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