Monday, December 20, 2010

Barefoot Bloggers: Easy Cranberry Apple Cake

This cake can only be described in the words of a 12-year old girl at the mall: OMG OMG OMG. I just can't believe how good this is! It's very easy - maybe a few more ingredients than I had thought would be in an easy cake recipe, but Ina talks you through exactly how to add them.

You prepare the fruit first and put it in a bowl with brown sugar, cinnamon, orange zest and orange juice. This is set aside and then the eggs are beaten with an electric mixer and the remaining ingredients get added to the egg mixture. The dough ends up tasting like a sugar cookie dough (oh yes, I tasted it) and the sour cream gives it this great, soft consistency and a tiny hint of tang without messing with the sweet sugary goodness.

Then you dump the fruit in the pie plate (it seemed like a lot of fruit to me, but it worked out perfectly) and the dough is spread on top. While it's baking, the dough sinks and fills in all the gaps around the fruit, and gets a beautiful "crust" made of airy, golden cake on top.

There are two small details that ended up being the major reasons I loved this cake. The first is the brightness that the orange zest and juice gives the cake. It's like a magical cranberry enhancer. Everyone knows that cranberry/orange muffins are delicious, and the combination is amazing in this cake.

The other is the simple tablespoon of granulated sugar that you sprinkle on top of the cake. It just makes all the difference in the world, creating this sweet, invisible sugar crust on the cake.

Of course, I did what I always do and I forgot to put the sugar on and had to add it half way through baking (whoops!) but it still turned out great and was a huge hit. I will make this again and again!

Easy Cranberry Apple Cake 
Ina Garten, How Easy is That?

12 ounces fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over for stems
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and diced
½ cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
11⁄8 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ cup sour cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the cranberries, apple, brown sugar, orange zest, orange
juice, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment,
beat the eggs on medium-high speed for 2 minutes. With the mixer
on medium, add 1 cup of the granulated sugar, the butter, vanilla,
and sour cream and beat just until combined. On low speed, slowly
add the flour and salt.

Pour the fruit mixture evenly into a 10-inch glass pie plate. Pour the
batter over the fruit, covering it completely. Combine the remaining
1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1⁄8 teaspoon of cinnamon and
sprinkle it over the batter. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick
inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and the fruit is bubbling around the edges. 

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Barefoot Bloggers: Roasted Summer Vegetables

These got a 7/10 for me. But I think it would only take a few small tweaks. I roasted these vegetables as directed. They smelled amazing, with the fresh thyme and yummy minced garlic, olive oil and salt, how could they not? But they weren't caramelized or "crisp tender" - that elusive state of perfection for veggies. In fact, the zucchini was a little watery. The issue here I think could possibly be my oven not being as hot as it indicates. Or, maybe just bumping the heat up to 400 F would have helped. My initial thought was to just throw the sheet pan in at the same time as the Roasted Lemon Chicken, but I thought it was better not to mess with the temperature the first time I made something, especially something you're meant to be testing, so I roasted these first and then kept them warm in my warming tray, just to keep the chill off them. 

Roasted Summer Vegetables

Makes 6 servings

2 medium zucchinis
1 red bell pepper, preferably Holland
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, preferably Holland
1 fennel bulb
1 small red onion
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 sprigs fresh thyme

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

2. Trim the ends of the zucchinis and cut them diagonally in 3/4-inch-thick slices (the slices

 will seem large, but they'll shrink while they cook). Cut the peppers lengthwise in 11/2-inch-wide slices, discarding the core. Trim off the fennel stalks and cut the bulb through the core in 1-inch wedges (cutting through the core keeps the pieces intact). Peel the red onion and slice it in 1/4-inch-thick rounds, leaving the slices intact.

3. Place the vegetables in groups on a sheet pan. Drizzle with the olive oil, add the garlic, and toss gently to be sure the vegetables are lightly coated with oil. Spread the vegetables in one layer on 2 sheet pans (if they're crowded, they'll steam rather than roast). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place the thyme sprigs on top.

4. Roast for 15 minutes. Turn each piece (turn the onions carefully) and put the pans back in the oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until all the vegetables are crisp-tender. Sprinkle with extra salt and serve hot or at room temperature.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Barefoot Bloggers: Lemon Chicken Breasts

It makes total sense to me that scent is our sense most closely tied to memory. In the morning, as I get dressed with my coffee, I'll put on my perfume and the mixture of the fresh scent and the earthy coffee brings up my mom's presence so suddenly, it's like she's in the room. I am instantly transported back to my childhood, watching my mom put her makeup on in the morning, CNN on the TV. Pipe tobacco and old leather is my grandfather. And roast chicken and lemon - that's home.

This dish is more than the sum of its parts. Not that anything's wrong with its parts - chicken, lemon and rosemary. (Oh, rosemary - is there a more intoxicating herb?) It's somehow all best of a roast chicken, quickly assembled and then left to roast and fill your house with a sublime chicken smell. But at the end of just 30-40 minutes, instead of the better part of two hours, there is no frantic gravy making or chicken carving. You're ready to ladle a few pan juices on top and serve.

I cooked the chicken for 40 minutes and then let it rest for 10. My thermometer only read about 160 F when I took it out of the oven, which is why I left it for the additional 10 minutes, instead of taking it out after 30. It was very cooked - maybe just on the edge of being a little too cooked. Next time, regardless of the temperature, I am going to take it out after 30 minutes and allow it to keep cooking as it rests for 10 minutes. I can't imagine how overcooked it would have been had I tried to cook it to 180 degrees as my meat thermometer recommends.

Also, when buying the chicken, I had to have the butcher debone the chicken breasts as I couldn't get them bone-in and skin-on. Now maybe I'll have to actually make my own stock!

I served it with basmati rice, as Ina recommends, and her Roasted Summer Vegetables.

Lemon Chicken Breasts:
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 3 tbs minced garlic (9 cloves)
  • 1/3 dry white wine
  • 1 tbs grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts, skin on
  • 1 lemon
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute but don’t allow the garlic to turn brown. Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 tsp salt and pour into a 9×12 inch baking dish.
  3. Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up over the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon in 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.
  4. Bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken breasts, until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. If the chicken isn’t browned enough, put it under the broiler for 2 minutes. Cover the pan tightly with foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Memphis BBQ - yes, please.

You know who knows everything? Hotel bartenders. Which wine should I drink? Where can I plug in my laptop? Where can I get a massive rack of dry rubbed, falling off the bone tender, finger lickin' ribs? These things and more, they know. That's how we found Central Barbecue. It's unassuming. It almost looks like a mistake and you'll pass it and have to do a weird illegal u-turn through another store's parking lot (they must hate that.) But when you walk in the door- you know you're in the right place. The sweet, saucy, vinegary deliciousness washes over you and before you know it you're ordering a dry rubbed rib rack for two with four sides and 1/2 dozen wings (1/2 wet, 1/2 dry). And a chicken sandwich for your non-meat eating coworker. Bless her heart. And then everyone stares at you while you consume in an unladlylike manner and slurp greedily from your souveneir cup of 1/2 lemonade 1/2 iced tea. No, I will never call that an Arnold Palmer. I just won't.

And you and your dirty orange hands will be happy, forever and ever and ever.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

happy birthday to me.

I got this bag for my birthday. And to say I love it just isn't sufficient. It's the doesn't-touch-the-ground-would-throw-myself-in-front-of-a-cab-to-save-it kinda love. Here's what you need to know:

1. It's soft.
2. It has a pleasing amount of pockets and sections.
3. It's the prettiest blue I have ever seen.

4. Rebecca Minkoff is a Tampa local!

It's true the lady at Nordstrom told me.

Tampa rules. xoxoxoxo

They took me back! GLEE! :)

The Barefoot Bloggers have given me one more chance. If I blow it this time I will just die of food blog shame. So I am going to have to get busy since December is quickly whipping by! Luckily, I have made a few recipes from "How Easy is That" so I can save those up and try to stay ahead of the curve. For a party a few weeks ago I made the "Pink Grapefruit Margaritas." They were fantastic. Will share that when it's assigned, but suffice it to say - tequila is just a great ice breaker. If you don't know people that well, have a tray of these icy babies ready to serve as they walk in the door! :)

Anyway, thank you Tara and the BB's. I promise to be good this time. xoxo