Happy Australia Day! ~ Cheddar and Chive Dampers

Cheddar and Chive DampersHappy Australia Day! Every January 26th, Australia celebrates this national holiday. It falls in the middle of summer in the southern hemisphere, so much like the way we celebrate the Fourth of July, they celebrate with barbeques, fireworks and outdoor concerts.

Twenty years ago this month, I had the good fortune to travel to Australia through my university. (How did twenty years go by already? Wow!) It was an extraordinary experience I will never forget.

Cheddar and Chive DampersTo celebrate the holiday and the good times I had in Australia, I decided to make a special Australian dinner. We had split pea and ham soup with Cheddar and chive dampers. I chose the menu based on an article from CNN Travel about forty dishes Australians call their own. It is a fun article filled with many foods I have never tried before. There is much more to explore!

For the dampers, I was inspired by an Australian recipe website called Taste, but I ended up changing the recipe to a large extent for my own version. Mainly, I used 100% whole-wheat pastry flour combined with baking powder rather than self-rising flour, and I made individual dampers rather than one large one. I also made only half of the recipe, and reduced the portion size. They were the perfect accompaniment to the split pea and ham soup!

The cute little flags were printed from Jellyfish Prints. I couldn’t resist adding them for a festive touch. :) They are completely adorable, and also free!

Cheddar and Chive DampersCheddar and Chive Dampers

1 ¼ cups whole-wheat pastry flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

½ cup Cheddar, coarsely grated

½ bunch chives, finely chopped

½ cup buttermilk

1 egg, scrambled

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cheese and chives in a large bowl, whisking to combine. Add the buttermilk and egg, and stir until well combined. On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until it comes together. Divide into 4 equal pieces, and shape each piece into a ball. Place each ball onto a parchment lined baking sheet, flattening the top slightly. Bake about 15 minutes, or until the underside of each damper sounds hollow when tapped.

Cool for 5 or 10 minutes, and serve warm.

Cheddar and Chive Dampers

A bright salad for a winter day ~ Kale and Citrus Salad

Kale and Orange SaladThis is a healthy, easy, and colorful salad to put together as a side dish to any meal. I love to make it at this time of the year, when citrus is in season. (Isn’t it cool that citrus fruit is at its peak in the middle of winter? It brightens up the darkest months. :) ) Feel free to add any other favorite ingredients. I think grapefruit, avocado, beets, or pomegranate would go well. The sky is the limit! I kept mine simple this time around. It is a good, basic recipe to build on.

Kale and Citrus Salad

Serves 2

4 or 5 large stalks of kale, cut or torn into bite-size pieces (Discard tough center stems.)

1 orange, cut into supremes (For how-to, check out this link.)

Juice of the remaining portion of the orange (After supreming, squeeze the remaining portion of the orange over a liquid measuring cup to use all of its juice.)

Lemon juice, added to the orange juice so the total volume of the combined citrus juice equals ¼ cup

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the torn or chopped kale into a large bowl.

Slowly drizzle olive oil into the citrus juice mixture, whisking as you go until it is emulsified into a vinaigrette. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pour as much of the vinaigrette over the kale as you would like. Rub the vinaigrette into each leaf, so every piece is well coated.

Top the greens with the orange supremes and enjoy!

Kale and Orange Salad

A dessert that fits into your New Year’s resolutions ~ Mint Chip “Ice Cream”

Mint Chip Frozen DessertI am fascinated with recipes that find creative ways of using and combining raw, plant-based ingredients. It’s a different way of thinking about food, and I think it’s really interesting and exciting! (Not to mention, exceptionally healthy, which is kind of the whole point of eating that way. :) ) For example, this recipe combines raw ingredients that come close to mint chip ice cream. It is a rich dish with the coconut and the nuts, but it is quite a bit healthier than a classic mint chip ice cream. If you are going to have a frozen dessert in January, the month filled with resolutions of healthier eating, this is a good one! I hope you’ll give it a try. :)

The recipe is from Laura Miller, who hosts an online food show called Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. Her style is as fun and quirky as the title implies. ;-) You can find the episodes on a cooking channel called Tastemade.

Mint Chip Frozen DessertMint Chip “Ice Cream”

Based on a recipe from Laura Miller

2 cups soaked raw cashews

2 cups coconut meat

3/4 cup coconut water

3/4 cup agave

2 teaspoons mint extract

1/2 cup coconut oil, liquefied

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cacao nibs, finely chopped

1 teaspoon matcha powder or spirulina

Open your coconuts, scrape out the flesh/meat, and add it into a high speed blender, along with agave, mint extract, matcha powder, salt, cashews, and coconut water.

Next, add in oil, and blend again. The more you blend, the creamier your finished product will be.

Pour the mixture in a medium-sized bowl, and just stir in the cocoa nibs.

If you have an ice cream maker, use it according to the machine’s instructions. If not, place your bowl in the freezer and come back to stir every 30 minutes or so for 3-4 hours.

Mint Chip Frozen Dessert

Lucky Dinner for the New Year ~ Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale SoupOne of our first meals this year had not only one, but two lucky ingredients to eat in the New Year! Lentils and kale. If I had used pork sausage, it would have been three, but the healthier option won out, and I chose chicken sausage. This is a hearty and delicious soup for a cold winter night. :) Perfect for the New Year!

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup

Based on a recipe from MarthaStewart.com

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces sweet Italian chicken sausage, casings removed

2 celery stalks (with leafy tops), thinly sliced

1 medium yellow onion, diced medium

1/2 cup dried lentils

6 cups low-sodium chicken broth

1 bunch (about 1/2 pound) kale, preferably Tuscan, stems removed, torn into bite-size pieces

Coarse salt and ground pepper

2 teaspoons red-wine vinegar

In a large Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat oil over medium-high. Add sausage and cook, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add celery and onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add lentils, broth, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer, partially cover, and cook until lentils and vegetables are tender, 25 minutes.

Add kale and season with salt. Return soup to a rapid simmer, cover, and cook until kale wilts, about 5 minutes. Remove soup from heat, stir in vinegar, and season with salt and pepper.

Sausage, Lentil, and Kale Soup

Happy New Year’s Eve ~ Cute Wine Bottle Labels

New Year's Eve WineThe Blissful Bee updated her New Year’s Eve wine bottle printables, so I started and ended my year with the festive labels. Cute! I recommend checking them out and adding them to your New Year celebration. :)

Happy New Year from Noon Cafe! May you have a happy and healthy 2015.

Merry Christmas ~ Creamy Chestnut Soup

Chestnut SoupInstead of roasting chestnuts over on an open fire, I made a festive and creamy chestnut soup with truffle oil for Christmas this year. :-) It was a unique and delicious first course to our family dinner!

Chestnut SoupThe original recipe was from a cooking class at Sur La Table. I omitted the 1/2 cup of heavy cream altogether since it was luscious and creamy without any dairy, and I replaced the butter with Earth Balance. I also added a little more chicken broth than the original recipe called for to make the soup a little thinner.

Chestnut Soup

Creamy Chestnut Soup with Truffle Oil

Based on a recipe from Sur La Table’s cooking classes

Yield: 6 servings

2 tablespoons Earth Balance

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup roughly chopped onions

1/2 cup roughly chopped carrots

1/2 cup roughly chopped celery

1 medium garlic clove, peeled and chopped

2 1/2 cups cooked peeled chestnuts

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 cup dry sherry

2 (4-inch) thyme sprigs

3 cups low-sodium
 chicken broth, plus more to thin the soup if you desire

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Black truffle oil, for drizzling

Place a large, heavy saucepan on the stove over medium heat. Heat the Earth Balance and oil until melted. Stir in the onion, carrots and celery and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Stir in the chestnuts and salt and cook until the chestnuts are coated in the aromatics and warmed through, about 4 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the sherry and thyme and cook until the liquid has evaporated. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the chestnuts are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard the thyme sprigs.

Using an immersion blender or standard blender, puree soup until smooth. Return the saucepan to the heat, add more broth if you would like the soup to be thinner, and bring back to a simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

To serve: Using a ladle, transfer the soup to individual bowls. Drizzle with truffle oil and serve immediately.

Chestnut Soup

Special Dinner ~ Salmon Wellington

Salmon WellingtonBack in November, I made my hubby a beef Wellington for his birthday. Ever since, I have been interested in trying other versions of the dish with different savory fillings. When my birthday rolled around this month, I thought I would make a simple salmon Wellington to celebrate. :) I was out all day, but these little Wellingtons came together quickly and easily. (Much easier than the beef version!) The tarragon really makes the dish, and the little fish cut out of the extra puff pastry on top made me smile. :)

Salmon Wellington

From Bon Appétit magazine

1 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed

4 3/4-inch-thick 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets

6 tablespoons minced shallots

4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon

1 egg beaten to blend (for glaze)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll out each pastry sheet on lightly floured surface to 12-inch square. Cut each in half, forming four 12×6-inch rectangles. Place 1 salmon fillet in center of each rectangle, about 3 inches in from and parallel to 1 short edge. Sprinkle each fillet with salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon shallots and 1 tablespoon tarragon. Brush edges of rectangles with some glaze. Fold long sides of pastry over fillets. Fold short edge of pastry over fillets and roll up pastry, enclosing fillets. Cut off any excess pastry if necessary. Seal edges of pastry. Place pastries, seam side down, on baking sheet. Brush with glaze.

Bake pastries until dough is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes.

Salmon Wellington

Christmas Baking ~ Gingerbread Cupcakes

Gingerbread CupcakesI baked a batch of gingerbread cupcakes to go with my gingerbread caramels. (Sensing a gingerbread theme this month?? I figured Santa might like choices! ;-) )

I based the recipe on Martha Stewart’s Gingerbread Snacking Cake. It is such a flavorful recipe with the addition of fresh ginger, but I wanted individual cupcakes instead of one big sheet cake. I replaced the butter with light olive oil, and I replaced the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat pastry flour. The bold flavors of the cake stand up the whole grains beautifully. I hope you’ll give this recipe a try! I will definitely keep these cupcakes in my holiday recipe collection. :) Yum!

Gingerbread Cupcakes

Based on a recipe from MarthaStewart.com

½ cup light olive oil

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour

1 cup boiling water

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

2/3 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1 cup unsulfured molasses

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, combine boiling water and baking soda; set aside. In a large bowl, sift together flour, ground spices, salt, and baking powder; set aside.

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, mix oil and brown sugar. Beat in molasses and grated ginger, baking-soda mixture, and flour mixture. Beat in eggs.

Pour batter into a muffin pan lined with paper liners, filling each about ½ full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Merry Christmas!!

Gingerbread Cupcakes

A Decadent Holiday Treat ~ Gingerbread Caramels

Gingerbread CaramelsI typically don’t make treats quite as rich as these, but a small bite is all you need to feel like you’ve had a decadent treat. Share them with friends and family since they travel well, or leave them by the tree for Santa. He might like them even better than cookies. ;-)

I have never made caramels from scratch on my own before, so I followed the recipe from Martha Stewart to the letter. Candy making is really a science, and a few degrees can be the difference between a success and a dud. I learned two important lessons through this experience. The first is to make sure your thermometer is calibrated. I learned this the hard way, as my first attempt was a mess that did not set since it did not boil to the proper temperature. The second lesson I learned is that you can rescue your caramel if it doesn’t set by re-boiling it! On my second boil, I used a different thermometer, and the temperature reached the accurate level. Ta da! Success! :)

Gingerbread Caramels

From MarthaStewart.com

4 cups (2 pints) heavy cream

2 cups light corn syrup

4 cups granulated sugar

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Vegetable-oil cooking spray

Lightly coat a 12-by-17-inch rimmed baking
sheet with cooking spray. Line with parchment
paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on short
sides; spray paper.

In a large pot over high heat, bring cream,
corn syrup, sugar, butter, and molasses to a boil,
stirring until sugar has dissolved. Continue to
cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently,
until mixture reaches 248 degrees (firm-ball stage)
on a candy thermometer, about 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla, salt, and spices. Immediately pour onto prepared sheet, without scraping pot. Let stand, uncovered, 24 hours at room temperature (do not move pan).

Generously coat a large cutting board with cooking spray. Lifting it by the parchment overhang, invert caramel onto the cutting board; use a sharp knife to loosen parchment, and remove. Cut into 1-by-1 1/4-inch pieces. Wrap each in cellophane or waxed paper. Caramels can be stored up to 1 month in airtight containers.

Gingerbread Caramels

Happy Thanksgiving ~ Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing with Chorizo

Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing with ChorizoHappy Thanksgiving!

This stuffing recipe has become a Thanksgiving standard in my family. :) It adds a little spice and a little Southwestern touch to the dinner! I wrote about this recipe in Noon Café’s first year, and I thought I would repost it this year since it still holds up as a delicious addition to my Thanksgiving table. :)

Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing with ChorizoWild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing with Chorizo

Based on a recipe from Chef Bobby Flay

1 1/2 cups wild rice

5 cups water

Salt to taste

1/2 cup finely ground chorizo (Mexican)

1 finely diced large onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 finely chopped carrots

3 finely chopped celery stalks

3/4 pound cubed stale hearty white bread

6 ounces goat cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 1/2 cups low sodium free-range chicken stock

Boil the rice, water, and a little salt to taste in a medium saucepan until the grains open and the rice is tender. Drain. (This can be done a day ahead if you desire.)  Cook the chorizo in a large saucepan over medium heat. Pour the chorizo over a bowl lined with a paper towel to drain the excess fat. In the same pan, add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery and cook until the onion is tender but not browned. Add the rice, chorizo, bread, cheese, parsley, thyme, and stock and combine it all together. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking dish and bake at 350, uncovered, until golden brown on top, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Wild Rice and Goat Cheese Stuffing with Chorizo

This month isn’t *all* about turkey ~ Moroccan Chicken Tagine

Chicken TagineTurkey doesn’t need to get all of the attention this month. ;-) I thought I would write about one of my favorite chicken dishes, as well. It is so flavorful and moist that it literally falls apart with a fork. This recipe works for a special occasion, but it is easy enough for a weeknight. That’s the kind of recipe I am most thankful for in this busy month of Thanksgiving. :)

Moroccan Chicken Tagine

Based on a recipe from Sur La Table’s cooking classes

Marinade:

1 medium onion, cut into ½ inch dice

1 medium garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced

1 tablespoon cilantro, minced

Pinch of saffron threads

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

 

10 (4 ounce) chicken thighs, boneless and skinless

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup water

2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced

In a medium bowl, mix all of the ingredients for the marinade together. Arrange the chicken in a shallow baking dish, and pour the marinade over the top, mixing so all of the chicken is covered on all sides. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

Preheat a large heavy Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add remaining oil. Remove chicken from marinade (reserving the remaining marinade) and sear. Pour the remaining marinade onto the seared chicken, and add the water. Cook until the liquid boils, reduce heat, and simmer about 40 minutes, until the chicken is tender and nearly falling apart. Add the thyme.

Serve with couscous.

Chicken TagineMake this dish and be virtually transported to a far off land in the desert. :) Ahh…Sunshine and palm trees.

Desert Palms

Happy Birthday! ~ Beef Wellington, one more time around

Beef WellingtonWe celebrated a special birthday at our house this week – Happy birthday to my hubby!

We enjoyed Beef Wellington with good friends to mark the special occasion. :) I made the dish last year for his birthday, and it was such a favorite, that I made it again this year. It may become a birthday tradition from now on!

Beef WellingtonI tried something a little fancier to finish the dish this time around. I cut thin strips of puff pastry, and placed them in a cross pattern over the top. I think it really added an extra “wow factor” to the presentation, and it was so easy to do. :)

Beef WellingtonHere is the recipe I used once again:

Beef Wellington

Based on a recipe from BBC Good Food

2 lbs beef tenderloin

Olive oil

10 oz crimini mushrooms

1 large sprig fresh thyme

Splash dry white wine

12 pieces thinly sliced prosciutto

1 pack frozen puff pastry, thawed

Flour for dusting

3 egg yolks beaten with 2 tsp water

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Drizzle olive oil in pan until it is hot, but not smoking. Season beef with salt and pepper. Sear on all sides until golden. Then place beef on a roasting rack and cook in oven for about 20 minutes. (It will not be cooked through.) Remove from the oven to cool, and then chill in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

2. While beef is cooling, place the cleaned mushrooms in a food processor and pulse until fine. It should be the texture of course bread crumbs.

3. Preheat a large skillet over medium heat. Cook the mushrooms with the sprig of thyme in a dry pan with no oil, stirring often, about 10 minutes. When the liquid has cooked out of the mushrooms, pour a splash of white wine into the pan. Cook until dry once more. Remove thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

4. Overlap 2 pieces of cling film (otherwise known as Saran wrap for us American cooks :)) over a large chopping board. Lay the prosciutto onto the cling film, slightly overlapping one another, in a double row. Spread the cooled mushrooms over the prosciutto evenly. Remove the beef from the refrigerator, and pat dry with a paper towel. Place it in the middle of the cling film with the prosciutto and mushrooms. Use the cling film’s edges to draw the prosciutto around the fillet tightly, and then roll it into a sausage shape, twisting the ends of the cling film to tighten. Chill the fillet once again.

5. Dust your clean work surface with a little flour. Roll out one piece of puff pastry until it is large enough to wrap around the fillet. Unravel the fillet from the cling film and set it in the center of the pastry. Beat the egg yolks and water together for an egg wash. Brush the pastry edges and the top and sides of the fillet with the egg wash. Wrap the pastry around the beef as tightly as you can, overlapping slightly to cover the whole fillet. Tuck the sides in as you would a package, so the beef is completely wrapped. Use the egg wash as a “glue” to make sure it stays together. Trim with kitchen shears if need be. Glaze the entire package with the egg wash. Using the back of a knife, mark the beef Wellington with long diagonal lines taking care not to cut through the pastry. (Or, as an alternative to scoring the pastry with a knife, cut thin strips of a second rolled puff pastry sheet with a pizza cutter. Lay the strips over the top of the Wellington in a crosshatch pattern. Tuck under, so there are no loose ends on the bottom. Then coat the entire package with egg wash.) Chill for at least 30 minutes.

6. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Brush the Wellington with a little more egg wash and cook on a rack until golden and crisp, about 30 minutes, or until it is done to your liking. (Ours was still pink, but cooked through.) Allow to rest for about 20 minutes once it comes out of the oven. Serve in thick slices.

Beef Wellington

Happy Halloween! ~ Pork Tenderloin and Squash with Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette

Halloween DinnerHappy Halloween!

To celebrate, I made a festive autumn dinner tonight of pork tenderloin and squash with a pumpkin seed vinaigrette. I based the recipe on one I found from Bon Appétit. I substituted pork tenderloin for pork chops to make the dish a little leaner. (More room for chocolate Halloween candy later, I figure! ;-) ) I also added more pumpkin seeds than called for, since they are one of the stars of the dish. (And you may have read about my feelings about pumpkin in the last post. :-) It’s one of my favorite things!)

Halloween DinnerPork Tenderloin and Squash with Pumpkin Seed Vinaigrette

Based on a recipe from Bon Appétit

3 tablespoons shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas), plus more for garnish

3 pounds winter squash (such as acorn, kabocha, delicata, or butternut), halved, seeded, cut into 1″ wedges

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper

1 pork tenderloin, silver skin removed

1/2 small garlic clove, crushed into a paste

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Preheat oven to 425°F. Spread out pumpkin seeds on a large rimmed baking sheet. Toast, tossing once, until just beginning to darken, about 4 minutes. Let cool. Coarsely chop; set aside.

Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil on a large rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast squash, turning occasionally, until golden brown and tender, about 25 minutes.

When squash has been roasting for about 20 minutes, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large heavy oven proof skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork with salt and pepper and sear until brown on all sides. Finish in the oven until the internal temperature registers 145 degrees. Let rest before slicing.

Whisk garlic, 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 3 tablespoons toasted pumpkin seeds, and remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a small bowl to combine. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste.

Divide squash and pork among plates; spoon vinaigrette over. Top with cilantro leaves and pumpkin seeds.

Halloween DinnerFor dessert, I served pumpkin custard that I dressed up for the holiday. I piped a whipped cream ghost on top and added two mini chocolate chips for his eyes. PS. I wouldn’t recommend eating all the whipped cream, since I made him big and plump! But I love how he looks…He makes me smile. :)

I hope you have a safe and happy Halloween!

Whipped Cream Ghost

Pumpkin Season! ~ Pumpkin Custard

Pumpkin PieAt this time of the year, I love to cook with pumpkins. Sweet or savory, I love everything pumpkin. :) (Almost as much as this little guy! Ha!) And right up there with pumpkin, as one of my favorite all time ingredients, is coconut. So this month I tried a new twist on pumpkin pie custard – I replaced the classic evaporated milk with coconut milk, and it worked beautifully! The texture and flavor are almost identical to the classic, but it has a very mild coconut taste, which I love! I have never been able to find an all-natural version of evaporated milk, so I feel a lot better about this recipe that is natural through and through. :) You can use a natural frozen crust, but if you are like me, you just eat the custard part of the pie and leave the crust behind. Is it just me? OK, maybe I’m a little off the beaten path with this. ;-) But I would much rather have more filling than any crust! Because of that, I made these individual sized pumpkin custards. Basically they are small crust-less pumpkin pies. :)

Pumpkin Custard

Based on a recipe from Cooking Light magazine

3/4 cup lightly packed brown sugar

1 3/4 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

Pinch of salt

8-ounces whole coconut milk

2 large egg whites

1 large egg

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin

Natural frozen pie crust (if you must!)

Whipped cream for serving

Preheat oven to 425°.

To prepare custard, combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add pumpkin, and stir with a whisk until smooth.

Pour pumpkin mixture into either a crust, an empty pie plate, or individual ramekins. Place on a baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° (do not remove pie from oven); bake an additional 50 minutes for a large pie, or about 25 minutes for individual ramekins. Cool completely on wire rack.

Serve with whipped cream.

Pumpkin Pie

Halloween Treats ~ Devil’s Food Cupcakes, Updated

Devil's Food CupcakesHalloween is right around the corner!

For the past few years, I have made devil’s food cupcakes to celebrate the season. This year I tried them with whole-wheat pastry flour, and it worked out beautifully! The hearty chocolate flavor stands up to the whole grain, and they are still moist and delicious. I think this will be my new and improved recipe from now on!

Devil’s Food Cupcakes

Based on a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 cup buttermilk

2/3 cup light olive oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking pan with 14 cupcake papers. Whisk first 5 ingredients in large bowl to blend. Sift in cocoa and baking soda. Stir to combine. Add flour, and mix until just combined. (Be careful not to mix too much at this point.) Fill each cupcake about ¾ full with batter. Bake until toothpick inserted into centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.

Devil's Food CupcakesI found the little Halloween printables at CatchMyParty.com. They are super cute, and free!

Devil's Food CupcakesCatchMyParty.com also has many other choices for Halloween if you’d rather have a different design. I had a hard time choosing my favorite. :)

Devil's Food Cupcakes

Spooky Dinner ~ Chicken Bog

Chicken BogI love to read a good cozy mystery around Halloween. :) Right now, I am enjoying one that takes place in October entitled The Jasmine Moon Murder by Laura Childs. It is another in a series I started this summer, set in a South Carolina tea shop. In the back of the book are recipes that compliment the storyline, including a recipe for a dish called Chicken Bog. Doesn’t that sound spooky and Halloweeny? I learned that the dish is a classic in the Lowcountry, and it is called “bog” because it isn’t a soup, but it is very moist. I thought it would be perfect to make to celebrate the Halloween season!

Chicken BogI based my dish on the recipe provided by Laura Childs, but I made a few tweaks of my own. One of the nice things about this recipe is that you also end up with a few cups of chicken stock to freeze for a future dish. It’s always nice to have homemade chicken stock in the freezer, especially now that the season for soups is right around the corner.

Chicken BogChicken Bog

Based on a recipe from The Jasmine Moon Murder

About 6 servings

6 cups water

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

Salt to taste

3 to 4 pound whole chicken (I used one that my butcher cut up already for ease)

5 carrots, sliced

5 celery stalks, sliced

1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

1 cup brown long grain rice

½ lb smoked chicken sausage, sliced

1 tablespoon poultry seasoning

1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes

Place the water, onion, salt, chicken, 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, and peppercorns in a large pot, and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Remove chicken and let cool, reserving the cooking liquid. Let the liquid cool, strain, and skim the fat from the top. Measure 3 ½ cups of the liquid, and pour into a fresh pot. (The remaining liquid can be put into the refrigerator or freezer for a future use.) Remove skin and bones from chicken, and chop into bite sized pieces. Add chicken pieces, remaining 2 carrots, remaining 2 celery stalks, rice, sausage, poultry seasoning, and parsley flakes to the stock. Make sure it is seasoned with enough salt to your liking. Add more if needed. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the rice is tender.

The Jasmine Moon Murder

Welcome Fall ~ Delancey ~ Apple Crisp

Apple CrispI really enjoyed a memoir that I read last month entitled Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage. A local restaurant owner and food blogger named Molly Wizenberg wrote the book. She and her husband own the pizza place, Delancey, the bar next door, Essex, and she also writes the blog, Orangette. The book is about their adventures in the restaurant business, and it includes a few recipes. I saved this particular recipe to make once it started to feel like autumn in Seattle. :)

I replaced the butter with half the amount of Earth Balance, but other than that, I followed the recipe pretty closely. It was a sweet way to kick off the fall season. :)

Apple CrispApple Crisp

Based on a recipe from the book Delancey

Makes 8 servings

For the apples:

8 medium Granny Smith apples

3 to 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 to 6 tablespoons granulated sugar

For the topping:

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 cup brown sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

¾ stick Earth Balance (85 g)

½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

For serving:

Vanilla ice cream or frozen custard

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Peel, core, and slice each apple into 8 to 10 wedges. In a bowl, toss the apples with 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 4 tablespoons sugar. Taste. They should be bright with lemon but lightly sweet. Adjust lemon and sugar if desired. Scrape the apples and any juices into a 2-quart soufflé dish, an 8 by 8-inch baking dish, or individual ramekins.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Add the Earth Balance, and use your fingers to rub and pinch it into the dry ingredients until there are no large lumps and the mixture is evenly crumbly. Add the walnuts and stir to combine.

Sprinkle the topping evenly over the apples. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the apples are bubbling. (The time does not differ if you decide to make individual servings in ramekins.) Serve warm with ice cream or frozen custard.

I hope you have a sweet and happy fall!

Delancey

One More Small Anniversary Celebration ~ Lemongrass-Crusted Salmon with a Watercress Coconut Sauce and 2000 Columbia Winery Peninsula

Spicy Salmon with Coconut Watercress SauceRob and I had our big wedding anniversary dinner celebration on Saturday of Labor Day weekend, which is the day of the week we got married. Our actual anniversary date fell in the middle of the week this year, but we couldn’t resist having a small, pared down celebration on the real date as well. We had lemongrass-crusted salmon with a watercress coconut sauce for dinner. Even though this salmon dish really was easy enough to make on a regular Tuesday, it was very delicious, and it felt like a dish fit for a special occasion. (Good thing, since I think this qualifies as a special occasion! :) )

I was inspired once again by a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. I followed his recipe for the salmon crust, but I completely changed the sauce to make it my own. The original recipe used a cup of beurre blanc, but I replaced it with coconut milk. (It was a good use for the leftover milk from the cheesecake!) I don’t use a lot of butter in my cooking, and the coconut added an additional tropical element. It also mellowed the bitterness of the watercress nicely.

Lemongrass-Crusted Salmon with a Watercress Coconut Sauce

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood cookbook

Serves 2, with leftover sauce

Salmon and Lemongrass Crust:

2 salmon fillets, about 6 oz each

1 tablespoon minced lemongrass (white part only)

½ tablespoon minced garlic

½ tablespoon grated fresh ginger

½ tablespoon minced shallot

½ tablespoon shichimi

Watercress Coconut Sauce:

1 bunch watercress, stemmed (reserve 4 sprigs for garnish)

½ tablespoon ginger juice (fresh ginger squeezed through a garlic press)

½ cup coconut milk

Safflower, sunflower, or peanut oil for cooking

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine lemongrass, garlic, ginger, shallot, and shichimi in a bowl, and stir to blend. Set aside.

Bring a saucepan of water to a bowl. Place the watercress into a strainer, and when the water is bowling, pour over the watercress to wilt. Warm coconut milk. Combine watercress, milk and ginger juice in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until it is to your desired texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Preheat a medium non-stick saucepan over medium high heat. Evenly coat one side of the salmon fillets with the crust mixture. Drizzle the fillets with a high heat cooking oil, such as safflower, sunflower, or peanut oil. Carefully transfer the salmon to the hot pan, crust side down. Sear until the crust is a little browned. Turn, and finish in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until baked to desired doneness.

To serve, plate the salmon crust side up. Spoon the sauce on the top or side of the salmon fillets. Garnish with reserved watercress leaves.

We paired our dinner with a bottle of 2000 Columbia Winery Peninsula red wine. We got married in 2000, and we had our wedding reception at Columbia Winery, so we bought a case of this wine several years ago.  We like to open a bottle on our anniversary every year. It is aging nicely, which I’ll take as a good sign for us! ;-)

Funny note: It began to absolutely pour down rain by the end of our dinner. Luckily, we decided to eat inside with the French doors open once again, so we could enjoy the thunder and showers instead of scrambling inside for cover. ;-) This bottom photo was taken in the middle of the downpour. It was actually kind of fun! It was definitely an anniversary to remember!

2000 Peninsula Red Wine

Wedding Anniversary, Part 3 ~ Japanese-Style Coconut Cheesecake and 14 Hands Winery Reserve Red Blend

Japanese-Style Coconut CheesecakeThe grand finale of our wedding anniversary dinner celebration was a Japanese-style coconut cheesecake. It was light and fluffy, almost soufflé-like, compared to a typical American cheesecake. The coconut flavor was very subtle, but I served it with passion fruit (called lilikoi in Hawaii) for an added tropical taste.

Japanese-Style Coconut Cheesecake

This recipe was from a website called Cooking Hawaiian Style. I omitted the butter completely, and I used reduced fat cream cheese, but otherwise followed the recipe pretty closely.

Japanese-Style Coconut Cheesecake

Based on a recipe from Cooking Hawaiian Style

Yield: One 8″ cheesecake

Note: Do not substitute homemade cake flour (regular flour mixed with cornstarch) for this recipe. Use a store-bought cake flour.

9 oz. reduced fat cream cheese (one 8 oz. brick plus 1 oz. of another brick)

1/3 cup coconut milk

6 eggs, room temperature – whites and yolks separated

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1/2 cup plus

1/8 cup extra fine granulated sugar

1/3 cup plus 1 tsp. cake flour

3 tbsp. corn starch

1. Melt cream cheese and coconut milk in a heat-proof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Stir occasionally to break up cream cheese and combine the ingredients. Remove bowl from heat and allow to cool. Mixture will be thick. If lumpy, use a whisk to vigorously beat the mixture until smooth. Set aside.

2. When mixture has cooled, fold in the egg yolks, flour and corn starch. Fold until thoroughly incorporated.

3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

4. In a large bowl, whisk egg whites with an electric mixer until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and mix again, gradually adding the extra-fine sugar a little at a time until soft peaks form. Note: Soft peaks: mixture should be white and opaque, and meringue will fall onto itself when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.

5. Add the cheese mixture to the egg white mixture and fold together until well incorporated.

6. Pour into an 8-inch round spring-form pan that has been lightly greased and lined (sides and bottom) with parchment paper. Place a piece of aluminum foil over the top of the cake so it does not brown.

7. Bake in a water bath for 1 hour 10 minutes. When timer sounds, bake for an additional 10-15 minutes with the oven door cracked.

8. Carefully remove pan from water bath and let stand until cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove spring-form ring and serve.

Notes:

•Substitutions are not recommended for this recipe. Be sure to use whole milk, cake flour and extra-fine sugar. If you can’t find extra-fine sugar, grind regular sugar finer in a food processor.

•Sprinkle matcha green tea on finished cake, or top with fresh fruit for serving.

14 Hands Reserve WineWe also paired our meal with a bottle of 14 Hands Winery Reserve Red Blend. We discovered 14 Hands around the 14th anniversary of our first date, so it seemed fitting to close the loop by having a bottle to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary!

14 Hands Reserve Wine

Wedding Anniversary, Part 2 ~ Macadamia Nut and Panko Crusted Ono with Happy Rice

Macadamia and Panko Crusted OnoThe main course of our anniversary dinner was another recipe inspired by Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. We had a macadamia nut and panko crusted ono fish, otherwise known as wahoo. (Wahoo! Sorry, couldn’t resist. ;-) ) It’s a Hawaiian fish with a dense but flaky texture, and a mild flavor. We also had a side dish of rice to accompany the fish. The cookbook calls this recipe Happy Rice. :) So all in all, I’d say this is one of the happiest dishes I have ever made. ;-) Wahoo and Happy Rice!

We are lucky enough to have a Hawaiian fishmonger around Seattle called Tim’s Seafood in Kirkland. In addition to a wide selection of Northwest fish, he also gets fresh Hawaiian seafood. I had my choice of some beautiful fish for our dinner! He even makes his own poke.

I used coconut oil on the fish, and it gave it a subtle coconut flavor that was a nice compliment to the macadamia nuts. The original recipe used quite a bit of butter, but the coconut oil was a really nice alternative. This crust would work well with any firm white fish I think. The original recipe was for opakapaka, which I couldn’t find at the fish store that day, so I think any mild fish with a fairly firm texture would be lovely.

Macadamia Nut and Panko Crusted Ono with Happy Rice

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood

Serves 2, with leftover rice for later

Happy Rice:

1 cup Japanese short-grain rice

1 cup water

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon furikake, plus more for top

Macadamia and Panko Crusted Ono:

4 tablespoons macadamia nut halves

4 tablespoons coconut oil

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

2 6 oz fillets of ono

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To prepare rice:

Put the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water, until the water runs clear. Drain the rice and transfer to a bowl. Cover with fresh cold water, and let soak for 1 hour.

To cook the rice on the stovetop, place the drained rice in a saucepan and add 1 cup fresh water. Bring to boil, decrease heat, cover, and cook until the rice is soft and sticky and the water has just evaporated, about 15 minutes.

Combine the rice with ginger and furikake. Use small cookie cutters to form rice into compact shapes. Alternatively, dip your fingers in a bowl of slightly salted water to prevent the rice from sticking and mold 1 to 2 tablespoons of rice into triangles, cubes, or balls. Set aside and keep warm. Sprinkle the tops with more furikake.

To prepare fish:

In a food processor, pulse the nuts until they are cut into course pieces. Add the panko and oil, and pulse it all together until it is a thick paste, but still has some texture.

Coat one side of the ono with the paste. Preheat an oven-safe sauté pan over medium high heat, and when hot, place the ono in the pan, paste side down. Cook until golden, and then flip. Finish the fish in the oven. Cook until flaky, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Taste and say “Wahoo!!” OK, I have that out of my system now. ;-)

Stay tuned for our Hawaiian dessert in the next entry!

Anniversary Dinner