Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Basil Walnut Pesto

This Pesto is so easy and so quick in the summer time. When you have fresh basil, I cannot think of anything better to do then to make homemade pesto!

I like adding walnuts in addition to the traditional pine nuts because I think it adds an extra layer to the depth of flavor!

1/3 c. walnuts
1/3 c. pine nuts
1 head of garlic (~9 cloves)
1 c. freshly graded Parmesan cheese
3 bunches fresh basil leaves (~5 c.)
olive oil (I used about 1 1/2 c.)
salt and pepper to taste

So basically all you do is put it all in the blender, and chop it up... order probably wouldn't mater, although I would recommend the nuts and garlic first, then adding the basil and cheese, and adding enough olive oil to make it into a thick paste. You can always add more oil later, so don't add too much in the beginning. If its a paste you can use it more as a spread too! If you're using it for pasta sauce you can always add a little starchy pasta water or some more oil to thin it out a bit...but don't make it too runny!

I accidentally added the blender attachment blades to my little "rocket" blender instead of the food processor one... so that is why the pesto looks a little more smooth than normal... but I promise, it tastes delicious!

Friday, July 24, 2009

A Berry Peachy Breakfast (or dessert)

I am not a huge breakfast eater on most days, I like the grab and go method with granola bars and morning coffee. Don't get me wrong, when my mom makes waffles and my dad fries up bacon and sausage with scrambled eggs I will eat until my heart's content. However, that is not the typical day for me.

I have gotten tired of the boring chewy granola bars every morning ...and in the summer, especially, I love fresh fruit. These raspberry, blackberry, peach breakfast bars were a great combo of fresh summer berries and peaches with the easy "grab and go" method I spoke of before!

These would also make a great dessert! You could serve it warm with some vanilla or cinimon flavored ice cream on top... almost like a makeshift apple crisp or fruit tart. (They also make a great afternoon snack)

Berry-Peach Breakfast Bars

Crust and Crumble Topping

1 c. flour
3/4 c. brown sugar
dash of salt
1 stick of butter (room temp and soft, but not melted)
2 1/2 c. oats
splash of orange juice (~2 Tbl.)
drizzle of honey for the top

Fruit Filling
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 Tbl. white granulated sugar
2 Tbl. flour
4 1/2 cups fresh berries or other fruit
splash of lemon juice (about a tablespoon)

To mix the crust and topping add the flour, brown sugar, and salt to the butter and mash with fork until small crumbs form. Combine with the oats and mix until incorporated. Set aside about 1/4 of the mixture to use as the topping. To the crust portion, add the splash of orange juice (apple juice or other flavors work as well... I used orange mango peach) just to moisten.

Now it's time to get your hands dirty! Combine and press down into the bottom of a greased 9x13 inch pan... I recommend using the fingers. Some people might opt for the bottom of a measuring cup... but the mess makes it more fun, and tasty!

For the filling, mix together all of the ingredients and stir so that fruit is coated with the mixture. You can use whatever kind of fruit combination you would like... I used raspberries, blackberries and peaches! Depending on your preference you can leave the berries whole or cut them into smaller chunks. I cut the peaches into cubes but you could cut and leave them in thin slices if you prefer... all up to you! Pour the fruit filling on top of the crust so the fruit is evenly spread in one layer.

Take the crumb topping you set aside earlier and crumble over the top of the filling! Bake the dish at 375 for 30 minutes. When the time is up take it out and drizzle some honey over the top. Little-bitty thin strings of honey over the topping adds a little extra natural sweetness! Back in the oven for 5 more minutes, or until the top is golden and crispy!

If you intend to eat these for breakfast, allow them to cool for a couple of hours and then cut them into squares and store them in some tupperware in the refrigerator.

If, however, you intend to eat these for dessert, let them cool for only a few minutes, cut them and serve them warm with ice cream over the top... depending on the type of fruit you used, there could be many different flavors of ice cream... but if in doubt, you can't go wrong with plain old, classic vanilla!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Carol Brownies

These brownies are my all time favorites! My aunt, Carol (whom I'm named after), used to make them all of the time, and when I was young she taught me the recipe and her technique. I don't think I appreciated the simplicity of the recipe until much later down the road, but the fact that you only need one bowl, one measuring cup, and a few ingredients that I always have on hand!

These brownies only take about 5 minutes to put together...easy and fast!

Carol Brownies:
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 squares Unsweetened baking chocolate
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla (2 tsp is better!)

Melt the butter and chocolate in the microwave (or stove, but microwave is easier) just until all of the butter is melted. With a spatula stir the chocolate butter mixture until the chocolate is completely dissolved in the butter. If you heat the mixture too long to try and melt all of the chocolate, the butter will burn. Just melt the butter and use the residual heat to melt the chocolate completely. When you finish the mixture will be a silky chocolate liquid! A great beginning to any dessert.

After the mixture is completely melted stir in the sugar, followed by the flour so you have a thick chocolate mixture in your bowl. Next follow by the addition of one egg at a time. Stir in completely. Stir in the vanilla until completely incorporated and pour into a 9x9 inch pan.

Bake the brownies at 325 for 20-30 min. On my oven, 22 minutes is perfect!

If you must...you can add pecans to these. I like nut-less brownies because I can focus on the chocolaty deliciousness more that way without interruption... but i completely understand if you feel the desire to add some nuts. However, the first time, I would try at least half the pan nut-free to give them a fair shot!

Once the batter is in the oven, lick the bowl clean using spoon, spatula, fingers, tongue... any means of getting every last drop!

I have been known to eat the entire bowl of batter with a spoon (regretting it later)... If you are going to take the spoon method, I would recommend baking and then, if desired, take the spoon to the warm brownies before they completely set. Most likely you wont eat the entire batch this way, and then once they cool a bit more you still have some great brownies to eat the next few days (if they last that long...)

I usually double the recipe if my family is around because a single batch wont last more than a day... a double batch usually lasts about two.

Note: Do not ruin these brownies by using an electric mixer... my mom tried that once and took away all possible fudgy, moist properties these brownies had...

Monday, July 6, 2009

Chocolate Madness Cashew Cookies

I LOVE chocolate! Since I don't always have a ton just lying around (because i have eaten it all) I have to get creative as to what form I should make my chocolate. I also like adapting recipes and trying to improve upon them when baking to make things more interesting. This cookie was a combination of boredom, chocolate needing, and recipe searching!

I found a very generic recipe for chocolate cookies using cocoa. Looked at what I had around the apartment... low and behold.... chocolate liqueur! I had previously made an alcoholic chocolate cake for a friends 21st birthday with a raspberry rum glaze, chocolate liqueur icing, and a Bailey's cream cheese filling (it was delicious, but that's for another day).

So I decided to try and adapt to make some rich chocolaty cookies. I also found some cashews and figured those would work in nicely! I think almonds macadamia would work better in the future though. Don't get me wrong, the cashews were great, but I love cashews so much on their own, it didn't to the nut justice in such a fantastic, rich cookie!

As you might remember, I don't measure things often, so I used this basic recipe and made the following additions:

Basic Chocolate Cookie:
  • 1 c. Butter
  • 1 1/2 c. Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 t. Vanilla
  • 2 c. Flour
  • 1/2 t. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 t. Salt
  • 2/3 c. Cocoa Powder
My additions:
  • 1/2 t. Baking Soda
  • 2 T. Chocolate Liqueur (I used Godiva)
  • 1 T. Irish Cream Liqueur (such as Baileys)
  • 2 c. White Chocolate Chips
  • 1 C. Cashews (roughly chopped)

In case that was confusing....

Overall Chocolate Madness Cashew Cookie:
  • 1 c. Butter
  • 1 1/2 c. Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 t. Vanilla
  • 2 c. Flour
  • 1 t. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 t. Salt
  • 2/3 c. Cocoa Powder
  • 3 T. Chocolate Liqueur (I used Godiva)
  • 1 T. Irish Cream Liqueur (such as Baileys)
  • 2 c. White Chocolate Chunks
  • 1 C. Cashews (roughly chopped)
Refrigerate the dough for a couple hours before baking the cookies! Bake these cookies at 350 for 10-14 minutes.

These cookies would definitely be great with Dark Chocolate Chunks, Walnuts, Macadamia Nuts... the possibilities are endless to a delicious chocolate cookie!

If you're a person who (like me) normally rounds up on the salt in recipes because you love the salty-sweet combo... don't do it in this if you're using both salted butter and salted cashews. If they are unsalted nuts, however, you probably will need a little extra salt because the liqueur makes the dough really sweet!

I made these cookies just like I would any other! Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at a time, mix dry ingredients, add slowly to the wet, fold in nuts and chips.... dollop and bake!

My cookies were fudgy because I didn't use a mixer (out of laziness) but they ended up great anyway! If you want fluffier cookies rather than fudgy, sift the flower mixture and then beat in the flour mixture vigorously with the mixer after each addition.