Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Cleanse

No, not the juice cleanse, though I might need that after the eating marathon I had over Thanksgiving! But I'm talking about cleansing your pantry! Yes, this holiday season let's work on cleansing our overstocked pantries instead of cleansing our wallets!
It's amazing how much 'stuff' we can accumulate in our homes, over the course of a year. I'm constantly amazed by how much food I have in my kitchen, yet when I'm hungry, the only thing I think of is "I don't know what to eat!". Everytime I go grocery shopping I end up buying something I don't need but am tempted to cook/eat, and inevitably it ends up in my pantry, only to be forgotten in the piles of canned beans, corn, pasta, condiments and seasonings!

Many people look forward to the New Year for a new start on old habits. But I decided to get a head start on breaking my old habits of over stocking my pantry and dive into the New Year with a fresh, clean and rejuvenated pantry! So this holiday season, I'm locking up the wallet and credit cards and unlocking the hoards of goodies I have hidden in my kitchen, to create delicious, healthy and gourmet meals with ingredients I ALREADY have!

I'm resolving to only spend money on buying fresh produce/meats if I need it. But the bulk of the recipes that will be shared with you this month will be made from my existing pantry (and I'm sure a majority of those ingredients are ones you already have as well!).

The goal is to cook one dish everyday, and share the result with you lovelies, and I hope this will inspire you to reuse, recycle and reinvent with already purchased ingredients! And if I'm feeling extra adventurous I'll even try and point out how much money you will save by making these recipes at home! Not to mention the food will be healthier and tastier!

So, brace yourself, The Cleanse starts tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Raspberries & Pink Champagne….. in a cupcake

I do believe the title of this post says it all… but if that doesn’t do it for you maybe these pictures will…

Recently, it was a friend’s birthday and I just couldn’t help myself but get inspired by her favorite drink of choice: champagne, Proseco, and all things bubbly and delightful. For my birthday, she was kind enough to shower me with Magnolia cupcakes, so I just had to return the favor with an attempt to create her signature cocktail into a lovely little treat to enjoy during her festivities. I went with the mini cupcakes yet again, as they really do seem to make the best little party favor a girl can ask for. This recipe calls for raspberries (as I already had a bag on hand in my freezer that defrosted quite nicely), but you can use frozen strawberries, or even fresh if that’s what you have. *Note: if you use fresh berries, macerate them first in a bowl with a couple tablespoons of sugar to get the juices flowing, as that is the key to making these pop in the pan as they bake. This recipe is so simple, yet the flavors are so bangin’ pretty soon all your friends will want them RSVP’ing ‘YES’ to their birthday bashes. Cheers!!

1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
3 tsp milk, soy vanilla (regular milk is OK too)
1 tsp raspberry extract
½ cup frozen raspberries, defrosted

3 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup rose champagne
1 stick unsalted butter

Start by preheating your oven to 375F and lining your cupcake tins. To begin the batter, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy in your mixer. Roughly 1-2 minutes. Next, add the eggs one at a time just to combine. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly combine to your wet ingredients and beat on low until dough forms. Finally, add the raspberry extract, defrosted raspberries, and milk, and beat 1-2 minutes until thoroughly combined. You will have a gorgeous purple-pink batter when all is said & done! Bake for roughly 10-12 minutes (for the mini-sizes, regular sized cupcakes will need about 20 minutes or until cooked through). Let the cupcakes cool thoroughly before frosting…

To make the buttercream, start with your unsalted butter at room temp, and whip it up roughly 30 seconds. Next, add the confectioner’s sugar ½ cup at a time, while alternating with the pink champagne (1/4 cup, a bit at a time). This will ensure a smooth, yet thick batter, that tastes like the most deliciously sweet pink champagne you have ever had in your life! Frost, and sprinkle with some sugar crystals for an added pop! 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The best thing since Sliced Bread.... fresh homemade Garlicky Rosemary Focaccia

I'm NEVER buying store made bread again. Well not never but definitely not if I can avoid it. Baking your own bread is so ridiculously easy that it hurts me to think why I don't do it more often. The possibilities are endless and list of ingredients kneaded (haa!) extremely simple! All you need is a little planning and a little more patience for the dough to do it's magic before you enjoy the fruits of your labor. And come on, who does not love the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through their apartment!?

5 cups of Flour
1 packet Instant  Yeast
2 tsp Salt
2 Cups of room temperature water
6 tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 tbsp minced Rosemary
1/2 tbsp minced Garlic

For crying out loud, please DO NOT use dried herbs or store bought bottled Garlic paste. This recipe requires very few ingredients, most of which a lot of us already have on hand, so make those few ingredients count!

Sift the Flour, Yeast and Salt together in a large mixing bowl [If you have a stand mixer, feel free to use that, but you don't need to be a show off! This bread kneads very little needing (see what I did there!), so feel free to use your hands!]
Now add the water and Olive Oil and bring the dough together by kneading for about 7-8 minutes. The dough will be sticky so use some extra Flour on your hands.
Now transfer the dough onto your kitchen counter (first sprinkle a generous dose of Flour!) and knead until the flour is fully incorporated, the dough will be elastic but not sticking to your fingers anymore.
Spread out the dough into a rectangle shape, large that the size of your original dough ball, brush it will Olive Oil and cover with saran wrap. Let it rest for 30 minutes.

Once rested for 30 minutes, fold the dough over itself, like folder a piece of paper. Stretch it out into the rectangle again.
Spread the mixture of minced Rosemary and Garlic and once again cover with saran warp and let it rest for 30 minutes (I know!! by this time I was ready to tear a piece of raw dough and eat it! But patience reaps delicious rewards my friends!)

Repeat the above process of folding and stretching the dough once last time! This will help incorporate the rosemary and garlic into the dough (yum!!). Cover and let it rest for 1 hour.

While the dough rests, prepare your baking tray. You will need:

  • A standard baking tray
  • Foil
  • 1 large sprig of Rosemary
  • 4 cloves of Garlic (sliced in half)
  • 1/4 cup of Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt to taste
Cover the baking tray with foil and prepare the herb oil. Heat the Olive Oil in a skillet, but you don't want it screaming hot because you don't want to fry anything. Bring to a low/medium heat and add the Rosemary and Garlic. Turn off the heat and let the herbs poach in the oil.
Now spread this oil, herbs and all over the baking tray lined with foil.
Transfer the resting dough to the tray and as a final step, using your fingers, make dimples in the dough and spread a liberal amount of olive oil over the surface of the bread. Don't get stressed by the amount of Olive Oil you are using, it's healthy (sort of..) and makes the bread so delicious!

Cover the tray with saran warp again and now transfer to the fridge to let it rest overnight. have to wait just a little more to enjoy this deliciousness!

Next day, sprinkle sea salt over the dough and throw it in a preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes or until golden delicious!

Serve with Basil Oil and Balsamic or just shove pieces of heaven into your mouth and thank me for sharing this awesomeness with you!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Apple Pie Cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream

The title on this post alone truly speaks for itself. What could be better than apple pie? Apple pie in a cupcake, with a nutella buttercream of course. This Sunday afternoon us Gourmet Pantry ladies went for a lovely stroll through Brooklyn, NY. A pit stop at the farmer's market & a hot cup of apple cider later, the idea for this cupcake was born. Tip: when baking with apples this fall season, use more firm, tart apples. They bake better & stand up to all that heat in the kitchen. We used Red Delicious- but you can easily substitute Granny Smith or MacIntosh. Check 'em out:

Apple Pie cupcakes with Nutella Buttercream:

Caramelized Apples:
2 red delicious apples
2 tbsp butter
¼ cup light brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
ginger & pumpkin spice –  to taste

Cupcake batter:
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
8 oz vanilla greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

1 stick butter
10 oz nutella hazelnut frosting (not quite an entire 12.3 oz jar)
1/3 cup milk
½ cup confectioner’s sugar

Begin by preheating your oven to 375F, and lining your cupcake tins. Next, we must caramelize the apples! Cube up two apples (skins removed) in a pan with the melted butter. Add the brown sugar & spices and sauté on medium heat or until lightly browned. Make sure to leave them slightly crunchy in texture, as they will continue to cook in the cupcake batter. Remove from heat and let cool thoroughly as you create your batter.

In your mixer, cream the butter & sugar together until light & fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time until mixed. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt & cinnamon. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter with the vanilla extract. Mix until thoroughly combined. Lastly, add the Greek yogurt and whip for 30 seconds or until a nice thick dough is formed. Add the cooled apples and mix with a spoon just to combine- beating them will only mash them up! We want these yummy chunks of apple to stand out in our cakes! Bake for 20-25 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test. Cool completely as you whip up the nutella-goodness-buttercream.

For the buttercream: whip the butter & nutella together for 1-2 minutes. Whip it good! Add the milk, whip another 30 seconds, then add the sugar and whip some more. It will be light, airy, and amazing.
Frost & ENJOY!