Monday, August 24, 2009

Dark Fudgy Brownies without the Guilt!

Low fat, heart healthy, fudge brownies? Is that possible? Oh, yes it is. I found a yummy recipe at the Eating Well website. I've mentioned this great site in past blogs. I visited it recently to look for a new dessert to take to a friends cookout and found these gems. They are as dark and dense as they look. Extremely moist, fudgy texture and full of dark chocolatey goodness. Yes, they take a little more effort than brownies from a box, but I'm telling you, the extra effort is well worth it. Your reward will be both a treat for your tastebuds as well as not fearing the scales the next day.

As for any changes in the recipe, just a few. First, I used all semi-sweet chips because I had them in the cupboard . For the cocoa powder I used Hershey's Special Dark Cocoa (ummm, dark chocolate). I also cut the pan into sixteen portions as twenty seemed a bit to skimpy. By the way, they are great with a glass of dry red wine!

Dark Fudgy Brownies
16 portions

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened Hershey's Special Dark cocoa powder
6 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons light corn syrup blended with 3 tablespoons lukewarm water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts

Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Line an 8-inch-square baking pan with parchment paper, letting it overhang on two opposing sides. Coat with cooking spray. Sift flour, confectioners’ sugar and cocoa together into a small bowl.

Combine 3 ounces chocolate and oil in a heavy medium saucepan; place over the lowest heat, stirring, until just melted and smooth, being very careful the chocolate does not overheat. Remove from the heat and stir in granulated sugar, corn syrup mixture, vanilla and salt until the sugar dissolves. Vigorously stir in egg until smoothly incorporated. Gently stir in the dry ingredients. Fold in the walnuts and the remaining chocolate just until well blended. Turn out the batter into the pan, spreading evenly.

Bake the brownies until almost firm in the center and a toothpick inserted comes out with some moist batter clinging to it, 20 to 24 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, about 2 1/2 hours.

Using the overhanging foil as handles, carefully lift the brownie slab from the pan. Peel the foil from the bottom; set the slab right-side up on a cutting board. Using a large, sharp knife, trim off any dry edges (snack for the chef). Mark and then cut the slab into 16 portions. Wipe the blade with a damp cloth between cuts. Arrange on a nice plate and dust with more powdered sugar. Enjoy with friends.

See, that wasn't that bad was it? Not as easy as; open box, dump and mix, but the taste difference, well, you tell me.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Summer days driftin' away.........

I'm back!

Thanks for checking in on me while I enjoyed a bit of a summer hiatus. My work and garden have kept me busy and off the computer. What a great summer it has been here, weatherwise that is. Barely a week in total of 90+ temps, beautiful cool nights and sunny days. The lettuce held out a week or two longer and the summer veggies came on late, but they are oh, so delicious!

I put in my first patty pan squash plant that I picked up for 50cents. We have been eating (and sharing) our squash harvest for weeks. I cut them into rough chunks, add some halved tomatoes, toss with some olive oil, s & p and roast over the grill in a grill pan till barely soft and the tomatoes sweeten. Then I serve as a side, or toss into warm pasta with fresh chopped basil and chunks of goat cheese. Yum! What do you do with patty pans? I'd love to hear. Also, somehow lovely dill decided to invade my garden. The result was loads of refrigerator sweet dill pickles and salmon spread. Not bad for a freebie herb. I went light on the tomatoes this year. They take up so much room in my little space and we have a great little farmers' market just down the street every week where I can pick up what we need. One great treasure has been the Rosa Bianco Italian Eggplant. My first attempt at eggplant and what a treat. No bitterness and a smaller fruit, great when there are just 2 of us.

As the summer wains, the basil becomes woody and the squash leaves melt into the soil, I'm getting ready to replant the lettuce and harvest the over abundance of swiss chard. Chard recipes, anyone? High school football begins next week and that means leaf raking will be just around the corner. Having enjoyed a lovely summer I am looking forward to my favorite season, fall.

In the cooking department, I have pictures and blogs waiting to be published. I made a lovely watermelon sorbet, received a fun box of goodies from the Emeril line that I am playing with and have a report on the Demy, a cool kitchen gadget that I was able to preview. All this will be upcoming soon. In the personal department, I am getting ready to start an exciting job with a wonderful company, not sharing details yet, but I will be melding my love of food, horticulture and sales, all in one job! Again, details to come.

As for my obsession. Well, satisfaction was a long time coming. The object of my desire?

Yes, this wonderful secret concoction of herbs, fruits and gin that make up the exquisite Pimm's No 1.

I was first introduced to this libation at The Greenhouse Tavern this past spring. (If you have yet to get there, what are you waiting for? This place is the bomb! He has one of the hottest gigs around and is being written up and down. The food is over-the-top good and they utilize local products. GHT is also the only certified green restaurant in the state!) Their Pimm's Cup cast it's spell on me and I couldn't get it out of my mind. I search and searched for this elusive liqueur in my immediate area, the usual response was one of puzzlement and then looking at me like I had a third eyeball. My "obsession" post referred to my waiting for a Pimm's delivery from an online site. That was a disaster. After tracking the shipment online for days, every day showing that it was scheduled to arrive at the house, the box was finally shipped back to the seller, the wrong zip code was on the package. The seller emailed that they would gladly reship the goods if I payed the shipping cost, again, which was almost the cost of the bottle! I turned down the generous (?) offer and my cost of just the Pimm's was refunded. So, now I was down the shipping fee and still no Pimm's. I emailed Amelia, Chef's Widow, the other half of The Greenhouse Tavern's Chef Jonathon Sawyer, to see where in Cleveland I could find the Pimm's. She was so great to send me the location, and off to the big city I went, procuring 2 bottles. I could barely wait to get them home.

Sadly, the bottles have come and gone, and I must venture back for more. As for my Pimm's Cup recipe of choice? Here's my rendition:

Pimm's No.1 Cup

Place a generous amount of ice in a highball glass. Add 2 oz Pimm's No.1, 4 oz of limonata or Trader Joe's French Market Lemonade, 2 slices of English cucumber, several sprigs of fresh mint (I have lime mint in the garden) and top off with club soda. Relax and enjoy!

Would love to hear your Pimm's stories! Here are some garden pics! Enjoy the last of summer!

BTW, yes, I have also been knitting up a storm! Talk about obsessed!

Monday, June 8, 2009

After a bit of a break, I am about to return to the blogoshere in full force. First, I wait with baited breath for a very important delivery. The FedEx trail has begun, the minutes turn into hours as I await the moment "It" is in my hands. What is the object of my obsession? For that, you too will have to wait. I feel a renewed sense of inspiration and energy. Time to knock the dust off the pots and pans and get the camera fully charged. My plate, my world is back on the map!

It promises to be a very good week, that's all I can say.

Until I hear the knock on the door..............

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

How will you celebrate this day?

I'm getting ready to start making another market bag which could be yours! How could you get so lucky you ask? Well, just leave a comment answering the above question today through this Saturday the 25th at midnight EST. Be sure to leave a contact email so I can get with you if you are the winner. To see other market bags I have made, hop on over to my knitting blog to check them out. Good Luck!

Friday, April 3, 2009

100th Post! April Royal Foodie Joust Entry

Cheese-Asparagus Pesto Pâté w/White Balsamic Lemongrass Reduction and Almond Whole Wheat Crackers

I am celebrating my 100th blog post with this delectable appetizer that will be my entry for the April Royal Foodie Joust hosted by Jenn the Leftover Queen. I was surprised to see that this would be my 100th post, it snuck up on me. Maybe this will be good luck for the competition!

The three ingredients chosen by 5 Star Foodie (winner of last month's challenge) were asparagus, almonds and lemongrass. Unfortunately, my first recipe attempt did not go as planned. I wanted to serve up a white asparagus ravioli, but they kind of flopped. My filling was too loose and I still need to work on the actual pasta construction. I had a hard time getting any filling in them, any suggestions or tips? All was not lost though, I brushed them with a bit of olive oil and baked them until crisp. Very nice with the asparagus pesto, and worth a future attempt. But enough of that, on to the finished dish!

This is a long entry with many photos, so sit back with a cup of tea and read on. My appetizer is made up of a Cheese-Asparagus Pesto Pâté drizzled with a White Balsamic Lemongrass Reduction and served on Almond Whole Wheat Crackers, whew! I borrowed the idea for the pâté from a recipe in Betty Rosbottom's, "Cooking School Cookbook". Her version calls for a traditional pesto and prosciutto layered cheese. I can't even tell you how many times I have made this for entertaining, especially around Christmas/New Years. It's great because you can make a few in advance and have them ready anytime. For my asparagus pesto, I replaced the pine nuts with almonds and used mint and parsley instead of basil. They really complimented the asparagus. The recipe makes much more than needed, but is fantastic tossed with cooked fresh pasta. I was very happy with the cracker recipe and surprised at how easy they were to make. You could really vary this recipe quite a bit. I found the original here, and as you can see, changed a few things ( I suggest reading the comments on the recipe). The addition of the ground almonds made for a dense cracker, great for the spread. I am going to experiment more, leaving the nuts out and just using all flour. Here are the components of this dish, don't think this is overwhelming, you can make so much of it beforehand!

Asparagus Pesto
makes about 2 cups

1# asparagus
1/4 cup whole, raw almonds
1/4 cup packed, fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup packed, fresh parsley
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

After removing the tough ends of the stalks, blanch the asparagus in boiling water for about 3 minutes, till just tender. Immediately immerse in an ice bath and when chilled, drain completely.

Into a food processor add the almonds, mint, parsley and garlic. Pulse until the almonds are chopped, not too fine. Cut your blanched asparagus in half and add to the processor along with the cheese. Pulse again, chopping and blending all ingredients. With the motor running, slowly add the oil through the chute until the pesto just comes together, you want to be able to spread it and not have it be runny. Scrape down the sides and pulse again if needed, then add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.

White Balsamic Lemongrass Reduction
makes about 1/2 cup

1 12 oz bottle of White Balsamic Vinegar
1 stalk of lemongrass about 5", chopped a bit
1 tsp organic sugar

Heat vinegar and lemongrass in a heavy pan over medium high heat. When it comes to a boil, add the sugar and reduce the heat to a simmer. Continue to cook, uncovered until the mixture reduces and becomes syrupy. Strain the lemongrass out and refrigerate.

Just a few notes: First, try to so this the day before you are entertaining and preferably when you can have the windows open. The vinegar really has a strong smell. Second, I read a tip that when you first add the vinegar to the pan, place a skewer in and mark the depth. That will help when testing to see how much the liquid has reduced. Last tip, when you are ready to use the reduction (which I like to store in a plastic, squeeze bottle), immerse the bottle in hot water to loosen up the reduction, or simply let it sit out on the counter to bring it to room temperature.

Almond Whole Wheat Crackers
makes 1 cookie sheet

1 cup whole raw almonds
2 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2/3 to 1 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grind your almonds in a food processor until they are fairly fine. Place them in a large bowl. Add the flour and salt to the ground almonds and whisk to blend and sift the dry ingredients.

Add the oil and begin lightly stirring while you add the water. Add just enough water for the dough to come together, it will be a bit sticky, remember, you can always add more liquid. Do not over work the dough.

Now it's time to roll out the dough. I chose to bake mine on my silpat, you could also use parchment paper, or an ungreased cookie sheet. First, spread it out with your hands, then roll with a lightly floured pin until the dough is about 1/8" thick. I then cut the edges in line with the silpat. Lightly score the dough into the sections you desire, not cutting all the way through the dough. Prick all over with a fork, lightly brush with some olive oil and sprinkle with salt (I used kosher flake salt). Place the silpat on your baking sheet and bake until just beginning to brown and crisp up, 25-30 minutes. Be careful not to burn these. They will be a bit dense, if you would like them crisper, roll them out thinner.

Let them cool on a rack and them you can break them up. I think these taste best the day they are made. Ours only lasted that long!

Cheese-Asparagus Pesto Pâté
1 8oz block of regular or 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1/3 cup asparagus pesto
white balsamic lemongrass reduction
mint leaves for garnish
unwaxed dental floss

Place the cream cheese block on it's side ( I like to keep it in the foil package, it handles better). Cut the block into 4 slices with the dental floss. Lay each slice down and spread the pesto, layering as you go. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight. When ready to serve, I like to let it sit out at room temperature for awhile. Place a nice dollop of the pesto on top, drizzle generously with the reduction and garnish with a mint leaf. Don't forget to surround it with those yummy, nutty crackers!

Try this for a new twist this Easter!

Coming soon: Bar Cento Review!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wickedly Delicious Peach Green Tea Bread *plus a product review*

Have you tried this yogurt? If not, then you should! I discovered it about a week ago at a local store. Now, I'm sure I may be one of the last on the planet to find out about this stuff (living in Mayberry), but still, I felt that I must spread the word.
So, what is so great about this yogurt? To begin with, the flavors. Not your ordinary blueberry or strawberry-banana blend. Rachel's offers calming Plum Honey Lavender (my favorite), relaxing Vanilla Chai and exotic Pomegranate Blueberry, just to name a few. Her products are void of artificial sweeteners, flavors and preservatives and the cows are given no artificial growth hormones, another plus. As for the taste, divine, and the texture, creamy, but not artificially so. Rachel's has apparently been very successful in the UK and jumped across the pond in 2007. A line of sweet and savory cottage cheese was debuted in 2009, and I am dying to try some but am unable to find any at this time.

I won't go into anymore of the company specifics, you can go to their website for more information. There are some nice looking recipes, including some fun cocktails(sans yogurt) on the site as well. I am looking forward to making a few of their recipes.

I chose to venture out on my own for the first try at baking with this product. This attempt was a flop. I used the Vanilla Chia in a muffin recipe. It flopped because I tried to go into territory I should have left alone and without going into specifics, the result was wretched! I hardly every have a huge flop, but this was one of them. So, after going back to the drawing board, or cutting board, I came up with a deliciously moist, healthy quickbread. I took it to my Friday afternoon knitting group where it was well received and dubbed "blogworthy". My quickbread is an easy, healthy recipe. It calls for white whole wheat flour, replaces most of the fat with the yogurt and is lower in cholesterol due to the egg substitute. For the flavor, I chose the Peach Green Tea yogurt as my inspiration. I had a can of raspberry flavored peaches in the pantry and organic green tea, it just seemed to all work together. Here is the recipe:

Wickedly Delicious Peach Green Tea Bread
makes 2 loaves

3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tea bag of organic green tea (1 tsp)
3/4 cup egg substitute (or 3 eggs)
1 6oz. cup Rachel's Peach Green Tea yogurt
1 cup organic sugar
1/4 cup organic honey
3 tbl canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 can raspberry flavored peaches, rinsed drained and diced
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Demerara Cane Sugar to sprinkle on top

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray 2 loaf pans with cooking spray and then coat each finely with a dusting of flour.

In a medium bowl add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and green tea. Lightly whisk them together until combined. Whisking will help to sift the flour of any lumps.

In a larger bowl combine the egg, yogurt, sugar, honey, oil and vanilla. Stir well, incorporating all the ingredients. To this, add the flour mixture and fold lightly, just until there are no more dry lumps. This will not look like a cake batter, it will be thicker. You do not want to overwork the batter or your cake will be tough. A rubber spatula works well for this.

When just combined, add the peaches and walnuts. Again, fold them in until they are well distributed. Spoon the batter into your prepared loaf pans, smooth the top a bit and the generously sprinkle with the demarara sugar. This gives the cake a beautiful shine and crunch.

Bake the loaves for 45-50 minutes or until the top is cracked and golden and a tester comes clean when inserted. Place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then gently remove from the pan and continue to cool on the rack. This is wonderful served warm or at room temperature. You could also wrap and freeze a loaf for later.

I give Rachel's Wickedly Delicious Yogurt 5 out of 5 spoons! Great name, hip packaging and a luscious product! I will post more recipes as they develop. If you have tried this product, I would love to know what you think!

Monday, March 2, 2009

And the winner is......

Toontz! Congratulations, you have won the Food & Wine Cookbook! I will be contacting you to get your email address.

I used a very scientific method to choose the winner. The names of those who left comments were written on paper and I brought in a skilled team to pick one. First, there was Larry the Cat.

He checked out the situation, but could not be bothered at this time. I even tried removing them from the basket, no go. He has some serious sleeping on the register vent to do.

So, I brought in the next expert, Hello Kitty. Ahh, she was much more interested (did I mention she has a thing for chewing paper, especially my magazines at 3am). She sized up the situation, reached in delicately and snatched her victim. I apologize for the blurry photos, she had no interest in posing for the camera.

So Toontz, in your comment you said you could use some help with food and wine parings, here you go! I look forward to reading about your success!

Thanks to all or you who left comments. Look for more giveaways in the future!