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A few weeks ago, around Halloween, I was making baked goods galore. Most of them were sweets, and some of them were for other people. but I admit that I did quite a bit of snacking myself. After eating Apple Harvest Muffins, Pumpkin Muffins, Pumpkin Scones, and Cinnamon Rolls for weeks, I decided to limit myself on the sweets. But, I still wanted something to bake and something to snack on during my morning prep period at school. I’d recently made a bunch of different jams, and we received some peanut butter from our CSA, so I decided that it was time for me to make some bread. For the first time ever. Uh oh!
There’s a recipe in my Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook that makes a honey white bread. I’m not really partial to white bread, but I thought that it would be a simple enough recipe to start out with, plus it didn’t require a ton of research, because I already had it in my cookbook collection. I had all of the ingredients on hand, so I took a few hours on a Saturday afternoon and got to work. This recipe made two loaves of bread, so I froze one and will use it some time over the next few weeks.
Place warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add yeast and sugar; stir and allow them to dissolve for 5 minutes.
Add the milk, butter, and honey. Mix on medium speed until blended. Add the egg yolks, 3 cups of flour and the salt. Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes. With the mixer still on low speed, add 2 more cups of flour. Raise the speed to medium and slowly add just enough of the remaining flour so the dough doesn’t stick to the bowl. Knead on medium speed for about 8 minutes, adding flour as necessary.
Dump dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand for a minute, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Grease a bowl with butter, put the dough in the bowl, then turn it over so the top is lightly buttered. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in volume.
Grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans with butter. Divide the dough in half, roll each half into a loaf shape and place each in a prepared pan. Cover again with the damp towel and allow to rise again for an hour, until doubled in volume.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. When the dough is ready, brush the tops with egg white and bake for 40-45 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped. Turn them out of the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
Stu is. But I couldn’t help incororating the beets from our last CSA into this awesome dish that I found in my Martha Stewart Living cookbook. I don’t use that thing enough! It has really wonderful recipes, although sometimes a bit complicated. This particular recipe does involve beets, but also calls for chard and goat cheese. I mean, really, it’s impossible to ignore!
Cavatelli with Beets and Swish Chard
from Martha Stewart Living Cookbook
6 slices good quality white bread (I used country white from the bakery department in my grocery store)
2 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus 1 sprig
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
1 8-ounce log chilled fresh gat cheese, cut into eight 12-inch thick rounds
2 pounds small beets. trimmed
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for water and seasoning
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black epper, plus more for seasoning
1 pound red swiss chard (regular is fine)
1 pound Cavatelli or Orecchiette (I used the orecchiette)
8 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
Remove the crusts from the bread, and pulse the bread in the bowl of a food processor into soft, small crumbs. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the breadcrumbs and 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary in a small bowl. our 3 tablespoons olive oil onto a plate or into a shallow bowl. Coat each round of goat cheese with the olive oil, and dredge in the bread-crumb mixture. Arrange the cheese on the prepared baking sheet; cover with the plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the beets in half, toss with 2 tablespoons oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Arrange the beets in one layer on the aluminum foil, cut-side down, and place the rosemary sprig on top of the beets. Cover the beets with another piece of aluminum foil, and seal the edges all around, creating a rectangular packet. Bake on the lowest shelf of the oven until the beets are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 30 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Peel beets. Cut larger ones in half; set aside.
Strip the chard leaves from the stems. Discard the stems or reserve for later use. Rinse and drain the leaves in a colander. Do not dry them. Place the chard in a large pot over medium heat, and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt. Cover the pot, and cook over medium heat, opening the lid only to stir, until just wilted. Remove from heat, returning to the colander, and rinse with cold running water to stop the cooking. Using your hands, gently squeeze any excess water from the chard, and coarsely chop; you should have about 2 cups. Set the chard aside, but leave the pot on the stove.
Cover a large pot of salted water, and bring to a boil. Drop the pasta into the boiling water; stir to keep the pasta from sticking together. cook until al dente; drain, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid.
Heat about 3 tablespoons olive oil in the chard pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, and cook slowly until the garlic is just toasted, stirring often. Add the chard, the remaining 1 teaspoon rosemary, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and cook until the chard is hot, about 3 minutes. Add the pasta, toss, and cook just until hot. Season with salt and pepper, and more olive oil. Transfer the pasta to a serving platter. Arrange the beets over the pasta.
Bake the cheese in the oven until soft to the touch, heated through, and golden brown, about 7 minutes. Remove from the oven, arrange hot cheese around the platter of pasta and serve.
This recipe looks long and quite complicated, and it is. But truthfully, there are plenty of steps that are very possible to leave out. You can figure it out as you go along with the recipe, but steps such as recooking the chard multiple times are probably not totally necessary.
I wish that I had a few more beets and a little more chard. The pasta was pretty over powering, and when it came time for leftovers, there weren’t really any beets left- not to mention the goat cheese. The combination of the goat cheese, beets, and chard was phenomenal. Although we’ve been eating a LOT of beets over the past few months, it was hard to not thoroughly enjoy what a wonderful addition they were to this meal. I can’t imagine substituting them with anything else. Although I’ve really enjoy cooking with them throughout the summer, I am kind of hoping that this is the finale dish to a beet-filled season.
Strawberries are one of my all-time favorite fruits and when they’re in season there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be eating them nonstop. When we got them in our CSA for the second share in a row, I was pumped.
Although my favorite thing to do with fresh strawberries is to cut them up into teeny pieces and eat them with my cereal each morning, I was eager to try out something I had read on MarkBittman.com a few weeks back. There was a small post from one of Bittman’s contributors, Ed Schneider about making strawberry preserves but without the canning. You can see the article here.
I cut up some strawberries, although I didn’t have too many after a few breakfasts. After halving them, tossing them in sugar, and squeezing them with a bit of lemon juice, I brought them to a simmer for a little over an hour, until the juice was slightly reduced.
After tasting the berry-sauce, I decided it was too good to just let it sit until I decided how to use it. I looked up a recipe for biscuits in How To Cook Everything, and got to baking.
A few weeks ago, Stu and I were attempting to entertain some friends on the roof deck with grilled pizza and veggies. Not only was it too humid, so our pizza didn’t work out, but our grill nearly collapsed!
Last year I snagged a $20 charcoal grill from a thrift store in Philly. It served it’s purpose for one season, but it spent the winter buried under a few feet of snow, and has turned to rust. We put off buying a new grill for a while, risking the rust and the decaying bottom. I figured that when one of the legs caved in while we were grilling that it was probably time to buy a new grill, and make this one an investment.
We headed to Target and snagged a Weber charcoal grill for about $80. This was after a suggestion from a co-worker. It’s quite an improvement from our low-to the ground grill, Old Rusty. We also spent a few bucks on some accessories, like this awesome veggie-grilling-tray from KitchenAid for $20.
We got right to grilling on Saturday night. I looked up a few different recipes and planned a meal. Click on the link below to see what I whipped up.
Lately I have been trying to find more vegetable-based meals that don’t involve some sort of starch. I love love love pasta and it is a great way to make a versatile vegetarian meal, but it can also be lethal, especially if I eat it until all of the left-overs are gone.
I found a great recipe for vegetable stir-fry from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, and gave it a try. It’s unbelievable easy, aside from all of the chopping. And you can easily subsitute whatever vegetables (or meat) you have on hand, it suit your fancy.
From Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything
2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup chopped scallion or onion
1 large carrot, cut into pieces, sliced, or julienned
2 celery stalks, cut into pieces, sliced, or julienned
1 pound sugar snap peas, trimmed (frozen and thawed are fine)
1 /4 cup stock, or water, or a little more
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
Heat a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat for 3 or 4 minutes. Add the oil and, almost immediately, the garlic, ginger, and scallion. Cook, stirring, for about 15 seconds, then add the carrot, celery, snow pease, and stock and turn the heat to high.
Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are tender, about 7 minutes. If the mixture is completely dry, add a couple tablespoons more stock, then the soy sauce, and sesame oil; stir and turn off the heat. Serve or store, covered in the refrigerator for up to a day.
To this mixture, I also added some zucchini that I had on hand from the farmer’s market, as well as a red onion for some extra color. Bittman also suggests additions of bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, green beans, spinach, watercress, leeks, mushrooms, corn, bok choy, asparagus, mung beans, or tomatoes. Meat, such as shhrimp, chicken, or beef, can also be added. Get crazy with your combinations- as this simple sauce can take any vegetable and transform it into a colorful and flavorful meal.
On Monday night I cooked a big deal meal. Not a milestone in an event kind of way. I haven’t hit 100 posts yet, and it’s not quite my year anniversary, but I made a meal that took me back to my early days of cooking.
Chicken Piccata was the first meal I ever made. It was terrible. The chicken was cooked more than chicken should ever be cooked and it simmered in a lemon broth for so long that it was just plain bitter instead of pleasantly lemony. The parsley was dried parsley and desperately clung on to the overly dampened chicken. And yet, my family- they are such good sports- they still ate it.
Chicken Piccata is a simple meal. It sounded simple enough to make, and it should have been, but I was so clueless that I botched it at every direction. So when I found a recipe for it in The Barefoot Contessa at Home, I was scared, but I dared to give it another attempt. It was a different preparation back from the last time I prepared it, so I was hopeful. I also like to think I’ve come a long way since I started cooking.
from the Barefoot Contessa
4 split boneless, skinless chicken breasts
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all purpose flour
2 extra large eggs
1 and 1/2 cups seasoned dried bread crumbs
good olive oil (Ina is always picky about her products!)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons), lemon halves reserved
1/2 cup dry white wine
sliced lemon, for serving
chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for serving
Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Place each chicken breast between 2 sheets of parchment paper or plastic wrap and pound it out to a 1/4-inch thickness. Sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper.
Mix the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper on a shallow plate. In a second plate, beat the eggs and 1 tablespoon water together. Place the bread crumbs on a third plate. Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, shake off the excess, and then dip in the egg and bread-crumb mixtures.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over medium to medium-low heat. Add 2 chicken breasts and cook for 2 minutes on each side until browned. Place them on the sheet pan while you cook the rest of the chicken. Heat more olive oil in the saute pan and cook the second 2 chicken breasts. Place them on the same sheet pan and allow them to bake for 5 t0 10 minutes while you make the sauce.
For the sauce, wipe out the sauté pan with a dry paper towel. On the medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and then add the lemon juice, white wine, the reserved lemon halves, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl to combine. Discard the lemon halves. Serve one chicken breast on each plate, spoon on the sauce, and serve with sliced lemon and a sprinkling of parsley.
The dish came out perfectly. Simple to make and a very simple taste. Lots of fresh lemon and parsley, and perfectly seasoned. I did not have dry white wine, so I substituted some chicken broth, which I often do since I don’t keep my wine rack stacked full.
I accompanied the dish with one of my favorite side dish recipes that I heard about from the Rachael Ray show a year or two ago. Take a bunch of asparagus and a few handfuls of green beans. Wash and trip the vegetables. Spread on a baking sheet, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice of one lemon, then slice the lemons into wedges and lay on top of the vegetables. Place in an oven pre-heated to 350F. Bake for approximately 10-15 minutes until tender, but still holding a bright color. Simple and delicious!
This meal was a huge hit with lots of fresh flavors. It’s a great simple week night meal, or can be used as a fancier weekend dinner. Any variety of side dishes will compliment this chicken well, or serve over some pasta with an olive oil and garlic sauce.
Last week was my Spring Break, and the weather could not have timed itself more perfectly. With temperatures in the 70s and 80s from Wednesday all the way through Easter weekend, I had summery treats on my mind. I was assigned a dessert for our families Easter dinner, and I wanted to throw something together for Stu’s family for their dinner as well.
I turned to lemons, because I had a bunch of them on hand. (Insert the age old “When Life Hands You Lemons…” here.) I also turned to the Barefoot Contessa, because I can’t get enough of cookbook. I chose first a simple recipe from The Barefoot Contessa At Home.
Lemon Yogurt Cake
from Ina Garten
1 and 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 and 1/3 cups of sugar, divided
3 extra-large eggs
2 teaspoons of lemon zest (about 2 lemons)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
For the glaze:
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8 and 1/2 x 4 and 1/2 x 2 and 1/2 inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.
Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt into one bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, and the wet ingredients. With a rubber spatula fold the vegetable oil into the batter, making sure it’s all incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1/3 cup sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
When the cake is done, allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. carefully place on a baking rack over a sheet pan. While the cake is still warm, pour the lemon-sugar mixture of the cake and allow it to soak in. Cool.
For the glaze, combine the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice and pour over the cake.
I did not eat the cake myself, but did receive some rave reviews from Stu’s whole family. It also got a few comparisons to the lemon cake you can sometimes get at Starbucks, though I’ve never had that either, so I really have no idea. I will say that this was really easy to make, aside from grating the lemon zest, and that it’s quite different, with the addition of the yogurt and oil instead of butter. Much lighter, I’m sure. I’m planning on buying some lemons in bulk this weekend, and probably making a loaf for myself.
For Easter dinner, I felt that Lemon Bars were appropriate. They are lighter and sweeter, but still give you that fresh warm-weather feeling. I looked up a few different recipes, but for one reason or another, ended up with another Ina Garten recipe from the Food Network.
You can find the link for the lemon bars here.
I think I may have made them a bit too big, but they were sooo delicious. Oddly enough, these were also compared to Starbucks quality. Not sure how those taste either, but I’ll take the compliment. They were just the right amount of sweet, tart, and thick and creamy. These will have to make a comeback this summer, as they didn’t really travel well on the trip back from Connecticut to Philly. Still eating up the sticky crumbs though. Yum!
I bring my lunch to work every day. I find that this cuts down on the money that I spend each week, as well as the processed food that I consume each day. The restaurants and food establishments surrounding my work consist of mostly McDonald’s, Dunkin Donuts, PopEye’s and various pizza places. Instead of chowing down on fast food, I opt to bring in left overs from the meals I’ve cooked during the week. And when I’m fixing for something sweet to go along with my morning coffee, I’ll find something to bake that will usually last me the whole week. If I can’t finish the baked goods off myself, I’ll pawn them off on my co-workers.
Last week I was looking for something sweet, but easy to make. I also was trying to scrimp on my grocery bill, so I wanted to utilize what I had in the house. I fished through some of my cookbooks and stumbled upon a very simple cookie recipe from The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The Original Classics. I had everything on hand already, so I decided to give it a whirl.
Lemon-Ginger Drop Cookies
from Martha Stewart
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 large egg
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup finely chopped crystalized ginger
Preheat the oven to 350F with two racks centered. Line two baking sheets with parchment; st aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted withe the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down the dies of the bowl twice. Add the egg; mix on high speed to combine. Add the zest; mix to combine.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking soda, salt, and crystallized ginger; add to the butter mixture; mix on medium-low speed to combine, about 20 seconds.
Using two spoons, drop about 2 teaspoons of the batter on the prepared baking sheet; repeat, spacing them 3 inches apart. Bake for 7 minutes. Sprinkle the cookies with sugar, rotate the sheets between the oven racks, and bake until just golden brown, about 7 minutes more. Slide the parchment with the cookies on it onto a wire rack, let cool 15 minutes.
This past Sunday I spent the afternoon with Stu’s family in Bensalem. I usually try to get over there a few times a month so that I can visit with the fam, get some laundry done, and most importantly, stuff my face. Stu’s mother is a wonderful cook and from the moment we walk in the door, we are treated like royalty, with a variety of wonderful spreads waiting for us to gobble up.
This weekend we were greated by omlettes, followed by a wonderful lasagna with a recipe from The Barefoot Contessa. It was one of the best meals I’ve had in a while. I am a huge lasagna fan but have never tried it. I looked up the recipe on Food Network and I’m going to dare to give it a try. Maybe this weekend for Easter.
from The Barefoot Contessa
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion (1 onion)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound lasagna noodles
15 ounces ricotta cheese
3 to 4 ounces creamy goat cheese, crumbled
1 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
1 pound fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Heat the olive oil in a large (10 to 12-inch) skillet. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the sausage and cook over medium-low heat, breaking it up with a fork, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of the parsley, the basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat, for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened.
Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with the hottest tap water. Add the noodles and allow them to sit in the water for 20 minutes. Drain.
In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, goat cheese, 1 cup of Parmesan, the egg, the remaining 2 tablespoons of parsley, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.
Ladle 1/3 of the sauce into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch rectangular baking dish, spreading the sauce over the bottom of the dish. Then add the layers as follows: half the pasta, half the mozzarella, half the ricotta, and one 1/3 of the sauce. Add the rest of the pasta, mozzarella, ricotta, and finally, sauce. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling.
This dish was so delicious mostly because it was made with all fresh ingredients. You could taste every flavor, especially the fresh goat cheese, which gave the whole meal an extra tang.
For dessert, Stu’s mom followed up with a delicious Peach Tart from Paula Deen. I can’t wait for summer to make fresh fruit desserts all the time!
Although the weather has warmed up, it’s not too warm to enjoy a good soup. I was searching through the last few recipes of the “Winter” seasonal section of the Eating Well In Season cook book, and I found a recipe for broccoli and cheddar soup. This is not a cream of broccoli and cheddar soup, and uses Cannellini beans to give it a creamy texture. I decided to used dry beans and re-consitute them (a task that I still haven’t mastered at this point), but other than that, this was an extremely quick and simple dinner.
Broccoli, Cannellini Bean & Cheddar Soup
from Eating Well In Season
1 14oz. can of reduced-sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 lb. broccoli crowns, trimmed and chopped (about 6 cups)
1 14oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
Bring broth and water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Add broccoli, cover and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in beans, salt and peper and cook until the beans are heated through, about one minute.
Transfer half the mixture to a blender with half the cheese and puree. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.) Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with the remaining broccoli mixture and cheese. Serve warm.
The soup was great, and very creamy. The recipe called for at least 1 pound of broccoli but I didn’t have nearly enough, so I added some baby spinach, which we had on hand. I added is with the cooked beans and cooked until it was very wilted. I also added a little extra cheese to ensure that the flavor was strong enough. The only thing I would recommend would be to reheat the soup after pureeing it in the food processor. It tends to loose a bit of the heat in the transfer. This soup is delicious year round, and goes great with some hearty artisan bread.