Valentine's Day

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

November 2, 2011

Chocolate Crackle Cookies

These cookies are a chocolate lover’s dream.

INGREDIENTS

12 Ounces Semi-Sweet Baking Chocolate (Divided)

¾ Cup Flour

2 Teaspoon Cinnamon

1 Teaspoon Ancho Chili Pepper

½ Teaspoon Baking Powder

¼ Teaspoon Salt

¼ Cup Softened Butter

½ Cup Sugar

¼ Cup Packed Brown Sugar

2 Lightly Beaten Eggs

2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Melt 8 ounces of the chocolate. It is a good idea to use a double boiler, but you can also melt it in the microwave. After melting the chocolate set aside. Coarsely chop the remaining 4 ounces of chocolate. Mix the flour, cinnamon, ancho chili pepper, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. In a medium bowl beat the butter and sugars with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add the melted chocolate and beat until well blended. Gradually beat in the flour mixture on a low speed until well mixed. Stir in the chopped chocolate. Drop the dough by rounded tablespoons 1 ½ inch apart on parchment paper lined baking sheets. Bake in a preheated 375° F oven for 10 minutes. You want the cookies set and slightly cracked on top. Transfer the cookies onto a wire rack and cool completely. Makes 3 ½ dozen cookies.

Lime Cheesecake

September 15, 2011

Lime Cheesecake

INGREDIENTS

1 Cup Graham Cracker Crumbs

½ Cup Finely Chopped Walnuts

½ Cup Melted Butter

¼ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

3 Medium Limes

16 Ounces Softened Cream Cheese

5 Large Eggs

16 Ounces Sour Cream

1 ¼ Cup Sugar

2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

½ Teaspoon Salt

Lime Slices For Garnish

Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a food processor process graham crackers until they are finely chopped. In a medium bowl mix together the graham cracker crumbs, chopped walnuts, melted butter and cinnamon. Press the mixture onto the bottom of a 9×2 ½ inch springform pan. Press 1 ½ inches up the side of the pan and set aside. Grate 1 tablespoon of the lime peel and squeeze ½ cup of lime juice and set aside. In a large bowl beat together, with a mixer, the cream cheese and eggs until smooth. Beat in the sour cream, sugar, vanilla, salt, lime juice and grated lime peel until well blended. Pour the cream cheese mixture into the graham cracker crust. Bake the cheesecake for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and be aware that the center may jiggle slightly. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Refrigerate the cheesecake at least 7 hours or until well chilled. To serve carefully remove the side of the springform pan. Garnish the cheesecake with lime slices. Serves 16

Victoriawich

September 2, 2011

Victoriawich

Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned ice cream sandwich? Ice cream sandwiches are a year round favorite of young and old alike. Store bought is fine, but homemade is always much better. I like to use a small amount of corn syrup and olive oil in the dough as it prevents the cookies from becoming hard when the sandwiches go into the freezer. These cookies are tasty on their own as well.

INGREDIENTS

2 1/3 Cups Unbleached Flour

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

½ Teaspoon Salt

1 Cup Room Temperature Butter

2/3 Cup Packed Brown Sugar

½ Cup Sugar

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon Light Corn Syrup

1 Egg

3 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

12 Ounces Chocolate Chips

5 Cups Vanilla Ice Cream

Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a large bowl stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In another bowl stir together the butter, sugars, olive oil and corn syrup until combined. Add the egg and vanilla until blended to the butter mixture. Next add the flour mixture to the wet mixture and combine. Stir in the chocolate chips. Using a ¼ cup measurer drop the dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. If you want to smaller cookies use two tablespoons of the dough. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned. Remove the baking sheets from the oven to wire racks and cool for 5 minutes. Using a spatula transfer the cookies to racks to completely cool. Repeat until all of the dough is used. Now you are ready to assemble the sandwiches. Let the ice cream soften in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Spread ½ cup of the ice cream on the bottom of one cookie and place a second cookie (bottom side down) on top of the ice cream. Repeat until all of the cookies are used. Wrap each sandwich individually in plastic wrap and freeze for 2 hours. If the sandwich cookies have become too hard then let them sit at room temperature before serving. Makes 8 large ice cream sandwiches

Oysters Rockefeller

August 25, 2011

This recipe is dedicated to my old friend Michael. I miss you very much!

Oysters Rockefeller

INGREDIENTS

1 Dozen Scrubbed Oysters

Rock Salt

12 Ounces Spinach (Usually 1 Bunch)

1 Tablespoons Plus 2 Teaspoons Butter

2 Tablespoons Minced Onion

1/8 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg

1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne

1/8 Teaspoon Sea Salt

1 Tablespoon Pernod

¼ Cup Heavy Cream

2 Tablespoon Plain Dried Bread Crumbs

Lemon Wedges

Preheat the oven to 425° F. Shuck the oysters and release the meat from the bottom of the shells. Remove any pieces of the broken shell. Place the oysters in the bottom shells in a jelly roll pan on ½ inch of rock salt. This will keep the oysters flat. Refrigerate until ready to bake. Wash the spinach. In a medium saucepan cook the spinach with water clinging to its leaves over a high heat. Stir and cook until wilted. Drain well and chop very fine. In the same pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook 3 minutes until tender. Stir in the spinach, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and Pernod. Add the cream to the mixture and cook over a high heat. Stir and cook until reduced and thick. Remove from the heat. In a small saucepan melt the remaining 2 teaspoons of butter and stir in the bread crumbs. Spoon the spinach mixture evenly on top of the oysters. Sprinkle with the bread crumb mixture. Bake for 10 minutes and serve garnished with lemon wedges. Serves 4 as an appetizer

Chocolate Root Beer Cake

August 21, 2011

Chocolate Root Beer Cake

I love this cake. You can taste the root beer, but it isn’t overpowering.

INGREDIENTS

2 Cups Unbleached Flour

2 Cups Sugar

1 Teaspoon Baking Soda

¼ Teaspoon Sea Salt

1 Cup Softened Butter

½ Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

2 Eggs

½ Cup Buttermilk or Sour Milk

2 Teaspoons Vanilla Extract

6 Tablespoons Root Beer Extract

Preheat the oven to 350° F and grease a bundt cake pan. Set aside. In a medium bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a medium saucepan combine the butter, cocoa powder and 1 cup of water. Bring the mixture just to boiling and stir constantly. Remove from the heat and add the cocoa mixture to the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer until combined. Add the eggs, butter, milk, vanilla and root beer extract. Beat for another minute until the batter is thin. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt cake pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until done. You can either sprinkle with powdered sugar or frost with Chocolate Buttermilk Frosting. Serves 8

Chocolate Buttermilk Frosting

In a saucepan combine ¼ cup butter, 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder and 3 tablespoons of buttermilk. Bring to a boil and then remove from the heat. Add 2 ¼ cups powdered sugar and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Beat until smooth. Pour the warm frosting of the cake and spread evenly.

Petite Pear Tarts

August 19, 2011

Petite Pear Tarts

Summer is the season for pears. What to do with all of those pears? Make pear tarts!

INGREDIENTS

Pastry for 1 Pie Crust

2 Small Ripe Pears (Peeled, Cored and Sliced)

2 Tablespoons Unbleached Flour

2 Tablespoons Dried Currents

2 Teaspoons Fresh Lemon Juice

½ Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon

½ Cup Plus 6 Teaspoons Sugar

2 Tablespoons Milk

2 Tablespoons Chopped Pecans

Prepare the pastry for 1 pie crust. Shape two equal balls and chill for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 400° F. In a large bowl, toss the pear slices with flour, currants, lemon juice, cinnamon and ½ cup of sugar. Set aside. On a lightly floured surface, with a floured rolling pink roll 1 dough ball into a 10 inch round. Transfer to one half of a large cookie sheet. Mound half of the pear mixture in the center of the round. Fold the dough up around the pears, leaving a 2 ½ inch opening in the center. Repeat with the remaining dough and pear mixture to make a second tart on the same cookie sheet. Brush each crust with 1 tablespoon of milk and sprinkle each with 2 teaspoons of sugar. Place 2 sheet of foil under the cookie sheet. Crimp the foil edges to form a rim to catch any drips during the baking. Bake the tarts for 20 minutes. In a cup, mix the pecans with the remaining 2 teaspoons of sugar and sprinkle over the filling in the center of the tarts. Bake for 10 minute more or until the crust is brown. Cool the tarts on cookie sheets on a wire rack for 10 minutes to serve warm. Makes 2 petite tarts

Pie Crust Recipe

INGREDIENTs

1 ¼ Cups Unbleached Flour

¼ Teaspoon Salt

2 Tablespoons Shortening

4 Tablespoons Cold & Cut Up Butter

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. With a pastry blender cut in the shortening and butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle in 3 to 5 tablespoons of ice water, a tablespoon at a time. Mix lightly with a fork after each addition, until the dough is just moist enough to hold together. Shape the dough into 1 ball. Wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or more. Remove from the fridge and let stand for 1 hour before rolling. You want the dough at room temperature. Make two separate balls. On a lightly floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll out each ball to make the petite pie crusts.

Creamy Polenta

August 3, 2011

Creamy Polenta

Dubbed by some as “Italian Grits,” polenta has been popular and been abundant in the North of Italy since ancient times. First made from wild grains and later from a primitive wheat, faro, millet, spelt or chickpeas these grains were mixed with water to form a paste and then cooked on a hot stone. Sometime in the 15th or 16th century a new crop known as maize arrived from the New World. It was a perfect crop from the farms of Northern Italy and landowners were able to grow vast fields of corn for profit. Polenta was eaten either in porridge or in a hard cake like form. The best polenta that I have ever had was a few years ago at the now closed, L’Impero, in New York. It was the creamiest and served with a delicious mushroom sauce.

INGREDIENTS

2 Cups Cold Water

1 Teaspoon Salt

1 ½ Cups Yellow Cornmeal

4 ½ Cups Boiling Water

½ Cup Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

4 Tablespoons Butter Cut Into Pieces

Combine cold water and salt in a large Dutch oven. With a wire whisk, gradually beat in the cornmeal until smooth. Whisk in the boiling water and heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook stirring frequently with a wooden spoon for 25 minutes. The mixture should be very thick. Stir in the Parmesan cheese and butter into the polenta until the butter has melted. Serve immediately. Serves 8

Lobster Ravioli

August 1, 2011

Lobster Ravioli

Lobster Ravioli with tomato sauce is an elegant way to begin a meal or as a main course. 

INGREDIENTS

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

5 Peeled, Seeded & Chopped Large Ripe Tomatoes

½ Teaspoon Salt

½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Pepper

¼ Cup Heavy Cream

12 Ounces Cooked Fresh Lobster Meat In Large Pieces

4 Tablespoons Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese

Pasta Dough

1 Tablespoon Freshly Chopped Basil For Garnish

In a large saucepan heat olive oil over medium heat and add the tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Turn the heat down to low and simmer for 20 minutes until slightly thick. Add the cream and cook an additional 5 minutes.  Transfer to a food processor and puree until smooth.  Put the tomato mixture back into the saucepan.  In a small bowl combine the lobster, Parmesan cheese and 1/3 cup of the puree.  Mix well.  Lay a sheet of the pasta dough on a lightly floured counter.  Place portions of the lobster filling at least 5 inches apart onto the pasta.  Lay another sheet of the pasta on top and press down lightly.  The lobster mixture should be about 3 ½ tablespoons for each ravioli.  Using a pastry crimper, cut the dough into 4 inch squares.  Make sure that the filling is in the center of each square.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  You should have enough extra dough to cover the filling on the third sheet of filling.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and drop in the ravioli.  Cook for 3 minutes and drain.  DO NOT RINSE!  Heat the remaining tomato puree and ladle enough onto each plate to form a pool.  Place the ravioli in the center and pour a bit more of the sauce on top.  Sprinkle chopped basil on top and serve.  Serves 6

PASTA DOUGH

2 Cups Unbleached Flour

3 Large Eggs

Place the flour in a food processor and with the motor running add the eggs one at a time.  Continue processing for 20 seconds.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it has formed a smooth and firm ball.  Cover with a dry kitchen towel and let rest for 35 minutes.  Divide the ball of dough into five pieces and recover the four pieces with the same towel.  Slightly roll one piece with a rolling pin.  Lightly flour the dough on both sides.  Roll the dough through the widest setting of a pasta machine.  Fold the pasta in thirds and roll through the machine again.  Repeat this four times folding the dough each time.  Continue rolling the pasta through the machine.  Gradually make the opening smaller until you arrive at the third thinnest setting.  Run the dough through the machine one last time.  Now cut for pasta.  Repeat with the remaining four pieces of dough.  Makes 1 pound of pasta

Portobello Mushroom Stroganoff

July 29, 2011

Portobello Mushroom Stroganoff

The meaty taste of Portobello mushrooms makes this meatless pasta dish very satisfying!

INGREDIENTS

8 Ounces Fettuccine Or Pasta Of Your Choice

8 Ounces Sour Cream

2 Tablespoons Unbleached Flour

¾ Cup White Wine

1 Crumbled Vegetable Bouillon Cube

½ Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper

2 Diced Onions

3 Tablespoons Butter

5 Cups Sliced Portobello Mushrooms

2 Minced Garlic Cloves

Cook the fettuccine, drain and keep warm.  Do NOT rinse the pasta.  I like to drizzle the cooked pasta with olive oil to keep it from sticking together.  In a small bowl combine the sour cream and unbleached flour.  Stir in the water, bouillon and black pepper.  Set aside.  In a large skillet heat the butter over a medium heat and add the onion.  Cook for 5 minutes until tender.  Stir constantly.  Stir in the garlic and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes.  Remove the mushroom mixture from the pan and add to the pasta.  Keep warm.  Wipe out the skillet and stir in the sour cream.  Cook until bubbly.  Pour the sour cream mixture over the pasta and mushroom mixture.  Stir gently to coat.  Serve warm.  Serves 4

Lady Baltimore Cake

July 28, 2011

Lady Baltimore Cake

A Southern specialty that has many variations and often used as a favorite wedding cake. It is said to have originated in “The Lady Baltimore Tea Room” in Charleston, South Carolina, toward the end of the 19th century.  It has been suggested that it is a variation of a cake that was favored by Dolley Madison (1768-1849), the wife of President James Madison.  I love this recipe and find that it is extremely versatile.

INGREDIENTS

Cake:

2 Cups Sugar

1 Cup Butter

4 Separated Eggs

1 Cup Milk

3 Cups Unbleached Flour

4 Teaspoons Baking Powder

½ Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1 Teaspoon Almond Extract

Frosting:

2 Egg Whites

1 ½ Cups Sugar

1/3 Cup Cold Water

½ Teaspoon Vanilla Extract

1/8 Teaspoon Salt

1 Cup Chopped Raisins

1 Cup Chopped Walnuts

12 Finely Cut Dried Figs

¼ Cup Candied Cherries

Cream together the sugar and butter.  Add the egg yolks one at a time and mix.  Alternately add the milk and the dry ingredients.  Set aside.  Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Fold the beaten egg whites, vanilla and almond extract into the yolk mixture. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Bake in two 9 inch greased cake pans for 35 minutes until done.  When done remove from the oven and cool cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Then remove from pans and continue cooking.  Prepare the frosting and spread between the cake layers as a filling and then spread the remaining frosting to ice the entire cake.  Serves 8

To make the frosting: In a 3 quart saucepan over very low heat beat egg whites, sugar, water, vanilla and salt until stiff peaks form.  You can use an electric hand mixer on medium speed to beat the egg whites.  This should take about 15 minutes.  Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the chopped raisins, chopped walnuts, dried figs and candied cherries.  You can omit the cherries if you wish. 

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