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Archive for the ‘Moderate’ Category

Classic Brownies

brownies

Difficulty: Moderate (but not really)

Moderate? Yes, I suppose since it’s not as easy as dumping a mix into a bowl but who really likes those brownies anyway? (My husband does! But he admits these are better. )  I, for one, am not a fan. Once again, my complaint with anything boxed is the lack of true chocolate flavor, plus the structure and texture of box brownies is downright awful. They are mushy and taste commercial. Well, becuase they are commercial. This recipe is mildly adapted from whom I consider the gold standard; Cook’s Illustrated. Love them. Try these babies from scratch, I promise you’ll never go back. And if you do, you’ll regret it, or at least admit these are infinitely better. These are brownie perfection; chocolatey, moist and is neither cakey nor fudgy.

I wanted to get a better picture of the brownies cut and in their full delicious glory, but it was dark and we ate them. Yes, all of them, but not that night. We had guests to help us and then I never got around to it as we polished off the leftovers in subsequent days.

Makes 24 2-inch brownies (1 9×13-inch pan)

Note: Be sure to test the doneness of the brownies before removing from the oven. If underbaked (the toothpick has batter clinging to it), the texture will be dense and gummy (bad); if overbaked (toothpick comes out completely clean), the brownies will be dry and cakey.

Ingredients
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking powder
6 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
12 TBS (1 1/2 sticks) butter, cut into 6 pieces
2 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 TBS vanilla

Directions: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Line 13×9 baking dish with foil both lengthwise and widthwise(perpendicular to each other), pusing it into the corners and up the sides of the pan, leaving some to hang over the edges so you will be able to easily lift the brownies out of the pan once baked. Spray with cooking spray.

brownies-foil

Whisk flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl and set aside. Melt chocolate and butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and slowly whisk in sugar. Add eggs, stirring after each addition. Add vanilla. Pour warm chocolate mixture over flour and fold with spatula until batter is completely smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle top evenly with chopped nuts if using. (You should use them.)

Bake until a toothpick instered in the center comes out with a few moist and yummy crumbs attached, 30-35 minutes. Cool on wire rack until room temperature and then life brownies out of pan using foil handles. Cut into squares and serve. Or if you can’t wait, cool for 15 minutes or so, dig in and make a lovely brownie sundae or enjoy with a cold glass of milk. Delish!

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Kung Pao Shrimp

kung-pao-shrimp

Difficulty: Moderate

Kung Pao! Isn’t that fun to say? A wonderful quick and easy dish to pull off during a weeknight, full of tasty and tender shrimp, a bit of heat, crunchy peanuts and a fabulous silky sauce. I rate it moderate due to the ingredients, most I have on hand but if you do not cook Asian meals often you may require a trip to the grocery store, (look in the international section). Have all the ingredients prepped and ready to go as this stir-fry comes together quickly. Serve with steamed rice or lo mein noodles.

Ingredients
1 cup chicken broth
3 TBS oyster sauce
2 tsp Tabasco sauce (it is not that hot, so rest easy)
2 tsp corn starch
1 TBS hoisin sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tsp rice wine vinegar

1 pound extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 count), peeled and deveined
2 teaspoons soy sauce
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 TBS fresh ginger, minced
3 tablespoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
½ cup roasted peanuts
1 medium red bell pepper, cut into ½-inch dice
3 medium scallions, sliced thin

Directions: Toss shrimp with soy sauce in medium bowl; marinate until shrimp have absorbed flavors, about 10 minutes. Mix garlic, ginger, and 1 tablespoon oil in small bowl; set aside. Mix chicken broth, oyster sauce, hot sauce, hoisin sauce, sesame oil, vinegar and cornstarch in small bowl or measuring cup; set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over high heat until just beginning to smoke. Add shrimp and cook, stirring about once every 10 seconds, until barely opaque, 30 to 40 seconds; add peanuts, stir into shrimp, and continue cooking until shrimp are almost completely opaque and peanuts have darkened slightly, 30 to 40 seconds longer. Transfer shrimp, and peanuts to a bowl; set aside.

Return skillet to burner and reheat briefly, 15 to 30 seconds. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil, swirl to coat pan, and add red bell pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 45 seconds. Clear center of pan, add garlic-ginger mixture, mash into pan with spoon or spatula, and cook until fragrant, 10 to 15 seconds; stir into peppers until combined. Stir broth mixture to recombine, then add to skillet along with reserved shrimp and peanuts; cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits on bottom of pan, until sauce has thickened to syrupy consistency, about 45 seconds. Stir in scallions; transfer to serving plate and serve immediately.

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Freezer Chicken Pot Pies

potpie

Difficulty: Moderate

I can’t tell you how long it has been since I had a chicken pot pie! The ones I remember from my childhood were the frozen supermarket brand. This dish requires planning and a bit of effort, but the results will beat the pants off the stodgy supermarket pot pie from days past. Don’t be put off by the moderate rating, it is primarily due to time and prep work but anyone can do it!

*This recipe must be frozen prior to baking, otherwise the sauce will still be too soupy. Hence the need to plan ahead!
You will need 6 disposable aluminum mini-loaf pans (should hold approximately 2 cups).

Ingredients
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
S & P
2 TBS vegetable oil
5 1/2 cups chicken broth (or 5 1/2 cups water + 5 1/2 tsp chicken bouillon, this is what I had on hand)
2 TBS butter
1 onion, chopped fine
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs with greens, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
2 TBS fresh lemon juice
2 (15-ounce) boxes ready made pie crust
1 egg, beaten, plus 1 add’l egg when ready to bake
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, do not thaw

Directions:
Assembly: Season chicken breast liberally with kosher salt & pepper. Heat 1 TBS oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook chicken until well browned, about 2 1/2 minutes each side. Add broth and bring to a boil, cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Place chicken on a plate and strain broth into a bowl.

 potpie-chicken1 potpie-veggies1

Melt butter with remaining 1 TBS oil in now empty Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook carrots, celery, onion until lightly browned and softened, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to medium, add flour and stir to combine, cook 1 minute. Add broth, milk and thyme. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 8 minutes.

potpie-filling1

Meanwhile, shred chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces. Toss with lemon juice and add to broth. (Taste and adjust seasonings accordingly, since I used the bouillon I did not need additional salt, just a bit more pepper for my liking. Use your tongue to guide you.) Transfer filling to bowl and let cool while you prepare the crusts.

Unwrap and unroll the pie crusts. Place one crust on the counter and brush with some of the beaten egg with a pastry brush. Place the second pie crust on top and press gently. Using a aluminum pan turned upside down, cut out 3 pastry toppings from the double-thick pie dough. Repeat with 2 more pie crusts. Set aside.

potpie-crust potpie-pans

Return back to the filling, which will still be hot, and add the frozen peas.To speed the cooling process, use a ladle to evenly distribute the filling among the 6 aluminum pans. Place 1 piece of pastry over the filling in each pan and use a fork to seal the edges. Using a paring knife, cut 3 stem vents in each crust. Tightly wrap each loaf pan in 2 layers of plastic wrap and 1 layer of foil. Freeze for up to 2 months.

potpie-assembly potpies-foil

When ready to serve: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat to 400 degrees. Unwrap frozen pot pies and place on rimmed baking sheet. Brush crusts with 1 beaten egg, cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes. Uncover and bake until crusts are golden brown, about 35 minutes more. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving. Dig in and moan and groan as you are eating because it is that good!

potpie-21

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pineapple-chicken-stir-fry

Difficulty: Moderate

Serves 4

Fresh pineapple really makes a difference in this recipe. Half of one large pineapple will yield about 2 cups of chunks. But if the pineapple that is available isn’t ripe, or you are in a rush, then look for already cut-up fresh pineapple in the produce section of your market. Turn to canned pineapple only as a last resort, and make sure that it is packed in juice, not syrup. Because we like pineapple I used the whole darn thing. And it was delicious!

Ingredients
6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
6 tablespoons orange juice
6 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons ketchup
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large red onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 cups fresh pineapple chunks (14 ounces)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 scallions, sliced thin
S & P

Directions: Whisk the vinegar, orange juice, sugar, ketchup, and cornstarch together in a small bowl and set aside.

Pat the chicken dry with paper towels and slice it into 1/2-inch wide strips, season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking. Add the chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until just beginning to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the pineapple and cook until heated through, about 1 minute.

Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Whisk the vinegar mixture to recombine, then add with the chicken to the skillet. Toss until all the ingredients are well coated with sauce. Sprinkle with the scallions before serving.

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dark-chocolate-cupcakes

Difficulty: Moderate

It’s really not that difficult. Easy as baking a cake, not a box cake but still easy. And infinitely better. My biggest gripe with any baked good that claims to be chocolate is that it is not enough. Not enough chocolate. Sure it smells like chocolate, tricks you into thinking that it is going to deliver. And it always falls short. Not this recipe. This is chocolatey, tender and moist. Perfect.

This recipe makes 12 cupcakes and does not double very well. If you need more then it is best to make a separate batch. Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

Ingredients
8 TBS butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
3/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream

Directions: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pan with baking-cup liners

Combine butter, chocolate and cocoa in medium saucepan and heat until butter and chocolate are melted and whisk until smooth and fully combined. Set aside to cool until just warm to touch. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder in small bowl to combine. Whisk eggs in large bowl, add sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk until combined. Add cooled chocolate mixture, whisk until combined. Sift one-third of flour mixture over chocolate mixture and stir; add sour cream and stir to combine and then add remaining flour until batter is thick and all combined.

Divide batter evenly among muffin pan cups. Bake for 17-20 minutes. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool completely.

Buttercream Frosting

Ingredients
3 cups confectioners sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

Directions: In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes. Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency. Spread on cooled cupcakes or pipe as desired.

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Stuffed Peppers

stuffed-peppers

Difficulty: Moderate

These are simple and satisfying. Classic rice-and-beef fillings with tomatoes, cheddar cheese, onion and garlic. A favorite in our family. When choosing your bell peppers it is best to pick those with a broad base that will allow the peppers to stand on their own, do yourself a favor and pick red, yellow or orange peppers. Save the tops of the peppers to place around the filled bell peppers to stabilize them if needed. Serves 4.

Ingredients
Salt
4 medium bell peppers, tops trimmed, core and seeds removed
1/2 cup long-grain white rice
1 1/2 TBS olive oil
1 onion, chopped fine
12 oz. ground beef
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes, drained, 1/4 cup juice reserved
1 1/4 cups cheddar cheese, grated
2 TBS fresh parsley, chopped
Pepper
1/2 cup ketchup

Directions:Bring large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add 1 TBS salt and bell peppers. Cook until peppers just begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Using tongs or a slotted spoon, remove peppers from pot, drain off excess water and place on a paper towel. Return water to a boil; add rice and boil until tender, about 13 minutes. Drain rice and transfer to large bowl.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add ground beef and cook, breaking up beef into small pieces, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer mixture to bowl with rice; stir in tomatoes, 1 cup cheese, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste.

Stir together ketchup and reserved tomato juice in a small bowl.

Place peppers cut side up in 9-inch baking pan. Divide filling evenly among peppers, spoon 2 TBS ketchup mixture over each filled pepper and sprinkle with 1 TBS remaining cheese. Bake until cheese is browned and filling is heated through, 25-30 minutes. Serve immediately with remaining ketchup mixture.

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Chocolate Pots de Crème

chocolate-pots-de-creme

Difficulty: Moderate

Oh. My. Goodness. Deep, rich, satiny, luscious and glorious chocolate. This isn’t your mild milk chocolate dessert. Serious and adult. There aren’t enough adjectives to due this fabulous dessert justice. Just try it yourself and your taste buds will forever praise you. Use good quality 60% bittersweet chocolate; Ghirardelli, Callebaut, etc. Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.

Serves 8

Ingredients

Pots de Crème
10 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
5 egg yolks
5 TBS sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup half-and-half
1 TBS vanilla

Whipped Cream
1/2 cup cold heavy cream
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Garnish (optional)
Cocoa for dusting
Chocolate shavings for sprinkling

Directions: For the Pots de Crème:Place chocolate in a medium bowl; set fine-mesh strainer over bowl and set aside.

Whisk yolks, sugar and salt in medium saucepan until combined; add in heavy cream and half-and-half. Cook mixture over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with wooden spoon, until thickened and silky and custard registers 180 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 8-12 minutes. (When its temperature is between 175 and 180 degrees, the custard will coat the spoon, and when you run a finger through it the line will maintain neat edges.) Do not let custard overcook or simmer!

Immediately pour custard through strainer over chocolate. Let mixture stand to melt chocolate, about 5 minutes. Whisk gently until smooth, then whisk in vanilla. Divide mixture evenly among eight 5-ounce ramekins. Gently tap ramekins against counter to remove air bubbles.

Cool to room temperature, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled, at least 4 hours or up to 72 hours. Before serving, let stand at room temperature 20-30 minutes.

For the whipped cream: Beat cream, sugar and vanilla together until they form soft peaks. Dollop each pot de creme with about 2 TBS whipped cream; garnish with chocolate shavings or cocoa if using and serve. Take the first bite. Sigh. Take another bite and the bliss continues.

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