Sunday, August 26, 2012

No Bake Lasagna

One thing I love and look forward to every summer is doing some kind of race. Training for a triathlon, 1/2 marathon or any fun race, is a great way to keep in shape and it gives me a goal to work towards.  This summer I was able to convince three of my good friends to attempt their first triathlon with me (maybe after a little wine). The Outdoor Divas Triathlon is an all women's sprint Tri, which is great for first timers and for experienced people alike.

When trying to decide what to make for dinner the night prior, I was looking for something light but filling that would give us energy for our race. This lasagna was the perfect fit!  The recipe calls for the best of summer's bounty, like summer squash and tomatoes, and the best part is you never have to turn on the oven. I did add an little more cheese than the recipe called for because lets be honest, I LOVE cheese :) The Lasagna is very easy to prepare prior to guests arriving or you can quickly assemble it right before serving. I served this along with some crusty bread and it was the perfect pre-race meal.  Everyone did amazing and we had a great time. Congrats ladies!!! Who is up for round 2??

1/2-1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella - Parmesan cheese blend
3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 lasagna noodles, broken in half crosswise
1 garlic clove, minced
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons torn fresh basil leaves

1. In a small bowl combine ricotta, cheese mixture and 2 teaspoons oil; season with salt and pepper. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook noodles according to instructions.

2. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high. Add garlic and tomatoes, stirring until beginning to soften ( 3 min). Season with salt and pepper. Transfer tomatoes to a bowl. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil and the zucchini to skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cooking until zucchini are tender (5 min). Transfer to a bowl and mix in basil.

3. Divide 1/3 of the tomatoes among four plates; top each with a noodle half and small spoonfuls of ricotta, zucchini and more tomatoes. Repeat with remaining noodles and tomatoes. Garnish with additional basil and serve.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cake Pops

Bridget is Engaged!!! We love Chris and we cannot wait for him to be a part of our family. Congrats B!!!  I am assuming that we may have some wedding related posts to come, but today, we are celebrating Bridget's engagement with a post about cake pops.

I have made 4 batches of these easy to make and even easier to eat treats. Eating cake on a stick is fun for both kids and adults alike and for me it helps with portion control :).

1 box red velvet cake mix
1 can cream cheese frosting (16 oz.)
1 package Wilton Candy Melts
1 package lollipop sticks

1. Bake cake according to the directions on the box for a 13x9 cake (GASP - Yes, use boxed cake).After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.

2. Mix thoroughly with 1/2 can cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)

3. Use a large cookie scoop and scoop out a ball of cake/frosting mix. Roll mixture in your hands, until smooth and lay on wax paper on top of a cookie sheet.

4. Heat a small portion of the Candy Melts according to the instructions on the bag. Dip a lollipop stick into a bowl of heated candy melts and insert the candy coated end of the stick into a rolled ball. Complete for all balls.  

5. Chill for 20-25 minutes in the freezer.

6. Melt the remaining candy melts in the microwave per directions on package.  Dip balls in the candy coating (I used the back of a spoon to smooth out the coating) and add sprinkles if desired.  Stick lollipop into floral foam to dry.     

If you want to see some really cool/creative cake pops, visit bakerella's website - she is a professional :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Peach-blueberry Cobbler

I LOVE pies. Apple pies, blueberry pies, berry crumbles, the list goes on! However, I had never tried a cobbler and became quiet curious after searching for a new recipe.

A Cobbler refers to a variety of dishes, usually with a fruit or savory filling in a large baking dish covered with biscuits or a pie crust.  Cobblers originated in early British American Colonies when they did not have suitable ingredients for the common puddings. Due to the lack of ingredients or fillings, they would cover the dish with a layer of uncooked biscuits or dumplings. Once baked the surface of the dish has a cobbled appearance, hence the name.

This recipe comes from the Martha Stewart website and as always, I was not disappointed. Something that I have learned from using online recipes is that you should always read the comments below the recipes. People who post, usually comment on the recipe, substitutions they made and what works and what doesn't. I LOVE using other peoples pointers and tips as well as knowing if I can try a substitute or if they have already tried a lower calorie option.

2 3/4 lbs peaches, sliced 3/4-inch-thick wedges (8 cups and approx 4-5 peaches)
1 cup blueberries
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
1 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon fresh, finely grated ginger
pinch of salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, (1 stick), cut into small pieces
1 vanilla bean cut length wise (sub 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract)
1 cup 2 tablespoons heavy cream, plus more for brushing
sanding sugar

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine peaches, blueberries, 1/3 cup sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, ginger and salt in a large bowl. Mix well and transfer to a 12 by 8 inch 1/2 inch (2 qt) dish.

2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a bowl. Using a pastry blender, cut butter into mixture to form clubs no larger than small peas. (You may also use two knifes to do this).

3. Add cream and vanilla to flour mixture and stir with a fork until it forms a soft, sticky dough forms. Divide dough into 8-10 small biscuits and place on top of fruit mixture. Brush with cream and sprinkle sanding sugar on top.

4. Bake on top rack until the top is golden brown and the fruit juices are bubbling - approx 55-70 minutes. Make sure and put a baking sheet with parchment paper on a lower rack to catch any juices.  Let cool one hour prior to serving.

The biscuits on top are savory and the peach-blueberry combination is delicious.  Serve with ice cream, and you have the perfect late summer dessert. There is one bad thing about the cobbler -  I haven't been able to stop eating it! ENJOY

Monday, August 13, 2012

Chocolate Ganache Cake

ga·nache noun \(ˌ)gä-ˈnäsh, gə-\

Definition: a sweet creamy chocolate mixture used especially as a filling or frosting
Origin:  French, literally, jowl, from Italian ganascia, modification of Greek gnathos jaw

This cake is a chocolate lovers dream. The alternating layers of moist chocolate sponge cake and the rich and creamy ganache will make anyone swoon. It is perfect for any occasion, dress it up with berries, or add sprinkles for a birthday.  Whatever the occasion, I would highly recommend pairing it with a very tall, icy glass of milk. 

1 lb semisweet chocolate very finely chopped
1 lb bittersweet chocolate very finely chopped
4 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup good-quality honey
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 tbs pure vanilla extract

Note: Use good chocolate - the better quality chocolate you use, the better it will taste. 

Chocolate Sponge Cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for dusting
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
11 tbs unsalted butter, melted
1 1/3 cups buttermilk
1 1/3 cups brewed American coffee

1. To make ganache; place all the chocolate in a heatproof bowl; set aside.   In a medium saucepan, combine the cream, honey and salt.  Bring mixture to a boil, pour over the chocolate and let stand for 5 minutes to melt the chocolate.  Whisk until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract and cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for at least 6 hours or overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 9 by 2-inch round cake pans.  Line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper and dust with cocoa powder.

3. To make the cake; In a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, sift in the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Mix on low speed to combine. 

4. Add the eggs, vanilla, melted butter, buttermilk and coffee.  Mix on low speed until fully combined.  Pour the batter into prepared cake pans.  Bake on a baking sheet until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean, 35-40 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes.  Then unmold the cakes onto the rack and let cool completely. 

5. Using a serrated knife, slice each cake horizontally into two layers for a total of four layers.  Place the bottom layer on a nine inch cake round, a turntable or a platter and using an offset spatula, spread thickly about 1 1/2 cups of the ganache.  Repeat with the second or third layers, spreading another 1 1/2 cups ganache over each layer.   Add the final cake layer and spread it with a very thin layer of ganache (the crumb layer).  Place the cake in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, or until the crumb layer is set. 

6. Remove the cake from the refrigerator and place it on a wire rack set over a sheet pan.  IN the top of a double boiler, set over simmering water, heat the reserved ganache just until liquid.  Pour the ganache over the top of the cake, allowing it to run down the sides.  Using a large offset spatula, help spread the ganache from the center to the edges so the cake is completely covered.  Smooth the top and sides. Refrigerate to set, about 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.


Monday, August 6, 2012

The Perfect Buttercream Frosting

I am going to start off this post by telling you that I strongly believe that a good buttercream makes everything better :)

I have probably tried over 10 recipes in a quest to find the "perfect" buttercream frosting, ruining perfectly good cakes, cupcakes and cookies along the way.  Some recipes are too sweet, some are too airy, some are too a good buttercream recipe too much to ask for? 

After voicing my frustrations to my sister, Bridget, she asked me if I had tried her "go to recipe". Um, nope....didn't know you had one, but email it to me ASAP.  Instead, she sent me a link to a recipe on her friend's blog, "cookie confessions".  I had tried a few recipes from the blog before, and everything I have made from it has been FABULOUS, so I had high hopes for the buttercream.    Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. The frosting was fabulous in both taste and texture.  I used it to decorate Franny's birthday cupcakes and everyone loved them.  
A big thanks to B and to Katie and family for the perfect recipe and a lifetime full of buttercream happiness  :)

Grilled Corn Salad

The summer has completely gotten away from me! We have had birthdays, weddings, visits from family and tons of other summer fun. Needless to say, I have not been very good at updating the blog during the month of July, but now that it is August, I no longer have any excuses :) 
I made this delicious salad as part of  Franny's 2nd Birthday celebration.  The ingredients, are in my opinion, the best of summer's bounty (tomatoes and corn) and the combination of the two, not only give you a pretty plate, but a delicious mouthful.

Grilled Corn Salad
(Recipe by Fine Cooking/Christina)
8 large ears of corn, husked
1 cup scallions, both green and white, sliced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes - cut in half
2/3 extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
5 large cloves of garlic minced
salt and pepper to taste

Combine the olive oil and the minced garlic in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until the garlic begins to brown slightly, about 10 minutes.  Add a pinch of slat and stir to dissolve. Remove from heat and let sit until the oil cools a bit, about 3 minutes.  Add the paprika and let infuse the oil for about 12  minutes. Strain the oil through a fine sieve and discard the garlic.  Put vinegar in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper and whisk to combine.  Slowly drizzle in the garlic-paprika oil, whisking constantly until well Incorporated.  Taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.

Brush the corn all over with olive oil.  Grill the corn covered at medium-high turning occasionally until all sides are charred and deeply blistered in places,  6-10 minutes.  Cut the kernels off the cobs while still warm, and put the kernels in a large bowl.   Add tomatoes and scallions. Toss with half of the vinaigrette and add more to taste. This may be served warm or at room temperature.

* Add grilled chorizio and shrimp skewers on top

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Traditional Anise Biscotti

I am a habitual coffee drinker. Every morning I have at least one cup, and truthfully, I have about three. Coffee not only helps me wake up in the morning, but research has found that coffee drinkers have a lower incidence of strokes and certain cancers and it also decreases your risk for type 2 diabetes and dementia. (So, it's good for me right???)

The only think that I can think of that can make my morning cup of coffee better, is to pair it with biscotti. The dry, sweet, crunchiness pairs perfectly with coffee and who doesn't love a cookie for breakfast. This is the first biscotti recipe that I tried and it turned out so good that I stuck with it and have made it multiple times.  The recipe called for anise seeds, which I did not have, so I used craisins instead and I was very happy with the flavor. 

2 1/2 cups all-purpose 
2 tablespoons coarse yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temp)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 large eggs, at room temp, lightly beaten 
2 teaspoons pure anise extract
1 cup blanched whole almonds (without skin)
1/4 cup craisins 
1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash
Sanding sugar

1. Preheat oven to 350 and place oven rack in the middle position. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal and baking powder. Set aside. 

2. Using a standing mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter, sugar and salt on medium - high speed until light and fluffy (2-3min). Add the eggs and beat until blended. Beat in the anise extract. 

3. Reduce speed to low. Add the dry ingredients and beat until flour is absorbed. Fold in the craisins and almonds. 

4. Divide the dough in half. On a lightly floured work surface, gently roll each half to a log about 15-17 inches long and 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Using two spatulas, carefully transfer the logs to the baking sheet. Press down on the tops of the logs with your palm to flatten. Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sanding sugar.

5. Bake, rotating baking sheet 2/3rds of the way through until the logs are light golden brown and spring back when you press on them at the thickest point - approximately 20 minutes. 

6. Remove logs from oven and let cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack. (keep oven on) Carefully transfer to a cutting board. Using a serrated knife and a sawing motion, cut the logs on the diagonal into slices about 3/4 inches thick. Return the slices to the baking sheet laying each on on its side and back until the biscotti are completely dried and browned on the edges - about 12 minutes.

7. Remove from oven and place baking sheet on wire rack for 10 minutes. And you are on your way to a great morning!