Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rum Raisin Rice Pudding with Warm Apples and Whipped Cream

There are so many reasons I love making rice pudding for dessert. It's easy, make ahead, gluten free and absolutely delicious. I have tried different recipes for rice pudding, pumpkin spice, vanilla bean, chocolate which were all really great but I think this recipe for Rum Raisin Rice Pudding is my favorite. This recipe is from Ina Garten's cookbook Family Style. They only thing I changed in this recipe was using 5 cups of whole milk instead of half and half. The pudding came out so creamy, it was perfect. 

This rice pudding is great on it's own but I added a few ingredients that I feel make this dessert special. I love adding a warm fruit compote on top of the cold rice pudding and topping it with whipped cream. I used caramelized cinnamon, brown sugar apples because of the season but you can use any fruit you like. I think this recipe would be great in the summer with caramelized pineapple or even bananas. 

As I mentioned before, this is a great make ahead recipe, which makes it perfect to serve for a crowd. You can make this the day before and keep chilled in the refrigerator. If you prefer your rice pudding warm, you can serve it immediately after it is done cooking. 

This is also a great dessert for children. You can always leave the rum out of the recipe, although it stays mostly in the raisins themselves. An added bonus is it's full of calcium from the milk and doesn't have added fat from butter or oil. 

Rum Raisin Rice Pudding
Serves 6-8 

3/4 cup raisins
2 tablespoons dark rum
3/4 cup white basmati or arborio rice
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 cups half-and-half or whole milk, divided (I used whole milk) 
1/2 cup sugar
1 extra-large egg, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

For the toppings:
4 apples-peeled and diced 
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
8 oz heavy cream
1/2 to 1 tbsp powdered sugar 
1 tsp vanilla
Extra cinnamon for garnish 

1. In a small bowl, combine raisins and rum. Set aside. 

2. Combine rice and salt with 1 1/2 cups water in a medium stainless steel saucepan. Bring water to a boil, stir once, and simmer, covered on lowest heat for 8-9 minutes, until most of the water is absorbed. (If the stove is very hot, pull the pan halfway off the burner)

3. Stir in 4 cups if milk and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 25 minutes, until rice is very soft. Stir often, particularly toward the end. 

4. Slowly stir in beaten egg and cook 1 minute. 

5. Off the heat, add in the vanilla extract and raisins with any additional rum. Stir well. 

6. Pour into a bowl, and place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of pudding to prevent a skin from forming. Serve chilled or warm. 

7. To make the toppings, add the diced apple, brown sugar and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Add in a splash of water to prevent sticking and simmer  on low for 10-15 minutes until apples are soft but not mushy. Stir occasionally.  

8. Meanwhile, make the whipped cream by adding the heavy cream in a stand mixer (or use a hand held mixer) with whisk attachment. Whip the cream until it begins to thicken. Add in powdered sugar and vanilla and continue to whip on high until stiff peaks form. 

9. To serve: fill each bowl with rice pudding, top with warm apples and a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with a little cinnamon. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

GF Banana Bread

The store Sur La Table just opened at a mall close to where I live. At this location they offer cooking classes ranging from $60-$120. Take a look at the schedule for Septemper and October below. They have all different classes such as Fall Entertaining, knife skills, fast and easy chicken dinners and many more.

Last week I took their gluten free baking class. It was a hands on class which is hard to find and I had a good time. I felt the class could have been a little better with a teacher that had more experience cooking gluten free. I was assured by my partners, which happened to be chefs from their corporate offices, that their other classes are more organized and offer more helpful information and recipes. Regardless, it was fun and I got to take home a few gluten free baking recipes.

Out of all the recipes, the favorite among the guest was the banana bread. It was extremely moist and I enjoyed the fact it wasn't super sweet. I would definitely try this recipe again.

I was planning on taking a picture of the bread for my blog but.....the slices I brought home that night were eaten by my gluten eating husband and 1 year old daughter at 6:30am the next morning. Never mind the gluten filled pumpkin bread I made for them the day before. Oh well, I guess i'll have the make the recipe again and hide it when it comes out of the oven.

GF Banana Bread
Makes one 9" x 5" loaf

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 1/3 cups flour blend (see below)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup bananas, mashed
2 tbsp sour cream
3/4 cup walnuts. chopped

Flour Blend: Makes 5 1/2 cups
3/4 cup white rice flour
4 cups potato starch
3 1/2 tbsp guar gum
1/2 cup albumen (powdered egg whites)
Blend all ingredients together thoroughly and place in air tight container. Store in pantry if using frequently or refrigerator or freezer to keep fresh longer.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9"x x 5" loaf pan and line the bottom with parchment paper (parchment paper is optional).

2. Using an electric mixer with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add egg gradually and scrape down bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add all dry ingredients to wet and mix until combined.

4. Add in mashed bananas and sour cream to batter; mix until combined. Fold in nuts by hand.

5. Pour batter into greased loaf pan and bake 55-60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Baby and Child Friendly Quesadillas

Now that Layla is old enough I can start to give her more freedom when it comes to finger foods. Even though she only has 4 fully developed teeth and four more on the way, she is getting the hang of taking little bites of her food.

As her taste for different foods develop she is starting to become "picky" about certain foods, mostly vegetables. She tends to pick out the food she does like and tosses the foods she doesn't like on to the floor or feeds it to our dog. Our dog Bela has never eaten so well, you can always find her sitting next to the high chair at lunch and dinner time.

These Quesadillas are a great way to hide some vegetables or other foods such as beans. These quesadillas were full of shredded chicken, black beans, corn and cheddar cheese. She loved holding onto the pieces and taking bites. Just make sure to supervise when your child is eating these, making sure they do not take big bites, or simply cut them up into small pieces.

Makes 1 Quesadilla

1 medium size flour tortilla
1/3-1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/8 cup black beans
1/8 cup corn
1/8-1/4 cup shredded cooked chicken

1. Lay out tortilla and sprinkle cheese to cover half the tortilla, scatter beans, corn and chicken over cheese. Fold the tortilla in half to make a semi-circle.

2. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tortilla and cook 2-3 minutes per side until the cheese is melted. You can keep warm in a low oven until ready to eat.

3. Cool the quesadilla down until appropriate temperature for your child. Cut into stripes or small pieces and serve warm. You can always reheat in microwave if it cools off too quickly.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Flourless Almond Honey Cake

I am starting to experiment with gluten free baking. It can be overwhelming at first with all the different ingredients needed to create a recipe. Here is a great gluten free recipe using no flour at all. The ground almonds act as flour, giving this "cake" a nutty flavor and almost crunchy texture. I really enjoy this cake for breakfast, and an added bonus is it's healthy for you. Almonds, eggs and honey, that's about it. Even my gluten eating friends enjoyed this one.

Flourless Almond Honey Cake Recipe from
Makes 8-10 servings

1 1/2 cups of almonds-toasted
4 eggs-at room temperature
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp honey-to drizzle
1/4 cup crushed almonds to garnish

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper and spray the paper.

2. Process whole almonds in a food processor or blender until finely ground

3.  Beat 4 egg yolks, 1/2 cup honey, vanilla, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer (or use a paddle attachment on a stand mixer) on medium speed until well combined. Add the ground almonds and beat on low until combined.

4. Beat 4 egg whites in another large bowl with the electric mixer on medium speed until very foamy, white and doubled in volume, but not stiff enough to hold peaks, 1 to 2 minutes (depending on the type of mixer). Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the nut mixture until just combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

5. Bake the cake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 28 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan and gently remove the side ring. Let cool completely.

6. To serve, drizzle the top of the cake with honey and sprinkle with sliced or crushed almonds.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Pumpkin Bread

A quick post today because I felt like sharing this recipe for pumpkin bread, which just came out of my oven. The house is full of the aroma of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, smells just like fall. This is not a gluten free recipe but before I was on a GF diet I ate this pumpkin bread all the time. It is absolutely delicious and it's one of Tom's favorite breakfasts. Canned pumpkin is available all year, so I make this at least once a month.

I usually make this bread plain but you can always add in walnuts or raisins. This recipe comes from the cookbook King Authors Flour Whole Grain Baking, and I wouldn't change a thing! Bake this bread, have a slice for breakfast along with a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks and you will be all set for fall.

If you have a little extra canned pumpkin, which you usually do, check out my recipe for pumpkin chocolate oatmeal below. This recipe is great for kids. Layla loves it!

Pumpkin Bread: Makes 1 loaf
Serving Size: The recipe says 16 servings (there is no way!) I would say 8-10 servings or 6 servings if you are my husband.

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter-softened
1 cup brown sugar-light or dark, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin
3/4 cup chopped nuts -optional
3/4 cup raisins, dried cranberries or chocolate chips-optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9" x 5" loaf pan. I like to line the bottom with parchment paper too.

2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices in medium bowl.

3. In a stand mixer or hand held mixer, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy. Add in one egg at a time, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl. Beat in vanilla and pumpkin. Add in dry ingredients, mixing until evenly moistened. Stir in nuts, raisins, cranberries or chips, if using.

4. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until cake tester comes out clean about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool in pan for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edges if pan to make sure it doesn't stick and turn it out of the pan, and place it on a rack to finish cooling. Cool completely before slicing (if you can wait that long)

Pumpkin Oatmeal
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup milk or water
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
2 tbsp chocolate chips

Cook oatmeal with milk or water according to package instructions. Stir in canned pumpkin and spices. Microwave for 20 seconds. Add in chocolate chips and swirl until melted. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Perfect Roasted Chicken

I have tried many recipes for roasted chicken. It seems every recipe has a different cooking method and temperature. There have been many times when I take the chicken out of the oven after cooking it for over and hour and it is under cooked near the bone.

This recipe works out absolutely perfect and results in the most juicy roast chicken possible. This method is adapted from the chef Thomas Keller's version. It's very easy to do and will never disappoint.

The Perfect Roasted Chicken
Serves 4

1 (3 to 4-lb) chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
A bunch of fresh thyme
1 lemon
4-5 garlic cloves-unpeeled
Unsalted butter to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 450F. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. Salt and pepper the cavity. Now you can truss the bird with butchers twine. Trussing will ensure the bird cook very evenly. Below is a link for a step by step guide on how to truss a chicken.
How to truss a chicken
Sometime I'll admit I don't always truss the chicken. I make sure the wing tips are tucked under the bottom of the bird so they don't burn.

2. Next, salt the chicken with about 1/2 to 1 tbsp of salt - rain the salt over the bird so it has a nice, uniform coating that will results in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin. When it's cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper.

3. Place the chicken in a saute pan or roasting pan. Add lemon slices, unpeeled garlic cloves and thyme sprigs around chicken. Roast for 60 minutes (or about 17 minutes a pound), until the juices run clear. Remove it from the oven and sprinkle a little thyme in pan, if desired. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.

4. Remove the twine and carve the chicken and add it to platter. Squeeze roasted lemon over top and you can brush with a little melted butter; if desired. I like to serve this with roasted root vegetables.

Monday, September 10, 2012

French Bistro Onion Soup

It does not get more classic than this French Onion Soup recipe from French chef Jacques Pepin. This recipe comes from his book Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques. I have tried a few different recipes for french onion soup, some more complicated than others. I find that the classic, simple recipe always comes out the best. This recipe is what you would find at any classic French bistro restaurant.

The only thing I do a little different is cook the onions on a lower heat for a longer time. I like the onions very soft and caramelized. I have added both cook times below.

French Onion Soup (adapted from Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques)
Serves 6

4 cups thinly sliced onions (sweet yellow), 3-5 onions depending on size
1 pound good Gruyere or Swiss cheese-grated
3 tbsp butter
10 cups chicken stock or beef stock or a mixture of both (preferably homemade)
1 clove garlic- peeled and minced very fine
1 tsp salt (to taste)
1 tsp black pepper (to taste)
2 dozen slices of french bread, cut thin and toasted under broiler
(If you are looking for a gluten free recipe you can toast GF bread or leave out bread all together, it still is delicious)

1. Melt butter in a large saucepan on medium heat. Add in onions and brown for 5-6 minutes. Stirring occasionally. I cook the onions on medium-low for 15-20 minutes until soft and caramelized.

2. Add in stock, garlic, salt and pepper and boil for 30 minutes.

3. Place 4-5 slices of toasted french bread in each individual oven proof bowl (I use 12 oz soup crocks)

4. Fill each bowl half way with the stock. The bread will soften as it absorbs the liquid. Gradually keep adding stock until the bowls are filled evenly to the top. This is important because the cheese crust must not sink into the bowl.

5. Sprinkle the cheese on top without pushing it into the liquid. You will need at least 2 1/2 ounces per bowl; about 1/2 cup. (The drier the cheese the better)

6. Press the cheese around the edges of each bowl so that when it melts it sticks to the sides and forms a crust that will not sink.

7. Place the bowls on a cookie sheet and bake in 400 degree F oven for 35 minutes, until nicely browned all around. Serve right away but be careful of the hot bowls.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Spicy Stuffed Peppers

A new cookbook for my collection: Michael Symon's Live to Cook. I was excited to get this book after visiting his restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio last year. He has two restaurants Lola and Lolita, we went to Lola, and so far in my lifetime it was one of the best restaurants I have had the pleasure of eating in.

His book includes recipes from his restaurants, as well as, family recipes easy to cook at home. The first recipe I tried from the book was an appetizer of spicy stuffed peppers. I believe my husbands comment about this dish was "finally something with some spice!" This recipe uses his "Yia Yia's" sunday tomato sauce and his recipe for homemade pork sausage. To simplify, I used my recipe for tomato sauce and a high quality spicy sausage from the butcher.

I found this part of his book amusing so I thought I would share it with you. Although I don't agree 100%  this is Michael Symon's Five Things You Should Never Buy:

1. Boneless, skinless chicken breast halves: Eating chicken without skin is like riding a bike without wheels: it's no fun, and it leaves your dish at a flavor standstill.

2. Lean turkey bacon: There is NO substitute for the magic that is smoky, fatty, delicious bacon, and the word lean should never be used when describing it.

3. I can't believe It's Not Butter and other butter substitutes: Believe me, it ain't butter, not even close. I'm certain the people who invented this have never really tasted butter and never tried to make a sauce with it. Stay away from margarine too. The only thing to use to replace butter is more butter.

4. Beef Tenderloin/filet mignon: Can we please get over our love affair with the most expensive and least flavorful part of the entire animal? Buy a beautifully marbled rib eye: it'll cost you less and make you happier.

5. Peeled, chopped garlic: The only thing that this has in common with fresh garlic is the breath it may produce. It certainly lacks the actual flavor of garlic. Are we really so lazy that we have to buy our garlic already cut for us?

Spicy Stuffed Peppers

8 Hungarian hot peppers
1 1/2 pounds sausage-spicy or Italian
2 cups of tomato sauce-homemade or jarred
8 fresh basil leaves

1. Preheat broiler and char the peppers underneath the broiler on a baking sheet. Remove them from oven and reduce temperature to 375 degrees F.

2. Butter a 8 x 11 inch baking dish. Cut off the tops of the peppers and spoon out any seeds.

3. Divide sausage into 8 equal portions and spoon it into peppers to fill them.

4. Pour sauce into prepared baking dish and add the peppers on top.

5. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the sausage reaches 150 degrees F.

6. Divide among plates and spoon sauce on top. Garnish with basil leaf.

**The other way you can make these peppers is to grill the already stuffed peppers for 2 minutes per side and then place them in the oven with sauce and bake at 375 for 10 minutes.