Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Peanut Butter Cookies

Will you be bored if I share a peanut butter cookie recipe with you? What if it's a really good peanut butter cookie recipe that I plan on making again? I'd say this is the last peanut butter cookie recipe I'll be posting (well I've only posted one before) because between this one and my other two favourites, and a yummy healthier version, my peanut butter cookie needs are fulfilled. If you've yet to find your peanut butter cookie love, try out this recipe. I'd expect your cookies to be less flat as I think my butter was too soft.

I never tire of photos of stacks of cookies! I love how they look.

Some of you might have noticed that in the baking recipes I post, I usually put how many grams of flour I used. I know there are "official" sources out there that say 1 cup of all purpose flour weighs 120 grams (but actually some sources say 140 grams and other weights in and around there so what is "right"?). And I tried that method for a while, but my baked goods weren't turning out the way they used to, the way I liked them. So I went back to measuring flour the old way, and just recording how much I use each time (which seems to be pretty consistent). I guess I could go through my recipes and see how much I like 1 cup of flour to weigh in baking, but for now I'll just note in each recipe how much I used.

Do you have any favourites from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook? I've liked the things I've made but haven't used the cookbook that much so would love any suggestions you have!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Monster Cookies
Peanut Butter Squares with Milk Chocolate and Oats
Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

Peanut Butter Cookies
Adapted from The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used 168 g.)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup smooth peanut butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (for sprinkling) sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup peanut butter chips

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanut butter chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a crisscross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies. Lightly sprinkle cookies with sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for 1 minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Refried Beans

I've mentioned before that I generally don't like beans. I really wish I was one of those people that find them so delicious just on their own. But instead I'm always trying to find ways to cook them that I find really yummy. And I end up trying out a lot of recipes and only liking a select few. So I was really happy when I came across this one! These are super simple refried beans and are so very tasty. I was supposed to use pink or pinto or pinquito beans but I had black beans so used those. The recipe suggests mashing the beans after you add them to the onions but I found it hard to mash them with the onions there so preferred pre-mashing them. (Oh and if you're wondering, the little green curly thing sticking out the side on the right is part of a pea shoot! I love pea shoots.)

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Pink Beans with a Cardamom Yogurt Sauce
Roasted Taco Chickpeas
Spicy Indian Chickpeas/Chana Masala
White Bean and Roasted Garlic Soup

Refried Beans
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

1 cup black beans, soaked overnight or 6-8 hours
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 small onions, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced

Put the beans in a pot, cover them with water, and boil hard for 10 minutes. Remove any scum. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, until they're partially tender, 30 to 45 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon salt, then continue cooking until they're very soft. Drain, reserving the broth. Mash the beans up.

Heat the oil in a nonstick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until it's nicely browned, 8 to 10 minutes, adding the garlic during the last few minutes. Add a third of the beans and 2 cups of the broth. (If you don't have enough broth leftover, just add water.) Using a fork or a potato masher, mash the beans up more as they simmer, working them into the broth. When they're fairly smooth, add another third of the beans and continue mashing. Add more broth if the mixture gets too dry. Repeat with the rest of the beans. Taste them for salt and keep frying until they look dry on the bottom and hold together in the pan. They shouldn't be runny, but they shouldn't be a solid, dry mass either.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Garden Harvest Cake

I saw this cake on Cookie Madness a while ago and knew I had to make it. It's full of lots of yummy things like apple, carrot, zucchini, cinnamon and walnuts! And it's pretty healthy too. I was definitely not disappointed with the results. The cake was so tasty and moist, and reminded me of carrot cake mmmm. Next time I'd like to try reducing the sugar even more (the original recipe calls for 3/4 cup and I cut it back to 1/2 cup) and try using maple syrup or another natural sweetener instead. Maybe cut back the oil a bit too?

Yaey for Friday and the weekend being here! Hope you all have a good weekend. I'm loving watching the leaves change colour.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins
Whole Wheat Orange Spice Muffins
Pumpkin Pecan Raisin Muffins
Chocolate Strawberry Loaf

Garden Harvest Cake
Adapted from Cooking Light, April 2009

1 cup whole wheat flour (130 g)
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated peeled Granny Smith apple (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup grated carrot (about 1 medium)
1/2 cup shredded zucchini
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup soy milk + 3/4 tsp vinegar (original recipe calls for 1/4 cup lowfat buttermilk)
2 large eggs
Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and the next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Add grated apple, grated carrot, shredded zucchini, and walnuts to flour mixture; toss well. Combine soy milk and vinegar together. Add in canola oil and eggs, stirring with a whisk. Add egg mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined.

3. Spoon batter into an 8 x 4–inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove cake from pan. Cool completely on wire rack before slicing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Asparagus Mushroom Bread Pudding

It's too bad I didn't get a more delicious looking picture of this bread pudding. While I really love having a food blog, I really don't enjoy taking the pictures for it. Especially when the light isn't good (which is most of the time, and I'm not fancy enough to set up something to fix that) or the food doesn't look that exciting, even though it might be super tasty. At one point I enjoyed taking the photos but now it just feels like a chore. However, I definitely enjoy looking at others' food photos and I admire the people who have such skill and passion for food styling. And regardless of how good or bad a photo is, I always think it makes a post better. I try and do what I can to make the food look good but mostly I just want to eat it!

Anyway onto discussing the food. I know it's the tail end of asparagus season (or so it seems since I still see it around) so I'm posting this just in time! I've never made any sort of bread pudding before, and while I've only tried dessert bread pudding a couple of times I've never liked it (too mushy). But I was quite intrigued by this savoury version with asparagus, mushrooms, goat cheese, basil, leeks and Dijon mustard. It was yummy and something different, though it was a bit mushy. Is bread pudding supposed to be mushy? I think I'd prefer to just bake it longer and have it dry out and be more like stuffing... but I guess that's not the point otherwise there wouldn't be something called stuffing and something called bread pudding!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
French Pasta Salad
Tarragon Pecan Asparagus
Asparagus and Feta Pasta
Spaghetti with Spinach Cream Sauce

Asparagus Mushroom Bread Pudding
Adapted from Vegetarian Times, May/June 2009

1 leek, white part finely chopped (1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 tbsp)
1 lb fresh asparagus (18 to 20 spears), cut into 1 inch pieces
6 oz mushrooms, sliced (1 cup)
2 cups 1% milk
2 large eggs
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 lb loaf crusty bread, cut into cubes
100 g soft goat cheese log, sliced

1. Coat skillet with nonstick cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Add leek and garlic, and sauté 8 minutes, or until soft. Add asparagus and mushrooms, and cook 4 minutes more, or until asparagus is tender. Set aside.

2. Whisk together milk, eggs, mustard, and basil in bowl. Set aside.

3. In a large casserole dish, spread half of bread cubes in single layer in baking dish. Spoon asparagus mixture over top, and cover with remaining bread cubes. Arrange goat cheese rounds over top. Pour egg mixture over all, pressing down with spoon to submerge bread. Cover, and chill 2 hours, or overnight.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Bake bread pudding 45 minutes, or until center is set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins

As I've mentioned before, I get kind of sick of banana loaf, banana muffins, and bananas in baking in general - not because I don't like bananas (I eat one pretty much everyday) but because I guess they're not exciting to me anymore. However, I've been obsessed with the idea of peanut butter and banana in a muffin together. So I made these muffins which are exciting, fairly healthy and excellent. They're really moist, don't have a too distinct whole wheat flavour, and the banana and peanut butter flavours are well balanced.

Abby loves laying on her back and sprawling out like this. When we walk by she'll roll over a bit to reach out her paw to try and grab us.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Roast Banana-Pumpkin Breakfast Bread
Banana Crunch Muffins
Mom's Banana Apple Bread
Whole Wheat Orange Spice Muffins

Banana Peanut Butter Oatmeal Muffins
Adapted from Baking Bites

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (207 g)
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup mashed banana (about 2 med.)
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1 cup light buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a medium bowl, whisk together vegetable oil, brown sugar, eggs, mashed banana, peanut butter and buttermilk until very smooth, making sure all egg has been well-incorporated. Pour into flour mixture and stir until no streaks of flour remain.
Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin tin, filling each just about up to the top.
Bake for 16-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and the top springs back when lightly pressed.
Remove muffins from tin and cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Review: You Made That Dessert?

Yesterday was the official release date for Beth's (Cookie Pie) baking book You Made That Dessert?, and I was thrilled to be asked to be a part of her online book tour! (Check out the list of other bloggers who are taking part - near the bottom of this post above the recipe.) The book is meant for people who aren't too familiar with baking and don't want to have to buy tons of fancy tools and seek out hard to find ingredients. Every recipe includes a list of required tools (in addition to the ingredients), the prep time, and cooking time. And there are lots of helpful tips throughout the recipes (as you'll see in the coconut rice pudding recipe below), as well as chapters on the tools, the ingredients, the lingo (cut in, fold), and the how-tos (whipping egg whites).

But I think this book appeals to people of all baking levels. I was pleasantly surprised to see that in addition to some staple baking recipes (brownies, gingersnaps), Beth has also included lots of other interesting ones like S'mores Bars, Salty-Sweet Caramel Nut Bars, Rosemary Biscotti, Tres Leches Cake (something I've always wanted to make!), Caramelized Banana Bread Pudding (anyone else completely drawn into food when it says caramelized?), Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie and "New Wave" Lemon Meringue Pie (where you spoon lemon curd into a cup and then put a meringue and a piece of shortbread in it - yum)!

I love the style of the book and I really think there's something to be said for style, font choices and layout of a cookbook. I love that it lists weights for the flour and sugar (as well as saying how many cups). I love all the photos! When my boyfriend saw me flipping through it he said "Ohh that's a nice cookbook". I'm okay with cookbooks that don't have any or many photos but hey I'll admit I'm a sucker for gorgeous food photos! ;) I also love the emergency dessert section.

The recipes I wanted to try out were the coconut rice pudding and the peanut butter and jelly bars. Both were easy to make and yummy! I love how the peanut butter and jelly bars look, and they of course reminded me of a peanut butter and jam sandwich. The cookie part is so yummy and soft. As for the rice pudding, I didn't used to like rice pudding actually but after having it at a local Indian restaurant, I've changed my mind. So I couldn't wait to try out this pudding with my favourite coconut as the star. And it definitely didn't disappoint. Though I think I might have cooked it a bit long because once I cooled it it was really thick. This did not at all interfere with its deliciousness though.

Ahh I'm really tired and forgot to include links to all the other bloggers who are part of this online book tour. =) Check out:

Recipe Girl for cookies and cream cheesecake bars
Culinary Concoctions by Peabody for chocolate-chocolate chip cupcakes
Cookie Baker Lynn for banana snack cake
Two Peas and Their Pod for sour cream coffee cake
The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch for cappuccino biscotti
Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy
Baking Bites

Bunny's Warm Oven for cherry clafouti

Coconut Rice Pudding
You Made That Dessert?

1 cup sweetened flake coconut
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup uncooked jasmine rice
1/3 cup (2.3 ounces) sugar
zest of 1 small lemon (Ashley note: I omitted this because I wanted pure coconut!)
2 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk (shake cans before opening them)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp dark rum or 1 tbsp vanilla extract (Ashley note: I went for the vanilla.)

1. Put 1/2 cup coconut in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped (or spread it on a cutting board and chop it as finely as you can with a chef's knife). In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the rice and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon or flexible spatula, for 1 minute. Stir in the chopped coconut, sugar, lemon zest, coconut milk, and salt and bring to a simmer, about 5 minutes (tiny bubbles will form along the edges and the mixture may steam a little bit, but don't let it boil).

2. Turn the heat down to low and cook, stirring often, until the pudding has thickened (it will be about the same consistency as runny oatmeal; it will firm up as it cools), about 25 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, pour the pudding into a large bowl, and stir in the rum or vanilla. Cover the pudding with plastic wrap, pressing down carefully so that the plastic lightly touches the whole surface of the pudding. Let the pudding cool for 15 minutes to serve it warm, or let it cool to room temperature and then refrigerate it to serve cold.

3. While the pudding is cooling, toast the remaining coconut: Preheat the oven to 350F. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup coconut in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (no need to grease the baking sheet or line it). Bake it for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes, until the coconut is golden brown (be careful - the coconut can get too dark very quickly if you don't stir it often and keep an eye on it). Pour the toasted coconut into a small bowl to cool.

4. Spoon the pudding into individual dessert bowls, top with toasted coconut, and serve.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Pink Beans with a Cardamom-Yogurt Sauce

This is the first recipe I've tried from 660 Curries - which is one of the most massive cookbooks I own with over 800 pages! I was really intrigued by a yogurt sauce where the yogurt is cooked down into curds, so decided to try out these beans with cardamom-yogurt sauce. And it was yummy! A bit spicy with lots of flavour (love intensely flavoured food). I used nonfat yogurt which I think resulted in the curds not being as big? But it was good, though I'd like to try it with whole milk yogurt. And my boyfriend liked it which means it must be good since he doesn't like beans. I hope to find many other great recipes like this one as I work my way (slowly) through it.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Curried Mushrooms and Peas
Spicy Indian Chickpeas/Chana Masala
Curried Sweet Potato Soup
Roasted Taco Chickpeas

Pink Beans with a Cardamom-Yogurt Sauce
Adapted from 660 Curries

I think you can use whatever kind of beans you want - the original recipe called for kidney beans. It also calls for a specific type of garam masala but I just used one that I bought. The final flavour of your dish is going to be quite affected by the garam masala so use one you like!

1/2 tbsp oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
6 green or white cardamom pods
1 cup plain yogurt (Ashley note: I used nonfat and it was fine but I bet whole milk yogurt would be better.)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 cups cooked pink beans
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cardamom pods, and stir-fry until the onion turns light brown around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Stir in the yogurt and continue to cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the watery liquid evaporates from the yogurt and leaves behind reddish-brown curd like pellets, 12 to 15 minutes.

3. Sprinkle in the turmeric and incorporate it into the tart sauce. Add 2 cups water and the beans, salt, garam masala, and cayenne. Bring the curry to a boil. Then lower the heat to medium and gently boil the sauce, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.

4. Sprinkle the cilantro over the curry, and serve. (Remove the cardamom pods first, if you wish.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

(Insanely Delicious) Basic Focaccia

I've been holding out on you guys for a while (due to the backlog) on this focaccia that is the best I've ever had, and one of the best bread products I've ever eaten. I really should've posted about this sooner! I saw this focaccia on Leng's blog and she said how good it was so I asked her for the recipe and she kindly sent it. The focaccia is super soft and so tasty. Maybe all focaccia is meant to be this way and I've just never had fresh focaccia? You use a lot of oil in the pan that it's baked in so the bread basically fries on the bottom - SO GOOD. Especially the super fried corners. Yes maybe not the healthiest bread out there but so worth the indulgence. And usually I hate hand kneading dough but this one wasn't sticky and was super easy to knead.

Unfortunately the bread only keeps fresh for a couple of days so freeze it if you can't eat it all - and it does make a lot of bread so unless you're bread monsters or have a lot of people to eat it you'll probably want to freeze some. I made it exactly as directed this time, but I'd like to try it with some whole wheat flour, and maybe less oil. I know the photos don't make it look like anything spectacular but it really is! Even my stepdad who says he doesn't like eating bread really liked it.

Yes we have a little too many toys and things for Abby haha. I was surprised to find her in the little cubbyhole because she never goes in there. She's kind of too big for it.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Oatmeal Knots
Cheddar & Dill Beer Bread Rolls
Oatmeal Bread

Basic Focaccia
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Baking

I messed up when I was baking it and cooked it at 350F for 8 minutes then 450F for 10 minutes. Turned out fine though.

5 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups of warm water (105° – 115°F)
1 teaspoon of sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
5 cups of all purpose flour (I used 680 g.)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon sea salt (topping)

In a large bowl dissolve the yeast in warm water and let stand until foamy (~5 minutes). Add the sugar, 1/2 cup of olive oil, the flour, and the fine sea salt and stir with your hand or wooden spoon until a rough ball forms.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface by using a pastry scraper or just scraping it out with your fingers. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, 5-7 minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup of flour to the work surface and your hands to prevent the dough from sticking.

Form the dough into a ball, transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl, and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in size, 1-1 1/2 hours.

Pour the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil evenly onto a half sheet pan. Turn the dough out into the pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan. (If dough is too elastic to spread without springing back, let it rest for 5 minutes). Cover the pan loosely with a dry kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it doubles in size about 1 hour.
Position the rack in the lower third of the oven, and preheat to 450°F. Dimple the dough by pressing your fingertips all the way into it, about 1 inch a part. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt.

Bake the focaccia until golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan. Cut into square or serve warm or at room temp.

Bread may be stored tightly wrapped at room temp for up to a day. Or freeze up to 2 weeks. To reheat, put leftover bread in the oven at 375°F for 10 minutes.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Tomorrow is my first day back at school, and my first day of a new 2 year program that I'm taking (environmental health, which leads to being a public health inspector). I'm not ready to go back! I hope all the students out there have great first days and weeks!

Too bad I don't have any of these cookies left to help me get ready for school. I'm not sure exactly how they'd help me prepare but they are delicious! These double chocolate cherry cookies are so good, so soft, and I think this is the best chocolate cookie dough I've ever had. The dough is rolled into logs, sliced and baked and I love how they're sliced into nice 1 inch thick rounds. Mmmm. Don't slice them any thinner otherwise I don't think you'll get the perfect softness. The only bad thing about these cookies is that they don't freeze very well. An easily forgiveable flaw.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Double Chocolate Coconut Cookies
Chocolate Dipped Cherry Shortbread
Chocolate Chunk Malt Cookies
Intense Chocolate Fudge Cookies

Double Dark Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Adapted from The Sweet Melissa Baking Book

1 cup all purpose flour (142 g)
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips or chunks
1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg, mixing well. Stir in the vanilla.

3. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three batches, mixing just until incorporated after each addition. Stir in the chocolate chips/chunks and cherries. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

4. Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and divide it in half. Roll out into 2 uniform logs, about 12 inches long. Wrap the logs in parchment paper or saran wrap. Refrigerate until firm enough to slice - a few hours. (You can freeze the logs tightly wrapped for up to 1 month.)

5. Position a rack in the top and bottom thirds of your oven. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or baking mats.

6. Cut the logs into 1 inch slices and place 1 1/2 inches apart on the prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the dough looks just baked. These cookies should be tender, so do not overbake.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. For longer storage, refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 weeks. Do not uncover before defrosting.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

French Pasta Salad

Hope you guys are all enjoying your last days of summer! I've really enjoyed all the fresh fruit and great produce but I'm looking forward to my favourite season, fall.

I love pasta salads so I thought I'd try out this French pasta salad to bring to my mom's for dinner. It's a pasta salad with asparagus (I'll miss you!), roasted red peppers, toasted hazelnuts, feta, capers, parsley, and an herb Dijon dressing. While it wasn't the perfect salad, I liked it and think it could be really great with some modifications. Less pasta, more asparagus (and/or green beans). More roasted red peppers, parsley, hazelnuts and capers. More Dijon mustard in the dressing. I really like my grain salads and pastas heavy on the vegetables so I usually reduce the amount of grain and up the vegetables, but didn't do that this time.

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Tarragon Pecan Asparagus
Mediterranean Pepper Salad
Portobello Salad with Mustard Dressing

French Pasta Salad
Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special

Note: I made this again recently (May 2010) and changed some things - it was much better. I used 3/4 lb pasta, 2 cups of chickpeas (new addition), 2 shallots instead of 1, 2 tbsp oil, 3 tbsp Dijon (was too strong on the first day but good on following days), 1 jar of roasted red peppers, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 3/4 cup walnuts (instead of 1/3 cup hazelnuts), and 2 tbsp capers.

1 pound whole wheat penne or ziti or rotini or fusilli
3 cups asparagus, woody ends broken off and sliced into 1 1/2" pieces

Vinaigrette Dressing
1 tsp dried tarragon
1 tsp dried basil
1 large shallot, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

2/3 cup chopped roasted red peppers
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup toasted hazelnuts, finely chopped
1 tbsp drained capers
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/4 lb)

Toast the nuts for about 10 minutes in a 325F oven, then rub them briskly with a towel to remove the skins.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the pasta for about 8 minutes, until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander, rinse well with cool water, and set aside to drain again.

Meanwhile, blanch the asparagus in boiling water to cover for about 3 minutes, or until just tender. Drain them and run them under cold water, and set aside. Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl.

Combine the pasta, asparagus, and roasted red peppers in a large serving bowl and toss with the dressing. Sprinkle on the parsley, hazelnuts, and capers and crumbled feta cheese. Toss to combine.

Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled.

Note: If you're making this ahead of time I would wait to put the dressing on because it soaks into the pasta and doesn't seem as strong.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Oatmeal Knots

As regular readers know, I love baking. But it's not exactly healthy to constantly have cookies, cakes, scones, etc hanging around the house. So I've started to delve more into bread making. And so far am loving it. I could happily eat a yummy piece of bread or a roll instead of a muffin for a snack. And these oatmeal knots were really yummy. They were so soft, slightly sweet, and while made with 2/3 whole wheat flour, they don't taste like it. I also love how they look! Such a cute little knot.

Working with the dough on the other hand was really aggravating. It was the stickiest dough, and sticky doughs are one reason I've avoided bread making. There was no way I could've hand kneaded this. I guess I could've added a bunch of extra flour? But I opted to just throw it in my Kitchenaid for a while, and then when it came to cutting up the dough and rolling it out, I dusted it in flour first. I thought I had done a pretty heavy flour dusting but it didn't seem to impact the final product in a negative way at all. I will definitely make these again. They freeze really well too!

If this sounds good, you might also like:
Cheddar & Dill Beer Bread Rolls
Garlic Rolls
Soft Pretzels
Oatmeal Bread

Oatmeal Knots
Adapted from Cooking Light January 2008

I sprinkled oats and sesame seeds on the rolls but the recipe suggests you also sprinkle poppy seeds. And I opted to not use an egg wash, and instead just used water to get the oats/seeds to stick. Next time I'd like to try using more whole wheat flour.

1 cup regular oats
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons butter (Ashley note: Next time I'll try oil.)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups boiling water
1 package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/3 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
1/4 cup ground flax seeds
3 cups whole wheat flour (about 14 1/4 ounces)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (about 6 3/4 ounces), divided
Cooking spray or oil
1 tbsp water
1 1/2 tablespoon regular oats
1 1/2 tablespoon sesame seeds

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl, and add 2 cups boiling water, stirring until well blended. Cool to room temperature. (Ashley note: This took about an hour for me.)

Dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add yeast mixture to oats mixture; stir well. Stir in flaxseed meal.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Gradually add 3 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour to oats mixture; stir until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky). (Ashley note: I kneaded the dough in my Kitchenaid but I can't remember for how long. I think a bit less than 8 minutes.)

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Press two fingers into the dough. If indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down, and let rest for 5 minutes.

Divide dough in half; cut each half into 12 equal portions. Working with one portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent from drying), shape each portion into an 8-inch rope. (Ashley note: If your dough was really sticky like mine, coat the ropes in flour before rolling them into ropes and shaping.) Tie each rope into a single knot; tuck top end of rope under bottom edge of roll. Place each roll on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray; let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Brush water over rolls. Combine 1 tablespoon oats, poppy seeds, and sesame seeds; sprinkle evenly over rolls. Bake at 400° for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on wire racks.