Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Traditional Baker Brand Poppyseed Bread

Poppyseed bread is one of those childhood treats that I have come to learn is a regional to Pennsylvania.  Now, whenever we go back east, my mom loads up on Baker Brand Poppyseed filling.  The recipe below is taken right from their label.  This is a lovely breakfast bread (similar in quality to banana bread).  Take a slice, toast it lightly and serve with butter for an especially delicious snack with your morning coffee.

"3 Minute Delight" Poppyseed Cake
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups sugar
8 fl oz vegetable oil*
4 eggs
1 (11-13oz) can evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 jar 10oz Baker Poppy Filling
1 cup chopped nuts (optional - I never include these)

Sift dry ingredients together, add all liquids and mix until smooth.  Add Baker Poppy filling and nuts, mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Turn batter into greased and floured tube pan.  Bake at 350 degrees F for about 50-60 minutes or until done.  Cool cake 5-8 minutes before removing from pan.

*10 to 12 oz oil makes a moister and richer cake, if preferred.  If so, allow approximately 15 minutes longer baking time.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Broiled Swordfish Kebabs with Lemon Parsley Basmati Rice

Last weekend we had friends for dinner.  I typically do some over-the-top dish that stresses me out and turns out somewhat imperfect.  For this particular dinner, Mike convinced me to keep things simple.  It ended up being the best dinner ever.

We started with a light and refreshing Citrus Salad with Sherry Dressing.  For the main course, I made the Swordfish Kebabs described below atop a bed of Lemon Parsley Rice.  For dessert, I served a Brookie with vanilla ice cream.  The result was one of the most enjoyable dinners we've had yet and going to bed without feeling painfully full.

Ingredients for Kebabs:
1 1/2 lbs swordfish steaks
A scant 1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, crushed
A scant 1/2 cup olive oil
2 green bell peppers, cut into large pieces
2 medium red onions (the recipe calls for 4...this is WAY too much)
1 small container fresh mushrooms, cleaned
1 bunch parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Ingredients for Lemon Parsley Rice:
1 3/4 cup chicken broth (for a less-intense flavor, sub 3/4 cup water for 3/4 cup broth)
1 cup Basmati or other Long Grain Rice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon peel
2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil

Prep the Swordfish:
Dice the swordfish steaks into 1-1 1/2 inch cubes, place in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and pour over half the lemon juice and crushed garlic.  Cover and marinate in fridge for 1 hour, or more.

Make the Rice:
In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the broth to boiling.  Stir in rice and salt; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer without lifting lid, until rice is tender and all liquid has been absorbed, 18 to 20 minutes. While rice is cooking, prepare Kebabs.

Make the Kebabs:
Turn on broiler and move rack to uppermost spot in the oven.  Skewer the fish, alternating with pieces of bell pepper, the onion halves and mushrooms.  Mix olive oil and extra lemon juice in a small bowl.  Place skewers on a broiling dish and lightly brush with olive oil.  Place pan under the broiller, and cook for approximately 5-6 minutes.  Turn skewers over, and cook an additional 4-5 minutes, or until fish is cooked through.  Be careful not to over cook, or your delicious swordfish will be dry!  (If you choose to use a charcoal grill, you can cook these over an open flame for 15-20 minutes, turning frequently.)

The finishing touches:
When your rice is cooked, remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.  Fluff with fork and stir in parsley, lemon peel, lemon juice and olive oil.  Add a little extra salt and pepper, to taste.  Place a few large spoon-fulls of rice on each plate and top with one skewer and a light sprinklng of parsley.  Serve with glass of Sauvignon Blanc or Sancerre.  Manja!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Orange Cream Cheese Pie

Two weeks ago, we had dinner at a friends house and left with a bag full of fresh lemons and oranges, from their yard.  There was more fruit then we could use quickly, so my solution was to make a citrus-based pie.  I found this recipe in my Williams-Sonoma Pie and Tart Cookbook.  It is easy enough for a beginner and the result is creamy, light, sweet and refreshing.  The lemon adds a fragrant quality that balances the heaviness of cream cheese and condensed milk.  Delicious!

For the Cookie Crumb Crust:
1 1/4 graham cracker crumbs (you could also use gingersnaps or chocolate wafers)
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbsp sugar

For the Filling:
4 or 5 navel oranges, 2 - 2 1/2 lb total weight
1/2 lb cream cheese, at room temperature (do not use nonfat cream cheese)
1 can (14 fl oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, strained


For the Cookie Crumb Crust:
Place an oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

In a bowl, combine the cookie crumbs, melted butter, and sugar and stir until the crumbs are well moistened.  Pat the mixture firmly and evenly into the bottom and all the way up the sides of a 9" pie pan or dish.

Bake until the crust is firm, about 5 minutes.  For a firmer, crunchier crust, bake for an additional 5 minutes.

For the Filling:
Zest 1 of the oranges to measure 1 teaspoon finely grated zest.  Set aside.  Using a sharp knife, peel all of the oranges — start by cutting a thick slice off of both bottom and top; then, steadying the fruit upright on a cutting board, slice off the peel in thick strips, following the contour of the fruit and cutting off the white pith and membrane.  Slice the oranges crosswise into thin rounds and set aside on a paper towel to drain.

In a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth.  Add the condensed milk, reserved orange zest, and vanilla and beat until smooth.  Stir in the lemon juice. 

 Pour the mixture into the prepared crumb crust and smooth the top.  Arrange the orange slices, overlapping them, in a decorative pattern on top of the pie, covering the filling completely.

Refrigerate the pie until chilled, about 1 hour, but let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving, to take the chill off.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Broiled Zucchini and Potatoes with Parmesan Crust

I've continued to experiment with my Giada cookbook.  This easy side is sooooo filling, warm and delicious.  A perfect accompaniment to any type of chicken, meat or fish.  I served this with a piece of swordfish and homemade lemon butter.  My lemon butter needs work, but these potatoes and zuccini are to die for.  Ya, I said it.

4 small new potatoes (red or white, about 1 1/12 inches in diameter)
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon chopped, fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped, fresh rosemary leaves
2 small zucchini, cut in 1/2 lengthwise (about 1-inch wide by 5 inches long)
Pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat.  Add the potatoes and cook until just tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, season th e cut sides of the zucchini and potatoes with salt and pepper.  Carefully place the zucchini and potatoes cut side down in the melted butter.   Let them cook until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes.

Preheat the broiler.  Line a baking sheet with foil  Place the browned zucchini and potatoes on the baking sheet cut side up.  Sprinkle the tops with the Parmesan.  Place in the broiler until the cheese is golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and serve.

Garlic Chicken

Mike has been ill, again.  I always love using garlic, but as it's a natural antibitotic, even better for me to use it when one of us is sick.  This recipe is quick, easy and super delicious.  Please let me know if you fully understand what a "sprig" of rosemary equates to.  The recipe calls for "12-14 sprigs" of fresh rosemary. I had 5 pieces that I threw in and the result was quite heavy on the rosemary.  Next time I'll use only one "stick" of the herb.  Otherwise, this is magnifique, and so quick and easy.

6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 5 ounces each)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
12-14 fresh rosemary sprigs
8 garlic cloves - 6 smashed, 2 minced

1/ Place chicken between sheets of lightly moistened plastic wrap and pound to an even thickness of about 1/2 inch.  Season with salt and pepper.

I don't have a meat hammer, so I ended up using a rolling pin.  It was quite effective.

2/ In a large, heavy skillet, combine oil, 8 sprigs of rosemary, and smashed garlic.  Cook over medium-low heat until garlic is golden, pressing rosemary sprigs and garlic cloves to release flavor, about 2 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, remove and discard flavorings.

3/ Place chicken in a hot skillet and cook over medium-high heat, turning until cooked thorugh and golden brown on both sides, about 4 to 5 minutes per side.  During last 2 minutes of cooking, add minced garlic and stir to cook and coat chicken pieces.  Serve chicken, garnished with remaining rosemary sprigs.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Honey Florentines

Had a friend over for tea, and realized I didn't have any cookies or other goodies to serve and no eggs in the house with which to whip up a batch.  I pulled this recipe out of my Martha Stewart Cookie cookbook literally because it was quick and I had all the ingredients.  To my surprise, and delight, these are little bits of toffe-like deliciousness.  I would highly recommend following Martha's instructions below and adding a chocolate drizzle or spread.  They pair great with green tea, or even chai; would also work with coffee.

Taken straight from the book:
To ensure uniform cookies, scoop out this batter with a measuring spoon.  Leave adequate space between dollops - the cookies will expand considerably while they bake.  If desired, embellish the cooled cookies with melted chocolate: Sandwich two cookies with it, dip cookie halves in it, drizzle it over the tops, or spread it on the flat sides of each.

Makes 2 dozen
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
Pinch of coarse salt

1/ Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Melt butter, brown sugar, and honey in a small saucepan over medium-low heat.  Transfer to a bowl.  Whisk in flour and salt until smooth.

2/ Working quickly, drop 1/2 teaspoons of batter onto large baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing at least 3 inches apart.

Bake cookies until they spread and turn golden brown, about 6 minutes.  Let cool on sheets on wire racks.  Carefully remove cookies from sheets with your fingers.  Cookies can be stored between layers of parchment in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.

This is what happens when you rush, like me, and don't properly space your cookies...

...but they can easily be separated with a knife.  Not a pretty shape, but taste is just as good!