Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sugar Delight

As dictated to me by Chef Millie, here's the recipe for her stunning Sugar Delight. (The top picture is after melting in the microwave, but before stirring; the bottom picture is before melting and stirring).

Use your own culinary sense in determining amounts and adding order. If I may offer one suggestion, go easy on the sugar and heavy on the delight.

brown sugar (I saw how much she added. It was about 1/2 cup!)
cinnamon sugar
crisp rice cereal
peanut butter
semisweet chocolate chips
a "tad" of salt
a tad of water

You stir it and heat it in the microwave until melty. Then stir it again after heating it in the microwave. Whoever makes this could make their own-- 'specially the children-- their own recipe.

For 3+. [Ages three and up. I assume she means the preparers can be three and up, as two year-olds can easily eat this...not that they should).

Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzerella

When John came home with portobello mushrooms (which I've never bought before) along with exotic ancho chili powder, asparagus, fresh lemons, fresh basil, and mozzerella, I just about fainted. As much as I loved him for taking the task of supper-making almost entirely off my hands, I knew that we'd move to the poorhouse if this was going to be our typical fare. Well, the other recipes from that particular supper have since passed, but after he made this portobello recipe for the third (THIRD!) time, I gently suggested that we should put our tax refund into a locked savings account before we ate it up in portobello form.

If there's no choice but to eat one's tax refund, though, this surely is the best way to do it.

Even if you don't like mushrooms, make the tomato salad and eat it plain. The flavor is simple and fresh and tastes like a spoonful of summertime. Also, use your judgment with the olive oil application.

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for greasing grill pan
4 large portobello mushrooms (about 5 inches in diameter), stemmed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 small to medium sized vine ripened tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
8 ounces fresh water-packed mozzarella, drained, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
Prepare the barbecue (medium-high heat).
Drizzle 3 tablespoons of olive oil over both sides of the mushrooms. Sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil on grill pan to prevent mushrooms from sticking. Grill until the mushrooms are heated through and tender, about 5 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, whisk the extra-virgin olive oil and garlic in a medium bowl to blend. Add the tomatoes, cheese, and basil and toss to coat. Season the tomato salad, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Place 1 hot grilled mushroom gill side up on each of 4 plates. Sprinkle with more salt and pepper. Spoon the tomato salad atop the mushrooms, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil to finish, about 1 tablespoon and serve.

Grilled Asparagus with Lemon and Garlic

I've never eaten asparagus before, or, if I have, I have no memory of doing so. I now have John, our personal chef, to thank for my first (and second and third) helping. This was a yummy introduction to them, and the girls even gobbled them. It may have helped that John took Annie's cue and called them green beans...

My only change if we made this again would be to add more garlic and lemon zest. Their flavor was delicious and present, but I wanted even more of it!

1 pound asparagus
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finel
y minced
1 teaspoon grated lemon
1/4 teaspoon paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Trim asparagus. In a small bowl, combine oil, garlic, zest and paprika and stir with a fork. Lay asparagus side by side and pierce on 2 wooden skewers to form a raft. Place rafts on the grill and brush with oil mixture. Cook to desired tenderness and season with salt and pepper.

Seasoned Grilled Potatoes

Sometimes I think our family has eaten potatoes just about every possible way, but this was a new incarnation, thanks to the unique taste of the ancho chili powder that seasons them. Smoky, flavorful, and just plain good. Oh, humble potato. We love you.

Recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay. Potatoes for supper courtesy of my husband.

3 pounds Idaho potatoes
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tsp. ground cumin.

Cover the potatoes with cold water in a large saucepan and cook until almost tender. Drain and dry the potatoes. Cut each potato lengthwise into quarters. Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and brush both sides of the potatoes with oil. Combine the chili powder, salt, and cumin in a small bowl, and sprinkle over the potatoes. Grill the potato wedges for 3 to 4 minutes per side until golden brown.

Coffee Cake Muffins

Thank you again, Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, for helping us pad our bellies. You should add "Better Bellies" to your title. This is a muffin recipe that's fast and easy and nice to pull out on mornings when oatmeal, eggs, or cold cereal just doesn't cut it.

They're topped with a cinnamon-sugar crumb topping and have a streusel layer of the same in the middle of each muffin.

What? You want the recipe? Alright, here it is.

3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tbsp. butter or margarine
3 tbsp. chopped walnuts or pecans
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 and 1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 beaten egg
1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1/2 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar and enough milk to make 1/2 cup; let sit for about five minutes before adding to other ingredients)

Grease 12 muffin cups; set aside

For the topping, stir together the 3 tbsp. flour, brown sugar, and the 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Cut in the 2 tablespoons butter or margarine till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in walnuts and pecans; set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl stir together the 1 and 1/2 cups flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and the 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt. Cut in the 1/4 cup butter or margarine till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In another mixing bowl, combine the egg and buttermilk or sour milk. Add egg mixture all at once to the dry mixture. Stir just till moistened (batter should be lumpy).

Spoon half of the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each 1/3 full. Top with half of the topping, the remaining batter, and the remaining topping. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or till golden. Cool in muffin cups on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from muffin cups and serve warm.

* I always double the streusel mixture, and I usually only make 9 muffins out of the batter instead of 12.
**We almost never have pecans or walnuts in the house unless it's near Christmas, so I omitted those.

Cardamom Fruit Dip

Sorry. I have no picture of this easy, yummy dip. We used it on apple slices when we had company over, and it disappeared pretty fast. Next time, perhaps...

4 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
liberal dashes of ground cardamom, to taste (1/2 tsp.?)
lemon or vanilla extract, or both, to taste
granulated sugar, to taste
sour cream, about 8-12 oz.

Blend together the softened cream cheese and the sour cream. Stir in the sugar until incorporated, and then add flavorings, to taste. We've only used this on apple slices, but I think it would be equally good on grapes and bananas.

Chocolate and Berry Cream Cheesecake with Mixed Berry Sauce

Alas, I have no picture of this, either. This is due to the fact that, again, with company, it disappeared pretty fast, plus I undercooked it and the middle was sloppy, which makes for unappealing pictures. Oh, vanity!

This was its test run, though, and I jotted down the amounts I used so I could make it again, whenever I've got a good enough excuse with company coming. It has a chocolate crumb crust, a layer of vanilla cheesecake laced with grated chocolate on the bottom, and a layer of vanilla cheesecake laced with strawberry jam on the top, drizzled with mixed berry sauce before serving.

About 3 cups crushed chocolate crumbs (out of thriftiness, I use generic oreos from Aldi, but chocolate graham cracker crumbs might work better, and, if you aren't stingy, add some finely chopped almonds, too.)

If using generic oreos, stir in about 1/3 cup melted butter, enough to help the mixture stick together. If using chocolate graham cracker crumbs, stir in 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup melted butter.

Press onto the bottom and up the sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake for five minutes in a 350 degree oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

4 packages cream cheese, softened
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup strawberry or raspberry jam (I doled out some of my mom's wild strawberry jam for the occasion. I know. Lucky me.)
@ 1/3 cup grated semisweet chocolate

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in flour. Add eggs one at a time, and beat on low speed just until combined. Do not overbeat. Beat in vanilla just until blended. Divide the cheesecake filling into two bowls. Fold the grated chocolate into one bowl and the strawberry jam into the other.

Pour the filling with grated chocolate into the crust, and then gently pour and smooth the strawberry filling on top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 55 minutes or until the center is almost set. Cool on a wire rack for ten minutes. Carefully run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the crust. Cool for one more hour and then refrigerate overnight to let the flavors ripen.

Before serving, prepare a mixed berry sauce with about 1 to 1 and 1/2 pounds of berries, sugar (to taste, about 1/2 cup), a few tablespoons of cornstarch, and 1/2 cup water. I used a blend of frozen blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries. In a small saucepan, mix the water, cornstarch, and sugar and heat through until dissolved. Add berries and gently stir over medium heat until sufficiently thickened. Pour over each slice of cheesecake before serving.

Place foil or a cookie sheet under the cheesecake because many springform pans leak, and a houseful of burnt butter's smell and sting isn't pleasant.

Dip a knife in warm water before cutting the cheesecake, and wipe and dip again in warm water before making each cut in order to make clean cuts.