Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Roasted Tomato Sauce/ Soup

Again with a tomato recipe. I know, but when you have a counter full of tomatoes, you must use them. Especially before they become a breeding ground for fruit flies. Trust me. I got this recipe from a friend, who got it from Jen Lancaster.  Ok, so not exactly magic, but magically delicious. Depending on what is added in, and how much it is blended it can be sauce or soup. I love how easy it is to make, as long as you have a few hours. Nice thing, it is not hands on for the whole time, which is something I appreciate. 

This stores very well in the refrigerator or freezer.

Roasted Tomato Sauce

Roasted Tomato Soup

Roasted Tomato Sauce/ Soup
Approx 4 lbs. tomatoes, halved, no need to seed
1 onion, chopped or sliced
Olive Oil
Salt and pepper
Sauce: Garlic cloves, fresh basil, Italian herbs
Soup: Herbs de Provence, garlic cloves, cream

Preheat oven to 300º.
For Sauce: Toss with olive oil (I do this right on the sheet pan) halved tomatoes, half head (or to taste) of garlic cloves, peeled, onion, fresh basil leaves (12-15). Arrange tomato cut side down. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

For Soup: Toss with olive oil (I do this right on the sheet pan) halved tomatoes, peeled garlic cloves (to taste depending on how garlicky you want your soup) and onion. Arrange tomatoes cut side down. Sprinkle with salt and pepper generously and Herbs de Provence

Roast 1 hour at 300º and then turn down the oven to 250º and roast another hour.
Peel skins off tomatoes and discard. Dump the contents of the sheet pans  into a large bowl. Depending on how thick/ thin you like your sauce, pour all/some/none of the juices from the pan. Using an immersion blender blend into chunky sauce or soup thickness of your liking.

If making soup, add cream before serving.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


I love summer tomatoes. Funny thing is that when I was a kid, I HATED tomatoes. I didn't care where they came from or what they were in, I was NOT eating them, well, besides ketchup. Like we keep telling the boys, tastes change. We have 3 different varieties growing in our garden - San Marzano, Heirloom and Sweet 100s. We have gotten a couple of varieties from our CSA too. Needless to say, for the past couple of weeks, our counter has been a resting place for tomatoes. Fun Fact: Tomatoes should be stored on your counter vs. the refrigerator. 

We have a handle on the Sweet 100s. The boys, especially C, love to help pick them. More end up in their stomach vs. the tub, but that is A-OK with me. They seriously taste like candy. It is so easy to pop a couple (okay, handful) in your mouth. With the rest of the tomatoes, I've made sauce and plan on making marinara. I may even try freezing a few whole. 

When the boys heard us talking about Ratatouille, they thought we were talking about the movie. C even asked if they got the recipe from the movie. The first time I heard of Ratatouille was in college. I was working at the genetics clinic and we had an intern, Sarah, from England for the summer. She was staying with our lab director, also British. Sarah would eat lunch with us and one day she had leftover Ratatouille. I remember thinking it was so exotic and beyond my comfort zone to even think about eating something like that. Like we keep telling the boys, tastes change.

We got eggplant in our CSA box so I knew it was time for Ratatouille. It is the epitome of summer to me  - tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, summer squash, and fresh herbs. Any ratatouille is going to take some time. There is a LOT of chopping. I do think this recipe goes a little faster because you puree the red peppers and the tomatoes. Again, it is a lot of work, but this is seriously the best Ratatouille I have ever had. It is totally worth the two hours of chopping, cooking and stirring. Before I go further, I have to say, sadly the boys weren't nearly as big of fans of this as Ray and I were. 

This makes a huge batch - but then when you have four pounds of tomatoes as the base, two and a half pounds of zucchini/ summer squash and a pound and a half of eggplant, you have to expect it. As suggested, this is even better the next day. You will not be disappointed eating this right after it is made. 

I got this recipe from an online friend and I will be forever grateful to her. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

We all grew up eating the chocolate chip cookies from the back of  Toll House Chocolate Chip bag. Does anyone else remember the commercial with the song - "Open up the yellow bag, let's make some cookies!" It's funny when I think back to making those cookies. I didn't preheat the oven. I just turned on the oven as I put the baking sheet in the oven. It never occurred to me why the first batch always seemed to take so much longer to bake, or that they were never as good as the other batches. It never crossed my mind  to make another recipe for chocolate chip cookies other than what was on the bag.

I can't remember the last time I made the Toll House recipe. I do know the last time I did, I was disappointed. It just wasn't as good as I remembered. My fall back is Alton Brown #10 or the Alton Brown Chewy, but I get on these jags, where I want to try something new. That is where this recipe came into play. I got the Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe a while back but hadn't made anything from it. I saw Joann Chang on Sticky Bun Throwdown with Bobby Flay and when her book came out, I knew I wanted it. The book is nice because the measurements for the ingredients are listed by weight and volume. I love that - so much easier to have a bowl on the scale and dump in vs. all the measuring cups. 

Here are the notes from an article in The Atlantic:

Like so many home bakers, the first time I made chocolate chip cookies I used the recipe from the back of the Toll House Chocolate Chip package. I was probably 10 years old and my mom watched over the process to make sure I didn't burn the house down. I didn't, and the cookies became a staple in the Chang household. Once I started baking professionally, I was in a world where no recipe was ever good enough—and the idea of baking chocolate chip cookies from the Toll House package was like suggesting to Bill that he read Software for Dummies—way too elementary. So I tested every other chocolate chip cookie recipe out there (or so it seemed). Every pastry chef and his/ her mother has a version of this cookie that is purported to be a vast improvement on the classic Toll House. Then, in 2000, I had to pick a final recipe for our chocolate chip cookie for Flour Bakery. You know what? There's a reason why everyone loves the Toll House cookie recipe: It makes an amazingly swell cookie.

So I used that recipe as my starting point, but I did make a few small adjustments to bring it from good to great. First I substituted some of the all-purpose flour with bread flour which gives additional heft to the final cookie and makes it chewy rather than flat and crispy. I stirred some chopped milk chocolate to the dough, which adds a nice caramelized note. The dough can be baked immediately after it's mixed, but for the best results, I always wait at least a day so the dough firms up in the fridge and all of the ingredients have a chance to get to know each other—this makes for a much better cookie, believe it or not. And finally, most importantly, use the best chocolate you can. This is the key to making this recipe shine. Thank you, Toll House for your recipe but ixnay on the Nestle Chips please. Use a high quality 62- to 75-percent cacao chocolate and you will taste the difference. 

We all really loved these cookies. I did use Toll House chips, because it was what I had in the house. If I were selling these at a bakery I would use higher quality chocolate, but for Ray and the boys, Toll house is just fine. The cookies are big, sturdy and chewy. I trusted the recipe with the addition of milk chocolate. It really does add the caramelized note. So good! I also made smaller size cookies, using a 2 tablespoon scoop, baking about 11 minutes, and used them for homemade ice cream sandwiches. The cookies were slightly cooled. The combination of warm, gooey chocolate chips with the cool ice cream was fantastic! It was cute because H took one bite of his sandwich and said this recipe should go on the "keeper" list. 

Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Flour Bakery+ Cafe

1 cup (2 sticks; 224 grams) unsalted butter 
¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
¾ cup (175 grams) light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ¼ cup (175 grams) all-purpose flour
1 cup (160 grams) bread flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups (9 ounces; 250 grams) chopped semisweet chocolate
½ cup (2.5 ounces; 70 grams) finely chopped milk chocolate

If you're baking the cookies on the same day you prepare the batter, heat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center of the oven.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or mixing by hand with a wooden spoon), beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy, about five minutes. Stop the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and the paddle itself a few times; the sugar and butter love to collect here and stay unmixed. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract on medium speed until thoroughly combined, two to three minutes. Again scrape the bowl and the paddle to make sure the eggs are thoroughly incorporated.

Mix together the all-purpose flour, bread flour, baking soda and salt. Add both chocolates to the flour mix and toss to combine. Turn the mixer to low speed (or continue to use a wooden spoon if mixing by hand) and slowly blend the flour-chocolate mixture into the butter-sugar mixture. Mix until the flour and chocolate are totally incorporated and the dough is completely mixed.

For best results, scrape dough into a container and let rest in the refrigerator for a day before baking. The next day, heat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center of the oven. Drop the dough in ¼-cup balls onto a baking sheet about two inches apart. Press dough balls down slightly with the palm of your hand. If the batter does not fit all on one tray drop cookies on a second baking sheet and bake when the first tray is finished. If you have only one sheet tray, bake one batch and then cool the tray by running it under cold water before baking a second batch. Bake until cookies are golden brown on the edges and slightly soft in the center, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to three days. The unbaked dough can be stored for up to a week in an airtight container in the fridge. 

*Molli's Note: These are better if you let the dough rest for a day, but were very good when the dough refrigerated for a couple of hours. I also use parchment paper on the baking sheet for easy removal/ clean-up.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Zucchini Brownies

She's B-A-A-C-K!

I know, it has been a while.  A girl starts getting into long-distance running, work gets in the way, the boys are into more activities - LIFE! I missed blogging, so here I am.

We got A LOT of zucchini in our last box from the CSA, not to mention that we have a hybrid summer squash growing in the garden. A neighbor friend posted this recipe and once I saw all that zucchini, I knew where to put it. Quick note, in ANY recipe that calls for zucchini, I sub summer squash if I need/ want to.

The boys helped make these brownies. I think if you asked them what their favorite part was during the process, it would be a tie between using the food processor to grate the zucchini and making/ frosting the brownies. We always do a little "quality control" when baking, so sampling the frosting was a must.

The batter for the brownies is a little different than usual, no eggs. It is also a little dry until you add in all the zucchini. Then it is the consistency of a traditional brownie batter.

They are quick to put together outside of the grating of the zucchini.The brownies are moist and fudgy. The frosting puts these over the top - rich and delicious. 

The recipe is supposed to make 24. Not in this house. 

Zucchini Brownies

Adapted from Allrecipes.com

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour (I like baking spray with flour) a 9x13 inch baking pan.

  • In a large bowl, mix together the oil, sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, 1/2 cup cocoa, baking soda and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Fold in the zucchini. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until brownies spring back when gently touched. 

  • To make the frosting, melt together the 6 tablespoons of cocoa and butter; set aside to cool. In a medium bowl, blend together the confectioners' sugar, milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in the cocoa mixture. Spread over cooled brownies before cutting into squares.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Beet Greens with Sweet Onions and Feta Cheese

We belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). If you aren't familiar with a CSA, you pay for a share (full or half) to a local farmer before the season starts. Then you get a share of whatever the farm produces. I think it is one of the greatest things we have ever done. For one, I love beets. Two, my boys eat a variety of vegetables that I probably would not buy at the store, because I had never had them, like kohlrabi for example.  Three, I love knowing WHERE and HOW our food was grown and WHEN it was picked, usually the morning of distribution day. 

Anyway, back to my love of beets. When we first got beets in the CSA box, I was a little nervous. Way back, when it was just me and Ray, we tried fresh beets from a store.  I roasted them and they had this taste that neither Ray nor I liked. Woodsy and gross. They were huge and who knows how long they had been there. Our farmers knew we were new to a CSA, so they gave us advice on how to prepare certain veggies and what we could use. When they told us we could eat the greens as well as the beet root, I was a little surprised. I had never heard of that. I was still leery of the beet itself, so I started looking for a recipe to use the greens.  Later, I will share a recipe for the beet itself that is SO good! Thus began our love of beets.

I've made this a number of times. Ray and I prefer it with chard or beet greens. You can also use kale, escarole, mustard greens or collards. C even liked it, although he wouldn't admit it. As always, I put a portion of everything on their plates, with the family rule that you at least try one bite of everything on your plate. C took one bite, then kept going back until it was gone. 

This recipe is quite easy to make. The hardest part is washing and stemming the greens. If you use young, tender greens you won't need to stem the greens. With beet greens, if the beets are big enough to pull from the ground, you need to stem the greens. To stem, hold the stem with one hand and using your pointer and thumb of the other hand, slide up the stem of the green. Once you do it, you'll see what I mean. You can do this part while caramelizing the onions. It is more chopping and sautéing than anything. 

You could serve this over short pasta, but we like it by itself, sometimes with a hunk of crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Beet Greens with Sweet Onions and Feta Cheese
Adapted from The Vegetable Dishes I Can't Live Without

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 cups sliced sweet onion, such a Vidalia, I used one large
3 larges bunches fresh beet greens, stemmed if necessary and coarsely chopped (~12 cups)
salt, to taste
feta cheese, crumbled, up to 1 cup
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. After about a minute, add the onions and sauté over high heat for about five minutes. Reduce heat to medium, cover the pan and let the onions cook until very tender, about 10 more minutes.

Add the beet greens in batches, sprinkling lightly with salt after each addition and turning them with tongs, bringing up the wilted ones from the bottom to the top of the pile.

When all the greens have wilted, stir in the cheese and cook for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle generously with black pepper. 

Serve hot or warm.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

I always like to make a little something special for breakfast on holidays. I think I have mentioned it before but it is that whole tradition associated with holiday thing with me.

The boys and I had a great time making this bread. The nice thing about making bread with the kids is that since the bread needs a couple rises, there are breaks that they can play and it doesn't seem like drudgery. My boys both love to measure and pour the ingredients. They love to turn on the mixer and give the dough some kneading. H especially loves to smell the ingedients and what we are making along the way. They both enjoyed rolling out the dough and patting the filling on. Really, I think they like making bread because it is so hands on.

This dough is really great to work with. It comes together really nicely. It also seemed easy to roll out. The hardest part for me was making sure it was the right measurements (8x16) before adding the filling and rolling up into a loaf shape.

This recipe had some tips that were different than any that I have seen for a swirl type of bread. They really helped though. The first was to use an egg wash vs. butter to help keep the bread from unravelling when slicing. Butter acts as a barrier between the pieces of rolled-up dough, preventing them from cohering, and giving you bread that "unravels" when you cut it. On the other hand, the protein in egg acts like glue, cementing the bread and filling together, and allowing much less (though still a bit) unraveling. The second is to blend the sugar, cinnamon and raisins until smooth. This well help the filling be more cohesive and moist as well as add a subtle flavor. I used a small food processor. Again, a small appliance that boys love to operate.

The filling makes this bread moist and the flavor is oh.so.good! Yum! This bread is also different, and better, than store-bought because of the topping. 

The house smelled out of this world while it was baking! 

Cinnamon Swirl Bread
King Arthur Flour
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/4 cup potato flour
1/4 cup Baker's Special Dry Milk
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup water

egg wash, made from 1 egg  with 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins or currants
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dough ingredients, mixing till the dough begins to come away from the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough with an electric mixer for 2 minutes; allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then continue kneading it for an additional 5 to 7 minutes, or until it's smooth. If you're kneading by hand, transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface; knead it for 3 minutes; allow it to rest for 15 minutes, then continue kneading till smooth, an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours; it'll be puffy, if not doubled in bulk.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into a long, thin rectangle, about 16 x 8 inches. Brush the dough with some of the beaten egg, combine the filling ingredients, and pat them gently onto the dough. Beginning with a short edge, roll the dough into a log. Pinch the side seam and ends closed (to keep the filling from bubbling out), and place the log in a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap or a dough-rising cover, and allow the bread to rise for about 1 hour at room temperature, or until it's crowned about 1 inch over the rim of the pan.

In a small bowl or mini processor, combine the streusel ingredients, cutting in the butter until the mixture is crumbly. If you're using a mini processor, watch carefully; streusel will go from crumbly to a cohesive mass in just a second or so. Brush the loaf with some (or all) of the remaining beaten egg, and gently press on the streusel.

Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for about 45 minutes, tenting the loaf lightly with aluminum foil for the final 15 minutes or so if it appears to be browning too quickly. Remove the loaf from the oven, and after about 5 minutes, gently remove it from the pan. Some of the streusel will fall off, but you cal alleviate this by first loosening all around the edges of the loaf with a knife, then turning the pan on its side and gently pulling it away from the loaf. Streusel will continue to fall off as you maneuver the bread  but you'll still be left with some nice, sweet topping.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Stroganoff-Style Spaghetti 'n' Meatballs

This is a true 30-Minute Meal. I had to work late, yada, yada, yada, you know the story. I needed to get something on the table, and fast. Luckily, I remembered this recipe that I saw in a Taste of Home magazine while at my parents. I pulled it up on the computer and had dinner in about 20 minutes. We keep meatballs, turkey and/or beef, in the freezer for times like this. Since the meatballs are pre-cooked, this dish takes as long as it takes for water to boil and spaghetti to cook.

This recipe is great just because we keep these ingredients in the pantry/freezer and it was seriously quick.

The boys really liked this. C requested it be on the "Make Forever" list. It was also a nice change from red sauce spaghetti.

This dish isn't the most photogenic. I will add, there was a nice green veggie on the plate but that got eaten before I remembered to take a picture of the plate.

Stroganoff-Style Spaghetti 'n' Meatballs Recipe

Adapted from Taste of Home

1/2 pound uncooked spaghetti

1 package (12 ounces) frozen fully cooked Italian meatballs
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil (I used less)
1 can (10-3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1/4 cup 2% milk
1teaspoon beef base
1/8 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
1 cup (8 ounces) sour cream

Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, saute the meatballs, onion and garlic in oil for 4-5 minutes or until meatballs are browned. Stir in the soup, milk, beef base and seasoning. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10-12 minutes or until heated through.

Gradually stir in sour cream; heat through (do not boil). Drain spaghetti. Serve immediately with meatballs and sauce over spaghetti.