Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Michigan Sugar Cookies

Michigan: It's America's high-five.  Michigan: It makes an awesome hug (you know what I'm talking about, Bjoern!).  Michigan: Surrounded by lakes and home of many wonderful people and smiling faces.  Did you also know that it makes one cute cookie?

I first got the idea to send "Michigan" care packages off to "Michigan" people scattered across the country a few weeks ago.  Lucky me, I got a set of Michigan cookie cutters for graduation.  Of course there would have to be some Maize and Blue in the package, some sort of baked good (what can I say, I spoil my friends!) and a letter.  Side note: have I mentioned HOW many letters I've been writing this summer?  I love it!  And I love getting actual mail!

Now back to your regularly scheduled program...  I decided to combine two into one - Michigan shaped cookies in Michigan colors!  I'm a genius, you don't need to tell me.  I sent four packages out (flat rate shipping boxes are amazing for this sort of thing): to Zenka in San Diego, Bjoern in Houston, Jake T in Washington DC and one to two LV's, Sam and Alex, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in California (or that's where they were when they got the package).  Sadly, according to Bjoern, his package never got to him, so I wrote him a nice long letter tonight instead.  And if you're reading this Bjoern, I'm sending out more baked goods next week.  This time you WILL get it.

This is my all-time favorite sugar cookie recipe.  The almond and lemon are perfectly balanced and the cookie is fluffy but still holds its shape when baked.  Is there anything else you could ask for?  Word to the wise, don't try to start piping royal icing at midnight.  I didn't go to bed until 2 am and still had to remake blue royal icing and re-pipe all the cookies the next morning (the icing wasn't high enough for flooding).

Thank you to all my friends and family who made my experience at the University of Michigan such a wonderful one and even if you didn't get a care package, know I would have sent you one if I had the money to do so! 

Sugar Cookies

  • 1 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. powdered sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 5 c. flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Parchment Paper, for rolling
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cream butter and sugars in a mixer for 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly. Add vanilla, almond, and lemon zest.
  3. Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt a little at a time. Do not over mix, this process should take about one minute.
  4. Chill dough for 30 minutes in fridge. After chilled, divide the dough into two balls and roll out each one between two pieces of parchment paper.  Once dough is at about a ⅓ of an inch thickness, freeze the sheets of dough for about 20 minutes. Remove from freezer and cut out shapes.  Re-roll dough and re-freeze.  Repeat.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and bake cookies for 7-8 minutes. Wait until cookies are cooled before icing.

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, June 27, 2010

Pita Pizza

I would be lying if I said I only had this every once in a while.  I eat a pita pizza about 5 times a week, usually for lunch.  It is inexpensive to make, doesn't take much time and is healthy.  The pitas I use are low carb and because I use pesto as a base, they are low sugar too.  Then to make them even healthier, I load it with veggies and sometimes use a little bit of shredded chicken lunch meat.  What's even better, is that this is filling.  I rarely am hungry for something else once I'm done eating.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to eat a pita pizza for dinner - with pesto, yellow/red/green pepper, diced onions, blue cheese & crushed red pepper.

Pita Pizza
  • 1 whole wheat pizza cut in half
  • Sauce of choice (I use pesto)
  • Choice of toppings, I used blue cheese, shredded lunch meat chicken, onions, crushed red pepper and spinach
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line baking sheet with tin foil.
  2. Slice pita in half (so you have two circles).  Spread on sauce of choice, sprinkle on cheese of choice and finish off with some veggies.
  3. Cook in oven for 8 minutes, or until the crust is crispy.
  4. Let cool for one minute, cut and enjoy!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Lemon Zest, Garlic & Herb Marinade

Well, I've up and done it.  I've posted a recipe for chicken on my vegetarian cooking blog.  It's true world, I've started eating small amounts of chicken.  It's hard concept to wrap my head around; I still consider myself to be a vegetarian but I eat some chicken.  Now that I've said that, I bet a few people will tell me I'm wrong.  And for all technical purposes I am, but the chicken that I have eaten is free range and vegetarian fed.  On top of that, all the chicken I have eaten has been purchased for me, I have yet to buy meat of my own.  I'll see if I'll be able to even purchase it on my own... of if I'll even know how.  While I am having this mini-less-than-a-quarter-life identity crisis, I do know that since I have started eating chicken I feel a lot healthier.  Aside from finding out I'm allergic to bees, I have yet to get sick!  For those who know me, that is saying something.

Oh, right, back to the food.  I'm not going to lie, it's good.  Good as in I ate-it-cold-out-of-a-tupperware-and-still-enjoyed-it good.  For me, the cooking part was a little difficult and nerve racking, but cut me a break people, I've never done this before and I didn't want to get anyone sick on my first try!  The whole time I was trimming the chicken breast I was a little squeamish and was ruffling up my nose with confusion.  While that was one thing, don't even get me started on the grilling, I was terrified I wouldn't cook it well enough and I would be exiled the suffering I inflicted upon my kin.  I may or may not have yelled "DAAAAADDD" one or two times to make him check the chicken for me while I anxiously asked "are you SURE it's not pink inside?"  Needless to say, I did it.  I very successfully grilled chicken.  Throughout dinner my family kept on insisting "this was the best chicken they ever had" (I still don't believe them) and we were all vying for leftovers the next day.

You want to know how this tastes?  Garlic plays a pretty prominent role and is the first flavor that is noticed.  Slowly, the light taste of lemon comes through and the helps give the chicken a nice fresh finish.  Yet the marinating in olive oil with herbs gives a wonderful undertone.  Fire up the grill this weekend (I don't know about you, but it's beautiful here!) and get cooking!

PS - As you can tell, Mom, I finally posted to recipe, albeit a little later than you would have hoped. 
While not the greatest picture (dang compact florescent light bulbs!) it does prove I did cook the chicken!

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Lemon Zest, Garlic & Herb Marinade
Adapted from Once Upon a Chef
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 6 ounces each, or about 1½ pounds total)
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon zest (about the zest of one lemon) - I used a little more zest than the recipe indicates
  1. Place chicken breasts between 2 pieces of wax paper and, using a meat mallet, pound to an even ½-inch thickness (I couldn't get mine this thin… but if you can, more power to you!).
  2. Mix all ingredients except chicken together in a 1 gallon zip-lock bag. Add chicken breasts and massage marinade into meat until evenly coated. Seal the bag and place in a bowl in the refrigerator (the bowl protects against leakage); let the chicken marinate at least 4 hours or up to 12 hours.
  3. Clean grill and preheat to high. Lightly dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and, using tongs, carefully rub over grates several times until glossy and coated. Place chicken breasts on the grill (and get as much of that marinade on as you can!  More marinade = more flavor!). Grill, covered, for 4-5 minutes per side.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Italian Sweet Potato Gratin

It is difficult to photograph a gratin, or any casserole for that matter, while is is still in the pan.  I think the photograph above is evidence enough.  If you zoom it too close, it looks like the surface of an alien planet.  Conversely, if you show the whole pan very little detail can be seen and it doesn't look for appetizing.  But please, do not be fooled by my photos above!  This dish is amazing!

My Dad & sister, Caroline, bought Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health at Powell's in Portland.  There are so many recipes I want to try, but a lot of them require very specialty ingredients that I don't really have the budget for at the moment.  However, this one stuck out to me because it contained relatively conventional ingredients and sounded like nothing I had ever eaten before.  Sweet potatoes and tomato sauce?  With bread crumbs?  Oh, but how good it is!  My Dad proclaimed that this is one of the best things I have ever made, even my non-adventurous eater little sister ate it up and the leftovers (which heated up very well) lasted me a week.  The hardest part of this recipe is making sure you slice the sweet potatoes very thin, but a sharp knife and a little practice makes this an easy task.

In other news, I have started eating chicken - and only free range vegetarian fed chicken - for my health.  Expect to see some healthy chicken recipes up on here at some point!

Italian Sweet Potato Gratin
Adapted from: Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 cups of VERY thinly sliced peeled sweet potatoes (a sharp knife is key)
  • 4 cups of very thinly slices onions
  • 3 cups of tomato sauce (while I usually make my own, I'm a huge fan of "Seeds of Change")
  • 1 ½ cups grated mozzarella
  • ½ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, oregano, garlic, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and black pepper.  Set aside.
  2. Evenly spread 1 cup of the sweet potatoes in a lightly oiled 9x13-inch baking pan (don't worry, they don't need to completely cover the bottom of the pan).  Spread 1 cup of the onions over the potatoes.  Drizzle with a quarter of the olive oil mixture and top with a generous ½ cup of the tomato sauce.  Sprinkle with ⅓ cup of mozzarella and then about 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs.  Repeat this layers three more times, using up any extra tomato sauce or mozzarella on the top layer.  Finishing by sprinkling the Parmesan on top.
  3. Cover and bake in a preheated 400 degree over until the sweet potatoes are tender, 45 minutes.  Uncover and  continue to bake until the gratin is bubbling and lightly browned, about 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pavlova with Blueberry Reduction Sauce

Sadly, I had never heard of a pavlova until spring break of this year.  One night on the cruise I decided to order a dessert off the healthy menu.  Now, if you've ever had a "healthy" dessert, they sometimes have an odd aftertaste or are full of so many artificial sweeteners.  Yet this dessert sounded good and I'm a sucker for any dessert that incorporates fresh fruit.

Trust me, I wasn't disappointed with this dessert!  As soon as your perforate the shell of the pavlova with the tip of your spoon, the marshmallow interior begins to peek through and incorporate with the fruit topping.  Holy yum!

When making this, I had to whip the egg whites A LOT longer than 5 minutes.  I'm not exactly sure why, but I think maybe the metal bowl I used wasn't perfectly clean; any little bit of oil residue can alter how well egg whites whip up into firm peaks.

Adapted from Simply Recipes 
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 ½ Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup (6 ounces, about 6) large egg whites, preferably room temperature
  • Pinch salt

  • 2 pints fresh or frozen berries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup water

  1. Place rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 275°. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.  Stir the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl.
  2. In a large bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, fitted with whisk attachment, whip egg whites, cream of tartar and salt, starting on low, increasing incrementally to medium speed until soft peaks/trails start to become visible, and the egg white bubbles are very small and uniform, approximately 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Increase speed to medium-high, slowly and gradually sprinkling in the sugar-cornstarch mixture. A few minutes after these dry ingredients are added, slowly pour in the vanilla.  Increase speed a bit and whip until meringue is glossy, and stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Pipe or spoon the meringue into 8-10 large round mounds that are 3 inches wide on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicon liner. With the back of a spoon, create an indentation in the middle of the mound for holding the filling once meringue is baked.
  5. Place baking sheet in the oven. Reduce oven temperature to 250°F. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside, and white -- not tan-colored or cracked. The interiors should have a marshmallow-like consistency. Check on meringues at least once during the baking time. If they appear to be taking on color or cracking, reduce temperature 25 degrees, and turn pan around.
  6. Gently lift from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. Will keep in a tightly sealed container at room temperature, or individually wrapped, for up to a week if your house is not humid.
  7. Served topped with your favorite filling.

Berry Sauce:
Heat a couple pints of fresh or frozen berries in a medium saucepan with about a quarter cup of sugar and a quarter cup of water. Heat on medium heat, stirring once or twice, for about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how much the berries are falling aprt. Remove from heat and let cool.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Whole Wheat Tortillas

Other than that one time you had a tortilla pressed in front of you at a Chiptole restaurant, have you ever really had a homemade tortilla?  Ok, maybe you have, but have you made them?  Seriously, they aren't that hard, and if you're afraid of working with yeast, these surely don't have yeast!  Pressed for time?  You can leave out the step for letting the dough rise for an hour after forming it into a large ball.  Have I convinced you enough to how easy these are to make?

Immediately after making these, I quickly assembled a standard lunch of the Outward Bound and Four-Trails trips of my past: a peanut butter and honey wrap roll up.  The best part of this was that because the tortillas were still warm from being hot off the griddle, the peanut butter melted, swirled in with the honey and made me one happy camper.  It also provided me with a nice flashback to eating these of the side of some road with our bikes in Wisconsin with Meg, Allie, Kat and Joan by my side or hurriedly eating while canoeing down a river in Canada, trying to avoid the mosquitos.

A few days later, these were used in bean & corn quesadillas that I made for my sister and I after we organized and cleaned our parents garage.  Seriously.  We're that good.  Now you go be good and make these!!

Whole Wheat Tortillas
Adapted from Rick Bayless

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus a little extra for rolling the tortillas
  • 1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 5 tablespoons shortening
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • about 3/4 cup very warm tap water 

  1. To make the dough, combine the flours and shortening in a large mixing bowl, working the two ingredients together with a pastry cutter (or your hands… doesn’t matter), until completely incorporated.  This should feel like wet sand.  Dissolve the salt in the water, pour about 2/3 cup of it over the dry ingredients and immediately work it in with a fork… or once again your hands (seriously, hands are the best kitchen gadget…ever).  The dough will be in large lumps at this point, not one big ball o’ dough.  If all the dry ingredients haven't been dampened, add the rest of the liquid (plus a little more, if necessary).  Scoop the dough onto your work surface and knead until smooth.  It should be medium-stiff consistency -- definitely not firm, but not quite as soft as most bread dough either.  Let this rest for about an hour.
  2. Divide the dough into 12 portions and roll each into a ball.  Set them on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and let rest at least 30 minutes (to make the dough less springy, easier to roll).
  3. Roll and griddle-bake the tortillas.  Heat an ungreased griddle or heavy skillet over medium to medium-high heat.
  4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out a portion of the dough into an even 7-inch circle.  Flatten a ball of dough, flour it, then roll forward and back across it; rotate a sixth of a turn and roll forward and back again; continue rotating and rolling until you reach a 7-inch circle… a very very thin 7-inch circle.
  5. Lay the tortilla on the hot griddle (you should hear a faint sizzle and see an almost immediate bubbling across the surface).  After 30 to 45 seconds, when there are browned splotches underneath, flip it over.  Bake 30 to 45 seconds more, until brown spots appear; don't overbake the tortilla or it will become crisp.  Remove and wrap in a cloth napkin placed in a tortilla warmer.  Roll and griddle-bake the remaining tortillas in the same manner and stacking them one on top of the other.
  6. Fill with something yummy or snack on it plain.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin