Thursday, October 30, 2008

Apple-y Delicious!

I'm not a baker. Or so I thought. It's true, I've been converted. The Beanpole and I had both had lousy weeks with both being sick and not sleeping well and one of the best ways to combat that is good ol' comfort food. What's more comforting on a chilly fall day than hot apple pie and a cup of steaming cider? Exactly. I don't know either. Determined to make my own crust and the best apple pie possible I turned to none other than The Joy of Baking. And joyful it was! When The Beanpole went back for his second slice after inhaling the first and told me that we couldn't speak because it was "pie time" it was all worth it. The original instructions were a bit disorganized so I modified them below to clarify for us "non-bakers". Don't let the length of the instructions dissuade you! The recipe is really quite simple, just very descriptive...

Joy of Baking Apple Pie
Pate Brisee (Short Crust Pastry)
2 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp white granulated sugar
1 cup butter
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup ice water
Apple Filling
2 1/2 lbs apples (about 6 large), peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4" thick slices (I used 9 small-med apples)
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1/4 light brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch

To really bring out the flavor of the apples macerate them (to bring out their juices) prior to baking. Combine apples through salt in a large bowl, stir, and let sit at room temperature for about 2 hours. While the apples are sitting, start on the pastry crust.

In a food processor, combine flour, salt, sugar, and butter, and pulse for 10-15 seconds until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Once combined, stream in water slowly until dough just holds together when pinched. Turn dough out onto a flat surface and gather into a little ball. Divide ball in half and flatten each half into a disk. Cover each with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least an hour.

Once apples have macerated for two hours, turn them into a strainer and place over a large bowl to capture juices. Let them drain for 15-30 minutes or until you have about 1/2 cup of juice in the bowl. While juices are draining, place your first disk of dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to 12", working from the center and picking dough up and turning 1/4 with each roll to prevent sticking. Fold dough in half and gently place into pie pan, trimming any excess dough from around the edges. Cover with plastic wrap, return to refrigerator and remove second disk to take the chill off and return apples to bowl, saving juices. Meanwhile, spray a microwave-safe measuring cup with cooking oil. Pour in juices from apple mixture and add butter, microwaving for about 6-7 minutes until the mixture has reduced but about 1/3 and has thickened. Pour over apples, adding cornstarch, stir to combine, and pour into pie plate. Roll out second dough on a lightly floured surface and gently place on top of pie dish. If your pie dish has a ledge on which bottom crust is setting (mine didn't) brush lightly with water prior to adding top crust. Push dough together with fingers (to form the pretty ruffly edges) or crimp with a fork. Cut 5 small slices in top crust to allow steam to escape (this is what makes the pretty star on top!)

Place oven rack on lowest bars and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pie pan on a baking stone or a sheet pan to prevent the bottom from burning, and bake 40-50 minutes. Check the pie about 30 minutes in and cover the edges with foil to prevent burning. Once the pie is done baking, transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool 3-4 hours. Serve pie warm or at room temperature with ice cream or whipped topping.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Teriyaki Chicken and Pineapple Rice

A noticeable chill has taken over, fall (and almost winter!) has definitely arrived, and I thought it high time we take a mini dinner vacation back to summer. One of the challenges of living in a city apartment is craving grilled food but not being able to cook out as we're accustomed. I'm finding little tricks and flavors that help trick the tastebuds and this was one of those meals. It's not perfect and could definitely use another boost but by the time I'd eaten one of the chicken breasts I had several ideas on how to improve, so look for variations to come throughout the winter! The recipe was created on the fly and therefore no true measurements exist so feel free to play around a little bit and adjust to your personal taste.

Teriyaki Chicken
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
dash of garlic powder
dash of ginger
splash of rice wine vinegar
a couple drops of honey

Mix all ingredients together and let chicken breasts or tenders marinate in shallow baking dish overnight, or at least 6 hours. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until cooked. Once cooked, place under broiler on high for 2-3 minutes to get that nice grilled flavor. If you prefer a thicker sauce you can simmer on the stovetop for a couple minutes to reduce sauce or add a dash of cornstarch.

Pineapple Rice
Rice (I used brown, because I always have it on hand, but white would be fine)
1 can pineapple tidbits (whatever size you want, depending on how much pineapple you want)

Cook rice according to package directions. Since rice is cooked in a 2:1 liquid to rice formula, use 1 cup chicken broth, 2/3 cup water, and 1/3 pineapple juice from can per cup of rice. Again, feel free to play around a bit with this to taste. When rice is almost cooked, add pineapple tidbits and stir in rice to allow flavor to concentrate.

See, it's almost like summer!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Butternut Squash Ravioli and Apple Not-so-Crisp

Last night The Beanpole and I got home just in time to scramble cleaning the apartment and start dinner for some friends. They were running a bit late so we had plenty of time to wash and dry the dishes and maintain the pretense of organization. Anxious to use a portion of the 2 pecks of apples we'd picked up at the orchard I started on the first apple crisp recipe I found so it would be ready when we finished dinner. I used a butternut squash ravioli recipe found on accompanied by roasted asparagus (which I could eat every single day, by the way) and more Sam Adams Oktoberfest. I love the Oktoberfest beers - not too dark and heavy but a perfect transition from the lighter tastes of summer. The apple crisp turned out to be mush, probably because I went rogue with the recipe. Then again, when topped with vanilla ice cream, it all worked out!

Butternut Squash Ravioli
1/2-3/4 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped (I halved, and roasted at 450 for 45 min)
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/3 teaspoon ginger
1/2 cup finely grated gruyere or ricotta (
I used low-fat ricotta)
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 1/2 cups unbleached flour, pre-sifted (
Use fork to fluff flour, and lightly spoon into measuring cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
Steam (or roast) squash until easily pierced with a fork.
Mash squash, and add spices, cheese and salt and pepper.
Cool, and prepare dough.
For dough: Mix flour and salt together.
In a separate bowl, mix the cilantro, eggs, and 1/4 cup water.
In a food processor, pulse cilantro mixture until the cilantro is fine.
Add flour mixture gradually until well mixed.
Add water if necessary to obtain a stiff dough.
Knead dough by hand, and leave rest in a covered bowl for 20 minutes.
Knead again, and roll dough into a thin sheet, approximately 1/8 inch. (
even thinner would be best)
Cut out an even number of circles in the dough.
Drop a spoonful of filling in the center of each circle, moisten edges with water, and cover with a separate circle.
Pinch edges together, and leave ravioli dry for about 2 hours, and refrigerate until needed.
Cook ravioli in salted boiling water for 15 minutes, drain, rinse, and serve with preferred sauce. (
I used a brown butter and sage sauce)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pork Chops Marsala

I found the Marsala recipe below in the Meals in Minutes issue put out by Cooking Light Magazine and just had to try it. It was everything it was cracked up to be and I struggled to refrain from devouring the sauce directly from the pan! The Beanpole and I joked that if we weren't already married this meal (minus the brussel sprouts for him!) would have inspired a proposal. Even if you think you don't like them, you must try the recipe here. It's so easy and even more delicious.

Pork Chops Marsala (serves 4)
6 tbsp all-purpose flour, divided (1/4 cup, plus 2 tbsp)
4 (4oz) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
Cooking spray
1/3 cup minced shallots (about 2)
1 (8oz) package presliced mushrooms (I used portabella, but any will do)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup Marsala wine or dry sherry (I used sherry)
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

-Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Place 1/4 cup of flour in a shallow dish and dredge pork in flour. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add pork to pan, cook 3-4 minutes on each side until browned. Remove pork from pan.
-Add shallots, mushrooms, and garlic to pan; saute 3 minutes or until moisture evaporates. Add remaining flour and thyme to pan; cook 1 minute, stirring well. Combine chicken broth and Marsala, stirring until smooth. Gradually add broth mixture to pan, stirring constantly with a whisk, bring to boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 2 minutes or until sauce thickens.
-Return pork to pan; cook 2 minutes or until desired degree of doneness, turning to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Golden Brown Brussels Sprouts

"Not until you eat your brussels sprouts!!"

It's the classic motherly refrain, isn't it? Well, it wasn't when I was growing up. I'd never tried them in fact until about 5 years ago but couldn't remember ever hearing of anyone who enjoyed them! That first introduction left me lukewarm. They were steamed and not particularly flavorful but I couldn't find anything inherently disgusting about them. Fast forward five years to the discovery of this recipe. I could eat them prepared this way every night if need be. Then again, parmesan cheese makes everything better!

Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts (101 Cookbooks)
24 small brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for rubbing
fine-grain sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated cheese of your choice

Wash brussels sprouts well. Trim stems, remove any raggy outer leaves. Cut in half from stem to top, gently rub each half with olive oil, keeping it intact.

Heat 1 tbps olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Don’t overheat skillet, or the outsides of the brussels sprouts will cook too quickly. Place brussels sprouts in the pan flat side down (single-layer), sprinkle with a couple pinches of salt, cover, and cook for roughly 5 minutes; the bottoms of the sprouts should only show a hint of browning. Cut into or taste one of the sprouts to gauge whether they’re tender throughout. If not, cover and cook for a few more minutes.

Once just tender, uncover, turn up the heat, and cook until the flat sides are deep brown and caramelized. Use a metal spatula to toss them once or twice to get some browning on the rounded side. Season with more salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a dusting of grated cheese. While you might be able to get away with keeping a platter of these warm in the oven for a few minutes, they are exponentially tastier if popped in your mouth immediately.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Oh, Sweet Cinnamon Gloss

I've spent the morning contemplating my kitchen, as usual, and decided to bite the bullet and bring out the KitchenAid stand mixer that's been in it's box for the past year. I got a great deal on it shortly before moving last year and after agonizing over the colors decided on Cinnamon Gloss. Once we got here decided it was easiest to keep it in the box for the sake of creating extra space. It's out of the box now, finally, and taunting me. What to make first?? Not surprisingly, I'm leaning towards a bread of some sort. Something rustic to go with all the soups of late would be perfect!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Girls' Night In

Several weeks ago some girlfriends and I decided to have scheduled girls' nights in to relax and catch up. I leaped at the chance to be the first hostess and set about planning a nice fall feast. Finally, I found the perfect recipe on a blog I'd stumbled upon. Admittedly, I took the inspirational photo a bit literally, but it worked with items already on hand and after two last-minute trips to the market simple presentation sounded fantastic! Risotto has a reputation for being difficult to prepare so I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's quite easy, and almost meditative. Even better, I got to use my fun pumpkin pot!

We finished dinner with a couple slices each of this scrumptious (and lowfat!) Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread found on another blog. One friend rated it better than Starbucks'! I haven't tried theirs, but agree that this particular recipe is sticking around for a long long time.

Drinks were a little more challenging. I landed on an apple wine and Sam Adams Oktoberfest. The apple wine was unexpected and a bit confounding. We decided that it tasted a bit like a flat sauvignon blanc, or a pear, or that a couple splashes of seltzer could help it make sense.All in all it was a really nice evening, and it reminded me (yet again) of how calming cooking and serving a meal is.

Pumpkin Risotto (A Year In the Kitchen)
1 tbsp. butter
1 small yellow onion, minced
salt and ground black pepper
1 c. arborio rice
1/4 c. dry white wine
2 c. warmed chicken stock
3/4 c. canned pumpkin puree
2 tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar reduction

In a large nonstick skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion, season with salt and pepper. Toss to begin cooking. Add rice, toast for 2 minutes. Add white wine and cook until the liquid is evaporated. Add 1/3 c. chicken stock, stirring in between additions, about every 3 minutes. After all of the stock is absorbed, add the canned pumpkin. Turn heat to low and let the rice cook and pumpkin absorb into the rice. Add parmesan cheese, stir, and plate with balsamic reduction.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread (Erin's Eats)
2 cups sugar (I only used 1.5 cups)
2 cups canned pumpkin
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup fat-free vanilla pudding (I used fat-free vanilla yogurt)
4 large egg whites
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°. Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture, stirring just until moist. Stir in chocolate chips.
Spoon batter into 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack, and remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Problem or Opportunity?

When you picture your dream kitchen, what do you see? Is it 60 square feet with no dishwasher but the only perfect spot in your home for the litterbox? I didn't think so. Mine either. So what to do when it's all you have? First, you look at all the kitchen items in their neatly packed moving boxes and sigh. Next, you invoke the gods of organization and start tackling the placement of said items. This means that beans go with beans, rice with rice, and randomly shaped and sized casserole dishes find nooks within each other and in the kitchen most likely previously unexplored. Once this is complete, you stop, think about all the lovely and new kitchen items you've added to your wedding registry and panic only to start anew to clear space. Wash, rinse, repeat. And when all the shiny glassware and basting sets are nestled in their homes you start to cook and find it's not so bad. After all, almost every item is within reach or no more than three steps away and I merely have to turn around to move from prep station to stove. It's not perfect, but if there's one room in this apartment that is unequivocally mine, it's the kitchen.