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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies

So I know I should be providing some healthier recipes, but lately all the healthy ones I have cooked have been disappointing either flavorfully or visually (some foods really do not photograph very well.)   And believe it or not, I had intended to make a healthier, no sugar added, hazlenut date truffle for the holiday, but I couldn't find hazelnuts at any of the nearby stores and I didn't feel like hauling my bum all the way to Trader Joe's at that moment.  So I was really forced into making these....forced I tell ya.  Well it's Easter and why not splurge?

These are the perfect decadent treat.  These should only be consumed for special occasions or when you're in some sort of trouble and need a favor or forgiveness.  If you are looking for healthy brownies, then you have ended up on the wrong page...keep on looking.  Perhaps I will find a wonderfully healthy and delicious black bean brownie recipe in the near future and will be able to redirect you to that soon-to-be post then.  (Insert healthy brownie recipe here.)

Peanut Butter Truffle Brownies
adapted from Half Baked Harvest

For the brownies:
10 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ounces milk chocolate chips
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 ounces milk chocolate chips

Truffle Topping:
3 ounces darm chocolate chips
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 ounces milk chocolate chips

To make the brownies. Line an 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking dish with parchment paper or foil, letting the edges over hang from the pan so you can easily lift the brownies out of the pan. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Add the butter and the first 2 ounces of milk chocolate chips to a medium size mixing bowl that is microwave safe. Microwave the butter and chocolate on 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. To the melted chocolate mixture add the sugar and instant coffee, whisking until completely combined. Add the vanilla and egg and whisk until smooth. Stir in the cocoa powder, flour and salt until smooth and just combined careful to not overmix the batter. It will be thick. Stir in the remaining 4 ounces milk chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes, until the brownies are set on top.

While the brownies bake, make the truffle topping. Add the 3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate and the cream to microwave safe bowl. Microwave the chocolate and cream on 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth.

Remove the brownies from the oven and let the brownies cool 5 minutes and then lift them out of the pan. Pour the chocolate truffle topping right over the brownies and smooth it out until it reaches the edge. Melt the remain 4 ounces of milk chocolate and then drizzle it over the brownies. Allow the brownies to set at least one hour in the fridge or two hours at room temperature before cutting.

Get a glass of milk ready for these...

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Peas

If you love light, fluffy, cheesy, little pillows of deliciousness, then you must, must, must try making these gnocchi.  They were lovely.  I look forward to many future Sunday dinners with these on our table.  They were super easy to make and there's no rolling of the dough whatsoever.  Instead, you just pack it all into a large freezer bag, snip off the corner, and squeeze them one by one into a pot of boiling water.  Other than the occasional break to rest your squeezing hand, it's extremely quick and easy.  You could easily make these with a simple tomato sauce, but I was craving something that would take a backseat to the gnocchi, but still be rich and flavorful.  Just some butter and shallots with mushrooms and peas was a perfect compliment to the lightness of these.

I'd like to send a special shout out "thank you" to my wonderful husband, Jim, who got me my first subscription to Bon Appetit...I have always read it on-line, but I am in love with flipping through its actual pages and dog-earring recipes that I can't wait to try.  I decided that this was to be the first executed.  I did try to lighten the recipe up a little by using part-skim ricotta as opposed to whole and three tablespoons of butter instead of four...every little bit helps, people.  These gnocchi did not disappoint...far from it.  Happy spring, everyone!

Ricotta Gnocci with Mushrooms and Peas
slightly adapted from Bon Appetit
serves 6

For the gnocchi:
32 oz. part skim ricotta cheese (recipe called for the full-fat goods, but I went with part skim to lighten it up and it didn't hurt the recipe at all.)
2 large eggs
1 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tsp kosher salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup all-purpose flour

For the sauce:
2 Tbsp olive oil
6 oz. cremini button mushrooms, sliced
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas, defrosted
3 or 4 Tbsp unsalted butter (I went with 3 to lessen the fat.)
salt and pepper to taste

Line a baking dish with three layers of paper towels and spoon the ricotta over them.  Allow to sit for 20 minutes so that the towels absorb some of the moisture.  If the dough is too wet, it won't hold together.  In a food processor, combine the ricotta, eggs, parmesan, salt, and pepper.  Process until smooth.  Add the flour and pulse until just combined. The dough should be smooth and fairly wet.  Transfer this mixture to a freezer bag (or pastry bag) and cut a 1/2 inch hole off the corner.  (You can make this up to 1 day ahead.)

Bring a large pot of water to a simmer.  Pipe the dough into the pot, cutting off 1 inch pieces with a knife as you go and letting them drop into the water.  Try to do this in 3 batches.  Cook each batch until they double in size, about 3 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet.  Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add the mushroom and cook, stirring occassionally, for 5 minutes.  Then add shallots and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.  Then add butter, reserved cooking liquid, peas, and gnocchi, and toss gently.  Serve immediately and enjoy thoroughly.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Thai Larb

If you've ever been to a Thai restaurant, then you must have seen this dish on its menu.  Don't have an adverse reaction to the's actually pronounced "laap," which has a nicer ring to it.  It happens to be one of Jim's favorites.  I have never been excited about it because I get anxious when it comes to ground meat...don't judge me...we all have our own brand of crazy.  So when I was perusing Bon Appetit's web site this weekend (as I tend to do) and saw this recipe for larb in which you start with chicken breast and grind it in a food processor, I was sold.  I was on larb duty, while Jim again set to work making papaya salad (this time he did it Thai style the way I prefer it) and sticky rice.  Another Asian style Sunday in the Faulkner house.  Everything was amazing.  Even Adrienne loved loved loved the larb - and sticky rice has always been one of her very favorite things in the whole wide world (her words, not mine.)  So the meal was an absolute success.  The larb was so easy to prepare, I wouldn't hesitate to make this on any weekday night.  You could serve it with rice or noodles, or serve it with lettuce cups and you have a ridiculously healthy meal.

Thai Larb
adapted ever so slightly from Bon Appetit

1-1/2 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup roughly chopped shallots
2 Tbsp thinly sliced lemongrass
2 kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 small red Thai chili pepper, thinly sliced
2 tsp fish sauce
1/4 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
3 Tbsp peanut oil, divided
chopped cilantro for serving

For the dressing:
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp light brown sugar, packed
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp siracha

In a food processor, combine the first 8 ingredients.  While drizziling 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, pulse the mixture until the chicken is very finely chopped.  Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken mixture and allow to cook while breaking it up with a spoon until the chicken is cooked through, about 6 minutes.  Serve over rice or with lettuce leaves and the sauce.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins

So let me start by telling you about my first experience with chia seeds (not THIS experience).  I had been hearing good things, so I just had to try these little nutritional powerhouses (the very same seeds are in fact used on chia pets in case you were wondering like I had wondered.)  I decided to try them out by throwing them into my morning smoothie, and the result was that I thought I was experiencing morning sickness all week long.  Turns out I can't handle chia seeds on an empty stomach...and blended fruit and veggies with almond milk is not enough.  When chia seeds mix with liquid, they expand and becomes jelly-like (this is why you can make pudding out from these seeds.)  Apparently, when this happens in my stomach, I feel ill.  So I didn't care to give chia seeds a second shot until I saw a new Kashi granola bar using chia and chocolate.  It's become my favorite snack - except for the fact that the chia seeds tend to get stuck in my teeth, and as a teacher, I need to be careful I don't end up embarrassing myself in front of a room full of 16 year olds.  Well this new favorite snack has led me to attempt this muffin recipe.  I'm always looking for a healthier muffin so I feel okay eating something cake-like for breakfast (especially since Jim, Ade and I will eat them all week.)  These came out perfect.  I wouldn't change a thing.  It's an awesome healthier take on the traditional lemon poppy seed muffin.  They are not very sweet at feel free to add some more sugar or perhaps use a lemon yogurt which will have additional sugar in it in place of the yogurt and additional lemon juice.  There is no butter, but olive oil instead, and I threw in some whole wheat flour to amp up the healthy a wee bit more.  If you've been curious about using chia seeds, I feel like this is the least intimidating way to incorporate them into your diet.

Lemon Chia Seed Muffins
adapted from The Corner Kitchen
makes 12 muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup nonfat greek yogurt
juice from 1 lemon
juice and zest from 1 meyer lemon
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp chia seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  In another large bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and yogurt.  Then add the lemon juice and zest.  Lastly, add the egg and vanilla.  Then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.  Mix until just combined.  Then add the chia seeds and incorporate.  Line a muffin tin with liners and bake in the oven for 14 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of their centers clean.  Cool on a wire rack and enjoy.  Keep in an airtight container to store.  Mine began to taste a bit stale on day three, but popping it in the toaster oven for a few minutes perked it right back up.

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Potato Bacon Pizza

Like the Instagram pic?  I was doing all pictures on my phone because the cooking went down at my friend Colleen's house.  We planned an "Iron Chef" party, although you should know how loosely we're using this name.  The only thing that made our dinner party Iron Chef-like is the fact that we"randomly"  picked a central ingredient.  I also used the word "randomly" very loosely.  Although Maggie claims she picked a handful of episodes randomly, when faced with the choices of bananas, hot dogs, or bacon, I am willing to bet she made the right call when bacon ended up the winner.  There could be no better star of the evening...bacon makes everything better.

So as soon as I found out we were using bacon, I decided to make this pizza.  Jim and I frequent a restaurant that makes a pizza like this that is to-die-for-good.  The issue was going to be that I was going to Colleen's house directly after work to cook.  Now I could have just bought pizza dough, but if you've ever made your own, you know how much better homemade dough is.  It's Iron Chef night...I have no choice but to make the dough.  I used Deb's recipe for a "lazy" pizza dough since she provides three different variations on the recipe depending on how long you have between mixing the dough and using the dough.  (Bless her soul.)  So I set out to make a dough that would be ready to use after about 24 hours or so, but when I woke up in the morning, after the dough had been resting for half that time, it didn't look like it had done anything.  I think my house was too cold.  When I got to school, I threw it in the greenhouse near my classroom and by the end of the school day, it seemed to have kicked into gear.  Hallelujah.  I went to Colleen's with my dough and picked up a store-bought back-up on the way just in case.  However, when we cooked off a test piece, it was simply perfect.  Hooray.

So the pizza was an extreme success...I absolutely can't wait to make it again.  I made 6 individual pizzas and my husband was extremely lucky he got some leftovers.

Potato Bacon Pizza
makes 2 pizzas

1 lazy dough recipe
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella
1 lb yukon gold potatoes, sliced 1/8 inch thick
20 slices bacon, cut in half
1 bunch scallions, sliced

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and place the bacon in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet.  Bake for 25 minutes, rotating once halfway through.  When done, remove to a paper towel lined plate to absorb some extra grease.  Once it is cool enough to handle, crumble and set aside.

While the bacon is cooking, place your potato slices in a steamer basket over boiling water and cover.  Cook for 8 minutes, uncover, and stir.  Cover it again and let cook for another 6 minutes.  Check the potatoes with a fork to see if they are done.  If they aren't, recover and cook for an additional minute or two.  If they are done, uncover and remove from the heat so they can cool.

Place a pizza stone (if using) in the oven and raise the temperature to 500 degrees.  Roll out your dough.  I place my dough on parchment paper so I can easily move it on and off of the stone.  Then sprinkle most of the cheese over the dough, reserving a little to sprinkle over the potatoes.  Then spread out the potatoes, the rest of the cheese, the crumbled bacon, and the scallions.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 10 minutes.  The pizza crust should be golden and the cheese should be bubbly.  Serve with some sour cream and chopped chives if you'd like.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Tom Yum Soup

So today was a culinary adventure...My husband loves Asian cuisine so much that if I basically suggest we turn our kitchen into a Southeast Asian restaurant for the day, he's counting out chili peppers before I even finish my thought.  While I benefit from this on some days, it works against me on days when I want nothing more than chicken pot pie - a meal which Jim doesn't want to touch, and watching him force himself to eat just a bit is painful.  But I digress.  Getting back to today's post...I crave tom yum soup on a regular basis.  So it's been a long time coming that I try to make it on my own.  I set about it (drawing from all the different recipes I could find on-line and tasting as I went along) while Jim made papaya salad (not perfected just yet, but when it is, I will be sure to post the final recipe).

The resulting soup was a perfect, well-balanced combination of sour, salty, spicy, and a subtle hint of sweet.  If that weren't enough, in addition to all those wonderful flavors, the galangal that is used (apparently from what I have read, you should not substitute ginger), lends an earthiness - so don't skip the galangal.  That being said...the only downside is that if you want to try this out at home, it will require a trip to a specialty Asian market.  However, the crazy good smell of the lemongrass as you chop it makes up for the the inconvenience factor.  If you love tom yum soup, or if you have never had tom yum soup but the flavors I have described speak to you, then I don't think you will be disappointed by this.

Tom Yum Soup
serves 6

1-1/2 pounds medium shrimp
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
4 slices fresh galangal (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup (2-inch) pieces peeled fresh lemongrass (about 4 stalks)
8 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves
1 cup sliced button mushrooms
2 tablespoons roasted red chili paste (nam prik pao)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
2 Thai chilies
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
juice from 2 limes

Peel and devein shrimp, reserving shells.  Combine shrimp shells and 8 cups water in a Dutch oven and  bring to a simmer.  Cook 1 hour. Strain broth into another pot and discard solids.  Add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves to the pot and simmer 10 minutes. Again, strain broth mixture into a pot (I strained this back into the Dutch oven in which I made the shrimp stock so there was less to clean) and discard solids.  Add the mushrooms, chili paste, fish sauce, sugar, and chilies and bring to a boil.  Stir in shrimp, green onions, and cilantro and cook 3 minutes or until shrimp are done. Discard chilies and stir in the fresh lime juice.  This would be wonderful served with rice noodles if you like, but I thought it was amazing by itself as well.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Skillet Honey Cornbread

So remember how the other day I made that sausage soup with the cornmeal dumplings?  The cornmeal dumplings just weren't doing it for me.  So since (1) we got yet another snow day today and (2) I plan on having some of that soup for lunch and (3) I happen to have all of the ingredients for cornbread on hand, I made this loaf of loveliness.  Do I have a problem or what?  It's a pretty good problem to have, I guess.  At least for all those around me.

This cornbread came out so good, I just can't stop eating it.  It's perfectly moist, which you don't often get with some cornbread.  I think the amount of sweetness is just right too, but if you like your cornbread on the sweeter side, then up the sugar from 1/2 to 2/3 a cup.  Also, feel free to add some frozen corn to the batter before baking.  Some people like that and some (like Jim) hate it.

Skillet Honey Cornbread

8 Tbsp butter, 7 of them melted, the other set aside
3 Tbsp honey
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (click here so you never need to buy and waste buttermilk ever again)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt

If using a cast iron skillet (I used a 10-inch), place it in the oven and preheat to 425 degrees.  Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, honey, and sugar.  Then incorporate the eggs.  Add the baking soda and buttermilk and mix it all together.  In another large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, and salt.  Add the wet ingredients to this dry mixture and mix just until all the flour disappears.

Once your oven is preheated, remove the cast iron skillet and turn the oven down to 375.  Then melt the remaining tablespoon of butter in the hot skillet.  Swirl the pan around so it covers the bottom of your pan and then add your cornbread mixture.  Place in the oven for 25 minutes.  When it's done cooking, remove from the oven and allow to sit for 10 minutes before slicing.