Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lemon Berry Trifle

Yesterday was my father-in-law's birthday. One of his favorites is Chinese, so we picked up take-out and went over to Mr. ValleyWriter's parents' house for a little celebration. No birthday is complete without dessert (in my opinion), so I had offered to make something earlier in the week. Knowing some Chinese dishes (at least American-Chinese dishes) can be pretty heavy, I wanted to come up with something that would be light and refreshing.

Quite a few ideas ran through my head. A mimosa cake (champagne cake with an orange filling), tiramisu, lemon squares, etc. I thought something fruity was the best way to go and ended up deciding on a trifle. I thought lemon would add that perfect touch of lightness, so that was my main theme. Of course, berries are always a nice complement to lemon and added just the right amount of sweetness to this dish. And they make for a lovely presentation! This would also make a great Easter dessert (that's coming up next Sunday!).

Because I made the cake and lemon curd from scratch, this post is a recipe goldmine - 3 at once! But if you're short on time, there's nothing wrong with using a packaged mix or store-bought versions. If you've got the time, I think homemade is always better (probably cheaper, too!).

Lemon Berry Trifle
2 cups raspberries
1 cup sliced strawberries
4 Tbsp. sugar,divided
1 loaf pound cake (recipe below)
2-3 Tbsp. limoncello liquor
1 1/2 c. lemon curd (recipe below)
8 oz. marscapone cheese, brought to room temperature
1 c. whipping cream

A few hours before you're ready to assemble (or the night before), mix raspberries, strawberries and 2 Tbsp. sugar in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate. (The sugar will bring out the juices from the berries.)
When ready to assemble, slice pound cake in half lengthwise (essentially cutting the top off). Then cut into 1-2" cubes. Brush limoncello lightly on top of cake cubes.
In a small bowl, mix lemon curd and room-temperature marscapone until smooth.
In a separate bowl, beat 2 Tbsp. sugar and whipping cream until soft peaks form.
To assemble the trifle, place a layer of pound cake on the bottom of a trifle dish (or decorative bowl). Top with 1/2 of lemon curd & marscapone mixture. Add 1/2 of berries on top of that, then 1/2 of the whipped cream. Repeat to form a second layer.
Garnish with a few sliced strawberries, if desired.

Lightened-Up Pound Cake
(Pound cake is so named because it traditionally contained a pound of butter, sugar, eggs and flour. This recipe lightens things up, but keeps that dense texture pound cakes are known for.)

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
1 c. sugar
3 eggs, separated
1/2 c. fat-free greek yogurt (or sour cream)
1 Tbsp. limoncello (or 1 tsp. vanilla extract)
1 1/2 c. flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 9 x 5 loaf pan.
In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar with a hand mixer. Add egg yolks, greek yogurt and limoncello. Beat until smooth. Then add flour and baking soda and mix just until combined.
In a separate bowl, beat egg whites on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. (Be sure to use clean beaters, otherwise the whites won't stiffen.)
Fold whites into butter/flour mixture just until you can't see anymore white.
Pour mixture into loaf pan and bake 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

Lemon Curd
2 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. lemon juice (about 2 large lemons' worth)
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1/4 c. butter, melted

Bring about 1" of water to a boil in the bottom of a double boil (or medium-sized saucepan with a heat-proof bowl that fits on top without touching the water). In the top part, beat together eggs and sugar. Place over boiling water and slowly stir in lemon juice, lemon zest and melted butter. Continue whisking 10-15 minutes until mixture thickens. (While you don't have to whisk constantly, you do want to do it regularly to keep the eggs from cooking too quickly and getting chunky.)
Cool before using.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunday Suppers - Pasta Rosa

We enjoyed a beautiful spring weekend here in the Valley - including lots of St. Paddy's day festivities in nearby Holyoke (home of the 2nd largest St. Patrick's Day Parade in the US). After a couple of late nights and long days, we spent today hanging around at home - enjoying the sunshine and fresh spring air. When dinner time came around, we wanted something simple and easy. Mr. ValleyWriter and I ended up collaborating to make a creamy, yummy pasta with some light, bright pops of flavor.

We started out with some chicken and artichoke hearts. Then I found some sundried tomatoes and roasted red pepper in the fridge and added those in. I was thinking we'd just drizzle some olive oil in, but Mr. ValleyWriter opened the cover and found the Four Cheese Rosa sauce I got a few weeks ago from Bertolli as part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker program - and I knew he'd hit on something wonderful. The combination of flavors ended up being perfect. Bright tomatoes and artichokes in a creamy, comforting alfredo-tomato sauce. I think we'll be fighting over the leftovers tomorrow!

Pasta Rosa

1 large chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts
1/4 c. sundried tomatoes, chopped
1 roasted red pepper, chopped
1 jar Bertolli® Four Cheese Rosa sauce
1 box whole wheat spaghetti, cooked al dente
1 tsp. dried parsley, optional

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chicken, sprinkle with salt & pepper and cook 5-6 minutes until chicken is mostly white. Add artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes and roasted red pepper. Cook another 3-4 minutes until chicken is cooked fully through. Add Four Cheese Rosa sauce, turn heat to low and simmer another 2-3 minutes to heat sauce through. Add cooked pasta and simmer 1-2 minutes. Serve with parsley sprinkled on top, if desired.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Spicy Black Bean Burritos

Spring has sprung a few days early here in the Valley - and I couldn't be happier! The sunshine and extra daylight has pulled me right out of the winter doldrums. And it's also got me craving less hearty, brighter meals. When I think of "bright" food, I think lemons, cilantro, tomatoes, vinaigrettes, etc. For tonight's dinner, I incorporated 2 of those into a quick, tasty weeknight meal - black bean burritos. And because we like heat in the ValleyWriter household, I spiced things up while I was at it.

Now, I do have a picture of this meal - but I have to apologize in advance for it. It's a lovely shot of the tortilla - but the filling is out of focus - whoops! I have a new camera (the old one met an unfortunate end recently) and I'm still figuring things out.

Ok - on with it!

Spicy Black Bean Burritos
(Serves 2)

2 10" flour tortillas
1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup cooked black beans
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies, drained
2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp. sriracha chili sauce
1 Tbsp. jalepano peppers

Prepare rice according to package instructions. Once cooked, add beans, tomatoes, cilantro srirach and jalapeno peppers. Cook over medium heat until heated through. Add 1/2 of mixture to each tortilla. Roll up into a burrito, tucking the short ends in to contain the filling.

That's all - simple, tasty, filling - and SPRINGY!!!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Suppers: Chicken & Apple Meatloaves

A lot of food bloggers out there post about recipes they've tried from great magazines - Bon Appetit, Cooking Light, Food & Wine, etc. Well, my recipe tonight comes from a magazine, too. Only, instead of featuring unique (sometimes hard to find) ingredients, many intricate steps and sometimes unusual methods (boiling chicken in plastic wrap?!?! yes, I read it in once in Cooking Light) - this recipe is simple, easy and delicious.

Where's it from? A magazine that is perhaps more well known for its cleaning tips than for its recipes - Good Housekeeping!

While I never really thought of GH as a "cook's magazine," I've tried several of their recipes now and I've always been happy with how well they turn out. I've made this Chicken and Apple Meatloaves recipe twice and the only thing I tweaked the 2nd time was to only cook the apples for 10 minutes. I thought they got too mushy when they were in the oven for the full 20 minutes. But other than that - this is a great recipe! The apple that gets incorporated into the meatloaves keeps them very moist and the fennel tricks you into thinking you're eating something much more savory than chicken. This is definitely becoming a regular in our household - Sunday nights or otherwise!

(Note: Click on the link above to check out the recipe; it's copyrighted, so I can't repost here. And no, I'm not getting any compensation from GH for posting this; it's just a really yummy recipe!)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

A couple of months ago, I tried my hand at bagels for the first time. They came out so well, now I'm hooked on homemade bagels. Fresh and warm out of the oven, they are an amazing treat - no cream cheese or butter required! This weekend, I made up a batch of cinnamon raisin. I finally got the ratio of cinnamon & raisins to the point that I'm happy with them - so I thought I'd share!

To give credit where credit is due, my recipe is adapted from this one at I let my dough rise for an hour at each step, partly because the house is cooler and partly because that's what worked for my schedule. The original recipe calls for shorter rising times (15-20 minutes), so if you're short on time - you could give that a try.

(Don't you just love those beautiful flecks of cinnamon?! Yum!!)

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
(Makes 8 large "New York Style" bagels)

4 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 1/2 c. warm water
3 Tbsp. sugar
4 - 4 1/2 c. all-purpose flour, divided
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. raisins (I used a mix of golden & regular)
1 Tbsp. white sugar
Mix yeast, water and 3 Tbsp. sugar in a small bowl. Let sit 10 minutes to proof.
Add 2 c. flour, plus salt and cinnamon and beat with a hand mixer for 2-3 minutes.
Add remaining flour 1/2 c. at a time until dough is stiff and no longer sticky.
Dump dough out onto a floured surface, place the raisins in the middle and begin kneading dough. (Raisins will incorporate during the kneading process.)
Continue kneading 8-10 minutes until dough is smooth.
Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rest 1 hour.
Divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then stick your finger through the middle and shape into a ring. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise another hour.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 1 Tbsp. sugar to the water.
Drop a couple of bagels into the water at a time and boil for 7 minutes, flipping 1/2 way through.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees and spray a large cookie sheet with oil.
Put boiled bagels onto cookie sheet and bake 25-30 minutes, turning 1/2 way through so the bagels brown evenly.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday Suppers - Portly Pork Tenderloin AND Homebrew!!!

That's right - we finally popped open the homebrew tonight for the first real tasting. Our Amber Ale came out great! Light, with a moderate amount of hops - very refreshing on this gorgeous spring-like day.

As for alcohol content, since we broke the hydrometer the day we started the beer, we were never able to get the required readings. However, our unofficial testing (i.e. drinking it) confirms - there's definitely alcohol in it!

I decided to continue the "spirits" theme with a pork tenderloin in a port wine sauce. I served that with my last butternut squash from the CSA last fall (they stored perfectly in the cellar all this time!) in this cranberry butternut bake. It was simple, but yummy - and went great with the ale.

Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Port Wine Sauce

1 (1 lb.) pork tenderloin
1 c. aged port wine, divided
1 Tbsp. grainy mustard
1/4 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. orange juice
2 Tbsp. dried cranberries

Combine pork, 1/4 c. port and 1 Tbsp. mustard in a plastic bag. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to marinate pork.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Heat a skillet (not non-stick) over medium heat. Add pork and sear on all sides.
Place in oven-proof dish and bake about 20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 150 degrees. (This will give you medium pork - still pink in the middle. Cook to 165 for well done.) Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before cutting.
While pork is resting, place remaining 3/4 c. wine, red wine vinegar, orange juice and dried cranberries in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Let simmer until reduced to a syrupy liquid.
To serve, cut pork into rounds and spoon sauce over top.

Serve with a pale ale & enjoy!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spicy Chicken & Sausage Campanelle

I arrived home last night to find my dear hubby waiting for me. We settled in for an evening of catching up—him regaling me with CA stories (which, oddly enough, always seem to include mention of how beautiful CA women are.... seriously, I've been there - they're all pretty... and yes, I'm a little jealous, but I digress), while I regaled him with stories about the cats . (Who has it better? Tough call, I know.)

We hung out in the kitchen enjoying some wine and cooking up a yummy pasta dish. Just before he left last week, I received a surprise delivery from Bertolli and Foodbuzz. As part of Foodbuzz's Tastemakers program, Bertolli sent me this fancy box with 2 kinds of sauce in it—a bottle of Four Cheese Rosa (alfredo with a hint of tomato) and a bottle of Arrabiata (a spicy tomato sauce).

Since I offered up creamy, gooey cinnamon rolls early in the day and had a creamy vanilla bean creme brulee planned for dessert—I figured the Arrabiata sauce would be perfect for spicing things up in the middle. Though the box Bertolli sent me came with a bunch of good looking recipes, I decided to branch out on my own on this one. So here's my recipe for:

Spicy Chicken and Sausage Campanelle 

1 link andouille sausage
1 chicken breast
salt & pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 c. roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
1 jar Bertolli® Arrabbiata sauce
8 oz. campanelle pasta 

Place sausage in a frying pan, add about 1/2 inch water and heat over medium heat. When water begins to simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, turning once. Remove sausage once the water has evaporated and the sausage is cooked through. 
Now add 1 Tbsp. olive oil to the pan over medium heat. Sprinkle chicken breast with salt and pepper, add to the pan and cook 5-6 minutes on each side. Remove from pan and let rest.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook campanelle for about 10 minutes until al dente.
While the pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add roasted red peppers and Arrabbiata sauce. Reduce heat to low and simmer. 
Having let the sausage and chicken rest for at least 5 minutes, slice both and add to the sauce.
Once pasta is al dente, drain and add to sauce. Stir and let simmer 1-2 minutes to finish cooking pasta.

Serve and let your dining partners' praise begin!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls (aka "Love Buns")

Love buns? I know - it's a silly name. But seriously, you will fall in love with these cinnamon rolls - and anyone who eats them will fall in love with you! They are fluffy, sweet, gooey and oh-so-wonderful. The best part is you can make them the night before and bake them right up in the morning - no waiting around for breakfast for 2 or 3 hours. You can also freeze them before or after you bake them, so they can be made well ahead of time if needed. I started making these a couple of Christmases ago and they have become a staple for breakfast guests anytime of the year. 

Overnight Cinnamon Rolls
(Makes 8 large rolls) 

For the dough:
2/3 c. milk
4 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1/3 c. white sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
3 - 3 1/2 c. flour

For the filling:
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

For the icing:
1 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. confectioner's sugar
1-2 Tbsp. cream (or milk)

Combine milk and melted butter. Let the mixture sit (if needed) until lukewarm. Add yeast and sugar. Let sit 5-10 minutes until mixture starts to get frothy. (This way you know your yeast is good. If it doesn't get frothy - your yeast might be dead and you'll want to start over.)
Add eggs and salt and mix well. Add 2 1/2 cups of the flour and mix well. Continue adding flour a little bit at a time until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Dump dough out onto a flour surface and begin kneading. If dough is still too sticky, add a little more flour as you knead. The dough should be soft, but not sticky. Continue kneading for 5-7 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic.
Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise 45 min - 1 hour.
Place risen dough back on your floured surface and spread out into a large rectangle (say 16" long x 10" wide).
Combine brown sugar and cinnamon and spread out evenly over the dough.
Roll the dough up lengthwise.
With a sharp knife, cut into 8 equal pieces (about 2") each.

Place in a baking dish so rolls are not touching. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
(Or, place in a freezer safe container and freeze. To bake from freezing, let sit on the counter overnight, rather than in the refrigerator.)

To make the icing, combine cream cheese and confectioner's sugar in a small bowl. Beat with a hand mixer, slowly adding cream until it reaches the desired consistency. Cover and refrigerate.

In the morning, take the rolls out of the refrigerator. You will see they have already nearly doubled in size:

Let the rolls sit on the counter while you preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake rolls for 25 minutes until golden brown:

Spread the icing on while the rolls are warm to create your gooey masterpiece! (Any leftover frosting will also freeze just fine.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Yes - I'm still here!

I think the past week and a half has probably one of my longest stretches of radio silence without being on vacation. I'm still here! There just hasn't been a whole lot of exciting cooking going on around here. Mr. ValleyWriter has been away, so I've taken that as an opportunity to chill. Dinners have been haphazard - some couscous and sundried tomatoes, black beans with salsa and rice - stuff that takes no time to put together (and that hubs wouldn't be too impressed with).

But, thankfully, Mr. ValleyWriter is on his way home and I'm writing now while dough for cinnamon rolls rises and custard for crème brulée bakes - all in anticipation of his return. I plan to have the cinnamon rolls waiting for him in the morning, then I'll make a spicy chicken and andouille pasta for dinner, followed by his favorite dessert - vanilla bean crème brulée.

As for many, food is an expression of love for me. For many years, it's been one of the biggest ways I've shown I care - about my parents, my partners, my coworkers, my friends. If you think about it, nourishment is really the first act of love we receive in life. For me, feeding others fulfills that need to nurture. And oh how Mr. VW will be nurtured when he returns tomorrow ;-) Recipes & photos to come soon!