But Sugar is Sweeter

Latest

Baked French Toast

IMG_3405
After 5 straights days of early wake-ups to cold, dreary rain, sleeping in on a Saturday and enjoying breakfast sounded like a much better idea then running.   Back in Toledo, when the weather gets bad I tend to hit up the treadmill at our apartment complex, but on my last away rotation,  it just seemed like a waste to brace the weather to drive to the gym, just so I can run in place.  I’ve actually been pleasantly surprised that my runs in the cold rain have been pretty enjoyable, it’s just much harder to take that first step out the door on a Saturday morning.  In fact, I’ve now made it my goal to run outside all winter this year.     So in comes this amazing french toast, that can be made the night before and ready within 30 minutes of waking up on a sleepy Saturday.

This is really the perfect meal for company because to make a double batch would be no extra trouble.  It certainly beats sitting over the stove and flipping pancake after pancake while the finished ones sit in the oven getting soggy.  Besides, I have always preferred French toast to pancakes, which likely stems from my childhood (okay..and high school..and college) obsession with all things French.  This dish is really wonderful enough to eat on its own, with out added syrup or butter, which is something I would rarely say about pancakes.  We served it with some turkey sausage, and it made for such a cozy warm Saturday morning.  And thanks to some help from lululemon (my unfortunate new obsession), I still had a good run in the rain later that day.
IMG_3401

Baked French Toast 

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 loaf (about 1  pound) brioche or challah, sliced 1 1/2 inches thick
  • 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk (at least 2%)
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • sprinkling of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • Maple syrup, confectioners’ sugar or fresh fruit for serving, optional

Directions:
Combine the butter and brown sugar in a 9×13-inch baking dish. Arrange the bread slices in the dish. (It’s fine if they overlap.) In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, vanilla, cinnamon and ginger. Pour the mixture evenly over the bread and allow it to soak in. Top with pecans and nutmeg and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 3 and up to 12 hours.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350º. Set the dish out while the oven is preheating. Bake until browned and set, about 35 minutes. Allow to cool slightly on a wire rack before serving.

Adapted from: Cook Like a Champion, Originally from Bon Appetit, Y’all

The Perfect Turkey

IMG_3608
I know you might be thinking that this post is about 9 days too late, but I figured I’d post my Thanksgiving turkey, because you still have plenty of time to plan a turkey for Christmas!    I mean really….turkey only one day per year is clearly not enough.  Especially when the turkey is this good.

This Thanksgiving we had a fairly small family gathering, especially compared to the 24 people my Aunt Mary managed to get around one amazing table last year!  It’s been a hard year for  us and today is especially difficult.  I can’t believe it was just a year ago that my family showed up at my apartment  to break the news that my father had passed away.  That’s a day I will never forget. I just remember seeing Max fly through the door, leash trailing behind him with no owner attached, and before my mom even got to the door, I knew he was gone.  As hard as this year has been, it’s also been a lesson in how resilient the human spirit is.  At first I had no idea how I would even make it to the next day, let alone the rest of medical school.  But here I am a whole year later, with an adorable puppy, an awesome husband, and only 6 months of medical school left!   If you have had the misfortune of losing someone you loved recently, let me just promise you that it will get easier.  And seriously,  I really think some turkey for comfort food could really help.  I’m sure my dad would’ve preferred these snowball cookies, but don’t worry, I already made a batch in his honor.

This turkey is a little bit involved, but it is by far the most moist, tender and delicious turkey you will ever eat.  I used to be disappointed by the fact that turkey would take up space on my plate in lieu of more sides- but this turkey is really the star of the meal.  First you throw all the ingredients in a pot and bring it to a boil.  Then you have to let it cool, which unfortunately always takes longer than I think it will.

IMG_3518

Houston wouldn’t let this turkey out of his sight.  I’ve never seen him like this before…he obviously knew this turkey was special.  I think this is his “Is that for me?  Awww please mom….”  face.

IMG_3524

Then you have to pour the cooled brine, along with ice cubes and cold water over the turkey.  The trickest part about this is finding a container that will allow the turkey to be totally covered.  In fact, I ended up taking it out of the container pictured here and putting it in a GIANT stock pot.  Last year I used a gray “sterelite” container I found at Walmart that was perfect – but it was at my apartment.  I’ve also heard of people using new and throughly cleaned 5 gallon paint buckets from Lowe’s/Home depot. Just remember you need to keep this container cold, so if it’s 60 degrees on Thanksgiving like it was in Ohio this year, putting it in the garage will not cut it.

IMG_3528

After the turkey has soaked in a cold place for 12-24 hours, take it out, rinse it it in cool water and set it in a pan.   In case you didn’t know, that’s me with the awkward smile on my face.   There’s some sage butter in the white bowl in front of me, which you spread under the skin in as many places as you can.  Then you take a delicious mixture of chicken broth, butter and garlic, and inject it all over the turkey meat.  This part is pretty fun. Between injecting the meat, and suturing the cavity closed with  2-0 vicryl, I was feeling like a real surgeon by the end of the day :-).

IMG_3529

Then stuff the turkey according to your liking.  This year we used my Grandma’s traditional (and amazing) stuffing, but last year I just put some onion, apple and celery in the cavity – both worked great.  Then put the turkey in a “Turkey Bag” and cook according to the directions on the box – ours took about 3 hours.   (I know that turkey bags might not seem very gourmet, but I promise they make the most moist turkeys!).

Then of course let the turkey sit for 20-30 minutes before cutting to let the juices redistribute.  True comfort food.  Why don’t we make turkey like 10 times per year!  I’ve included all the specifics below.  I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and just remember all through this season (and always) to tell the people how much they mean to you.  You will never regret saying I love you just one last time.

IMG_3608

The Perfect Turkey

Equipment 

  • large container that will hold turkey plus 2 gallons of liquid
  • oven safe thermometer
  • Flavor injector/syringe
  • Turkey roasting bag
  • heavy duty roasting pan

Ingredients

  • 1 turkey, 12 – 16 pounds
  • 1 gallon (16 cups) chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
  • 1/2 cup white or brown sugar
  • 1 cup kosher salt
  • 5-6 cloves smashed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated onion
  • 1 large sprig fresh thyme*
  • 1 large sprig fresh sage*
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary*
  • 1 handful fresh parsley
  • 8 cups cold water
  • 8 cups ice

*the poultry blend of fresh herbs should contain these 3

  • 3/4 c. salted butter, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 2-3 cloves garlic

Stuffing

  • Traditional Bread stuffing OR
  • 1 apple (chopped in half), 1-2 small onions (chopped in half), 4 celery stalks (cut into thirds)

About a week before you begin brining your turkey, place it in the refrigerator to defrost. Alternatively, purchase a fresh turkey.  (I have done both and I don’t actually think it makes a significant difference in the final product).

The day before you roast your turkey, combine the chicken broth and the remaining brine ingredients (through the parsley) in a very large stockpot. Bring to a boil and then remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature, which will take over an hour.

Remove the packaging from the turkey. Remove the neck and giblets (be sure to check both the body and neck cavities) and reserve for gravy, if desired.  Rinse the turkey in cool water and then place it in the appropriate container.  Add the cold water and the ice cubes, then add the brine mixture. Stir to combine. Cover with the lid and then place in a cold place for up to 24 hours.

When you’re ready to roast your turkey, preheat the oven according to the directions on the roasting bag packaging. Soften 1 stick of butter and mix it with 1 tablespoon fresh sage and set aside. Remove the turkey from the brine, rinse it in cool water, and place in the roasting pan. Use your hands to loosen the skin between over the breast. Spread handfuls of the sage butter between the breast and the skin, rubbing any excess over the outside of the skin.

In a blender, combine 1/2 c. chicken broth, 2-3 cloves garlic, and 1/4 c. melted butter until completely smooth. Let  sit for at least 20 minutes, then strain out garlic to make it easier to draw up.  Use the flavor injector to inject the mixture all over the turkey.

Slip any remaining rosemary and thyme sprigs under the skin.

Stuff the turkey cavity with bread stuffing or a mixture of  apple, onion, and celery. Insert the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the turkey breast and then place the turkey into the roasting bag and roast until the thermometer registers 165 according to the roasting bag directions. When you’ve reached 165, remove the turkey from the oven and cut the bag away from the turkey. Allow it to stand for 15-20 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute and keep the turkey juice.

Slightly adapted from Our Best Bites, who adapted it from Alton Brown

Lobster Corn Chowder

IMG_3286
Being on away rotations, I haven’t been up to my usual menu planning and weeknight meal routine.  Between applications, scheduling interviews,  and overall crazy hours, I haven’t missed it too much, but I’m not sure I can say the same for John (who has been eating chez chef Boyardee).  But to make up for it,  I was able to rationalize this fancy weekend meal. (It also didn’t hurt that Mom was buying :-)).    After apple picking, running and hiking in the park, this chowder was the perfect end to a fall themed day.   It is really one for the record books. It will make you feel like you on dining on the set of barefoot contessa and it would be the perfect fall meal for company, or if you just feel like indulging yourself.
IMG_3327
This was my first time ever cooking with lobster, and I don’t pretend to know much about it. I did learn that it is very easy to overcook it, and for such an expensive meat, that is really something you don’t want to do.  So err on the side of undercooked, because it will inevitably cook a bit more once you add it to the stew.  Also, while this soup still tasted wonderful the next day, I did notice that there was a bit of color separation, which didn’t make for the most gorgeous photograph.  If you want to see what it looked like the first night, check out this blog. Despite the work, and the amount of cream (once in a while..)  this is definitely something I will be making again.  In fact, it almost makes me wish I actually lived in New England,  which is saying a lot for a girl who hates the cold :-).

Lobster Corn Chowder

Serves 6 

Ingredients:

  • 3 (1 1/2lb) cooked lobsters
  • 3 ears of corn

For the stock:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/4 cup sherry
  • 1 teaspoon  paprika
  • 4 cups milk (skim works fine)
  • 2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
  • 1 cup dry white wine

For the soup:

  • 1 tablespoon good olive oil
  • 1/4 pound bacon, large-diced
  • 2 cups large-diced unpeeled Yukon gold potatoes (2 medium)
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 2 cups diced celery (3 to 4 stalks)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1/4 cup sherry

Instructions:

  1. Remove the meat from the shells of the lobsters. Cut the meat into large cubes and place them in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Reserve the shells and all the juices that collect. Cut the corn kernels from the cobs and set aside, reserving the cobs separately.
  2. For the stock, melt the butter in a stockpot or Dutch oven large enough to hold all the lobster shells and corncobs. Add the onion and cook over medium-low heat for 7 minutes, until translucent but not browned, stirring occasionally. Add the sherry and paprika and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk, cream, wine, lobster shells and their juices, and corn cobs and bring to a simmer. Partially cover the pot and simmer the stock over the lowest heat for 30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, in another stockpot or Dutch oven, heat the oil and cook the bacon for 4 to 5 minutes over medium-low heat, until browned and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Add the potatoes, onions, celery, corn kernels, salt, and pepper to the same pot and saute for 5 minutes. When the stock is ready, remove the largest pieces of lobster shell and the corn cobs with tongs and discard. Place a strainer over the soup pot and carefully pour the stock into the pot with the potatoes and corn. Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Add the cooked lobster, the chives and the sherry and season to taste. Heat gently and serve hot with a garnish of crisp bacon

Source: Smells Like Home , originally adapted from Back to Basics by Ina Garten

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Filled Muffins

IMG_3264
I cannot believe it is already fall.  Seriously…Where did summer go?    It was especially shocking this year because I was in South Carolina, and when I came back – BAM – cold, rainy weather.  I have never been one of those people who looks forward to fall.   Being someone who loves to be outside,  I just find it much more enjoyable when the weather is warm.  Sure it’s sometimes nice to curl up with a blanket on a cold night, but there are more than enough months for that here in Ohio.  The one redeeming factor of fall is the promise of fall foods  (well that and having an excuse to buy new boots).   Actually these pumpkin muffins alone might actually be reason enough to look forward to the season.

I made these several times last year but they always went  so fast I never had a chance to snap a picture.  When I needed something to take into clinic for a “luncheon” we had planned, I was thrilled  to make these again;  both because I love them and because  I knew I’d finally be able to share them with you all.  Someone described them as a pumpkin roll in muffin form, and I’d have to say this is spot on, but these muffins might even be better because they have a streusel topping.   Since I tend to be a late night baker, on more then one occasion I have started mixing only to remember that the cream cheese needs to freeze for a full 2 hours before you can bake with it.  I tried it once without letting the cream cheese harden, and as soon at the cream cheese gets hot, it bubbles up right through the top of the muffin and spills onto the pan.   Wasting cream cheese filling is pretty much an immortal sin, so plan ahead and mix up some cream cheese to put in the freezer right now.  Then bring these muffins anywhere and you will become popular (but unfortunately  they will not help you remember the bones in the hand.)

IMG_3270

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Makes 20-24 muffins

Ingredients 

For the filling:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

For the muffins:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1¼ cups vegetable oil

For the topping:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 5 tbsp. flour
  • 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and powdered sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1½-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around the log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

To make the muffins, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line muffin pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the liner (1-2 tablespoons). Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving.

Source: Annie’s Eats

Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Cake

IMG_3203
So I finally downloaded my camera card, and realized I have way too many things I haven’t shared yet!  But I decided to start with birthday cake, well because who doesn’t love birthday cake?! It has become somewhat of a tradition around here that I make my own birthday cake and then have friends over to share in eating it.  Now there are those people who think that you shouldn’t have to bake on your birthday – but I would assume those are people who don’t like baking as much as I do.  Really there is no other opportunity to make exactly the kind of birthday cake you’d like from start to finish, and I like to take advantage of that.  Now this year I went overboard (and for me to say that is really saying something!).  I decided to make a completely separate recipe of overly complicated cupcakes in addition to this three layer cake, and truthfully by the end of the day, I was starting to wonder if I’d get it all done before my birthday was over.   Thankfully, John helped out a lot, but for my future reference and yours: this cake is plently on it’s own – both in terms of amount of cake and work.

First you start with a rich, moist dark chocolate cake.  To really get the dark chocolate effect you should invest in some dutch processed (or dark) cocoa powder.   I made the layers a day ahead, but I would guess you could even make them several days in advance and store in the fridge because they are so moist.  Then you create a salted caramel, which will flavor the swiss meringue buttercream filling.  Personally, I’m still kind of on the fence about swiss meringue buttercream, but I thought it worked well in this recipe because it’s not overly sweet like traditional buttercream. It also happens to be very stable, and so is able to adequately support the layers of this cake.  Finally, you top it all with a dark chocolate ganache  frosting and some decorative fleur-de-sel.

IMG_3195

Although it would be really hard to top the malted chocolate and marshmallow cake of last year, this cake came close.   Since I’m partial to six layer cakes, I think if I made this again that I would cut each layer in half, and then fill the additional layers with a small amount of plain salted caramel.  (Simply double the recipe for caramel below.)  Compared to the cupcakes I made, the caramel flavor was fairly subtle in this cake, and I think that would help to make it stronger.  And if you want to save yourself some time, a traditional carmael buttercream like the one used here, would also work for the layers.  This cake was quite rich, and so I decided to freeze some to take home for a second birthday celebration, and I can also say that it freezes wonderfully!  Since my brother and I were born on the same day (5 years apart) we always try to get together for a fun birthday celebration – we kept it fun this year with an inflatable cake, and of course an entire table filled with desserts :-)!

418664_10150983509921626_1614723657_n

Salted Caramel Dark Chocolate Cake

– Makes a 3 layer cake with 8-inch rounds (Serves ~16)

Ingredients:
For the cake:
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2¼ cups sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder
2¼ tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. salt
6 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. brewed coffee
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:
1 cup sugar, divided
¼ cup water
¼ cup heavy cream
Generous pinch of sea salt, such as fleur de sel
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1½ cup (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature

For the frosting:
12 oz. good quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
¼ cup very hot water
1 cup plus 2 tbsp. (18 tbsp.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt

Fleur de sel, for finishing

Directions:
To make the cake, preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Grease and flour the edges of 3 8-inch baking pans, shaking out the excess.  Line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Mix on low speed to blend.  Add the vegetable oil, buttermilk, coffee, eggs, and vanilla to the bowl and mix on low speed until well blended and completely incorporated.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, using a kitchen scale if desired.  Bake 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the cakes cool in the pans about 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.  Remove the parchment paper.  Can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator prior to assembly for 1-2 days.

To make the caramel buttercream filling, place ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a medium saucepan.  Mix in the water.  Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat.  Stop stirring and let the caramel cook, gently swirling from time to time, until it is a deep amber color (test a drop on a white plate or bowl if necessary), watching it carefully to avoid burning.  Remove the mixture from the heat and slowly whisk in the cream and then the salt.  Set aside and let cool.

Combine the egg whites and the remaining ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture reaches 150-160° F and the sugar has dissolved.  Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form and the mixture has cooled to room temperature, about 8 minutes.  (The bowl should be cool to the touch.)

Reduce the speed to medium and add the butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, adding more once each addition has been incorporated.  If the frosting looks soupy or curdled, continue to beat on medium-high speed until thick and smooth again, about 3-5 minutes more (or longer – don’t worry, it will come together!)  Blend in the cooled caramel until smooth and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

To make the frosting, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is completely melted and smooth.  Set aside and let cool to room temperature.  In a small bowl, combine the cocoa powder and water and stir until smooth.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, confectioners’ sugar and salt.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  With the mixer on low speed, gradually blend in the melted and cooled chocolate until well incorporated.  Blend in the cocoa powder-water mixture until smooth.

To assemble the cake, level the cake layers to get a more stable and cylindrical cake.   Place one of the cake layers on a cake board or serving platter.  Top with half of the caramel buttercream and smooth in a thick, even layer.  Place a second cake layer on top and smooth the remaining caramel buttercream over that.  Place the final cake layer on top.  Cover the top and sides of the cake with the chocolate frosting and smooth with an offset spatula.    Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Before serving, sprinkle with fleur de sel.

Source: adapted from Annie’s Eats, originally from Sweetapolita

533109_10150983509556626_993156150_n

Summer Salad with Sweet Orange Vinaigrette

IMG_3156
When the heat index in Ohio reaches 110°, there are very few things that sound good for dinner.  In fact if I didn’t love eating so much, I’m fairly sure I could sit by the pool, sip on lemonade, eat a popsicle and call it a meal.  But inevitably, as soon as I come back into the air conditioning, I am famished.    The last time this post-sun hunger hit, I made the mistake of attempting to eat a full fat burger with a side of fries and a  cake vodka milkshake  in a restaurant that had to be 90º inside.  (What were we thinking?!?!)  Instead of making that mistake again, I think I will have this salad planned ahead.  It’s the perfect summer meal – light, healthy, fruity, filling and of course colorful.
IMG_3157
I’m not usually one to think that salads require a recipe, but I think that’s because I often times think of “salad” as a bag of lettuce tossed with bottled dressing.  Granted, this is a little more work, but this salad is actually something I would order from a restaurant as a meal (and I’m not real big on salads for dinner).   I’m also not a big fan of plain chicken breasts, but the citrus marinade really elevates them to a tender and succulent piece of meat.  In fact, the lightly flavored and grilled chicken is probably my second favorite part of this meal.  Second only to the abundance of colors you get to eat of course.  So the next time you go to the pool (or ocean if you are so lucky), marinate the chicken in the fridge so you have an easy and delicious meal when the sun wears off.

Grilled Chicken Summer Salad with Sweet Orange Vinaigrette 

Serves 4 as a main dish

  • 1 large bunch Romaine Lettuce
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 red bell pepper, (or sweet baby peppers)  sliced
  • 4  green onions, sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 6-8 tablespoons dried cherries or cranberries
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • optional: diced fresh pineapple

Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about 1/2 of a large navel orange)
  • 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup canola oil

Instructions

To prepare dressing, combine orange juice, vinegar, dry mustard, sugar, sesame oil, and salt in a 2 cup measuring cup.  Wisk until sugar is disolved.  While continuously whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil to make an emulsion.   Place the chicken breasts in a ziploc bag and marinade with about 1/2 of the dressing, for a few hours or overnight.  Place remaining dressing in the fridge until ready to use.

Grill Chicken for 6-7 minutes per side, or until internal temperature reaches 165ºF.

To prepare salads, divide lettuce between 4 plates, top with grilled chicken, mandarin oranges, bell pepper, green onions, cilantro, and dried cherries or cranberries.   Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Slightly adapted from: Our Best Bites

Star Spangled Apple Pie

IMG_2890
Between pinterest, google reader, and an ever growing cookbook collection, I read a lot of recipes.  Usually I file them away so that I can peruse my favorites  when trying to plan a menu.  But every once in a while a recipe is so memorable  that it pops into your head  a whole year later, while at the grocery store frantically trying to finalize the memorial day barbeque.  This recipe would fall into that category.

Normally I wouldn’t think of apple pie as a traditional Fourth of July dessert, but a star spangled apple pie – well that’s entirely patriotic.  It’s amazing what a few star cut outs can do for the “festive” level of a dessert.  Served with ice cream, a possibly a slice of cheddar cheese, it’s perfect for summertime.  And after all the saying does go, “As American as apple pie”.
IMG_2899

The other thing I really liked about this recipe was how simple it was – most of the ingredients you probably already have in your pantry.  But since the crust is really the “star” in this pie, I think  a homemade one is almost imperative.   I had a little bit of trouble with overbrowning, so next time I make this I plan to tent some foil over the top to help even cooking.  As you may know, I’m somewhat partial to sugar, but I truly did think that the sugar crystals elevated the crust from good to great, and would probably add even more when I make this for the next patriotic holiday.

Star Spangled Apple Pie

Makes 1 9-inch pie

  • Pie Crust
  • 6 medium/large Granny Smith apples (about 2½ lbs.), peeled, cored and sliced
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water (for egg wash)
  • Coarse sugar/Sugar sprinkles

On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the pie dough into approximately a 12-inch round.  (Keep the other half of the pie dough chilled for now.)  Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate, trimming the excess and crimping the edges.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 30 minutes in order to help the crust hold it’s shape while baking.

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the sliced apples, sugars, flour, spices and lemon juice.  Toss well to combine.  When the bottom crust is finished chilling, pour the apple mixture and accumulated juices into the bottom pie crust and use a spatula to even the top out slightly.  Place thin slices of cold butter over the apples.   Roll out the remaining pie dough on a floured work surface.  Cut out numerous star shapes and use these to cover the top of the pie, using as much of the dough as possible.  Brush the top and edges of the crust with the egg wash, then sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Place the pie on the upper rack and bake until the crust is golden brown and the juices are bubbling, about 50-60 minutes.  Watch carefully and tent with foil for the 2nd half of baking if necessary to prevent overbrowning. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Slightly Adapted from Annie’s Eats

IMG_2894

Blueberry Crumble Coffee Cake

IMG_3162

I can hardly believe it but Friday marks the end of my third year of medical school!  I can remember at the beginning of this year wondering how I was ever going to make it- “working” at the hospital everyday on top of studying for standardized exams every five weeks, and trying to live a somewhat normal life on top of it.  Then before I even had time to get really stressed out about it – it’s over!  Not complaining one bit :-).   I am finishing up the year with pediatrics, which quite to my surprise turned out to be one of my favorite rotations of the year.  I have never been one of those people who thinks, “Awwwwwwwwww, little kids are sooooooooo cute.”  In fact, I kind of grouped those people into the “lovers of unicorn and all things rainbow” that I just didn’t fit in with.   However, in retrospect I realize that I had never really spent enough time with the  little ones in order to make such a judgement.   Little kids are pretty amazing little people, and they definitely do say the darndest things.  And also, children’s hospitals = 1000x cooler than adult hospitals.

So in order to commemorate the end of another very good rotation, I decided to make coffee cake for the office to enjoy.    I wanted something summery yet decadent and something that would work equally well for both breakfast and dessert.  I think this cake hit the nail on the head.   The lemon in the batter gives it a fresh appeal, and the streusel topping makes it a crumbly delight.  I really thought this cake was over the top good – and based on the number of people at the office that asked for the recipe, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.        The only thing I might change for the future is to make individual serving sizes.  I think it would work well in a muffin tin – just make sure you equally distribute the amazing streusel, otherwise you might cause some fights (at least when there are little kiddos involved).
IMG_3163

Blueberry Crumble Coffee Cake

Makes a 9-inch round cake

For the Streusel:

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

For the Cake:

  •  6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature (3/4 stick)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • zest from 1/2 a lemon
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9-inch round baking pan.

For the Streusel: Combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl.  Stir in melted butter, then flour and mix well.

For the Cake:  In a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar on high speed for 4-5 minutes, until light.  Reduce speed to low to add the eggs, then add the vanilla, lemon zest, and sour cream.   In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the batter until just combined. Fold in the blueberries and stir with a spatula to evenly mix in berries.  Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and spread with a knife to level the top. With your fingers, crumble all the topping evenly over the batter.  Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool completely and serve. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if desired.

Barely Adapated from Barefoot Contessa (Ina Garten) 

Chocolate Oatmeal Moon Pies

IMG_2932

These babies have been on my “To Make” list for a long time, but they are the kind of cookie that you absolutely cannot make unless you have people to share them with (or have better will power than myself ).  So when our friend planned a dinner party, , I immediately knew that I wanted to bring these. Everyone enjoyed them, but I think they are a new personal favorite of mine.  The cookie itself is to die for.  If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making the whole sandwich, just make the cookies-  you won’t be sorry.  They have chocolate chunks, pecans, dried cherries, oatmeal and brown sugar.

IMG_2928

Then sandwiched between that goodness is a marshmallow frosting.  If you really want to get fancy, you could try toasted marshmallow frosting instead.   And if you aren’t drooling yet, on top of all that is a dark chocolate ganache.  The only problem I had with these  was that they are very messy if you try to eat them right after making them.  For a more refined dessert, just place them in a fridge for at least an hour before serving.  And since these taste so good cold, I think chocolate oatmeal ice cream sandwiches are in store for later this summer.  Perhaps I will make some toasted marshmallow ice cream to go with them – because a cookie as fabulous as this can’t settle for plain old vanilla.

IMG_2935

Chocolate Cherry Pecan Oatmeal Moon Pies

Makes about 20 large sandwich cookies

For the cookies:

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. coarse salt
  • 2¼ cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup dried tart cherries, chopped
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 4 oz. chocolate chunks
  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

For the filling:

  • 12 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 6 oz. marshmallow fluff
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract

For the drizzle: 

  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.  Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.  Whisk to blend, and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine the oats, cherries, pecans, and chocolate.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Blend in the egg and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour mixture, beating just until incorporated.  Fold in the oat mixture with a spatula until incorporated.

Use a scant ice cream scoop or a 1 oz cookie scoop to shape dough balls.  Place the dough balls on the prepared baking sheets, spacing each 2-3 inches apart.  Bake for 14-18 minutes, until cookies are light brown in color.  Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

To make the filling, place the butter in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Beat on medium-high speed until smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Blend in the confectioners’ sugar until incorporated.  Beat in the marshmallow fluff and vanilla until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

Match the cookies up in pairs by size.  Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large plain round tip with the marshmallow filling.  Pipe a dollop of filling onto the flat side of one cookie of each pair, and sandwich the cookies together, pushing the filling to the edges.

To make the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.  In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat.  Once simmering, remove from the heat and immediately pour over the chocolate.  Let stand 1-2 minutes.  Whisk in small circular motions until a smooth ganache has formed.  Whisk in the butter until completely incorporated.  Let the mixture stand at room temperature until slightly thickened, about 10 -20 minutes.  Drizzle over the assembled cookies.  Chill to set the ganache and stabilize the filling.

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

Grilled Blueberry BBQ Salmon

IMG_2914

Apparently there are some people in this world who don’t like fruit with their fish.  Thankfully, I don’t know any of them.  If you happen to be a fruit with fish hater (tear),  perhaps this recipe will convert you.   Especially with summer “officially” here, this is a refreshing  dinner that is easy to throw together after a day at the pool, and won’t ruin your waistline for the rest of bikini season.  I was somewhat hesitant about the sauce, since it’s fruit combined with garlic, onion and mustard powder – but I figured anything originally from The Neely’s would be hard to ruin.  Somehow the flavors just seem to work, and created an interesting twist on a simple salmon recipe.

I personally like to keep the skin on the salmon it because it keeps it in one piece while grilling and adds moisture to the filet, but you could also grill up a fish filet as long as you throughly oil the grate.  While the sauce is mostly “hands off”, it does need about 30 minutes total of simmer time – which I kind of enjoy because it gives you a chance to shower from the pool, pick up the house, or just relax with a glass of wine on the patio.  Unfortunately my brother won’t be bringing any Copper River salmon back from Alaska this year, but if your pocketbook can afford it, it’s in season now!

IMG_2917

Grilled Blueberry BBQ Salmon

Serves 2-4 depending on amount of salmon used

  • ¾ – 1 ½ pounds salmon filet, with skin on
  • Salt and Pepper

For the Sauce: 

  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce

Heat a small saucepan over low heat and add blueberries. Heat for about 10 minutes,  then mash with a fork. Add in ketchup, both vinegars, brown sugar, onion and garlic powder, ground mustard and worcestershire sauce. Whisk well to combine and break up blueberries and turn the heat up to medium. Heat until simmering and bubbles appear, then turn heat back down to low.  Cook for an additional 20 minutes, whisking every few minutes.  Sauce will be thicker than a normal barbecue sauce.

Preheat your grill to it’s highest setting and spray grate with oil.  Season the salmon with salt and pepper, and once the grill is hot, lay skin side up directly on grate.   Cook for 5 minutes, then gently flip so that skin side is down.  Using a pastry brush, brush BBQ sauce on salmon and let cook until flaky and opaque, about 5-6 more minutes.  Adjust time as needed for thicker/thinner salmon (mine was about 1 1/2 inches with skin.)

Source: How Sweet It Is