Archive | September 2011

Here ya go! Caramel Salted Brownies

Salted Caramel Brownies

  • 5 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into quarters
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)
  • Fine sea salt

1. Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the pan with overlapping pieces of foil and spray the foil.

2. In a medium heat-proof bowl set over a pan of almost-simmering water, melt the chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until smooth. (Or, melt in the microwave on 50% power for 30-second increments, stirring after each, until melted and smooth.) Whisk in the cocoa until smooth. Set aside to cool.

3. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a medium bowl until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk the warm chocolate mixture into the egg mixture; then stir in the flour until just combined. Pour about half of the brownie mixture into the prepared pan and spread into the corners. Spoon 9 dollops of Salted Caramel Sauce on top of the brownie batter. Top with the remaining brownie mixture, spread into the corners and level the surface with a spatula. Again, spoon 9 dollops of the Salted Caramel Sauce on top of the brownie batter. With a dull butter knife, gently run it through the batter to swirl the batter just a bit (don’t do it too much or it will all mix together). Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on top.

4. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a small amount of sticky crumbs, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours. Remove the brownies from the pan using the foil handles and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into squares. Brownies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Salted Caramel Sauce

Prep/Cook Time: 10 minutes

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, at room temperature

In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the sugar over medium-high heat, whisking as the sugar begins to melt. Some of the sugar will harden into clumps, but that’s okay – it will melt eventually – just keep whisking. Continue to cook the sugar until it reaches a dark amber color. At that point, whisk in the salt, and then add the butter all at once and whisk until it is completely incorporated into the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and pour in the heavy cream (it will foam up when first added). Continue to whisk until it forms a smooth sauce.

Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before using in the brownies. The leftover sauce can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. (You’ll probably need to warm it up a bit straight from the refrigerator.)

Makes: 16 brownies

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Bake Time: 35 to 40 minutes

Adapted from here.

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Fall Foods recipe #3: Creamy Corn & Leek Orzo

We are up to our ears in corn!

Corn was late to pick this year, but once it came, it was well worth the wait. When you can buy a dozen ears for $2, there really isn’t a single reason to go out for a $80 dinner that we won’t even finish. This year, I actually got to walk into the corn field and pick the corn myself!

The plan for all this fresh corn? We tried freezing some to enjoy in the long winter months. I learned that freezing is a MESSY  job (there was literally corn kernels in every inch of the kitchen!), but it will be well worth it when you need a “fresh” veggie with dinner. If it wasn’t for the *awesome* job our FoodSaver does, I may not be doing this again next summer. Love that thing!

We also ate a lot of corn-on-the-cob, enchiladas with corn, eggs with corn, and creamy corn & leek orzo.

Creamy corn & leek orzo is a great dish for the main attraction at the dinner table, or even as a side act to fish or chicken. It travels really well, so you will definitely be packing it up for lunch the next day.

Creamy Corn & Leek Orzo

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup orzo
  • 4 tablespoons finely sliced washed leek (white and light green part only)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 ears corn, top half of kernels cut from cobs and cobs scraped for milk
  • 1/4 cup of Parmesan, grated (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Bring a medium pot of boiling water to a boil over medium heat. Season the water with salt, then add the orzo and cook to al dente. Drain, reserving the cooking water.

In another pot of boiling water, over medium heat, blanch the leeks for 1 or 2 minutes, then remove and shock in a bowl of ice water. Drain and set aside.

In a skillet, over low heat, melt the butter and add the corn and scraped milk from all 4 cobs. Cook for 1 minute and add about 1 cup reserved pasta cooking water. Bring to a simmer and cook until thick and reduced, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add more pasta cooking water if gets too dry.

Add the blanched leeks and heat through, about 1 minute. Add the orzo and toss to combine. Season with salt, to taste. Transfer the corn and orzo to a serving bowl,  sprinkle Parmesan over the top, add pepper to taste, and serve immediately.

Serves 6

Total time: 1 hour

Adapted from here.

Fall Foods recipe #2: Apple, Carrot, Sweet Potato & Ginger soup

Today is the first day of rain we’ve seen for a couple of months. That’s a pretty big deal in Oregon!

What better way to celebrate a day inside than with homemade soup?

I stocked up on apples and carrots at the farm last week, and found a sweet potato hanging around my onions in the pantry. Then as I went through my fridge, I couldn’t miss the 3 leeks I bought at the farm as well. They had other uses before this soup came to mind; for a leek and cauliflower soup. But they could work in this recipe, too.

The results of all these fresh pieces of fall produce came together, with a little help from chicken stock (my substitute for veggie stock), ginger and nutmeg, to  produce a sweet & spicy lunch treat. I really liked it!

It has a consistency of baby food, which is a new texture for me, but I think it would have to puree in the blender. Otherwise, the apples would turn to mush against all the other nice chunks of veggies.


Apple, Carrot, Sweet potato and Ginger soup

Serves 4

  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated    (I didn’t have fresh ginger, so I used 1/8 tsp of dried ginger spice)
  • 3 small apples, peeled and sliced
  • 3 cups sliced, peeled carrots (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onion, leek, dash of salt, and cook until softened and translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add ginger and garlic and cook for one minute, until fragrant.  Add apples, sweet potato and carrots and cook for 3 minutes more.

Turn flame to medium-high and add in broth.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce flame to low and simmer, uncovered,  until apples, sweet potato, and carrots are softened, about 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes.

Blend the soup in batches in a blender.  Be sure not to fill the blender more than halfway full or hot soup will explode everywhere.  Also, when blending hot liquids in a blender, leave the blender lid slightly ajar to let some of the steam escape.

Once all the soup is blended, return to the pot.  You can add more vegetable broth if you prefer a thinner consistency.  Taste, and add a dash of fresh ground nutmeg, as well as salt and pepper to taste.  Remember a lot of heat will come from the ginger, so you probably won’t need to add pepper.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream and another dash of nutmeg to taste for a creamy, sweet & spicy treat. I bet a nice piece of garlic bread would be great to scrape the bowl with. Yum-o.

Adapted from this recipe.

Fall Foods recipe #1: Cauliflower au gratin

A little background info on making this recipe:

Recently I’ve been immersed in Julia Child‘s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, volumes 1 & 2. I figured that if I’m going to make cooking a large priority in my life right now, I might as well learn what is arguably the true foundation of today’s American cuisine. European cuisine, specifically French cuisine, has been said by James Beard to be the most influential style of cooking for American’s in the 20th century. I mean, it was he who brought french culinary dishes to America in the first place, followed closely by Mrs. Child.  As such, my homemade culinary-school lesson plans are primarily being derived from these 2 authors.

My first french recipe was Julia’s Cauliflower au gratin. With the month of September passing by quicker than ever, I’ve been at the farm gathering as much cauliflower as I can to make this recipe (and another separate recipe).

The official report from my food critic?

“Wow, this is amazing! It is really good, mmmmm…..   You know, I really don’t like cauliflower, yet this tastes great.”

I respond, “Oh that’s awesome! I just made my first dish from Julia Child! Perhaps I can really do this cooking thing after all!

At this point I was feeling higher than life as I sat down next to him to try it myself, confirming his exact thoughts on it. That quickly subsided when he stopped, looked at me, lifted his eyebrows and asked me if I could eat a little less like a voracious animal from the wild who hadn’t had a meal in days.

Maybe Julia Child has an etiquette book I could read as well??

Cauliflower au gratin     (would taste great with fish or chicken)


  • 1 large (8-10″) cauliflower crown
  • 2 Tbsp. breadcrumbs
  • 1 Tbsp. melted butter

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of pepper
  • 3/4 cup Gruyère or other Swiss cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Prepare the cauliflower be removing all the leaves and cutting it into small florets. In a saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add blanch the cauliflower by boiling it for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. immediately remove from the heat, drain, and place the cauliflower in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter and then add in flour. Stir with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes, until it is covered with tiny bubbles and has a beige color to it. This is your roux for the sauce.

Meanwhile, pour milk into a glass measuring cup and heat in microwave for 2-2 1/2 minutes, or until hot to touch and steaming. Add the milk slowly into the flour mixture, whisking to mix all the components together.

Turn heat up to medium and continue whisking while the liquid turns into a thick sauce. Do not let it boil. Once the thickness is achieved, take off heat and add in nutmeg and pepper to taste.

Stir in cheeses until melted. Set aside.

In a lightly buttered round 8″ by 2″ tall casserole dish, pour 1/3 of the sauce onto the bottom. Add in cauliflower and sprinkle some more pepper, if desired.

Pour the remaining sauce over the top. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs (I also added in some extra Gruyère cheese) on top and drizzle with melted butter (or olive oil).

Place uncovered in the top 1/3 part of the oven and bake until heated through, with a slight “golden crust” on top. Serve immediately.

Fall Foods

September marks many important changes for us all:

  1. Saying good-bye to your white shoes and purses. (do women still do this??)
  2. The start of a new school year, whether it be preschool or college.
  3. Shorter days and cooler nights.
  4. Halloween candy, decorations, and costumes in every store. (Yes, we are now expected to celebrate a full 2 months before the actual holiday.)
  5. And if you’re really lucky, Thanksgiving is set up across the aisle. (I’m all about one-stop shopping anyways.)
  6. Finally, new produce in your garden, at the farmer’s market, and in the supermarket. Think apples, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, broccoli, figs, peppers, tomatoes, and squash.

Over the next few weeks, I plan on making a new recipe for some of the best Fall Foods, and I look forward to sharing them all with you!

Caramel & Chocolate Cravings

I found a trusted fellow food blogger that has a recipe for salted caramel brownies!

 

BrownEyedBaker is well-regarded in the blogging world, so I truly believe that this recipe will satisfy my craving. Ooooh, I really cannot wait until I have these luscious caramel-chocolate bites in my mouth!

Caramel is my most favorite sweet ever. So much so, that I have to resist buying the Starbucks caramel sauce that they place right next to you while you wait in line for your morning run. If you were to see me in line next to you, I probably wouldn’t be too chatty because I would instead be daydreaming of sitting on the kitchen counter at home, tilting my head up, and squeezing the caramel into my mouth.

It’s that good!!!

 

Stay tuned for the results.

So happy to have found what sounds like a delicious recipe!!

Meat Lasagna with Spinach and Béchamal Sauce

In case you couldn’t tell from my last post, today is a cool & cloudy day in my part of Oregon. What better day than today to share my *favorite* comfort food recipe – Lasagna!!

Oh, just looking at the gooey cheese dripping down the sides makes me so happy!

This is an adaption combined from my own recipe and from Giada DeLaurentis‘ lasagna recipe with béchamal sauce, in her cookbook, Everyday Italian. I replaced ground beef with a leaner meat, Elk, and added in a large package of spinach. It is a real crowd-pleaser and is wonderful as a meat dish or as a vegetarian dish (just omit the meat).

Meat Lasagna with Spinach and Béchamal Sauce

Béchamel Sauce:

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 2 tablespoons for the lasagna
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups whole milk at room temperature
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Lasagna:

  • 1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound ground chuck beef or Elk meat
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 pound lasagna sheets (I use the “ready to bake” kind)
  • 1 large package of fresh spinach
  • 3 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Béchamel sauce:

In a 2-quart pot, melt 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When butter has completely melted, add the flour and whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly to prevent any lumps from forming. Continue to simmer and whisk over medium heat until the sauce is thick, smooth and creamy, about 10 minutes. The sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of wooden spoon. Remove from heat and add the nutmeg and tomato sauce. Stir until well combined and check for seasoning. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

In a saute pan, heat extra-virgin olive oil. When almost smoking, add the ground beef (or Elk meat) and season with salt and pepper. Brown meat, breaking any large lumps, until it is no longer pink. Remove from heat and drain any excess fat. Set aside and allow to cool completely.

In a medium-sized bowl, thoroughly mix the ricotta, eggs, and spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Combine the béchamel sauce and the tomato sauce together. This will be used as your primary sauce when putting the lasagna layers together.

Into the bottom of a 13 by 9-inch baking dish, spread 1/3 of the béchamel sauce. Arrange the pasta sheets side by side, covering the bottom of the baking dish. Evenly spread a layer of all the ricotta mixture. Arrange another layer of pasta sheets and spread all the meat on top. Sprinkle 1/2 the mozzarella cheese on top of the meat. Spread another 1/3 of the béchamel sauce. Arrange the final layer of pasta sheets and top with remaining béchamel, mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Cut the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into 1/4-inch cubes and top lasagna.

Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place lasagna dish on top, cover and put on the middle rack of the oven and bake until top is bubbling, about 30 minutes. Remove cover and continue to bake for about 15 minutes.