Sunday, September 1, 2013

Grilled Pizza

Grilled pizza is kind of amazing.  The crust gets nice and crispy on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside.  The grill gives it this delicious charred flavor that you just can't get out of an oven.  Plus, nothing beats not having to turn out the oven and heat up the house when it's already 104* outside.  I like making "specialty" pizzas when we grill pizza, but this would be just as good with pepperoni, or whatever other kind of toppings you want.  

Grilled Pizza

What You Need:
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
Olive oil
Sun-dried tomato pesto (or other pizza sauce of your choice)
Caramelized onions, artichoke hearts and goat cheese (or pizza toppings of your choice)

What You Do:
Turn your oven on to warm (200*) for about 5 minutes, then turn it off.  Sprinkle yeast over warm water and let sit for about 5 minutes.  Mix together with flour and salt until a rough, craggy mess forms.  Turn the dough and any loose bites out onto a lightly floured counter and knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.  Coat a bowl with olive oil, place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Put the dough in the oven and let sit for 30 minutes, or until the dough has doubled.  

Once the dough has risen, roll out into a circle about 1/2 inch thick on a lightly floured counter.  At this point you also want to turn on the grill to medium high.  Brush olive oil on one side of the dough and put it olive oil side down onto the grill.  Brush some olive oil on the top side of the dough.  Once the dough bubbles on the surface and there are dark grill marks on the bottom of the crust pull off the grill.  Put it cooked side up on a pizza stone or baking sheet and put the toppings on the crust.  Gently slide the pizza back onto the grill and cook for a few more minutes until the bottom has dark grill marks.   

And there you have it, grilled pizza.  It really could not be easier.  If you don't feel like grilling you can always make this in the oven.  Bake the pizza at 450* for 17 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and crispy.  But I highly, highly suggest you try grilling pizza at least once.  It will change your life.  Seriously.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mini Pavlovas With Lemon Curd and Blueberries

This is, without a doubt, one of the best desserts I have ever had.  It's sweet and tangy, light and refreshing, and all around delicious.  If you've never had a pavlova, they are like a mix between a meringue and a marshmallow.  Basically a marshmallow with a slightly crunchy exterior (or a meringue with a soft pillow-y center).  You really can't go wrong with that.  The best part is that a pavlova is not going to look perfect.  It's going to crack, and it's going to kind of cave in in the middle so it's a pretty stress free dessert for a dinner party.  Plus, you can make the pavlovas a couple days in advance (as long as you store them in an air tight container) and put the toppings on right before you're going to serve them.

Mini Pavlova With Lemon Curd

What you need:

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1/2 T cornstarch
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar

Lemon Curd
4 egg yolks
Zest of 1 small lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice
6 T sugar
4 T unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces

What you do:

Lemon Curd
To make the lemon curd combine the egg yolks, lemon zest, lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan.  Whisk to combine, then stir constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon.  Cook until the mixture is thick and will coat the back of the spoon.  Remove from heat and stir in butter one piece at a time until the consistency is smooth.  Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and cover with plastic wrap (making sure that the wrap touches the surface of the curd to prevent a skin from developing) and refrigerate for at least one hour.

Preheat the oven to 275* and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Using a drinking glass as a stencil, trace small circles onto the parchment paper with a pencil and flip the parchment paper over so the pencil marks are on the bottom of the paper.

Meanwhile, whip the egg whites in a very clean metal bowl with very clean metal beaters.  When the egg whites have reached a soft peak consistency add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time.  While you're doing this increase the speed of the mixers gradually, so they are at full speed when you are done adding the sugar.   Continue to whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks then add the cornstarch.  Stop the mixer and add the vanilla and vinegar and beat for another 30 seconds or so to full mix them into the egg white mixture.  You want to make sure the sugar as fully dissolved into the egg whites, so take a small bit and rub it between your thumb and finger.  If it feels really grainy you need to whip the egg whites more, but if it feels fairly smooth then you're good to go.

Either pipe the meringue onto the circles you traced, or spoon it on and smooth out the meringue using the backside of a spoon.  Either way, make sure you build it up a little on the sides so you'll have a small bowl to put the lemon curd in.  

Bake for about 50 minutes until the pavlovas are lightly browned, are dry to the touch and sound hollow when tapped.  Like I said before, it's fine if the crust cracks.  Turn the oven off but leave the pavlovas inside the oven to cool completely.  If you aren't going to serve them right away then store them in an airtight container. 

To serve, put a spoon full of lemon curd on top of the pavlova then top with homemade whipped cream and blueberries.  This dessert was perfect for a hot summer evening.  The tartness of the lemon curd perfectly counteracted the sweetness of the pavlova.  I can't wait to try this with different fruit curds.  I'm thinking of trying raspberry next, with either a chocolate pavlova or a chocolate whipped cream.  And this fall or winter I'm DEFINITELY making a mint pavlova with chocolate mousse.  Mmmm, I can't wait!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Mint Chocolate Chip Clouds

I know, I know it's been a million years since I've blogged, a fact that's been pointed out to be by one of Cole's coworkers (shout out to Ralph).  In my defense we've had a few big things happen lately; Cole moved in and then we got engaged.  But I promise (for real this time) to blog more regularly.

Anyway, these cloud cookies are light and airy and just plain delicious.  Plus, they are a cinch to whip up and it doesn't hurt that they are really low in calories.  We're talking only 3 weight watchers points plus for TWO cookies.  I promise, I'm not lying.  Wouldn't these just be perfect for lounging around the pool?  I don't have a pool so I can't promise anything, but I'm 99.9% sure that it's true.

Mint Chocolate Chip Clouds

What you need:
3 egg whites (room temperature)
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp mint extract
1 cup mini Andes mints

What you do:
Preheat oven to 350*.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, a nonstick silicone pad or spray with nonstick spray.  Using metal beaters, in a large metal bowl beat together the egg whites and cream of tartar together until soft peaks form.  Gradually add the sugar and mint extract and continue to beat well until the sugar is dissolved, the mixture is glossy and you've formed stiff peaks. 

Gently fold in the mini Andes Mints.  I can always find these at Walmart in the baking aisle, but if you can't find them you can always use a mixture of mint chips and chocolate chips.    

Drop mixture by tablespoons onto the cookie sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes until they appear dry.  

Let them cool slightly before removing from a cookie sheet, then let them cool completely on a wire rack.  Store these covered at room temperature.  If you store them in an airtight container they'll stay good for a while.

You can make these using any flavor combination you want.  If you don't like mint, using vanilla extract and regular chocolate chips.  I also think these would be delicious with almond extract and white chocolate chips.  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Homemade Pasta With Roasted Vegetables

Hey y'all, long time no blog.  I realize it's been 3 months since I've last blogged and that's pretty lame of me.  I started a new job so I was busy with that.  I also recently donated bone marrow to a 41 year old man with cancer (AML).  If you're interested in my experience donating bone marrow check out the blog I wrote chronicling the process here.

Anyway, I decided I needed to come back with a bang and this is the perfect recipe for that.  I, not so humbly, declared this the Best Thing I've Ever Made (and if I was every asked to be on that show on the Food Network I would use this recipe no matter what the category.  I mean, this could be a dessert, right?!).  Anyway, don't be intimated to make your own pasta.  I don't have a pasta roller or a pasta cutter and was able to get the pasta thin enough cut it in relatively even strips.  Just try it once, and you will be a convert for life.  I mean I don't think I'll be making homemade pasta on a Tuesday night after work, but if I want pasta on a weekend I will definitely be making my own.

Homemade Pasta With Roasted Vegetables

What you need:
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
2 T milk

Shrimp (I used about 12 medium-large)
1 can artichoke hearts
1 medium zucchini
Cherry tomatoes (about 1 cup)
2 T chopped sundried tomatoes
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp red pepper flakes
Juice of 3 lemons
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup half and half (I used fat free)
1/2 cup ricotta cheese (I used fat free)
1/3 cup reserved pasta water
Basil chiffonade

What you do:

Put the flour on a clean work surface and mix in the salt.  Mix the eggs, olive oil and milk in a separate bowl.  Make a well in the center of the flour and pour the egg mixture into the well.  Make sure that the well is deep enough so that egg mixture doesn't try to escape (not like that happened to me or anything).  Anyway, use your hands to mix the flour into the egg mixture until it forms a craggly dough.  Then, you're just going to knead away.  You need to knead the dough until it's no longer sticky and is a nice soft and smooth dough.  By kneading it you're activating all the gluten, and if you don't knead it enough the pasta is going to not be yummy and delicious.  I kneaded my dough for 5-7 minutes.  Once the dough was soft and smooth I formed it into a ball and covered it with plastic wrap, then covered that with a towel and let it sit for an hour.  

Once you've let the dough sit for at least an hour, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll that sucker as thin as you can get it.  Seriously, take it to where you think it's thin enough and then roll it out some more.  It should be about 1/8th inch thick when you're done with it.  I was the most scared about this part, because I read that it was practically impossible to roll the dough thin enough.  I will tell you, it was nowhere near as difficult as I thought it would be.  So, once you've rolled the dough out lightly sprinkle flour all over the top of the dough and gently fold the dough in half, and then lightly flour the top and fold it in half again (basically we're trying to make it easier to cut the pasta into strips, if you only need to fold it in half once that's fine).  Let the dough sit for about 5 minutes, then go ahead and cut it into thin strips.  Mine ended up being about the size of fettucini (about 1/2 inch).  Once you cut the pasta into strips, then you need to unfold the strips and lay them out side by side.  Cook them in salted boiling water for 5-6 minutes.    

Drain the artichokes, quarter them and put them on a cookie sheet along with the cherry tomatoes and zucchini cut into half circles.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven at 425* until the vegetables are browned, about 30 minutes.  Take out of oven and set aside.

Saute shrimp and garlic in olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat.  When the shrimp is done, remove from pan and set aside.  Add the white wine to the garlic and reduce by one half.  I always use whatever wine I feel like drinking that night, so I used Barefoot's new Sweet White.  It was delicious, but any wine you want to use will be perfect.  On a side note, if you mix the Sweet White wine with some raspberry lemonade it is a delicious summer spritzer.  You're welcome.  Anyway, once the wine has reduced add in the half and half and red pepper flakes and the juice of 2 of the lemons.  Let everything mix together, get warmed up and reduce slightly.  Add the shrimp and roasted vegetables back to the pan and then add the cooked noodles to the pan as well.  Add the ricotta cheese along with the reserved pasta water and stir to combine everything.  Right before you serve add the basil, sundried tomatoes, and the juice of the 1 remaining lemon.

Enjoy with a nice glass of wine and be impressed with yourself.  You just made homemade pasta.  You are awesome!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Mini Mondays: Mini Jello Poke Cakes

Jello poke cakes are the perfect light dessert for spring and summer.  These little bundt cakes are even lighter because they are made with just cake mix and a can of sprite zero.  This is a tried and true Weight Watchers recipe where you take a box of cake mix and mix it with a can of diet soda (whatever kind you want).  Generally if you're making a darker cake (like chocolate) you want to use a darker diet soda (like diet coke).  I was skeptical about this at first because it sounds pretty crazy, but it totally works.  These little cakes have a slightly gummier texture than if you made them the traditional way (with eggs and oil), and if you're making these as cupcakes or a cake (as opposed to the mini bundt cakes) you'll want to cook them for 2-3 minutes longer than what it says on the box.  

The best part about these cute little cakes?  They clock in at just 2 Weight Watchers points plus!  Of course, that doesn't mean you can eat the entire batch, but you can feel less guilty about indulging in 1 or 2 when you're craving something sweet.

Mini Jello Poke Cakes

What you need:
1 box cake mix (I used white)
1 can Sprite Zero (or another diet lemon lime soda)
1 package jello (I used strawberry)
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
Fat free cool whip

What you do:

Preheat the oven to 350*.  Mix the cake mix with the can of Sprite Zero.  If you're making mini bundt cakes you'll bake them for 18 minutes.  If you're making cupcakes or a regular cake add 3 minutes to the recommended cooking time on the cake mix box.  Let them cook completely once you take them out of the oven.  Once they're cook make the jello.  Add the package of jello the boiling water and whisk until the jello is dissolved, then whisk in the cold water.  

Take a bamboo skewer or a fork to poke several holes into the flat side of each mini bundt cake (if you're making cupcakes or a cake just poke holes on the top).  Then spoon some jello over each cake.  Refrigerate the cake for several hours.  Top each mini cake with one tablespoon of fat free Cool Whip.  

I took these to a little dinner party and no one could tell that they were "diet" cakes and neither could Cole or my brother.  I call that a success in my book.  I have a feeling these will be making many more appearances in my kitchen this year.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mini Monday: A Mini Valentine's Day

I don't know about you, but I think there's something so romantic about sharing dessert with someone you love.  And, for some reason sharing an Italian dessert is extra romantic.  Maybe because Italian is the language of love.  Maybe it's because you can pretend you're in Venice on a moonlit gondola ride.  Either way, Valentine's Day is the perfect time to make a delicious dessert that's just big enough to share with the one you love.  Plus, if you stay at home and make it yourself you don't have to deal with all the crowds at the fancy restaurants.  And if you feel like getting a little "romantic", well you're in the privacy of your own home.  Go right ahead.

If all of that sounds good to you, then you're going to love this recipe for tiramisu.  This recipe is for a full 9x11 pan of tiramisu, but for Valentine's Day making it into a heart shape big enough for two to share takes a delicious dessert and "kicks it up another notch," to borrow a phrase from Emeril.  

 Valentine's Day Tiramisu
(adapted from Jessica Lynn Writes)

What you need:
1 1/4 cup strongly brewed coffee (room temperature)
5 T Kahlua
Lady fingers (about 30)
3 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 T vanilla
16 oz marscapone
6 T cold heavy (whipping) cream

What you do:

Mix coffee and 3 T Kahlua in a shallow bowl and set aside.  

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks at a low speed until just combined.  Add sugar and salt and beat at medium-high speed until it becomes pale yellow.  Next mix in the remaining 2 T Kahlua along with the vanilla.  Then add about two-thirds of the marscapone and mix until well combined and there are no lumps.  

Now, this is wear my version of the recipe differs.  The original recipe calls for raw eggs.  If I bought high-quality farm fresh eggs, I'd probably be fine with keeping the eggs raw but I buy my eggs from Walmart.  I'd rather be safe than sorry.  If you're fine with using raw eggs go ahead and feel free to skip this next step.  Anyway, transfer the egg and marscapone mixture to a glass bowl and cook over a double boiler.  Make sure you whisk the mixture the entire time, we're not trying to make scrambled eggs here.  The objective is to heat the mixture up enough to get the "rawness" off the eggs.  You'll know it's done with the mixture kind of "breaks" and thins out.  Once that happens, remove it from the heat and put it in the fridge to let it cool.  Once it's cool transfer it back to the mixing bowl and mix in the rest of the marscapone.  Once it's mixed smooth, transfer it back to the glass bowl.

If you're keeping the eggs raw, join back up with me here.  Pour the cream in the mixing bowl (don't worry about cleaning it out), and mix on high until it will hold stiff peaks.  Gently fold about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the marscapone mixture using a rubber spatula.  Then fold in the rest until there are no white streaks in the mixture.  

And now it's time to assemble the tiramisu.  Take a heart shaped cookie cutter and place it on a plate.  Take lady fingers one at the time and drop them in the coffee/kahlua mixture, quickly flip them over then remove from the coffee.  This whole process should take 2-3 seconds.  You don't want them soaked, just damped.  Place lady fingers in the cookie cutter in one layer, breaking up the lady fingers as necessary.  Next put a big scoop of the marscapone mixture on top of the lady fingers and spread it out.  Next sprinkle some cinnamon on top of the marscapone mixture, and then sift a layer of cocoa on top of that.  Put down another layer of lady fingers, then carefully remove the cookie cutter.  Next, put another layer of marscapone.  Top with some more cinnamon and a thick dusting of cocoa (enough to cover the whole top of the heart).  Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

If you want to make a pan of tiramisu, you basically do the same exact thing as above, except you lay the lady fingers in a layer on the bottom of the pan and build up from there.

Happy Valentine's Day

Monday, January 7, 2013

Mini Mondays: Mini Peach and Blackberry Cobbler

When I was growing up we had a few blackberry bushes in our backyard that produced the biggest, most delicious blackberries I've ever had.  We would have fresh blackberries all summer, and then we'd have enough to freeze and enjoy them for the rest of year until summer rolled around again.  The first summer we had the blackberry bushes my mom made what has become one of my favorite desserts; blackberry cobbler.  Her cobbler is actually more of a crisp (oatmeal, flour, brown sugar and butter topping) although I didn't find this out until I was in college and I took a food and culture class for the honors program.  For part of the class we had to split up into groups and each group cooked dinner for the entire class one night and we all got comment cards to "critique" the food.  When it was my group's turn to make dinner I made my mom's blackberry cobbler.  When I got the comments back from the professor there were a lot of "This is good, but it's not a cobbler."  Well.... okay, sue me.  That's what we call cobbler in my family. We're not from the south; cobbler is a fruit dessert with a sweet topping.  

Oh well, lesson learned.  I still love my mom's "cobbler" and that's my go to summer dessert.  But that's not what we're here to talk about today (but don't worry, we will talk about it one day).  This is recipe is for "real" cobbler.  These are perfectly portioned in single servings but good luck trying to stop at one.  You could make this with any kind of fruit you want.  I made some with blackberries, some with peaches and then I went a little crazy and made some with both because I think peaches and blackberries go together like peas and carrots.  

Mini Peach and Blackberry Cobbler

What you need:
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
Dash of salt
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
Brown sugar
1/2 stick melted butter
Diced peaches
Blackberries (fresh or frozen, just make sure they're thawed)

What you do:

Sprinkle some cinnamon over the fruit and set aside and preheat your oven to 350*.  Meanwhile mix together the sugar, flour, baking powder, salt and milk.  Add in the vanilla and about 1 tsp of cinnamon.

Put one teaspoon of melted butter in the bottom of each muffin tin.  I made half with muffin liners and half without and they both turned out great.  If you need to transport these somewhere I would definitely suggest using the muffin liners though.  Then spoon in two tablespoons of the batter on top of the melted butter. 

Next, put some fruit in top of the batter.  I put 4-5 diced peaches or 3-4 blackberries in each tin.

Sprinkle some brown sugar and cinnamon on top of the fruit.  Bake for 20 minutes.  

Let the cobbler that isn't in the muffin liners cool almost completely in the pan before removing them.  Before you take them out run a knife along the edge to loose them then use a spoon to help lift them out of the pan. 

Of course, a cobbler isn't really a cobbler without a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top to go with it. 

I think you're technically supposed to serve cobbler with the fruit on the bottom, but I think it looked so much prettier with the fruit on the top so you could really see the colors.