Tuesday, January 30, 2007

It's report season....

... and my good cooking intentions have gone out the window. Writing narrative reports at my school is a long and stressful process. Writing them is intense, deadlines have been coming fast and furious and there is still the classroom to run and curriculum to plan. We began writing reports in December and final edits of all subjects (and there are at least 7 or 8) are due Friday.

Hopefully then cooking will begin again. Stay tuned...

Monday, January 15, 2007

Spinach and Kale Turnovers - Cooking Light J/F 2007

This recipe was a delight. I was shocked by both how easy the filling came together, and how tasty it was when coupled with my homemade pizza dough. The recipe calls for canned pizza dough, but when you use my favorite that mixes up inside of a half hour everything just tastes that much better.

I actually made this recipe for guests on Saturday. The turnover halves pictured are from the two (out of nine!) that were left. I expected people to hear the words spinach and kale and run away screaming, but our guests loved the taste and scarfed them up with gay abandon. Which always makes for a happy hostess. This will definitely be a repeated recipe, as it goes so nicely with a bowl of soup which is how I enjoyed my leftover turnover today. The soup was nothing special, just something I created to use up some veggies left lying around the house. Handful of spinach, half a cup of cannellini beans, some green beans, a can of diced tomatoes, vegetable broth, garlic and onions - basically an everything but the kitchen sink kind of soup.

Spinach and Kale Turnovers
Cooking Light - January/February 2007
Yield - 8 (I got 9)

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 cup of onion chopped
1 garlic clove (I used 2)
1 small bunch of kale chopped (3 cups)
1 (6oz) package of fresh baby spinach
black pepper to taste
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
3 oz crumbled feta cheese
11 oz can of refrigerated pizza dough (I made my own)
2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion and and saute for ten minutes until browned. Add garlic, and cook for one minute or until fragrant. Add kale and spinach and saute till kale is tender (approximately 8 minutes). Stir in pepper, salt and nutmeg. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Stir in feta.

Separate dough in to 8 pieces that are rolled out in 5-6 inch disks. Spoon 1/3 cup of mixture on each circle, leaving 1/2 inch border. Fold dough over kale mixture until edges almost meet. Bring bottom edge of dough over top edge and crimp edges together to enclose.

Place turnovers on sprayed baking sheet. Lightly coat turnovers with spray and sprinkle with parmesan. Bake for 18 minutes or untill golden brown.

And, in case anyone needs it again, here's my favorite pizza dough recipe. This is the dough I used to make the turnovers.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Eating Well

3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 package quick-rising yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons), such as Fleischmann's RapidRise
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2-2/3 cup hot water (120-130°F)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1. Combine whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a food processor; pulse to mix. Combine hot water and oil in a measuring cup. With the motor running, gradually pour in enough of the hot liquid until the mixture forms a sticky ball. The dough should be quite soft. If it seems dry, add 1 to 2 tablespoons warm water; if too sticky, add 1 to 2 tablespoons flour. Process until the dough forms a ball, then process for 1 minute to knead.

2. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Coat a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and place it, sprayed-side down, over the dough. Let the dough rest for 10 to 20 minutes before rolling.

makes 12 oz dough, enough for one 12-inch pizza or two 10-inch pizzas

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Football, Friends and Brownies.

My husband is a big football fan. I'm not (and that's an understatement). To keep my sanity, while feeding his football frenzy, it has been his custom over the last few years to meet up with friends every Sunday to watch the games. I'm happy being football-free, and he's happy to hang with the guys.

Apparently this week was a big deal - playoffs or something. :) So instead of the guys hanging at the bar they usually choose for football viewing pleasure, they went to one of the guys' apartments. Less distractions, you see. And so M. asked me to bake something. It's rare he requests a baked treat, so I allowed him to pick from several recipes that didn't involve more than a quick trip to the store. He chose this recipe for Double-Decker Chocolate-Chip Brownies from The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge. I haven't made much from the cookbook, so I was happy to comply. The one recipe I did try looked good, but ended up tossed due to my error (undercooking). So, I was eager to try again.

The one thing that is unique about the recipes in the Weekend Baker is that they utlize unusual steps in the intent of being quicker then most. Don't get me wrong, there are days I'll happily spend hours baking. And then there are days I'd much rather not. And this was the latter. The author regularly calls for melting butter, and then simply adding the dry ingredients. The results of this recipe were well received by the guys, or so the report came back. While they competed with pizza and wings, the double-decker brownies did very well for themselves and not too many were left.

I made a few couple changes but the recipe still worked. My brownie layer was a bit too fudgy - I was out of cocoa powder and NOT returning to the store, so I subbed an equal amount of fancy cocoa mix which had both powder and chunks of chocolate. I wouldn't repeat the recipe this way, but it worked. The chocolate chip layer was delicious - it was hard not to steal crumbs as they fell off of pieces. I chilled the cooked brownies overnight, and this was still a challenging recipe to cut. Perhaps I should have allowed for more warming before wrestling with a knife. At any rate, this would definitely be a recipe I'd repeat in the future. The recipe was quick, easy and made a multitude of brownies. What more could a busy chef ask for?

Chocolate-chip brownie double-deckers

The Weekend Baker by Abigail Johnson Dodge

Makes 2 dozen 2 inch (5 cm) double-deckers

Author’s notes – One afternoon, I was testing both the brownie and chocolate chip cookie recipes for this book and my husband Chris was in the kitchen looking for a sample or two. Eyeing both batters, Chris asked what would happen if they were baked layered together. A great idea and, as it turned out, with a few tweaks to the chocolate chip recipe, I ended up with bar cookies that offer the best of both cookies.

Do aheads

The double deckers can be prepared through step 7, cut, tightly wrapped and frozen for up to one month. There’s almost no thawing necessary, about 20 minutes, as these brownies are delicious even when partially frozen.

For the Chocolate Chip layer

12 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For the Brownie layer

12 tablespoons unsalted butter cut into 6 pieces
¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted if lumpy
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
¾ cup all purpose flour

  1. Position an oven rack on the middle rung. Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9 by 13 inch baking pan.
  2. TO MAKE CHOCOLATE CHIP LAYER -- Put the butter in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat, stirring occasionally until butter is melted. Slide pan from heat and add the brown sugar. Whisk until no lumps remain. Set aside to cool while you make the brownie layer.
  1. TO MAKE THE BROWNIE LAYER -- Put the butter in a medium saucepan and set over medium heat, stirring occasionally until butter is melted. Slide pan from heat and add the cocoa powder. Whisk until mixture is smooth. Add the sugar and salt and whisk until blended. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until just blended. Whisk in vanilla with second egg. Sprinkle flour over chocolate mixture, and stir with a rubber spatula until just blended.
  1. Scrape batter into prepared baking dish and spread evenly with offset or rubber spatula. Set aside while you finish chocolate chip layer.
  2. TO FINISH CHOCOLATE CHIP LAYER -- In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk until well blended. Once the butter mixture has cooled, add the egg and vanilla to it and whisk until blended. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  1. Drop the dough over the brownie batter in large scoopfuls and spread evenly with spatula. Bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center comes out with small, gooey clumps of brownie sticking to it (about 40 minutes). Don’t overbake, or they won’t be fudgy. Transfer baking pan to a rack to cool completely.
Using bench scraper or knife, cut into small squares measuring about 2 inches across. The cooler the double-deckers are, the cleaner cutting will be but these fudgy treats will always leave some sticky crumbs on the knife.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

New Year ... new blog.

Well, maybe not a new blog but at least a renewed attempt to get back into the blogging swing. I confess, my couple months off have been quite disastrous. I'm completely out of the habit of photographing food, and could have posted many a recipe had I only remembered to take a picture.

Oh well, here we go in 2007. Light and healthy (for the most part) and cooking up a storm. That's my new year's resolution, and I'm beginning with a delightful Cooking Light recipe for Cavatappi with Vodka Sauce. M and I both love a good vodka sauce. The creamy lusciouness of the sauce coating the nooks and crannies of pasta shapes - heaven on earth. However the cream and butter that makes a vodka sauce taste good isn't so great for one's overall health. Except perhaps on special and oh so indulgent occasions.

So, I wanted to try this Cooking Light version and see if it was up to snuff. Would it do for our vodka sauce cravings without doing in our waistlines? And the answer is yes. I made a couple mistakes when making the recipe, and it was still good enough to repeat and correct in the future. I didn't cook the sauce at a high enough heat to burn off all the vodka, and I didn't have enough of one kind of pasta to make the recipe. I'm notorious for always buying pasta, and having our pantry swim in about ten boxes of different kinds of pasta. So this time I figured I must have the right amount of pasta at home, and I didn't. So we had it with a mix of farfalle, and whole wheat fusilli. And the recipe was still a keeper!

Cavatappi with Vodka Sauce
From Cooking Light
Luscious, creamy vodka sauce gets into every nook and cranny of the spiral-shaped cavatappi. You can also use fusilli or penne.

My notes - I added peas because M. is a big fan of peas with his vodka sauce. And I never turn down an extra veggie!

8 ounces uncooked cavatappi pasta (about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon butter
2/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
4 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon water
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
1/3 cup vodka
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped basil

Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cover and cook 3 minutes or until tender. Add tomato sauce; simmer, partially covered, 8 minutes or until thick. Combine flour and water, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture to pan; cook 1 minute. Add half-and-half, milk, vodka, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil. Stir in cheese. Reduce heat to low; cook 3 minutes or until cheese melts, stirring frequently. Add pasta; toss to coat. Sprinkle with basil.

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: about 1 1/3 cups)

CALORIES 449 (27% from fat); FAT 13.3g (sat 8g,mono 3.4g,poly 0.5g); PROTEIN 16.6g; CHOLESTEROL 36mg; CALCIUM 275mg; SODIUM 784mg; FIBER 3.2g; IRON 2.7mg; CARBOHYDRATE 55g

Cooking Light, MAY 2003