Saturday, December 6, 2014

Festive Cranberry Scones

These scones are sweet yet wholesome, as I have used whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular all purpose flour. They will make a great addition to a holiday breakfast table which is exactly what I'm planning to do when my family gets here this Christmas. But this batch will be a sweet surprise for hubby when he gets home from work this evening. 

Cranberry Scones
Makes 8 

1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
zest of one orange
5 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cubed 
2/3 cup milk 
1/2 cup of confectioner's sugar
4 tsp orange juice

1. Set the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet and set aside. 
2. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and orange zest. 
3. Work the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture takes on a crumbly consistency. This can be done by hand or in a food processor. Combine the dried cranberries. 
4. Pour the milk into the flour mixture and mix well. The mixture will be sticky at this point. Pour it out unto a well-floured work surface and work into a round ball, adding a bit of extra flour if needed.  Flatten out into an 8" round disk, and cut into 8 wedges. 
5. Place the wedges unto the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool completely before applying the glaze. To make the glaze combine the confectioner's sugar and the orange juice until smooth.    

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Arugula with Caramelized Pumpkin and Zucchini - a Thanksgiving Salad

I made caramelized pumpkin for the first time  a couple years ago when it was used as a topping for my pumpkin risotto. This year, I'm using it as a main ingredient in this thanksgiving salad. Also featured here is lightly grilled zucchini ribbons. Of course, grilling season is over (and I am not one of those brave souls who would still grill in sub-freezing temperatures) so I had to  resurrect my old grilling skillet for this purpose. Alternatively, lightly searing them on the bottom of a regular skillet works just fine. For the dressing, I used a store bought balsamic vinaigrette - the choice is yours. 

Arugula with Caramelized Pumpkin and Zucchini
Serves 4 

1 zucchini, cut into thin ribbons
1 tbsp vegetable oil 
8 cups arugula
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 cup caramelized pumpkin (find recipe here)
1/3 cup candied pecans
salt and pepper

1. Brush both sides of the zucchini ribbons with the vegetable oil. Cook on a grill surface or regular skillet set on medium heat, for one minute on the first side and about 30 seconds on the other side. Set  aside. 
2. To arrange the salad, place mounds of arugula on the bottom of a large serving platter. Layer with the zucchini ribbons, followed by the caramelized pumpkin. Finish with the dried cranberries, candied pecans, salt and pepper. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Trinidad Coconut Bake

Coconut bake is  made in practically every household in Trinidad.  I was taught how to make it by my mother but my earliest memory of this uniquely Trinidadian bread was my paternal grandmother's. It was part of her weekend baking lineup. A savory bread that's made with freshly grated coconut, it is usually served for breakfast with something called salt fish buljol (salted fish with fresh tomatoes, onions, pimentos and sometimes scotch bonnet peppers).

In Trinidad, freshly grated coconut is always used for this bread. Dry coconuts are sold in every grocery store. These coconuts are then cracked and the hard jelly carefully extracted and grated by hand. Admittedly, this is a tricky process and I would not recommend it for someone who has never done this before. However, if you are so inclined, here are step by step instructions on how to do so. Alternatively, you can use store-bought, unsweetened, shredded coconut. And, while salt fish buljol is the traditional topping so to speak for this bread, it is just as delicious slathered with butter. This morning, mine will be served warm with butter and spicy scrambled eggs.

Trinidad Coconut Bake
Makes two 8" round bakes 

4 cups all purpose flour
1 packet yeast
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp cold, unsalted butter, cubed
2 cups grated fresh coconut
1 1/2 to 2 cups water

1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast, sugar and salt - combine well.
2. Work the butter into the flour mixture until fully incorporated and the mixture becomes coarse and crumbly.
3. Mix in the grated coconut.
4. Add the water and stir the mixture until a soft dough forms. Placed on a floured work surface and knead until the dough pulls together into a uniform ball, adding extra dry flour to prevent any sticking. Return to the bowl, cover with a dry towel and allow to rise for about 30 minutes.
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a large baking sheet or two 8" round cake pans.
6. Divide the dough into two equal parts, and shape into 8 " round disks. Place on the baking sheet or in the pans and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until risen slightly and the tops have turned golden brown. Serve warm.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Zucchini and Potato Pancakes with Roasted Red Pepper Cream

This morning, I got inspired to make a special breakfast. It is not very often that the hubby and I get to share breakfast together on a weekday. So for our special breakfast "date", I decided on these pancakes. Potato pancakes, in general, are delicious on their own but I added some shredded bits of zucchini for added fiber and flavor. And the cream sauce is absolutely necessary. Don't be surprised if you see this is another recipe in the future. I would suggest that you drizzle some on the top of the pancakes for serving, and place extra on the side for dipping.

A couple other notes: I used shredded hash browns because it certainly cuts down on the preparation time when you don't  have to peel and shred potatoes. And, as far as the roasted red pepper is concerned, any store-bought brand would do. Just be careful to drain most of the liquid from them before making the sauce. You don't want the sauce too thin otherwise it would just run off the pancakes. 


Zucchini and Potato Pancakes with Roasted Red Pepper Cream
Serves 2 to 3 

1 zucchini, grated 
4 cups shredded hash brown, thawed
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
2 tbsp chopped green onion
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 egg, whisked 
Approx. 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
2 large roasted red peppers
1 small garlic clove 
2 tbsp mayonnaise
2 tbsp plain yogurt 

1. Place the grated zucchini and shredded hash browns on paper towels to soak up excess moisture. Gently squeeze out as much liquid as you can. 
2. In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, hash browns, cilantro, green onion, flour, salt and pepper. Stir in the egg, combining well. 
3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add a couple tablespoons of the vegetable oil to the heated skillet. Add the mixture into the hot oil by the quarter cupful, flattening each mound of mixture a little. Cook until golden brown, about two to three minutes on either side. Repeat until all of the mixture has been used up. You might have to add additional oil as you cook the subsequent batches. 
4. For the sauce, puree the roasted red pepper and the garlic. Add the mayonnaise and yogurt, and continuing pureeing for a few more seconds until a smooth cream is formed. Season with salt to taste. 
Serve the pancakes warm, with a generous amount of the cream sauce drizzled on the top. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Incredibly Rich Chocolate Brownies

Typically, I am not a brownie person. It is not something that is made often in our home nor is it something that I think about when I think of desserts. Cakes, pies, puddings (did someone say bread pudding?), tiramisu - yes. Not brownies. I am also not very good at making them which is probably why I'm not a  brownie person in the first place.  Most times, they turn out way too dry and almost brittle. Don't ask me how someone can mess up brownies. It just came naturally to me.

Not any more.

This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten's Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies and comes at a rare time when I do crave a brownie. A rich, dark, moist, intense chocolate brownie. The instructions are quite simple to follow - even I had great luck on my first attempt. They turned out perfectly. Be advised, however, these are rich! Lots of butter, lots of sugar and lots of chocolate. Enjoy!

Incredibly Rich Chocolate Brownies
Makes about 12

8 oz semi sweet chocolate chips (plus 3 oz)
3 oz unsweetened chocolate
8 oz butter
3 eggs
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sat

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour an 8" x 12" baking sheet.
2. In a double boiler, melt 8 oz of the semi-sweet chocolate, the unsweetnened chocolate and the butter. Once melted, allow to cool slightly.
3. In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, vanilla, and sugar until combined. Do not whisk.
4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt.
5. Stir the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Next, stir in the flour mixture.
6. Toss the remaining 3 oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips with a little flour and stir into the brownie mixture.
7. Pour into the prepared baking sheet and bake at 350 degree F for about 30 minutes until the tooth pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
8. Cool to room temperate and them refrigerate for another hour before cutting into squares.