Friday, August 27, 2010

"Muffin to it!"

I saw this recipe for miniature deep dish pizzas in the most recent issue of Everyday Food Magazine.  It's so easy to do and a fun alternative to frozen pizzas or even homemade pizza.  The recipe's not online yet, so you'll need to pick up a copy to see it, but here's the gist of what I did. Also, Mike posted about this over at his blog yesterday.  Click here to see his post. 

Preheat oven to 450.  Take a store bought pizza dough and divide into 6 balls, then roll each piece out into 6" circles.  Brush the cups of a regular sized muffin pan with olive oil.  Add each circle of dough to the cups and press around the edges.  Sprinkle garlic powder, salt and pepper to season.  Add a little bit of tomato sauce, any toppings you like, and top with cheese. 

Bake in the oven for about 12 minutes, or until all cheese has melted.  Enjoy!  I made simple cheese pizzas last night, here's how they came out:
Pizzas before baking
After baking

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Pork Chops

Last night I made a quick meal of pork chops, asparagus and baked potato.  I decided to make breaded pork chops with a gravy, but I couldn't really find a recipe that I liked, so I made something up.  I used a panko for the breading, because that's what we had and its just so much crispier and fluffier than regular bread crumbs.  I also made a quick gravy sauce to go along with it and add some more flavor to the pork. I used a little bit of minced garlic, butter, milk, and seasonings in the pan after the pork chops were cooked and simmered that for a while, thickening with flour.  It turned out really nicely and much more homemade than shake-n-bake, lol.  
Breaded Pork Chops with Garlicky Gravy
- 4 boneless pork chops
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 cup AP flour
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten 
- 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
- seasonings, garlic powder, salt, pepper, etc.
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbs flour
- 1/2 cup milk or half and half
- 4 tbs butter
- 2 tbs parmesan cheese

Place flour, eggs, and panko in 3 separate shallow dishes.  Season the panko with salt, pepper, garlic powder and your favorite seasonings or herbs.  Place the pork chops in the flour and cover completely.  Then, dredge them through the beaten egg.  Coat with panko bread crumbs and set aside.  Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat and add 2 tbs of olive oil, to coat bottom of pan.  Once pan is hot, add pork chops and cook for about 5 minutes per side, until no longer pink in the middle.  

After pork chops are cooked through, remove them from pan and reduce to low heat.  Add 2 tbs of butter and minced garlic to the skillet. Sauté until golden brown, then sprinkle 1 tbs of flour in the pan and stir.  Add the remaining 2 tbs of butter, milk, salt and pepper, and seasonings.  Continue stirring and cook for another few minutes, until thick and creamy.  Add the parmesan cheese and melt. Cover the pork chops with the gravy and serve.

Monday, August 23, 2010

More macarons!

I made two more batches of macarons this weekend while I had fresh almond flour.
I made strawberry flavored macarons with strawberry buttercream and pistachio macarons with vanilla buttercream.  I used the basic recipe from my previous post. For the strawberry macarons, I reduced the vanilla extract in the batter to 1/2 tsp and added 1 tsp of strawberry extract.  For the pistachio macarons, I added 1/3 cup of finely ground pistachios to the almond flour.  Here's how they turned out...
Strawberry macarons
Pistachio macarons

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The macarons were a success!

Last night I made macarons for the first time ever!  I was so intimidated by the million steps required to perfect the batter and make them come out right.  But, after reading the book I posted about below, I felt like I could do it! The book had lots of little tips and step by step instructions from how to stir the batter, how to pipe them into perfect little circles, and how to figure out what you did wrong, if you end up with a weird product.  

For example, did you know that when you're doing the macaronnage ("term for mixing flour and meringue to make macarons") if you do the steps only 10 times, the macarons will lack luster, but if you do it more than 20 times, they will have oil stains after baking.  There are lots of other little details, that other books and recipes go into major detail about, like the consistency of the meringue and even what kind of eggs and egg whites you have to use.  Making macarons is a science and you have to be ever so precise.  However, I've found out and read about on many people's blogs, even if yours don't come out perfect, they're still going to be really delish, and chances are, you won't mind.

So, I decided to make a simple vanilla macaron with a vanilla buttercream.  I thought this was a great recipe to start with, since other flavorings can usually be substituted in for the vanilla and coloring can be added when the vanilla is added.  

Basic Vanilla Macaron Batter (from I love Macarons)
- 2/3 cup finely ground almonds or almond flour
- 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
- 5 tbs granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Cut a sheet of parchment to fit your baking sheet and draw 1 inch circles on your sheet, separated by at least 1/2 inch.
2. In a food processor, grind almond flour and powdered sugar to a very fine consistency.  Sift the mixture though a sieve twice. 
3. Beat egg whites on a high speed until they are foamy.  Add the granulated sugar and continue beating until you have stiff peaks.
4. Add the vanilla and stir. (I also added food coloring here.) The meringue is done when it is stiff, firm and has a glossy texture.
5. Add half of the sifted flour mixture and stir it with a spatula, scooping from the bottom of the bowl.  Add the other half and mix lightly.
6. Macaronnage- When you have added all of the flour, press and spread the batter against the bowl's sides.  Scoop the batter from the bottom and turn it upside down.  Repeat this about 15 times. 
7. Macaronner - When the batter becomes nice and firm and it will drip slowly off the spatula, it is done.
8.  Add the batter to a piping bag with a 0.4" tip.  After the batter is in the bag, twist the top and clip it so that batter doesn't come out the top.  
9.  Squeeze the batter out of the piping bag into the circles on your parchment paper. Do not fill them all the way, as your batter will spread out once on the sheet.
10. Once all of your circles are filled, rap the baking sheet firmly against the counter or another flat surface.  This helps them keep their rounded shape and helps the pied or foot to form.
11. Dry the batter at room temperature for 15 minutes uncovered.  A slight crust should form on top of the macarons.  The batter circles are done when they do not stick to your finger when you touch them.  
12.  Place the sheet inside of another cookie sheet and place on middle rack in a 375 F oven.  I used an insulated cookie sheet and it seemed to work okay,  I'd suggest using two of the same pans and just stacking them together when you cook.  It helps to prevent the bottom of the macarons from getting overdone (which did happen to some of mine).
13. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until slightly crisp and crackled on top.  Make sure to rotate the pan during this time so that they are all evenly baked. (Check on the macarons throughout, I found that mine got a little more golden brown at the end than I wanted, so I should have taken them out a few minutes early.)
14.  Remove the baking sheet from oven and cool on a wire rack.  Once completely cooled, remove them from the baking sheet.
15.  Add whatever filling or cream you want to one macaron and top with another, to make a sandwich. Enjoy! Afterwards, they can be kept in the refrigerator for about a week. (haha, like they'd ever go that long without being eaten!)  

This is my condensed version of the instructions, if you want to make them, I highly suggest buying this book.  It has a lot of great information about the prep and ingredients, pictures for every step, and lots of different combinations and flavors to try.

For my cream filling, I tried to make the standard "Butter Cream #1" listed in the book, but I had a lot of trouble with it.  I ended up with a soupy mess with crystalized sugar blobs.     Yes, this cream was actually harder for me than making the batter!  So after I made a big mess, I just decided to do an easy vanilla cream cheese filling.  

I mixed 4 tbs butter, with 4 oz cream cheese until creamy, then added about a cup of powdered sugar. I added a tsp of vanilla and mixed it all together.  This made a lot more than I really needed, but it was an easy solution for my cream.

Here are some more pictures of my results!!
Macarons right after baking. 
Matching up the cookies and preparing for filling. 
Documenting the success! 

Friday, August 20, 2010

I [love] macarons!

So, tonight I'm making Parisian macarons. Yes, its an extremely delicate process and there's little chance they'll come out anywhere close to perfect on the first try, but I'm excited! I checked out this book from the library, and was surprised to find  the basic recipe requires only a few ingredients. I'll post an update later with the recipes and detailed pictures of my results! 

 Hope everyone has a great weekend! 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Chicken Parmigiana

Last night my sister and my parents came over for dinner and to see all of the progress we've made in decorating the apartment. We decided to make chicken parmigiana and serve it with broccoli parmigiana, penne and salad.  I think it turned out pretty well.
The chicken parmigiana is pretty standard, but I'll list my recipe below.  The one difference though is that I use panko bread crumbs, which are so crispy and light.  They really make a difference in a dish like this.  Another one of my favorite parts is the broccoli parmigiana, which was inspired by a restaurant in NY that we love to eat at.  The broccoli is sautéed with a little bit of butter and white wine, steamed with some water, and then covered in tomato sauce.  Yum!

Classic Tomato Sauce
- 1/2 white onion, diced
- 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, diced
- 1 tbs butter
- 5 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 cans diced tomatoes
- salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian herbs
- 1 can tomato sauce
- 2 tbs tomato paste
- 1 tbs sugar
- squirt of lemon juice
         In a medium saucepan, sauté the onion and sun-dried tomatoes in butter. When the onion is translucent, add the garlic and sauté until golden brown.  Add two cans of diced tomatoes and stir.  Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Italian herbs and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes. 
        Add tomato sauce and tomato paste and continue to simmer for a few minutes.  Add 1 tbs of sugar and a squirt of lemon juice, to taste.  Continue to season and simmer as needed and serve.
       This sauce can act as a great base for your favorite fresh herbs to be mixed in as well.  Works great with roasted vegetables, various meats and of course... pasta! 

Chicken Parmigiana
- chicken breasts, pounded to 1/2" thickness
- salt, pepper, garlic powder, Italian herbs
- 2 cups flour
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 box panko bread crumbs
- 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
- 4+ cups Classic Tomato Sauce
- 1 cup mozzarella and parmesan cheese, shredded
         Preheat oven to 400.  Trim chicken breasts and pound to uniform thickness.  Season chicken with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  Place flour, eggs, and panko in three separate shallow dishes.  Add 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese and Italian seasonings to the panko and combine.  
         Take the chicken breasts and dredge them in the flour, to cover completely.  Move flour-ed chicken to egg, then dip into the panko breadcrumbs.  Place the breaded chicken in a pyrex dish and repeat with other chicken breasts.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
         Remove from oven and spoon tomato sauce over chicken breasts and top with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Place in oven and bake for a few more minutes, until cheese has melted. Serve with penne pasta and additional tomato sauce if desired. 

Broccoli Parmigiana
- 1 large bunch of broccoli, chopped
- 1 tbs butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and pepper
splash white wine
2 tbs water
- 2+ cups of Classic Tomato Sauce
- shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese
         Sauté minced garlic in butter until golden brown over medium heat.  Add broccoli and white wine, and season with salt and pepper.  Allow to steam and cook off white wine, stirring continuously.  Once wine has cooked off, add water and cover to allow broccoli to finish cooking.  
        Serve broccoli with tomato sauce and covered with some shredded cheese.

Hope you get a chance to try these recipes... enjoy! 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sushi with Sarah

Last night I ate sushi with Sarah for dinner. We went to Wasabi in MacGreggor Village in Cary.  I've been there before with my family, but she had never been before, so I thought it'd be fun to try something different than our ritual Sushi Blues... lol.  I couldn't decide and got wayyy too much sushi and ended up bringing a lot home.  I got the Crunchy Tuna roll, Dragon roll, and Samurai roll. 

Tonight, my parents and sister are coming over.  We're making chicken and broccoli parmigianna, delish!  I'll post recipes and an update tomorrow.  

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dinner and Dessert

Yesterday, when I got home, I searched for a recipe that I could use with some of the things that I had in the fridge that didn't get used from the party. I found this recipe from Rachel Ray and decided to try it out. I modified the recipes a little bit, but that's mostly just to fit with what I had in the pantry/fridge. It was easy and definitely looked like it took a lot more effort/work than it actually did and it tasted great! Kevin really enjoyed it, especially since he wasn't really expecting this kind of meal from just what we had at home.

Easy Chicken Wellington with Asparagus Almondine

  • - 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • - 2 chicken breasts
  • - salt and freshly ground black pepper (I also used garlic powder)
  • - 1 tablespoon thyme, chopped
  • - zest of 1 lemon
  • - 3 tablespoons butter, divided
  • - 1/2 pound button mushrooms, sliced
  • - 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • - splash of white wine or sherry
  • - 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, cut in half then in half again
  • - 1 egg
  • - 2 tablespoons water
  • - 6 thin slices of brie cheese (I just used a few slices mozzarella because that's what we had)
  • - 1/4 cup almonds
Preheat oven to 375. Bring pot of water to boil and cook asparagus until they are tender. Remove from heat and place in ice water to stop the cooking,drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat and season chicken breasts with salt, pepper, thyme, garlic powder, and lemon zest. Add the chicken to the pan and cook for a few minutes on each side until golden brown, remove from pan and reserve.

To the skillet where the chicken was cooked, add olive oil, 1 tbs butter and sliced mushrooms. Cook until brown and then season with salt and pepper (and you can add a little tyme and garlic if you want), to taste. Then, add the dijon mustard and white wine and cook until there is no more liquid in the pan. Remove the mushrooms and reserve.

Take the pastry squares and brush the edges with the egg and water mixture. Then, add the cheese to the middle of the pastry, add the chicken breast, and top with sliced mushrooms.

Fold the opposite corners of the pastry together and pinch to form a package, repeat with other corners. Place the pastry on a baking sheet with the seam-side down. Brush the top of each pastry with egg wash, so that it will get golden brown and shiny in the oven.

Bake for about 15 minutes (although I ended up baking about 20 minutes until the pastry dough was browned to my liking).

When there are a few more minutes left for the chicken, add the asparagus and 1 tbs butter to the skillet with the remaining mushrooms. After the asparagus has warmed, add the sliced almonds and cook until browned, about 3 minutes.

Place the asparagus almondine on a plate and then add the chicken pastry, enjoy!

Here are the pictures from the original recipe to show the process:

So for dessert, I wanted something sweet but light, so I decided to make something up and see if it would work. It turned out pretty good, although it is very random and a mixture of a bunch of ingredients. Since the volume of this dessert is mostly fat free cool whip, it's actually pretty light and guilt free.

Raspberry Frozen Dessert

- 1 frozen pie crust, thawed

- 1 container of Cool Whip Free

- 2 oz. cream cheese, softened

- 2 oz butter, softened

- 1 cup powdered sugar

- 1/2 box of raspberry flavored gelatin

- fresh raspberries

- zest of a lemon, divided

Bake pie crust according to instructions, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Mix cream cheese, butter, and some lemon zest in a stand mixer. Slowly add powdered sugar and gelatin to the mix. When combined, beat at medium speed for a few minutes until creamy. Pour mixture into the pie crust and freeze for 30 minutes. Top with fresh raspberries and garnish with lemon zest. Serve frozen for a cool dessert.

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