Monday, April 30, 2012

Rhubarb Tart with Orange Glaze

It is rhubarb season! There are so many things you can do with rhubarb and I adore the tartness of it in deserts or savory dishes. This tart is simple, easy and elegant. It looks like you put a lot of work into it but didn't, making it perfect for guests.

The hardest part of this dish is cutting the stalks on a large enough angle to make them big beautiful slices. It could have been that my stalks of rhubarb were on the smaller size in the thickness department or I just don't get how to cut diagonally. The diagonal cutting is for appearance more than anything. If you decided to throw appearance out the window, just spread the rhubarb evenly over the tart. Taste is what really matters anyways and this is a perfect dish for people who may be skeptical about rhubarb. The rhubarb is not overwhelming and the orange juice mellows it out at the same time. Serve it up with some vanilla ice cream and enjoy!!



Adapted from Gourmet
1 cup fresh orange juice (about 2-3 large oranges)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice (about half a lime)
1/2 cup sugar
1 pound rhubarb stalks (6-8 medium stalks), thinly sliced diagonally (1/8 inch)
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed


  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Stir together orange juice, lime juice, and sugar in a medium bowl. Add rhubarb and let stand, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, while rolling out the puff pastry.
  3. Cut the pastry in half lengthwise, then roll out each piece into a 11-by 7-inch rectangle, on a lightly floured surface. Arrange the pastry rectangles side by side on a large ungreased baking sheet. Score a 1/2-inch border around each pastry rectangle (do not cut all the way through). Prick the pastry inside the border all over with a fork.
  4. Strain rhubarb mixture, reserving the liquid. Top 1 pastry rectangle (inside the border) with half the rhubarb, overlapping slices slightly. Repeat with the other pastry rectangle.
  5. Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden on the top and underside, about 25-30 minutes.  Meanwhile, boil the reserved rhubarb liquid in a small saucepan, skimming foam off the top, until it has reduced to about a 1/4 cup, 15-20 minutes. 
  6. Transfer tarts to a rack, brushing the rhubarb and pastry with the glaze.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Daring Bakers: Armenian Nazook

The Daring Bakers' April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

I was planning on being ambitious and making both of these, but then my procrastination for doing school work caught up to me. I was pretty excited to make something that had "pastry dough" in it. It was actually pretty easy to make, despite the word "pastry" being in it. For some reason I think something like that would be very tricky to make. These little guys were flaky and delicious. They were not as sweet or flavor packed as I was expecting though. I made half with no nuts and half with. The ones with pecans had a lot more flavor. The great thing is you can really add anything to the filling of these. I think jam would be delicious because I have been smothering them with it anyways. If you added cheese, they would make a great appetizer. Enjoy!



Pastry Dough:
3 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 packet or 1/4 oz) active dry yeast
Pinch salt
1 cup sour cream
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Chopped pecans

1-2 egg yolks, for the egg wash

For the dough:

  1. Place the sifted flour into a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add the yeast and salt, and mix it in. Add the sour cream and butter, mixing until it is evenly moistened and it looks like coarse meal. Switch to a dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for 5-10 minutes, or until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 3-5 hours, or overnight.
For the Filling:
  1. Make the filling: Mix the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and butter in a medium bowl with your hands, until it looks like clumpy, damp sand. Set it aside
Make the Nazook:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Cut the refrigerated dough into quarters. Form them into balls. On a lightly flour surface, roll out the dough into a large rectangle or oval. It should be thin but not quite transparent. 
  2. Place a quarter of the filling evenly over the rolled out door, leaving a 1-inch border. Carefully roll the dough across, the long way. Gently pat down the loaf with your palm and apply the egg wash using a pastry brush. Cut the log into 10 evenly sized pieces and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Enjoy!

Simple Soft Pretzels

Whenever I go to a mall, an Auntie Annie's soft pretzel is always hard to resist! However, since I have been in college, I rarely go to a mall, especially since I don't have much time or money for it. This can be problematic, because then I go through soft pretzel withdrawals (even my boyfriend experienced it, too). When I was younger, I remember my parents making soft pretzel dough in our bread machine. Us kids got to mold them into what looked nothing like pretzels but they would taste like darn good ones! This got me thinking, why not make soft pretzels at home like my parents did for us! Luckily, I was able to find a recipe that didn't call for a bread machine or bread hook attachment for a stand mixer (since I don't have any of these fancy kitchen gadgets). It is a simple and tasty recipe! Oh, and did I mention fun? My boyfriend and I made them together and it was a fun time, especially when we tried to see who could make the best looking pretzel (mine won, of course!).

Simple Soft Pretzels
adapted from Budget Savvy Diva

3 3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. melted butter
3/4 c. plus 1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. plus 1/2 tsp. (or one packet) active dry yeast
1 1/4 c. plus 2 Tbsp. warm water

To create the signature brown outside:
2 c. warm water
2 Tbsp. baking soda

1. Place yeast in a mixing bowl with the warm water. Add in oil and stir.
2. In a separate bowl, combine powdered sugar, butter and flour. Add in the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon.
3. Add salt and mix.
4. Sprinkle a clean surface and knead the dough for about 10 minutes.
5. Cover dough ball with a light layer of flour and place in a lightly floured bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough double in size. This will take about 2 to 3 hours.
6. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and clear a large, clean work surface to shape the pretzels.
7. Take the dough in sections (about 8, depending on desired size), roll out and make into pretzel shapes.
8. Warm up 2 cups of water and add 2 Tbsp. baking soda, mix. Dip each pretzel into the mixture and place on parchment paper that is on a cookie sheet.
9. Place in oven for about 10 minutes or until the pretzels are brown.
10. Brush warm pretzels with butter and sprinkle with kosher salt, if desired. Place on a cooling rack.
11. Enjoy with your favorite dipping sauces or plain!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Morel Mushroom Fettuccine

I have been counting down the days to the first Madison Farmers Market all month and it finally came!! My roommate and I are going big this year, and we got a wagon for all our market goodies! Go big or go home right? I got rhubarb, asparagus, spinach, pumpkin butter, green onions, cheese curds and my weight in pastries. It was a wagon full of success. The BEST thing I got though was morel mushrooms. On the first lap around the square I was eyeing up the morel mushrooms for sale. On the second lap, I had $13 left and decided to go for it and buy some. Best decision ever, not only because the man selling them was super good looking (I will be visiting him next weekend), but the mushrooms cook up to be delicious bite size morsels (this was my first time cooking with them). Try them, they are worth the money.

I used homemade fettuccine noodles, but if you buy store bought this dish is finished in a flash. The homemade noodles just make this simple dish, extra special. I used only a 1/4 pound of morels, but I would recommend using more or adding in some less expensive mushrooms. Do not be afraid to salt the mushrooms generously, they like it. You won't regret making this, enjoy!



Serves 2
1/2 pound fettuccine noodles
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 pound morel mushrooms, sliced in half or quarters and cleaned with a damp or dry cloth
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper, freshly ground
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine
Zest of 1 lemon
Parsley, for garnish

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and then adding the noodles. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the morels, salt and pepper and saute for 3 minutes. Then add the green onion and garlic, sauteing for 1 minute and then add the white wine, cooking off all the alcohol. Add the lemon zest and remove from heat.
  2. Toss the noodles with the morels, over low heat for a few minutes. Add water as needed for the desired consistency.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Nicole's Banana Bread

This recipe is the ultimate comfort food for me! It became that way freshman year of college. Anytime I would visit home or family came my way, I would get a delicious homemade loaf of my sister's banana bread, normally made with chocolate chips (the best way to make banana bread, of course!)

This week when I just wasn't feeling bananas but had a bushel, I decided it was time to try to get my sister's secret banana bread recipe. To my surprise, she didn't put up a battle but was so willing to give me the recipe, I got an email for it that night! Thank you again, Nicole! I was a little nervous to make the bread because I had to live up to Nicole's loafs. Thankfully, it turned out just as good as her's! Plus, I learned the recipe is quite easy. You could easily make it without a hand mixer and overall it is a quick prep and easy clean up.

Nicole's Banana Bread

3 or 4 ripe bananas
1/3 c. melted butter
3/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. chocolate chips or 1/4 c. walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, smash bananas with the melted butter with a wooden spoon.
3. Add in sugar, egg, vanilla and mix.
4. Sprinkle in baking soda and salt.
5. Add flour, mix in.
6. Butter 4x8 loaf pan and pour mixture into it.
7. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour and test with a toothpick - if it comes clean, pull out.
8. Enjoy warm or cool on rack!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cajun Chicken Pasta

I have learned to tolerate mushrooms.  I have never enjoyed them before now and would always pick them off my veggie pizza or ask them to be taken out of my dish at a restaurant.  I'm not sure if it was the thought of eating fungus or the texture, but I hated them.  I have realized though that mushrooms appear in many healthier recipes and that maybe I should start eating them.  That is how I have grown to tolerate mushrooms.

A couple of suggestions that I have for this recipe are to not be shy with the cajun spices.  I would've liked to have made it a little spicier.  Also, the final product ended up being a bit soupy.  I would suggest either making more noodles to start with, or just cooking some extra when it's time for leftovers (if there is any left!)  Also, make sure to remember to have all your veggies cut up before you start cooking.

Makes 7 1/2 cups.

  • 8 oz uncooked whole wheat linguine
  • 1 lb chicken breast strips
  • Cajun seasoning to taste (1-2 tsp)
  • Garlic powder to taste
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 cup skim milk
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp light cream cheese
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • salt to taste
  • Smart Balance cooking spray
  1. Start preparing noodles according to packaging directions.  Set aside when ready.
  2. Combine milk, flour, and cream cheese in a small blender (like a Magic Bullet) to make a slurry.  Set aside.
  3. Generously season the strips of chicken with cajun seasoning, garlic powder and salt.
  4. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Spray with cooking spray.  
  5. Add chicken and sauté until done, about 5-6 minutes.  Set aside.  (Depending on size of skillet you may want to cook half of chicken at a time.)
  6. Add olive oil to skillet and reduce to medium.
  7. Add bell peppers, onions, and garlic to skillet and sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  8. Add tomatoes and mushrooms to skillet and sauté until vegetables are tender, about 3-4 more minutes.
  9. Season with 1/4 tsp salt, garlic powder, and cracked pepper to taste.
  10. Reduce heat to medium-low and add chicken broth.  Pour in slurry stirring for about 2 minutes.
  11. Add chicken to skillet and adjust seasoning to taste, cooking another couple of minutes until hot.
  12. Add noodles and toss until well coated.
  13. Top with chopped scallions.
Slightly adapted from Skinnytaste.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Daring Cooks: Black Bean & Espresso Chili

Our April 2012 Daring Cooks hosts were David & Karen from Twenty-Fingered Cooking. They presented us with a very daring and unique challenge of forming our own recipes by using a set list of ingredients!

With an onslaught of schoolwork lately and being in Portugal last week, I didn't think I was going to have time to do this challenge. I was really excited about it though, especially since goat cheese was one of the ingredients. During class I was surfing the web, instead of listening and came across a recipe similar to the one here. The recipe was a great starting point and the weather has been on the colder side, perfect for chili.

This was the ingredient list. We had to pick one thing from each list:
List 1: Parsnips, Eggplant (aubergine), Cauliflower
List 2: Balsamic Vinegar, Goat Cheese, Chipotle peppers
List 3: Maple Syrup, Instant Coffee, Bananas

I added both the chipotle peppers and chili powder. The result had a in your face spice. If you are not a spice lover pick to add either the chili powder or chipotle peppers. I recommend using the chipotle peppers for their smoking flavor. The coffee adds a rich depth of flavor to the end product. The chocolate gives this a Mexican mole flavor. The dish is spicy and rich, with a wonderful Mexican flair to it.



Olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
3 medium parsnips, sliced 1/4 inch thick
4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
4 chipotle peppers in adobo, finely chopped or 1 teaspoon chili powder (or add both)
1 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons instant espresso
2 cups water
1 x 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 generous tablespoon of unsweetend cocoa powder
1 teaspoon honey
1 x 15 ounce can black beans
1 x 15 ounce red kidney beans
  1. In a large heavy bottomed pan (I used a dutch oven), heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat and add the onions. Cook the onions for 8-10 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the parsnips to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. 
  2. Have all of you spices and water on hand and ready at this point. Add the garlic, chipotle peppers, oregano, cumin, cinnamon and instant espresso to the parsnip and onion mixture, cooking and stirring for a minute. Add the water and crushed tomatoes, bringing it to a simmer. Continue to simmer for 30-40 minutes, covered, until the parsnips are cooked. In the last 15 minutes of cooking, add the cocoa powder, honey and beans to the pan and finish cooking.
  3. Serve with sour cream on top, goat cheese, crackers or whatever else you like.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Caramel DeLites

Caramel delites (or samoas) have become one of my favorite Girl Scout cookies (but thin mints are definitely number one). But, I don't normally get any because I don't know any Girl Scouts. Hopefully, my little niece will become one someday soon! Anyway, I was browsing Pinterest and found the perfect recipe for caramel delites. The recipe is pretty involved so I waited until spring break to try it out. Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed when I finally got to taste my hard work. They were a little bland, which is far from the yummy Girl Scout caramel delites. So, for next time, I am going to change a few things: (1) splurge on tastier caramel. I got Kraft's caramel bits which I thought would be perfect because they don't have wrappers and they would melt quicker but they lack flavor. (2) stick to shredded (perhaps sweetened) coconut. I picked up finely shredded unsweetened coconut but I think the cookies would look and taste better with sweetened shredded coconut.

Although a little on the disappointed side, these cookies have potential, especially because the shortbread cookie base is delicious! Plus, with the right caramel and coconut, they will be just as good as the ones you get from Girl Scouts.

Caramel DeLites
adapted by Once Upon a Plate

Part 1: Cookie Base

1 c. butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Blend with a hand mixer butter and sugar in a large bowl. 
3. Mix in flour, baking powder and salt on a low speed.
4. Add in vanilla extract and milk. The dough should become a soft, malleable ball.
5. Using a floured rolling pin and floured hands, roll out dough on a clean surface or parchment paper.
6. Use a round cookie cutter to cut out circular cookies. Use a piping tip (or knife) to cut a hole in the center. Place cutout on a cookie sheet. 
7. Place cookie sheet in the preheated oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. 
8. Allow to cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. 
Part 2: The Topping

2 to 3 c. shredded coconut
12 oz. chewy caramels
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. milk
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Spread coconut out evenly on a cookie sheet and toast in oven for about 15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes. Coconut can toast quickly so keep an eye on it. 
3. Let coconut cool on baking sheet, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
4. Place caramels in large bowl with milk and salt and microwave for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring a couple of times. 
5. Once caramel is smooth, stir in coconut. 
6. Spread caramel/coconut mixture onto the cookies. Microwave caramel for a few seconds if it becomes firm. 
7. As the topping sets, microwave the chocolate chips in a small bowl on 50% power. Stir often and microwave until the chocolate is smooth. 
8. Dip each cookie into the chocolate to cover the bottom and set onto parchment paper. 
9. Scoop the left over melted chocolate into a ziplock bag. Snip a small hole in the corner of the bag and drizzle chocolate on the tops of the cookies.
10. Let the chocolate completely set and enjoy!


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