Sunday, February 28, 2010

SMS - Piggy Sugar Cookies

The Sugar Cookies chosen by Nina of Nina’s Cupcakes for Sweet Melissa Sunday was a big hit. We had fun making little piggy sugar cookies but since we are also getting ready to hike at Tiger Mountain this morning ( in Washington state - part of the Northwest is not frozen or under snow), I am going to be kind of quick.
In my house we collect cookie cutters and have oodles of them but we decided to go with only one design. The cookie dough was delicious and a little sticky while rolling out. I had trouble getting my pieces of cookie dough off of the board, even using a pastry scraper as a spatula.

The flavor was wonderful with the lemon zest added and this is one of our little piggies decorated. The royal icing was a little messy but fun. Thank you Nina for a wonderful choice! To get the recipe for this week, go to Nina's blog and also see what great things she did with her cookie dough. Don't forget to check out the other Sweet Melissa Sunday bakers here to see everyone's artistic side. Happy Baking and Happy Sunday Everyone!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Appetizer: Hot Lobster Dip; Dinner: Asian Shrimp Bisque with Shrimp Toast

Dinners. What comes to your mind when you think about dinner? Does each day bring about a different thought on what dinner should be?

Me? Dinner Monday through Wednesday means cook something lighter, easier and quick for clean-up. The beginning of the week always means work, schedules and unexpected events. Thursday is looking closer to the weekend so I want to cook fun dishes, usually requiring more effort. Friday, well, its' Friday! Weekend . . . Anything GOES . . .

The Hot Lobster Dip and Asian Shrimp Bisque with Shrimp Toast is my Friday dinner menu. I do make my menus for each week and know what is possible and what is not. Fridays, I let myself leisurely make dinner, sip wine and talk about whatever makes us happy:

Hot Lobster Dip
8 oz. cream cheese
1 T. milk
1/2 lb. lobster meat, diced
2 T. onion, grated
1 t. cream style horseradish
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1/3 C. almonds, slivered and toasted

Soften cream cheese with milk. Add all other ingredients except almonds. Blend well. Spoon into oven proof dish. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake 15 minutes at 375.
Asian Shrimp Bisque with Shrimp Toast

Serves: 2 quarts soup serving 8, 8 pieces Shrimp toast for garnish
(adapted from Emeril Lagasse)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup small diced onion
1/2 cup small diced carrot
1/2 cup small diced celery
1/3 cup finely chopped leek
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 to 3/4-pound shrimp shells and heads (if possible)
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup sake
6 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
1/2 cup sushi rice
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 recipe Shrimp Toast, recipe follows
8 sprigs cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons diagonally cut green onion tops

Set a deep, wide pot over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions, carrots and celery. Saute, stirring, until the vegetables are lightly caramelized, about 7 to 8 minutes.

Add the leeks, ginger and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste to the pan and cook until the vegetables are well coated about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the shrimp shells and heads to the pan and cook until the shells are pink and well caramelized, about 5 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the brandy and sake and ignite.

Continue to cook the brandy and sake until nearly evaporated, about 1 minute. Remove the shells and heads. Add the chicken stock, bay leaf and thyme and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.

Season with 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon white pepper and the paprika.

Add the rice to the soup and cook until the rice is tender and beginning to burst, about 45 minutes.

Use an immersion blender (or in small batches in a bar blender) to puree the soup and then strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean pot. Return to a simmer and add the coconut milk and cayenne pepper.

Heat through but do not allow the soup to boil after adding the coconut milk. Adjust the seasoning and serve while hot with the shrimp toast. Garnish with the cilantro leaves and green onion tops.

Shrimp Toast:

1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp (about 9 ounces unpeeled)
1 large egg
1 large egg white
2 tablespoons minced green onions (green parts only)
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
3 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 slices brioche, or home-style white bread
1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted clarified butter


Combine the shrimp, egg, egg white, green onions, cilantro, garlic, salt and white pepper in a food processor and process until blended but still slightly chunky. Add the cream cheese and pulse until smooth and thick. Add the cream and pulse just until blended being careful not to over-process. Spread 1/4 cup of the shrimp mixture on each slice of bread, spreading it to the edges and smoothing the top. The remainder can be used within 2 days or frozen for up to a month.

Heat the vegetable oil to 360 degrees F in a large deep skillet. Add the shrimp toast, in batches, coated side down, and fry until golden on first side, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Turn and cook until golden on the second side, about 1 1/2 minutes. Drain on paper towels. To serve, cut each toast diagonally into quarters, and serve one quarter in each bowl of soup.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pear Strudel with Puff Pastry

Pears seem to be the fruit underdog when so many of us think about fruit desserts. As a little girl, I remember picking pears off of Grandpa's pear tree and the fruit would be so juicy. The first BIG bite would have pear juice running down my chin on my shirt and down my arm. I would end up sticky but happy; unless there were bees close by.

When baking with any fruit, one problem coming to mind is the fruit juice making the bottom crust soggy. To remedy this problem, sprinkle a dusting of cookie, cake or bread crumbs under the filling, keeping the dough from getting soggy.

Bosc pears are the best choice for this pastry. The pear holds its' shape when baked and does not give off as much juice as other varieties, such as Comice or Anjou.

Generally, strudel is made with a thin pastry, but using puff pastry is also a fast and delicious alternative; unless you make the puff pastry from scratch. I bought puff pastry premade =)

This recipe makes 6 to 8 servings and is delicious! The Pear Strudel with Puff Pastry is an adaptation from the Kaffehaus cookbook by Rick Rodgers.

3 firm-ripe Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 T. golden rum (I used Bacardi golden rum)
1 T. fresh lemon juice
Grated zest of 1/2 lemon
1/3 c. sugar
optional: 1/3 c. raisins (I did not add)
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 sheet of puff pastry
1/2 c. cookie, cake, or dried bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten, for brushing
1/3 c. sliced almonds for sprinkling over the top

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 375 degrees F. Line a large sheet with parchment paper.

Toss the pears, rum, lemon juice, and zest in a medium bowl. Mix in the sugar, (optional) raisins, and cinnamon.

Roll out the dough to a 16 x 10-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface, with the long side facing you. Sprinkle the crumbs in a lengthwise, 3-inch-wide strip down the center of the dough. Heap the pear mixture over the crumbs, leaving a 3/4-inch border at the short ends. Fold the top and bottom of the pastry over to cover the pears with a 1/2-inch overlap, brushing the area under the overlap with beaten egg, and pressing the edges of the dough together to seal. Transfer the roll to the baking sheet, seam side down, curving the roll into a gentle horseshoe shape. Fold the ends under the roll. Freeze for 15 minutes.

Brush the top of the toll with the egg and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Bake until crisp and golden brown, about 40 minutes. Serve warm or cook to room temperature.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

TWD - Honey Wheat Cookies: YAY Michelle PLUS Chicken Scampi with Linguine AND my NEW APRON

Craziness! BUT Michelle (of Flourchild), I am totally here for You Girl! and the Honey-Wheat cookies are SO going hiking with me and hubby to Tiger Mountain this Sunday. Dorie, our TWD group inspiration, says we can freeze them until needed so after my 2 hours of chilling are up this morning - some cookies will stay out to nibble on and the rest will be shared among the 25 member hiking group. HOORAY!

The only change to the recipe is me adding whole pecan halves. That is it! Promise! I will be back this morning to post the finished baked cookie with nibble marks; BUT I am including blow-by-blow pics ~ of course.

When I first started blogging, remembering to take pictures for the different steps, trying not to slop goop all over my Canon XLR while cooking AND remembering to take a FINAL photo was ridiculously hard to do. Now, I click pictures for everything. The picture taking has grown a life of its' own. Red Mill Wheat Germ is being used.I ALWAYS support our local farmers. I collect Washington honey from local vendors and never have enough on hand. I use honey as a sweetener for as much as possible.

Wheat germ (1/2 c.), flour, baking powder all whisked into fluffiness.
Lemon zest rubbed into the sugar . . .LOVE the lemony aroma!

The honey-wheat cookie dough goes into the refrigerator for 2 hours minimum.
Gets taken out of refrigerator, cut into sections, rolled into wheat germ and Baked!
Now, I will entertain you with my latest finished apron. The apron was made for my daughter Ashley (Her first apron, ever!). The apron made me teary eyed because the colors reminded me of a dress with an attached apron I made Ashley when she was about 7 years old. She looked just like Alice in Wonderland with the dress on. Now she is 18. Where does the time go? Also included? My recipe for Chicken Scampi with Linguine 2 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
2 egg beaten
1 1/2 c. Italian bread crumbs
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. butter
1 lb. linguine
1/2 c. butter
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 T. butter, melted
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
lemon wedges (optional)

Cut the chicken into bite size pieces. Dip the chicken in the beaten egg, then into the bread crumbs, which have been mixed with the grated cheese, 1/2 t. salt and 1/4 t. pepper.

Spread the coated chicken pieces on a rack or platter.

Heat 1/4 c. oil and 1/4 c. butter in a large skillet. Add 1/3 of the chicken pieces; saute until golden brown. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon, and repeat with the remaining chicken pieces.

Discard oil in the skillet, and wipe out.

Cook pasta. While pasta is cooking, melt 1/2 c butter in the skillet. Add garlic and cook 1 min. Add cooked chicken, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Toss to coat the chicken with the sauce. Do not allow chicken to cook further.

Drain pasta, and toss with the remaining 2 Tb. butter and spoon onto a heated platter. Spoon chicken and sauce over. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with the lemon wedges (optional).

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Shepherd's Pie

I know Campbell's Cream of anything soup is high in sodium but sometimes a person just needs that shortcut to get dinner on the table. Digging through the freezer, there was leftover turkey from Thanksgiving to use up along with more "other" things then I care to mention. I have a habit of freezing anything not getting used immediately. Egg whites, half a loaf of artisian bread (awesome in bread puddings), extra homemade spaghetti sauce, strawberries, single serving leftovers, oh the list could go on for a long time. Now the concern is freezer burn so I am getting busy!

Thanksgiving Shepherd's Pie is using up a large package of opened, unseasoned stuffing cubes (kept in a Gallon size Ziploc bag), leftover turkey meat and a Quart Ziploc bag of homemade turkey stock. Thanksgiving Shepherd's Pie
8 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1-1/2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup butter, cubed
6 cups unseasoned stuffing cubes
2 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 1/2 cups chicken or turkey broth
4 cups cubed cooked turkey
2 cans (10-3/4 ounces each) condensed cream of chicken soup, undiluted
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup sour cream, divided
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Place potatoes in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 20-25 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute celery and onion in butter until tender. Remove from the heat. In a large bowl, combine the stuffing cubes, poultry seasoning and sage. Stir in broth and celery mixture. Transfer to a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish.

In another large bowl, combine the turkey, soup, garlic powder and 1/2 cup sour cream; spoon over stuffing mixture. Drain potatoes; mash in a large bowl. Beat in the cream cheese, pepper, salt and remaining sour cream; spread over turkey mixture. Sprinkle with cheese.

Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until heated through.

The Shepherd's Pie was perfect for reheating in the microwave the next day. My leftovers are leftovers (laughing).

Monday, February 15, 2010

TWD - Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies with Peanut Butter

Chocolate lovers everywhere . . ."know" his and her chocolate chip cookie. We truly ARE chocolate chip cookie aficionados! What about peanut butter and chocolate? Hence the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup infatuation. I am a true fan of Reese's and anything peanut butter so we read Dorie's twists for flavor alterations and foraged ahead, bringing out the canister of chunky peanut butter and the Hoody lightly salted peanuts. Bittersweet chocolate, I was not sure. Sounds kind of sacrilegious to be messing with semi-sweet or milk chocolate/semi-sweet or milk chocolate/white chocolate but Tuesday with Dorie's group IS all about trying new variations of old favorites AND opening any kitchen fears by baking outside comfort zones. Jumping in head first, we poured Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips into the peanut butter cookie dough; then the crushed, lightly salted peanuts.
LARGE scoops of cookie dough were placed on the silicon and baked.
As the cookie barely cooled, we cracked our first one. Melted chocolate oozed out.
We take our first bite; the chocolate BLOWS me away before my teeth even hit the peanut crunch. I do not even think my mind registered peanut butter at that first bite. The bittersweet chocolate is good but overwhelming. I think waiting till tomorrow and trying another bite after my senses have had a WHOLE night's rest will bring a more objective tasting. The curiosity is killing me to see what my friends in the Tuesday with Dorie blogging world think of the flavors so I will be coming by to say hello and hopefully you will follow along =)
Thank you Kait of Kait’s Plate for selecting My Best Chocolate Chip Cookies from Dorie Greenspan's Baking cookbook. To get the recipe, visit Kait and she will have it posted.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

SMS - Easy Chocolate Mousse

Callebaut Semi-sweet chocolate; melted, sweetened whipped egg whites; whipped into bliss, 40% heavy whipping cream; chilled and beaten into snow peaks - all swirled together, creating a light, smooth, creamy chocolate mousse.
Easy Chocolate Mousse was chosen this week by Spike of Spike Bakes for our Sweet Melissa Sunday special dessert. I think Spike picked out a wondrous and creamy chocolate dessert, absolutely perfect for Valentines! Velvety smooth and creamy . . .
I have already peeked and some of our talented bakers actually substituted liqueur for the vanilla. Had I thought of this, well I would have experimented all over the place. I used a vanilla bean paste, found at King Arthur Flour website and I am in LOVE with the stuff. Amazing with little vanilla bean seeds floating throughout.
To get the recipe for the Easy Chocolate Mousse, you can either purchase the Sweet Melissa Baking book "or" go to Spike Bakes website. You really should check her site out anyways because she altered her recipe just a tad and WoW! does her mousse's, mousses, mousse - how do you say mousse in plural? Well, anyways her choices of flavorings are brilliant!
My only complaint, I know, I know, but really - my kitchen sink is totally filled with dishes from making this easy mousse.
We swirled small mounds of creamy chocolate mousse in bite size, miniature glasses and dolloped larger amounts in bigger dishes. My daughter, Ashley, could not wait for the chilling process. She made off with one of the bowls when I wasn't looking . . .or so she thinks (smiling).
Guess what? I started my apron WAYYYY back when and just the other night I finally finished it. Unfortunately, Fluffy is looking at the apron like it is her new napping spot. Boy, did she get a wake up call =). I just HAD to share!