Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ina Garten is my hero

Today I met Ina Garten. Okay, she never got my name, but she said my youngest was going to be a heartbreaker! Why am I getting so excited about a person who is just as normal as can be talking to me, my mother-in-law, and my 9 month old?

Maybe it is because as soon as the Barefoot Contessa music comes on the Food Network, my 3 year old screams, "it's INA!!" and runs to the couch to settle in for an episode. In her enviable kitchen in the Hamptons, she makes everything with her catch phrase, "how easy is that?"...and usually it is! She has her hubby, Jeffery, gay BFF's, and the locals over for fabulous meals. She never seems to fuss about what to do, in fact most meals are served in her kitchen.

Maybe it is because she doesn't say "BAM" every other word, or wax poetic about butter, sour cream, and mayonnaise. She doesn't have weird phrases like EVOO, stoup, or S&P.

Don't get me wrong, I have made many a Rachael Ray meal in my day and I want to hug Paula Deen every time I see her. It's just that Ina is what she is. When Ina is on, there is an informality about her. Like you are sitting in the kitchen cooking with her. Her hints are practical and her style is sublime. Everything that I have ever made comes out beautifully, Ina has never done me wrong.


Exhibit A: dinner a couple of weeks ago.
Chicken Ceasar Salad Sandwiches




Okay, maybe I do know why I was so excited....

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Just a few pictures....

I realize that I haven't posted in a little while, but I didn't want you to think that I hadn't been cooking!




monster cupcakes for a boy's birthday party
















pink cupcakes for a girl's birthday party






banana-blueberry muffins. I need to tweak the recipe and I'll post that soon.
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

mini pumpkin cheesecakes


Today was a rainy, cold day...perfect time to bake!

I thought I would try a twist on cupcakes and make mini cheesecakes. Since I don't have a mini cheesecake pan, (an awesome invention by the way) I made them using my trusty cupcake tin.
They turned out pretty good, very light tasting and the perfect size. If I had to do it again, I would try it with gingersnaps for the crust.

First things first, preheat the oven to 350 and line a cupcake pan with papers.

Mini Pumpkin Cheesecakes
(this recipe makes 12 cupcakes)

Crust:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Melt the butter in a microwave safe dish.
Add crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon.
Scoop a little more than 1 tablespoon of the mixture
into the bottom of each liner.
Press the mixture down with the back of a spoon.
Set aside.

Filling:
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
1 egg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger

In a stand mixer or a hand mixer blend all ingredients until smooth.

Fill the cupcake tins with the filling, a little over 2.5 tablespoons in each.

Bake for 19 minutes or until just set.
Take out of oven and let cool in the pan for about 15 minutes.

Remove from the tin (I also removed the liners) and put into the fridge.
Or, just eat right away. I personally like my cheesecakes to be cold so I put mine in the refrigerator.

To take it up a notch, I also added a whipped cream frosting. This isn't an exact recipe, but rather just enough to make a sample for my hubby and I to taste test. It is basically heavy whipping cream, cinnamon, and a little sugar.

Enjoy!





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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday night dessert


I have no reason to blog about this. I don't really have a recipe per say.
It is just refrigerated pie crust, filled with three apples mixed with a little sugar and cinnamon, and baked until golden.


But come on...look at the picture. You want it too don't you?
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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

kitchen sink brownie sandwiches

Okay, I have no idea what to call these. I was in the mood to bake, and I also wanted to try to experiment so that I had something interesting to post on the blog. At first I wanted to make Ina's brownies, with a few twists. Namely, eliminating some of the fat and calories. I was thinking of adding black beans or chickpeas so I started researching and found this recipe. I still didn't want to use that much butter so I thought I would use what I knew of baking (which isn't that much), use what I had on hand, and try out my own recipe.



Kitchen Sink Brownies:
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 cup applesauce
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tbsp instant espresso
¼ teaspoon sea salt
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Line a jellyroll pan (13 by 18 inches) with parchment paper & spray with cooking spray.
Melt the chocolate and butter in a glass bowl in the microwave for 1 1/2.
Stir with a spoon to melt the chocolate completely.
Add the vanilla and applesauce to the chocolate mixture.
Put the beans into a food processor and whip until smooth.
If you need more liquid, add some of the chocolate mixture.
It will be really thick.
Combine the chocolate mixture and the bean mixture, adding the espresso & salt. Set aside.
With an electric mixer beat the eggs until light and creamy, about 1 minute.
Add the brown sugar and mix until well blended.
Take 1/2 cup of the egg mixture out and set aside.
Add the combined chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and mix until smooth.
Take the semi-sweet chocolate chips and mix with about a tablespoon of flour.
Fold this into the brownie mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Drizzle the 1/2 cup egg mixture over the brownie batter.
Dredge across with a spatula creating a marble pattern.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until set.
Remove from the oven and let cool down.
Brownies will be soft, let set up in the fridge.

My brownies turned out a lot thinner than the inspiration pieces, but I was kind of expecting that since my pan was about 2 inches taller. I also only baked for about 20 minutes.

Since they turned out thin, I thought I would turn them up a notch and make sandwiches by adding peanut butter frosting.



Peanut Butter Frosting:
(adapted from Ina's PB Frosting)

2 tbsp butter, room temperature
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
skim milk

Mix the butter, peanut butter until smooth.
Add the powdered sugar and salt.
Add milk until spreading consistency.
With the help of my hubby, I transferred the brownies to a cutting board, and cut in half.
I then topped half with the frosting, covered with the bottom half and cut!

Enjoy the gooey goodness!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Apples and Honey Cupcakes



The beginning of this month was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It is celebrated traditionally by eating apples dipped in honey. While that is a wonderful sweet treat on its own, I thought that I could try to go one step further. In honor of that, I decided to try and make cupcakes for my husband take to work.
I spent a lot of time researching various recipes for apple cupcakes. All of them involved using applesauce in some way. I had no applesauce in the house and wasn't about to buy any so the first step was making applesauce.






Homemade Applesauce




Peel and core 1 medium to large apple,
cut them into 1/2 inch pieces.
Put in a small saucepan with 2 tbsp of water.

Add a cinnamon stick
Bring to a boil and let bubble for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, discard the cinnamon stick, and mash.
(I used my mini-blender)

This should give you a yield of at least 1 cup of applesauce.

Set this aside to cool down.



The next step was the cupcakes. I followed a basic vanilla cupcake recipe that I have had in my arsenal for a while. Now that I am blogging...I can't remember where I got it.

The Cupcake
makes 24 cupcakes
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 & 1/4 cup white sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
2 cups all purpose flour
2 & 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 & 1/4 tsp apple pie spice
1 cup applesauce
1 medium apple finely chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
Cream the butter and sugar together in a mixer.
While that's going, wisk the flour, bp, salt, and pie spice in a seperate bowl.
Add the eggs, one at a time to the butter/sugar mixture and mix until well incorporated.
With the mixer on low, slowly add the flour mixture until just mixed.Mix in the applesauce and apples by hand.
Fill cupcake pans about 3/4 way full (about 2 tbsp).
Bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Set aside to cool.

The Frosting
(This is a basic cream cheese frosting, just with LOADS of honey!)
4 oz cream cheese
1/2 stick of butter
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla
Cream the cream cheese and butter.
With mixer on low, add powdered sugar.
Add honey and vanilla.
Dollop on cooled cupcakes and enjoy!