Snickerdoodles

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Snickerdoodles are simple cookies with a funny sounding name.  There is really nothing fancy or exotic about this dessert but whether I make them for bake sales, cookie swaps, or dessert tables, they are snapped up in just a few minutes.  Snickerdoodles are a New England staple and I can always spot the New Englader in the crowd since they are the first ones to pounce on the cookie tray.  This recipe is courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen (another New England tradition) and comes together almost as fast as the cookies get eaten.

SNICKERDOODLES

1 3/4 cups white sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

2 1/2 cups flour

2 teaspoons cream of tarter

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

2 eggs

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375.
  • Place 1/4 cup of the sugar and all of the cinnamon in a small shallow dish.  (A pie plate works well).  Combine with a whisk and set aside.
  • In a large bowl combine the flour, cream of tarter, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk together and set aside.
  • Place the remaining sugar in a separate large bowl.  Add the butter and vegetable shortening.
  • Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the ingredients together until they are combined and the entire mixture is light and fluffy, 3 to 6 minutes.
  • Beat in the eggs one at a time and beat until combined.
  • Reduce the speed to low and add the flour.  Beat until just combined and no flour streaks remain.
  • Place two tablespoons (use 1 for smaller, bite sized cookies) dough in your hands and roll into a small ball.
  • Roll each ball in the sugar and cinnamon mixture then place on a cookie sheet.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes (8-10 for smaller cookies).  The cookies will be soft and puffy when done.
  • Remove the cookies from the oven and allow the cookie sheet to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing the cookies and allowing to cool completely.
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Rosemary & Red Wine Hamburger Patties

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Here is a ridiculously simple yet tasty dinner that is also fast. I think of it as a more sophisticated take on  your classic hamburger patty. My husband first introduced me to this dish early in our relationship; he wasn’t much of a cook but as an adult, realized that he couldn’t live on take out alone. I was skeptical when he first told me about this dish. Perhaps it was because he referred to it “as that hamburger thing”. However, I quickly changed my tune once I tasted it. In the years since then I’ve tweaked his recipe and in my opinion, improved upon it.

This is truly an easy dish to make. My number one recommendation, however, is to use a good tasting wine that you enjoy drinking. If you don’t like it in the glass, chances are you won’t like it on your plate. Besides, you only use a cup so there will be plenty left in the bottle to enjoy with your dinner. Serve this alongside noodles, mashed potatoes or another starch that can help absorb the yummy sauce because you won’t want to waste a single drop of it.

ROSEMARY & RED WINE HAMBURGER PATTIES

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 shallot, minced

1 pound lean ground beef

salt and pepper

1 cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced

3 tablespoons butter

Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium-high heat.

When the oil shimmers, add the shallot to the pan and saute until soft, 3 to 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, use your hands to form the ground beef into four equal sized patties.

Season the patties generously on both sides with the salt and pepper.

Add the patties to the skillet and cook until the meat begins to cook and the patties are slightly browned, 4 to 5 minutes.

Flip the patties and cook for an additional 2 minutes.

Add the wine and the rosemary to the pan.

Continue to cook until the meat is cooked through to your liking and the wine begins to simmer. For me, this usually takes an additional 4 to 5 minutes.

Off the heat and stir in the butter. Adjust the seasoning as necessary and serve.

Serves 4

Crispy Smashed Roasted Potatoes

I’ve been trying to make more interesting side dishes to accompany my entrees.  While I will spend hours perfecting the perfect main course, by the time I get to the side dishes, I seem to run out of momentum.  This recipe for a ridiculously easy potato dish is courtesy of Fine Cooking Magazine.  With only three ingredients and a little prior planning this dish comes together quickly.  (Plus smashing the potatoes is a lot of fun!). I served the potatoes with sour cream and chives to go along with grilled chicken.  I’m now thinking that I could easily dress the potatoes up for a more formal dinner or even serve them with a dipping sauce as a part of a buffet table.  Regardless of how I make them in the future, this dish is a keeper.

CRISPY SMASHED ROASTED POTATOES
 
 
12 to 15 baby red potatoes
2 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup olive oil
Boil the potatoes:
  • Put the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with at least one inch of water.  Add 2 teaspoons of salt to the water.  Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook the potatoes until they are completely tender and can easily be pierced with a skewer.  Make sure they are cooked through but don’t over cook.  The total cooking time will be 30-35 minutes.
  • While the potatoes are cooking, set up a double layer of clean dish towels on the counter top.  As the potatoes finish cooking, remove them individually from the water, and let them drain and sit for just a minute or two on the dishtowels.
Flatten and cool the potatoes:
 
  • Fold another dishtowel into quarters, and using it as a cover, gently press down on one potato with the palm of your hand to flatten it a thickness of about 1/2 inch.  Repeat with all of the potatoes. Don’t worry if some break apart a bit; you can still use them.
  • Cover a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil; place a piece of parchment on top of the foil.  Transfer the flattened potatoes to the baking sheet and let them cool completely to room temperature.
Roast the potatoes:
 
  • Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Sprinkle the potatoes with about 3/4 teaspoon of salt and pour the olive oil over them.  Lift the potatoes gently to make sure some of the oil goes underneath them and they are well coated on both sides.  Roast the potatoes until they are crispy and deep brown around the edges, about 30 to 40 minutes, turning over once gently with a spatula half way through cooking.
  • Serve hot.

Popovers

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I love big, fluffy, and eggy popovers.  There is something innately elegant about this oh so simple treats.  Served in their simplest form with a dab of butter and a dollop of jam they are the perfect breakfast treat.  Or you can follow an old Maine tradition and eat popovers and chowder on the lawn of the Jordan Pond House in Acadia National Park.  In college I discovered Judie’s Restaurant in Amherst, Massachusetts where oversized popovers were served as the foundation for hearty sandwiches, as an accompaniment for soup or salad or all on their own.  (When I was back in Amherst this past summer I went to Judie’s with the sole purpose of eating a popover).

I tend to forget how easy popovers are to make. This recipe from America’s Test Kitchen only has six ingredients. Instead of using a blender I use a stick mixer which makes cleanup a breeze.  With a little prior planning (the batter needs to rest before baking) they are a snap to make.  If you want to serve them for breakfast you can even make the batter the night before and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.  If you do this there isn’t any excuse for not serving them for breakfast.

POPOVERS

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • Blend the eggs and milk in a blender until smooth.  Add the flour, melted butter, and salt and continue to blend on high speed until the batter is bubbly and smooth, about 1 minute. Let the batter rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.
  • While the batter is resting, measure 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable oil into each cup of a popover pan.  Adjust the oven rack to the lowest position, place the pan in the oven, and heat the oven to 450 degrees.
  • After the batter has rested, pour it into a 4-cup liquid measuring cup.  Working quickly, remove the pan from the oven and divide the batter evenly among the 6 cups in the pan.  Return the pan to the oven and bake for 20 minutes without opening the oven door.
  • Lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake until golden brown all over, 15 to 18 minutes more.  Gently tip the popovers out onto a wire rack and let cool slightly before serving, about 2 minutes.

Browned Butter Flounder w/ Lemon Snap Peas

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It’s Fast Friday again and time for another fast and fabulous dinner suggestion. If you are anything like me, by the time Friday rolls around the last thing I want to do is cook a big meal yet we all still have to eat. The dishes featured in this series aren’t necessarily fancy but they bring together simple ingredients most people already have in their pantries or have easy access to and allow you to put a real meal on the table in between 30 and 45 minutes. Enjoy and if you have your own fast recipes you want to share, please send them my way and I will in turn share them with all of my readers.

This is a fast and fresh tasting dinner option adapted from Cooking Light that literally cooks in minutes (so be sure to prep all of your ingredients before beginning to cook). There are just a handful of ingredients and best of all, everything is cooked in a single pan meaning cleanup is a snap as well. I’ve used flounder in this recipe but use whatever firm white fish you prefer.

BROWNED BUTTER FLOUNDER w/ LEMON SNAP PEAS

4- 6 ounce flounder fillets

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1/4teaspoon kosher salt

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Juice of 1 lemon

Zest of 1 lemon

8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

  • Combine the flour, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika and salt in a shallow dish.
  • Dredge the fish in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess.
  • Heat half of the oil in a large non-stick skillet set over medium-high heat.
  • Swirl the oil to coat then add the fish to the pan, cooking for 3 minutes on each side or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.
  • Remove the fish from the pan and keep warm.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter to the pan.
  • Cook for 1 minute or until the butter begins to brown.
  • Pour the butter into a small bowl, stir in half of the lemon juice and the parsley.
  • Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the remaining oil.
  • Add the snap peas and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until just tender crisp.
  • Stir in the remaining lemon juice and zest and serve alongside the fish topped with the brown butter.

Serves 4

Gorgonzola & Mascarpone Torte

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Is it cheese?  Is it a cake? Is it cheesecake? Yes, sort of and sort of again.  If you love gorgonzola or any other type of blue cheese, this is the appetizer for you.  I do love gorgonzola but often find that a little goes a long way.  This recipe, courtesy of Janet Fletcher’s The Cheese Course combines pungent gorgonzola with a mild and creamy mascarpone. The result the best of both cheese worlds.  In addition to tasting amazing, this appetizer makes for an impressive presentation. Yes, it looks like a layer cake and on more than one occasion I’ve witnessed guests peering at the plate before inquiring as to what it was.  Cheese?  Cake?  A Cheesecake?  Yes, yes, and yes.

GORGONZOLA & MASCARPONE TORTE

1 large wedge of gorgonzola or other blue cheese, chilled

1 cup mascarpone, at room temperature

1/2 cup slivered almonds

  • Place the gorgonzola wedge on a cutting board and using a sharp knife or piece of unflavored dental floss, slice the wedge in half as though you are splitting a layer cake.
  • Place the bottom piece of the cheese on a serving tray and spread a thin layer of mascarpone over the top as though you are filling a cake.
  • Layer the remaining piece of gorgonzola on top of the mascarpone.
  • Spread the mascarpone over the top and sides of the gorgonzola to resemble a piece of layer cake.
  • Pat the sliced almonds along the outer edge of the cake.
  • Wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill for several hours or up to overnight.  Remove from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before serving.
  • Serve with crackers, bread slices, or ripe pear slices.  This appetizer is perfect when accompanied by a nice glass of port or other sweet red wine.

Roasted Chicken, Corn & Saffron Soup

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Some days just call for soup. Here in Belgium, even though the calendar says it is spring, we still have days that are decidedly chilly. And when it is cool outside nothing warms the body more than a comforting bowl of soup. Chicken soup is a family favorite and this soup, from Saveur , proves that not all chicken soups are the same.

You start by roasting your own chicken, which is incredibly easy (and as a bonus the cooking of the chicken takes the chill off of the house on a cool day). If you aren’t up to roasting your own bird, or are pressed for time, you can substitute a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken but then you won’t have the rich pan drippings which add so much flavor and depth to the soup. The soup is studded with both corn and noodles and the surprising addition of saffron adds both a rich golden color and an earthiness that you simply can’t find anywhere else.

This definitely isn’t your grandmother’s chicken noodle soup but it is so delicious that it is sure to become a new family favorite. So the next time the weather turns chilly, fire up the oven, turn on the stove and make this soup.  You won’t be disappointed.

ROASTED CHICKEN, CORN & SAFFRON SOUP

1 (3–4 pounds) whole chicken
2 tablespoonsolive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 cups chicken stock
4 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
34 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
12 ounces egg noodles
  • Heat the oven to 400°.
  • In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, rub the chicken with the olive oil and then liberally season the outside with salt and pepper.
  • Roast the chicken until golden brown and very tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  • Transfer the dish to a rack, lift the chicken from the dish, and place the chicken on a cutting board.
  • Let the chicken stand until cool enough to handle and then pick the meat from the chicken, discarding the skin and bones. Roughly chop the meat and transfer to a large saucepan.
  • Pour 2 cups chicken stock into the baking dish and scrape the dish with a wooden spoon to deglaze the bottom.
  • Pour the stock from the dish into the saucepan with the chicken along with the remaining 10 cups stock.
  • Add the corn and saffron to the broth and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the stock is slightly reduced, about 15 minutes.
  • Add the egg noodles and cook, stirring, until al dente, about 8 minutes.
  • Season the soup with salt and pepper.
Serves 8
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