Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Arugula and Apples with Honey-Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Remember The Meatball Shop??  Well this past weekend I traveled downtown to have some more of that delicious Arugula and Apple salad.  This time I was sure to find out a little about the dressing that makes this salad so amazingly delicious!  The secret ingredients are apple cider vinegar and honey.  I got this recipe from Martha Stewart.
Arugula and Apple Salad with Honey-Apple Cider Vinaigrette
(makes about 1 1/2 cups of dressing)
2 containers or bags of Arugula
3 Honeycrisp Apples, sliced thinly
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 shallot, minced
the juice of 1 1/2 lemons
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Slice apples thinly and place in serving bowl.  Squeeze the juice from 1/2 of a lemon on the apple slices to prevent browning. Place the arugula on top of the apple slices and set aside. DO NOT MIX ARUGULA WITH LEMON AND APPLES, it will wilt.

In a small bowl whisk together the honey, vinegar, shallot, and the juice of 1 lemon.  Slowly add olive oil while continuing to whisk, add salt and pepper to taste.  Pour over salad directly before serving.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Coconut Custard Tart

I made this tart for Thanksgiving and let me tell you I can't stop thinking about it!!  It was so delicious, light, and non-dairy!!  It's a multi-step process but it's not difficult!  You need to use a tart pan for this recipe.  I mixed up a few recipes and created a really great one, I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did!!
Coconut Custard Tart
(makes 1, 9-11 inch tart)
For the Tart Shell:
1 1/2 stick unsalted margarine, room temperature (I use Fleischmann's or Earth Balance Vegetable Shortening, the green box)
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste OR good vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease the tart pan with non-stick spray. Cream margarine and sugar in a bowl with a hand mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla to margarine mixture, mix until well combined.  Add flour slowly to mix, and mix just until combined.  Use hands to form dough into a ball. Use fingers to press dough into the greased tart pan making sure to have the dough along the sides of the pan as well.  Use a fork to poke holes into the dough and bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, until light golden brown around the edges.  Let tart shell cool completely.  Put aside.

For the Pastry Cream:
4 Large egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 cups vanilla soymilk  or milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted margarine/butter or vegetable shortening (Earth Balance)
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, 1/4 cup of sugar, all of the cornstarch, and the milk. In a saucepan, combine the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, the vanilla, and the salt. Bring to a simmer. Whisking constantly, pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, gradually at first to temper it, and then more quickly. Set a strainer over the saucepan. Strain the custard mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil over medium meat, whisking constantly. Boil for 10 seconds, whisking. (Make sure the custard boils for 10 seconds in the center of the pan, not just around the sides.) The mixture should thicken to a pudding-like consistency.

Transfer the pastry cream to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, to cool slightly. With the mixer running, beat in the butter a little at a time, until incorporated. Beat in the coconut. Transfer to a bowl, press plastic wrap directly over the cream to prevent a crust from forming, and chill until firm, about 1 to 2 hours.  Once the pastry cream is chilled pour into cooled tart shell and prepare the coconut whipped cream, recipe follows.
For the whipped cream topping:
8 oz. of non-dairy whipping cream, very cold
1 teaspoon of coconut extract
2 tablespoons of confectioner's sugar

In a large bowl whip the cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Add sugar and coconut extract and whip until stiff peaks form. Do not over-beat.  Pour whipped cream over the custard and spread around the tart.  You can also pipe the whipped cream if you'd like.  Sprinkle the tart with toasted or untoasted coconut and chill until ready to serve.
To toast the coconut: Place shredded coconut in a dry pan and place over medium heat.  The coconut will turn light brown when it is done.  Keep a very close eye on the pan or the coconut may burn. 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lychee Fruit Salad

This recipe came my way through a friend of my mother's.  This could be the easiest and yummiest fruit salad ever!!  It only has 3 ingredients.  It involves peeling and segmenting a few pomelos, if you don't know how to do that click here for a video.  A pomelo is a kind of citrus fruit, if you can't find them you can try using grapefruit segments.  

Lychee Fruit Salad

2-3 pomelos, peeled and segmented
2 containers of strawberries, quartered
1 can lychee, in syrup (do not discard syrup)

Mix pomelo pieces and strawberries together in a bowl and pour the can of lychee with the syrup over the fruit.  Place in the fridge to chill until serving.  Garnish with fresh mint. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

I wanted to wish all my loyal readers a Happy Thanksgiving!  I am so thankful for all your support and comments!!  I hope everyone has a wonderful day!  I am spending my day with my parents, brothers, sister-in-law, uncle, and some friends!!  Here are some photos of the table, set beautifully by my mother, and the desserts all made by, you guessed it, me!!  Recipe for the Coconut Custard Tart and Lychee Fruit Salad coming later!! I also was in charge of making the Brussel Sprouts, which I made using this recipe from a great blog called Big Girls Small Kitchens. Enjoy! Gobble, Gobble!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Magic Cookie Bars

One of the families I work for are always making these yummy easy treats.  Whether it's for a bake sale, birthday, or entertaining event at the apartment, they always make these.  Starbuck's used to sell a version of these bars and they were so delicious, I kinda miss them.  I bet they got rid of them when they had to start posting the calorie counts on everything, these are not low calorie treats by any means.  SO BEWARE because they are kind of addicting.  The best part about the recipe is that you probably have most of the ingredients on hand, except maybe the sweetened condensed milk.  But if you like the recipe maybe you could stock up with a few cans that way the next time you feel like making it you have all the ingredients on hand!

Magic Cookie Bars
(makes about 16 small squares)

1 1/2 cups of graham crackers crumbs
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 (14 oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups shredded coconut
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray a baking dish.  I used a 9x9 pan. Mix melted butter and graham cracker crumbs together in a bowl.  Press crumb mixture into the bottom of the pan in an even layer. Next, pour the condensed milk over the graham crumbs.  Then, sprinkle coconut over the milk. Now sprinkle chips all over the top.  Place in the oven and bake for about 30 minutes until golden brown.  Let cool completely, you can even place the pan in the fridge for a while.  Cut into squares and enjoy!!

I bet this would be really great to make in a mini-muffin or regular muffin tin, but it would require a little more work on your part because of the layering.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

French Onion Soup

I recently purchased a bunch of these porcelain soup bowls at Sur La Table.  I was thinking I'd try to make French Onion Soup in them with the broiled cheese and all!  I've never made onion soup before so I went to one of my favorite sites, TasteSpotting, and searched through a whole lot of onion soup recipes.  Some called for beef stock others used veal stock.  Some used white wine and some used brandy, cognac, or sherry.  I really just kind of made up my own recipe. So here it is!!

French Onion Soup
(serves 4)

3 large white onions, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 bay leaves
10 sprigs of fresh thyme, tied together using one of the sprigs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup dry sherry
3/4 cup dry white wine
4 1/2 cups water or stock of your choice. (If using water you will need to add 3 tablespoons Osem Chicken Consomme or 3 bouillon cubes)
To top the soup: (optional)
French baguette, sliced on the bias
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese

Place first 6 ingredients together in a large soup pot.  Turn heat to medium-high and saute onions for about an hour, mixing every now and then.  The onions will turn a dark golden brown color.
Add the sherry and white wine to the pot and de-glaze.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape the bottom of the pot. Let boil for about 15 minutes.
 Now add the water or stock, if using water add the chicken consomme now as well.  Using a pair of tongs take out the thyme sprigs and bay leaves.  Stir and let boil for another 30 minutes.
Place soup in containers until ready to serve.  You can freeze soup up to 6 months.  

When ready to serve, place warmed up soup into 4 oven-safe bowls.  Bake slices of baguette, sprinkled with some olive oil in the oven at 375 degrees until crisp and golden brown, about 15-20 minutes.  Place toasted bread on top of soup and sprinkle it with cheese. Broil soup in the oven until cheese is golden brown and melty, about 5 minutes.  Serve and enjoy!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mejadra (Lentils, Rice, and Onions)

This is a dish my mom makes for my family.  It's a Middle Eastern dish that contains rice, lentils, and onions.  In this recipe I deconstructed it to make it a little healthier and easy for the non-cook.  You can have the lentils and the onions alone or on top of rice, white or brown, or even quinoa!  I bet it even would be great over a salad too!  Here's a link to Wikipedia to read more about this dish and where it comes from etc.

(serves 2-3)

1/2 cup dry lentils (I used a variety of lentils)
1/2 of a large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups of cooked rice or quinoa (I used 1 Uncle Ben's Ready Brown Rice Pouch)

Boil the lentils in a pot for about 20 minutes until tender, drain and put aside. In another pot saute the chopped onions with the olive oil on low heat for about 15 minutes.  Keep an eye on the onions and mix them around every few minutes.  They should be a dark brown, see photo. Pour the cooked lentils into the pot of the sauteed onions and add the salt and pepper.  Add the cooked rice to the pot, stir, and serve!!  Enjoy!
Sauteed onions
Cooked lentils
Mix it together
And...It's as easy as that!!  All you need to do now is mix it with cooked rice and enjoy!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe is so simple, and only requires 3 ingredients!!  Do you believe it??  You should!!  I've made this soup for a long time now...I think it's my friend's favorite soup that I make.  You can bet that if they know I have just made a batch I can expect a few people to schlep all the way to the Upper East Side of NYC to have some.  It's really healthy and low in calories.  I figured out the calorie count per cup, and it came out to about 243 calories.  This recipe makes about 11 cups of soup.

Butternut Squash Soup
(makes about 11 cups)

1 large onion, chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 (20 oz.) packages of peeled and cut up butternut squash or 2-3 whole butternut squashes, cut into large chunks
4 tablespoons of Osem Chicken Consomme or 4 chicken flavored bouillon cubes
water (enough to cover the squash in the pot)

Saute the chopped onion and salt with the olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat, about 10 minutes or until soft.  Add the two packages of butternut squash and then fill the pot with water until the squash is just covered.  Add the 4 tablespoons of chicken consomme and stir.  Let pot come to a boil and then simmer on medium heat for about 40 minutes.  When the squash becomes soft and mushy, turn the heat off and use an immersion hand blender to puree the soup in the pot.  Sprinkle with chopped chives, cilantro, or parsley (if you desire some greens) and serve. Enjoy!!

NOTE: If you want a thinner soup, add more water to the pot after it has been pureed. You might need to adjust the amount of salt to taste.  If you want a thicker soup, add another package of squash to the pot and let boil with the rest of it. Also you might need to adjust the salt.
I was able to fill all these containers and then still have a good portion for lunch tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Standing Chicken

Standing chicken is what I call this.  It's something my family loves!!  All you need to have to make this recipe is a vertical chicken roaster.  I bought mine over the weekend at Sur La Table.  It's not expensive and it will make cooking chicken super easy and not scary!!  This is the first time I ever handled a full chicken.  It was super easy.  You don't have to mess with it at all, just stick it on the roaster and that's it!
Place your vertical chicken roaster in a deep pan.  Pour kosher salt all around the vertical roaster, as shown, about 1/4 inch deep.  Spray the vertical raoster with non-stick cooking spray.
Place the chicken, legs down, onto the vertical roaster. Place in the oven at 400 degrees, cook for about  1 hour and 15 minutes.
This is what it looks like when it's in the oven.  I had to place my rack all the way to the bottom and remove all the other ones.
When you take it out of the over, let it sit for about 15 minutes, tent the chick with aluminum foil to keep warm.  You see all the gross chicken fat that dripped into the bottom??  YUCK!
 Now start carving.  It's not easy if you don't have a good pair of kitchen sheers or a good carving knife!  
The chicken comes out juicy, tender, and delicious.  And it's full of flavor from the salt that it was standing on. Not sure how it all works, but trust me it's amazing!  I made two chickens and ate one and saved the other for making chicken pot pie!!  Yummy!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pumpkin Bread Pudding

It's finally November and Thanksgiving is approaching us!!  Halloween was yesterday and pumpkins are everywhere!  Even though it's over pumpkins are still here to stay for a while... I always love this time of year, pumpkin pie, squash of all varieties, pumpkin pancakes, and even pumpkin bread pudding! This recipe is a great brunch dessert, or make it on thanksgiving instead of pie.  I pretty much was experimenting when I made this recipe but I tested it out with my family and it was a huge success!!  Even my dad who claims he doesn't like pumpkin and cinnamon, enjoyed!  I think you will enjoy too!

Pumpkin Bread Pudding
(serves 12)
1 loaf of challah, broken into large chunks
4 eggs
1 (15 oz.) can on pumpkin puree
2 cups non-dairy vanilla soy milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
(You can also use pumpkin pie spice)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or good vanilla extract

Combine eggs, milk, pumpkin puree, vanilla, and spices in a bowl and whisk until combined.  Pour mixture over chunks of challah and let soak for a 2-8 hours.  

When you are ready to bake the bread pudding, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a rectangular baking sheet.  I used Pam non-stick spray.  If you would like to add chocolate chips (or non-dairy carob chips) you can add that into the challah mixture now, and mix to incorporate the chips.  About 1/2 cup.  Place pudding mixture into the baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 1 hour, until golden around the edges. Serve warm with spiced whipped cream (see recipe below).

Spiced Whipped Cream
1 cup non-dairy whipping cream (or regular whipping cream)
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Place all ingredients in a glass bowl.  Using a hand mixer, mix the cream until soft peaks form.  Place in the fridge until serving.
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