; Supermarket Serenade: January 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

Mini Brownie Bites

The Superbowl isn't just about appetizers your party needs a sweet ending. Today-Favorite Food Find Friday-is not really about a food exactly it's about something that you use to cook food. Today's favorite find is.....

Wilton's new Bite-Sized Brownie Squares-an awesome silicone baking pan that creates perfectly uniform bite sized brownies!
Embarrassingly this is my first time using a silicone baking pan; I was for some reason immediately drawn to it in the store and It was pretty good. I baked the brownies, cooled them and then easily popped out my bites! No messy brownie slicing required and a perfectly uniform result.
I followed a recipe that I found on All Recipes by Eagle Condensed Milk and while the result is tasty it was a bit labor intensive. The original recipe was for brownie bites-made by using a melon baller to shape bite-sized brownies (which I also made). The instructions called for "dipping" the brownies into the melted chocolate, but I really found it difficult to "dip" the chocolate-it was rather thick-so I just spread it on with a small spatula. I then decorated the bites with a butter cream frosting. While they look OK, I have learned that cake decorating is not my thing.
I'm hoping to score a field goal at least with these tasty hand held treats!

Mini Elegant Brownie Bars
adapted from All Recipes

1 (19.8 ounce) package brownie mix
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Butter cream:
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray brownie square pan and an additional small baking pan with cooking spray. Prepare the brownie mix as directed on the box. Spoon a tablespoonful into each brownie square section in the pan. Pour any additional batter into the additional small pan. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center of each brownie square comes out clean. Allow brownies to cool before popping out of brownie square pan.

For the brownies cooked in the extra small pan, use a melon baller and scoop the brownies into small rounds.
In a medium saucepan heat the sweetened condensed milk over medium heat. Add the chocolate and stir until melted. Stir in the butter and vanilla. Keeping the chocolate warm, dip the brownies into the chocolate to coat or spread the chocolate on with a small spatula.
Place brownies on a wire rack to dry. When chocolate is set, decorate with the butter cream.

In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer, beat together the shortening and the butter until smooth and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the vanilla and the milk. Transfer butter cream to a decorating bag with desired decorating tip and pipe frosting onto brownies.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oven Quesadillas

If you are invited to a Super Bowl party this year and you want to bring a quick and easy appetizer this is the recipe for you. Quesadillas are great appetizers-there are countless filling combinations, countless topping combinations and they are ridiculously easy to make.

Traditionally quesadillas are fried in a skillet, but if you are trying to make enough for a crowd you will end up spending half your evening at the stove cooking quesadilla after quesadilla. Or you can be smart and take this easy shortcut that still gives you delicious results: baking the quesadillas in the oven.

If you're planning on bringing these to a party at someone house, cook the quesadillas as directed; allow the quesadillas to cool, then stack and wrap in foil. At the party place the quesadillas in a 350 degree oven to warm for 5 minutes then cut into wedges to serve.

Pepper Jack, Corn, and Bacon Quesadillas

8 tortillas (burrito sized)
1 cup grated pepper jack cheese
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
4 slices bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled

Lightly spray one side of each tortilla with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place 4 of the tortillas on a baking sheet cooking spray side down. Layer the tortillas with the the pepper jack cheese, corn and the crumbled bacon. Put some additional cheese on top to ensure the tortillas stick together. Top with the remaining tortillas sprayed side up.
Bake in the oven for four minutes and using a spatula carefully turn them over; cook for an additional 4 minutes. Remove from the oven and cut into wedges to serve. Serve with sour cream and salsa.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Touchdown Treat Week

I'll be honest, I'm not much of a football fan.

Oh don't get me wrong I can bandwagon with the best of them. In fact I'm a total sports chameleon-you know that "I don't watch football all season but I'm wearing the team colors and sporting a #1 foam finger for my team of the moment come Super Bowl Sunday" kind of gal. I'm from NY originally so I can easily jump on the blue Giants bandwagon when called to (or the green Jets bandwagon for that matter). The Buffalo Bills would be great to root for too...I always love an underdog. I live in New England now, so if the Patriots are fortunate enough to get in, well...Tom Brady's awfully cute, so it wouldn't take much to get me to root for them...you get the idea.

With this year's Superbowl though, it will be very hard for me to choose a team to root for. I'm not feeling a hometown vibe for Arizona or Pennsylvania. I don't even feel an "I drove through there once and it was really nice" vibe...the best I can do is my cousin Joe who lives in Maryland has a daughter that goes to Carnegie Mellon which is in Pittsburgh so I guess this year I'll be donning black and gold and morphing into a Steelers fan. Or maybe I could just be really honest and say I only watch the Superbowl for the commercials (oh, and to eat the food).

This recipe is for my favorite party dip: Buffalo Chicken Dip. My version uses supermarket purchased rotisserie chicken, but if you prefer you can poach your own chicken or use leftover. I don't really like the canned chicken, so I would not recommend using that; it's too "tuna-fishy". You can leave out the crumbled blue cheese if you would like or you can replace it with shredded cheddar, but I think the fresh blue cheese gives it a little extra zip. Make it extra spicy by increasing the hot sauce-this version is mildly spicy.

I would love to hear about your favorite game day dip...who are you rooting for next Sunday and what dip are you serving?

I Wish The Buffalo Bills Were In The Super Bowl Chicken Dip (aka Buffalo Chicken Dip)

2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
3/4 cup hot sauce (such as Frank's)
8 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 packet ranch dressing mix
1 cup mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9x9 inch or similar baking dish with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl combine the chicken and the hot sauce, stirring to completely coat the chicken. Spread the chicken in an even layer in the bottom of the baking dish.
Using the same bowl, stir together the cream cheese, sour cream, blue cheese dressing, blue cheese crumbles and ranch dressing mix; spread in an even layer over the chicken. Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over all.
Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until lightly browned and bubbly. Cool for 10 minutes before serving as it will be very hot. Serve with corn chips, celery sticks or carrot sticks.

Friday, January 23, 2009

TLC and a Smoothie

Favorite Food Finds Friday is all about rushing today.

Your mother told you that breakfast was the most important meal of the day and you know she was right. But sometimes mornings can be so chaotic that you just don't have time to eat a balanced meal. That's where my favorite food find comes in...it's a grab and go breakfast that when paired with a yummy yogurt smoothie becomes a tasty quick breakfast.

Today's favorite food find is...

Kashi's Tasty Little Chewies (TLC) all natural chewy granola bars.

When our local Whole Foods opened last year, the week before the grand opening was a fundraiser tour week. Where for $5.00 you were given an inside peek at the new Whole Foods and the money raised would be donated to assorted local charities (isn't that a brilliant idea?). Each person who toured was given a cloth shopping bag filled with various samples and coupons. One of the samples in my bag was a Kashi TLC bar. Not being someone who can turn down a free food sample I tasted my Kashi Honey Almond Flax bar that very day.

Loved it. It was sweet and chewy (with 4 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein). The bars have become my breakfast in a rush go-to. The bars come in several varieties: Cherry Dark Chocolate, Honey Almond Flax (my favorite), Peanut Peanut Butter and Trail Mix. There are no partially hydrogenated oils and no high fructose corn syrup.

What's the perfect way to "wash" one of these babies down? A yogurt smoothie. Made quick and easy in my (favorite mini-appliance) The Magic Bullet, this smoothie and TLC bar breakfast is ready in 5 minutes. (Oh I've been known to eat this for lunch too).

Yummy Yogurt Smoothie

1 (6 ounce) container raspberry yogurt
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 ripe banana
1/4 cup skim milk
3 ice cubes

Combine all the ingredients in a blender (or Magic Bullet) and blend until smooth.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers-Easy Sticky Buns

One of my favorite things about delicious sticky buns has always been that they are difficult and time consuming to make. Yes, you read that right. I like that they are difficult. If there is one thing I don't need it is an easy way to make something as delicious as sticky buns. For all these years my laziness has kept me safe from the high calories and fat of this decadent treat...until now.It's Barefoot Blogger Thursday-that day when bloggers across the blogosphere prepare another delicious recipe created by the talented Ina Garten (aka: The Barefoot Contessa). Why don't you join in? (It's fun!) Thank you to Melissa of Made by Melissa for her selection of this week's recipe.

Here's the concept: Instead of the normal dough needed for sticky buns which needs to rise overnight, Ina very cleverly took frozen puff pastry and transformed it into a ready in 45 minutes "sticky-bun-like" treat. I made only one change to the recipe-I did not have raisins so I substituted dried cranberries. The cranberries were a tasty substitution and next time I would add some orange zest and make them cranberry-orange sticky buns.

Here's the result: While not as tender as traditional sticky buns the buns were however sweet and delicious. A word of caution-remove the buns from the pan while they are still warm! I let some of them cool in the pan while I was taking pictures and this is what happened:

While the warm ones came out quickly and the sugary, buttery topping came out wonderful the ones that I let cool in the pan were difficult to remove and the topping hardened. Eaten warm the buns are tender, but once cooled they have the texture of almost a cookie...delicious, but not really tender and cake-like. I loved the ease of this recipe and unfortunately I know I will be making them again.

The Barefoot Contessa's Easy Sticky Buns
From Back to Basics

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
1 package (17.3 ounces/2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
for the filling:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 cup raisins

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 12 tablespoons butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture. Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with half of the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of the brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam side down.

Trim the ends of the roll about 1/2 inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, each about 1 1/2 inches wide. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon), and cool completely.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Frozen Herbs and Hot Soup

I can't believe with sub zero wind chills around here I've decided to write about something frozen...but, it is Favorite Food Finds Friday and chilled to the bone or not what I found is something frozen.

My favorite food find this week is....
Dorot frozen herbs!

I was so excited when I found these in the supermarket. As I have mentioned in the past, I do not have much of a green thumb so the idea of a darling row of fresh herb pots on my window sill while in theory seems simple, is really out of the question. I know that the horticulturally blessed among you spent the better part of August and September processing your fresh herbs and freezing them in ice cube trays in your freezer and for that I am envious. And while I frequently buy fresh herbs during the summer at the local farm stands and in the winter at the local supermarket, sometimes a particular herb (usually cilantro) isn't always available. So for me the idea of having little mini trays of herbs at the ready is...well, nothing short of fantastic.

Dorot is an Israeli based company selling not only packaged herbs but chopped garlic and chopped ginger as well. I didn't see the ginger at the supermarket where I purchased the herbs (Stew Leonard's) but they are also available at Trader Joe's stores so next time I am there I will have to keep an eye out.

The small cubes are easy to use, just pop them out what you need then return the small trays to the freezer. In this bone chilling weather we're having I can think of nothing better to make than soup. The recipe I'm sharing with you is for my absolute favorite winter soup. The recipe is from the Southern Living Christmas Cookbook from 2001 and while it's not low cal or low fat there are some minor adjustments you can make to make it a bit more healthful: for starters you can try exchanging evaporated skim milk for the heavy cream and leaving out the cheese. I'll confess though, since it is my very favorite I usually just make the recipe full tilt. The recipe calls for garlic (3 cubes equals 3 cloves) and parsley to be stirred in at the end and the Dorot cubes work perfectly.

Steak and Two Potato Soup
from Christmas with Southern Living 2001

1 1/2 pounds lean boneless round steak, cut into 1" cubes
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil (I usually leave this out)
2 celery ribs, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups beef broth
2 cups water
3 Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 3/4" cubes (about 1 1/4 pounds)
1 medium sized sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4" cubes (about 8 ounces)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 1/2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper; brown beef in batches in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove beef from pan; set aside.

Add celery add onion to pan; saute 5 minutes. Add garlic; saute 30 seconds.

Return beef to pan; add broth and 1 3/4 cup water. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour.

Add Yukon Gold potato to pan; cook, covered, 10 minutes. Add sweet potato; cook 20 minutes or until beef and potatoes are tender.

Combine flour and remaining 1/4 cup of water, stirring until smooth. Gradually stir into meat mixture; cook, uncovered, 5 minutes. Stir in cream; cook 5 more minutes. Stir in cheese and, if desired, herbs; cook 1 minute or until cheese melts. Sprinkle each serving with freshly ground pepper just before serving.

Yield: 10 cups

Super tips: I find that it is really not necessary to cook the meat in the oil, just use a well seasoned pan, non-stick pan or cooking spray. For an even richer tasting soup I will often use beef broth in place of any of the water called for in the recipe. For best results have the cheese at room temperature it makes it much easier to melt in.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Banana Sour Cream Pancakes with Spiced Walnut Butter

Is it better to be late than never?

For a few months now I have been a member of food blogging group known as the Barefoot Bloggers. The Barefoot Bloggers prepare two of Ina Garten’s (a.k.a. The Barefoot Contessa)recipes each month. And, well, I’m late. I am a week late to be exact. I suppose I could have just skipped this recipe, but quite honestly I was particularly drawn to the idea of banana pancakes and I was very curious to see how Ina’s addition of sour cream would affect the texture. So I didn’t just skip, I just came late to the party.

First a thank you to Karen of Something Sweet by Karen for selecting this recipe it was a really nice choice. It came as no surprise to me that Ina could improve upon something as tasty and simple as pancakes-her version did not disappoint

In this supermarket world of ready-to-eat pancakes and boxed complete mixes that you only need to add water to, it is so easy to get lazy and choose to not make homemade pancakes. But let’s get real- what could be easier than making pancakes? By adding a few extra steps to the simple “just add water” you can achieve “International House of Pancakes” breakfast greatness (or for the more refined among you “Elegant Bed and Breakfast” breakfast greatness). There honestly are no boxed mixes or microwavable pancakes that come out as tasty, light and fluffy as homemade pancakes and we’re only talking an extra maybe five minutes worth of effort.

I used low fat sour cream and skim milk and I still felt the texture was superb (I can only imagine how delicious full fat would be…but alas the resolution). The bananas almost melted right into the batter while cooking. For the butter, I decided to make a quick spiced walnut butter which gave a little bit of a crunch to contrast the velvety texture of these positively divine pancakes. Try, try, try if you can to use pure maple syrup, it truly makes a big difference.

Banana Sour Cream Pancakes by Ina Garten

1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
2 extra-large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Unsalted butter
2 ripe bananas, diced plus extra for serving
Pure maple syrup

Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk eggs, vanilla, and lemon zest. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones mixing only until combined.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat until it bubbles. Ladle the pancake batter into the pan to make 3 or 4 pancakes. Distribute a rounded tablespoon of bananas on each pancake. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until bubbles appear on top and the underside is nicely browned. Flip the pancakes and then cook for another minute until browned. Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, add more butter to the pan, and continue cooking pancakes until all the batter is used. Serve with sliced bananas, butter and maple syrup.

Spiced Walnut Butter (my recipe)

2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely chopped toasted walnuts
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

In a small bowl combine all the ingredients and stir until well combined.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Holy Edamole!

For many, the arrival of a new year means a sometimes short, often times lengthy list of resolutions. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you look at it) my list was easy to make this year-I just used last year's list. Sadly I never followed through with any of my well intentioned resolutions in 2008.

1. Giving up soda-OK that was a tough one. No one loves Diet Dr. Pepper like I do. What is a soda addict to do when Pepsi rolls out Diet Pepsi Max (looove it)? How can I resist when there is Coke Zero-a diet soda lover's carbonated sugar substitute dream come true? And don't get me started on Jones Cream Soda.

2. Trying to eat a more healthful diet-My eating life and food thought have long been a contradiction. One of the best books I read in 2008 was In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan; his words "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants" haunted me constantly over the last year as this confessed Twinkie addict (yes, my name is Veronica and I am a Twinkie addict) downed countless sugary treats, fat laden and processed foods. I will say that over the past year I did try to be a "conscious eater" -I just wasn't always successful in making conscientious choices.

So here I am today faced with the same lofty goals (for me anyway) I set last year. I will humbly try yet again to give up soda (I'm doing pretty well right now with that one-it's only a real struggle when I'm at the checkout at Target) and I will attempt yet again to eat a more healthful diet in general.
First up I'm adding a new veggie to the menu in our house: edamame.

"Edamame?" you shout, incredulously.
"Where have you been??" you ask, snickering.

For those of you like me who have seen the edamame in the freezer or produce aisle in the supermarket and have chosen to either ignore its presence (weird name, can't pronounce it, it looks like peas) or simply feared it (weird name, can't pronounce it, it looks like peas) Edamame are simply soybeans. They are sold in the supermarket in either the whole pod variety or the loose peeled variety and according to the American Academy of Family Physicians they "...contain all the essential amino acids necessary for human nutrition and have been grown and harvested for thousands of years" (I know, where have I been??) Well I'm using them now.

Super tips: I used my favorite Christmas present a molcajete (mole-ka-hay-te) to make this soy twist on guacamole, but you can use any medium sized bowl. Also be careful with the edamame that you use, some of the packaged varieties (like this one that I found in the produce department at Whole Foods) are already salted so there will be no need to add any extra salt.

1/2 cup edamame (thawed if frozen), mashed (or given a quick whirl in a Magic Bullet-like device which I did along with the shallot)
1/2 ripe avocado, peeled and seeded
1/4 cup diced tomatoes
1 small shallot, minced
1 teaspoon jalapeno pepper, minced, seeds and membranes removed*
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl or mocajete; mash together to combine. Serve with freshly sliced veggies or baked chips or use as a spread for sandwiches.
*Use more or less depending on your personal preference and you can leave some of the seeds in if you would like to give it an extra kick.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Year's Toast

First a few loose ends to tie up:
1. Happy New Year!!
2. Loved the Barefoot Bloggers Pappa al Pomodoro...took lots of pictures and just never got around to posting. A thousand apologies!
3. Ah...the cheesecake...here is the picture of the Chai-ginger cheesecake with the white chocolate topping (that I should have posted ages ago...but, well...)here it is:
Now onto the toast. Yes, that's right toast.
I can hear the scoffing right through cyberspace...
"..she doesn't post a thing in weeks and this is what I get: toast!?"
But let me assure you this is not just ordinary toast. This is the ultimate toast. Today of course is Favorite Food Find Friday
and today's find is....
Thomas' Breakfast Bread!!!
Think English muffin in bread form-and it truly does make the very best toast. I've also seen it in stores called "Thomas' Toasting Bread". The flavors are original (English muffin flavor) and corn. Thicker than regular bread, Thomas' Breakfast Bread makes fabulous French Toast and is perfect for stratas and casseroles.
Today I have made a favorite toast treat...Egg in the Hole-a delicious breakfast (or quick supper) where an egg is cooked right in a hole in the center of a slice of bread.
Because of its thickness, the breakfast bread makes the perfect bread for Egg in the Hole. I used the original flavor bread, but I'm sure the corn flavor would be fabulous as well.
Egg in the Hole
2 tablespoons butter
2 slices of thick sliced bread (such as Thomas' Breakfast Bread)
2 eggs
salt and pepper
Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
Using a circle shaped cutter (or just using a knife) cut a circle in the center of each slice of bread. Place the bread and the cut out circle into the hot pan.
Crack an egg into a small dish or measuring cup (I like to do this so you can slowly pour the egg into the hole). Slowly pour the egg into the hole in the bread. Repeat with the other egg. Cook the eggs and bread four minutes.
Using a spatula, carefully lift the egg and toast, add the remaining tablespoon of butter then flip the toast and egg over and cook for an additional minute or two depending on how you like your eggs; I happen to like my yolks to have a little give so I cooked it just for another minute. Remember to flip the bread circles as well.
Transfer toasts to a serving plate and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Yield: 2 eggs and toasts