Cauliflower Gratin

February 26, 2011

Have you ever gotten so caught up with cooking and baking both new and old recipes that sometimes you forget to blog about it? I am pretty sure that my fellow blogger readers can relate to this. It happens to me frequently! Probably more frequently than it should. I would try new recipes and find great ones–and make them a few more times before I get to even blog about it and share with the rest of the world!  The good thing about that is that I get to try it several times before my readers know, so if it flops the second or third time around, I’d probably skip blogging about it all together. But if it continues to impress me, then you will know that the recipe is true and tried.

This dish was one of them. I wanted to add a new vegetable dish for our holiday dinner; and wasn’t sure what to make. And then I had my Barefoot in Paris cookbook laying on the floor, so I flipped through it, and saw this dish. It’s really simple to make, and can be prepared ahead of time, which is a huge bonus for entertaining and great time saver during the holidays. You can prepare everything except the topping, and refrigerate them just until you are ready to bake them. As you heat up the oven, prep the topping and sprinkle them just before putting it into the oven. It is a very rich dish so if you’re looking for something “light”, this isn’t it. However, it is flexible, so you can substitute a couple of the cheeses listed below with other types as well although it may not be as authentic as what the recipe intended.

I added bacon bits in mine for the second time I made them, and it was a hit. I preferred mine piping hot from the oven, and slightly warm so I could still enjoy the goey cheese melting :)!  Happy cooking!

Adapted from Barefoot in Paris

1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
Kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups hot milk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Yield: 4-6 servings


What’s Baking: Triple-Chocolate Espresso Brownies

February 23, 2011

My brother in-law sent me a text one afternoon asking me for a brownie’s recipe. Of course, I quickly suggested Ina’s Outrageous Brownies which won a lot of nods from my crowd. I warned him that it makes a ton. When Red heard that we were talking about brownies, we just realized that since we loved these Outrageous Brownies so much, I have never really felt the need to try any new recipes. However, his text got me thinking about brownies so much that day, I ran to my stack of cookbooks and quickly saw this recipe that I just had to try This brownie was chewy and chocolatey, with a hint of espresso, which I loved. The smokey coffee really enhances the chocolate flavor. This brownie is slightly less moist and much less cakey than the Outrageous Brownies; and even closer to fudgy. They were also very rich; therefore the recipe recommended smaller pieces for serving.

Our What’s Baking Group Challenge is hosted by Dunne from With a Cherry on Top, with a theme of “Baked with Love”.  I think first of all, nothing says love more than home cooked meals and homemade baked goods. This fudgy and chocolatey espresso-hint homemade brownie recipe definitely fits the bill! Happy Baking!

Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook


5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into quarters
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1-1/2 tablespoons instant espresso, or coffee powder
3 large eggs
1-1/4 cups (8.75 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoons salt 1 cup (5 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray 8-inch square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Fold two 16-inches pieces of foil-length wise to measure 7 inches wide. Fit one sheet in bottom of greased pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan (overhang will help in removal of baked brownies). Fit second sheet in pan in same manner, perpendicular to first sheet. Spray foil with non-stick cooking spray.

In medium heatproof bowl set over pan of almost simmer water, melt chocolates and butter, stirring occasionally until mixture is smooth. Whisk in cocoa and espresso powder until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt in medium bowl until combined, about 15 seconds. Whisk warm chocolate mixture into egg mixture; then stir in flour with wooden spoon until just combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan, spread into corners, and level surface with rubber spatula; bake until slightly puffed and toothpick inserted in center comes out with small amount of sticky crumbs clinging into it, 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool on wire rack to room temperature, about 2 hours, then remove brownies from pan using foil handles. Cut into 1-inch squares and serve. (Do not cut brownies until ready to serve; brownies can be wrapped in plastic in plastic and refrigerated up to 5 days).

Yield: (64) 1-inch squares

Thai Style Chicken in Sweet Chili Sauce

February 20, 2011

Red and I love Thai food. We can eat it every day, just like pizza and we will never get sick of it. Seriously. Red even loves the spice and heat in Thai dishes more than I do, believe it or not. For the longest time, we each were spoiled to have lived in areas where great authentic Thai restaurants are just around the corner. When we moved to our town where we live now, we don’t have access to a Thai restaurant anymore (booo!!). There was one that closed shortly after we moved here; and that was basically the end of it. I have so many recipes tagged in my Steamy Kitchen Cookbook and this was one of them. The promise of having a delicious Thai meal at home with ingredients that I can easily get was so tempting. While the title may say that the chicken is soaked in chili sauce, really, there is only a little tiny pang of heat; that is nicely combined with the sweetness of the peppers. We both were in love with this dish that it showed up in our menu list again the following week. If you’re looking to change up your regular weekly menu and need an inspiration to cook chicken, give this recipe a try. Happy cooking (and eating)!.

Adapted from Jaden Hair’s Steamy Kitchen Cookbook

Cornstarch slurry; 2 teaspoons soy sauce plus 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1 lb (500 g) boneless chicken, sliced into thin, pinky sized pieces
1 tablespoon high-heat cooking oil
3 shallots, thinly sliced
2 fresh kaffir lime leaves, sliced into thin slivers (optional) — I didn’t use them
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup (65 ml) sweet chili sauce
1 small handful fresh Thai basil or sweet Italian basil leaves (1/4 cup or 12 g)

In a large bowl, make the cornstarch slurry by stirring together 2 teaspoons of soy sauce and cornstarch until the cornstarch has dissolved. Add the chicken and toss to coat well. Marinate for 10 minutes at room temperature.

Set a wok or large frying pan over high heat. When a bead of water sizzles and evaporates upon contact, add the oil and swirl to coat. Add the chicken slices in one layer and cook for 2 minutes, flipping halfway. Remove the chicken from the wok, keeping as much oil in the pan as possible. The interior of the chicken will still be raw (it will get added back into the wok to finish cooking).

Lower the heat to medium and add the shallots, kaffir lime leaves and garlic. Stir fry for 30 seconds. Add the red and yellow bell peppers and stir fry for 1 minute, until the peppers are softened, but still have a nice crunch in them. Pour in the fish sauce, soy sauce and sweet chili sauce and stir well. Add the chicken pieces back to the pan and let the entire thing simmer for 2 minutes. The chicken should have finished cooking (cut into a piece and check), and the sauce should be glossy and thickened. Turn off the heat and stir in the fresh basil leaves.

Yield: 4 servings

Pumpkin Bread with Cinnamon Pecan Streussel

February 17, 2011

I know, I know.  This is not the season for the great pumpkins. But… let me tell you a little secret, I am addicted to quick bread! I seriously don’t know what I would do without them. I have to have a slice of some sort of quick bread everyday for breakfast, therefore I usually bake some sort of bread every weekend.

Pumpkin is one of my favorite variations, which I adapted from my go to quick bread recipe, which can easily make this pumpkin variation, or this Cranberry Orange Bread. I usually keep a stock of canned pumpkin in my pantry so I can enjoy this all year long. What I have done a little bit different this time was that I had a little bit of streussel leftover from making this yummy Simply Sinful Cinnamon Muffins, so I used that on top–and oh wow, I realized what I had been missing all of these times!  It really added some fun twist to my regular ol’ pumpkin bread. Happy Baking!!

Slightly adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Cookbook

8 oz of pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
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 (or, white wheat flour–but remember that the texture would be slightly firmer)
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder

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

Chocolate Cream Pie

February 13, 2011

It seems like as soon as we hit the month of February, we’re surrounded by chocolate.  I definitely want to take advantage of it by baking something chocolatey! (Not that I need any reason really to bake, as my friends have probably noted!) Nothing seems to say “love” or “Valentine” like chocolates, so here comes the Chocolate Cream Pie. One thing that I would like to make a note is that recipe highly recommends good quality chocolate like Callebaut semisweet and unsweetened chocolates or Hershey’s  Special Dark and Hershey’s unsweetened. I chose the later, because I didn’t have access to the gourmet store that carries Callebaut.

This classic diner pie, with its luscious chocolate cream topped with light whipped cream sitting on a bed of cooled Oreo crumb crusts is really a special treat… whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day tomorrow, or any other occasions that require that special treat that you may not normally take the time to make. This light, airy and very chocolatey dessert was a perfect treat for our house! Happy Baking!

Adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

Chocolate Oreo Cookie Crumb Crust
16 Oreo cookies (with filling), broken into rough pieces, about 2-1/2 cups
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Chocolate Cream Filling
2-1/2 cups half and half
Pinch Salt
1/3 cup (2.3 ounces) sugar
2 tbsp cornstarch
6 large egg yolks, room temperature, chalazae removed
6 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
6 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Topping
1-1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled, preferably pasteurized organic
1-1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla


For the Crust

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, process cookies with fifteen 1-second pulses, then let machine run until crumbs are uniformly fine, about 15 seconds. (Alternatively, place cookies in a large zipper-lock plastic bag and crush with rolling pin). Transfer crumbs to medium bowl, drizzle with butter, and use fingers to combine until butter is evenly distributed.

Pour crumbs into 9-inch Pyrex pie plate. Press crumbs evenly onto bottom and up sides of pie plate. Once crumbs are in place, line pan flush with large square of plastic wrap and use spoon to smooth crumbs into curves and sides of pan. Refrigerate lined pie plate 20 minutes to firm crumbs, then bake until crumbs are fragrant and set, about 10 minutes. Cool on wire rack while preparing filling.

For the Filling

Bring half and half, salt and about 3 tablespoons sugar to simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high, heat, stirring occasionally with wooden spoon to dissolve sugar. Stir together remaining sugar and cornstarch in small bowl. Whisk yolks thoroughly in medium bowl until slightly thickened, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle cornstarch mixture over yolks and whisk, scraping down sides of bowl, if necessary, until mixture is glossy and sugar has begun to dissolve, about 1 minute. When half and half reaches full simmer, drizzly about 1/2 cup hot half-and half over yolks, whisking constantly to temper, then whisk egg yolk mixture into simmering half-and half (mixture should thicken in about 30 seconds). Return to simmer, whisking constantly until 3 or 4 bubbles burst on surface and mixture is thickened and glossy; about 15 seconds longer.

Off Heat, whisk in butter until incorporated; add chocolates and whisk until melted, scraping pan bottom with rubber spatula to fully incorporate. Stir in vanilla, then immediately pour filling into baked and cooled crust. Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of filling and refrigerate pie until filling is cold and firm, about 3 hrs.

Just before serving, spread or pipe whipped cream over chilled pie filling. Cut pie into wedges and serve.

For the Whipped Cream Topping (~ makes about 3 cups)

Chill deep bowl and beaters of electric mixer in freezer for at least 20 minutes. (If freezer is too crowded to fit bowl, place beaters in bowl, fill bowl with ice water and chill on counter). When bowl and beaters are well chilled, dump out water and dry thoroughly).

Add cream sugar, and vanilla to chilled bowl. Beat on low speed until small bubbles form, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium and continue beating until beaters leave a trail, about 30 seconds. Increase speed to high and continue beating until cream is smooth, thick, and nearly doubled in volume, about 20 seconds for soft peaks or about 30 seconds for stiff peaks. If necessary, finish beating with whisk to adjust consistency. Serve immediately or spoon into fine sieve or strainer set over measuring cup and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

Simply Sinful Cinnamon Muffins

February 9, 2011

I loooove everything with cinnamon. There is something so homey and cozy about the smell of cinnamon. It reminds me a little bit of Christmas, homemade goodies, and just spending some quality time with my family in the kitchen. I saw the recipe last year and kept on hoping that I would have the opportunity to find cinnamon chips from my local grocery stores. But no luck; and I refuse to buy one single bag of cinnamon chips online (we’ll see how long this last!). So I went ahead and tried this recipe using butterscotch chips (because I love those as well!) since I can find those. I made several substitutions as you will see reflected in the recipe below.

A few things that I learned from this recipe: I opted the liner instead of putting the batter directly in to the muffin tins–and had some issue with some spillage of the filling. Next time, I would definitely spray the tins and put paper liners to avoid some sticky messiness on the muffins and everywhere else.  I also used the standard size muffin tins and ended up with 15 muffins instead of 12 as the recipe suggested (if I insisted on 12, the batter would have been everywhere). I had leftover filling and topping, although trust me  — I really  tried to pile them on without making too much of a mess, which was somewhat successful. Other than the messy fingers which is a bit convenience for office eating, I thought it was excellent recipe. I really loved the flavor and enjoyed the butterscotch variation, although I would have loved to taste the heightened cinnamon flavor from the chips (therefore, I will continue to be in the lookout for those cinnamon chips!). I skipped the glaze–I really didn’t think that it needed it. On a final note, because I substituted all purpose flour for white wheat flour, my muffins were a bit on the dense side. I overcame this by warming them up in the microwave for 10-15 seconds–and they were back to their heavenly out of the oven goodness.  They took a little bit of time to prepare; but they were worth the time. These would be a great treat for cinnamon lovers! Happy Baking!
Adapted from King Arthur Flour


1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup diced pecans
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup all purpose flour (I used white wheat flour)
3 tablespoons soft butter

3 to 4 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1- 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose Flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup cinnamon chips or butterscotch chips (I used butterscotch chips)


Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake papers, or grease it lightly.

Prepare the topping by mixing the ingredients together until crumbly. Set aside.

Prepare the filling by mixing the Baker’s Cinnamon Filling with enough water to make filling with a soft, pudding-like consistency. Set it aside.

To make the batter:

In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, milk, and eggs. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, including the chips. Add the dry mixture to the liquid, stirring just until combined.

Divide half the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Dollop 2 teaspoons cinnamon filling onto each muffin, then top with the remaining batter. Sprinkle with topping, pressing it in lightly.

Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and wait 5 minutes before transferring them from the pan to a rack to cool.

Yield: 12 muffins

Pan-Fried Onion Dip

February 6, 2011

I was flipping through my stacks of cookbooks the other night and saw this recipe for onion dip. It sounded so tasty that I had to make it that night. Fortunately, I had all of the ingredients in the house 🙂 I wasn’t sure how much this recipe was going to make (it says 2 cups, but normally Ina’s recipes make A TON of batches).Therefore I made a half of the recipe! Yes… you heard me, I decided to just half the recipe. But then after trying it, what was I thinking? Red and I loved this dip recipe so much that I made a full batch the next night! It was that amazing!!!!

The onions were slowly caramelized in the pan, and made them very sweet and tender. This was one step that I would definitely not short-cut (it took close to half an hour total) because it was totally worth it!! The second time I made it, I also chopped the onions strings shorter than what the recipe called for to make it easier to eat. I also didn’t wait until the onions were completely cooled to room temperature before mixing them; and they mixed just fine with the sour cream and cream cheese (make sure the cream cheese is room temperature though!). This dip recipe is fabulous–if you need a new dip recipe to love!!

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

2 large yellow onions
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup good mayonnaise

Cut the onions in half and then slice them into 1/8-inch thick half-rounds. (You will have about 3 cups of onions.) Heat the butter and oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions, cayenne, salt, and pepper and saute for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 more minutes until the onions are browned and caramelized. Allow the onions to cool.

Place the cream cheese, sour cream and mayonnaise in the bowl of an electric fitted with the paddle attachment and beat until smooth. Add the onions and mix well. Taste for seasonings. Serve at room temperature.

Yield: 2 cups