Posts Tagged 'Make Ahead Recipes'

Roasted Beet Salad with Cinnamon

Today’s recipe is one where you might take a look at the ingredient list and wonder if the elements can possibly work together. Beets and cinnamon? Really?

REALLY.

I’m a beet lover to begin with, but the marinade in this recipe takes them to another level. I first made this dish for a Moroccan-themed gourmet club meeting back in July (it was a hit!), and I’ve been making it a couple of times a month since. I served these beets to my mom during her last visit, and she said she could eat them every day (and then went home and made them for herself because she loved them so much).  The baking time is long but prep is really minimal, plus this is one of those dishes you can make a couple of days ahead for less stressful cooking and entertaining.  Give it a try – I’m sure you’ll love it!

Roasted Beet Salad with Cinnamon
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 pound beets (3 to 4)
2 tablespoons coarse salt
1 tablespoon sugar
Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Large pinch of ground Ceylon cinnamon
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt to taste

Method:
Rinse and thoroughly dry the beets, being careful not to break their skins. Cut off the tops, leaving about 1 1/2 inches.

Tightly wrap the beets, with the salt, in foil or parchment paper and set in a shallow baking dish. Bake at 325°F for 2 hours. To check for tenderness, open one end of the packet and test a beet with the tip of a knife to see if the flesh has softened.

Peel the beets, cut into bite-sized pieces, and put in a bowl. Combine the remaining ingredients, pour over the beets, and let marinate for 1 hour before serving.  Serve at room temperature.

Source: The Food of Morocco by Paula Wolfert

roasted_beet_salad_w_cinnamon

This is one of my favorite salads, hands down. The beets are perfectly tender, slightly sweet, and bright from the lemon and parsley. The hint of warmth from the cinnamon really elevates the dish as well.  I like to serve this with grilled pork chops, a Moroccan carrot salad (I’ll blog one soon!), and a green salad for a nicely balanced meal.

TIPS: You read that right: two tablespoons of salt. The thing is, in order to use that amount of salt, you absolutely must not puncture the skin of the beets. The “top” of the beet is the stalks of the beet greens, not the beet itself.  If the beet flesh is exposed, that amount of salt will render your dish inedible. (I know this from experience!) If this makes you nervous, just put about a teaspoon of salt into the foil packet with your beets, and then pay special attention when seasoning the marinade later.

Also, I often double this recipe so we have more on hand for snacking. I’ve had success with doubling the amount of beets and using a single portion of the marinade.

Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peels

I made candied orange peel for the first time last year and loved it.  This year, I decided to make a double batch and use it for Christmas stollen, today’s recipe (Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peels), and general nibbling.

Today’s recipe has its own instructions for making candied orange peel, but I just went with the tried-and-true process from last year.  If you already have candied orange peel (homemade or store-bought, really), this recipe is a fast way to turn out a really elegant, edible holiday gift.

Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peels
Adapted from FoodandWine.com

Ingredients:
1 pound bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% cacao bars)
3/4 cup candied orange peel
1/2 cup shelled, salted pistachios

Method:
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  In a double boiler set over a pot of simmering water, heat the bittersweet chocolate until two-thirds melted.  Remove from the heat.  Stir the chocolate with a rubber spatula until it is completely melted and registers about 90°F on an instant-read thermometer.

Spread the warm chocolate on the parchment paper to a rough 9-x-13-inch rectangle.  Working quickly, so the chocolate doesn’t set, scatter the orange peels and pistachios evenly over the melted chocolate.  Gently tap the cookie sheet on the work surface to flatten the chocolate and allow the toppings to sink in slightly. Refrigerate for about 15 minutes, just until firm.  Cut or break the bark into 2-inch pieces and serve.

Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peels

Heavenly!  This bark is a chocolate-y, salty, and sweet treat.  The original recipe calls for unsalted pistachios, but the salt adds so much to the flavor profile.  Mmm, mmm, mmm.

Plus, the bark is just gorgeous for gift giving.  I didn’t think it would break very evenly since the orange peel is chewy, so I cut mine with a santoku knife.  I really like the look of the hard edges.  I’m making this one again!

TIPS:  I was worried that my chocolate wouldn’t melt completely (we’ve all been there, right?), so I think I let it melt a bit too long in the double boiler.  This didn’t hurt the chocolate, but it did get pretty warm (about 120°F) and took some time to come down in temperature.  After extended stirring and letting it fall in ribbons to cool it down, my patience ended when the chocolate hit 97°F.  I was afraid that it might be a bit too loose and spread too far, but everything turned out just fine.

Also, if you don’t know what a double boiler is or want to rig up your own at home, check out this post.

Recipe links: Candied Orange Peel and Bittersweet Chocolate Bark with Candied Orange Peel (the original)

Caramel Corn

And I’m back!  Sorry for the extended absence.  Between helping to plan a major fundraiser for the organization for which I volunteer (Resource Area for Teaching Colorado – check it out!) and preparing for our trip to Tokyo for Dr. O’s brother’s wedding (food post coming soon!), September was almost more than I could handle. We had some amazing experiences, but it’s good to be settling back into our usual routine.

I originally made today’s recipe – Caramel Corn – for a baseball-themed gourmet club meeting this summer, but with Halloween fast approaching, this treat would be so cute in clear bags with ribbons.  What you don’t want to do (unless you’re really hungry or have an amazing metabolism) is make this all by yourself with no plans to share.  It’s so ridiculously good that you will eat the whole batch.

Cracker Jack Caramel Corn Recipe

Ingredients:
2 bags natural microwave popcorn (to yield 16 cups of popcorn)
12 ounces Spanish peanuts
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Method:
Preheat oven to 300°F.  Meanwhile, pop popcorn in microwave according to package directions and grease two large rimmed baking sheets.

Dump the popcorn and Spanish peanuts in a clean tall paper grocery bag.  In a medium saucepan, combine brown sugar, corn syrup, butter, and salt over medium heat and allow to gently boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn off heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.  Carefully and immediately pour caramel sauce into the paper grocery bag and stir the sauce, popcorn, and nuts with a wooden spoon until the sauce is evenly distributed.

Divide the popcorn mixture evenly between the two greased baking sheets.  Bake for 45 minutes, stirring the popcorn every 15 minutes.  Cool completely and break up the pieces (if desired).  Popcorn can be stored for at least a week (if it lasts that long!) in zip-top bags or airtight containers.

Note: The original recipe calls for air-popped popcorn and 1 tsp. salt.  Using microwave popcorn was just easier for me.

Caramel Corn

Holy cow, was this ever fantastic.  I think it borders on kettle corn, but any sweet-and-salty snack lovers will go crazy for it.  With this sauce-to-popcorn ratio, the popcorn was lightly coated and stayed crisp.  (I’ve had gooey, chewy caramel corn before and I like this much better.)  It’s a perfect make-ahead snack or dessert as well; it tasted just as good on day five as it did on day one.

TIPS: I made a batch of this caramel corn for my parents, but I used cashews instead of peanuts.  The result?  Things worked much better with the peanuts.  Maybe whole cashews would be okay, but cashew pieces almost burned.

Recipe link: Caramel Corn

Watermelon Mango Salsa

It may be 58° outside, but I’m going to blog summer recipes until the season is officially over, dangit.  Plus, there are plenty of watermelons and mangoes available in my supermarket right now, and this salsa is sooooo good.  I made it for our farmers’ market-themed gourmet club last month, but it would be fantastic as part of a picnic, as an appetizer for a non-traditional Mexican menu, or as a garnish for grilled fish or chicken.  Give it a try!

Watermelon Mango Salsa
Serves 6

Ingredients:
2 1/2 to 3 cups diced seedless watermelon
1 Granny Smith apple, finely diced
1 mango, pitted and diced
1/2 red onion, diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed and leaves chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon coarse salt

Method:
Combine the salsa ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate.  Serve with chips.

Source: Peace Meals (such a gorgeous cookbook!)

Watermelon Mango Salsa

I’ll admit that I was initially a bit hesitant about adding garlic to watermelon, but this combination of ingredients really works.  You get sweetness from the watermelon and the mango, tartness from the apple and the lime juice, and savory goodness from the onion, jalapeno, and garlic.  I enjoyed the play between textures just as much as the flavor; the crunch from the apples and onions was especially terrific.  I’ll definitely make this one again, especially if I have leftover watermelon to use.

Like most recipes I love, the salsa can be made ahead.  I threw mine together a couple of hours before serving it and I thought it was just perfect; if you make yours ahead and it gets too juicy, just drain off some of the liquid before serving.

S’More Squares

What the heck happened to summer?  I realize that by the calendar, we still have almost seven weeks (and I will continue to blog as such!), but I can feel it fading.  The neighborhood kids are going back to school tomorrow, and I was mildly freaked out to see racks and racks of fall clothes at the mall yesterday.  (At least that means football is coming, right?)

In my mind, this means we’d better enjoy as much summer fare as we can before it’s back to roasted squash and simmering stews.  And what’s the quintessential summer dessert?  S’mores, of course!  Today’s recipe is a dressed-up version you can use as a fun ending to the most adult dinner party, but kids love it as well (and I have the evidence!).

S’More Squares
Makes 9

Ingredients:
Vegetable oil, for brushing
4 packages unflavored gelatin (or 3 tablespoons)
3 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus 6 tablespoons room temperature, plus more for pan
14 graham crackers, crushed to yield 1 1/2 cups crumbs
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces

Method:
Brush a 9-x-13-inch glass baking dish with vegetable oil.  Cut a piece of parchment or wax paper large enough to cover the bottom of the dish and to overhang the longer sides.  Place the parchment in the dish, brush with oil, and set dish aside.

Pour 3/4 cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer, and sprinkle gelatin on top.  Let stand 5 minutes.

Place 3 cups granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 3/4 cup water in a medium saucepan.  Set saucepan over high heat, and bring to a boil.  Insert a candy thermometer, and cook until mixture reaches soft-ball stage (238 degrees, about 9 minutes).

Using the whisk attachment, beat hot syrup into gelatin on low speed.  Gradually increasing speed to high, beat until mixture is very stiff, about 12 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.  Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish, and smooth the surface with an offset spatula.  Set dish aside, uncovered, until marshmallow becomes firm, at least 3 hours or overnight.

Place 1 cup confectioners’ sugar in a fine strainer, and sift onto a clean work surface. Invert large marshmallow onto the sugar-coated surface, and peel off the parchment paper.  Lightly brush a sharp knife with vegetable oil, and cut marshmallow into 2-inch squares.  Sift remaining 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl, and roll marshmallows in sugar to coat.  Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Brush a 9-inch square baking pan with melted butter.  In a large bowl, combine graham-cracker crumbs, 7 tablespoons melted butter, and remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar.  Using your hands, press mixture firmly into prepared pan.  Transfer pan to oven, and bake until the crust has set, 15 to 18 minutes.  Remove pan from oven, and transfer to wire rack to cool.

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a simmer.  In a medium heat-proof bowl, combine chocolate with remaining 6 tablespoons butter.  Set the bowl over the simmering water, and stir until chocolate and butter have melted.  Pour chocolate mixture over cooled graham-cracker crust.  Using an offset spatula, spread chocolate mixture into an even layer.  Transfer to refrigerator, and chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.  Cut chocolate crust into nine 3-inch squares.  Top each square with a marshmallow, and place assembled s’mores under the broiler just until marshmallows turn golden brown, about 20 seconds.  Serve immediately.

Source: Martha Stewart Living, May 1998

Time for S'Mores!Time for S'Mores!

Time for S'Mores!

S'Mores Square

Talk about a decadent dessert.  WOW.  The end result was really delicious but super rich; my group of tasters concluded that the chocolate was the culprit.  I used Baker’s semisweet for this batch, but I’m going to use Hershey’s milk chocolate (the classic!) next time around.  I might also play with the amount of chocolate in my next batch, though I’m not sure that half would be quite enough.  Additionally, I’ll probably cut the graham cracker base into a dozen squares instead of nine to make it easier to finish one off (though the size does make this a visually impressive dessert!).

This marshmallow recipe is pure perfection, everybody.  These were the most gorgeous, fluffy marshmallows I’ve ever made (and I’ve made lots), AND they taste exactly like Jet-Puffed marshmallows (a plus in my book).  Whenever I have a recipe that calls for marshmallow from here on out, I’m going to use these.  Also, this recipe makes more than double the amount of marshmallow you’ll actually need for the s’mores, so you’ll have plenty around for snacks.

So what else do I love about this recipe?  The same thing I love about so many things I post on this blog, which is “make-ahead-ability.”  The marshmallows will keep in an airtight container for about two weeks, and the chocolate-covered graham cracker squares can be kept in the refrigerator for at least two or three days.  If you have the components made, all you have to do is preheat the broiler, put the squares on a baking sheet, put marshmallows on the squares, and put the treats under the broiler for 20 seconds.  That’s about as easy as it gets.

A note about browning the marshmallows: I thought it might be OK to use a kitchen torch instead of the broiler, but that quite literally just browns the marshmallows. You totally miss out on the ooey-gooeyness that the oven time creates.  Also, if you make too many s’mores, I discovered that they’re quite good reheated the next day. Just let them cool completely, put them in an airtight container, and then pop them in the microwave for 15 – 20 seconds when you’re ready to enjoy.

TIP:  Since I live at 5900 feet, I had to adjust the temperature of my sugar and corn syrup mixture to make the marshmallow.  Water boils at 202°F at my house (instead of 212°F at sea level), so I took the mixture off of the stove at 228°F instead of 238°F.  Also, I had an incredible amount of powdered sugar waste after I cut and rolled my marshmallows; I think you could get away with sifting only 1/2 cup of confectioners’ sugar onto the work surface, rather than a full cup.

Update 4/23/12: I made these last night for friends with two modifications.  First, I used 9 ounces of Hershey’s milk chocolate instead of 12 ounces of semisweet chocolate.  I liked the flavor of the Hershey’s better, and the chocolate layer was a perfect thickness.  Also, one of my dinner guests from last night can’t have gluten, so I made the crust with Kinnikinnick S’moreables (and made sure to get 1.55-ounce Hershey bars, which apparently is the only size Hershey guarantees as gluten free).  Using the alternative graham cracker changed the texture of the crust a bit, but the dessert was still delicious.

Recipe link: S’More Squares

Basic Potato Salad

I had one of my most glorious summer nights ever at the end of June.  Some dear friends and I packed ourselves (and our picnics) into a car.  Our destination? Venetucci Farm in Colorado Springs to see Gregory Alan Isakov (one of our local favorites) play al fresco.  It was an evening of great friends (including one I hadn’t seen in nine years!), perfect weather, wonderful music, and (of course) tasty food.

Since my friend handled the concert tickets and the wine, I volunteered to take care of the picnic.  I settled on Pampered Chef’s Italian Muffuletta (I need to make it again because it must be blogged), Martha Stewart’s Basic Potato Salad, grapes, and Coconut-Apricot Macaroons.  Everything was so delicious and so able to be made ahead (a picnic must).  Here’s the recipe for the potato salad:

Basic Potato Salad
Serves 8

Ingredients:
3 pounds waxy potatoes (such as Yukon gold or new), scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/3 cup white-wine vinegar
4 scallions, white part minced, green part thinly sliced
Coarse salt
Ground pepper
3/4 cup light mayonnaise

Method:
Set a steamer basket in a Dutch oven (or large pot with a lid), and add enough salted water to come just below the basket; bring to a boil.

Place potatoes in basket, cover pot, and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.  Steam potatoes, gently tossing occasionally, until tender, 15 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine vinegar, scallion whites, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Add hot potatoes to vinegar mixture; toss to combine.  Cool to room temperature, tossing occasionally, about 1 hour.

Add mayonnaise and scallion greens to cooled potatoes; mix gently to combine. Serve, or cover and refrigerate up to 2 days.

Source: Everyday Food, June 2007

Basic Potato Salad

Now I am all for eating complicated potato salads with long lists of ingredients (particularly if that list includes bacon and/or sour cream), but making them can be a pain.  This salad is super simple with minimal hands-on time, but it’s seriously tasty (though liking vinegar is a must).  It’s tangy and creamy, with the slightest bite from the scallions.  YUM.  I’m going to make this one again when my parents come to visit next month.

TIPS: Next time, I’ll be sure put my scallion whites and greens in separate little bowls while I make this.  I wasn’t really paying all that much attention to the recipe, and I put my whites and greens in the vinegar with the hot potatoes.  The result? Sad, wilted, washed-out-looking scallion greens.  I solved the problem by snipping some of my CSA chives over the top, but next time, I’ll just do it right the first time.

Recipe link: Basic Potato Salad

Chocolate Ice and Vanilla Milk (aka The Most Fun Way to Make Chocolate Milk Ever)

Has anyone around here been reading this blog long enough to remember the request line?  It fizzled out around the time we made our move from Dallas back to Denver, but a friend from college singlehandedly (and unknowingly) revived it by sending me a recipe a few weeks ago.  Since he specifically said I should try it and blog about it, I’m going to happily interpret that as a request.  And it’s a good one! The recipe was simple and quick (minus the milk chilling time, but that’s hands off) and so much fun.  Thanks, Mike, for reminding me that I love chocolate milk (and should enjoy it more often!).

So, the premise behind the recipe is to make what basically amounts to chocolate ice cubes, and to serve them with milk that has been “enhanced” with a bit of sugar and vanilla.  Kids would love this treat (without the instant coffee, I’m sure) and I think this makes a fun dessert for adults as well.  Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Ice

Ingredients:
200 ml milk
50 ml water
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon instant coffee (optional) (I used Medaglia D’Oro instant espresso)
70 g dark chocolate (66% cacao) (I ignored the cacao recommendation and used Cadbury Royal Dark because I like it and it was on sale)

Method:
Finely chop chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl.

Pour milk and water in a saucepan; add sugar, cocoa, and coffee and mix thoroughly to avoid lumps.  Bring to a boil over medium heat then remove from heat.  Pour over the chocolate, set aside for 5 minutes, then mix gently with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy.  Cool and pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.

Vanilla Milk

Ingredients:
600 ml milk
60 g sugar
1 vanilla pod

Method:
Pour milk into a large saucepan.  Add sugar and stir to dissolve.  Slit the vanilla pod down the middle, scrape out the seeds, and add them to the pan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat then remove from heat.  Cool, then refrigerate several hours or preferably overnight.

To serve, place chocolate ice cubes in glasses (3 – 4 cubes per glass, depending on the size) and pour the cold vanilla milk over the cubes.

Note:  I used the measurements indicated in the recipe because my liquid measuring cups have cup and milliliter markings.  I also have a kitchen scale, so I was able to just weigh my sugar.  Fifty milliliters of water is a little under 1/4 cup; 200 milliliters of milk is a little over 3/4 cup; 600 milliliters of milk is about 2 1/2 cups.  Seventy grams of dark chocolate was all but five squares of a Cadbury Royal Dark bar.  Sixty grams of sugar should be slightly over 1/4 cup.  Thankfully, this isn’t baking, so the recipe should be forgiving of slight variations.

Chocolate Ice Cubes

Chocolate Milk

Holy cow, was this ever delicious!  It’s rare for me to just sit down with a glass of milk (especially chocolate milk), and I feel like I’ve been missing out.  A cold glass of milk is actually pretty refreshing, and I especially loved the depth of flavor the espresso powder brought to the chocolate and the way the milk got more and more chocolatey as the cubes melted.  Mmmmmm.  The flavor possibilities are pretty endless too…  I can totally imagine adding some chile powder, powdered ginger, or cinnamon to the mix.

What else do I love about this recipe besides the fact that it’s delicious?  It’s easily made ahead.  The chocolate cubes can just sit in the freezer (though I would recommend storing them in a freezer bag to minimize freezer burn) and I’m sure the milk will keep just fine in the refrigerator for several days.  Perfect for treats on demand!

Again, many thanks to my friend Mike for reviving the request line.  If you have a recipe you’d like me to try, post a comment or send me a message at sweetandsaucy.wordpress.com@gmail.com.

TIPS:  I ended up getting 27 chocolate ice cubes out of the recipe with about 1 tablespoon of liquid each.  Next time, I would probably double the milk recipe to make more servings since four chocolate cubes per glass was just about perfect.

Recipe link: Chocolate Ice and Vanilla Milk

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: From Phyllo to Baklava

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Bakers’ June challenge. Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make baklava.
__________________________________

Whew!  Talk about a project.  I spent the better part of yesterday afternoon making the phyllo and baklava (and a HUGE mess to go with it!) and then had to wait anxiously until this morning (after all the baklava syrup had been absorbed) to even see if it was all worth it.  Thankfully, the results are pretty delicious, even if I can’t say I’d go to all that trouble all over again.  Here are my notes:

  • I doubled the dough recipe (as recommended) and let it rest for 2 hours before rolling it.
  • The wrap-the-dough-around-the-dowel technique didn’t work for me, perhaps because my rolling pin is thicker and is silicone (not wood).  My dough just fused together into a tube instead of growing larger.  I just kept moving and flipping my dough, rolling it from every direction, until it was as thin as I could get it.  Then, as recommended, I stretched it even more with my hands.  I was pleasantly surprised by how well the dough held up for handling despite being rolled so thin.
  • Even though I definitely got my dough sheets to the point of transparency, I only ended up with 11 or 12 sheets.  Since they weren’t huge and I didn’t end up with quite as many of them as I hoped I would, I decided to use a 9-inch round cake pan instead of a 9 x 9-inch square pan for my baklava.
  • I thought I floured well between each sheet, but I apparently didn’t do it well enough; my sheets stuck together pretty badly when I was trying to pull them off to assemble the baklava.  I did my best to make sure I separated all the sheets, but one or two layers might have been doubled.  I had set one perfect sheet aside on the counter under some plastic wrap for the top, though, so I don’t think anyone would really be able to tell that I struggled.
  • I used the recommended nut combination for my filling (almonds, walnuts, and pistachios) and the recommended spices (cinnamon and allspice).  I think I overdid the clove a bit in my syrup.
  • I used an entire stick of butter for buttering between the phyllo layers.
  • The recommended baking time was 60 minutes at 350°F, but mine was a deep golden brown at 45, so I took my pan out of the oven at that point.
  • Since I used a 9-inch round cake pan (6-cup capacity) instead of a 9 x 9-inch square pan (8-cup capacity), I made 3/4 recipes of the filling and the syrup. The filling was just right, but I think there was a bit too much syrup; I should have followed my instinct and left a bit out.  Even after resting for 16 hours, my baklava was still oozing a bit, though the majority of the syrup did get absorbed.
  • In my opinion, the syrup is a bit too sweet.  If I ever make it again (with store-bought phyllo, sorry!), I’ll cut the sugar to 1/2 cup (for a full recipe) instead of 2/3 cup.
  • After the initial cuts (before baking, in the middle of baking, and post-syrup), I continued to cut through my baklava periodically as it cooled.  It came out of the pan very easily this morning.

Assembled, Unbaked Baklava

Baked Baklava

Cut Baklava

The end result was a tasty treat, but it was a LOT of work.  This challenge certainly relieved me of any pride that might get in the way of me buying frozen phyllo dough at the grocery store. 🙂

Thanks for a great challenge, Erica!

Recipe link: Phyllo and Baklava

Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars

In my mind, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  It doesn’t have to be a big production, but it’s essential that it happens.  We go through phases at my house, but common breakfasts include egg sandwiches, smoothies, and oatmeal with fresh fruit.  All delicious, all easy, all prepared by me since my darling husband doesn’t cook.  (His line: “Why should I learn when you’re so good at it?” 🙂  I suppose this is why I haven’t “learned” to haul the trash to the curb on Tuesday mornings.)  Anyway, I’m happy to help him get a good start to the day during the first part of the week when his office opens a bit later, but Thursday and Friday mornings are killer.  In trying to come up with a grab-and-go solution that was more substantial than a banana or a cup of yogurt, I found a great recipe: Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars.  They’re soft, chewy, delicious, and filling, and the recipe is infinitely adaptable depending on what you have in the pantry.

Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars
Prep time: 10 minutes | Total time: 40 minutes plus cooling | Yield: 16 bars

Ingredients:
3/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/3 cups slivered almonds (6 ounces)
Coarse salt
1 cup raisins or other dried fruit
1/3 cup creamy almond butter or other nut butter
1/4 cup light-brown sugar

Method:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  In a small saucepan, heat 1/4 cup honey and butter over low.  Cook, stirring, until butter melts, 2 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine oats, almonds, and pinch of salt.  Drizzle honey mixture over oat mixture and stir to combine; wipe saucepan clean.  Spread mixture evenly on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Let cool completely on sheet, 10 minutes.  Return to large bowl and add raisins; stir to combine.

Lightly butter an 8-inch square baking dish.  In saucepan, combine 1/2 cup honey, almond butter, and brown sugar over medium.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil and sugar dissolves, 10 minutes.  Drizzle over oat mixture and stir until combined; transfer to baking dish.  With a spatula, firmly press granola into dish.  Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, then cut into 16 bars or squares.

Source: Everyday Food, March 2011

Emeril's Nutty Granola Bars

Emeril's Nutty Granola Bars

Holy deliciousness, these are good.  The taste is very similar to the soft packaged granola bars you can buy at the store, but I think they hold their shape better because they aren’t as gooey.  Plus, you get to skip all the preservatives that keep the store-bought ones edible for months; these will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for five days (unless they’re gobbled up sooner!).  I ended up using creamy peanut butter, slivered almonds, and a combination of raisins, dried cherries, and dried cranberries for my bars.  The flavor profile was terrific.  I can’t wait to experiment with other combinations like cashew and cherry or maybe macadamia nut with coconut and dried apricots.  The possibilities are endless!

Update 7/29/11: I made these again last night, and they were terrible.  I re-made them this morning, and they were wonderful.  The difference?  I cooked the honey/almond butter/brown sugar mixture for too long last night.  If you’ve ever made candy before, you know the longer you cook sugar and the hotter it gets, the thicker and firmer it gets when it cools.  For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to cook the mixture for 10 minutes once it began to boil.  I knew something was wrong when I added the cooked mixture to the oats and fruit; it didn’t incorporate very well and some of the oats still seemed dry even after I had stirred and stirred.  When I went to cut the bars after I had chilled them, they were crispy (in a hard-to-eat way, not a good way).  This morning, I cooked the honey/almond butter/brown sugar mixture for 10 minutes total, starting with the moment I turned on the burner.  You could even shave a minute or two off if you want your bars to be super soft; just make sure the sugar is fully dissolved and you have a homogenous mixture.  Live and learn!

Recipe link: Emeril’s Nutty Granola Bars

Green Grape and Marcona Almond Gazpacho

I’m up to my eyeballs in Thai recipes that I’m testing for this month’s gourmet club meeting, but I realized today that I haven’t posted a word about last month’s amazing Spanish-themed meeting.  We had a terrific meal!  I was on appetizer duty and so much of the Spanish recipe content out there centers around tapas, so I had lots to choose from.  My final choices were Tomato-Rubbed Bread with Manchego Cheese (the favorite!), Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Shrimp Salad (soooo good), and the one recipe I actually managed to photograph: Green Grape and Marcona Almond Gazpacho.  I’ve made tomato and cucumber-based gazpacho before, and this one was so different.  It’s creamy, fruity, nutty, and easily made ahead – perfect for entertaining outside in the summer.  Here’s the recipe:

Green Grape and Marcona Almond Gazpacho
Makes about 8 cups

Ingredients:
1 large garlic clove
2 1/2 large seedless cucumbers, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice (5 cups), plus 1/4 cup finely diced peeled cucumber, for garnish
1 1/4 cups whole green grapes, plus 1/4 cup diced grapes, for garnish
3/4 cup Marcona almonds
3 cups crustless 1/2-inch dice of good white bread
4 scallions, white and tender green parts, cut into 1-inch lengths
1 cup packed watercress leaves
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Method:
In a small saucepan of boiling water, cook the garlic clove for 10 minutes; drain.

In a blender, working in batches, puree the garlic with the 5 cups of diced cucumber, the 1 1/4 cups of whole green grapes, 1/2 cup of the almonds and the bread cubes, scallions, watercress, water, olive oil, and sherry vinegar until very smooth. Transfer the soup to a large pitcher and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.

To serve, chop the remaining 1/4 cup of almonds.  Stir the gazpacho, then pour it into shallow bowls.  Garnish the soups with the finely diced cucumber and grapes and the chopped almonds and serve.

Make ahead: The gazpacho can be refrigerated overnight.

Source: FoodandWine.com

My notes:

  • I left out the watercress because my grocery store didn’t have any.
  • I was able to find Marcona almonds at Costco.  I had to buy more than I needed (of course!), but they’re incredibly delicious and made a great snack.
  • If you go to Costco for the almonds, you might at well get English cucumbers while you’re there as well.  You can get three for the price you would typically pay for two at a regular grocery store.

Green Grape and Marcona Almond Gazpacho

I would say this soup is best suited for adventurous eaters since it’s served cold and the flavors are a bit unexpected.  Visually, one might think avocado or peas, but the flavor is definitely a combination of fruit and nuts.  We all agreed that there was almost a pear flavor (despite the fact that the recipe didn’t contain any pears), which was, I think, a combination of the cucumber and the grapes.  The almonds stood out wonderfully in the flavor profile, and they also gave the soup its creamy texture.  This gazpacho would be a fantastic, light first course for an outdoor dinner party or would make a great addition to any Spanish-themed menu.

Recipe links: Tomato-Rubbed Bread with Serrano Ham (I substituted Manchego), Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Shrimp Salad, and Green Grape and Marcona Almond Gazpacho




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