Saturday, January 13, 2018

ChezCindy: Baked Egg Cups with Sweet Potato "Crust"

Baked Egg Cups with Sweet Potato "Crust"

In preparing for a cooking class, I needed a recipe that was gluten free and simple enough for a child to make for their first cooking lesson.  I created this simple recipe realizing it would also work for those following a Paleo diet plan.  The sweet potato "crust" gets a head start in baking, allowing the grated potatoes to cook through, forming a nest for the seasoned eggs.

Baked egg cups are a convenient make-ahead treat to serve as breakfast, for a brunch buffet, or as an afternoon snack.  This simple recipe uses only potatoes and eggs as the star ingredients, making this suitable as a vegetarian dish, as well as gluten free.  You could consider adding chopped green onions and cheese, or bits of bacon to each baked egg cup for an additional flavor boost.  The recipe makes 6 egg cups but can easily be doubled.

Baked Egg Cups with Sweet Potato "Crust"  
1/2 cup grated sweet potato
1/2 cup grated Yukon gold potato
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 large eggs
Additional salt for seasoning the eggs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Peel and grate a sweet potato.  Grate a Yukon gold potato, leaving the skin on if desired.  Combine 1/2 cup of each grated potato into a small bowl.  Add the oil and the 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt.  Use a fork to combine.
Lightly spray 6 muffin cups with oil.  Add a heaping tablespoon to each muffin cup, dividing equally among the 6 cups.  Use the back of the tablespoon to press the potato mix into the cup.  Bake in the preheated oven for 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven.

Break 1 egg into a small bowl; add a small pinch of salt.  Use a fork to beat the egg lightly.  Add the beaten egg to one of the pre-baked sweet potato shells.  Repeat with the remaining 5 eggs to fill all 6 muffin cups.

Bake for 10-12 minutes until the eggs are no longer runny.  Remove from the oven.  Allow the baked eggs to rest in the muffin cups for 5 minutes.  Slide a butter knife around the edge of each baked egg.  Remove each baked egg from the muffin pan.  Serve warm.  

Thursday, December 28, 2017

ChezCindy: Pavlova Meringue Cake with Cherries and Berries

Pavlova Meringue Cake with Cherries and Berries

This impressive looking dessert is so easy to make, you could turn this into a family activity for a party or a fun Friday night, even involving the young children to help.  You will need 2 hours to make the cake, but most of the time is inactive with the cake baking in a low oven.  During those 2 hours you can eat dinner, play games or watch a movie.  When you are ready for dessert, simply add the whipped cream and fresh fruit and eat at once.  

A Pavlova cake is named in honor of a Russian ballerina, with the billowing meringue meant to resemble the tutu skirt worn by a ballerina.  The meringue is so pretty it also reminds me of fresh fallen snow.  The meringue cake is slightly crisp on the surface, soft and marshmallowy on the inside.  Dolloped with whipped cream and fresh fruit for a yummy satisfying sweet treat.  You can use other fruit choices, such as strawberries or blackberries and blueberries.  Once the cake is assembled, it is meant to be eaten right away.  It will not store overnight.  So plan on serving this to a large group.  

Pavlova Meringue Cake
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of kosher salt
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Fruit Topping
Whipped Cream

Powdered sugar for dusting

To make the meringue cake:  Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.  Draw an 8-inch circle on the parchment, turn over the parchment so that the circle faces down on the baking sheet.

Working with the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk the egg whites until foamy.  Gradually add in the sugar, beating on medium-high speed for about 10 minutes until firm glossy peaks form.  Whisk in the vinegar, vanilla and pinch of salt.  Remove the bowl from the stand and sift the cornstarch over the whipped egg whites, gently folding it in.

Using a large spoon, scoop out the meringue into the center of the circle onto the prepared baking sheet.  Spread out in swirling fashion, keeping it within the circle.

Place the sheet pan into the oven, immediately lowering the heat to 225 degrees.  Bake for 60 minutes.  The meringue should be crisp on the surface, with the center being just bit a bit softer.  Turn off the oven, prop open the door just a few inches, leaving the meringue in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.  The meringue cake can be left at room temperature for a few hours before assembling into the Pavlova.  

Fruit Topping
8 ounces sweet cherries, pitted
6 ounces raspberries
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon corn starch
1 tablespoon cold water

Combine the fruit and sugar into a small bowl.  After 30-45 minutes, the juices will have run out from the fruit, creating a fruit and juice mixture.  Drain the juices into a small sauce pan, keeping the fruit in the bowl.  In a separate small bowl, combine the corn starch and cold water to make a slurry.  Place the pan with the juice over a low flame on the stove top.  Stir in the slurry a teaspoon at a time to thicken the juice, adding only enough slurry until the juice is slightly thickened.  

Whipped Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Using a hand held mixer or a stand mixer, add the cream to a large bowl.  Begin beating the cream, adding in the sugar.  Beat until soft peaks form.  

To assemble the Pavlova:  Place the meringue cake onto a serving plate.  Spoon the whipped cream into the center of the meringue, swirling decoratively.  Using a slotted spoon, arrange the fruit over the whipped cream.  Drizzle the fruit with the thickened fruit juice.  Dust with powdered sugar.  Serve immediately.  

Sunday, December 24, 2017

ChezCindy: Sweet Treat! Chocolate Bark

Chocolate Bark with Dried Fruit and Nuts

This sweet treat is easy to put together, yet it carries an element of sophistication and fun at the same time.  Making "homemade" chocolate candy treats seems like something only an experienced home cook would do.  But this is as easy as melting chocolate.  For this recipe, I use dried fruit and nuts for my chocolate bark.  But the recipe is versatile, allowing you to switch out the fruit and nuts to match the occasion or your preference.  I have made the bark with crushed graham crackers and mini marshmallows;  swirls of hazelnut chocolate spread and sea salt; chopped pretzels and peanuts; or with swirls of white chocolate and crushed candy canes.

Because I bake so often, I always have various bars of chocolate in by pantry.  In this recipe I use 12 ounces of 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate by Ghirardelli.  For a sweeter chocolate treat, use semi-sweet chocolate or a blend of both.  

A search on "chocolate" on my site will bring you to many favorite recipes, including this one honoring pastry chef Alice Medrich.    My Chocolate Hero

Chocolate Bark with Dried Fruit and Nuts
12 ounces dark chocolate 60% cocoa
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup chopped nuts

Chop the chocolate into small pieces.  Add the chocolate to the top of a double boiler pan, or to a heat-proof bowl set over a pan filled with a small amount of water, being sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Place the pan over medium low heat.  Stir the chocolate as it begins to melt, stirring until it becomes fully melted and appears smooth and creamy.  Remove for the heat.

Place a large sheet of parchment paper onto a sheet pan.  Pour the chocolate onto the parchment paper, spreading it thinly to form the shape of a rectangle.  Sprinkle the top of the melted chocolate with the dried cranberries, chopped apricots and chopped nuts.  Set aside for 2 hours until firm.  Cut the bark into pieces.  Store at a cool room temperature.  

Monday, December 11, 2017

ChezCindy: Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Asian chicken lettuce wraps are quite popular as an appetizer at favorite restaurants.  But they are very easy to make at home.  The lettuce wraps are a fun interactive party dish to serve for a few guests or a large crowd, or to your family on any weekday for dinner.  Most people are likely to be familiar with how to put them together. You just set out the lettuce, shredded carrots and cilantro next to the bowl of cooked seasoned chicken, much like you would for a tacos.  

Be sure to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start cooking.  Once you start cooking, things move fast and it is done within minutes.  So dice, chop, mince and measure before you turn on the heat.  And speaking of heat, I do not include any spicy pepper sauce in this recipe.  If you like it spicy, add in chili garlic sauce to  your taste.  

Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps
2 tablespoons oil
1-pound ground chicken
1/2 cup finely diced onion
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup shredded carrot
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Bibb lettuce for serving.  Grated carrot, thin sliced cucumber and cilantro for garnish.  

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Add the oil to the pan, swirl to coat.  Add the diced onion to the pan, stirring occasionally, cooking for about 3 minutes.  Add in the minced garlic and the grated carrot, stir to combine, cooking for 2 minutes.  Add in the ground chicken, breaking into small pieces, stirring until lightly browned and cooked through.  Add in the brown sugar, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and black pepper.  Stirring to combine until heated through.

Spoon the chicken into the lettuce "cups", garnish with grated carrot, sliced cucumber and cilantro.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

ChezCindy: Classic Potato Latkes

Classic Potato Latkes

I recently demonstrated how to make latkes at my library cooking class.  What a hit these were!  But then, who doesn't like fried potatoes?  I was not familiar with latkes before I decided to make them and began researching for my theme of  Recipes for Potato Side Dishes.  Once I realized how easy latkes are to make and how delicious they are, I wondered how these savory treats had evaded my palette for so long.

Latkes are potato pancakes traditionally eaten for Hanukkah.  They are fried in oil to commemorate the Hanukkah miracle of one day's oil lasting for eight days.

 Classic Potato Latke
1 pound of russet potatoes, 3 medium sized
     peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, cut into 3 equal pieces
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

3/4 cup vegetable oil

Prepare a sheet tray lining it with paper towels and a wire rack set on top of the paper towels.  This is where the cooked latkes will be placed to cool.

To make the latkes:  Using a food processor* fitted with the grating blade, shred 2/3 of the potatoes, followed by 2/3 of the onion.  Transfer to a large kitchen towel.  Fit the food processor with the chopping blade.  Finely chop the remaining potatoes and onion.  Transfer to the towel with the shredded potatoes and onions.  Gather the towel tightly around the potato mixture and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.   

Transfer the potato mixture to a large bowl.  Add the egg, 2 tablespoons of flour, salt and pepper.  Stir until well blended.  If the mixture seems too wet, add the remaining tablespoon of flour.

In a large cast iron or electric skillet, add enough oil to cover the bottom to 1/4 inch depth.  Heat the oil to 365 degrees.  Drop 1 tablespoon of potato batter into the pan, gently pressing the mound to flatten slightly.  Continue to fill the pan, allowing space between each potato mound.  Cook until the edges turn crisp and brown.  Flip to continue cooking on the second side.  Transfer the latkes to the prepared tray onto the wire rack.  Sprinkle with additional salt.  

Traditionally, latkes are served with applesauce or sour cream but are quite delicious without either.
Serve as an appetizer, or a side dish with your meal.   

*Use a standard box grater if you do not have a food process. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

ChezCindy: Save the Day Trifle

Blackberries and Yellow Cake Trifle with Raspberry Icing and Whipped Cream

So, you have been called into duty to provide the next birthday treat for the office.  Let's say you've decided to make a favorite cupcake recipe, but oh no!  You left the cupcakes in the oven just a bit too long and they are overbaked.  No problem, just add lots of icing to camouflage that dry cupcake.  But now, its still an overbaked cupcake with too much icing.  What to do?  Turn those sad cupcakes into trifle and look like a dessert hero.
Basically a trifle dessert is cake, icing or pudding, sweetened whip cream and fruit.  And best of all, it presents an appearance as a impressive dessert you spent hours on.  Not just that, it tastes like you spent hours making it. 

Making a trifle is more of a process than a recipe.  Although, I do recommend making your own whipped cream and not using the stuff from the plastic tub.  Store bought cake is okay to start with.  You don't always need to begin with a baking disaster. 

Here's how you do it. 

You will need cake or cupcakes broken into pieces.   You can use angle food cake, pound cake, gingerbread cake or your own home baked chocolate or yellow cake.  Pudding or icing to compliment the cake.  Fresh whipped cream and fresh fruit such as berries, peaches, cherries, or bananas.

Working with a large glass bowl or individual jelly jars as shown in the picture.  Layer pieces of cake together with pudding or icing, drop in a few pieces of cut fruit or berries, top with fresh whipped cream.  Repeat the layers until you reach the top, ending with whipped cream and a scattering of fruit. 

Keep the trifle chilled until ready to serve. 

Fresh Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour the heavy cream into a chilled bowl.  Using a mixer, whisk the cream until soft peaks begin to form.  Add in the sugar, 1 tablespoons at a time, whisking until incorporated.  Whisk in the vanilla.  The cream should be whipped until the peaks just begin to hold shape. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

ChezCindy: Classic Potato-Leek Soup

Classic Potato-Leek Soup

Potato-leek soup is a classic soup.  It became somewhat elevated to a vogue status by Julia Child with the cold soup, Vichyssoise.  There is debate on the origin of the cold potato-leek soup as to whether it is French born or American invented.  It most likely was a soup of necessity in Europe when food was scarce and potatoes and onions were inexpensive staples of the kitchen. 

Traditional recipes most often include butter and cream, a nod to the French no doubt.  However in the recipe provided below, I use no dairy for an updated version of the classic, with no sacrifice to the flavor.  And, I serve it as hot soup.  If you were to make this recipe with intentions to serve it as a cold Vichyssoise, I would advise the use of butter and cream, as cold soup requires a greater depth of flavor since chilling dulls the overall taste. 

Leeks are a flavorful vegetable with a taste related to onions and garlic, but uniquely milder.  They will need a thorough rinsing as dirt hides within the layers.  To rinse them, cut off the darker green part leaving only the pale green and white.  Leaving the root-end intact, cut through the leek lengthwise, splitting from the root to the top.  Rinse under cold water separating the layers to rinse away the dirt.  Drain cut side down on paper towels. 

Classic Potato-Leek Soup
2 tablespoons oil
2 large leeks or 3 small
1 small white onion
2 large russet potatoes (1 1/2 pounds)
5 cups of chicken stock
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper

Working with a large heavy bottomed pan, add the oil, set over medium high heat.  Rinse the leeks thoroughly and cut into thin slices.  Cut the onion into thin slices.  Add the leeks and onions to the oiled pan, along with 1 teaspoon of salt.  Cook until wilted but with no browning, about 4 minutes.  Peel and dice the potatoes, add to the pan, stirring to coat.  Add the chicken stock, remaining salt and white pepper.  Cover, lowering the heat to medium low, and cook for 25 - 30 minutes until the potatoes are very tender.  Remove from heat and cool soup for 5 minutes.  Using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth and silky.  Taste to adjust the seasoning as necessary.  Serve hot.