Recipe | Almond Cookies

I have had this recipe in the back of my recipe book for well over two years and decided it was finally time to give it a try. With the holidays coming up, I am always in need of new cookie recipes. This one reminds me of my favorite almond cookies from my days working at the local coffee shop, Bella Bru, while in high school. These little cookies are filled with tons of almond flavor and are perfect to enjoy with your morning coffee or as an after dinner treat!

Italian Almond Cookie

Ingredients:
3 egg whites
1 (16-oz) package Bob’s Red Mill Finely Ground Almond Meal
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp pure almond extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sliced almonds
Powered sugar

Directions:
1. Beat egg whites until foamy in a large bowl. Stir in almond meal, sugar, almond extract and salt; cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours to chill.

2. Preheat oven to 300F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Press almonds with your fingers to break into smaller pieces. Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch crescents and roll in almonds; place on baking sheets.

3. Bake for 20 minutes for softer or 30 minutes for firmer cookies. Dust with powdered sugar.


Popover, Do-Over

I was informed by a certain popover connoisseur that my popover post here was not a total success and the popovers were lacking…well, “pop”. I didn’t quite believe her at first because no. 1 they tasted good and no. 2 they more than doubled in size which seemed to be popped enough for me! But, since I was the annoying girl in class that always did the extra credit to ensure I got an A+, not an A, I had to go for the A+ and try them again. Miss Popover connoisseur is from Texas, so naturally she had endless comparisons to the “Neiman Marcus” popovers. Therefore, after a bit of research we decided I should try this Neiman Marcus popover recipe.

Success???

You be the judge, but I think I will give myself an A for this attempt! These definitely had more “pop”; however, they tasted a bit more floury than the Tyler Florence recipe. I decided I will try this recipe again using more butter and hope they keep their pop but the extra butter will add just a bit more flavor.

If anyone has a great popover recipe send it my way before I try these again for the A+!

xoxo

Recipe | Popovers

Several months ago, I enjoyed these yummy treats at chef, Tyler Florence’s restaurant, Wayfare Tavern, in San Francisco. And let me tell you, they were one of the most memorable parts of the meal – the buttery, golden rolls with a crispy outside and easy to pull apart inside left me wanting more! So when my best friend emailed me the link to his recipe, I knew I had to try re-creating that magic at home.  This weekend, I finally purchased myself a popover pan {although not needed, as most say a muffin pan will do} and began my quest.

This is my view as I eagerly camped out in front of the oven with my fingers crossed hoping that they will rise enough to be considered a popover.

While at Sur La Table purchasing my popover pan, I came across a mini heart cookie cutter which I used to cut out pads of butter. I can’t wait to implement this idea with more shapes.


As you can see these were a success and the best part is that they are made with things that you likely have on hand already: eggs, flour, milk, and salt!  Again, here is the link to the recipe.

xoxo

Recipe | English Toffee

I now have a new favorite dessert to make going into the holiday season and I couldn’t be happier! Despite not being a “chocolate” person, I have always been a fan of toffee – more specifically, I have always been a fan of stealing my Mom’s Almond Roca hoping she wouldn’t notice. {Bad news about having so many siblings in the house is that when everyone takes 1 or 2 the jar disappears quickly}. This toffee is just like I hoped it would be: buttery, crunchy, a soft touch of chocolate, and coated with yummy almonds.

English Toffee
source: adapted from Paula Dean & Melissa Scheffel

Ingredients:
1 cup almonds
1 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp cold water
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips

To make the roasted ground almonds:

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Grind 1 cup of whole raw almonds using food processor with ninja slice attachment. Spread almonds on cookie sheet and place into oven for 5 minutes. Rotate and shift almonds halfway through baking. Remove from oven and set aside.

To make the toffee:

Line 9×13 pan with foil. Lightly butter foil to insure easy removal. Put butter, sugar, and water in a heavy pan or skillet over medium-high heat. Bring to a bubbling boil, stirring constantly with spoon. The mixture should feel like whipped marshmallows and will start to darken and turn the color of carmel. This should take approximately 10 minutes. Add vanilla and remove from heat.

Evenly spread into foil lined pan. Sprinkle lightly with a few ground almonds. Let cool for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with chocolate chips and after 5 minutes spread the chocolate around. Sprinkle with remaining roasted almonds and press lightly. Refrigerate until firm. Cool completely and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Tips:
Because not everything turns out as planned, my first batch was a disaster and the sugar separated from the butter! Now what I thought?! Despite googling several tips, I was unable to bring the mixture back to a marshmallow state and had to scrap it. However, I picked up a few tips which I implemented in my next attempt and I am happy to report that my second try turned out marvelously.
* Do not change heat drastically, if at all. In my first try, I was turning the heat up, down trying to get to a perfect medium-high. Whatever you deem medium-high to start, just keep with that for the entire cooking process.
* Continuously stir, don’t let toffee mixture sit – not even for a few seconds.
* Do not over cook. Take off once the mixture has turned the color of carmel.
* Use a spoon that can handle high heat. I used a wooden salad serving spoon the first time. The coating on the spoon blistered up.
* This stuff is HOT, so be careful.

Recipe | BBQ Pulled Pork

While most bloggers are posting photos of sweet little cookies or their newest ruffled skirt, my post today is about a pulled pork sandwich. Yes, really. This post definitely does not fall into the delicate, cute, or even girlie category which seems to be one of the unwritten requirements for girl bloggers and which I actually adore and generally oogle over everyday!  So beware, you may want to read this during the lunch hour rather than over your morning coffee.

We all know cooking while camping can be, well a pain. Dealing with raw meat in the ice chest and cleaning prep dishes is never fun. To eliminate some of the hassle I cook everything before hand and use the Food Saver to vacuum seal it all in, thus avoiding leaky zip lock bags and other gross ice chest messes.

This is one of my favorite meals to make while camping because {1}  it tastes so yummy and {2} it is sooooo easy yet my husband thinks I am some kitchen god that spent hours making it. Mix this sandwich with a Moscow Mule {recipe} and you got yourself one good campfire meal!

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich
for a more homemade version check out: Closet Cooking

Ingredients:
1 3 lb pork butt or whatever size they have in the store
1 Jar of Stubbs Spicy BBQ Sauce {regular is good too}
1 package of coleslaw
Hidden Valley coleslaw dressing
Potato Rolls

To make the pork:
1. Place pork into Crock Pot and cook on low heat for 8 hours.
2. Remove pork from Crock Pot and cool.
3. Once cooled, shred the pork into big chunks. It will fall apart very easily and you don’t want mush once you mix in the BBQ sauce.
4. Place pork into bowl and pour in Stubb’s BBQ sauce.
5. Mix until well coated.

How to package pork for camping:
1. Divide the pork into servings that will fit your need for 1 nights dinner. {In our case, with 2 people, I just divide all of the pork in half which gives me two servings a night}.
2. Place bbq pork into food saver bag and seal.
3. Place in freezer until ready to use or until its time to pack the ice chest.

How to assemble:
1. Remove pork from food saver package and heat. Add additional BBQ sauce if necessary.
2. Mix up coleslaw and dressing.
3. Assemble and eat!

Seriously, so easy especially for camping!

xoxo

Recipe | Red Velvet Brownies

Please say Hello! to my new favorite dessert — Red Velvet Brownies!

I love these brownies because they are not super chocolaty and they are a welcome deviation from my standard vanilla that I usually adore so much. Not to mention, they are soft and chewy and topped with the yummiest of frosting!

Red Velvet Brownies with White Chocolate Buttercream Frosting
source: adapted from How Sweet It Is

For the brownies:
1/2 cup (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz red food coloring or 2 teaspoons if you are using the gel kind
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt

For the white chocolate buttercream frosting:

1/2 cup (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 oz good-quality white chocolate (not chips), melted
1 – 2 tbsp heavy cream
1/2 cup cream cheese

To make the brownies:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour an 8″x8″ baking pan.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes (mine looked like puffy snow).  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, then stir in 2 teaspoons of vanilla.  With the mixer off, add in the sifted cocoa (to avoid any lumps that sometimes happens with cocoa) and food coloring, then turn the mixer to medium and beat the two mixtures together until they are one uniform color.  Slowly add in the flour and salt and mix on medium-low speed, just until combined.  Do not overmix.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and stir up the batter with a rubber spatula once or twice just to ensure all of the flour has incorporated from the sides of the bowl and there isn’t anything stuck on the bottom of the bowl.  You’ll want one uniformly colored (red) batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the brownies.  Allow brownies to completely cool in the pan on a baking rack, about 45-60 minutes.  For prettier brownies, remove the entire batch from the pan to a cutting board, cut into 12 bars, THEN frost, and serve.

To make the frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until soft and fluffy then beat in the vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time; allow the sugar to mix in before adding the next 1/2 cup. Once all of the sugar has been added, beat on medium speed for 30 seconds and scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add in the melted white chocolate and cream cheese and beat on medium speed until incorporated.  (The original recipe did not include cream cheese, but it just wasn’t red velvet to me without the cream cheese frosting). With the mixer on low, add in heavy cream 1 tbsp at a time and beat at medium speed until the frosting has reached your desired consistency.

{Note: This makes a lot of frosting – I might try halving the frosting recipe next time}

xoxo

Recipe | Key Lime Pie


I have not had many key lime pies in my life, but I have to say this one is yummy, refreshing, and doesn’t involve many ingredients….key limes, graham crackers, sugar and whipping cream. Ms. Ina Garten says it all, “Fabulous flavor, from simple ingredients.” The added bonus to making this…the arm work out you get from zesting and squeezing all of those limes! Hello, Giselle arms (I mean, lets be serious here, we all know she obtains that body from eating zesting limes for pies).


Ingredients

For the CRUST:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs (10 crackers)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted

For the filling:

  • 6 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 tablespoons grated lime zest
  • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (20-ish key limes)

For the decoration:

  • 2 cup (1 pint) cold heavy cream
  • 1/2cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Thin lime wedges

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the crust, combine the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and butter in a bowl. Press into a 9-inch pyrex pie pan, making sure the sides and the bottom are an even thickness. Bake for 10 minutes until firm and golden. Allow to cool completely.

For the filling, beat the egg yolks and sugar on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment for 5 minutes, until thick. With the mixer on medium speed, add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice. Pour into the baked pie shell and freeze (preferably overnight).

For the decoration, beat the heavy cream on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat until firm. Spoon or pipe decoratively onto the pie and decorate with lime. Serve immediately (the way I like it) or put back in freezer to freeze whipped cream.

Tips:
– Make sure to zest the limes prior to squeezing the lime juice
– Leave enough time (at least 12 hours) to freeze the filling before adding the whipped cream decoration
– This whipped cream recipe has been doubled from the original because I loooove whipped cream and never want to skimp on that, so you may have a bit extra leftover.
– Recipe calls for refreezing the whipped cream once placed on top, but I prefer to serve it right after I place whipped cream on top (but if serving at dinner party you can place finished pie (whipped cream and all) in the freezer until ready to serve).
– Once frozen, pie filling will melt quickly like ice cream
– I have made it once with key limes and once with regular limes and I don’t think I could tell a difference (Note: Ina used regular limes)
 
 
 
 
 
 
______

Recipe | French Macaron | #2

THEY WORKED! RY – RY – I think THEY WORKED!!! That was me about 18 hours ago, when I saw my first batch of macarons sitting in the oven with two minutes remaining on the timer!

I took the lessons learned from my first attempt documented here and started off the process with the proper equipment — a food scale which was so kindly loaned to me and a newly purchased sifter!

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I started by sifting the powered sugar and almond flour twice – Ryan even got in a little of the sifting action! Ryan decided to come photograph a few “action” shots. I really like the one of the left of me in action sifting! As for the picture on the right, my batter was rather runny and when I filled the bag it leaked out the bottom and created……well, you can see….it created quite messy hands! (When I watch Barefoot Contessa use a pastry bag, I marvel at her ability to maintain hands so clean even the Queen would approve!)

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This is me peaking at them through the glass door getting soooo excited because they resemble something like a macaron I would actually buy!!!! This was a far cry from last week’s! It turns out that they may have looked perfect, but those at Ladurée, one of the elite places to purcahse macaron in Paris, would not have been proud! My macarons had a air between the shell and the cookie. I believe this was caused by my poor meringue or over mixing. BUT, I had a cookie that I could fill!!!

Now that I had a cookie I could actually fill, it was off to the store to pick up heavy whipping cream and white chocolate. I attempted three different white chocolate ganache recipes: vanilla, amaretto, and strawberry. After spending $8 for chocolate and heavy cream, I was disappointed when all three turned out way to runny. I guess I didn’t use enough chocolate, so the ganache never truly firmed up.

Feeling disappointed, I tried one more mini ganache recipe this time it called for butter and less heavy cream. Again, thinking the filling was too runny, I let it sit in the pot as I began cleaning up. I decided to fill a few cookies with Nutella that I had on hand. As I was cleaning up, I went to clean the pot thinking the ganache was ruined, but really it had set to a consistency that wouldn’t spill over the sides – it was perfect!!

Finally, the macarons sitting in their new home!!! And the picture on the right is of the too runny vanilla ganache! I am so excited these things turned out (relatively well) and I can’t wait to start experimenting more with colors and flavors!!!!

Recipe | Beer Battered Fish Taco’s

After all of the yummy holiday food, I was in the mood for something a little on the lighter side for dinner last night, so I opted for these fish tacos. I didn’t have much time to scour the internet for recipes because I was at the store when I decided to make these.  So, I searched Google for “fish taco” and went with the second recipe I saw (the first recipe was Bobby Flay’s and I figured it was probably to fancy for me).

I have never made fish taco’s before. I wasn’t sure which to buy cod or tilapia, so I bought a half pound of each. They turned out yummy and neither Ryan or I could tell the difference between the two fish, so perhaps we are just seriously lacking taste buds!

In addition to the sauce, I added chopped cilantro and green onions and topped them off with a drizzle of spicy salsa.

For the Batter:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup beer

For the Sauce:
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 lime, juiced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

Everything Else:
1 quart oil for frying
1 pound cod fillets, cut into 2 to 3 ounce portions
1 (12 ounce) package corn tortillas
3 Cups coleslaw mix

Directions
1. To make beer batter: In a large bowl, combine flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt. Blend egg and beer, then quickly stir into the flour mixture (don’t worry about a few lumps).
2. To make white sauce: In a medium bowl, mix together yogurt and mayonnaise. Gradually stir in fresh lime juice until consistency is slightly runny. Season with jalapeno, oregano, cumin, and cayenne.
3. Heat oil in deep-fryer to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C).
4.Dust fish pieces lightly with flour. Dip into beer batter, and fry until crisp and golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Lightly fry (or heat) tortillas; not too crisp. To serve, place fried fish in a tortilla, and top with shredded cabbage, and white sauce.