bag and shake to coat liberally (reserve flour mixture for gravy.) Place coated chicken breasts into frying pan, repeat with remaining 3 breasts of chicken. Cook 3-5 minutes per side until light golden brown. Reduce heat to medium and continue cooking chicken until dark golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes per side. Add more Crisco as necessary to maintain ¼ inch of fat in pan. Remove chicken and place onto paper towel lined plate and keep warm in 200 degree oven while making gravy.


3 Tablespoons Butter
3 Tablespoons Flour Mixture
4 Cups Whole Milk
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Pepper

Drain all fat from pan. Place pan back onto stove over medium flame, add butter and flour mixture. Scrape browned bits off pan and continue to whisk to form roux, continue to cook until roux turns dark golden brown. Next add milk and continue to whisk. Bring gravy to boil and continue to cook over medium heat, while stirring until thickened. Wisk in salt and pepper, add more to taste. Serve over chicken and mashed potatoes.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Cucumber Tomato Salad

Cucumber Tomato Salad

3 Cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into ¼ slices
4 Tomatoes, cut in half and then into large pieces
Handful Basil, chopped
1/3 Cup Rice Vinegar
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 Teaspoons Dijon Mustard
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Pepper

Place cucumbers, tomatoes, and basil in large serving bowl. Wisk together all remaining ingredients until well combined. Pour over cucumbers and tomatoes, mix well and enjoy.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Zucchini Gratin

I was going to make zucchini parmesan, but didn't have all the ingredients I needed and didn't feel like going to the grocery store, so I decided that zucchini gratin would also hit the spot. The only cheese I had was colby jack, so I used it for the topping and it was delicious!

Zucchini Gratin

6 Tablespoons Butter
1 Large Onion, cut in half and then into very thin slices
4 Large Zucchini, cut in half and then into 1/4 inch slices
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Pepper
4 Tablespoons Flour
1 1/2 Cups Milk, heated
1/2 Cups Italian Bread Crumbs
4 Ounces Cheese (Parmesan, Mozzarella, Colby Jack)

In very large sauté pan over medium low heat fry onions in butter until very tender but not browned, about 20 minutes. Next add zucchini, salt and pepper and cook covered for 10 minutes. Next add flour to mixture and cook, stirring until incorporated. Add heated milk, turn up heat to medium high and bring to a simmer, continue cooking until sauce starts to thicken.
Pour into 9x13 inch pan and sprinkle with bread crumbs and then cover with cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbling around the edges. Next turn on broiler and broil until top is golden. Let cool for 10 minutes to set up and serve.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Fried Zucchini

One of my favorite things about summer is having fresh veggies from the garden. I was pleasantly surprised this week when I went out to the garden and found my first veggie, zucchini! What did I do with it, well fry it of course! This is my sinful pleasure during summer and having my own zucchini plant may be my downfall this year, we will see.

Fried Zucchini

1-2 Zucchini, washed and cut into ½ inch thick slices
1 Cup All Purpose Flour
2 Eggs, Beaten
1 Cup Italian Style Bread Crumbs,

Place Flour, beaten eggs, and bread crumbs in three separate wide bowls for breading the zucchini. First place the zucchini slices in the flour, shake off excess flour. Next place slices into beaten eggs and coat, then place into bread crumbs to coat. Repeat until all zucchini is breaded.
Place 1/2 inch of oil in large heavy bottom skilled and heat oil until wooden spoon inserted makes the oil bubble. Place breaded zucchini slices into oil and cook 3-5 minutes per side until dark golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on plate covered in paper towels. Immediately sprinkle with lots of kosher salt. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sunday Brunch

I finally got a Sunday off work and decided to celebrate by having my friends Jubilee, Francisca, and Dave over for Brunch. I pulled out my Barefoot Contessa cook book and made the Potato Basil Frittata and Orange Yogurt recipes. I also made my favorite treat, Pecan Sticky Buns and rounded out the meal with Bacon, and of course, Mimosa’s!

We all just sat around the table for hours and talked about everything and completely stuffed ourselves to Thanksgiving-like status. I do have to admit that I polished off the rest of the sticky buns for dinner, they were so good! Thanks everyone for making my day off so fun!

Potato Basil Frittata

Potato Basil Frittata
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided
4 ted potatoes, cleaned halved and sliced into ¼ inch pieces
8 extra-large eggs
15 ounces ricotta cheese
3/4 pound Gruyere cheese, grated (I used and 8ounce bag of pre-grated Italian blend cheese)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch ovenproof omelet pan over medium-low heat. Add the potatoes and fry them until cooked through, turning often, about 10 to 15 minutes. Melt the remaining 5 tablespoons of butter in a small dish in the microwave.
Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, then stir in the ricotta, Gruyere, melted butter, salt, pepper, and basil. Sprinkle on the flour and baking powder and stir into the egg mixture.Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and place the pan in the center of the oven.
Bake the frittata until it is browned and puffed, 50 minutes to 1 hour. It will be rounded and firm in the middle and a knife inserted in the frittata should come out clean. Serve hot.

Orange Yogurt

Orange Yogurt
4 cups (2 pints) plain yogurt
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup good honey
1 orange, zest grated
1/2 to 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
Orange, orange zest, raisins and walnuts, for garnish (optional)
Line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and suspend it over a bowl. Pour the yogurt into the sieve and allow it to drain, refrigerated, for 3 hours or overnight.Place the thickened yogurt into a medium bowl and stir in the raisins, walnuts, vanilla, honey, and orange zest. Thin with orange juice until it is a desirable consistency. Garnish with sections of orange, orange zest, raisins, or walnuts and serve.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Pecan Sticky Buns

This is the best recipe ever! It comes out of my mom's church recipe book....it was a huge hit at Brunch!!!

Pecan Sticky Buns

1-3 ¾ oz. package butterscotch pudding mix (not the instant kind)
½ cup butter
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cups brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans, or walnuts
1 bag frozen Rhodes white bread rolls
Combine pudding mix, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nuts. Place 20 frozen rolls into well buttered bundt pan. Melt butter and pour over frozen roll dough. Sprinkle with dry pudding mixture, cover lightly with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature overnight. The dough will rise beautifully by morning.
Bake in pre-heated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Invert pan on platter and serve warm.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Plum Tatin

Plum Tatin

¾ Stick Unsalted Butter (6 Tablespoons), at room temperature
8-10 Plums, cut in half and pitted
1/3 Cup Water
1 ½ Cups Sugar, divided
2 Eggs
1/3 Cup Sour Cream
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 ¼ Cups Flour
½ Teaspoon Baking Powder
½ Teaspoon Salt
Coat glass pie plate with non-stick cooking spray and spread plums cut side down on bottom of dish.Combine water and 1 cup of the sugar in small saucepan, cook over high heat until light amber in color (360 degrees on candy thermometer), do not stir. Pour over the plums.
Cream butter and remaining ½ cups sugar over medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat over low until just combined. Next add sour cream and vanilla, beat on medium speed until combined.Add Flour, baking powder and salt, beat on low until just combined, do not over-mix.
Spread cake batter evenly over plums and place into pre-heated 350 degree oven.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes, then invert onto serving plate.

*Recipe adapted from "Barefoot In Paris" by Ina Garten

Friday, July 20, 2007

Vegetable Tomato Soup

This is my favorite soup and I make it all the time to take to work for lunch. I also make this for my friends if they are sick.
Vegetable Tomato Soup

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Large Sweet Onion, Diced
4 Stalks Celery, Cut into ¼” slices
2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Pepper
½ Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1 Pound Carrots, Peeled and cut into¼ “ slices
1 Pound Frozen Corn
1 Pound Frozen “Frenched” Green Beans
6 Cups Beef Broth
1-28 Ounce Can Crushed tomatoes
1-28 Ounce Can Tomato Sauce
Heat a 8-10 quart stock pot over medium high heat, add extra virgin olive oil, onions, garlic, celery, salt pepper, and cumin, cook until onions are translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add all other ingredients and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer 30-45 minutes until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper to desired taste. I often add a teaspoon or two of beef demi glace to heighten the complexity and flavor of the soup. If you like a little kick, a small amount of curry powder is also really yummy. Best Served with a grilled cheese sandwich, crackers, or parmesan croutons.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Turkish Coffee

I absolutely love coffee, when I came across Turkish coffee at my friends house, I immediately went out and bought and ibrik so I could make it at home. I think I will be buzzed all day from the caffeine!
Turkish Coffee
Fill your ibrik with cold water until it reaches the neck of the ibrik. Add 3 heaping teaspoons of Turkish ground coffee and 2 heaping teaspoons of sugar, do not stir.Heat over a medium flame and watch very closely. After a few minutes the coffee will begin to foam, when the foam reaches the top of the ibrik, immediately remove from the stove and then stir.Place back over flame and let foam again until it reaches the top, remove and stir. Repeat one more time.Scoop a spoonful of foam into each demitasse glass and then pour in your coffee. Let stand for a minute before drinking so the coffee grounds settle to the bottom of the glass.

I bought my ibrik at http://www.natashascafe.com/

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

So I woke up today with a sudden craving for my oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. Fortunately I had all the ingredients on hand that I needed to make them.I like to use a scoop instead of a teaspoon so all the cookies are the same size and my hands don't get all messy.
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 Cup Butter, room temperature
¾ Cups Granulated Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
½ Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Eggs
2 Cups Flour
2 ½ Cups Oatmeal (do not use instant oatmeal)
1 Bag Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
Cream together butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar over medium speed until well mixed. Next add vanilla, salt, baking soda, and baking powder, mix until incorporated. Add eggs and mix until just combined. Add flour and mix over medium speed until well blended. Add oatmeal and mix until blended, then add chocolate chips and mix until just incorporated.
Scoop heaping teaspoon full’s of dough onto ungreased baking cookie sheet.
Bake in 375 degree pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until just starting to brown. Let sit for a few minutes, and then move to wire cooling rack.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Chocolate Cake Deluxe

I love my chocolate cake and so does everyone that has had it. It's a staple at my dinner parties and always receives rave reviews! I made 6 batches of this cake and put them into french paper baking cups for Patti's birthday party and then piped a P on each one, they were beautiful! Its amazing how 50 miniature little cakes look all set out on the table!
Chocolate Cake Deluxe
2 Cups Sugar
1 ¾ Cups Flour
¾ Cups Cocoa
1½ Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 ½ Teaspoons Baking Soda
1 Teaspoon Salt
2 Eggs
1 Cup Milk
½ Cup Vegetable Oil
2 Teaspoons Vanilla
1 Cup Boiling
WaterCombine all dry ingredients in mixing bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil, and vanilla. Beat 2 minutes on medium speed. Stir in boiling water.
Pour into greased and floured 9x13” or two greased and floured 8” round baking pans.
Bake 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into middle of cake comes out clean.
Cool completely on wire baking rack.
Chocolate Frosting
1 Stick unsalted butter, melted (do not substitute margarine here, please!)
2/3 Cups Cocoa
3 Cups Powdered Sugar
1/3 Cups Milk
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
Combine cocoa with melted butter in mixing bowl and mix until combined. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk 1/3 at a time while mixer is at a medium speed. Add more milk if necessary until desired consistency is reached. Stir in vanilla.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Tea Sandwiches

I made these for Patti’s Birthday party as one of the appetizers and they are so easy to make and so good. All you have to do is get really good bread and your favorite flavors of cream cheese. In this picture I have three different types of sandwiches. I did a dill pumpernickel bread with salmon cream cheese, a wheat bread with garden vegetable cream cheese, and sweet white bread with garlic cream cheese. Just cut the crust off the bread, spread your cream cheese (make sure it’s room temperature so it’s easily spreadable) and then cut into the desired shape. To dress these up a bit I spread a little plain cream cheese on the side and dipped them in minced chives.I have used this recipe for last minute appetizers, light lunch with a salad, or even on a tray for a buffet, as they are finger friendly! Hope you enjoy!