Monday, December 27, 2010

Pasta á la Christy

My good friend Christy may not love to cook, actually, I think she rather detests the chore! But she has really good taste, something you can tell just by looking at her! Impeccable fashion sense in home décor and clothing, great wine and of course, food! So it didn't really surprise me when she listed off some ingredients she has combined together in her own little pasta creation. She didn't have exact amounts for me to follow, so I was left to my own devices to figure it out. What I came up with was quite tasty, however, without Christy's input on the final product (other than the photo I sent her), I don't know if it is quite up to par with her standards. At any rate, I think you should try it...and of course, make any adjustments to suit your tastes -- but as a guide, here's what I did:

8 oz angel hair pasta, cooked as directed on package
1-2 TBSP olive oil
-- heat in large sauté pan, and then add:
2 chicken breasts, diced
Salt and pepper to taste
-- Sauté over medium heat until chicken is no longer pink, then add:
½ cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
2 TBSP capers
4 cloves garlic, diced
4 TBSP fresh basil leaves, diced (reserve 1 TBSP for garnish)
3 roma tomatoes, diced
-- let simmer together for 5-7 minutes. Pour chicken mixture over cooked angel hair pasta, and toss with several tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese. Top each serving with additional parmesan and reserved fresh chopped basil. Now grab a glass of your favorite white wine (or red, rules can be broken!) and ENJOY!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Beignets (little fried doughnuts)

Beignets (fancy French word for fried don't you feel more virtuous using that word instead???)

I don’t know about you, but I love cooking and baking sweets for the holidays! So, I decided to go out on a limb and try something I have never made before, but see quite often in cooking competitions like “Chopped” on The Food Network….Beignets. It’s a French term for fried doughnuts. Only, not the doughnuts we are used to getting at the bakery here in the U.S., but a slightly less rich and less sweet fried pastry. Now, typically these beignets are simply dredged in plain old powdered sugar after being deep fried, but again, I decided to try something a little different with my toppings. Here’s what I did:

Topping #1 – Sweet Chai (favorite!)
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tea bags Vanilla Chai tea, opened
     (I got this idea for the tea from my friend Bre Whitley - from a cookie recipe she sent me last year!)

Topping #2 – Orange Cinnamon
1 cup granulated sugar
1 ½ tsp orange zest
½ tsp cinnamon

Topping #3 – Chocolate Mint
1 cup hot chocolate mix
2 peppermint candy canes, ground to a fine powder

So – now that you know how I gave my beignets flavor, this is how you make the dough. This makes an AWFUL lot, so if you can, I would recommend halving the recipe. They are not sweet at all (if you try them plain) so if you prefer sweeter, I’d add a little more sugar (maybe another ½ cup if making the full recipe). Alternately, if you like the orange zest topping, I would even suggest adding the orange zest to the dough (along with the flour) and then just using cinnamon and sugar to coat. At any rate…these are really yummy, and I suggest you try to make them at least ONCE in your life! Especially if you’re a doughnut lover!

Ingredients (recipe taken from The Food Network, via Paula Deen)

• 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1 envelope active dry yeast
• 2 eggs, slightly beaten
• 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
• 1 cup evaporated milk
• 7 cups bread flour
• 1/4 cup shortening
• Nonstick spray
• Oil, for deep-frying
• 3 cups confectioners' sugar


Mix water, sugar, and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes.
In another bowl, beat the eggs, salt and evaporated milk together. Mix egg mixture to the yeast mixture. In a separate bowl, measure out the bread flour. Add 3 cups of the flour to the yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add the shortening and continue to stir while adding the remaining flour. Remove dough from the bowl, place onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Spray a large bowl with nonstick spray. Put dough into the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Let rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours. (you can also cover in plastic and refrigerate for up to 24 hours if you need to)

Preheat oil in a deep-fryer to 350 degrees F.

Add the confectioners' sugar to a paper or plastic bag and set aside.
Roll the dough out to about 1/4-inch thickness and cut into 1-inch squares. Deep-fry, flipping constantly, until they become a golden color. After beignets are fried, drain them for a few seconds on paper towels, and then toss them into the bag of confectioners' sugar. Hold bag closed and shake to coat evenly.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Black Velvet Cake (Whiskey Cake)

Black Velvet Cake
So this is the simplest cake recipe ever! And the most decadent and sinful, guaranteed to get you tons of compliments, and requests to make it for any potluck style function you attend. You can even cheat on parts of it. But the cake itself HAS to be the one from the back of the Hershey's Unsweetened Cocoa Powder container. Here it is though, I know it by heart, been using the same recipe since I was 10!

1 3/4 cup flour
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt

Mix dry ingredients in large bowl, then add:

2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

Beat well, until smooth. Then slowly pour in 1 cup boiling water and again, mix well.

Pour into greased and floured baking dish...either 9x13" pan, or 2 - 8 or 9" rounds. Bake at 350, approximately 30-40 minutes. I usually just watch it at the end, and once it no longer jiggles at all, and is firm to the touch, I call it good and remove from the oven. Cool for at least 4 hours before assembling.

Whipped Cream (here's where you can cheat):

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla (or any flavor you want...brandy extract is yummy too)
1/4 cup sugar (or more if you like sweeter)

whip the way you normally would to make whipped cream, and to make this set better, I usually dissolve 1/2 packet of Knox gelatin (about 2 tsp in 2 TBSP water) and add at the end of whipping. It holds up better under the top layer.

~OR~ just use Cool Whip!

Whiskey Sauce:

(this recipe makes more than you'll need, but trust me, you'll want leftovers to put on ice cream, french toast, cinnamon rolls...ANYTHING!)

1 cup butter (margarine will do too)
2 cups sugar
4 beaten egg yolks
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup (I usually use 3/4, sometimes even 1 whole cup) whiskey
(you can use cheap stuff, nobody will notice, and I've used amaretto, frangelico, and grand marnier too...ALL are yummy!)

In saucepan, melt butter. Stir in sugar, egg yolk, and water. Cook and stir constantly over medium heat for 8-10 minutes, or until sugar dissolves and mixture boils. Remove from heat and stir in whiskey. Cool at room temperature at least 4 hours before assembling cake. your bottom layer on your serving plate. Spoon some of the whiskey sauce on top of bottom layer and let it sink in. Then, use your whipped cream and spread a thick layer, making sure it goes all the way to the edge. Then place top layer on. Spoon more sauce over that to make a nice sticky base for nuts to hold on to. Either use Pecan halves, or chopped walnuts and completely cover the top with nuts. Then slowly spoon sauce over the entire top, letting it drip down sides. Refrigerate for a few hours, until sauce is hardened. Drizzle more over that if you wish. I shouldn't need to tell you what to do it and ENJOY!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Curried Chicken and Lentil Stew with Bacon

I didn't discover how delicious curry was until just a few years ago, and ever since then, I have been trying to figure out ways to make it. This recipe, so far, is my favorite way to showcase the flavor. So today I will share with you how I make this yummy stew, and hopefully you'll make a big pot of it and dig into it for the next week...OR keep some in your freezer to eat when you don't feel like cooking! And today I even had the help of my 5 year old son Timothy while making this hearty stew, so enjoy his bright smile and entertaining commentary!
Curried Chicken and Lentil Stew with Bacon

8 oz, uncooked bacon, diced
1 lb. uncooked chicken breast, diced
1 medium onion, diced (I used sweet Vidalia)
3 medium carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
1 lb bag lentils
1 -- 28 oz can diced tomatoes
7 cups chicken broth (use water and bouillon cubes if needed)
2 TBSP curry powder (I use a blend of mild and hot)
2 TBSP minced garlic
½ tsp black pepper
Salt to taste, if needed at the end of cooking

In a large stock pot, render down the bacon pieces until lightly crisp. Add chicken and cook until no longer pink. Add the mirepoix (onion, carrots, and celery) to the pot, and continue to cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, and stir well. Bring to a boil, cover, and then reduce heat to simmer for 45-60 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Serve warm over rice or with a side of Naan bread. I made a "Naan style" flat bread, but I grilled mine, as I do not have a tandoor!

Naan style flatbread:

2 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ cup milk
½ cup yogurt
1 tablespoon oil
1 beaten egg
1 teaspoon sugar
Add optional spices if you want, such as cumin, or garlic

Mix together dry ingredients. Heat oil in a small saucepan. Add milk, egg and yogurt to pan and heat until just warm, about 3-5 minutes. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix the dough, and knead just until held together. Let rest, covered up to 45 minutes. On floured surface divide dough into equal sized balls, 6-10 of them depending on how big you want your bread. Flatten each ball to about ½ inch thick. On a lightly grease grill pan, place as many as will fit, and grill over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes, and then turn over and brush with olive oil or butter. Cook another minute or two until done (reminded me of making pancakes). Keep warm in a covered basket or low oven until ready to eat. ENJOY!