Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Simple Holiday Meal

Christmas Eve was a hectic day in my house! My mom and I spent the vast majority of the day baking cookies and wrapping presents. When it came time to think about dinner, we realized we hadn’t planned out our Christmas Eve menu like we usually do. A busy day, mixed with our lack of preparation led us to throw together a quick meal of whatever we had in the fridge. Despite the way it came about, our Christmas Eve dinner turned out to be simple and scrumptious.

Herb Frittatas Topped with Home Style Potatoes and Goat Cheese

For the Potatoes:
8 Small red potatoes cut into small cubes
1/3 Cup olive oil
4 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 Small onion chopped
For the Frittatas:
8 Eggs
4 Tablespoons of a mixture of basil, thyme, marjoram and oregano finely chopped
6 Tablespoons goat cheese
6 Tablespoons milk
Salt and pepper to taste
For the Topping:
Goat Cheese

First, get the potatoes going. Place them in a microwave safe bowl and toss them with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the microwave until the potatoes start to soften but aren’t falling apart. I set my microwave to the potato setting and set it to two potatoes. This starts them cooking a lot faster than on the stove. Drain the potatoes.
Melt the butter in a skillet at medium-high and add the onion and rosemary. Cook for a few minutes and then add the potatoes. Let the potatoes sit without tossing or stirring them for at least five minutes. This will allow them to brown. Keep them in the skillet, tossing them every five minutes until all of the potatoes have been browned.
Meanwhile, mix together the eggs, herbs, goat cheese, milk, salt and pepper for the frittatas. Heat a small, oiled skillet to medium high. Pour in about 1/3 cup of the frittata mixture into the small skillet and make sure it covers the whole skillet. The mixture will begin to set and when it does, flip it over to cook the other side. Transfer to a plate and keep it in a warm oven. Repeat until all of the mixture is used up.
To serve, top a frittata with the potatoes and then crumble some goat cheese over top.

This dinner was so easy and was really delicious. It’s such an easy meal to adjust to what’s in your fridge. You can change the cheese or the herbs or do away with potatoes all together and top it with whatever strikes your fancy! Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Oh There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: cooking is therapy to me, as is writing. After a rough quarter, I’m ready to get back in the swing of things and return to my blog. Sorry for the unexpected hiatus.

I have been longing for winter break for weeks and now that it’s here, there's nothing more I could ask for than to be right where I am, doing exactly what I'm doing! I’ve spent most of my days with my girlfriends, cooking and baking and just being happy to be near them. My friend, Kaelee, stayed with me for a few days and one day we woke up ready to bake! We made a delicious brunch and invited Alyssa over to feast. Later that day, Alyssa, Kaelee, Staecy (and later on, Christina) and I baked from 4PM to 12AM. Kaelee said she wanted something peppermint-y and as Staecy announced, there isn't enough peppermint for other people to use this winter because we took it all to bake 203948 peppermint desserts. Sorry!

Brunch started out with a simple question-"What do you want...eggs or pancakes?"-so then we started brainstorming and things sort of got out of hand...but in a completely delicious sort of way.

Simple Scrambled Eggs

Orange Muffins with an orange glaze (from the back of Trader Joe’s All Purpose Baking mix)

These muffins were so delicious! Way to go Trader Joe's and Kaelee.

Cinnamon-Banana Stuffed French Toast

This was so simple and so tasty. I made French Toast and while I had that going, I melted butter in a skillet and added bananas, cinnamon and sugar. Then I mixed together some cream cheese with sugar until it was smooth. To serve, I topped the French Toast with the cream cheese mixture and the bananas. So delicious! Sorry for the lack of measurements.

Peppermint Crunch Cookies
Recipe From Two Peas and Their Pod

2 Cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 Teaspoons baking powder
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1/4 Cup canola oil
4 Ounces 99% unsweetened chocolate, melted
2 Cups granulated sugar
4 Large eggs
2 Teaspoons pure vanilla extract
5 Candy canes-crushed up

First combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Combine the oil, chocolate and granulated sugar and blend on medium speed with an electric mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla as the mixer is running. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed. Once everything is combined, place the bowl in the freezer for a few hours or over night.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line your baking sheets with parchment paper.
When the dough has been chilled, roll the dough into 1 inch balls and roll each ball into the crushed candy cane pieces, so that all sides are covered. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared sheets.
Bake for 10 minutes. The cookies will set up so even though they don’t look quite ready at 10 minutes, they will stiffen up. If you leave them in longer, the cookies will get too hard.

I tried one of these right after they came out of the oven and I didn’t really like them. The next morning, my friends were eating them and saying how good they were and so I tried another and it was so much better! It’s actually a pretty great recipe for easy holiday cookies. I highly recommend them.

Peppermint Meringues with Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from 17 and Baking

The recipe on this blog really gave us a hard time! We didn’t get the meringue to stiffen until the third try. Here is the very adjusted recipe.

For the Meringue:
3 Large egg whites
1/4 Teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 Cup sugar
1/2 Teaspoon pure peppermint extract (see extract notes above)
Red gel food coloring
For the Chocolate Ganache:
3/4 Cup heavy cream
4 1/2 Ounce semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and peppermint extract together until it is frothy and then slowly add 1/4 cup sugar while still beating the mixture at a high speed until the mixture thickens. To test to see if the meringue has stiffened enough, take the beater out of the mixture and if peaks form and remain standing, it has stiffened enough. If the peaks fall back down into the mixture, it's not ready.
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees.
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and dollop spoonfuls of the meringue mixture onto the paper. With a clean paintbrush, paint stripes of food coloring onto the dollops.
Bake for about 1 hour and 40 minutes. They will be crispy but not brown at all. Let them cool.
When the meringues go into the oven, begin making the ganache. Bring the cream to a simmer. Place the finely chopped chocolate in a bowl and when the cream starts steaming, pour it over the chocolate. Let it sit for five minutes and then stir the mixture to make sure all of the chocolate is melted and mixed with the cream. Let the mixture sit at room temperature. It will start to thicken and should be the perfect consistency once the meringues are out of the oven and cooled.
Once the meringues are cool, spread ganache onto the bottom of a cookie with a knife and then top with another meringue to make little sandwiches.

These came out so delicious! We learned that if you leave the sandwiches with the ganache filling for too long, the meringues will absorb the moisture from the ganache and they will be a gooey mess! Good to know. So only prepare the amount of sandwiches that will be eaten at that time. Save the rest of the meringues and the ganache separately—the meringues in an airtight container at room temperature and the ganache in the refrigerator.

Peppermint Patties

Adapted from Erin Cooks

This was so much fun to make! I’d never made candies before, besides peppermint bark, so it just felt really cool to be making peppermint patties.

For the Peppermint Dough:
1 Egg white
4 Cups powdered sugar plus 1-2 cups for kneading and rolling
1/3 Cup light corn syrup
1 Teaspoon peppermint extract
Cornstarch for dusting
For the Chocolate Shell:

24 Ounces semisweet chocolate chips
2 Tablespoons of shortening (This is optional and I would suggest not using it. All it does is make the chocolate more glossy and considering shortening is ridiculously disgusting, it’s just not worth it.)

Beat the egg white with an electric mixer until it is frothy.
Slowly add the powdered sugar while still blending. This will be really, really dry and messy. Think about it-one egg white for 4 cups of powdered sugar! That's a pretty ridiculous wet to dry ratio. The powdered sugar will be everywhere.
Add the corn syrup and 1/2 tsp of the peppermint extract and knead it together until the dough is smooth. Add more powdered sugar until it isn’t sticky.
Dust a flat surface and a rolling pin heavily with cornstarch. Roll out the dough until it is 1/4-1/6 inch thick.
Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into whatever shapes you want. After cutting out the shapes, take the extra dough around the edges and knead it back together and roll it out and cut more shapes. Repeat until there isn’t enough dough left. Place all of the shapes onto a cookie sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Let them sit in the refrigerator for about 45 minutes.
Melt the chocolate chips, the other 1/2 tsp of peppermint extract and the shortening, if you want, in a double boiler over medium heat. Once it’s smooth, turn the heat to low.
To coat the dough shapes with chocolate, it works best to place the shapes on a fork-they will be stiff from being refrigerated-and dip the fork and dough into the chocolate until the shape is completely covered. Lift the dough out, still on the fork, and let the excess chocolate drip off and then set of the lined cookie sheet. This makes a complete mess but is still a lot of fun
Chill the patties for at least 30 minutes on the cookie sheets, in the fridge. Store in containers in the freezer-they taste the best when they’re really cold.

Whew! What a day! A lot of love and a lot of baking. It's good to be back home and it's good to be back in the blogging world! Happy holidays everyone.