Tuesday, March 29, 2011

spaghetti squash and chard gratin

Brad thinks I don't like surprises but, I do.  Each week farm fresh to you posts the contents of the box you are going to receive but, I don't peek.  I want to peek but, I don't.  Reason number one is I cherish Carter waiting at the front door on Thursday morning for the farmer to come.  We unload and name each fruit and vegetable.  Love this!  The second reason is it feels like the unveiling of the mystery ingredient on iron chef.  I look at my bounty and then try to piece together some dishes to highlight the seasonal items.  I knew the spring onions and chard that were delivered would fit into my spaghetti squash and mushroom gratin.  I googled the combo and sure enough up popped this variation.  I made it with some changes.  It was delicious.  Brad even ate it.  It is now gone but, it is going to have a second appearance this week for book club as I received more chard this week and I can't stop thinking about it.  Hope the gals like spaghetti squash as much as I do.  If they don't then I guess I will have to eat the left overs.

spaghetti squash and chard gratin
adapted: kalyn's kitchen

1 large spaghetti squash 2-3lbs (~4 cups shredded)
1 teaspoon olive oil
5 spring onions, whites chopped

fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
fresh ground black pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic; minced
1 bunch red/green chard leaves; chopped  (can use spinach, collards, or kale)
1/2 cup fat free sour cream
1 cup fat free cottage cheese curds (rinse cottage cheese in strainer with cold water)
3/4 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese; divided
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400F.

Put halved squash on baking sheet and pour 1/4 cup water around bottom of squash. Roast squash about 45-50 minutes, or until it separates easy into strands when pulled with a fork. Let squash cool for a few minutes, then shred into spaghetti-like strands.  Season with salt and pepper.

While squash cooks, wash chard leaves if needed and spin dry or dry with paper towel. In two batches, stack up chard leaves on top of each other and slice into thin ribbons, then turn the cutting the board the other way and slice again into small pieces. Chop onion.

Heat olive oil in heavy frying pan, add chopped spring onions, season with salt, pepper and dried thyme. Saute until onion is softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook about 1 minute more, then add chopped chard all at once. Cook chard about 1-2 minutes, turning a few times. until it's wilted to about half the size it was. (The chard shouldn't be completely cooked, since it will cook more in the gratin.) Turn off heat.

Put cottage cheese in a fine strainer and rinse with cold water until only the cheese curds remain, then let drain. Spray a gratin dish with non-stick spray.

Using a large fork, gently mix the shredded spaghetti squash into the onion/chard mixture. Combine the sour cream, drained cottage cheese curds, 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, and beaten egg and mix into the chard/spaghetti squash mixture. Then put the combined ingredients into the gratin dish, and press down so it's evenly distributed in the dish. Sprinkle top with about 1/4 cup more Parmesan cheese.

Bake about 30-35 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbling and cheese is browned on top. Serve hot.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

sweet and spicy asparagus

I am really trying to work on building up a collection of good go to side vegetable dishes.  Typically I am the only one that eats them so, I like to make a large portion that I can stretch over a few days or add into a salad for lunch.  This dish is a twist on the sweet and spicy green beans.  Brad likes the green beans and will eat about five beans so, when I was dishing up his plate and offered these to him I expected him to say yes but, I was also expecting some leftovers for lunch.  This asparagus was that good and now it is gone.  Double batch next time!

sweet and spicy asparagus
source (adapted for size): one perfect bite

1 pounds asparagus, ends discarded and cut into 3rds on the diagonal.
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoons garlic, minced
1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Whisk together soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, chili flakes and pepper. Set aside.

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat. Add 1/2 cup water and asparagus. Cover and cook until asparagus is still crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Pour off any remaining water.  

Add to the pan the oil, garlic and ginger.  Sauté with the asparagus until lightly browned.  Add soy sauce mixture and bring to a boil. Cook until sauce coats asparagus.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Monday, March 21, 2011

chocolate peanut butter icebox cake

I have had this recipe torn out for ages but, feared making it as I have quite a weakness for the peanut butter and chocolate combination.  I have been trying to clean out and organize my kitchen since the start of 2011.  During my reorganization of the pantry this weekend I stumbled upon a box of chocolate wafers that I intended to use over the holidays.  The wafers were a sign the icebox cake needed to be made.  The cream filling is a snap to pull together and is fluffy and creamy but, not overly sweet.  When I opened the wafer box to assemble the cake I came to realize many of my cookies were broken (boo!).  I was still able to piece together the cake like a culinary puzzle and use up all the wafers although the end product may not look as pretty as it should have.  Fear not because the broken cookies did not have an impact on the taste.  The cookies soften up from the cream filling over night and turn from delicate and crisy (or broken) to soft and cake like.  Both the kids had two slices and Carter actually licked his plate clean.  This is a keeper and will be a perfect treat on a warm summer night.

chocolate peanut butter icebox cake
source: everyday food

2 cups heavy cream, well chilled
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup smooth natural peanut butter (not unsalted)
1 box (9 ounces) chocolate wafer cookies
In a large bowl, whip 1 1/2 cups cream with sugar until soft peaks form. In a small bowl, whisk peanut butter until soft and smooth; whisk in 1/2 cup cream until light and fluffy. Fold peanut-butter mixture into whipped cream until incorporated.

Dab the bottom of 6 cookies with a very small amount of cream mixture and arrange in a circle on a serving plate; place 1 cookie in the middle of circle. Top with cup cream mixture, spreading outward to cover all but outer edges of cookies. Repeat process five more times (staggering the cookie layers), ending with cream. Cut 3 cookies in half; decorate top of cake with cookie halves.
Refrigerate cake at least 8 hours (or up to overnight). To serve, cut into wedges with a serrated knife.

Friday, March 18, 2011

fudgy brownies

The plan was to make warm chocolate souffles this week.  I was planning on making these yesterday but, then I looked at my calendar and noticed that I had parent teacher conference, a dentist appointment for Campbell and then soccer practice.  There was no time for chocolate souffles no matter how good they sounded.  I still wanted chocolate and I knew I had time for a batch of brownies.  I am always skeptical of cooking light desserts.  I don't know why I think if a recipe does not contain obscene amounts of butter and sugar that it is going to be bad.  I have made numerous cooking light desserts and they are usually really good but, I still approach them with doubt.  I used really good ingredients in these brownies and they came out fudgy just like the title claims.  Using dark chocolate makes these rich and decadent and it is really hard to believe they are light.  They actually taste even better the next day.

fudgy brownies
source: cooking light

4.5  ounces  all-purpose flour (1 cup)
1/2  cup  unsweetened cocoa
1/4  teaspoon  salt
1/3  cup  butter
2  ounces  dark chocolate, chopped
1  cup  granulated sugar
1/4  cup  1% low-fat milk
1  teaspoon  vanilla extract
2  large egg yolks
1  large egg
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk.
3. Place butter and chocolate in a medium microwave-safe bowl, and microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds, stirring every 15 seconds. Stir until smooth, and set aside. Cool slightly. Add 1 cup sugar, milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, egg yolks, and egg; stir with a whisk to combine. Add butter mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Pour batter into an 8-inch square metal baking pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 18-20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out almost clean (you want a few crumbs).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

yellow cupcakes with chocolate butter frosting

Back from Barbados! We tried to eat as much local tropical cuisine as possible.  Our meals were heavy in fish (flying fish), vegetable curry wraps (roti) and plantains.  I was surprised that we did not (see Rhianna) or have many options in terms of tropical fruits or fresh vegetables.  We tend to not eat sweets when we are on vacation which is completely odd.  Sounds healthy right?  Well I am certain my thighs are plumped with rum punch, my bum is a bit wider due to its fill of local Banks brew and if you stuck a straw in my belly button certainly pina colada would flow out.  What we lacked in desserts we made up for many times over at the bar.  I came back craving vegetables, baked goods, not wanting to see or taste Mount Gay rum for a VERY long time and really missing my blog/kitchen time.  I really wanted to make a cake when we got back but, due to the extra vacation pounds I packed on and my lack of self control around cake I decided to compromise and make cupcakes.  The recipe is called a yellow cake but, I think this is more of a middle point between a white cake and a yellow cake.  It has egg yokes so, it is not a white cake but, I don't think it has enough eggs or butter to be a true yellow cake.  The cupcakes were still very good but, just not what I think of as a yellow cake.  Maybe I am wrong or maybe I only know yellow cake from a box?  The frosting was really good and although it is a butter frosting it does not have much butter compared to others which I really liked.  The lower amount of butter/shortening took away that greasy taste that some frosting has.  I can't stand that coat your mouth grease taste. Butter frosting is a classic and has a great consistency for spreading on cakes or piping on top of cupcakes. If you like more butter and your stomach is not hanging over your jeans from consuming to many rum drinks then certainly up the butter.  This recipe is easily adapted to taste.  The baked cupcakes freeze great as well.
yellow cupcakes with chocolate butter frosting
source: bhg
2 1/2  cups  all-purpose flour 
2 1/2  teaspoons  baking powder 
1/2  teaspoon  salt 
2/3  cup  butter or margarine 
1 3/4  cups  sugar 
1 1/2  teaspoons  vanilla 
2 eggs 
1 1/4  cups  milk

Preheat: 375.
For cupcakes: Line two 12 cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.  
Cake: Grease two 8",  two 9" or  13x9" pan. (Bake 30-35).

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl beat butter or margarine with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until well combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 1 minute after each. Add dry mixture and milk alternately to beaten mixture, beating on low speed after each addition just till combined. Pour batter into the prepared pan(s). 

Fill each cup. Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 22 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 24 cupcakes.

chocolate butter frosting

1/3 cup butter, softened
4 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/2 cup sifterd unsweetened cocoa
1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

In a mixing bowl beat butter until fluffy. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups of the powdered sugar and cocoa powder, beating well. Slowly beat in the 1/4 cup milk and vanilla.

Slowly beat in remaining powdered sugar. Beat in additional milk, if needed, to reach spreading consistency.

Monday, March 14, 2011

corn spoon bread

Corn bread, corn pudding and corn spoon bread ... in this house we like them all.  Typically I tend to lean toward a sweet version of all the aforementioned but, I stumbled upon this savory version of corn spoon bread and the South has done it again for me.  I love Southern food and I have fallen for this spoon bread.  Another comfort food from the South that I welcome at my table any time.  It is light like a souffle and creamy like a pudding but, has a crusty top and filled with kernels of corn and bits of onion and jalapeno.  This recipe makes a lot and speaking from experience it heats up really well the next morning and tastes very good drizzled with a bit of salsa and topped with an over medium egg.

corn spoon bread
adapted: everyday food

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
1/2 small yellow onion, diced small (1/2 cup)
1 jalapeno, diced small
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 cups whole milk
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawed)
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup cheddar cheese4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish. In a medium pot, melt butter over medium-high. Add onion and jalapeno and season with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add milk and corn and cook until milk is very hot but not bubbling, about 3 minutes. Whisk in cornmeal and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture is thick, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.  Stir in cheese.  Let cool 10 minutes. Whisk in egg yolks.

In a large bowl, whisk egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into corn mixture, then pour into baking dish. Bake spoon bread until browned on top and set in middle, 30 to 35 minutes, rotating dish halfway through. Let cool 5 minutes before serving.
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