December 20, 2012

Holiday Confetti Cookies

Confession: I've never outgrown my love of sprinkles. To this day, when I go to Dairy Queen, I order my soft serve chocolate topped with rainbow sprinkles. (I may live in Boston now, but I'll never call them jimmies.)

These cookies are super easy to make. And that's a plus if, like me, you're baking with a kid who doesn't have the patience for a complicated recipe.

Plus they're really tasty. They're made with cake mix, so they taste like cake batter. And sprinkles. What's not to love?

Stir together cake mix and baking power.

In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, oil and vanilla.

Stir together the wet and dry ingredients until combined.

Now for the best part, the sprinkles!

Gently stir the sprinkles into the cookie dough. Don't overmix or the colors will bleed into the dough.

Drop rounded balls of dough onto a baking sheet.

Bake for just 9 or 10 minutes. The cookies won't brown, and you don't want them to.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

Leave some of these cookies out for Santa and I guarantee you'll be on his Nice list!

Holiday Confetti Cookies

1 box white cake mix
1 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sprinkles

1.    Preheat oven to 350F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Set aside.

2.    In a large bowl, mix together the cake mix and baking powder. Set aside. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, and vanilla by hand.

3.    Add the egg mixture to the cake mixture and stir to form a dough.

4.    Gently mix in the sprinkles. Don't overstir or you'll dye the cookie dough.

5.    Drop rounded 1-inch balls of dough onto prepared baking sheet.

6.    Bake for 9 minutes. Do not let the cookies get brown.  

7.    Cool on a baking sheet for 3 minutes; they will  be very soft at first. As they cool, the tops will settle down. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: Store in an airtight container, for up to one week.

Makes 28 to 30 cookies.

December 14, 2012

Fisherman's Pie

Our Daring Cooks’ December 2012 Hostess is Andy of Today’s the Day and Today’s the Day I Cook!  Andy is sharing with us a traditional French Canadian classic the PatĂ© Chinois, also known as Shepherd’s pie for many of us, and if one dish says comfort food.. this one is it!

Thanksgiving dinner in Suffolk, England.
You can see the chestnut puree
beneath the cranberries.
A few weeks ago I went to England for my cousin's wedding. England's not really known for its food. But some of the food I had there really wowed me. It wasn't "cuisine," exactly. Just really good versions of traditional dishes. Sticky toffee pudding, for example. Not a dessert I've ever enjoyed in the U.S. But the version I had across the Pond was dense and light at the same time, sitting in a pool of the most seductive caramel sauce. That same meal, I'd enjoyed chestnut puree. A little dollop of it on the plate, just enough of the creamy nutty spread to leave me wanting more.

And then there was the fruitcake. Fruitcake! Something that I avoid like the plague here. Something that I tried at a tea (a tea!), and that only out of politeness because it had been made by my cousin's fiancé's mother. What a revelation. It turns out that traditional fruitcake doesn't contain the neon red and green "candied" fruit that you find in most American fruitcakes. It's a dense and spicy cake, loaded with raisins and currants soaked in delicious liqueur.

When I got back from my trip and saw this month's challenge, I decided to give it a British spin. I found a recipe for fish pie on the BBC's website. The BBC. I mean, how much more British can you get, right?

Start with skinless white fish. I found some beautiful flounder fillet.

Poach it in milk in which you put onion studded with cloves, bay leaves and fresh thyme.

As the fish poaches, it'll release some of its juices into the milk. And you'll use that flavored milk later in the recipe. Very clever, those Brits!

When the fish is cooked, remove it from the milk. Flake it into large chunks and lay it on the bottom of your baking dish.

Scatter frozen peas over the fish.

Strain the poaching milk into a large bowl and put it in the fridge to cool.

Get your potatoes going. Cube them up, then simmer in water for about 20 minutes until they're tender.

While the potatoes are cooking, make the sauce. Melt some butter into a saucepan. Add the flour and cook for a minute until the mixture turns golden.

Add a bit of the poaching milk and stir until blended. Gradually add more milk, stirring continuously.

Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer for a few minutes until the sauce thickens. Keep whisking while it simmers! Season the sauce with salt and pepper.

Then pour it over the fish and peas.

Once the potatoes are tender, drain them. Mash them up with some butter, salt, pepper, and remaining milk.

Spread the potatoes over the top of your baking dish. Work in from the outside, making sure to seal the edges.

Run a fork over the top to give your potatoes ridges that will get nice and crusty in the oven.

Bake until the fish is hot and the potatoes are golden brown.

Dig in!

Fisherman's Pie

Adapted from recipe by BBCGoodFood

1 ½ lb skinless white fish filet
2 ½ cups milk, divided
1 small onion, quartered
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
10 springs fresh thyme
1 cup frozen peas
1 stick butter, divided
¼ flour
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 lb potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Poach the fish:
1.    Put the fish into a saucepan. Pour 2 cups of milk over the fish. Stud each quarter onion with a clove, then add to the milk with the bay leaves and thyme.
2.    Bring the milk just to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes.
3.    Lift the fish onto a plate and strain the milk into a bowl to cool. Flake the fish into large pieces in the baking dish.
4.    Scatter the peas over the fish.

Make the sauce:
1.    Melt half the butter in a pan. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute over moderate heat.
2.    Pour in a little of the cold poaching milk, then stir until blended. Continue to add the milk gradually, mixing well until you have a smooth sauce.
3.    Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring continually until it coats the back of a spoon.
4.    Remove from the heat, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Make mashed potatoes:
1.    Boil the potatoes for 20 minutes.
2.    Drain and mash with salt, pepper, ½ cup milk and remaining butter.

Assemble and bake:
1.    Top the pie with potatoes. Start from the edges and work your way in. Be sure to seal the edges.
2.    Run a fork over the mashed potatoes. The ridges will get golden and crusty.
3.    Bake for 30 minutes until the fish is hot and the potatoes are golden brown.

Serves 4

December 6, 2012

Warm French Lentils

Holiday season is fast approaching. I don't know what that means in your house. But in mine, it means lots of cookies and other treats. I've already got boxes of chocolate stars and almond snowmen from Trader Joe's on my counter. And soon I'll start baking up some cookies of my own.

But for now, before the cookie onslaught really begins, I'm trying to be healthy. Lots of lean protein and veggies. And while I'm not cutting out carbs altogether, I'm trying to eat more beans and lentils (protein and fiber!) and less pasta and bread.

French green lentils
This warm French lentil salad is a very tasty and filling side dish. It's made with French green lentils (they're also called du Puy lentils). They sound fancy but they're just lentils and you can find them in the grocery store. They get tender when you cook them, but not mushy. I've used them before, in a lentil soup, but I hadn't tried them in a salad.

The lentils get some flavor from the onion, leeks, carrots and cloves they cook with. But the real flavor comes from the simple but intense vinaigrette that you toss with the lentils after they're cooked.

I served this warm, as a side with salmon. Next time I plan to make extra and eat the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Pierce cloves into a peeled onion.

Bring the onion and lentils to boil with water.

Simmer until the lentils are tender.

In a separate pan, saute the leeks, carrots and garlic in olive oil.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the vinaigrette. Combine the olive oil, mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small jar.

Whisk or shake until the vinaigrette is well combined.

Drain the cooked lentils and place them in a large bowl. Mix in the butter.

Add the leek and carrot mixture.

Toss with the vinaigrette.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Warm French Lentils

2 Tbsp plus 1/4 cup good olive oil
1 leek, white and light green parts, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 carrots, scrubbed and 1/2-inch-diced
1 tsp minced garlic
1 cup French green du Puy lentils
1 whole onion, peeled and stuck with 6 whole cloves
1 white turnip, cut in half (I left this out)
1 tsp unsalted butter
4 tsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1.    Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saute pan, add the leek and carrots, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute and set aside.

2.    Meanwhile, place the lentils, 4 cups of water, the onion with the cloves, and the turnip in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are almost tender.

3.    Remove and discard the onion and turnip and drain the lentils. Place them in a medium bowl with the leek and carrots, and add the butter.

4.    Meanwhile, whisk together the 1/4 cup of olive oil, the mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add to the lentils, stir well, and allow the lentils to cool until just warm, about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 4 to 6

November 20, 2012

Turkey Meatloaf

Now that the election is safely behind us, I can admit it. My husband likes meatloaf. No, he doesn't request meatloaf cakes for his birthday every year like a certain not-so-successful politician we know. But he does look forward to eating it when the weather gets chilly.

This meatloaf is a little healthier than most because it's made with turkey rather than beef. It's flavored with a mixture of onions, thyme and lots of Worcestershire sauce. (I usually sprinkle on some extra Worcestershire and Tabasco once it's cooked). And it's topped with a simple coating of ketchup whose flavor deepens while the meatloaf cooks.

Serve this hot or warm, or even cold in a sandwich.

Saute the onions and other seasonings until translucent.

Stir in the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock and tomato paste.

Combine the turkey, bread crumbs, eggs and onion mixture. 

There's no way around it. You have to use your hands for this.

Shape the mixture into a rectangle on a baking sheet.

Spread a layer of ketchup on top. It sounds weird, but don't skip the ketchup. The flavor changes when you heat it and it makes a nice sauce for the meatloaf.

Bake until cooked through.

Slice and eat!


Turkey Meatloaf

3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large onions)
2 Tbsp good olive oil
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves (1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 tsp tomato paste
5 lb ground turkey breast (I used regular ground turkey)
1 1/2 cups plain dry bread crumbs
3 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup ketchup

1.    Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

2.    In a medium saute pan, over medium-low heat, cook the onions, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme until translucent, but not browned, approximately 15 minutes.

3.    Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken stock, and tomato paste and mix well. Allow to cool to room temperature.

4.    Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, eggs, and onion mixture in a large bowl. Mix well.

5.    Shape into a rectangular loaf on an ungreased sheet pan. Spread the ketchup evenly on top.

6.    Bake for 1 1/2 hours until the internal temperature is 160 degrees F and the meatloaf is cooked through. (A pan of hot water in the oven under the meatloaf will keep the top from cracking.)

7.    Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold in a sandwich.

Serves 8 to 10

November 14, 2012

Brined Roast Chicken


Audax of Audax Artifax was our November 2012 Daring Cooks’ host. Audax has brought us into the world of brining and roasting, where we brined meat and vegetables and roasted them afterwards for a delicious meal!

Okay, this one surprised me. Before this challenge I looked at brining as an unnecessary step that didn't add enough to the final product to justify the extra time and effort. I stand corrected.

A basic brine is a just a mixture of salt and water. You can fancy it up by adding sugar, herbs, lemon, peppercorns and other flavorings.

When you brine meat before cooking, you simply soak it in the salty solution. The idea is that the salt and water flow into the meat, resulting in meat that is moister and better seasoned.

I used Thomas Keller's chicken brine recipe from Ad Hoc at Home. Then, to control as many variables as possible (I was a bio major), I roasted the chicken according to my go-to roast chicken recipe from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

I'll be honest, I didn't notice a huge difference in taste between this roast chicken and my usual un-brined version. But oh, the texture. Moist, tender, succulent. Not words I normally use to describe chicken breast.

These are the ingredients that will go into the water for the brine.

Combine water and lemons, bay leaves, parsley, thyme, honey, garlic, black peppercorns and salt in a large saucepan.

Bring to a boil and stir until the salt dissolves. Cool completely, then chill in the refrigerator.

Place the chicken in the brine. Put it in the fridge for several hours or overnight.

Remove the chicken from the brine. Dry it with paper towels. Then let it sit at room temperature for an hour before cooking. This will give the skin a chance to dry completely so that it can crisp up in the oven.

Sprinkle the inside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Stuff the cavity with lemon, garlic and thyme. Tuck the wings under, and tie the legs together with twine. Brush the outside of the chicken with melted butter. Then season liberally with salt and pepper.

Cook for 1 1/2 hours until the skin is golden brown and the chicken is cooked through.

Carve and serve!

Brined Roast Chicken

Brine recipe adapted from Ad Hoc at Home
Roast Chicken adapted from a recipe by The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

2 lemons, halved
6 bay leaves
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 bunch thyme
1/4 cup clover honey
1/2 head garlic, halved through the equator
1/8 cup black peppercorns
1 cup kosher salt
1 gallon water

1.    Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil. Boil for 1 minute, stirring to dissolve the salt.

2.    Remove from the heat and cool completely. Then chill (preferably overnight) before using.

Makes 1 gallon, enough for one 5-pound chicken

Roast Chicken:
1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) butter, melted

1.    Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers.

2.    Place chicken in the chilled brine. Make sure it is completely covered. Soak for several hours, or overnight.

3.    Remove the chicken from the brine. Pat it dry. Let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before cooking. (This gives the skin time to dry so that it crisps up nicely in the oven.)

4.    Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

5.    Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper.

6.    Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place chicken on a rack in a roasting pan.

7.    Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. (I also check that an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the leg reads 160 degrees F.)

8.    Remove the chicken to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve warm.

Serves 6