Saturday, April 17, 2010

spring treats!

These have got to be the perfect "quick spring treat"! They are so light and fluffy and have only 4 ingredients!!!

Egg whites are pretty amazing... Who knew you could use a hand mixer and turn them into creamy, gooey, wonderfulness? My first exposure to making egg-white cookies was in a food science lab in college. We were studying eggs and our teacher had us make cookies out of the left-over egg whites. HELLO! I did not know that you could make cookies out of egg whites, much less cookies that are this tasty. I've been thinking about them ever since and finally decided to look them up in my Better Homes and Gardens cook book, and sure enough, there was a recipe.  I added coconut for the extra "spring" touch and they turned out wonderfully! And the great thing is, you don't have to feel toooo guilty because they really aren't as fattening as most other cookies, I promise! :)

Coconut Meringues
Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book

2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup coconut flakes

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a cookie sheet; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl beat egg whites and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Fold coconut flakes into the beaten egg white mixture.

Drop mixture by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or until edges are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

double whammy!

Today was pretty much the perfect spring day ever. We started the morning planting our tomatoes, bell peppers, herbs, another rose bush, and a couple of other misc. plants. Then I came in to attempt a recipe I've been holding on to now for a while. Lucky for me the Espresso Cheesecake Brownie turned out wonderfully [see, just the name excites you doesn't it? ;)] and surprised both me and hubby.

We spent the afternoon at the river [sun bathing mostly, it's still a little too chilly to toob], then I made a surprise dinner for hubby, one of his faves- Shrimp Scampi. I figured since my dessert turned out well earlier that day, I must be on a roll. Guess so because it was de-lec-ta-ble! I give credit to the wonderful creators of these recipes and both are popular chefs.

Let's start with the scampi since you (typically) eat dessert last...

[Hello beautiful dish that is now in my recipe binder forever]

I found this recipe at an adorable blog called Vintage Victuals where I will have to venture back to for another recipe or two. Or ten. The original recipe is by Tyler Florence, who is like, the king of flavor so you know it's good. [The blogger adapted the recipe to her preference and I followed her version, but it's almost identical to Tyler's.]

Oh, and if you are reading the recipe and wondering what the heck a Shallot is, don't worry, I did too [I'm not awesome YET] Just google it. It's a type of onion, that's all. :)

Shrimp Scampi
adapted from Tyler Florence

1 pound linguini
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, sliced
Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and de-veined, but leave the tail on
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup dry white wine (a nice sauvignon blanc works quite well)
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves 

For the pasta, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When it has come to the boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt and the linguini. Stir to make sure the pasta separates; cover. When the water returns to a boil, cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the pasta is not quite done. Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using) until the shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; add them to the pan and cook until they have turned pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan; set aside and keep warm. Add wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil. When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley and cooked pasta and reserved pasta water. Stir well and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle over a bit more olive oil and serve immediately.

Now on to another beauty you will love me forever for: 

This has a pretty rich flavor and might make you say, "OMG". Just saying. It's almost like you taste it in layers. First you get a hint of the espresso flavor, then the cream cheese, then the chocolate. I don't know, it's just more than I expected flavor-wise. But then again, here I am building it up and when you make it you might wonder what all the fuss is about. That's okay, because hubby and I enjoyed it. :) In fact, he told me he was so full from supper that he would wait to get his slice. So he took a "sample" bite of mine and ended up eating the whole thing. That's what I like to see :)

Here is the recipe from Life In a Peanut Shell's website. She got the recipe from [another awesome cook] Dorie Greenspan's book, "Baking: From My Home To Yours".

The blogger put extras on her topping, like chocolate chunks and chocolate covered espresso beans, but since we were to anxious to try the finished product I didn't add them. Next time, I'm definitely adding the chocolate coffee beans to the top and maybe some chocolate chunks. :D 

[Here's what it looks like before the topping, just for reference]

Espresso Cheesecake Brownies
From Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours

For the brownies:
1/2 cup ap flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 F, with a rack in the center. Butter a 9" square baking pan placed on a baking sheet and set aside.

To make the brownies:

Whisk together the first three ingredients. Put the butter and chocolate over a double boiler with water simmering. Stir until the ingredients melt, but don't overheat so that the butter separates. Remove the top of the double boiler and set aside.

Stir the sugar into the chocolate mixture with a whisk, then add the eggs one at a time. Beat well after each egg, then beat in the vanilla. Next, gently stir in the dry ingredients until they disappear. Set aside.

For the cheesecake:

1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon ap flour

Allow the espresso to cool to tepid. With a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the cream cheese on medium until it's completely smooth. Add the sugar and continue to beat for 3 minutes more. Beat in the vanilla and espresso before adding the eggs one at a time. Beat for 1 minute after each egg, then reduce the speed to low and add the sour cream, then the flour. The batter should be smooth.

Pour about 3/4 of the brownie mixture into the prepared pan. Smooth it out, then pour the cheesecake layer over the top, taking care to make it even. Place spoonfuls of the rest of the brownie batter on top, and use a knife to swirl the dark and light batters together. Be careful, however, not to plunge the knife into the base brownie layer. Swirl only as much as necessary.

Bake for around 30 minutes. The brownies should come away from the sides of the pan. The cheesecake will puff and turn lightly browned around the edges. Transfer the pan to a wrack to cool. Once it reaches room temperature, refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until well chilled.

For the topping:

1 1/4 cups sour cream
1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

Warm the sour cream and sugar in a small saucepan over very low heat. You need to stir constantly until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the chilled brownies, then return them to the refrigerator and chill for at least another hour. Cut the brownies into squares and serve.
[I used a round pan because I didn't have a square, and it turned out just fine]

Friday, April 2, 2010

yummy jambalaya!

Before I was married, I used to go to over my good friend Rosel's house on Tuesday nights to hang out and to learn how to cook some of her dishes! This has proven to be one of my absolute all time favorites and I cook it often. It's delicious, easy, low cal, and healthy- woohoo! Thanks Rosel & Mike! :)

Rosel Cloud

Chicken broth
Rice [I use brown]
Turkey sausage link
Red bell pepper, cut into small pieces
Celery, sliced
Onion and/or green onion, diced
Onion Powder
Garlic Powder
Basil leaves
Chicken [optional]

Heat olive oil in a medium size pan between med/med-high heat. Saute' sausage and season well with paprika. Pour in about a cup of rice and saute with sausage. Add onions, celery, red pepper [all veggies] sauteing for about a minute and then add the broth [or water] barely covering food. Add paprika as necessary. Leave lid half open and simmer until most liquid has been absorbed. Enjoy!