Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fancy Pants App: Spinach & Artichoke Breadsticks

You can't possibly think that I would let the big game pass us by this year do you???  Friday I'm going to do a compilation of recipes from my favorite appetizers and some of my favorite blogger's appetizers.  Be sure to check those out to get you in the mood!
Today though, we're going to whet your appetite with these breadsticks.  I like to call them "constructed" spinach and artichoke dip since everything these days has to be deconstructed, right?  Have you ever watched a cooking show and they are like here is my deconstructed: cobb salad, chicken wings, chocolate torte.

What ever happened to just constructing something?  Well, here you have the first ever constructed spinach and artichoke dip.  No dipping necessary since it's already baked onto your breadsticks!  They couldn't be easier and when I served them last Sunday, they couldn't have been more of a hit.  Whoever you're rooting for, serve these, and I'm telling you, at least you will be a winner.
Spinach and Artichoke Breadsticks (adapted from here)
Serves:  12 (12 sticks)
1 loaf Italian bread, split horizontally
3 ounces artichokes, drained and coarsely chopped
4 ounces spinach, chopped
4 ounces cream cheese
2 ounces sour cream
4 ounces shredded italian cheeses (or Mozzarella)
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Hollow out 1/2 an inch from the middle of the bread.  Set aside.  Combine artichokes, spinach, cream cheese, sour cream, half of the italian cheese blend and half of the Parmesan cheese.  Mix well.  Spread the artichoke mixture over both of the breads.  Top with additional cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.  Cut into sticks and serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, January 28, 2013

Stand Out Sides: Olive Garden Breadsticks

John and I don't often go to chain restaurants.  In fact, in the 3+ years we've been dating, I think I can count on one hand the number of times we've eaten a real meal in a nationally recognized restaurant.  It's one of the things I love most about John - he is always willing to try new things!

Invariably though, there are certain, let's say, staples of these restaurants that I adore.  For instance, Outback's delicious bread.  Or, Olive Garden's italian dressing (that sister M would drink by the gallon if we let her).  Or, these, Olive Garden breadsticks.  I had my doubts about this recipe from the get-go but when Mom told me she was making soup for dinner, I knew they would be a perfect fit.

I was so impressed with the flavor and resemblance to the real thing that I made them only a week later as accompaniment to another soup recipe I was making (more on that in a few weeks, promise!).  Sometimes a copycat is just that, other times, it can masquerade as the real thing.  Serve these tonight, close your eyes, and pretend that someone else has cooked your meal.  If you can get someone else to serve it to you, all the better. 
Olive Garden Breadsticks (adapted from here)
Serves:  12 (12 breadsticks)
1 cup + 2 tablespoons warm water
1 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Combine water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a large bowl.  Let sit for 10-12 minutes, until the yeast is foamy.  Then, add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and vegetable oil and stir with a sturdy wooden spoon for 3-5 minutes, until combined.  Add the remaining flour and using your hands, knead the dough for 5-7 minutes until elastic and smooth.  Place the dough in a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise (about 90 minutes) until doubled in size.

Deflate the dough.  Divide the dough into 12 portions and roll each out into a breadstick shape (6-9 inches, tapered at the ends).  Place each breadstick on a greased cookie sheet 2 inches apart.  Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise an additional 60-90 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Bake the breadsticks 12-15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.  Meanwhile, combine garlic powder and remaining salt.  When the breadsticks are removed from the oven, and still warm, brush the tops of them with the butter.  Then sprinkle the garlic and salt mixture over the tops.  Serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Date Night Dinner: Beef Udon Noodle Soup

In 2013, I’ve decided to be MORE and part of that is getting back into doing the things that I love, like joining Cook the Books Club for another great selection, The Hunger Games. I'm not going to do a major plot summary because I realize I'm a little late to the game and most other people have read the books.  Some of my favorite moments in the book come from Greasy Sae because, let’s be honest:  If I was living in a post apocalyptic world with few ways to spend my days, you can bet I’d be feeding people!  She supposedly can even make wild dog a really edible soup that Katniss downs with satisfaction after hunting.

Ironically, a couple days after reading this, I took a colleague out to lunch and asked him to pick the restaurant (his gift, his choice, in my opinion).  We ended up at this small little Asian restaurant that literally hundreds of people probably walk by daily and miss.  Only in New York.  Since said coworker is Asian, he ordered the Udon Soup and thus, I did, too.  When in Rome, right?

The Beef Udon soup was delicious but I couldn’t help thinking of Greasy Sae’s wild dog soup – this, like her soup, was being heated in a huge pot that everyone got spooned from like a big communal party.  You pay at one counter and move over to the next one with your bowl.  A few ladles of soup, a plop of udon and off you went.  I knew immediately I had found Katniss’ dish.  Sure her favorite dish at the Capitol might have been lamb stew but she was a District 12 citizen through and through – lamb stew was nice but it was wild dog soup that would call her home.
Beef Udon Noodle Soup (adapted from here)
Serves:  4
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces mushrooms
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup carrot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons sake
2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce
6 cups beef stock
1 pound beef round steak, thinly sliced
2 cups udon noodles, pre-cooked

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add mushrooms, garlic, and carrots.  Saute for 2-3 minutes, until garlic is fragrant.  Stir in soy sauce, sake, and chili garlic sauce.  Cook an additional 2-3 minutes, until mushrooms release their water.  Add beef stock.  Let simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Then, add steak, simmering an additional 3-5 minutes to make sure beef is cooked through.  Stir in noodles and serve immediately.

Take care not to overcook the noodles, they should be chewy!!

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, January 21, 2013

Weeknight Dinner: Italian Wedding Soup

The last few weeks I've been a crazy hypochondriac.  Seriously.  I get off the train, sanitize my hands.  Get to work, wash my hands (twice).  When I'm in the bathroom, I wash my hands twice, then use paper towels to turn off the water and open the doors back to my desk. 
I was starting to feel a little ridiculous that I was taking so many precautions.  But then, Thursday morning, I woke up to a bit of a tickle in my throat.  I started panicking - drinking fluids, taking Vitamin C, and eating lots of soup.  It was no use; Friday I woke up with a fever and the worst raw sore throat I've ever experienced.  It literally felt like someone had scratched up the whole inside of my throat. 

So much for my careful precautions, right?  It's almost worse to try and be so good and still get sick.  This whole time I should have just been more carefree about it - would have gotten sick anyway.  So after a whole weekend being laid up on the couch with John taking care of me, I took today off with the hopes that by the time tomorrow comes (along with it 2 big meetings at work), I'll feel better.  Regardless of if you're sick or not, this warm soup is the perfect dinner for any cold night!

Italian Wedding Soup (adapted from SkinnyTaste)
Serves:  6 (about 8 cups)
3/4 pounds ground turkey
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons parsley
1 egg
1/4 cup onion, diced small
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups spinach, chopped
1/2 cup orzo, uncooked
1 tablespoon black pepper

Meatballs:  Combine turkey, breadcrumbs, cheese, parsley, egg, onion, and garlic.  Mix well.  Form 1-inch meatballs (about 3 dozen).  Set aside.

Soup:  Place the chicken broth into a large pot and let come to a boil.  Add meatballs, spinach, and orzo.  Add pepper and salt, if needed.  Cook 10-12 minutes until meatballs are cooked through and orzo is al dente. 

Serve immediately or place into airtight containers for 3 days in the fridge or up to 1 month in the freezer.

Until the next time my oven is on...

Friday, January 18, 2013

Sassy Sweets: Traditional Tiramisu

Even though I’m Italian, my abhorrence of coffee often steers me away from tiramisu.  And, like many other things in our lives, if I don’t like it, John loves it.  To be honest, these differences of opinions practically always work out well for me.  Only John could convince me to try this dish so often that finally…hey, wouldn’t you know?  I actually like it!
Which is why for his birthday, I didn’t want to cut corners and make my quickie, down and dirty, tiramisu.  Nope, I wanted this to be a whole upscale event.  Carefully, I made the Lady Fingers.  Then, carefully, I made the custard.  Carefully, I put it all together and hoping it would be great, held my breath until dessert.

As we were spending Christmas Day with my family, we took the train rather than fight the traffic.  In a refrigerated bag, the prized tiramisu sat on my lap and I held it so tight my fingers turned white!  I was not letting anything happen to this hours-long dessert, the one thing I could give John that he actually wanted (and in my budget) – a birthday cake that he would love! 
Tiramisu (adapted from Joy of Baking)
Serves: 10 (9x5x3 inch loaf pan)
Cream Filling
2 cups whole milk, divided
3/4 cups sugar, divided
1/4 cup flour
6 large egg yolks
1/4 cup rum
2 teaspoons amaretto
1/4  cup butter, cut into small pieces
8 ounces mascarpone cheese

Lady Fingers
48 lady fingers
1 1/2 cups coffee
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup rum

Prepare:  Line a 9x5x3 inch loaf pan with plastic wrap.  Make sure this wrap extends up and over the sides of the loaf pan.  Set aside.

Cream Filling:  Put 1 3/4 cups milk and 1/2 cup sugar in a large saucepan.  Place over medium heat and bring this mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the remaining milk, remaining sugar, flour, and egg yolks. 

When the mixture comes to a boil, temper the egg yolk mixture by spooning in hot milk constantly whisking until all the milk has been added.  Add this back to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until it boils.  Let it boil for 1-2 minutes, while continuing to stir constantly.  Remove from heat and strain.  Whisk in rum, amaretto, and butter until fully incorporated. 

Immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap and refrigerate until thick and cold (at least 2 hours, preferably overnight).  Beat the mascarpone cheese until it is soft and smooth.  Whisk this into the cold custard, until smooth.  Set aside.

Lady Fingers:  Have the lady fingers, cream filling, and prepared pan ready.

In a shallow bowl (I like to use a 9x9 baking pan), combine coffee, sugar, and rum.  Working with lady fingers one at a time, dip each into the coffee mixture.  Place them side by side in a single layer on the bottom of the loaf pan, until it is completely covered in  one single layer.

Spoon one-third of the cream filling over the lady fingers, covering completely.  Repeat with another layer of lady fingers (dipping each into the coffee mixture than laying on top of the cream filling).  After a single layer has been done, again, cover the lady fingers with one-third of the cream mixture.

Repeat one more time – dip lady fingers into the coffee mixture, lay on top of the cream filling, and top with all the remaining cream mixture.  Cover the dessert with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 6 hours, preferably overnight. 

To serve, using the plastic wrap on the sides as handles, flip the Tiramisu out of the loaf pan and onto the serving plate.  Sift cocoa powder over the top if desired, serve immediately.

This keeps in the fridge 3-5 days, and it kept in our freezer (for a frozen tasty treat) for 2 weeks (and was great to have when we got back from vacation!).  Or thaw it overnight in the fridge before serving.

Until the next time my oven is on….
Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Time-Out: Lady Fingers

Before Christmas, our Facebook page was filled with tiramisu ideas from wonderful bloggers and friends.  The occasion?  John’s birthday.  And even though he has to share his birthday with Christmas, I try and make it a little extra special for him!  Last year, all he wanted was banana pudding pie
This year, he went back to his favorite standby, Tiramisu.  I’ll admit that while I enjoy eating it, it’s not something I’ve ever made whole-heartedly.  Usually, I make the quicky version – cream cheese and marscapone between layers of coffee-dipped lady fingers.  But this year, when so much has changed for him, I wanted to be able to go that extra mile and show him how much he has loved.  What better way than through food, right?  Hehe, this is probably why our New Year’s resolutions contain goals to lose some weight! 

Regardless, it’s his special day and when else can you disregard the rules than on your own birthday!  The recipe looked hard and to be honest, I was slightly intimidated by it.  But once I got into it, these lady fingers moved quickly and came out…perfect!  These melt in your mouth and I might have polished off 2 or 3 “broken” ones while they were cooling.  They were so delicious that you don’t even need to wait for an excuse like tiramisu to make them!
Lady Fingers (adapted from Joy of Baking)
Serves:  48 cookies (1 tiramisu)
3 egg yolks, room temperature
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon amaretto
1/2 cup flour, sifted
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 cookie sheets with tin foil and set aside.

Beat egg yolks and 2 tablespoons sugar on high speed for 3-5 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and thick.  Beat in the amaretto fully.  Sit the flour over the batter but do NOT fold in.  Set aside.

In a second bowl, whip the egg whites until foamy.  Add cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form.  Gradually add the remaining sugar (3 tablespoons) and whip until whites are glossy and stiff peak forms.  Fold one-third of the egg whites into the yolk and flour mixture, until just incorporated.  Fold an additional one-third of the egg whites into the mixture, until just incorporated.  Fold the final third of the egg whites into the mixture, mixing until just incorporated. 

Transfer the batter into a pastry bag or ziploc bag and cut the tip off.  Pipe the batter into 3 inch long lady fingers.  Once all the cookies have been piped, sift the powdered sugar over the tops of the cookies.  Bake in a preheated oven for 8-10 minutes until the lady fingers are firmed and barely golden.  They should still be spongy when you press them with your clean fingers.

Take the tin foil (with cookies) and slide them off the baking sheets.  Let cool for 3-5 minutes.  then, release them from the tinfoil with a flat spatula, while still warm.  Let them completely cool on a wire rack.  Use immediately.  If you would like to use them later, freeze them in a plastic bag between layers of wax paper for up to 2 weeks.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, January 14, 2013

Fancy Pants App: Smoked Gouda Sticks

I love recreating something that we once ate in a restaurant.  As you may remember, we did this a few months ago with one of John’s favorite Italian dishes.  Today, we’re doing it with one of his favorite appetizers.  Recreating a dish is the same as recreating that memory.  It keeps it fresh and while you eat, you’re transported back to that moment. 

Taste and smell are really powerful senses that I believe transcend time.  You remember the first time you tasted or smelled things and when you taste or smell them again, it recalls those moments.  Whether it’s an ex’s perfume or cologne or a delicious dish baking in the oven, it evokes a memory.  Since John has a few more years of living under his belt than I do, he has more memories that I’m not a part of.  It’s not sad, it’s just the truth. 

Therefore, the best thing we can do is revisit his favorite dishes and incorporate them into our lives together – not erasing the memory; just enhancing it!  These sticks were just as good as he remembered them to be, and I enjoyed sharing in his memory.  Even if you don't love smoked cheese, give this one a try - the smokiness really recedes when I baked them so it was a pleasant taste, not overpowering!  A great spin on mozzarella sticks, just in time for those big football games!
Smoked Gouda Sticks
Serves:  12 (12 sticks)
1 pound smoked gouda block
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup italian-style breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon garlic powder

Cut the gouda into sticks (about 6 inches long and 1/2 an inch wide and deep).  Take out 3 separate bowls.  In the first, place the flour.  In the second, place the eggs and whisk them until they are well-combined.  In the third, combine breadcrumbs and garlic powder.

Take a smoked gouda stick and roll it in the flour, covering every surface.  Dip the stick into the egg, again covering every surface.  Finally, coat the stick in breadcrumb mixture.  Arrange the breadsticks on a cookie sheet and freeze at least 30 minutes until firm. 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and transfer the sticks to it.  Spray the tops with cooking spray.  Bake for 10 minutes, flip them over, and continue baking another 5 minutes, until golden.  Serve immediately with marinara sauce if desired.
Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, January 11, 2013

Brilliant Brunch: Banana Nutella Muffins

John and I bicker a lot over stupid things; do all couples do this?  Of course it’s usually me, I mean, his fault.  For example, Nutella.  One of the best ingredients ever invented right?  Sure, the two of us can agree on that but he always has to push it one step farther.  When I told him I was making these muffins his eyes told me he was thinking “yay Nutella”.  But what came out of his mouth was oh I love Nutella.  Rolling my eyes, I think I know you do…because we’ve been dating three years and I have a general idea of what you like and dislike. 

Further, whenever I buy Nutella for myself, YOU eat it.  Yes, I have a pretty good idea you like Nutella.  Now just this, I could have lived with.  I usually just nod, smile, and go back to whatever I was doing anyway.  But then he said, you know, I think I was one of the first people in the country to have Nutella.  OH REALLY!  Why had I never heard about this before?  Apparently in the 80s, one of his uncles brought it home from his army base in Germany for his family to try and he loved it. 
Please, I think, you cannot be one of the first people in the country, you’ve got to be kidding.  So, like the loving (stubborn) girlfriend that I am, I decided to research it.  Nutella though was first introduced in the USA in 1983, before I was even born!  And since John was only 5 at the time, I doubt he was one of the first people to try it.  But then I think, is it even worth fighting about who tried it first (why I didn’t think of that before I spent the time researching, I’m not sure).   As long as we agree it’s delicious and can sit down and eat these muffins in peace, I think we’ll be fine.  As long as he knows he wasn’t the first person in the USA to eat Nutella then I’m happy with him knowing he was the first person in our house to eat these Banana Nutella Muffins!
Banana Nutella Muffins (adapted from Tastefully Julie)
Serves:  12
2 bananas, mashed
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup oil
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup Nutella

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Prepare the muffin tin by spraying each of the cups with cooking spray.  Set aside.

Add bananas, sugar, egg, and oil into a large bowl.  Beat well until fully incorporated.  Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder, beating until just combined (be careful not to overmix).

Swirl the Nutella into the batter and pour the batter into the 12 cups.  Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the tops are lightly golden brown.  Let cool to the touch before removing from the tin.  Serve immediately or store in an airtight container up to a week.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Weeknight Dinner: Butternut Squash and Sausage Pasta

I walk to the train when it’s just beginning to get light outside; that is when I’m not running late, missing my alarm, or having a bad hair day, in which case I run to the train hoping that I don’t miss it.  Usually, I’m lucky, the LIRR runs later than I do.  But regardless of walking or running, there is a frigid cold that sneaks under my long coat and frosts my bones. 

By the time I get home at night (also dark), that cold has developed into a full-blown frozen bone syndrome.  John frequently comments on the coldness of my hands, which, let’s be honest, I completely use as a torture device by placing it on his face at unexpected moments.

And so it comes back to food, which warms up, not only my hands but also my soul.  I love this pasta because with the spicy Italian sausage, I feel my hands getting warm; the butternut squash warms my toes, the pasta, my soul (of course, I am Italian after all).  It’s such a creamy delight that you would never think it was healthy for you.  But it is…so warm up your soul this winter.

Butternut Squash and Sausage Pasta (adapted from SkinnyTaste)
Serves:  4
1 pound butternut squash, peeled and diced
8 ounces penne
4 links spicy chicken Italian sausage
1/4 cup shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups spinach, chopped
2 tablespoons grated romano cheese

To cook the squash, add 8 cups of water to a large pot.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the squash cubes and cook about 6-8 minutes, until soft (depending on the size of cube).  Remove squash from the water and reserve the water.  Transfer the squash to a blender and blend until smooth.  Set aside.

Bring the squash water to a boil again and add the pasta, cooking according to package directions.  

Simultaneously, cook sausage over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet until brown.  Break up the sausage into chunks as it cooks and set aside when fully browned.  

Reduce heat to medium low and in the sausage skillet, cook the shallots and garlic until soft and translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Add butternut squash, salt, and pepper.  Add spinach and mix well.  Add the pasta and sausages and toss to combine.

To serve, top each helping with 1/2 a tablespoon of cheese.  Serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Monday, January 7, 2013

Date Night Dinner: Jose Garces' Cubano Sandwich

Cubano sandwiches.  Just the name of them makes me think of the surf and sand, of our wonderful trip to Miami a few springs ago.  We were on the hunt for the perfect Miami afternoon and what it ended up including was a cubano sandwich, some delicious yuca fries, and ice cold diet cokes. 

We sat in the sunshine and soaked up the Miami heat.  After lunch, we burned it off by a nice long walk on the beach.  It was a perfect afternoon and whenever you can recreate that type of moment, through food, I really think you're onto something. 

Even if you don't have that Miami moment in your memories, this sandwich will definitely put you there!  This is a great sandwich; I mean, it takes forever but with Christmas ham still in our freezer, it's the perfect sandwich to use it all up!  If you can get the time on a leisurely Saturday or Sunday, there should be no doubt about making it. 
Jose Garces' Cubano Sandwich (adapted from here)
Serves:  8
Roast Pork
3 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon ground mustard
2 lb boneless pork shoulder
1/2 cup dijon mustard
1 teaspoon ground mace
2 tablespoons pepper
1 tablespoon paprika
8 ciabatta rolls
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
3/4 pounds ham, thinly sliced
1/4 pound swiss cheese, thinly sliced
1 dill pickle, thinly sliced lengthwise

Curing the Pork: Combine 2 tablespoons of salt with the sugar and ground mustard. Rub the mixture all over the meat, cover, and refrigerate for 6 hours, or overnight.

Roasting the Pork:   Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Rinse the pork under cold running water to remove the seasoning. Combine the dijon mustard, mace, black pepper, paprika, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt. Rub the mixture all over the meat. Set the pork in a roasting pan, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and roast in center rack at 325 degrees. Cook for 45 - 60 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees.  Let the pork cool completely.

Making Sandwiches: Heat a griddle to medium heat. Slice the bread in half lengthwise. Spread the mustard on 1 side of each roll and layer on the roast pork, ham, cheese, and pickle slices. Place the top of the sandwich on and place on the griddle, pressing firmly, until the cheese is melted and the meats are warmed through, 3 to 4 minutes. Slice in half and serve immediately.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Friday, January 4, 2013

Brilliant Brunch: Eggnog Cranberry & Coconut Cake

John and I took a quick trip to the North End last week while we were visiting his family.  It was really bittersweet; sweet in that I will always hold that area very close to my heart, and getting to spend just a little time there was wonderful to rejuvenate my soul.  Bitter, though, because I still really miss it.  I’m not sure if it’s the lifestyle I’ve left behind, the neighborhood and its people, or just how much I had done there, how proud I was to make a life of my own.  Maybe it’s all 3.
Last winter, when I first moved to NY, I was struck by the amount of spare change I found literally every single week.  It tapered off eventually but then, there would be a shiny penny or dime when I least expected it, as if it had been placed there just for me.  I started to take each one as a sign that I was literally on the right path (superstitious, I know, but I’m okay with that).  My first day in our new apartment, I walked up to the train station and found a penny on the stairs.    I couldn’t help but feel reassured I had made the right decision.  And so it continued. 

Already this year, I have a lot of decisions to make in my quest to be “MORE”.  But, every day in 2013 thus far, I’ve found a penny.  I’m choosing to take it as a sign that my journey this year will be long (362 days left) and maybe fraught with obstacles but being here in NYC, with John, pursuing my passions and goals, is where I’m supposed to be.  I’m making the right decisions; I’m on the right path.  And with that knowledge, there is only sweetness – like this cake which hits all the right notes and is the perfect way to use up your leftover eggnog and cranberries!

Eggnog Cranberry & Coconut Cake (adapted from Baker's Royale)
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/3 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons orange liquer
¾ cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons eggnog
1/2 cup cranberries, diced small

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 12 cup bundt pan of your choice with cooking spray and set aside.  In a large bowl, whisk flour, coconut, and baking powder until blended. Transfer the mixture to a small food processor and process until coconut is coarse crumbs.  Remove the mixture and place back into the bowl.  Set aside. 

In a separate bowl, beat the sugar, eggs, and orange liquer until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Keeping the mixer running, gradually add in the oil and beat for an additional 2-5 minutes.  Continue to mix while adding the eggnog.  Beat until well-combined.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ones and then add in the cranberries, stirring until well-combined and the diced cranberries are evenly distributed.  

Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45-55 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool completely before serving.

Until the next time my oven is on...
Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy 2013!

I am big on New Year's resolutions.  In fact, I've been making them (and recording them) just about every year since I was 8.  Not kidding here.  Of course, over time these resolutions change; last year's resolution was about stopping to remember the little things.  I think we accomplished that successfully.  Between my sister's wedding, our time apart, our joint move to NYC, and even little everyday moments

This year I thought about the resolutions I wanted to make.  Some are personal, some are professional, and some are blog-related.  Personally, I want to be more in 2013.  Lately I've been thinking a lot about my past and my best memories.  One thing they all have in common is most are events, trips, or even small moments that happened spontaneously or outside of my comfort zone.  I want to push myself beyond my boundaries this year and prove to myself just how much MORE I can be. 

John and I are planning our first trip abroad which will be part of it - but even in everyday life.  Going a different way home from work, taking a Saturday trip to the zoo (rather than food shopping), all these little things we keep saying we should "do" (go to a ball game, a Broadway play, a farmer's market) that we never get to because "life" is there.  The cleaning, the cooking...all that will be there tomorrow.  I want to learn more, do more, and just be more.  This dovetails nicely into my blog-related resolution. 

John and I put our heads together to come up with 10 new recipes we want to try this year! We'd love to hear if you've tried them before, if you want to try them with us, or other things you want to try in 2013! They might not all be successful, and I'm okay with that - in my quest to be more, I might take a lot of falls, but there's something in that, too.  I'll learn how many times I can get back up.  

  1. Raviolis - COMPLETED
  2. Pasta Puttanesca - COMPLETED!
  3. Teriyaki Beef Skewers - COMPLETED!
  4. Adana Kebabs - Is it any surprise that most of John's choices are meats?!  Haha, that is certainly my boyfriend!  One of John's uncles is Turkish and he made these kebabs for him a few times a year.  Now that we all live far away, John hasn't had any in years.  We saw his uncle over the Christmas holiday to Maine but alas, no kebabs were distributed.  I couldn't take his disappointed face...I promised to make them, and so, on the list they went!  I still have to find a good recipe for them, though.
  5. Steak Diane- This one is dedicated to grandma Awa who said that her favorite dinner EVER is Steak Diane. I had never heard of it before but we looked it up when Mom told me.  This version by Emeril Lagasse is absolutely heavenly sounding and with her 80th Birthday coming up fast, I can't think of a better way to celebrate!
  6. Bagels - COMPLETED!
  7. Chocolate Croissants - COMPLETED!
  8. Peanut Butter Cup Pie - COMPLETED!
  9. Grasshopper Tart - COMPLETED!
  10. Black and White Cookies - Smitten Kitchen's Black and White Cookies look and sound amazing.  I feel like you cannot live in New York and not be able to make these cookies; sure they're time intensive but they are also show stopping!

Our best wishes to you and your families for a happy and healthy 2013!

Until the next time my oven is on...
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Welcome! I'm Dani (aka the Growing Foodie), just a girl balancing her career and passion for all things edible in NYC. I hope you'll join me in my adventures in life, through food. (Click for More)
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