Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bacon, Shrimp & Goat Cheese Won Ton Ravioli

The only credit I can take for this dish is suggesting the goat cheese and being my husband's sous-chef. He needed an extra set of hands to make the wrapper-filling process go faster. We consumed half of the ravioli yielded from this recipe, so I guess it serves four adults. We had roasted asparagus on the side, but that was only because my eldest son requested it. The ravioli alone was enough to fill our bellies.
(Note: The shrimp were only given a slight chop in order to preserve the texture. I don't like the idea of putting the shrimp in a food processor because you lose so much of the shrimp's texture-based appeal.)

3/4 lb shrimp, roughly chopped
3/4 cup mozzarella-provolone shredded cheese mix
1 (4oz.) container of goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped pasta herbs (fresh oregano, thyme and basil)
4 sun dried tomato halves, sliced
3 strips bacon, crispy and crumbled
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp red pepper

1 package won ton wrappers

2 tsp bacon grease
1 shallot, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup seafood stock
2 to 3 sun dried tomato halves, sliced
1/4 cup cream
1/2 tsp black pepper

Finishing Touches
1 fresh roma tomato, diced
chopped pasta herbs
crumbled bacon

Cook bacon 4 to 5 strips bacon until crispy. In a medium bowl, combine raw chopped shrimp, cheeses, herbs, sun dried tomatoes, crumbled bacon, salt, pepper, garlic powder and red pepper; mix well. Lay out won ton wrappers for filling, use two wrappers per ravioli, spoon approximately 1 tablespoon of filling onto center of 1 wrapper, wet edges of wrappers with fingers dipped in water; then, place one wrapper on top of wrapper with filling. Seal wet edges together, and fold up sides to make a neat square package. Continue the process until all the filling has been used. Make about 26 ravioli.
Once ravioli are complete, boil water in a large pasta pot.
Meanwhile, prepare sauce.
Saute diced shallot in bacon grease. Once nearly cooked, add garlic and saute. Add 1/2 cup white wine, seafood stock and sun dried tomatoes. Once the wine has cooked down, add cream and black pepper.
Cooked ravioli in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes; they will have risen to the surface by this time. Remove from water and set on a plate with paper towel to absorb the liquid.
Stir diced roma tomato and herbs into sauce right before plating. Put six or seven ravioli's per plate and top with sauce. Add more fresh herbs and crumbled bacon for garnish. Serve.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Rosemary Basil Pizza Crust

I'm a bit surprised with myself for not yet having blogged about homemade pizza; although, I'll admit that it's been at last a couple of months since I've made one. What I really like about this dough is how simple and easy it is to make, and I equally love how easy it is to manipulate with little additions. I've used it for calzones and even bread that was perfect for pannini's. You can make it as this herb version, or even role cheese into it. Once before, I baked it as a three cheese bread with cheddar, mozzarella, and parmesan. It was very tasty! You can also substitute one cup of all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour to make a healthier crust. It changes the texture, but it is still very good, like anything baked from scratch.
(You'll notice that one corner of the pizza looks a little different. That part was pepperoni only--for the boys.)

1 package active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons dried basil leaves

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together yeast, warm water, sugar and olive oil. Let sit for about 3 minutes to fully dissolve and activate the yeast.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour and salt.
With a rubber spatula, gradually mix the yeast mixture into the flour until just combined and dough barely holds together. Turn the dough out onto a clean counter surface dusted with flour.
Knead the dough with flour-dusted hands until the dough has become smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. The surface should be tight and silky and bounce back slightly when pressed. Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with olive oil and place the dough in it.
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Once doubled, punch the dough down. Knead the dough into a ball; set aside and cover with plastic wrap to rest for half an hour.
Dough can be made the day before and refrigerated overnight. Keep covered tightly in plastic wrap or in a sealed food storage bag.
Prior to rolling the dough for baking, knead in herbs. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Roll dough out in a pizza stone or no-burn cookie sheet. Sprinkle on garlic powder, if desired. Bake dough for approximately 5 minutes before topping. This method helps prevent a soggy crust.
Once topped with the desired sauce and toppings, continue to bake until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Chocolate Strawberry Jam Muffins

These muffins are delicious with or without the jam. I made them mini (I always seem to make my muffins mini) because they are easier for my little boys to eat, and the mini size makes them bake faster, thus leaving less time for restless waiting. I enjoy baking breakfast goods in the morning because it adds to the ambiance that I try to achieve in the mornings. Breakfast is a special time at my house. We begin with a Bible story, then continue at the at the with some literature. I'm currently reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone to my boys. I'm so glad that my eldest has reached an age where he can sit and enjoy a good chapter book.

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 egg
Strawberry jam

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease muffin tin.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and salt; mix well.
In a small mixing bowl, combine buttermilk, butter and egg; beat well. Add milk mixture to flour mixture all at once; stir until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Divide batter evenly into greased muffin cups. Place 1/4 teaspoon of jam on each muffin; press into batter. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
If making regular sized muffins, use 1/2 teaspoon of jam, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Red Velvet Cake

For St. Valentine's Day, my husband made a lovely dinner: a simple wedge salad topped with crispy bacon and creamy blue cheese dressing; followed by scallops with a spicy chipotle sauce, fresh tomato, and avocado slices. The least I could do was make a tasty dessert. I'll admit, I was a bit selfish in electing to make a red velvet cake because it's my favorite, but it does seem like an ideal cake for Valentine's Day. Doesn't it?

2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon special dark cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 ounce red food coloring
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 pound confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease 2 9-inch cake pans.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa's, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Alternate beating in flour mixture and buttermilk, until well combined. Beat in food coloring and vinegar, then add vanilla.
Spread the batter evenly in pans.
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

In a a large bowl, combine the cream cheese and butter. Beat in confectioners' sugar until fluffy; beat in vanilla. Use to fill and frost cake.

Combine semisweet chocolate and heavy cream in a double boiler. Whisk until smooth, then cool and use to spread on top of cake or to dip fruit for decoration.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Black & Gold King Cake


Now that I've gotten that out of my system, I can tell you about the nontraditional king cake I made for this year's momentous Super Bowl. I represented the Saint's black by making the pastry chocolate and represented the gold by making a caramel filling. I hope you enjoy! By the way, the grocery store only had green and red sugar sprinkles, so I just skipped that part; although, I wish I had just put some regular sugar on top.

1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder

2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup water
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 8oz package heath toffee brickle

2 cup confectioners sugar
4 to 6 tablespoons heavy cream


Scald milk, remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup of butter. Allow mixture to cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water with 1 tablespoon of the white sugar. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
When yeast mixture is bubbling, add the cooled milk mixture. Whisk in the eggs. Stir in the remaining white sugar, salt and nutmeg. Beat the flour and cocoa's into the milk/egg mixture 1 cup at a time. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic.
Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 2 hours. (Make filling while dough rises. Directions follow.)
When risen, punch down and divide dough in half.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 2 cookie sheets.
Roll dough halves out into large rectangles (approximately 10x16 inches or so). Spread caramel and toffee bits evenly over the dough and roll up each half tightly like a jelly roll, beginning at the wide side. Bring the ends of each roll together to form 2 oval shaped rings. Place each ring on a prepared cookie sheet. Make cuts 1/3 of the way through the rings at 1 inch intervals. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Push the doll into the bottom of the cake. Frost while warm with the confectioners' sugar blended with 4 to 6 tablespoons of heavy cream (milk is an acceptable substitute).

Caramel filling:
In a medium heavy saucepan, combine water, sugar, and cream of tartar. Cook on high until the sugar completely dissolves and edge become a golden color; then, swirl the pan. Allow the the sugar to cook until it becomes and amber color. While wearing an ovenmit, carefully pour cream down the side of the pan and stir continuously with a whisk or wooden spoon. Remove from heat and pour caramel into a medium bowl to cool until room temperature.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Shortbread and Toffee Fudge Bars

These simple bars can satisfy even the strongest craving for buttery cookies and fudge, probably because they are cookies and fudge. This recipe is a little time consuming relative to its simplicity; but, honestly, it doesn't require much work. The fudge layer is Carnation's excessively easy recipe with the added bonus of toffee bits. The cookie dough is dense and firm enough to make it a good crust, but, with two sticks of butter, it's sure to be moist and melt-in-your-mouth good.

Cookie Crust:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Fudge Topping:
2 cups (12 oz.)Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
1 can (14 oz.)Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 pkg.(4 oz. from 8-oz. pkg.) Heath Bits 'O Brickle Toffee

Grease a 9x13 in pan and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make cookie dough: beat butter and sugar in a large bowl until fluffy. Then, beat in egg and vanilla. Add flour and salt; mix until dough forms. Press dough into the greased baking pan and bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until edges are golden brown and crust is firm in the center. Allow to cool.

Once the crust has cooled, begin the fudge. Combine chocolate morsels and sweetened condensed milk in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Warm over lowest possible heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat; stir in toffee and vanilla extract. Spread fudge mixture evenly over cookie crust and refrigerate until firm.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken Salad

I made this for dinner the other night, and it made everyone happy. My husband ate his in a pita and I had mine wrapped in a tortilla. The next day we both had it for lunch on toasted whole grain bread. Delicious!

1 lb chicken tenders
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
Crushed red pepper flakes
Tuscan seasoning
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain low fat yogurt
1/4 cup sliced green onion, about 3
1/4 cup diced calamata olives
1/4 cup diced sun dried tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers
Heaping tablespoon cappers
1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Chili powder
Celery salt
White pepper
Additional Tuscan seasoning

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Season chicken with salt, crushed red pepper flakes, and Tuscan seasoning; sear in hot oil. Meanwhile, chop, slice, and dice additional ingredients.

Once chicken is fully cooked, remove from pan and allow to cool; then, dice chicken into bite sized pieces. Then, combine chicken, mayonnaise, yogurt, green onion, calamata olives, sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, capers, and parmesan. They season with paprika, chili powder, white pepper, and an ample amount of celery salt to taste. Additional Tuscan seasoning can be used if desired.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sunday Fried Chicken

Bear with me as I wax proseic about last Sunday evening. Ah, yes... it was the perfect conclusion to a pleasant weekend. After returning home from a late afternoon run, I put my two-year-old down for a nap to the sound of water being put to boil and the scent of New potatoes being pealed. In the background, Brad Paisley was singing about never ending love on Pandora radio. There was a handsome bare chested man in the kitchen preparing dinner for me. I took a shower, and when I had finished, I heard the sound of oil popping in the kitchen and smelled the delicious aroma of chicken frying. Upon entering the kitchen, the handsome man was creaming potatoes moistened by melting pats of butter and creamy milk. I poured an Abita Abbey Ale into a frosted glass and sipped the delightfully floral brew and enjoyed a pleasant conversation about the emotion derived from simple home cooked meals. After all the chicken had been fried, he made a peppery gravy and we sat at our table to enjoy a satisfying Southern dinner.

This is how that handsome man made the chicken:

He soaked about 1 lb of chicken tenders in a mixture of 4 cups of buttermilk and several tablespoons of Worcestershire and hot sauce for about half and hour.

Then, he dredged the chicken in a flour mixture with ample amounts of Paprika, Cayenne, Salt, Pepper, Italian seasoning, and Garlic powder. (The spices should be visible in the flour mixture.)

Lastly, he fried it in several inches of very hot vegetable oil.