Thursday, December 30, 2010

Back in action

It's been a few days since I've been able to post anything and with the holidays being here, our household has been a bit nutty!  Christmas was wonderful (especially since it was my little one's first!), and my in-law's were staying with me up until this morning.  We got hit with a BLIZZARD this past Sunday, so we had basically been living off of holiday leftovers and whatever we had in the freezer up until yesterday, when we were finally able to get out and get some pizza!  2 feet of snow will keep you indoors for awhile and can definitely drive some people crazy.  But luckily, I should be making my way back into the kitchen these next few days (even though I am working over the New Year's holidays...boooooo), and I should definitely have some stuff to post for everyone shortly!  As promised, we will be going back to a much more sensible way of eating after the New Year, and I will try to post nutritional information for all my recipes if I have it.  Hope everyone had a very merry Christmas and I wish you nothing but hope, peace, and love in the New Year!  See you in the kitchen soon!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pasta with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto

Am I a terrific wife or what?  After a grueling 12-hour work day, I arrive home at 9:15, feed the baby and put her to bed, and... sit down and relax get in the kitchen and start cooking!!  I know what you're thinking -- "Last minute Christmas preparations, big deal, we're all doing that this week!".  But that's not the case, my friends!  I came home after a long day and prepared a dish for my husband to take to work with him tomorrow for a pot-luck luncheon.  Now if that's not love, I don't know what is.
I'm not gonna lie -- this is a really simple recipe, one that every cook should keep in their back pocket for times when they want no-fuss but really want to impress.  I followed this recipe by Giada DeLaurentiis, and it couldn't have been any easier.  I have actually made this dish several times in the past (definitely a go-to in our house), and it is a hit every time.  I think the best part about it is that it can made ahead of time and either served cold or brought to room temperature -- delicious either way. 
The sweet sun-dried tomatoes are a nice contrast to the sharp flavor of raw garlic (oh yeah, did i mention that you don't even need to cook the keeps getting better!!) and aromatic, almost spicy, fresh herbs.  I ended up using fresh parsley instead of basil because that is what I had on hand tonight, but it is really delicious either way.  Next time you need a quick meal that you can throw together with ingredients you most likely already have on hand, consider this great pasta dish.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Pasta with Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
8.5 ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes with Italian herbs, packed in olive oil
1 cup fresh parsley leaves and stems
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 box pasta, cooked according to directions on the box

In the bowl of a food processor, combine sun-dried tomatoes and their oil with the parsley and garlic until tomatoes are finely chopped.  Transfer to a bowl, and stir in cheese, salt, and pepper.  The mixture will be kind of thick, so when you boil up the pasta, make sure to save some of the cooking liquid to help thin out your sauce if needed.  Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature.
Adapted from Giada DeLaurentiis

Monday, December 20, 2010

Chocolate-Almond Icebox Cookies

Lately I have been obsessed with all things almond.  I'm not sure where this is coming from because I am usually a vanilla girl, but I seem to be unusually drawn to almond-flavored things recently.  On Thanksgiving, for instance, I made a fabulous recipe for Almond Cookies that had a whole tube of almond paste mixed in.  I LOVED it!  I'll post that recipe on here soon, too -- I'm sure you guys will enjoy that one just as much as I did.
This particular recipe is a loose adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe that calls for espresso powder, black pepper, and vanilla extract.  Since I was still in the mood for almond, I decided to leave out the espresso and black pepper and substitute in almond extract for the vanilla.  I've made the recipe as-is before and it is wonderful, so I knew switching just a few of the flavorings around would still leave me with a delicious cookie.  I bet this would be great with a little bit of orange zest in it, too.  I love the combination of rich dark chocolate with the little orange flecks of zest mixed in.
This is a nice, simple chocolate icebox cookie, so it can be made well in advance and left in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake them up.  They cook just long enough to be set, but I don't like to make them too crispy and crunchy.  I like the chocolatey center to still be a tiny bit soft and with a little bit of give.  Rolling the log in sanding sugar before slicing and baking gives the cookies a glittery sparkle effect, like beautiful chocolate jewels waiting to be eaten.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Chocolate-Almond Icebox Cookies
1 & 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 & 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
coarse sanding sugar

In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt, and cinnamon, and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar for a few minutes, until well combined.  Add in egg and almond extract.  Add in flour mixture, stirring until just combined.
Roll the dough into a log in a large sheet of parchment and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350.  Allow dough to sit at room temperature for 5 minutes before unwrapping.  Sprinkle with sanding sugar, pressing the dough so the sugar will stick to it.  Cut into 1/4-inch slices.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat and bake for 10 minutes.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Saturday, December 18, 2010

2 More Weeks of Decadence

Okay, so I know that so far I have only posted cookie recipes, but I would just like to say one quick thing about that now -- I am going to take advantage of these last 2 weeks of the year and continue to make delicious, decadent meals and desserts that I most likely will not be making for the rest of the year.  I feel like I try hard to eat healthy and clean all year long, and I really want to enjoy these last couple of weeks, eating sweets and buttery delicious foods, before going back to my stricter way of eating after the New Year.  Now, I don't plan on going overboard and eating cupcakes three times a day, but I am going to take this opportunity to make a few dishes that have always looked appealing, but I have never really had reason to make.  With Christmas just around the corner and a few parties left for us to go to this year, I want to have a little fun and play around with some more decadent dishes.  Don't get me wrong -- I'm not a boring, super strict boiled chicken eater the rest of the year.  I just like to eat healthy, with everything in moderation.  Stay tuned for more deliciousness to come...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Another cookie...Sugar Saucers

I know, you're probably thinking, "Is this blog just going to be filled with recipes for and pictures of desserts??  That can't be good for anybody!", but I promise that's not all I'm going to be cooking up here!  Maybe it's just because it's holiday time.  Maybe it's just because I love to bake and I usually don't have an excuse to because with there being only 2 adults in the house, we always end up eating everything ourselves.  Maybe it's because I try to be so careful and healthy all the time, once in awhile I love a food splurge.  Whatever the reason, I ended up baking another batch of cookies.  These were kind of similar to the Butter Twists I had made a few days ago, but more of a sugar cookie than a butter cookie.

There are a few blogs that I like to look at every day, and probably my favorite out of all of those is Annie's Eats.  She posts wonderful photos and recipes and really draws you in -- makes you want to go home and start cooking and baking right away!  Unfortunately, she is also way more ambitious than me, making things like homemade puff pastry, which I have neither then time nor energy to even think about trying.  But if you are into looking at food blogs, definitely check that one out -- you won't be sorry you did.  You might even get hooked, like me!
On to the cookies.  I decided to try these cookies out because I was in the mood for a sugar cookie, but didn't have time to do the whole rolling-out-the-dough-decorating-with-royal-icing thing.  I needed to satisfy my cookie needs faster than that.  So, when I saw this drop cookie recipe, it seemed pretty perfect.   Then, I started reading.  Like the writer on the blog, I was pretty skeptical because it's a cookie recipe that calls for half butter and half vegetable oil.  Besides seeming kind of odd, it also seemed kind of gross.  I'm not sure why, but the idea of a cookie made with vegetable oil just didn't seem all that appealing to me.  But the picture that she had posted of the finished product and her description of how it turned out made me willing to try it.  And I'm glad that I did!  This tasted like a pretty standard sugar cookie, which is what I was looking for.  I like the idea of sprinkling the tops with granulated sugar -- the cookies come out looking crystallized and beautiful.  I had some family over last night, and they all enjoyed eating the cookies as well. I'm not sure this is something I'll make all the time, but it was a good basic sugar cookie recipe for when you don't feel like doing all the rolling out and decorating usually associated with sugar cookies (but, oh how pretty those do turn out, don't they?).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Finally in the kitchen! Butter Twists

Well, I have finally been able to get in the kitchen a little bit and I actually  have something to post about!  This was an extremely busy weekend for my family because we were baptizing my BEAUTIFUL baby niece, and there were tons of out-of-town family members to entertain and dinners to go to!  Somehow, I still managed to get into the kitchen for a little while tonight while my husband entertained the baby (he can be an angel sometimes).  I originally was preparing these cookies to give as a gift to a co-worker who had helped me out about a month back when I was preparing for my own daughter's baptism, but I seem to have eaten so many of the cookies myself, I'm not sure it would be appropriate for me to give her a half-full tin of cookies as a gift!
 I made this following a Martha Stewart recipe, and they really were delicious!  There is something just so simple and buttery and delicious about them, you won't be able to stop eating them!  They have a kind of buttery, melt-in-your-mouth crunch that makes them divine.  You can see that I shaped them like pretzels instead of twists, just because I thought it would be cute.  I tried sprinkling them with a little sanding sugar to give them a bit of sparkle, but it didn't really seem to stick.  I think maybe that would've worked better if I had brushed them with a little beaten egg first, but that probably would've changed the color of these buttery wonders, too.  Either way, I hope you enjoy these cookies as much as I do.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

In the beginning....

Okay, bear with me here, people -- I've never done this before.  So the idea of starting a blog has always been really interesting to me, but let's be real here...what could I possibly have to talk about that people would want to read about??  I started thinking, and I realized that it didn't really matter to me if other people wanted to read my blog or not, but that I just wanted a way in which I could be creative and share with the world...even if no one was listening.  So, that got me thinking even more.  (I know, scary, right?)  What are the things that interest me the most?  Well, that's an easy one -- cooking and baking!  The name of the blog, Cinnamon and Orange, kind of works right into that, as those are two of my most favorite flavors (especially in combination!).  So I want to use this space as a way to share my adventures in the kitchen, boring as they may be sometimes.  I find that I don't have as much time to cook and bake anymore as I used to (being the mom of an 8-month old will do that to you), so why not add another element??!  I know it sounds crazy, but it's something that I really want to do.  I even have a new camera on the way that I'll use to document my "works".  Now don't go commenting on my photography skills -- that's a work in progress, too, but I'm hoping that I will only improve as time goes on.  So, here's to starting a new blog, and sharing my stories...with whoever wants to listen!