Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Asparagus Pasta with Pan Fried Garlic & Lemon

Pan fried garlic, fresh spring asparagus, good olive oil, and a touch of lemon. I'm in love!

2 pounds asparagus
1/3 cup fresh plain bread crumbs (grind some bread up in a food processor)
½ cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons dried parsley
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh cracked pepper to taste
1 pound spaghetti pasta
1 cup pasta water

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to package directions. Set aside 1 cup of pasta water near the end of cooking before straining.

Meanwhile snap the ends off the asparagus and discard. Cut asparagus into three pieces each on the bias. Steam until tender crisp, about 2 minutes or so. Set aside in a large serving bowl.

In a skillet on medium heat toast the bread crumbs until golden brown. Stir often being careful not to burn. Add to the asparagus. Next heat the oil in the skillet and add the garlic. Fry until light golden brown for about a minute and add to serving bowl.

Add salt, pepper, lemon juice, and parsley to the bowl and stir. Next add the pasta and pasta water and toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Serves 4
Recipe by Laura Flowers

Monday, March 30, 2009

Lick the Counter Vanilla-Bean Buttercream Frosting

I found this recipe by googling. It goes well on sugar cookies. It's also tasty on a spoon, beaters, a spatula, the counter top, etcetera... The recipe comes from Oprah.com. The picture was taken by me.

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 cup milk
4 cups confectioners' sugar (1 pound box), plus more if necessary

Cream the butter in a medium-size bowl until very smooth. Stir in the vanilla-bean seeds until they're evenly distributed. Add the salt and milk, and stir until combined. Sift the sugar over the butter mixture and stir the mixture until it's perfectly smooth. If the frosting is too loose, add a few more tablespoons of confectioners' sugar, and stir until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap until you're ready to use; mix well just before using.

Notes: I just dumped everything together and beat it up with a hand mixer and it turned out great.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Buttermilk Biscuits, with a buttermilk substitution list.

Frequently used, this old-fashioned biscuit recipe holds a coveted spot in my kitchen drawer. These tender biscuits are a blank canvas for sweet or savory adaptations. Try adding garlic powder, onion powder, chives and parsley, or add something sweet like streusel topping kneaded in to make ribbons of cinnamon sugar. Of course you can always eat them plain with honey or jam as my family prefers.

1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold butter cut into pieces
¾ cup buttermilk

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Put flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a food processor and process to mix. Add butter and pulse until crumbly with small pea sized butter pieces still in places. Add buttermilk and pulse just until the dough comes together.

Flour a surface, dump out dough, and then flour top of dough. Kneed a few times and roll out to about 1 inch thick. Cut out biscuits with a drinking glass or biscuit cutter. Continue to roll out dough and cut biscuits until dough is used up.

Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.

Buttermilk substitutes:
Because I don’t always have buttermilk lying around, here are some buttermilk substitutes. Use one.
1. 3/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream.
2. 2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar, plus enough milk to make 2/3 cup (3/4 is too much here). Set aside for 5 minutes before using.
3. 3/4 cup milk plus 1 1/4th tablespoons cream of tartar.
4. 3 tablespoons buttermilk powder and 3/4th cups water.

Easy Apricot Cream Cheese Cookies

This is the recipe I created for the Betty Crocker Cookie Mix Contest. I don't think it will win, but it was fun to create and my husband's work loved them. I think you could probably cut back to a half a box of Jell-O and these cookies would still be apricot flavored, but a little less sugary.

1 (17.5 ounce) Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie mix
1 (3 ounce) box apricot Jell-O
4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
¼ tsp almond extract

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl stir the sugar cookie mix and apricot Jell-0 together. Set aside. Next, beat the cream cheese, butter, egg, and almond extract together until fluffy and well mixed. Add the sugar cookie mixture and gently beat until just mixed.

Using a cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the parchment about 2 inches apart. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly golden around the edges. Let rest on the cookie sheet for 3 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Make approximately 34 cookies.
Recipe by Laura Flowers

Friday, March 27, 2009

Mocha Cookies

I happen to consider these breakfast cookies. Think of them as a Mocha Latte you can eat! These cookies will turn out chewy and flat if you bake them right away, or tender and a bit thicker if you chill the dough for a few hours. The choice is yours. Maybe bake half now and half later and decide which way you prefer!

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3rd cup cocoa powder
1 ½ Tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 (6 ounce) boxes Mocha Flavored Premium M&Ms

Heat oven to 375°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, vanilla and salt in large bowl until creamy. Add eggs and beat well. Add cocoa powder and baking soda and beat until combined. Add flour and beat until just mixed. Add 1 box of the M&M’s and beat until crunched a good bit.

Scoop with a cookie scoop onto parchment. Top with three M&M’s each. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Cool for a couple of minutes on the baking pan and remove to a wire rack.

Makes about 50 cookies.

Recipe by Laura Flowers

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A playful meal: Polenta Spinach Stacks


Hungry and busy, I wanted a no think quick dinner idea and found this delightful recipe on the back of a San Gennaro Polenta Tube. I’ve adapted it slightly by adding some much needed nutmeg and stacking it playfully.

1 (24 ounce) tube pre-cooked polenta
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped Spinach
4 tablespoons butter, plus 1 or 2 more for frying polenta
1/3 cup cream, any type
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more to garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh grated nutmeg to taste

Cook spinach on high in a large paper towel covered bowl in the microwave until warm. Strain spinach in a colander pressing with the back of a spoon to release the liquid.

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat until frothy. Add cream and spinach. Cook stirring frequently, 4-5 minutes. Stir in Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile pan-fry ½" thick slices of San Gennaro Polenta (2-3 slices per serving) in skillet with 1 tablespoon butter per batch.

Stack by alternating polenta rounds with a spoonful of spinach to desired height. Sprinkle with more parmesan.

Serves 4

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Steve’s Peanut Butter Cookies

A couple Decembers ago I was looking for a peanut butter cookie dough recipe for blossoms. My younger brother spouted this one out from memory. Since I never memorize anything I stood there in disbelief for a minute, and then asked him to repeat it again. Evidently he developed this recipe while working for a restaurant, and it’s the only peanut butter cookie recipe he will use.

1 cup shortening
1 cup Jiff peanut butter (I’ve been threatened to always use Jiff by the chef)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 ½ cups good quality all purpose flour

Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour or longer.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Cream shortening, Jiff peanut butter, sugar, and brown sugar together in a food processor or mixer. Add eggs and mix. Add baking powder, baking soda, and salt and mix again until incorporated. Add the flour and mix until just combined.

Measure out ¾ inch balls and press with the tines of a fork to make markings. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes and let rest on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

Note: This dough makes great peanut butter blossoms. After rolling into balls, bake and let rest on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before pressing in a Hershey’s Kiss or miniature peanut butter cup.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lemon Vegetable Soup with Cheese Ravioletti

1 lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
3/4 cup diced carrots
1/2 cup diced celery
1/4th cup dry white wine
2 (14oz) cans vegetable or chicken broth
5 cups water
1 Tablespoon dried dill
9 ounce package three cheese ravioletti (found with the refrigerated pastas)
1 ½ cups frozen peas
Salt & pepper to taste
More olive oil and grated parmesan for serving

Take the lemon and shave the peel into one inch strips with a knife of vegetable peeler then squeeze 1 tablespoon of juice and set aside.

In a 5 quart or larger saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat until shiny. Add the onion, carrots, and celery. Add the wine and cook stirring occasionally until sweated and tender crisp. About 5 minutes.

Add the broth, water, and lemon peel. Heat until boiling over medium high heat. Reduce heat to low and cover. Let simmer for 10 more minutes or so until vegetables are tender. Add the ravioletti and cook for 4 minutes, then add the peas and cook for another minute.

Take off the heat and add the lemon juice, salt & pepper. Spoon into bowls and top with parmesan and a drizzle of good olive oil.

Note: Don't eat the lemon zest pieces!

Serves 4 or 5
Recipe by Laura Flowers

My pizza making mania in pictures

I have this semi-crazy uncompromising drive to make new pizzas every Friday night and grill them on my BBQ. I haven’t been locked up for this obsession yet, as everyone seems as fanatical about eating these pizzas as I am about making them.

Here's a handful of the pictures.

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