Saturday, February 26, 2011

What Food Blogs Do You Enjoy?

Hi  all--

Sarah stopped by this week, and mentioned a food blog she likes, called Smitten Kitchen, where she saw some great brownie recipes.  It's one that I like, too but hadn't been to visit in a long while.  Yipers, it's impressive.
If you haven't ever seen it, check it out:  Smitten Kitchen.  It's beautifully done.

Which made me wonder, what other food blogs are people reading and enjoying?

For example, Laddie told me about one that I have followed ever since she gave me the link.  It's called In the Kitchen and On the Road with Dorie Greenspan.

And there is a natural foods one, just as beautiful:

These guys are pros. 

But I also love the ones more like ours.

I just learned of a new one by a friend of a friend, Tanya Ott's Necessary Pleasures.

If you have any favorites that you would like to share, please let me know and I will post them.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Brownie Bake-off: Barefoot Contessa's Outrageous Brownies

Round 3 in the Brownie Bake-off

Made the third recipe for the brownie bake-off this week, after we got back from Las Vegas.  It was fun to be back in the kitchen. 

As background -- for several months, I kept dreaming--yes, actually dreaming ---about the brownies we had at Lin's artists' picnic last summer. 

You see, if I had to pick my last meal, it would probably include a hot brownie with vanilla ice cream on top.  Or maybe Phish ice cream on top, but it would definitely be a brownie.

So, I wasn't surprised with the answer -- okay, I was a little surprised --- when I asked Gary how Cheri made such marvelous brownies.  They were decadent and amazing.  Moist and very chocolaty.  Plus they were huge.

Cheri said  --after I had to beg --(I thought that it was a family secret) ---she uses the Barefoot Contessa's recipe ---readily available online!

Aha!  I have that recipe already.  Colleen had sent it to me years ago.   But I had never made it.  Until now.

The Barefoot Contessa (a.k.a. Ina Garten) is well-known for her Outrageous Brownies recipe, which is in one of her earliest cookbooks, The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, from 1999.  She says that she got the idea for them from a recipe in the SoHo Charcuterie Cookbook from 1983.

I cut the recipe in half because I didn't have enough chocolate on hand and didn't want to go to the store.  I used a 9x12 pan instead of a 12 x 18 pan.  It may have made my brownies a little dry because I didn't shorten the baking time.
My batch overflowed a little

I also made a bunch of other substitutions -- pecans instead of walnuts, bittersweet instead of semisweet
chocolate chips.  I added some cocoa powder to make up for a shortfall in chips, plus I only had espresso powder not instant coffee.  And I didn't use a double boiler, just very low heat in a saucepan. So, my batch may not have hit the mark.

Love the glossy, crackled top

Nonetheless, they were quite good. These brownies have a beautiful glossy, crackled top, which I consider important for a brownie. 

But I suspect that my taste testers will think these are a little too cakey.  And Tom keeps complaining that good brownies are NOT supposed to have nuts in them. 

Here's the full recipe --- it's not for someone watching calories!  Or their budget!

Outrageous Brownies by The Barefoot Contessa

Make 20 large brownies

1 pound unsalted butter
1 pound plus 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate
6 extra large eggs
3 T. instant coffee granules
2 T. pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. salt
3 cups chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour a 12 x 18 x 1 inch baking sheet.  Melt together the butter, 1 pound of chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate in a medium bowl over simmering water.  Allow to cool slightly.  In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee granules, vanilla, and sugar.  Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature.  In a medium bowl, sift together 1 cup of flour, the baking powder, and salt.  Add to the cooled chocolate mixture.  Toss the nuts and 12 ounces of chocolate chips in a medium bowl with 1/4 cups of flour, then add them to the chocolate batter.  It is very important to allow the batter to cool well before adding the chocolate chips, or the chips will melt and ruin the brownies.  Pour into the baking sheet.  Bake for 20 minutes, then rap the baking sheet against the oven shelf to force the air to escape from between the pan and the brownie dough.  Bake for about 15 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Do not overbake.  Allow to cool thoroughly, refrigerate, and cut into 20 large brownies.

Will let you know what the tasters think.  So far, the Bon Appetit brownies are in first place.  But not by much.  Miss Megan's Fudgy brownies were a hit, too. 


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Quiche Experiments by Emily

Hi Aunt Barbara, 

I've been meaning to send you this recipe for a while. I've been experimenting with making quiche for while ever since I ended up with an extra pie crust that I didn't know what to do with. My friend Julie recommended this recipe from Epicurious:
But I've made a lot of modifications because I found out that a lot of things don't turn out the way they say, but the combination of eggs, cream, milk, and cheese make a very light and fluffy quiche that's not hard once you nail down what works. My first quiche was quite burnt. 

Madame Quiche's Quiche au Fromage
One pie crust
6 large eggs
2/3 cup heavy cream 
1 cup milk (preferably whole)
8 ounces cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line the pastry with aluminum foil and pastry weights (I use pennies. I didn't even know pastry weights existed before this recipe) and bake in the bottom third of the oven until the pastry is golden at the edges, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and remove the aluminum foil and pastry weights. Return the pastry to the oven to bake until the bottom is golden, an additional 5 minutes. 

While the crust is cooking, whisk together the eggs, cream, and the milk until thoroughly blended. Season with the salt and pepper, then add the cheese and stir until it is blended, Turn the mixture into the pre-baked pastry, and spread out the cheese evenly over the bottom of the pastry.  Now depending on what kind of dish you use it will either take 30 or 40 minutes. Regular pie dish = 40 minutes, 10 inch quiche dish = 30 minutes. I have trouble keeping the quiche from burning so I cover the edges with aluminum foil and take it off for the last 5-10 minutes. To test for doneness, shake the quiche - if it is solid without a pool of uncooked filling in the center, it is done. You may also stick a sharp knife blade into the center of the filling and if it comes out clean, the quiche is baked through. 

Combinations I've tried: 

Green onion and havarti (the green onion was a little strong for my taste) 
Spinach and Tomato with jalapeno havarti or monteray jack cheese (my favorite) 
Bell pepper and Onion with jalepeno havarti or monteray jack cheese (I would cook the peppers and onions first)

I'm going to try one soon using havarti with dill... I'll let you know how it turns out.


PS I have a number of other recipes to send you. I've just been so busy. Don't even time to work on my own blog! =)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Who is Gesine Bullock-Prado?

Hi Barb,

So have you heard of Gesine Bullock-Prado? She is Sandra Bullock's sister.

She wrote a great book called "My Life from Scratch" which is part memoir, part cookbook.  She used to have a bakery in Vermont or New Hampshire, but now she has a great blog devoted to baking with absolutely fabulous photos:

So check it out.   It might be fun to share with your readers - especially any who have gotten into baking.  Her stuff is professionally made -beautiful beautiful tortes, cakes, pastries.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Greetings from Vegas: Sage Restaurant

We are in Vegas for some R & R---
And last night we had one of our best meals ever, so I couldn't resist blogging about it.

It was at Sage in Aria, which is in the new CityCenter complex, across from where we are staying at The Mandarin Oriental.

Chef: Shawn McClain
Contemporary American Cuisine


There was a special menu for Valentine's Day. We didn't have a reservation-- which is common for us--but they were able to seat us in the lovely, quiet lounge area -- which turned out to be a great spot.

We were seated by a beautiful Anne Hathaway look-a-like hostess. And we got to watch the Valentine couples all decked out for the evening, Vegas-style, stroll past us.

From the special menu for the occasion, Tom chose the 5 course tasting menu. He loved all of it. And I chose a 4 course menu so I could try the slow-poached organic farm egg. Common to both menus was the decadent foie gras brûlée. Amazing! If you go, you have to try it.

But what I really loved was how every single little thing was outstanding. Like the brioche that came with the foie gras. And how my cheese course was just the right size.

Not only was the food perfect but so was the service. We ended up talking with General Manager, Michael, when he brought us our wine and I asked how he would describe the Napa wine we were having(which was a David Arthur Chardonnay -- sorry, Ted, LMR wasn't on the wine wine list but we looked). He had been the head sommelier when the restaurant opened in 2009.

Later he introduced us to Chef Shawn McClain and his wife, Holly, as they were celebrating Valentine's Day with a drink at the bar.

All in all a great experience.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Chinese Pork with Chestnuts by Tom

Chinese Pork with Chestnuts by Tom

International night again at our household.  This time I thought I would try something with a Chinese theme...actually Taiwanese.  I used "Susanna Foo's Chinese Cuisine Cookbook" and found an interesting recipe which feature braised pork and chestnuts.  I like chestnuts but had actually never cooked with them.  So I thought why not try it.  This dish is very tender and quite tasty.  Worth a try.


  Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 1" piece of ginger root, peeled and minced
1 1/2 pounds boneless pork roast, cut into 1" cubes
1/4 cup brandy
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon hot curry powder
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup chicken stock
~2 cups or one jar of cooked and peeled chestnuts
Over medium-high heat, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or casserole that has a tight fitting lid.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic and ginger root and cook for 2 minutes stirring constantly.  The garlic should be golden colored when completed.
Next add the cubed pork and continue to cook until the meat is browned on all sides.
Add the brandy, soy sauce and balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Now add the curry powder, coconut milk, salt, brown sugar, and chicken stock.  Cover tightly and simmer for at least 45 minutes.  It is okay to go a little longer, but do check the liquid level from time to time to make sure that the meat is not sticking and burning.  If it is, add a little more chicken stock.  I found that there was actually plenty of liquid and never did need to add any more.

Next add the chestnuts and continue simmering for another 30 minutes.  Near the end of the cooking time, check both the meat and chestnuts for tenderness.  If they are still a little tough, cook a little longer.  The longer this cooks the more tender the meat.
I served the meal with jasmine rice and sauteed green beans.  An easy Chinese meal for international night!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Frosted Fudgy Brownies by Colleen

Colleen's Frosted Fudgy Brownie recipe that I made yesterday after she sent in the recipe

Hi Barb --

Re:  Brownie Bake-off

Today I made a very easy, fudgy recipe. It is very quick. And with the frosting it really is almost like fudge. I may have sent it before:  Miss Megan's Fudge Brownies.

I love the Barefoot Contessa Recipe for brownies - I use pecans instead of walnuts. If it is the one I'm thinking of it has tons of chocolate and very little flour and makes a huge pan-full. I usually cut the whole thing into quarters and freeze the sections. It keeps really well.

For adults, I really think the BC [Barefoot Contessa] brownies are the best ever. But kids tend to find them too intense and too nutty. Steve can't have too many in the evening because he can't sleep. Too much dark chocolate! I remember the first time I had them thinking that I had died and gone to heaven. They just seemed perfect.

Buddy [Elizabeth] LOVES the Fudgy Brownie recipe below. Actually all the kids do.  The texture really works for them, sans nuts. I remember HATING nuts in cookies when I was younger. I still can't get behind people who put raisins in cinnamon rolls or cookies now. Maybe when I'm 70.

I am waiting on pins and needles to find out which brownie recipe wins! I NEED this information!

Miss Megan's Fudge Brownies with Frosting
For the brownies:
Four ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 sticks butter
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
Pinch salt
1 1/2 cups nuts (optional - I don't use because this is for the kids)

For the frosting:
1 stick butter
1 2/3 cups sugar
7 Tablespoons milk
1 2/3 cups semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Microwave the butter and chocolate until melted

and let cool.

Mix sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large bowl.

Add cooled chocolate/butter mixture.

Mix in flour and salt (and nuts if you are using).  

Pour into a glass 9x13 greased baking dish.
Bake 40 minutes at 300 degrees. Cool. Do not  overbake or the brownies won't be fudgy!

While brownies are cooling, make the frosting:

Combine sugar, butter and milk in a saucepan. Boil for 1 minute.

Remove from heat and beat in chocolate chips.

Pour over brownies - they are still  warm at this point.

Cool and cut into squares.

Sometimes I add a little espresso powder or dried coffee to either the brownie batter or the frosting. About 1/2 -1 teaspoon, depending on whether you want to just deepen the flavor or really go full "mocha." My kids don't like to taste the coffee, so I usually just add 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder to the frosting. I prefer 60% cacao chips for the frosting.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Black Bean Chicken Chorizo Soup

Black Bean Chicken Chorizo Soup

When I get back from traveling*, the first thing I want to do is make a soup.  And the second thing I want to do is bake something. 

So, today, I am doing both.  I have concocted a black bean soup using spicy, smoky chicken chorizo sausage  -- it is sort of riff on the black beans with sun-dried tomatoes I made on New Year's day -- and it is simmering on low, while I make the next round of brownies for the Brownie Bake-Off.  I am using a recipe Colleen sent in while I was gone, for fudgy brownies with frosting.

 *  I had a great visit to Oregon City to see my art buddy, AJP. 

This soup tastes a little like traditional tortilla soup, but it is almost a chili in texture. 

Black Bean Chicken Chorizo Soup

1 1b. black beans, soaked overnight and rinsed
1-2 large onions, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped fine
1 cup sliced carrots, roughly chopped
2 -3 T. minced garlic
2 T. cumin
1/4 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 -3 T. tomato paste
2 -3 bay leaves
1/4 - 1/2 cup jarred sun-dried tomatoes
12 ounces, or 4 links of chorizo sausage (I used chicken chorizo by Coleman), cut into bite-size pieces
1 large can (49 ounces) chicken broth, and an extra small can (15 ounces), if needed
salt and pepper to taste
Fritos for garnish
shredded cheese for garnish

Drain and rinse the beans that have soaked overnight.  Get out your other ingredients.

After I started, I decided to add these ingredients, too.

In a large soup pot, start with the chopped onions, and let them sweat in a little olive oil on medium heat, while you chop the peppers, and the carrots and keep adding them to the pot.  Add the garlic when all of the veggies have started to soften.

Add the cumin, tomato paste and vinegar.

Then slice the choizo -- it is already cooked -- this one is made with chicken and is flecked with spicy red chili peppers and smoky chipotle peppers -- in to bite size pieces.  Add to the pot.

Stir it all together.  Add 3 bay leaves.

Pour the drained black beans on top.

Stir it all together again.

Add the chicken broth and it will become a beautiful red orange.

Cover and let it simmer on low for 2 to 3 hours, or until the beans are soft, but not mushy.  Add more broth if needed. 

Remove bay leaves.  Serve in a bowl with Fritos and shredded cheese.  I used the taco cheese mix that Tom had leftover from making Frito Pie for Superbowl.

It is a perfect lunch for a cold, cold day like it is today.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sherried Peas with Mushrooms

Sherried Peas with Mushrooms

A bag of frozen peas and onions can easily be turned into something special by adding fresh sliced mushrooms, dry sherry and a little cream.  Here's how to do it.   

Saute 8 ounces of sliced mushrooms in a knob of butter.

Add a big splash of dry sherry, about 3 T. and cook until the liquid evaporates.  This will add a lovely flavor to the mushrooms. 

Add a frozen bag of peas and onions.

Cover for a minute, if your veggies are frozen hard, but if they'd thawed a little, skip this step.

Add cream, about 1/3 cup, maybe a little more.

Add salt and pepper and simmer gently until the cream reduces, but the peas are still bright green.

Serve with chicken, or whatever pleases you.  I served them with a farmer's pie I made with ground lamb.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chicken Shoemaker by Tom

Chicken Shoemaker
Believe it or not, the recipe which I am sharing with you today is one that we have been making in some form or another since 1991!  In fact we have been making it for so long that I was actually surprised that we had not written about it before.  But given the fact that we have been making this chicken dish for twenty years should tell you that we do enjoy this recipe - a lot.

The original recipe came from the "Nantucket Open House Cookbook".  Originally we made it exactly to the recipe found in that cookbook.  But over the years we have added and modified the recipe to get more vegetables into it.  The recipe I am sharing with you now is our current version and has been for a couple of years.  This dish can be as spicy as you want by modifying one key ingredient: the number of hot cherry peppers.  Other than that, it is a pretty straightforward, simple dish that can be served any time of the year.


Serves 6

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
10 cloves chopped garlic
6, 8 or 10 hot cherry peppers, quartered and seeded (this is the heat factor!)
6 boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 pound fresh sliced mushrooms
1 package fresh spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut up the hot cherry peppers and remove the seeds.  (I used a full 10 hot cherry peppers as we like it more on the spicy side.)
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and butter.  Once hot add the garlic and hot cherry peppers and saute for 5 minutes. 
Add the mushrooms next and saute them for another 5 minutes.
While the vegetables are sauteing, cut up the chicken into bite-size pieces.
Add the chicken thighs after the mushrooms step, and brown the chicken on all sides, which will take another 5 - 7 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low and slowly continue cooking for another 25 minutes.  At the end of 25 minutes, add the white wine and balsamic vinegar to the skillet.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for several more minutes to reduce the liquid slightly.
 Next add the fresh spinach.  As you are cooking this down to a wilt, you may want to cover the skillet for a few minutes to let the spinach steam.

When the spinach has wilted, about 3-5 minutes, the dish is ready to serve.

Although we have not always served it over rice, for the past several years this has been our preference.  We use a basmati or popcorn rice, and find that either one works well.  The original recipe says to accompany the dish with plenty of crusty bread.  We have done that as well, but less of that in recent years as rice has become our substitute.
This one dish meal is colorful and tasty.  It is not for the faint of heart, meaning it can be spicy if you use lots of hot cherry peppers.