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Friday, July 29, 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins (cupcakes)

These chocolate muffins are so moist!  They're delicious as a snack but rich enough for a dessert.  Heavenly served with fresh berries and cream.  Slightly adapted from

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa, preferably Dutch-process
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
1/2 cup chocolate chips, I prefer the mini ones
2 cups finely grated zucchini (1 medium)

Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray two standard 12-cup muffin tins or a mini-muffin pans with nonstick spray.

Whisk all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk eggs, sugar, applesauce, oil, vanilla and melted chocolate in another large bowl until blended. Add the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until just combined. Fold in zucchini and chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the prepared pans.

For regular size muffins bake for 20-25 minutes (10-15 minutes for mini muffins) or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for about 10 minutes.  Run a knife around the outside of each muffin before inverting onto cooling rack.

NOTE:  This original recipe was for zucchini bread.  The recipe is the same, just pour batter in 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pans sprayed with nonstick spray.  Bake the loaves 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes. Invert onto rack and cool completely.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Grilled Rosemary-Garlic Chicken Kebabs

From Cooks Illustrated.

Rosemary-Garlic Marinade
·          ¾ cup buttermilk
·          2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
·          1 tablespoon olive oil
·          3 garlic cloves, minced
·          1½ teaspoons grated lemon zest
·          1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
·          1 teaspoon salt
·          ½ teaspoon pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, set aside.

Chicken Kebabs
·          1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 3-4), trimmed and cut into 1¼-inch pieces
·          2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers—cut into 1-inch pieces
·          1 large zucchini (about 12 oz), sliced into ¼-inch rounds
·          1 large red onion, cut into 1-inch squares

1.  Combine the chicken and marinade in a large Ziploc.  Toss to coat and let marinate for at least one hour and up to 6 hours, flipping the bag occasionally.
2.  Thread marinated chicken, peppers, zucchini, and onion onto skewers in an alternating pattern.  Brush with the leftover marinade
3A.  For a gas grill: turn all the burners to high, cover, and preheat the grill until hot about 15 minutes.  Turn the burners down to medium-high.
3B.  For a charcoal grill:  Open the bottom grill vents completely.  Light a large chimney starter three-quarters full with charcoal briquettes (about 75 brisquettes).  When the coals are hot, pour them in an even layer over the grill.  Set the cooking grate in place, cover, and heat the grill until hot about 5 minutes. 
4.  Clean and oil the cooking grate on the grill.  Place the kebabs on the grill and cook (cover if using gas), turning as needed until the chicken and vegetables are lightly charred on all sides and chicken is done about 8-12 minutes.
5.  Transfer to a platter, tent the kebabs loosely with aluminum foil for about 5 minutes (this helps keep the veggies and chicken moist) before serving.

"Perfect" Chocolate Chip Cookies

from Cook’s Illustrated May/June 2009. This recipe does best making very large cookies. If you prefer smaller cookies reduce baking time 7-9 minutes.  These cookies really are AMAZING!!!  The brown butter adds this great caramel flavor to the cookie.  We love these cookies, but sometimes you want a smaller very chewy cookie so please note we don't make these exclusively no matter how "perfect" cooks illustrated claims them to be.

1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons (1¾ sticks) unsalted butter
½ cup (3½ ounces) granulated sugar
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1¼ cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
¾ cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand for 3 minutes, then whish for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use a #24 cookie scoop). One extra step to help increase the "perfect" texture is to make a jagged surface on the dough. Break the dough ball in half, rotate the jagged halves 90 degrees and smash them back together. Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Remember these are BIG cookies).

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10-14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Coconut and Toasted Almonds
Follow the recipe for Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, adding 1 1/2 cups sweetened flaked coconut and 1 cup toasted sliced almonds instead of the walnuts.

Black and White Chocolate Chip Cookies with Pecans
Follow the recipe for Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies, substituting 1/2 cup white chocolate chips for 1/2 cup of the semisweet chips. Add 1 cup chopped pecans instead of walnuts.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan

This is not your typical gloopy eggplant parmesan casserole.  This recipe is life-changing!  So take advantage of eggplant available at the farmers market or farm stands and try it!  It's hearty enough to please even the most die-hard of carnivores, yet lightened up enough by baking and using Panko bread crumbs to be diet-friendly too.  Serves 2 (can double).  Slightly adapted from Cooks Country August/September 2010.  Photo from the bittenword blog.

1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound)
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
½ cup panko bread crumbs
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
½ cup plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
½ cup shredded provolone cheese

1.CUT EGGPLANT*. Cut two ¾-inch planks lengthwise from center of eggplant, halve each plank crosswise, and cut remaining eggplant into ½-inch dice.

2.  SET UP DREDGING STATION.  You will need 3 shallow plates/bowls.   Place flour in shallow dish. Beat egg in second shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs, ¼ cup Parmesan, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in third shallow dish. One at a time, coat eggplant slices lightly with flour, dip them in egg, and dredge in bread-crumb mixture, pressing to adhere. Transfer to wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet and let sit 5 minutes (or refrigerate up to 1 hour).

2. COOK EGGPLANT. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Heat ½ cup oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Cook -eggplant slices until lightly browned, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to wire rack set inside baking sheet and bake until eggplant is tender and deep golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

3. MAKE SAUCE. Meanwhile, pour off oil and wipe out skillet with paper towels. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in empty skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add chopped eggplant and ¼ -teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in remaining oil, garlic, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 -seconds. Add tomatoes and reduce heat to medium. Simmer until eggplant is tender and sauce is thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in basil and season with salt and pepper; cover and keep warm.

4. ASSEMBLE. Combine remaining Parmesan and provolone in medium bowl. Top browned eggplant slices with cheese mixture and bake until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes. Transfer half of sauce to platter and top with eggplant slices. Spoon remaining sauce over eggplant. Serve.

*How to Cut the Eggplant
This recipe deviates from the traditional round circles you normally see in eggplant Parmesan.  Instead it uses heart ¾-inch planks to reduce the amount of batches you need to pan fry before baking.  Turn the eggplant so it is standing up tall and using a serrated knife, slice off the curved side of eggplant (reserve).  Then cut two ¾-inch planks from the center.  Cut planks in half crosswise so they’ll neatly fit into the pan for frying in a single batch (making 4 pieces).  Chop reserved side pieces into strips, then into ½-inch cubes, and set aside for building the tomato pan sauce.   (This website has great step by step photos but note they cubed the entire eggplant for a different recipe.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Berry Patriotic Trifle

I've been making this for the Fourth of July since college.  I've liberally modified the recipe which I originally got from here to better fit our preferences.  I love it with the raspberries as in the original recipe but my girls prefer strawberries and they do make it look more patriotic.

1 (14 oz.) can Eagle Brand® Sweetened Condensed Milk
1-2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 a lemon)
1 (4-serving size) package instant lemon flavor pudding mix
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 (8 oz.) containers of lite cool whip
1 (10 3/4 oz.) loaf frozen pound cake
3 pints of fresh blueberries
2 pounds (or 2 quarts) of fresh strawberries, sliced

1.  With a fork or potato masher, smash about 1/2 a pint (about 1/2 cup) of blueberries in a small mixing bowl.  Stir in 2 tablespoons of sweetened condensed milk and 1-2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice.
2.  Halve the pound cake horizontally.  Then cut lengthwise into 4 strips; cut crosswise into 1-inch-thick pieces making 1-inch cubes.  Lightly toss the pound cake cubes in the smashed blueberry mixture until lightly coated (I found this easiest to do using about a quarter of the pound cake at a time).  Set aside.
3.  In a large mixing bowl combine the lemon pudding, milk, and remaining sweetened condensed milk with a wire whisk.  Add sour cream.  Let chill 5 minutes.  Then fold in cool whip one container at a time.  Put back into the fridge to chill while you prep berries.
4.  In a trifle dish layer half of the pound cake pieces.  The add the next layer of the lemon cream pudding.  Next add a thick layer of blueberries followed by more cream.  Then make another layer with the remaining pound cake pieces followed by a cream and then strawberry layer.  The on top add the remaining cream and berries.  (When you're finished the layers should be: cake, cream, blueberry, cream, cake, cream, strawberry, cream, topped with berries).
5.  Cover and chill at least 2 hours before serving.