Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pasta e Fagioli

Since I have been doing a lot of baking lately for the holidays, I decided it was time to post a non-sugar high recipe! Pasta e Fagioli, more commonly known as pasta and beans, is a simple, hearty, and delicious dish that just oozes with feelings of comfort.  This meal is basically my version of American Chop Suey and is perfect on those chilly winter nights.


Pasta e Fagioli 
Ingredients:
-1 to 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 medium onion, chopped
-2 cloves of garlic, minced
-Between 1 and 2 pounds ground beef
-1 28 oz can of ground and peeled "kitchen ready" tomatoes 
-1 14 oz can chicken broth 
-1 15.5 oz can shelled beans
-Salt, pepper, parsley, oregano, and basil to taste (I usually do a couple shakes of each) 
-1 box elbow macaroni or penne pasta 


Directions:
In a heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil and sauté onions and garlic for a couple of minutes.  Add in the ground beef and let cook for a few more minutes.  Pour in the can of kitchen ready tomatoes and chicken stock.  Cover and bring sauce to a boil.  Once boiling, remove cover, reduce heat, and cook for an additional 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the beans in during the last 15 minutes of cooking. 

Meanwhile, prepare the pasta.  Bring a pot of water to a boil and add a sprinkle of salt to the water.  Stir in the macaroni and cook until tender (or however you prefer your pasta), about 8-10 minutes.  Once both the pasta and the sauce are done, strain the pasta and add to the sauce mixture.  Stir until the macaroni is fully mixed into the sauce. 

To serve, load a pile of pasta on your plate, top with parsley for some added color, and dig in! Enjoy!  


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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Sans Rival

Catherine of Munchie Musings was our November Daring Bakers' host and she challenged us to make a traditional Filipino dessert - the delicious Sans Rival cake! And for those of us who wanted to try an additional Filipino dessert, Catherine also gave us a bonus recipe for Bibingka which comes from her friend Jun of Jun-blog.


I was so excited to try out this months Daring Bakers Challenge since I had never heard of these Filipino desserts before! Catherine had given us the option of making a chocolate Sans Rival, but I decided to not add in the chocolate and try the traditional version first since I had never had it before.  Although this is not the type of dessert that I normally go after, I was pleasantly surprised and enjoyed it! The cashews gave it a really nice flavor and the frosting was very smooth.  It reminded me of a Pavlova but with a delicious nut taste and sweet, dreamy, buttercream!  The only thing that made me hesitant though, was the amount of butter that is used in the frosting.  Even though it tasted good, I'm just not sure my body would like me very much if I made this a lot!


Sans Rival 
Ingredients:
-10 large egg whites at room temperature
-1 cup sugar
-1 teaspoon cream of tartar
-2 cups (1 cup chopped and 1 cup more finely ground) toasted cashews
-1/4 cup cocoa powder (optional for chocolate version)

French Buttercream:
-5 egg yolks
-1 cup sugar
-1/4 cup water
-1 1/4 cup (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
-Optional flavoring: 2 oz. unsweetened melted bakers chocolate, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract, or any other flavoring you prefer.


Directions:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare four 9-inch pans by greasing them and adding parchment paper to them. Set aside.

In a bowl, whip the egg whites until they become frothy.  Add in the cream of tartar and continue to beat.  Gradually (1 to 2 tablespoons at a time) add in the sugar and continue to beat until all of the sugar is incorporated and the egg whites are shiny and form stiff peaks.

Fold in the 1 cup of finely ground cashews and divide the meringue into the 4 pans equally.  Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden brown (mine were done after about 23 minutes).  While the meringues are still warm, remove them from the pans and parchment paper because the paper can be more difficult to remove once cooled.

When the meringues are fully cooled, line them up on top of one another to trim the edges evenly.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the French buttercream.  Beat the egg yolks until they thicken and double in volume.

Heat the sugar and water until the mixture reaches 235 degrees F (or thread stage).  Keeping the mixer on high, slowly pour in the sugar mixture to the egg yolks.  Be sure to continuously beat so that the egg yolks do not cook and be careful not to burn yourself as well.  I had to make Dave come and help me during this stage (he held the mixer while I poured the sugar in).

Once the sugar mixture is completely incorporated, continue beating on high speed for about 15 minutes, or until the mixture has reached room temperature.  Then, keeping the mixer on high, beat in the butter one tablespoon at a time until all of the butter in mixed in.  Add in the flavoring of your choice and let set in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

To assemble, place a meringue layer down on a plate or cake board and spread a thin layer of buttercream on top.  Add a second meringue layer on top of that and repeat until all of the layers are stacked and lightly frosted.  Finish by frosting the sides and top of the cake and by adding the rest of the chopped cashews around the sides for decoration.



Slice, serve, and enjoy!



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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I recently joined a new monthly event called the Improv Challenge, where there are two ingredients given, and you must create a recipe using those two ingredients.  Apparently this event had been around for a little while, but for some unknown reason, it stopped.  Thankfully, Kristin of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker has decided to continue on the tradition of the Improv Challenge, and this month, the two ingredients were pumpkin and cream cheese!







Once I saw the two ingredients, I knew exactly what I was going to make - Pumpkin Whoopie Pies with a cream cheese filling! As you all know, I am in love with anything pumpkin, so this challenge was a great excuse to make another pumpkin dessert to fill up on! 

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

There are two different fillings, one with cream cheese and one with marshmallow cream.  Both are equally delicious so I am sharing both with you! 

Ingredients:
-3 cups flour
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-2 tablespoons cinnamon
-1 tablespoon ground ginger
-1 tablespoon ground cloves
-1/2 tablespoon ground nutmeg
-2 cups light brown sugar
-1 cup vegetable oil
-3 cups pumpkin puree, chilled
-2 large eggs
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Filling:
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
-1 12 oz container cream cheese, softened
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
-2 to 3 cups confectionary sugar
Optional: Add 1 teaspoon maple extract for even more of a fall flavor

Marshmallow Cream Filling:
-1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
-1 7oz jar Marshmallow cream
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
-2 to 3 cups confectionary sugar
-Milk as needed to make more spreadable
Optional: Add 1 teaspoon maple extract and a pinch of ginger

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a cookie sheet or whoopie pie pan if you have one and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. Set aside. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and oil until well combined. Whisk in the pumpkin puree.  Add the eggs and vanilla until combined. Slowly mix in the flour mixture until all ingredients are well mixed. 

Use a tablespoon or cookie scoop to drop mounds of batter on a cookie sheet (or fill cavities of your whoopie pie pan).  Bake for about 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pies comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely. 

Meanwhile, prepare the filling of your choice.  Mix together the butter, cream cheese (or marshmallow), vanilla (or maple extract), and ginger (if using).  Slowly stir in the confectionary sugar a little at a time until it reaches a more firm, yet spreadable consistency.  For the marshmallow filling you may need to add a tablespoon of milk to make it easier to work with. 

To fill the pies, pipe a dollop of filling on the flat side of the pie and sandwich with another pie.  Continue with all remaining pies. 



Pour a large class of milk, sink your teeth in, and enjoy! 

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

In honor of Thanksgiving, Food Network is getting the entire food community together to celebrate a Virtual Thanksgiving, called The Communal Table, on Wednesday, November 16 at noon EST.  


Since there are so many wonderful Thanksgiving recipes out there, I was really torn on what to make.  An array of pies, casseroles, and dips crossed my mind, but I wanted to make something different.  Now I know what you are all thinking, cranberry sauce is by no means different, but for me it is! Every year I slave over the oven making so many homemade dishes and pies (which will be posted soon I promise) that I never lave myself enough time to make some of the more simpler Thanksgiving dishes, like cranberry sauce.  I usually just take advantage of the fact that I can run out to the store and buy the canned stuff! 



Sadly, cranberry sauce is just one of those side dishes that tend to get overlooked. Therefore, since it really is so simple to make, I decided to share my homemade sauce with everyone and hope that you will set aside the 12 minutes that it takes to make this sauce! Yes, it really is that quick and the taste is heavenly! There are really only three basic ingredients that you need to make a homemade cranberry sauce, but the spices and flavorings are just for an additional boost!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce
Ingredients:
-1 cup sugar
-1 cup water
-1 12 oz. bag fresh whole cranberries
-1 cinnamon stick
-1 orange zested and juiced or a splash of orange liqueur (optional) 
-Pinch of nutmeg and allspice (optional)

Directions:
In a saucepan, heat the water and sugar until the sugar is fully dissolved.  Add the cranberries and bring to a boil. Then, turn down the heat to a simmer and add the cinnamon stick and spices if using.  Allow the cranberries to simmer for about 10 minutes. Many of the cranberries will pop, but it is okay if some remain whole. 

Remove from heat and stir in the orange zest and juice and/or orange liqueur (which is what I prefer using). Remove the cinnamon stick if you used one, and pour the sauce in a bowl or serving dish to cool.  Allow to cool completely before serving so that the sauce has time to thicken. 

Eat up and enjoy! 

For more great Thanksgiving recipes, visit Food Networks blog at FN Dish and check out these other great recipes as well:


Cocktails, Appetizers, Soups and Salads:
Sweet Life Bake: Pumpkin Margarita
Easy Peasy Organic: Thanksgiving Ginger Cocktail
Dishin and Dishes: Butternut Squash Bruschetta With Sage Pesto
Mooshu Jenne: Green Salad
Two Peas and Their Pod: Maple-Roasted Butternut Squash Apple Salad
Jones is Hungry: Roasted Vegetable Salad
Purple Cook: Pasta and Bean Stew With Tomatoes and Broccoli Rabe
From My Corner of Saratoga: Curried Pumpkin Soup

Mains:
CIA Dropout: Turkey and Stuffles Roulades With Squash Mash
FN Dish: Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey
My Angel's Allergies: Cranberry-Glazed Cornish Hens

Sides:
Cafe Terra Blog: Cranberry Pumpkin Stuffing
Virtually Homemade: Twice-Baked Cheddar and Chive Potatoes
Easy Eats Magazine: Sausage and Dried Cranberry-Walnut Stuffing
The Sensitive Epicure: Oyster Dressing and Gravy
Daily*Dishin: Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes Supreme
What's Gaby Cooking: Rustic Herb Skillet Stuffing
Family Fresh Cooking: Coconut Brown-Butter Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Silvana's Kitchen: Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Mushroom-Rye Stuffing
The Cultural Dish: Cranberry Sauce

Desserts:
I Am Baker: Pumpkin Cake
Heather Christo: Pumpkin Vanilla Ice Cream Pie
And Love It Too: Pumpkin Custard (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)
Haute Apple Pie Girls: Double Pumpkin Mini Pies With Candied Pecans
Ladles and Jelly Spoons: Not Your Same Old Pumpkin Pie
Daydreamer Desserts: Cuban Diplomatic Pudding
Thursday Night Dinner: Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Caramel Apple Pie
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Monday, November 7, 2011

Privateer Rum Distillery

A couple of weeks ago, thanks to PMG Public Relations, Dave and I were invited to a private tour and tasting of the Privateer Rum Distillery in Ipswich, MA.  Being a fan of all things rum, I was definitely excited to learn that Privateer's distillery was only about a 30-minute drive from my home! Now who would not love that!?


Aside from my love of anything rum, the owners of Privateer stole my heart prior to me even meeting them.  How did they accomplish this? Well, they apparently love history just as much as I do! Once I saw the name and logo I knew there had to be a historical story behind it, and there is! Privateers during the American Revolution were both patriots and entrepreneurs, and Andrew Cabot was one of the most successful. To read more about Andrew Cabot and his rum, click here.


I know not everyone is as much as a fan of history as I am, so rather than bore you with more stories, I'll get back to the rum! Although it is not too common to sip on straight rum, I really appreciated how the distillers allowed us to try other rums to then compare them to Privateer (see photos below).  Now, I still prefer adding rum to a drink rather than having it straight, but let me tell you, the difference in taste was astounding! I could barely get the other rums back, but the Privateer rum was so smooth and went back so gently.  I did not get the typical burn in the throat that the other rums normally give, and the natural flavors that came out in the rum, specifically the anise, I absolutely loved!



Since we were so impressed with just how smooth the rum was, we of course had to sample all of the different cocktails that they were serving up! The picture below is hard to make out, but the Great Pumpkin and the William Tell were my top two favorite drinks! They just perfectly captured fall in a glass!


While we were sipping on our delicious cocktails, we were able to walk around, learn about the factory, and mingle with other great Boston area bloggers.  



Oh, and did I mention the food!? Two wonderful ladies served us during our visit and the food items included: Cherrystone clams, clam chowder, lobster rolls, and Italian sausages.  Dave and I could not get enough of the mini lobster rolls - they were so delicious! 

The absolute best part though, was dessert! They served us apple-caramel cider doughnuts that they warmed on a grill, which brought out the flavors so beautifully! Then, they topped the doughnuts off with a maple whipped cream! Lets just say that I ate way to many of them and had to force myself to go on a 4-mile run the following day! 


David enjoying doughnut number 3! 

For more information on Privateer Rum, visit there website here: http://www.privateerrum.com/main.php
For more information on where to buy/find Privateer rum, visit here: http://www.privateerrum.com/find_us.php

Thanks again to the wonderful people at Privateer Rum for allowing us to mingle with you for a day! It was a truly wonderful experience and I am officially a Privateer girl! I cannot wait to start concocting my own drinks with your product! 

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