Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ina Garten's Lemon Chicken with Croutons...This is Amazing!

***Every once in a while, a recipe comes along that you just can't forget. I came across this dish in Ina Gartens' Barefoot in Paris cookbook. I knew immediately that I wanted to give it a try. First of all, I LOVE the combination of chicken and lemons. There's something so delicious and comforting about a gorgeously roasted chicken infused with whole lemons. Secondly, I love bread...in fact, carbs of any kind will do...lol. The homemade croutons in this recipe were simply divine. They had the best toasted flavor, and I found myself eating them right out of the saute pan...haha.

I never would have thought to put an entire roasted chicken on a bed of freshly toasted croutons, but it works so wonderfully! The croutons are made from a French baguette...They soak up the lemony goodness from the chicken, and it makes for an amazing culinary experience!

Also, this recipe looks absolutely scrumptious when it's plated and presented on a platter. In fact, Brad said "Wow....It's like Thanksgiving!!" when I put this on the table. I can definitely see myself making this dish for dinner guests. It is sure to impress!!! But don't worry...it's much, much easier and faster to prepare than a Thanksgiving turkey...hah. You and your family will really love this meal.

Ina, thank you for such an amazing recipe!!!***

1 (4 to 5-pound) roasting chicken
1 large yellow onion, sliced
Good olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 lemons, quartered
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
6 cups (3/4-inch) bread cubes (1 baguette or round boule)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Take the giblets out of the chicken and wash it inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pinfeathers. Toss the onion with a little olive oil in a small roasting pan. Place the chicken on top and sprinkle the inside of the cavity with salt and pepper. Place the lemons inside the chicken. Pat the outside of the chicken dry with paper towels, brush it with the melted butter, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken.

Roast for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between the leg and the thigh. Baste the chicken with the pan juices every 25 - 30 minutes while roasting.  If the chicken begins to brown too quickly toward the end of cooking, cover with aluminum foil. 

Once the chicken is done roasting, cover with foil and allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes. (The onions may burn, but the flavor is good.)

Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil until very hot. Lower the heat to medium-low and saute the bread cubes, tossing frequently, until nicely browned, 8 to
10 minutes. Add more olive oil, as needed, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place the croutons on a serving platter. Slice the chicken and place it, plus all the pan juices, over the croutons. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Marshmallow Fondant Cake + Fun at the Lake!

***This weekend, eight dear friends from high school had the chance to get together at the lake...for a weekend of reminiscing and LOTS of fun. We were all cheerleaders together in high school, and it was so great to catch up with everyone. We're so blessed to have had the opportunity to do this...especially since most of us live in different cities and states. Hopefully, we'll get to do it more often.

Before the big weekend arrived, I made a yummy fondant cake...I used THIS Strawberry Cake recipe from Paula Deen (still my favorite!). I also made homemade Marshmallow Fondant for the very first time! I wish I had photos of the fondant-making...it was pretty hilarious. A sticky mess....that's probably the best way to describe it...Haha. Once you start kneading the mixture together, you're pretty committed...there's no going back. I can't stress enough the importance of greasing both your hands and your countertop with plenty of shortening...this tip is vital!

Overall, I was extremely pleased with the way the fondant came out. It was easy to work with and covered the cake beautifully. The store-bought fondant doesn't even compare to the homemade marshmallow fondant. The taste of marshmallow fondant is definitely MUCH better. Plus, it's SO much cheaper than the store-bought variety. To color the fondant, simply add the food coloring to the melted marshmallows...before adding the confectioner's sugar. Also, just be patient when kneading it...it will take some time, but it will eventually come together into a beautiful ball of fondant.***
I found the following Marshmallow Fondant recipe HERE.

MM (Marshmallow) Fondant Recipe
16 ounces white mini-marshmallows (use a good quality brand)
2 to 5 tablespoons water
2 pounds icing sugar (a.k.a. confectioner's sugar)
1/2 cup Crisco shortening (you will be digging into it so place in a very easily accessed bowl)
NOTE: Please be careful, this first stage can get hot.
Melt marshmallows and 2 tablespoons of water in a microwave or double boiler: Put the bowl in the microwave for 30 seconds, open microwave and stir, back in microwave for 30 seconds more, open microwave and stir again, and continue doing this until melted. It usually takes about 2 1/2 minutes total. Place 3/4 of the powdered sugar on the top of the melted marshmallow mix.
Now grease your hands GENEROUSLY (palms, backs, and in between fingers), then heavily grease the counter you will be using and dump the bowl of marshmallow/sugar mixture in the middle. (By the way, this recipe is also good for your hands. When I’m done, they are baby soft.)
Start kneading like you would bread dough. You will immediately see why you have greased your hands. If you have children in the room they will either laugh at you or look at you with a questioning expression. You might even hear a muttered, “What are you doing?”

Keep kneading, this stuff is sticky at this stage! Add the rest of the powdered sugar and knead some more. Re-grease your hands and counter when the fondant starts sticking. If the mix is tearing easily, it is to dry, so add water (about 1/2 tablespoon at a time and then knead it in). It usually takes me about 8 minutes to get a firm smooth elastic ball so that it will stretch without tearing when you apply it to the cake.

It is best if you can let it sit, double wrapped, overnight (but you can use it right away if there are no tiny bits of dry powdered sugar). If you do see them, you will need to knead and maybe add a few more drops of water.

Prepare the fondant for storing by coating it with a good layer of Crisco shortening, wrap in a plastic-type wrap product and then put it in a re-sealable or Ziploc bag. Squeeze out as much air as possible.

MM Fondant will hold very well in the refrigerator for weeks. If I know that I have a cake to decorate, I usually make two (2) batches on a free night during the week so it is ready when I need it. Take advantage of the fact that this fondant can be prepared well in advance.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Fresh Strawberry Tart from Julia Child!

***I've become such a big fan of Julia Child. I'm currently reading her memoir, "My Life in France," and I'm in love! Brad recently gave me a beautiful set of her "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" Volumes I & II. This is the very first recipe that I've tried out from Volume I. This recipe stood out to me because #1: I LOVE strawberries! and #2: Fresh fruit tarts just scream "summer!" to me. The recipe itself is pretty simple. Don't let the length scare you away...it's broken down into 3 parts, and if you tackle each one separately you'll be done in a breeze!

The tarts that line the bake case shelves in Paris all displayed gorgeously divine fruit tarts. I noticed they all had a beautifully shiny glaze over the top. This recipe definitely yields the same thing. I was so happy with the finished tart! It was almost too pretty to eat...I've never let that stop me in the past, though...hah.***

Tarte Aux Fraises
(Fresh Strawberry Tart - cold)
Recipe by Julia Child
Source: Mastering the Art of French Cooking; Volume I

A 10-inch fully baked pastry shell (see "Sugar Crust" recipe below)
1 quart large, ripe, handsome strawberries
1 cup red currant jelly (apricot jelly can be substituted if you have trouble finding red currant)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 tbsp. kirsch or cognac (I used Frangelico hazelnut liqueur)
1 1/2 to 2 cups chilled creme patissiere (custard filling...recipe below)

Hull the strawberries. If necessary to wash them, do so very quickly, and drain them on a rack.

Boil the currant jelly, sugar, and liqueur in a small saucepan until last drops from spoon are sticky. Paint the interior of the shell with a thin coating of the glaze and allow to set for 5 minutes. This will give the shell a light waterproofing. Reserve the rest of the glaze for the strawberries. Warm it briefly if it has hardened.
Spread a 1/2-inch layer of creme patissiere in the bottom of the pastry shell.

Arrange a design of strawberries over the cream. Put the largest strawberry in the center, and graduate down in size, placing the berries closely together, their stem ends in the cream. Spoon or paint over them a thin coating of the glaze, and the tart is ready to serve. Because of the glazed waterproofing in the bottom of the shell, the filled tart may wait an hour or so.

Sugar Crust
"Pate Sablee"
1 1/3 cups flour
3 to 7 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. double-action baking powder
7 tbsp. fat: 5 tbsp chilled butter and 2 tbsp. chilled vegetable shortening
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp. water
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Place the flour, sugar, butter, vegetable shortening, and baking powder in the mixing bowl. Rub the fat and dry ingredients together rapidly with the tips of your fingers until the fat is broken into bits the size of small oatmeal flakes. Blend in the egg and vanilla, and knead the dough rapidly into a ball. Place on a pastry board and with the heel of your head, not the palm, rapidly press the pastry by two-spoonful bits down on the board and away from you in a firm, quick smear of about 6 inches. The dough will be quite sticky if you have used the full amount of sugar. Form again into a ball, wrap in waxed paper, and chill for several hours until firm.

Creme Patissiere
(Custard Filling)
1 cup granulated sugar
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup flour
2 cups boiling milk
1 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 tbsp. vanilla extract

Gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating for 2 to 3 minutes until the mixture is pale yellow and forms "the ribbon".

Beat in the flour.

Beating the yolk mixture, gradually pour on the boiling milk in a thin stream of droplets.

Pour into saucepan and set over moderately high heat. Stir with a wire whip, reaching all over bottom of the pan. As sauce comes to a boil it will get lumpy, but will smooth out as you beat it. When boil is reached, beat over moderately low heat for 2 to 3 minutes to cook the flour. Be careful custard does not scorch in bottom of pan.

Remove from heat and beat in the butter, then vanilla extract. If the custard is not used immediately, clean it off the sides of the pan, and dot top of custard with softened butter to prevent a skin from forming over the surface. Creme Patissiere will keep for a week under refrigeration, or may be frozen.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ina Garten's Coconut Madeleines!

Lately, I adore any recipe that reminds me of our trip to the blissfully sublime city of Paris. The foods...the markets...the sights...the smells...the history...it was all so inspiring! Recently, I purchased a copy of Ina Garten's cookbook, "Barefoot in Paris," and I knew that I had to try her recipe for Coconut Madeleines as soon as possible. These little cookie 'cakes' are so easy and SO scrumptious...and one bite transports me back to the sidewalks of the Saint Germain des Pres area where we sipped espresso and people-watched from a cozy bistro table at the famous Les Deux Magots.
I was able to find a wonderful Madeleine pan at Williams-Sonoma. It worked beautifully and the cookies popped out perfectly. They kind of taste like little pound cakes! The addition of coconut is so yummy. If you're not a coconut fan, you can easily substitute anything from orange or lemon zest to chocolate chips...you can even dip half of each cookie in ganache. I definitely plan to experiment with different combinations and have fun with this recipe. There are many possibilities!
If you've never tried Madeleines before, now is the perfect time! Give these a try...I promise you'll like them!

1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter, to grease the pans, plus 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
Confectioners' sugar, optional

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Thoroughly butter and flour the madeleine pans.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed for 3 minutes, or until light yellow and fluffy. Add 1/4 pound of butter and mix. Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt, and stir into the batter with a rubber spatula. Stir in the coconut.

With a soup spoon, drop the batter into the pans, filling each shell almost full. Bake the madeleines for 10 to 12 minutes, until they spring back when pressed. Tap the madeleines out onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper and allow to cool. Dust with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Tiered Baby Shower Cake!!!

I was SO excited to cater my sister-in-law's recent baby shower. I was thrilled to have another chance to make a tiered cake. She's having a little girl, so there was no question what kind of cake it would be...a pretty-in-pink strawberry cake! I used my very favorite cake recipe - Paula Deen's "Simply Delicious Strawberry Cake." This recipe is SO amazing....it's super easy and always comes out moist and perfect. The real strawberries and cream cheese frosting really make this a stellar cake!
I was also excited to use fondant again...this was only my second time using it. I still haven't perfected the technique, but I was still very happy with the finished cake. It got a lot of "Ooohs" and "Ahhhs" when I took it out of the box! :)
You may remember my very first tiered cake, which was THIS WEDDING CAKE.

I had a lot of fun decorating this one...especially since I used a combination of stripes and circles. I wanted it to be cute and classy! The sheer pink ribbon tied it all together beautifully and the baby blocks on the top tier were the perfect finishing touch.

I also made punch and Cheesecake Pops for the shower. Below, I've included a picture of the cheesecake pops...they are always just as cute as a button! This is the second baby shower I've made these pops for. I also made them for baby Sebastian HERE. They are perfect for this type of event, because you can customize them with any color chocolate or ribbon....plus, they always disappear fast! You can see my original Cheesecake Pops post HERE, which includes a link to the recipe...they are really fun to make!!!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pecan-Crusted Chicken Salad with Strawberries

***My favorite salads always include nuts (preferably pecans or walnuts), chicken, bleu cheese, balsamic dressing, and either strawberries or cranberries. I was recently flipping through the pages of the new May/June 2009 issue of Cooking with Paula Deen magazine when I stumbled across this recipe. It looked and sounded perfect to me, so I gave it a try. Brad and I both LOVED this one. It's light and delicious...perfect for the hot summer months!

The chicken has a wonderful taste, with the addition of the pecans. The tangy bleu cheese is a perfect contrast to the sweetness of the strawberries, and the dressing finishes it off flawlessly!This dish is very easy and you won't have a mountain of dishes and pans to clean up afterwards. ***

3 egg whites
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried thyme
3/4 tsp. salt
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to 1/4-inch thickness and cut in half crosswise
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
3 (5 oz) bags spring salad mix
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
1 (3 oz) package goat cheese, crumbled (I used bleu cheese)
12 strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced

Line a rimmed baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil.

In a shallow dish, lightly beat egg whites.

In a separate shallow dish, combine pecans, bread crumbs, parsley, thyme, and salt. Dip each chicken breast in egg white. Dredge in pecan mixture, gently pressing pecan mixture onto chicken.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. Add 4 chicken breasts, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, or until golden brown. Place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat process with remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil and remaining 4 chicken breasts. Bake for 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Let chicken stand for 10 minutes. Cut chicken into 1/2-inch thick slices.

Divide lettuce evenly between 8 serving plates. Top each with 1 sliced chicken breast. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing. Top each evenly with goat cheese and strawberries. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mounds Bar Cake - Heaven on a Plate!!!

***This, my lovely readers is one decadent cake!!! Recently, we celebrated Brad's mom's birthday. She gave me a birthday cake challenge, and I was so excited to try something new. She requested a chocolate and coconut cake....something inspired by a delicious Mounds Bar. Well, below you'll see my final creation. I used this Coconut Cream Cake as the basic cake recipe, which is simply divine. The texture is wonderfully scrumptious and it has just the right amount of coconut flavoring.

Instead of the usual coconut icing in between the layers, I did something extra special. Over a double boiler, I melted chopped Mounds Bars, added some marshmallows and heavy cream...and Voila! The chocolate filling turned out A.M.A.Z.I.N.G!!! I was so thrilled with the results.

This cake didn't last long! I love the coconut icing on this cake because it isn't very heavy. It's made with freshly whipped cream. I do have to add a disclaimer, though...if you're on a diet, stay away from this cake...Haha. It's definitely not low calorie, but it's worth every single one!!!***

Coconut Cream Cake
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. butter flavoring (I couldn't find this at the grocery store, so I substituted it with a little extra vanilla extract)
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp. sugar
Coconut Frosting (recipe below)
3 cups flaked coconut

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add 2 cups sugar, beating well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.

Combine flour and baking powder; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Mix at low speed after each addition until blended. Stir in flavorings. Pour batter into three greased and floured 9-inch round cakepans.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 28 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans, and cool completely on wire racks.

Combine water and 1 tbsp. sugar in a small saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 3 minutes. Let it cool, and then spoon sugar mixture over cake layers.

Stack layers, spreading about 1 cup Coconut Frosting between layers, and sprinkling 1/2 cup coconut on frosting between layers. Spread remaining Coconut Frosting on top and sides of cake, and sprinkle with remaining coconut.

Store in refrigerator.

Coconut Frosting:
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coconut extract
2 drops of butter flavoring (again, I substituted with vanilla extract)

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until a soft, creamy frosting forms. This process may take a while....don't give up! I added a little extra powdered sugar to make the frosting a tiny bit thicker.

Source: The Ultimate Southern Living Cookbook

Mounds Bar Filling:
30 mini Mounds Bars, chopped
5-6 tbsp. heavy cream
10 large marshmallows

Over a double boiler, melt the Mounds Bars. Add the cream and marshmallows, and then stir well until all ingredients are melted. The mixture should come together to form a nice, thick and shiny filling. You may have to play with the amounts a little bit, until the mixture comes to the desired consistency. Divide the filling in half and spread over the top of the bottom two cake layers.

Monday, June 8, 2009

My Favorite Kitchen Toys!

Recently, I got a wonderful post idea/request from a reader, but no matter how hard I've looked, I can't seem to find the original e-mail from the reader. So, I must apologize in advance...Hopefully, this person will read this post and be able to let me know it was from them. ;)
UPDATE: The awesome reader that requested this post was Blondie42107 from the blog Somewhere Over the Rainbow. THANKS AGAIN! :)

Anyways, my wonderful reader suggested that I do a post about my favorite kitchen tools. I thought it was a great idea, so I tucked the idea away in my head for a post. I thought it would be fun to talk about kitchen "toys"...hehe.

So...drumroll please...here are the things that I could not live (or bake/cook) without!
PS - These are all stock photos...not ones that I've taken.

#1: Le Creuset Dutch Oven
***I love my Dutch Oven! It's so versatile and never, ever disappoints!***

#2: Silpat Baking Mats
***These baking mats will change your life! Nothing sticks to them. They help me make everything from French Macarons to Chocolate Chip Cookies.***
#3: "Black Betsy"...a.k.a. KitchenAide Stand Mixer
***"Black Betsy" is just amazing...she works harder than I do in the kitchen! She kneads dough, mixes cake batter, I could go on and on...If I could only have one thing on this list, it would definitely be my KitchenAide Stand Mixer!***

#4: Chef's Tongs
***How did I ever cook bacon without a good pair of chef's tongs???***

#5: Williams-Sonoma Pizza Stone
This pizza stone is wonderful! It makes gorgeous pizzas and can be used on baguettes and other breads. Plus, you can leave it in the bottom of your oven all the time...no need to take it out and wash/store it.***

#6: Wilton Off-Sided Spatula
***Oh, the wonders of an off-sided spatula...it has brought my cake decorating skills to new heights!!!***
#7: Pampered Chef Zester
***This little guy is great...he always produces long, beautiful pieces of lemon or orange zest...definitely makes my life easier!***#8: Pam for Baking
***I don't know what I'd do without this stuff. It works so wonderfully...no longer do I have to waste time buttering and flouring every pan. With a quick spray of this, the job is done! It works equally well on everything from a Bundt pan to a cookie sheet! It even has real flour in it.***

I also got some new toys yesterday at Williams-Sonoma that I cannot wait to try! They include:

Fluted French Tart Pan

Deep French Quiche Pan

Madeleine Cookie Pan

Fleur de Sel

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's Time for Some Blog Awards!!!

I was thrilled when a fellow food blooger, Gypsy Mommy's Kitchen, awarded me not 1...not 2...but 3 blog awards!!! Thank you so very much, Gypsy Mommy! Be sure to check out her blog...she has some seriously delicious-looking recipes, including her Hoisin Marinated Chicken with Garlic Sauteed Green Beans.

The awards included:
"E for Excellence" Award

"Lemonade and Friends" Award

The "Friends" Award

Along with this Friends award comes this message: "These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated."

Also - "Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to eight bloggers who must choose eight more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award."

So, I am going to follow Gypsy Mommy's example and award these 3 awards to eight deserving blogs! The winners are:

Lisa Lately
All Things Sweet
Christy's Kitchen Creations
Le Petrin
Delicious Concoctions
La Vie
Savory Spicy Sweet
Elizabeth's Edible Experience

Thanks again, Gypsy Mommy!!! ;)