Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers: Eclairs

Look what I made! They were delicious, but my dough did not stay puffed after baking, even with two attempts. I did Julia Child's pastry creme, and it was the highlight. Chocolate glaze on top. YUM. I'm visiting friends and family in Kansas City this weekend, so this is a quick post :)

Go here to check out more baking treats!

See how flat they got?! Bummer :(

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Zucchini Bread Without Too Much Guilt

Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables of all time, and since it's in season right now we've seen a LOT of it in my kitchen lately. I find a way to mix it into pastas, I roast it, I add it to salads. And, of course, I bake it! I received a huge zucchini from my in laws on a recent trip to their house, and I knew this giant veggie was destined for dessert.

I didn't have a specific recipe saved for zucchini bread, so I went to the Internet to find the perfect combination. I knew one thing for sure, and that was that it had to be a slightly 'healthy' version of my favorite snack bread. Zucchini bread can be incredibly full of sugar and fat, so I wanted a lighter version that I could eat without too much guilt. This isn't the healthiest version around, especially with the added nuts and chocolate chips, but it's a great alternative for dessert. I didn't have two loaf pans to use, so I baked it up in a single 9x9 square pan. I showed my changes in pink. If you're looking for a moist, fresh tasting version of zucchini bread, look no further.

Cooking Light's Zucchini Bread

2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup egg substitute (or 2 eggs)
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place zucchini on several layers of paper towels, and cover with additional paper towel. Let stand 5 minutes, pressing down occasionally. Set aside.

Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (flour through baking powder) in a large bowl, and stir well; make a well in center of mixture. Combine zucchini, applesauce, egg substitute, oil, and vanilla; add to dry ingredients (along with 1/2 cup walnuts), stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Divide batter evenly between 2 (71/2 x 3-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray (or one 9x9 inch square pan). Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of chocolate chips.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pans, and let cool completely on wire rack.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Who knew polenta could be so cute?!

I can't believe how infrequently I've been posting this month, but I warned you all August would be busy! We've been traveling or hosting visitors every weekend, and random things keep coming up mid-week, too. Not to mention I now have 10 weeks until bikini time down in Mexico, so I've been trying to watch what I eat more than usual. Mostly that just means portion control and less snacking, but I do have to cut back on my sweets and cheese loving habits. All this means that the time I've actually spent in the kitchen hasn't produced too many blog worthy recipes.

This polenta, however, what a fun experiment that I'm sure I'll repeat again. I got the idea on Proud Italian Cook, a blog I frequently am inspired by. Her recipes are always very manageable, but also impressive looking. The polenta was a great example of that... adding seasoning and using tart pans gave polenta a major make over. I'll give you a simple picture tutorial, but really this is a great recipe for each cook to interpret their own way. Have fun with this recipe, and share it with friends!

First, grease your tart pan. I have these cute mini ones I've been dying to use, so I buttered six of them.

Next, chop all your mix-ins for the polenta. I did Gruyere cheese, sun dried tomatoes, basil, and rosemary.

When your mix-ins are ready, cook the polenta. The instant kind cooks up really quickly, and once it's thick you can add your other ingredients. Be sure to season with salt and pepper, too!

While the polenta is still warm, spoon into the tart pans. Smooth the tops, and let the tarts cool. If you're in a hurry, you can pop them in the fridge to hurry the process along.

When the tarts are cool, gently remove from the tart pans. You can serve veggies along side or on top, depending on your fridge supplies and other inspiration. I made enough polenta for two dinners, so we did it different each night.

The first night I did roasted veggies to go along side the polenta. I did a mix of butternut squash, zucchini, onion, and mushroom. It was a tasty combo, but it's hard to get all those different veggies cooked evenly.

The second night was the winner for me. I sauteed garlic in olive oil, then added fresh chopped roma tomatoes. When they had softened and let out their juices, I added sliced mushrooms and kale. With a little salt and pepper and a splash of white wine, it turned into a tasty sauce that really complemented the polenta. I've only discovered kale in the past six months, but it's surpassed spinach as one of my favorite vegetables to add extra flavor and nutrition to any meal. It's got better texture than spinach, so it doesn't wilt quite as much when you cook it. Try it out if you haven't!

Now off to bed... still two more busy days this week, then two more busy weekends to get through. I promise, though, come September I'll be back to blogging more regularly. I miss you all!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pizza on the Grill

I'm still alive! I know, it's been a while since I've posted, but August is quite a busy month for me. A wedding in Atlanta, visiting relatives from Europe, a wedding shower in Iowa, my husband's birthday, and a trip to Kansas City... yeah, August is busy! I've still been cooking a little when I have the chance, but I have to admit that the summer weather makes me much less inspired in the kitchen.

That's why I'm so lucky to now be able to take my cooking outside! We got the grill about a month ago, and have been using it at least three times a week. Some nights it's been basic marinated chicken or grilled veggies, but I've been experimenting with more creative grill recipes, too. Grilled Pizza is something I first heard about at The Wooden Spoon, and I knew once I had a grill that I would have to try it myself. This is one of those recipes that has limitless combinations, so you won't ever get bored. We've always been big on pizza in our household, so bringing it to the grill is a fun way to change things up.

For the dough, use whatever recipe you use for oven pizza. I didn't like the recipe I used, so I'll just say it seems like any dough would work. Just let is rise like normal pizza dough, and when you're ready, roll it out into thin ovals (or whatever shape you manage... don't worry if it's not pretty!).
Heat the grill to low, and when you're ready, brush olive oil on one side of the dough. Set the dough onto the grill, and let it cook for about two minutes, until it's puffy and cooked on one side. Try not to open the grill too much, and be careful not to let it burn!
When each crust is grilled on the first side, it's time to get creative. Add all your toppings to the grilled side of the crust, so that the second side will get grilled when you're cooking the topings.
We topped ours with tomato sauce, cooked turkey italian sausage, fresh and grated mozzerella, and red onions. We also put fresh basil on the top, but next time I wouldn't add the basil until I finished grilling. We had friends over when we made the pizzas, so each of us got to customize our own.
When they were assembled, we put the pizzas back on the grill to finish cooking. The cheese took longer to melt then we expected, so we moved them to the top rack of the grill to avoid burning the crust. The final result was a perfect summer pizza, and a cool kitchen to escape back into. I have a feeling I won't be able to give up this grilling thing just because it gets cooler... but check back with me in the middle of a Chicago winter and see if I'm still saying that :)
Joe was in charge of making dessert pizza with the leftover dough. We cooked the first side like before, and then brushed melted butter onto the grilled side. We sprinkled on a cinnamon-vanilla and sugar mixture, and tossed it back on the grill to finish cooking.
When it was done cooking, we brushed on a little extra melted butter, then drizzled a simple powdered sugar glaze on top. It tasted just like a cinnamon roll, and was tasty enough that we all regreated how much we ate. A great use of the extra dough!