Saturday, November 12, 2011

Weekend Bookmarks

My inspiration for starting a blog came primarily from other food bloggers that I've been following for weeks, or months, and even years. Blogs are the #1 resource I look to when I'm searching for a recipe or some sort of idea. My browser bookmark folder is full of recipes that I come across on other blogs that look too good to pass over. Sometimes I get around to trying some of them, sometimes I don't, but it's good to keep them around for inspiration.

Every weekend, I think I'll link some of these amazing recipes that I bookmark each week here on my page, a way of saying thanks to the other bloggers out there who inspire me and many other readers!

Vanilla Bean Marshmallows,

Peanut Butter and Fleur de Sel Brownies, Love and Olive Oil

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Butterscotch-Pumpkin Glaze, Sugar Plum

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Orange Vanilla "Creamsicle" Cake

I own a lot of cookbooks. And they usually fall into one of two categories: those whose spines don't have a single crease and have hardly ever been touched, and then those that are falling apart at the seams, pages covered in grease and goop, tried-and-true recipes bookmarked and referenced over and over again....

This recipe was inspired by a cake from one of the latter, Dorie Greenspan's "Baking: From my Home to Yours". This book is special. It's not intimidating, pretentious, or complicated. The recipes are simple and delicious. Nothing is overly fancy or overdone, just good, solid recipes.

I made this cake for J's birthday this year. For something so simple, it ended up being incredibly delicious. I used fresh orange zest and vanilla from a fresh vanilla bean, which is why the flavor was reminiscent of a creamsicle. A classy creamsicle! With a farmer's market berry sauce and homemade boozy whipped cream :) For a 30th birthday, I suppose I could have made something a little bit fancier, but honestly the flavors in this cake truly spoke for themselves.

Orange Vanilla "Creamsicle" Cake

Enough for 2 cakes

2 2/3 cups flour
2 1/3 tsps baking powder
pinch of salt
2 1/3 cups sugar
2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped out and reserved
Zest of one large orange
6 eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 tbsps fresh squeezed orange juice
15 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Preheat over to 350 degrees.
Butter and flour 2 loaf pans.
Sift flour, baking powder, and salt.
Put the sugar and the vanilla bean pulp in a large bowl. Use your fingers to massage the vanilla all through the sugar.
Whisk the eggs into the sugar. Whisk in the cream followed by the orange juice.
Using a spatula, gently stir in the dry ingredients in 3 or 4 additions.
Fold in the melted and cooled butter in 2 or 3 additions.
Pour the batter into the pans, smoothing the top.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean.
After 30 minutes in the oven, check the cakes for color. Cover lightly with foil tents if they are browning too quickly.

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan's Rum-Drenched Vanilla Cakes

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Eat Your Brussel Sprouts

I mean it. Eat brussel sprouts. They are delicious, misunderstood veggies.

The secret is to cook them at a very, very high heat, helping to create a light char. It also helps to pair them with ingredients that complement their strong flavor. Think sweet, salty, and smoky. We used salty smoky bacon, warm and sweet apples, and sweet and spicy candied pecans.

We started by creating some yummy toasted, sugared pecans that we would toss with the brussel sprouts once they were ready to serve. These are very simple to make, simply melt about one tbsp of butter with one tbsp of honey or maple syrup in a skillet. Throw in a generous handful of pecans, sprinkle with about one tbsp of brown sugar, a pinch of salt and cayenne pepper, and a touch of cinnamon. Stir until the nuts are evenly coated and toast on medium heat until lightly browned and really fragrant.

To cook the sprouts - We began by cooking two strips of bacon in a skillet. When done, take the bacon out and crank the heat up on the skillet to high (we went to setting 8 out of 10 on our electric stove).

In the meantime, make sure the sprouts are well washed. Cut each sprout in half. Finely slice one large shallot. Finely chop an apple, we used about 1/2 cup of apple slices. All at once, toss the sprouts, shallots, and apples into the skillet. Season with salt, pepper, dried rosemary, and finely crushed fennel seeds. The heat should be high enough that the sprouts begin to brown in less than a minute. Make sure to shimmie the pan so that everything cooks well on all sides and nothing burns. After 2-4 minutes, put a lid on the skillet and allow the sprouts to steam for 2-3 minutes. Take off the lid and add a splash of balsamic vinegar, tossing the spouts to coat them evenly.

Serve the sprouts with the crumbled bacon and candied pecans on top.

We pretty much ate this dish as a main course, serving with whole grain bread on the side and a few slices of good cheese (I could eat cheese and bread for every meal).

I get into a weird pattern where I will make something fabulous and it's all I will want to eat for two weeks. Like these sprouts, I loved this dish so much that I'm making it for family on Tuesday. However, I think I will slice the sprouts into fine strips, kind of like what cabbage would look like in a cole slaw. This is a great trick if you want to serve sprouts to someone who claims them don't like them, it's like a disguise, you can call the dish "warm apple and bacon slaw" and no one will know!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cranberry BBQ Sauce


This sauce is AMAZING.

Really amazing.

It is sweet, spicy, smoky, and super easy to make. And it doesn't require any ingredients that you're not likely to have in your pantry already.

Onions are lightly caramelized with fresh garlic. Then you add a bit of tomato paste, brown sugar, and spices (the recipe calls for cayenne and ground mustard, and we also added a bit of spoked paprika). When that is nice and blended and lightly darkened, you add some cider vinegar and the cranberries, cooking them until they begin to "pop". Then you add your liquid (we used water which was just perfect), bring to a boil, and simmer until nice and thick and fragrant.

if I had to make a list of my top 5 kitchen gadgets, this immersion blender would definitely be on that list. It's SOOO much easier to blend sauces and soups into smooth and creamy purees right in the pot. I would never want to have to put this piping hot BBQ sauce in a blender or food processor to blend, I am afraid I'd burn myself and make a huge mess.

I think I got this blender a year or two ago and it's one of the things I use most frequently in the kitchen.

The first time we made this sauce, it was gone in 2 days! We simmered meatballs in the sauce and served them with creamy bacon, chive, and sharp white cheddar mashed potatoes :) I made this sauce again last night and froze some for another day. I think this would be great on BBQ chicken pizza, perhaps with ground turkey, thinly sliced red onions, mozzarella, and cilantro.

Mmmmm....... Buy some cranberries and try this! Or use those cranberries that you bought back in September when they showed up in the grocery store, but you haven't found a use for yet!

Okay...... I should really be getting ready for work :) I love my job and exciting things are happening this week!