This New Thing We’re Doing [cranberry apple cake]

Dear readers, I didn’t mean to abandon you, especially not during this, my most epic food week ever.
Except it seems that’s exactly what I’ve gone and done.
I have done 0 work to prepare for Thanksgiving.  And it’s Wednesday!  Thanksgiving is tomorrow!  I need to go grocery shopping. I’m on dessert duty at my in-laws on Thursday, and then I’ll make our little family a mini Thanksgiving on Friday (turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and whatever leftover dessert we walk away with from the afternoon prior).
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If you need a little something different on your Thanksgiving dessert table, may I suggest Ina’s easy cranberry and apple cake?
My husband has taken to making a little something each weekend, and this was on the agenda the other day.  We devoured it.  It’s like pie filling with a simple cake on top.
Hope your Thanksgivings are filled with whomever it is you’re most thankful for.
To make cranberry apple cake, you will need:
12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over for stems
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 1/8 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Combine the cranberries, apple, brown sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. With the mixer on medium, add 1 cup of the granulated sugar, the butter, vanilla, and sour cream and beat just until combined. On low speed, slowly add the flour and salt.

Pour the fruit mixture evenly into a 10-inch glass pie plate. Pour the batter over the fruit, covering it completely. Combine the remaining 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon and sprinkle it over the batter. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the fruit is bubbling around the edges.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

On Easy Dinners [baked risotto with peas]

I’ve long said that I’m wary of dinners that claim to be easy.  Easy they may be, but rarely are they any good.  But, leave it to Ina to discover some of the secrets to saving time and making dinner a tad less daunting on a busy weeknight.  Ina bakes her risotto.  Which I’ve done once before.  

I will tell you, dear readers, this risotto doesn’t have the same creaminess as one you stir for 45 minutes, but that’s not always an option when it comes to weeknight dinner, and this is pretty darn close.

 To make baked risotto, you will need:


1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
5 cups simmering chicken stock, preferably homemade, divided
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a Dutch oven, such as Le Creuset. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock, the Parmesan, wine, butter, salt, and pepper, and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy. Add the peas and stir until heated through. Serve hot.

That Was So Easy! [mocha chocolate icebox cake]

The other day, The (Not So) New Girl and I spent the entire day together, walking the ‘hood, hanging out, and sharing food. She brought me a giant slice of The Barefoot Contessa’s mocha chocolate icebox cake* and I told her I really didn’t need to eat more than half of it. Then I paused for a half second, and proceeded to eat, um, all of it.

I love a good riff on an icebox cake.

Ina’s feels fancy and extra rich because it uses mascarpone in the whipped cream mixture and in place of boring, plain chocolate wafers, she uses chocolate chips. Ah, the genius of Ina!


A huge part of that genius, though, is in her calling for Tate’s chocolate chip cookies, which are thin and crisp (and widely available at the grocery store-look for them by Pepperidge Farm cookies). Because the cream softens the cookies over time, you don’t want to use a soft batch cookie here or things would be a crumbly mess.

Because she always asked for cakes with mocha frosting, I decided right away that this would be Wooden Nickels’ birthday cake this year. I will not be waiting till next year to make it again.

To make an 8 inch cake, you will need:

  • 2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 12 ounces italian mascarpone cheese
  • 12 cup sugar
  • 14 cup kahlua liqueur (I left this out, but I wish I hadn’t)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3 (8 ounce) packages chocolate chip cookies (Tate’s Bakeshop recommended)
  • shaved semisweet chocolate, for garnish
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, combine the heavy cream, mascarpone, sugar, coffee liqueur, cocoa powder, espresso powder, and vanilla. Mix on low speed to combine and then slowly raise the speed, until it forms firm peaks.

To assemble the cake, arrange chocolate chip cookies flat in an 8-inch springform pan, covering the bottom as much as possible. (I break some cookies to fill in the spaces.) Spread a fifth of the mocha whipped cream evenly over the cookies. Place another layer of cookies on top, lying flat and touching, followed by another fifth of the cream. Continue layering cookies and cream until there are 5 layers of each, ending with a layer of cream. Smooth the top, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Run a small sharp knife around the outside of the cake and remove the sides of the pan. Sprinkle the top with the chocolate, cut in wedges, and serve cold.

*Isn’t mocha chocolate redundant?  I’ve been wondering that.  Isn’t mocha, coffee that’s flavored with chocolate?  Because this cake is so good, we’ll let it slide.

My First Dinner Back [truffle mac and cheese]

It took me three days (and about another three weeks to post this), but I finally made Ina’s truffle mac and cheese.  There’s not much else to say.  Truffle mac and cheese.  Ina.  As she would say, how bad could that be?

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The only tidbit I’ll offer is the extended cooking plan.  If you find yourself short of time with full use of both hands, may I share how I prepped this over the course of three days.

Day One: Boil noodles, and shred cheese (in the food processor, of course).  Pack each up tightly, and store in the fridge.

Day Two:  Saute mushrooms.  Put them in a sealed container, and refrigerate.

Day Three:  Make bechamel sauce, assemble casserole, and bake!

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To make a 9 x 13 casserole (or two, 8x8s, which is how I tend to roll these days), you will need:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Good olive oil
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced 1/2-inch
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and caps sliced 1/2-inch
3 tablespoons cream sherry
Kosher salt
1 pound pasta, such as cavatappi
3 ounces white truffle butter (recommended: D’Artagnan)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 quart whole milk, scalded
12 ounces Gruyere cheese, grated (4 cups)
8 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (2 1/2 to 3 cups)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12-inch) saute pan, add the mushrooms, and cook over medium heat for 3 to 5 minutes, until they are tender. Add the sherry and continue to saute for a few more minutes, until the sherry is absorbed. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Add the pasta and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, until al dente. Drain well.

Meanwhile, melt the truffle butter in a large (4-quart) saucepan and whisk in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Slowly whisk in the hot milk and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the white sauce is thickened and creamy. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 1/2 tablespoons salt, the pepper, and nutmeg.

Combine the pasta, sauce, and mushrooms in a large bowl and pour them into a 10 by 13 by 2-inch baking dish.

Place the garlic and parsley in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until they’re minced. Add the bread crumbs and pulse to combine. Sprinkle the crumbs over the pasta and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the crumbs are golden brown. Serve hot.

And to show you how seriously I take my carbs, mac and cheese, elsewhere on this blog:
Wooden Nickels’ Macaroni and Cheese (the only recipe you truly need)

When You’re Feeling Fancy [tagliarelle with truffle butter]

tagliarelle with truffle butter.
I’m no Fancy Nancy.
There’s nothing in my house so precious it can’t be trampled on by an invasion of small children, you can find me in yoga pants as often as possible, and I can’t be bothered to do my grocery shopping at the upscale local market all the time.
But I can eat Ina’s tagliarelle with truffle butter.
Mostly because I can get all the ingredients at my regular grocery store, and get the sauce made in the time it takes the pasta water to boil.
We whipped this up on Christmas Eve between an early pageant and a late service, and I inhaled it faster than humans should ever consume food, no matter what it is.  It is every bit as decadent and wonderful as its name might lead you to believe.
To make tagliarelle for two, you will need:
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 C heavy cream
  • 3 oz. white truffle butter (D’artagnan brand, which is what Ina uses on her show, is now sold in my regular chain grocery store, in the case with the organic meat)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. tagliarelle dried pasta, or other egg fettucine
  • 3 T chopped, fresh chives
  • 3 oz. shaved Parmesan

Add 1 tablespoon salt to a large pot of water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, in a large (12-inch) saute pan, heat the cream over medium heat until it comes to a simmer. Add the truffle butter, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, lower the heat to very low, and swirl the butter until it melts. Keep warm over very low heat.

Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, exactly. (If you’re not using Cipriani pasta, follow the directions on the package.) When the pasta is cooked, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the drained pasta to the saute pan and toss it with the truffle-cream mixture. As the pasta absorbs the sauce, add as much of the reserved cooking water, as necessary, to keep the pasta very creamy.

Serve the pasta in shallow bowls and garnish each serving with a generous sprinkling of chives and shaved Parmesan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve at once.

Regular Nights at Home [wild mushroom risotto]

I love that the words regular and wild are occupying the same title space up there.

I’m someone who always focuses her energy on the routine, the seemingly (to some) mundane, and the little habits that make up our lives.  I’ve been thinking a lot about regular nights at home lately.  Having not had any for a year of construction, I appreciate them so much now.  Rare is the night that I get to spend coming home with nothing on the agenda but cooking dinner and catching up on DVR-ed Food Network and Jeopardy with my husband.

Yes, we are so old, we now watch Jeopardy every night.  And dear readers, I love it.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

These regular nights are everything.  They’re what I thrive on.  I have long agonized about whether I’m an introvert or an extrovert, and though I think feeding off the energy of others earns me that Meyers Briggs, “E,” I have some serious “I” tendencies.  Regular nights at home fuel them.

mushroom risotto.

While catching up on my backlog of Barefoot Contessa episodes, I saw her make wild mushroom risotto, and put my own spin on it with what we had in our pantry.*  The plan was to share it with The (Not So) New Girl, but she ended up enjoying a regular night at home with her new little boy, and I couldn’t be happier for her.

To make mushroom risotto for four, you will need:

  • 1/4 C olive oil
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 8 oz. button or crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 8 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/2 C barley (risotto is usually made with Arborio rice, but I didn’t have any)
  • 1/2 C white wine
  • 4 C chicken broth
  • 1/2 C shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the olive oil and butter in a Dutch oven, or heavy bottomed pan, on the stove till butter is melted.  Add onion and cook till soft, 5 minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook another 5-7 minutes, till mushrooms are cooked through.  Add barley and stir to coat with oil and butter.  Pour wine into pan and scrape brown bits off the bottom.  When wine has mostly evaporated, begin adding chicken broth by the ladle-full.  As broth cooks off, add ladle after ladle, until barley is fully cooked.  Dump in cheese, and stir till melted. Serve hot.

*I have a storied history with risotto.  In short, I love it more than anything.  Here are some of my previous risotto endeavors:  baked corn risotto, pesto risotto, spinach and sun dried tomato risotto, champagne risotto, tomato and sausage risotto

Best of 2014

Here were are again dear readers, at the close of another year.  Time to look back and reflect on our successes in the kitchen.  Mine are almost all recipes that add little nutritional value to your life.  So if you’re looking for help with your resolution, that’s another blog.  Sorry!

Click on the pictures to go to the recipes.

chocolate crunch bars.

banana walnut baked oatmeal.

funfetti cookies.

garlic and herb bread twists.

black bean burritos.

best chocolate chip cookies.

pounded cheese.

swedish pancakes.

chubby hubby cupcakes.

brown butter cherry bars.

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toffee tiramisu.

cheddar tailgating bread.

chili.

chocolate peanut butter globs.

candy cane cookies.

And two non-recipe posts:

brownie taste test.

nantucket.

Want to know what else is good here?  Check out the best of 2013, and 2012.

On Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is {chocolate peanut butter globs}

I spent much of November thinking about important things like gratitude and thankfulness.  And if you’ve been on blogs, or Pinterest, or ever watched Oprah, then you’ve probably had someone tell you that these are important muscles to strengthen.  November is all about working them out.  How many friends of yours posted something they were thankful for every day on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram?  A million?  Me too.  I’ve done it myself before.

chocolate peanut butter globs.

But I didn’t this year, mostly because I never got enough get-go to start.

And kind of sort of also because this whole celebrate thing has me thinking about action.  I can easily find something to be grateful for each day.  And I should.  That’s important.  But I could also act on those things.  Maybe not every day, but a lot of the time, I could.  I just don’t.  Cue December.  Another month perfect for cultivating a thankful attitude.  So this month, as I go through the holiday motions, with less of a focus on gifts, and more of a focus on gratitude, I want to make sure the people and things I’m grateful for know and feel that they’re important to me.

Cookies, I find, are always a great way to show gratitude.  These are some of the best I’ve had in a while.  They’re a riff on Ina’s chocolate peanut butter globs, and they’re amazing.

To make at least 2 dozen, you will need:

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips, divided
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 extra-large eggs
1 tablespoon instant espresso powder, such as Medaglia d’Oro
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
almost one full bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups, choppedRead more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/chocolate-peanut-butter-globs.html?oc=linkback
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a few sheet pans with parchment paper.In a bowl set over simmering water, melt the butter, 6 ounces of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate, stirring occasionally, until just melted. Remove from the heat and cool for 15 minutes.In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, espresso powder, and vanilla until combined. Add the sugar, raise the speed to medium-high, and beat for 2 minutes, until the batter is thick and falls back on itself in a ribbon. Set aside.

With the mixer on low, slowly add the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture. Combine the 1/3 cup of flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl and fold it into the chocolate mixture with a rubber spatula. In another bowl, combine the peanut butter cups, the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate chips, and the tablespoon of flour, and fold it into the chocolate mixture. With 2 soup spoons, drop rounded mounds of batter 1 inch apart onto the prepared sheet pans. Bake for 15 minutes exactly. Cool on the baking sheets.

Before the Summer Slips Away {marinated tomato bruschetta}

If you made a list of everything I’ve done this summer, in order of frequency, cooking would fall lower than just about anything else.  I have not cooked anything.  ANYTHING.  A large part of this truth is because we bought a house and I immediately jumped into action, using up everything that was already in our fridge and freezer, throwing out the remains of sauces and mixes saved up (and expired anyway) over the years, and running things off to storage, or to my in-laws, where my husband and I will be residing until the next, approximately, forever.  Cooking was, for once, the last thing on my mind.

marinated tomatoes.

And the other reason I haven’t been playing in the kitchen as much is the same reason I cite every summer.  There’s not much that needs doing in the kitchen.  Take these marinated tomatoes.  Slice up some tomatoes (I recommend home grown–these were gifted to me by a friend with a garden), and let them hang out with garlic, olive oil, and basil for a few hours, and heap them onto toasted bread.  That’s “cooking” in the summer.  And nothing tastes better.

marinated tomato bruschetta.

To make a baguette’s worth of marinated tomato bruschetta, you will need:

 

  • 4 medium or 3 large heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped into bite sized pieces.
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced, plus two cloves, peeled
  • large bunch of basil, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • one baguette

Combine all ingredients except peeled garlic cloves and bread in a bowl.  Set on the counter at room temperature for 4 hours (though you could get away with less; whatever, it’s summer, it will still work).  When ready to eat, slice baguette into three-quarter-inch-thick slices.  Chop the tip off each peeled clove, and give each slice of bread a good swipe.  The oil will seep into the bread and I promise goodness will ensue.  Toast or grill your slices, and then pile high with the tomato mixture.

 

Calorie Fest 2k12 [cheesecake]

Dear readers, it’s summer break ’round these parts, and that means I’m not tied to my computer like I often am in the colder months.  I’ve been digging deep in the archives to find  some recipes worth sharing again.  These all aired in the blog’s earlier days, but I’m pretty sure the only people who were there to see them go live were CV(D), Wooden Nickels, and Cari Faye.  They are my tried and true staples, and they’ll run for a few weeks while I enjoy the good life.  I’ll check back in with you later this summer dear readers.

xoxo,

Jennie

Enough with the healthy stuff, dear readers.

I made a cheesecake.

And a good one, at that.

Yep, that’s a candle.

This cheesecake hails from December, when I made it for my husband’s/Grandma Glass of Milk’s/my aunt’s Triple Birthday Bash!  All three were born on 12/13.  Well, all three plus Taylor Swift.  But when you’re a food blogger, December is filled with holiday cookies, and January is packed with grains and greens.  When you’re a food blogger, cheesecakes made in the middle of December get relegated to the back of your iPhoto files, waiting for you to rediscover them late one chilly evening while sitting with a warm laptop on your, well, lap.

By now you’ve all given up your healthy eating resolutions, right?  We’re that far into the month, aren’t we?  Even if we’re not, let me tell you this is splurge-worthy.  Indulgent.  Luxurious.  It’s velvety smooth.  The lemon zest does that same thing to vanilla that coffee powder does to chocolate.  The cheesecake doesn’t taste like lemon, it just tastes more like vanilla.  Rich vanilla.

This is Ina’s cheesecake.  There are at least a dozen cookbooks in my library I could have turned to when my husband requested a cheesecake for his birthday, but I went with my girl, the Barefoot Contessa.  Or as Liz Lemon calls her, “That woman on the Food Network whose husband only comes home on the weekends.”  Ina is at her best when she’s making American classics (and yes, she really does turn up the volume), and this cheesecake is a shining example of such dishes.  Out of the three cakes available, this was the one that was first to go.  The one everybody had to have a piece of.

And yes, it had a giant crack in the middle, but whose cheesecake doesn’t?   When you top it with raspberry sauce (which wasn’t memorable, so maybe this sauce next time, okay?), you’ll never even know it was there.

You don’t need a reason to make a cheesecake.  Today is Sunday.  Tomorrow is Monday.  Do it.

To make cheesecake for 12, you will need:

Time.  Cheesecake is not a labor-intensive cake to make, but it takes a lot of time just hanging out in the oven.  Plan to make it the day before you need it.

For the crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 5 whole extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the topping:

  • 1 cup red jelly (not jam), such as currant, raspberry, or strawberry
  • 3 half-pints fresh raspberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

To make the crust, combine the graham crackers, sugar, and melted butter until moistened. Pour into a 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and about 1-inch up the sides. Bake for 8 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F.

To make the filling, cream the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium and add the eggs and egg yolks, 2 at a time, mixing well. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly and pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven temperature down to 225 degrees F and bake for another 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and open the door wide. The cake will not be completely set in the center. Allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door open for 30 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature for another 2 to 3 hours, until completely cooled. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the cake from the springform pan by carefully running a hot knife around the outside of the cake. Leave the cake on the bottom of the springform pan for serving.

To make the topping, melt the jelly in a small pan over low heat. In a bowl, toss the raspberries and the warm jelly gently until well mixed. Arrange the berries on top of the cake. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

*Original post here.