Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Empanaditas y Rugelach

I will always associate these Empanaditas with my Cuban grandmother (Mima) and Christmas time.  I have memories of making these with her since I was little.  She would always put me in charge of filling the pastries- each year reminding me to line the edges with water, not to use too much guava, top with dab of egg beat, and cut a slit on each before placing in the oven.  The finished product is a delish, sweet treat.  When eaten warm, the guava oozes from the pastry and melts in your mouth.   This was my first time making them all on my own.  I had hoped to make them with her over Christmas but a snowstorm got in the way.  Not to skip out on the tradition, I decided to make them on my own here in Chapel Hill.  The rugelach uses the same recipe with a different filling.  These pastries represent the jewish side of my family.  I am proud to say I made them from scratch and they taste almost as delicious as if my grandmother made them with me. 

8 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 1 pieces
8 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces
8 1/2 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt

-          Goya Guava paste (comes in a rectangular box)
-          ½ cup Brown sugar
-          ¾ walnuts finely chopped
-          1tsp cinnamon sugar

Have at hand:
-          2 eggs , beaten in a bowl
-          Bowl of water

To make the dough, mix all ingredients (I used my hands, only took about 5-10 minutes).  Wrap dough in plastic and cool in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375.

Cut guava in about 1 or ½ -inch squares (depending on size you’re making pastry).  Mix the brown sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon into a separate bowl.  Put aside for later use.

After 30 minutes take dough from fridge. Divide into four pieces. Keep three pieces wrapped in plastic and in the fridge.  Roll out the first piece.  This is a VERY sticky dough so keep adding flour to the surface and roller you’re working with. The dough needs to stay cold so make sure you keep all the dough you’re not using in the fridge. 

Using cookie cutters or whatever you have in your kitchen (I used wine glasses), cut out circles.  Choose which filling to use (alternate or only do one, whatever you like.)

Guava Empanaditas:
Place guava section in middle (not too much or it will explode in oven.  With your finger, wet edge of circle with water. Fold over and press down open side with a fork.  Brush top lightly with the egg.  IMPORTANT: poke a small slit on top of each empanadita so they can breathe in the oven. IF you don’t, they may explode.

You can still use the circles and then cut them into fourths.  Press the walnut/sugar mixture into the dough. Roll up into a spiral and ping ends. Brush with egg. 

Repeat steps with all your dough.   Sometimes when I have extra dough that I cant really roll out anymore I’ll just make my only little pastry- be creative, improvise J

Place the empanaditas and rugelach onto a baking sheet and bake until golden brown (around 25 minutes). 

These are great served warm or cold, for breakfast or dessert, whatever you like.  If you make too many you can always freeze them for later.  

Meatballs and Spaghetti

As many of you may already know, Matt is a big fan of spaghetti and meat sauce. And while this can be a good quick meal, I quickly tire of it once we've already had it a couple of times in a week. Tonight I decided to try something new with our spaghetti and ground beef (amazingly cheap on a law student budget)...Meatballs! This ended up being was shockingly different enough to make me feel like I was having a completely different meal than just spaghetti with meat sauce. And the bonus? The spaghetti-with-meat-sauce-addict approved! So here it is!

Quick note on timing: I started by boiling water for the pasta and while the water was heating I made the meatballs. I started cooking the meatballs while the pasta was cooking. The sauce only takes a few minutes so I did that last.

Adapted liberally from Smitten Kitchen...

For the meatballs:
1/2 pound ground beef
1/3 cups fresh white bread crumbs (about 5 slices, crusts removed)
1/2 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/8 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or more to taste
Dash of dried minced onions
1 extra-large egg, (I used egg-whites)
Vegetable oil
Olive oil

For the sauce:

1/2 chopped yellow onion (1/2 onion)

1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic

Pinch of red pepper flakes

1/2 cup good red wine

1 (14-ounce) can pureed tomatoes*

1 (14-ounce) can chopped or diced tomatoes*

1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp. olive oil

* I am embarrassed to say I didn't have either of these and I had to use Ragu (sad) but I wanted to use what was on-hand and honestly it tasted pretty good. It would have been much better with canned tomatoes though, so I would highly recommend using them.

Make the meatballs: Place the ground meats, bread crumbs, parsley, Parmesan, salt, pepper, dried onion, egg, and 3/4 cup warm water in a bowl. Combine very lightly with a fork. Using your hands, lightly form the mixture into 2-inch meatballs. I had 9 meatballs (and we only ate 6 of them--they were a good size)

Pour equal amounts of vegetable oil and olive oil into a large skillet to a depth of 1/4-inch. Heat the oil. Very carefully place the meatballs in the oil and brown them well on all sides over medium-high heat, turning carefully with a spatula or a fork. This should take about 10 minutes for each batch (I only did one batch of 9 but if you had more than that I would do batches). Don’t crowd the meatballs. Remove the meatballs to a plate covered with paper towels. Discard the oil but don’t clean the pan.

Make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in the same pan. Add the onion and saute over medium heat until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for 1 more minute. Add the wine and cook on high heat, scraping up all the brown bits in the pan, until almost all the liquid evaporates, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, parsley, salt, and pepper.

Place Meatballs and Sauce on top of cooked pasta and voila! All done! And yes, I'm cheesy and used the colors of the Italian flag for this post (although I had to substitute grey for white so you could read the ingredients) :-)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Holiday Cookies!

Yes, Christmas/Hanukkah may be over, but that doesn't mean you have to wait until next year to bake them! These cookies make great presents for Valentine's, Birthdays, Housewarmings, or "Just Because"! Nothing says "I am thinking of you" better than something homemade from your own kitchen! Now, since I did not have a hand mixer until Christmas (thanks again Aunt Beth and Uncle John!), all of these recipes can be made without a mixer! (How great is that!?) They would probably be easier to make with a mixer but they were still delicious with just a regular whisk/fork. The recipes below are the cookies I made for my family and friends as Christmas gifts. I will also include the recipe for the Black and White Cookies that I made for Matt's sister Juli's birthday. I am including a lot of unnecessary pictures I'm sure, but half the fun is in documenting the evidence! Enjoy these simple-to-make delicious heart-felt presents :)

Black and White Cake Cookies: From Cooking Light
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup applesauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 tsps vanilla extract
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
3 tbsp 2% reduced-fat milk, divided
1/4 tsp almond extract
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa

1. Preheat oven to 375 Degrees
2. To prepare cookies, lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt, stirring with a whisk.
3. Spoon applesauce into a fine sieve over a bowl, let stand 15 minutes. Discard liquid.
4. Combine drained applesauce, granulated sugar, and butter in a large bowl, beat with a mixer at medium speed 2 minutes or until well blended (or use your arm-strength and a whisk, but it will take longer than 2 minutes). Beat in vanilla and egg whites. Add flour mixture, beat at low speed until blended.
5. Drop dough by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes or until set (not browned). cool on pans 2 minutes or until firm. Remove from pans, cool completely on wire racks.
6. To prepare frosting, combine 3/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbsp milk, and almond extract in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk until smooth. Working with 1 cookie at a time, hold cookie over bowl, and spread about 1 tsp white frosting over half of cookie (scrape excess frosting from edges). Let stand 10 minutes or until frosting is set.
7. Combine 3/4 cup powdered sugar and cocoa in a bowl. Gradually add 2 tablespoons milk, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Working with 1 cookie at a time, hold cookie over bowl, and spread about 1 tsp chocolate frosting over other half of cookie (scrape excess frosting from edges). Let stand 10 minutes or until frosting is set.

Cocoa Fudge: From Cooking Light
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
5 tbs. butter
7 tbs. unsweetned cocoa
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar (I used light brown sugar because it didn't specify to use dark)
1/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Cooking Spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife. Combine flour, soda, and salt, set aside (I can now set these aside in my new mixing bowls thanks to David Andes and Karen Lewis--boy, I really did get some great stuff for Xmas!). Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in cocoa and sugars. Stir in yogurt and vanilla. Add flour mixture, stirring until moist.
Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. *It helps to have a small bowl of water nearby, in case you have to use your fingers to get the dough to come off of the spoon. Wet your fingers and then you can easily slide the dough off of the spoon*

3. Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes or until almost set. Cool on pans 2-3 minutes or until firm. Remove cookies from pans, cool on wire racks.
Yield: approx. 2 dozen

Molasses: From Cooking Light
1/2 cup applesauce
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
6 tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 cup dark molasses
1 large egg
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsps. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
Cooking Spray

1. Spoon applesauce onto several layers of heavy-duty paper towels, spread to 1/20inch thickness. cover with additional paper towels, let stand 5 minutes. Scrape into a bowl using a rubber spatula.
2. Combine applesauce, 1 cup sugar, and butter, beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 3 minutes--or 10 if you are using just your strength hah). Add molasses and egg, beat well.
3. Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, level with a knife. Combine flours and next 5 ingredients, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture, beating until blended. Cover and freeze 30 minutes or until firm.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
5. With moist hands, shape dough into 32 (1-inch) balls. Roll balls in 1/4 cup sugar. Place 3 inches apart on baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.
Cool on pans 5 minutes. Remove from pans, cool completely on wire racks.

Snickerdoodles: From Smitten Kitchen

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
16 tbs. (2 stick or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar, plus more if needed
2 tbs. ground cinnamon, plus more if needed
2 large eggs


1. Preheat the oven to 400°, with one rack in top third and one rack in bottom third of oven. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.

2. Sift together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or using your muscles and a whisk or fork), combine butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar. Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes (longer if by hand). Scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs, and beat to combine. Add dry ingredients, and beat to combine. If dough is too soft to scoop and roll, you can chill it at this point.

3. Once dough has chilled, in a small bowl, combine remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the ground cinnamon. Use a small ice-cream scoop to form balls of the dough, and roll in cinnamon sugar. Place about two inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake until the cookies are set in center and begin to crack (they will not brown), about 10 minutes, rotating the baking sheets after five minutes. Transfer the sheets to a wire rack to cool about five minutes before transferring the cookies to the rack.

Peanut Butter Cookies: Adapted Barely From Smitten Kitchen (meaning I didn't use peanut butter chips because I didn't have any. All the rest is the same)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (I used creamy, but I'm sure it would be delicious as chunky as well)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips

For sprinkling: 1 tablespoon sugar, regular or superfine


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the chocolate chips (you could also use peanut butter chips--the same amount as chocolate--I just didn't have any).

3. Place sprinkling sugar — the remaining tablespoon — on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a criss-cross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

4. Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Wrap the cookies in saran wrap or put them in an air-tight container to keep them fresh until you package them for gifts.

FINAL STEP: Find beautiful wrapping/boxes to wrap your delicious treats in! I used both tins and little boxes with cellophane. Both are good choices...whatever keeps the cookies fresh and looks nice!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Low-Fat Ginger-Fudge Brownies

I'm not much of a baker, at all, but being snowed in at my parents made me a bit stir crazy (please mind the pun).  So I scoured the kitchen for ingredients and online for recipes. I decided to get creative (big amateur-baker no-no) and mixed a couple of brownie recipes together.  I didn't want to be boring and just make fudge brownies, plus I wanted to be somewhat healthy, so ta-da, low-fat ginger-fudge brownies!

(adapted from chocolate-ginger brownies and diane long's low-fat fudge brownies)


1/2 cup flour
2 Tbs unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (chopped)
1 Tbs butter
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
6 Tbs unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp nut meg
1/2 tsp grated ginger


Preheat oven to 350.  Grease an 8x8 pan and line with foil, grease foil.  Melt the bittersweet chocolate and butter over low-medium heat in a small sauce pan.  When smooth and melted mix well with the rest of the ingredients.  Pour into pan and bake in oven for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely in pan. Lift brownies out of pan using the foil. Top with powder sugar, if desired. Cut into squares and serve with a cold glass of milk.

I thought they came out pretty good for a person who never bakes and deviates from the directions! Definitely not your traditional fudge brownie- but a nice twist on a good thing!

Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts

Looking for a quick thing to make to bring to a dinner party or a housewarming? These candied nuts are so easy but are so amazingly delicious. I brought some to my family for Christmas and they were all gone within an hour and everyone wanted the recipe. So here it is!

Recipe for Sugar and Spice Candied Nuts from Smitten Kitchen:

1/3 cup dark-brown sugar
2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Generous pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound walnut or pecan halves or whole peeled hazelnuts (I used pecans and almonds and they were delicious)
1 egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix sugars, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon, making sure there are no lumps; set aside. Beat egg white and water until frothy but not stiff. Add pecans, and stir to coat evenly. Sprinkle nuts with sugar mixture, and toss until evenly coated.

Spread sugared nuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet fitted with parchment paper (I used aluminum foil because I was out of parchment, your cooking time will vary a bit if you make this substitute). Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven, and separate nuts as they cool. When completely cool, pour the nuts into a bowl, breaking up any that stick together.

Find a jar or something cute to put the nuts in...presentation is key when you are giving something like nuts. I used little holiday themed chinese take-out boxes and they were a huge success with the family.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Spiced Chocolate Torte Wrapped in Chocolate Ribbons

Merry Christmas!

Here is a Christmas cake I made this year for our Christmas Eve celebration. The cake was on the cover of "Bon Appetite" magazine (December 2010) and was a huge hit at our holiday party. The cake had a great consistency and wonderful spiced taste.

A couple tips I found while baking before you begin:

-I recommend making the cakes at least one day ahead. The cakes can be made up to two weeks ahead and frozen if you choose to do that instead. Making the entire cake in one day will be very difficult.
-This is a time consuming cake! You need to enter a state of zen before beginning this process. It is advisable to bake without the presence of screaming children to avoid culinary frustration.
- Chill the buttercream for 30 minutes to firm it up before spreading it on the cake layers. This makes the spreading much easier and ensures that the buttercream will hold up when the cake layers are assembled.
- Dusting the chocolate ribbon dough with powdered sugar before rolling it through the pasta machine helps to prevent it from sticking. When it starts to get too soft from the heat of your hands, place it back in the refrigerator as you work the dough. I used the electric kitchen aid pasta attachment for the ribbons and fed the strips through layers 1, 2 and 3.
-If the bittersweet chocolate strips don't stick when you place them atop the white chocolate strips or the ribbon assembly, lightly brush one side of the chocolate strips with light corn syrup, then place atop the white chocolate strips, syrup side down, and press lightly to adhere.
-Make sure to sift the flour and whip the egg whites into white peaks - this will ensure the consistency of the cake is perfectly delicious.
-Entire cake can be prepared up to 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Bring cake to room temperature before serving.
-Don't share the amount of corn syrup or butter in this cake with your guests to ensure they enjoy eating your cake!! :-)


Cake Ingredients

1 1/2 (3 sticks) Butter , Room Temperature
2 Cups Sugar
8 eggs, Room Temperature
10 ounces bittersweet chocolate or semisweet cacao, do not exceed 61% cacao, melted, luke warm (I used Ghiradelli chips)
1 ½ cups finely chopped pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 ⅓ cups unbleached all purpose flour, measured and then sifted
pinch of salt
pinch of cream of tartar

Buttercream Ingredients

¾ cup sugar
½ cup corn syrup
4 jumbo eggs
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) butter , cut into small pieces, roomo temperature
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate , do not exceed 61% cacao, melted and cooled, but still pourable
¼ cup dark rum

Glaze Ingredients

12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate , not to exceed 61% cacao, chopped
¾ cup (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter , cut into 12 pieces
2 tablespoons honey
¾ teaspoons instant espresso powder or instant coffee powder , I used espresso powder from my espresso machine

Chocolate Ribbons

7 ounces high quality white chocolate (such as lindt or perugina) , chopped
½ cup corn syrup , divided
7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate , do not exceed 61% cacao, broken into pieces
Directions for Making the Cake:

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter and flour three 9-inch-diameter cake pans with 1 1/2 inch high sides. Line bottom of each cake pan with waxed paper; butter and flour waxed paper.

Using electric mixer, cream butter in large bowl. Gradually beat in sugar until smooth. Beat in egg yolks 1 at a time. Blend in melted chocolate. Slowly mix in pecans, vanilla, and spices. Gently fold in flour in 4 batches (batter will be very thick and dense).

Using electric mixer fitted with clean dry beaters, beat egg whites with salt and cream of tartar in another large bowl until medium peaks form. Gently fold 1/4 of whites into batter to lighten, then fold in remaining whites. Divide batter among prepared pans, spreading evenly. Bake until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.

Run knife around sides of each cake. Let stand 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto racks. Cool to room temperature. DO AHEAD.

Cakes can be made up to 2 weeks ahead. Wrap tightly and freeze.
Directions for Buttercream:

Stir sugar and corn syrup in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil 1 minute. Meanwhile, using electric mixer, beat egg yolks in medium bowl until pale and thick. Gradually beat in hot sugar syrup. Continue beating until mixture is completely cool, about 5 minutes. Beat in butter 1 piece at a time, incorporating each piece completely before adding next. Blend in melted chocolate, then rum. If buttercream looks broken or curdled, place bowl with buttercream over medium heat on stove burner and whisk 5 to 10 seconds to warm mixture slightly, then remove from heat and beat mixture again on medium speed. Repeat warming and beating as many times as needed until buttercream is smooth).

Reserve 1/2 cup of buttercream. Set 1 cake layer, flat side up, on rack; spread with half of remaining buttercream. Top with second cake layer; spread with remaining buttercream. Top with third cake layer; use reserved 1/2 cup buttercream to fill in seam where cake layers meet. Freeze cake until buttercream is firm, about 2 hours.

Tip for cleaning your sauce pan and mixer bowl: Fill the empty saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. This should get rid of all the corn syrup stuck to the bottom of your saucepan. Pour boiling water into your mixer bowl while standing in the sink to remove remaining corn syrup.

Directions for Glaze:

Stir all ingredients in top of double boiler over gently simmering water until mixture is smooth. Remove from over water. Stir until glaze is thickened, about 5 minutes. Do not allow glaze to set.

Pour 3/4 of glaze over top of cake. Carefully and quickly tilt cake back and forth so glaze coats sides; smooth with a spatula, adding some of the remaining glaze where necessary. Chill cake until glaze sets.

Tips for pouring the glaze: When I poured the glaze on the cake it did not run down the sides the way I wanted it to. I took a spatula and covered the sides. I then placed the cake in the refrigerator and waited for the glaze to harden. Once it hardened, I removed the cake from the refrigerator and reheated the glaze. Using a spatula, I touched up the sides of the cake. I suggest doing this if you can't get the glaze to cover the first time.

Chocolate Ribbon Directions:

Melt white chocolate in top of double boiler over gently simmering water; stir until smooth. Stir in 1/4 cup corn syrup. Pour onto baking sheet. Chill until firm, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer white chocolate to work surface and knead several minutes. (Note: I found this difficult to do using my hands. I used the kneading tool for my kitchen aid mixer to knead the dough instead). Shape white chocolate dough into ball. Wrap in plastic. Let white chocolate dough stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Repeating with bittersweet chocolate and remaining 1/4 cup of corn syrup.

Cut white chocolate dough into 4 pieces. Flatten 1 piece into rectangle. Turn pasta machine to widest setting (setting 1 on kitchen aid mixer attachment). Run chocolate through 3 times, folding into thirds before each run. Adjust machine to next narrower setting. Run chocolate through machine without folding. If chocolate is more than 1/16 inch thick, run through next narrower setting. (I found that the best setting for this measurement was setting 3 on the kitchenaid mixer).

Lay chocolate piece on rimless baking sheet. Repeating flattening, folding, and rolling with remaining chocolate pieces. Repeat process with bittersweet chocolate dough.

Cut four 8X1 inch strips from rolled white chocolate dough and four 8 X 1/2 inch strips from rolled bittersweet chocolate dough. Center bittersweet chocolate strips atop white chocolate strips to form 4 ribbons. Run 1 ribbon from base of cake to center. Arrange remaining 3 chocolate ribbons equidistant from each other in same fashion so ribbons meet in the center of the cake.

Cut ten 6 X 1 inch strips from rolled white chocolate dough and ten 6 1/2 X 1/2 inch strips from rolled bittersweet chocolate dough. Center bittersweet chocolate strips atop white chocolate strips to form 10 ribbons. Cut ends off 2 ribbons on diagonal. Starting at center, drape ribbons over top and sides of cake to form trailers. To form loops for bows, hold remaining 8 ribbons in half, layered side out. Cut ends into V shapes. Arrange ribbon halves with V shapes at center of cake to form bow.

Cut on 3X1 inch strip of white chocolate and one 3 X 1/2 inch strip of bittersweet chocolate. Center bittersweet chocolate strip atop white chocolate strip. Fold in ends of chocolate strips and pinch to resemble knot; place in center of bow

Carefully transfer the cake to serving platter or cake stand.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pumpkin Bread

I was in the mood for pumpkin bread so I experimented with this recipe. I used the banana bread recipe Lynn posted on this blog and substituted one can of pumpkin puree for the banana. I also added:

-1 teaspoon ground cloves
-1 teaspoon allspice
-1 teaspoon pumpkin pie seasoning

Since pumpkin is drier than banana I added two large spoons of sour cream to make the cake less dry. I think this was a bit much, next time I will only add 1 large spoon of sour creme.


How To Make White Rice - So Easy!

Rice is so easy to make - here is a simple recipe that does not require a rice cooker!

1 cup rice [wash it first]
2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup of onion
salt, to taste
olive oil

-In a sauce pan place a tablespoon of oil. Heat on medium heat.
-Add the onion. Cook the onion until to turns slightly golden - but do not burn it!
-Add the uncooked rice and salt to the sauce pan and lightly cook [2-3 minutes]. Make sure to stir frequently so the rice does not burn to the bottom of the sauce pan.
-Add boiling water directly to the sauce pan, cover and let cook.

You can increase or decrease this recipe accordingly - note that every cup of rice requires 2 cups of hot water.

Chef Notes:

-I heat the water in an electric tea kettle. If you don't have one, you can heat the water in the microwave or in a traditional kettle. Make sure the water is hot before you add it to the sauce pan!
-You can make a large quantity of rice and freeze it in small ziplock bags for consumption throughout the week.
-For an easy and fast dinner heat leftover rice in a saute pan with a little olive oil. Crack one or two eggs directly on the rice. The egg mixture will cook directly into the rice and make a nice fried rice. Add whatever you have in your fridge that sounds good - I usually add cut up ham, green onions, soy sauce and leftover vegetables. Voila!

Kung Wow Chicken (Chef John's Version of Kung Pao Chicken)

This is a recipe I adopted from Chef John on his foodwish blog. It's a very savory and lovely dish for any occasion. The ingredients can all be chopped and refrigerated earlier if you plan on entertaining guests and want to make the dish quickly once your guests arrive. Enjoy!

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Cut into 1-inch cubes (make sure they are all the same size so they cook evenly!)

For the marinade:
1 tablespoon white wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
white parts from 3-4 green onions, chopped

For the sauce mixture:
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons white wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste
2 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon Asian chili paste (sambal), or more to taste
2 teaspoons ketchup
4 cloves minced garlic

Other ingredients:
2 tablespoons peanut vegetable oil for frying
2 cups cubed zucchini
1 cup cubed red bell pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoon water
1/4 cup green onion tops, chopped
handful roasted, salted peanut halves
4 cups cooked white rice

Cook the white rice separately. (See recipe for how to cook white rice).
-Combine marinade ingredients above with cubed chicken. Let marinade in the refrigerator for 1 hour or more.
-Combine all sauce ingredients and set aside.
-Combine .5 cup of water and dissolve the corn starch in it. The trick to making a thicker sauce is adding cornstarch - in about 30 seconds it will make your sauce thicker. Add more or less corn starch to thicken the sauce depending on your personal preference. Set this aside, you'll need it later.
-Chop all of your ingredients before you heat the pan. Once you turn the pan on everything moves very quickly so you will want everything ready to go. I recommend slicing the vegetables in triangles instead of squares or rectangles to make the dish more aesthetically pleasing.
-In a large wok or saute pan heat the peanut oil until it begins to smoke. You will want the pan to be REALLY hot before you throw the chicken on there - that way the chicken does not dry out. This is the trick to getting juicy and tender chicken. Note: The chicken will cook in less than 5 minutes, don't worry about it being under cooked.
-Once the peanut oil begins to smoke, add the chicken mixture. Keep it on HIGH heat the entire time. Saute for approximately 2 minutes. Add the vegetables. The vegetables will start to soften, when they reach the desired consistency add the sauce mixture (about five minutes). Stir. Add the cornstarch mixture you made and the chicken broth. Stir.
-Turn the heat off. Add the chopped green onions and the peanuts.

Serve over a bed of white rice. Bon Appetite!