Thursday, March 29, 2012

Baked Caprese Pasta

As much as I loved Scotland and eating out at amazing restaurants every night, for me, it's still nice to get back to some good home cooking. I couldn't resist the fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes I saw at the grocery store and was definitely feeling the need for some Italian food. With those ingredients in hand, I decided to make this recipe for Creamy Caprese Pasta from the blog How Sweet It Is.  I didn't have any cream, so I skipped that altogether and I loaded the dish up with extra tomatoes (as usual).  It wasn't exactly creamy, but it was definitely yummy.  The extra grated cheese at the end really brought it all together and gave the dish a bit of salty finish.  Buon Appetito!


 

Monday, March 12, 2012

I'm in a Scottish State of Mind...

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To say I am super excited about my upcoming trip to Scotland would be a vast understatement. Completely psyched would be a much better description. Since I am about to depart for the land of shortbread (apparently it's also the land of haggis, but I'm going to overlook that and stick with shortbread), I thought I'd bake a quick batch of those heavenly, buttery cookies (or biscuits as I believe they are called in the UK). While Nestle's Mini Morsel Shortbread Squares are not authentic, real-deal shortbread, they are quite delicious. And isn't it the thought that counts? They are very tasty with or without the chocolate topping, but this time I opted to skip it. I highly recommend this yummy recipe as well as Martha Stewart's Dried Cranberry Shortbread Hearts. If you have never made shortbread before, it requires a few simple ingredients and comes together in a snap. I'm hoping to return home with a more authentic recipe and who knows, I may even return to the states with a shortbread cookbook. I'm sure there are several people who would not be surprised by that one bit!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Quick & Easy Tomato-Balsamic Pan Sauce

I've been meaning to share this recipe for a while now. It is so simple and really has the ability to liven up a meal. While it would be a perfect recipe to make with beautiful summer tomatoes, it is also a really great way to prepare tomatoes that are not exactly at their seasonal best. 

Clearly this sauce is not a meal on its own, but with just a little extra help, it easily can become a delicious meal. My favorite way to serve it is over a bed of whole wheat couscous and wilted spinach. While that might sound like quite a lot of separate things to prepare, couscous takes about 5 minutes to cook after you boil the water and spinach only takes about 30 seconds to wilt in the microwave, so I really don't find it all that daunting. I often eat this particular trio for a light lunch, but you could also pair it with some leftover chicken.  

Another option is to prepare chicken breasts or fish fillets and use this recipe as a sauce to serve on top. Just add a salad and/or side dish of your choice and you have dinner. Get creative!

You truly do not need to measure ingredients for this recipe, but to make it a little easier I've provided some ballpark figures. It can easily be doubled, tripled, etc. to serve more people. 

Tomato-Balsamic Pan Sauce
Print Recipe

1 container cherry or "cocktail" tomatoes
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
splash of balsamic vinegar
tiny pinch of sugar
salt & pepper, to taste
dried basil, to taste (I like a lot, but I would recommend at least a 1/4 tsp)

Cut the tomatoes into q
uarters. 

Heat olive oil in a small or medium skillet over medium heat. Add tomatoes, stirring occasionally until they begin falling apart and forming a sauce. Add in the remaining seasonings and cook an additional 2 minutes or so. Serve hot. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The "Perfect" Chocolate Chip Cookies

I am forever on a quest for the so-called "perfect" chocolate chip cookie recipe. I am also forever hearing Nick's relentless requests for me to make him chocolate chip cookies. (I thought that wasn't supposed to happen until we had kids?!) Anyways, you can now see where today's recipe came from.  The other day, I stumbled upon a gorgeous new blog, The Baker Chick, and this recipe for "The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies" just seemed to be calling my name. 

The verdict? Soft, chewy, gooey deliciousness. The only thing I recommend to change is to skip the metal cooling racks. In my desperation to make sure these little babies did not overbake, I did as recommended and removed them from the baking sheets as soon as they would not fall apart. However, they still proceeded to partially ooze through the bottom of the metal racks. While they tasted fine, that first batch of cookies really lost their shape. For the second batch, I simply slid the parchment paper, cookies and all, off the baking sheets and onto the counter to finish cooling. Those ones were the picture of perfection.  And with that, my very first picture on this blog!


Doesn't that look yummy? 
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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Cranberry-Raspberry Crumb Cake

I just made this cake last night, but it was so incredibly delicious I couldn't wait to share it. I adapted it from a recipe I found a while back in a Betty Crocker magazine. It makes a delicious dessert, but it would also be perfect for brunch or with an afternoon cup of tea. Enjoy!

Cranberry-Raspberry Crumb Cake
Print Recipe

Crumb Layer:
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup white whole wheat flour (I like King Arthur)
generous 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter (at room temperature)

Cake Layer:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortening (I like to use Spectrum brand which has no trans fat)
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 cup frozen cranberries

To make the crumbsIn a small bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in the butter. Use your hands to finish combining the ingredients (this always works best). Mixture should be crumbly.

To make the cake: In a large bowl, whisk together flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Mix in shortening. Use hands to finish combining the ingredients. Mixture should look crumbly with no large pieces of shortening. Stir in milk and egg just until combined.  Gently fold in raspberries and cranberries.

To assemble: Spread cake batter evenly in a greased 8-inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle crumbs evenly on top of batter. 

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45-50 minutes.  Cake is ready when topping is browned and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Notes
1.You can make this in a 9-inch baking dish, just make sure to start checking earlier for doneness.  

2. If you use an aluminum baking pan (8- or 9-inch) the cake may need some extra time, as glass bakes faster than aluminum; just make sure to check it. 

3. You could probably substitute additional white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose. I've had much success with this ingredient in muffins and quickbreads, but I have yet to go all the way for a cake. Since this recipe has so much else going on with the crumbs and the fruit, I do think it would be a good recipe to try it in. 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Baked Haddock in a Bourbon Marinade

I have another fish recipe to share today. I know fish is not as exciting as chocolate and desserts, but one can't live on sweets alone! We've been having fish once a week lately on the night Nick has bowling (he's the non-fish person in the house). This past Monday haddock was on the menu so I got the fish marinating and put on a pot of brown rice.  Then, I tossed some broccoli and green beans with olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet to roast alongside the fish.  Once the fish was done marinating, I popped the fish and the veggies into a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Since broccoli and green beans only take 15-20 minutes to roast at 400 degrees, dinner couldn't be easier!

Baked Haddock in a Bourbon Marinade
adapted from this recipe in Cooking Light Magazine
Print Recipe

3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp bourbon
2 Tbsp tamari soy sauce
1 Tbsp lime juice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3/4-1 tsp garlic powder (depends how much you like garlic)
scant 1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup scallions, sliced
2 large haddock fillets (enough for 3-4 servings)

Stir together all marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Place fish in a large glass baking dish and pour marinade on top. Make sure the fish is nicely coated on all sides. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake fish for 15 minutes. Fish should be opaque and flake apart when tested with a fork.