Thursday, December 31, 2009

Black Bean Soup

Well, it's safe to say I was in a cookie and sugar induced coma for a majority of the holidays.  It's just so hard not to eat all the delicious cookies lying around - especially when I made most of them and had to taste the batter!  It's almost 2010 and this soup is perfect to, ahem, cleanse them system.  This soup is high in fiber and protein while being low in fat.  The main contributor to calories in this soup is the beans, which really isn't that much.  I also need to prove to you all that I do a lot more than just bake... I do cook a lot just most of the time I don't have time to take a picture.  Most of the time I just throw stuff in a pot and pan, throw some ingredients in, and produce something that I love... but have no idea what I actually used for ingredients. Make this for dinner tomorrow night and start the new year off right!

Black Bean Soup

  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, diced 
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 5 cups of vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-14 oz cans of black beans, rinsed & drained, (divided)
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste

  1. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat.  
  2. Add onion, both peppers, carrots, and celery.  Saute until slightly tender.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  
  3. Add stock, seasonings, and half of the beans.  Simmer uncovered for 1-2 hours.  Remove bay leaf and blend using an immersion blender (or blend in 2 additions in a blender).  
  4. Add the reminder of the beans..  Bring to a boil to thicken the soup.  Taste and add salt and pepper, if necessary. 

Side Note:  This soup tastes really good, if not better, reheated in the microwave the next day.  It seemed to get much thicker. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Maple Cinnamon Walnuts & Roasted Cinnamon Almonds

These were actually made for, and eaten on, Christmas Eve... well, the one's that were left anyways.  After they were all cool, I put the nuts in a tupperware and stuffed them in a corner in the kitchen.  However, throughout the day, whenever anyone in my family walked past them... we just had to grab a handful.  By the time we were settling down to have pre-dinner snacks and trying to find our copy of It's a Wonderful Life, there was only one small bowl left.  Regardless, they were delicious and easy to make!  If you have these ingredients on hand, whip up a batch and set them out at your New Year's Eve party tomorrow!

Happy New Year!

Cinnamon Maple Pecans

  • 2 cups pecan halves 
  • 1⁄4 cup real maple syrup 
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla 
  • 1 tablespoon butter 
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 2 dashes salt


  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread pecans out on a baking sheet. Place the pecans in the oven and toast for 8–10 minutes, or until fragrant.
  2. Remove pecans from oven and set aside to cool. In a small saucepan combine the maple syrup, vanilla, butter, cinnamon and salt. Stir until combined and butter is melted.
  3. Add pecans to a medium sized bowl. Drizzle with maple syrup mixture and toss to combine. Spray a baking sheet with spray oil, such as PAM. Spread pecans on greased baking sheet. Return to oven and roast at 300°F for 20–25 minutes.
  4. Spread parchment paper on a cookie cooling rack or counter. Place nuts on top of the parchment, spread- ing so they don’t stick to each other while they cool. When cool, package as you’d like.

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 teaspoon cold water
  • 2 cups whole almonds
  • 3 T white sugar
  • 3 T brown sugar
  • 1 T ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Beat the egg white and water until frothy with a whisk in a medium bowl. Add the almonds, and stir until well coated. Mix the sugars, salt, and cinnamon, and sprinkle over the nuts. Stir the nuts until they are well coated.  Spread the almonds evenly on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a Silpat.
  2. Roast the almonds for 1 hour, stirring every 20 minutes or so. Your house will smell amazing!
  3. When cool, package as you’d like.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Overnight French Toast

And the reviews are in:

"This is the most sinful thing I've ever had, including desserts" - Dad

"This is too good to be breakfast" - Caroline (sister)

"Eggbake is out, this is now IN for Christmas breakfast" - Grandma

This really was amazing!  I used the No-Knead bread (in the previous post) which was the PREFECT density and texture for the french toast and absorbing the custard.  I only used 5 pieces of bread (for 6 people) and my mom was convinced that wouldn't be enough... as soon as she took a bite I soon proved her wrong.  This is so rich and filling that you don't need to eat much to feel satisfied.  If you don't want to make your own bread (which is perfectly understandable), I recommend that you use a sourdough or a nice hefty artisan bread... don't use your sandwich bread for PB&J's.  The french toast does need to cook for 45 minutes, so if you will be making this for a brunch or another event, you will want to accommodate for that and the pre-heating of the oven.

And while the lighting and colors of the photo isn't so great... see that making bokeh?  Thank you new camera lens; an AF NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8 D, thank you grandma!  It's an amazing lens and I the depth of field I can achieve with it is unbelievable!

Overnight French Toast
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • French or Italian bread sliced 1/2" thick, enough to cover the bottom of a 9" x 13" pan
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Lightly grease a 9" x 13" pan or shallow 2-quart casserole.
  2. To make the glaze: Melt the butter in a saucepan, and stir in the brown sugar and syrup. Bring the mixture to a simmer, cooking until the sugar melts.Pour the glaze into the prepared pan, spreading it to the corners.
  3. Lay the slices of bread in the pan, atop the glaze. Use baguettes for smaller servings, a fat loaf of Italian bread for larger servings. 
  4. To make the custard, whisk together the cream, half and half, or milk, eggs or egg substitute, the flavor, and the salt. Pour it over the bread in the pan, pressing the bread down into the custard.
  5. Cover the pan, and refrigerate overnight, or for up to 24 hours.
  6. When you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  7. Make the topping by stirring together the brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Sprinkle it evenly over the bread.
  8. Bake the French toast for 40 to 45 minutes, until it's bubbly and the top is very lightly browned.
  9. Remove it from the oven, and allow it to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Serve individual slices of bread, turning it over on the plate so the syrupy bottom is on top.

Before putting the french toast in fridge for the night!

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread

I made this? Seriously?  Legitimate artisan bread was crafted by my own hands and pulled out of the oven?  It's true!  I had wanted to try making this bread, especially after trying the speedy version of no-knead bread.  I must say, this is so much better.  It tasted like sourdough and I got beautiful irregular holes:

The only reason I hadn't made this before is because of time constraints.  While the actual time of 'physical labor' need for this bread isn't substantial at all - you still need to let the bread rise for about 18 hours.  My best recommendation (and what I did) is to prepare the dough the night before you plan to bake it, let it rise over night, and in the morning make the bread.  This dough is quite sticky, so make sure to have enough flour on hand to use on your hands and to flour the dough/cotton kitchen cloths.

I used this bread in "over night french toast" for Christmas morning so we would have a nice, hearty, breakfast but without having to take someone away from the family to slave away in the kitchen making breakfast.  I hope to post the recipe ASAP because the recipe received RAVE reviews!

Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread
Adapted from The New York Times


  • 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed


  1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water, and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.
  2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes. (This is what my dough looked like right before I started working with it... dotted with bubbles)
  3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.
  4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

YIELD: One 1 1/2-pound loaf

And a closing photograph - my dog PRAYING for the bread to fall on the ground.  I had to shoot outside because my lightbox is at my house in Ann Arbor:

God Bless Bella!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

"No-Vampire" Thin (Herbed) Crust Pizza

My first night home at my parents for Christmas break I made this for dinner for my mom and me.  We were both SO ravenous that we pretty much ate the entire pizza (save for 4 small pieces)... and use the full-size stove that the pizza is resting on for reference.  Because of the whole vampire craze that is going on right now, my mom and I thought it was funny that this pizza would be a perfect vampire repellant.  The dough has minced garlic (and other herbs) in it & we topped the pizza with garlic-y pesto, onions, garlic, spinach, blue cheese, and mozzarella.  I love how the strong flavors all complimented each other! And a note of the dough - it was a relatively short rising time (about 45 minutes) because I hot-boxed in the oven at 100 degrees until it was doubled in size.

For the Dough/Crust:

  • 1 packet of yeast (about 1 tbsp)
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Cup warm water
  • 3 Cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil, plus more to coat the pan and dough
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 2-ish cloves of minced garlic
  • a few shakes of Italian seasoning, oregano, and rosemary


  1. Mix yeast, sugar, and warm water. Stir gently until combined and no clumps remain. Let mixture sit for about 5-10 minutes. Add flour, oil, garlic, herbs, and salt, beating in with a spoon.  Using your hands, gently push the dough together until it forms into a ball. Kneed for 2-3 minutes. Brush a thin layer of olive oil over the dough and cover with Saran wrap. Let it sit and rise in an oven heated to 100 degrees for about an hour (it only took me 45 minutes), or until doubled in size.
  2. When your dough is ready to go, you can do one big pizza or two pizzas and roll until it is thin. Transfer the rolled dough onto a cookie sheet coated generously with olive oil. Brush a generous amount of olive oil on the top of the dough. Make sure that all parts of the dough is covered in olive oil- both top and bottom. (If it's not completely coated, you won't get an even golden and crispy crust). Poke the dough a few times with a fork (this prevents the dough from bubbling up while in the oven). Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.
  3. For the toppings I used: pesto, mozzarella, blue cheese, garlic, onions, and spinach.
  4. Bake the topped pizza in the 425 degree oven for about 7-10 minutes, or until the cheese melts and becomes bubbly.

Peppermint Mocha Truffles

This is the last of the "cookies" of my holiday plate this year.  I have been wanting to try making truffles for quite some time now, and I thought this festive recipe would be perfect!  I love biting into these truffles and having the hard crunch of the outer chocolate shell contrast with the soft minty mocha-y center.  Mmm.  The only issue I had with the truffles was melting the chocolate and successfully coating the chocolate centers.  The centers kept on getting soft (and difficult to work with) when I dipped them into the warm chocolate.  Next time I may freeze the centers first before dipping them in the chocolate.  Side note: I adapted these from My Kitchen Addiction... I'm not enough of a confectionary to invent candy recipes on my own yet.

Peppermint Mocha Truffles
  • 8 ounces cream cheese softened
  • 24 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided
  • 2 tablespoons instant espresso
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons peppermint extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vegetable shortening
  • Crushed peppermint candies (optional)
  • Additional chocolate for drizzling (optional)
  1. In a mixing bowl, combine the instant espresso and water, whisking until completely dissolved.  Add the cream cheese and peppermint extract, and set aside.
  2. In a double boiler, melt half of the chocolate chips (12 ounces) over barely simmering water until the chocolate is melted and smooth.  Pour the melted chocolate into the mixing bowl with the cream cheese, and use a hand blender to mix thoroughly.  Cover and chill overnight.
  3. When ready to make the truffles, use a mini ice cream scoop (or clean fingers) to form little balls (about 1 inch in diameter) of the filling.  Place the balls on parchment paper or waxed paper.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the remaining chocolate chips with the 1/2 teaspoon of vegetable shortening in a double boiler over barely simmering water until the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat.
  5. Carefully dip each ball into the melted chocolate and coat on all sides.  Lift with a fork and let the excess chocolate drain off.  Place back on the parchment paper to let the chocolate set.  Sprinkle with peppermint candies, if desired.

Fluffy Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing/Sprinkles

I must regretfully say - I am kinda over the rolled sugar cookie thing.  The first time you roll out the cookies, they turn out well, and then you have to keep adding more and more flour to the board to keep the dough from sticking -- and the last few cookies are so thin and too crispy.  And let's not forget the decorating, oh the decorating.  The first few cookies are fun to decorate, and then you see that you have another 30 or so to carefully decorate.  But these cookies... they are so light, fluffy, and easy to make!  I liked making little "small" fluffy cookies, but feel free to make them into larger balls.  You may just have to adjust the time accordingly.  I pressed some festive Christmas sprinkles into some of them and the others I piped some blue royal icing on.

  • 2 cups granulated sugar*
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 14 Tbsp (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  1. Spread 1/2 cup of the sugar* in a shallow dish for coating and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
  2. Beat the butter and remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar together in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, until combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl & beaters as needed.
  3. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Give the dough a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure dough is combined. Refrigerate dough for at least an hour.
  4. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350°F. Using palms, roll 2 Tablespoons of dough at a time into balls, then roll in sugar to coat. Place balls on baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart.
  5. Bake cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are set and just beginning to brown but the centers are still soft and puffy, 10-12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Allow cookies to cook on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
Royal Icing:
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 & 5/8 cups of powdered sugar
  • a few splashes of lemon juice
  • food coloring
  1. Beat together egg white and powdered sugar with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form and the icing is shiny.
  2. Add in lemon juice and continue beating.  Beat in food coloring.
  3. Either pipe icing or spread on cookies.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chocolate Peppermint Cookies

Imagine a Thin Mint... you know, the best Girl Scout Cookie in existence.  Well, that's kind of what the chocolate part of this cookie tasted like.  And that's a good thing for people that you will be giving these cookies to, but for me it has turned into a dangerous addiction.  This was the largest batch of all the cookies that I made, so I put a few in a Tupperware for myself.  However, I cannot just have one!  I keep on going back for just one more... and then another... and you can see where this is going.  I will deffinately be making these again when it gets closer to Christmas.  Even though these cookies take a little longer to make due to all the refrigerating/freezing time, it's great if you'll be making one or  two types of cookies because when these are in the fridge, you can whip up a batch of Russian Snowballs.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 8 large candy canes or 30 peppermint candies, crushed
  • 2 pounds white chocolate, coarsely chopped


  1. Preheat the oven to 325˚F.  Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a bowl.  Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed for 1 minutes.  Reduce speed to medium-low, and add the egg, then the yolk, beating well after each addition.  Beat in peppermint extract.  Slowly add flour mixture, and beat until just incorporated.  Shape dough into 2 disks, wrap each in plastic, and refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour.
  2. Roll out 1 disk of dough on a lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness.  Using a 1 1/2-inch round cutter, cut out circles and place 1-inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Freeze cookies until firm, about 15 minutes.  Repeat with remaining disk.
  3. Bake until cookies are dry to the touch, about 12 minutes.  Transfer cookies to wire racks and let cool. (Undecorated cookies will keep, covered, for up to 3 days.)
  4. Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water.  Remove from heat.  Dip tops of cookies into melted chocolate, and sprinkle with crushed candy pieces.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Red Velvet Shortbread Cookies

Yet another one of the cookies I made at 505.  I haven't had too much success making shortbread in the past... actually - I think the first (and last time) I made it was winter of 2007.  There was a recipe in this cookbook Alex bought me and all we had was a roasting pan to make shortbread in.  Alas - it didn't work.  Even though I should have realized roasting pan does NOT equal good shortbread - I was afraid of making it again.  Also, now that I have a food processor shortbread is a lot easier to make.
I cooked the shortbread for a little bit shorter than the recommended cooking time because I was soo afraid of them burning (ironically, a few of them still did)... but dear god, are these cookies good.  The buttery texture of the shortbread with the crunch of the white chocolate... Mmm.

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • 2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1/4 tsp. salt

  • 1/2 cup butter, cut up

  • 1 Tbsp. red food coloring

  • 3 ounces white chocolate (with cocoa butter), coarsely chopped

  • 1 1/2 tsp. shortening
  • festive sprinkles
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Cover and process with on/off turns until combined. Add butter and red food coloring. Process with on/off turns until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Then continue to process until mixture begins to clump together.
  2. Scoop dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly until nearly smooth. Roll or pat dough to a 1/2-inch thickness. Using a floured 1-1/2-inch round cutter, cut out dough. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Press scraps together and reroll.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until centers are set. Transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.
  4. In a heavy small saucepan, melt white chocolate and shortening over low heat, stirring constantly. Place cookie in chocolate with fork, flip over, and remove with a fork and tap off excess on the side of the bowl. If desired, sprinkle with festive sprinkles, nonpareils or chopped pistachios. Let stand on waxed paper until set.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Russian Snowballs

Last night I went over to the boy's of 505 house and made THREE different types of christmas cookies.  These russian snowballs are easy to make (very few ingredients) but it was really beneficial to have a food processor to finely chop up the almonds - I can't even image doing that by hand....  These cookies have a nice little "crunch" on the outside but are SO smooth and buttery on the inside - flecked with bits of almonds... mmm.  This would make a great addition to any holiday cookie platter because they don't take long to make and only use one bowl.

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped almonds or pecans


  1. Heat oven to 350. Mix thoroughly butter, sugar and vanilla. Work in flour, salt and nuts until dough holds together. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place on ungreased or parchment lined baking sheet.
  2. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set, but not brown. While warm, roll in confectioners' sugar. Cool on wire rack. Roll in powdered sugar again.


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