Friday, January 27, 2012

Roasted Pineapple Cream Cheese~Banana Pound Cake

Actually, I should have just called this recipe--"Leftover Pound Cake!" because that's exactly what was the inspiration of these flavors.  On Monday, the first night of Chinese New Year, I made Roasted Pineapple Won tons and they were delicious, but the problem was the recipe for the filling made quite a lot and since there were only five of us for dinner and it was recommended that this dessert be served warm, I had leftover filling--it would have easily made about 40-50 won tons.
Maddie & Ivy in their New Year attire
 Also, this morning, I noticed one lonely banana, again, resting on the counter and thought, "it's not enough for banana bread, but maybe I'll just throw it in to this batter as well ;-)!

My mother was a genius with leftovers; nothing went to waste, but of course with eight kids and a tight budget she had to be.  I am appalled at the commercial showing how much food American families throw out each year, especially when we know how many children don't get enough to eat.  So, I'm a disciple of "Waste Not, Want Not," and decided that although, I could have easily enjoyed the roasted pineapple cream cheese filling on crackers, neither my hips nor my waistline would, and a pound cake would be perfect for my hubby to have a little slice while I'm gone.

Roasted Pineapple Cream Cheese~Banana Pound Cake
(aka Leftover Pound Cake)
1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/8-1/4 tsp. Pineapple flavoring
2 Vanilla beans, split and scraped
6 large eggs
8 oz (about 1 to 1 1/4 cups) Pineapple cream cheese filling
1 medium banana, mashed
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Pineapple Cream Cheese Filling:
1 fresh medium pineapple, cored and diced to 1/2-inch
1/3 cup Tubinado sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 tsp. lime zest

I have a pineapple corer that removes the pineapple as you twist it down, but if you don't have one, you will have to slice the pineapple, remove the rind and the core before chopping into a 1/2-inch dice. 
Heat a sauce pan on medium heat and cook the turbinado sugar until it melts.  Add the pineapple and the vanilla beans and pod.  Cook until the mixture boils, then, turn down to a low simmer and cook for 1 hour, stirring every 10 minutes.  All the moisture should evaporate and the pineapple becomes a golden brown.

Remove the vanilla pod, add the lime zest and stir.  Let mixture cool completely before folding into the cream cheese.  This mixture can be made the day before.

Preheat oven to 325F-degrees.  Spray a 12-cup bundt pan with a non-stick baking spray and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter thoroughly.  Add the sugars and cream for 3-5 minutes until fluffy and lighter in color.  Add the vanilla beans and the pineapple flavor and beat just to combine.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping the sides of the bowl periodically.  Add the pineapple/cream cheese mixture and the mashed banana and mix to combine.
Add the cider vinegar and beat once more.

Add the flour and beat on medium just until combined--don't over mix.  Fold in the pecans, if using.
Transfer the batter to the prepared Bundt pan and place in the preheated oven for 70 to 80 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean when poked down through the cake.
The cake is loaded with flavor, so I just did a dusting of confectioners' sugar over it, but you could also make a glaze.

To Serve:
I love to plate desserts as if they're works of art!  So, I had some homemade caramel sauce in the refrigerator, that I heated in the microwave for 45 seconds, then did my best interpretation of a Jackson Pollack and drizzled on a plain, white plate.
Next, I sliced the cake and placed it on the plate with a scoop of So Delicious Coconut Milk "ice cream," but you could use your favorite ice cream to accompany the dessert.
I love to take some cake, drag it through the caramel, and then top it with the ice cream.  Yum!!
Waste Not, Want Not, should be everyone's motto--especially with food.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Lasagne Cups~my twist

One of the best food e-magazines is one called FoodieCrush and last week it featured seven lasagne recipes--Lasagne Cups being one of the seven.  I thought, "what a great idea...for so many reasons."  Tonight, I came up with my version since in a few days, I leave for a trade show (CHA-Craft & Hobby Association) in Anaheim, California, and I wanted to make sure I stocked the refrigerator and freezer with good food that hubby can fix on his own.

The concept of baking lasagne in a cup, I have to admit, is ingenious.  The first and most important I believe, is portion control.  I'm a very active person, but as I have aged and have gone through the stress of what life has given me, I've added weight that is definitely uncomfortable.  I've found the craze of Zumba to be inspirational for exercise, but need to watch what I'm eating and how much.  I'm not a dietitian, but being a vegetarian and raising a family has made me be responsible with the food I make.  Secondly, serving is easy--which anyone knows, cutting through layers of noodles, cheese, ricotta and sauce, can be messy.  Lastly, I can make this dish up and it's easy to package for later meals (when I'm pulling all nighters in designing) for freezing.
Add a green salad and maybe, a whole-grain roll, and you've got a balanced dinner that your family will enjoy.

Lasagne Cups
12 Lasagne noodles
1-32oz. Marinara sauce (I'm a big Raos brand fan!)
1-15 oz. container of Part-skim Ricotta Cheese
1 large egg
1-16 oz. Mozzarella cheese, grated
8oz. Parmesan cheese, grated

Save the "rind" to add to soup

10 oz. frozen chopped Spinach
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 T. olive oil

4 oz. vegetarian sausage, crumbled and sauteed

Bechemal Sauce:
3 T. unsalted butter
3 T. all-purpose flour
1 cup 1% milk
1/4 tsp. freshly ground Nutmeg
Salt & Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F-degrees.  Line 2-6 cup jumbo muffin pans with parchment squares.  I cut a sheet of parchment paper into 6 squares, then used a glass to press the square down in the muffin opening.  (Lining the muffin cups with parchment makes for easy removal from the pan.)

In a medium sauce pan, saute chopped spinach with the diced yellow onion on medium heat until the water from the spinach has been evaporated.  Remove from heat and cool while making up the rest of the filling.

In a bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, egg, 3/4 cup of the mozzarella cheese, and 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese.  Fold in the cooled spinach mixture and set aside.

Make the Bechemal sauce.  In a sauce pan, melt the butter, then, add sprinkle the flour and whisk together.  Turn heat to med/low and add the milk, whisking constantly to make a smooth sauce.  Season with the nutmeg and the salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the lasagne noodles as directed, drain and pat dry.  (I use this fabulous gadget called the "FastaPasta" maker to cook my pasta in the microwave!)

1. Layer one lasgne noodle across the parchment paper and push down.
2. Place a tablespoon of bechemal in the bottom.
3. Add a heaping tablespoon of marinara sauce.
4. Add a heaping tablespoon of the ricotta cheese/spinach mixture.
5. Crumble a few pieces of vegetarian sausage (if using).
6. Sprinkle some mozzarella cheese over the sausage.
7. Fold one of the overlapping layers of lasagne over this first layer.
8. Repeat with more marinara sauce, ricotta/spinach mixture, and another sprinkle of mozzarella cheese. Fold the second side of the lasagne noddle over, pressing down slightly.  
9. Add a little more sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.

10.  Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven.  Remove the foil and bake an additional 10 to 15 minutes until tops are browned.
Use a small spatula to remove the lasagne cups.  Remove the parchment and serve with additional sauce if desired and more Parmesan cheese.

These were a success!  My husband raved and I ended up placing some in the refrigerator for another dinner and two more bags in the freezer for those times when I'm rushed.  Visit FoodieCrush for other great lasagne recipes (among others). Enjoy!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Baby Bear "Get Well" Cookies

Yesterday, while Skyping with our grandson, Ari, he announced that Baby Bear had fallen behind his bed and was hurt.  It took his head lamp and Daddy's long arms to get him out and when he did, he told me Baby Bear had broken his collar bone.  Ari has been somewhat fixated on broken collar bones ever since I told him the story of my youngest sister falling off my brother's lower bunk bed, when she was 18 months old and breaking her collar bone.  I told him this story because like most toddlers, he loves to jump on beds and as a grandmother, I could see this ending up badly;-)!

Anyway, he said Baby Bear needed some cookies while he's recuperating "in the hospital" (aka Daddy's bed).  When I asked him what kind...he said, "chocolate chip."  I told him I would bake some for Baby Bear and he said, "Mimi, it's nice to share," which meant Ari gets some too.  PopPop asked if he could have some before I shipped them and Ari was quick to say, "only one,"--he had already committed to the sharing concept. LOL!

As all of us know, bears are an important part of childhood and Ari's role play with his bear gave me the idea to turn this chocolate chip cookie recipe into something special for him.  I've packaged them in CD/DVD envelopes that I found at an office supply store.  They're perfect for shipping and once sealed, they'll keep fresh during the journey.

Baby Bear "Get Well" Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup butter-flavored shortening
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
1 T Vanilla extract
2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour
2 cups Queen Guinevere cake flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. Kosher salt
1-12oz bag mini chocolate chips

about 24 larger chocolate chips (for the nose)

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugars together until fluffy.  Add the vanilla and the eggs, one at a time and beat again.

In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients and whisk together.  Add to the batter, half at a time, beating on medium speed to incorporate.  Finally, add the mini chocolate chips and mix to combine.  
Using two different size scoops, measure out dough to form the bear.

 The last step is to add the larger chocolate chip for the nose.

  Bake in the preheated oven 12 to 14 minutes.  (These took 13 minutes to bake to a golden brown).
Once packaged, they're off to Spain to Ari and Baby Bear.  I know he'll love the surprise and Baby Bear will be back to new in no time.  Enjoy!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Potato Chip~Pecan Cookies

I know this sounds like a funny combination and honestly, it's not my original recipe, but one of my favorites from a December 2004 Fine Cooking magazine.  And, I realize this doesn't seem very "Chinese New Yearish," but it coincides with it for us and that's why I baked them today.

Three years ago, Kelly gave Erin and I a Christmas present of a book called Stealing Buddha's Dinner: A Memoir by Bich Minh Nguyen and had set up our first blog together that she called "The Baker's Dozen."  Her idea was for us to choose 13 books to read that had an underlying theme of food, and blog about this association in the story.  We read two books before Kelly informed us we weren't blogging correctly!  Erin did a book report and I got off the track with my own recipes! LOL!!

However, this is a wonderful autobiography of a young Vietnamese girl, growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a rapacious hunger for an American identity.  This hunger is transmuted into a passion for American Food--Pringles, Kit Kats, Toll House Cookies, etc.--in other words, what we would consider today as junk food, instead of her Buddhist Grandmother's delicacies that she made for special occasions, like the new year.  That's when I found this recipe in my Fine Cooking magazine and added it to the blog as my contribution to understanding the book.

Potato Chip~Pecan Cookies
8 oz. (1 cup/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. (a scant 2 cups) King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely crushed potato chips
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350F-degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment.

In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Scrape down the sides and add the vanilla.  Mix once again.  
For accuracy, it's better to weigh the flour because, did you know, that a cup of flour can weigh as much as 4 1/2 ounces depending how you scoop it up.
 However, if you do not have a scale, here is a sure way to get a more accurate measurement.
 #1 - Stir the flour
#2 - Spoon the flour into the 1-cup measurement
#3 - Sweep the cup level with a straight edge (like a knife)
Add the flour, the crushed potato chips and pecans and mix just until the dough comes together.
The recipe actually calls for forming the dough into 1-inch balls, but I use a scoop that is closer to 1-tablespoon for this step.
Scoop up the dough and transfer it to your opposite hand to form into a ball.  Place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat, spacing about 2-inches apart on the baking sheet.  Use the bottom of a glass or a tart tamper, dipped in additional granulated sugar to press down the balls.
For this larger size, I baked them for 12 minutes--until I have a golden brown coloring around the edges.
I also rotated my baking pan half way through the time to produce even browning.  My version, with the larger size made 28 cookies; the original recipe says it will make 30, so I'm not too far off.

What came out of this first attempt at blogging was my present day blog that Kelly set up and decided I was better suited for--telling my stories through food.  Kelly also went off and started a blog with her best friend, Kandyce (Notions & Threads); a much better match for her vision of sharing her everyday projects with the others.  Every time I make these cookies, I think of Kelly and Erin and Bich Minh Nguyen's book that brought me where I am today.  I've never tried making these cookies with Pringles, even though that's a guilty favorite of mine too!  Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snow Days, Snickerdoodles & a Special Gift

A few days ago, I received a box, from a dear friend, that contained the most wonderful gift--the Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book

Published in 1950 (my birth year), this is the cookbook I grew up with and was saddened when I learned my father had given away a chest that contained this book, among other things, after my mother passed away.  Opening the box and seeing this book again brought tears to my eyes and wondering how Louise could have known this would be a treasured gift?

Our lives were brought together by our daughters, Kelly and Karen.  Kelly met Karen when she worked at a bookstore called Rizzoli's in Santa Monica after she graduated from college.  Karen once told me that she couldn't believe how nice Kelly was and that she would want to be friends with her. Kelly said, "I couldn't believe this witty, intelligent, "cool" girl would be friends with me!"  Their love and friendship lasted over 16 years through distances and life changes.  Sadly, Louise and I lost our sweet daughters just ten months apart from breast cancer, but have found that same love and support for one another that our daughters shared from the time they met.

It's another snowy day here in the Pacific Northwest, so while turning the pages and reading the handwritten notes by it's owner--Sadie Siegfried, I found myself on the page with the recipe for Snickerdoodles. 

It's the recipe I made so many times with my mother and my daughters and wanted a memory to brighten this wintery day.  Baking and friendship brings warmth to the heart...thank you Louise.

1 cup shortening (I used Crisco's "butter-flavored")
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. Vanilla extract (I added this ingredient)
2 3/4 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour (the original calls for Gold Medal flour, of course)
2 tsp. Cream of Tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

Cinnamon/Sugar Mixture
2 T granulated sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

In a bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the shortening and sugar thoroughly.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Sift the dry ingredients and add to the mixture, stirring to combine.  Chill dough for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven 400F-degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment or a Silpat.
Roll dough into balls the size of a small walnut.  Roll in the Cinnamon/Sugar mixture and place about 2-inches apart on the baking sheet.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown.  Cool on the baking sheet about 5 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.  Makes about 4 dozen 2-inch cookies.
 I wish with all my heart our girls were still with us, but thank you, Louise for this treasured gift and your loving friendship. 

This morning, while skyping with our grandson, Ari, I told him it was snowing again and that I was sick of it.  He said, "Mimi, you can have fun making snowballs and throwing them at PopPop!"  Leave it up to kids to find the fun side of a snowy day and put a smile on your face.  Enjoy!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Paczki and Breakfast Pizza for a Wintery Morning

Our luck ran out and we've had a couple of snowy days that have blanketed our beautiful landscape, so what better way to make the most of it than with baking!  I decided to make up some quick yeast doughs--pizza and paczki (pronounced poochki) to make our breakfast a little special after my hubby shoveled the driveway and the deck.

Today, happens to be the anniversary of the doughnut, as we know it in America.  In 1847, Captain Hanson Crocket Gregory of Rockport, Maine, is credited with putting the "hole" in the middle of fried cakes, creating what we know today as doughnuts.  The story goes, that while at sea, during a storm, he lost his balance and slammed the fried cake down on a spoke of the ship's wheel--what had once been a soggy middle was gone!  Paczkis are Polish doughnuts and I was introduced to them through one of my dearest friends who sent me some from a bakery in her area.  They may not have a hole, but the addition of homemade jam made them the perfect treat with my cocoa this morning and with proper frying, no soggy middle--LOL!

For my hubby, I made up a pizza dough and topped it with veggie sausage, scrambled egg, and Fontina cheese for all his hard work in shoveling.
Sweet for me and savory for my husband on this cold, wintery day.  Can't wait for Spring, but as long as I have pantry supplies, we won't starve!

2 T granulated sugar
2 T butter, melted
1/2 cup whole milk, warmed to 110F-degrees
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped or 1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2 to 2 1/2 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour

Peanut oil for frying
your favorite jam or jelly
confectioners' sugar

In a medium bowl, stir the butter and sugar together, then add the warm milk and stir to incorporate. Sprinkle the yeast over the mixture and stir.  Let it set for 5-7 minutes to proof.  
 Add the vanilla and eggs and stir again.  Start adding the flour, one-half cup at a time until the dough comes together and is no longer sticky.  Turn out onto a floured board and knead until smooth.  
 Brush the bowl with 1 tablespoon of melted butter.  Place the dough, upside down, then, turn it over.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 1 hour or until doubled.
  When doubled, punch down the dough and lightly flour the bread board surface.  Roll dough to about 1/2-inch thickness and with a 3-inch round cutter, cut out 12 rounds.  Place on a lightly floured pan and cover with a cloth to rise again.
Heat a heavy Dutch oven with 2 inches of peanut oil to 350F-degrees.  Use a thermometer attached to the side to insure accuracy.
I cooked 4 at a time, being careful not to over crowd the pan and lower the temperature of the oil.  Cook 2 minutes, then, flip the paczkis and cook another 2 minutes.

The tops should be a golden brown.  Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and transfer to a rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before filling with jam.
I used a #230 tip to pierce and fill the paczkis.  If you don't have that tip, make a slit in the side with a sharp knife and fill with a large round tip.
Finally, dust the tops with confectioners' sugar before serving.
The tender doughnut with scrumptious Cherry~Cranberry jam was just the thing to shake the winter blahs.  Yum!

Breakfast Pizza
3 cups 00 Flour or Perfect Pizza Blend flour 
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 tsp.  + 1 T granulated sugar
2 T olive oil (more for brushing on top)
1 T yeast

Pizza stone
Veggie sausage
undercooked scrambled eggs (2 large per pizza)
Fontina cheese

Proof the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water (105F-degrees) with the 1 tsp. sugar.  Whisk to combine and let sit for 5 to 7 minutes until foamy.
In a food processor or a bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, combine flour salt, and the remaining sugar.  Pulse several times to combine, if using the processor, or mix on medium speed to blend.

Add the proofed yeast and olive oil and mix.  Add enough additional warm water for the dough to come together.  Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth.  Spray a gallon-sized food bag with a baking spray and place dough inside.  Seal the bag and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450F-degrees
Take about one-third of the dough and roll out to a 5" x 12" rectangle.
Transfer to a pizza peel, sprinkled with cornmeal, and lightly brush the surface with olive oil.
Bake the dough in the oven for 5 minutes, until lightly browned.
Top with about a cup of cheese, then, distribute the egg and sausage over top.  Add additionally cheese, if desired and bake another 5 to 7 minutes until golden browned and melted.
I love baking when it's cold outside because it gives a warmth to the house with aroma as well as temperature.  As we're expecting a few more days of this "white" stuff, I suppose the oven will get a workout.  Enjoy!