Sunday, June 12, 2011

Raspberry lemonade

I've been MIA for almost four months. I haven't been cooking as much as I would like to, and forget to take photos when I do cook. I have a million excuses for not blogging, including that my food doesn't look that great, my plates are not photo-friendly, and that I don't have a real camera (I take my pictures with my cellphone). Of course, if I'm being completely honest, none of that really matters. I will get to that awesome level of photography one day, and there is no reason to postpone blogging because my photos aren't the best. If I make something that tastes good I will take a photo of it and write about it, period. One day I will look back on this blog and reminisce about how far I've come. That being said, I have a nice refreshing drink recipe to share.

And of course, the site won't even let me upload my picture. Great.

Raspberry lemonade

1/2 cup frozen raspberries
1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed or bottled)
2 T honey
12 packets sugar free sweetener (I used equal) or 1/2 cup sugar---add more to taste if needed
6 cups water

Add frozen raspberries, lemon juice, honey, and sweetener of choice to pitcher and mash with the back of a spoon until raspberries are well crushed. Add water and give it a good stir. Taste and add more sweetener or lemon juice if desired. Strain and serve over ice.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Birthday Cake!!! (My first fondant cake)

Happy belated birthday to me! I just had a birthday last week, and while I wasn't too thrilled about turning one year older, I was happy about having an excuse to make this fabulous cake.  I watch a lot of cooking/baking shows on tv, and the bakeries are always using fondant to cover cakes. They always look so amazing! This was my first attempt at using fondant, and I think it turned out pretty good. It was delicious, which is the most important thing, and looked even better than I expected.
There were five basic parts to this cake, the cake, the filling, the frosting, the fondant, and the adhesive. The cake itself was made from a box, it was golden vanilla flavored, which I guess is another name for yellow (I thought about making it from scratch, but after making the fondant and knowing that I was going to make the frosting and the filling as well, I decided against it. Maybe next time). The filling was raspberry, and the frosting was a vanilla buttercream. The fondant was marshmallow fondant, which tastes as delicious as it sounds. I've heard of people peeling off the fondant and tossing it because it tastes gross, but this was not that kind of fondant, trust me. The adhesive is a hot sugar "glue".
For the cake: Prepare one box of cake mix according to package directions, bake in two 9inch round cake pans. Let cool for five minutes in pan on cooling rack(s), then remove from pan and let cool completely on racks.

For the filling: In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup frozen raspberries, 1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves, and 2 T white sugar. Bring to a boil, cook and stir for about five minutes. Strain mixture through a fine meshed sieve, scraping underside as necessary to get the most pulp. It will thicken as it cools.

For the frosting: In a large mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup (one stick) of softened butter, 1 T vanilla extract, 3 1/2 to 4 cups of confectioners sugar, and 2 to 3 T of milk. Beat until smooth.

For the fondant: You will need, 16 oz of marshmallows, 2 T water, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 lb of confectioners sugar, and cornstarch.
Grease a large, microwave safe bowl with shortening (unflavored). Add marshmallows to bowl, along with water and vanilla extract. Microwave on high in 30 sec intervals, stirring each time, until marshmallows are completely melted. Meanwhile, in another large bowl greased with shortening, add half of the confectioners sugar and make a well in the center. When marshmallows are melted, pour them into the well in the sugar. Mix with shortening greased spatula or spoon (this stuff is sticky!). Grease a rolling mat with shortening, and turn mixture onto it. Grease hands with shortening, and knead remaining sugar into mixture. Regrease hands as necessary. Form dough into ball, coat lightly with shortening, wrap, and place into refrigerater to rest for at least one hour but ideally overnight.
When ready to use fondant, microwave for 10-15 seconds to soften, the knead on cornstarch-dusted surface until pliable. Color as desired by adding coloring and kneading until a smooth, even color is attained. Roll out to between 1/8 and 3/8 of an inch thick, then drape over cake, or cut out shapes for decoration.

For Sugar syrup: Combine 1/2 cup white sugar with 2 T water. Heat over medium heat until sugar is melted and mixture reaches a syrupy consistancy, about five-ten minutes. Reheat as necessary.

Cover bottom layer of cake with a thin layer of frosting, then spread the raspberry filling evenly. Cover with second cake layer. Frost top and sides of cakes with frosting, then let rest for at least 15 minutes. Cover cake with one large peice of fondant. Cut excess from edges. Decorate with fondant shapes as desired, adhering with sugar "glue". Enjoy!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Crispy Lemon Fish

A while back I tried making crispy oven baked fish. I dipped the fish in beaten egg whites, dredged them in crushed cracker crumbs, and sprinkled them with homeade "lemon pepper seasoning" ( a blend of salt, pepper, and lemon zest...that's what the bottled one is made of, right?). They were ok. The texture was absolutely perfect, but the taste was a little bland. The lemon flavor didn't come through AT ALL, and I immediately started thinking about how to improve the recipe. I changed the crackers to panko just to change it up (also, I had run out of crackers), added the juice of the lemon for a punch of flavor,  made a few changes in the procedure, and can I say, WOW! This fish was amazing! The panko was a perfect choice, the texture was light and crispy. The lemon was present but not overpowering. It was ready for the oven in a matter of minutes, delicious, and healthy to boot! This recipe is a winner. I used whiting, but any whitfish should probably work. I used panko, but crushed cornflakes or buttery crackers would give a similar crispy crunch. I added a bit of dried rosemary because I happened to have it, but I could see some dried italian seasoning or probably any number of fresh herbs working as well. The possibilities are endless (figuratively). I served it with honey glazed carrots and baked macaroni and cheese.

Crispy Lemon Fish
1 lb frozen whiting filets, thawed
2 egg whites
2 T water
1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (approx)
1/4 tsp dried rosemary, crushed
zest of one lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 T butter, melted
salt and pepper to taste

1) Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a cookie sheet (Foil is optional, but I recommend for easy cleanup. Even if you use it, please spray)with nonstick cooking spray.

2) Season whiting filets on both sides with salt and pepper to taste, set aside. Add egg whites and water to large bowl/dish, beat until frothy, set aside. In a seperate large bowl/dish combine panko and rosemary. Season to taste with salt and pepper, set aside.

3) Dip fish into egg white mixture, let excess drip off. (You may need to rebeat egg whites for a few seconds between filets) Dip into panko mixture, press panko into fish on both sides and then place onto cookie sheet. (It doesn't want to stick, but it will for a minute, and if you move it quickly onto the pan there will be very few crumb casualties)

4) Sprinkle remaining crumbs on top of dipped fish filets, pressing lightly (use your judgement, if there are a ton of crumbs left over, just toss them).

5) Sprinkle lemon zest, then lemon juice, evenly over whiting filets (well, as evenly as possible). Drizzle butter evenly over all.

6) Bake filets in 400F oven for 20 minutes, or until fish is opaque and flakes evenly with fork. Serve hot.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Pumpkin Risotto

Yes, pumpkin again. But this time its fresh. I wasn't actually planning to make this risotto with pumpkin, it just sort of happened. You see,  I had made a mushroom risotto a few weeks back, and had leftover arborio rice. I wanted to make risotto again, but with a different vegetable. I looked up some recipes and butternut squash kept popping up, so I decided to go with that. I went to the produce truck to see if they had any, and they didn't. But they did have a huge hunk of sugar pumpkin, and I thought, 'pumpkin...butternut...their both squashes... this should work. And it did! The pumpkin lent a bit of sweetness to the dish, and the savory broth and salty parmesan combined to make magic once again.

I didn't actually use a recipe this time around, I just kinda took what was already in my head and ran with it. Cooking the pumpkin was the most difficult part, I did (kind of) follow a recipe for this but it turned out really soft and a bit oilier than I would have liked. The final dish turned out great, but as for cooking the pumpkin this way for another application...not so much.

Pumpkin Risotto
serves 4 as a side or two as a main dish4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 T oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped fine
1 cup aborio rice
1 cup cooked pumpkin, cubed
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

1) Add broth and bay leaf in medium pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat, keep broth at a simmer until dish is completed.

2) In seperate saucepan, sautee onion in oil over medium heat about five minutes or until translucent, stirring often. Stir in garlic, cook for three minutes more. Turn heat to high and add rice to pan, stirring to coat. Cook for two-three minutes more.

3) Season toasted rice with salt and pepper to taste, and a pinch of nutmeg. (remember the parmesan will add some saltiness as well, so go easy)

4) Add about 1/2 cup of hot broth to rice mixture. Stir frequently. After 2 or 3 minutes, liquid should be almost completely absorbed. At this point, add another 1/2 cup or so of hot broth and repeat.

5) Continue in this way until all broth is used. Discard bay leaf. Turn heat to medium and give rice a taste for doneness. If rice is not done (hard kernel in middle) add another half cup of hot liquid (water or broth) and cook over high heat until absorbed.

6) When rice is completely cooked, stir in pumpkin and parmesan. Taste for seasoning, add more salt and/or pepper if needed. Serve hot.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pumpkin Gnocchi

I fell in love with gnocchi the first time I tasted it. I was at an Italian restaurant in Old City, and the name caught my eye, so I asked the waiter about it. He told me that it was a potato pasta, and that he highly recommended it. I ordered it, and it did not disappoint. I was hooked ever since. I soon found out it was sold frozen in grocery stores, and every so often I pick up a bag (when its on sale). I've looked at recipes in hopes of making it from scratch on several occasions, but they all seemed too intimidating. But I had some leftover canned pumpkin from when I made the last recipe, and a shot in the dark googling of "pumpkin gnocchi" yielded pay dirt. No cooking or ricing of potatoes required. As a nod to healthy eating, I based my recipe on one I found at I skipped the sauce because I had some marinara from a previous meal, and the next day I had the leftovers tossed in a bit of butter with some parmesan thrown on top. Amazing both ways.

I had shredded parmesan so I used that, though the recipe called for grated. Next time I will definitely use the grated, because some of the ends of the cheese shreds stuck out of the pasta after rolling, and it just looked weird after boiling. Still tasted great though. Also it called for an egg white, but I didn't have any eggs and I saw many recipes that skipped it, so I did as well. Another note: the dough is really sticky. You need to use a lot of flour when shaping the pasta because it will stick to your hands otherwise.

Pumpkin Gnocchi
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp each nutmeg and garlic powder
3/4 cup all purpose flour, plus more for dusting

Combine canned pumpkin with cheese and spices (you want to mix well here, before adding the flour, because once the flour is in too much mixing will cause your gnocci to be tough). Add flour, mixing until just combined. Dust work surface and hands liberally with flour. Turn dough out onto flour and split into six portions, using more flour as needed. Roll each portion into a snake about 1/2 inch thick. Chop each snake into half inch pieces. Roll each piece into an oval shape, press tines of a fork briefly into pasta to shape. To cook: Bring salted water to boil. Add gnocchi to pot a few at a time, cook until they rise to the top, about three minutes. Pull out with slotted spoon, serve with sauce of your choice.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pumpkin Cake w/Orange Glaze

It feels like winter, but technically its still fall. I found a can of pumpkin in my cabinet and immediately thought of baking with it. At first I was thinking of making a simple pumpkin bread, but as I browsed for recipes, I saw these adorable glazed pumpkin cakes in baby bundt shapes. Of course I immediately switched gears. I didn't have a baby bundt pan, so I set off in search of one. Sadly, my search was in vain. The baby bundt pans that I did find were waaaay too tiny. I already had a regular sized bundt pan, so I ended up using that for my cake, and although it isn't nearly as cute as the miniatures, it's still sort of attractive.

I adapted this cake from a recipe at I didn't have all the spices ( no allspice or cloves), so I decided to add some orange flavor in the icing in the form of zest and juice, and to add some of that flavor to the cake as well, just to make the piece more harmonious. I wanted to make it a bit healthier, so I substituted applesauce for half of the oil (the original called for a cup of oil), and cut the sugar by 1/2 cup (the original called for 2 1/2 cups). I don't like nuts in baked goods for the most part, so I skipped them. The cake turned out more like a bread in my opinion, but it was still delicious, moist and pumpkin-y. Apparently that half cup of sugar is a critical one.

Pumpkin Cake w/Orange Glaze
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 cups pumpkin puree
3 eggs
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 T cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 T orange juice
zest of one orange

For the Glaze
2 T orange juice
zest of one orange
1 T butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease 12 cup bundt pan. In large bowl, blend together oil, applesauce, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla, orange juice and zest. In separate bowl blend together flour, baking soda, sugar, and spices. Add flour mixture to wet mixture and mix until smooth. Pour into greased pan and bake at 350 F for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Let cool for five minutes, then invert onto plate. Let cool for 15 minutes more before glazing. To prepare Glaze: Mix butter, zest, and juice. Add sugar, stir to combine.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Zucchini-Tomato Gratin

Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables. It cooks up tender and sweet, and goes with just about any flavor you can think of. As a bonus, its really low in calories (about 30 calories for a medium sized one) and well priced (I paid 50 cents for one). I googled "zucchini recipes" and after sifting through a dozen or so, I found a recipe for Zucchini Tomato Gratin at which I used as a template. This is something that I do occasionaly when cooking; I find a recipe (or two, or three) for a dish and then use the main idea of the recipe but don't follow it exactly. Sometimes its because I don't have the ingredients on hand, but in this instance, I was just feeling adventureous. My gratin turned out pretty good, although it was a bit salty. Don't get me wrong, it was delicious, but I felt like it would have been just as delicious with a smidge less salt. When salting the vegetables, I didn't take into account the saltiness of the parmesan cheese which I would be adding later, a rookie mistake. If I was to make this again, I would only salt every other layer of vegetables, rather than each one, or skip the parmesan. Also, the cheese got a little more brown than I wanted it, so I would reduce the ten minuted after adding the cheese to five. I paired this dish with oven fried chicken and sweet corn.

Zucchini-Tomato Gratin

1 medium zucchini, sliced into 1/8 inch slices
1 tomato, sliced into 1/8-1/4 inch slices
1/2 of a medium onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 T vegetable oil
2 T mozzarella cheese, shredded
1 T parmesan cheese, shredded
Salt, pepper, and italian seasoning to taste

Spray bottom of a small baking dish with non-stick spray. Layer half of tomatoes in bottom of pan, season with salt and pepper. Combine onion and garlic, sprinkle half of this mixture evenly over tomatoes. Spread half of zucchini on top of onion mix, season with salt and pepper. Repeat layers. Drizzle oil over all, making sure to let some drip down to the lower layers. Place in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes. Sprinkle with cheeses and italian seasoning, then return to oven for 10 minutes more.