Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Black and White Chocolate Bark

This is going to be a quick one because I'm afraid we haven't tried much that was new in the past 2 weeks--busy with the holidays.

Black and White Chocolate Bark

2 C white chocolate, chopped
1 C dark chocolate, chopped
3/4-1 cup of any kind of nut or dried fruit you'd like to top it with, I used slivered almonds

--Lay out a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet (or silpat).
--In a medium-sized microwave safe bowl, melt the white chocolate (heating in 30-60 second intervals and stirring frequently until smooth. Do NOT heat until it has melted in the microwave--either it will be too hot or burned). In a small-sized microwave safe bowl, melt the dark chocolate (same method as white chocolate).
--Pour the white chocolate onto the prepared parchment paper and spread out slightly. Drizzle the dark chocolate over the top and gently smooth the chocolate into an even layer. Chocolate will probably be somewhere around 8x8 inches.
--Sprinkle nuts and/or dried fruits on top of chocolate and place baking sheet in the refrigerator until chocolate is set.
--Break up into pieces before serving.

---My note: This was super easy to make and looks really pretty. I kind of swirled the white chocolate up into the dark chocolate, which made for a prettier look, rather than just one layer of chocolate on top of another. The almonds tasted really good with this, but the person whose recipe I used liked dried cranberries and pistachios, so go with whatever you like. Also, make sure you use good quality chocolate, stuff that tastes good. If you're going for chocolate chips, which I admit, in the quest for something really easy, I did, I would recommend Guittard chips--they taste good, and their white chips are pretty tasty, too. Make sure the white chocolate contains cocoa butter in it. Wrapped up in some pretty paper and ribbon, this also makes a tasty treat to give away.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Easy Sugar Cookies

OK guys, here it is. And sorry, no picture. This recipe is inspired by one of my favorite food blogs called Baking Bites. It was originally the Vampire Cookie recipe, but we just used it as a sugar cookie recipe. It's super easy, and even the dough tastes good. I think it's probably too sweet for frosting, but sprinkling some colored sugar or sprinkles on top is fun.

Easy Sugar Cookies

3/4 C butter, softened
1/2 C sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp almond extract
1 1/2 C flour
1/4 tsp salt
Colored sugar or sprinkles, optional

-In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light. Beat in egg and extracts. Add flour and salt to the bowl and mix them into the butter-sugar mixture at low speed until dough is just combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
-Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
-Divide dough in half and keep the portion you are not using in the refrigerator.
-Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8 inch thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out fun shapes. Dust with sugar or sprinkles, if using, and lightly press into cookies.
-Place cookies on baking sheet, bake for about 10 minutes, until cookies are set.
-Cool for about 5 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

-My note: Not really sure exactly how much this is supposed to make. Maybe about 15-20 cookies. But the scraps re-roll easily to make more, and the cookies come out a little firm, but not hard and crunchy, which to me is what a cookie should be. And like I said, really easy to make.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Turkey Chili with White Beans

This week's recipe comes from my other favorite food magazine, Bon Appetit. And I promise, this one does have easy recipes, which is what this one is. If you're used to the kind that comes from a can, this one is a bit more soupy, but it tastes great, and is as easy as opening a few cans, really. You know it's good when Derk decides to take it to work the next day for lunch rather than eat out of the vending machine. ;)

1 T vegetable oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
1/4 C chili powder
2 bay leaves
1 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes in juice
3 C beef broth
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
3 15-oz. cans of small white beans, rinsed, drained
Chopped red onion
Chopped fresh cilantro
Plain low-fat yogurt or light sour cream

Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions; saute until light brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Add oregano and cumin; stir 1 minute. Increase heat to medium-high. Add turkey; stir until no longer pink, breaking up with back of spoon. Stir in chili powder, bay leaves, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add tomatoes with juice, breaking up with back of spoon. Mix in broth and tomato sauce. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add beans to chili and simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes. Discard bay leaves. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Before continuing, bring to simmer over medium-low heat.)

Ladle chili into bowls. Pass red onion, cilantro, and yogurt separately.
My note: We really liked this chili. I was reading some online reviews of the recipe and to cut down on the soupiness some people suggested using 2 C of broth, and some even liked it with vegetable rather than beef broth. Others also used tomato paste instead of tomato sauce.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Butternut Squash Soup

I'm trying an experiment, to post something new every Wednesday (like the newspapers). I almost didn't make it this week, but here it is.

Butternut Squash Soup

2 T butter
1 onion, chopped fine
3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
5 C low-sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs of thyme
Pinch nutmeg
1/2 C heavy cream (milk might also work)
Salt and pepper

1. Melt the butter in large Dutch oven pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the squash, broth, thyme, and nutmeg. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the squash is tender, 20-25 minutes.
2. Remove the thyme sprigs and puree the soup in batches in a blender (or food processor) until smooth.
3. Return the pureed soup to the pot. Stir in the cream. Bring to a brief simmer, then remove from the heat. If the soup seems too thick, thin it out with additional broth or water. Season with salt and pepper to taste before serving. Sprinkle individual servings with more nutmeg if desired.

The soup can be prepared through step 2, cooled, covered, and refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Reheat over low heat, adding additional water or broth to adjust the consistency, before proceeding with step 3.

My notes: This was a really pretty simple soup, easy to make and pretty tasty. Not quite what I'd call gourmet, but for a good butternut squash soup at home, this definitely hits the spot. It comes from one of my new favorite cookbooks for cooking just regular everyday, good food: The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. And peeling the squash with a vegetable peeler really does work.