Thursday, February 19, 2015
You may have cooked with tofu before, but have you ever baked with it?
This is one of those really neat recipes where you can shock your guests when you tell them what's in it! Or don't tell them if they're not experimental or unconventional with their food. My dad, for example, would be better off not knowing what's in this! Hehe.
The method for the tofu is unusual and was developed by tofu genius Andrea Nguyen. You buy super-firm tofu and grate it on a box grater like you would a block of cheese. Stir it in with finely chopped cashews, heat that mixture on the stove with sweetened condensed milk, and add cardamom. Spread in a pan and top with chopped pistachios. Voila! Couldn't be easier. Trader Joe's actually sells a 16 oz. package of super-firm tofu that is perfect for this. Since that's double the quantity you need for this recipe, you could just double everything else and use all the tofu, and end up with a double batch. Or save the other half of the tofu for a stir fry or soup.
I made this recipe back in December for a holiday party, and it was everything I hoped it would be. Cardamom is one of my all-time favorite spices (Maybe my very favorite? I'm just afraid to commit to a favorite!). The texture of the fudge is chewy and a little sticky. It looks beautiful on a plate with the light green from the pistachios. And boy, oh boy, the aroma of the cardamom. I've been yearning for more ever since that delicious holiday event, so here I am, two months later, making the recipe again. Ask me in April and I will probably have made another batch. You can't keep me away. And now I'm going to turn you into an equally obsessed person. Good luck with that!
No-Bake Cardamom Cashew Fudge Diamonds
Adapted from a recipe in the "Genius Recipes" section of Food 52, originally from Andrea Nguyen's Asian Tofu cookbook (because Andrea is a genius!)
Makes approximately 36 small diamonds
8 ounces super-firm tofu (Trader Joe's sells this!)
3 1/2 ounces unsalted raw cashew pieces or whole nuts (Trader Joe's sells this!)
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped raw pistachios
Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper and leave enough on the sides to be able to lift it up out of the pan later. You can also use foil and lightly spray it. Set aside.
Take the tofu out of the packaging and dry it off with a paper towel. Using the smallest hole on a box grater or other cheese grater, grate the block of tofu into a bowl.
Pulse the cashews in a food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs. They should be very finely chopped, but not turn to dust. Add the cashews to the bowl of grated tofu and stir to combine.
In a medium-sized saucepan, combine the can of sweetened condensed milk with the tofu/cashew mixture. Cook on medium heat for approximately 15 minutes. Note that the mixture should never reach a boil. You can start out just stirring it occasionally, but as the mixture starts to thicken, you'll need to be stirring constantly because it will stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Watch closely to make sure this doesn't happen! It will eventually resemble a really thick oatmeal. While you're stirring, if you notice that the mixture is pulling away from the sides of the pan or gliding around the bottom of the pan rather than scorching, it's ready.
Remove from the heat and stir in the cardamom.
Immediately spread into your prepared pan using an offset spatula to push the mixture toward the edges and corners of the pan. Smooth over the top so the surface is even. Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on top and gently press them down into the fudge so they stay put.
Chill in the fridge for at least an hour.
Lift up the parchment and place on a cutting board. Using a very sharp chef's knife, cut rows at an angle in one direction, and then cut rows horizontally in the other direction, so that the end result is a piece of fudge that looks like a diamond. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or freeze for serving at a later time. As this fudge is sticky, do not stack the pieces directly on top of each other. Instead, place them along the bottom of a container and then place a piece of parchment paper or wax paper on top of each layer before stacking more pieces of fudge into the container.
PHOTO GALLERY: How to Remove and Cut the Fudge
Lift up on the parchment paper to pull the fudge out of the pan...
Place the fudge down on a cutting board and spread the parchment paper flat to expose the sides of the fudge...
Cut rows at an angle across the fudge, then horizontally. This creates a diamond shape...
Admire your diamonds. :)
Stack the diamonds in an airtight container, separating each layer with parchment or wax paper. Store in the fridge...
Wednesday, February 4, 2015
For as often as I bake, it's kind of surprising how rarely I make biscuits. But they are so easy and so delicious! It's highly likely that I'll have all the ingredients in my pantry ready to go, so I don't even have to make a stop at the grocery store. I should do this more often.
These are really yummy, almost like savory scones. If you want, experiment with different kinds of shredded cheese. I bet pepper jack or smoked gouda would be delicious, too! Just try not to eat the entire batch in one sitting. The biscuits would go great with a Mexican casserole or, for a lighter meal, a bowl of soup or salad of mixed greens.
So as things go around here, when I make a cheese-filled baked good, it pairs well with a cheesy limerick and I have no self-restraint. Sorry, I'm not sorry.
Cheesy Cheddar Biscuit Limerick
There once was a biscuit of cheddar
Promising to make dinner better
With just the right spice
The crumb was so nice
It justified this cheesy love letter.
Cheesy Cheddar Biscuits
Adapted from a recipe in a Penzeys spice catalog
Makes approximately 12 biscuits
2 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or smoked Spanish-style paprika, to taste (optional)
1/2 -3/4 cup milk, divided
5 tablespoons butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
In a measuring glass or small bowl, beat 1/2 cup of the milk with the egg. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cayenne/paprika. Use a pastry blender or fork to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs the size of peas. You can break apart any stubborn large pieces with your fingers. Add the grated cheese and most of the egg/milk mixture, reserving just 1 tablespoon of the egg/milk mixture to brush on top of the biscuits. Blend with a fork and then use your fingers to finish. Only mix until combined and not a moment longer. Overmixing results in dense, tough, hard-as-a-brick biscuits! If necessary, add the remaining milk a teaspoon at a time until the dough comes together.
On a floured work surface, roll the dough out to about 1 inch thick. You can also just pat it down if you don't have a rolling pin. Use a small biscuit cutter to cut out circles and place them on an ungreased baking sheet (or you can use parchment paper or a silicone baking mat). Push the scraps of dough back together, re-roll the dough, and cut out more circles until you've used up all of the dough.
Brush the tops of the biscuits with the reserved tablespoon of egg/milk mixture. Bake for about 10 minutes, until light brown and puffed up. Serve warm or at room temperature.
If you are eating these as leftovers the next day, they taste amazing reheated in the toaster oven!
Friday, January 23, 2015
I first learned about this recipe last spring when I was visiting my sister at her house; she had just given birth to my second niece and was now settling back in at home. It was evident that suddenly being catapulted into having two kids under 3 years old who needed constant supervision was going to require quick meals and creativity. My mom was in town staying over to help out and found this pie recipe online. It was so easy that she was able to assemble these pies and still get back to being the supportive mom and grandma requested of her. And the pies were a hit.
Quick Puff Pastry Apple Hand Pies
Adapted from a recipe on Food.com submitted by Chef Fifi
1 (17-ounce) package puff pastry that contains two pastry sheets (Trader Joe's sells this!!)
2 medium-sized baking apples (such as Granny Smith, Pippin, or Gravenstein), peeled, cored, and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons flour
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
Thaw puff pastry according to directions on package.
To make the filling, in a medium bowl, combine apples with sugar, flour, lemon juice, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place 1 sheet of puff pastry on a floured work surface and cut the pastry sheet into nine 3x3-inch squares. Will look like a tic-tac-toe board! Place the squares on an ungreased baking sheet. Scoop approximately 1/4 cup of the apple mixture onto the center of each square. Brush the edges with the beaten egg.
Place the second sheet of puff pastry on the floured work surface and cut the pastry sheet into nine 3x3-inch squares. Place one square on top of each apple filling-topped square on the baking sheet to form a pie pocket! Use your fingers to seal the edges together and then use a fork to go over the edges and create a design (criss-cross or straight or diagonal!).
With a sharp knife, cut a small L-shaped incision, about 1-inch, into the top of each pie and fold back the pastry flap so the pie can let steam escape while baking.
Brush each pie with the remaining egg wash.
Bake until golden brown on top, about 20 minutes. Sometimes I let it go a little longer because I want a darker, crisper crust.
Voila! Instant individual apple pies!
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
I recently made a life-altering discovery: Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. Jeni Britton, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, has developed a recipe for ice cream that is creamier and more scoopable than I've ever made before! Her technique is different from previous recipes I've tried. Her secret? A cornstarch-and-whole-milk slurry that gets added into the cream base, and cream cheese that gets whisked in at the end!
I have now made this peanut butter chocolate chunk ice cream recipe twice, and both times the ice cream was inexplicably, undeniably, bafflingly creamy. My husband says this is the ice cream of his dreams! (It doesn't hurt that it's peanut butter and chocolate either!) And I've made several other recipes by Jeni that use the cornstarch and cream cheese elements and they came out equally creamy. I'm convinced, from testing and retesting, and receiving consistent results of creaminess each time, that this method is a true winner!
I also love Jeni's ice bath technique, which is a game changer for me! Instead of putting the ice cream base into the fridge for at least 8 hours before churning like I've always been taught to do (ugh!), I can simply chill the base in an ice bath as soon as I've made it and then churn right away! I can have ice cream the same day I make the base! Instant gratification for impatient sweet tooths!
Make this ice cream and let me know what you think! May your peanut butter and chocolate dreams be fulfilled as sufficiently as my husband's!
Creamy Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream
Adapted from a recipe by Jeni Britton Bauer in Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams at Home
Makes about 1 quart
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup unsalted natural peanut butter (Skippy or Jif will do if you can't find natural)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (add less salt if using salted peanut butter)
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons honey
4 ounces dark chocolate of your preference, chopped
In a small bowl or ramekin, stir together 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch to make a smooth slurry. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, peanut butter, and salt until smooth. Make sure that medium bowl will ultimately be able to hold all of the ingredients. Set aside. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Set aside.
In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the remaining milk, the cream, sugar, corn syrup, and honey, and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat; boil for 4 minutes, watching to make sure the bubbles don't go over the edge of the pan. Remove from the heat, and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry. Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and stir with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula until slightly thickened and lightly coats the spoon or spatula, about 1 minute. Immediately, but pouring slowly, add this hot milk mixture into the medium bowl that has the cream cheese, peanut butter, and salt and whisk constantly until smooth.
Add ice cubes or lunch box ice packs (I find ice packs work really well and I always have them ready even if I am out of ice!) into the large bowl of cold water to create an ice bath. Pour the ice cream mixture into a 1-gallon Ziploc freezer bag that is partially submerged in the ice bath and seal the bag. Then fully submerge the bag in the ice bath, using ice packs on top of the bag to weigh it down. Let stand, adding more ice or ice packs, until chilled, about 30 minutes.
To churn the ice cream, cut off a small corner of the plastic bag and pour the ice cream base out into the frozen canister of your ice cream maker. Churn that delicious liquid!
While the ice cream is churning, melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave (but watch the microwave closely to make sure you don't burn the chocolate). Allow the chocolate to cool down to tepid but make sure it is still fluid enough that you can pour it. When the ice cream looks thick and creamy and only has a few more minutes of churning left, slowly pour the melted chocolate down the ice cream machine's opening at the top and you'll witness magic! The chocolate will solidify as it hits the cold ice cream, and be forced to break up into tiny pieces as the ice cream machine continues pushing the ice cream around inside. Turn off the machine after about 2 minutes of breaking up chocolate bits.
Transfer the ice cream to an airtight storage container and freeze in the coldest part of your freezer until it has firmed up enough to serve. This usually takes about 4 hours. Enjoy!
Monday, January 13, 2014
To all my fellow corn dogs, have I got a great recipe for you! Corn Dog Muffins! Who doesn't love corn dogs? They're so familiar, so homey, so nostalgic. And these days, you can buy vegetarian and even vegan corn dogs in mainstream grocery stores. They're a popular food item!
I was browsing Pinterest one afternoon and saw someone pin a recipe for Corn Dog Muffins. I couldn't believe my eyes. It combined a food I love (corn dogs!) with a shape I love (muffins!). And in particular, mini muffins.
If you ask my family, they'll all tell you that I make everything tiny. I prefer making my cookies bite-size, cutting my brownies and blondies into tiny morsels, shaping bread rolls into small rolls, and using a mini muffin pan for everything from mini muffins (duh) to mini quiches, mini appetizers, and mini cheesecakes. I don't know if it's that I like to be able to eat the whole thing in one bite, or if I think mini just looks cuter, or if I feel like I can justify eating the whole thing because it's a smaller portion size (which doesn't really work in the end because I end up eating more than one), but whatever the reason, I'm obsessed with mini treats. The idea of reshaping a corn dog into a mini muffin is, therefore, pure brilliance.
It just so happened that we had a bunch of leftover uncooked hot dogs in the fridge from a recent barbeque. We had purchased a gigantic package from Costco and figured we'd find a way to use up whatever wasn't eaten that day. Well, turned out we had so many leftover hot dogs after the barbeque that we would be eating hot dogs for a long time if we didn't find a recipe or two that involved them. So, we not only made corn dog muffins, but another hot dog-themed dish that I hope to blog about soon! And we even tossed leftover hot dog slices into some quinoa one night. Sounds weird, but made for a great dinner! Good thing I really like hot dogs.
If you don't feel like making the batter from scratch, I bet a corn bread or corn muffin mix would work just fine, and follow the instructions for placing a hot dog slice on each muffin cupful of batter. And if you are vegetarian, or you keep kosher, use fake meat hot dogs (since the corn bread batter calls for buttermilk). This recipe made a LOT of mini muffins...far too many to eat in one sitting without a tummy ache. So we enjoyed them for a few more days to go along with lunch or dinner. To serve warm and re-crisp them (which is definitely the way to go), simply place the muffins in the toaster oven on a foil-lined tray for a few minutes. Works like a charm!
This is for all you kids out there. And by kids, I mean everyone.
Corn Dog Muffins
Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Makes 36-48 mini muffins or 12-18 standard muffins
1/4 cup vegetable shortening, melted and cooled
1 cup yellow or white cornmeal (I used white!)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature (I used Saco Buttermilk Powder)
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature (I used nonfat milk powder and it worked great!)
4-6 hot dogs, sliced (see note in recipe instructions below for size of slice)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. In a separate, medium size bowl, combine buttermilk, milk, and egg. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a whisk until incorporated. Add the melted shortening to the batter and stir until the batter is smooth. Be sure the shortening has cooled off first or it will clump up into solid bits from attempting to mix with colder ingredients.
Grease or spray muffin pans. If using mini muffin pans, you'll probably need two pans of 24 cups each. If using standard muffin pans, you'll probably only need 1 pan of 12 cups. I made mini-sized. Fill each muffin cup a little more than half full. Drop one piece of hot dog in the center of each muffin cup. (For mini muffins, cut up the hot dogs into about 1/4-1/2-inch rounds and you'll probably only need 4 or 5 hot dogs; if using standard muffin pans, cut hot dogs into 1-inch slices and you might need all 6 hot dogs ).
Bake the muffins until the cornbread looks done and slightly golden on top, about 11-15 minutes. You want that crispy outside edge so it resembles a corn dog! Remove from the pan and serve warm with ketchup and mustard!
Step-by-Step in Pictures
Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Set aside.
Whisk the egg...
Add the buttermilk and milk to the egg, then add this wet mixture to the dry ingredients, then stir in the melted shortening...
Fill each greased muffin cup a little more than half full...
Chop up the hot dogs...
Carefully place a hot dog piece into the center of each muffin cup. Bake at 425 degrees F for 11-15 minutes, until golden...
Remove from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes...
Dunk the corn dog muffin in ketchup and enjoy!
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Ever heard of spoon bread? It's a casserole that's light and fluffy and airy, similar to a souffle or bread pudding. The word "bread" in the name is a bit misleading since it really doesn't resemble bread to me. But then again, bread pudding doesn't really resemble bread to me either. So maybe there's a second meaning to "bread" we all should learn? You certainly can eat spoon bread with a spoon since it's soft and scoopable. A fork would do well, too. But fork bread doesn't have quite the same ring to it. Ahh, such profound thoughts...
Anyways, this is a really fun recipe because it uses a polenta log in an all new (at least...new to me!) way! Rather than slicing the log up and pan-frying or grilling the slices, blend them up in the food processor to create a filling! The dish also makes great leftovers, so you could make it on a Sunday night and have it all week during your busy schedule. It's also a great base for modifying. If you feel like adding steamed cauliflower, or other types of cheese, or some peas, or even some chopped turkey, there are so many options! Go through your pantry and fridge and use up whatever you have lying around. This spoon bread can handle it!
And with a hefty helping of cheese and creamed corn in the recipe, there's no denying, this is one cheesy, corny casserole.
So I'll leave you with some cheesy, corny words in the form of the worst limerick of all time:
There once was a delicious spoon bread
Full of cheese, corn, and broccoli heads.
Though bread's in the name,
Souffle's more the game.
So don't blame me if you feel misled.
Literally Cheesy, Literally Corny Broccoli Polenta Spoon Bread
Recipe adapted from the Changing a Life blog, originally published in The One Pot Cookbook
16 ounce tube polenta, cut into chunks (Trader Joe's sells this!)
2 tablespoons water
12 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) broccoli florets, steamed (make sure to cut up any really large florets)
8 1/2 ounces creamed corn
1/2 cup milk (nonfat or 1% work great)
4 slices Swiss or Jack cheese, torn into small pieces (or you can use shredded cheese)
1/4 cup flour
2 large egg yolks (reserve the whites...see next ingredient)
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Grease or spray a casserole dish. Set aside.
Place the polenta chunks and the water into a food processor and pulse several times until the polenta has broken down and the mixture is smooth. Should take about 15 seconds.
Transfer the polenta mixture to a large mixing bowl and add in the broccoli, creamed corn, milk, cheese, flour, and egg yolks. Stir with a wooden spoon until well combined.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until soft peaks form. Test with the back of a spoon to make sure you've reached soft peaks. Carefully stir 1/4 of these beaten egg whites into the polenta mixture. Now gently fold in the remaining egg whites until just combined. Do not overmix and do not stir in circles because you'll deflate the egg whites!
Gently scrape the batter into the greased casserole dish and bake for 45-50 minutes, until slightly puffed up and golden brown on top. Serve warm.
Step-by-Step in Pictures
Whip up the egg whites...
Start by folding just 1/4 of the egg whites into the polenta mixture...
Add the rest of the egg whites and gently fold until the batter is well combined...
Spread into a greased baking dish...
Bake at 400 degrees F for 45-50 minutes...
Sunday, November 3, 2013
After a bit of an unplanned 5-month hiatus from the blog (read this), I'm back and ready to share more baking stories with you!
First stop on the Happy Go Marni Returns Choo Choo Train are these delicious, hearty blueberry buttermilk bran muffins! My favorite thing about them is the use of coconut oil. It adds a really great texture and flavor to an already classic baked good, and seems to make the muffins a little sweeter than using just boring vegetable oil. Feel free to play around with different combinations of flour. I used a combination of white whole wheat flour and regular all-purpose flour. You could also go for some pure whole wheat flour, but be forewarned that it will be a denser, heavier muffin.
Lucky for most of us, even if you can't find fresh blueberries in the store or it's not the right season, blueberries are available frozen year-round, and work great in baked goods. You don't even have to thaw them; just toss the frozen berries into the batter and they bake into delicious, plump bursts of juice. You can also buy tons of fresh blueberries when they are in season, and then freeze them yourself for the off-season.
I made a lot of people really happy with these muffins. I hope you try them and enjoy them as much as my taste-testers all did!
Blueberry Buttermilk Bran Muffins
Adapted from a recipe in The Kitchn
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled (although still liquid)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups bran cereal (such as All-Bran)
1 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour (or whole wheat flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (if using frozen, do not thaw first)
1 cup pecan halves, optional (for the tops)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a large bowl or a stand mixer, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, coconut oil, salt, baking soda, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and sugar. Add the bran cereal and flours (whatever combination of flour you choose), and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Do not overmix or your muffins will bake into a dense brick...blech. Finally, gently fold in the blueberries, and again, don't overmix (if you stir too much, your batter will become an ugly grey color).
Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners or grease/spray each cup. Fill each cup all the way to the top. Place some pecan pieces on the top of each muffin cup. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are firm and a light golden brown. I found that 28 minutes was the perfect baking time for my oven. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes before removing muffins from the pan. Serve at room temperature or warm. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or store in the fridge to last a few extra days.
Step-by-Step in Pictures
Mix together the eggs, buttermilk, coconut oil, salt, baking soda, vanilla, lemon zest, and sugar...
Add the bran cereal...
Add the flour...
Gently fold in the blueberries...
Stir just until combined, but do not overmix...
Fill each muffin cup all the way to the top and scatter some pecan pieces on top...
Bake at 350 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove to a wire rack...