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Eggplant & Mushroom bruschetta

Jun. 30th, 2009 | 04:27 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

The beef bullion and spices lend this a great flavor... if you're not a fan of eggplant or mushrooms, this dish will change your mind!

Eggplant & Mushroom

1 large eggplant - your choice to peel or not; cubed
1-1/2 cups mushrooms, diced (I prefer baby portabella)
1/2 cup water
1 tsp beef boullion
1-2 Tbsp gyoza sauce (I like Trader Joe's)
2 Tbsp Cindy's Kitchen sundried tomato dressing (http://www.cindyskitchen.biz/)*
1 tsp "Sunny Spain" salt-free blend from The Spice House (http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/sunny-spain-seasoning-salt-free-spice-blend)**


* Think you can buy this brand at Whole Foods. You can probably substitute brands on this, or a tablespoon of sundried tomato paste + 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
** If you don't have this, you can probably substitute a squeeze of fresh lemon; some pepper, pinch of garlic powder, and a tablespoon of minced onion


Put some olive oil, 1/2 cup water, beef bullion, and gyoza sauce in pan; once heated, add the cubed eggplant and diced mushrooms. Cook til eggplant tender (but not mushy). Stir in the sundried tomato dressing; allow to simmer for another minute or two. Dust with the Sunny Spain seasoning; blend and serve.

This can be served in a variety of ways:
- In a bowl with bread slices for scooping or dipping;
- Over pasta or rice;
- As a side dish;
- etc.

I like to toss a little bit of diced red pepper and scallions over the top to give it a little color and "eye flair".

Approximate time to cook: 10-15 minutes

Serves: depends on size of eggplants!

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As a reminder...

Nov. 25th, 2008 | 05:14 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

Hope everybody has found some recipes worth trying out here! I know I certainly have. :)

As a reminder, if you are posting about the recipe of a particular food item, you should post the full recipe here, not just post links to outside websites, even if you contributed the recipe over there, too.

It is OK to post a recipe here and then say something like, "I originally created this recipe and posted it [website] before", or, "I created this recipe inspired by [this recipe] on [other site]".

Links to outside sites are OK for items such as: pointing out cool food-related blogs, websites where you found a helpful cooking tool, talking about great local food resources (ie. I think I've mentioned The Spice House several times this way), etc.



Thanks everybody! Have a great Thanksgiving holiday and hope to see more holiday food recipes soon!

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Pumpkin Cheesecake Recipe

Oct. 15th, 2008 | 12:16 pm
posted by: rb101182 in tastycreations


Among all the creative pumpkin fall recipes, my personal favorite would have to be pumpkin cheesecake.

I’ve squeezed some low-fat cream cheese, cottage cheese and reduced fat margarine into the recipe also to make it a little lighter on the calories.

Here's my recipe: http://buzz.prevention.com/community/rachel/pumpkin-cheesecake-recipe

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Beautiful cakes

Oct. 1st, 2008 | 04:58 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

Another awesome cake blog - this one about how to make GOOD cakes!

She also has a really good FAQ about fondant cake-making on the blog - worth reading if you have an interest in creating one of those masterpieces!
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Fruit Smoothie Recipe for a Caffeine-Free Energy Boost

Sep. 20th, 2008 | 12:33 pm
posted by: rb101182 in tastycreations


this is my fave smoothie recipe for caffeine-free energy:

http://buzz.prevention.com/community/rachel/fruit-smoothie-recipe-a-great-caffeine-free-energy-boost

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Made of awesome. And also, fondant.

Sep. 12th, 2008 | 10:16 am
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

Title of the blog says it all: Cake Wrecks blog.

Mmmmmm-mm~!


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We used to eat what?

Sep. 11th, 2008 | 07:42 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

AOL has a very amusing read on out of print cookbooks, featuring a buffet worth of formerly popular foods such as... *gulp* hot dog jello?


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Cauliflower & broccoli

Aug. 10th, 2008 | 10:25 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

I get a weekly delivery of organic vegetables, and so I've been trying to find new ways to prepare them so I don't get bored.

A couple things I tried today with good results:

- Beets : Did some minimal peeling, scrubbed them, then chopped into bite-sized chunks. Was a bit surprised to see they were white-and-red streaked inside; but when I boiled them, they turned pink. I don't know if it was because they were so fresh instead of being canned, but the flavor was pleasant and light, instead of overpowering, as can sometimes happen with canned beets. Next time I get beets, I think I may do a light boil, then chill and keep for salads.

- Cauliflower and broccoli : Originally, I thought I'd steam the heads of cauliflower and broccoli. I was trying to avoid using butter or sauces. Instead, I opted to put a teaspoon of fresh ginger powder and a few shakes of mustard powder in the boiling water just before I dumped in the broccoli and cauliflower. It created a nice, just-there flavor without being overpowering. After draining the pot, I sprinkled a pinch or two more over the dish, and a squeeze of lemon.

- Vegetable soup : Now, I have my mom's vegetable soup recipe, and it's awesome. But sometimes you just have to wing it based on what you have in the house. Today for me that meant: collard greens, beefsteak tomatoes, onions, broccoli stems, green peppers, and cabbage. (I would've liked some zucchini, too, but maybe next week.) I started out with half a stick of organic butter and melted it in the soup pot. I added two medium white onions, diced, and the collard greens (6-7 leaves), also diced, and let those cook at a low simmer with some salt and pepper while I cleaned/diced the rest of the vegetables.

Once the onions and collard greens had softened, I added the cabbage, and one that softened a bit, threw in the shredded green pepper and diced tomato and broccoli stem. I added 2 Tbsp of dried celery greens, a few shakes of cayenne, a tsp. of sweet paprika powder, and several shakes of the Spice House's Sunny Paris seasoning blend.

I added two cups of fire-roasted tomato soup (Whole Foods and other grocers have this, usually in the boxed soups), a 20-24 oz. can of stewed unsalted Roma tomatoes (I like Trader Joe's), and two measures of beef bullion. Added enough water to give the soup a soupy consistency and let sit over low heat for an hour. While it tasted good tonight fresh from the stove, can't wait to see how it tastes over the next day or two while it has time to sit and the herbs and flavors really build up.

Collard greens are not something I usually cook with, but I thought these had a really nice flavor - a little milder than spinach, and the thickness of the leaves made it stand up really nicely for soup.

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Simple shrimp ceviche

Mar. 17th, 2008 | 06:58 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

Easy Shrimp Ceviche

1 lb. peeled shrimp, uncooked
1/4 cup diced onions
1 very ripe lime (should have slightly yellow tinge to skin; the smaller, thinner-skinned limes work better than the larger, thicker-skinned ones, plus they taste a little sweeter)
1 Tbsp of cilantro (fresh, diced preferred)
1/4 cup diced celery
1 cup cherry/grape tomatoes (can sub approx 2/3 cup diced tomatoes, but they are less attractive than using smaller tomatoes)
pinch of pepper
* optional : 1/3 of a red pepper, diced
* optional : 1/4-1/2 cup of diced fresh mozzarella (or, if your local store carries it, the marble-sized petite mozzarella balls).

Steam shrimp lightly, until it just starts to turn pink. Remove from heat; run under cold water and then shake as much water as possible from the shrimp. Loosely chop; an average "large" shrimp should be 3-4 pieces.

Put shrimp in a bowl that will large enough to accommodate all the ingredients and still be able to mix them. Add onions, celery, cilantro, and if you're using them, red peppers and/or mozzarella.

Loosely chop tomatoes. (Get 4-8 pieces out of cherry tomatoes; or 3-4 pieces out of grape tomatoes). Toss tomatoes over shrimp mix; add pepper. Use a plastic/silicone spoon and blend mix.

Cut lime in half. Cut a few slices into the lime to maximize juicability, and then squeeze both halves of the lime thoroughly over the mix. Once you have gotten all the lime juice in, blend the mix again, making sure all the shrimp is coated, and then chill mix for about 5 minutes.

This mix can be served as-is as a ceviche; it can also be tossed over a salad. Or, drain most of the lime juice from the mix, and add 1/4-1/2 cup of parmesan peppercorn or ranch dressing, and blend to create shrimp salad.

* * *

If you have leftovers and need to store this overnight, it is a good idea to drain the lime juice and keep it to the side; otherwise, the lime juice will continue to "cook" the shrimp overnight, making the shrimp a little chewy if you keep it in the juice more than 24 hours.

Also, this recipe is incredibly forgiving. If you want to toss is a bit of other seafood, ie. baby scallops, or some different vegetables... if it tastes good for you, it's ok in this recipe!

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Orange-walnut sugar cookies

Dec. 17th, 2007 | 11:38 am
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

Every year I experiment with sugar cookie dough; the pre-made kind in the store is so easy to play around with! Here's this year's top experiment:


Orange-Walnut sugar cookies

2 rolls of ready-made sugar cookie dough, frozen
1-1/4 cup of fresh walnuts, diced
1-1/2 Tablespoon brown sugar (dark preferred, more flavor, but light ok)
1-1/2 Tablespoons of Cointreau
pinch of nutmeg
pinch of ginger powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

optional : a handful of dried berries (raspberry, peach or apricot works well for this recipe)
optional : white or dark chocolate chips

Cut the rolls of the sugar cookie dough into 4 quarterly lengths, then chop the lengths into 1/2" pieces. Put the pieces into a bowl.

Using a fork, blend together the sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and Cointreau in a small cup. Pour over the diced walnuts and toss until coated.

Put the walnuts over the cookie dough you prepared in the first step. (You should still have some of the Cointreau/sugar/spices liquid in your preparation bowl.) Add dried berries or chocolate chips if you choose to use them.

Toss the cookie dough and nut mixture together (hands work easiest), until coated. The dough should be slightly softened by this step, so it will blend into a dough a bit, and that's OK!

Scoop out onto the cookie sheet (lump size approx 2 Tbsp). Once you have spaced out all your cookies, use a spoon to splash a little of the Cointreau mix over the cookies, then bake at 325° for approximately 10-12 minutes, or until slightly golden-brown.

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Easy Tiramisu & Suzanne's Chocolate Fudge Pie

Dec. 8th, 2007 | 10:15 am
posted by: neuroticred in tastycreations

Some tasty desserts just in time for the holidays. :)

Easy Tiramisu (from start to finish it takes about 20mins)
16oz mascarpone
4 egg yolks
1C powdered sugar
1 shot of Amaretto liqueur
2 egg whites
1C STRONG coffee/espresso
2 boxes of crispy ladyfingers

1) Put one layer of cookies into a 9x13 dish and soak with coffee.*
2) Whip egg yolks with powdered sugar
3) Add Mascarpone and stir into a cream.
4) Add liqueur, mix well*
5) Whip egg whites separately and fold gently into mascarpone cream
6) Put a layer of the cream, then another layer of cookies, soak with coffee and so on until
ingredients are gone. The top layer should be the cream.
7) Dust the whole thing with cocoa powder, if possible wait until just before serving.
Cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until serving. I haven't tried freezing it, and it always gets eaten within 2 days so I don't know how long it will last.

1* this generally takes 1tsp per cookie to really soak them
4* I love experimenting with this. 1tsp peppermint oil is a wonderful Christmas variation, and for a friend who likes pineapple rum I used that with coconut macaroons in place of the ladyfingers for a piña-colada-misu that was just amazing!
Tips:
Mascarpone usually comes in two varieties, plain & coffee flavored specifically for tiramisu.
I generally use the plain when adding flavors like peppermint or fruit.
The hardest part of this recipe is whipping JUST two egg whites. Maybe it's easier with a stand mixer, but I only have an immersion blender and used to always end up with a little bit of runny white that didn't whip in the bottom of my bowl. Because it calls for 4 yolks, I whip all 4 whites then just use half.

******************************************
Suzanne's Chocolate Fudge Pie
I watched my neighbor make this at least once a month growing up, and it's quite possibly the first thing I ever made.

1 stick unsalted butter
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1C sugar
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla

Your choice of pie crust, prepare according to directions. I grew up with the frozen kind, so that's what I use.
Pre-heat oven to 350
1) Melt the butter and chocolate over medium heat.
2) Beat the eggs, then temper them with a good spoonful of the chocolate to prevent scrambling.
3) Stir in the sugar, letting it get warm enough to melt a little. You should be able to stir it rather than push clumps around.
4) Add the eggs and stir quickly until mixed, keep stirring until all of the sugar is melted.
5) Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and pour into prepared pie crust.

Bake for 25-30mins. If you have the time, after 25mins turn off the heat and leave the oven door cracked to let the pie cool slowly. It can form a beautiful puffy shell that does NOT look beautiful when it falls quickly. Fortunately, no matter how it looks it always tastes like WIN.
DO NOT USE SPLENDA!!!! to replace the sugar. I tried this once. Rather than smooth melted chocolate it instantly turned into a gloppy pudding that the eggs could not save and I had to start over.
My mom used to cut the butter & sugar by half, but since it's been 20 years since she made one I don't remember much about it. The pies were certainly edible, so if you're worried about your sugar it's a good option. Also, if you like darker chocolate, adding one more square to the mix works too. ;)

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Wild Rice Stuffing

Nov. 16th, 2007 | 10:55 am
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

Just in time for holiday cooking: this fantastic wild rice stuffing recipe that a friend passed along. Mind you, I'm generally not big on wild rice, but wow, this stuff tastes awesome - even served cold!


Wild Rice Stuffing

3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup uncooked wild rice
1/2 cup butter or margarine
1 cup diced celery
1 can mushrooms (or 1 cup uncooked mushrooms; portabellas work great)
1/4 cup minced onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon sage

In a saucepan, bring broth to a boil; add rice.

Simmer, cover, for 50-55 minutes or until broth is absorbed and rice is tender.

In a skillet, melt butter; sauté celery, mushrooms, garlic and onion for 3 minutes. Stir in seasonings.

Stir vegetable mixture into cooked rice. Serve hot or chilled.


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Swedish Wine Cake

Aug. 26th, 2007 | 07:34 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

Swedish Wine Cake

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup butter, softened, lightly creamed
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup chopped hazelnuts
1-1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 red wine, your choice on varietal
powdered sugar for dusting

Oven: 350 degrees

Butter an 8" tube pan

Add sugar to creamed butter; beat until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time beating well after each. Stir in chopped hazelnuts.

Sift together flour, baking soda and baking powder.

Alternatively fold flour mixture and wine into the wet mixture.

Pour into buttered tube pan and bake 40-50 minutes; remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes before removing from pan onto cooling rack.

Lightly dust with powdered sugar before serving.


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Thai Beef

Jul. 28th, 2007 | 11:18 am
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

THAI BEEF (Steak with lime and cilantro)

MARINADE
- 2 freshly squeezed limes
- 2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
- a handful (1/4 cup or so) of thinly sliced small red pepper varietal (New Mexico or Rocotillo peppers work great; even those little red sweet peppers found on the olive bar work well).
- couple shakes of salt & pepper

- I also like to add 1 tsp. of Argyle St. Asian blend spice, but if you don't have that handy, a good pinch of ginger powder will do.

STEAK

- I generally make this with 1-1/2 lbs. of steak. Any variety will take this recipe well (I usually get strip steak or sirloin when it's on sale), but it's also a super recipe for less expensive cuts of meat.

Slice steak into thin strips (about 1/2-3/4" wide; no more than 4" long). Place them in the marinade and allow to sit for at least an hour.

COOKING

Stir fry using olive oil or sesame oil (not butter!). Use marinade while cooking (be careful, though, to avoid splatters).

Serves well in a variety of ways, whether tossed with pasta, on its own with bread (or on bread as a sandwich), cold over salads, hot over rice, or made into a wrap or burrito.

Complimented nicely with a mild cheese such as mozzarella, or with a touch of sour cream.


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Quick - but tasty - meal choices

Jul. 25th, 2007 | 08:00 am
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

Think it's not possible to make a tasty, healthy meal in under 10 minutes? (Well, many of the meals are healthy, anyway.)

The New York Times culinary section would challenge that, with their list of 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less.

Some sample dishes:
- Put a large can of chickpeas and their liquid in a medium saucepan. Add some sherry, along with olive oil, plenty of minced garlic, smoked pimentón and chopped Spanish chorizo. Heat through.

- Peel and thinly slice raw beets; cook in butter until soft. Take out of pan and quickly cook some shrimp in same pan. Deglaze pan with sherry vinegar, adding sauce to beets and shrimp. Garnish with dill.

- Rich vegetable soup: Cook asparagus tips and peeled stalks or most any other green vegetable in chicken stock with a little tarragon until tender; reserve a few tips and purée the rest with a little butter (cream or yogurt, too, if you like) adding enough stock to thin the purée. Garnish with the reserved tips. Serve hot or cold.

- Combine crab meat with mayo, Dijon mustard, chives and tarragon. Serve in a sandwich, with potato chips.

- Thai-style beef: Thinly slice one and a half pounds of flank steak, pork shoulder or boneless chicken; heat peanut oil in a skillet, add meat and stir. A minute later, add a tablespoon minced garlic and some red chili flakes. Add 30 clean basil leaves, a quarter cup of water and a tablespoon or two of soy sauce or nam pla. Serve with lime juice and more chili flakes, over rice or salad.


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Blueberry compote

Jul. 23rd, 2007 | 08:17 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

This recipe can be used fresh off the stove for a yummy topping for pastry, pie, pancakes or crepes... or serve room temperature/chilled over treats like ice cream, cheesecake, sorbet, etc. This recipe is also forgiving if you want to experiment a little by using mixed/other berries, or adding things like walnuts to the mix.



BLUEBERRY COMPOTE

1/3 fresh brown sugar (light variety; not granulated)
1/4 cup honey (I prefer a non-clover variety, so the honey taste isn't overly strong)
1-1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 lemon - take the zest and add to the juice. If you get chunks of lemon, even better; just make sure you get rid of the seeds
1 small pinch of nutmeg (if available)
1 pint fresh blueberries

Add lemon, ginger, sugar and honey to small pot. Stir thoroughly, then heat to a low boil. Add blueberries as soon as it begins to boil.

Blend thoroughly, keep stirring as it comes back to a boil. Once the mix begins to boil again, lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and simmer for 15-30 minutes.

Consistency will be thickened/syrupy, but not thick.*

------------------

* If you like it to be thicker, blend 1-2 tsp. of cornstarch with some of the liquid until smooth, then add the mixture to the main pot. Blend thoroughly and simmer, stirring constantly for 3 minutes or until thickened.

** Another flavor suggestion: when blueberry mix has been simmering about 15 min, add 1/4 cup coconut shavings; continue to heat for 5-15 min.


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Cooking/use suggestions - tomatoes

Jul. 23rd, 2007 | 06:00 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

It's that time of year when the tomato plants all seem to ripen at once, and the garden is exploding with that delectable red fruit (or yellow. or green).

When you have surplus tomatoes, what do you do with them, besides the obvious (salsa, soup, canning, sauce)? Post your recipes or suggestions.

I'd particularly be interested in what people do with "unusual" or "alternative" varieties of tomatoes - such as cherry, yellow, heirloom, etc.


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Apples with Red Wine Sauce (v. 2)

Jul. 16th, 2007 | 02:01 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

Posted the original version of this recipe here. After some experimentation, have found this version of the recipe to be much tastier - using red apples instead of green really makes a difference in flavor.


APPLES WITH RED WINE SAUCE (v.2)

6 large red apples (Roman, McIntosh or similar)
1 ripe nectarine (optional)*
2/3 bottle red wine (Syrah works well)
1/2 cup brown sugar
half a dozen cinnamon sticks
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/3 cup honey


In a saucepan, bring the wine, cinnamon sticks, honey and sugar to a boil; reduce heat while you prepare the apples.

Peel, core and segment the apples. Add to wine mixture.

Turn heat back up until it begins to boil; then turn heat down, and cover. Cook approximately 20-30 minutes, until apples are tender. Remove cinnamon sticks once you have finished cooking.

Serve hot or chilled.




* note: the nectarine was an ingredient I added because I was 1 short on apples, but it turned out quite nicely. One could probably make this recipe entirely with nectarines and it would probably taste good.


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Rosemary & Basil infused chicken

Jul. 16th, 2007 | 01:30 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

ROSEMARY & BASIL CHICKEN


A couple of notes about this recipe:

- I prepared the oil a few days in advance. You can certainly buy pre-flavored oils to cut off prep time on the recipe, but I favor doing things by scratch.
- This recipe, like all of mine, tend to be forgiving about inexact quantities. Since I basically eyeballed the measuring amounts, this recipe is not "perfect".
- I made this recipe at Ren Faire over an open fire and an iron pot (left)), so I'm sure it'll work just fine at home, too. ;)




Rosemary & Basil Infused Oil

- 1 cup extra virgin olive oil (I prefer 'extra-light', but regular ok)
- a couple of freshly-picked sprigs of rosemary, chopped
- several freshly picked sweet basil leaves, chopped
- gratings or peelings from 1 ripe lemon (a sharp peeler and a light hand works much faster than grating!)

Place fresh rosemary, basil and lemon gratings/shavings in a bottle or jar. Pour over the olive oil. Cover tightly and shake well.

I like to put the bottle in a hot-water bath for half an hour or so to warm the oil to help better infuse the flavors, but it's not necessary.

You can leave this oil as-is on your shelf for a week or so. It also makes a yummy bread-dipping oil. :)

----

Pre-cooking Marinade

- 1 bottle of hard cider
- 1/2 tsp celery salt
- couple sprigs of fresh rosemary, bruised
- squeeze of lemon (bottled lemon juice ok)

You can do this either way: Place chicken breasts/fillets in Ziploc bags, add enough cider to keep meet covered, add spices, seal, and put in the fridge. Or you can use a bowl, either way works. I marinate my chicken anywhere from 12 hrs to 2-3 days.

----

The final recipe:

- I made this with approximately 3 lbs of chicken, 1 pint of chopped Baby Bella mushrooms, 1 diced red pepper, 1 diced green pepper, 2 shallots, and about 2/3 cup of the rosemary/basil oil listed above. (Drain oil from herbs first). Adjust accordingly.
- 1 whole lemon

- Heat your skillet. Pour a liberal amout of the rosemary/basil oil in the pan. Add diced shallots and heat til sizzling; add marinated chicken breasts/strips. (be careful; the cold chicken will make the oil pop!)
- Put your chopped mushrooms over the chicken.
- Put lid on pan and allow to cook about 2/3 done.
- Cut a lemon in half; remove seeds.
- Squeeze as much of the juice of the lemons as you can into the skillet. (I've also made this with a bit of orange juice in addition to the lemon juice and it's fine that way too.)
- Flip chicken, add the diced peppers, and finish cooking.


This chicken works for a variety of presentations. You can remove from pan, drain, and use the chicken over salads or pastas. But it also is good on its own, with the mushrooms and peppers from the cooking pot served as a topping.


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Raspberry walnut espresso brownies - Updated!

Nov. 19th, 2009 | 01:15 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

I've made the following recipe many times, which is universally greeted with moans of enjoyment and folks not-so-guiltily taking second helpings. These aren't entirely from scratch, though, sshhhh! ;)

I make this with 2 boxes of Pillsbury Walnut Fudge Supreme w/ walnuts brownies (feel free to choose whatever brand of brownies make you happy), and make it in a 13x9" pan (instead of 9x9). Here's what I do different from the directions:

- use extra light virgin olive oil (instead of regular oil)
- use 1/4 cup of milk, unflavored soy milk or fresh-brewed espresso (instead of 3 Tbsp. water)
- add 1/2 package fresh raspberries, loosely chopped (approx 1/2 cup)
- add 1 Tbsp ground espresso - you can also use 2 packets of the new Starbucks Via
- add 1/4 cup chopped dried Goji berries (lots of flavor and antitoxidants!) (optional)

You do have to bake it a little longer than the 9x9" pan size, obviously, so keep an eye on it - about 35 min, I think. A toothpick stuck in the middle should not have raw dough sticking to it, and you don't want it so overcooked that it turns into a brick.

It results in a really extra-rich'n'chocolatey-tasting brownie, while the walnuts add nice texture and the fresh raspberries give little fruity explosions on the tongue that taste great with the chocolate of the brownies.

Top with a dollop of freshly-made whipped cream (blend 1 tsp. vanilla with 1 cup whipping cream and 1/4 cup sugar; whip on high with hand blender til fluffy).

Or, place a serving on a plate, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and top with caramel and chocolate chips/shavings.

* * *
I'm a strong believer in random experimentations with ready-to-make store mixes, plus substitutions or mix-ins. My favorite substitution in chocolate cakes or brownies is to put coffee or espresso (depending on volume needed), which gives another layer of flavor without making the treat necessarily taste like a coffee-flavored item. Olive oil easily substitutes into recipes so long as it's extra-light virgin; obviously the more strong the flavor of the oil is, the more likely it will change your final recipe. (Although one of these days I want to try a really rich olive oil in brownies.)



(originally posted 12/07)

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Welsh Cakes

Sep. 7th, 2006 | 04:04 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

This is a recipe we make at ThistleCroft at Ren Faire; these little pancake-like cakes are quite addictive and very tasty. They're different from pancakes and they keep for a couple of days quite well.

4 cups plain flour
2 cups sugar, granulated
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 - 3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 cup unsalted butter (cut into 1/4" pieces)
1/2 cup margarine (cut in 1/4" inch pieces)
1 – 2 cups dried fruits – (currants, raisins, cranberries, cherries)
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup whole milk

Turn on non-stick griddle or skillet to 325 degrees.

Sift flour. Mix all dry ingredients. Cut the butter and margarine into the flour to form a coarse meal texture. Gently stir in the eggs to form a soft, sticky dough. Add dried fruits.

Knead dough on floured surface until smooth. Cover in plastic and chill for at least an hour. Dough can be made a day in advance and kept refrigerated.

Make 2" patties about 1/4" thick. Cook on griddle for 2 to 3 minutes each side until golden brown.

Some sprinkle the cakes with sugar or butter them and serve them warm.

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Apples with Red Wine Sauce

Jul. 31st, 2006 | 11:06 am
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

This is from a Celtic/Elizabethan era recipe, and I made it for Faire this weekend... very yummy. :)

APPLES WITH RED WINE SAUCE

6 large granny smith apples
1/2 bottle red wine (I used merlot)
1/2 cup sugar (I used vanilla sugar*)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract (I use homemade vanilla extract)
1 Tbsp. cornstarch

Peel, core and segment the apples. In a saucepan, bring the wine, cloves, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla to a boil. Add apples, reduce heat, and let simmer for about an hour, until fruit is almost transparent. (note - took me less than 1/2 hour for this.)

Remove apples and blend the cornstarch into the sauce. (to avoid lumps, use a bowl and add a Tbsp. of the wine sauce into the cornstarch, and then stir til smooth, then add into the wine sauce). Cook the syrup for a few minutes until thickened. Pour over the apples and chill.

Can be topped with whipped cream or ice cream. A variation is to use pears instead of apples.


* Vanilla sugar is made by putting some vanilla beans (sliced) into granulated sugar and allowing the sugar, over time, to take on the flavor of vanilla. The vanilla seeds also end up in the sugar. It's a great way to add vanilla flavoring to things (ie. coffee, cakes) without adding anything extra. If you want vanilla flavoring without the black seeds showing - ie. making angel food cake - stick the vanilla beans directly in the sugar without slicing open. I make my own vanilla extract as well, and since vanilla beans can be pricey for the better quality beans, I use the beans to make extract first, then I use a coffee filter to strain out the seeds, and once dried, put the seeds/beanpods in sugar.

(x-posted from my own journal)

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Frugal food tip of the day

Apr. 5th, 2006 | 02:58 am
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

I like the convenience of single-serve fruit cups. The other day I decided to make some Jell-o for the first time in ages and thought, wouldn't it be convenient if I had something handy to make this into single servings? As I opened up my fridge to put the breadpan of Jell-o in to chill, I spied the pineapple fruit cups that I frequently buy on one of the shelves. That's it!


- If you wash and save the containers from single-portion fruit or yogurts (the 1/2 cup size), they are the perfect size for a variety of things, ranging from allowing you to create single-serve portions of Jell-o, homemade pudding, etc.; to being a great size to serve as ramikins for say, when you have Chinese takeout, and you want some place to put the sweet'n'sour sauce, to being a handy dish to hold chopped ingredients while cooking.

Obviously, you're not going to put them out on the table for company, but they're proving quite handy around the kitchen. :)
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Barefoot Contessa

Mar. 15th, 2006 | 12:36 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

If you live in the Chicago area, Ina Garten - aka. The Barefoot Contessa - will be making an appearance at Fox & Obel, 401 East Illinois Street, from 4-6pm on Thursday, March 16th. Check out www.foxandobel.com for more info.

Fox & Obel has free valet parking with purchase. (312) 410-7301

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Steam-fried vegetables

Mar. 2nd, 2006 | 12:00 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

This is a very simple recipe but one that adds a nice flair to a typical side dish of vegetables. I have tried this using chicken broth instead of beef but it doesn't taste quite the same.

Vegetables: Any kind works for this recipe; but I prefer broccoli, zucchini (yellow), carrots and mushrooms for this, which makes a colorful, tasty side dish.

- prepare your fying pan: 1 Tbsp. of olive oil, plus either 1 heaping teaspoon of pureéd ginger; or 2 cloves of garlic, minced. Keep on very low heat to allow the oil to absorb the flavor of the garlic/ginger as you prepare your vegetables.
- Bring half a pot of water to a boil; add 1 teaspoon of beef broth crystals.
- Blanch your vegetables; pour into collander to drain excess water. (Blanching is cooking the vegetables just long enough to turn them bright green)
- Turn the heat up on your frying pan, and once it's sizzling, give the vegetables a quick toss - not long enough to cook the vegetables too much further, but enough to give them the extra flavor.

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Teriyaki chicken

Jan. 18th, 2006 | 12:53 pm
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

When I was a kid growing up in north central Connecticut, I used to love going to the Ponderosa steakhouse. It wasn't fine cuisine but it was really good, and I was particularly fond of the teriyaki chicken. There was something about the flavor of the teriyaki that I just couldn't match anywhere else.

Well, I have a small George Foreman grill - the starter size. Now, I happen to really love using this thing, it cooks meat nice and fast, with the grill texture, and yet leaves it juicy. The only thing I don't like about it is it's not very convenient to clean. I'm definitely thinking about upgrading to a larger model where the plates can be removed to clean it.

I had a lot of oranges in my fridge and needed to use them up, and I had some chicken that I was indecisive what to do with, so I thought I'd marinate the chicken with orange juice. It didn't really smell like much after 24 hours of marinating, so I added a bit of Thomas brand marinade and The Spice House's Argyle Street Asian Blend to it, and threw it on my GFG.

Awesome. Zesty, zingy, tangy. And pretty close to the Ponderosa teriyaki I loved as a kid, but I think what will really make it superb is if next time, I blend orange and pineapple to the Thomas marinade. :)

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Spinach and bleu cheese salad

Jan. 3rd, 2006 | 03:31 pm
posted by: antikythera in tastycreations

I thought I'd post this somewhere, since it was a huge hit at the office potluck before Christmas. I've never had so little left over from anything I brought. ^^; There were a dozen people eating, and there was just enough salad left for my own lunch the next day.

One bag fresh baby spinach (I think these weigh a pound or a little less)
One of those little triangle plastic-boxed wedges of bleu cheese (about 225 g)
1/2 cup raisins (or dried cranberries)
1/3 cup pine nuts (or walnuts or sunflower seeds)
Balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing (bottled is fine)

Put the spinach in a big salad bowl. Crumble the cheese and pile it on top of the spinach with the nuts and fruit. Drizzle about a half cup of dressing over it. Toss, and be careful to keep the non-spinach ingredients from settling to the bottom of the bowl. Add more dressing if it's too dry. Serve at room temperature.

This is a variation on a salad that my Uncle Frank makes for dinner. He uses mixed baby greens, walnuts, and raisins. It works with any leafy greens, any dried fruit, any nut, and any cheeseless oil-and-vinegar-based dressing.

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Finnish Christmas Stars cookies

Dec. 13th, 2005 | 12:59 pm
posted by: southernfinn in tastycreations

FINNISH CHRISTMAS STARS

1 recipe Puff Pastry
1 cup chopped, cooked, pitted prunes sweetened to taste
(can substitute other flavored jam)

Puff Pastry:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup butter or margarine (do NOT use "light" butter - it doesn't work)
1/2 tsp white vinegar
5 TBS ice water

Measure flour into mixing bowl.
Cut in margarine until mixture is very fine.
Mix 5 tablespoons ice water with the vinegar and add to flour mixture.
Quickly gather in a ball and roll out on lightly floured surface (stockinet rolling-pin cover and pastry cloth come in handy) to a 14" x 10" rectangle.
Fold in 3 layers.
Make a quarter turn; repeat rolling, folding and turning 3 times.
Chill, well wrapped in foil or plastic, at least one hour or overnight. (Warning: If using butter, the dough will get pretty stiff and hard to toll. You might have to leave it out for a bit before working with it.)

Divide puff pastry in 2 parts.
Roll out each part to form a rectangle 12" x 9" and cut in 3" squares. Slit each corner 1-1/2" from tip to almost the center.
Place a rounded teaspoonful of filling in center and fold every other tip to center, like a pinwheel.
Press firmly in center and put on ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake in 425 deg. F for 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Remove to rack to cool. Makes 24
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Sugar Cookies - holiday varietals #1 & 2

Dec. 12th, 2005 | 05:32 pm
this recipe is: cheerfulcheerful
music to cook by: The Nutcracker Suite
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

Baking tip: Use powdered sugar instead of flour when rolling cookies.

* * * * *

Sugar Cookie Surprise

Need: 2 rolls of ready-made sugar cookie dough (Pillsbury refridgerated)

Filling: Your choice - works best with chocolate/candy. Some suggestions:
- Thin Mint cookies - creates a minty surprise
- Chocolate or caramel wafers/drops, up to 1-1/2" across
- Jam
- Mix of nuts/sugar/cinnamon with a touch of butter to make it stick together
- Crushed candy cane

Topping: Your choice; pick something to compliment your filling.

Set oven temperature according to packaging

Preparing your cookie sheets: put parchment paper on your cookie sheets. Depending on the size of your sheets, you'll be able to make about 6-9 cookies at a time. These spread out a bit as they bake, to about 4", so you do not want them too close together.

What to do:

- Slice the sugar cookie mix to about 1/4" thick. Lay single slices far enough apart on your cookie sheet to allow for spreading.
- Atop the middle of each slice, place your filling of choice.
- Lay another slice atop the first.
- Sprinkle topping (ie. nuts, sugar, etc) if you want on your cookies
- Bake approx 15-20 minutes or until done.

______________________________________

Cinnamon swirl sugar cookies

I do this with just one roll of ready-to-bake sugar cookies but it certainly could be done with two.

Ingredients
- one roll slice-and-bake sugar cookies
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- chopped pecans (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. sugar (Vanilla sugar preferred, regular OK)

Instructions
- Cut the roll of dough in half. Return one half to the fridge, and allow the other half to soften enough to be pliant.
- Mix the nutmeg, cinnamon, and sugar in a bowl; then add the softened dough and mix well. (easiest to do this by hand vs. with a spoon)
- Once thoroughly blended, return mix to fridge until firm enough to roll
- Roll both pieces of dough out to be equally sized rectangles, approximately 1/4" thick. (If you want really cool looking cookies, it's ok to roll thinner).
- Place the cinnamon-dough on top of the plain dough. If you're using nuts, sprinkle them over the top layer.
- Roll the dough up, creating a swirl effect.
- The easiest way to slice your cookies to be ready to bake is to chill them in the fridge for about 1/2 to 1 hour - this way they'll be firmly chilled, but not frozen. Then it will be easier to slice your cookies into 1/4" slices. You may want to add a little bit of extra sugar and nuts to top off your cookies before baking.

Bake per instructions on the packaging, approximately 10-12 minutes.

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Vanilla

Dec. 5th, 2005 | 10:30 am
posted by: meryddian in tastycreations

Much of the vanilla used in cooking these days is called "vanilla extract" but is, in fact, artificial. The Spice House has several varieties of vanilla, and not just beans, but extracts and vanilla paste, as well as a lavender-vanilla sugar and a "Spiced sugar", with vanilla, cinnamon and cardamon. (The lavender sugar actually makes me think of the lavender cookies I had several weeks ago, which were just amazing).

Vanilla is an edible by-product of certain varieties of orchid, which is why you will see pictures of orchids on ice cream or extract containers. The plant originated in Mexico and was brought to Europe by Cortez in 1518. This particular orchid only blooms once a year, and to produce the bean pods, it must be carefully hand-pollenated during this time. Melipone bees could do this; but apparently only certain kinds of bees like to pollenate these flowers, so man figured out it could be pollenated by hand instead. Today, vanilla cultivation is a profitable industry in many tropical parts of the world.

While there's several varieties of vanilla available, I really like both the Madagascar beans, and the Tahitian beans. Of the two, Madagascar beans are far gentler on the wallet, at about 1/3 the cost of Tahitian beans - this is due to the Tahitian beans being produced in much smaller quantities. Open up a jar of these and take a deep whiff... you can practically taste it; at the very least, you feel your mouth water. Fresh vanilla is anything but boring!

While I've used fresh vanilla in the past for flavoring, I was always curious about making my own extract. I stumbled upon the following recipe from from The Natural History of the Senses by Dianae Ackerman (p. 157-161):

Make-your-own Vanilla extract

- split a vanilla bean lengthwise
- set in a GLASS jar
- cover with 3/4 cup vodka
- let steep 6 weeks

As you use the extract, add more vodka; the bean will stay redolent and continue oozing flavor from some time.

Vanilla sugar

- Split 1 vanilla bean from top to bottom and cut into pieces
- mix with 2 cups of sugar
- cover and let sit for six weeks; the longer the vanilla stands, the more intense the flavor

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