Archive | September, 2010

Daring Baker’s: Sugar Cookies

27 Sep

I used to work at a Stop & Shop and I used to be obsessed with their sugar cookies that had the inch thick icing on them. They were so terribly bad for you but oh so deliciously good. I’ve always wanted to make my own but never had the opportunity to. So I was really excited when the next Daring Baker’s challenge was sugar cookies and icing.

The September 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Mandy of “What the Fruitcake?!” Mandy challenged everyone to make Decorated Sugar Cookies based on recipes from Peggy Porschen and The Joy of Baking.

More specifically, she wanted us to create a cookie that reminded us of September. This September was pretty crazy for me, so this year I could have very easily made any of the following cookies: trains, white water rafting, Portland, or taking the MTELs (that one would have been hilarious to make). However I decided to go with the simple pumpkin.

Pumpkins remind me of a lot of things. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin cider. Pumpkin beer (My favorite). But pumpkins also remind me that I can whip out my flannel sheets and still not have to wear a jacket outside. It means that it’s time to start fattening up for winter (Kidding!). Fall is definitely the most delicious season of them all.

I was surprised how easy the royal icing was once I got the hang of it and got the consistencies right. Instead of a regular sugar cookie I made pumpkin spice sugar cookies to go with my theme. Next time I might add more pumpkin spice to the cookies, but they still taste delicious. I’ve definitely found a new recipe with countless possibilities!

Pumpkin Spiced Sugar Cookies

  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice mix*
  • 3 cups sifted all purpose flour
  • 1 stick plus 6 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup superfine sugar (If you can’t find superfine sugar like I couldn’t, just use regular granulated sugar and pulse in food processor)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Cream together butter, sugar, and pumpkin spice mix until it just starts to become creamy.

Beat in the egg until combined and make sure to scrape down the sides (unless you just got a new beater blade like I did!!!) Add flour slowly until a non-sticky ball forms.

Knead into a ball and dive into 2-3 balls. Roll out each portion on parchment paper to a thickness of about 1/5 inch. Refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes. Once chilled, remove from parchment paper and place on lightly floured surface. Cut out your shapes. Arrange shapes on parchment lined baking sheets and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. Allow them to cool completely.

*Pumpkin Spice Mix

  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Mix together all ingredient.

Royal Icing

  • 2.5 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 large egg whites
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • food coloring

Mix egg whites and lemon juice. Sift confectioner’s sugar to remove lumps. Beat or whisk until smooth. Add almond extract.

After I divided up my sugar. I used only a little bit of green and a lot of orange.

I filled one of my squeeze bottles that I got at Crate & Barrel with the orange royal icing. Then I added about 1/3-1/2 confectioner’s sugar (sifted!) to the remaining icing so I could make the outline. Then I started outlining!

After I finished outlining I used the looser icing to fill it in. I started at the top and as I held the cookie up the icing slid down. I used the tip of my squeeze bottle to cover the entire cookie. For the green I used a really really tiny tip and just filled in the green top. It would have been too annoying to outline and then fill. It worked great!

The first one was messy but after the second one I was getting the hang of the outline and getting it down fairly quickly. I was really happy with this challenge, can’t wait for next months!


Baja Fish Tacos

26 Sep

There’s an amazing burrito place down the street from our apartment that is somewhat legendary in Boston. El Pelon. I love El Pelon. El Pelon used to be located in the Fenway neighborhood in Boston, mere minutes away from the Northeastern University campus where I went to college. I remember many a day when I tried to figure out if I had enough time to walk (or sometimes run) to El Pelon to grab a burrito before my next class. It’s that serious.

Back in the beginning of 2009 the block of businesses that El Pelon was a part of caught on fire and all the businesses were forced to close, including my beloved El Pelon. Devastation is not even the word to describe not only my feelings, but many a college student and grad that loved El Pelon.

Then in March of 2010 they opened up, literally Down.The.STREET from my apartment. Talk about a Hallelujah chorus and angels all around. I was so excited about their opening that I went to their ‘soft’ opening, it was so soft that the paper hadn’t even been removed from the doors. It was a magical evening ladies and gentlemen.

Besides being famous for their El Guapo burrito, they have a cult following when it comes to their fish tacos. I can’t really describe why they are so delicious, be it the deliciously fried cod, or the cool cucumbers and red cabbage, or the killer chile mayo, but it’s a life altering experience people.

That’s where the inspiration for these tacos came from. I found a recipe for Baja Fish Tacos from A Sweet Pea Chef that proved to be a formidable opponent (Steven Colbert anyone? Ok, I’ll stop) to the fish tacos at El Pelon. Plus who doesn’t love homemade Pico de Gallo?

Baja Fish Tacos with Pico De Gallo

Original recipe can be found here

Pico de Gallo:

  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped*
  • 4 sprigs cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 1/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. cumin

*Important Note: When handling jalapeno peppers, do NOT, I repeat DO NOT proceed to rub your eyes, no matter how itchy they may be without thoroughly washing your hands. I learned that the hard way. Trust.

Combine all ingredients. Place in fridge for a half hour.

Creamy White Dill Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup fat free plain yogurt
  • juice from 1/2 a lime (approx 2 tbsp)
  • 1 tsp. jalapeno pepper, minced
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. dried dill weed
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder

Combine and chill in fridge.

For the Fish:

  • 1 lb. fresh white fish, cut into strips of 2-3 oz. portions (I used tilapia)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tbsp. water
  • Canola or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 head medium cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 8-10 good corn tortillas

On a plate, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, cayenne, garlic powder and black pepper. Then, in a small bowl, combine egg and water. Dip fish fillets in egg mixture, shake out excess and coat liberally with cornmeal mixture. Using a fork, lightly remove excess cornmeal mixture and place on a plate.

Using a saute pan fill with oil to a depth of 1/4 inch and heat on high until hot and then reduce to medium high before placing fish in pan. Cook fish for approximately 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown.

Snap. Crackle. Pop

Place cooked fillets on a plate covered with a paper towel to remove excess oil.

Once the fillets have cooled slightly, assemble, and consume immediately.

Curry Flank Steak Salad

23 Sep

Since we’re having a bit of an Indian Summer right now in Boston, I thought that I would bring back a recipe that reminds me of summer. I have to admit, I’m pretty boring when it comes to salads, so this was the most colorful and delicious salad I’ve made. The curry flavor of the meat and the sweet mangoes work great together. I was very happy to crack open my bag of curry powder that I got while visiting the Atlantic Spice Company in Truro. This salad is very versatile, and couldn’t be easier to make!

Curry Flank Steak Salad

  • bunch of arugula and green lettuce
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 ripe avocados, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 mango, chopped
  • 1.5lbs of flank steak

For the marinade:

  • 4tbsps curry powder
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • juice of one lime
  • 1tbsp grated ginger (fresh or powdered is fine)
  • 4tbsp white vinegar

Combine marinade ingredients with flank steak. Cover and let marinade for at least 1/2, or overnight. Combine lime juice, avocados, mango, and tomatoes and set aside.

Heat saute pan over medium high heat. Pour in some extra virgin olive oil and cook steak for about 7 minutes each side, or more if you like your meat to be less red in the center. Transfer to plate and chop into bite sized pieces.

Combine lettuce and arugula with the avocado mixture and place steak on top. No dressing it necessary, since the juices from the steak and the lime are more than enough. Margarita optional.

Portland: A Recap, Part 2

20 Sep

Um, excuse me….can someone tell me where September went!? I swear it was only Labor Day Weekend yesterday, and now we are almost in October? I don’t understand it, but I’ll tell you, I can’t WAIT for September to be over, I feel like I haven’t had a moment’s peace.

Before we return to our regularly scheduled programming, I wanted to finish telling you all about all of the fabulous places we went to in Portland.

First up is a place that I have been wanting to go to forever. Duck Fat. Fries fried in DUCK.FAT. I mean COME ON, really? Do you need to even ASK me twice?

We first started off with some house made cream soda and black raspberry lemonade. The cream soda was a little watery for my taste and the lemonade was wonderfully tart and refreshing.

We decided to share an order of poutine and the ratatouille panini. If you’ve never had poutine before, you should try it. Fries, cheese curds and gravy, again, why wouldn’t you want to try it?

It was a little expensive at $6.00 but it was really amazing. Next time I want to have just the fries and the many dipping sauces that they have.

The panini was also really really good. We made ratatouille a few weeks ago and this was definitely reminiscent of that dish, only in sandwich form.

And finally, on to dessert. Blessed, lovely, amazing, dessert. One word. Beignets. Another word. Chocolate. Two more words. Cinnamon sugar. Oh.My.Goodness.Gracious.

Go ahead and wipe the drool off the computer.

Soft pillowy doughy goodness. This picture does not do the beignets justice. Not at all. Go to Portland. Have the beignets. You’ll not be sorry.

On our last day in Portland we stopped at the Public Market House. This s a place I deeply deeply want in Boston. If we had this in Boston, I would be there 24/7.

Yeah, that's right, it's peanut butter jelly time

We got lunch at Pie in the Sky. I had the BBQ Chicken pizza and Mr. Kitchen Misfit had the sausage and basil pizza. Perfect portions and it was delicious.

It was a great way to end the weekend in Portland. I was very surprised that there were so many delicious places to go in Portland, it makes me excited to go back again.

Daring Cook’s: Apple a Day

14 Sep

I’ve always been intrigued by canning. However, I was also a little terrified. I mean, it seems like there are so many rules you have to abide by and there are so many opportunities for something to go wrong. So I was rather excited and anxious all at the same time when I saw this month’s Daring Cooks challenge which was food preservation and canning. I decided to go with apple butter because it is delicious and I came up with about 25 different ways of using it.

Who doesn't love delicious apples?

I did a search for apple butter and came up with this recipe from Simply Recipes. I halved the recipe since I didn’t want to make a lot of apple butter, and I ended up making about 4 jars with a little more left over. So without further ado, Apple Butter!

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Apple Butter

Recipe adapted from Simply Recipes

  • 2lbs of apples (I used Fuji)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • Sugar (See below notes)
  • Salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp allspice
  • rind and juice of 1 lemon

Cut the apples into quarters, leaving the skin and core alone. Cut out any damaged parts. Put them into a large pot, add the water and vinegar, and cook until the apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Mash the apples and using a sieve extract as much puree as you can. Use a pestle or something similar to get all the goodness out. Measure the amount of puree and add a 1/2 cup of sugar per cup of puree.

I had about 5 cups so I added 2.5 cups of sugar. Then add the rest of ingredients and taste to make sure it is to your liking. Here comes the part where A LOT of patience is needed. Cook, uncovered, in a large thick-bottomed pot on medium low heat, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Cook until thick and smooth (about 1-2 hours).

Now onto the canning. I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures but I’ll try to be as specific as possible. First I took my canning equipment and sterilized them by placing everything in a 200 degree oven and baking for 10 minutes. I took some boiling water and submerged the tops of the cans in the boiling water. Then I VERY CAREFULLY poured the delicious butter in. I brought a huge pot of water to boil and using tin foil since I did not have a canning rack, I very carefully submerged the cans into the boiling water, making sure that they did not touch. I let them boil for about 10 minutes and then removed the cans. Within about 5 minutes I heard the beautiful *POP* of the lids being sealed and voila!

I have to admit, it was a lot easier than I ever thought it would be. I can’t wait to use up the delicious apple butter! Look for some upcoming recipes! And I can’t wait to can again!

Portland: A Recap

10 Sep

This past Labor Day Weekend, Mr. Kitchen Misfit and I visited Portland, ME. I love Maine, and I like to find any excuse to visit Maine as much as possible.

We stayed at the Chadwick Inn, a charming and overall delightful Bed & Breakfast just a short drive from downtown Portland.

I loved everything about this B&B. The house itself was wonderfully decorated. I hate it when B&B’s look outdated and is decorated circa 1970. Not so with the Chadwick. The dining room was adorable, and there was a nice display of coffee, tea, juice, water and snacks that were available all day.

We stayed in the Baxter Room which was the smallest room of the 4 but was by far my favorite (We took a peek at the other rooms). It was set off in its own corridor, and there was a huge bathroom across the way. But my favorite part of the whole room? The AWESOME balcony!

We wanted this weekend to be very laid back and when we came back to the B&B to relax you can see by the presence of my Nook that I definitely made use of the balcony.

The food was absolutely wonderful. We were served 2 courses and you could tell the food was fresh and it tasted delicious. Our first day we started off with some granola and yogurt drizzles with honey followed by crepes with strawberries, blueberries, banana and caramel sauce, and nutella.

Excuse the horrendous photos. They were taken with my phone.

The second day we had blueberries with brown sugar and warmed milk. I never thought to have a combination such as that. But it was fabulous. We then had eggs benedict with a faux hollandaise sauce made with orange and did not contain any egg yolks. This was served with peppered home fries. They were some of the best eggs benedict I’ve ever had. I’m not a huge fan of hollandaise, but this sauce was amazing.

I highly recommend the Chadwick Inn if you are staying in Portland. It’s really everything you could ever want in a B&B and so much more!!

Anyway, our first stop in Portland was lunch at the Flatbread Company. They have a couple of locations in New England and even have one location in Hawaii and one in British Columbia! They specialize in wood fired pizza and have a HUGE oven for all to see.

You can just see the pizza cooking!

Mr. Kitchen Misfit and I managed to snag a table on the patio which overlooks Casco Bay. We ordered a combination pizza, one half was sausage and the other half was a veggie special they had going on that day.

Beer and Pizza, what's NOT to love?

It was spectacular. The sausage was very mild and the caramelized onions and mushrooms complimented the smoky crust. I was really impressed by the veggie side as well, with crunchy green beans and beets with a balsamic reduction, I was thinking about how I could have consumed a whole pizza by myself! It’s a good thing I didn’t, because my tummy was really feeling it afterwards! We washed it down with some tasty local craft brews, and all felt right in the world.

After our first (and most certainly NOT our last) delicious meal in Portland we headed down the street to LeRoux Kitchen, which is a kitchen specialty store that also had an amazing selection of olive oils and balsamic vinegars. I tried a wonderful dark cherry balsamic vinegar that had a huge explosion of flavor as well as a lemon olive oil that I wish I had bought.

After we walked and shopped around some more and relaxed a bit at the B&B we headed out for dinner and ate at Paciarino which is an extraordinary Italian restaurant not far from where we ate at Flatbread Company. They hand make ALL of their pasta and sauces, and they import almost all of their ingredients straight from Italy. I was a little giddy about eating here since everything I saw on the menu looked fantastic!

And I was not disappointed AT ALL.

While we were waiting for our table I perused the shelf filled with delicious sounding (and looking!) straight from Italy delectables.

For my meal I got the Ravioli Goat Cheese al Pomodoro and Mr. Kitchen Misfit got the Maccheroni Paesani. Mine was full of flavor and the pasta was really really fresh. I stole a bite of the Mr.’s dish and it was extremely mild but at the same time had a lot of flavor. It was definitely one of the freshest meals I’ve had.

Goat Cheese Ravioli

Maccheroni Paesani

That meal was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Well, that’s all for now. Look out for Part 2 sometime next week! For now, I’m actually heading BACK to Maine, but this time I’m heading to West Forks, ME to go white water rafting!! I’m so incredibly pumped to go!! See you guys next week!!

Peach Frozen Yogurt

2 Sep

If someone gave me a container of Edy’s Slow Churned Peach Frozen Yogurt it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for me to consume the entire container. In one sitting. This is how much I love it. So I was tickled peach ::insert rim shot here:: when I saw a recipe for Peach Frozen Yogurt in The Perfect Scoop. If you have an ice cream maker but don’t have this book, GET IT RIGHT NOW. It’s OK, I’ll wait right here.

All set? Awesome.

I pretty much kept to the recipe but substituted Greek Yogurt for regular yogurt. It definitely gave the yogurt a more tart flavor, so next time I’ll try the regular yogurt and see how it turns out. It was still delicious, flavorful and creamy. Perfect for consuming especially during a heat wave.

Peach Frozen Yogurt

From the Perfect Scoop

  • 1.5lbs ripe peaches
  • .5 cup water
  • .75 cup plain whole milk yogurt (I used Greek yogurt)
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup of sugar

Peel peaches, slice them in half, and remove the pits. Cut the peaches into chunks and cook them with the water in a medium saucepan over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the sugar, then chill in the refridgerator.

When the peach mixture is cool, puree in a food processor with the yogurt until almost smooth but slightly chunky. Mix in a few drops of lemon juice.

Freeze in ice cream maker according to manufacture’s instruction. Eat immediately or chill for a few hours if you want it to be harder.

Enjoy! Mr. Kitchen Misfit and I are heading out to Portland, ME for Labor Day weekend and I’m hoping to take LOTS of pictures and share them with you when I get back. Hopefully Hurricane Earl won’t spoil our plans! Have a great weekend!

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