Monthly Archives: November 2010

[fantastic] cocoa brownies

Deb wasn’t kidding when she titled these, “the best cocoa brownies.”  For the last few years, I have been a tempered chocolate snob. Cakes, cookies, biscotti… all of them have come from a chocolate recipe.

Let me tell you, that attitude is out.the.window. Gone. Because these brownies are THAT good.

That easy, too- one bowl! 

I made very few changes:  I personally love a subtle molasses flavor in my chocolate treats, so included dark brown sugar. I also doubled the salt, and instead of vanilla I used coffee liqueur.  I figured that a small amount of delicate vanilla might get lost under the rich texture and taste, whereas coffee would play a strong supporting role.  I definitely suggest it if you’ve got it in your liquor cabinet (and you should- White Russians are one reason for the season). Otherwise a teaspoon of leftover coffee or made with instant coffee granules would work nicely.

Cocoa Brownies
adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen, originally from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet

10 T. unsalted butter
3/4 c. white granulated sugar
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
3/4 c. + 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/2 t. salt
1 t. coffee liqueur
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 c. all-purpose flour

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 F. Line an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.

Place the butter in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Add the sugars, cocoa, and salt.  Stir once the butter begins to melt. Continue stirring as the butter completely melts and the ingredients come together. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. [It may look gritty (photo belongs to Smitten Kitchen), but will it smooth out once the eggs and flour are added.]

Stir in the coffee liqueur with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.  Add the flour and stir until well combined, and then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon.  Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter; 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me 30 minutes. Let cool completely.  Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

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Filed under Desserts

Cran-Apple Vanilla Sauce/Relish

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you all are spending your day with family and friends.  Due to the weather, N and I are sticking out today alone.  Never fear, we’ve got delicious cocoa brownies and unbelievably-rich stuffed shells with bolognese to keep us company… and, of course, this candy-like sauce.

One part applesauce, one part cranberry relish… I suppose it may even classify as a chutney.  Honestly, I don’t care what you call it.  Make this. It’s magenta. And easy. And festive. Did I mention the taste? It’s a little sweet, and a little tart. Just like me. :)

As an alternative to starting with new cranberries, throw together your cranberry sauce leftovers and some apple chunks, a splash of juice or water, scrape a vanilla bean, and you’re done.

Eat this sauce cooled as a side or snack, or warmed on top of pork or chicken.  I’m so happy I’ve got lots of this for the next few blustery days!

Cran-Apple Vanilla Sauce
inspired by The Foodie Bride

1 bag (12 oz., approximately 2 cups) fresh cranberries
1/2 c. apple juice
3 large apples (I used Honeycrisp and Gala)
1/3 c. sucanat (or light brown sugar)
1/4 c. white sugar
1 large vanilla bean

Peel and chop apples into 1-inch pieces.  Rinse and pick through cranberries.  In a large pot combine all of the ingredients except for the vanilla bean.  Heat to a simmer and maintain for 15 minutes, until cranberries start to pop.

Cut open the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrap the inside clean.  Put the paste and the vanilla-bean halves in the sauce.  Continue to simmer for another 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Once the berries are cooked and apples are soft, roughly mash with a potato masher or heavy spoon.  Serve warm, or cool and store in fridge.

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Filed under Condiments, etc., Fall, Side dishes

Lighter General Tso’s Chicken

In keeping with a desire for lighter, non-traditional-Thanksgiving food, I made this wonderful version of General Tso’s chicken.  I’m sure it’s not quite the same as your favorite Amer-Chinese restaurant’s, but it is delicious, and cheaper– both in dollars and calories.

This was way faster than take-out as well- about 15 minutes from start to finish!  Coincidentally, that’s about the same amount of time as cooking a cup or two of rice in a microwave rice cooker, or steaming a small pot of frozen stir-fry veggies.  I used dark brown sugar, which really emphasized the sweetness. If you’re watching your sugar intake, try reducing the sugar to 1-1/2 tablespoons.

Lighter General Tso’s Chicken
from Everyday Food, as seen on Good Things Catered (it seems her blog has been deleted?)

1 T. cornstarch
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 t. fresh grated ginger
2 T. brown sugar
2 T. amino acids (it’s gluten free!) or soy sauce
1 t. red pepper flakes
kosher salt
~1.5 lbs. chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 t. sesame oil
2 t. vegetable oil

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornstarch with 1/2 c. cold water. Add in the garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes; whisk to combine.

Heat sesame and vegetable oils in a wok or heavy skillet until almost smoking, about 5 minutes on medium-high.  Swirl pan to coat bottom with oil, then add the seasoned chicken pieces.  Allow to cook without moving for 3 minutes, then sprinkle with kosher salt and flip chicken pieces to the other side to brown, up to 5 minutes.

Increase heat to high.  Stir sauce and add to the chicken.  Stir almost constantly until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.  Delicious and nutritious served with rice and stir-fry vegetables.

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Filed under 30 min. or less, Chicken, Main dishes

Cauliflower-Chickpea Curry

Not so much Thanksgiving prep going on in this blog.  I hope that’s okay. We aren’t hosting T-day this year, and the traveling that we’ll be doing hinders us from providing too much for the meal. Looks like we’ll be bringing dinner rolls and a cheeseball. Mmm, gluttony.

In prep for the inevitable overeating that will be done during the latter end of this week, I wanted lighter lunches for the front half of the week.  I also wanted something with flavors and ingredients that I wouldn’t be eating later.  I think it’s safe to say that there won’t be much curry powder involved in our rural Midwestern Thanksgiving day celebration.

I added the carrots because I wanted to use them up, and the peas because I thought it needed some non-orange color.  This would be more authentic without either of them, though.  I also roasted the cauliflower before adding it to the curry, which really brought out its earthy, nutty flavor.

Cauliflower-Chickpea Curry
inspired by Planet Green

1 medium head of cauliflower
2 T. oil
3 large carrots
1/2 small onion, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 t. turmeric
1/2 t. cumin
1 t. to 1 T. hot curry powder
2 T. tomato paste
1 to 2 c. veggie or chicken stock
1-14. oz. can chickpeas
1/2 c. frozen or fresh green peas

Clean your head of cauliflower and cut or break into bite-sized florets. Toss with 1 T. oil and roast for 25-30 minutes at 375 F.

Meanwhile, clean and slice carrots.  Heat the remaining 1 T. of oil in a heavy skillet over medium.  Add the chopped onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in minced garlic, turmeric, cumin, and curry powder; cook for an additional 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the tomato paste and keep stirring for 2 or 3 more minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high and stir in 1 cup of the stock. Drain and rinse chickpeas, and add to the skillet. Bring up to boiling, and reduce heat to simmer. Once your cauliflower is roasted, stir it and up to a cup of additional stock into the curry. Simmer for 10 minutes, adding additional stock and/or curry powder to taste. In the last few minutes, stir in your fresh or frozen peas. Serve over rice or with naan.

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Filed under Clean Eating, Main dishes, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Beer Bread



Easiest. Bread. Ever.  And fast, too.  It keeps for 4-5 days and has staple ingredients. It’s easily customizable– use whatever kind of beer you want, and that’s the flavor that you’ll get in the bread.

The best part: absolutely delicious.

Basic Beer Bread
adapted from The Novice Chef

3 c. bread or AP flour
1 t. salt
3 T. sugar
1 T. baking powder
12 oz. beer
2 T. butter

Preheat oven to 375.  Grease a bread pan. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Add the beer, being careful not to foam over the edges of the bowl.  Let it sit for a minute, then carefully whisk into the dry ingredients.

Spoon the batter into your greased bread pan. Slice the butter into 3 or 4 equal pieces and arrange on top of the batter. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the top is firm when pressed down.  Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

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Filed under Breads, Fall, Winter

Roasted Chicken or Turkey

Roast chicken is soooo easy, and sooooo good.  I know there are a lot of recipes out there that call for olive oil and herbs, but I’ve got to be honest with you:  I am all about the butter.

Not only do we brine our chicken and turkeys before roasting, but we also spread a butter-seasoning mixture on top of the skin and under the skin, directly onto the breast and leg meat.  In our experience with smoking, roasting, grilling, and slow cookers, butter is a sure-fire way to get a flavorful and moist bird that doesn’t taste like it’s been fried. 

If you’re still looking for ideas for preparing your holiday fowl, try this butter-roasted beauty.  You won’t be disappointed.

Roasted Chicken or Turkey

 Brine (ingredients per gallon of water):
1/2 c. salt
1/2 c. sugar (white, brown, or mix)
1/4 c. coarse black pepper

Butter mix (double for a turkey):
1/3 c. butter
2 cloves garlic or 1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne
1/2 t. favorite dry grill or bird rub

Mix brine and submerge whole bird for 4 to 12 hours, depending on desired saltiness and size of the bird.  Remove the bird from brine and rinse and pat dry 3 times.

Mix together butter mix. Lift skin over breast and spread butter under the skin. Place skin back over the meat and butter, and use toothpicks if necessary to tie skin back over the bird.

Roast at 350 for 15-25 minutes per pound of meat. Use a thermometer to verify doneness.

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Filed under Chicken, Fall, Main dishes, Winter

red lentil soup with lemon

I knew I had to make this soup as soon as I read Molly’s description of it. “Sings”? A quiet soup that “sings”?!  Um, yeah, I want that.

Making this soup really made me happy. It was easy- a handful of pantry staples in a fresh new soup. One pot, one immersion blender, one hour, and done. It’s filling; it looks like fall; and it smells like home.

I enjoyed my first 4 or 5 bites with the olive oil “garnish” as suggested by Melissa, but went back and sprinkled with a touch of cayenne. The spice really complimented the warmth of the soup and freshness of the lemon. Do not skip the lemon.

And the orange kitty. Don’t skip the kitty.

I froze the remainder of the soup and had it warmed for supper tonight. Honestly, it’s better when it’s first made. The lemon was nearly indetectable, so I would suggest stirring in a bit of lemon juice to taste if having this for leftovers.

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
adapted from Melissa Clark, via Orangette

Serves 3-4

2 T. olive oil
1 large yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
2 T. tomato paste
1 t. cumin
1/2 to 1 t. kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne
1 quart plus 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1 c. water
1 c. red lentils, picked over
2 large carrots, diced
juice of 1/2 large lemon

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil over medium.  Add the chopped onion and cook for 4-5 minutes until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.  Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt and pepper, and cayenne; continue cooking over medium and stir 5-6 more minutes.

Add in the stock, water, lentils, and carrots. Bring to a boil and reduce heat as needed to keep at a gentle simmer for 35-40 minutes.  In a food processor or blender, or with an immersion blender, roughly blend the soup, but not completely smooth.  Reheat if necessary and add salt to taste; stir in lemon juice, and serve with a few drops of olive oil or a sprinkle of cayenne and kosher salt.

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Filed under Clean Eating, Gluten-Free, Soups, Vegetarian, Winter