Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween Treats - 2 different Whoopie Pies!




This is my first attempt at whoopie pies, and I am so happy with the result. I chose to make Spiced Pumpkin with Cream Cheese Filling, and Dark Chocolate with Peanut Butter Cream. Both are great!

I deliberately chose an orange and a black whoopie pie - the colors of halloween, and a great combination of flavors for any Halloween Party! No tricks here, though, they are both treats!

The pumpkin whoopie pie is perfect - a soft, dense, spicy cake that sandwiches creamy, slightly tangy yet sweet filling. The result is perfect, and a great idea for your Halloween Party! My family loved these, and I'm glad I chose the recipe I did.
The chocolate whoopie pie I chose to fill with a peanut butter cream. I tried it with just peanut butter, and the peanut butter was too dense. I think a variation of the flour paste frosting recipe I am so found of is a great filling for whoopie pies, and I was right! This peanut butter frosting is just perfect- peanutty enough, yet creamy sweet.

A note about the chocolate recipe though - be very careful when cooking them. They are very easy to overcook, and dry out very easily when they are overcooked.

My tip today is an idea to get all your cookies the same size. I struggle with this as well. But, the easiest way I've found is to go to a Restaurant Supply Store, and buy a few different size scoops. I have one that perfectly fills my cupcake tins, my mini cupcake tins, and one tablespoon measure.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with Molasses Cream Cheese Filling
Adapted from joyofbaking.com(whoopie pies)
Filling by Twisted Kitchen

3 cups flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground cloves
1 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
2 cups pumpkin puree (approx 1 15 oz can)
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups light brown sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
2 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar and butter for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until well combined. Add pumpkin, all spices, baking powder, baking soda, and mix until combined. Mix in flour just until well mixed.

Drop mixture by 2 tablespoon onto a greased cookie sheet. Ideally, each should be spaced up to 2" apart. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes, until top is starting to dry. Cool while you make frosting.

Molasses Cream Cheese Filling

1/2 c. cream cheese (4 oz)
1/2 c. butter, softened
2 T. molasses
3 cups powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. cinnamon
1-2 T. heavy cream

Combine cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. While still beating, slowly add vanilla and molasses. Add just enough cream to make smooth and creamy consistency.

To assemble - Pair baked whoopie pies together based on similar shape for top and bottom. Place generous topping on one piece, and gently sandwich your whoopie pies.

Chocolate Whoopie Pies with Peanut Butter Filling
Adapted from Joy of Baking (whoopie pies)
Peanut Butter Filling (TwistedKitchen)

1 3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. cocoa (I use dutch processed)
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. butter, softened
1 egg, room temperature
1/2 c. coffee
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. sour cream
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Grease 2 cookie sheets, or prepare parchment sheets for the pans.

In a medium bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg, vanilla, sour cream, and coffee and mix until well combined.

Add remaining ingredients, and mix until all ingredients are well incorporated.

Drop by 2 T. onto prepared cookie sheet, leaving 2" between each. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until tops are just starting to dry and top springs back when touched. Cool while making the filling.

Peanut Butter Filling

5 T. flour
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. peanut butter
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla

In a small saucepan, heat flour and milk, stirring constantly, until a very thick paste. Cool until very cold.

Once paste mixture is cold, beat peanut butter, butter, and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add vanilla and flour paste and continue mixing until light and fluffy, 2 minutes.

Spread peanut butter filling between two similar size chocolate whoopie pies.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

October 2010 Daring Bakers Challenge - Get ready for donuts!

Just looking at that picture makes me hungry! They were that good.

The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

Having already made a huge batch of donuts in July, I was looking for something a bit different. Then I remembered - Malasada's...wow, are these good. If you have ever been fortunate enough to visit Hawaii, have some there - that's where I was introduced to them.

Now, I will admit, if Hawaii were a person, I would have an affair with them. I love that state, I love those islands, and there really isn't anything I don't love about Hawaii. I'm not too crazy about poi, but I love Hawaii!

Since those popped into my head, I went in search of a recipe. I have about 4 hawaiian recipe sites bookmarked on my computer, and the hawaii.edu site did not disappoint. The only thing I changed was using half and half instead of the condensed milk in the recipe. These are just a rich pillowy bite. I will definitely make again!

I decided to make these over at my brother Matt's house for a going away party - they were very well received. And, they are delicious. I cut them in simple squares and let them rise before baking, which was way easier than shaping them in donut shape. But, that's one of the things that's great about Malasada's - they are 2-3 bites of non-pretentious deliciousness!

I chose to serve them with something to dip them in. And, since I'm currently in my I love dulce de leche and caramel coconut, we each got a choice of that. If you want to make coconut caramel, just use this recipe without adding chopped coconut. It is amazing.

Thank you again Lori for such an awesome challenge!


Malasada's (recipe from hawaii.edu)

1 T. yeast
1/2 c. sugar
1 1/4 c. warm water
6 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
1 c. half and half or evaporated milk
6 eggs

Vegetable oil (for frying)
extra sugar (for coating - you can add a little nutmeg if you wish)

Dissolve yeast, 1 t. sugar, and 1/4 c. water and set aside. Beat eggs. Check yeast to make sure it is bubbly. If not, start over with the yeast.

Place 3 cups flour in a mixing bowl, and add eggs and yeast mixture. Mix well. Add milk, sugar, salt, and remaining water and mix well. Let rest 15 minutes. Mix dough and add additional flour, 1 cup at a time. Dough will be slightly sticky and very soft. Knead 3-5 minutes.

Place in a greased bowl and let rise for 1-2 hours. Turn out, and gently shape dough until it's about 1/2" thick. Cut with pizza cutter into small shapes, and let rest an additional 30-40 minutes.

While dough is resting, heat oil in a cast iron pot, or a deep fryer to 325 degrees. Fry dough 1-2 minutes on each side, being very careful to not add too many pieces at a time to your oil. Immediately after removing from oil, shake with extra sugar to coat.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pretty little Pumpkin Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Buttercream


I wanted to do a few pumpkin treats for Halloween this year. It has been a while since I've done anything remotely related to Halloween...except, of course, going to get some 1/2 price candy the day after. Halloween was a really big deal when I was living in Southern California. But, it's not much of a holiday for me. I usually had to work, and it never was one of my favorite holidays.



These sweet pumpkin cupcakes may change my mind about that. While I can trace my love of cupcakes to a general love of frosting and the fact they are so much cuter than a cake, these mini pumpkin cupcakes are genuine love all around.

While looking for a recipe, I finally decided on the one from Martha Stewart's website. Even though the last recipe I used was almost a kitchen disaster...this one looked to have promise. I added more spices, since I wanted a nice contrast to the real butter cream frosting.

The result was a moist and tasty cupcake with quite a bit of spice. Now on to the butter cream. I wanted to do a brown sugar buttercream, because I thought the brown sugar would taste really nice with the pumpkin. I added a little bit of cinnamon to the butter cream as well, and I am very happy with the results.

My tip of the post today involves brown sugar. As we all know, it likes to clump. To get rid of the clumps, you can microwave them for a few seconds until they break apart. Also, if you want to substitute brown sugar and your recipe calls for super fine sugar, you can process your brown sugar to super fine in a food processor. It takes a while, but it will get there!



Pumpkin Mini Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Butter cream

For the cupcakes:

Adapted from Martha Stewart, makes about 50 mini cupcakes or 18 regular size

2 cups all purpose flour (I use unbleached)
1 teas. baking soda
1 teas. baking powder
1/2 teas. salt
2 teas. cinnamon
1/2 teas. nutmeg
2 teas. ground ginger
1/2 teas. cloves
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
4 eggs, room temperature
2 cups pumpkin (or one 14 oz can)

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare mini cupcake tins by lightly spraying them, greasing and flouring, or lining with liners.

In a large bowl, beat butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in pumpkin and eggs until all well blended. Add salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.

With your mixer on low, add flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Fill mini cupcake 2/3 full - for mine this means about 1 tablespoon of batter. Place in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, until tops are lightly golden, and cupcakes lightly spring back when touched.

Cool completely and prepare brown sugar butter cream

Brown Sugar Butter Cream
Heavily adapted from Martha Stewart (a note about this frosting - the original recipe on Martha Stewart's site is hopelessly wrong. It's missing about 1/2 the butter. But once I meddled with the recipe, I like the results)

7 egg white, room temperature
2 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup water
2 teas. cream of tarter
2 cups butter, slightly softened and cut into tablespoon sizes
1 teas vanilla extract
3/4 teas. cinnamon

In a heavy pot, dissolve brown sugar and water. Place over medium high to high heat and heat to 240 degrees on a candy thermometer.

While sugar is cooking, place egg whites and cream of tarter in a stand mixer and beat to soft peaks. Once sugar has reached the correct temperature, slowly stream the sugar mixture into the egg whites, while the mixer is on medium to medium high. Once finished, scrape down bowl and continue beating for 10-12 minutes, until room temperature.

Turn mixer down to low or medium and add butter, one piece at a time, waiting until the previous piece is well incorporated. Add vanilla and cinnamon, and pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chanterelle Pasta with Chicken

I have great Sisters-in-law. Brian's wife, Kristie, gave me these mushrooms. She picked them on their property. After getting tired of canning hers, she passed me a sack of them. Wow, are they terrific! I tried to go pick some more, since these were so good, but...when she mentioned that there is a bear across the creek and I should take a gun just in case...well, I kind of chickened out. I'm not sure what I would dislike more - meeting the bear, or carrying a gun.

With a bag of just about the freshest chanterelles you can get, what was I going to do with them? As absolutely little as possible, of course! I prefer these sauteed in a little bit of butter mixed with oil, and sprinkled with a little salt. At first, they tend to get just a little slimy, but if you keep on cooking them, that goes away. I cut the larger ones into smaller pieces, but left the small ones whole.

Now for my tip, and it involves cooking mushrooms. Mushrooms have a ton of water in them. If you want a more intense flavor from your mushrooms, before you put them in any dish, saute them a bit in a pan with a little bit of oil. They will taste more flavorful because you have reduced the water content of the mushrooms.

These are just great on pasta with a little bit of chicken added. I served them with some whole wheat shell pasta, and this dish, although incredibly simple, was just an amazing treat.

Chanterelle Pasta with Chicken
Serves 2-3, depending on appetite

8 oz. chanterelle mushrooms, cleaned with a damp towel, and sliced, if large
1 chicken breast, diced into 1" cubes
1 t. salt
1/2 t. white pepper
1 cup dry whole wheat pasta, cooked in salted water
1 small garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 c. cream
2 t. butter
1 T. oil
Parmesan Shavings to taste

Heat a medium saute pan on medium high heat. Add butter and oil. When butter has melted, add mushrooms and 1/2 t. salt and saute for 2-3 minutes, until mushrooms just start to wilt and some are lightly brown. Remove from pan.

While mushrooms are cooking, cook pasta, and sprinkle chicken with remaining salt and white pepper. Saute in same pan mushrooms were in until chicken is cooked through, 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and saute for about 1minute. Add mushrooms to the pan to reheat, and top with cream. Turn down to simmer and let cream gently reduce while finishing pasta.

When pasta has cooked, toss pasta into the chicken mushroom mixture until well coated. Taste and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with parmesan cheese shavings.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October 2010 Daring Cooks Challenge - Confessions of a over-stuffer aka Stuffed Grape Leaves



I know there are people out there just like me. Those of us that just can't resist filling the cupcakes too full so we have muffin tops. Those of us that stuff a taco or burrito so full of stuff it won't close all nice and neat like those pictures we so envy.

We can't help it really. We look at those empty grape leaves and think - well, they can't possibly mean 2 teaspoons of filling - that grape leaf is so BIG! It's just crying for more stuffing! I must have bought grape leaves that were too big for this challenge!

This challenge can help you, my friend. Of course, it didn't help me much, until about 1/2 way through it. That's when I realized I was working with UNCOOKED RICE, and my grape leaves were going to become grape shrapnel scattered throughout rice if I didn't, at least temporarily, eliminate my urge to over-stuff. I did, and ended up with about 1/2 of my grape leaves still intact after cooking, and about 1/2 looking like a teddy bear the dog has chewed up with their stuffing showing from little tears and holes throughout.


Our October 2010 hostess, Lori of Lori’s Lipsmacking Goodness, has challenged The Daring Cooks to stuff grape leaves. Lori chose a recipe from Aromas of Aleppo and a recipe from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food.

My first "challenge" was finding grape leaves. I thought for sure that Cost Plus would carry them. Nope...After a store rush that included 4 grocery stores, I finally found them...but they were $7/jar! Oh well, it's a challenge, it will be fun! So I bought them, and they sat in my kitchen for 2 weeks, taunting me.

While I'm a fan of Middle Eastern Food, I'm not that much a fan of stuffed Grape leaves. My friend Georgia used to make them once in a while, and they were good. BUT, there was a spice in there that I just didn't care for. Now I know it's the combination of dill, mint, and the preserved grape leaves that I don't care for, so if I ever make these again, I will downplay the dill significantly.

That being said, this challenge was fun. I could appreciate the final product, and I stuck close to the vegetarian recipe provided - adding only roast eggplant to the stuffing. I also sliced a lemon in thin slices and placed it over the grape leaves before adding the oil and water, just because I remember Georgia doing something similar.

Would I do this recipe again? Probably not, but I really did enjoy doing it. Thank you again Lori, for such a fun and "challenging" challenge! I am going to include the recipe as written and provided by Lori, for those of you out there that want to try a very nice recipe!



Wara Einab or Dolma/Cold Stuffed Grape Leaves
Adapted from Claudia Roden's The New Book of Middle Eastern Food a Borzoi Book, published by Alfred A. Knopf

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

24 – 30 preserved or fresh grape leaves.
1¼ cups (300 ml) (9 oz) (250 gm) long grain rice
1- 3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped or 4 tablespoons (60 ml) (35 gm) finely chopped scallions
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (25 gm) finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) crushed dried mint
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml) (1½ gm) ground allspice
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6½ gm) dill
Salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, sliced **optional**
3 or 4 cloves garlic
2/3 cup (160 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) sugar
Juice of 1 lemon or more

Notes:

If using grape leaves preserved in brine, to remove salt put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Make sure that the water penetrates well between the layers, and leave them soaking for about twenty minutes, then change the water a time or two using fresh cold water.

If using fresh leaves, plunge a few at a time in boiling water for a few seconds only, until they become limp, and lift them out.

Directions:

1.Pour boiling water over the rice and stir well, then rinse with cold water and let drain.

2.Mix the rice with the chopped tomatoes, onion or scallion, parsley, mint, cinnamon, allspice, dill, salt and pepper to taste.

3.Place a grape leaf on a flat surface, vein side up.

4.Place about two teaspoons (10 ml) of the filling in the center of the leaf, near the stem edge.

5.Roll the leaf end to end, starting from the stem edge. As you roll, fold the sides of the leaf in toward the center. The leaf should resemble a small cigar, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches (50 mm to 65mm) long.

6.Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.
a.(You can freeze the stuffed grape leaves at this point. Just line a baking sheet with wax paper. When firmly frozen, transfer to an airtight plastic bag place back in the freezer.)

7.Pack the stuffed leaves tightly in a large pan lined with tomato slices or imperfect grape leaves Place a whole garlic clove in between them for extra flavor. The tightness will help prevent the rolls from unraveling.

8.Mix together olive oil, 2/3 cup (160 ml) water, sugar and lemon juice and pour over the stuffed leaves. Put a small heat proof plate on top of the leaves to prevent them from unwinding, cover the pan and simmer very gently for about 1 hour, until the rolls are thoroughly cooked, adding water occasionally, a cup at a time, as the liquid in the pan becomes absorbed. Cool in the pan before turning out. Serve cold.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Coconut Explosion Cheesecake


Finally! The finale of Coconut week...even though it's more like coconut milk week. I hope that you are excited about this recipe as I was - because it is beyond fantastic! I present...Coconut Cheesecake with Coconut Caramel mousse and toasted coconut. Every component of this dessert - whether small or large - has something to do with coconut.

This recipe is a combination of a ton of ideas that I have been wanting to do as well as have done for a few years, so I think they bear explanation. The first time I went to Hawaii, I had this amazing coconut pie - a coconut cookie crust, sliced bananas dipped in chocolate in the middle, and toasted coconut sprinkled on the whipped cream on top.

Ever since then, my family has had a Coconut Banana pie for Thanksgiving. For me, it reminds me of a great vacation, and allows me to tinker with the recipe. I've tried a sugar crust, a standard crust, but came up with this crust a few years ago - and it's quite simple, compared to other things I've tried. It's simply Mother's Coconut Cookies reduced to crumbs in a food processor. As long as my real Mother doesn't eat the cookies, this crust is great.


The rest, I have been thinking of for a while. I thought the creaminess of coconut would be perfect in a cheesecake, and I was right. Since I have been playing around with Coconut Milk Dulce de Leche, I added some to some whipped cream, and it turned out just great, and was a perfect compliment to the cheesecake. It adds a caramel flavor that makes the cheesecake better.

I was also lucky enough to find large unsweetened coconut flakes that I toasted in the oven for a nice crunch on top. I was very happy with the result of this, and if you like coconut at all, give this a try. I ended up giving most of this cake to my brother Matt and Fawn. Fawn gave some of it to their neighbors, and they thought it was the best cheesecake ever. So, I guess they liked it too!

Oh yes, my tip! My tip today is all about buying cream cheese. As anyone who has made a cheesecake knows, it can get expensive. Well, this tip can save you about 50% on the cream cheese, so it's a good one. And, it's simple! When you are buying any amount of cream cheese, buy it from either a warehouse store like Costco, or a kitchen supply store like Smart and Final or Cash Plus. No, I am not getting paid anything for obvious name dropping...but...on the off chance anyone of them is listening (really lol at that one), I'm open to getting a gift certificate...

Anyway, back to the topic of saving money. Most of the cream cheese at the local grocery store doesn't get under $1.50/8ounces. At Cash Plus, I can get 3 lbs for under $6. Yes, 3lbs is a lloootttt of cream cheese, BUT if you think about it, it's 2 cheesecakes. And, it freezes great! Thaws well too...

Don't be intimidated by the number of things you have to do, all of them are very easy, and it comes together quickly!

Coconut Explosion Cheesecake

For the coconut dulce de leche mousse:

1 cup coconut dulce de leche, cooled (recipe here)
1 cup chilled whipped cream
1 t. vanilla extract

In a large bowl, whip cream until medium peaks. Stir a small amount of the fully whipped cream into the dulce de leche to lighten it up. Fold the dulce de leche into the whipped cream, being very careful to not deflate the whipped cream too much. Chill until ready to serve cheesecake.

Coconut Cheesecake

For the toasted coconut:

2 cups unsweetened coconut

Spread coconut on a cookie sheet in a thin even layer and bake at 350 for 10-20 minutes, checking often to make sure it doesn't burn. Stir every 5 minutes so it will toast evenly.

For the crust:

2 cups coconut cookie crumbs, I use Mothers, and it uses about 2/3 of the package
6 T. melted butter

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium bowl, combine cookie crumbs and melted butter until all crumbs are mixed with the butter. Pat into a 9" springform pan, patting crumbs up the sides of the pan as well. The best way to do this is with clean hands and a flat measuring cup so the edge of the pan is the same width of crumbs as the bottom and sides.

Bake your empty crust in the preheated oven for 10-15minutes, or until you can see it lightly browning around the edges. Let cool while you make the cheesecake. But, keep the oven on. If you are frugal about your oven as I am, you can toast your coconut at the same time you are mixing the cheesecake.

For the cheesecake

1.5 lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 16 oz can coconut milk
1 1/2 c. sugar
1 t. salt
1 t. lemon zest
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. almond extract

In a large bowl, mix the cream cheese with a mixer for 2-3minutes until very creamy. Add sugar, and mix for 5minutes until very well incorporated. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Scrape down bottom of bowl to make sure your mixture is the same texture.

Add coconut milk, lemon zest, vanilla, salt, flour, and almond extract, and blend for an additional 2-3 minutes, until batter is smooth with no lumps. Pour over the slightly cooled coconut crust. Place filled pan on a cookie sheet, then into the oven. Bake for 50-75 minutes, until center is set and just slightly jiggles when you jar the cookie sheet.

Cool for 20-30 minutes at room temperature, then put in the refrigerator and cool for 4 hours or overnight.

Before serving, top with coconut dulce de leche mousse and toasted coconut.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Coconut Sandwich cookies



Oh my goodness, do I have a treat for you today! This is my second to last post on coconut - saving up for the big Coconut Explosion this weekend.

I have to tell you, these cookies are divine. The cookies themselves are light and moist with a yummy taste of coconut. The middles...well, that's where the magic is. It's a coconut dulche de leche with some chopped coconut mixed in.

What is coconut dulce de leche, you might ask. Well, like a bunch of other "foodies", I like to look at all the pretty pictures on their sites. I'm hoping my photography will be good enough one day for them to post one of my pictures, but that is another story.

Anyway, I was browsing all the wonderful food, and I came across a few sites that made dulce de leche. I've made this before, and it's very tasty. But, I couldn't help but think - hmm, I wonder if it could be made with coconut milk.

Instead of being "normal" and doing some internet research, I opened a can of coconut milk, and dumped it, 1 cup of sugar, and some fresh ginger in a pan and put it on the stove. Little did I know that epicurious.com had a very similar recipe online. Which I looked up when I had my mixture on the stove for an hour and it wasn't doing much. After reading the recipe, I turned up the stove and let it boil for a while, until it was the color below.




This batch was the one that I added some chopped and shredded coconut to to see how it tasted. This stuff is A-Maz-Ing! So, of course, I had to find a cookie recipe to sandwich it between.

I adapted a whoopie pie recipe for this, but...I forgot to put in the baking powder. If you want your cookies to look like this, you can leave it out too. If you want something a little more cakey, put it in. Either way, you won't be disappointed!Coconut Sandwich Cookies with coconut dulce de leche

For the coconut dulce de leche
Inspired by epicurious.com

1 can (approx. 16 oz) coconut milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 t. fresh ginger, cut in thin slices
1/3 c. finely chopped coconut (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a medium to large saucepan. Be sure your pan has enough room, this mixture will increase a bit in volume a bit while it's cooking, and you don't want a hot messy spill. Over medium high heat, stir occasionally while bringing the mixture to a boil. Boil the mixture until it's a golden brown. Strain the mixture (to remove the ginger), then add chopped coconut, and cool. Will keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container 2-3 weeks.

For the coconut whoopie pies:

2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
2 t. baking powder
1 cup coconut milk
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. room temperature butter
1 egg
1/2 t. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and continue beating until fluffy, a few minutes longer. Beat in milk, salt, and vanilla until mixture is very well combined.

Stir in flour until just combined. Be careful to not overmix. Drop by tablespoon full onto the cookie sheets. Since they will spread a little, leave 1-2" between the cookies. Bake 10-14 minutes until the tops just start to look slightly brown. Cool completely.

Spoon 1-1 1/2 t. coconut dulce de leche on one cookie, and place another on top for a sandwich. Try to not eat the entire batch.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Vegetable Curry Pie

In continuing with my coconut theme, I thought I would give you something savory, instead of the usual sweet.

Lately, I have been craving vegetables. Which is unusual for me, since I normally crave sugar, crunchy things, or cheese. For some reason, I think my diet is very vegetable deficient. When I look at it on paper, I do get a lot of vegetables, but I still feel like I'm not eating enough veggies, so I'm constantly looking for ways to eat more vegetables.

I like to go to the local vegetable stand before I take stats for the High School Football Team I volunteered for. Their sweet potatoes always look tempting, and this time they had cheap leeks and fennel (or anise).

I will admit, I blatently stole the idea of using sweet potatoes as a top from lollcakes. I drooled over that recipe for a long time. I've also made chicken curry pot pie before, from an episode of Alton Brown. After my trip to the veggie stand, I thought a vegetable version of Shepard's Pie was a good idea. I decided to make it curry for something a bit different.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say this dish is healthy. I know it's not vegan, since I used butter in the sweet potato mash. AND, it has been a long time since I have purchased food with a purely vegan slant, and I'm sure I have forgotten things I didn't eat. I'm sure it's easy to convert to a vegan recipe, though.

And now for my tip. As you can see from my description, I recommend you add the curry powder to the sauteed vegetables. This sort of wakes up the spices and they taste better. It also makes your kitchen very fragrant.

I hope everyone gives this a try. I put the recipe in measures of the vegetables. So feel free to substitute away with different ones if I included one you don't like. Sorry if the recipe is a bit hard to understand, I tried with this one to be as descriptive as possible.

Vegetable Curry Pie
Serves 4 generous portions
Recipe by: Twisted Kitchen, with inspiration

Approximately 1.5 lbs sweet potatoes, baked, taken out of the skins, and mashed with 2 T. butter, 1/2 t. salt, and 1/4 t. nutmeg.
1 medium fennel bulb (aka anise), only the white portions (I'm not even sure if you can eat the fronds), chopped into 1" pieces.
2 medium to large carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/2" pieces
1 medium onion, or 1/2 of a huge onion, diced
8 oz mushrooms, I used crimini, cut into 1/2 if small mushrooms, cut into 4 pieces if large
1 parsnip, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
1 small anaheim pepper, cut into very small pieces (you can add a jalapeno if you want more heat, or a bell pepper if you want less)
2/3 c. brown lentils, boiled in salted water until almost done, but still a little crunchy (I cooked mine about 15 minutes)
1 16 oz can coconut milk (approx. 2 cups)
1 T. curry powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. salt
1 t. pepper
2 T. oil

Heat oven to 350. In a large saute pan, saute mushrooms 3-4 minutes. Add onions and continue sauteing until onions are translucent. Add garlic and curry powder, and saute 1-2 minutes more. Stir in coconut milk until curry is evenly distributed.

Add salt, pepper, anaheim pepper, fennel, parsnip, carrot, celery, and pre-cooked lentils. Stir until well combined. Place in a very deep 9" baking pan or a casserole dish. Top with precooked sweet potatoes and smooth into an even layer. If you want more browning on top, you can pat a little more butter on top. Bake 60-75 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Serve hot.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Coconut Jam

It's coconut week here at Twisted Kitchen. You may wonder why. Well, the reason is simple. I went to have my birthday lunch with Timmy tar-woooo in Portland, and we went to an Asian Grocery store...where I bought about 8 cans of coconut milk. So of course, I had to use it, and now I'm sharing the recipes with you!

I have been making this recipe for a few months now. And, it's incredible. Now, I'm not much of a breakfast eater. While I just love going out to eat breakfast, and love breakfast on weekends, on a daily basis, the only thing I can manage for breakfast is a piece of fruit.

Coconut Jam could change my mind and make me a breakfast fanatic. It's wonderful on toast, crackers, and even on a spoon. Don't get me started on how good it is as a cake filling or filling some thumbprint cookies. Now, if only my wonderful whole grain bread would stop getting moldy. I will just have to start making my own again!

I first heard about Coconut Jam from Caleb. One of his relatives owns a factory that makes it and distributes it in Singapore. While it sounded interesting, I really wondered what I would eat it with. It sort of slipped my mind until I saw Susan Feneger on Top Chef:Masters make it. It looked really good, so I bookmarked it.

This summer, during my preserving/jam phase, I decided I should try this. Wow...it's amazing. With this recipe, I'm honestly shocked she lost that episode after making this recipe.

I did modify her recipe a bit. It was a bit difficult to understand, and I sort of messed up the recipe the first time because of it. But, I think that the recipes are very similar.

This will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks, and in the freezer for a few months. If you are looking for something simply amazing for your breakfast, give this a try.

I've also decided to try to give a tip on each of my posts - so your tip today is - if you can, buy coconut milk from an Asian grocery store. It's much cheaper and you get a better selection.

Coconut Jam
Adapted from Susan Feneger (bravotv.com)

1 19 oz. can coconut milk
2 cups sugar
2 T. ginger, grated
6 egg yolks
1/2 c. cold butter, cut in cubes
1 t. salt

In a medium saucepan, add coconut milk, ginger, egg yolks, and ginger and whisk to combine. Place on very low heat and cook until the mixture thickens, about 30 minutes. Strain the ginger out and add the butter, one piece at a time, until incorporated. Don't add the butter too fast, or it won't properly incorporate.

Store in an air tight container in the refrigerator or freezer.