Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia Seed Crackers

So, the title of the post says it all. I never thought this day would come, but it did. I made crackers successfully for the first time (after another failed attempt, but I won't go into that). This time, the crackers were meant to satisfy my low-carb-want-something-crunchy-and-salty tooth. Let's just say they do the trick!
So, I was looking at recipes for ideas. A lot of them had flaxseed in them, which is great, as it has lots of protein, fiber, and is low in carbs. The only problem is that I didn't have any flax on hand. Then it hit me. Isn't chia seed also full of fiber and protein AND packed with omega-3?! Doesn't it also act as a coagulant in baked goods? Aha! So, I took out the chia seeds, ground them in my blender and got to work. This is what I came up with. You can tinker with the spices, or even the kind of cheese you use, just adjust the water content accordingly. Enjoy!

Chia Seed Crackers

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

1 c. chia seed meal (1 cup chia seeds ground in a blender/food processor)
1/3 c. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder (more or less depending on personal preference)
herbs/spices (mix and match!): cayenne pepper, rosemary, oregano, basil, cracked pepper.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until mixture resembles a dough. Place dough on a silpat or parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Roll dough to 1/8 in. thickness using a rolling pin. Cut into shapes using a pizza cutter or cookie cutters. You can also break the crackers by hand after they have cooled.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until the center is hard to the touch.
Let cool on cookie sheet. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A Whole New World

It's November already?! Where did the time go? It's crazy to think I've been a resident of Miami Beach for a whole month. One very action-packed month. Moving is hard, leaving your friends is even harder, but getting acquainted with a new city, new orchestra, and new smiling faces makes all of the unfamiliarity a little easier to handle.
One thing I've learned living in close-proximity my co-workers is that nothing brings people together faster than ________________ (insert name of baked good). Baked goods are an instant ice-breaker/conversation-starter.
Good thing the people here like to eat...

When baking for a crowd, nothing is easier to transport frosting to people's mouths faster than a cupcake. I mean let's be honest, the cake is just a pedestal for the dollop of heaven on top of it. It's also the perfect showcase opportunity for baker's bling. I love me some good cupcake bling. I was even inspired by my new job, and decided to make some New World Symphony logo cupcakes (first photo). The pictures below are samples of what I've made this year. See below for how-to instructions for the decorations.

For the NWS cupcakes, I piped the frosting with a large star tip, then made free-hand chocolate decorations. For the decorations, melt 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl on high for 1 minute, stirring at 20-second intervals. Pour the chocolate into a plastic zip-top bag, and cut off one of the bottom corners of the bag. Pipe the chocolate onto a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. When finished piping all of the designs, place cookie sheet in refrigerator for at least 10 minutes to let chocolate set, or longer for larger decorations like the musical notes (pictured above on the red velvet cupcakes). For the spider webs, use the same recipe, only substitute white chocolate. If you would like consistent chocolate designs, I recommend drawing or printing off a template of the design onto some paper, and slipping the template underneath the wax paper before piping the chocolate.

For the flower cupcakes, I used fondant icing. I loved playing with play-dough as a kid, so this is like the adult version of play-dough. Roll fondant (either store bought, or homemade marshmallow fondant will work) to approximately 1/8 of an inch onto a cornstarch dusted flat surface. Use your choice of flower, or other shaped cutter. Place flower into a small cupcake pan to retain flower shape. Let dry thoroughly. When dry, dust edible luster dust in your desired color onto fondant pieces. I used gold and daffodil colors for my flowers.

Monday, September 26, 2011

An Apple (tart) a Day...

So...it's been almost a year since I updated my blog. Criminal, I know, but that doesn't mean that my baking obsession has ceased. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I have been baking up a storm these past few weeks. It's most likely because baking is a stress reliever for me, and my move to Miami Beach next weekend has tipped my stress meter to code-red velvet. That being said, I apologize for not posting updates sooner.

Fall is by far my favorite of the seasons. I love the colors of the changing leaves, the crispness of the air in the morning (are you listening, Texas?), and the hardy fruits and vegetables that come along this time of year. Apples and pumpkins are aplenty during the fall months, and it just so happens that they are two of my favorite types of produce. They are both so versatile, adding depth to savory and sweet dishes alike.

To celebrate the beginning of Autumn, I made an apple tart. Seriously, you have to try this. Not just because it's ridiculously easy to make, but because it tastes simply divine. It's also a kid-friendly recipe (once you have all of those apples sliced), so get busy in the kitchen, and let me know what you think!

Apple Tart

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
7 apples (I used gala) peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3 Tbsp. cold, unsalted butter
1/4 c. sugar
1/3 c. orange marmalade (apricot would also work)
1 tbsp. brandy (optional)

Directions: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a floured surface, roll puff pastry into a 12 in. square. Gently lay dough over an ungreased 11x11 tart pan (with removable bottom). Press into tart pan, and trim excess dough. Arrange sliced apples in any pattern you wish. I tried to create a flower pattern with mine, but neat rows would also work. Cut butter into small pieces and dot over the apples. Sprinkle sugar over apples and butter. Place in preheated oven and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until golden brown.
While tart is baking: In a small saucepan, melt marmalade over medium heat until runny. Strain mixture over a sieve into a small bowl. Stir in brandy, and allow to cool slightly.

When tart is done, allow to cool for 10 minutes. Brush marmalade brandy mixture over the apples with a pastry brush. Cool 10 more minutes. Remove tart from pan and enjoy!
Serving suggestions include: a dollop of vanilla bean or brandy whipped cream or a scoop of your favorite ice cream.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The best of both worlds: Quiche

I don't know when it happened, but I have become a fan of quiche. My mom can tell you that when I was child and asked, "Mom, what's for dinner?" I was crossing my fingers that it wasn't quiche. It's not that she made bad quiche, it's just that I wasn't a huge fan of eggs for dinner. Now I'm craving my mom's quiche...

Making a quiche is a lot like making a pizza. You start with a crust (my favorite part!) then add cheese and whatever toppings you like, bake, and voila!

This week I have been craving comfort food. I miss my family, and in some way am trying to recreate the "smells from the past" to comfort me. My grownup palate now likes quiche. Funny how that happens.

When I was drafting the recipe, I was thinking of ways to make it healthier without sacrificing flavor and richness. I replaced the cream and half and half with milk, used reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese, and added more flavorful vegetables and herbs. That way I didn't feel guilty about using a buttery crust.
This quiche is great because you can put it together in 10 minutes, if you use a ready-made refrigerated piecrust. It's even better if you use the pastry recipe found below. I hope you enjoy!

The Best of Both Worlds Quiche

1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. butter (cold, cut into tiny pieces)
4 Tbs. (1/2 c.) shortening (cold, cut into tiny pieces)
2 Tbs. vodka
2 Tbs. cold water
extra flour for rolling out dough
9 in. tart pan or pie dish

1/2 vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1/2 c. mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 c. spinach
4 eggs (or equal amount egg white substitute)
1 c. milk (I used almond milk and it turned out great!)
1/2 c. shredded part skim mozzarella
1/2 c. reduced fat sharp cheddar shredded (I buy the blocks and shred my own)
2-4 oz. smoked turkey cut into tiny cubes (could use ham or bacon)
1 tsp. cracked pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
(optional): 2 tsp. dried chives, 1 tsp. dried shallots

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in butter and shortening with knives (I used my kitchenaid mixer with the whisk attachment) until mixture resembles small breadcrumbs. Using a fork, add vodka 1 Tbs. at a time and mix. Add water 1 Tbs. at a time until a soft dough forms. Form into a disc. Using extra flour, roll dough into a 10-11 in. circle. Transfer to pie plate or tart pan.

Lightly grease a sautee pan using butter or olive oil. Sautee onion over medium high heat until caramelized. Transfer onions to the tart pan, and distribute evenly over bottom of crust. In the same sautee pan, add mushrooms, and sautee until golden brown. Layer over onions in tart pan. Grease same pan again. Add spinach and sautee until just wilted. Distribute spinach evenly over mushrooms. Sprinkle cubed turkey meat and both cheeses over the spinach.
In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, milk, and spices together. Pour mixture evenly over the other ingredients in the tart pan. Place pan on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 40-50 min. Let cool for 5-10 minutes before cutting.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Everything's coming up pumpkin

Fall is officially here! The leaves are falling, the temperature is dropping, and the pumpkin spice latte is back at Starbucks. Honestly I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but there's something about that pumpkin-y concoction that evokes images of jumping in leaf piles and snuggling up under a plaid wool blanket. I love it!

This week I made not one, but three pumpkin-based creations; pumpkin truffles, pumpkin gnocchi, and pumpkin banana bread.

I adapted the pumpkin banana bread recipe from several I found online. The recipe was a success! So moist and delicious. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Banana Bread

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 can or 8 oz. canned pumpkin
  • 2 medium sized bananas mashed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together sugars and oil. Add eggs and vanilla, and mix well. Add mashed bananas and pumpkin to wet mixture, mix well. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Mix with wet ingredients until just combined. Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake in preheated oven for 60-70 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

In the beginning, God created butter, flour, and sugar...and it was delicious.

I've heard that the first step on the road to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. So, here it is: I, Colleen McCullough, have a baking problem. It's not just a habit, it's an obsession. My three poisons are flour, sugar and butter. The infinite combinations of these three ingredients taunt my taste buds and fire my creativity. My goal here is to share stories, recipes, and pictures of my successes and failures in the kitchen. And so it begins...

Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and rainbow sprinkles 10/01/2010.


Cream Cheese Frosting recipe:
1 8oz. package of Philly cream cheese (the brand counts on this one!)
1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3-4 c. powdered sugar (or enough to form stiff peaks when mixed)

Directions: Allow butter and cream cheese to soften to room temperature. Cream butter and cream cheese on medium power with electric mixer. Add vanilla and mix well. Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup and a time, scraping bowl constantly to avoid lumps. Mix on high to whip frosting to desired texture.

*tip* for perfectly swirled frosting peaks, transfer frosting to a gallon-size ziploc bag. With scissors, snip off one corner, about 1/2 in. in width, and pipe frosting in a circular motion onto cupcake. Voila!