January 31, 2010

Lemon Bars

Something non-chocolate. That's how we ended up on this recipe. Amy's office is having a chocolate-themed baking contest for Valentine's Day and so, for the sake of variation, we present a zesty citrus recipe!

From one of those wonderful cookbooks waiting under the tree on Christmas morning (from one Spatula Sister to another), the recipe comes from the Better Homes and Gardens "The Ultimate Cookie Book." Seriously, I think we could bake all year and fill the entire blog with recipes just from that book - and still have things we want to try.

One final note: These are supposed to be lemon bars... but really, any citrus fruit will do. Lemon is nice because the sourness provides a nice kick, but we added a substituted some orange (because we had no lemons).

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar (icing sugar)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter/margarine
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups granulated (white) sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel --> 2 tablespoons of orange peel did the trick for us
3/4 cup lemon juice --> a friend added a little orange juice in place of lemon juice with rave results
1/4 cup half-and-half, light cream, or milk --> we used 1/8 milk and 1/8 half-and-half
2 teaspoons cornstarch --> not in cookbook, but helps a lot with the consistency of the filling
Powdered sugar

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Line 13 x 9 inch baking pan with greased tin foil (I used margarine), extending foil over edges of pan.
  • In large bowl, stir the 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Using a pastry blender (or knives), cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Press mixture evenly into bottom of pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until edges are golden brown.
  • Meanwhile, for lemon filling, lightly beat eggs in medium bowl. Stir in sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, lemon peel, lemon juice, half-and-half, and cornstarch .
  • Pour filling over hot crust. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until center is set (you'll see the edges start to set and slowly it will creep in... just keep baking until it's all solid).
  • Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Lift foil out of pan. Cut into bars (I cut off all the edges to make it look prettier). Just before serving, sprinkle powdered sugar over bars. The sugar gets absorbed eventually - so they just look a lot prettier if you sprinkle the sugar on a few minutes before serving.
  • Store in fridge.
Trim the edges off the bars for a cleaner presentation.

January 25, 2010

Red cabbage and cranberry stuffed pork tenderloin & carrot souffle

Dinner time! Mom says this is the best Spatula Sisters main course yet. The mix of flavors in the pork really complement each other, and the carrots add an extra splash of color. It's definitely nice enough to be served for company, so add a side dish or two (potatoes? wine?) and invite a few friends over.

The original recipe for the pork came from one of those "Real Cream Real Feast" ads that the Dairy Farmers of Canada put out. We tore it out of House and Home back in October, but didn't get around to making it. The on a lazy Sunday in January, we picked up a red cabbage from the grocery store and decided to try it out!
(Of course, we had cranberries on hand... seriously - the cranberry obsession is getting a little out of hand. last cranberry entry for a while. promise.)

The recipe was a great starting point, but we ended up deviating a ton. The original recipe was for a pork loin roast, and we used pork tenderloin (a package with two). Because there's less room available to stuff a tenderloin, we modified the recipe to make the flavor pack a little more punch in a little less space.

Red Cabbage and Cranberry Stuffed Pork Loin with Cider Cream
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups finely shredded red cabbage --> make sure the pieces aren't too long
3/4 cup cranberries, chopped
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons dried thyme
Salt & pepper
3 lb pork tenderloin (package with two)
1 cup small cubes crusty whole grain bread --> shortcut: toast a piece of whole wheat bread
1/3 cup 10% half-and-half cream
1/4 cup apple cider or juice
  • Preheat oven to 325 F
  • In large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add cabbage, cranberries, onion, thyme, and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Sauté for 10 minutes or until cabbage is starting to brown. Transfer to a bowl and let cool.
  • Place pork on cutting board and trim excess fat. Cut a slit in the pork - so it's almost cut in half (but not quite), leaving the ends intact.
  • Stir bread and cream into cabbage. Press evenly into the pork, stuffing as much as you can into the opening you've cut. Use toothpicks to secure the stuffing. Place in roasting pan. Brush with some of the apple juice and season with salt & pepper.
  • Roast for 2 - 2 1/2 hours, basting twice with remaining apple juice. Cook until meat thermometer registers 155 F. Tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes --> Invest in a meat thermometer! Seriously, it makes cooking meat SO much less intimidating.
  • Serve with Cider Cream
Cider Cream
1 1/2 cups apple cider or juice
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup 10% half-and-half cream
Salt & pepper
  • In medium saucepan, bring cider and onion to a boil over high heat. Boil for 5 - 10 minutes, or until reduced by about half. Reduce heat to medium. Whisk flour into cream. Cook, stirring often, for about 3 minutes or until thickened. Season with salt & pepper.
In the skillet
Toothpicks hold the sides up around the stuffing.
Fresh from the oven!
Ready for the waiting plates... don't forget the cream!

The accompanying carrots were a surprise hit! We had a huge bag of carrots and wanted to try something completely different. This spin on carrots is fluffy and a little sweet. The texture catches you off guard at first, but give them a shot. Let them melt in your mouth and you'll know what we mean.

Carrot Souffle (because "carrot pudding" sounds even weirder)
*Adapted from Diane Morgan's recipe on cookstr.com

5 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/8 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons grated onion (or finely chopped)
1 cup milk
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Place carrots in large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, or until carrots are tender. Drain and allow to cool slightly. Use a food processor to purée the carrots, transferring to a small bowl. Add lemon juice.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease soufflé dish with butter.
  • Combine 4 tablespoons butter with sugar, flour, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat with hand mixer until smooth. Mix in onion and carrots. Mix in milk and eggs. Pour the bright orange mixture into the soufflé dish.
  • Bake, uncovered, for about an hour. Carrots should be puffy and lightly browned (ours didn't really turn brown), and the center should be firm to the touch. Serve immediately.
Check out all that beta carotene!

January 17, 2010

Christmas Cake

Secret family recipe!
We have this cake every Christmas morning - it's tradition. And in the spirit of tradition, here's the recipe card we use every Christmas eve.

  • You'll need a springform pan (the sides detach from the bottom).
  • Baking time is about an hour and ten minutes. Use a thin knife to test... If knife comes out clean (without batter), the cake is ready.
  • We don't bother reheating it.
  • Lisa doesn't like cranberries (Amy loves them) but she still eats the cake - she just pulls all the berries out!

The first layer is laid down...
A cross-section of the cake.

Chicken Cordon Bleu

Chicken Cordon Bleu is a relatively simple-to-prepare French classic. There are a million variations to be found in cookbooks and online. In pursuit of a recipe that wasn't too breadcrumb-happy and involved baking (not frying) the chicken, we ended up combining two favorites and coming up with our own take! The sauce is very thick, but a nice way to top it all off.

Our combination of a hot AllRecipes chicken dish and a version from our Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook (loose pages tucked in its 30 year old binding are evidence of how loved this book is in our kitchen)....

6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
Salt & pepper
8 slices Swiss cheese
4 slices cooked ham (prosciutto is used for the classic version of this dish)
2 eggs
4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon paprika
4 tablespoons butter
1/8 cup breadcrumbs
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Pound each chicken breast into 1/4 inch thickness. Combine flour and paprika on a large plate.
  • Put eggs in bowl and beat with fork (as if you were making scrambled eggs) to make egg wash. Dip chicken in egg wash and then coat with flour.
  • Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Place 1 cheese slice (use half if a full slice won't fit) and 1 ham slice on top of each chicken breast. Roll up each breast and secure with a toothpick.
  • Melt butter in 7 x 11 inch baking dish.
  • Place chicken breasts in baking dish and sprinkle chicken lightly with breadcrumbs.
  • Bake for 30 - 35 minutes in 350 F oven, or until chicken is cooked thoroughly (no longer pink). Remove from oven. Place a little bit of Swiss cheese on top of each breast, and then return chicken to oven until cheese melts (3 - 5 minutes). Remove toothpicks.
  • Sauce: Combine soup, sour cream, and lemon juice in a small pot. Heat, stirring often.
Note: the chicken might look a little nicer if you increase the heat right before putting the cheese on - perhaps broil for a minute. Or, sprinkle a little more paprika on before adding the cheese, just to add more color. We'll try it next time!

Rolled chicken breasts before cooking.
Use a few toothpicks to make sure they don't unfasten themselves in the oven.

January 16, 2010

Frozen Chocolate Mint Mousse

This one was all Lisa, and it was divine!
We've been pouring though cookbooks (3 new ones were added to the cupboard over Christmas) - but this recipe came from a book that's been on the shelf for years: Mrs Fields Best Cookie Book Ever!

A creamy concoction that's somewhere between a light ice cream and a pudding, the Frozen Chocolate Mint Mousse makes an elegant dessert. Really, this would be awesome for company... but our family was quite content to enjoy it on our own on a quiet Sunday night!

8 oz semisweet chocolate
2 large egg whites
2 pinches cream of tartar
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup heavy cream (whipping cream), chilled
2 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • Chop up the chocolate, and then melt it. You can use a double boiler (google this... it's basically a pot over a pot of hot water), or microwave on low. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • While the chocolate is in the microwave (use the microwave... it's much easier!), beat the egg whites and one pinch of cream of tartar together until stiff peaks form.
  • In a small pot, boil the sugar and water with the 2nd pinch of cream of tartar. Boil for 10-12 minutes, until it reaches 234 - 240 F (if you don't have a candy thermometer, you'll know it's time when it reaches a "soft-ball stage").
  • While mixing, pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites to make a stiff meringue. Fold the melted chocolate into the meringue to make chewy lumps.
  • Coarsely chop the chocolate chips.
  • In a medium bowl, beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Keep mixing! Add the peppermint extract. Mix a little longer! Fold the chocolate chips into the cream.
  • Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate meringue. Leave a few streaks of whipped cream (i.e. don't go too crazy blending them).
  • Spoon the mousse into serving dishes. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for about 2 hours, or until firm.
  • Remove from freezer about 5 minutes before serving. Makes 4 - 6 servings.
* Note: the original recipe calls for 3 tablespoons creme de menthe instead of the peppermint extract. We just didn't have any on hand, unfortunately!

Beating the egg whites
Picture perfect in a parfait glass?
Wait! A little syrup for the finishing touch!

January 3, 2010

Ruby Red Turkey

The turkey has been stuffed, roasted, eaten, packed up... what to do with the leftovers? After our second turkey of the season, we started searching for new options. Turkey pot pie is good stuff, but when it comes to turkey, "too much of a good thing" comes on very fast.
Mom ruffled through her tattered collection of collected recipes, searching for a dish she'd had at a party years ago. We scanned through the recipe and made some major changes... this is what we came up with. It's kind of like a festive version of pulled pork (but with turkey).

Disclaimer: this dish does not look good. That's why there's only one picture. But it tastes good. Promise.

5 - 6 cups leftover turkey, in small-ish pieces (deboned)
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons orange rind, grated
1 1/2 cups orange juice
1/2 cup sliced almonds
2 cups cranberries
3/4 cup canned cranberry sauce
  • Brown turkey in butter in large saucepan. Sprinkle with salt.
  • Stir in onion, ginger, cinnamon, orange rind, and orange juice. Bring to gentle boil.
  • Add almonds (original recipe called for chopped walnuts... those would probably work too) and cranberries. Simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, until cranberries are soft.
Serve over rice... or try some on a sandwich.

Cocktail Meatballs

It was holiday potluck time at work, and although I was VERY tempted to bring a dessert, I decided to add to the spread of appetizers and main courses (I ended up being surprised by the number of contributors!). Off I went on a hunt for an appetizer...

The search function on AllRecipes pulled through yet again. I searched the appetizer collection by rating... lots of salsas and dips came up... then I found the winner: cocktail meatballs! A classic. Interesting tidbit: "meatball" was the first word I could read. Really. You can't make these things up.

1 pound lean ground beef
1 egg
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup bread crumbs (stick with plain)
3 tablespoons minced onion

1 can (8 ounces) jellied cranberry sauce
3/4 cup chili sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • Stir together the first 5 ingredients. I used a fork, but you might be able to use a hand mixer. Roll into small meatballs.
  • Bake in preheated oven at 350 F for 20 - 25 minutes, turning once.
  • In large saucepan over low heat, blend the cranberries, chili sauce, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Add meatballs and increase heat until sauce just reaches a boiling point. Then reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.
  • If you're in a rush, shave half an hour off prep time by using frozen meatballs!
Simmer down now...
Lisa's artistic contribution
Potluck party time!