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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mongolian Beef

You have to try this dish soon. It came from Confections of a Foodie Bride, under the category "Take out Fake out". And when you are craving some yummy takeout, but want a healthier homemade take on it, this is the perfect dish to make. The beef ends up in a gooey sweet sauce; it tastes so indulgent, but isn't really too bad for you, and very easy to make. I served this with some sauteed red peppers and broccoli and brown rice to kick up the healthy factor :)

Mongolian Beef

1 lb flank steak, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup of cornstarch
3 tsp vegetable oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup of low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar (measured, not packed)
3/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 large green onion, sliced thinly

Pat steak slices dry and add to a bowl with corn starch. Toss to ensure all pieces are just coated. Shake off excess corn starch using a strainer.

Heat 1 1/2 tsp oil in a large wok or non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and ginger, stir until fragrant. Add the soy sauce, water, brown sugar and pepper flakes. Cook the sauce for about 2 minutes and transfer to a bowl.

Turn the heat to high and add the remaining oil to the wok. Add the beef and cook until browned on all sides. Pour the sauce back into the wok and cook until the sauce reaches desired consistency. (this took about 30 minutes to get nice and gooey for me)

Add the green onions (a pinch reserved for garnish), stir, and remove from heat. Plate, top with remaining onions, and serve.
Yields: 2 servings
beef being tossed in cornstarch

the finished product!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Deluxe Chocolate Marshmallow Bars

Christmas weekend was topped off with the last NY Giants game of the season. Even though it was sad that they stunk and that it was the last game of the year, we had a blast. We didn't get home until late the night before the game, and needed a quick tailgating dessert to bring with us. I found this recipe on Colleen's blog and it was a HUGE hit. They kind of reminded me of my favorite candy bar, an 100 grand, but instead of caramel, with peanut butter. YUM! So. good. And really easy, took me maybe a total of 30 minutes to make? I will link you straight to Cooking This and That, because I did not make any changes to Colleen's directions.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Holiday Morning Buns

As I was poking around at My Kitchen Cafe after I had found the Pomegranate Cheesecake recipe from the site, I discovered the perfect Christmas morning breakfast, Holiday Morning Buns. It is genius- you can make the buns as far ahead of time as you want and then stick them in the freezer. You don't even have to thaw them before you bake, they just go from the freezer to the oven, and after a little over an hour of baking, you have some awesome buns.
Matt was very skeptical, as he saw that there was no sticky glaze on top, and thought that without a sticky glaze, there was no way the buns could be that good. But they were. They weren't too sweet, which sometimes in the morning makes me sick. And plus, who wants something so super sweet and heavy Christmas morning, when you know all of the Christmas dinner delishessness is yet to come!? And I was very skeptical, as I realized while I was making these, that I had no extra cream at all (which the recipe suggests to use if the dough isn't cohesive); I could have probably used the extra cream, but the buns still turned out fantastically. The recipe was easily doubled, so I had enough for us for Christmas morning, and enough to take to CT with us for Christmas with Matt's family the morning after.

Assembly line of batter, melted butter, and cinnamon sugar love:

Balls of goodness ready to be stuck in the feezer.

The finished product- I forgot to take a snapshot before we dug in!

These will definitely become a Holiday tradition for our new family :)

No changes were made from the original, so I will just send you directly to the recipe:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream

You know you have a winner of a recipe when your sister randomly exclaims on January 16th how awesome the cupcakes you made on Christmas were. She was right, you really can't compare boxed cupcakes to homemade ones. If you have the time, these are so worth it! I made these for the kids for Christmas, but they were definitely a hit with the adults as well. The recipe comes from a cookbook, Martha Stewart Cupcakes, that my sister and niece gave me at my cupcake themed bridal shower:

Yellow Buttermilk Cupcakes
3 cups cake flour (not self rising)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (I use regular salt for everything)
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/4 cups sugar
5 large whole eggs plus 3 egg yolks, room temperature (I messed up when I was separating the egg whites and yolks of the egss that I had brought to room temp, so I had to use yolks straight from the fridge and it was fine)
2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift together both flours, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer on medium high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium. Add whole eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add yolks, and beat until thoroughly combined. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and beating until combines after each. Beat in vanilla.
Divide batter evenly among lines cups, filling each 3/4 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until cucakes spring back when lightly touched and a cake tester inserted in centers come out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool, 10 minutes; turn out cupcakes onto racks and let cool completely. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to two months, in airtight containers.

To finish, use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Refrigerate up to three days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature and, if desired, decorate with sprinkles before serving.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
5 large egg whites
1 cup plus 2 tablesppons sugar
pinch of salt
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer. Set over a pan of simmering water. Whish constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed in between fingertips).
Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (testy by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.
With mixer on medium low speed, add the butter, a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla, switch to the paddle attachment (I forgot this step and continued with the whisk attachment- didn't seem to matter!), and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about two minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth.
Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to three days or freeze up to one month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with a paddle attachment on low speed until sxmooth again, about 5 minutes.

Optional- to tint buttercream (or royal icing), reserve some for toning down the color if necessary. Add gel-paste food color, a drop at a time (or use the toothpick or skewer to add food color a dab at a time) to the remaining buttercream. You can use a single shade of food color or experiment by mixing two or more. Blend after each addition with the mixer (use the paddle attachment) or a flexible spatula, until desired shade is acheived. Avoid using too much food color too soon, as the hue with intensify with continued stirring; if necessary, you can tone down the shade by mixing some reserved, untinted buttercream.

Super patient Matt helped me by making these adorable penguins for the tops of the cupcakes. He used Jordan almonds, and dipped them in melted chocolate. He used a ornage sprinkle for their noses and Swedish fish cut up for their feet- how freakin cute?! I bought special sugar at a baking shop in the city for the snow effect on the frosting, and candy canes for the North Pole signs.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Pomegranate Cheesecake

Another awesome recipe from My Kitchen Cafe. I have made many cheesecakes, as it is the easiest dessert to make gluten free for my mom. This one was delicious, had a unique lemony flavor to the cake, and the glaze make it look so Christmasy! I omitted the pomegranate seeds because, frankly, I don't get them. Are you supposed to eat them? I have tried eating them and they aren't good? Are you supposed to spit them out? Cause that would be a big pain. So since I don't understand their function, I ditched them!
Pomegranate Cheesecake (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)
*Plan Ahead: the cheesecake needs to be chilled for at least 4 hours or up to overnight.
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

4 8-oz. packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour (I used gluten free flour)
3 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds (I omitted)

1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Pomegranate Glaze:
1-16-ounce bottle pomegranate juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds (I omitted)

For the crust: preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl beat butter on medium high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar. Beat until combined. Add egg; beat well. Beat in flour until combined. Divide dough in half. Cover one portion and set it aside. Remove the sides from a 10-inch springform pan and set aside. Spread first portion of dough on just the bottom of ungreased springform pan base, spreading dough to edges. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely. When cool, attach sides of pan. Press chilled dough onto the sides of the sprinform pan to a height of 1-3/4 inches, using a thin metal spatula, like an offset spatula, to spread dough.

For the filling: reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. In an extra-large mixing bowl beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the flour on low speed until smooth. Add eggs and vanilla all at once, beating on low speed just until combined. Mix in sour cream and lemon peel. Then, using a wooden spoon or a spatula, gently fold in pomegranate seeds (if you use the electric mixer for this part, the seeds will burst and stain the filling with the juice - and it won't look as pretty). Pour filling into crust-lined pan. Place on baking sheet. Bake for 65 minutes or until edges are puffed and center jiggles slightly when gently shaken. Remove from oven. (It doesn't matter if the cheesecake cracks on top since it will have a sour cream topping.) For the topping: stir together sour cream, sugar, and vanilla. Spread sour cream mixture over top of baked cheesecake, spreading gently to the edges. Return to oven; bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes. Loosen crust from sides of pan. Cool for 30 minutes more. Remove sides of pan; cool completely. Cover; chill 4 hours or overnight.

For pomegranate glaze: in a medium saucepan bring pomegranate juice to boiling; reduce heat and boil gently, uncovered, until reduced to 1 cup (12 to 15 minutes). In a separate bowl, stir together brown sugar and cornstarch. Add to juice. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 2 minutes more. Transfer to a medium bowl; cover surface with clear plastic wrap. Cool to room temperature. Store, covered, in refrigerator until serving time.

When ready to serve, remove cheesecake and pomegranate glaze from refrigerator 15 minutes before serving. Spoon some sauce over top of cheesecake; pile remaining pomegranate seeds in center of cheesecake. To serve, slice cheesecake. Pass remaining sauce. Makes 16 servings.
Bottom crust baked, ready for filling

and ready for the oven!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Spinach Artichoke Dip

I have made many different spinach artichoke dips. It is one of my favorite appetizers. I like to switch it up, experiment with different recipes. This one from My Kitchen Cafe was a top contender. Super creamy, and the bottle of alfredo sauce definitely offered a bit of a different flavor in this dip compared to others; you could really taste it. Overall, this was a great, easy appetizer. Again, made ahead of time- perfect for entertaining! I will just post the link to My Kitchen Cafe, as I did not change a thing from the original recipe.

Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Blue Cheese

These were A-MAZ-ING! So delicious. Perfect little nuggets. I seem to have the hardest time thinking of appetizers when my family comes over because my mom has a gluten allergy and my sisters' have seafood allergies. I feel like that eliminates a lot of my app ideas. But these worked perfectly. My sister Danielle, who loves spinach-artichoke dip and said the one that I had made was great, said she just couldn't stop eating the dates long enough to get to the dip!

Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Blue Cheese (
1 pound bacon, cut in half
1 pound dates (I ended up only needing .5 pound)
4 oz blue cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Slice dates in half, and open them up. Pinch off pieces of blue cheese, and place them into the center of the dates. Close the halves of the dates, and wrap a half-slice of bacon around the outside. Secure each one with a toothpick. Arrange in a baking dish or on a baking sheet with sides to catch any grease. (I prepared, or should I say that Matt prepared, these the night before and stuck them in the oven right before everyone arrived)

all lined up and ready for the oven!

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the bacon is crisp. Turn dates over after the first 20 minutes for even cooking.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cranberry, Tangerine, and Pomegranate Champagne Punch

What better way to deal with the madness of the holidays but with a nice, fresh cocktail in hand? This punch was such a fun, festive drink. I found the recipe in "The Martha Stewart Living Cookbook: The New Classics", a birthday gift from my friend Erica. I also got to use the leftover drink stirrers from our wedding as swizzle sticks which was way fun.
Serves about 20 (about 16 glasses)
1 package (12 ounces) fresh cranberries (for the swizzle sticks)
1 bunch fresh mint (for the swizzle sticks)
2 cups pomegranate juice
3 cups fresh tangerine juice (about 7 tangerines- I did not measure the juice, just squeezed 7 tangerines and called it a day!)
5 cups cranberry juice cocktail
2 bottles chilled champagne or other sparkling wine

To make the swizzle sticks, spear 3 cranberries alternately with 2 mint leaves on wooden skewers. Place the skewers on a baking sheet; cover with damp paper towels, and refrigerate up to one hour (I did this the night before and thought it was fine- fresh cranberries are too tart to eat like that anyway, so this is for decoration only in my opinion).

In a large punchbowl or pitcher, stir together the fruit juices. Fill glasses with ice, and ladel or pour about 1/2 cup punch into each glass; top with champagne. Garnish each glass with a swizzle stick. (I did not put ice in the glasses, and the drinks definitely needed it, especially since the cranberry juice I used was warm.)

fun swizzle sticks ready for the drinks!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas 2009

This year, Matt and I hosted our first Christmas as a married couple. I LOVE Christmas, and I am so happy that it has become a tradition to have my family over for the holiday. Thank goodness my other sisters took Easter and Thanksgiving and left the best holiday for me :)

My family has a bunch of food allergies, which makes menu planning a little more challenging for me. But in the end, with some help with my friend Colleen from Cooking This and That, I think we came up with a wonderful menu.

Christmas 2009

Cranberry, Tangerine and Pomegranate Champagne Punch
Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Blue Cheese
Spinach Artichole Dip
Prosciutto, Parmesean, Sopressata
Roasted Eggplant Spread with Sesame Flatbread

Filet Mignon Tenderloin Roast
Baked Ham
Twice Baked Potatoes
Fried Broccoli
Green Salad
Pomegranate Cheesecake
Vanilla Buttermilk Cupcakes with Swiss Meringue Buttercream
PERFECTLY cooked filet on our new monogrammed platter= heaven.

We were able to use the chalkboard wall that we painted in our kitchen for the first time to post the menu for our family!