Eggnog Quick Bread

2011 has been quite a year for me.  I graduated from college, moved into an apartment with my boyfriend, got engaged, got my first pet as an “adult.”  I think this calls for a photo montage.

Me and my BFF Diego at my graduation.

 ❤

 Anyway, I think 2012 is going to be even better.  It’ll be the year I get married and hopefully land the job of my dreams.  But I’m getting ahead of myself, there’s still today to enjoy!

And you thought I was done with eggnog.  Guess, what?  It never stops…ever.  The last time we came down to Connecticut just after Thanksgiving, I brought half a loaf of this bread to my Dad, and he loved it.

Before leaving this time around, he asked if I’d be bringing it again.  I say no, I had other treats up my sleeve for this trip. And I was out of eggnog.  At first he insisted that I go out and get some in order to make this bread again.  After convincing him that what I was bringing this time was wayyy better, he finally dropped it.  I guess that means it was a good recipe, right?

So if you’ve got some nog leftover from Christmas, here’s another idea for you.  May your 2012 be full of delicious treats, joy, and fulfilled resolutions.  Happy New Year!

Eggnog Quick Bread

Adapted from Recipe Girl

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or ground)
2 large eggs
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup eggnog (low fat is fine)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon rum extract, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, eggnog, melted butter, vanilla, and rum extract (if using). Add egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened (batter will be lumpy).

Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes. Check for done-ness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the loaf — it should come out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a rack.

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Pan Fried Gnudi with Mushrooms

Today we’re heading down to Connecticut to spend the weekend with my family, since we spent Christmas with Luke’s family.  We don’t go down too often, so I’m always very excited when we go, and I always bring a bundle of baked goods for my family members.  This time I’m bringing the leftovers from my Christmas cookie-baking extravaganza.  I’ll be posting about those starting on the first day of 2012.

Moving on to gnudi.  That’s pronounced new-dee.  Gnudi is like gnocchi (similar pronunciation rules) except that where gnocchi’s primary ingredient is potato, gnudi is mostly constituted of ricotta cheese.  So they’re like little ricotta dumplings.

Little soft, pillowy clouds of deliciousness that are a snap to make, and cook really quickly.  They also freeze really well, just put them on a plate covered with wax paper to keep them from sticking together, then once frozen through, transfer them to a Ziploc bag.  Then you can just pull them out later and boil ‘em up.

They cook in just a few minutes, and are incredibly versatile.  Luke likes his with a spritzing of Italian dressing, and I like mine smothered in tomato sauce and extra cheese (my shots are pre-topping).  Pan frying gives them a crispy shell and a little extra flavor, but you can skip that step if you want.  They’re just as good boiled, like Asian dumplings.  Add some sautéed mushrooms, and it’s a meal!

Pan Fried Gnudi with Mushrooms

Adapted from Petite Kitchenesse

2 cups (16 oz.) ricotta cheese

2 eggs

1 ½ cups of freshly-grated parmesan cheese

1 ¼ cups of all-purpose flour

¼ tsp nutmeg

2 tablespoons butter

12 oz. of white or crimini mushrooms, sliced

salt and pepper, to taste

Combine ricotta, parmesan, eggs, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together in a bowl. Add flour and stir until a wet dough forms.

At this point, I like to put the bowl of dough in the fridge for 15–20 minutes. I find that cold dough is less sticky, and therefore easier to work with. In the meantime, slice mushrooms and sauté in the butter in a large skillet, until mushrooms just begin to brown and soften. Remove from heat and transfer to a plate.

Remove dough from fridge. Grab a fistful of dough and place on a well-floured surface. Roll out to form 1-inch thick ropes, then cut into pieces.

Place a large pot of water on the stove over high heat. While you wait for it to boil, roll out and cut up the rest of the gnudi. Once the water is boiling, add in half of the pasta.  When the gnudi are puffy and floating at the surface of the water(this will take around 4 minutes) transfer them to the pan with a slotted spoon.

Fry gnudi until browned, stirring occasionally. Transfer to a plate or large bowl. Repeat process with the second half of the pasta. Once the second batch is browned, add the first batch and the mushrooms to the pan, and stir until evenly warmed. Remove from heat and serve with favorite sauce.

 

 

 


Green Tea Ice Cream

Yesterday I had a major kitchen flop.  It happens to the best of us I suppose.  Now, this was not an, oh, the cookies are a little burnt on the bottom-flop.  I’m talking about a, wow, the cookies spread out in the oven and turned into large cookie puddles that taste like a puddle-flop.  And it had nothing to do with cookies.  Well, kind of.   I was making my first attempt at fudge, and I picked chocolate chip cookie dough fudge: 1. Because it sounds amazing and 2. Because Luke loves all things cookie dough, so it was promised to him as a late Christmas present.

Oh well.  I did try my best to make it work, but sadly that fudge was having none of it.  What should have been firm, solid bricks of fudge turned out looking and feeling like moon sand.  It does taste good though, so my thought is to attempt to salvage it by stirring it into vanilla ice cream.  It makes a good ice cream topping, I know that much for sure, but what else can you do with cookie dough flavored moon sand?  For the record, I’m always ok with a flop as long as it tastes good.  I don’t care how awful it looks if it makes my tummy happy.

However, I’m not so sure if failed cookie dough fudge sand would taste so great on green tea ice cream.  This flavor definitely stands on its own, though maybe so chocolate syrup would be good. I do enjoy the chocolate/green tea combo.  I once made a chocolate-green tea swirled bundt cake for a dinner party.  One of the people at the party called it “dirt.”  It still tasted good though….

Anyway, this ice cream is one of the loveliest shades of green I’ve ever seen.  It’s smooth, creamy and has the wonderful tastes and nutritional benefits of green tea…plus cream and sugar.  A detail.  I always seem to order green tea mochi ice cream at sushi restaurants, so I was so pleased to finally make my own!  Luke wouldn’t touch this, as he’s not a fan of green tea, so I got it all to myself 🙂  But you can make it to share.

 

Green Tea Ice Cream

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

1 cup whole milk
¾ cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups heavy cream
4 tsp. green tea powder (matcha)
6 large egg yolks

Combine the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.  Heat over medium heat until warmed through.  Meanwhile pour the heavy cream into a large bowl and whisk in the matcha.  Set a fine mesh sieve over the bowl.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until smooth.  Whisking constantly, slowly pour the warmed milk mixture into the bowl with the egg yolks.  Return the entire mixture to the saucepan and continue to cook, stirring constantly and scraping the bottom of the pan, until the mixture thickens slightly (it will register 170-175˚ F on an instant read thermometer).   Immediately remove from the heat and pour the mixture through the mesh strainer into the bowl with the cream mixture.  Whisk the mixture vigorously to dissolve the green tea powder.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator.

Once the mixture is thoroughly chilled, transfer it to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.


Soy Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Yesterday afternoon we returned home from our ski trip.  I like to think Izzy was extremely happy to see us, but who knows.  Her behavior can be a little tricky to decipher.  The automatic feeder we bought for her worked perfectly.  That gizmo really saved us from dumping poor Izzy on an unsuspecting friend or family member.  Not that she’s high maintenance.  Come on…she’s a rabbit.

Our second day of skiing was just as lovely as the first.  We got up to one of the tallest peaks at Sunday River, and the views were spectacular.  In the end. Luke only fell once!!  And he was quite a trooper to keep going even though he was sore.

These are the items we picked up at the little pottery shop.  Cute, right?

Sometimes I have this tiny problem where I buy things on sale at the supermarket, even if I don’t really need it.  Whenever sweet potatoes go on sale, I always buy a few, even though I have no plans to bake with them.  Obviously, I’ve already made a lot of sweet potato baked goods.

So I’ve been trying to find other ways to dress up the spuds.  When I came across this recipe in Tastespotting, (because I check it everyday…..healthy obsession, of course) I knew I had to make it someday.  Soy sauce, honey, sweet potatoes…mmmmm..three flavors I absolutely adore.  And, unsurprisingly, when combined together, they taste even better!  I made these, ate half, then added the rest to a batch of chili I had made.  It would definitely make a great side dish too.

Soy Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Adapted from Week of Menus

1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
pinch of salt

2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 350. Cut sweet potatoes into ice cube sized pieces. Toss potatoes with vegetable and sesame oil and a pinch of salt.  Place on a cookie sheet in a single layer and roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until edges are crisp.

While potatoes are baking, mix honey, soy sauce and grated ginger for the glaze. Drizzle over the potatoes and place 4 to 6 inches from broiler. Broil 5-7 minutes shaking baking sheet occasionally until nicely browned on the outside. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.


Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns

Hello all!  I hope everyone had a restful and joyful holiday, I know I did.  This post is coming at you from our bed and breakfast room in Bethel, Maine.  I still have so many things I want to post about, I couldn’t let a vacation keep my fingers off the keyboard.  Plus, it’s a December evening in Maine…of course there’s no nothing I’d rather do than cuddle up with Luke and my computer..

We had a great day out on the slopes today.  I very pleased by how quickly my muscle memory returned after just one run on the bunny slope.  By the end of the day, I was a little sore, but confident.  We’re heading back to the slopes tomorrow before heading back to MA tomorrow afternoon.

After skiing, we went back to the B&B for some R&R, then wandered out for dinner.  Across the way from the place our innkeeper suggested was a little pottery store.  Luke wanted us to get a more “tangible” memory, so we stopped in.  They had some cute stuff!  I bought a little rectangular plate and a mug.  I didn’t bring my good camera with us, so I’ll be sure to take pics when we get back to share.

We had dinner in the basement of another B&B (I’m pretty sure there are like 6 within a mile of each other here), where they had established a little pub.  I had French onion soup, and Luke had a lobster roll.  We shared a piece of extremely decadent chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream.  Delicious, and just the thing I needed after a long day of skiing.

A few weeks ago, a few dear friends of mine finally made it to our apartment for Sunday brunch.  The main course was French toast, but I also made these cinnamon rolls and scrambled egg whites.  There was one among us, let’s call him D, who claims to dislike all things pumpkin.  Until he ate like 4 of these rolls.

They’re a little smaller than regular cinnamon rolls, so eating one never feels too decadent.  The flavors of pumpkin and cinnamon blend together so well, they can even convert a non-believer.  No proof better than that, right?

 

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Adapted from Love and Olive Oil

For Dough:

1/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup canned pumpkin or mashed cooked pumpkin
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup bread flour

For Filling:
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted butter

For Icing:
¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter
½ cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons milk
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of salt
½ to ¾ cup sifted powdered sugar

To prepare rolls, combine milk and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat just until warm (120 – 130°) and butter is almost melted.

In large bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, and salt. Add warm milk mixture and beat until incorporated. Beat in egg and yeast. In a separate bowl, whisk together flours. Add half of flour mixture to pumpkin mixture. Beat mixture on low speed for 5 minutes, scraping sides of bowl frequently. Add remaining flour and mix thoroughly (dough will be very soft). Turn into lightly greased bowl, then grease surface of dough lightly. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Turn onto lightly floured surface. Knead for 1 to 2 minutes or until dough is smooth, sprinkling with additional flour as needed. Roll dough into 12×10-inch rectangle.

In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon. With a pastry brush, brush surface of dough with melted butter. Sprinkle evenly with brown sugar mixture. Beginning with long side of dough, roll dough fairly tightly. Pinch to seal. With a sharp serrated knife, gently cut roll into twelve 1-inch slices. Place rolls cut-side-up in greased 9-inch-square baking pan. (At this point the rolls can be covered and refrigerated overnight if necessary).

Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, 30 to 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake for 20 minutes, or until rolls are golden. Cool 10 to 15 minutes.

While rolls are cooling, prepare icing. Melt butter in a small saucepan or in the microwave. Stir in brown sugar and milk. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Stir in vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar. Beat with an electric mixer or whisk vigorously until well blended. If necessary, add more powdered sugar for desired consistency. Drizzle icing over warm rolls.


Fontina & Mushroom Mac n’ Cheese

Even though it’s not quite Christmas yet, I’ve already received two presents!  The first came in the form of a visit from a good friend, which, in my opinion, is one of the best things you can receive from someone you aren’t able to see very often because they moved from the East Coast to Texas.  The second present technically isn’t a present (because I paid for it) but getting it in the mail was so exciting that it felt like a gift.  Our “Save the Date” magnets arrived!!  And they are adorable.  I can’t wait to send them out, though it also means I have to buy a ton of stamps and harvest addresses from our invitees.

My cookie baking marathon was a success, filling my kitchen with fabulous aromas and Vince Guaraldi music.  I apologize for it not taking place earlier, because they won’t make it up here until after the holidays have gone by.  Luke and I are going on our first couples “vacation” Christmas night until Tuesday night up at Sunday River in Maine.  I haven’t skied in a while (read: 8 years), but I’m pumped to get back on the slopes.

Anyway, it’s Christmas Eve…so why am I posting about mac n’ cheese you ask?  Well,  why not?  Mac n’ cheese is the ultimate comfort food, warm, cheesy, and always there to pick you up when you’re feeling down.  Or make you even happier when you’re feeling fine to begin with.  On that note, may your holiday be filled with comfort, be it the kind covered with cheese or perhaps covered in frosting and sprinkles.  Either way, Merry Christmas!

Fontina & Mushroom Mac and Cheese

Adapted from Annie’s Eats

1 lb. small or medium pasta shells ( I used penne)
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 cup heavy cream
8 oz. Fontina cheese, shredded
salt
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs (I omitted these)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400˚ F.  In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to the package directions just until 1-2 minutes shy of al dente.

Meanwhile, dice 4 tablespoons of the butter and place in a large mixing bowl.  Warm the cream in a small saucepan or the microwave.  Cover to keep warm.

Once the pasta is cooked, add to the bowl with the butter and toss to coat well.  Stir in the warm cream and the fontina until the cheese starts to melt.  Mix in salt to taste, and add the nutmeg.

Pour the mixture into a buttered 2-quart casserole dish.  In a small bowl, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter.  Mix in the panko breadcrumbs and shredded parmesan.  Toss with a fork to coat evenly with the butter.  Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly over the pasta in the baking dish.

Bake until the sauce is bubbling and the topping turns golden brown, about 20 minutes.  Serve immediately.


Apple Crumble Cheesecake Bars

Today marks my first annual Christmas cookie-baking marathon!  (hopefully)  Well, technically I’ll be baking both tomorrow and Saturday…can’t make everything Saturday morning.  I asked Luke’s family if I could bring dessert to their Christmas Eve party, and my offering of a cookie platter was accepted.  I’m so excited!  I’ve had the cookie recipes picked out for a week and am chomping at the bit to make them.  I get that way whenever I plan to bake something, or do things in general.  I’m always anxious to get started.

Especially to get started on a new holiday tradition.  This one though, will have a logical origin.  Unlike those of my past.  I asked my mother about where the pickle tradition came from…and she didn’t know either.  I guess it’ll just remain a mystery.  Baking Christmas cookies is always a logical tradition.  Heck, you don’t need a reason to make cookies ever.  Cookies in themselves are reason enough to make more cookies.  But making four different kinds might need a tiny bit of justification…just a smidgeon.  Which is that I get to keep all the cookies that don’t fit on the platter.  Score!

These bars need no justification at all.  Do you like apples?  Do you like cheesecake?  Is making an actual cheesecake a little excessive to justify at the moment? If you answered yes to these questions, you might be me, or at least, a very awesome person who would very much enjoy these bars.  A layer of shortbread combined with a layer of cheesecake filling topped with cinnamon apples and a buttery crumb topping, how could you resist?  Well, I couldn’t, and I was very glad to have done so.

Apple Crumble Cheesecake Bars

Adpated from Zoom Yummy

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

8oz cream cheese (1 package) , softened

¼ cup sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 egg

1 large apple

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon sugar

¼ cup old fashioned oats

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup all-purpose flour

¼ cup (half a stick) of butter, room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a small bowl, combine the first two ingredients, then cut in butter with a fork, or your fingers, until the mixture is crumbly.  Press the dough evenly into the bottom of a greased square 8” baking dish.  Bake for 15 mins, or until lightly browned.  Let cool when finished.

While the dough is baking, make the cheesecake layer.  In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Add the egg, then stir to combine. Finally, add the vanilla and stir to combine.  To not overmix the batter, as that could lead to excess air incorporation, which could cause cracking.

Pour the mixture over the warm crust.  Peel and dice the apple.  (I did this step first.)  Mix with cinnamon and sugar, then covered the cream cheese layer with the apple chunks.

In another small bowl, combine the oats, sugar and flour.  Cut in butter with fork or fingers until the mixture is crumbly.  Spoon over the apples.  Bakes for 30 minutes, turning the temperature down to 300 for the last five minutes.  Cool on wire rack, then cut into bars.  Store bars in the refrigerator.