Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Homemade Brownie That's Better than a Mix?

I have a confession: until today, I had never made brownies from scratch. This might be surprising, considering how much I love to bake, but I honestly believe that brownies from the best mixes (coughGhirardellicough) are darn near perfect, and growing up brownies were the only baked good that it was "acceptable" to make from a mix. When my boyfriend and I first met, he was SO skeptical of my boxed brownie mixes, but he quickly became a convert.
However, today we wanted to make brownies and didn't have any box mixed on hand - but we did have all the other necessary baking ingredients, so I decided to see if I could find a homemade brownie recipe that would stand up to my beloved mixes.

We tried this recipe for Killer K-A brownies, and although the batter tasted AMAZING, the final result was pretty disappointing. The flavor was good, but the brownies came out a bit crumbly and cake-y, as opposed to the fudgy brownies that we love so much! (I wondered if they would, with 4 eggs in the recipe!) My bf's comment was "I don't hate them." (But he still ate a lot, ha!)

The conclusion was that these brownies are definitely not better than from-a-mix brownies. Maybe if I find a recipe that's supposed to be super fudgy, I'll give it a try again some day, but for now I think Ill stick to my boxes!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Eve Dinner

My mother demanded suggested I host Christmas Eve and invite the family over for dinner. Being super-ambitious, I decided to plan three courses, consisting of six different items. This, just a little, resulted in my flipping out the entire week preceding Christmas Eve, amplified by a massive bug turning up at work that kept me in the office past the grocery store's closing time.

I decided to start the meal with a festive seafood trio - pan seared scallop with roasted green bell pepper sauce, crab rangoon with red sweet and sour sauce, and salmon vol-au-vent with white sauce. I managed to make them all at the same time without destroying any! It did take quite a bit of juggling with the stove top though - luckily we have five burners!

Pan Seared Scallops with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce - I substituted green bell pepper instead and it worked out fine.

Crab Rangoon: Preheat oven to 375F. Mix one 8oz package softened cream cheese with two 6oz cans of drained crab meat, salt and pepper to taste. Put a very small dollop (about 1tsp) on a wonton wrapper. Wet the wrapper around the crab with water and seal - try to squeeze out as much air as possible. Brush with egg wash (optional). Bake at 375F for 15min. For the sweet and sour sauce, saute 1/2 cup of ketchup in 1 Tbsp vegetable oil with sugar to taste (start with 1/4 cup and add until you like the taste).

Salmon Vol-au-vent: Prepare puff pastry vol-au-vent shells according to instructions on package. Salt 3/4lb salmon (cut into small cubes) and let sit for 15min. Melt 2 Tbsp butter over medium heat. Sift in 2 Tbsp flour a little at a time and mix thoroughly. Stir in 1/2 cup milk and (optional) a dash of thyme. Add the salmon and let cook (about 5min). Salt and pepper to taste, then spoon into pastry shells.

Half my family really like their meat, and the other half really like their seafood, so I decided to be super ambitious and make two main courses. I eventually settled on levying my roommate's stuffed grape leaves recipe for one main dish and making a shrimp fettuccine for the other main dish. Everyone was too busy serving and eating that I forgot to take a decent picture. :( Oh well, just believe me that it looked and tasted pretty good. :) I used whole-grain fettuccine and brown rice for the grape leaves, so it was relatively healthy, too!

Creamy Shrimp and Broccoli Fettuccine - I substituted half-and-half and ended up with a very liquidy sauce. :/ I also added a lot more broccoli because I realized I didn't actually have a vegetable dish. I did add a spinach salad at some point though.

For dessert, I thought and I thought and I decided one dessert I really like but haven't yet made was tiramisu. It took me awhile to figure out how to best plate it, but I eventually got it. (I made three friends come over to help eat the trials as I attempted to make it look pretty.)

Simple Tiramisu - I halved the recipe since I wasn't making a whole cake. For the martini glass presentation: cut each ladyfinger in half before soaking in coffee. Put one piece on the bottom of the glass, drizzle some cream over it to cover, sift some cocoa powder on, and repeat twice for a three-layer dessert. It looked excellent - the only complaint I received was that the portion was too small. :D

I remade the tiramisu for my parents' new year's party - and this time I made the entire thing from scratch. A drier, even less sweet cake was requested, so I modified the recipe a bit.

1. For the ladyfingers, I made a sheet cake from a generic ladyfinger recipe: Grease and flour a baking sheet and preheat the oven to 350F. Beat 6 egg whites until foamy. Add 1/4 tsp cream of tartar and beat until stiff peaks form. Slowly beat in 6 tbsp sugar. In a separate bowl, beat 6 egg yolks, 3 tbsp sugar, and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract for 5-6 min, until it's a thick, pale yellow batter. Sift 1 cup flour over egg yolk batter. Fold the egg whites into the yolk and flour. Mix only until incorporated - do NOT overmix. Spread the mixture on the baking sheet and bake for 20-22 min, until the cake is firm and slightly brown.

2. Mix 2 tbsp brandy with about 3/4 cup strong coffee and chill.

3. Beat 1 cup heavy cream until stiff peaks form. Mix 1 lb mascarpone cheese with 1/3 cup sugar, fold into cream.

4. Put one piece of cake in the serving dish. Pour the coffee/brandy over it, until just wet (about 6 tbsp in the dish I used). Cover with 1/2 the cream mixture. Sift unsweetened cocoa powder over it until just covered. Repeat for a second layer.

All-in-all, I like to think this dinner was a success. I even made up menus and everything for each place setting! Mom said she was impressed, and that's all that mattered to me. :)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cannolied Tuile

My work had a holiday potluck again for the Christmas holidays, and this time I decided to try my hand at tuiles. I was discussing fillings with OhmsAndFarads when one of us mentioned cannoli filling. She said I should do it, so I did. I even decided to fill them with multicolored filling for the holiday season. I don't think the tuile cookies were quite as crisp as I would've liked, but the filling was delicious. I also had extra tuile batter and not enough filling, so I bent some in decorative shapes and used it to decorate the plate.

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
4 egg whites
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sifted flour

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Cream the butter and sugar. Slowly add the egg whites and vanilla. Slowly add the flour. Cover and let sit in the fridge as you work in batches.
3. With a spatula, spread a thin layer of batter into a rectangle on a well buttered baking sheet. I made some about 1.5"x4", then I made some even smaller ones. Start out with 2-3 at a time until you get used to the process, then you can do more. Bake at 350F for about 5-8min, or until the edges start to brown.
4. Once out of the oven, work fast. Carefully peel the tuile off the baking sheet with a spatula and roll into a cylinder. Place the sealed side down on a cutting board and let cool - once it cools, it'll stiffen and stay.

Cannoli Filling
Ingredients (x3, one for each color or flavoring)
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 Tbsp sugar
dash of vanilla extract (or other flavoring of choice - I suggest Kahlua)
1 drop food coloring of choice (optional)

1. Mix everything together. Put into pastry bag (or ziploc bag) and keep in fridge until ready to serve. Pipe into tuile cylinders just before serving.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tomato Mozzarella "Tart"

I'd seen a lot of recipes for a tomato mozzarella tart floating around on the internet, and I decided I wanted to try it since I loooove tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. However, I don't have a tart pan and am way too lazy to actually make a tart crust from scratch, so I simplified it a LOT by just using a refrigerated pie crust.

I baked the crust for about 10 minutes to crisp up the bottom, then layered it with fresh mozzarella and sliced up cherry tomatoes, and then I sprinkled a little parmesean cheese on top. I baked it at 350 for about 15-20 minutes (until the cheese is a little bubbly). This was very yummy, and it makes a delicious appetizer to serve at a party, or as a side dish for a meal!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ginger Tea

I hated the taste of ginger as a kid, so you can imagine how displeased I was when I was sick and on top of being miserable because I was sick, my grandmother would made me drink ginger tea. I've grown to enjoy the slight bite ginger has though, which was why when I started feeling under the weather, I whipped out the ginger and heated up a pot of ginger tea. Ginger is supposed to have warming qualities and help your circulation, so I guess it's good for when one's sick.

6-10 thin slices of ginger
3 cups water
brown sugar to taste (start with about 1Tbsp)

Bring the water to a boil. Toss in the ginger and simmer for about 30min, or until you can taste the ginger in the water. Add the sugar, and add more water if the ginger taste is too strong. Drink hot.

Triple Chocolate Cookies

I recently made Triple Chocolate Chip cookies, using a recipe from my favorite baking blog Lovin' From the Oven.

I modified her recipe slightly to use all three kinds of chocolate chips (white, dark, and milk), and I also made a double batch, since I was bringing them to a party. Here's what I used:

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
2/3 cup white chocolate chips
1/3 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup milk chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Combine butter and sugars until well mixed. Add oil and eggs, stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix flour, cocoa and salt. Stir well. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Stir in chips. Scoop the batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 11-12 minutes at 350.

I actually didn't love these - they were good, but I think I prefer a normal cookie or a normal brownie, to these, which are sort of a cookie/brownie combination. But the boys I gave them to seemed to love 'em! :)

Here's a close up:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving with lots of friends, family, and food! I'm proud to say I cooked my first ever turkey this year and it turned out most excellently, although we have an obscene amount of leftovers, with a 10.8 pound bird for just the two of us.

Also, I thought this graphic was really interesting:

It shows state-by-state breakdowns of the popularity of searches for different Thanksgiving foods. It's probably not a big shocker that sweet potato casserole is a Southern thing, but did you know that yams are really big on the West Coast or that cranberry sauce is primarily a Midwest/Rocky Mountain thing?

Mushroom Penne Alfredo

I had some mushrooms that were going to go bad soon, and some heavy cream I wanted to use, so I threw together this mushroom penne alfredo without a real recipe. I cooked the penne according to the directions on the package, sauteed the mushrooms until they were brown and the juices were starting to run, and made a quick cream sauce using about 1/3 cup heavy cream, some milk, some shredded mozzarella and some parmesean. I added the sauce and the mushrooms, stirred it all together and topped with some more parmesean. Mmmm delicious!

Broccoli and Tomato Quiche

This is my go-to quiche recipe. The broccoli and tomato can be swapped out for other things (I actually adopted this from a recipe for broccoli & mushroom quiche) and it works great as a meal you can make ahead and eat through the week.

1 9-inch pie shell
1 small head of broccoli, chopped and cooked
1 small tomato, chopped
1 cup milk
3 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup mozzarella cheese divided (the original recipe called for cheddar, I substituted mozzarella because I like it more)

Directions: Preheat oven to 375. Bake pie crust for about 10 minutes or until bottom is brown. Let cool. Chop broccoli and tomato, steam broccoli until tender. Combine milk, eggs, butter, flour, salt and 3/4 cup cheese. Whisk until well blended. Spread remaining 1/4 cup cheese over crust. Layer broccoli and tomato over cheese. Pour milk and egg mixture over all. Bake at 375 for 35 to 45 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 20-30 minutes before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Brownie Cups

My coworker brought brownies in little cupcake cups to our potluck the other day, but it didn't work out too well. The brownies were stuck to the paper liners, but I liked the idea of individual brownie pieces. Instead of the paper liners, I used puff pastries, and it worked out pretty well. I made it again to bring to my family's Thanksgiving dinner - the Chinese generation was very confused (some thought it was filled with red bean paste, others thought just pieces of chocolate), but all thought it looked and tasted good.

2 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
splash of vanilla extract
1 Tbsp flour
1/2 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1. Roll out puff pastry. Cut into 12 pieces and press into pre-greased mini muffin pan. Preheat over to 400F.
2. Melt chocolate and butter in a microwave bowl for 30 sec. Stir until chocolate is completely melted. Stir in sugar, egg, vanilla extract, and flour. Spoon evenly into puff pastry cups.
3. Bake for 18min, or until toothpick comes out clean.

I thought the brownie a little overly rich, but the puff pastry helped balance out a little of the sweet denseness.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Crepe Cake

I forget how I got the idea of making a crepe cake into my head, but once I did, it wouldn't leave until I found the perfect recipe and made it. And my perfect excuse? Why my coworkers' holiday potluck, of course.

I pretty much followed the recipe to the T. Except I reduced the amount of sugar in the batter to 6Tbsp. And I'll let you in on a little secret - I was incapable of making perfectly round crepes until the very last one, which I used as the top "layer." Instead, I made approximately half-circled crepes, then when layering them, rotated each layer by 1/3 of the circle. This made the cake kind of poof up in the middle, but I propped the edges up with a little extra cream filling, smoothed out the cream filling as thinly as possible in the middle, and all was well. I think I ended up making the cake too big in diameter though, so it looked flatter than I would have liked. Oh well. It tasted good; I'm considering making another one for Thanksgiving dessert this year.

Also, one last tip. For a realllllllly cold night like the ones we've been having? Standing over the stove making crepes warms you up very nicely, and you get to munch on crepe scraps from the "mishaps" you're bound to have along the way. ^_^

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More things made with pumpkin...

Continuing the theme of pumpkin flavored foods, I made some excellent chocolate chip pumpkin muffins recently. I forgot to take a picture (possibly because I was too busy eating them)...but I can offer the recipe and my promise that they're delicious!

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 16-oz can pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling, just pumpkin)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 and 1/4 cups vegetable oil
3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
dash of salt
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

Mix together eggs, sugar, pumpkin, vanilla, and oil. Separately mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture; stir in chocolate chips. Fill greased or lined muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake at 400 degrees for 16-20 minutes. Makes about 30 small muffins or 15 large-ish muffins.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Halloween Cupcakes!

For Halloween, I planned to make cupcakes and decorate them as pumpkins. I made the cupcakes from a mix, and made an orange frosting using a simple recipe:
a box of confectioner's sugar, a stick of soft butter, 1/4 cup milk, and a teaspoon of vanilla. I colored it orange using red and yellow food coloring in about a 2:1 red:yellow ratio. I picked up green frosting & black gel from the grocery store, and planned to draw pumpkin tops and faces on the cupcakes...but it turns out my hand was not steady enough to draw pumpkin faces (when I tried they came out looking like a 5 year old drew them), so I just made green pumpkin tops, and wrote "Happy Halloween" on the cupcakes in black gel. They looked cute enough, but I don't think they were super tasty (although I may be biased, since I don't really like vanilla frosting).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

It's gotten really chilly in the past couple of weeks, so I've been cultivating a craving for hot soups. Tonight's menu is one of my childhood favorites - Taiwan-style beef noodle soup, or 台湾牛肉面. I don't usually cook beef, but some cultural dishes just shouldn't be messed with - this dish is either made with beef or not at all. It takes awhile to cook and I adjust spices as I go, but the general idea is pretty much the same. :)

3 cups water
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine
3 tbsp brown sugar
4 star anise
1 tsp Chinese five spice (五香)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 thin slices ginger
2 stalks scallions, chopped
1/2 lb beef
bok choy, sour/pickled vegetables/酸菜, noodles as desired

1. Bring the water, soy sauce, rice wine to a boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and add the sugar, star anise, five spice, garlic, ginger, and the white parts of the scallions. Or do what my dad does - put the star anise, garlic, ginger, and scallions into a cheesecloth bag and tie it before putting them in the pot. That way, you don't have to strain it later. Simmer for about 20min.
2. Add the beef. Simmer until tender. I used stew beef, so it was already cut into 1-in cubes and didn't need to be cooked for as long (about 1.5hrs). When the beef is about done, add the bok choy briefly. Cook the noodles in a separate pot. Pick out the bok choy and put into a bowl along with the pickled greens, noodles, and the green parts of the scallions.
3. Take out the beef and when cooled a little, slice into thin pieces or bite-sized cubes (slices are better, but if you used chunks of beef to shorten the cooking time like I did, it's not so easy to slice). Put into bowl with noodles et al.
4. Strain the soup through a sieve/colander/cheesecloth. Discard the solids. Dilute with hot water and pour over the noodles. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Non-pie uses for Pumpkin

Pumpkin Biscotti
How could you not cook pumpkin between Halloween and Thanksgiving? With all the extra pumpkin we had, I also opted to make pumpkin biscotti, using Elise's recipe. I made the following substitutions:

1/2 cup brown sugar for the 1 cup sugar
1.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice for the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger
no vanilla extract because I didn't have any

I also extended the baking time, because the biscotti came out still moist/chewy, but it was really good with the pumpkin jam that will be featured in the next recipe. :)

Pumpkin Bread
My friends are oddballs and had a potluck dinner for Halloween. I decided to make pumpkin bread, using Elise's recipe. The only difference was that I used 1.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice instead of the individual spices, because I'm lazy like that. It came out pretty well. :)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fondant Experiments!

I've made many cakes in the past, but I've never decorated with fondant. Here are pictures of my first couple escapades into that land of smoooooth sugar.

Honda s2000 cake for my favorite autosexual :)

Battlestar Galactica cake for a BSG aficionado

Middle Eastern Emulation

My spin on some middle eastern staples: hummus and falafel. Not even remotely authentic, but tasty nevertheless

Hummus 1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained, but liquid reserved
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 heaping tsp cumin-coriander powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste

Blend chick peas and olive oil in a food processor until smooth. Add the reserved chick pea liquid, one tsp at a time, as necessary if the chick peas seem to dry. Add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve with toasted pita bread.

1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans), drained
1/2 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 c basil, coarsely chopped
1 tsp cumin (ground or whole seeds)
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for greasing
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1/4 hothouse cucumber, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 8x8 pan with oil. Blend all ingredients in food processor until chick peas are crushed, but not pureed. Form into patties 3/4" thick and 1.5" in diameter and place into lined pan. Bake for 10 minutes on each side. While the falafel are baking, combine the tomato and cucumber with some salt and pepper to taste. Serve the falafel warm in toasted pita bread pockets with yogurt and the salad.

Farmer's Market Finds

I looove going to the farmer's markets around here (there are so many options! and they're open year round! it's amazing!), and I always bring my camera because I usually find some really funky fruits or vegetables there. Here are a few:

Kiwi of Looove <3
Cross section of a heart shaped kiwi! So cute...the whites look like smiling eyes or something adorable like that to me :)

Romanesco Broccoli
This stuff is amazing--it's got the consistency of cauliflower with the taste of broccoli. Or maybe it's the other way around. Or maybe a little bit of both. The taste and texture run together into yumminess, that's all I know. But the point of the picture is it looks crazyyyy...Like the Fibonacci sequence or fractals or something (yes, I know I should know which :P)

Nosy peaches
Here are some odd peaches I with a pointy nose and the other with a baby bump and 2 seeds inside to boot.

Purple Bell Pepper
My first purple bell pepper. I was expecting purple inside (green, red, yellow, and orange bell peppers are all green, red, yellow, and orange inside, respectively, after all), but got white inside instead. Interesting...

White bitter gourds
I've seen these in green numerous times (and been force-fed them on multiple occasions--they're REALLY bitter, and of course, since they taste awful, they must be good for you...), but never white ones. They look kinda creepy, frankly. At the stand they told me that the white ones are more bitter than the green ones. Sooooo I politely declined to buy any, but still thought they were worth taking a picture of...

Easy Cheesy Quiche

Quiche is buttery crust, cheese, and eggs, with a few veggies thrown in for good measure. What's not to like? This recipe was simple and delicious, but took much longer than expected to bake. So allot time!

Veggie Quiche Yield: 1 9inch quiche
Adapted from Recipezaar

Vegetable oil for sauteing
1 small onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
2 cups frozen broccoli
1/3 c mayonnaise
1/3 c milk
4 eggs
1 c cheese, grated and divided (cheddar works well, but most any cheese will do)
Pepper to taste
1 small tomato, sliced
1 9inch pie shell

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil over medium heat and cook onions, bell pepper, and broccoli until tender. Remove from heat. In a large bowl, mix mayo and milk until creamy. Add eggs and 3/4 c cheese. Add the slightly cooled vegetable mixture to the mayonnaise mixture. Pour into pie shell and garnish with tomato slices and remaining 1/4 c cheese. Bake for at least 1 hr until set and golden brown. To make sure the egg is set all the way through the quiche, wiggle a table knife around in the center and make sure no liquids rise to the top.

Before baking:


A Hankering for Boston: Clam Chowder

At one point in my hiatus from posting, I was really craving a Boston favorite: New England Clam Chowder. I don't eat pork or beef, so I had to hunt for a recipe that didn't use any bacon or meat stock. I found this one and liked it so much I made it again a few weeks later. And don't forget, the best way to eat clam chowder is in a sourdough bread bowl :)

New England Clam Chowder
Yield: 4 servings
Adapted from Ivar's

2 (6.5 oz) cans minced clams
1 cup finely chopped onions
1 cup finely diced celery
2 cups finely diced potatoes
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 cups whole milk, warmed
1 tsp salt, to taste
1 tsp pepper, to taste
dash of sugar

Open the canned clams and drain the juice into a medium saucepan. Set the reserved clams aside.
To the juice add the onions, celery, potatoes, and enough water to just cover. Simmer, covered, over medium heat until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large sauce melt the butter over medium heat, then stir in the flour and cook until it becomes a roux and is golden.
VERY gradually, whisk the milk into the roux. Cook, whisking, until smooth and thick, about 5 minutes. With every addition of milk, make sure the mixture doesn't clump up. If it does, keep mixing vigorously, and eventually you can strain it and gradually mix the liquid into the collected solids.

Add the cooked vegetables together with their liquid and the clams, salt, pepper, and sugar. Stir well, and adjust seasonings to taste if necessary.

Feel free to use different vegetables; this soup tastes great with carrots, yellow squash or zucchini too.

Brownies Twice Over

I'm way behind on my posts, and in the last few weeks, I've made a couple types of brownies: Mint Brownies and Cream Cheese Brownies. So lots of chocolate :D

Mint Brownies
Yield: 8x8 pan of brownies
Adapted from Gale Gand

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour
dash of salt
1 cup mint chocolate chunks (I used chopped up Trader Joes's UFOs)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a double boiler over very low heat. Stir together and remove from the heat. Add sugar and eggs. Mix well. Stir in the flour and salt. Add chocolate chunks. Spread the mixture into a buttered 8-inch square pan. Bake until set, about 40 minutes. When cold, the chunks of chocolate got too solidified, so they taste best served warm with vanilla ice cream :)

Cream Cheese Brownies
Yield: 8x8 pan of brownies
Adapted from Joy of Baking

Brownie Layer:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup all purpose flour
dash of salt

Cream Cheese Layer:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 Tbsp granulated white sugar
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and place the rack in the center of the oven. Line an 8x8 pan with aluminum foil (bottom and sides).

Melt the butter and chocolate in a double boiler. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well with a wooden spoon after each addition. Stir in the flour and salt and beat, with a wooden spoon, until the batter is smooth and glossy and comes away from the sides of the pan (about one minute). Remove ~1/2 cup of the brownie batter and set aside. Place the remainder of the brownie batter evenly into the prepared pan.

With a hand mixer, blend the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar and egg white and process until creamy and smooth. Spread the cream cheese filling over the brownie layer. Spoon small dollops of the reserved brownie batter evenly on top of the cream cheese filling. Then with a table knife or wooden skewer, swirl the two batters without mixing them.

Bake in the preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until the brownies start to pull away from the sides of the pan and the edges of the brownies are just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool. If you can wait, refrigerate the brownies until they are firm enough to cut into squares (at least two hours). These brownies can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. These brownies turned out a bit too sweet (I reduced the amt of sugar in the original recipe by 40% but I should have reduced it even further). Also, the original recipe called for twice as much cream cheese mixture, but I didn't have that much cream cheese, so I had to halve that. But it would have tasted much better with more cream cheese :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Caprese Panini

One of my favorite kinds of sandwiches is a Caprese sandwich (tomato, mozzarella, and basil), or a slightly modified Caprese (replacing the basil with basil pesto). The sandwich is very good cold, but I tried making it out on my panini press and it was even more delicious!

The steps are very simple: butter one side of two slices of bread, and spread pesto on the other side. Place one slice of bread on the panini press, butter side down. Top with sliced tomato and fresh mozzarella, top with the other piece of bread (butter side up). Grill for about 3-4 minutes or until the sandwich is warm and has brown grill marks on it. Simple, easy, delicious!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

This is a great chocolate chip banana bread recipe that I made recently. The bread is very moist and dense, so even a tiny square is filling. This recipe also has a LOT of chocolate chips, so its great if you're a chocoholic like me, or if you're planning to eat this for dessert instead of breakfast.


1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
4 overripe bananas, mashed
1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
dash of salt
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1 and 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Directions: Mix together the butter and sugar. Add the egg and milk, and then the mashed bananas. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture. Stir in about a cup of the chocolate chips. Transfer the mixture to a lightly greased loaf pan (if you don't have that, a brownie pan works just as well). Top with remaining chocolate chips. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cheese Fondue

OhmsAndFarads had a lot of leftover cheese from an event last weekend, so the roommates decided to do fondue night. We were also going to do chocolate fondue, but ended up stuffing ourselves on cheese and did not get around to the chocolate. :P

We borrowed Elise's recipe for cheese fondue, with some extreme modifications.

Cheese Fondue
4 cups crumbled Gouda cheese
4 cups crumbled Colby jack
1 cup white wine
1 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp corn starch
1 Tbsp brandy
herbs to taste (we used nutmeg, oregano, and pepper)

Anything you want! We used celery sticks, sliced cremini mushrooms, sliced bread (cut into squares), and cubed Granny Smiths. Kabob skewers sufficed for dipping utensils.

1. Bring the wine and lime juice to a slow simmer. Over low flame, slowly add the cheese, stirring to keep it from burning.
2. When the cheese has melted, mix the brandy and cornstarch in a small bowl and add until the cheese is thick enough for fondue. Add herbs/seasonings to taste.
3. Remove to fondue setup. We used a can of Sterno fuel gel and propped a pot high enough off it to not burn the cheese instead of going out and buying a fondue set.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cheesy Pesto Chicken

If you're a pesto freak like me, you're going to love this easy, tasty recipe.

The steps are incredibly simple and the total prep time takes about 10 minutes.
Melt some butter in a bowl (I find about half a stick works well for a pound of chicken).
Dip slices of boneless, skinless chicken breast in the butter and then cover in bread crumbs.
Place the breaded chicken slices in a buttered casserole dish.
Spread pesto on top of the chicken pieces, and top with your favorite cheese (I like fresh mozzarella).

The chicken ready to go in the oven.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes for thinly sliced chicken, even more for thicker chicken.
Cut into chicken to make sure it's done before serving, because ovens vary, and its hard to tell from the outside appearance if its fully cooked.

See? Totally simple, and totally delicious! The butter and the pesto keep the chicken nice and moist, and the pesto, cheese, and breading combine to give a delicious flavor!
This dish is really easy to make in large quantities, so its great for having friends over, or if you live alone (like me) to make on the weekend and then eat throughout the week.

Add some vegetables and bread for a very quick, very complete meal!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


One of my favorite restaurants in Maine, the Jordan Pond House, is famous for their homemade popovers. Popovers are a light hollow roll that is made from an eggy batter. If done correctly, they "pop" up while cooking, leaving the middle of the pastry filled with air. They are delicious served by themselves with butter and jam, or they can be stuffed with ice cream or chocolate to make a dessert, or with fish or meat to make an entree. The last time I was in Maine I bought a popover pan and popover mix, and today I finally attempted to make them.

A popover pan is similar to a muffin pan, except the cups are a little deeper, and they are separated to give the popovers room to expand. In theory, popovers can be made in a muffin pan, but I highly recommend a popover pan if you've never made them before.

Making the batter was very easy. I mixed 2/3rds cup milk with one egg, and then folded in 2/3rd cup of the popover mix I bought. I don't believe the store-bought mix is essential; since the only ingredients in it are flour and salt. There were a few tips on the side of the popover mix that were very helpful, however.

First of all, the egg(s) should be at room temperature before you use them.
Second, you should use whole milk instead of skim or low-fat. This prevents the popovers from burning. I used skim because it was all I had, and the popovers did come out a little brown, so maybe next time I'll try to pick up some whole milk.
Third, you should chill the batter for 30 minutes before baking it.
Fourth, you should warm the popover pans in the oven for a few minutes before pouring the batter into them.

After chilling the batter, I preheated the oven to 450 degrees per the instructions on the mix, warmed the pans for a few minutes and filled each popover cup 1/3rd full. (The amount of mix I used made 4 popovers). The instructions said to cook the mix at 450 degrees for 25 minutes and then lower the temp to 350 and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. However, after about 20-22 minutes at 450 my popovers had clearly popped and were looking nice and golden brown, so I took them out of the oven.

The fifth important thing to remember is not to open the oven door while baking! If you need to peek at them, use the oven light. The popovers will not rise correctly if you open the door.

My popovers turned out looking (and tasting!) absolutely delicious! The second picture shows the inside of the popover, nice and hollow! Definitely a successful experiment :)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Easy Vegetable Tempura

Tempura is one of my favorite things to order in Japanese restaurants, so I decided to finally attempt to make it at home.
I found a very easy recipe on-line, the 1-1-1 recipe. Mix together one cup of flour, one cup of (very cold!) water, and one egg. Dip any vegetables you like in it (I used one of my faves, asparagus) and fry in a frying pan with about one inch of oil in it. A small pan works best for this, because you can use less oil to achieve the same depth.

I'm not sure how I feel about this recipe. It was very easy and quick, came out looking pretty decent, and tasted fine...but not great. There was just something missing. Oh well I guess I will just have to experiment with more recipes...


In general, I prefer chocolate chip cookies to blondies, but this recipe looked yummy and I was feeling like switching things up, so I tried it out the other night.

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Mix butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl. Whisk in egg & vanilla. Add flour and salt, stir until moistened. Add half the chocolate chips. Spread evenly in a greased 8x8 pan, add remaining chocolate chips on top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Makes 16.

Very easy and very tasty!

Thursday, October 15, 2009


For my birthday this past May, I received a panini press and I just recently got around to trying it out!
I decided to make one of my favorite sandwiches, a chicken/avocado/mozzarella combination.
The sandwich was simple to make and took less than 5 minutes with the panini press.

Take two slices of bread, butter one side of each slice. Plug in the panini press, put one slice of bread on the press, butter side down. Top with pieces of chicken (previously cooked in whatever style you prefer, I baked it), one half of an avocado sliced up, and a few pieces of fresh mozzarella. Place the other piece of bread on top, butter side up. Shut the lid on the panini press and grill for a few minutes or until golden brown.

The photo does not do it justice, but it was really yummy! Obviously the same thing can be achieved in a frying pan, but the panini press makes it so much quicker and easier. And warm sandwiches with nice melty cheese are always preferable to cold sandwiches :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Best Cheeseburger Ever!

One of my favorite places in the entire to world to get a cheeseburger is Shady Glen, a "dairy store"/diner in Manchester, CT. It's pretty well known and has been featured on the "Road Food" website ( They rated it "worth planning a day around" and although I don't know if I would go that far, it's certainly worth a visit if you're driving through Connecticut on I-84.

The cheeseburger is made using 4 slices of american cheese layered over the cheeseburger. The cheese directly on top of the patty gets nice and melted, while the cheese that hangs over the edge of the patty comes in to direct contact with the gridle and gets fried, turning nice and crispy. If you're a huge fan of cheese like I am, it's a must-try!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Black Bean and Corn Salsa Pizza

I love Mexican food and pizza, so here is a happy compromise: home baked pizza (almost from scratch) in 20mins!

Ingredients (serves 2-3):

1 bag of pizza dough from Trader Joe's (wheat, plain, or garlic and herb...I am a fan of garlic and herb!)
7-10 stems of cilantro
3/4 of a 15oz can of black beans
1/2 cup of finely chopped bell peppers (any color)
1/2 cup of frozen sweet corn
1/2 cup of finely chopped onions
1/2 cup of finely chopped tomato
1/4 cup of finely chopped jalapenos
1 tsp of taco seasoning (or more to taste)
1/3 jar of spaghetti sauce
1 cup of grated cheese (cheddar, mozzarella, or Mexican)
A little bit of flour

Pull out the dough from the fridge 20 mins prior to baking.
Pre-heat your over to 450 degrees. And chop all the vegetables.
Thaw out (or microwave to thaw) the corn.
Lightly flour a 12'' circular baking sheet or a similar sized rectangular sheet.
Hand stretch (or roll) the dough out over the baking sheet.
Add a thin layer of spaghetti sauce (not really needed for flavor, but keeps the crust from being too dry).
Mix together all the vegetables with the taco seasoning, and add to the pizza.
Top with cheese.
Bake for ~10mins.
Cut and enjoy!

(I really like the Trader Joe's crusts for quick, cheap, delicious meals! They really can be topped with anything. We also made a veggie pizza with bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and Italian spices. In the past, I have made pesto/sun dried tomato pizzas. They all come out great!)