Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Apple Snack Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting


Friends are like frosting.

Life is so much more enjoyable with them.

You could bake this cake, leaving it unfrosted and naked.


It would be lovely with a cup of coffee, but not as lovely as if you had decided to mound luscious layers of sugared clouds on top of it.

Friends in your life are the frosting on the cake. You can get by without it, but you miss it when it's not there.

I've been a busy lady as of late. My "real" job has taken a rewarding and amazing turn. However, usually when something is so rewarding and so amazing, it takes a lot of effort to cultivate. I'm in the middle of that as we speak (read? type?) here.

I had the opportunity this weekend to catch up with an old friend, to hash out tales of yore over bloody marys and brew.

It's amazing how good it is for the soul to sit and simply talk, not be judged, and then listen with the same regard. It's something I don't make time for enough when life is rushing by at 75 miles an hour.

The opportunity will present itself again in a week when I hop a train, heading for New York City, to catch up with more friends. It's difficult to carve time out when you have so little wood to work with. It's important, however, and I'll even say intelligent. It makes you who you are.

So, pray tell, what does this have to do with cake? This place, this blog, has long been a cultivator of friends for me. I've met people with a passion for food, and life. I've drifted away, and they welcome me back with open arms. I miss the discussion, the understanding. I miss the outlet.

And you know what? It's only up to me to make it happen.

The moral of this story? In the middle of decking the halls, stringing the lights, trying to decide what grandmother's house to go to, make time for your friends, it's good for your heat.

They put way more booze in the eggnog than grandma, anyway.


Apple Snack Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
Source: Cake recipe from Cooking Light
Yield: 1 9x13 cake

Still have apples where you are? They make their way into many a farms winter storage. This is a perfect way to use local apples a touch past their prime.

Ingredients:

Cake
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cups chopped and peeled apple
  • cooking spray

Frosting
  • 8 ounces (1 block) block-style fat-free cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups powdered sugar.

Instructions:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and cloves. Whisk until well combined.
  3. Now, add water, butter, olive oil, vanilla, and eggs to the dry mixture and stir until it all just comes together. 
  4. Finally, fold in your apple. 
  5. Pour your batter into a 9x13 baking pan coated with cooking spray. 
  6. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake. 
  7. Set aside to cool completely on a baking rack.
  8. While the cake is cooling, make your frosting by combining cream cheese, butter, vanilla, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of your standing mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer). 
  9. Beat on medium speed until the ingredients are just combined.
  10. Now, turning the speed to low, slowly start adding your powdered sugar. 
  11. Once all the sugar is added and incorporated into the frosting, turn the mixer quickly to high for a minute to whip some air into the frosting. 
  12. Frost your cooled cake, slice, and serve!



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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sausage and Turnip Gratin Pasta


I love turnips. Sue me.

I know it's not something most people would say they have an affinity for, but their spicy kick gives me reason to swoon.

Our love affair is rather new. I came across lovely cool weather hakurei turnips in my Winter CSA from Heron Pond Farm in South Hampton, NH, last year. I made a gratin out of them, my husband fell in love, and this torrid relationship has continued ever since. While I'm not taking part in a winter CSA this year, I'm glad I've done it once. I found so many vegetables that I simply would have passed by a year or so ago. You receive amazingly fresh foods, and they can spark your creativity in the process.

We're fans of comfort food in this house, especially once the cold weather seeps in. We're busy people. I help run a major market newsroom and my husband is in school and working at the same time. Even the pugs are busy.... sleeping 16 hours a day. On the weekends, we all like to curl up at night with a good movie, a good hockey game, a good bottle of wine, and a meal that will keep us warm all night long.


This pasta falls into the comfort food category. It's decadent and creamy without being too heavy. So the other night, when I had little else in the house other than turnips, again from Heron Pond Farm, and some hot Italian turkey sausage (yes, I use it in everything, I love it), this pasta was born out of necessity.


Sausage and Turnip Gratin Pasta
Serves: 4
Inspired by: GF-Zing adapted from Gourmet/2007

Ingredients:
  • 2 bunches hakurei turnips, cleaned well, greens removed
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese.
  • 1/2 pound hot Italian turkey sausage (or regular Italian sausage)
  • 1 pound dried penne

Instructions:
  1. Cut off the top and tail of the turnips, slice into 1/4 inch slices. 
  2. Melt butter in a non-stick 12-inch skillet (choose one with a lid) and layer turnip slices in pan. Sprinkle the turnips with thyme, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. 
  3. Cook in butter over medium heat for 3 minutes. 
  4. Cover turnips with the heavy cream and chicken stock, put lid on and cook over medium heat (making sure not to scald the cream) for 20 minutes. 
  5. While the turnips are cooking, boil the water for your pasta, cook until al dente, and drain, reserving some of the pasta water. 
  6. At the same time you're cooking the pasta, remove turkey sausage from their casings, and brown in a skillet. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate and set aside.
  7. After 20 minutes, the turnips will be softened. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over top of cooked turnips and put lit back on for 3-4 minutes until cheese is melted over the turnips. 
  8. At this point, remove the lid, add your sausage and your pasta, and 1/4 of a cup reserved water from the pasta and toss until well-combined.
  9. Serve with plenty of extra parmesan and romano cheese.








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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Apple Cider Cream Pie


 I'm only human. I'll start off with that. My life has been a roller coaster of ups, downs, and absolute craziness for the past few months. Sadly, the things and people in which I find sanity have fallen by the wayside.

Connection to my craziness? I believe so.

Time in my kitchen is precious. The newsroom can be crazy, home life can be off the tracks, and my body can be tired and sick, but the kitchen is where it all comes together. The issue, I find, is that pulling out of the pure fatigue and exhaustion to get myself in there, isn't the easiest task to tackle. Once I'm in there, measuring, dicing, stirring, tasting, I'm well on my way to getting back to my little corner of calm.

I've just got to get there.


I've neglected myself and sanity for the past 14 or so weeks. It's time to make a change. I've gotten back into the kitchen, although not as often as I'd like. This Sunday night, I'll start yoga again. Those classes are one of the few times I can recharge, shut down, and really concentrate on myself. I'm also making plans to see friends and family. They're the key to feeling more like "me".

I share this because, frankly, I'm pretty sure most people go through periods like this. This blog is part of my sanity, and getting back on track. What better to get back on track with than a pie that screams fall, made with local cider and cream, and that's a tad different from your normal autumn desserts. This pie is rich, but worth every bite you'll take, I promise.


Apple Cider Cream Pie
Yield: 1 pie
Source: Food & Wine


Ingredients:
  • 1 pie crust (homemade, store-bought, however you would like it)

Filling and Topping
  • 2 cups apple cider
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup whipping or heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. You're going to pre-bake your crust. Roll your dough out to the size you want. Lay it in a prepared pie dish and put it in the fridge for about 15 minutes to chill. Now, take it out of the fridge, prick center and sides with a fork (to avoid shrinking of the crust) line it with parchment paper, and fill with pie weights. Bake in the lower-third of your oven for 15 minutes, then take the pie out, line the crust with foil, then bake for another 15 minutes until crust is set, but not browned. Allow to cool on a wire baking rack.
  2. In the meantime, make the filling. In a medium saucepan, boil the cider until it reduces down to 1/2 a cup. This will take you about 10-15 minutes. Once it's reduced, set it aside to cool. 
  3. Once the reduced cider is cooled, whisk in 3/4 cup of the sugar, sour cream, and salt. Finally, whisk in your eggs. 
  4. Pour your custard mixture into the cooled pie shell (don't remove the foil strips) and bake the pie for 35 to 40 minutes, until the custard is set around the edges, but jiggly in the middle. Let the pie cool completely.
  5. While the pie is cooling, take a bowl (metal is best, especially a stand mixer bowl) and place it and your beaters in the freezer to chill. Once chilled, using an electric mixer, beat the heavy cream with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and the cinnamon until it's fully whipped. 
  6. Top the pie with the whipped cream, and serve.


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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fresh Tomato Soup


Certain dishes are like going home. They're the ones that wrap you up in a big, warm hug after a long day. They're the ones that take you back to cooking alongside your grandmother, or whoever did the cooking in your house. They can be pick-me-ups, cool-me-downs, and maybe even take-me-backs. They're pure comfort masquerading as food.

I've been waiting on this post for several days now. I've been far removed from cooking, writing, and, in general, communing with the food world I so often refer to as my therapy. Two months ago, I started a fantastic and exciting journey. I took the reigns of a morning newscast, learned how to get up every morning at 1:15 a.m., and I learned a lot about myself in the process.

I discovered I had resolve. I uncovered a creativity I had forgotten I had. I learned that old dogs can learn new tricks, and more importantly, they definitely should. Change, for better or worse, in the end, makes us all a little more open to the world. I made new friends, learned from new colleagues, and encountered challenges I had not yet stumbled across. And yes, I learned I could live, and be happy on (a lot) less sleep.


I learned home is where you make it.

So, now I embark on another journey, back to where I started, but with new challenges. You see, I've been charged (promoted) with taking the reigns of my old friend, the night news. Instead of hearing the alarm at 1:15am, instead, that's when I'll be crawling into bed alongside a loving husband, and two snoring pugs once more.

It's a bit like going home, but missing the new and exciting adventure you've been living thus far. I'm excited to again be with old friends, but certainly will miss the new ones. This however, is a new adventure in an old place. I've learned an immense amount to bring back to the table at which I once sat. It also brings me back to food and my writing, something I hadn't quite been able to figure in as of late.

But again, home is where you make it, and no one said it has to be in only one place. If you miss it, make one of those dishes I was talking about, like this tomato soup, and you'll be right back there.


Fresh Tomato Soup
Adapted from: Ina Garten
Serves: 5-6

If you still have the last of your garden tomatoes, or if they're still all over your local market, this is a perfect use of them. I used black, beefsteak, heirloom, and orange tomatoes in this soup. It's forgiving, use whatever you'd like. Pair it with a grilled cheese, and smile from ear to ear. Note: if you don't have a food mill, simply peel and seed all the vegetables below before cooking, and puree in a blender or food processor in batches at the end.

Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped sweet onions (about 2 onions)
  • 2 carrots, unpeeled, and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 4 pounds ripe tomatoes, any variety, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup milk 
  • Parmesan cheese (for serving)

Instructions:
  1. Heat your olive oil in a large pot, I use a dutch oven, over medium-low heat. 
  2. Add your onions and carrots to the pot, and cook until tender.
  3. Next, add your garlic and cook for about a minute. 
  4. Now, dump in your tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, basil, chicken stock, salt, and pepper and stir.
  5. Bring the soup to a boil, and then down to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes until tomatoes are tender. 
  6. Finally, add your milk to the soup and process it through a food mill into a bowl, throwing away the pulp left behind.
  7. Reheat the soup in your large pot and serve with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese.

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Monday, October 3, 2011

Peach and Rhubarb Crisp


The end of the summer and beginning of fall have brought a lot of changes to my life. I'm still going through a pretty crazy change in my professional life, and it's thrown a lot out of balance in my personal life. One of the biggest issues, as you've guessed, is keeping up with things here at Lighter and Local.

I miss it. I miss the writing, the photography, the cooking, the therapy that this little slice of the web brings me.

So I'm trying for a comeback here. I need this.

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. Five years ago, on a rainy cold October day, I married a man I knew I could grow with. I knew marriage wasn't magic ponies, rainbows, and forever after. Marriage is work, but the pay off is what makes it worth it.
Our wedding day, Salem, MA.
Dave and I have been through a lot in our five years. We've lost a lot of loved ones. We've had our ups and downs, but we're both fighters. We know what's worth fighting for.

We're simple. We're happiest with a fantastic home-cooked meal, nothing fancy, just soul-warming. We're happy cuddling up on the couch with the pugs, watching a good movie, and enjoying just hanging out together.

This crisp is modified from the one I always make. It's one of my favorites. It's simple, but it lacks the pretense of anything complicated and fancy. It's a lot like marriage in some cases. It's successful if you have good ingredients, a good base, a fantastic heart, and are willing to modify along the way.


 Peach and Rhubarb Crisp
Serves: 4-6
Adapted from: Cooks Illustrated

This is perfect for those end-of-summer and early fall peaches. They're still prevalent in New England even in early October. This is a perfect use for them before they're gone. 

Ingredients:


Topping:
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Filling:
  • 4 ripe peaches (I don't peel them, you can if you prefer that)
  • 1 cup sliced rhubarb
  • zest and juice from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

Instructions:

Topping:
  1. Put the flour, sugars, spices, and salt in a food processor, fitted with a standard blade, and pulse twice to combine the dry ingredients.
  2. Add your butter to the dry ingredients and pulse until the mixture ends up like coarse cornmeal. Do not over mix.
  3. Put topping into the fridge for at least 15 minutes as you make your filling.
  4. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

Filling:
  1. In a large bowl, combine fruit, lemon zest and juice, and sugar. 
  2. Toss until everything is well coated.

Assembling:
  1. Grease a pie dish or baking dish, pour fruit mixture into your baking dish and distribute the chilled topping over the fruit. 
  2. Put into the oven and bake 40 minutes, then increase oven temp to 400 degrees for the last 5 minutes until fruit mixture is bubbling and topping is brown.
  3. Remove from the oven, and allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving with ice cream or whipped cream.


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Monday, September 19, 2011

Ginger Peach Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting


 It's that time of year where you add the extra blanket to the bed. You wake up to a chill in the air, but by noon, it can still feel like summer. The warm weather is fading away into a New England fall. I cherish these few weeks. I'm sad to say good-bye to all that the summer has to offer, but there's nothing like fall in this part of the country. There's a magic there that words simply do not do justice. 


I'm years out of school at this point. Ten years to be exact, since I left the campus of Syracuse University. I often reminisce about those days. They truly were my formative years. I made the friends that still shape my life today. I learned about life, love, and the heartache both can bring. For some people, the real living happens after they leave the safe confines of a campus. I began the process while in the folds of my education. In my first fall, outside those folds, the world stopped with the 9/11 attacks, and I learned, while living alone in my first apartment, how cruel and scary this world can be.
 

 That aside, fall, still, to me, means a re-birth. Like those first days of classes, of a new school, it's a slate wiped clean. Each autumn represents a new chance to make changes, to savor every second, to tie up loose ends before the new year comes knocking. This year is no different for me. I'm in the middle of a possible transition in my career, a new schedule, filled with new challenges. 

I'm a person constantly filled with nostalgia. I mourn good times that have passed by, but in the past years, have tried constantly to focus on the present. Autumn brings back a wave of memories every single year. This year, I'm struggling to look towards the future, finding issues holding on to the present. I will get there, however, I have to.


This cake represents the fleeting transition from summer to fall. Peaches are still everywhere in New England, sharing tables at farmers' markets with early season apples. The peach represents the last gasp of summer, while the spice cake reminds me of fall. So when you're in this early September, bake this cake, and slowly ease yourself into the next season, and the next part of life.


Ginger Peach Spice Cake with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
(printable recipe)
Yield: 1 9x9 square cake

Ingredients:

Cake:
Source: One Perfect Bite
  • 5.5 ounces all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting the pan)
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 ounces granulated sugar (a little under 1 cup of sugar)
  • 1 tablespoon light molasses
  • 1/2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 large peaches, pits removed, peeled (if you'd like) and chopped roughly
Frosting:
Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoons cornstarch (you use this because brown sugar is far more moist than powdered, and powdered sugar already has some in it)
  • 1/8 cup powdered sugar
  • 4-ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
Instructions:
  1. Start with the cake. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x9 baking pan.
  2. Melt 2 tablespoons of your butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Melt and cook 1-2 minutes until butter is light brown.
  3. Add your spices (cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, cloves and nutmeg) to the butter and cook for 15 seconds, stirring constantly.
  4. Remove the butter/spice mixture from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
  5. While that's cooling, whisk together your flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  6. In another small ball, whisk together egg, yolks, and vanilla until well mixed.
  7. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the leftover 6 tablespoons of butter, sugar, and molasses together until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  8. Add your cooled butter-spice mixture to the sugar mixture and half of egg mixture. Beat on medium speed until the egg is incorporated, about 15 seconds. 
  9. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, and then pour in other half of egg mixture and beat until well-combined.
  10. Now, reduce speed of mixer to low, add 1/3 of the flour mix, followed by half the buttermilk.
  11. Add another third of the flour mix, followed by the rest of the buttermilk, and finally the rest of the flour mix.
  12. Mix at medium speed until flour is completely incorporated into the batter.
  13. Take the bowl off the mixer, and using a rubber spatula, fold the chopped peaches into the batter.
  14. Pour into your prepared 9x9 baking pan, and bake for 32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out cleanly.
  15. Allow cake to cool completely on a wire rack, before frosting.
  16. To prepare the frosting: First off, whisk together your brown sugar, cornstarch and powdered sugar and set aside. 
  17. In the bowl of a standing mixer (or in a regular bowl with a hand mixer), beat together cream cheese and butter until fluffy. 
  18. Add your vanilla extract to the cream cheese/butter mixture. 
  19. Add your brown sugar mixture to the cream cheese mixture, and beat until well combined. 
  20. Frost the cooled cake, slice, and enjoy!
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Charcutepalooza September: Packing, English Pork Pie


Well, I'm back. I fell off the Charcutepalooza wagon last month, having zero interest in terrines and zero time to complete the task. You see, I'll be honest here. I have very little love for random parts of pig, or any other creature. I know, I know, you're all going to tell me how fabulous pig heads, feet, or organs are. You going to tell me that I *need* to fall in love with cow tongue. The list goes on and on.

I've tried it. I've tried it all. There's nothing I won't try at least once in several different ways of preparation. I have an issue with gelatinous dishes. They repulse me. Weirdly, I eat sushi. Go figure.

Granted, I don't hate all of it. I love fois gras. I love a pate in the right setting with the right pieces with it. There are just bits and pieces to things like terrines and headcheese, that turn me the wrong way.

If you love it, go on with your bad self. I'm sure there's things I love that repulse you, that's OK. Each to their own.

Why am I telling you this? I feel like this is my confessional. I don't have the love for all things charcuterie that most of the members of this challenge do. I love sausages, fresh or cured. I love bacon, and smoked just about anything. I hope you all still love me.


On that note, I was thrilled to see English Pork Pie. Pastry doesn't scare me, I love making it, although I'm not talented in shaping it or rolling it out. This meat pie reminds me of a blended Tourtiere, which is one of my favorite things in this world. Alas, my recipe for that Quebec meat pie is one of my husband's family and I'm not allowed to share.


I followed the recipe in Michael Ruhlman's Charcuterie pretty much to the letter. I subbed more butter for lard, because frankly, I didn't want to go and get lard. This pie crust is no light matter. I think about four sticks of butter goes into it. I used some pork shoulder I had frozen from Kellie Brook Farm in Greenland, NH and grinded that on up.


Now my pork pie failed to have that nice high dome that others got. The filling spread out a bit before I got it all into the oven. No fear though, this is a fabulous treat. Perfect for a winter or fall Sunday meal, or a holiday. It's not hard to make, just a touch difficult to assemble and make pretty.

So this is it. I'm back. I'm not in the running any more, but that's OK. It's the community, the camaraderie, the challenge of Charcutepalooza that I love. And I hope I'm still allowed in the "Cool Kids Meat Club", even though headcheese makes me cry. I jest. Really. This pork pie, however, find a recipe and make it. It was lovely slathered in a good mustard, and served warm.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lindsay Olives Giveaway Winner and Marx Foods Chile Challenge!


Remember those lovely Lindsay Olives? I put together Jalapeno Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Olive & Corn Salsa with those babies, and I'm whipping up that Olive & Corn Salsa yet again for this weekend. Well, I owe you a giveaway winner announcement, so here it goes:

The winner of the Lindsay Olives Prize Pack is....

Sarah of TheChubbette!

Sarah - shoot me an email so I can pass your information onto the lovely folks at Lindsay Olives!


Now, remember this awesome Chile & Cheddar Pull Apart Bread? It's part of a really cool blogger challenge being sponsored by Marx Foods . They're a fabulous source for various gourmet ingredients. In this case, they challenged a group of food bloggers to see what they could come up with when given their dried chilies. Well, check out the Blogger Chile Recipe Contest for a look at some of the amazing things bloggers came up with. You can feel free to cast a vote for the bread, or any of the other amazing recipes out there. You won't look at a dried chile the same way again. Can you say, Mexican Hot Chocolate Covered Strawberries? Just awesome!

Housekeeping is now out of the way... stay tuned for this month's Charcutepalooza post, it's perfect for the fall! Pin It

Friday, September 9, 2011

Chile Cheddar Pull Apart Bread


In the past year, I've crossed two things off my cooking "to-do" list. I've finally tackled baking with yeast, and I've finally figured out what the heck to do with dried chiles. Yeast always scared me. For some reason, I couldn't figure it out. I was afraid my bread wouldn't rise, it would taste "too yeasty". I never realized how easy it could be. This little trend of "pull-apart" bread, proves it.


Dried chilies, they're a whole other ballgame. I love "heat" in pretty much anything I eat. In general, the spicier the better. I knew dried chilies were a great way to bring this to any dish. These puya chilies bring so much more than a little spice, however. They bring a wonderful depth to this bread. They're not crazy spicy. You can pick your chili, according to your own tastes. I finally tackled them when I made my own chorizo not too long back.


I stumbled upon Marx Foods because of my interest in dried chilies. I heard they were putting together a little blogger contest where they'd send along some samples of their best dried chilies and see what we could do with them. Marx Foods is one of those spots where if you're looking for a specific gourmet ingredient, amazing artisan foods, and great cooking ideas, well, they have it. I honestly never realized there were so many types were available. I received several varieties, from the hot Habenero, to the more chocolatey Mulato chilies. I ended up going with the Puyas, because they carry just enough heat, without being overwhelming. They also have a touch of a fruity taste, perfect to pair with cheddar for this bread.


Ah, this bread. I've seen pull-apart breads all across the blogosphere as of late. They're filled with fruit, cinnamon, but it was a savory variety from one of my favorite Boston-area blogs, A Cambridge Story. That version is filled with sun dried tomatoes and basil, but I knew this was the perfect base for my pepper adventures. This bread falls apart, is amazing right out of the oven, and has just enough of a spark of heat, without it overwhelming this bread.


Chile Cheddar Pull Apart Bread
Yield: One loaf
Inspired and adapted from: A Cambridge Story

Ingredients:
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (343.75 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup lowfat milk
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 4-5 large dried Puya (or really any other) chilies
  • olive oil for drizzling
  • 3/4 cup shredded extra-sharp cheddar (I used Cabot's Extra-Sharp)
Instructions:
  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine 2 cups of the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Set that aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine milk and butter over low heat until the butter is just melted. Remove it from the heat, add your water, and cool the mixture until it's about 120 degrees. 
  3. Pour the milk and butter mixture over the dry ingredients.
  4. Add your eggs one at a time, until they're well mixed.
  5. Add in your half a cup of remaining flour, mix until smooth and then add the rest two tablespoons at a time.
  6. Mix using the paddle attachment on your mixer until everything is just combined.
  7. Switch to the dough hook to knead for a couple of minutes until the dough is smooth, but sticky. 
  8. Put your dough into a large bowl, greased with a little bit of oil, cover with plastic wrap, and a kitchen towel.
  9. Place your dough in a warm, draft-free, spot to rise for an hour.
  10. While the dough is rising, prepare your filling by first re hydrating your chiles.
  11. Place the re hydrated chiles in a small food processor, add a little bit of water and process into a slightly liquid form (you should still have pieces of the chili intact). Set aside.
  12. After your dough has risen for an hour (or doubled in size), punch it down to deflate it, and then place in the fridge for an hour or over night.
  13. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and grease a 9x5 loaf pan and set aside.
  14. Now, lightly flour a flat service, shape the dough into a roughly 1x2 foot rectangle.
  15. Drizzle the dough with a bit of olive oil
  16. Brush on the chili pepper mixture with a kitchen brush.
  17. Sprinkle cheese over the top of the chile mixture. 
  18. Cut vertically to make 6 even strips of dough.
  19. Now stack those strips on top of each other and slice a second time, into 6, even stacks.
  20. Place those stacks side-by-side in the greased pan, and allow to rise for another 45 minutes. 
  21. Finally, put that dough into the oven and bake on the center rack for 30 minutes.
  22. Take out of the oven, allow to rest for 5 minutes, and then pull apart for bread goodness!
The chiles used in this recipe were provided to me, for free, by Marx Foods in order to create a recipe and enter their blogging contest. 


Speaking of contests, if you entered the Lindsay Olive giveaway, I'll be announcing that winner on Monday!! Stay tuned! Pin It

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Salted Caramel Brownies


Salted caramel brownies - They're not lighter and they're not local. That's kind of a lie. It's a recipe from Cooking Light, so some of the fat has been stripped of these decadent bars. They're local because they were made from scratch, in my kitchen.

But let's be honest, shall we?

Even though they don't fit the title of this blog, would you blame me for sharing them? Would you stop reading this blog, angry that they don't quite fit the mold?

I doubt it. If so, I am sorry to offend you with these very lovely brownies.


I started this blog years ago. It had a different name, with a different purpose. I simply wanted to share my recipes and my writing with friends and family. I then used it to log a weight loss battle. Finally, in the end, I fell in love with sourcing local and regional food and this little slice of web heaven was born.

Times, they do change, right?

It's very easy to get caught up in the "food blog hamster wheel". You churn out posts, you tweet, you Facebook, you suddenly worry about how many people are coming to your site. You ponder if the food blogging community at-large likes you, are you part of the club? You start thinking about quantity, and not quality.

You forget it's about having a voice, starting a conversation, sharing something you love. You forget it's about community.

It's the community that surrounded fellow blogger, Jennie Perillo, after her husband suddenly passed away. It's a community that came together to help someone, that many have never met, but someone whose story and experience touched at our very hearts. More about the work to help out Jennie's family in just a moment.

If you've gotten this far, great job, I appreciate it. The point of this little speech from my soapbox is that I've been fairly silent the last couple of weeks. I've had a schedule change at work, an increase of responsibilities, and I've been trying to balance that with my family life. In short, I haven't had a lot of time to blog. In the beginning, I felt guilty I wasn't feeding the beast. What would people think?

Then, it changed. I cared less about the guilt, and realize how much I miss the community, how much I miss sharing with those who read this blog (and I thank every single one of you). I missed it being my outlet from my stressful day job.

The break from the blog reminded me why I love it so much. I think it's an excellent lesson for bloggers to learn. Sometimes you have to let go, let the guilt subside, remind yourself why you do this. I can say this because this isn't my full time job, I understand it's much different for those who use this as a way to make a living.

For the rest of us, however, sometimes I truly believe we could all use the permission to cut ourselves a little slack. Even if you don't blog, cut yourself some slack. So what if you missed a playgroup/email/sewing class. So if you need someone to say it, I will. Give yourself a break. You might find yourself much better when you return.


Salted Caramel Brownies
Source: Cooking Light
Yield: 16 small brownies, 12 larger ones (CL says the yield is 20, but frankly, that's too small of a brownie for me.)

I actually doubled this recipe for a 9x13 baking pan and it worked out perfectly. They were a little thicker, but honestly, I like it better that way. Be careful, these things are addicting.

Ingredients:

Brownies:
  • 3.38 ounces all-purpose flour (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon backing powder
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • cooking spray
Topping:
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons evaporated fat-free milk, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt
Instructions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Start preparing your brownies. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, brown sugar, and baking powder in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until well mixed.
  3. Combine your 6 tablespoons of melted butter, eggs, and the vanilla extract.
  4. Add the butter mixture to the flour mixture and stir until well combined.
  5. Pour batter into a 9x9 square metal baking pan lightly coated in cooking spray.
  6. Bake brownies for 19 minutes or until a toothpick comes out from the center cleanly.
  7. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.
  8. Once brownies are cooled, begin making your topping. Melt 1/4 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1 1/2 tablespoons of the evaporated milk. Cook the mixture for at least two minutes.
  9. Take the mixture off the heat, add you vanilla, powdered sugar, and stir with a whisk until everything comes together and becomes smooth. 
  10. You're now going to pour the mixture over the brownies, and then use an offset spatula or just a regular one to make sure the brownies are well covered.
  11. Allow to set for 20 minutes to set. (I found putting it in the fridge really helped with this step.
  12. Finally, take a microwave-safe bowl, combine your chocolate and 2 tablespoons of the evaporated milk. Microwave for 45 seconds or until melted... make sure you stir it halfway through the cooking time. 
  13. Drizzle over the caramel topping on the brownies, sprinkle with your 1/8th of a teaspoon of sea salt.
  14. Allow the chocolate to set, then cut into squares.
How to help Jennie Perillo's Family:

If you read a good amount of food blogs, you've seen the community reaching out to support Jennie, who lost her husband suddenly several weeks ago. Some people are doing auctions with proceeds going towards the family to help with things like health insurance and day-to-day expenses. There is a very simple way you can help out, by just making a donation. Click on the image below, and it will take you to Bloggers Without Borders. It's an amazing organization that brings food bloggers together to help those who need it. Jennie needs it right now, and I'm only too happy to pass along the link. So please, if you can spare just a few dollars, every single one counts. Thank you!

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Monday, August 22, 2011

Jalapeno Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Olive and Corn Salsa (Giveaway)


Our family lives a life that's filled with as many local or regional products, foods, product, meats, that we can find. However, we're also realistic. We know there are foods and products we live that we just can't get here in New England. Life is too short to shun such yummy things. I also know that not every one of you is as lucky as I am to live in a spot that makes mostly local eating, easy. From time to time, I want to share some of the things we buy here in our household, found at your regular grocery store, that I consider to be a great product. Food shopping is about research. You can find quality products that are in line with your eating beliefs, just about anywhere.


Some of those products, I absolutely adore, are those from Lindsay Olives, specifically their line of "Naturals". These aren't your typical canned olives. They're firm and fresh, and can be eaten straight out of the can. I should know, the husband and I basically tackled an entire one between the two of us this past weekend. Why do I love them so much? Let's take a close look at the ingredient label, shall we?


Yup, that's right. All that's involved in the Lindsay Naturals line are olives, water, and sea salt. That's it. For the Naturals, the olives are picked off the trees when they're green. They're then cured and pitted. They go through a 7-day process. The black olive version gets oxygen introduced during that time, that's what changes their color to the black. However, since the Naturals are only packed in sea salt and water, the color isn't as dark as your normal black olive, they're more of a chocolate-y brown. The green olives don't get any oxygen, and all of the olives have the sea salt and water added after the 7-days, and are sent off to canning, and then off to you.

Olive and Corn Salsa

I like to know the history of the companies I'm dealing with, so I'm going to share it with you. Lindsay Olives is a division of Bell-Carter Foods, a company that's been around in one form or another since 1912. It's been family-owned that entire time, with an excellent commitment to quality. The back-story is simply amazing, I encourage you to check out this short little video to get more of a sense of the history of this family business.


I met some of the lovely reps from Lindsay Olives at Eat, Write, Retreat this past year. They were interested in working with bloggers on developing recipes and getting the word out about their product. It was there I fell in love with the Natural California Green Ripe Olives, and have been using them ever since. I decided to pair their olives, with peppers and herbs from my backyard garden, locally-raised chicken and locally-grown corn to develop a recipe for the Lindsay Olive folks. It's perfect for the end of summer, usually what's available near you right now.


Jalapeno Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Olive and Corn Salsa
Serves: 4

Ingredients:

For the marinade/chicken:
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 boneless-skinless chicken breasts
For the filling: 
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onions
  • sprinkle of salt
For the salsa:
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears) (or canned or frozen work too)
  • 1 15 oz. can Lindsay Naturals California Green Ripe Olives, chopped
  • 1 15 oz. can Lindsay Naturals Black Ripe Olives, chopped
  • dash of cumin
  • sprinkle of salt
  • dash of smoked paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
Instructions:

For the marinade/chicken:
Put the chicken breasts in a ziploc bag (or some kind of storage container).
In a bowl, combine all marinade ingredients, whisk until combined and pour over chicken.
Marinate overnight or for at least two hours.

For the filling:
Combine all filling ingredients (cream cheese, jalapeno peppers, green onions, and salt) and stir together until everything comes together.

For the salsa:
In a medium-sized bowl, stir together corn and chopped olives until both are evenly distributed. Add the the cumin, salt, and smoked paprika, and stir until everything is coated. Finally, pour in your rice wine vinegar, and stir to combine.

To assemble:

Once done marinating, take your chicken breasts and cut a slit in the thickest part of the breast (do not cut all the way through). Place two tablespoons of the filling in the opening. Close the chicken breast and tie shut with kitchen twine. Grill for 20 minutes over medium heat, flipping once, until the thickest part of the breast registers 170 degrees. Transfer to dinner plates and top with olive and corn salsa.

Lindsay Olives Giveaway:
The folks over at Lindsay would like to share some olive love with all of you! The winner of this giveaway will get a prize pack of Lindsay Naturals California Green Ripe Olives and their Recloseables line (so perfect to cook and snack with). You simply have to do the following:

1) Comment on this post letting me know your favorite use for olives. (required)

Additional possible entries:
2) "Like" Lindsay Olives on Facebook or follow them on Twitter (if you follow on Twitter, please RT the following: I'd like to win a prize pack of olives from @lindsayolives and @kimmybingham http://bit.ly/nlBHPt  )

3) Like "Lighter and Local" on Facebook or follow me @kimmybingham on Twitter and leave a comment here telling me you did so. (If you "like" and "follow" me, please leave two separate comments for two additional entries).

This giveaway is open until August 31st at midnight. The following day I will pick a random number and the corresponding post will win the prize pack.

Disclaimer: Lindsay Olives compensated me for the recipe development and this post, and provided the olives I used in this recipe. I'd also like to note, I only partner with companies and brands I believe in, and want to share with you, the readers.



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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Spicy and Sweet Pickling Cucumber Salad


This should have been a Charcutepalooza post. In fact, that post should have been yesterday. My brain is fuzzy, my body tired, I'm completely off my clock.

Literally.

If you follow this blog at all, you may know I work in television news. In fact, you also may know that, in general, I work nights. The start of my work day is three o'clock in the afternoon; I end at eleven-thirty at night.

Not this week, not until after Labor Day again.

I'm filling in on our station's morning news. Five and a half hours, starting at four-thirty in the morning. That means I'm getting to work around 3-4 a.m. and going to bed while you are all sitting down for dinner. My body clock is a mess. It doesn't really know when to sleep, eat, or even speak. I'm confident it will find its way before the end of these three weeks, and by then, I'll be back to working nights. I miss my husband. We are two ships passing in the night right now. It makes me sad.

It's a pretty bizarre shift. So, what does this have to do with this blog?

I meant to make a beautiful seafood mousseline for this month's Charcutepalooza challenge. I couldn't muster the energy. However, to be honest. All month, I struggled with it. Neither making headcheese (I've tried, I hated, no thank you) or the mousseline sounded appetizing. I struggled with buying the ingredients for something that might go to waste. In the end, it was my sleepy brain that did me in. It just wasn't happening.

I resolve to rejoin my Charcutepalooza friends next month. Until then, I give you pickles.


Sweet-End-of-Summer-Pickles. Sadly, the recipe isn't mine to share with all of you. That belongs to my lovely canning mentor, Robin, over at Doves and Figs. No, what I want to share with you today is leftovers.

Aren't I sweet? You get leftovers.


These are good leftovers, though. I was lucky enough to hit up my local farm, Tendercrop Farm in Newbury, Ma., the other weekend at just the right time. They were *giving away* 10 pickling cucumbers for free to every customer. This is perfect. My little cucumber vine didn't give me enough to really do a good batch of pickles, so this was my chance at pickling glory.

Here's the deal though, I didn't want to do big quarts of pickles, so I hauled out my pint jars. They're perfect, except for one thing. The pickle spears are too long. No problem, right, I chop off the tops. Next issue, I have a ton of small pieces of pickling cucumbers. I also have a few random spears that just didn't fit in the jars. I chop those up too. I'm sure you're thinking, oh well, she can just pickle the chopped pieces, right? Next problem, no brine leftover. Sigh.


I don't like to waste things, so I invented this salad. You can always eat pickling cucumbers like a normal salad cucumber, but it's better drenched in vinegar. This is a perfect way to use up whatever you have leftover so there's no waste. It makes a perfect little side dish!


Spicy and Sweet Pickling Cucumber Salad
(printable recipe)
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups roughly chopped pickling cucumbers
  • 1/4 sweet onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
Instructions:
  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, toss until everything is well-coated in the vinegar.
  2. Cover and place in the refrigerator for two hours or overnight.
  3. Serve and enjoy!

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Oreo Peanut Butter Pie - A Pie for Mikey


There are no words. It's a phrase I've seen or uttered far too often as of late. First, in my close circle of friends when it came to a tragic accident that took the life of the toddler of one of my dearest friends. I walked around in a fog for weeks with a loss I can't understand. Now, again, in the past week, I've seen it spread throughout the food blogging community. We were talking of indescribable loss. The sudden loss of the husband of fellow blogger, Jennifer Perillo.


Her husband, Mikey, passing away last weekend of a sudden heart attack while out bike riding with one of their two daughters. I don't know how she did, but she put together word after beautifully written word, about her dear husband in a post named, "For Mikey". She also made his favorite pie, Creamy Peanut Butter. Food is love, and in this case, it connects time and space, for the love of one dearest husband loss.

The food blogging community, as always, came together. Today, bloggers across the world making this pie, some variation, or their own #apieformikey . It's our way of supporting a friend, that some of us know so well, some have never met.


I was lucky enough to spend a little bit of time with Jennie at Eat, Write, Retreat. I got to share a quick breakfast with her and my dear friend Ethan Adeland (who by the way, gave his pie to a woman's shelter, and wrote a wonderful post for his friend). She spoke of her husband, her girls, her love for sharing local and from-scratch food. It's a passion we share. Just days ago, we tweeted back and forth about a cherry-infused grappa, and our love for the spirit. I'm not going to pretend to know Jennie like so many of you do. I know her enough to know she's a kindred spirit, full of love and light.

When devastating loss comes to pass, we often share in gifts of food, because it's one way of trying to fill the massive void a loved one leaves behind. Today, I share my version of Jennie's pie for Mikey with you. I share because I think she's a beautiful person, I think her daughters are amazing, I share because I can't imagine the loss she's feeling. I share because my husband loves this pie as much as Mikey did (and I'm sure still does), and I can't imagine losing him, his smile, his love for life.


Oreo Peanut Butter Pie
(printable recipe)
Serves: 10-12
A recipe (with a couple of changes) from the lovely Jennifer Perillo

Ingredients:
  • 8 ounces Oreo Cookies
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 ounces finely chopped chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts (I omitted)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup creamy-style peanut butter
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 -14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • more crumbled oreos for garnishing
Instructions:
  1. Pulverize the Oreos in a food processor until they're fine crumbs.
  2. Combine melted butter and cookie crumbs in a small bowl. Stir with a fork to mix well.
  3. Press mixture into the bottom and 1-inch up the sides of a buttered springform pan.
  4. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or the microwave. Pour over the bottom of cookie crust. Sprinkle the peanuts over the top, if you're using it. Put the pan in the fridge while you make the filling.
  5. In the bowl of standing mixer (or a regular bowl if using a hand mixer), pour in the heavy cream and beat until stiff peaks form. Transfer to a small bowl and put in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the filling.
  6. Rinse out your standing mixer bowl (or take out another) and place your cream cheese and peanut butter in it, and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. 
  7. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually beat in confectioner's sugar.
  8. Add the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Increase the speed to medium and beat all the ingredients are combined and the filing is smooth.
  9. Finally, take your whipped cream, and fold in 1/3 of the whipped cream into the filling mixture (it will lighten the mixture, making it easier to fold the rest of the whipped cream in). 
  10. Fold in the remaining whipped cream.
  11. Pour the mixture into your springform pan. 
  12. Sprinkled the crushed Oreos for garnish on top.
  13. Refrigerate for three hours or overnight before serving.


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