Thursday, January 27, 2011

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies


February is right around the corner, so you know what that means- we get to find out if this snow will end sooner than later! That groundhog better not see its shadow. We’ve already gone through like five winters here in New York. Is anyone else ready for spring?



On a side note, Valentine’s Day is coming up. A holiday specifically created to show how much you love your significant other with roses, a fancy dinner, chocolate, and gifts… sounds more like a day created to empty the pockets of consumers like us, huh? Nevertheless, wouldn’t you pay any price to make the one that is most important to you happy?



For those celebrating with a special someone this year, here’s a sweet treat to share with him or her. Those without that ‘someone else,’ but still want to get into the holiday spirits, can indulge in these rich, fluffy red velvet whoopie pies. They’re so good that you won’t even want someone to share them with! Enjoy!


Note: In case you were wondering, the second photo includes a banana whoopie pie with nutella and chocolate whoopie pie with mint frosting (not sure if I'll use this mint recipe again, though).


Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

Yields: about 30 one inch pies


Ingredients

Cookies:

- 2 cups all purpose flour

- 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

- ½ tsp. baking soda

- ¼ tsp. salt

- ½ cup butter, softened

- 1 cup packed brown sugar

- 1 egg

- 1 tsp. vanilla

- ½ cup buttermilk

- 1 ½ Tbsp. red food coloring

Filling:

- ¼ cup butter, softened

- 1- 8 oz. package of cream cheese

- 1- 7 oz. jar of marshmallow fluff


Procedure

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until it is smooth. Gradually add the sugars and cream until the texture and color is light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and the egg until it is incorporated.

4. Alternate between the flour mixture and buttermilk, beating after each addition only until it’s just combined. Overbeating will result in dense and dry cookies. Stir in the food coloring.

5. Spoon the batter with a tablespoon or a melon ball scooper in 1 or 2 inch diameter rounds on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about an inch between each round.

6. Bake the cookies for 7-9 minutes for 1- inch cookies, 9-11 minutes for 2-inch cookies, or just until tops are set. Cool completely on baking sheets on a rack. Remove the cooled cookies from baking sheets.

7. While you’re baking and letting the cookies cool, make the filling. Beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth. Fold in the jar of marshmallow fluff.

8. To assemble, place a dollop of the filling on the flat side of a cookie and sandwich it with another half.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Maple Cornmeal Biscuits


Did you ever have one of those mornings where you stir awake to the sound of birds singing their sweet songs, to the warm touch of the sun’s rays gently streaming through your window, and to the smell of freshly ground coffee brewing? If you live in this world, your mornings probably begin with a loud, obnoxious alarm clock. And cold cereal. And racing thoughts about what you need to get done today… or didn’t get done yesterday.



Life throws a lot at us and it can get overwhelming at times. But, thank God for the family and community found at 180 Church that help us to carry these burdens. And, thank God for the wonders of flour and butter, that magical transformation of basic ingredients into something like these warm, buttery biscuits! It’s not sunshine or birds chirping, but it’ll definitely ease you into the day. With each bite, you’ll be reminded that everything will be okay :)



For all you non-bakers without all the “special” equipment (i.e. mixer, whisk, cake pans, etc.), this is the recipe for you. You most likely have ninety percent, if not all, of the ingredients in your pantry already. No special technique involved really. Just some tossing, stirring, and scooping action. So, no need to be intimidated. You can do it!


Maple Cornmeal Biscuits

Recipe from Baking from My Home to Yours via doriegreenspan.com


Yields: 12 biscuits

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons; 3 ounces) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces

1/2 cup cold whole milk

1/4 cup pure maple syrup


1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.


2. Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and baking soda together in a mixing bowl. Scatter butter over the flour mixture and toss to coat the pieces of butter with the flour. Using your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until it looks like pea sized pebbles.


3. Stir the milk and maple syrup together and pour it over the dry ingredients. Gently mix with a whisk or fork to combine the ingredients until it forms into a very soft dough.


4. Use a tablespoon to scoop out the dough onto the lined baking sheet. Place the baking sheet into the preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve with butter, honey, jam, syrup, or by itself.


These are best on the day they are made, especially right out of the oven. However, you can keep it overnight in an airtight container. Warm them briefly in a 350 degree F oven before serving.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Cookie Jar

If you’re ever in Staten Island and driving on Forest Avenue, make sure you stop by The Cookie Jar. For $10, you can get a pound of cookies, which roughly amounts to 16-20 cookies. There were so many to choose from, but the staff was very patient and understanding while I carefully pointed at that one and this one and oh, that one over there!

In case you're wondering, Christina and I initially intended to share the box of cookies with others, but yes, we bit into every single cookie.

There were a couple of favorites, like the honey comb bar- a very distinct honey flavor, chewy and sticky like caramel, a burst of tartness from the dried berries, and a crumbly bottom cookie layer. And the raspberry pecan bar- toasted pecans combined with tart and sweet raspberries. Then there was the raspberry linzer and the dark chocolate cherry cookie and the chocolate rugelach…Almost everything was delicious. The only disappointments, really, came from the whoopie pies- filling was flavorless, cake was nothing special.

And if the cookies aren’t enough to please you, they sell handmade ceramic cookie jars, one for every kind of personality (i.e. Snoopy, Mr. Peanut, Santa Claus, snowmen, ducks, Pillsbury Dough Boy, teddy bears, Aladdin, just to name a few). They’re not exactly cheap ($50-85 bucks).

On top of all that, there’s an open view of the kitchen on the second floor balcony. While you’re choosing your cookies, browsing the cookie jars, or devouring your cookies, you can also watch the bakers preparing the day’s delights. So, if you’re looking to bring a batch of cookies to that upcoming holiday party or just wanting to have an afternoon cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate with some friends, head over to The Cookie Jar!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Beef Chili

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely dread winter. Having to come out from the warmth of your bed into the cold air in the morning. Shoveling snow. Cold toilet seats. And just…being cold. Your shoulders start to hunch over. Your muscles become all tense. It hurts and it’s tiring.

Your only refuge becomes your bed. Under the blankets. But the obvious problem is that you’re human-not a bear-and last time I checked, you need to live your life. So, the next best thing to your bed is probably filling your body with something hot and yummy, like this chili!

I love this recipe because it’s a one pot dish-easy cooking, easy clean up. And most of the cooking time takes place without you actually having to be there. Just come back for an occasional stir. Serve with a toasted slice of sandwich bread or crackers. It’s also great on its own, of course. You won’t even remember you had a bed :)

Beef Chili with Beans

Adapted from Grant Achatz’ recipe from foodandwine.com

Notes: The original recipe used pure ancho chile powder and pure pasila chile powder, but I just bought this hot Mexican chile powder. If you have cayenne pepper, feel free to put in a teaspoon or two. I might have put too much broth or forgot to not add the juice from the beef, so I tried to reduce the liquid by just letting it simmer past 1 ½ hours. But, next time, to avoid drying it out too much, I’ll just add some tomato sauce to give it that thicker consistency. And, though I didn’t include this in my chili as the original recipe does, I would highly recommend adding some seeded and finely chopped chipotle chiles to give it that extra heat and bolder taste.

INGREDIENTS

. 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

. about 3 pounds ground beef chuck

. 1 large onions, finely chopped

. 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped

. 5 garlic cloves, minced

. 2 tablespoons ground cumin

. 2 tablespoons chili powder

. 1 tablespoon brown sugar

. 2 teaspoons chopped oregano

. 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

. 3 cups low-sodium beef broth

. One 15-ounce can pinto beans

. One 14-ounce can whole tomatoes with the juices

. 1/4 cup tomato paste

. Salt

. Grated cheese for garnish

. Cilantro for garnish

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large, heavy pot or a medium enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Add half of the ground beef and cook over high heat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned, about 5 minutes; transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon. Brown the remaining ground beef. Return the first batch of browned beef to the pot.

2. Add the onions and pepper to the pot and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, chile powder, cumin, sugar, oregano, black pepper and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Stir in the beef broth, pinto beans, tomatoes, and tomato paste. Simmer the chili over low heat for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and garnish with cheese and/or cilantro.

Servings: 8

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Leftovers

One of the best parts about Thanksgiving for me is the leftovers. There’s nothing quite like it. Perhaps it’s the taste of love from the various hands that prepared such an extravagant and abundant meal. Or maybe I just really like microwaved turkey and stuffing.

As tasty as the real deal is, I’m always looking forward to the next day’s lunch of leftovers: a heaping plate of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, cranberry sauce…And you can’t forget that slice o’ pie for dessert! Yes, I am blessed with a cooperative digestive tract and can endure eating just as much food as I did the previous night. So, I understand if you’re a bit grossed out by the sight/smell/taste of more turkey.

But, instead of just microwaving your leftovers, which I fully support, I wanted to share with you another way to enjoy the last of your leftovers. A croque monsieur! Originating in France, it’s a grilled ham and cheese sandwich that is served as a fast food snack in cafes and bars. For our purposes, we’re using turkey, of course, and adding some cranberry sauce to it.

You spread the sauce, sprinkle cheese, pile on the turkey, (and whatever else you might want to add), and press. Pop it in the oven. Wait for the cheese to melt, the bread to get that golden crisp. And voila! You’ll have yourself a non-leftover lookin’ kind of meal.

Note: If you don’t have any cranberry sauce, I’ve shared the recipe I used below. You could make the sandwich without it, but I strongly suggest that you don’t. It’s a one-pot recipe and well worth it!

Festive Turkey Croque Monsiuer

Adapted slightly from Jamie Oliver Magazine

Ingredients

• 8 slices of white bread

• Cranberry sauce

• 100g gruy√®re, grated

• Leftover turkey

1. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

2. Line the bread on baking sheet pan. Spread slices with cranberry sauce and sprinkle half the gruyere. Top with turkey and sandwich with the remaining bread. Press lightly and top with the remaining gruyere.

3. Bake until the cheese melts and the sandwiches turn golden brown.

Cranberry Sauce

Recipe from Saveur.com

Ingredients

1 lb. whole cranberries, fresh or frozen


3⁄4 cup sugar


1⁄2 cup fresh orange juice


1⁄2 cup fresh grapefruit juice


1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice


1⁄2 tsp. salt


Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg


Zest of 1 orange 


Zest of half a grapefruit


Zest of 1 lemon

1. Put cranberries, sugar, orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, salt, nutmeg, and zests into a medium pot and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and stir well. Cook, covered, without stirring, until liquid has thickened and about half of the berries have collapsed, about 15 minutes.

2. Transfer cranberry sauce to a wide, shallow bowl and let cool. Remove zest. Serve at room temperature or chilled, if you like.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pumpkin Bread


Autumn makes us yearn for something to warm our souls, to ease us into the cool and crisp air. And I’m not just talking about pulling out our boots and fall sweaters, ladies! Although, I know that is something we all look forward to =)

What I am talking about is spices! Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger! You’ll find these ingredients in many fall recipes, including this pumpkin bread. It’s moist, not too sweet, and easy to make!

Also, if you want to change things up for Thanksgiving, this is a delicious alternative to pumpkin pie or whatever pie you’re planning to have. If you have sweet tooths to satisfy, try spicin’ it up with some cream cheese frosting. If your oven is going to be occupied all day, you can easily make this a day ahead, but you might have to hide them or there won’t be any left!

Pumpkin Bread

Ingredients

1-15oz. can of pumpkin puree

4 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 ½ cup light brown sugar

½ cup white sugar

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

1 ½ tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

½ tsp cloves

¼ tsp ginger

¾ chopped walnuts (optional)

½ raisins (optional)

Procedure

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Grease and flour two 9x5x3 loaf pans or two muffin pans.

3. In a large bowl, mix together the puree, eggs, oil, buttermilk, sugar until well blended.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger.

5. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Pour into the prepared pans.

6. Bake for about 60 minutes for loaf pans and 20 minutes for muffins or when toothpick is inserted in the center and comes out clean.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Chicken and Broccoli

Anyone craving Chinese take out these days? It’s one of those things that you love and hate, isn’t it? Love because it just satisfies your taste buds so perfectly at that moment. Hate because the grease smothers your stomach and your euphoric experience suddenly turns into a very unpleasant, uncomfortable one. But, we’re all human, right? As much as we know it’s bad for us, we give into our cravings from time to time. Luckily, you will never have to feel guilty anymore with this tasty chicken and broccoli recipe that Janice cooked the other week. The chicken was juicy. Broccoli was tender, but still had that bite to it. Hoison sauce and soy sauce rendered those sweet and sour undertones that you look for in Chinese food. Red pepper flakes gave it just enough heat, not overpowering the rest of the flavors. Most importantly, the grease was at a minimum! It’ll hit the spot and leave your stomach happy.

Easy Stir Fried Chicken and Broccoli

4-6 servings

Ingredients

16 oz chicken breast, sliced

2 scallions, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp corn starch

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp sherry cooking wine

1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp vegetable oil

5 cups broccoli

1 tbsp hoison sauce

1 tsp cajun seasoning

1 tbsp red pepper flakes

Directions

1. Toss the chicken with the chopped scallions, about half the garlic, soy sauce, sugar, 1 teaspoon of the cornstarch, 1 teaspoon of the salt, the sherry, and the sesame oil. Marinate at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat. Add the broccoli stems, and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the florets and the remaining garlic, a bit of water, and season with salt (to taste), and pepper. Stir-fry until the broccoli is bright green but still crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

3. Heat skillet with 1 tablespoons oil and add the chicken and chili flakes/cajun. Stir-fry until the chicken loses its raw color and gets a little brown. Add the hoisin sauce, return the broccoli to the pan and toss to heat through. Add more water if needed to cook. Taste and season with more salt/pepper/hoisin sauce if you like. For more flavor, you can also use garlic powder and sriracha sauce (for a kick).