Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I am paranoid with jinxing things -- sports games, a stroke of good luck, a big commission check at work, even the weather. That's why, when we had that freak 65 degree day in February, I kept my mouth shut and still wore my heavy wool coat. Even last week, with its 70 degree days and Masters commercials featuring a picture of Amen Corner abloom with azaleas, I still refused to believe Spring was here.

However, after a beautiful day today and with the Easter weekend looming before me, I can conceivably see that the cold, 33-degree rainy Winter just may be a thing of the past. Therefore, I found these bright green veggies a perfect welcome to the warmer weather.

Something you should know about me -- I do not necessarily enjoy my fruits and veggies. But I'm learning. Starting with these roasted yummies. Yes, they are Brussels sprouts -- a veggie my mother never even attempted to ask me to eat, and here I am in my mid-twenties thoroughly enjoying a bowl of them. Who knew?

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut off the hard bottom and any leaves that look wilted. Cut larger sprouts in half to speed up the cooking time and ensure all pieces are relatively the same size.

Blanch the Brussels sprouts (boil water, add veggies without making water lose its boil, let veggies boil about 4 minutes until almost done, submerge in bowl of ice water -- sorry if this seems obvious but I had to look up how to do this).

Toss the sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper until well coated. Add a bit more salt than you would normally add for other vegetables. Roast for about 20 minutes. Once they are nicely brown and tender, remove and enjoy!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Blueberries & Cream Cupcakes

D-U-K-E! It's Sunday evening of Final Four weekend and it is the first time since 2004 I am going to bed still seeing that lovely shade of Royal Blue when I close my eyes. The Blue Devils are back in the Final Four. In honor of their journey so far in March Madness, I decided to treat myself, my friends, my coworkers, and my family to a little blue-ness with these cute cupcakes.

They were also appropriate for the coming of Spring -- very light and slightly sweet. I even made the whipped cream by actually whipping some cream (gasp!) and was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was and how long the cream kept its whippedness (spellcheck says that isn't a word but I'm going with it). I had this vision of runny, soggy cupcakes after they had been iced for more than 12 hours but they lasted fully iced a complete 24 hours in the fridge. I wouldn't know how long they would have lasted beyond that since they were all consumed by that point. Now, I look ahead to a short week and what I hope is a successful next weekend for my Blue Devils!

Blueberries & Cream Cupcakes
from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes, makes 30 regular sized cupcakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups milk, room temperature
2 cups fresh blueberries, plus more for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together both flours, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraped down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of milk, and beating until combined after each. Fold in blueberries by hand. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until pale golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. To finish dollop cupcakes with whipped cream, and garnish with berries. Serve immediately or put in refrigerator for 24 hours. If keeping longer, do not ice until right before serving.

Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted

Whisk heavy cream until soft peaks form. Add confectioners' sugar, and whisk until combined. If not using immediately, whipped cream can be refrigerated, covered tightly, for up to 36 hours. I had to rewhisk mine for a bit to rewhip.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce

I know it's been a few days since I last posted but cooking for one makes the frequency of new recipes lessen because of how gosh darn long it takes to eat one's way through an entire meal and its leftovers by oneself. For instance, the quiche I mentioned over two weeks ago? Finished it just a few days ago. And, for those haters that think any food over a week old should be thrown out? It was actually still delicious on day 12.

Another glitch is that it is Lent. As you may know, I gave up microwaves. So my choice in recipes is limited because it has to reheat easily without a microwave. Being of the generation that is spoiled by entrees being reheated in two minutes, I have yet to reheat a meal completely. Again, the quiche I mentioned over two weeks ago? Except for the first night, it was never really completely warm when I ate it. And, for those haters that think any food not completely hot should be sent back -- you try waiting twenty minutes for a leftover piece of quiche only to find it is still tepid in the middle . . . you'll settle for the lukewarm slice as well.

Thus, when I found this Pork Tenderloin recipe from the folks at Martha Stewart's Everyday Food cookbook, I was immediately impressed with its sophisticated appearance (I'll do anything to perk up a Wednesday evening) and the fact that I could eat it cold on a sandwich with the same mustard sauce. Yummy!

Preparation was remarkably easy. All on the stove top and in one pan! A little salt, pepper, EVOO followed by a few minutes of browning the outsides finished with 25 minutes of covered cooking. The mustard sauce is made from the juices of the meat. And it is one of those recipes that isn't mind-blowingly fantastic when the pieces are tasted separately but when put together, the two complement each other perfectly.

Pork Tenderloin with Mustard Sauce

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 pork tenderloins (1 pound each)
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup whole-grain mustard (not to be confused with mustard seeds seeds -- which I bought at first)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons reduced-fat sour cream

Heat the olive oil in a large straight-sided skillet over high heat. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Cook until browned on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover; cook, turning the pork occasionally, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the centers registers 150 degrees, 20 to 25 minutes. (I never got to this point because I let it sit on there for 40 minutes and it was still reading at 140 so I just went for it. And I'm still alive at this point.) Transfer the pork to a plate, reserving the skillet with juices. Cover with foil and let rest 10 minutes. To the skillet, add both mustards, the sour cream, and any accumulated pork juices from the plate; whisk over medium heat until heated through (do not boil). Add water if the sauce is too thick. Slice the pork; serve with the pan sauce.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Friday Night Brownies

At the end of a long week (a week where Monday seems like a year ago yet I also find myself wondering what happened to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday), Friday evening arrives on a giant exhale of adrenaline. I am at the same time exhausted yet giddy at the anticipation of the weekend. This weekend especially since we are on the brink of March Madness and I am in possession of two ACC Tournament tickets for tomorrow's games. I am also in possession of one set of toy pots and pans for the little man in my life -- my nephew, John, who turns 2 on Monday (don't worry, he will still be surprised because, although a genius at age 1 year and 362 days, he doesn't type well enough to get to this blog -- but he could read it if he managed to get to it). And, I am taking Monday off to go to the Raleigh/Durham area for some wedding planning. So, with those exciting events facing me and the week behind me, I figured I would need something to both reward myself for a solid week at work while giving me a treat to celebrate the next few days of fun. Thus, Friday Night Brownies (renamed from this Southern Living cookbook).

They were amazingly easy to make and although the cookbook recommends about thirty variations with different frostings, add-ins, glazes, etc.; I went with the basic. No nuts, no toppings, no crunchies. Just a solid, cake-like brownie.

Looks like a pretty good Friday night.

Friday Night Brownies
or Basic Brownies from here.
1 cup butter
4 (1-ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate baking squares
4 large eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Microwave butter and chocolate squares in a 1-quart microwave safe bowl at high for 2 minutes or until both are melted, stirring mixture once. Beat eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer; gradually add sugar, beat well. Add flour, salt, and vanilla, beating well. Stir in chocolate mixture. Pour batter into a lightly greased 13 x 9 inch pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack. Yield: 2 1/2 dozen.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Golden Chicken Quiche

Golden Chicken Quiche. Why does that sound like an Asian dish to me? I can confirm that it is not though and this quiche actually takes on a more Southern spin -- from the celery sauteed in butter to the addition of two fairly large tablespoons of powdered mustard, to the meat being good 'ole, simple chicken. And the fact that it came from my church's cookbook. Sometimes the most enjoyable cooking experiences come from one's local cookbooks. I made this thinking of the woman who submitted this recipe -- knowing she made this recipe for her family. It adds a sense of camaraderie in the kitchen. Even though I am cooking alone, I feel that she and her entire family are with me. And it's always nice to feel a little closer to home.

Not surprisingly, celery is manageable when it is sauteed in butter.

Cheddar Cheese + Paprika = Golden Outcome

Just call me "Cafe du MJ."

Golden Chicken Quiche
From A Patchwork of Recipes - Celebrating 150 Years at Beth Eden Lutheran Church
9-inch frozen deep-dish pie shell
1 c. celery, chopped
1 Tbsp. butter
1 c. chicken, diced (can also be made with turkey but then you have to call it Golden Turkey Quiche)
2 Tbsp. powdered mustard
1 c. Cheddar cheese, shredded
3 eggs
1 c. milk
1/4 c. mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. salt

Preheat an empty cookie sheet in 375 degree oven. Add pie shell in pie plate to hot cookie sheet (pierce with fork). Bake 10 minutes. Cook celery in butter until tender. Mix other ingredients except cheese and paprika; pour into pie shell with celery. Sprinkle with cheese and paprika. Bake at 375 degree for 25 to 35 minutes, or until knife inserted into center comes out clean.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I arrived to work on Monday and there was a mysterious note left in each of our mailboxes signed by "The Cookie Monster." Yes, that big, blue lovable Sesame Street character was the alias of choice for a certain practical joker in our office. It left us all quite puzzled -- especially since in my office, if you mention sweets and then don't have any, people will look at you funny. And by funny I mean glare at you. So we still don't know who the particular jokester is . . . all I know is that it has had me thinking about cookies since 8:30 Monday morning.

Knowing I had leftover raisins and walnuts from the chicken salad made last week, the heavens shined down on me when I found this recipe. A semi-healthy (it doesn't have chocolate or that much sugar -- therefore it is semi-healthy) cookie that involves ingredients for which I do not need to go to the store? Sign me up! I cheated a little in the ingredient department -- using dark brown sugar instead of light and using quick oats instead of rolled. Nevertheless, they were delicious and filling and now I can serve as the real cookie monster tomorrow morning at work when I tote these puppies in! You are welcome colleagues.
Even the dough looks delicious.

This may or may not be my breakfast in the morning . . .

Classic Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Adapted from - Who Else
1 stick butter, softened
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups quick oats
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them. Chill the dough for at least one hour.

Spoon cookies two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes, taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked looking on top. Let them cool on the sheets for five minutes before transferring them.