Back to Baking. Photos of the week

It has been way too long since I have baked. Or cooked for that matter. The past two nights I ended my cooking drought by putting together quick meals for my self. One night, oven poached salmon with a nice salad and the next night a portobello mushroom stuffed with quinoa, peppers, thyme and cheese that I also baked in the oven. I seem to be loving the oven lately. Today I baked two delicious goodies: white chocolate chip brownies and lemon pine nut biscotti. Needless to say I was neglecting my desires. I photographed my baking as I went along in order to stop neglecting my photography hobby as well. I feel much more like myself again.

White Chocolate Chip Brownies

I adapted the recipe from Matt Bites.

1 stick of butter (8 tablespoons)

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

1 ¼ cups sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ teaspoon salt

½ cup flour

2 eggs

1 cup white chocolate chips (my addition)
Preheat the oven to 400˚ and prepare an 8×8 baking dish by either lining it with parchment paper or coating it with butter (like I did because I am admittedly too cheap for parchment paper. Plus it’s wasteful. Butter works great for me.) Melt the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler. If you are like me and don’t have one, put the ingredients in a glass or metal bowl and put that on top of a pot that has about an inch or two of water. Put the entire stack on the stove on a low heat so the water merely simmers. You don’t want it to boil! And make sure that he bowl is bigger than the pot so that it doesn’t fall in and so there is no steam rising around the outside of the bowl.
Once the butter and chocolate are melted and smooth, remove the bowl from the heat. Add in the sugar, vanilla and salt and mix well. Stir in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour and stir until everything is fully combined. then you can mix in the white chocolate chips and pour the batter into the baking dish. Put it in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Mine took closer to 30 minutes. I think the addition of the white chocolate chips adds more oil or moisture or something. For a fool-proof check, poke a toothpick in the brownies. If it comes out clean, they are done! Let them cool completely. I know it’s hard (I don’t always make it) but they will cut much better when they are cool. They are equally scrumptious and decadent on their own or paired with some quality vanilla ice cream.
Lemon Pine Nut Biscotti
This recipe I took from Delicious Days.
3/4 c.  pine nuts
7 tbsp butter (softened)
3/4 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tbsp lemon juice
zest of one lemon
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
Set the oven to 325˚. Spread the pine nuts out on a baking sheet and put them in the oven for about 6-8 minutes until they are toasted and golden brown. Set them aside to cool. In a bowl beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the eggs, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir well. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture and combine thoroughly. Once the ingredients are all combined, stir in the pine nuts. Divide the dough into two equal parts. WIth each part, shape it into a loaf/log type shape and arrange them side by side on a cookie sheet. I brushed my baking sheet (and hands) with flour because the dough can be kind of sticky. Make sure they are not too close to each other or the sides because the dough will expand slightly while baking. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until lightly browned, and take the pan out. Let the logs cool for a minute or two. One at a time, transfer the logs to a cutting board. Cutting on a slant, slice the logs into 1/2 inch slices and lay the slices back on the baking sheet. Put the slices back in the oven for 20 minutes, flipping them after 10 minutes. I added a few minutes to the baking time to give them a nice golden brown color. Remove the pan and let the biscotti cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container. Enjoy them with coffee and tea to soften them up or if you are a fan of crunchy foods like me, chomp away!

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Leftovers Reimagined

The past few days I have been left to my own devices in my parent’s house. My parents and my little sister (who is still on break from college) have all left for a few days to go soak up some sun in the Turks and Caicos. I’m incredibly envious but at the same time I am reveling in the independence. There is something incomparable to the feeling I get taking care of a house/apartment in which I am the only occupant. Well really just the kitchen. (I could do without bathroom cleaning).

I love cooking for others and feeding them delicious foods, but it is hard for me to really experiment with my cooking like that. What if something goes horribly wrong? I can’t expect others to eat my disasters. If I am cooking for just myself though, it’s likely that I will just eat the disaster anyway. At least the salvageable parts of it.

The past two nights I have made myself meals that have been a combination of leftovers and freshly cooked foods. Sunday night I was in the mood for a nice warm soup. I didn’t want to just heat up something from a can but I also didn’t want to spend all day stewing up a thick and heavy soup. I noticed that there was an abundance of carrots in the fridge… carrot soup it was! I made a beeline to the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook to see if they had a nice recipe to give me a little guidance. Sure enough, they did.

Since it was just me eating, I halved the recipe and it made the perfect amount. I ate two large bowls and still had a full serving leftover to save in the fridge for another night. I followed the recipe basically as it was given. I left out the potato, chose non-fat plain yogurt for my dairy addition, and used cashews instead of almonds because I felt that they would add a richer flavor. This is where the leftovers come into play. A few nights ago my mom made oven roasted shrimp and broccoli. So delicious and so simple. All it is shrimp, broccoli, coriander, cumin, salt, pepper, chili powder, and a little lemon juice tossed in a baking dish and slid in the oven to get all happy. Because it was such a hit, there was only a small bit leftover. I picked out al the broccoli for a snack earlier that afternoon so the only parts left were the shrimp and the seasonings. I tossed that into my soup and added a little fresh ground ginger. Done! It was so delicious and the shrimp added a nice little textural surprise and, not to mention, some protein. So yummy. Moosewood sure knows their veggies!

Tonight’s leftover rework was for the bean burgers. There were just two lonely burgers still chilling in the fridge. I wanted to give them some love. The ingredients for my freshly cooked addition also were scraps left in the fridge. I feel rude calling them scraps since they made something delicious, but there just wasn’t enough of each individual ingredient to make them the star of their own dishes. The trio? Button mushrooms, grape tomatoes, and baby spinach. I started by sautéing the mushrooms in a little bit of olive oil. Once they just about were coated in the olive oil I poured probably 1-2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar right into the pan. I let them cook and shrivel up for a bit while I rinsed the tomatoes and cut them in half.  I threw those in, added a little salt, and kept the heat between medium and medium-high so the tomatoes would soften and get a little glazed. Just about a minute before I turned off the heat I tossed in the spinach. As soon as the spinach started to wilt I turned off the heat. I poured my creation right on top of a bean burger that I quickly heated in the microwave. Who need ketchup when you have this lovely medley? It was just the right amount of juice from the tomatoes, meatiness from the mushrooms, green from the spinach, and the little touch of sweetness from the balsamic that reduced as it cooked. I kept eating the topping more quickly than my burger so I kept going back for more. I love toppings. By the time my bean burger was gone, so was the entire pan of veggies I had just cooked up. What a scrumptiously simple creation.