Friday, July 10, 2015

Coconut Madeleines

With Bastille Day coming up next week, I thought I'd make a favorite cookie of mine--the Madeleine. 

Madekeines are little cake-like cookies that are baked in special molds that give them a delicate, shell shape. According to the story, the name "Madeleine" was given to the cookies by Louis XV to honor his father-in-law's cook, Madeleine Paulmier. Louis first tasted the cookie at the Chateau Commercy in Lorraine in 1755. Louis' wife, Marie, introduced them to the court and they soon became all the rage at Versailles. Whatever the origin, they are inextricably linked with author Marcel Proust, who described them as "...little shell of cake, so generously sensual beneath the piety of its stern pleating."

It's been a while since I've baked Madeleines, but when I saw a recipe from one of my goddesses, Ina Garten, with that coconut twist, I decided it was time for a celebration.

Yield:  24 cookies

1 1/2 tbs melted butter, to grease the pans
3 extra-large eggs, room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup sweetened, shredded coconut, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp coconut flavoring

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Thoroughly butter and flour the Madeleine pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed for 3 minutes, or until light yellow and fluffy. Add the 1/4 lb of melted butter and mix thoroughly. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt and stir into the batter with a rubber spatula. Stir in the coconut.

With a soup spoon, drop the batter into the prepared pans, filling each shell almost full. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until they spring back to the touch and are lightly golden. Remove from the oven and immediately tap out onto parchment paper and allow to cool.

Make the glaze by adding water to the confectioners sugar and coconut flavoring until it has a pourable consistency. Place the Madeleines on a wire rack and spoon the glaze over them, allowing excess to drip off. Let air dry for 2 hours or until glaze has set.
I've never had Madeleines with a glaze, but must admit that this was a wonderful addition. These cookies (or little cakes, if you will) had just enough coconut flavor to make them special. I liked them very much, but am looking forward to my next batch of regularly-flavored Madeleines, which I intend to glaze with dark chocolate. Vive La France!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Copycat Southwestern Eggrolls with Avocado-ranch Dipping Sauce

If you've had these at Chili's or other chain restaurants, you know how delicious they are. I will caution you, though, that they are labor intensive. That said, I would suggest you quadruple the recipe (at least) and freeze these, either cooked or not, to make it worth your while. I made a quadruple batch for a BBQ and regretted not making even more to put in the freezer.

Ingredients (for a single batch - 5 eggrolls)
4 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders
1 tbs vegetable oil
2 tbs minced red bell pepper
2 tbs minced green onion
1/3 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
2 tbs frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 tbs diced, canned jalapeno peppers
1/2 tbs minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp salt
dash cayenne pepper
3/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
five 7-inch flour tortillas
1 egg, beaten
OPTIONAL:  6 - 10 cups vegetable oil or shortening, if frying; otherwise, olive oil cooking spray, if baking

Avocado-Ranch Dipping Sauce
1/4 cup smashed, fresh avocado (about half an avocado)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tbs buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp dried parsley
1/8 tsp onion powder
dash dried dill weed
dash garlic powder
dash pepper

1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Bake for 8 minutes, turn, and bake until done (about another 5 minutes). Cool, then dice into small cubes.

Preheat 1 tbs vegetable oil in a large skillet. Add the red pepper and green onion and saute until tender, a few minutes. Add the chicken, corn, black beans, spinach, jalapeno peppers, parsley, and spices to the pan. Cook, being sure to mix all ingredients thoroughly, for another 4 minutes.

Remove the skillet from the heat and add the cheese. Stir until the cheese is completely melted.

Wrap the tortillas in a moist cloth and microwave on high for 1 1/2 minutes or until hot.

Spoon 1/5 of the mixture into the bottom third of each tortilla. Fold in the ends, then roll as tightly as possible without tearing the tortilla. Before you finish rolling, brush beaten egg on the inside edge of the tortilla. Finish rolling the eggroll, then set the eggroll on the "glued" flap until the egg sets.

Arrange the filled eggrolls on a plate with the sealed edges down, cover the plate with plastic wrap, and freeze for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Overnight is best.

Prepare the avocado dipping sauce by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl.

IF FRYING:  Deep fry the eggrolls in the hot oil for 8 - 10 minutes. Remove to paper towels or a rack to drain for about 2 minutes.

IF BAKING:  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick olive oil spray. Spray the eggrolls lightly. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until piping hot and golden.

Slice each eggroll diagonally lengthwise and arrange on a plate around the bowl of dipping sauce.
Because I was making these in advance for a BBQ, I decided to freeze them, deep fry them at home, then reheat them in the oven when we got to my cousin's house. However, when I was rolling the tortillas, I inadvertently rolled 2 of the eggrolls too tightly, causing the tortilla to tear. I decided to bake these and use them for a "taste test." While both cooking methods produced a very tasty appetizer, I have to admit that I preferred the baked tortillas, which turned out more crispy. I also admit to not being a huge fried food fan, so that may have colored my perception as well. While these are a bit labor-intensive, they are not difficult and they turn out quite well. If you've ever eaten them at Chili's, you'd swear they were the real thing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tandoori Grilled Shrimp Skewers

I'm not a fan of Indian cuisine, though I have eaten and enjoyed Tandoori chicken. When I saw this recipe in a recent Weight Watchers magazine, I decided to give it a try.

Serves 4
1/3 cup non-fat Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1lb uncooked large shrimp, peeled and deveined
OPTIONAL - 2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro

Combine yogurt, salt, lemon juice, olive oil, curry, cumin, coriander, garlic, and ginger in a medium bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Marinate 15 minutes at room temperature, or up to 2 hours in the refrigerator (covered).

Divide shrimp among 4 metal or wooden skewers. Coat a grill pan or grill with cooking spray. Preheat to medium high heat. Grill skewers until shrimp are cooked through (opaque) and slightly firm, flipping once (2-4 minutes per side). Garnish with cilantro, if desired. (5 WW points or 157 cal per serving)
This marinade would be equally good on scallops or chicken. The spices combine for a wonderful flavor. My only change for next time would be to eliminate the cilantro and to serve with lemon wedges. The preparation time is under 10 minutes making this a great weeknight dinner.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Corn Fritters (Revisited)

The corn fritters I grew up eating looked more like potato pancakes. They are delicious, but so are these deep-fried corn fritters whose simple ingredients come together in 5 minutes. If you have a deep fryer, it's child's play to make them. If you don't, use a deep saucepan and at least 3 inches of oil.

Like all fritters, these are best eaten immediately, though they'll keep fairly well in a low oven (275 degrees) for about a half hour.

I intend to try a dessert version with apples (dusted with confectioners sugar) next time.

3 cups canola oil for frying
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
1 tbs sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 tbs melted shortening (or butter)
1 can corn, drained well (use fresh, if available)

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a medium bowl. Beat together the milk, egg, and melted shortening then stir into the dry ingredients. Add the corn, mixing well. Drop by spoonfuls to the hot oil, frying in small batches until golden (a few minutes). Drain on paper towels and serve immediately.
While I seldom make fried food, these are worthy exceptions to that rule. Make sure the oil is sufficiently hot so not much gets absorbed into the fritters. These golden puffs are just sweet enough and make a wonderful accompaniment to BBQ spare ribs or chicken, pork chops, steak...well, you can see the pattern.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Skillet Turkey Meatballs with Lemony Rice

This one-pan, weeknight dinner is as delicious as it is easy. With just the right citrus notes to brighten the flavors, it is destined to become a favorite. It was taken from my first issue of Cook's Country magazine, my new favorite cooking magazine.

Serves 4

2 slices white sandwich bread, torn into 1 inch pieces
1 1/4 lbs ground turkey (93% lean)
6 scallions, white and green parts separated and thinly sliced
1 large egg
3 tbs chopped fresh parsley
1 tbs grated lemon zest plus 2 tbs lemon juice
salt and pepper
2 tbs olive oil
1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 1/4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Pulse bread to fine crumbs in food processor, 10 - 15 pulses. Transfer to a large bowl. Add turkey, 2 tbs scallion greens, egg, 2 tbs parsley, 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Divide mixture into 24 portions and roll each portion into a meatball. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat until shimmering. Cook meatballs until well browned all over, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer meatballs to paper towel lined plate, leaving fat in skillet.

Return skillet to medium high heat and add rice. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice starts to turn translucent, about 1 minute. Add scallion whites and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth, lemon juice, and remaining lemon zest and bring to a boil.

Return meatballs to skillet, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until rice is tender and meatballs are cooked through, another 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in parmesan and remaining parsley.
This dish is reminiscent of a risotto with the delightful addition of meatballs. It is totally unfussy to prepare and delivered a wallop of flavor in every bite.                                                                                                                                    

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Turkey Cutlets Florentine

Chicken is my protein of choice for weeknight meals, but I occasionally branch out and use turkey or pork cutlets. Turkey cutlets cook very quickly and, if you buy them in the supermarket, they are generally more uniform in terms of size and shape than chicken or pork.

This dinner looks like something you would be served in a restaurant, but if you do your mise en place, it comes together in minutes.

Serves 4
3 tsp olive oil
1 lb thinly sliced turkey cutlets (about 1/4 inch thick)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sherry
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbs capers, rinsed and drained
1 tbs finely chopped fresh sage
3 cups packed spinach leaves, coarsely chopped

Season the turkey cutlets with salt and pepper to taste. In a large skillet, heat 2 tsp olive oil over high heat. When the oil is just smoking, add half the cutlets and cook until golden brown on one side, about 2 minutes. Flip the turkey and cook until golden on the other side, less than a minute. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining cutlets. Cover plate loosely with foil to keep cutlets warm.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the butter to the skillet. When it has melted, add the onion and cook, stirring, until it is browned and softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minutes. Then add the sherry and cook for 1 minute more. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Add the capers, sage, and spinach and stir until the spinach is beginning to wilt, about 2 minutes.

Return the turkey cutlets and any accumulated juices to the skillet, cover, and cook for 1 minute, to heat through.

Arrange the turkey cutlets on a platter and pour the spinach, onions, and sauce over the top. Serve immediately.

N.I.  283 calories, 42 g prot, 9 g fat, 1 g fiber, 6 g carb
I have to be honest, I wish I'd used chicken cutlets. That's just my preference. I find the texture and taste of chicken more pleasing than that of turkey. That said, the spinach-onion-sauce that topped the cutlets made the entire dish. That tablespoon of capers added just the right amount of acidity. I was tempted to add some flour to thicken the sauce and would probably do so next time. With some glazed carrots and rice, dinner was served in short order and had tons of flavor given the short list of ingredients. Definitely a keeper.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Chocolate Eclair Icebox Dessert

My mom made us ice box cakes on a regular basis. Hers included graham crackers, chocolate pudding, and then whipped cream topping. I still make them, only now I use fat free, sugar free products to reduce the calories. So when I needed a quick dessert that wasn't too calorie-laden, I remembered a twist on the old icebox cake that I'd had at a friend's house quite a few years ago. I decided it was time to resurrect this luscious dessert.

Yield:  18 servings

22 1/2 sheets (about 1 box) honey graham crackers
butter-flavored cooking spray
3 cups fat free milk
2 pkgs fat-free, sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix
8 oz tub fat free cream cheese
8 oz tub fat free whipped topping, thawed
1/4 cup fat free milk
2 tbs butter, softened
2 tbs honey
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar

Coat a 9 X 13 inch baking dish with butter-flavored nonstick spray. Combine 3 cups milk, pudding mix, and cream cheese in the bowl of a standing mixer and beat at low speed for 1 minute or until thick. Fold in whipped topping.

Arrange 7 1/2 graham cracker sheets in the bottom of the dish. Spread half of the pudding mixture over the grahams, spreading to the ends. Top with another 7 1/2 graham cracker sheets, then top with the remaining pudding mixture. Place the remaining 7 1/2 sheets of grahams on top.

Combine 1/4 cup fat free milk, softened butter, honey, and unsweetened chocolate in the mixer bowl and beat well. Gradually add the confectioners sugar to milk mixture and beat well.

Spread the chocolate glaze over the graham crackers. Cover dessert, tenting with foil, and chill for at least 4 hours.

N.I.  234 cal; 5.8g fat; 5.4g protein; 41.5g carb; 0.8g fiber
This dessert comes together quickly and easily, but needs plenty of time to chill so that it can be sliced more easily. I guarantee that you will love the filling. In fact, I think it will make a wonderful filling for cream puffs, too. I probably should have made half the recipe since there were only 5 of us for dinner and having the leftovers around is sheer torture. At 6 PP per serving, it's not over the top, but it's not something I can eat each day (darn!).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Macaroni and Cheese with Carmelized Onion

Who doesn't love rich, creamy macaroni and cheese? Unfortunately, this is typically a fat-laden, high calorie dish. Not so this Weight Watchers version, which is a hearty casserole but comes in at just 7 Point Plus per serving,

Serves 8
1 large onion, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 tsp salt
olive oil nonstick cooking spray
8 oz cavatappi (*the recipe called for whole wheat pasta, but I just can't)
1 (15 oz) can evaporated fat-free milk
1 large egg
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp water
2 cups shredded reduced-fat, sharp cheddar cheese (I like Sargento's)
1 cup fat free cottage cheese (I like Axelrod)
1/4 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a 7 X 11 baking dish with the nonstick spray.

Place onion on a rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt and lightly spray with nonstick spray. Bake until onion is tender and lightly browned, 20 minutes. Stir once halfway through cooking.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and return to pot.

Cook evaporated milk in small saucepan over low heat just until warmed, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in egg. Stir together mustard and water in small cup until mustard is dissolved. Whisk into milk mixture.

Add milk mixture, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, remaining salt, and pepper to pasta and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, just until mixture thickens, about 5 minutes.

Transfer to prepared baking dish and sprinkle with onions. Bake until heated through, about 10 minutes.
As my photos attest, I overcooked the onions slightly, but this turned out to be a good thing since they were really carmelized. While the serving size is about 3/4 cup, the dish is very filling. I was happy with just one serving and a large salad, but even 2 servings is not very high in calories. (N.I.:  262 cal, 7g fat, 9g carb, 3g fiber, 20g prot.) The dish was so good, I'm making it as a side dish to a spiral ham next weekend.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Slow Cooker BBQ and Cola Pork

Pulled pork, BBQ pork, shredded pork--no matter what you call it, I'm in. This pork is as delicious on a bun with cole slaw and pickles as it is over cornbread or cheese grits.

The fact that it has 3 ingredients, requires no prep work, and cooks all day unattended is a bonus.

Serves 6-10
cooking spray
1 (3 to 4 lb boneless pork shoulder roast (Boston butt), trimmed
1 (18 oz) bottle BBQ sauce
1 (12 oz) can cola

Lightly spray a 6 quart slow cooker with cooking spray. Place roast in slow cooker; pour BBQ sauce and cola over roast. Cover and cook on LOW for 8 - 10 hours. (I cooked it for 8 hours.)

Transfer pork to a cutting board and shred with two forks, removing any large pieces of fat. Skim fat from sauce and stir in shredded pork.
On a toasted potato roll topped with cole slaw and pickles, I was immediately transported to summer (I wish).  There is plenty left over to be made into quesadillas before freezing some to be served with cornbread or cheesy grits some night when there's no time to cook. If you trim and skim the fat and watch portion size (and use diet cola), this pork fits into a healthy eating plan.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rosemary Garlic Chicken Quarters

This is another of those slow cooker meals that needs a little attention before it goes in the pot. That little bit of attention really pays off in terms of flavor. When you brown meats and poultry before simmering it in the slow cooker, there is a depth of flavor that develops as well as a more visually appealing presentation. Simply pat the meat dry with paper towels before seasoning, then heat a heavy stainless steel or cast iron skillet with the oil added over medium high heat for 2-3 minutes until the oil is shimmering. The meat should sizzle as soon as it hits the pan. Don't crowd the pan or the meat will steam. Don't turn the meat until the bottom is well-browned and it releases on its own.

6-8 servings

3 large carrots, whole, plus 3 more large carrots sliced on the diagonal
5 lb chicken leg quarters
2 tbs chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp pimenton (sweet smoked paprika)
2 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
1 1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
12 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
3 tbs olive oil, divided
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 lb baby Yukon gold potatoes, halved
OPTIONAL:  1/4 cup Marsala

Place 3 whole carrots on the bottom of the slow cooker.

Remove skin and excess fat from the chicken. Stir together the rosemary, paprika, 1 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper, then rub it all over the chicken.

Saute garlic in 2 tbs oil for about 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl using a slotted spoon. Cook the chicken pieces a few at a time, about 3 minutes on each side, or until browned. Transfer to the slow cooker on top of the whole carrots. Add broth and garlic to the pan drippings and cook 1 minute, scraping up loose particles on bottom of skillet. If you wish, add the Marsala during this step. Pour over chicken in slow cooker.

Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.

Toss potatoes and sliced carrots with remaining oil, salt, and pepper and add to the slow cooker. Cover and cook for 2 more hours.

Transfer chicken and vegetables to a serving platter. Pour juices through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a bowl; skim fat from juices and serve immediately with the chicken and vegetables.
I eat a lot of chicken prepared in a lot of different ways. This chicken is right up there with my Sunday roast chicken and my "Bud's" Mediterranean style chicken. The flavorings came together perfectly; the chicken was moist; the potatoes were creamy inside. In all, a perfect dish that I'll be making again.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Braised Country-style Pork Ribs

I adore short ribs and order them whenever I find them on the menu. I've eaten them with polenta, with mashed potatoes, with risotto. I've had Asian style, Italian style, wine infused, and have mostly enjoyed what my favorite restaurants have to offer. I've made them at home in the slow cooker as well as in the Dutch oven. You might say I haven't met a short rib I haven't liked. So when I caught an episode of Food Network TV which featured a less expensive cut of meat, country style pork ribs, in a similar preparation, I decided at once to try them.

Of course, I made a number of small tweaks here and there to suit my taste. Here's the recipe I used.

Serves 4 - 6
4 1/2 - 5 lbs bone in country-style pork ribs (sometimes called pork loin spareribs)
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tbs olive oil
1 carrot, minced
1 rib celery, minced
1 large onion, chopped finely
4 tbs sun dried tomato paste (look for it in a tube in the Italian food section of your grocery)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 - 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
3 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pat the ribs dry and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbs of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat and brown the ribs on all sides, working in batches. Remove the ribs as they brown and set aside.

Add the remaining 1 tbs oil to the Dutch oven and reduce the heat to medium. Add the carrot, celery, and onion, as well as some salt and pepper, and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for about 3 minutes to remove the raw flavor.

Pour in the cider vinegar and the red wine to deglaze the pan. Scrape up the bits of fond, then add the red pepper flakes and the bay leaves. Return the ribs to the Dutch oven and add enough chicken stock to reach halfway up the sides of the ribs. Bring the pan to a boil, then cover and place in the oven.

Braise the meat for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the cover and cook for another 1/2 hour to allow the liquid to reduce a bit and the pork to brown.

Serve over mashed potatoes or polenta.
The smells from this dish will make you move up your dinner hour. I could barely wait to eat the smell was so tantalizing. These ribs are truly fall-off-the-bone tender, yet they are moist and can be cut with a fork. The ribs are large, so one or two will satisfy most appetites. Served over mashed potatoes with a bit of the reduced cooking liquid spooned over the top, this is a dish that's comforting and satisfying. The flavors are deep and delicious and I'm quite certain the leftovers will make delicious sandwiches.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Triple Chocolate Buttermilk Pound Cake

If I needed proof that you eat with your eyes first, the cover shot of Southern Living magazine with this gorgeous pound cake gave it to me in spades.


2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups butter, room temperature
3 cups granulated sugar
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tsp espresso powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup 60% cacoa morsels

3/4 cup semisweet chocolate
3 tbs butter
1 tbs corn syrup
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tbs buttermilk (and up to 1 tbs more)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract


1. Prepare Cake: Preheat oven to 325°. Whisk together flour and next 3 ingredients. Beat 1 1/2 cups butter in a medium bowl at medium-high speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yolk disappears. Combine 1 1/4 cups buttermilk and next 2 ingredients. Add flour mixture to egg mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed after each addition. Fold in bittersweet chocolate morsels. Pour batter into a well-greased (with shortening) and floured 12-cup Bundt pan. Sharply tap pan on counter to remove air bubbles.
2. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 20 minutes. Remove from pan; cool completely on rack.
3. Prepare Chocolate Glaze: Combine semisweet chocolate morsels, 3 Tbsp. butter, and 1 Tbsp. corn syrup in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave at MEDIUM (50% power) 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until morsels begin to melt, stirring after 1 minute. Stir until smooth. Stir in 1/2 tsp. vanilla.
4. Prepare Buttermilk Glaze: Whisk together powdered sugar, 1 Tbsp. buttermilk, and 1/4 tsp. vanilla in a small bowl until smooth. Add up to 1 Tbsp. buttermilk, if desired. 

Drizzle glazes, one at a time, over warm cake. Makes 10-12 servings.
This is one of those OMG desserts. I love pound cake, mostly because it is so dense. This cake, while still a bit warm, reminds me of lava cake. A small slice is all you want--and a good thing since it is a whopping 20 WW points (roughly 800 calories) a slice. The glazes take no time at all to make and the trickiest part of the cake is making certain to generously grease the bundt pan with shortening, then flour as generously. The first cake (above) came out after I ran a knife around the edge and worried it out. The second cake (below) was much harder to get out and almost ended up on the floor. I'm due to buy a new bundt pan which I'm hoping will resolve the problem, but do be sure to grease and flour and let the cake cool thoroughly.

I made this cake for company and had half a slice. I'm grateful that I'm lactose intolerant because otherwise I'd probably have finished the rest instead of sending it home with them.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Empanadas (Beef Turnovers)

Every culture has its variation of stuffed dough/pastry. Empanadas are discs of pastry packed with meat or other fillings. They can be appetizer or main dish. Most often, I bake them (for health purposes), but as I was making these for a party, I decided to go full throttle and fry them (as they are intended to be). You can certainly make your own pastry, but Goya and a few other companies make perfectly delicious, frozen, ready-made discos. I've adjusted this recipe for personal taste and quantity.

Makes 20 large empanadas

1 tbs olive oil
1 1/4 lb ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
12-16 pimento stuffed green olives, sliced thinly
4 tbs. sofrito (Goya makes this product)
1 packet Sazon with coriander and annatto
4 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 pkgs discos (I use Goya)

corn oil for frying

Heat 1 tbs olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add ground beef and cook until browned, breaking up meat with a wooden spoon, about 10 minutes. Add onions and cook until soft, 5 minutes more. Stir in tomato sauce, olives, sofrito, sazon, garlic, and oregano.  Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until mixture thickens, about 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured work surface, using a rolling pin, roll out discos until they're 1/2 inch larger in diameter. Spoon a heaping  tbs or so of meat mixture into middle. Moisten around edge of disc with water, and pinch to seal closed or close with a fork by pressing tines all around the edge (my preferred method). You want these to stay closed while frying. You don't want to overfill these or they'll burst when frying. In reality, there's a lot more pastry to filling.

Fill a deep saucepan (or deep frying) with oil to a depth of 2 1/2 inches. Heat oil to 350 degrees and cook empanadas in batches until crisp and golden on both sides (frying 2 minutes on each side works for me).

Transfer to paper towels to drain. You can eat immediately or cool and reheat in a hot (400 degree) oven for approximately 10 minutes).
I absolutely adore the taste of these, but I'm hot happy with the ratio of pastry to filling. I'd prefer the size to be half of what it is using the ready-made discos. I guess the only solution is to make my own pastry in the future. While these taste wonderful baked, nothing beats the taste fried. I have a fantastic deLonghi deep fryer (it was a gift because I almost never fry) which has now been used a total of 3 times that made frying a snap. These were a hit at the party, so you may want to give them a try.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beef and Pasta Soup

It's the final night of our Trifecta* and I'm looking forward to another winning ticket. Nothing beats soup on a cold, wintry night and we've been having plenty of those lately.

*this recipe uses leftover Merlot Pot Roast (recipe here)

Yield:  about 8 cups

1 cup chopped onion
1 tbs canola oil
1 cup chopped carrots
1 (8 oz) package sliced mushrooms
2 cups chopped Merlot pot roast
1 cup vegetable mixture from Merlot pot roast sauce
1/2 cup uncooked acini di pepe (or other small pasta)
32 oz beef broth (this is what the recipe called for; I used strained leftover gravy from night 1 and enough beef broth to make the 32 oz and I highly recommend this as the flavor is so much better)

Saute onion in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat  (about 5 minutes). Add carrots and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, 8 - 10 minutes longer, until mushrooms are tender.
Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5-6 minutes or until acini di pepi is al dente and soup is thoroughly heated.

Served with a homemade seasoned croutons.
I loved the pot roast. I loved the shepherd's pie pot pies. BUT, this soup got first place in my book. It was so rich and flavorful because I strained the leftover gravy and used that with beef broth to equal 32 ounces instead of just using beef broth. It had fresh vegetables as well as vegetables that had cooked along with the roast. It had pasta and that wonderful shredded beef. It reminded me of that elusive beef soup my mom used to make and which I've tried many times to replicate. I do think she may have used boneless chuck. I will make all 3 of these dishes again, but this soup will always be the clear winner.