Saturday, December 31, 2011

Panettone bread pudding

During one of my recent trips to Costco, they were giving out samples of Bauli's panettone. I couldn't believe how deliciously fluffy it was while still being heavily studded with raisins and candied orange peel. The package was a whopping 2.2 lb for less than $8! I added one to my cart without hesitation even though it was quite monstrous in size!

When my family gathered for lunch on New Year's Eve, I decided to use half of the panettone for bread pudding. Bread pudding is one of those homey desserts that often yields praise for something that is so simple to make. I opted to use Giada De Laurentis' recipe, which did not disappoint. I used six extra large eggs and 2% milk in lieu of the 8 large eggs and whole milk. It didn't compromise the end result in the least. If you can get your hands on a panettone or have some leftover from Christmas, I urge you to make this bread pudding. The custard is rich, but not overly indulgent or sweet. The cinnamon syrup makes the bread pudding extra special. Even my mom, who doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, raved about this and went for seconds!

Happy 2012!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Are you jam worthy?

Back in September, I ventured into canning for the first time. I was finally prepared to share the fruits of my labor for Christmas. I hope my gift recipients enjoy their jars of jam!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Cranberry pecan frangipane tart

Through the course of becoming obsessed with food blogs over the years, I have accumulated thousands of recipes to try from blogs, news articles, websites and of course, cookbooks. I never seem to make much of a dent no matter how little I repeat recipes. Admittedly, there are a few favorites that I will repeat, and nothing says Christmas to me more than the cranberry pecan frangipane tart from Smitten Kitchen.

I think I've made it at least four times now because I love it so much. It definitely helps me appreciate it even more when I only make it around Christmastime. This year, I decided to make one for a family gathering in Buffalo. It's easy to prepare with minimal ingredients and equipment, which is especially important when you have to cook in someone else's kitchen. You never know what ingredients or equipment will be on hand, but you can prepare components of this recipe in advance. I prebaked the crust and prepared all the dry ingredients at home in Chicago. I zested the orange directly into the bag of sugar, which gave it plenty of time to "marinate" the sugar. The crust is like a rich, buttery sugar cookie. The filling is reminiscent of pecan pie, but not as sticky. I love the combination of orange and cranberry. I like to use the full cup of fresh cranberries for that pop of tartness to contrast the sweet pecan filling.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. Sorry for being MIA. Hope to post several updates in the coming days.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lemon meringue cupcakes

My niece recently celebrated her fifth birthday. She unfortunately has a nut allergy, which makes it hard for my sister to indulge in my niece's sweet tooth at traditional bakeries. For her birthday party with friends, I made yellow cupcakes with an easy vanilla buttercream.

For our immediate family's celebration, I made lemon meringue cupcakes. Admittedly even I was a little skeptical about the recipe since lemon desserts can have a tendency to be cloyingly sweet. Instead these were incredibly moist and lemony. The lemon curd had the right amount of sweet and tart. The frosting was quite messy, but it was a great compliment to the cupcake. It toasted up perfectly with the culinary torch.
Easy Vanilla Buttercream
adapted from Cooks Illustrated
Makes 3 cups

20 tablespoons (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp table salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 tbsp heavy cream

In standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add powdered sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 45 seconds. Scrape down bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully combined, about 15 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and heavy cream, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 10 seconds, then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ham and kohlrabi bake

We received kohlrabi twice in recent weeks. With the first bunch, I made a modified version of this curry red lentil salad with couscous. While it was good, it was not very  photogenic, and I found that specific bunch of kohlrabi to be very woody. This left me less than enthused when I saw that we had a second bunch of kohlrabi coming our way. I knew I had liked it in the salad with fennel and blueberries I had made over the summer, but fresh local blueberries are hard to come by in December! I saw numerous recipes for a kohlrabi slaw, but that just doesn't whet our appetite. I then stumbled upon Elise's ham and kohlrabi bake. We love ham in our household, and her recipe yielded a lot of love from readers. I set forth making it on weeknight for dinner.

Gathering the list of ingredients was a breeze. However, I always struggle with deciding which dish to use for casseroles. I initially grabbed a small round, 2-quart Pryex. I then realized that it might be difficult to portion out, so I swapped it out for a rectangular 3-quart Pyrex instead. I'm glad I made the swtich because it took me almost twice as long for the casserole to set!

The longer than expected baking time was well worth it. I wasn't paying close attention to the kohlrabi as it cooked over the stovetop, which yielded in the sweet caramelization of the kohlrabi. The diced vegetable became tender and sweet. The "sauce" became custard like, similar to a frittata. We both loved this dish, which would be equally adaptable for any meal of the day! 

Kohlrabi Ham Bake Recipe
adapted from Simply Recipes

3 Tbsp butter
kohlrabi, peeled and diced 
8 ounces thick ham, diced 
2 Tbsp fresh chopped parsley
2 egg yolks 
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour 
Pinch of ground nutmeg 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large skillet, melt the butter on medium heat. Add the diced kohlrabi and gently cook until caramelized for 8 to 10 minutes.
2 Meanwhile, beat the egg yolk, and whisk in the heavy cream, flour, mace, salt and pepper until well combined.
3 Place the cooked kohlrabi and diced ham into a 3 qt casserole dish. Pour the sauce ingredients over the kohlrabi and ham. Top with the chopped parsley.
4 Bake for 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned on top. Serve immediately.
Serves 4.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sixteenth Produce Share

Carnival Squash (Genesis Growers, Illinois)
Carrots (Genesis Growers)
Beets (Genesis Growers)
Cabbage (Genesis Growers)
Gala Apples (Nichols Farm, Illinois)
Granny Smith Apples (Nichols Farm, Illinois) 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Carnival squash and carmelized onion galette

As you may have noticed, we've received a lot of squash and onions in our weekly produce. Thankfully, they have a long shelf life because I kept pushing them off my weekly menu plan. With the holiday travels rapidly approaching, I cannot put them off much longer.

Given the choice between caramelized onions and raw onions, I will always choose caramelized for its sweet and flavorful qualities. I knew that Smitten Kitchen's butternut squash and caramelized onion galette was high on my list to make. 

Her recipe called for a one pound squash, so I used the pretty carnival squash we received several weeks ago. I sliced the squash into large slices, roasted them for 20 minutes before removing their skin and dicing them into smaller chunks. I then put them back in the oven for an additional 15 minutes to cook through.The carnival squash smelled amazing as I was skinning and dicing them. Even Bailey was patiently waiting by my side hoping that a piece would fall from the cutting board.

We love the crust, having made the zucchini ricotta version this past summer and the cabbage version this past fall. It's wonderfully flaky and buttery. The fontina was a great cheese to pair in this recipe - it was milky and melted to perfection. I've grown especially fond of fresh sage this fall having used it in our Zuni chicken and Thanksgiving herb dressing. It's such a versatile and fragrant herb. 

Serve with a small green salad on the side to make it a complete meal. Even my squash hating husband loved this dinner.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Fifteenth Fall Produce Share

I'm pretty excited about this week's share compared to last week's! I loved the Seedling Farms apple cider. Some apple cider varieties are just plain boring, but not Seedling's. The apple flavor was so clean and pure. It tasted like a fall party on my tastebuds. 
Butternut Squash (Genesis Growers, Illinois)
Kale (Genesis Growers)
Turnips (Genesis Growers)
Baby Lettuces (Genesis Growers)
1/2 gallon Apple Cider (Seedling, Michigan)  
Fuji Apples (Nichols Farms, Illinois)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Slow cooker chili and cornbread

You know it's getting colder outside when we start using the slow cooker more regularly. It was a Christmas gift that A received from his family a few years ago, so I leave him in charge of those meals. We turned to Slow Cooker Revolution for a (turkey) chili recipe that is hearty and spicy.

To accompany the chili, I'm constantly in search of the cornbread recipe that is moist and rich. I had hoped to try Rice Kernel's creamed corn buttermilk bread, but I didn't have creamed corn on hand, and I wasn't up for making it from scratch that day. After scouring the internet and our cookbooks, we went with a Bittman recipe. The resulting cornbread was rich and buttery; crusty on the outside, soft and fluffy in the middle. We will definitely be bookmarking this for its ease and staple pantry ingredients.

Lighter, Richer Cornbread
adapted from How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

1 c Greek yogurt, thinned with 1/4 c milk
4 tbsp butter
1 1/2 c cornmeal
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 c sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/2 jalapeno, diced
1/2 c frozen corn

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Put the butter in 10 inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, until butter has melted and pan has become hot. Twirl the pan to thoroughly coat the skillet.
3. Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix the yolks and excess melted butter into the yogurt and milk mixture. Stir liquid into the dry ingredients just enough to combine (do not over mix).
4.  Gently fold in the jalapeno and frozen corn. (Shredded cheese would be a nice addition as well)
5. Beat the egg whites until stiff, but not dry. Fold into the prepared batter.
6. Pour batter into the butter skillet and bake for 30 minutes until lightly browned and sides have pulled away from the sides of the pan. Serve warm on the side of chili.