Roasted Beef Tenderloin

December 31, 2010

Slightly adapted from Giada De Laurentiis via Food Network

During the holidays and other special occasion dinners, I like to serve two different kinds of protein. It’s just something that I just grew up with. One of them is usually either a ham or turkey; and then there will be another piece of protein for variety.  As I was planning my menu recently, Red  suggested that we tried this beef tenderloin when we had company over. I followed this recipe and made no substitutions; and it was a success. The beef was tender (almost fork-tender!), juicy, and was perfectly seasoned… do I also need to mention easy? Our guests really loved it; and we did too! We were just so satisfied by how tender and flavorful the beef was.

The original recipe suggested that we serve this with basil-curry mayonnaise, but I decided not to post the recipe. I made it, however none of the guests or we really cared for it. I think the flavoring was a little bit too overpowering for the beef. It may be a good pairing for something else (a crostini perhaps?)  We enjoyed the beef on its own with the rest of our meal. If you are looking for a new main dish to impress your family or friends for your New Year’s celebration, make this recipe. I know you will not regret this! Wishing you a prosperous New Year’s!

Ingredients

Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
3 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus 2 teaspoons
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 (3 1/2 to 4-pound) beef tenderloin, trimmed

Directions

Arrange an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a heavy baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside.

In a spice grinder, finely grind the cumin seeds and coriander seeds. Heat a small skillet over medium heat. Add the spices and cook for a few seconds until aromatic and toasted. Put the spices in a small bowl. Chop the garlic on a cutting board and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Holding a chef’s knife at a 45 degrees angle, scrape the garlic and salt together to form a paste. Add the garlic paste to the bowl with the spices. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons salt, black pepper, and oil and stir until smooth.

Put the meat on the prepared baking sheet and rub with the spice mixture.  Roast for 35 to 40 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 125 degrees F, for medium-rare. Remove from the oven and transfer the meat to a cutting board.

Cover the meat loosely with foil and let rest for 20 minutes.

Slice the meat into 1/4-inch thick slices and arrange on a platter.

Yield: 6-8 servings


Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip

December 28, 2010

This is probably the easiest, yet the most loved and requested appetizer among my friends and family. Every single guest who comes for a visit at our house requests this appetizer.  I love how easy this dish is to make, and can be prepared ahead of time. I will just have all of the ingredients mixed together a few hours before I need it, and just before the guests arrive, I can throw this into the oven. As the guests are arriving and settling in –this dip is ready to be served. I don’t usually have a lot of leftover and I love serving it with baked tortilla chips. This recipe makes about four cups, and I say that it serves about six guests. In reality, I have seen four of us devouring this to the last bit. So if you have several spinach and artichoke dip lovers, it may be good to double the recipe.

I do want to warn you though, this is not for the faint of heart. I do try to make it ehmm… a little bit lighter by using light sour cream and mayonnaise, and don’t go overboard with the cheeses. If you don’t have a dip recipe you love yet, I encourage you to give it a try. Happy eating!

Adapted from Paula Deen via Food Network

Ingredients
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach
2 (14-ounce) cans whole artichoke hearts
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1 cup grated pepper jack cheese (or sometimes I use cheddar, whichever I have on hand)

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a casserole dish with nonstick spray.

Heat the spinach in a microwave oven on high for 5 minutes and squeeze dry. Drain the artichoke hearts and coarsely chop them.

Combine all the ingredients except the jack cheese in a large bowl. Stir well. Scrape into the greased casserole dish and sprinkle the jack cheese on top. Bake for 30 minutes uncovered.

Serve with bagel or tortilla chips.

Yield: 6 servings


Now or Later Cinnamon Buns

December 24, 2010

I wanted to post this recipe just in case you haven’t decided yet on what to serve on Christmas morning. Every time I browse through the King Arthur’s website, I have the sudden urge to bake something with yeast. Yes, it is crazy right? Then I ran into this recipe that promises that I can actually prepare these buns ahead of time, and then just pop them in the morning just before breakfast instead of starting the dough at 3 in the morning (yawn!).  I think we’re all always in the lookout for something special that we can deliver on the table for those special mornings , so I was hooked right away. I didn’t improvise with the recipe and I was really glad that I left it alone.  They have the flavor of good old fashioned yeast buns filled with cinnamon, slathered in icing. It really doesn’t get better than that! I hope you will give this recipe a try, if not today, maybe some other days for that special morning with your loved ones. Wishing you and your family a very special Christmas and a happy New Year.

Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Ingredients
Dough
3 1/2 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons potato flour or 1/4 cup instant potato flakes
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons soft or room-temperature butter
2/3 cup lukewarm water
1/2 cup lukewarm milk

Filling
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Topping
2 tablespoons melted butter

Glaze
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 1/2 to 4 tablespoons cream or 2 to 3 tablespoons milk

Directions
Combine all of the dough ingredients in a large bowl, and mix and knead — using your hands, a stand mixer, or a bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a soft, smooth dough.

Place the dough in a lightly greased container — an 8-cup measure works well here — and allow the dough to rise for 60 to 90 minutes, until it’s just about doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.

Roll the dough into a 20″ long rectangle, about 12″ wide. This soft dough rolls easily, so you shouldn’t have much trouble with shrinking or “push back.”

Sprinkle 2 teaspoons cinnamon over the surface of the dough. A small sieve or tea strainer works well here.

Starting with a long side, roll the dough into a 24″ log; it’ll naturally stretch from its original 20″ to about 24″ as you roll. In order to make the neatest job of cutting out the buns, use a sharp knife to mark the log at 1 1/2″ intervals.

Slice the dough into 1 1/2″-thick buns. The neatest way to do this, by far, is by looping a piece of dental floss underneath the dough where you want to cut it, then pulling the ends in opposite directions. The floss will cut the dough neatly, without squashing it.

Lightly grease two 8″ round cake pans. Divide the buns between the two pans, spacing 8 in each pan.

Cover the pans, and allow the buns to rise till they’re crowded against one another and quite puffy, about 60 to 90 minutes. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Uncover the buns, and bake them for 20 to 23 minutes, until they’re golden brown on top and the edges of the center bun spring back lightly when you touch it.

To serve buns now: Just before the buns are done, stir together the confectioners’ sugar, cinnamon, and cream or milk to make the glaze. Turn the hot buns out of the pan onto a rack, and brush with the melted butter. Spread with the glaze, and serve immediately.

To serve buns later: Turn the hot buns out of the pan onto a rack, and brush with the melted butter. Cool completely. Wrap airtight and store at room temperature for a couple of days; for longer storage, freeze. Just before serving, tent the buns lightly with foil, and rewarm in a preheated 350°F oven for 10 minutes (a bit longer, for frozen buns). Stir together the glaze, brush over the buns, and serve warm.

Yield: 16 glazed cinnamon buns.


Caramel Crunch Bars

December 22, 2010

I looooove….. food days at work.  It gives me an excuse to try a new recipe for a sinful treat like this one. I have tagged so many recipes from Dorie’s book Baking: From my Home to Yours that I knew that this one was next in line. It starts with a layer of cookie with delicious espresso hint, then covered with a layer of melted bittersweet chocolate. To top it off; add chopped Heath toffee bits which adds a contrast of crunchy, salty, and sweetness all into one.  Do I need to say more? If you are a caramel or chocolate lover, give these a try. They were so addictive that you may need to cut them up into smaller pieces that the book recommended. Happy eating!

Adapted from Baking: From my Home to Yours

Ingredients
For the base:
1-½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. instant espresso powder or finely ground instant coffee
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
2 sticks (8oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup light brown sugar
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 oz. bittersweet or premium milk chocolate, finely chopped

For the topping:
6 oz. bittersweet or premium milk chocolate, finely chopped
¾ cup Heath toffee bits

Directions
Getting Ready:
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly butter a 9×13 inch baking pan, line the pan with foil and butter the foil. Put the pan on a baking sheet.

To make the base:
Whisk together the flour, coffee, salt and cinnamon.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter at medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the sugars and beat for another three minutes or until the mixture is light and creamy. Beat in the vanilla and turn off the mixer.

Add all the dry ingredients, cover the stand mixer with a kitchen towel (so you and your kitchen don’t get showered in flour) and pulse the mixer on and off at low speed about 5 times- at which point a peek at the bowl should reveal that it’s safe to turn the mixer to low and mix, uncovered, just until the dry ingredients are almost incorporated.

Add the chopped chocolate and mix only until the dry ingredients disappear. If the chocolate isn’t evenly mixed, finish the job by hand with a spatula. You’ll have a very heavy, very sticky dough. Scrape the dough into the buttered pan and, with the spatula and your fingertips, cajole it into a thin, even layer.

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until the base is bubbly – so bubbly that you can almost hear it percolating – and puckery. It will look as though it is struggling to pull away from the side of the pan. Transfer the pan to a rack and turn off the oven.

To make the topping:
Scatter the chocolate evenly over the top of the hot base and pop the pan back into the oven for 2 to 3 minutes, until the chocolate is soft.. Remove from oven and immediately spread chocolate over bars, using offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the toffee bits over the chocolate and press them down lightly with your fingertips. Place the baking pan on a rack to cool to room temperature.

If, by the time the bars are cool, the chocolate has not set, refrigerate them briefly to firm the chocolate.

Carefully lift out of the pan, using foil edges as handles, and transfer to a cutting board. Trim the edges if they seem a bit thick. Cut about 54 bars, each about 2 inches by 1 inch, taking care not to cut through the foil.


Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

December 20, 2010


My sister loves plain old sugar cookies. She actually prefers them without icing (… she also prefers the cone instead of the ice cream; which is fine by me, I will take her ice-cream!). I decided to try these old fashioned sugar cookies for her. I eliminated the lemon zest and juice, and replaced it with vanilla because I was really looking for plain sugar cookies without any lemony flavor. And I think I really found it! These cookies were thinner–and really spread during baking. They were crisp in the outside and chewy in the center. I used a 2-inch ice-cream scoop but made sure that I had generous scoops; and ended up about 26 cookies that had diameter of about 4-5 inches.

I was pretty happy with the result; and this recipe is definitely a keeper in my recipe box. This is great not just for the holidays- but all through the year. Happy eating!

Slightly Adapted from Martha Stewart Cookies

Ingredients
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup unsalted butter, (2 sticks), softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla (my add)
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a bowl; set aside.
Mix butter and sugar until pale and fluffy in a mixer with paddle attachment, about 2-3 minute. Mix in eggs, 1 at a time, and then vanilla extract. Reduce speed; gradually add flour mixture, and mix until just combined.
Scoop dough using a 2-inch ice cream scoop; space cookies 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Flatten cookies slightly with a spatula. Sprinkle tops with sanding sugar, then lightly brush with a wet pastry brush; sprinkle with more sanding sugar.
Bake cookies until golden, about 15 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks using a spatula; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

Yield: 26 large cookies


Chunky Peanut Butter and Oatmeal Chocolate Chipsters

December 17, 2010


Have you ever had one of those days… when you’re faced with decisions on which type of cookie you’d like to eat? Should you have a peanut butter cookie? Or oatmeal raisin? What about the classic chocolate chip cookies? If you have, just like me –this is the cookie for you, because it has the components of all of these three great cookies into one! With the holiday baking in motion, I decided to give this recipe a try. Dorie’s recipes have yet to fail me, and this one was another winner. Unlike some of the other cookie recipes I have made, this one requires chilling prior to baking. So you need to be planning ahead if you are going to need something quick. I refrigerated mine overnight per the recommendation and they were delicious! The only thing that I may do differently next time was the baking time. I pulled these out at 13 minutes and let them sit on the baking sheet for an extra one or two minutes–because they were too soft to be removed onto the cooling racks. I think these extra two minutes made the cookies crispier than I would like to. Maybe next time, I would pull these out at 12 minutes and leave them out for an extra minute on the hot baking sheet, to make these cookies softer.

Finally, I went an extra step with this one and decided to do a cookie-ice-cream sandwich using these cookies. I figured, we’ll get the weight gain started early for the holiday, and they did not disappoint! While the outside temperature may be in the negative range, ice-cream is a permanent resident of my freezer, and these cookies were wonderful with them. Happy eating!

Adapted from Baking: From my Home to Yours

Ingredients
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup peanut butter–chunky (my choice) or smooth (but not natural)
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks, or 1 -1/2 cups store-bought chocolate chips or chunks

Directions:
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Whisk together the oats, flour, baking soda, spices and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth and creamy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Mix in the chips. If you have the time, cover and chill the dough for about 2 hours or for up to one day. (Chilling the dough will give you more evenly shaped cookies.)

If the dough is not chilled, drop rounded tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto the baking sheets. If the dough is chilled, scoop up rounded tablespoons, roll the balls between your palms and place them 2 inches apart on the sheets. Press the chilled balls gently with the heel of your hand until they are about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 7 minutes. The cookies should be golden and just firm around the edges. Lift the cookies onto cooling racks with a wide metal spatula – they’ll firm as they cool.

Repeat with the remaining dough, cooling the baking sheets between batches.

Storing: Wrapped airtight or piled into a cookie jar, the cookies will keep at room temperature for about 4 days. Wrapped and frozen, they’ll be good for 2 months.

Playing Around: You can substitute soft, moist raisins for the chocolate chunks or just stir in some raisins along with them. If you’re really looking for crunch, toss in chopped peanuts too (salted or not). With or without the chocolate chunks, raisins, and nuts, these cookies are great with ice cream or around ice cream – think about them the next time you want a chipwich-ish ice cream sandwich.


Cranberry Orange Bread

December 11, 2010

Cranberry is one of my all-time favorite berries. I love buying extra when the season arrives and freeze some so I can still enjoy them months after the season is over. This recipe features my favorite quick bread recipe with cranberry and grated orange zest.  This is a variation of my Easy Zucchini Bread, so I knew that this recipe works.

I have made them also using whole wheat flour (it tasted great!). When I first made the recipe, I chopped the cranberries, but decided that they bled too much after it was done, so I went back to just leaving them whole and it looks so much better. Sometimes I throw in a handful of chopped toasted walnuts in there to add a little bit of crunch. I have frozen this bread before and it held up well… If you are looking for other cranberry recipes for your holiday entertaining,  try these two recipes below. Happy eating!

Cranberry Harvest Muffins
Cranberry Orange Scones, Mini

Slightly adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook

Ingredients
1-1/2 cups of fresh cranberry, if using frozen, thawed and drained well
2 large eggs
1/3 cups of flavorless oil
3/4 cup of sugar
1 tsp of vanilla
1-1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp grated orange zest

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Grease bottom of 8-1/2 X 4-1/2 X 2-1/2 inches pan. Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl. Mix the rest of the ingredients together, do not over-mix.

Bake for 50-60 min (I would start checking at 40 min to make sure that it is not over-baked). It is done when a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Yield: 1 8×3-inch loaf