Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Zuppa Toscano

When I was younger, I absolutely loved going up to Louisville to play in soccer games and tournaments. Yes, I loved playing the game, but I also loved that we would go out to eat at Olive Garden afterwards. I loved loved loved their breadsticks, and would always eat waaaay too many before my meal came.

Over the years though, I've become more and more disenchanted with Olive Garden. I used to think it was some of the best Italian ever... my how my palate has changed. Dispite living maybe 5 minutes from OG, Adam and I never really bother considering it as a choice to dine. The last few times I've been, all the dishes have been so underseasoned and plain.

However, I did try their Zuppa Toscano soup not too long ago and it was pretty decent. Enough so that when I saw a recipe for it on Julie's Foodie, I decided to give it a go.

Zuppa Toscano

1 pound spicy Italian sausage - crumbled
1/2 pound smoked bacon - chopped
4 cups water
2, 14.5 ounce cans (about 3 2/3 cups) chicken broth
2 large russet potatoes - cleaned, cubed
2 garlic cloves - peeled, crushed
1 medium onion - peeled, chopped
2 cups chopped kale OR Swiss chard (Like Julie, we used Spinach)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown sausage, breaking into small pieces as you fry it; drain, set aside.

In a skillet over medium-high heat, brown bacon; drain, set aside.
Place water, broth, potatoes, garlic, and onion in a pot; simmer over medium heat until potatoes are tender.

Add sausage and bacon to pot; simmer for 10 minutes.

Add spinach and cream to pot; season with salt and pepper; heat through.

To be honest, I, uh, didn't make this -- Adam did. So I'm not 100% sure how fast or easy this came together. Although I do know we either got a weird Italian sausage or didn't drain it well enough, because we had a really bad orange oily film on the top of the soup that we had to attempt to strain off.

Overall though, it was pretty good. Nothing overly spectacular, but I'd probably make it again.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 389Calories from fat 246
% Daily Value
Total Fat 27.4g42%
Saturated Fat 10.2g51%
Trans Fat 0.1g
Cholesterol 79mg26%
Sodium 1158mg48%
Total Carbs 14.1g5%
Dietary Fiber 2.1g8%
Sugars 1.6g
Protein 20.7g
Vitamin A 15%Vitamin C 29%
Calcium 4%Iron 9%

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Sugar Cookies

Hi. My name is Danielle, and I have an addiction to sugar cookies. I have been an addict for the last 21 years. Well hey, admitting you have a problem is the first step, right? Right? Oh, you mean you have to want to fix the problem? Nevermind.

This is one of those cases in which I am glad Christmas comes only once a year. To me, it's not Christmas until somebody busts these babies out. I'm not sure when exactly it started, but I can always remember either making sugar cookies at Grandma's or somebody bringing them. They have always been a part of the dessert tray. And it doesn't count if they were bought at the store or if they aren't the roll-out kind with icing. It's just not the same.

This year, we weren't going anywhere for Christmas. Why? Oh, that's right, I had to work. On Christmas. Yeah. People still get sick and have chest pains on Christmas. Mostly from eating too much turkey/ham/mashed potatoes and drinking too much beer/wine/cider/mulled wine but I digress.

Nevertheless, working did not stop me from pulling out the ol' family recipe and making a batch of these delicious little gems. Except... they weren't delicious. Try flavorless and crunchy. Not buttery and chewy. (WTF?)

So I did what I had never done before. I said screw the family recipe, I'm going to try the one everybody has been raving about -- the Williams Sonoma Sugar Cookie recipe. I had seen this recipe on both Cast Sugar and Good Eats & Sweet Treats, so I figured it was worth a shot.

Sugar Cookies
From: Williams Sonoma

1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. grated lemon zest (I used vanilla extract instead)
1 large egg
1 -3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
Royal icing for decorating (I did use our "family recipe" for the icing, recipe below)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a food processor, combine the butter, granulated sugar, and zest and pulse until creamy. Add the egg and pulse 5 or 6 times until fluffy and blended. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add one-third of the flour mixture to the food processor and process until blended, about 45 seconds. Add the remaining flour in two batches, processing after each addition until the dough is smooth.

Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface, shape into a ball, and then roll out 1/8-inch thick. Chill the dough for about half an hour. Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into desired shapes. Then, using a spatula, transfer the cutouts to the baking sheets. Gather up the dough scraps, form into a ball, roll out and cut more shapes, and add to the baking sheets.

Bake until lightly browned on the bottom and pale golden on top, 6-8 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and allow to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to the racks alone to cool completely.

Decorate the cooled cookies.

Makes: about 24

"Family" Recipe

Powdered sugar
Capful of vanilla extract
Food coloring

Mix powdered sugar and milk together in a small bowl until desired consistency. Add vanilla. Add food coloring.

I did try the royal icing on my first "failed" attempt at cookies (with the fam recipe), and I still don't like how hard it gets. That's why I used my mom's mixture on the second round. The icing definitely has more flavor and doesn't get rock hard. (It does firm up, but still stays soft underneath the "crust" it forms.) Although I did use royal icing for the piping decor. Check out Good Eats & Sweet Treats for the recipe.

And I lowered the baking time on the cookies to about 4-5 minutes so they wouldn't get too brown on the corners.


Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 99Calories from fat 38
% Daily Value
Total Fat 4.2g6%
Saturated Fat 2.5g13%
Cholesterol 19mg6%
Sodium 55mg2%
Total Carbs 13.8g5%
Sugars 6.8g
Protein 1.3g
Vitamin A 3%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1%Iron 3%

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Hot Chocolate Fudge Cakes

I went to college in a small town. As in really small. As in only around 17,000 people or so. Let's just say that there weren't a ton of nice "sit-down" restaurants to choose from. There were a couple local places, and then there was Ground Round and Applebee's (oh yes, a whole TWO chain restaurants to choose from).

Before I discovered the local places, everytime my parents would come to visit we would go out to Applebee's for dinner. Let's just say that I still have a hard time going there.

The one good thing that did come from Applebee's was their awesome Triple Chocolate Meltdown. The moist chocolate cake surrounding a molten mess of chocolate in the middle. Absolutely fantastic.

I had tried replicating one of those molten chocolately cakes last April with Dorie Greenspan's Gooey Chocolate Cake, but I, of course, overcooked them, so no gooey center. Good, but not molten. When I picked up the December issue of Cooking Light, I almost immediately started drooling. Molten chocolate cakes had come back and still looked delicious as ever.

Hot Chocolate Fudge Cakes

3/4 cup all-purpose flour + 5 teaspoons
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup egg substitute
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2.6-ounce bar dark (71% cocoa) chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt.

Place butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 1 minute. Add granulated and brown sugars, beating until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add egg substitute and vanilla, beating until well blended. Fold flour mixture into sugar mixture; fold in chocolate. Divide batter evenly among 10 (4-ounce) ramekins; arrange ramekins on a cookie-sheet. Cover and refrigerate 4 hours or up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Let ramekins stand at room temperature 10 minutes. Uncover and bake at 350° for 19 minutes or until cakes are puffy and slightly crusty on top. Sprinkle evenly with powdered sugar; serve immediately.

Serves: 10

Annnnd once again, I failed at the whole "molten center" concept. The original recipe calls for the cakes to bake for 21 minutes, but many reviews said to cook it for only 19. Knowing my sister's oven cooks hot, I went for the 19 minutes and STILL didn't have that nice gooey middle. How unfortunate.

They were still pretty good cakes though. I would definitely try this recipe again, cooking them even less than 19 minutes -- and making sure to pour a super huge glass of milk.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 250Calories from fat 77
% Daily Value
Total Fat 8.5g13%
Saturated Fat 5.1g25%
Cholesterol 14mg5%
Sodium 146mg6%
Total Carbs 40.6g14%
Dietary Fiber 2.5g10%
Sugars 28.4g
Protein 5.8g
Vitamin A 5%Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 8%Iron 12%

Curried Chicken and Cashews

When I started getting into cooking, my original goal was to try a new recipe each week. I wanted to "expand my horizons" (as my parents would say) and branch out with the different types of food I was eating.

Well, this recipe definitely goes into the "not typically what I eat" category. Actually, it goes into that category for both Adam and I. Upon coming across this recipe in the September issue of Cooking Light, I thought, why not? I'd give it a try.

Curried Chicken and Cashews

1/3 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons water
1 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar

Remaining ingredients:
3/4 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 1/2 cups vertically sliced onion
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon Madras curry powder (I used regular curry)
3 small dried hot red chiles, broken in half
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup dry-roasted salted cashews, chopped
3 cups hot cooked short-grain rice

To prepare sauce, combine the first 5 ingredients; set aside.

Cut chicken across grain into 1/4-inch slices; cut slices into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Cut strips into 3-inch-long pieces.

Heat a 14-inch wok over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil to wok, swirling to coat. Add half of chicken to wok; stir-fry 2 minutes. Spoon cooked chicken into a bowl. Repeat procedure with 2 teaspoons oil and remaining chicken.

Add remaining 1 teaspoon oil to wok, swirling to coat. Add onion, ginger, and garlic to wok; stir-fry 1 minute or until lightly browned. Add curry powder and chiles; stir-fry 30 seconds. Add sauce and chicken to wok; stir-fry 1 minute. Spoon into a serving dish. Sprinkle with cilantro and cashews. Serve over rice.

Serves: 4

I have to admit, it wasn't our favorite meal. It wasn't bad -- it's actually rated a 4 out of 5 stars on, I just think that we don't really care for food with a strong curry flavor. If that type of food is up your alley, I'd say give it a shot. As for us... I think we'll pass on another round.

Nutrition Facts
Amount per serving
Calories 736Calories from fat 126
% Daily Value
Total Fat 14.0g22%
Saturated Fat 2.0g10%
Trans Fat 0.0g
Cholesterol 49mg16%
Sodium 707mg29%
Total Carbs 121.1g40%
Dietary Fiber 3.2g13%
Sugars 3.8g
Protein 29.9g
Vitamin A 2%Vitamin C 7%
Calcium 6%Iron 39%


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