Thursday, June 10, 2010

Spread Thin (Spinach Ricotta Pasta)

I think I scared the folks at the office today. I brought in my tasty lunch (leftovers from dinner last night) and everyone was all, "Wow, that looks so good." I told them that it was a little bland and I added a lot of parmesan too it. I said it would be better with homemade ricotta too. That's when they started looking at me like, seriously? They're finally learning about my baking/cooking happiness. I had to describe how to make ricotta cheese and how simple it is. Then I had to explain the dairy farm. Thankfully, the focus was shifted off of me when JoNell emerged with tasty bread/olive treats. I tried one and was pleasantly surprised with it. I'm not a fan of green olives and that's what the majority of them were, but there were green things and some black olives. And plenty of olive oil. Yum. I liked it.

Anyways, the recipe. I found it in a book I bought last summer (?) called "The Basic Cooking Bible." The recipes are, I swear, 5 steps at the most. Last night's was three, with one of them being, "boil the pasta."

Spinach Ricotta Pasta (Pictures to come)
1-10oz. package frozen spinach, thawed, drained, and chopped
1 box tri-colored rotini (my very favorite pasta ever)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 container ricotta cheese (I will make it myself next time and probably use most of it, so about 2 cups?)
3 tablespoons parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish/taste)
salt and pepper to taste

Boil the pasta.

While the pasta is cooking, put garlic and spinach in a pan. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the water, ricotta cheese and parmesan cheese. Stir until everything is creamy.

When the pasta is done, drain it and mix it in with the spinach mixture. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top and it's done!

We had it with some Texas Toast and it was a big hit. I found it a little bland, so I like to add more parmesan cheese then they say too. I can't remember if this was in the low-fat section of the book, but it seems like it's pretty healthy. Spinach is good for you right? Full of protein and green things. Taking food pictures is on my agenda tonight so I'll make sure to post everything before I head off to GR for the weekend. :)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Dear Fingers (Rhubarb Cupcakes)

I have problems. My fingers seem to get in the way of my projects. Once upon a time, about two and a half years ago, they decided to pick a fight with a belt sander. Unfortunately, they lost. It resulted in 3 weeks of bandages, long periods of time between showers and general pain. It also means that I have scars over three of my finger pads so I don't have regular fingerprints. That is kind of cool I suppose.

Then in the fall, a potato peeler attacked my finger. That was just a band-aid kind of wound.

Last night, a burn to my thumb.

I may have mentioned that my parents got me a "Cupcake-a-Day" calendar for Christmas. You rip off a page every day and get new cupcakes or muffins and a few variations on them. Rhubarb cupcakes came up about a month ago and I was really itching to try them. I do love rhubarb. I got some from my grandma and pondered why I was willing to eat something that looked so similar to celery. Ick. It almost smells like it too. That pretty pink color kept me going. I whipped up the recipe last night, successfully keeping my fingers away from the knife I was using to chop the rhubarb finer. I didn't get anything stuck in the mixer paddles. I was doing well.

Then I took the muffins out of the oven and I guess I didn't have enough of the hot pad over the pan when I put my thumb down and BAM! burn. Thankfully, as Alex said, I didn't drop anything. He is so numb to my finger injuries that he just stayed in his room and told me that there is ice in the freezer. Jess heard me swearing all the way from outside the front door where she was standing there waiting for Alex to let her in. Anyways, it hurt. A lot. I wish I had my Boo-boo bunny to hold the ice for me, but I settled for paper towel wrapped around an ice cube.

I saved my muffins though! They were delicious. Yummy on many levels. The dense sweetness of the bread with the tartness of the rhubarb works so well. I dusted them with powdered sugar from my super cute mini strainer and called it a night. So much for going to bed early. Around 9:30 I finally popped some Ibuprofin and put some burn ointment on the burn, wrapped it in gauze and went to bed after 10. I'm still tired from this weekend and now even more tired because Ibuprofin takes a long time to kick in so I had a hard time falling asleep.

I ate two of the muffins for breakfast this morning. I figured that by not putting frosting on them, they're muffins and not cupcakes, so they're okay to eat for breakfast.

The cupcake recipe was so simple. I love when recipes say "mix all ingredients together." Okay. I have no problem with that. One bowl later, it's done. The batter was surprisingly thick. I spooned it into the cups rather then poured. It looked a lot like bread dough rather than muffin/cupcake batter. Delicious none the less. Also, I only have a 6 cup muffin pan, so baking things like this take a while. I got the bright idea to put my liners in a pan instead to see what would happen. So 6 went into the muffin pan and 6 got filled and put in a metal 8x8 pan. I had the thought that the end result might be a little different and I was right. The muffins baked in the muffin pan were a uniform golden brown on the outside whereas the ones that were just in the metal pan were only golden brown on the top and bottom, not the sides. Interesting. I'm pretty sure they all taste the same and I think that's all that matters. :)
I think it would be smart to invest in some real oven mitts that go over my entire hand, thereby preventing any future burns while in the kitchen.

Rhubarb Cupcakes
1 cup (2 sticks) sweet butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar
2 cups self-rising flour
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup rhubarb, diced

Preheat the oven to 400. Combine all the cupcake ingredients, except the rhubarb, in a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer until smooth and pale, about 2 to 3 minutes. Fold in the rhubarb. Spoon the batter into the cups. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove pans from the oven and cool for 5 minutes. Then remove the cupcakes and cool on a rack.

I dusted mine with powdered sugar. It would also be good with a cream cheese frosting. The original recipe also had ginger in it and candied ginger in the frosting. I prefer mine without frosting so I can call them muffins and eat them for breakfast.

Store unfrosted in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Omena Lake (Brownies)

Now that I have cocoa powder…I can make anything. I bought it for chocolate soufflés, but haven’t had the opportunity to make them so I’ve been adding cocoa to all kinds of things. Fish cookies started it and then I got a craving for brownies.

There is only so much food blog browsing that I allow myself when I’m at work. I mean, I work hard, but sometimes files take a while to load and what else am I to do but look at food. I found brownies the other day. They are what stemmed the “OMG NO BUTTER” blog the other day. They’re delicious by the way. Amazingly delicious. Comparative to fly fishing, Frank the dog, and bathing suits by a certain someone. That means that the brownies were really amazing. It was all I could not to eat the entire pan on Saturday. I waited nearly two whole days before cracking into these guys. I had to save some for Terry when he got home from fishing and for Alex whom I promised some to when I was running around swearing about the butter.

The original recipe just called for walnuts, but I decided to spice things up and sprinkled semi-sweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chunks on top before they went in the oven.

The recipe was from Prevention magazine online. I’m not sure how I got to it, but my internet wanders led me there. I was reading recipes for a program called DTOUR. It’s for diabetics who are looking for tasty treats that aren’t going to kill them. I guess brownies with unsweetened cocoa powder in them won’t do it. Yay for all of us!

I was a huge fan of biting into them and finding part of a walnut in there. Those are healthy, right? Nuts…omega 3’s, protein and all that. That’s how I rationalize apple cranberry crisp for breakfast. Fruit, oatmeal, etc…healthy breakfast!

(Pictures to come)

Swimmy the Fish (Fish Cookies)

I used my fishy cookie cutter last week. Before heading to Indian River for the weekend, Terry and I decided to go fly fishing. The only fishing I had ever done before was bullheads many, many years ago when my Grandma had the house on the canal. Dad and I would go out at night when it was dark and fish for bullheads. The next morning, we’d go out on the deck and clean them.

I thought I would surprise Terry with a box of little fish cookies for our day on the river. I made my standard sugar cookie recipe but before refrigerating the dough, I dyed 2/3 of it an orangish color to look more like Goldfish crackers and added cooca powder to the other 1/3 to make them chocolatey. The one batch of sugar cookie dough made 261 little fish. It was taking me longer to roll out the dough and cut out the cookies then it took to bake them.

Needless to say, a few of them got a little crispier then I had hoped. Dad referred to them as “fake chocolate fish.” They were still good. Anyways, with the addition of the cocoa powder, the chocolate fish were still soft after a few days while the other ones dried out. I’m not sure why. It was crazy humid the day I made them so I was covering them in flour like mad.

The cookies were a hit. It’s easy to eat way too many of them because they’re so tiny. Even so, there is still at least one box of them left. I need to start bringing them in to work so I can have them with lunch. If I leave them open on the table, maybe Alex will eat more of them.

I caught a fish!

Happy (Belated) Mother’s Day (Lime Yogurt Cake)

If you were to ask me what my favorite holiday was, I’d answer this: Mother’s Day.

Christmas comes a close second.

It’s all about the food.

Mother’s Day begins a few weeks before the actual day when my Mom and I start emailing each other recipes and tentative menus for the big day. Each year, Mom hosts Mother’s Day brunch for both sides of the family. This year, that meant we cooked for 14. After the menu has been finalized, we start the cooking. On Saturday night, Mom and I get together and divvy out the recipes. Sometimes Aunt B joins in and helps, but the last few years have found her absent for various reasons…vacations to Florida are just so tiring. :) Anyways, I do the cheese blintz and this year I got to make scones as well. Between Saturday night and Sunday morning, Mom makes French Toast Casserole, Egg Strata, Monkey Bread, Baked Spiced Fruit and this year added Zippy Cheese Artichoke Oven-Omelet. Aunt Sue and Uncle Frank provide the fresh fruit and this year brought chocolate covered strawberries as well.

That is why Mother’s Day is my favorite.

The scones were both fantastic and a mess. I made blueberry scones and raspberry white chocolate scones. The first were the fantastic ones. There were some issues with oven temperatures or something and the bottoms of the raspberry white chocolate scones burned. They were not salvageable. We pried them off the bottom of the pan, cut the burned parts off and then put them in a bowl to nibble on while we finished the cooking.

All of this cooking culminates in the family coming over and eating and eating and eating some more. Such deliciousness hasn’t been seen in a year and I love it. I manage to stop myself from gorging by thinking about all the delicious leftovers I’m going to have for a few days.

This year I decided that I should make dinner as well. Mom spends all her time cleaning and cooking and hostessing brunch, why should she cook dinner as well?

Whitnie gave me the idea of chicken alfredo a few weeks before the big event. I have some ethical problems eating beef (read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Meat: A Love Story for the reasons) so I wanted to go with chicken. I did a homemade alfredo sauce that was really easy and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Then, dessert.

The best part of any meal really is the dessert part. In my food blog wanderings I found a recipe for lime yogurt cake with blackberry sauce. I’m not sure how I feel about blackberries yet so I decided to modify the recipe a little bit and made it with raspberry sauce. It was quite delicious and gone in just a few minutes.

Also, I want a springform pan.

Yogurt Lime Cake with Raspberry Sauce

1 cup whole milk plain unsweetened yogurt (I used delicious Trader's Point Yogurt...yummmy)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
zest of one lime
1/4 cup lime juice
2 eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt

12 ounces fresh blackberries (frozen should work as well, but you should start with half the water)
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the sides of a 9-inch round cake pan or springform pan with oil and line the bottom with parchment paper if the pan is not springform.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the yogurt, oil, sugar, lime zest and juice. Add the eggs one by one, whisking well after each addition. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together, right over your yogurt batter. Stir with a spoon until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let stand for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the pan to loosen. If you’re using the springform pan, unclasp the sides. Otherwise, flip the cake onto a plate and flip it back on the rack. Serve slightly warm or at room temperature.

Make sauce: Combine blackberries, water, sugar and lime juice in blender or food processor. Purée until very smooth, then press through a fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Cover and refrigerate until cold.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Lack of Butter Here

The unthinkable happened today.

I ran out of butter.

I found a recipe for brownies. The kind where you add flour to cocoa powder and mix it with all kinds of other things and magically, they're brownies. It called for a cup of butter. How much did I have?

6 tablespoons.

6 tablespoons < 16 tablespoons.

There was some swearing going on, I will admit. Alex laughed a lot. Then he laughed on the floor. Seriously. All the while saying "such irony! no butter!" and other such things about how much I like to cook with butter. He challenged me by asking what I make that doesn't contain butter. The only thing I could come up with was pasta. And thinking about it, whenever a recipe doesn't call for butter I get really excited and feel like I have to tell him about it. It's like rubbing it in his face. "I made cookies and they taste delicious and there's NO BUTTER IN THEM! Ha!" That's what goes on in my head when I calmly tell him that there is no butter in whatever he's eating.

So, I made a decision. No brownies or brownies. We all know how that decision ended.

I improvised. I found a new recipe for brownies without butter. Google is great. Seriously. I typed in "brownie recipe, no butter" and up popped a bunch of recipes. Some were just less butter but the one I picked was no butter at all. It's oil based instead, probably for those who are dairy free. The comment were saying that they were tasty with melted butter instead of the oil, so of course I used the butter I had left plus a little oil to make up the difference. I'm not sure how they're going to come out cause they're still in the oven. I'm hoping they're delicious and I don't have to add these to the unfortunate list of things that I have failed at cooking.