Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin Panna Cotta with Ginger Whipped Cream

Panna Cotta is a wonderful dessert - a silky, creamy, light and delicate confection - almost like a flan, or a mousse, this Italian creation is easy to make - and best of all you get to make it ahead! Elegance coupled with the ease of advanced preparation - tonight I am making a pumpkin version of this milk based treat.

Pumpkin Panna Cotta

  • 1 1/2 cups cold milk
  • 1 package unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup milk in a medium heavy bottom saucepan and let sit for 5 mins. Blend remaining milk, sugar, pumpkin, cream and spices in a blender until smooth. Heat gelatin milk over low heat stirring constantly until gelatin is dissolved. Add pumpkin mixture and raise heat to medium. Stir occasionally and heat until almost boiling. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour mixture into 6-8 buttered ramekins (or wine glasses) and refrigerate at least 4 hours to set, or overnight. Serve with ginger whipped cream (beat 1 cup cold heavy cream with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1 tsp vanilla until soft peaks form, add 1 Tbs chopped crystallized ginger and 1/4 tsp powdered ginger), if using ramekins you can unmold the panna cotta if desired.

Russian Tea Cakes, or Wedding Cookies

These cookies are so much fun to make, and delectable to eat. They go by many names, wedding cookies, Mexican Wedding Cookies, Vanilla Snowballs, Russian Tea Cakes - but they are simply a sugar butter cookie made with nuts and rolled twice in confectioners sugar - really pretty cookies and quite easy to make. Nuts used are typically pecans or walnuts - but I didn't have either on hand so I used almonds, which works quite well. If you are anti-nut for whatever reason you can substitute 1 cup of old fashioned oats for the nuts!

Wedding Cookies

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 3/4 cup ground nuts (pecans, walnuts or almonds)
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 - 2.25 cups all purpose unbleached flour
  • 2 cups confectioners sugar for rolling

In a food processor, grind nuts. Add sugar and pulse to combine. Add butter and extracts and process until smooth. Scrape down sides if necessary. Add salt and flour and process until combined. Turn out onto wax paper, and either roll into 1" balls and place 1" apart on parchment lined baking trays, or roll into a log and refrigerate for 15 mins up to overnight to facilitate shaping. If dough gets too hard in fridge let sit at room temp for a bit. Bake at 325 for about 15-20 mins, do not let brown, just cook until tops are firm and bottoms start to color. Let sit on baking sheet for 2 mins, toss in a shallow bowl filled with confectioners sugar while still warm (just a few at a time, they are a little fragile at this point) Place on rack and let cool completely. Toss in powdered sugar, again. Store at room temp. in an air tight container on wax paper.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Monkey Bread

This is just fun. And yes, you can make the whole thing from scratch, and I do that sometimes - but sometimes its ok to cheat a bit, and this way its really easy to get a child involved since its all "fun". Warm and gooey, with the caramel sauce and the raisins (or dried cherries this time because I was out of raisins) and nuts this pull apart bread is so much fun to eat.

Monkey Bread

  • 2 cans of large buttermilk biscuits
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbs cinnamon
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup raisins or dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, pecans or walnuts

Spray a 12 cup tube pan with cooking spray. Melt butter in a small pan and stir in brown sugar.
Combine white sugar and cinnamon in a large ziploc bag. Open biscuits, separate and cut into quarters. Add biscuit pieces to bag, seal and shake to coat (I do this in batches) Place biscuit pieces into pan and nestle raisins and nuts in between pieces. Pour sugar and butter mixture over the top. Bake in a 350 oven for about 35 mins. Let cool on rack for 10 mins, then unmold - use hands to pull apart and eat when cool enough to touch.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

These cookies are so easy - they take practically no effort, and require no special ingredients. They have no flour or dairy (so perfect for gluten free diets, or anyone with dairy issues) and they taste really, really good. You can leave the chocolate chips out for super quick peanut butter cookies. Still a little warm with a cold glass of milk these are really amazing!

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup peanut butter, chunky is nice for texture
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup mini chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients and stir well. Roll dough into balls with moistened hands (or refrigerate cookie dough for 30 mins to facilitate shaping) using about 1 Tbs of dough per cookie. Place on ungreased baking sheets 2" apart. Bake at 350 for 10-12 mins, watching carefully after 8 minutes. You want the bottoms browned but the tops still soft, let cool on cookie sheet for 2 mins and then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fish and Chips

I've been meaning to try the cold oil fries that have received so much press in the not so distant pass, but I just hadn't gotten around to it. Tonight my husband asked for fish and chips - so it was the perfect opportunity to see if they actually worked (the fries, that is). They did - so much easier than the twice fried version I've always made in the past. You start with cold oil, enough to cover your potatoes and you bring it to a boil and then stir a little and in under 30 minutes you have gorgeous fries! You could strain the oil and use it again for fries if you didn't then fry the fish in it - maybe next time!!

Cold-Oil Fries

  • 6 yukon gold potatoes, peeled or not cut into 1/4 inch sticks
  • 6 cups (about) canola oil
  • salt
  • paper towels or paper bags to drain fries on

Scrub your potatoes and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices, then stack the slices and cut into 1/4 inch strips.
Place potatoes in a large dutch oven and pour oil over to cover. Turn heat on to medium and let oil come to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, stir gently to unstick the fries from the bottom and continue to cook about another 10 mins or until golden, stirring occasionally. Remove with a slotted spoon on tongs to paper towel lined plate and salt. Serve hot.

Fried Fish

  • 1.5 lbs cod loin
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 1 Tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp old bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 1.75 cups sparkling water, beer or just water or milk
Cut the cod loin into serving size pieces (about 2" long chunks). Combine remaining ingredients and coat fish, letting excess drip off. Fry in 360 F oil (about the temp the oil is when you take the fries out)
for 7-8 mins or until golden. Only fry 2-3 pieces at a time, drain on paper towels and then you can hold in a low oven on a foil lined baking tray. Serve with fries and malt vinegar, lemon wedges and tarter sauce. Usually I complete this meal with cole slaw or mushy minty peas!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cannolis - fast and fabulous!

Made some homemade ricotta cheese the other day, enjoyed it as a topping on crostini. Enjoyed it again on baked figs, drizzled with honey. Had it cold on hot thin spaghetti with a little olive oil and some grated parm- I love the way it starts to melt into the pasta...still had fresh ricotta, so I bought some mini cannoli shells, and had basically an instant dessert that my daughter raved about!

Cannoli Cream

  • 2 cups fresh ricotta
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • mini chocolate chips, or chopped dark chocolate 
  • chopped citron if you have any, about 1/4 cup or 1 tbs grated lemon peel
  • mini or full size cannoli shells

Mix ricotta, sugar and vanilla. Mix well - you can use an electric mixer if you want. Add chocolate and citron or grated lemon peel. Fill shells right before serving or they will get soggy. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar.