Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Bobby Flay’s Tomato Sauce

If you’re looking for a fresh tomato sauce, look no further. This is the best tomato sauce I have made (and I’ve made quite a few). You can really taste the fresh tomatoes mixed with savory herbs in this sauce. This would taste fabulous over angel hair pasta for a light and delicious meal. This yields a smooth and thick sauce, and great for any pasta dish.

Bobby Flay’s Tomato Sauce


  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed with some kosher salt (to make a paste)
  • (2) 28-oz cans plum tomatoes and their juices, pureed in a blender
  • 16-oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small bunch of Italian parsley
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a 5-qt dutch oven (or large pot) over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until soft.
2. Add pureed tomatoes with their juices, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, water, bay leaf, and parsley, and bring it to a boil.
3. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
4. Reduce heat, and cook until slightly thickened- about 30 minutes.
5. Remove the bay leaf, and serve hot over pasta.

Source: Originally from Bobby Flay, As seen as She Cooks and Bakes

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lemon & Roasted Garlic Hummus

For the start of the new year, I’ve been wanting to eat cleaner and healthier. Also, my DB has started his Biggest Loser competition in his department, and he wanted to focus on eating healthier as he’s starting back up at the gym. I stocked our refrigerator with healthy and portable veggies, and I wanted to have a “dip” to incorporate with baby carrots and cucumbers for an easy and portable snack.

I’ve been making this hummus recipe for the last 5-6 years since I couldn’t find a great-tasting hummus recipe at the grocery store. It’s so easy, and you can use this dip as an alternative to Ranch dips. I also love dipping this with pita chips as well.

It is easy, but it does take some prepwork in that you need to roast your garlic for 1 hour, and for best-tasting results, you’ll want to refrigerate the final product overnight to allow the flavors to marry. You can find tahini at your local international ethnic store, larger grocery stores, or Whole Foods (which is where I purchased mine). I purchased this one at Whole Foods for $6, and I can tell it will last me a long time.

I love the lemony (but not lemon overkill), garlicky version of hummus!

Lemon & Roasted Garlic Hummus

  • 1 bulb garlic
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 15-oz can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 large lemons
  • 2 Tbsp tahini (pureed sesame seeds) (I purchase the Joyva brand, and it’s great)
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt & Pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Start by roasting your garlic: Cut the top off the garlic bulk, exposing the cloves (try to make sure to expose the tops of the majority of the cloves). Drizzle the top with a little olive oil, rub it into exposed cloves. Wrap the bulk in foil, and roast it for 1 hour. Allow it to cool for 15 minutes.
3. Squeeze the garlic pulp and remaining ingredients (chickpeas through olive oil) into your food processor, and pulse until the mixture is thoroughly combined and hummus paste forms.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate overnight for flavors to marry.

Yield: 2 cups

Friday, April 8, 2011

Wheat Berry Salad

What exactly are wheat berries? Wheat berries are unprocessed kernels of wheat, and they are higher in vitamins and essential nutrients when eaten in their whole form. When cooked, it has a chewy texture.

Having never cooked them before, I was intrigued to try. These were easily found at my local Whole Foods store (in their bulk bins area) for $1.40 per pound. You start off by cooking the wheat berries. While the wheat berries cooked, I chopped up my fresh veggies, and voila- Meal is done. I loved how you could taste the fresh flavors from your crunchy vegetables with the added tang from the red wine vinegar. I felt satiated… yet not heavy or bloated. Perfect as a side, or a main meal. For my meat-eating DB, I paired this with some grilled chicken breasts.

Here is what they look like raw:

Here is what they look like cooked (they darken in color):

Wheat Berry Salad


  • 5 cups water
  • 1/2 cup dry wheat berries, rinsed under cool running water and drained
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup yellow or red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced cucumber
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 6-8 kalamata olives, quartered (Omitted)
  • 2 Tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 2 Tbsp dried cranberries (These are the highlight of this salad!)
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Few sprigs of fresh parsley, chopped (I substituted with a dash of dried parsley)
  • 1 Tbsp EVOO
  • ~2 Tbsp red wine vinegar, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine the water, wheat berries, and salt into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce to medium/low until wheat has desired texture – about an hour or longer, stirring occasionally. Take off heat, strain and put in the fridge to cool.
2. Once they have cooled, combine the remaining ingredients together.
3. Place back in the fridge for 30 minutes or longer.
4. Serve.

Yield: 2 servings

Source: Adapted from Clean Eating Mama

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lemon Bars

The first time I made Ina Garten’s, it was a complete failure. I halved the recipe, but didn’t think about decreasing the baking time. BIG mistake. The top crust was completely overbaked, the filling was too sweet, and I felt like all I could taste was the lemon curd filling- none of the shortbread crust (which I was so eager to try).

I started looking around, and someone recommended I try Smitten Kitchen- her assessment of Ina’s recipe was dead-on what I was looking for. She, too, likes her shortbread to lemon curd filling to be a 1:1 ratio, and she also felt Ina’s recipe was too sweet. She adapted it, and it was… perfect. It has the perfect balance of tartness and sweetness. The lemon flavor is bright, and the shortbread crust is delectable. The full lemon layer recipe is listed below- however, if you like 1:1 crust to lemon layer ratio, use the 2nd option. The ONLY thing I need to tweak is the shortbread crust. While it had great flavor, it was a bit on the dry side.

Lemon Bars

For the Shortbread Crust

  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups flour (since it was dry, I'll try 1-3/4 cups flour next time)
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt

Ina Garten- For the full-size lemon layer

  • 6 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2-1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp grated lemon zest (2 large lemons)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup flour
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Smitten Kitchen- For the thinner lemon layer

  • 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-2/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp grated lemon zest (1 large lemon)
  • 2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

1. Grease a 13x9 baking pan.
2. For the crust, cream the butter and sugar until light in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
3. Combine the flour and salt and, with the mixer on low, add to the butter until just mixed.
4. Dump the dough onto a well-floured board and gather into a ball.
5. Flatten the dough with floured hands and press it into the greased baking sheet, building up a 1/2-inch edge on all sides. Chill for 15 minutes
6. While the crust is chilling, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
7. Bake the crust for 15 to 20 minutes, until very lightly browned. (I baked mine for 15 minutes.)Let cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
8. For the lemon layer, whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour.
9. Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes (less if you are using the thinner topping), or about five minutes beyond the point where the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature. (I made the thinner lemon topping, and baked it for 21 minutes.)
10. Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Source: Originally from Ina Garten, As seen on Smitten Kitchen

Friday, April 1, 2011

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes with Sour Cream-Chocolate Ganache Topping

These cupcakes are a chocolate lover’s dream- A rich Devil’s food cupcake with a ganache filling and topped with a light and creamy sour-cream chocoalte frosting. I didn’t find this cupcake sickeningly sweet, but instead it was rich, smooth, velvety, and received well by my co-workers. I just couldn’t get enough of the frosting!! It reminded me of a mousse-like texture but just a smidgen heavier. It is, to date, my favorite chocolate cupcake ever.

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes with Sour-Cream Chocolate Ganache Topping

For the cupcakes

  • ¾ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup hot water
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1¼ tsp coarse salt
  • 1½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2¼ cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

For the ganache filling

  • 8 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp heavy cream
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

For the frosting

  • 14 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 9 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 9 Tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 6 Tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sour cream

For the chocolate curls
Large block of high-quality semi- or bittersweet chocolate

To make the cupcakes
1. Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Line standard cupcake pans with paper liners.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and hot water until smooth.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
4. In a medium saucepan, combine the butter and the sugar over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally to combine, until the butter is melted. (Don't worry- the sugar won't be completely dissolved.)
5. Remove the mixture from the heat and transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
6. Beat on medium-low speed, 4-5 minutes, until the mixture is cooled.
7. Mix in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed and beating well after each addition.
8. Mix in the vanilla and then the cocoa mixture and beat until incorporated.
9. With the mixer on low speed add in the dry ingredients in two batches, alternating with the sour cream, beating just until combined.
10. Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake liners, filling them about ¾ of the way full.
11. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, rotating the pans halfway through baking.
12. Allow the cupcakes to cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the ganache
1. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl.
2. Heat the cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.
3. Once boiling, remove from the heat and pour over the chopped chocolate. Let stand about 1 minute.
4. With a whisk, gently stir the chocolate and cream together in small circles.
5. When the ganache has become smooth, whisk in the butter 1 piece at a time until incorporated.
6. Transfer the bowl to the freezer or refrigerator to chill and thicken the ganache a bit. Whisk every 5-10 minutes to help it cool evenly. Once the mixture is slightly thickened and no longer runny, you are ready to fill the cupcakes.

To assemble the cupcakes
1. Cut a cone out of the center of each cupcake with a small paring knife.
2. Cut off the pointed end of the cone and discard (or eat) so you are left with a cap of cake to cover the filling.
3. Drop a spoonful of ganache into the center of each cupcake and recover the hole with the cap.

To make the frosting
1. Melt the chocolate in a heat-proof bowl set over a pot of simmering water. Set aside to cool until just barely warm.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.
3. Gradually mix in the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa powder and salt.
4. Beat in the melted and cooled chocolate and then the sour cream.
5. Continue beating until the mixture is smooth and well blended.
6. Frost cupcakes immediately.

To make the chocolate curls
1. Warm the block of chocolate just slightly (heat in 5-second intervals in the microwave – be careful not to melt).
2. Use a vegetable peeler to create chocolate curls.
3. Top cupcakes with curls immediately. Reheat chocolate as needed to keep it workable.

Yield: ~32 cupcakes

Source: Cupcakes and frosting from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes, Ganache from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, As seen on Annie’s Eats
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