Sunday, March 28, 2010

A New Chef in the Kitchen: Sausage Stuffed Jalapeños

My brother-in-law has been in my life for over half of it. He and my sister have been together for that long, and thinking about that statistic is wonderful, but it also reminds me of how old I am! He’s never been one to join in on the cooking marathons my mom, sister, and I have together, although he’s dabbled in some adventurous cooking, like brewing his own beer and making bacon.

When we gathered last weekend for my mom’s birthday, he showed up with his own contribution to our spread. He made stuffed jalapeños for the first time. While I couldn’t try them myself, the entire batch was devoured by three adults before dinner was ready. He didn’t have any parmesan cheese, and substituted with cheddar (his favorite cheese) instead. I think that I could try making these myself by substituting some sautéed veggies for the sausage. I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next time!

I would like to give a shout out to my friend, Sunny. She and her twins have made it to 37 weeks - full term - with the past couple months spent on bed rest. She is a total rock star, and her mom is an angel for flying across the country to spend the past couple months with her, looking after her 2-year-old son.

Sausage Stuffed Jalapeños
(From AllRecipes)
1 pound ground pork sausage
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese (Kate's brother-in-law used cheddar cheese)
1 pound large fresh jalapeño peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded
1 (8 ounce) bottle Ranch dressing (optional)

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Place sausage in a skillet over medium heat, and cook until evenly brown. Drain grease.
In a bowl, mix the sausage, cream cheese, and Parmesan cheese. Spoon about 1 tablespoon sausage mixture into each jalapeño half. Arrange stuffed halves in baking dishes.

Bake 20 minutes in the preheated oven, until bubbly and lightly browned. Serve with Ranch dressing, if desired.

Monday, March 22, 2010

B's Birthday: Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

It seems to be a big birthday time! We celebrated my mom’s birthday over the weekend, my maternal grandmother’s birthday is this week, my friend Sunny’s son just had his second birthday and she is anticipating the birth of her twins. By the way, I ‘d like to give a huge round of applause to her for handling bedrest like a champion and making it to 36 weeks!

Last week was my colleague, “B”’s birthday. She and I began working together in September and became fast friends. It’s been a rough time at work for both of us, and to complicate things further she is now hobbling around on crutches with a broken leg! She was in definite need of a chocolately birthday treat!

I made Chocolate-Chip Pound Cake to bring in to work on her special day. This pound cake comes together easily, and gives you chocolate cake that is filled with chocolate chips and topped with chocolate sauce. A chocolate trifecta! You can dip the bread in the chocolate sauce, but I like to pour it over the top and allow it to harden for a few minutes in the refrigerator. Oh, and this makes two cakes! Eat one and put one in the freezer, because it freezes really well!

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake
(From Giada's Kitchen)
5 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup water
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
2 ¼ cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup semisweet chocolate chips

For Homemade Chocolate Sauce:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9x5-inch loaf pans.

In a small saucepan, combine the unsweetened chocolate and 1 cup water. Place over medium-low heat and stir constantly until the chocolate is melted, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool for 2 minutes, then whisk in the mascarpone until the mixture is smooth.

Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl for 30 seconds. Stir in the chocolate-mascarpone mixture. Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, and chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until blended.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of each loaf comes out with no crumbs attached. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. (If you plan to freeze the cakes, wrap them well in aluminum foil once they are completely cool.)

To make the sauce:
Place the chocolate chips in a small heat-proof bowl. Combine the heavy cream and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and heat over medium-low heat until small bubbles appear at the edges of the pan. Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolate chips. Stir with a fork until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Drizzle the chocolate sauce over the pound cakes and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes to set the chocolate sauce. Return to room temperature before serving.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom: Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

We celebrated my mom’s birthday this weekend with a family dinner at our house. My sister, our mom, and I divided up cooking responsibilities, and we all contributed a few dishes that resulted in a Sunday evening feast. We even had three desserts! My mom blew out her birthday candles with the help of my nephew and niece, and then we enjoyed some carrot cupcakes (courtesy of the birthday girl herself), and a few other treats! It was an enjoyable evening spent with a wonderful family and good food! Happy Birthday, Mom!

Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
(Recipe by Ellie Krieger)
¾ cup whole-wheat pastry flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup canola oil
¾ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup natural applesauce
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ cups finely shredded carrots (about 2 medium carrots)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts
4 ounces 1/3-fat cream cheese
¾ cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 12 muffin cups with paper liners.

Sift together the first 6 ingredients. In a large bowl, whisk the oil, brown sugar and eggs until well combined. Whisk in the applesauce, vanilla and carrots. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in ¼ cup of the chopped walnuts.

Divide the batter between the muffin cups. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

With an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, confectioners' sugar and lemon zest until smooth and creamy. Frost the cooled cupcakes and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts. The cupcakes should be stored in the refrigerator.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Supper Salad: Roasted Sweet Potato and Orange Salad

This salad combines so many flavors that I love, and includes ingredients that provide a lot of nutrients. The recipe makes a lot, too! My husband and I have been eating this one all week. (I have all of the pieces refrigerated separately and toss together individual servings for us each night.)

If you're looking for a filling, yet light, entrée salad, this one will do the trick (perfect for a warm summer night!). I roasted the onions along with the sweet potatoes, and recommend doing the same if you can't handle a lot of raw onions. Roasting brings out the sweetness of the onions and also flavors them with rosemary and garlic.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Orange Salad
(From Cooking Light, December, 2005)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, unpeeled and crushed
1 1/2 pounds peeled sweet potato, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
3 cups orange sections (about 6 oranges)
1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
1 (6-ounce) bag prewashed baby spinach

3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced

Preheat oven to 400°F.

To prepare salad, combine first 4 ingredients (Kate also roasted the onions), tossing well. Place potato mixture on a jelly-roll pan lined with parchment paper. Bake at 400°F for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven; cool. Discard garlic. Combine potato mixture, orange sections, onion, pine nuts, and spinach in a large bowl.

To prepare dressing, combine orange juice and remaining ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle dressing over salad; toss gently to coat.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sister's Pork: “7-6-5” Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Chili Glaze

It has warmed up a lot here over the past few days. The sun has been shining, we're not wearing gloves and hats, and the snow has melted off our grill. So we fired it up on Sunday and grilled the pork tenderloins my sister makes that my husband loves so much.

This recipe takes a bit of preparation, as you let the pork brine for 45 minutes. That gives you time to make the chili glaze, and put the rest of your dinner together. He really enjoyed this. You can serve it with a fruit salsa, but he enjoyed it with just a little more glaze drizzled on the top. Here's to hoping that we're able to keep grilling outdoors until next winter!

“7-6-5” Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Sweet Chili Glaze
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 pork tenderloins (about 2 pounds total)
1 recipe Sweet Chili Glaze (recipe follows)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Brine the tenderloins: In a medium bowl, mix salt and sugar with 1 quart cool water until dissolved. Trim the tenderloins of excess fat and silverskin and submerge them in the brine; let stand about 45 minutes. Remove the pork from the brine, rinse thoroughly, and pat dry.

Grill the tenderloins: Rub the brined tenderloins all over with the glaze and then season with the pepper. Or, season to taste with another flavoring of your choice. Heat a gas grill, turning all the burners to high until the grill is fully heated, 10 to 15 minutes.

Put the pork on the hot grill grate. Close the lid and grill for 7 minutes. Turn the pork over, close the lid, and grill for another 6 minutes. Turn off the heat (keep the lid closed) and continue to cook the pork for another 5 minutes. At this point, an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest end of the tenderloin should read 145° to 150°F. (If not, close the lid and let the pork continue to roast in the residual grill heat.) Remove the pork from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes before carving. Cut across the grain into 1/2-inch slices and serve immediately, (with a fruit salsa or sauce of your choice, if desired).

Sweet Chili Glaze
2 tsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup frozen pineapple juice concentrate, thawed

In a small saucepan, heat the oil, chili powder, and cumin over medium heat. When the mixture starts to sizzle and the spices are fragrant, add the concentrate. Simmer until the mixture reduces to about 2 Tbs. Set aside to cool slightly.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

South Beach: Key Lime Pie

A few weeks ago we snuck away with some friends for a warm weather getaway to Miami. We spent the weekend enjoying the outdoors, the sunshine, and the delicious food available in South Beach. I had a few items on my “to-do” list of things to eat while I was down there: stone crabs, mojitos, plantains, and key lime pie. Within the first two days, I had checked off every item!

We had a great meal at Joe’s Stone Crabs, which we capped off with their famous key lime pie. Before heading home, I stopped in a grocery store and picked up some key limes to bring back with me. I made a key lime pie in my own kitchen to bring us a little taste of Miami in our winter wonderland here.

I fortunately bought two bags of key limes, and used every single one of them to squeeze out the 2/3 cup of lime juice the recipe calls for. If you have a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, now is the time to pull it out! You’ll save yourself a lot of time (and your arm muscles a lot of strain!) in whisking both the filling and the whipped cream.

Key Lime Pie

Graham Cracker Crust:
1/3 of a 1-pound box graham crackers
5 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar

3 egg yolks
2 teaspoons lime zest
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup freshly squeezed Key lime juice, or store bought

1 cup heavy or whipping cream chilled
2 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

For the graham cracker crust:
Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Break up the graham crackers; place in a food processor and process to crumbs. If you don't have a food processor, place the crackers in a large plastic bag; seal and then crush the crackers with a rolling pin. Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse or stir until combined. Press the mixture into the bottom and side of a pie pan, forming a neat border around the edge. Bake the crust until set and golden, 8 minutes. Set aside on a wire rack; leave the oven on.

For the filling:
Meanwhile, in an electric mixer with the wire whisk attachment, beat the egg yolks and lime zest at high speed until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Gradually add the condensed milk and continue to beat until thick, 3 or 4 minutes longer. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the lime juice, mixing just until combined, no longer. Pour the mixture into the crust. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the filling has just set. Cool on a wire rack, then refrigerate. Freeze for 15 to 20 minutes before serving.

For the topping:

Whip the cream and the confectioners' sugar until nearly stiff. Cut the pie into wedges and serve very cold, topping each wedge with a large dollop of whipped cream.