March 31, 2012

Nutella Crescents

My family is crazy about Nutella, so I try to find new ways to use it fairly often. This is one of the easiest recipes yet. These were sweet enough to curb a sweet tooth attack but not too sweet. I really enjoyed them with a cup of hot tea. The addition of a little cinnamon made these something really special. Our whole family really enjoyed these and I know I'll be making them again soon.

The total calories for one of these delicious treats is only about 150! (93 calories for the roll alone and 54 calories for 1.5 teaspoons of Nutella. According to the Pillsbury website, the original style canned crescent rolls are 100 calories each.) Not bad for the occasional indulgence.

I made homemade crescent roll dough using this recipe from "Home Cooking Adventure" but you could make the process even simpler by using the canned crescent roll dough from the refrigerated section at your local grocery. Of course, I think the homemade dough tastes best, but I'm not against taking a shortcut now and then.



Nutella Crescents


Ingredients:
1/2 the homemade crescent roll recipe from here: Homemade Crescent Rolls
~OR~
2 Cans Original style crescent rolls

3/4 cup Nutella
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 egg white, beaten

Method:
1: Preheat oven to 400F if using homemade crescent rolls. Preheat oven to 350F if using canned crescent rolls.

2: If using the homemade crescent roll recipe listed above follow steps 1 & 2 omitting the soft butter spread onto the rolled out dough. Do cut your round into 16 triangles using a knife or pizza cutter. Lay out the triangles on your work surface.

If using canned crescent dough, unroll dough, separating into 16 triangles. Lay out the triangles on your work surface.

3: Add cinnamon to the Nutella in a small bowl and stir until well combined and the Nutella is slightly softened.

4: Using a pastry brush or the back of a small spoon, coat each triangle with approximately 1.5 teaspoons of Nutella.

5: Roll each triangle into a crescent, starting with the wide end. As you roll, tuck the ends in slightly to retain the filling as they bake.

6: Place the rolls on a Silpat or parchment paper covered cookie sheet.

7: Brush each roll with egg white.

8: Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

9: Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Makes 16 crescent rolls.

Kitchen Notes:
- You could easily leave out the cinnamon if you're not a fan of cinnamon and chocolate.

- Make sure you do cover your baking sheet with something... if your crescents leak their filling at all, they will be difficult to remove.

March 27, 2012

Parmesan Green Beans with Sweet and Spicy Garlic Vinaigrette



This recipe was born out of sheer craving one evening this past week. Out of the blue, while I was watching TV with the family, I started to daydream about the fresh green beans I'd just bought from the market. They had been planned for a dinner later in the week but I figure when your body craves something healthy... you go ahead and give it what it wants! The only problem was that plain steamed green beans just weren't going to do the trick. I wanted something with a little more pizzazz.

So, there I was, in the kitchen at 9:00 in the evening, rummaging through the pantry and cabinets to see what I could come up with. I wanted something tangy, a smidgen sweet, a bit spicy, and a little salty. At the same time, I didn't want the fresh flavor of the green beans to be lost. I think I found a perfect balance with this recipe. The next day I went back to the market and bought more green beans, double the amount this time, so I could make the beans for dinner and for my lunches this week. Yes, it truly is just *that* good.

Parmesan Green Beans with Sweet and Spicy Garlic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
2 pounds green beans, trimmed
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon honey
1/2 to 1 teaspoon garlic paste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

Method:
1: Steam washed and trimmed green beans until crisp tender, about 5-6 minutes.

2: While the beans are steaming combine the olive oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic paste, red pepper flakes in a small bowl and combine well with a whisk. Taste and and add salt and pepper to taste, using the above measurements as a guide. Whisk again and set aside.

3: Once the beans are done steaming, transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss until well coated.

4: Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.

Serves 8

Kitchen Notes:
* I found that I REALLY liked these warm, room temperature and cold straight from the fridge.

* For a hot dish: making the vinaigrette a day ahead, refrigerating it and then allowing it to come to room temperature when you're ready to use it makes a definate difference in flavor. The vinaigrette is best the next day, after the ingredients have a chance to marry.

* For a cold or room temperature dish: Steam the green beans, allow to cool, dress with the vinaigrette and place in a covered container and refrigerate the day before you plan to serve. On the day of service, toss and place on your serving platter. Finish with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese just before serving.

*Certainly, you can make these on the same day and they will still be amazing. Allowing the flavors to marry for a day (or even just a few hours) brings a depth and complexity of flavor to the dish.

* Balsamic vinegar in place of the white wine vinegar is also very good.

March 17, 2012

Fruit Topped Nutella Waffles


This is my youngest child's "birthday weekend" and so I wanted to make something kind of special for breakfast in his honor. Knowing how much he loves banana and chocolate, these waffles seemed like the perfect idea. The whole family really enjoyed them and I've been asked if I could make them again next weekend for my eldest son's birthday breakfast. I'd say we have a definite hit! He's 9 years old now and one of the things I adore about him is how the smallest, most simple of gestures make him so happy and grateful. When he came down to breakfast this morning and saw this delicious plate awaiting him I got the biggest smile and hug! What a great way to start the day!

Ingredients:


2 cup all-purpose flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2/3 cup Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread

Optional: Sliced fruit, maple syrup, whipped cream, chopped nuts, butter.

Method:

In a large bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg, milk, and Nutella. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture, and stir just until combined. Stir in the melted butter. Depending on your machine's instructions, you may need to lightly grease the iron with cooking spray or with a vegetable oil soaked paper towel. Ladle 1/3 cup of batter (or whatever amount is recommended per waffle iron's instruction book) onto each side of the hot iron. Close the lid of the iron and bake until brown and crisp. Usually about 5 minutes. Serve immediately with butter, sliced fruit, chopped nuts, whipped cream, or pure maple syrup.

Makes 12- 4 inch waffles.


Kitchen Notes:
* I used my usual waffle batter recipe and simply added the Nutella to it. It baked up in my waffle iron just like normal. I'd suspect if you have a favorite waffle recipe of your own you could just add the Nutella to it without any issues.

* Banana was delicious with these, but strawberries, raspberries, blackberries any or all would have been yummy too.

* Toasted coconut along with the banana would be divine!

* A scoop of ice cream and whipped cream would transform this into a lovely dessert.

*Toasted, chopped nuts and maple syrup is sublime. (that's how the adults in our house enjoyed these)

March 12, 2012

Creamy Cucumber Cups



Yesterday I had an English cucumber sitting in the crisper than needed using, but the idea of a salad just wasn't cutting it. English cucumbers are quite large, so I sliced off a bit to make a couple of cucumber and spinach tea sandwiches for my two youngest and I to have during tea time. The rest of the cucumber was turned into this delicious treat.

The three of us frequently have "high tea" on Saturday and Sunday instead of having a classic American lunch. Mama here likes to sleep in on the weekends if she's able... so breakfast is usually more like brunch and no one is hungry again until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. By then it's really too close to dinner time to have a big lunch, so we started having tea instead. I brew up a pot of tea and the three of us sit at the dining room table with some soft music and some finger foods and spend an hour or so talking and sharing the happenings of the past week. They think it's fun, love the little snacks and fancy tea cups and I love that special time for us to connect and relax together.

These adorable cucumber cups were made from things I had on hand at the time. There are so many variations I could think of that would make these really delicious. You could stuff them with a chicken or tuna salad mixture. Egg salad would be good too. Shrimp or crab salad. Hummus. Guacamole. Salsa. Cottage cheese, plain or fancied up with some chive and finely minced red onion. You could also use this method with some fresh zucchini instead of cucumber. Raw zucchini is really delicious, in case you've never tried it. The possiblities are really only limited by your imagination and likes! I love that it's a low-carb vehicle for many foods that one might normally use bread or crackers for.

Creamy Cucumber Cups
Ingredients:

1 English cucumber, cut and scooped out as described. Reserve the flesh you remove.

3/4 cup softened cream cheese.

2 teaspoons "Fox Point Seasoning" or other freeze dried vegetable blend.

1.5 teaspoons "Sun dried tomato flakes."

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley, cilantro, or dill.

Salt and Pepper to taste

Cheesecloth large enough to hold about 1 cup


Method:
1. Slice cucumber into 3/4 to 1 inch rounds. With a small teaspoon hollow out each round to create a cup. Make sure you don't scoop out too much of the bottom or else you won't have a stable cup to fill. Reserve the flesh you scoop from the cucumber. You will be using it in the filling. Place your hollowed cups on a place and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to fill them.

2. In a small bowl, cream together the cream cheese and sun dried tomato flakes and Fox Point seasoning. Set aside.

3. Chop the remaining cucumber flesh into fine pieces.

4. Place chopped cucumber flesh onto the center of a piece of cheesecloth and gather edges to make a pouch.

5. Twist cheesecloth with cucumber flesh inside to get rid of excess liquid.

6. Add squeezed cucumber flesh to the cream cheese mixture and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour, if possible, to allow flavors to marry and to allow freeze dried vegetables to soften and rehydrate.

7. Remove from refrigerator and stir well to soften mixture to a spreadable consistency.

8. Finely chop whatever fresh herb you choose and add to cream cheese mixture. (adding a fresh herb is important, it brightens the whole mixture and gives another layer of flavor.)

9. Taste and add salt and pepper to your taste.

10. Spoon the cream cheese mixture into a pastry piping bag or if you don't have one a heavy "Ziploc" type freezer bag with a corner cut off after it's filled with the cream cheese mixture will work too.

11. Before filling, you may need to blot dry the cucumber cups with a clean paper towel if they are too wet.

12. Fill each cucumber cup with cream cheese mixture from your piping bag or zip lock.

13. Garnish, if you like, with a tiny herb leaf and serve immediately.

Makes approximately 10-12 cups

Kitchen notes:
I used Penzeys' "Fox Point Seasoning" which can be found *here*

I also used Williams-Sonoma's Sun Dried Tomato Flakes which can be found *here*

March 10, 2012

Cast Iron Skillet Pineapple Upside Down Cake


I don't make this cake too often anymore, since we've been limiting our intake of sweets... but this is still one of my family's favorite once-in-a-while treats. My eldest son often requests it as his birthday cake now that he's grown out of the character cakes that most little ones crave.

The cake is light and moist... and baking it in a cast iron skillet gives the entire outside of the cake this delicious golden crust that is my favorite part. Not to mention the way it caramelizes the pineapple so beautifully with no effort. I think this is a cake everyone should learn to make because its so much an iconic staple. Many of us grew up eating this and it's still as yummy today. If you've never made one for yourself, give it a try and see if it doesn't turn into one of your family's favorites too.

Cast Iron Skillet Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Ingredients:
Pineapple layer-
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 (20 ounce) can sliced pineapple
7 maraschino cherries

Cake layer-
4 eggs
1 cup sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Zest from 1 lemon

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325* F

2. Zest 1 lemon. Set aside.

3. In a 10 inch cast iron skillet, melt 1/2 cup butter on the stove. Remove from heat, and whisk brown sugar into the melted butter. Make sure the butter/sugar mixture is spread around the skillet evenly. Arrange pineapple slices to cover bottom of skillet. Place a cherry inside each pineapple ring. Set aside.

4. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together.

5. Separate the eggs into two bowls. In a large bowl, beat egg whites just until soft peaks form. Add granulated sugar gradually, beating well after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks form.

6. In a small bowl, beat egg yolks at high speed until very thick and yellow. On low speed, slowly add sifted flour mixture into the beaten egg yolks.

7. Using a spatula, gently fold egg yolk and flour mixture into whites until blended. Fold in 1 tablespoon melted butter, vanilla extract, and lemon zest. Spread batter evenly over pineapple in skillet.

8. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Loosen the edges of the cake with table knife. Cool the cake for 5 minutes before inverting onto serving plate.

Serve warm, chilled or room temperature with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Makes approximately 10 servings.

March 7, 2012

Kitchen Klicks: Sass & Veracity

It's been a LONG time since I did a "Kitchen Klicks" segment. What is Kitchen Klicks you ask? It's a series of segments where I highlight my favorite food bloggers from around the web. There are so many wonderful food blogs out there, but sometimes finding the really great ones can be hard because of the sheer number of them that exist. I hope that this series of articles will bring my readers to some of the blogs that *I* think are the best out there. Now, understand that I don't pretend to be *the* authority on the culinary blogsphere. I'm not in any way, shape, or form... but I do know what I like and what sites have proven themselves to be useful to me. That's what I plan to bring you here... blogs that have proven recipes, methods and information. Hopefully you'll find these sites as beneficial and enjoyable as I have and you'll add some new "regulars" to your daily reading menu. Enjoy!



Today I'm pleased to bring you "Sass & Veracity" by Kelly Wright. Kelly's blog is amazing. Her food is a delicious mix of both complex and simple. Her photographs are so stunning that I swear sometimes I can almost taste them. If you're looking for something for a family weeknight dinner, you can find it here. Want something a little more complicated and good for company that you want to impress? You can find that here too. She's an accomplished baker as well as being an excellent cook and photographer... her pastries and breads are totally drool worthy.

Here's a few of my personal favorites from Kelly's blog. Please check them out, and see if you don't agree that her blog is one of the "keepers."


Crusty Spinach Feta and Sun-dried Tomato Bread Rolls

Steak and Guinness Pie

Cornish Pasties


Finally this recipe:



Cauliflower and Apple Salad with Radicchio

Tell me this salad doesn't look incredible! At the time of this writing, this salad was Kelly's most recent post and when I saw it, I knew I HAD to make it as soon as possible. And I did. The next day. And it was truly one of the best. Things. I. Have. EVER. Eaten. And I mean that wholeheartedly. It was crunchy, a bit sweet, a bit spicy, filling. Totally satisfying. And good for you! The kids loved it. The men loved it. The teens loved it. And have asked for it again. Delicious. The photo above is one I took with my iPhone, isn't the best... but I wanted to show a close up the sexiness that salad was. My mouth is watering right now thinking of it.

So, go take a look and connect with Kelly and her wonderful blog "Sass & Veracity." You can find her in the following places... and please tell her I sent you!

Blog: Sass & Veracity

Facebook: Sass & Veracity

Twitter: @sassnveracity

Pinterest: Kelly Wright/Sass &Veracity