Monday, January 24, 2011

Heavenly Buttermilk Lime Shortbread Bars

Lemon bars are one of my favorite desserts, so when I came across this variation, I decided to give them a try. These bars are super simple (especially if you happen to have a food processor) and, as one of my roommates so aptly put, “they taste exactly like they’re supposed to.” The crust is flaky, and the filling delightfully tangy. The only thing that would improve upon the experience of eating these bars would be if I had been sitting by a pool with a fruity cocktail in my hand (if anyone would like to provide the pool and the cocktail, I will bring the bars).

Buttermilk Lime Shortbread Bars (from Baking Bites)

What you need…
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, cold

4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
1 tbsp lime zest
1 tsp vanilla extract

What to do…
Preheat oven to 350F. Get out a 9×9-inch baking pan (or a Baker’s Edge pan, if you have one) and set it aside.

Make the crust. In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Cut butter into chunks and add to flour mixture. Pulse until mixture forms coarse, sandy crumbs with no piece of butter larger than a small pea. This can also be done by rubbing the butter in with your fingertips. Pour sandy mixture into pan and press mixture down very firmly (with your fingers or the back of a spoon) into an even layer.
Bake for 16-19 minutes, until just lightly browned around the edges.
While crust is baking, prepare the filling by whisking together all filling ingredients in a large bowl or whizzing together in the food processor.

When the crust comes out of the oven and is still hot, pour in filling mixture.
Bake for about 20 more minutes, or until filling is set and does not jiggle when the pan is gently shaken.
Cool completely before slicing.
Top slices with confectioners’ sugar to serve.

Filling pre-oven

Post-oven, pre-powdered sugar

With powdered sugar

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Pasta with Creamy Red Pepper-Feta Sauce

After all the excesses of the holiday season, I was in the mood for something healthy to balance myself out. Since I love both red peppers and feta, I figured this pasta would be a pretty safe bet. I actually found that the sauce was a bit oniony the night it was made, but that element mellowed out overnight and ended up being quite lovely. Mixing in some steamed broccoli is also a nice way of amping up the nutritional value of the meal.

Pasta with Creamy Red Pepper-Feta Sauce (from Ellie Krieger)

What you need…
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 1 (16-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese or a 6-ounce block
  • 1 pound whole-wheat pasta (the original recipe calls for fettuccine, but I couldn’t find whole wheat organic spaghetti)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
What to do…
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic until soft, about 10 minutes. Add roasted peppers and saute until heated through. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Place mixture in the bowl of a food processor with stock and all but 2 tablespoons of the feta. Process until combined and smooth, about 30 seconds. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water. Toss pasta with sauce, adding pasta water by the tablespoon, if needed. Sauce should cling nicely to pasta. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and remaining feta cheese.

Each time I chop an onion I get a little bit better...

Finished product!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Strawberry Scones

This is one of those recipes that I’ve made before and keep returning to. I have made them as a great addition to morning meetings (everyone needs a little help in the AM), or a treat at family breakfasts (they’re eggless and my niece adores them). They’re easy, fruity, moist and not too sweet. Mine definitely don’t look as pretty as the ones on Confessions of a Tart, but I trust that in time, I will become a master of the scones.

Strawberry Scones (From Confessions of a Tart)
(makes 6 large scones or 12 minis)

What you need…

1 cup strawberries (or other fruit)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, in cubes, slightly softened
2/3 cup half-and-half or cream or cold buttermilk

1 tablespoon sugar

What to do…

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.

If using larger fruit, cut into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle fruit with 1/2 tablespoon sugar; set aside. Be sure to make the pieces small, or they tend to fall out of the dough. They'll still be plenty prominent in your finished scones.

Combine remaining sugar with flour, baking powder and salt. Add butter, using a pastry cutter or 2 knives to cut in butter (you may want to use your fingers to be sure butter is evenly mixed into flour). Stir in fruit; then add cream/half-and-half/buttermilk all at once. Use spatula to gently stir dough until it holds together.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead a few times to incorporate dry ingredients. Be gentle so you don't break up the berries and don't overwork the dough. Sprinkle dough with flour if it gets sticky.

Press (pat) the dough into a circle 3/4 inch thick. If any berries peek out, push them into dough. Cut circle into 6-8 wedges, then transfer wedges to the cookie sheet, leaving at least 1/2 inch of space between them. Bake 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with sugar and bake 5-10 more minutes or until the tops are beginning to brown and spring back when you push them. 

Sprinkling the part-baked scones with sugar on Christmas Eve

Super pretty? No. Delicious? Yes.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Citrus-Butter Cookies

Sometimes I spontaneously feel like making something and will search through my recipes to find something that I can make with whatever I happen to have in my fridge and pantry. That was the case the first time I made these Citrus-Butter Cookies (originally Lemon-Butter Cookies, but the last time I made them I only had limes, so I had to be a little flexible), but I found they were so delicious I could not stop eating them (I may have a problem). When I first moved into my new apartment, I had that same craving for something baked and whipped these out in no time. They’re butter cookies, so they’re not too sweet and they’re eggless, if that is a concern for you. They also don’t spread in the oven so they end up looking like cute little buttons of golden deliciousness (how’s that for a description? Food critics, eat your heart out).

Citrus-Butter Cookies (from magazine, 2010)

What you need…

1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel (though lime works as well and I also imagine orange is tasty too)
2 cups all-purpose flour
Powdered sugar (optional)

What to do…

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar; beat until mixture is combined, scraping side of bowl. Beat in lemon (lime/orange) peel. Beat in as much of the flour as you can. Stir in remaining flour.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until edges are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack. If desired, sift powdered sugar over tops of cookies. Makes 60 cookies. 

The original recipe

About to go into the oven

Little buttons of happiness

The spice pantry in my new apartment ROCKS

Thursday, January 6, 2011

70th Birthday Cupcake Duo

Back in November, my mom threw a 70th birthday party for a family friend. Although the guest of honor requested no big cake, I decided that cupcakes were an appropriate way to mark the occasion. The birthday girl decided on lemon and pumpkin, so I brought out a recipe for Lemon Cream Cupcakes I had made before and loved and tried a Pumpkin Ginger Cupcakes recipe she had found online, topped with a basic Cream Cheese Frosting. Although the two flavors were not, perhaps, the most expected pairing, both got rave reviews at the party.

More Pictures and Cupcakes after the jump...