Recipe Calculator?

Anyone ever used a recipe calculator before to check nutrition facts? Would this be of interest to you if we tried to provide nutrition facts to our recipes here on DC?

Easter Treats

I’m not able to go home for Easter this year. Of course I don’t really need all the extra food that I usually gorge myself with (we do a big Easter brunch in my family), but that doesn’t mean I don’t want it!

Mixing Peanut Butter, Butter and Powdered Sugar

Last year Edwin tempted us with some super decadent Easter treats -

Grandma Bachetti’s Peanut Butter Eggs
Grandma Bachetti’s Coconut Easter Eggs

I believe I heard him say he might try to even improve the recipe for us this year. Mmm.. hope so! So which would you prefer, pb or coconut?

Bay Scallop Gratin

I love scallops, but until recently I had never made scallops. I repeat – never!

Why? Scallops are expensive, they have to be cooked just right and it’s so easy to cook them just wrong.

But we’ve got to learn sometime.. so, thank you sale at Harris Teeter, you finally gave me that little push to buy and cook scallops.

scallopgratin

First, here’s a helpful little article about scallop selection and storage. Some things to note in particular:

  • they shouldn’t be pure white
  • don’t store them in water
  • they should look moist but not soggy
  • refrigerate immediately after purchase, and preferably cook them within 1 day
  • The best cooking methods are brief, to avoid overcooking. these include: sauteing, grilling, broiling or poaching. overcooked scallops are tough and rubbery. Prior to cooking, you’ll want to pat the scallops dry. Large sea scallops (what I purchased) will take 3 to 5 minutes, while the smaller bay scallops will take only 1 to 2 minutes. But this is not a hard and fast rule – always remember it’s easy to overcook them!

    prebaking

    I adapted a recipe for Bay Scallop Gratin from the Barefoot Contessa. I took out some of the frills (like shallots, Pernod, and prosciutto) and tried to make it a little more accessible to busy folks like you and me!

    These scallops are cooked in butter – not Paula Deen style butter but yep, it’s still butter. I used two tablespoons of regular unsalted butter and one tablespoon of Smart Balance butter in an attempt to moderate just a little bit of the fat. The butter, white wine and lemon juice add a nice, delicate flavor that doesn’t overpower the scallops – but my favorite part is the panko sprinkled on top to give it just a little bit of crunch.

    My husband and I each got two large bay scallops with some couscous on the side, and we were satisfied and very happy at the end of dinner. Though I know it seems scary at first, seafood can be so easy (and FAST) to cook! It could really be your new best friend; why not start with scallops (the least “fishy”)?

    servingscallops

    Bay Scallop Gratin
    adapted from Ina Garten

    3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used 2 Tbs. of regular unsalted and 1 Tbs. of Smart Balance butter)
    3 medium-large garlic cloves, minced
    1/2 small onion, thinly sliced and minced
    2 tablespoons parsley, plus extra for garnish
    1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
    1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    3 tablespoons olive oil (I used Smart Balance oil)
    1/4 cup panko (do use this instead of regular bread crumbs; panko is great for seafood)
    3 tablespoons dry white wine
    1/2 to 3/4 pound large fresh bay scallops (equivalent of about 4)

    Preheat the oven to 425F. Place four ramekins on a cookie sheet.

    To make the topping – place room temperature butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or use a hand mixer. Beat in garlic, onion, parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper on low until combined. Add in oil slowly; the mixture should resemble mayonnaise. Fold in panko with a rubber spatula and set aside.

    Evenly divide the white wine on the bottom of each ramekin. Cut the small muscle/membrane from the side of each scallop if present (here’s a handy how-to video – but my scallops didn’t have it). Pat the scallops dry with paper towels and distribute evenly in the ramekins. Spoons the garlic/butter mixture over the scallops and bake for 8-10 minutes, until the topping is golden and sizzling. The scallops should be barely done at this point, as they will continue to cook for a few moments outside the oven.

    Sprinkle with extra lemon juice and parsley for garnish. Serve in ramekins immediately.

    Getting Ready for Farmers Markets!

    Up in the DC area, Chef Edwin is already enjoying the return of farmers markets. Where I am in Charlottesville, we still have to wait another week.

    Here’s what you can expect to be in season and offered at your farmers market this March through May:

    * Aspargus
    * Spinach
    * Rhubarb
    * Peas: Snap Peas, Snow Peas, all kinds of peas
    * Green Onions
    * Lettuce
    * Artichoke
    * Fennel
    * Radishes
    * Cherries (late spring)

    Sooooo exciting!!

    Pineapple, Kumquat and Ginger Crisp with Coconut Topping

    Last year for my mom’s birthday I made a cranberry-lemon pound cake with lemon curd filling and Italian meringue lemon buttercream frosting. I wanted to do something lighter and fruitier this year.. something that wouldn’t make us feel like 500 lbs. after we finished eating it.

    crisp

    Edwin tells me that I talk about Sur La Table’s Art and Soul of Baking book entirely too much. I tell him that because he doesn’t own it, he just can’t even begin to understand how it would blow his mind. We’re at a stalemate… too bad his birthday isn’t until late summer.

    But you guessed it, this recipe is from The Art and Soul of Baking, and it was everything I ever wanted. As I was making it there were actually a lot of firsts for me – I’d never worked with kumquat before (I actually wasn’t even entirely sure of what they were before setting foot in the grocery store), I’d never cut up a whole pineapple before (I’m not sure how I’d escaped this for so long… luckily this youtube video guided me through the process, which was much easier than I feared it would be), and I’d never worked with candied ginger (usually I leave it out of recipes because I’m not a big ginger fan, but it was wonderful and essential here. You can find it in the spice aisle in one of those tiny spice bottles).

    crisp2

    A few notes from the recipe – I baked this is a cute pie dish instead of a casserole dish and it worked out great. Also, I combined the topping ingredients in a stand mixer on low for a few seconds, but the pieces never got pea-sized… and I’m not sure they ever would have. It really formed the consistency of pie dough. So instead of sprinkling it over the fruit mixture, I really sort of laid it evenly on top (again, almost like a pie dough top). It turned out extremely well, so I don’t see it as a problem – just something to be aware of!

    If you don’t have the book yet (why.. WHY), you can find the recipe over at Steamy Kitchen.

    Kitchen Tips – Broken Buttercream & Whipped Frostings

    If you ask me what the most important lesson or tip is for baking, I would answer “patience.” Many of the techniques involved in baking can be practiced and learned, but if you can’t muster patience in the kitchen – forget it, game over.

    Most of my baking mistakes come from rushing things:
    fallen cakes – continually opening the oven door and toothpick testing to see if it’s done yet,
    flat cookies – nuking the butter instead of just waiting for it to reach room temperature, packing the dough balls in too closely on the baking sheet so that I don’t have to wait to do a second batch,
    broken buttercreams… sadness!


    photo by Sugarbloom Cupcakes

    But in some cases, there’s a fix. And actually until this week, I never knew that I could save my broken buttercreams!

    When making a frosting with butter or cream cheese, everything needs to be at room temperature. You must set it out for at least 45 minutes. There’s just no way around it! If you can’t wait, you might notice as you’re mixing that you have little tiny lumps instead of a nice smooth consistency. This is because either the butter or cream cheese is still too cold, and no amount of furious mixing will save it.

    Before you throw it out.. or before you just sit down and eat it while crying.. try putting the bowl over a hot water bath and mixing (without getting any water in the bowl!). This should warm it up a bit and help the clumps smooth out without melting anything. You can also try adding a little warm melted chocolate (white chocolate for vanilla frosting) and mixing it throughout.

    Buttercreams and whipped frostings are tricky; you are not alone! Frosting is half the battle.

    OMG Peanut Butter Pie

    Did you know this past Sunday was Pi(e) day? Did you know there’s a peanut butter pie? A pie, of peanut butter?!?!?! Madness, you say? Poppycock? You are not alone, friend, for I can assure you that was my initial reaction when a particular young lady informed me of its existence. But low and behold, peanut butter pies do exist and are not some rarity invented by a small tribe living in some far corner of the world; possibly in some near-unapproachable mountains. With peanut butter trees.

    Oatmeal Oatmeal Crust

    I wasn’t able to find the person credited with the first peanut butter pie but my first mental image, after the Pinatu Mountain Tribe was a 19th century Heather, dressed like Madam Curie with a high necked dress, analyzing peanut butter in test tubes. Best. Job. EVER. Whoever is responsible for its inception, I take my hat off to thee.

    Madam Heather

    Recognizing the awesomeness of peanut butter and pie, this was something I had to do and I did so immediately. I decided to go with an oatmeal crust which worked out well, but turned out a bit harder than I would have liked. Be sure not to over bake your crust when you try this! I wish I had more photos, but I took this to work and it did not last long. Be sure to have a glass of milk handy.

    PB Goodness

    Peanut Butter Pie

    Oatmeal Crust
    2 cups oats
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup powdered sugar
    1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
    4 tablespoons honey
    1 stick butter; cut into four pieces
    pinch of salt

    Peanut Butter Filling
    1 lb peanut butter
    3/4 cup powdered sugar
    2 tablespoons honey
    pinch of salt

    Chocolate Glaze
    8 oz bittersweet chocolate; roughly chopped
    1 stick of butter; cut into four pieces
    2 tablespoons cream

    Crust
    Preheat your oven to 375° and grease a 9 inch pie pan. Run the oats in a food processor for about 30 seconds, then add your remaining ingredients and pulse until well combined. Evenly distribute your crust into the pie pan and up the sides and bake for 15-20; just until the crust begins to turn golden at the edge. Don’t over bake or you will have a harder, but still delicious, crust. Let cool completely.

    Filling
    Mix together all your ingredients and pour/spoon into your pie pan. Bake for an additional 10 minutes.

    Glaze
    Melt your chocolate and butter via the double boiler method. Once fully melted, remove from heat, add the cream and stir until well combined. Let sit in the fridge for a few minutes to thicken and cool. Pour over your pie and place in the back in the fridge until glaze hardens. Serve and enjoy.

    Though it’s getting warmer now, I’m still saying goodbye to winter.

    whole wheat

    I had an impulse buy in the grocery store this week – I picked up a can of organic butternut squash puree. I had no idea what I would do with it. After assessing the other impulse buys in my pantry, I decided to pair the squash with some orecchiette pasta.

    organic

    My husband normally doesn’t care too much for the squash/pasta dinners I’ve tried in the past… or squash used as a sauce (chicken and pumpkin enchiladas I made a few years ago is one of the few meals he’s actually turned down!). He did, however, enjoy this recipe!

    prebaking

    The squash makes the pasta a little sweet, but it’s not an overpowering taste. The onions, garlic and rosemary balance the sweetness a bit, and the ricotta I added to the squash makes it a little creamier. I would probably prefer this made as a side dish (maybe served with chicken breast?), just because there’s not enough flavor complexity here to really hold my interest for an entire meal. But we all know I’m a finnicky eater :-) I highly recommend using orecchiette if you have it at your grocery store – it’s a neat little pasta and works great with non-marinara type sauces!

    prebaking with bread

    Goodbye winter and cold weather squash – I’ll miss you!

    Baked Orecchiette with Organic Butternut Squash

    Baked Orecchiette with Organic Butternut Squash
    inspired by Martha’s Winter Squash and Shells

    2 small/medium onions, thinly sliced
    1 pound orecchiette pasta
    1/3 cup low-fat ricotta
    2 slices whole wheat bread, toasted and cubed
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary
    Salt and pepper, to taste

    Preheat the oven to 400F and butter a 13×9 casserole/baking dish. Heat a small amount of oil in a large skillet over medium heat, and add onions. Season the onions with salt, pepper and rosemary, and toss occasionally with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir and cook onions until browned and soft, approximately 15-20 minutes.

    While onions are cooking, heat water for pasta and cook according to package instructions. Drain pasta when done, reserving one cup of the pasta water.

    Add squash, ricotta and pasta water to onions, simmering for 2-3 minutes. Transfer to casserole dish and sprinkle with toasted whole wheat bread. Season with additional salt and pepper, and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.

    Asparagus In Wine, Balsamic and Soy Reduction

    In my quest to appreciate the fungus known as mushrooms, I’ve been perusing some of the cookbooks at the local library. On amazing dish I came across was for roasted Portabello mushrooms from the book Veganomicon. By far the best mushroom dish I’ve had.

    Fresh Asparagus Asparagus

    I decided to try a variant of this with asparagus, as this vegetable is showing up in markets quite heavily as spring begins to roll in. While not as tasty as the original recipe, I like how the reduction works with this vegetable. There is plenty of liquid, which I sopped with couscous, but consider this as optional.

    Asparagus and Balsamic Soy Wine

    Asparagus In Wine, Balsamic and Soy Reduction

    1/2 cup cooking wine (red)
    2 tablespoon soy sauce
    2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    2 cloves garlic; minced
    1 pound asparagus; woody ends removed and chopped into 1-2 inch pieces.

    Preheat the oven to 400. Combine and mix everything but the asparagus. Place the asparagus in a large baking pan and pour in your “sauce”. Roast for 20 minutes, serve and enjoy.

    Moroccan Chicken Couscous

    Earlier in the week Edwin tweeted that, “Sadness is over baking your lemon squares.” Today I’m going to counter that by adding that sadness is cooking something delicious and not taking good photos of it because (you later realized) your flash was on a wonky setting.

    Oh well! I’ll do the best I can? How about a sweet picture of my pup as a peace offering?

    pupface

    Finding myself in a bit of a dinner slump after finishing my midterms at school last week lead me back to my trusty “Great Food Fast” cookbook by Martha Stewart (If you haven’t entered her contest yet to win a free new book, click here!). I flipped to the winter section before spring is upon us, and I found some great recipes I hadn’t made before.

    chickencouscous2

    I’ve made her Moroccan Chicken Couscous twice this week – once to test it out and play around and then later in the week to bring to a friends house. This is a great meal to turn to if you want something healthy, light, relatively fast and easy and flavorful without heat (for spice-wary people like Edwin!).

    I only made some relatively minor tweeks because things are pretty good! I did change the ratio of things a bit, added more veggies and changed the proportions to serve 2 (with leftovers) or 3.

    Moroccan Chicken Couscous
    adapted from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast

    4 bone-in, skinless chicken thighs (if you can’t find skinless, you can remove the skin yourself with kitchen scissors)
    5 carrots, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
    2 small onions, thinly sliced
    1 can whole tomatoes (14 oz), drained
    1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans (15 oz), drained and rinsed
    1 3/4 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium canned broth
    1/4 cup water
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon chili powder
    1/2 teaspoon Salt
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    3 zucchini, halved lengthwise and quartered
    Couscous

    In a 5 or 6 quart pot with a lid (or Dutch oven if you have one), combine all ingredients except zucchini. Break up whole tomatoes using a wooden spoon.

    Bring the pot to simmer over medium heat. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, then add quartered zucchini. Replace lid and cook until chicken is done yet tender, approximately 15 more minutes.

    When you have 5 minutes left, cook couscous according to package instructions or by using Martha’s “Best Couscous” method. Spoon couscous into bowls, then spoon chicken, vegetables and broth on top.